Tag Archives: Jesus

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


Letter to Peter: Signs Can be Hard to Spot

23 Dec Boulder Colorado

This past summer was brutal. Heat waves and humidity bogging down my body into a stupor, and falling to sleep with a dream, a hope that the morning may bring empathy. The city scrambled for refuge in air-conditioned cafes, shaded benches, and darkened theaters. In final desperation, I booked a flight, destined for Boulder, Colorado to see an old friend.

Arriving in the town resting at the base of the Rockies, my heart instantly fell into peace as the cool mountain air brought in the night. One evening, I encountered a young man on a street bench, in crisp slacks and a blazer, plucking harmonious tunes on a guitar that has told many stories. In conversation, I heard the tale of Peter: his strained relationship with his parents, his struggle with deep depression, and his uncertainty of the present.

Our conversation turned to spirituality: He asked, “Are you religious?” My response, “Yes, are you?” “No.”

A long pause ensued as I watched him recall a memory, “At one of my lows, I began to search for a church on a street where I remembered it stood. When I got to the end of the block, the only thing I found was a cemetery.”

I looked at the certainty on his face; to him, this was a sign of the nonexistence of God. “Be careful with what you see as signs.”

In the days following, I was bombarded with stresses, while back in New York my roommates continued the search for affordable living. As the anxiety heightened, I began to see the differences in the way of life of the town that I was visiting and the city in which I inhabit, recognizing living did not have to be bursting with the struggle to survive. With bags packed, boarding the bus, I looked back at my dear friend, and said, “Maybe this is a sign. If everything is falling apart there, maybe it is Christ telling me my place is somewhere else.” Her response was simple, “I recently heard a story of a girl who told a boy to be careful of what he sees as signs.”

With my heart heavy and the reminder of my own advice, I hugged her farewell and boarded the bus. Watching the mountains disappear from view, I began to see more clearly.

Peter, it is not our search for Him when we are despairing, when the circumstances of this world have crumbled at our feet, do we decide to recognize Him. It is the acknowledgment of His presence always, of His constant gift of self in our lives. We do not choose what we see as signs when, with blindness and disparity, we need something to hold. We are to live in reality always, aware and alert to His constant movement in our work, our encounters, our pains, and our joy. His sign is that He is with us now.

Photo of Boulder Colorado by Colleen Pesci

Photo of Boulder Colorado by Colleen Pesci

-Colleen Pesci

Red Kettles: Giving Throughout the Year

19 Dec

It’s that time of year again. Bells are ringing and large, red kettles fill up with loose change outside of major retail store entrances across the country. The Salvation Army probably has the greatest foothold on our Christmas alms giving habits simply by being omnipresent during our shopping duties.

There is an irony in this tradition. During the holidays, we are more than willing to empty our pocket change into the hands of someone wearing a red vest. Yet, we rarely do so during the rest of the year when panhandlers or veterans experiencing homelessness ask us for spare change at red lights. So what is it about the red vest and kettle that suddenly allows us to let our guard down and give more openly and charitably?

I would argue our generosity (or the lack of) is built on trust. Having the name “Salvation Army” attached to the act of panhandling seems to make all the difference. We trust them with our money and feel confident that we know where it is going. Yet, I wonder if people know that some of the bell-ringers are themselves the homeless men and women whom our giving is meant to benefit. Would we still give our loose change to the very same person if they approached us at a red light, not with a red kettle and vest, but with a cardboard sign and outstretched hand? Usually we do not. Why? What if they buy booze with the money? Or drugs? This line of thinking gives us an easy out.

Yet, it was Christ who lived among these same poor. He never judged those living on the margins of society for any improper ways and deeds. As Dorothy Day once said, “The Gospel takes away our right forever, to discriminate between the deserving and the undeserving poor.”

Something greater is asked of us, whether we are Catholics or not. Keep dropping spare change into the red kettle. But don’t ignore the fact that that outside of the Advent season, those same folks will be begging for our loose change at red lights. Give generously. Don’t let these folks remain nameless. Christ exists in all people; we must start acting as if this were true.

Red Kettle Donations


-Kevin Bailey

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

God, the Dentist

31 Jul

Heading to the Cathedral for Mass one night, I decided to arrive early to pray. I was dressed for coffee shop coolness–black pants and a long-sleeved flannel. The Cathedral was hot. Breezing (there was no breeze) into my usual mid-section pew, I unzipped my Bible case, and slipped off my flip-flops. I can discretely take off my shoes in the comfort of my own home, right?

I opened my Bible to the day’s Mass reading from Hosea (2:16-22). First of all, I must confess that I read the wrong verses. My bad. But Jesus spoke to me anyway. He always does. If you’ve never read Hosea, I highly recommend it both, because it’s the Word of God, and, because it’s about a cool guy (Hosea—or “Zea” if you’re tight with him) and his prostitute wife. Throughout my life, the Lord has spoken to me a lot through Zea. Tonight was no different.

I busted through the passage once pinpointing a verse that struck me: “You shall call me ‘My husband,’ and you shall never again call me ‘My Baal.’” I like it. Approved.

After taking a few moments to think about it and count the doves above the altar, I took a second glance. This time a different verse caught my attention: “I will make you lie down in safety.” (Hosea 2:18) Now that is a juicy verse. Lord, you’ll make me lie down in safety?

My nephew, Gabe, is a little over 18 months old. Every night before bed, my sister and bro-in-law brush his teeth. He HATES it. Torture. Agony. 1.5 minutes of misery. Poor little dude. But it’s a necessary pain, right? If the forced tooth brushing wasn’t inflicted, he would get cavities. His teeth would rot. It would be gross. And I would love him less. Kidding.

Can’t every one of us think of a necessary suffering that leads to something good? Of course, we have our Lord’s ultimate suffering for us—the greatest tooth brushing of them all. And then there are the rest of us, trying really hard to be good people. Going the extra mile to grow in faith. Honestly, the past several months have been a pretty crazy tooth-brushing session for me. God has been doing some major dental work, getting all of the spiritual coffee stains, corncob remnants, and burger grease off. It doesn’t feel good. But is it worth it? Is my suffering worthwhile? Yes. An absolute and exuberant “yes.”

Now let’s go back to Hosea: “I will make you lie down in safety.”

If tooth brushing is necessary in our mouth and in a spiritual sense, then what areas do we need to surrender? What sufferings have I been fighting because they don’t feel good—things that I need to abandon to God for my own benefit? Thank God He has led us to be open to a good hard tooth brushing. It’s in that painful cleansing that we are made to lie down in safety.

-Gretchen Sonnen

The False Gospel of Atheists

15 Feb
Please don't indoctrinate me with religion. Teach me to think for myself.

Please don't indoctrinate me with religion. Teach me to think for myself.

Brought to you by Minnesota Athiests.


New billboards have popped up in two locations in the Twin Cities. The message: the saving power of atheism. They read, “Please don’t indoctrinate me with religion. Teach me to think for myself,” and “We are all born without belief in gods. Learn how to be a born-again atheist.” this is missionary atheist evangelization loud and clear.

Did I just say atheist evangelization? Yes I did. These billboards proclaim the “gospel” of atheism. By ‘gospel’ I mean a proclamation that announces liberation to a world held captive in the darkness of evil & ignorance. Great, so the atheists agree with the Church that there is a problem with humanity; we just differ on the solution. As to the content of the messages: The Church does teach you to think for yourself. She recognizes that we were created to use both faith and reason to arrive at Truth. To try to use one without the other is bound to keep you in the clutches of ignorance. Are we really born without belief in gods and so should become born again atheists? Sure! If by atheist you mean not believing in (let alone worshipping) some petty deity or fairytale grandfather in the sky who just does things for you and makes you feel good Catholics neither believe in, nor worship, such a thing. Our God is not a thing – He is bigger than “thing-ness.” He is not a sort of being, He is Being itself. Everything else that exists only does so because it participates in His existence.

We agree with atheists that humanity is captive to evil and ignorance. This is the gospel that the Church proclaims: God became man (Jesus) to conquer evil and ignorance, and advance the kingdom of love by allowing humankind to share in his Divinity That man and woman can be “born again” (the sacred rite of baptism) to be made sons and daughters of God, is the fullest human dignity possible.

Actually, there is nothing “born-again” about atheism at all. Atheism is the narrowing of the universe to fit into a narrow mind. Atheists think all that exists is less than what can be conceived in the human mind. They only acknowledge what fallible human sense organs tell them; this is the darkness of ignorance. Catholicism recognizes that there are more things in heaven and on earth than can be dreamed of in our minds. Freedom from evil and ignorance comes from the liberating power of God. Christ’s mission on Earth was to be teacher and Savior. This is real enlightenment. This is real healing for a wounded humanity.

-Cameron Thompson

We are all born without belief in gods. Learn how to be a born-again atheist.

We are all born without belief in gods. Learn how to be a born-again atheist.

Turning our Gaze in the Right Directions

8 Feb

Eucharistic Adoration Minnesota

I suppose most religions have their oddities. Catholics certainly have theirs, like staring at a small piece of bread for hours. Every day in the Twin Cities and beyond people gather in small chapels or churches to look at what appears to be a round piece of unleavened flour. In fact, chapels are set aside to do this 24 hours a day. So when I am leaving Bryant Lake Bowl at 2 am, there are people not to far away, gazing at . . . what exactly?

Well, I am being a little coy here; it is not just some piece of bread. In fact it is not bread at all. I am not going to get into Eucharistic theology but basically, it is Jesus. Body, blood, soul, divinity. Some of you may have learned this in CCD and it is all true. Don’t ask me to prove it. I can’t and why should I? That would be like a man proving the woman he loves is beautiful; she is and trying to prove it takes something away from her beauty.

So, why stare at the Eucharist? Sunday mass at the Basilica makes sense, but why hang out in Nativity with the Eucharist? Why not just go to the Groveland Tap for a Surly (you can do both, it is just a matter of getting the order right)? I think T. S. Eliot got it right; part of the mission of the saint is to “apprehend the intersection of the timeless / with time.” That seems like pretty heady stuff but isn’t that what we are all looking for? We live in this world but we are looking for something more, something that transcends, a way to meet the timeless (God) in time (the chapel).

Maybe Simone Weil had it right, she explains “sin is not distance; it is a turning of our gaze in the wrong direction.” I go to adoration to start looking in the right direction, to look upon the God who is Love, to see my King who humbled Himself even to the point of being as small as bread, and to learn how my neighbor as Jesus loves all of us.

I think there is one last reason I go to Eucharist adoration. It is has to do with love. When I fall in love, I cannot help but look at the woman I love. Adoration is the time to look at our Beloved. As John Vianney said of adoration, “I look at Him; and He looks at me.” So try it out, give Him a look, and fall in love. You can get a Surly afterwards.

-Terence Sweeney


Adoration in Minnesota: http://www.therealpresence.org/states/minn2.htm

Enjoy this Eucharist adoration flash mob video!

All or Nothing

11 Nov

I recently came across a quote of St. John Vianney’s that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately: “You either belong wholly to the world or wholly to God.” The all-or-nothing Christian in me loved it. Ate it up. Heart and soul. I posted it on Facebook, as all cool Catholics do, and received mixed reviews from a few of my 1145 closest friends. One woman alluded to the fact that she feels caught in the middle most of the time—and what should she do about that? Fair enough. Then, another interesting comment: “You ask God for a ten minute hall pass.” Hmm. . . a hall pass. Like a water break during the big game? A break from the never-ending demand to be “good”? The sort of break that made 8th grade History class just a bit more bearable? Intriguing. I thought about it all day. First I scoffed at my tainted FB wall. Then, eventually I really thought about it. Here’s how the process went:

So, I’m trying to be like Christ, right? I’m living a “make Mama proud” kind of life. I’m striving to make good decisions. I hit up the local confessional at least once a month. But on the hard days I still take it out on an undeserving family member or translate my feelings into a witty wall-post. And when a hard conversation comes up, I usually swerve onto the easy road, avoiding “truth hurts” words of wisdom or possible constructive criticism of a friend’s life. And I’m all about not responding to argumentative comments passive-aggressively left for me via Facebook. So in some ways, my life is connected by a string of “hall passes.” Yikes.

I began to think about a Scripture verse from the Gospel according to Matthew where Jesus said that “whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” He didn’t say “whoever is not with me is probably just having a hard day or trying to be nice or curving the rules to arrive at a happy ending.” Gosh, it sounds a lot like He said that our ‘yes’ should mean ‘yes’ and our ‘no’ should mean ‘no’ (Matthew 5:37).
Now I am not saying that I am perfect or that I’ll be perfect anytime soon. I am saying that I’m going to think a little bit more before taking my next hall pass. If my choices are to either belong wholly to the world or wholly to God then I think it’s about time for class to begin.

-Gretchen Sonnen

Juicy Catholicism

8 Oct
Jucy Lucy
  I don’t go to Matt’s for a juicy lucy often enough. When I do get there, I like to relax at the bar, order a Grain Belt and wait for my burger. I like to tell the waitress it’s my first visit so that I can hear her warning about the molten cheese. And every time, I bite too soon and burn my tongue, grabbing napkins as cheese burns my hands and oozes into my beard. I cannot help myself…I don’t want to wait. And besides, isn’t that the point of a juicy? The joyful and painful surprise that the cheese is inside the burger.
  It is the cheese that makes the juicy what it is. Sure, the meat and bun are essential, but without molten cheese you’re left with something you could get anywhere else. In an odd way, this burning center reminds me of how often we forget about Jesus. We get bored with the externals with which we are so well acquainted, so much that we don’t bother to discover the burning truth hidden within the familiarity of Christianity.
  I have a lot of friends who are former Catholics and they have many good reasons for this.  Take your pick: the Inquisition, the sexual abuse of children, boring masses, judgmental Catholics, etc. It really adds up to a lot of negatives and I struggle with them also. But I am also reminded of all the good things about the Church: charity, art, ethnic diversity, the Church’s teaching about social and environmental justice, coffee and donuts after mass, etc.
  Sometimes we need to be reminded that these externals of Christianity are significant, but they are not essential. A burger is just a burger…sometimes excellent, sometimes less-than. But with burning cheese on the inside, a burger can become the culinary pride of the Twin Cities. What is the burning cheese of Christianity, you ask? What is this burning truth that makes Christianity what it is? Simply put it is that: we nailed the one person who could save us to a tree and yet He saved us anyway; the truth that a God with nails in his hands is offering us perfect joy; the strange reality that we form His body when we consume His body.
  I am not saying you should ignore the other good or bad parts of Catholicism; I am just recommending that you notice Jesus. He is burning for us; maybe it is time for us to start burning for Him. The cheese makes the juicy, and Jesus makes the Church. Don’t get distracted or discouraged by negativity. Just dig in, and be prepared to feel His fire.
-Terence Sweeney