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

Monday, June 20, 2016

What Does It Mean to Be a Member?

This past week I finished reading The Weight of Glory, a collection of essays and lectures by the great C.S. Lewis. The piece that made the biggest impression on me was a reflection called "Membership," in which Lewis explains the fundamental differences between what St. Paul meant when spoke of members of the Church and what we mean today.

Today, when we say someone is a member, whether of a church, a club, a team, or a family, we generally mean a unit—a part or cog in some bigger machine that shares some commonality or purpose. The emphasis is on similarity or even uniformity.

This is nearly directly the opposite of St. Paul’s usage of member in the sense of a part of body. In his first letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul emphasizes the uniqueness and irreplaceability of each part:

Friday, June 10, 2016

Book Break: Three Quick Reads

I'm playing catch-up on "reviewing" a few faith-building books I've read in recent months. I recommend all three, depending on where you and your family are on your faith journey.

Blessed Are the Bored in Spirit by Mark Hart
Mark Hart is a former Catholic youth minister, self-proclaimed Bible geek, and vice president of LIFE TEEN...and a recovering cultural Catholic who was just going through the motions in his younger years. Blessed Are the Bored in Spirit: A Young Catholic's Search For Meaning is a short (less than 150 pages), light, and humorous look at the temptations, attitudes, and obstacles that keep teens and adults lukewarm in their faith. If you've heard Hart speak (as in this video we shared at LIFT this past year), you've got some idea of the tone and level of this book. I recommend it for teens, young adults, and family discussions.

Jesus Shock by Peter Kreeft
The title and cover of Peter Kreeft's 176-page Jesus Shock make you wonder if it's by that Peter Kreeft. It is. Kreeft  is a professor of philosophy, lecturer, and author of countless books on theology, philosophy, history, and apologetics -- but Jesus Shock is the result of asking God, "What do You want me to write?" The answer, he says, was "Me." Kreeft asks questions of his readers to help them probe their knowledge of and attitude toward Jesus, and uses Scripture to show how the Incarnation, the God-Man, the Word of God and Savior of the World, is everything we long for and anything but boring. This a somewhat deeper and more academic read that Mark Hart's book, and more clever than humorous, but still very accessible for adults and motivated teens. It's a good book for self-reflection or discussion.

The Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis
And now for something completely different: The Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis is a collection of beloved homilies, lectures, and essays by the great writer and apologist, on topics as diverse as the problems with pacifism, why study of the liberal arts matters, the challenge of forgiveness, the incoherence of a strictly scientific worldview, what membership means (and what it should mean), and more. These individual pieces are not directly related to each other, except by authorship, but they present a picture of Lewis's Christian outlook and concerns about the direction of modern culture that have stood the test of time and are perhaps more relevant today than ever. If you enjoy Lewis's writings beyond the Narnia series, or if you want to dig more deeply into Christianity in the modern world, brew some coffee, get comfortable, and enjoy. This book is great for personal reflection and deeper discussion, especially if you like stretching your intellectual muscles a bit!

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Time Flies: A Thorp Family Update

The most recent photo of us all, with my folks and
sister's family thrown in for good measure.
I've remarked more times than I can count in the past year: "My age doesn't bother me; it's the fact that Brendan is heading to college." It's my kids' ages that get to me -- not the the additional salt in my pepper, the aches and pains, the fact that I'm often tired and can rarely sleep.

This past year has flown, and with a grad party and a trip to Poland for World Youth Day, the summer promises to be even faster. So I thought I'd offer you all an update on our family before we blink and the leaves fall again.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

A Higher Education

As we crossed the plains of North Dakota this weekend, I made a surprising discovery: my college roommate Frank is now the Honorable Franklin R. Parker, assistant secretary of the Navy.

We were headed to Bismarck to register Brendan for his first-year classes at the University of Mary. Jodi was driving, and I sat hunched in the back seat of our little commuter car, giving Brendan and his mom some quality time up front. We had been talking to him about things that change as you move through life: interests and priorities shift, people you were close once slowly drift away. "It just sort of happens," I said. "Often it's not even intentional: my buddy Frank from Yale and I used to be in touch a couple times a year -- we would at least exchange letters at Christmas -- but this last winter I didn't hear from him and our Christmas letter bounced back to us. They must've moved."

I sat a moment, then said, "Of course, he is an attorney and has worked for some pretty big firms, so I could probably find him again in just a few minutes on Google."

Saturday, May 7, 2016

A Father’s Greatest Fear

This past week, 130 teens from our parish and school received the Sacrament of Confirmation. A few of these young people are already leaders in the community, drawing others to Christ. More will enter into the fullness of the Catholic faith and begin to live as disciples of Jesus, called to follow, and gifted to reach out to their family, friends, and strangers in new and beautiful ways.

But unfortunately, many others will view Confirmation as the last requirement of “growing up Catholic.” They will be happy to be done with religion classes and will begin almost immediately to drift away from the Church.

Last weekend my bride and I spent Sunday afternoon with three other couples trying to raise Catholic families. We talked about cultivating perseverance in our children: strengthening them to look for ways forward when the going gets tough, to have the courage of their convictions, and to fall and rise again. We talked, in particular, about the difficulty of letting our teens make decisions we don’t agree with in order for them to learn on their own those things that our experience could teach but that they won’t hear.

At least two of us agreed that our biggest fear is our children falling away from the faith. My friend said that when he shares this fear, people will seek to reassure him: You are doing everything you can; they have to make their own choices.

“In reality, it’s not about me,” he said. “I worry, because I know how long a road it is to come back.”

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Book Break: The Great Divorce

I mentioned in an earlier post that I had a profound Good Friday, but that was only half the story. The other half of the story is that, early that Friday morning, I sought out some spiritual reading for the day, and wound up with a new top-five favorite book: C.S. Lewis's The Great Divorce.

Of course, when reading spiritually, the Bible is always a good place to start, and I'm also making slow but steady progress through Dante's Divine Comedy a canto or two a day. But I wanted something fresh, something I could possibly read in a day, and something related to the penitential character of Good Friday and the great saving act of our Lord.

On a hunch, I took C.S, Lewis's The Great Divorce from the bookshelf. I have great regard for Lewis as a writer and had heard good things about the book, particularly from my good friend Angie at Take Time for Him.