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, December 20, 2014

This Is No Way to Save a People

Brawn would serve better in dark days. A warrior-king, fierce and just, with a gleaming sword to rally the oppressed, and perhaps a little gold in the treasury. But no. A common child, born in a barn, for mothers everywhere to chide. A wriggling newborn, helpless and purple, soiling the straw of a feeding trough, bloodying the stainless white of his mother’s peasant shift and the hard unkingly hands of his carpenter stepfather. Joseph, right? All trade and no talents, that one—David’s line has grown thin indeed. And no place to call home. Bound for Egypt, on an ass.

I wrote the words above three Christmases ago, shaking my head in wonder at the unearned gifts we had received in the previous few years. We had miscarried in November 2010, and even in our heartache, had been pressed by our older children to try again. We then had Lily and watched as our family reformed around this tiny monsterpiece. After more than a decade of married life, we had finally brought our marriage into conformity with all of the Church’s teachings and had been dismantled and rebuilt in God’s image: a life-giving communion of love.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

How the Baby of the Family Celebrates

"I'm three now!"
 On Monday, our monsterpiece turned three. Strangely, the fact that, for one special day, the world revolved around her seemed very much like any other day, except that she also got to choose what we had for dinner. Baked mac-and-cheese and meatloaf was the order. (Actually, Double Beetloaf, a tongue-in-cheek name for a family favorite recipe from Jodi's soon-to-be sister-in-law, Tally.) And a castle cake, with pink frosting and multicolor sprinkles.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Called to the Light Through Confession

Not long after Jodi and I were married, I found myself sitting beside her at Mass with more questions than answers about why I was coming every week, but refusing to resume receiving the sacraments. I had been baptized Catholic as an infant, and had made my First Reconciliation and First Communion as a tween, but had not grown up in the faith. I had a few doubts, a dozen objections, and a hundred excuses -- but fatherhood changes a guy, and I was struggling with the fact that what I loved about my wife (her strong and solid faith) I was as yet unwilling to commit to myself.

Our priest at St. Michael Catholic Church in Remus, Michigan, changed all that. I asked Fr. Bill if I could meet with him one evening, and we talked for a couple of hours or more. I dumped my doubts, issues, concerns, and questions in the middle of the floor of the rectory living room, and he helped me pick through them awhile. 

Finally he said, "Jim, you've got a good head on your shoulders. God gave you that brain, and he wants you to use it. But you aren't going to find the answers to all your questions if you hold your faith away from you and examine it at a distance. You need to embrace it and look at it up close. You should consider going to confession and resume receiving the Eucharist."

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

LIFT Links: On Christmas, Mentoring, and Chastity

Blogger's Note: In an effort to help friends find great Catholic content that supports them in the practice of their faith, periodically I’ll be sharing articles, websites, books, and other resources that may be of interest.
  • This Christmas, Strive to Look Good on Wood. It's a bit poetic, but this reflection on the scandal of God coming down to be born in a feed trough and die on a cross is worth a slow read in a comfortable chair. Oh, how He loves us!
  • Sticks and Stones? Those Catholic Men reflect on how important it is for mentors (from fathers to teachers, coaches to catechists) to be thoughtful in their words. I know I've been one to snarl, "Man up!" from time to time myself...but how beautiful the words of God: This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased!
  • Chastity Is For Lovers. A columnist for the National Catholic Register reviews a book with an important message, not just for young adults, but for old married couples as well. I can speak to this from my own conversion after 11 years of marriage (most of them as a practicing Catholic): marriage does not do away with the need for chastity. Indeed it is essential to happiness in married life!

    Thursday, November 27, 2014

    The Feast Before the Feast

    Alarm at 6. Hands inside a semi-frozen turkey at 6:05, breaking free the neck and extras. Stuffed and in the oven by 6:20. Sun's not even up yet. Maybe I should head back to bed -- it's a holiday, after all.

    Nah. Coffee and a quick post about the Feast before the feast.

    Each year, the church offers a special Thanksgiving Mass on Thanksgiving morning -- the perfect start to a day dedicated not so much to fats and football, but to that most precious of human expressions: gratitude. We are blessed people. Blessed to be breathing. Blessed to have a God in heaven who cared enough to create us, to give us an ordered world in which to live, and the freedom to strive, fall, and strive again.

    In The Lamb's Supper: The Mass as Heaven on Earth, Scott Hahn reminds us that the sacrifice of the Mass, the Holy Eucharist, takes its name from the Greek word for thanksgiving: "Man's primal need to worship God has always expressed itself in sacrifice: worship that is simultaneously an act of praise, self-giving, atonement, and thanksgiving (in Greek, eucharista) (p. 26)."

    Saturday, November 22, 2014

    Wear Your Faith Lightly

    "Seriousness is not a virtue. …[S]olemnity flows out of men naturally; but laughter is a leap. It is easy to be heavy: hard to be light. Satan fell by the force of gravity. 
    – G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy
    About the time I graduated high school, I remember a conversation with my dad about a friend of mine. You know the guy—great fun to be around, but always on the edge of trouble, and one could never be sure he’d stick around if things went south. “But someday,” said Dad, “he’s going to grow up, raise a family, and be an upstanding citizen. And he’s going to look back on his high-school days and think, ‘Man, I had fun.’”

    He looked at me and said, “Sometimes I wonder if you’ll be able to say the same.”