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, May 23, 2015

The Sacraments Keep Us Catholic

“At last the most wonderful day of my life arrived, and I can remember every tiny detail of those heavenly hours … How lovely it was, that first kiss of Jesus in my heart—it was truly a kiss of love.” – St. Therese of Lisieux, describing her first Holy Communion

Last month I was blessed to witness nearly 140 young people from our parish and school receiving their first Holy Communion. They were, by and large, reverent and excited—and those I spoke with personally understood at least in concept that they were receiving Jesus’s Body and Blood under the appearance of bread and wine. I hope at least a few of them remember the day with the same deep joy and devotion as St. Therese expresses above.  I’m almost certain, unfortunately, that a few have not been back.

Our approach to preparing children for First Confession and First Communion in recent years has increasingly fallen on their parents. In one sense, this is as it should be: the Catechism of the Catholic Church affirms that, through marriage, “parents receive the responsibility and privilege of evangelizing their children” and “should initiate their children at an early age into the mysteries of the faith.”

Sunday, May 17, 2015

On the Verge: Local Band Pabulum Shakes
the Shed With Eclectic Mix of Rock and Humor

Set List:
Are You Ready? - Pabulum
Seven Nation Army - The White Stripes
Simple Man - Lynyrd Skynyrd
Thinking Out Loud - Ed Sheeran
Luminous - Luke Eicher
Apologize - OneRepublic
I'm Yours - Jason Mraz
Tribute - Tenacious D
Fun-Size Love - Pabulum
Valley of Lights - Pabulum
Verbigeration - Pabulum
Who: Pabulum with special guest Luke Eicher (all ages show)
When: Saturday, May 16, 2015, 10:30 p.m.
Where: The Shed in St. Michael

It's a rare treat for a rock reviewer (or a rocker's parent) to get in on the ground floor of a band's rise to stardom, but that was the vibe at The Shed last night, where rock trio Pabulum and guest pianist Luke Eicher played their first-ever show. Local promoter Abigail Herbst took a chance on the new band to close Catholic Prom, a do-it-yourself formal dance for the youth St. Michael and St. Albert parishes and their friends hosted by the Eicher clan. The result? A rough and ready glimpse of young rockers in the making.

Although the three founding members of the trio aren't related by blood, Pabulum is very much a family affair: cymbal-smashing drummer, accordian player, guitarist, and vocalist Joe Eicher is brother to part-time contributor and classically trained pianist and singer Luke Eicher; and laconic bassist Brendan Thorp's bowler-hatted and bow-tied brother Gabe is the band's stage manager, tech, and jack-of-all-trades. The band's primary front man and lead guitarist Jeff Geiger is their brother-from-another-mother, setting the tone for the group by alternating freely between aspiring rock god and manic musical comic.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Confessions of a Fledgling Catholic:
Mass Doesn’t Fulfill Me, Either

When he returned to his disciples he found them asleep. He said to Peter, “So you could not keep watch with me for one hour? Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”    – Matthew 26:40-41

I’ve had a version of the following conversation countless times, including twice in the last week: I don’t get anything out of Mass. I’ve heard it from parishioners and strangers: I’m not learning anything. I’m just going through the motions. I’ve heard it from family and friends: I don’t any feel joy or peace. I don’t feel fulfilled.

These conversations resonate with me because I’ve heard their echo over the years in the hollow around my own heart: I want to love the Mass, but I’m not like those people. I can’t pray like that.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

In Gratitude for Those Who Carry the Water

It’s been a busy spring. One Thursday morning during the sprint through the sacraments of Confirmation and First Communion, I woke in the wee hours, unable to sleep with all the To-Dos and details swirling in my mind. So I lit a candle and prayed a rosary. I’d love to say that I am so devoted to Our Lady that I knew a half-hour spent in prayer would alleviate all my anxieties and bring me spiritual insight and peace. But in reality, I was merely begging for sleep and hoping on repetition of prayers would deliver it.

The second Luminous Mystery was the miracle of the Wedding at Cana, in which Jesus turns six stone jars full of water into wine for a bridal party that has run out. And it struck me like this: out of His gratuitous grace and mercy, Christ overlooked the apparent poor planning of the celebrating families and provided the best wine of the night in superabundance. He rewards our bumbling progress toward Him with the gift of his life-giving love, rich and red and intoxicating. And I heard Mary’s reassuring words to the servants: “Do whatever He tells you.”

I found peace in that moment, knowing that no matter what happened in the coming weeks, as long as we were listening to Christ, His love would flow forth to fortify His people.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

O Death, Where Is Your Sting?

At long last, we celebrate Easter, and the resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ! Perhaps you've been steadfast in prayer, heartbroken and sincere in penance, and generous in alms-giving. Or perhaps you feel you've done too little, too late, for our Lord -- perhaps you've slipped in your Lenten commitments or find that Easter has crept up on you almost unawares.

Either way, take comfort in the Easter homily below from St. John Chrysotom. Drawing on the gospel of Matthew, chapter 20, he reminds us that we never come too late to God and always receive full payment!

Easter Homily by St. John Chrysostom
Let all pious men and all lovers of God rejoice in the splendor of this feast; let the wise servants blissfully enter into the joy of their Lord; let those who have borne the burden of Lent now receive their pay, and those who have toiled since the first hour, let them now receive their due reward; let any who came after the third hour be grateful to join in the feast, and those who may have come after the sixth, let them not be afraid of being too late; for the Lord is gracious and He receives the last even as the first. He gives rest to him who comes on the eleventh hour as well as to him who has toiled since the first: yes, He has pity on the last and He serves the first; He rewards the one and praises the effort. 
Come you all: enter into the joy of your Lord. You the first and you the last, receive alike your reward; you rich and you poor, dance together; you sober and you weaklings, celebrate the day; you who have kept the fast and you who have not, rejoice today. The table is richly loaded: enjoy its royal banquet. The calf is a fatted one: let no one go away hungry. All of you enjoy the banquet of faith; all of you receive the riches of his goodness. Let no one grieve over his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed; let no one weep over his sins, for pardon has shone from the grave; let no one fear death, for the death of our Saviour has set us free: He has destroyed it by enduring it, He has despoiled Hades by going down into its kingdom, He has angered it by allowing it to taste of his flesh. 
When Isaias foresaw all this, he cried out: "O Hades, you have been angered by encountering Him in the nether world." Hades is angered because frustrated, it is angered because it has been mocked, it is angered because it has been destroyed, it is angered because it has been reduced to naught, it is angered because it is now captive. It seized a body, and, lo! it encountered heaven; it seized the visible, and was overcome by the invisible.
O death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory? Christ is risen and you are abolished. Christ is risen and the demons are cast down. Christ is risen and the angels rejoice. Christ is risen and life is freed. Christ is risen and the tomb is emptied of the dead: for Christ, being risen from the dead, has become the Leader and Reviver of those who had fallen asleep. To Him be glory and power for ever and ever. Amen. 
He is risen, indeed -- let us feast and rejoice this day like no other! Alleluia!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Book Break: Holy Week by Jerzy Andrzejewski

Somewhere along the line these past few years I picked up an English translation of the short novel Holy Week by Polish author Jerzy Andrzejewski. I bought it knowing almost nothing about the book or the author, because I used to study Polish in college, as a tribute to my maternal roots, and because Polish literature can be hard to come by. Andrzejewski is perhaps best know for his novel Ashes and Diamonds, which was turned into a well-known Polish film of the same name by Andrzej Wajda, who has also made a film version of Holy Week. I saw the movie version of Ashes and Diamonds in college and liked it, so I took a chance on the book.

The novel tells the story on the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and the tragic burning of the ghetto and elimination of Warsaw's Jews during the days leading up to Easter of 1943 -- from the perspective of a handful of Poles whose lives are variously entangled with each other's and with a young Jewish woman trying to evade the Nazis and their Polish informers.