Archive | October, 2011

God and grace are everywhere in Brian Doyle’s world

October 31, 2011


It’s 5:59 a.m. on a Wednesday and I’m reading and laughing aloud at one end of the house, trying not to stir Sleeping Beauty at the other end. Five days later, at 6:05 a.m., instant replay. Brian Doyle and “Grace Notes” is to blame.

This is writing to savor in the silence and holiness before the rest of the world wakens.

Goodness the man can write.

Lord he can tell a story.

In “Grace Notes” Doyle tells 37 of them, about himself,  about his family, about people and things you’d never think someone would write about but when you’d finished reading you were glad Brian Doyle became a writer.

There’s a good balance of Doyle stories and other people stories in this 148-page Acta Publications paperback. He goes into tell-all phase about his interior life. He’s an amazingly acute observer of his kids and his wife, who he is quick to admit he doesn’t understand. That’s the laugh-aloud funny stuff.

But he’s at his best giving voice to others, a wonderfully eclectic mix whose lives you’ll be so glad you entered — even if vicariously through ink on paper.

There’s the woman on the bus who talks about wanting to have a child but whose husband is apprehensive, the parents dropping off their daughter for college and crying as they do so, the people behind the stories behind those white crosses we all see on the side of the highway.

Hope is everywhere

Doyle sees the grace in every corner of life. Here’s what I mean — you’ll recognize a key phrase in this quote:

“Look, I know very well that brooding misshapen evil is everywhere, in the brightest houses and the most cheerful denials, in what we do and what we have failed to do, and I know all too well that the story of the world is entropy, things fly apart, we sicken, we fail, we grow weary, we divorce, we are hammered and hounded by loss and accidents and tragedies. But I also know, with all my hoary muddled heart, that we are carved of immense confusing holiness; that the whole point for us is grace under duress; and that you either take a flying leap at nonsensical illogical unreasonable ideas like marriage and marathons and democracy and divinity, or you huddle behind the wall. I believe that the coolest things there are cannot be measured, calibrated, calculated, gauged, weighed, or understood except sometimes by having a child patiently explain it to you, which is another thing that should happen far more often to us all.

“In short, I believe in believing, which doesn’t make sense, which gives me hope.”

My favorite might be the story of the man who, as both a policeman in his town and a soldier, is the one who knocks on doors to tell mothers and father and wives and husbands that their son or daughter or husband or wife is dead.

The holiness pours from this man in his respect for people, his respect for life. Catch this, through Doyle’s writing: “You mostly just listen. People tell stories. Often their first reaction, after the initial shock and grief, is to tell stories….People tell me I should write them down but I feel that they are private stories, you know, stories that only came to me because someone’s heart broke in the kitchen.”

Finally, you won’t want to miss Doyle’s amazing lists of who is going to get into heaven and how they’ll be scrutinized — and by whom — before being allowed in. It’s priceless. Doyle is one of our generation’s great Catholic writers.– bz

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Walleye jigs from an unexpected source

October 28, 2011


When I stopped in to see Michael and Anne Gross this morning, I did not expect to walk away with a bag full of jigs. That was a surprise ending to our brief visit.

I was there to drop off copies of The Catholic Spirit containing a front-page article about their daughter, Teresa, who took her own life almost a year ago, on Nov. 1, 2010. I also interviewed them on the air this morning on Relevant Radio.

When I handed them a dozen copies of the newspaper article with their story, we talked more about their journey through tragedy into healing and, ultimately, to helping others through an event they are organizing at their parish, St. Paul in Ham Lake. It takes place Saturday, Nov. 19 from 8 a.m. to noon (call 763-757-6910 for details or to register).

As we neared the end of our conversation, I happened to mention that I am going on a fishing trip (yes, fishing trip!) to Lake of the Woods on Sunday. When I told Michael, an avid fisherman himself, that we would be jigging for walleyes, he said that he makes his own and I was welcome to take some with me.

I couldn’t refuse the offer. For me, that would be special to catch a walleye (or six!) on one of his jigs. I felt as though the time I have spent talking with him over the last few weeks has created a bond. Not only have both of us lost someone (my first wife died of cancer in 1995), but we also share a love of the outdoors.

We talked about scheduling a fishing trip next summer. I’d love to see that happen. For now, I’ll head up north, tie on one of his jigs and see what happens. The fishing reports are good. According to one on the Sportsman’s Lodge website, the walleyes are running strong from the lake into the Rainy River and biting well.

That’s good news for me and my friend, Pete Wolney. We try to hit the river run of walleyes every fall. Looks like it’s here. I’ll do some bow hunting later today and again on Sunday morning, then it’s up to Lake of the Woods we go!

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Catholic Community Foundation award winner sees love and creativity in groups that serve others

October 27, 2011


Sue Morrison is a tiny bit of a woman, but she does great things.

Morrison heads up a committee that gives relatively small grants to nonprofits who serve the poor and needy around Minnesota’s Twin Cities. Again, although the dollars aren’t large, they have a huge impact.

Most of the grants awarded from the Catholic Community Foundation’s Community Priorities Fund are in the $1,000 to $5,000 range. But the groups that receive them are so appreciative and do so much with the money that it makes Morrison ‘s involvement especially rewarding.

She especially likes to visit the sites of the organizations that apply for grants to check out their operations and see just what they are doing to care for at-risk children, young mothers and elderly people who are living independently.

“I love the opportunity to see what loving and creative people dream up to serve the underprivileged,” Morrison said. “I get lifted up by the good hearts and the creativity of those who work on behalf of the less fortunate.”

Charity alive, but needs growing

Morrison’s remarks came Oct. 26 after Archbishop John Nienstedt and CCF president Marilou Eldred presented her with the Catholic Community Foundation’s Legacy of Faith Award for philanthropic leadership that supports the spiritual, educational and social needs of the Catholic community. A crowded ballroom at the Minneapolis Club gave her a standing ovation.

She made two good points with a connection you’ll get right off:

  • From her observations, Catholic grassroots charity is alive and well.
  • The need keeps growing; CCF has three times more applicants for grants than it can fund.

Surprise: People read their Catholic paper

Oh, and she opened her talk by expressing amazement at how many people read The Catholic Spirit. When the archdiocesan newspaper carried a Q & A with Morrison after it was announced that she’d be the Legacy of Faith recipient she said her phone rang off the hook. “Someone even sent me flowers!” she exclaimed.

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Curve balls while deer scouting

October 25, 2011


I enjoyed the glorious weather we had over the weekend by going down to set up deer stands for the firearms opener Nov. 5. We have been hunting the same properties for about the last seven or eight years, so we didn’t have a huge amount of setup to do.

Unfortunately, we were dealt a couple of curve balls. On one property, we encountered a bow hunter who had set up a stand on a new area were were scouting on the land. Then, he told us his hunting partner was setting up a stand on the opposite end, where my brother hunted last year and saw plenty of deer. These two guys have been hunting this same property for the last several years, and had moved away from a permanent stand we had set up in the back corner, so we figured the least we could do was return the favor and stay away from their stands. But, that meant telling my brother he couldn’t hunt in the spot where he had had good action last year.

Then, curveball No. 2 came when we went to another nearby property to work on a stand that has been the hottest stand of all. We have killed deer there every year but one — when my brother shot at a deer, but didn’t bring it down — and have seen deer there every year. We were surprised to discover that the stand had been stolen.

So, we adapted and prepared a natural ground blind for my brother to hunt. It was frustrating, but my brother moved past it quickly and, soon, so did I. Hunting is all about adapting to curve balls like this. Interestingly, I find dealing with human interference to be more challenging than trying to pattern the deer.

Still, I’m optimistic and excited about the firearms season. And, I will be doing some archery hunting in the next few weeks, too. Hopefully, between the two, I’ll be able to take a deer. As always, Lord willing….

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Why the saints are in a good position to pray for us

October 25, 2011

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The Trinity Adored by All Saints (detail), Spain, early 15th cen. Photo/clairity Licensed through Creative Commons

Every day people post prayer intentions on a board outside my church’s perpetual adoration chapel in hopes that adorers will take those needs to prayer.  And every Sunday Catholics pray for the Church, their communities and the world.

Christians pray for others–and it makes sense that they’d continue to pray in heaven.

As we prepare to celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints, it’s worth considering who the saints are and why we ask them to intercede for us.

The Catechism defines a saint as, “the ‘holy one’ who leads a life in union with God through the grace of Christ and receives the reward of eternal life.” That’s what we’re all aiming at.

Heroic Virtue

A holy person who has died becomes a saint with a capital ‘S’ when the Church canonizes or beatifies them after common repute and conclusive arguments prove they’ve exercised heroic virtue during their lives.

One of the biggest objections to asking for a saint’s intercession (We don’t pray to them but rather we ask them to pray with us.)  is the scripture passage stating that Christ is the one mediator between God and humanity. (I Tim. 2:5)

However, those who are with the Lord are in a good position to offer Him our petitions:

“Being more closely united to Christ, those who dwell in heaven fix the whole Church more firmly in holiness. … [T]hey do not cease to intercede with the Father for us, as they proffer the merits which they acquire on earth through the one mediator between  God and men, Christ Jesus. … So by their fraternal concern is our weakness greatly helped.” (CCC 956)

According to St. Thomas Aquinas, we can pray two ways. First, to God alone “because all our prayers ought to be direct to obtaining grace and glory which God alone gives.”  But secondly, “we pray to the holy angels and to men not that God may learn our petition through them, but that by their prayers and merits our prayers may be efficacious.”

Scriptural Basis

Scripture contains many references to the effectiveness of intercession on earth and in heaven. Rev. 5:8 and 8:3-4 describe the prayers of the saints as like incense before God.  Job 42:8 speaks of the intercession of Job and Gen. 20:7 and 17 to that of Abraham.  Also, Phil. 1:3-4 and Rom. 15:30 emphasize the importance of intercession.

During their lives the saints like St. Cyprian encouraged us to give our petitions to Christians in heaven:

“Let us be mutually mindful of each other, let us ever pray for each other, and if one of us shall, by the speediness of the Divine vouchsafement, depart hence first, let our love continue in the presence of the Lord, let not prayer for our brethren and sisters cease in the presence of the mercy of the Father.”

Maybe when we post our petitions at church we should also ask as some powerful Christians in a better location to pray, as St. John Chrysostom  encourages:

“When thou perceivest that God is chastening thee, fly not to His enemies … but to His friends, the martyrs, the saints, and those who were pleasing to Him, and who have great power.”


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My Pro-Life Running Stroller

October 24, 2011


Life is good!

Life is good!

I know, the title of this blog caught your attention. You’re probably wondering, How can an inanimate object, such as a running stroller, be pro-life? Let me explain…

Three years ago I had just accepted the Archdiocesan position of Respect Life Coordinator. A few months later, when I was 42 and our youngest was eight, my husband and I discovered that we were expecting. Wow…what a glorious surprise! We had given away all of our baby items years ago, thinking that perhaps seven kids was about it for us. But my pregnancy at an “advanced maternal age” was happy news–and proof that God has a sense of humor!

My coworkers in the Office for Marriage, Family and Life knew of my passion for running. They also knew that the jogging stroller in which I pushed all of our other babies had gone to its eternal rest–the Babies ‘R’ Us in the sky. A collection was taken up among many of the Archdiocesan worker-bees, and the perfect gift was bestowed on me–a red, double running stroller–with an emphasis on DOUBLE!

Yes, I had twins in that big belly! Proof that God has a GINORMOUS sense of humor!

Praying for the Church

The director of the office, Kathy Laird, requested that I offer prayers for all of the Archdiocesan staff when I use the stroller–and I do–beginning with Archbishop Nienstedt, Bishop Piche, Fr. Laird, my pastor who is Fr. Creagan–and radiating out to the others who serve as God’s hands and feet. As Kathy often told me, “Working for the Church is such a blessing,” which is so true, but I know that  the rewards are often mingled with sweat. Without even exchanging their clerics or business suits for athletic wear, the Archdiocesan staff can feel like they’re in the midst of a marathon.  That darn devil chases us in order to sink his talons into all that is good–like building Our Father’s Church and a culture of life– and it takes a lot of strength, energy and courage to combat  his evil-doings and bring others to the Truth.

In the Encyclical Letter, Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life ) Blessed John Paul II wrote:

The Church’s spiritual motherhood is only achieved–the Church knows this too–through the pangs and ‘the labor’ of childbirth (cf. Rev 12:2), that is to say, in constant tension with the forces of evil which still roam the world and affect human hearts, offering resistance to Christ.

Yep, the church needs our prayers. Even if these prayers are “on the run”!

Praying for Others

The twins are two-and-a-half now, and their red run-and-pray stroller is well broken-in. Like many mothers, I pray that the guardian angels protect my family. Whenever our running route takes us through tunnels or under bridges, the twins remind me to belt out prayers (they like the echo.) The boys begin in unison with a “Da-Da!” because we usually start off praying for my husband who has rheumatoid arthritis. Of course we pray for the twins’ big brothers and sisters (This takes a while!) We pray for extended family, especially a sister-in-law who is expecting, and a niece who is pregnant and going through breast cancer. We add people to our prayer list who are suffering–and their care-takers, because individuals who are selflessly comforting loved-ones often feel like they are running a long race with an uncertain end.

As I chug along, I give thanks for the gift of life (My mom taught me to do this when I was a little girl) and I ask God for the strength to endure my blessings.

A Symbol of Life

A stroller or buggy conjures happy memories and warm visions for most people. I see my running stroller as a domestic church on wheels. In The Gospel of Life  Blessed John Paul II states, “As the domestic church, the family is summoned to promote, celebrate and serve the Gospel of Life.”  (#92)

I teach my kids lessons on life as we’re rolling along–I believe that they’re never too young. For example: Yesterday, we came across an injured monarch butterfly on our running path. I gently picked it up and placed it on the twins’ blankets so that they could watch it flutter its wings. The lovely insect bummed a ride for about a mile, and then took flight. As I pushed the toddlers along the banks of the Mississippi, I used that butterfly to tell them how precious is God’s creation, especially us human beings. I was reminded once again of The Gospel of Life:

Human Life is sacred because from its beginning it involves ‘the creative action of God,’ and it remains forever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end. (#53)

This is one of the reasons I also bring my running stroller to abortuaries, where we pray and stroll on the sidewalk: It is a symbol of life. Twenty-one years ago, when I was thinking of praying outside of Planned Parenthood with my church for the first time, a parishioner said, “Oh please come…and bring your baby!” And I did, in my old, neon-green running stroller.

When people see me–a 45-year-old mommy– and my babies out on our morning runs or strolling outside of abortion clinics, I hope they are reminded that life doesn’t always go along as we ‘planned.’ But the important thing is that we all embrace life and promote it. I know that the babies–with their matching faces–bring many smiles to people, and teach their own lessons to passers-by: That life is a precious gift and that we should cherish it!


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Another place to see “Catholicism”.

October 21, 2011


Even though TPT won’t air Father Barron’s “Catholicism”, it may still be viewed on EWTN. Or if you prefer to watch it on the big screen you can see it at the Forest Lake 5 Theater.

November 26, December 3, 10 & 17
From 9 to 10 AM

Forest Lake 5 Theater
1480 Lake Street
Forest Lake, MN

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Sarandon called to apologize for calling the Pope a Nazi

October 18, 2011



Image licensed under Creative Commons license.

MSNBC Report: Susan Sarandon calls Pope a Nazi

FOX Susan Sarandon Under Fire From Catholic, Jewish Groups for Calling Pope Benedict a ‘Nazi’

TMZ ‘Positively obscene’: Actress Susan Sarandon condemned by Catholic groups for calling Pope Benedict a ‘Nazi’

Daily Mail Powerful Catholic Org. Slams Susan Sarandon: You’re Ignorant and Obscene


ADL ADL Says Susan Sarandon Should Apologize For Referring To Pope Benedict XVI As ‘A Nazi’

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A beautiful morning in the woods, but where were the deer?

October 17, 2011

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I couldn’t resist the urge to get out in the woods yesterday morning and sit in my stand for a few hours of bow hunting. I was hoping  the deer would be moving during the cooler weather we’ve been having the last few days.

But, what greeted me in the opening minutes of legal shooting hours were not the footsteps of whitetails heading to their bedding areas, but shotgun blasts. Apparently, there were some busy waterfowl hunters nearby. The area I hunt near Lino Lakes in the northern suburbs features a lot of wetlands, and it was obvious that ducks were flying in the area.

So much for peace and quiet. It sounded more like the firearms deer opener. Yet, being in an archery-only area, I figured maybe the deer wouldn’t get spooked so much by the noise that they would sit tight.

Nothing moving

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. Whether for that reason or some other, no deer were moving. With most of the leaves down on the ground, I could see much farther than I could on opening weekend, so I figured I might see deer a ways off.

No dice. I suspect that there were at least two factors that led to the lack of deer activity in the woods. The first is what my experienced bow hunting friend calls the October lull. It seems that in mid-October, the deer will slow down their movements for about two weeks or so right before the rut kicks in. He thinks it has to do with the deer wanting to rest up a bit before the breeding starts and they move much more than normal. In fact, the rut features the highest amount of deer movement of the entire year. That’s a big reason why hunters like getting out in the woods in November.

Reason No. 2 is the wind. It has been very windy the last few days and, although the wind died down a little bit, it still was strong yesterday morning. That will often shut down deer movement, except during the rut, which is about two weeks away.

Time for some scouting

At 9:15 a.m., I climbed down from my stand and headed over to a second stand that I had put up last week. It’s much farther back into the woods and I needed to finish putting up some trail tacks on trees so I can find the stand in the dark. I began that task last week, but ran out of tacks. So, yesterday, I was able to finish the job.

I also did a little walking around the area to see where deer might move and where I might see them. Turns out, I am in a nice bottleneck area that features a point of tall grass coming in from the west and a big swamp coming in from the east. And, to my left is a creek bottom with a thicket of woods behind it. There is a crossing to my left that’s about 15-20 yards from my stand and one to my right that’s about 25 yards. Both crossings lead right into the thicket. I know deer will use them to come in and out of the thick cover, so I think there’s a good chance of some movement on these trails when the rut kicks in.

Preparation is key

When it comes to bow hunting, advance planning and preparation is crucial to success. Of course, it starts with practicing with your bow and developing shooting proficiency. I think hunters should be good to at least 20 yards, if not 30. I have been practicing at 20 yards for several months, so I feel confident I can make shots up to that distance. I tried a couple at 30 yesterday. One was wide right, but the second shot hit the center of the bullseye. I adjusted my sight a little because I had been shooting right of the bullseye consistently. After moving my sight, I was back on the bullseye. Experts say not to correct for mistakes in your shooting form, but I had been shooting to the right for two whole sessions, so it was time for a change. If I start shooting left, I will simply move the sight back.

Another part of preparation is having the right setup in your stand to accommodate all the directions where you might have to shoot. One change I made to accomplish this is getting a new safety system. I was using a safety harness that attaches to my upper body and both legs. But, I found it to be cumbersome and restrictive when I would try to rotate a lot to the left or right.

Silent Slide is the answer

Then, I found out about a product called the Silent Slide. It’s a marvelous device invented and patented by a couple in Wisconsin that is very simple in its design and well made. I was nervous about trying it at first because it’s a belt and not a full body harness. But, once I understood how it works, I felt it was worth a try.

I bought one and used it for the first time yesterday morning. All you do is put the belt around your waist before you go into the woods, and roll up the belt that attaches to the tree. Then, once in your stand, simply put the belt around the tree at waist level of a standing position. The tether on your waist belt allows you to move however you need to with no restrictions or binding. And, it has quick release buckles that allow you to get out of it when you need to. Because there is only 12 inches of strap from your waist belt to the tree belt, you’ll merely fall against the tree if you have an accident. When this happens, you simply turn your body to the tree and either climb back into the stand, or release the belt and shimmy down the tree.

I have full confidence in this product and I think it’s a brilliant piece of engineering. It’s easy to set up in the dark, and that’s something hunters should always think about when trying to get a stand ready for hunting. During the rut, mornings can be very good times to hunt, and experienced bow hunters often preach about the benefits of getting into your stand before legal shooting hours. Now, I’m ready to do just that.

Bring on the rut!

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Why fasting is a good idea

October 14, 2011


fasting illustration

CNS photo illustration/Nancy Wiechec

I don’t imagine many people enjoy fasting. I’ll bet you don’t wake up on Ash Wednesday and say, ” How great that I get to eat a lot less food today!”

Although fasting isn’t easy, its spiritual benefits are available to Catholics all year, not just when it’s required on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

Even though Ash Wednesday is months away, I’m bringing this up now because earlier this month Jews fasted from food and drink for 25 hours in observance of Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement, the most important day in the Jewish liturgical year. This fast, which is noted in the Bible is the climax of 10 days of penitence starting with Rosh Hashanah. In biblical days, Jews also weren’t supposed to wash or wear shoes during this fast.

Fasting from wearing shoes?

Shoes don’t enter into the Catholic definition of fasting, which is the “complete or partial abstention from food.”  Another root of the word means to hold, to keep, to observe or to restrain one’s self. The Latin root word is of an animal intestine which is always empty.

Fasting has been practiced since ancient times for a variety of reasons, including deliverance from calamity and mourning.

The Church considers fasting, along with prayer and almsgiving, as one of the acts of religion through which Catholics express interior penance. (CCC 1434, 1969) Fasting is part of the Fourth Precept of the Church: “You shall observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church.” (CCC 2043)

The Church’s fasting rules are pretty clear: Catholics from their 18th birthday to their 59th birthday (the beginning of their 60th year) are to reduce the amount of food eaten from normal. The Church defines this as one meal a day, and two smaller meals which if added together would not exceed the main meal in quantity. This fasting is required on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. The fast  is broken by eating between meals and by drinks which could be considered food (milkshakes, but not milk).  Alcoholic beverages technically don’t break the fast but they don’t quite fit with the spirit of doing penance.

(Catholics also fast from food and drink, except water and medicine, for at least the period of one hour before receiving Holy Communion. (Canon 919)

In her wisdom, the Church gives us a good reason to fast: to make us stronger. Natural law shows us we need to fast to overcome our concupiscence.  Or as the Catechism puts it, the required fasts are times of  “ascesis and penance which prepare us for liturgical feasts and help us acquire mastery over our instincts and freedom of heart.” (CCC 2043)

Fasting makes sense all year long. Not that we have to do it year round but the Church encourages us to do some kind of penance. It could be fasting or giving up something else we enjoy to grow in holiness, for a special intention or in thanksgiving.

Other benefits of fasting

As the early Church writer Tertullian put it, there are even more advantages to any weight loss resulting from fasting:

“More easily, it may be, through the strait gate of salvation will slenderer flesh enter; more speedily will lighter flesh rise; longer in the sepulcher will drier flesh retain its firmness.”

He gave the early Christians another good reason to fast:

“…an over-fed Christian will be more necessary to bears and lions perchance, than to God; only that, even to encounter beasts, it will be his duty to practice emaciation.”

I’m not sure that’s what Jesus meant when he said we should try not to look like we’re  fasting. (Matt. 6:16-18)  He does say we will be rewarded if we fast the right way: “Your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.”


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