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

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Summer School

Lord, teach me to be generous. Teach me to serve you as you deserve; to give and not to count the cost, to fight and not to heed the wounds, to toil and not to seek for rest, to labor and not to ask for reward, save that of knowing that I do your will. 
– St. Ignatius of Loyola

This has been the shortest summer of my life.

I realize that speaking about summer in the past tense is part of my problem. But this summer, in particular, has emphasized how brief our time in this world actually is.

It has been a summer of firsts and lasts. Our first child graduated high school, so after his last wrestling banquet, prom, and awards night (and his first trip to the doctor for stitches), we attended our first graduation and registered for classes at the University of Mary for the first time. My own age doesn’t bother me much, but Brendan’s does—I can’t figure out how he could be leaving for college when I’m only just out of college myself.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016


Blogger's Note: My bride and I are celebrating 20 years of marriage today.

He worked wonders with wood. Miters and joints so tight you could scarcely see them. Sanded to liquid smoothness and pegged to perfection. When the Spirit struck him, he could carve, too—with such precision and attention to detail his eye seemed to see beyond the grain to the beauty within. In his hands, the transformation from seed to sapling, tree to table seemed a natural progression, a God-given purpose only he could unlock.

He was known in Nazareth as a hardworking and honorable man. Rumor had it he was descended from kings. But he was quiet, mostly; humble and discerning. He had an eye for wood, and for one girl, who was promised to God. It seemed a significant obstacle. He lived alone.

Then one day, God moved. Specifically, He beckoned—calling the unmarried men of David’s line to the temple, seeking a husband for this most favored daughter. Joseph came as he was bade, sandals on his feet, a shaft of wood, light and strong, in his hand. There she was. There he stood, one of several silent men waiting, expectantly, for a sign. The priest conferred with her parents.

God help me, he thought, for her I would work such wonders. But I am just a carpenter.

She raised her eyes and met his—met, and held. The staff in his hand shuddered and creaked as green shoots sprang forth from the top, unfurling into leaves and three soft white lilies.

Joseph’s gaze fell to the flowers above his trembling hand. The others gasped and murmured in amazement: The dead wood had bloomed!

Mary smiled. She was a woman, after all.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Headed to the Motherland!

Krakow, Poland
This time tomorrow, Gabe and I will be winding our way through security lines at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, preparing to embark on a pilgrimage to Poland to join Pope Francis and millions of other Catholics from around the world for World Youth Day. This will be Gabe's first flight, first international trip, and first World Youth Day; for me, it's my second overseas trip (Iceland being the first), one of my two or three longest flights (Iceland and Hawaii), and my second World Youth Day (2002 in Toronto with Pope John Paul II).

For me, it as also very much a journey to the Motherland. My mom is a Polish Catholic farm girl whose grandparents immigrated from Poland in the first half of the 20th century: the Galubenskis and Koczwaras. The Thorp clan is so diverse in its various bloodlines that Polish has always been the nationality I've identified most strongly with: it's the only foreign language I've heard older relatives speak, the one ethnic cuisine I've had older relatives cook and serve, the language I studied in college, and the only poetry I've ever taken the time to translate myself. Poland's history is deep, beautiful, tragic, and heroic. And even now, remarkably Catholic.

I am blessed to make this trip with a number of friends from here in Minnesota, and especially with Gabe, whose faith as a teen almost certainly surpasses my own. It is my hope that this trip deepens my own conversion and his, so we can be the men God has called us to be with courage, joy, and zeal.

I'm sure I'll post much more on this trip when we return. Pray for us and for our family and friends while we're away, and know of our prayers for you! St. John Paul II, St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. Faustina Kowalska -- all you great Polish saints and all you holy men and women -- pray for us!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Be the Bedrock

Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock. – Matthew 7:24-25

A few weeks ago, my daughter Emma shared a beautiful encounter she had during Adoration at Extreme Faith Camp. While praying with her eyes closed, she saw a young girl not unlike our younger daughter Lily, and received the distinct impression that this was Jude, the baby we miscarried before Lily was born. At first she felt sad, reflecting on how she never knew her other sister—until she heard words of consolation from our Lord. After those words, she even invited Jude to sit in her lap, and felt her sister close to her.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Love Does Not Divide

How long, Lord? Will you utterly forget me? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I carry sorrow in my soul, grief in my heart day after day?  – Psalm 13:2-3
I ended last night with coverage of the shooting of Philando Castile by a police officer in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. I woke to 12 police officers shot by a sniper in Dallas, Texas.

Can you feel it? The tension in the air? A spark has been struck, I fear, that cannot be contained.

And it’s an election year. Everything is spun, hyper-analyzed, re-calculated, and spun again. Everything is us-versus-them.

Can you hear it? The rattle between my lungs of the small stony lump that passes, these days, for a human heart? I can. It has shrunken and solidified more while I slept.

I can feel my heart hardening, each time my “enemies” advance. I can feel the love draining away and the anger rising. I am tempted to turn away from those I once cared about because we don’t agree. I have no time to spend on the lost sheep with my little flock to attend.

How cavalierly we treat the salvation of souls—including our own.

Monday, June 20, 2016

What Does It Mean to Be a Member?

This past week I finished reading The Weight of Glory, a collection of essays and lectures by the great C.S. Lewis. The piece that made the biggest impression on me was a reflection called "Membership," in which Lewis explains the fundamental differences between what St. Paul meant when spoke of members of the Church and what we mean today.

Today, when we say someone is a member, whether of a church, a club, a team, or a family, we generally mean a unit—a part or cog in some bigger machine that shares some commonality or purpose. The emphasis is on similarity or even uniformity.

This is nearly directly the opposite of St. Paul’s usage of member in the sense of a part of body. In his first letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul emphasizes the uniqueness and irreplaceability of each part: