What are you Waiting For?

19 Oct The Waiting Place – Dr Seauss

The Waiting Place – Dr Seauss

The Waiting Place – Dr Seauss

 

  Something feels off, not quite right? You must be in a bout of sadness. If so, what would lift you out the unwelcomed sullenness? Get home and grab a glass of Shiraz. It has worked before. Maybe start that book that you set on the edge of the dresser weeks ago and have passed in between the last duty and the next obligation. Fine. But, the words are uninteresting. Flip through photos to remember spring or munch on candy corn from the freezer and think of upcoming autumn. Uneventful. Sun always does the trick, so bike down to the park. Ride quick across the bridge, too. There is nothing in the Twin Cities that can revive a torpid soul like flying over the Mississippi. And so you do.

   But this time it seems to be only a river to get over. How was it before? The fishing spot, the place for a long run. It was a shoreline wondering with a cigar hanging from your lip mid good conversation: like that one on the nature of space travel or whether your friends were for or against gardens inside the house. The river has been the reason for sitting all evening to watch the sinking sun. How once you were flabbergasted for a whole afternoon by the fact that this section of water somehow makes it to Memphis and Baton Rouge, and then may someday splash a Cuban kid or rain on Mongolia. Now you cross the bridge with some appreciation, of course, but in no way are you elated to sing into the wind or ride without hands.  It is a bunch of water and you are entering busy traffic driven by the overworked and unaware.

   It is as if there was once a kind of life to be experienced inside the kayaking or homemade Juicy Lucy’s on the grill. However, in sadness, the components are still there: trees, friends, evening time, but the crucial component is missing – that hidden life within it all. The stuff that presses itself into memory and catches you from falling asleep to the world has left your surroundings.

   So what to do to get it back? Two options: fill the day with more activity and as many short thrills as one can manage. Or wait. Wait until that life comes again, and get ready for its coming. For the Christian, this life, or liveliness, is from God and can only be seen as an unachievable gift. And according to a saint, Bernard of Clairvaux, waiting is a kind of active searching: “let us wait for the Lord, let us seek after Him.” It is a brave way to remain tied to what you wait for. Waiting is not a giving up, but a realization that we cannot create our happiness, but to be ready for when it is given.

- Laura Eusterman

 

The Sacrifices of Fatherhood

24 Sep Saint Joseph with Infant Jesus - Guido Reni

Screen Shot 2013-09-24 at 4.14.30 PM

   Today, I am a lucky man. Not because I have a lovely wife, a son, and enough work to support them. Those are all blessings, but last night I slept for seven straight hours. I closed my eyes at 11:00 PM and did not open them until 6:00 AM. I have not enjoyed such a peaceful slumber since June 1st of this year, the day my son was born. Parenthood requires a lot more sacrifice than a few hours of sleep, though, but it is all worth it for numerous reasons. For one thing, being a parent makes you a better person by promoting Christ-like humility, for it requires a constant emptying of one’s self (Philippians 2:5-8).

The son that keeps me up at night is not actually my first child, only my first-born child. In February of 2012, my wife miscarried. We did nothing to cause this child’s death, but it happened anyway. We wanted control, but had none. We were excited to welcome this new child by losing sleep, spending less money on luxury, and diminishing our social lives, but we never got the chance to empty ourselves in such a manner. Rather, we faced the difficult task of accepting our loss. Like so many couples, we know now that we are not immune to tragedy, and that what happens is not entirely up to us.

This time, we got what we wanted. We have a beautiful, healthy little boy with blue eyes, lots of hair, and a propensity to give people the stink eye. We also have a new lifestyle as parents that requires a lot of sacrifice. The usual sacrifices a parent must make are conducive to the family’s material welfare, but there is more to parenting than raising a healthy child. As a father, it is my duty to be a spiritual guide to my son. Every sane father would admit to being horribly under qualified for this job, but we have to do it anyway. We must empty ourselves to Christ through obedience, thus becoming “children of God” so that our children may know Him (Phil 2:15).

It is worth noting that parenting is not all about the child. People often forget that parents need attention, too. Mothers must help fathers, and fathers must help mothers. If the parents don’t take care of each other’s material and spiritual needs, the family will suffer. I want my family to be healthy and safe, but I also want everyone to know and love Christ. In order to help them along, I need to know, love, and serve Christ. As a boy, Karol Wojtyla learned to pray by watching his father. Something as simple as witnessing his father in prayer helped young Karol grow up to be a child of God in a “crooked and perverse generation” (Phil 2:15). My greatest joy would be knowing that I helped bring my family to Christ.

 

- Ian Skemp

Saints: Even More Reasons to Celebrate

28 Jul Smiling Saint

Minnesota loves to party. As soon as the our frigid winters disappear, we look for any reason to be out of doors. Even the palest Scandinavian will risk sunburn to enjoy all the beautiful things our state offers. Perhaps it’s the length of the cold which drives us to have a good time like there’s no tomorrow. (Honestly, who really knows what the weather forecast will bring?) From Grand Old Day to the Minnesota State Fair, from the Basilica Block party to weekends at the cabin, each weekend has something unique and something to celebrate. We get together with friends, drink great beer, listen to extraordinary music, and do that which brings us out of ourselves and into the beauty of whatever we may be celebrating. We celebrate what means the most. We honor what has been sacrificed. We recognize accomplishments and we, through the sacramental and physical world, begin to meditate and experience what the Heavenly vision of God, our true home and ultimate goal, will be like.

Saint Norbert by Martin Pepijn

Saint Norbert by Martin Pepijn

Earlier this month, I was able to create my own celebration for what I value deeply in my life. The Catholic Church, in her diversity, recognizes those whom she elevates to sainthood with recognition on a particular day of the year. If a parish or ethnic group holds the values of a saint or feast in high honor, they are permitted to celebrate the saint’s day with greater festivity than other members of the Church. They host a celebration proudly showing what makes their community special and how God speaks to them while still coming together to create the whole Church on the highest festivals like Easter or Christmas. For instance, in Catholic Mexico, May 1 is the feast day of St. Joseph the Worker and is celebrated widely. The Irish celebrate St. Patrick on March 17. Native Americans may celebrate St. Kateri Tekakwitha on July 14. Individually, people celebrate their namesake’s feast day, or their confirmation saint’s feast.

I have a particular devotion to St. Norbert. When I celebrated my saint’s day it felt to me like a great holiday! I was able to mark the day not only with special prayer but also shared my joy with friends who celebrated with me (whether they expected to or not) at the Muddy Pig. God spoke to me. He knew the day meant a lot to me and He showed me His love in a very deep and personal way. This love must be tried and experienced. No description could ever do skydiving justice: how much greater the experience of the love of God!

All God created is good and it ought to be celebrated! Explore the great festivals of the Church and learn all the reasons to raise a glass and party! There are many ways to become holy. You may find a saint or two who resonates with your spirituality. If so, toast to them!

Link to learn more about St. Norbert: http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/lots/lots181.htm

Christian Spirituality

24 Jul The Heart of the Matter

    Every once in a while, someone will ask me if I consider myself a spiritual person. It is a strange and challenging question. I am a Christian. But am I spiritual? What does that even mean for a Christian? There are all kinds of spiritualities out there today, what is Christian spirituality?

Terence Sweeney - The Pentecost Sadeo Watanabe

The Pentecost Sadeo Watanabe

The general understanding of what it means to be a Christian is to be a follower of Christ. This is true (or at least should be true). There is another meaning to the word Christian. Christ means ‘the anointed;’ Jesus was the Christ because he was the anointed One. The Holy Spirit descended on him when he was baptized in the Jordan and anointed him the Christ. A few years later, the same Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles and Mary on Pentecost, anointing them too.

This is all good and nice, but how does this relate to being spiritual? In baptism and confirmation, Christians are anointed with the Holy Spirit. We become christs. What does this mean? It means the Holy Spirit lives in our hearts. In calling ourselves Christians, we are not just saying we try to follow Christ, we mean we have been anointed as follower of and witness for Christ. For a Christian, to be spiritual primarily means that the Holy Spirit lives in our heart. The Spirit fills us to overflowing giving us the gifts we need to follow Jesus and to be christs to our brothers and sisters.

This is the heart of Christian spirituality. It isn’t something we do, it is something that God gives us and that we must be receptive to it. We must allow the Spirit to totally transform us as the Spirit transformed Jesus, the Son of God, from a carpenter to the Messiah. Of course, as our Christian and non-Christian readers will clearly recognize, many Christians are often not very Christ-like. We block the Holy Spirit’s actions in our hearts; we are not spiritual because we do not follow the Spirit. Nonetheless, to be a Christian is a calling from God which can only be fulfilled if we allow the Spirit to overflow out of us in acts of love.

Am I saying that only Christians are spiritual? You mean to tell me that a Buddhist monk spending years in meditation is not spiritual? No. The Holy Spirit moves where it wills. The Holy Spirit is alive in spiritualties that are oriented to the good. However, it is in and through baptism, confirmation, and the prayers of the Catholic Church, that the Spirit is especially at work. The Spirit is at work in the hearts of all people: leading all people to Christ; calling us into relationship with God; calling us into relationship with each other; calling us all into the spiritual communion of the Church. So let the Spirit fill her heart, let the Spirit draw you into the communion, into the Church whose very soul is the Holy Spirit.

- Terence Sweeney

The Gospel is Peace, and we are its Peacemakers

16 Jul Tim DeCelle

“Neither are any wars so furious and bloody, or of so long a continuance, as those occasioned by difference in opinion, especially if it be in things indifferent.” – Jonathan Swift

I have struggled of late to grasp, to strain, to keep what is mysterious and transcendent. I have a bad habit of reading too much. Not too much of just anything, but too much of the dour and polemical pieces that I find too often and easily published online. Such works bring me always crashing back down to earth, back to the cold and brute facts of human ego and violence. I am, unfortunately, thinking of some Christian and Catholic writers.

Peacemakers - Tim DeCelle

Certainly, this is not true of all or even most of those writing about their faith. But a vocal minority has made dominant an oppositional, warfare style of writing. It is all doom and gloom: we are living in perilous times, we must fight the enemy. I am incessantly reminded that we are in a culture war, that we must wage war and win.

   I thought I read something in the Gospels about peacemaking?

If you are reading this, I want to assure you: YOU are not the enemy. Whatever you might read about the battle for values or a clash of cultures, I assure you that you are not the barbarian at the gates of civilization. This kind of language always attempts to draw lines between people, an attempt that falsely divides what should be united.  In fact, the only battle that we should ever speak of is the battle between good and evil, between all of humanity and the forces of darkness. We must resist the temptation to see evil as somehow incarnated in another.

We are in this together. We are made to work together, to live in peace, and to be peacemakers. We are called to transcend the petty bickering and grandstanding about the “valueless” enemy. Before his crucifixion, Jesus prayed that all would be made “one.” This is a “one” united in and through Christ.

It is not a political unity. It is not a unity about who holds what ideology. Socialists and libertarians, liberals and conservatives and everyone in between and beyond—all will be made new in Christ, and not through ideology.

We have and will still have differences of opinions, of ideals, and yes, even values. We are not to abandon truth but rather to live in the image of Jesus is to live as a peacemaker. We are not called to fight for culture but for people. We are their defenders. Through this self-gift, the actual lives and souls of people will be transformed and, from it, the whole world.
– Tim DeCelle

From the Midwest to Big Apple

15 Jul Midwest Peace

Daydreams dancing in my head, a rainstorm of heels tapping the sidewalk, the power of the subway passing. I dreamt of the artists of the Lower East Side, the rooftops of East Harlem, the aristocrats of the Upper East. I desired to move into that world, the world where you swim with art, culture and lyrics. I was moving to New York City, and I was moving there with dreams.

The Big Apple  Friday at rush hour, arriving at Penn Station, duffle bag in hand, I stood in a sea of people who moved, dancing with one another, avoiding collisions with wisdom and alertness. Stumbling and toppling, I took refuge in a corner of the station to observe, immediately facing the reality of the city I painted so whimsically in my mind. Run over by high heels and swatted with briefcases, I watched, awakened.

With a year behind me now, I recently climbed the subway stairs with a learned confidence, walking with the wisdom and alertness that I so envied in the Penn Station crowd I had first encountered. A phrase that has visited me often repeated itself in my mind, “I can’t believe I live in New York.”

With this awe lingering, I left the city to visit my new nephew in the Twin Cities. While sharing a beer and dinner in the peace that the Midwest seems always to provide, my brother-in-law inquired, “How is it living in New York City?” Looking up I was brought back to that new moment of confidence, and I realized the dreams I had thought would be life here had disappeared. It is not jadedness that I have found, it is a new wonder. It is not until the projection of ideas for our future are surrendered that we truly encounter the Divine.

While I stood in awe that I had moved to the City, there was a fight between expectation and reality. I had expected to encounter something different, something separate from myself. But standing on the city’s corner, I encountered my true self. For wherever we run, for whatever dream we are going towards and conflict we are running from, there comes a moment where we are asked to encounter reality. This wonder that I was so adamantly in search of was always with me, it was the wonder that comes with the realization that this is all given, all given to us by Christ to explore and encounter. Now, I am falling into a new dream, a dream of the present where beauty is continually given with my surrender.

- Colleen Pesci

Catholic Devotion to Mary

12 Jul Devotion to Mary

Growing up, my mom made us partake in a lot of Marian devotions. We were interrupted to pray the Angelus while watching cartoons, sing Marian hymns at home and special occasions at church, and our house was decked with a plethora of images of Our Lady. The worst imposition was when my mom would pray a rosary with us late at night if we couldn’t sleep. No doubt sleep would come over us within five minutes. For most of my life, I didn’t understand why she and the Catholic Church put so much value on the Blessed Mother.

Virgin Mary Annuticiate Fra Angelico

Virgin Mary Annuticiate Fra Angelico

I questioned: Why do you stand when you pray the Hail Holy Queen? Why does she get an entire five decades of prayers dedicated to her? Why does she get multiple feast days for her honor? Why do some Catholics seem to worship her and treat her like the fourth person of the Trinity? All of this questioning turned me off to hearing and learning about various Marian devotions. I struggled a lot with the idea of asking for help from the Virgin Mary instead of going straight to God.

One realization I have come to is that God made us human with physical needs. He sent His only Son to come to earth as a man to experience what we experience and be able to relate to us. God became man and was born of a woman so that we would be able to understand and relate. A divine being made up of three in one persons? That doesn’t make any sense…but a baby boy born to a young girl and a carpenter? Now, that is something I can wrap my head around! We all have a mother and a father, even Jesus. The month of May is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. We honor her and remember the great sacrifice and love she experienced bringing Christ into the world.

How many times do we honor our own mother throughout the year? On her birthday and Mother’s Day, we spend time and money on her, write cards and give flowers. On these days and many other days throughout the year, we take time to thank our moms for giving us life, and for all they have sacrificed and given to and for us. And rightly so, these beautiful women have done so much for us, and we are literally here because of their love and sacrifice. How much more, then, should we love, honor, appreciate and thank the Mother of God. Christ would have never come as a man, suffered death and rose again if Mary hadn’t said “yes.”

During the month of May, and specifically around Mother’s Day when we honor our own mothers, I challenge you to take some time to honor and thank Our Lord’s mother. After all, she is our mom too: “Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his home” (John 19:27).

 

Catherine Huss

Baseball as Partaking in the Sacred

9 Jul Baseball as Partaking in the Sacred - Nell Alt

Baseball. The American past time. The All-American sport. The sport I knew nothing about until I had a son. The sport I didn’t even know my husband cared about before we had a son. It all began one fateful evening when our son, who was about 15 months old at the time, dragged our coffee table book about the history of baseball to his Dada and insisted they look at it together.

Baseball as Partaking in the Sacred - Nell Alt

Fast forward a few years to our three year old. It’s a sacred thing, now, the ritual of listening to the game on the radio every day, of putting on my brother’s 25-year-old Twins striped shirt. It has purpose, meaning, an intellectual impact as well as emotional. When they lose, he is disheartened—but vows they’ll win the next game. When they triumph, it is as personal as the blueberries in his oatmeal that are not for his little sister.

I see that same rapt attention at the baseball game at Mass, too. His studied expression when he slowly mimes the pitch, or when he pretends to be incensing the altar. His shrieks of delight when Dozier hits a home run, his eager and earnest whispers when our pastor holds up the Blessed Sacrament and says “Hoc Est Enim Corpus Meum [This is My Body].”
What is this correlation between baseball and the sacred?

Both boast fascinating and vivid characters: a myriad of rollicking players from Babe Ruth to Dizzy Dean, Joe Mauer to Sam Deduno; Jesus and his burly crew of apostles, Saint John Berchmans who died as a young altar boy to Saint Stephen the first martyr who was stoned to death. Both capture the essence and imagination of his identity: he is a baseball player who will someday be an altar boy when he gets bigger and bigger {actual quote}. He loves both so fiercely. First it’s baseball, then it’s church. Good altar boys have to train as baseball players {another zinger from the 3 year old}.

When one thing, in this instance baseball, helps lead a little mind to something truly eternal and infinite, we simply have to be grateful as parents. I had scoffed at parents who let their children wear sports jerseys as TACKY! UNCULTURED!—and now he is one of them! He loves baseball, he loves being Catholic, and somehow the one leads into the other in a sacred and mysterious way. I’ll take it. So take me out to the ball game, and let’s hope the Twins win big time this year. I’ll even drink to that.

-Nell Alt

Pope Francis – There’s More Here than Politics

26 May Pope Francis Internet Memes - The Heart of the Matter
 I was struck during the events leading up to the election of Pope Francis. I got zero work done
the day the white smoke went up. I was glued to the streaming video feed from the Vatican. The
time between the white smoke and the actual announcement of exactly who was chosen to be the
new pope was almost unbearable. I was filled with so much anticipation and I just wanted to see
who it was. What was interesting for me and my friends was how much our experience contrasted
that of the recent presidential elections in our own country. We didn’t have the same sort of worry
or anxiety about who the next elected official would be, and where his ideologies would lead his us.
Our lives can change drastically depending on which civil politician is elected to office, and there is
a lot of uncertainty. It could go either way, if the wrong person is elected, it could damage this
country; and all my hope for a new beginning of the new age of prosperity, whatever, rides on the
right guy getting elected.
Pope Francis - There’s More Here than Politics
On the other hand, during these recent events in Rome, no one campaigned or tried to impress
us or dissuade us from liking his opponents. We weren’t swept up into the speculations between
the popular categories of ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative.’ To us, it didn’t matter who was elected. In my
friends who have met Christ and are changed by Him, I have found something exceptional,
something that provokes me and promises fulfillment and this is irrevocable. Images of Saint
Peter’s Square from that night come to mind. It was filled with Romans and pilgrims from across
the globe with signs that read “viva il papa”, long live the pope. It didn’t matter who would come out
those balcony doors. All those people were there and so excited and so happy to meet the new
pope, which means ‘papa.’  The words, “We have a pope” were such beautiful words to finally hear.
When Pope Benedict XVI announced he was stepping down, I was confronted with a unique
situation, and I was first confused and saddened. But it wasn’t the end of me, nor of my
religio-politcal leanings or ideologies. I was sad to see Benedict go, but I was certain the people of
the world would be guided well by the new pope. And indeed, I think we will be guided very well by
Pope Francis, I already feel an affection for him. His concrete gestures of humility and poverty, as
one of if not the most influential figure on the planet, really stick in my imagination. Its enjoyable to
watch the popular media scramble to squeeze him into one of their preconceived political
categories, “is he conservative or liberal?” Neither. He is pre-political. He proposes Christ to us;
reminds us of who loves our destiny truly. It’s not Obama and its not Romney.

- PJ Butler

In other news, Pope Francis internet Memes:

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Lipstick, Tattoos, and Embodied Souls

18 May Catholic Tattoo - The Heart of the Matter

Saturday night, downtown Minneapolis is one big Minnesotan hot dish. You are guaranteed to see all sorts of things, from the bachelorette party walking bar to bar, and “that one girl who just shouldn’t have worn that,” to the 55 year old couple leaving the Orpheum all dressed up, to the mentally ill elderly man trying to feed his dog newspaper.

Lipstick, Tattoos, and Embodied Souls - Kari Elsen - The Heart of the Matter

What would this scene look like in Heaven? What we are is much more than what we can see with our eyes; each body walking the streets has within it a soul. We are more than our blond highlights and our “Semper Fi” tattoo, so how do we embrace the fact that we are both body and soul? The truth is that our body is mortal, but our soul is immortal, and what we do with our body affects our soul. In his encyclical, Deus Caritas est (God is Love), Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI says that “Man is truly himself when his body and soul are intimately united…Should he aspire to be pure spirit and to reject the flesh as pertaining to his animal nature alone, then spirit and body would both lose their dignity. On the other hand, should he deny the spirit and consider matter, the body, as the only reality, he would likewise lose his greatness.” This being that both body and soul are good and we need both!

We are physical people; we learn through our five senses and do what we can to “feel good.” Our Catholic faith recognizes this, and this is why we can experience God through the smells of incense, the feeling of chrism oil on our heads, and the taste of the Eucharist. What we do with our bodies affects our souls; we drink too much: we affect our soul, we are promiscuous: we affect our souls. Because we are physical beings, the sins of the flesh are sometimes the hardest to gain control of. In reconciliation we use our bodies to speak words out loud so God can purify our souls, and in this sacrament we experience God’s forgiveness in a physical, bodily manner as well as on the level of the soul.

The next time you find yourself critiquing yourself or others based on the state of the body; remember that you are much more than your body: you are an embodied soul, that is, a soul within a body. Go to reconciliation, gain some new perspective. Because a clean soul is so much more beautiful than the perfected body and you may just find that the state of your soul can radiate more beauty than you could ever know.

- Kari Elsen

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