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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



Celebrating Sundays with Beer is a Riot

11 Feb Beer Riot - In Skemp


In 1855, a throng of German and Irish immigrants stormed downtown Chicago to protest the reforms of Nativist Mayor Levi Boone, great-nephew to Daniel Boone. Police and militia opened fire to quell the rioters. One man died. Sixty were arrested. While the city successfully dispersed the protesters, the event galvanized the immigrant voters, and a high turnout of Irish and German voters defeated their Nativist opponents in the elections of 1856.

Celebrating Sundays with a Beer is a Riot - Ian Skemp

What could cause the immigrant population of Chicago to take to the streets? Was it poor factory conditions, long hours, and low wages? No. He had the audacity to enforce an old ordinance that taverns be closed on Sunday. Not only that, the fiend raised the price of an annual liquor license from $50 to $300. Immigrants worked long hours from Monday to Saturday, and Sunday was the only day they had to socialize. After Sunday Mass, the local tavern was the place where they spent their one day off. The Mayor was clearly targeting the German and Irish populations, as his attitude towards immigrants was no secret. The influx of Irish and German immigrants during the early 19th century alarmed native-born Americans. These newcomers came from different cultures. They spoke differently and to make matters worse, many of them were Catholic. In response, anti-immigrant groups sprang up across the nation, and laws targeting German and Irish-Americans were common.

Fortunately, we have no need to riot over such matters today. While liquor stores may be closed on Sundays in the State of Minnesota, our bars are open to all legal drinkers. Not far from the Cathedral of St. Paul, The Happy Gnome is open 10 AM-midnight on Sundays, and boasts one of the Twin Cities’ best beer menus. If you want some good food to go with your brew, the Blue Door Pub offers pints and tater tots for 2$ from 2-5 PM. If you are of the cocktail persuasion, Amore Victoria in Uptown is home to one of the premier mixologists in Minneapolis. I could go on, but if you want to find a happy hour close to you, is the place to look. As for me, I prefer to stay in on Sundays, so I make sure to do my shopping on Saturday. The Liquor Barrel on West 7th and St. Clair lets you build your own six-pack, allowing you to test the waters without committing to a particular brand. Not too long ago, I tried Deschutes’ Obsidian Stout for the first time, and its rich roasted flavor is perfect for these long winters. Of course, you can always brew your own beer, and Northern Brewer is the place to go for all your supplies.

Every Sunday is a feast day, and should be treated as such. Celebrate at Mass in the morning, and then enjoy the rest of your day knowing that no matter what you have to do on Monday, you have God’s Day to relax with your family and friends. Just remember to get home safely.

-Ian Skemp

One Day’s Pilgrimage

4 Oct The Interior of Our Lady Queen of Angels
The Interior of Our Lady Queen of Angels

The Interior of Our Lady Queen of Angels

I just moved to Los Angeles, California. When I move to a new place, I try to get to know the place, let my roots start to grow. This means finding a local bar, a coffee shop, and a church to attend. I also make a special point to get to the cathedral. I figure the cathedral is the true heart of the city, its epicenter, the most important building. It is there that the diocese gathers, where the bishop has his seat. My architectural inclinations tell me that buildings matter. Just consider the difference between a house and a home. The cathedral is the central place for prayer; the home of the archdiocese. It is where two or three (or a few thousand) gather: bishops, priests, deacons, lay people, and me. So this past Saturday, I decided to go on a little pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown LA.

I figured out directions, and timing. It would be 12.2 miles in 1 hour and 23 minutes. I hopped on my Schwinn, which was recently shipped from St Paul by a friend. I headed down Florence, north on Hyde, through Inglewood, past bodegas, and run down houses. Then I took a right on Broadway. Not a left like I was supposed to. I did not realize my error until I saw signs for Watts. Watts? That didn’t sound right. So I biked around and around, and back and forth. Suddenly an hour and twenty minute bike ride was two hours. My legs were getting tired, my dress shirt damp, and my patience thin.

“Stupid LA! I should have stayed in St Paul!” Finally, I found a little pink Catholic Church. “Excuse me, which way to downtown LA?” Laughter. “Son, we aren’t near downtown. Ya head up Main St. that way.” So, a little humbled, I creaked up to and then through Downtown. I was an hour late for Mass, which by my normal math means I missed mass. But I went in anyhow. And there was a Church full of Catholics, an altar full of priests, and the Eucharist elevated by my Archbishop, Jose Gomez. I felt the words of the Psalmist “I rejoiced when they said ‘let us go onto the house of the Lord.’ And now our feet are within your gates Jerusalem.” I knelt down behind a Hispanic family, next to a Korean couple, and I cried, from exhaustion yes, but more truly, for rejoicing.

You see, sometimes, it takes a long time to get home, but I was there with my new pastor and my new flock. Through God’s grace, and on a vintage bike, I had finished my little pilgrimage within the bigger pilgrimage of life. It is a long road to the Kingdom, with a lot of wrong turns, but I’ll keep peddling on the way, and keep finding my cathedrals whether on Summit Ave, Hennepin Ave, or in downtown LA. At the end of mass, I joined a line of Catholics processing to a crucifix. Each of us embraced the statue’s feet. This is the end of all our pilgrimages. We, with sore feet, embrace His pierced feet, surrounded by the People of God, and He lifts us up to our true home.

– Terence Sweeney

Developing a ‘Sitting Culture’

26 Sep
Fritz Eichenberg’s “The Last Supper”

Fritz Eichenberg’s “The Last Supper”

Recently, I went back out West to revisit my alma mater. I sat on campus waiting for an old friend. She was very late so I took my time to people-watch. Doing so reminded me of an article I wrote for a publication on campus a while back. I called it “The Looking Culture.” I wrote about a theory that college students are particularly bad at communication. I noted that students spend more energy watching each other, talking about each other, and having sex with each other than actually connecting and conversing. Sitting on the quad now I began to rethink my presumptuous theory. I knew a whole lot of watching was going on, but how can one measure the quality of other’s conversations?

So, I began walking around in order to catch utterances of the many conversations going on during passing period. I wanted to be pleasantly surprised, but the popular talking topics of these educated people were the following: hooking up, what teacher is a “d-bag,” who drank the most last night, what girl is a B, and what guy is “so funny.” I noticed that none of these conversations were actually conversations; they were essentially opportunities for people to talk. In each instance the speaker spoke over the other to vent an opinion then the other spoke over the first to vent their own (which were not always related).

I was jarred by these conversations, in part, because I have experienced a new kind of culture since college. Conversely, it is what I call “Sitting Culture,” and one Minnesota is particularly good at living out. It is the habit and ability of taking time to be with friends. Time is the necessary ingredient in order for the young person’s frantic watching to become seeing. In sitting with each other, we cultivate the invisible things: humor, nuances, patience, trust, and intelligent thoughts.

This is also the secret to the happy person in prayer. Many of us may not find peace in the Church precisely because of our inability to sit with God. This disquiet leaves us watchers of religion and starers at Mass. But God seeks to converse and connect with us. He is the God who spent his time with the sloppy Apostles and sinners at table, and the same man who seeks time with us.

– Laura Eusterman

The Banner of the Cross: How God’s Love Transcends our Political Games

27 Aug

Render unto Ceasar by Peter Paul Rubens

Render unto Ceasar by Peter Paul Rubens

Very soon, the leaves will fall, the temperature will ease, and a new season will be here. Unfortunately, we will not only experience the cold of the autumn morning but also the usual chill of the divisive and polarizing atmosphere that is the election season. Every year we are told that “this is the most important election of your life!” It is a statement with the usual hyperbole and is a predictably dire, dramatic plea for your vote. It is assumed that your vote, if not for the “right” candidate, will somehow result in the end of human civilization. Christians will, no doubt, tell you which party Jesus MUST belong to and which party, therefore, you must belong to as well.

This is an attitude that tears at the Christian unity that Jesus so desperately prays for before his crucifixion. We find in John’s Gospel that he prays for his disciples who “do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world,” in order that “they may all be one” (Jn. 17:16, 21). It is an ugly fact that one often sees at election time Christians fighting one another in order to convince each other who the “real” and “true” Christian ought to vote for. This attitude reduces the transcendent message of Jesus into a petty battle over who has the right politics and policies. Who cares about Jesus, then, when you’re on the correct side of the political divide?

This is not, however, the example of Christ. His closest followers, those whom he chose as his personal disciples, contained both Matthew the tax collector and Simon the Zealot. The gulf between their political positions was far more violent and extreme than today’s liberals and conservatives. Yet, Jesus called them not to some greater political message, but rather to a new way of thinking about how we relate to those in the world. The law of love, which crosses all political and social boundaries, is meant to unite all persons under the banner of God’s beautiful love for humanity and not the flag of a particular political party.

Why, then, do we have to choose between two parties or two ideologies? Why are we so compelled by the media and by the fabric of our social structures to fall into one category or the other? Doesn’t Jesus ask us to transcend these flimsy and lifeless political options and to transform the entire binary itself? Doesn’t the life of love and the entire vision of the cross ask us to care more fundamentally about how we relate to God and neighbor in our daily lives? Doesn’t Jesus offer us a new way to think about our engagement with the world? I pray this election season that we may look at Jesus and see not the political battles that swirl about his name but rather the banner of the cross which waves above it all, signaling a new way to change the world.

– Tim DeCelle

On the Road Again

8 Aug

On the Road Again

Ever since I moved to the Twin Cities in 2009, I have not been certain where to say I am from: NYC, NH, or one of the other places I have lived. Nor have I known where I was going, but I knew I had more steps in my itinerant life. I often wondered: ‘Whereto next?’ and I wasn’t just choosing between Bryant Lake Bowl or Pat’s Tap. Now I find myself without an apartment, my only possessions are my clothes and books. I am moving to Los Angeles and leaving the Cities behind.

What does it mean to move? Most of us are in our twenties wandering from place to place; job to job. It feels like we are a generation of nomads looking for that one oasis where we can pitch our tent. Maybe this sense of searching is what gives people our age a unique insight. We are in the world but not of it, passing from Manhattan to Portland and on to LA. Life is not a set path but a long pilgrimage to the Kingdom.

Like Christ, we are meant to pass through this world without a place to rest our head. This doesn’t mean we ignore the world around us. No wherever we are we should drink local brews, listen to Trampled by Turtles, and eat jucy lucy’s. Love the place where you are but be prepared to give it up for a God who is calling all of us to something beyond Uptown and Cathedral Hill.

It means preparing oneself to leave this world behind. Moving reminds me of the fact that someday I’ll die and my memory will pass from this world. Nothing is permanent. We are going somewhere. We are going home.

How do we get there? A lot of that depends on who we are. A musician playing at 7th street entry has a very different path than chemistry student at the U; however, we all meant to be in the Kingdom with God. We get there by listening to his word, by handing each other along and being handed along, by living a life of hope, faith, and love. At each step along the way we have friends, family, angels, and saints to lend us a hand.

Above all we have the Holy Spirit in our heart, Christ on the altar, and our Father pulling as along. So wherever our pilgrimages takes us, let’s keep drinking Surlys and Summits, keep listening to Roe Family Singers, but we must walking to the Kingdom. If we have let the world distract us then lets slip back into a church and say a prayer. God gives us way stations to rest on the path to His Heart. I’ll be praying for you on your journeys and eagerly await the day when we all meet again in the Kingdom. Hopefully, they’ll serve Minnesota beers there.

-Terence Sweeney

Who is Your Neighbor?

19 Jul
Jesus in the Bread Line -Fritz Eichenburg

Jesus in the Bread Line -Fritz Eichenburg

“For you are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3: 26

The first question I get after from returning from our annual mission trip is, “So, where did you go? Mexico? New Orleans? A reservation in North Dakota?”

It’s not uncommon to witness a look of surprise when I tell him I was with 100 teens in North Minneapolis serving Ascension Parish and the people within the community. Yes we stay local. The week is filled with repairing fences, painting kitchens and cutting down trees. The evenings are spent in reflection, Eucharistic Adoration and socialization.

I always tell parents when they drop their children off the first day, that they will most likely have a changed teenager coming home to them at the end of the week. It’s an interesting transition as the week progresses, most of these teens on the mission trip are from the Western Suburbs and have no clue that North Minneapolis exists.

I often tell the teens that through this service, you are going to come to realize who you truly are, and who those are around you are as well. This week becomes a lesson in identity. You truly cannot help your neighbor unless you know who you are. If you don’t know who you are, then you do not know who is your neighbor. This mission trip is in proximity helping our neighbor, but it stems to a familial, local and global perspective.

As Catholics we are so incredibly blessed to be tied to one another through the Eucharist- through Jesus Christ. If God is our Father, then that makes us His children. If God is the Father to all, then we have a ton of siblings. Nothing makes our Father smile more than us helping out our siblings.

This is why we help, this is why we go on mission, and this is why we love. We are all one family under the protection and reign of our Heavenly Father. So always remember you are a child of God, and the next time someone needs you, don’t ever forget to serve them as anything less than your brother or sister.

-Kari Elsen

Reverence the Resistance

22 May

The rite of ordination

In a few days, my little brother, Evan, will become a priest. I’ve had six years to get used to this idea, but even now it’s difficult to comprehend. The first time I saw him in his cassock, my jaw dropped. It was shocking to see him dressed that way, but I was also shocked by how right it looked on him. For one reason or another, our family has always known that this is the path Evan would take.

Tucked into a file folder in my parent’s basement, stuffed with childish drawings and school compositions, is a picture. The page is divided into four portions, and my mother had each of us kids draw our own picture in one of the portions. Brendan drew a rocket, Colin drew a house, I drew a ballet dancer, and Evan drew a church. He was just two or three years old.

A few years later, when Evan was seven, my mother remembers praying with him on our porch: “He and I were talking about Jesus and I led him in prayer to ask Jesus into his heart. I don’t know why I was inspired to do this because I didn’t do it with my other kids, but I believe it was the Holy Spirit. Evan remembers this as important first step in his conversion.”

It was not always that obvious or easy. In high school at St. Thomas Academy, Evan heard a speaker from the Serra Club who came to talk about vocations. He remembers hearing a speaker say, “Somewhere in this room, God is calling someone to be a priest,” and he remembers thinking, “Oh, crap! It’s probably me.” He was not looking for this and it scared him. But God gently placed people in his path that made the idea of the priesthood a constantly percolated in the back of his mind.

By the end of college, he joined the FOCUS missionaries as a way to begin discerning. This is when I noticed the biggest change in him. He was able to speak with frank friendliness to college students about his faith. He learned to listen to, respect and encourage them wherever they were with regard to faith. When he finally entered the St. Paul Seminary in 2006, I knew he had found his true home.

Even with all this, I still had a hard time as seeing Evan as anything other than my little brother. We didn’t talk in depth very often about the Church, since it was always a given in our family. I never really knew what his faith was actually like. Then, while studying in Rome in the fall of 2010, I wrote Evan a letter after attending an Ignatian retreat. It was an intense experience for me, and I wasn’t sure how to process it all. I began to doubt the truth of what I had encountered in prayer and meditation, lapsing into a state of worry and sadness. Late one night, I confided everything to him. I feel certain that the Holy Spirit guided me in this. I held nothing back from him, pouring out my heart to Evan and sharing all my fears with him as only a sister can.

I had to laugh when I opened the twelve-page, single-spaced document that arrived in my inbox a few days later. What a response! In those pages, my little brother became a spiritual guide and counselor. He began by thanking me for opening up to him, “I know what an encouragement it can be to discover that one is never alone in the spiritual life, both in terms of sufferings endured and graces received. When sharing these things with another, it also can help us to see our own experiences in prayer more objectively, for we are very often the worst judges of our own spiritual lives, at times thinking we have advanced when in fact we have regressed, and at others assuming we have fallen further away from the goal when in fact we are nearer it than we have ever been.”

He reminded me that in all that time of worry and sadness, Christ had never left me. Rather, Christ had taken all of it upon Himself. “To think that even in the deepest, darkest moments of our lives, in those places in our hearts of which we are most ashamed and afraid—yes, precisely there—Christ is living in us! And this is not only the case with our human frailties and weaknesses, the things we suffer through no fault of our own; it is true even of our sinfulness. This is shocking; it is literally incredible; it is too good to be true; it is the paradox of the cross.”

We resist seeing Christ in our weakness and sinfulness; we want to see Him in our triumphs. Evan shared with me a statement that will remain as a mantra to me forever. He told me that, while on an Ignation retreat himself years earlier, he had met a blind Jesuit who told him to “reverence the resistance.” Evan explained, “In the spiritual life, we will often find ourselves resisting Him, holding on to some sin or area of weakness and shame, taking one step backward to take two forward. That is nothing new or surprising. But what is often counter-intuitive is that we should not beat ourselves up about this, but rather we should ‘reverence’ this resistance we find in ourselves—because God Himself reverences it. He does not force Himself on us before we are able to receive Him; rather, He slowly, lovingly expands our hearts (an experience that can be painful at times), bit by bit, until we are able to receive His fullness.”

Imagine how I felt receiving such beautiful and encouraging words from my little brother! While he’ll always be that little boy who teased me, played with me, fought with me, and laughed with me, I now see the man who preached at my wedding, proudly wears his Roman collar, and who gave his entire life over to God with a joy that is astounding to see. It is a joy that comes from reverencing the resistance.

On Saturday, May 26th at 10:00 am at the Cathedral of St. Paul, Deacon Evan Koop, along with Deacon Ben Little and Deacon Nick VanDenbroeke, will prostrate themselves on the floor and receive the hands of Archbishop Neinstedt, welcoming him into an ancient and blessed brotherhood. If you have never witnessed an ordination Mass before, I strongly urge you to come. The following morning, Father Evan will say his first Mass at 10:30am at the Church of St. Rita in Cottage Grove. Please come and help us fill the church in support of Father Evan Koop.

-Allison Hendrickson

Learning the Real Deal at Anchor Fish and Chips

15 Mar
Midway through Lent and I am getting tired of tofu. During my meatless Lent, I need some kind of reason to keep going. The reason should be my desire to grow in virtue through self-denial. But what really keeps me going are fish and chips, specifically, the Anchor Fish and Chips.

How does one explain the fish and chips at the Anchor? I like the word Kathryn Hayes, one of the owners of Anchor, used: “divine.” You don’t need to bury these fish in tartar sauce; they stand alone. And the chips, they aren’t over-glorified French fries; they are the “real deal.” On top of that are other delicious dishes like the shepherd’s pie or the full whack Irish breakfast on Saturdays and Sundays. I even learn at the Anchor, for instance: there is such a thing as the perfect pour of Guinness, white vinegar is better than malt vinegar, and mushy peas aren’t just for babies.

When talking to Kathryn Hayes, I learned a few more things. Kathryn told me that the reason Luke, Jenny, and she (the three owners) focused on fish and chips is that they “were missing good fish and chips; we talked about it and decided to start a fish and chipper.” And thus a new expression came into my life: Anchor isn’t just a restaurant; it is a fish and chipper. The vision they had, grew from the idea of a food cart to the small red restaurant with a long line of eager patrons every night.

Why wait for such a simple meal? It is not just that the food is great; it is the love that the owners and employees have for the place and for their customers. Kathryn told me that she “love[s] the place and I love our employees. People are relaxed and shouting because of their comfort level . . . the big thing is: we take care of everyone who comes in, we are watching for you, caring for you.” Even while you’re waiting, you know that the staff can’t wait to seat you, bring you a pint, and fill you with the kind of fare that makes this Irish American miss the ‘old country.’

In the end, I get more than just fish and chips at the Anchor: I get the sense of community. Kathryn told me she didn’t plan all this, didn’t know the Anchor would be a hot spot, didn’t think of Lent as being its best season. But somehow, by starting a real fish and chipper, she, Luke and Jenny managed to make a place that is “humane, warm, and welcoming of everyone.” That is what is great about Anchor: it reminds Catholics and all people that we should be building a world and a Church where people are welcomed and taken care of. Amidst all the fasting, it has been the feasting on fish and chips that has taught me to say to everyone, especially at Mass, what they say at the Anchor: “You are very welcome here. Slainte!”

302 13th Avenue Northeast
Minneapolis, MN 55413
(612) 676-1300
-Terence Sweeney

Movie Night – The Way

12 Mar

Join us for a our first (hopefully of many) movie nights in Saint Paul. Drinks afterwards at a local establishment. Brings friends.

Click image below to join on our facebook event page.