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, July 25, 2015

Our Hope Demands Change

I don’t know about you, but I avoid the news like the plague. No matter the source, the media today is a place of constant conflict, and it’s easy to get caught in the ceaseless spin cycle and feel as though everything is falling apart around us. It’s easy to lose the perspective that we are in this world, but not of it. And once we lose that perspective, it’s easy to lose hope.

But as Catholics, our hope is in God and transcends this world. Specifically, our hope is in a personal God, who loves each of us enough to become like the least of us: wriggling and helpless in a Bethlehem stable; hungry and homeless on the road to Egypt; hard-working and cash-strapped in the wood shop in Nazareth; hounded and criticized by His own people; persecuted and abandoned by those who should have known and loved Him best. Jesus’s perfect and total Yes to the Father finally silenced the steady drumbeat of Nos that had echoed through the ages since the fall of Adam and Eve. He lived, He died, He rose again—we know this through the words of the prophets, the witness of the apostles, and the blood of martyrs. Never before have so many sacrificed everything—their very lives!—for so outlandish a claim as a God-Man who let himself be humiliated and slaughtered only to rise again from the dead. Who would die for such a thing? If you had any doubt in your mind, would you give your life?

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Book Break: Impact of God

This spring, Fr. Richards tasked the parish staff with reading Fr. Iain Matthew's book, The Impact of God: Soundings From St. John of the Cross. This request was a blessing in disguise. It's a blessing, because the book, ultimately, is a beautiful and thought-provoking exploration of the Spanish mystic's theology of nada and todo (nothing and all), his approach to prayer, his call to love and union with God. It was in disguise, because by most accounts, St. John of the Cross is not an easy read:

  • first, because he begins with poetry -- in particular, achingly breathless love poetry -- to God;
  • second, because his unpacking of these poems exposes layer upon layer of latent meaning -- like God Himself, hidden within;
  • and third, because his message of detachment and relinquishing control to a God whom we cannot hope to see clearly is a hard teaching.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Brandings

Blogger's Note: Another past writing, from 2001. This is one of my favorite pieces of non-fiction I ever wrote, and came back to my mind following this recent post from Prairie Father. In case you are wondering, Fr. Tyler is, in fact, the Tyler mentioned below. Finally, I'm no cowboy. If my terminology is imprecise or inaccurate, forgive me. If it is offensive to cowboys, correct me in the comments!

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The city girl behind the counter called it a marking. She wore Doc Marten sandals and just last week mistook a bird’s call for approaching cattle. Drugstore cowgirl, with her chopped blonde hair tucked beneath a curled straw hat, more Junior Brown than Tom Mix. She wants a stampede string to keep it in place should she need to chase cattle at the “marking,” and I’m smiling at the thought of her sprinting in her sandals through knee-high grass behind some rangy Angus cow, her hat tied tight beneath her chin.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Thomas and Me

Blogger's Note: What follows is as close as I've come to a mystical experience. Because of this, I don't doubt the charismatic side of our faith as much as some -- but also, I recognize more fully that it is extremely hard to know what's going on in another's mind, heart, and soul. I wrote this back in 2003, shortly after moving to Minnesota and relatively early in my return to the Church-- before my conversion, in many ways. As such, it is a glimpse into an immature prayer life that was blessed with a brief but up-close encounter with God's love. I've made two small edits for clarity's sake. I would write this differently today, but it is as accurate as it can be. 

Thomas was a lucky man.

Imagine sharing your life with Christ, in the flesh. Experiencing the gospels firsthand. Hearing the people talk of the healer, the prophet, the man who overturned tables in the temple — your friend. Imagine seeing miracles not just happen, but be performed by someone you broke bread with.

Thomas was lucky — not only to have known Jesus personally, but also to have missed His first appearance to the disciples. Imagine — Thomas comes back from wherever he’s been, and his friends are grabbing his robes, spinning him around, each trying to explain over the others that Jesus, three days dead, had come to see them. Had breathed on them. Now, Thomas is no fool — he knows his Lord was flesh and blood, and saw Him crucified. He knows that, despite Christ’s miraculous powers, he didn’t make it off that tree alive, and he can see nine ways to Sunday how somebody pretending to be a risen Christ could really mess things up good for the disciples, for the Jews, for the Romans, everybody.

So he puts up both hands, looks at his brothers and says, “I’ll believe it when I see it. No — as a matter of fact, I’ll believe it when I can examine the holes in His holy hands and feet. When I can stick my hand in His side.”

Imagine the audacity! The disciples are staring at Thomas in open-mouthed disbelief: After all you’ve seen, and all we’ve told you — after all we’ve been through together — you won’t believe until you’ve pierced Him again with your own hands?

Thomas glares resolutely around the room, then stalks out again.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Flitter-Flutter of Tiny Wings

"Geronimo!"
For the past several days, we've had just two kids at home, Trevor and Lily. The elder three were at Extreme Faith Camp, Brendan as a leader, Gabe as a member of the prayer team, and Rose as a camper. Their return, I think, was bittersweet for the younger ones -- although bored and (allegedly) overworked at points, they enjoyed having Mom's and Dad's full attention. Lily got in trouble for interrupting far less, because there was far less to interrupt. And Trev got to go to Culver's and Jurassic World with just Jodi and me.

We parents, on the other hand, missed our teens. It took only a day or so for me to stop and calculate that we are just six years from potentially being a permanent four-person household, and eight years from Lily being alone with us, At some point unmarked in the past, the pitter-patter of tiny feet was drowned out by the flitter-flutter of tiny wings as the fledglings prepare to leave the nest.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Are We There Yet?

Gabe, napping in the minivan...
Back in my newspaper days, I wrote a column each Tuesday called “Almost There.” My bride and I were young parents of two preschool boys at that time, so “Almost there!” was a constant refrain wherever we went. But the name also captured the sense that we were on the verge of putting it all together—of making sense of marriage and family life, and of my newfound faith and fledgling career as a writer.

That was more than 15 years ago, and that sense has never left. The novelty of feeling so close to understanding wore off years ago, however—as a result, I am prone to asking our Lord like the spiritual child that I am: “Are we there yet?”