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, November 24, 2016

So Grateful Tonight...

Yesterday morning we loaded the Suburban, picked up Bren's girlfriend Olivia are 7:45 a.m. Central time, and headed to Bismarck to fetch our eldest from University of Mary. Olivia rode shotgun (five bucks who can explain why I decided to call her "Coach") to the campus, and we played the letter game, the license plate game, talked, sang along to the iPod, and ate Hardee's for lunch in Jamestown, N.D.

We reached UMary and Gabe and Olivia retrieved Bren from his dorm. He came out with a box, a backpack, a duffle bag, a cased guitar, an uncased mandolin, and his heavy Carhartt jacket. We had room for the duffle bag and the guitar--but we stuffed it in, crossed the river into Mandan, and headed south by southwest to the Dennis Ranch in Red Owl, S.D., for supper. Bren and Olivia held the guitar at bay with the backs of their heads. At dusk the deer were moving along the roads; darkness fell quickly, and fog rolled in, so we lost time peering in the the gray-black, watching for movement.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Tolstoy, or Three Things to Love About Anna Karenina

Blogger's Note: Several years ago, I agreed to my friend Jacqui's challenge to read 15 Classics in 15 Weeks. Though 15 weeks is long past, the end is near, this being number 14 of 15.

I am not like other men (or at least, not like many that I know). I have just past my forty-second birthday, and just read Leo Tolstoy's immense novel Anna Karenina, by personal choice—and I loved it. 

My friend Fr. Tyler (from the Prairie Father blog) recommended it to me as "the greatest love story ever born in the mind of man and put to paper." He has never led me astray in terms of fiction, but other men might not see that as a recommendation. I mentioned to a friend a week or so ago that I was reading it, and asked if he had ever. He laughed and said, "Ah...no."

"It's a great book," I said, and again he smiled: "I don't doubt it." And that was that.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Who Reigns In Your Heart?

Put no trust in princes, in children of Adam powerless to save. 
Who breathing his last, returns to the earth; that day all his planning comes to nothing. – Psalms 146:3-4

This Sunday is the Feast of Christ the King, celebrating the authority and lordship of Jesus over all of creation and marking the end of the liturgical year. Falling just before the all-consuming holiday season and the secular New Year, this feast provides us with an opportunity to reflect on what holds mastery over our hearts before the avalanche of turkey and tinsel. And since it specifically celebrates Chris’s kingship, it takes on special relevance in the aftermath of a contentious election.

Who is this Jesus who rules over all? We are blessed to have an immense icon of Christ the King in the dome of our church. This image, called Pantocrator or “ruler of all,” depicts our glorified Lord looking down from heaven, holding the Book of Life by which we are judged (God’s justice) but with His right hand raised in blessing (God’s mercy). The three-rayed halo behind His head and Greek letters in the image identify Him simultaneously as Jesus Christ (IC XC) and as “I Am Who Am” (WON), or God Himself.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Reflection on Freedom


From my Facebook page on Nov. 3:
Reflecting on, of all things, a line from the old song Remember the Alamo: "Young Davey Crockett was singing and laughing/With gallantry fierce in his eyes/For God and for freedom, a man more than willing to die." 
Freedom like that -- courage and even joy in the face of persecution, destruction, and death -- does not come from politicians, legislation, constitutions, or economies. It comes directly from God. It is not freedom from, but freedom for, and it can only be taken away by the Devil. Only he can bind us, and only if we let him. 
Make no mistake, we are free men and women. This next week, and next four years, can only change that if we allow it. 
Thank you, Lord, for this beautiful morning.

It's another beautiful day today. We are blessed by God with life and liberty -- may we be as free as that song lyric: free to laugh in the face of power, danger, and death, knowing these things cannot touch our inner mystery: that we are made in His image, out of love and for love.

I'm not suggesting armed conflict is coming, but reminding us that we are always -- always! -- free to do what we think is best. We may suffer for it, but suffering in this life is expected and temporary. And as the Catholic evangelist Mark Hart says, even when our legs shake, the rock upon which we stand will not be shaken.

Take courage, whatever happens. You are free, unless you yield it up yourself.

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.