Tag Archives: Minnesota

Saints: Even More Reasons to Celebrate

28 Jul

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


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

Prayer for a Man’s Man

17 Apr Prayer for Men - Isaac Huss

The taste of orange juice right after you brushed your teeth. The sound of nails scratching a chalkboard. The feeling of getting kicked square in the crotch. All are things I’d sometimes prefer to spending an extended period of time in prayer. Okay, maybe not the last one, but you get the point. Prayer is often hard, really hard. From what I can tell, my struggles with prayer are pretty representative of what you might call a normal dude in America today. Men aren’t exactly pounding down the doors of the local parish church nowadays. The fact is, there are millions of things men would rather do than sit down and pray. I’m not saying men don’t want to pray or don’t understand the importance of prayer, although there are certainly plenty in both camps. I’m just saying the average Joe has a hard time with prayer in general, even if he would really actually like to pray.

Prayer for a Man's Man - Isaac Huss

When I was confirmed, I was told to ask God for a gift of the Holy Spirit. When piety was described to me as essentially a desire for doing holy things, I thought, “Sign me up! I’d love to actually enjoy going to Mass.” When the rubber hit the road, kneeling down and praying was not attractive to me at all. Ever. In hindsight, I was probably a wee bit naive about what it meant to receive the gift of piety. In other words, “Sure, God, I’ll pray, but what will I get out of it? Can you make it fun and exciting? Or at least a little bit enjoyable? Hell, I’d settle for tolerable! Oh, and sorry for swearing. Amen.”

Here’s the thing about prayer: it’s the exact opposite of self-centered. Prayer is a turning from self to God. It’s not self-seeking, it’s God-seeking. Not self-serving, but God-serving. Here’s where man’s struggle to pray becomes refreshingly counter-intuitive: when a man sits in prayer, whether it’s in Mass or by himself, and he starts to feel that familiar feeling of I’d-rather-be-doing-anything-else, that’s not him failing at prayer. In fact, it’s the opposite. It means he’s succeeding and the prayer is doing its work. Or, more properly speaking, God is doing His work.

When a weightlifter feels the burn while bench pressing, he doesn’t assume he’s failed, he realizes that the lifting is pushing him to his limits and making him stronger. Similarly, when we struggle in prayer, we are actually succeeding–pushing our spiritual capacity to its limit and making our love for God stronger. The goal of benching is not perfect form but a strong body. The goal of prayer is not perfect prayer, but love of God. I’m not saying that prayer can’t possibly be enjoyable or that the only way we grow in holiness is by gritting our teeth. I am saying that the measure of holiness does not necessarily mean that you’d rather participate in a 3-hour Latin high mass than watch the Vikings, or that a holy hour miraculously seems so much more appealing than a happy hour. Instead, holiness just might mean that you’d rather be doing something else, but you choose to pray anyway.

-Isaac Huss

Why Start Religion Early for Your Kid?

24 Mar Start Teaching our Children the Faith Early

Spirituality and religion are so profoundly personal.  And many of us are still on our journey of either/both/one.  Given that each person has a particular journey, why start religious instruction early for children?  Why not let them choose their own path when they are old enough to be interested in it?

We have opted to start religion for our kiddos from the get-go for a number of reasons: 1) being part of a larger spiritual community; 2) development of conscience; and 3) reinforcement of our parenting values.

Why Start Religion Early for Your Kid?

Why Start Religion Early for Your Kid?

Our son who is two and a half has a sweet love of Jesus and the Blessed Virgin Mary.  He doesn’t get the advanced concepts of the hypostatic union or transubstantiation.  He doesn’t need to.  He understands Jesus was once a little boy too.  He understands Mama Mary to be his heavenly mother, and Jesus’ mama, who is there to comfort him when he is alone and scared.  For him, the Saints are not only a great baseball team, but also a team of wonderful people who are dead and whose examples we strive to follow.

 When we consider how the Church can influence the development of conscience, we don’t see religion as a vehicle for shaming or guilt-tripping.  The shaping of a conscience is comprised of delineating desirable behavior from undesirable behavior, and empowering the child to internalize this distinction process.  All parents do this, regardless of creed.  Catholicism provides a blue print to make this go more smoothly.

But why start now when they are so little?  Because I cannot hope that our children come to embrace these values later on as they are not the natural values to embrace.  It is natural for children to be rude, selfish, and wild. Instead of shaping his behavior through punishment (all the time), an external force, we are trying to give him a rooting in the whys behind the don’t-do-that.  Following your base instincts will not bring you closer to a God of love, and will not make you happy.  You have to practice self-discipline, and develop it from the get go, based on something that is higher than your parents.  Someone you are accountable to when no one is looking. If you have surrounded your child with a culture that backs up what you have shown them, then they can see from their friends, their friends’ parents, their school, and their environment a mirroring of values you hold true.

In conclusion, why not have God as a part of their routine?  Even if you are more spiritual than religious, consider how as a parent you give your child parameters and boundaries on all other fronts.  Why not organize their exposure to a Higher Power in the form of organized religion? It’s up to you how you present the routine of the Divine, and which traditions you emphasize, and accordingly you could give your child a better or different or more complete version than what you yourself received.

-Nell Alt

Making Sandwiches for the Smallest and Most Forgotten

15 Feb Christ of the Breadlines

  Recently, I have been going to help out on the food line, making sandwiches, handing them out, and chatting with people who are hungry. I am a little surprised at myself, since usually I stick with my books and my pints. I guess something made me realize it had to be done. One cannot be Christian if one does not serve others in some way, especially the poor. Dorothy Day pointed out the connection between being a true believer and serving. She explained that “those who cannot see Christ in the poor are atheists indeed.” How can we see Christ in the poor, if we are not with the poor? So, in September, I started going to serve for a couple hours a week.

ing Sandwiches for the Smallest and Most Forgotten - Terence Sweeney

Christ of the Breadlines Fritz Eichenber

  I don’t do much: put some sandwiches in bags, give them to people. I sit down with old ladies on the ground and talk about the weather and the places we have lived (an apartment on Grand Ave; a cardboard tent by the highway). At the end of my time there, I head back to my school work and leave them to move along. As our conversation ends, I look at the person and realize that I have no idea what they do or what their life is like.

  So, have I seen Christ in the poor? I have shaken a few cracked hands, heard anger and laughter, seen weariness, and smelled people for whom a shower is a luxury. That is what I think of as I stand in a steaming shower. Jesus didn’t have this, not because it was 30 AD, but because he was dirt poor. If Jesus walked into our homes we would probably grimace because he, like the homeless lady I was speaking with, smelled bad.

  Bartolomé de las Casas once wrote that “God has a special memory for the smallest and most forgotten.” We will be judged by whether we too have remembered and helped those forgotten people on the streets, in hospitals, on death row. It is a scary to think that I have forgotten so many people who just need a helping hand or a sandwich. Jesus never forgot them; because, He was one of them. And I believe, that the Catholic Church, so full of sinners like me, does not forget either (although her memory can be a bit foggy). The Church remembers through Her many charitable organizations and in Her commitment to a society in which the smallest and most forgotten are taken care of.

  I have not learned anything ground breaking by handing out sandwiches. I suppose in a way I have just become more of Christian by spending a little time with Christ in the poor. I have realized how poor I am in my own grumpy heart. And I think I can see that an essential way to rediscover Jesus and his poor Church is by being with the poor, the elderly, and the unwanted. Just as Jesus did and as He calls us all to.

-Terence Sweeney

January is the Coolest Month

21 Jan

St. Paul Winter Carnival Dates: January 24th-February 3rd.

When I hear the word fellowship I cringe at the thought of awkward gatherings, small talk, and laughing at jokes that aren’t funny. I’ve never been a big social person, but at the bidding of the social butterfly in my friends, I risked the dreaded fellowship and made the trek to downtown St. Paul, leaving the coziness of my living room, still shining from the barn lights on my Christmas tree and serenaded by the heat emitting from my radiators. Concerning winter, Shakespeare may have spoken truth that “thy breath is rude;” however, any true Minnesotan knows the delight of winter: the beauty of dazzling trees, the joy of skiing down Snelling Ave, and the kindness that the snow inspires in people to help push cars from the icy ruts of unplowed streets. And any true Minnesotan knows why most people dread the cold and raise their eyebrows at the sight of someone making a snow angel, for they’ve never known the cure for winter days: seasonal beers, spicy hot chocolate, snow sculpting masterpieces, live music, furnacing foods, and brushing shoulders with your fellow Minnesotans. Yes, when it comes to the St. Paul Winter Carnival, Minnesota knows how to throw a party, and it is good enough to sacrifice a warm night indoors for an adventure in good ol’ downtown St Paul.

All it took was a New York journalist condemning St. Paul as “another Siberia, unfit for human habitation in the winter” to begin a Minnesota Winter Revolution in 1886.  Since then, the Winter Carnival has founded culturally rich traditions of royal families, the Order of Fire and Brimstone, and the Vulcan, building a community based on bringing its members together to support its city and economy, all the while having a grand time. While I’m never going to jump at the chance to go to parties or meet strangers, I love my city and because of that, it is my duty to support this annual event. In Psalms we are told “how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.” This unity is not simply isolated to the smaller communities of one’s parish, work, family, or school; it includes the broader community of one’s own city. The St. Paul Winter Carnival exists for more than entertainment or good food and drink; it is a gathering of people finding warmth in the company of their community, and perhaps that is one of the purposes of God creating such a thing as winter.

To counteract the discomforts of seasons there are many cures: rain boots for spring puddles, cool lakes for hot summer days, and bulky wool sweaters for autumn.  For winter, the St. Paul Winter Carnival brings warmth and worth to the rude breath of winter. Call it fellowship if you want, but even that won’t stop me from strapping on a pair of skates, standing under a palm tree made of ice, burning my tongue on hot chocolate, proving an over confident New Yorker wrong, and most importantly, participating in creating unity in my city.

St. Paul Winter Carnival Dates: January 24th-February 3rd.

– Zita Larson

In the Light of Reality

16 Jan

Editors Note: We are happy to have a contributor from the Bellarmine Forum, a staunch defender of orthodoxy, the sanctity of marriage, and the centrality of the liturgy. In a world that forgets that fidelity to the Church is essential in all things, the Bellarmine Forum reminds its readers of the importance of obedience to the eternal verities of the Church. Mr. John Dejak is the president of the Bellarmine forum and a frequent contributor to their blog: http://bellarmineforum.org/.

The Bellarmine Forum

For all of the iPhones, iPads, and modern comforts and conveniences, we all still seem to want the basics. We want something real. A good hot cup of coffee brewed on a frosty Minnesota winter morning is one of the great gifts of our Creator (couple it with bacon and eggs, and you have heaven on earth!); so too is a conversation with friends before a roaring fire that begins early in the evening and lasts deep into the early hours of morning, feeling like only a few minutes have passed. Listening to Mozart or seeing the stars of the clear night sky create in us a pensiveness and an awe that oftentimes can only be expressed by the simple words of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”

I suspect that people throughout all of history have experienced these things and have had similar reactions. These are the simple things of life and—though I have only mentioned a few—they are the good things. In their simplicity, lies their profundity—for that is where the really real may be found: comfort, friendship, goodness, beauty, and truth. These are desires that we all share and they point to the fact that there may be something to this notion of a “common humanity.” We can identify these common and simple desires of human persons with another simple term: happiness.

Happiness has been a preoccupation of human persons since creation. Life seems to be a constant battle for that goal. And as Genesis says that we were made from the earth, so too is life a gritty and dirty business. Along with the simple joys just mentioned, there are profound sorrows and sufferings that rack us to the depths of our soul—addictions, neglect, poverty, sickness, abuse, death. But in the midst of these sufferings and tragedies, stands tall the God who knows suffering; whose light dispels the darkness; and who built an edifice—the Church–to bring a suffering humanity comfort, friendship, goodness, beauty, and truth. An edifice that may be old and beaten—even deplorable—on the outside, but within is the longed-for happiness of every human heart. This is nothing less than the answer to the poetry and mystery of human life. Perhaps the mystery was best put by Evelyn Waugh in Brideshead Revisited:

[A] small red flame—a beaten copper lamp of deplorable design, relit before the beaten copper doors of a tabernacle; the flame which the old knights saw from their tombs, which they saw put out; that flame burns again for other soldiers, far from home, farther, in heart, than Acre or Jerusalem. It could not have been built but for the builders and the tragedians, and there I found it lit this morning, burning anew among the old stones.

This is the flame which shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

-John Dejak

Mr. Dejak is a man of many talents: a classicist, attorney, teacher, and veteran of the US Army. Currently, he is Dean and Latin Teacher at St. Agnes in St Paul. He is a happy husband and the proud father of seven children.

I Do in Action: a Christian Vision of Marriage

2 Nov I Do in Action: a Christian Vision of Marriage

I Do in Action: a Christian Vision of Marriage

I’ve moved a lot over the last fifteen years. Between several cross-country moves from Minnesota to St. Louis, Washington, DC, and even Rome, I’ve become incredibly weary of it all. When I met my husband Burton, one of the first things I thought was, “Finally, I meet someone who’s actually from Minnesota! I’ll never have to move again!” So it came as something of a blow when Burton came to me last winter and said he wanted to pursue medical school—out of state, no less. Initially, all I could think was that this wasn’t what I signed up for on our wedding day. I could have put my foot down and said no. Burton would have accepted it and still loved me. Yet, even through a lot of tears and heartache, I knew without any hesitancy that I was called to say yes.

The truth is, this is exactly what I signed up for. Sacrificing yourself, your own wants, your own needs to your spouse’s wants and needs—that’s “I do” in action. If relationships were all about easy love and good times, we wouldn’t need the grace we get from the sacrament of marriage. When the angel came to Mary, Mary didn’t respond, “Yes—because this is what I already wanted and hoped would happen.” Mary’s “Yes” came despite any fear, worry, and dreams she may have already have had for her life. She needed grace to give her answer, and even more grace to live it.

My husband and I have been settled in our new home in Philadelphia for a month now. Every day that I wake up, I have to say “I do” to our marriage and “yes” to the new path that we’re on all over again. This doesn’t mean I have to pretend that everything is fine. Life isn’t easy for me here. He’s invigorated by his studies, but I spend my days looking for a job. I’m homesick, stressed about being unemployed, and feel lonely in a city where I don’t know anyone. But we talk about it, he listens and sympathizes and spends every free moment trying to make the transition easier. We’ve traveled in the area, walked through the whole city, and been on more dates than we ever had before. I feel the grace from our mutual “I do” to be more active in our life than ever before.

In a way, I’m actually treasuring this time of difficulty and sacrifice. That seems so backwards, doesn’t it? Certainly people have gotten divorced over less. But these are the times when I cling to the Lord. The Lord, in turn, calls me to trust Burton completely, and for him to trust me. Our future is without certainty, but we have hope and an understanding that our love means a willingness to sacrifice for each other.

-Allison Hendrickson

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