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

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Your Eternity Begins Now

For the past few years, our family has joined numerous others from our parish and surrounding churches for Life Chain, an hour of silent public prayer for an end to the evil of abortion in our country. We spread out along Highway 19 between the parish school and Middle School West and stand facing the road, holding signs and praying.

On the back of the signs are suggested hymns, prayers, and petitions to guide our personal reflection during that hour. Every year, I am taken aback by the petition that asks me to pray for God’s mercy for all I have failed to do to protect life and work for an end to abortion—because every year, I am convinced I could have done more.

Now we are two weeks out from electing a new president. Most of us have likely made up our minds how we will vote—guided, I hope, by reason and a well-formed conscience.  God willing, no Catholic will cast a vote in support of abortion or its proponents. Beyond that, faithful Catholics can and do disagree on how best to combat the evils in our society by our actions at the ballot box. With that in mind, I would like to share three thoughts about the aftermath of Election Day.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

And the Heavens Respond

We have no love at all except that which comes from God. All love in this world is, as Dante writes, “the Love that moves the sun and other stars.” For as St. John the Evangelist tells us, God is love; and as Moses learned, God Is Who Is—He is Being itself, in whom we live and move and have our (own) being.  From this perspective, Love is the substance of being, its essence, its purpose, its end.

What does this Love look like? It looks like us, roughly—we are made in His image. But we are, most of us, broken and sinful, so the image is distorted. Let us look to Mary, then, as the created image, and to Jesus Christ as the begotten one. Let us look at these two and ask again: What does this Love look like?

It is pure, intense, obedient. It is courageous, honest, and merciful. It is boundless, bloody, and self-sacrificing. It accomplishes the Father’s will at whatever cost to itself. It never fails.

This is the universe in which we live. This is what we are made of, and what we are made for. The very dust of this world cries out in love, for love. And the heavens respond.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Dante, or Three Things to Love
About the Divine Comedy

Blogger's Note: Several years ago, I agreed to my friend Jacqui's challenge to read 15 Classics in 15 Weeks. I continue to press forward, this being number 13 of 15, and at this point 15 Classics in 15 Years seems quite doable...

Late last week I finished reading Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy in its entirety for the first time. I had read excerpts for different classes over the years, and have read a little about the great work. The book itself was something of a pilgrimage through hell, purgatory, and heaven. This is my least favorite of the thirteen classics I've read so far as part of this challenge, and was tough sledding at times. Nevertheless, I do agree that this is a great literary work and worth the effort to complete at least once.

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Choice Is Still Before Us

“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ but not do what I command?” – Luke 6:46

Recently I was paid a great compliment: I was called a disciple. My reaction surprised me. I didn’t feel pride or embarrassment, but alarm. My immediate concern was that if people consider me disciple, they might strive to be like me and fall short of true discipleship. The closer I get to God the more clearly I see how far I have to go. I am a tall man, but a low bar.

We all have a choice to make, to leave our former life behind and follow Christ to Calvary. As Deacon Ralph Poyo shared in his recent visit, it is an all-or-nothing choice. We are called to love the Lord with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. The only way to put God first is to place everything else behind Him.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Long Goodbye Addenda

In the emotion of last weekend, I neglected a few details from dropping Brendan off at UMary:

  • No sooner had Bren and his roommate introduced themselves to each other than one of the Benedictine Sisters of Annunciation Monastery and one of the RAs appeared to sprinkle holy water in the room, pray with them, and give them a cross-shaped icon to hang. So the first real interaction Brendan and his roommate had with each other and with the university community was shared prayer. Very nice.
  • I posted a photo of Bismarck's Big Boy drive-in, but not the details, and this may be of interest to anyone who, like me, brew up with Big restaurants. The plump fellow in checked overalls and the Big Boy name is there, but the experience is something different entirely. First, it is strictly a drive-thru. Second, it does not serve breakfast, and for lunch and dinner, has a unique menu including tasty fried chicken, a pizza burger "flying style" (i.e. pressed flat and sealed tight around the edges so it doesn't leak in your car), fries with country gravy, and the Purple Cow, a grape-flavored milkshake. It's not fancy, but tasty and relatively cheap, if you are ever in need of a quick bite in Bismarck.
  • In an effort to get daytime, and especially nighttime, driving hours, Gabe pushed himself hard to do most of the driving for the trip. He drove from Albertville to NDSU in Fargo to drop Bren off with friendson Friday afternoon, negotiating a surprising amount of traffic and a stiff crosswind with the big blue Suburban. I drove from NDSU to the hotel for the night, and to Sandy's Donuts (great!), NDSU, and 30 minutes toward Bismarck in the morning, then Gabe took over again to get us to a gas station in Bismarck. Jodi drove from the station to Big Boy and U Mary--then Gabe drove a full six hours straight from Bismarck back home again. 
  • The "highlight" of the drive home? A stretch of about 10 miles in which the bugs hitting the Suburban sounded like rain, and the wipers and fluid couldn't keep up. Visibility was probably 60 percent when we finally found a gas station to clean the windshield. A half dozen other vehicles were doing the same, and the place was completely sold out of wiper fluid. We got the windshield cleaned, and had no further problems--but Sunday morning, the bugs were still so thick on the grill and headlight they were attracting other bugs to feed. Disgusting.
Many memories. Bren is doing well. Can't wait to get back out there and catch a football game or wrestling meet!

Monday, September 5, 2016

Long Goodbye

It's a strange sensation, like a high-tensile wire stretched six hours west to a bluff above Bismarck and the Missouri River, a steady thrum, more felt than heard, reminding me that a part of me is there. Not gone, but definitely not here, and I can't know from one moment to the next what he's about. We are six hours distant, so I know less about his day-to-day -- but I am more keenly aware of him than I have been in years. His absence is a presence, palpable, in our home.

I am wearing an old hardware-store t-shirt he left behind.

I haven't felt this sort of connection to my eldest son since he first came home with us -- the heaviest ten pounds I ever lifted -- and I realized he was ours to shape and raise to manhood. Then the connection was direct, bare skin on bare skin, almost frighteningly close: his little chest expanding and contracting, the soft spot where his skull had yet to form pulsing, his every need and discomfort so close to the surface we could almost feel it. Now it's this invisible strand from one eggish Thorpian occiput to another. He's always at the back of my mind.

I wonder if he feels it, too?