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

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Full of Grace

Annunciation by Paolo de Matteis (1712)
Yesterday was a rare treat: a three-sacrament day. I went to work, then to Confession at lunch time, received a pre-surgery Anointing of the Sick late in the afternoon, then went to evening Mass to receive the Eucharist. Never have I felt so full of grace -- and today is the Feast of the Annunciation. Providential?

Then I came home -- late, because I was tying up loose ends to be out of the office for awhile. The family had already eaten supper, but we still managed to spend some quality time together before bed. They've got Dad's back with prayers today, as do countless other friends and family members, and a few acquaintances I just barely know. I'm a little embarrassed by the support, but I will never refuse prayers. We are blessed to have such love in our home, in our parish, and in our extended families.

Hernia surgery is supposed to be a pretty routine thing, for the surgeons, at least. Less so for me. I've never had any sort of surgery, except the removal of my wisdom teeth before I left for college. That involved local anesthesia and laughing gas; I remember begin vaguely fascinated by the industrial crunching and grinding noises emanating from my own mouth. This is different, and I don't think I'll care to know what's going on as it's happening.

I'm not a great patient, either. Oh, I'm generally alright (perhaps a little talkative) with doctors and nurses...but on the homefront, I'm more of a Man-Cold kind of guy. My bride, who works from home, is so looking forward to the next few days.

But you know what? This is actually a penitential season, in which we strive to enter more fully into Jesus's suffering for us. This is an opportunity for me to grow in this regard -- to be still, to pray, to suck it up a bit in solidarity with the One who took nails for us.

Ask Jodi at Easter if I manage to pull it off. Much love and many blessings to you this Holy Week and Easter!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

LIFT Links: Holy Week and Easter Traditions

Icons of Holy Week: Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter
I've been a little lax on LIFT Links lately (that's a lot of Ls) -- and now, as we're headed into Holy Week and the Easter Season, I need to make up for lost time.

First, the basics. Until I met and married Jodi, I was vaguely aware that Palm Sunday was the Sunday before Easter, the Good Friday was the Friday before, and Easter was a pretty big deal--right up there with Christmas. At some point early in our relationship, my bride informed me that her family attended Mass at least three (and sometimes four or more) times during Holy Week, the week between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday. As I've said more than once, they went to church on days I didn't know church was open!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Call—and Response

Given March 11, 2015
I spent two days in St. Paul last week, training to become a VIRTUS facilitator. VIRTUS is the archdiocese-approved program for helping church employees and volunteers keep our children and youth safe from abuse. A number of the presenters spoke of feeling called to protect kids—and I immediately felt out of place, not because I don’t want to keep kids safe, but because by primary motivation for signing up to become a facilitator was, “Somebody’s gotta do it.”

But over the course of the training the leaders encouraged us to think more deeply about our motives, and I learned something about myself. I told the gentleman next to me, “Our church is like a second home to me and my family—we’re there all the time!—and if there’s anything I can do to make it safer, so that my family and other families can feel at home there, I want to do it.”

Maybe there was a deeper call there after all. 

Saturday, March 7, 2015

We Need You on the LIFT Crew!

I’m not a fan of change for the sake of change. I am a creature of habit, a lover of tradition, and a big fan of consistency. Don’t get me wrong: I like to make a difference and improve things. But as a former boss of mine used to say, “A horse is easiest to ride in the direction it is going.” So it’s nerve-wracking for me to share the first significant change to how we approach faith formation at St. Michael Catholic Church, and invite you to be a part of it.

Eight years ago, I was elected to the Faith Formation Advisory Committee (FFAC). The FFAC is an group of parishioners that meets once a month to advise and support parish staff regarding LIFT and related activities. Over the years, FFAC members have been faithful, thoughtful, hard-working … and frustrated. In my own experience, the frustration stems from a sense of powerlessness. No matter how good the intentions or bold the ideas, the FFAC itself was never in a position to make a real difference.

Friday, February 27, 2015

On Being Recast...

I think the good Lord is breaking my heart in order to rebuild it today. Nothing bad happening at all -- just some rusty scrap between my lungs that is being heated to be molded or hammered into something new, I think. A shield? A sword? A ring? A wrench? Maybe He'll leave it molten and malleable so it can be reshaped at will...

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Confessions of a Struggling LIFT Parent

Over the past several weeks, 114 parishioners completed our anonymous LIFT Mid-Year Survey. We received a good balance of responses across all four LIFT nights and all grade levels; we heard strong, positive feedback; very frank and consistent negative feedback; and lots of great ideas about things we could do differently. The results of the survey are available on the church website,, by clicking the Faith Formation tab at the top of the page.

I take your feedback seriously, not only because it’s my job, but because I’m a LIFT parent, too. I know firsthand what it’s like to remember the night before LIFT that you haven’t even asked your kids about their homework, let alone helped them with it. I know that it’s harder to motivate myself to attend LIFT as my kids get older. I know that some nights, we’re lucky to remember to say Grace as a family before we scarf a late supper and fall into bed.