Archive | June, 2013

A few good apps

June 27, 2013

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I’ve recently pruned my apps on my phone and after some thought this is what I consider essential in my Catholic folder:

Laudate
This has way too much to cover. I use it primarily to preview the readings before Mass.
iTunes
Play

Missio
The Pope actually launched this himself. That alone is reason to have this app.

Confession
This app provides a customized examination of conscience and step by step guide through the sacrament along with a place for reflections, etc. It does come at a cost of $1.99.

Rediscover: App
Rediscover your Catholic faith. “There is a path to meaning and purpose, a sense of belonging, inner strength, true freedom and deep peace. It’s a path you know.”

Geo-locate a parish for Mass times or adoration hours or times of confession in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis

400+ short articles and videos on everything from God to culture

The Pope App
Homilies, general audiences. Follow the pope as closely as you would like.
iTunes
Play

Divine Mercy
Lots of info on the devotion and an easy-to-use set of virtual beads to pray with

iBreviary TS
The Liturgy of the Hours and more

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Minnesota Catholic Writers

June 24, 2013

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"Writing" - Licensed under Creative Commons

“Writing” – Licensed under Creative Commons

 

As we mourn the loss of Vince Flynn, I started to reflect on a few of the Catholic writers we have in Minnesota. Whether it is fiction, nonfiction, historical or other genres; is there something about our faith and something about Minnesota that helps to feed this talent? Immediately I can think of a few Minnesota Catholic authors. F Scott Fitzgerald and  Ralph McInerny come to mind,  but others like  Timothy Drake, Elizabeth Kelly and my very own dear cousin Fr. Marvin O’Connell are those I know personally.  And then there are aspiring novelists like Kathy Schneeman who, along with raising her nine kids and wrote so eloquently of Vince Flynn’s passing in her blog, is also working on her first novel.  I know if I were to search, there are many more Minnesota Catholic authors. (If you have a favorite Minnesota Catholic author,  share who it is and why in the comments below.) Some followed their faith more closely than others, some are better or lesser known but they share two things, Minnesota heritage and the Catholic faith.

Is it the Minnesota long winters that turn us to storytelling? Is it hearty Irish or other ethnic back grounds that causes us to tell tales? Is it a rich heritage of folklore that causes us to think in terms of fantasy?  Is it a love of the outdoors that causes us to notice details in the changes of the seasons and the rhythm of the earth that bring forward observations and hone our writing skills?

 

Or is it the gift of our faith that feeds the talent?

 

In the introduction to The Catholic Imagination,  Fr. Andrew Greeley writes: “Catholics live in an enchanted world, a world of statues and holy water, stained glass and votive candles, saints and religious medals, rosary beads and holy pictures. But these Catholic paraphernalia are mere hints of a deeper and more pervasive religious sensibility which inclines Catholics to see the Holy lurking in creation.”

I wonder often about that, about how Catholics see the world. We believe that there is something more than what we see and in a deep prayer and meditative life God uses our imagination to draw us closer to him. Try saying the Rosary, it becomes and exercise in imagining the life of Christ while repeating the prayers we know by heart and it somehow brings us closer to Christ.

 

There is always something happening beyond what we see. 

 

Fr. Robert Barron uses this sacramental sensibility in many of his talks, books and through the use of the Catholocism series.  It takes our imagination to even enter into thinking about how our sacraments work. I once asked my spiritual director about a certain experience I felt in prayer,  I asked if it was just my imagination. Her response caused me to reflect even deeper, saying “Don’t you think God uses everything to draw you closer to Him, even our imagination.” It is true, God made us the way we are and we are creatures uniquely made to worship Him.

It might not then be unusual that Catholics may have a jump start on imagination, storytelling and the world that can’t be seen.

On a couple of occasions I joined a group of Catholic writers. The group called itself The Minnklings — a Minnesotan take-off on C.S. Lewis’ and J.R.R. Tolkien’s writer’s group The Inklings. The group would meet at O’Gara’s bar in St. Paul to share work and offer encouragement. Tim Drake, then Senior Writer of the National Catholic Register led the group. I think it was a special place to explore the unique way in which Catholics aproach the world and aproach writing.   I don’t believe the group has met in recent years but I have been running into aspiring Catholic writers and I am hoping we can revive the concept again.

If you are a Catholic Writer, whether you are writing overtly on Catholic themes or if your faith guides your writing in less overt ways, contact me and maybe we can get revival of the Minnklings started.

 

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Walleye heaven!

June 24, 2013

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Julie and Claire Hrbacek display part of their catch on Upper Red Lake

Julie and Claire Hrbacek display part of their catch on Upper Red Lake

I had the narrowest of windows to try and pop a few walleyes for the frying pan last week – about three hours, to be exact.

Where can an angler go to have any hope for success in such a tiny time frame?

Upper Red Lake, that’s where! Just two weeks ago, it looked like I might be able to get away for two or three days at the end of last week. I was primed to hit this phenomenal walleye fishery to cash in on a walleye bonanza fueled by the shrinking of the lake’s protected slot – from 17-26 inches to 20-26 inches on June 15.

I was dreaming of two days of fast fishing, with a fish fry at the cabin and a limit of walleyes to bring home. Alas, the calendar got full, and I was left with just one evening to get out on the water.

I cajoled my wife Julie and daughter Claire into joining me, and we left the house at 12:30 p.m. Thursday, June 20. We arrived in Waskish on the lake’s eastern shore at 5:30 p.m. and eagerly pulled in to Bear Paw Guides, where our guide for the evening, Tyler Brasel, awaited.

It had rained during the drive up north, but the skies brightened near Grand Rapids. Unfortunately, the weather looked troublesome on the western horizon, where Tyler’s dad Steve said a storm was positioned.

Would it come straight across the lake and end our outing? Or, would it steer southward and pass us by?

I said a short prayer, with the intensity only a fisherman yearning to get on the water can muster. With that, we hurried to the boat landing, located on the outlet of the Tamarac River.

A bobber and hope

We only had to go a short distance from the mouth of the river to one of Tyler’s favorite spots. It’s a small rock pile the size of a living room located on the eastern shore. He’s got it plugged in to his GPS, which was the size of a small TV. He actually has two GPS units, which enabled us to park almost right on top of the rock pile.

Tyler handed Julie and I rods with jigs tied on. We promptly attached frozen minnows to the jigs and heaved them overboard. Julie caught the first walleye of the evening – and the second, and the third. This all happened in a manner of minutes, while Tyler was getting Claire set up with a slip bobber rig.

Throughout the drive up north, Claire had said she wasn’t sure she wanted to fish. I hoped she would at least try it. When Tyler suggested the bobber setup, Claire quickly agreed.

Good thing, too. The walleyes jumped all over her jig-and-leech presentation. In fact, she ended up catching the most fish in our group. Even Tyler marveled at her success.

As for me, I caught my fair share, and contributed to the limit of 12 walleyes we brought back to the docks. Turns out, we needed far less than the three hours of daylight to pull in our legal limit. And, we caught several bonus perch, and Julie even landed a northern pike that we were able to keep.

Attitude change

In terms of Claire’s attitude about fishing, she had this to say shortly after landing yet another walleye:

“This is a game changer for me. I like fishing now.”

Why shouldn’t she? With fishing like this, just about anyone would fall in love with it. Fortunately, the storm held off and didn’t bother us during our time on the water. The wind did pick up during about the last half hour, so we decided to head in. Tyler and Steve cleaned our fish back at the resort, and we took home a nice bag of walleye fillets.

Tyler said he is able to catch walleyes all summer long, though he has to go farther out from shore and cover more water. He said he never fails to catch fish when he tries his hardest. Sometimes, he does some experimenting and will come up empty.

The good news is, there is lots of summer left and Tyler has plenty of openings on his calendar, especially during weekdays. And, there are lots of walleyes left in the lake. We caught plenty of various lengths, from about 8-10 inches all the way up to one just more than 20 inches. The fishery looks to be in fine shape.

Perhaps, the best news of that wonderful night is that Claire definitely wants to go fishing again. In fact, she was disappointed to leave the next morning.

Who knows? Maybe there’s hope I can get her into a deer stand.

 

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Vince, you will be missed

June 23, 2013

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“My sickness, or perplexity, or sorrow may be necessary causes of some great end, which is quite beyond us.”-JH Newman (Taken from Vince Flynn’s funeral prayer card which will be shaped like a bookmark)

The past few days have been hard for everyone who knew novelist Vince Flynn–and even for those who didn’t. As his loved-ones go on automatic pilot getting ready for the funeral here are some observations and memories that pop up; helping to subside the pain.

Misty water-colored memories

When Vince was diagnosed with stage III metastatic prostate cancer in November of 2010 he immediately gave up eating red meat and cut down on sugars. Even though it must have been tough for a former college football player to do so, he never complained about this sacrifice. He was hoping to prolong his life as much as he could for his family. To aid in this endeavor his wife Lysa put her Minnesota farm girl background to work by creating a large organic garden in their back yard. Vince was very proud of Lysa’s green thumb and beamed when she’d tote a basket of her “garden goodies” to friends’ houses.

The first time he met Lysa’s family in northern Minnesota Vince was so nervous that he got sick with anxiety. They’d laugh telling the story of how during that visit he spent more time inside the farmhouse’s bathroom than he did outside of it.

Vinnie liked Lysa’s turkey Tater Tot Hotdish, Leslie’s grilled veggies and any scrumptious pies that their friend, Lauri Schneider, pulled out of her oven (but he only savored a few bites of her sweets once he was diagnosed). Cabernet was his favorite wine, and while he was living with cancer he’d enjoy a vodka-Pom “because pomegranate juice has antioxidants.” He’d watch Saturday Night Live, Modern Family and Downton Abbey. The Black Keys, Kid Rock and Eric Church were some of the artists on his playlist. Often he’d be spotted wearing plaid shirts or athletic gear from his alma maters (St. Thomas Academy ’84 and University of St. Thomas ’88).

He loved watching his son Dane (17) wrestle, play football, basketball and run track. He roasted in the stands at his girls’ (aged 10 and 12) swim meets and actually enjoyed their dance recitals, although he’d grumble about them. He was fiercely proud of his brother, Tim, who is the commander of the St. Paul S.W.A.T. team. He’d email links to articles about his baby brother and brag about him to friends.

Speaking of friends, one of my favorite stories of the 47-year-old-novelist is this: Not long after college, a buddy of Vince’s and his wife had a baby that was delivered stillborn. The auntie told me, “We were all so touched to see the friends–including Vinnie– take time from their busy schedules and come to the little one’s funeral.” I think this speaks volumes about the respect for life that these young men had.

Vince always put his friends first. Years ago, the novelist with dyslexia was traveling with his publicist from Atria Books, David Brown. When Vince got to his hotel room he discovered that it was very small. (Usually he’d have a luxury suite assigned to him.) When Brown joined Vince later that day he exclaimed with excitement, “You should see my room, it’s huge!” Vince knew right away that the staff had mixed up the rooms, but he didn’t make Brown switch with him. When I mentioned this hotel story to his publicist Brown told me this: “Vince was very special to me. He was a rare crossover of someone who I worked with but considered a friend. In fact, I’ve been telling that same hotel story over the past 24 hours. I tell people that Vince let me stay in that room 90% because he was that kind and generous and 10% because he loved having something to needle me about for years to come!”

Besides having a fun sense of humor, the left-handed author had the uncanny ability to follow two conversations at once. If his wife and I tried to have a private talk he’d hear every word–even if we were whispering–and he’d always pitch in his two-cents-worth whether we wanted it or not. About five weeks ago,Vince–who was nearly bed-ridden–had called my husband Eric and me to see if we’d bring our four-year-old twins over to his house so that he could watch Thing 1 and Thing 2 play with his dog. (Actually, they were shooting his dog with their play guns.) We were so eager to visit with him, but when we got there the home healthcare nurse had to call an ambulance because his heart was acting up. As the rescue crew worked on him my husband gathered Vinnie’s things in a hospital bag. During this time the twins and I were on the back porch that is two rooms away. The little boys were chasing the family pet and I accidentally called the dog Dane (his son’s name). When I re-entered the room in which Vince reclined he asked weakly, “Kathy, did you just call my dog Dane?” That’s when it hit me: even though his body was crumbling before us and his ability to read, write and concentrate was waning, he still had that darn gift of super-hearing. The 35 friends and family members who were around his bed on June 19 are hoping that his ears were still working well in the end as we prayed, said our thank yous, and called: “We love you, Vinnie. Goodbye.”

I’ll never forget how hard it was to explain to the twins where their friend had gone. With their limited speech they asked, “He go where good guys go?” We told Thing 1 and Thing 2 that yes, we believed he was in heaven. Since “Mifi” (twin-talk for Mr. Flynn) and Lysa always gave them chocolate milk at their home their next question was: “He hab chocat mewk dere?”

I like to think that he is with his friend Dr. Mike Nanne who passed away from a brain tumor last year. It’s a comforting thought. Maybe they’re both drinking chocolate milk (or something stronger) with the saints at an Irish pub in Heaven.

 Support

For the last four months or so of Vince’s life someone needed to be with him at all times. His brother Tim, childhood friend Tom Tracy and my husband took turns sitting with him and taking him to his myriad appointments and infusions. A barf bag was always at arm’s reach. Glenn Caruso, University of St. Thomas’ football coach who was voted Division lll National Coach of the Year for 2012, lost his mother at  age eight and his father six years ago. He spent time with Vinnie one day this spring so that Lysa could plant her garden. Coach Caruso has supported Vince’s son, Dane, through many conversations and pep talks. In the fall of 2014 Dane is hoping to be on his UST powerhouse team.

Lysa’s sister has been by her side continuously for the last week, and family friends, the Aslesons, have been doing dishes, watering flowers and taking care of Vince’s kids. Amelia Santaniello (a news anchor with WCCO) took his daughters shopping to buy them dresses for their daddy’s funeral. And someone bought Lysa some nylons so she wouldn’t have to.

For the past many years every Thursday was date night for the Flynns. Often, Vince and Lysa would dine at Axel’s in Mendota. When Vinnie started to get too weak, Susie Fick and Valerie Tracy would take Vince’s place in order to get Lysa out. Being the round-the-clock caretaker for her husband, Lysa needed the break.

Come to think of it, Valerie’s husband, Tom Tracy, is probably home writing Vince’s eulogy as I jot down these thoughts. We’ve been praying for him. I’m sure he’s traveling along an emotional journey in doing so.

Signs of Hope

moose sign

Vince’s children were able to visit with their dad on Father’s Day while he was in United Hospital in St. Paul. This was the last day he was able to communicate. They are so thankful for this gift. In fact, he even asked them to grab him something to eat from Cossetta’s. He seemed to be better than he had been doing lately, but then he took a turn for the worse early the next morning. He passed away two days later. Fr. Peter Laird sat on the St. Thomas Academy board with the author and they attended the University of St. Thomas at the same time. During Father’s Day weekend Father Laird sent his friend a text that said, “Everything to Jesus.” Vince replied with the last lines he was to write to the priest: “Amen!”

Ed Kocourek, Vince’s prayer mentor, gave the author one of those decade rosaries that fits on a finger like a ring. Being a Knight of Malta with a mission of helping the sick, Ed had this rosary blessed at the Our Lady of Lourdes Shrine in France. Vinnie kept it with him throughout his illness. He even brought it with him when he was encapsulated in the MRI scanners. When Vince passed away, on his finger was this rosary adjacent to his wedding band. After we saw him take his last breath, Lysa gave the rosary to Dane.

The next day Nativity of our Lord Church in St. Paul was filled with friends of Vinnie’s who wanted to celebrate his life. The Mass was said by Fr. John Malone of the University of St. Thomas and was planned by Dan and Patty McQuillan. (Vinnie used to bartend for them at their bar and grill, Plum’s, when he was a struggling author.) Those in the pews had been saying a novena for their friend, and the Mass was originally planned to ask for healing. But God had called Vince home. On Monday people will once again fill a church for Vince–the Cathedral of St. Paul this time–for his funeral.

Yesterday I noticed that Lysa’s peaceful smile had returned. There’s still a bit of sadness behind it, but I can see the worry has disappeared from her eyes. She’s relieved her husband isn’t suffering anymore. I’m so proud of the perseverance and strength that she exuded over the past two and a half years. I know Vince will want her and their children to “Keep the faith” (his favorite saying).

The other day, Dane was playing video games with his uncle David Juran when I stopped by to pick up his little sisters for my daughter’s birthday party. He gave me a smile and I got to see Vince’s daughters smile, too, as we watched Joseph at the Chanhassen Dinner Theater. They say that kids are so resilient (Thank God!), and I witnessed another ray of hope when the girls sang along with the country music station all the way home. As we drove along Highway 13 the sign in front of Moose Country read: “Vince, you will be missed.” Vinnie’s daughters were touched and asked me to stop and take a picture. One of my girls said, “Geez, your dad must have been kinda famous.”

(For other stories about Vince Flynn click here and here.)

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Our friend, Vinnie

June 19, 2013

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Vince and Lysa Flynn in Cabo

Vince and Lysa Flynn in Cabo

Vince Flynn was calling his next book The Survivor. He got the idea for this title while on a trip to Cabo in February. A friend, Roberto, made him a cake (with the aid of his minions) that looked like a book. “Survivor Man” was written along the bottom on edible paper. He took a look at that dessert and said, “Wow, that would be a great title for my novel!” That vacation was the last time Vinnie felt well enough to walk around much. In fact, he even made it to a beach located a few resorts away to watch his girls swimming like mermaids in the Sea of Cortez. But even though his strength began to diminish, the act of surviving remained paramount on the novelist’s mind until the final chapter of his life.

In November of 2010 Vince was diagnosed with stage III metastatic prostate cancer. He passed away at 2:00 AM on June 19 surrounded by about 35 family members and friends. My husband and I were honored to be there. His wife had been a patient Nurse Nightingale by his side for the last two and a half years, and of course she was there when he took his last breath, too. He fought to live,  just like the CIA operatives did in the stories he created. He was brave and courageous,  just  like the characters were within his fictional pieces.

The past two years his close buddy, Tom Tracy, organized a “Movember” team called “Mitch Rapp and the Killer Mustaches.” Their efforts–which included growing facial hair–raised $80,000 for prostate cancer awareness and cure. We all wish a cure would have come soon enough for our friend, Vinnie.

He is in a better place now; in a Heavenly Paradise–not the palm tree and sand type of paradise like his favorite spot in Mexico, but the place we all strive to go to when it is our time: our eternal home. But we wish his health would have improved and that he would have been a “Survivor Man.” We wish he could have finished that last novel, and many other Mitch Rapp stories.

Some memories

My husband, Eric, and I have known the Flynns for years. I used to work with Vinnie’s wife, Lysa, in the fashion industry during our younger days. Eric went to high school with the future author at St. Thomas Academy, where, for the last few years, Vince sat on the board. I didn’t go to high school with Vinnie (It’s all-male), but I did meet him for the first time when one of his friends, Nick Flood, asked me to their military ball. A few years later, we were students together at St. Thomas College in St. Paul, Minnesota (now the University of St. Thomas). One of my favorite memories of Vince occurred when I’d spot him in Murray Hall wearing his football jacket. An entourage surrounded him–always. Especially a harem of co-eds fluttering their eyelids. But because he was such a people-person, Vince always had time for the other folks walking by, too. “Hi, Steveken,” and “How are you, McFadden?” or “Hello Fr. Malone” could be heard between classes. His magnetic personality was one trait that made him successful, I’m sure.

Mary Ann Grossmann, book critic for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, once told me that when Vince Flynn first became famous, women flocked to his book signings because this new author was eye candy. But this attention never went to his head, and thankfully, God blessed him with brains to go with that brawn, too. I recently told him: “Vinnie, I have a confession. I was a Doubting Thomas. Eric and I used to go to O’Gara’s and see you tending bar and I’d say, ‘Whatever happened to Vinnie? He was such a smart guy. He had a great job after college–which he quit–and now he’s pouring drinks and supposedly writing a book.’ ” (Of course when I said writing a book I made quotation marks with my fingers in ridicule.) Vince laughed so hard when I admitted this lapse of faith in him. “You weren’t the only one, Kathy. Others have told me the same thing.” But I was frustrated with myself for doubting his abilities, especially since my mom–who is a writer–was always pulling for him. When he self-published his first novel Term Limits in 1997,  my mother (who knew Vince through the O’Gara family) was so proud of him for following his dreams and being triumphant. And now– “dontcha know”–he has 14 novels on the New York Times Best Seller List.

She didn’t, but my mom could have said to me, “See, I told you so.”

And eventually, over wine with our spouses in his cigar room, I told him, “I’m so proud of you Vinnie. Not only for being a successful writer, but for being a successful husband and father, too.” I’m so glad, now, that I told him that.

Growing up in a big family

Another reason for the novelist’s success was that he grew up in a creative family that liked to tell stories. Knowing that I dabble in writing he once told me: “Kathy, you’re so lucky to have a big, extended family. I’ve sat and listened to your McMahon uncles, and nobody can spin a tale like they can. That’s a gift that they gave you. I wouldn’t be where I am today if my family hadn’t shared their narratives.”

There were seven kids in the Flynn household. Their father, Terry, was a teacher and coach at St. Thomas Academy when the snappers were young. Their mother, Kathleen, has always been an incredible artist of wildlife–especially of water fowl, earning her the nickname, “Grandma Duck.” (She was named Ducks Unlimited Artist of the Year in the past.) Vince liked to discuss his family’s gift of Irish gab, saying that they would often discuss politics, current events and history–fueling little Vinnie’s interest in these topics. Quite often their dinner-time storytelling would get rambunctious, with fistfights and tears.Vince would refer to their childhood squabbles as “The Fightin’ Irish episodes.” His longtime buddy, Brian Kruse, (who helped sell Vince’s first book out of the trunk of his car) said that Vince was excellent at debating. “He honed in on this craft because he’d had lots of practice collecting facts to present to his family during their opposing arguments.” This is definitely a gift which he was able to carry into his writing, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, too. Vince was always stubborn, and he loved to be right.

A family man

Before Vince Flynn became a household name, he married a small-town girl from northern Minnesota. (They were introduced by news anchors Frank Vascillaro and Amelia Santaniello.) I love what the author wrote about his “Honey” (as he called her) in the acknowledgments of The Last Man:

“To my darling wife, Lysa, who has always been wise beyond her years, thank you for giving me some of that wisdom when I really needed it. Now if I could just get some of that grace from you, I’d really have things moving in the right direction. You are my favorite thing about life.”

When that book came out, I told Vinnie that he’d better be careful, because what he wrote about his wife was so beautiful that the publishers were going to start listing his thrillers as romance novels.

During one of our dinners together, Vinnie told Eric and me, “Whenever I’m on the road and I think women are getting a little flirty with me, I just flash my wedding band.” He had no tolerance for infidelity and treasured his beautiful marriage. In all the years I knew him he only had lovely things to say about his wife.

Every Thursday was date night; usually at their favorite restaurant in Mendota for a Bloody Mary and crab cakes. Everyone knew them there, they were like Norm in Cheers.

The Flynns have three children between the ages of 10 and 17. Our old friendship was re-ignited when our kids started doing things together after they moved from a Minneapolis suburb to “the better side of the river.” (For those of you who don’t know, the Twin Cities have a playful rivalry.) Our families and other friends have enjoyed many great times together, including storytelling of our own, in a pub that was built in our basement. During grace we would often recite an Irish saying for Vince: “May you live to be old and gray and comb the hair of your children’s children.” How we wish this would have come to fruition.

 Man of faith

A friend of the Flynns, Fr. Peter Laird (who went to college with Vince), said that there were always two things in Vinnie’s hands: his phone and his ring rosary. Father added, “One was used to communicate with people on Earth, and one was used to communicate with God in Heaven.” He then stated that a copy of the Magnificat prayer book was always near his side.

The Flynns are members of St. Joseph’s in West St. Paul. Vince was a fixture in the pews quite often for the all-school Masses on Fridays. He’d sit right in between his girls. Often, he’d discuss with family and friends what he heard in Fr. Creagan’s great homilies or those delivered by other priests.

Vince loved his Catholic faith, even though he was a Type-A and got anxious if Masses ran too long. After he was diagnosed, his family often stood in the back of church with our big clan. Often, he would help us chase around our toddling twins or just hold them in order to give us a break. That’s the kind of guy he was.

He and Lysa give generously to the church and Catholic schools. He wrote this in the acknowledgments of Kill Shot:

“To Ed Kocourek, my unofficial spiritual mentor. Thank you for pushing me when I needed it. The Adoration Chapel and St. Joseph’s has become a place of great beauty and serenity in my life. To Father John Malone, Father Peter Laird, and Archbishop Emeritus Harry Flynn for your prayers and guidance. I am a God-fearing soul and always have been. I choose to believe, and to all of you who have sent your prayers and well-wishes, thank you.”

Vince and his wife are very pro-life. In fact, recently he donated a dinner with himself and former NFL player, Matt Birk, for the Wakota Lifecare Center. In one of his books he bravely condemns partial-birth abortion. (See the blog) He debated this issue well in a secular context, trying to enlighten readers to the importance of respecting the unborn.

We once heard him tell someone, “If you just stepped foot into a Catholic church you wouldn’t have so much anxiety.” Because Vince embraced his faith, he didn’t have any fear about dying. But as Father Laird said at Vince’s deathbed, “He just didn’t want to go so soon.”

I will close this article with Vinnie’s favorite saying: “Keep the faith!”

We miss you already, Vinnie. Thank you for the gift of your friendship, laughter and stories.

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Walleye bite is on at Upper Red Lake!

June 18, 2013

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Tyler Brasel of Bear Paw Guides on Upper Red Lake holds a nice walleye he caught while fishing with his son and his two other children.

Tyler Brasel of Bear Paw Guides on Upper Red Lake holds a nice walleye he caught while fishing with his son and his two other children.

I had June 15 on my mind recently. That’s the day the Minnesota DNR changed the protected slot on Upper Red Lake.

From the walleye opener through June 14, it was 17 to 26 inches. On June 15, it changed to 20-26 inches, creating a large number of fish now legal to harvest.

I cashed in on this phenomenon several years ago, when I took my wife Julie and our four children up to a resort on the lake called Bear Paw Guides. We went for several days and brought home our six-person limit of 24 walleyes, which kept our freezer stocked for the summer. Getting a limit was not a problem.

I’m going back up later this week to fish with owner Steve Brasel’s son Tyler. I have been on the phone several times with Steve, and learned that the fishing has been fantastic all spring. In fact, he says the fishing may be the best it has been since the lake re-opened to walleye fishing in 2006.

Here’s the amazing part: Very few people are taking advantage of the red-hot action. Steve told me that the cold and wet spring, which kept ice on the lake until after the opener, combined with higher gas prices have kept people away.

Too bad, I say. People don’t know what they’re missing. Steve told me stories of folks catching 100 walleyes in just a few hours. And, right now the crappies are shallow and biting well. Tyler took his three kids out one evening last week and they landed 39 crappies. Some of them were the big 15-inchers the lake is known for.

My schedule is tight, and my wife and I will have just one evening and the next morning to fish. But, that should be plenty of time, as we will be fishing with Tyler. He’s got dozens of spots plugged into his GPS and can take us anywhere we need to go.

But, I highly doubt we will get to many of those locations. We may be able to catch everything we want on just one spot. The good news is that he is fishing all this week, so by the time we get there Thursday evening, he should know what the hot spots are.

Not only that, but the weather looks pretty good. There may be a little rain, but most importantly, the winds are supposed to be light. That is key on this large, oval-shaped body of water that is unprotected from strong winds coming from the south, southwest, north and northwest. I looked at the weather forecast, and it says the winds will be light and from the southeast on Thursday.

Perfect! I can’t wait to get up there.

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Summertime is share time

June 14, 2013

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Summer weather is finally here and with it comes many opportunities to get out and connect with friends, family and others. The Rediscover: Summer Share Project offers a few ways to share your faith through sharing Rediscover: resources.

Want to be part of it? Here is everything you need to know:

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Rediscover: Summer Share Project

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Thanks again, Matt Birk!

June 8, 2013

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I’m sure you’ve heard of Matt Birk– a Nativity boy (I taught his brother) and a Cretin graduate who eventually played football for the Vikings? You probably know that he went on to help the Ravens win the Superbowl this year. But, did you know that he spoke out publicly one year ago today on behalf of traditional marriage at the Minneapolis Stand Up for Religious Freedom Rally? See Pro-Life Action Ministries’ video: YouTube Preview Image

And did you know that he defends the pre-born?

This retired six-time All-Pro NFL player skipped the Ravens’ visit to the White House on Wednesday because of President Obama’s support of Planned Parenthood. Let me quote him:

“I would say that I have great respect for the office of the presidency, but about five or six weeks ago, our president made a comment in a speech and he said, ‘God bless Planned Parenthood.’

“Planned Parenthood performs about 330,000 abortions a year. I am a Catholic, I am active in the pro-life movement, and I just felt like I couldn’t deal with that. I couldn’t endorse that in any way. I’m very confused by (Obama’s) statement. For God to bless a place where they’re ending 330,000 lives a year? I just chose not to attend.”

An article by the Baltimore Sun reported that President Obama closed his speech at a Planned Parenthood national conference in April with: “Thank you, Planned Parenthood. God bless you, and God bless America.”

According to an article by LifeNews.com (and many other sources–just Google it!)

“Obama, as a member of the Illinois Senate, opposed a state version of the federal Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, a measure that would make sure babies who survive abortions are given proper medical care.

It also protected babies who were “aborted” through a purposeful premature birth and left to die afterwards.

On the federal level, pro-abortion groups withdrew their opposition to the bill after a section was added making sure it did not affect the status of legal abortions in the United States. Ultimately, the bill was approved on a unanimous voice vote with even leading pro-abortion lawmakers like Hillary Clinton and John Kerry backing it.”

(How could our president have voted against this bill when he was a senator? Geez…the name Dr. Kermit Gosnell comes to mind–you know, the guy who was just indicted for killing babies born alive in abortions.)

So good work, Matt Birk! And thanks to your family, too (He and his wife have six kids.) You are our heroes! All eight of you! (Oh yes, and your parents, too!)

(View my previous blog about Matt: http://catholichotdish.com/embracing-life/my-favorite-matt-birk-quote/)

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Final thoughts on 2013 turkey season

June 4, 2013

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My wild turkey hunting season ended last Thursday, May 30. Normally, I hunt Season E in Minnesota, which usually takes place the first week in May. Due to the bad weather and the huge snowstorm at the beginning of the month, I switched to Season H, which ran from May 24-30.

I thought it would be a great time to hunt, hopefully with hens sitting on nests incubating eggs, and the toms out cruising for the few hens that were left.

I was dead wrong. There were hens everywhere, and they were very vocal. Didn’t seem to me like very many were sitting, and the toms appeared to find them readily once down from the roost. They shut up not long after flydown at dawn, and kept silent after that.

Frustrated turkey hunters like me can thank the snow for that. My theory is that the 13-plus inches that fell in southeastern Minnesota and western Wisconsin destroyed all of the eggs the hens had laid, and many of the hens did not re-breed and lay more eggs. I don’t know how else to explain the high number of hens roaming the woods in late May.

Two of my sons, my brother and his son, and another brother and my dad hunted the last two time periods. Only my brother Joe was able to take a bird. The rest of us had chances, but very, very few. Toms would gobble, but were very reluctant to come in. With so many hens running around, they probably figured one would show up sooner or later without them having to go looking.

I heard gobbling on the roost, and I had some toms close by on a couple of occasions, but didn’t lure one into shotgun range in Minnesota. Based on reports I heard, mid-May was a much better time to be out chasing walleyes and searching for morel mushrooms. In fact, I read that this year was one of the best on record for morels.

Sure would have been nice to find a few of those, like I did last year when I shot a tom in Minnesota in the morning, then went over to Wisconsin, where I also had a turkey tag, and found a vest full of morels while trying to cover ground in search of a gobbler.

No such success this year, at least not during the mid-May period when morels were popping. Perhaps, if I had diverted my attention from the gobblers, I might have uncovered a batch of mushrooms.

Alas, I will never know if I ever walked by a cluster of the cone-shaped treasures. It’s a little hard to think about that, especially after a friend texted me a photo of several bags full that he picked. He’s in the woods a lot more than I am, so I’m not surprised he found some.

Walking away from this year’s spring turkey hunting season, I can be satisfied that I reached my two annual goals: 1. Kill a mature tom, which I did on May 5 in Wisconsin, in the snow no less, and 2. Learn something I can use next year. With all the time I spent in the woods, I got to know the properties I hunt much better, which should pay dividends next year.

One thing is already getting me excited about Spring 2014 – the number of 1-year-old toms, called jakes. These birds are easy to identify – short, stubby beards, smaller body size and a tail fan in which the feathers in the center are longer.

I encountered a group of six to eight jakes on one of my properties in Wisconsin. On the first day, I had one of them in range, but passed on the shot to wait for a mature bird. Then, I had them just out of shotgun range a few more times. I shot at them twice, but missed. Turns out they were farther away than I thought. I should never have taken the shots.

The good news is, the birds ran off unscathed, which means there will be lots of 2-year-olds running around next year. Plus, I read reports of other hunters seeing lots of jakes, too. Next year will be fun!

One thing I have learned is that, in fishing and hunting, timing is everything. Last spring, I hit it right for both turkeys and morels. And, last fall, I hit it right during the firearms season in Minnesota, taking the largest buck of my life in the final minutes of the 3A season.

Fish and hunt long enough and you’ll hit both the highs and the lows. As I put my turkey gear away, I expressed gratitude to the Lord for the time spent afield. I saw plenty of birds this year – and probably the most deer I have ever seen while turkey hunting. That tells me the whitetails came through in good shape, although they did look skinny in early May.

I’m not worried. They will feed voraciously this summer, and should be plenty plump by fall. In the meantime, I will continue to practice with my bow, and I plan to be ready when the archery deer season starts in September.

With three-plus months to hunt, the timing is sure to be right at some point in the season!

 

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