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

Friday, July 22, 2016

Headed to the Motherland!

Krakow, Poland
This time tomorrow, Gabe and I will be winding our way through security lines at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, preparing to embark on a pilgrimage to Poland to join Pope Francis and millions of other Catholics from around the world for World Youth Day. This will be Gabe's first flight, first international trip, and first World Youth Day; for me, it's my second overseas trip (Iceland being the first), one of my two or three longest flights (Iceland and Hawaii), and my second World Youth Day (2002 in Toronto with Pope John Paul II).

For me, it as also very much a journey to the Motherland. My mom is a Polish Catholic farm girl whose grandparents immigrated from Poland in the first half of the 20th century: the Galubenskis and Koczwaras. The Thorp clan is so diverse in its various bloodlines that Polish has always been the nationality I've identified most strongly with: it's the only foreign language I've heard older relatives speak, the one ethnic cuisine I've had older relatives cook and serve, the language I studied in college, and the only poetry I've ever taken the time to translate myself. Poland's history is deep, beautiful, tragic, and heroic. And even now, remarkably Catholic.

I am blessed to make this trip with a number of friends from here in Minnesota, and especially with Gabe, whose faith as a teen almost certainly surpasses my own. It is my hope that this trip deepens my own conversion and his, so we can be the men God has called us to be with courage, joy, and zeal.

I'm sure I'll post much more on this trip when we return. Pray for us and for our family and friends while we're away, and know of our prayers for you! St. John Paul II, St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. Faustina Kowalska -- all you great Polish saints and all you holy men and women -- pray for us!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Be the Bedrock

Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock. – Matthew 7:24-25

A few weeks ago, my daughter Emma shared a beautiful encounter she had during Adoration at Extreme Faith Camp. While praying with her eyes closed, she saw a young girl not unlike our younger daughter Lily, and received the distinct impression that this was Jude, the baby we miscarried before Lily was born. At first she felt sad, reflecting on how she never knew her other sister—until she heard words of consolation from our Lord. After those words, she even invited Jude to sit in her lap, and felt her sister close to her.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Love Does Not Divide

How long, Lord? Will you utterly forget me? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I carry sorrow in my soul, grief in my heart day after day?  – Psalm 13:2-3
I ended last night with coverage of the shooting of Philando Castile by a police officer in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. I woke to 12 police officers shot by a sniper in Dallas, Texas.

Can you feel it? The tension in the air? A spark has been struck, I fear, that cannot be contained.

And it’s an election year. Everything is spun, hyper-analyzed, re-calculated, and spun again. Everything is us-versus-them.

Can you hear it? The rattle between my lungs of the small stony lump that passes, these days, for a human heart? I can. It has shrunken and solidified more while I slept.

I can feel my heart hardening, each time my “enemies” advance. I can feel the love draining away and the anger rising. I am tempted to turn away from those I once cared about because we don’t agree. I have no time to spend on the lost sheep with my little flock to attend.

How cavalierly we treat the salvation of souls—including our own.

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.