The past and present thoughts of a Catholic husband, father, and fledgling faith formation director at St. Michael Catholic Church in St. Michael, Minnesota

Sunday, October 26, 2014

LIFT Links: Resources for “Practicing” Catholics

We are all practicing”Catholics – learning how to live our baptism, our vocation, and a sacramental life here on earth. In an effort to help friends find great Catholic content that supports them in their practice, periodically I’ll be sharing articles, websites, books, and other resources that may be of interest.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Same Blog; New Purpose:
Learning From Life In “The Bubble”

Blogger's Note: The article below will appear in the Sunday, Oct. 26, church bulletin .

Last Sunday, my wife Jodi and I once again experienced the deep faith, honest fellowship, and resounding joy that attracted us to this parish when we moved here in 2003. We began the day with 8:30 Mass and breakfast with our family, then met three other couples for lunch and a book study/discussion about raising Catholic kids. We returned home in mid-afternoon, then loaded the family in the minivan to visit another family here in the community. A lasagna dinner, great conversation, and family games rounded out the evening. We were on the go from the time the alarm sounded, but ended the day rejuvenated.

That’s why life in “The Bubble” of St. Michael’s and St. Albert’s parishes is so appealing to us. Here, we are surrounded by families who can related to our struggles and our goals, culminating (we hope) in eternity in heaven. We feel at home here, secure, and at least somewhat sheltered from the storms of the outside world. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Are We Scapegoating the Most Vulnerable Among Us?

This past month, the adults in our parish faith formation program discussed Lesson 4 from Fr. Barron's Catholicism DVD series, "Our Tainted Nature's Solitary Boast: Mary, the Mother of God." One of the consistent bits of feedback we heard when we started this video series last year is that sometimes Fr. Barron gets a little academic for the average lay audience -- and as a result, the material and discussion questions sometimes miss the mark when it comes to generating discussion. In the case of the lesson on Mary, even the title warranted translation.

I watched most of the Mary video at least six times over the course of the past few weeks, and one part, in particular, stuck out to me as academic and not very applicable to the lives of most Catholics -- until I thought about it in a new light.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Book Break, Feast of the Archangels Edition: Tobit's Dog

For those of you who recall our wedding (or those who have heard Jodi and me speak at the engaged couples retreats around these parts), you may remember that the only detail I was specific about in the ceremony was the Old Testament reading, from the Book of Tobit, Chapter 8, verses 4-8. The back story, about the faithful but afflicted Tobit, his son Tobiah, a long-lost kinsman, and a cursed young bride, is retold in the novel Tobit's Dog by Michael N. Richard.

Richard re-sets this ancient story as a mystery of sorts, set in the rural South during the Depression, and opens with a vignette of the titular canine visiting a local dump with his master, who is looking for discarded furniture to repair and sell. The dog is torn between the lure of his senses and the love of his master, but ultimately, chooses to follow and obey and is rewarded for it. It's a compelling analogy to our relationship with God -- but I was nervous: if the entire book were written in this way, it could be heavy-handed.

Thankfully, it isn't. Instead, the opening scene sets the theme for the rest of the book, in which all of the major characters are conflicted in some way and are either moving toward their Master or further away.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

By Parish or By Person? A Practical Approach to Evangelizing the Lost and Forming Disciples

All of the faithful find themselves at times challenged by Christ’s Great Commission to make disciples of all nations. We struggle to know how to approach those near and dear to us who may be distant from God, when to insert ourselves into the lives of others in our neighborhood and faith community who may regard our attention as an intrusion, and to what extent we should devote ourselves to those “beyond our borders” when there is so much to do in our own home and community.

In my short time as director of faith formation at our parish, two different books have been strongly recommended to me, presenting two different approaches to making disciples.  The first, Rebuilt by White and Corcoran, tells the story of a parish in Maryland that, under the leadership of a new pastor and his lay associate, has turned from a stagnant and dying community into a rapidly growing parish due to its willingness to challenge and change longstanding approaches in order to be more accessible to the lost and “dechurched.” The second, Forming Intentional Disciples by Weddell, shares 18 years of experience visiting, interviewing, and helping parishes and parish leaders become and then develop disciples who know and understand their personal gifts and give them willingly to God in order both to evangelize others and to deepen their own “lived relationship with God.”

Both books do a great job of articulating the problems we face as Catholic parishes in our modern individualistic, relativistic, and consumer society. Both reference scripture, the Magesterium, and the saints to articulate what should be done to address these problems. Both have very different approaches to execution, and we can learn a great deal by looking at them both in brief.