Archive | February, 2016

God’s Boundless Mercy and the Forgiveness of our Sins, the Major Point of Emphasis in Lent

February 26, 2016

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UnknownA Vertical Thread.  The readings for Lent in each of the three liturgical years have a “vertical thread,” a unifying theme or topic that runs “up and down” over a series of consecutive weeks.  The thread is not built into the First Sunday of Lent, the temptations of Jesus in the desert, and the Second Sunday of Lent, the Transfiguration, but emerges on the Third Sunday of Lent and continues until Passion Sunday.  In Year C the thread is forgiveness.

Why Forgiveness?  We are sinners.  We have strayed from God and the commandments, been lost in the darkness, frivolous with our gifts, stuck in our ways, impatient and unkind, greedy and self-centered, angry and mean, impolite and impure, dishonest and unfaithful.  Fallen and broken, we are in desperate need of God’s mercy and forgiveness.

The Third Sunday of Lent (Lk 13:1-9).  The gospel is the parable of the unproductive fig tree.  The tree represents each of us.  Over time, because of our sins, we have done far fewer good deeds than we should have done; we have not borne much good fruit.  The owner of the vineyard, God, is rightfully upset, and considering a severe punishment, the removal of the tree.  But the gardener, Jesus, asks for mercy, that we be given a second chance, and he offers “cultivation and fertilization,” more grace and blessings, so we might be given another chance to bear good fruit.  Jesus takes no delight whatsoever in punishment.

The Fourth Sunday of Lent (Lk 15:1-3,11-32).  The Parable of the Prodigal Son, or better stated, the Parable of the Forgiving Father, is the premier forgiveness parable in the gospel of Luke.  Like the young son, each of us has squandered our gifts from God.  We have offended God, our Father, and no longer deserve to be considered God’s children.  Yet, if we return home to God, God is waiting with open arms, and God will embrace us and welcome us back.

The Fifth Sunday of Lent (Jn  8:1-11).  The gospel is the account of the woman caught in the act of adultery.  Adultery is a grave sexual sin, and in the Jewish faith it was a capital offense punishable by death by stoning. But Jesus in his mercy said, “Neither do I condemn you” (Jn 8:11).  Again, Jesus was incredibly merciful.  If we have committed sins against purity, Jesus would prefer to set punishment aside.  All he wants is that from now on we would not commit these sins any more (see Jn 8:11).

Passion Sunday (Lk 22:14-23:49).  When Jesus was condemned and crucified, he was grossly mistreated by the religious leaders and his execution squad, yet he said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” (Lk 23:34), and when the repentant criminal asked for mercy, Jesus said, “Today you will be with me in Paradise” (Lk 23:43).  In every case, Jesus had no desire to punish.  His deepest desire was to forgive and reunify the person to God.  May each of us rejoice in God’s gift of forgiveness, and conduct ourselves in a way that is pleasing to God.

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The ‘Wild Goose’ is on the loose: Encountering the Holy Spirit

February 26, 2016

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Photo/Hickory Hardscrabble Licensed Under Creative Commons

Photo/Hickory Hardscrabble Licensed Under Creative Commons

“Have you been baptized in the Holy Spirit?”

Not wanting to appear clueless (although I was!), I responded with a strong, “Yes.”

Not wanting to lie to a priest, I quickly changed my response to, “Um, I think so. . . Well, I’m not sure.”

That was nearly 20 years ago.

It was the fall of 1996 and I was a college freshman at Franciscan University sitting in a parlor in the friary meeting with Franciscan Father Dave Pivonka for the very first time. It seemed like such a personal question to be asking on our first encounter, but once you get to know Father Dave, you quickly learn he isn’t shy when it comes to the Holy Spirit. Upon further discussion (and the admission that I had no idea what he was talking about), I realized I certainly had intimate encounters with the Holy Spirit prior to that moment, but I had never heard the term “baptism in the Holy Spirit” before. Thus began my journey of a deeper, more intentional relationship with the Holy Spirit in my life.

Father Dave first taught me it is only by the Holy Spirit that we are able to pray (see Romans 8:26) which completely changed the way I enter into prayer: “Come, Holy Spirit” is how I start all my prayer times now and are the first words off my lips before reading Scripture.

Pivonka-Photo

Father Dave Pivonka, TOR

When I think of Father Dave I can’t help but think of the Holy Spirit because he’s so full of it.” Full of the Holy Spirit, I mean. So when I found out he was developing a series on the Holy Spirit, I was filled with great joy and excitement. Father Dave is one of the most sought after preachers and is an excellent teacher. I have been waiting with eager anticipation for the release of this series since he first made mention of it. The best part is that the series is totally free and easily accessible online.

Leave it to Father Dave to learn that the Celts called the Holy Spirit “The Wild Goose” and come up with a clever, catchy name to grab people’s attention. The title alone made me want to learn more. When I asked him why he decided to do the series, Father Dave said, “The idea was pretty basic, more people need to know about the Holy Spirit. I wanted to do something that would be engaging, beautiful and welcoming. I think that’s what the videos are. The response has been overwhelming.”

Over the course years, Father Dave has taught me about the power and gentleness of the Holy Spirit, but I’m a slow learner. I mean a really slow learner. It’s almost 20 years later and I’m just starting to “get it.” However, I am now convinced of the necessity of a relationship with the Holy Spirit in order to fully live out my faith.

This series in particular has reminded me that the Holy Spirit meets us right where we are at. Gentle or booming; whatever we need. A soft breeze or blazing tongues of fire or somewhere in between. It has also made me a better a hospice nurse. It reminded me that the Holy Spirit will give me the words to speak (see Luke 12:12) during difficult discussions with patients and their loved ones; often I will silently pray, “Come Holy Spirit” during these difficult moments and the words just come. That’s not me. That’s the Holy Spirit.

In recent weeks, I found myself in situations at work where I may have otherwise become frazzled, but was able to surrender those moments to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and ask for wisdom and peace. It has revolutionized the way I interact with my patients and their loved ones because I am reminded that I am not the one in control, the Holy Spirit is alive and active; present with me and my patients, always leading the way. For those who are open to it, the Holy Spirit has also given me the courage to pray with my dying patients and their loved ones as they prepare to leave this world and enter into the next.

If you want to live in greater freedom through the power of the Holy Spirit, check out this series. It does not disappoint!

The Who, What, When, Where, Why and How

Who: The series is great for newbies or those who already have an established relationship with the Holy Spirit. It is appropriate for teens or adults.

What: A free online series on the Holy Spirit written by Father Dave Pivonka, TOR and produced by 4PM Media

When: Anytime! It’s available online 24/7.

Where: Wherever you have access to the Internet.

Why: To grow in your faith!

How: Each segment includes a video along with reflections, study guide questions and prayers.

Or you can do it the way I do: via Skype. I have a dear friend in Australia. We watch the videos independently and then discuss via Skype. We begin and end with a prayer to the Holy Spirit and in between discuss the study guide questions provided. The videos have rekindled my desire for a deeper relationship with the Holy Spirit and have helped me be more mindful of the Holy Spirit in my daily life.

The Challenge: Simply watch the first video called “God’s Love Poured Out.” I’m convinced you’ll be hooked!

Come, Holy Spirit! Enkindle in us the fire of your love!

Gina Barthel is a registered nurse who currently serves in hospice care and is the proud, self-proclaimed “favorite aunt” to 25 nieces and nephews. She is a parishioner of St. Michael Catholic Church in St. Michael, MN.

 

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Guardian Angels a ‘big fish’ in fish fry bowl

February 23, 2016

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Guardian Angels knows how to fill a plate, Fish Daddy found on his Feb. 19 visit. Courtesy Fish Daddy

Guardian Angels knows how to fill a plate, Fish Daddy found on his Feb. 19 visit. Courtesy Fish Daddy

Catholic Hotdish offers another review from Fish Daddy, who visits some of the hot spots in the Twin Cities for Lenten fish fries. He’s looking at more than the fish — it’s the fellowship, the friendliness and faith that makes this Catholic Lenten tradition shine.

Guardian Angels, Oakdale

If you’ve ever noticed the iconic steepled church on the hill after traveling westward into Minnesota from Wisconsin on I-94, you’ve seen Guardian Angels church. But if that’s all you’ve seen of the parish, like Fish Daddy, you ain’t seen the half of it. The parking lot was my first clue. Not unlike what I might find at a local hotspot. Cars everywhere, long walk to the door. Fish Daddy even wondered if neighbor Best Buy was taking some of the parking spots. More likely to be the other way round. When I saw the line, I had a flashback to concert ticket lines from my college days, where you bring a deck of cards. Prepare to be amazed at the spread the Guardian Angels Men’s Club puts on.

Fish

Guardian Angels serves up a generous helping of fried or baked cod, but it’s far from fish on a dish. My plate was adorned with baby red potatoes with a delicate coating, crisp sautéed green beans with trillion-shaped red peppers, macaroni and cheese, coleslaw, and — wait, I’m out of room on the plate. The dessert deserves its own sentence: It’s a petite, crenellated toasted tart shell filled with chocolate mousse and a berry. Clearly not your average fish fry. Why? The Chef. John Schiltz, chef-owner of the nearby Lake Elmo Inn, brings his restaurateur skills to the table for the parish, to delicious effect. And when you have the cuisine and élan of the Lake Elmo Inn on your bench, not much is left to chance. (four fish)

Service

From the volunteer who opened the door, to those who rolled out dinner tickets, to the small army of volunteers festooned in Guardian Angels-themed fish dinner shirts, (not fish fry, as their tagline goes) it was clear this was a professional operation. With seating for about 400, there were helpers for coffee and soda, helpers for setting, helpers for clearing, helpers for dishing, a kitchen stuffed with food prep sous chefs, helpers for everything — except making the line go faster. And when that’s your only problem (it was at least a half-hour from door to table, and probably longer the later your arrival), then you have clearly mastered culinary management, and the limiting factor is your inability to open another Guardian Angels location! (three fish: service; one fish: wait time)

Fishers of men

Pastor Father Rodger Bauman was about, chatting with parishioners and nearly lost in the throng, which filled Peter O’Neill Hall and two overflow rooms. After the dinner, the parish prays Stations of the Cross, complete with ASL interpreter. It’s a fitting end to the evening, but you’ll want to return for the Lenten vespers service 7 p.m. March 6. They also have a healing service/sacrament of the sick 3 p.m. Feb 28. (three fish)

Value

A hearty meal for those of us who have fasted on Friday is welcome, and the price matches the presentation. $13 gets those over 13 in the door, and take $3 off if you’re over 65. Youth 6-12 pay $6, and the under 5 crowd is always free. You can take out your fish as well. Yep, there’s a separate team for that, too. (three fish)

Guardian Angels is clearly a big fish in the sea of fish fries. And would you believe Lenten schedules on table napkin dispensers? They’ve also got a snappy website with not only the Lenten and Easter schedule, but events throughout the year. If you’re looking for a feast to break the fast, you only have two more chances: March 4 and March 18; 4:30-7 p.m.. Get there early, and let me know how your card game comes out as well!

Details

Guardian-angels.org. 8260 4th St. N., Oakdale, MN 55128. 651-738-2223

Want Fish Daddy to visit your parish? E-mail CatholicSpirit@archspm.org.

><(((°>

Hungry for more? Fish Daddy reviews the fish fry at Holy Cross, Minneapolis

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Local priest describes trip to Rome to become missionary of mercy

February 19, 2016

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Father John Ubel greets Pope Francis during his trip to Rome.

Father John Ubel greets Pope Francis during his trip to Rome.

By Father John Ubel

My brief trip to Rome began with a plethora of questions from an inquisitive Jewish woman sitting next to me on the flight from Minneapolis. Among them: “What do you mean by mercy?” and “But does forgiveness actually accomplish anything?”

While a great discussion starter, on this evening flight to Amsterdam, I was most interested in sleeping. But when the pilot kept giving us Super Bowl updates every 20 minutes just as I began to doze, I accepted reality! But, her pointed questions left me pondering some very basic concepts, and how I ought to be able to explain mercy in terms understandable even to those who do not share my faith.

After a two-hour layover at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, I arrived in Rome on Monday afternoon (Feb. 8) only to discover that my phone’s battery had inexplicably gone completely dead, even though turned off. My rusty Italian was enough for me to comprehend that it was indeed an expensive fix and I’d be better off seeing if it was under warranty back home.

On to Plan B. I said a quick prayer they had Wi-Fi at the Domus Paulus VI. This is the clerical residence for priests working in the Vatican near the Piazza Navona that also welcomes occasional priest guests. Pope Francis stayed there in the days leading to the conclave that elected him, and you may recall the photo of him returning to pay his bill!

Thankfully they had Wi-Fi, because in typical “Fr. Frugal” fashion, I was too cheap to purchase a data plan for my iPad. My simple but comfortable room looked right over a bus stop (if elected to the Italian parliament, I’d immediately sponsor legislation to outlaw scooter horns and pigeons), but the priests and staff were most gracious and welcoming of their American interloper.

When I mentioned at table that I was from Minnesota, I was met with deadpan stares. I clarified that it was six hours from Chicago — still nothing. Finally I said that I lived near Canada! I began writing this travelogue while enjoying my third (alright, perhaps my fourth) cup of cappuccino on Tuesday morning. I could get used to this! I had time to pray and go to confession, as well as purchase a few Holy Year related gifts. While visiting the tomb of St. Monica in the Church of St. Augustine, I prayed for my mother and all mothers, as they labor tirelessly to pass the faith along to their children.

The Holy Year theme “Merciful like the Father” and the Jubilee Logo are omnipresent, as are the pilgrims here to venerate the mortal remains of St. Padre Pio, brought here from San Giovanni Rotondo in Puglia. The logo was emblazoned on a beautiful commemorative violet stole given to each priest, which I plan to wear in the confessional. St. Pio stands as a model confessor, humble and simple, and he reminds me that we must never tire of offering forgiveness. I have a special devotion to Padre Pio since my days at St. Agnes, when I prayed for his intercession at a critical time in that school’s history in 2007. He came through then, and continues to inspire.

On Tuesday afternoon, the universality of the Church was especially evident as nearly 700 priests designated as Missionaries of Mercy gathered at Castel Sant’Angelo for a solemn procession toward St. Peter’s Basilica to enter through the Holy Door. It was a prayerful walk as we recited designated prayers, gathering by language groups. The procession took us inside the Basilica, all around and back out again. We continued around the perimeter of the outside of the Basilica leading us to the Apostolic Palace and the Sala Regia (Regal Room). Completed in 1573 A.D., it is adjacent to the Sistine Chapel and was originally used to receive foreign princes and ambassadors. But the purpose of this meeting was quite different.

Without really trying, I wound up in the eighth row, as the room quickly filled up. Archbishop Rino Fisichella prepped us for the audience. Among other things, he encouraged a total fast from all food on Ash Wednesday and reminded us to silence all cellphones. His American assistant, my friend Father Geno Sylva from the Diocese of Paterson, New Jersey, then stepped to the microphone and asked those without headsets (for the purpose of providing a simultaneous translation for non-Italian speakers) to move to an overflow room just off to the side because the headset reception only worked in the main Sala. No, please don’t ask me to move! Since I had chosen not to take a headset, I was banished, and would watch the address on a monitor.

But as it turns out, the Holy Father walked right past me on his way to and from the audience, and on his way out I shook hands with him and greeted him. God provides — the last shall be first! During his address, the Holy Father exhorted us to be patient and kind confessors — and not to ask too many questions! He reminded us that the sacrament of penance is an encounter with our loving and merciful Father and that sometimes our words get in the way. It was sage advice and I plan on heeding it carefully. After the meeting, we were treated to a delicious dinner in the atrium of the Pope Paul VI Audience Hall. It was after all, Martedi Grasso (Fat Tuesday), so I enjoyed it as well as meeting priests from various parts of the World, truly a highlight for me.

On Ash Wednesday, I had the rare luxury of not needing to set my alarm. The fatigue of travel and the excitement from Tuesday’s activities coalesced, enabling me to sleep in until nearly 6 a.m.! I made my way down to the refectory for a cup of coffee at 6:45, but it was still brewing. I said my morning prayers and patiently waited. Roman coffee is always worth the wait, and I took the time to finish writing a Cathedral bulletin column before emailing it back home. Later in the morning I visited with David Kirsh, a lifetime Cathedral parishioner and St. John Vianney College Seminary student, spending the semester in Rome through the University of St. Thomas’ Catholic Studies program.

Desiring to keep the rest of Ash Wednesday in a spirit of preparation, I neither shopped nor did any sight seeing. Instead, I spent some quiet time in prayer and reading at the Augustinianum, a Pontifical University right next St. Peter’s Square, specializing in Patristic studies. And where, I might add, I took the toughest oral exam I have ever had in my life 10 years ago — it still stings!

It was peaceful and prayerful, and I eventually made my way to St. Peter’s, thirty minutes ahead of our appointed time. But I was still far from first in line. The piazza was packed and people were trying to acquire tickets for Mass. One lady even asked if I would give up my ticket so she could attend with her toddler.

I politely declined, noting that the gold tickets were for concelebrating priests only. She was not impressed! We priests spent the next 90 minutes waiting patiently, as this is just part of the deal in the Eternal City. Those cobblestones really do a number on one’s back — a chiropractor could make a fortune in Rome! But it provided ample opportunity to visit with the other priests, whether Italian or English speakers, and I found this quite enjoyable.

A prayerful, yet jubilant spirit was kept throughout. While waiting I met Father Joseph Reilly from Newark, New Jersey, and learned that he was the rector of their Cathedral. I replied, “Father, you and I have at least two things in common — we’re both rectors and we are currently sharing an Archbishop!”

We made our way to the bronze steps where we waited for Mass to begin. There, final instructions soon followed in five languages (no, I did not need to be reminded to refrain from taking pictures during Mass!) and the long procession began. While I ended up toward the back of the reserved section for priests, it mattered little because we were all there together concelebrating with the Holy Father.

The Sistine Choir, composed of men and boys from the Basilica, provided the beautiful music. Readings, petitions and the gift bearers were provided by men, women and children from different countries, and the distribution of ashes began with Cardinal Angelo Comastri, the Archpriest of the Basilica, imposing ashes upon the crown of the head of Pope Francis. In Rome, the ashes are not placed on the forehead in the shape of a cross, but rather sprinkled on the crown of your head, recalling the Book of Nehemiah 9:1 in which the “Israelites gathered together while fasting and while wearing sackcloth, their heads covered with dust.”

The highlight for me was the commissioning ceremony at the end of Mass. The prayer asked the Lord to “watch over these your servants, who we send forth as messengers of Mercy, liberation and of peace. Guide their steps with Your right hand and sustain them with the power of Your grace, so that they do not come under the weight of apostolic endeavors. May the voice of Christ resound in their words, and in their gestures the heart of Christ.”

It was so clear that the human aspect of the encounter is central for Pope Francis, and even his commissioning prayer was a sober reminder of the role that we are called to play. I would not be surprised if he wrote the prayer himself. I will not soon forget this powerful exhortation and the brief, but extremely rewarding, time I spent in Rome. And, I felt uplifted by the prayers of so many from home and kept the good people of the archdiocese close in my prayers.

Father Ubel is rector of the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul. He was commissioned to be a Missionary of Mercy by Pope Francis on Ash Wednesday in Rome.

 

 

 

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‘Confessions of a Priest’: a novel

February 16, 2016

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Confessions of a Priest coverA Bloomington, Minnesota, man has written a novel imagining what life might be for today’s priests, but of course it had to be self-published; no book publisher of note would even think of putting its imprint on the story of a priest who hasn’t some evil secret waiting to be discovered.

It isn’t that Father John Krentz, the main character in Jim Koepke’s “Confessions of a Priest,” doesn’t have his flaws. He can be sharp-tongued, impertinent, anti-authoritarian and somewhat narrow-minded. But he’s a good priest, and he grows as a person throughout the story.

All of which makes the novel seem almost pollyannish. That’s okay with Koepke; it’s what he intended.

“It seems as though everyday Catholics are inundated by negative press about Catholic priests,” Koepke told The Catholic Spirit. “I wrote this for people who might like some good news about priests. Our priests are the best of the best, and I hope this offers people some relief.”

Fifty-year-old Father John has a comfortable life serving a parish that’s not as large as it used to be but still doing all right. The story unfolds when his bishop — who takes the brunt of the priest’s vitriolic tongue — disturbs that comfort level, and not just once.

Parish priests will recognize some of the other characters that present challenges and opportunities, including the mean-spirited parish gossip, and the story doesn’t skip issues of the day like clergy sexual abuse, homelessness, addiction and homosexuality.

Koepke calls team-teaching confirmation classes — which he’s done with his wife, Mary, for 26 years — “the most fun thing I do,” and pages of his book could be mistaken for pages of a catechism at times, as Father John draws upon the teachings of the Church to counsel parishioners and deal with what life brings to his rectory door.

This is a fast-paced work with superbly written dialogue. The repartee between the characters is so true to life, you can easily imagine enjoying the give-and-take of the conversations in the rectory.

The main flaw of “Confessions of a Priest” is a cosmetic one, a result of self-publishing I’m afraid. There’s just a lack of professionalism in the book from the front and back covers to the inside pages, with wide leading between the lines and a smattering of typographical errors that unfortunately cheapen a pretty decent story.

Pick it up anyway, either at St. Patrick’s Guild in St. Paul or on amazon.com ($13.95).

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Fish Daddy reviews Holy Cross’ fish fry

February 16, 2016

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Fish Daddy's plate at Holy Cross' Lenten fish fry. Courtesy Fish Daddy

Fish Daddy’s plate at Holy Cross’ Lenten fish fry. Courtesy Fish Daddy

Catholic Hotdish welcomes Fish Daddy, who visits some of the hot spots in the Twin Cities for Lenten fish fries. He’s looking at more than the fish — it’s the fellowship, the friendliness and faith that makes this Catholic Lenten tradition shine. Here’s an overview of what you’ll find in Fish Daddy’s column during Lent:

Call me the banquet guest from Luke 14: 7-14. Fish Daddy visits a Lenten fish fry every Friday, delivering a spirited review of a parish or Catholic association Fish Fry. Fish Daddy looks at what makes a fish fry special:

Fish

Fish is the dish. And good fish makes a gathering special. I’ll tell you how I liked it, what came with it on the plate, and how it fills the stomach. Let’s get one thing straight from the start. Fish Sticks does not get you kicked off the island (in Fish Daddy’s eyes, the island is not the place to be anyways — it’s the deep sea), but it does put you up against some fairly strong competition and years of experience in Twin Cities fish fries.

Service

Any good Catholic knows service is the heart of our calling as Christians. Serving fish sticks on a paper plate won’t win you any Julia Child awards, but good service with a smile, and volunteer spirit of the parish bring your servant leadership to the fore in this category.

Fishers of Men

It takes effort to put on a good fish fry, but those who maintain the Lenten spirit of devotion with Lenten devotionals, rosaries, or other faith manifestations during or around the Fish Fry are all that really matters in the Catholic life. Matthew 4:19 says it best.

Value

This is our catch-all area for how we measure the less tangible. Covers items like price, ambience, parking, convenience, bingo or other fundraisers during Lent, or other items — that special something the organization brings to the table.

Want Fish Daddy to visit your parish? E-mail CatholicSpirit@archspm.org.

Feb 12—Holy Cross

Finding Holy Cross in the heart of Nordeast was the easy part. The hard part was standing in line inside Kolbe Center (just east of the church itself) behind dozens, with the aroma of a fresh fish fry hanging in the air. The parish volunteers kept the line moving quickly. Pastor Glen Jensen was greeting everyone in the line, with his trademark cup of tea, bringing the faithful hungry together in spirit. The Kolbe Center at Holy Cross seats about 300, and they needed all 20 tables for the inaugural Lenten Friday weekend.

Fish

Holy Cross served up a heaping plate of fish dinner — two fish (a bit pressed and formed, but tasty), an excellent baked potato, cole slaw with a tang of horseradish, and a side of mac and cheese and a dinner roll. A fine substitute for the baker was two tong-fuls of seasoned French fries. All served on a Nordeast-style plate, with my choice of condiments, and a cookie, along with coffee or water. Pop was available for a small charge, and beer and wine was available for a free will offering. (Two Fish)

Service

Servers were constantly circulating, offering refills on coffee or second helpings. Short on time? Holy Cross volunteers were more than willing to put together a to-go platter for the same price as sit-down. With tables for 10, not only did your server chat you up, your tablemates did as well. (Four Fish)

Fishers of people

Holy Cross parish is replete with Lenten devotions, from their Adoration chapel to Friday Stations of the Cross (6 p.m. for English and 7 p.m. for Polish). In addition to their weekly fish fries through Lent, they also feature soup suppers on Wednesdays, as well as a Cana Dinner. (Four Fish)

Value

Adults $10, Under 12 $2. (Three Fish)

Details

Holy Cross, 17th Ave and 4th St. NE, Minneapolis. Fish fries Feb. 12, 19 and 26, and March 4, 11 and 18. http://www.ourholycross.org.

><(((°>

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Battle ready for the attacks of the devil

February 12, 2016

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UnknownGod wants us to live a good and holy life, but it is incredibly hard, sometimes seemingly impossible to do so.  Despite our best intentions, we slip up over and over again.

For instance, a parishioner might say, “When I rolled out of bed this morning I promised myself that I would not say one unkind word today, but before I even left for work I had already raised my voice to my spouse and been crabby with my child.  But lunchtime I blurted out a mean comment about another driver and been irritable with someone at work.  How did I get here?  Spiritually, I feel like such a failure. It is so humiliating and depressing, downright demoralizing.”

We need to be honest.  The spiritual life is a fight, and not just a little skirmish.  It is an epic battle.  St. John speaks about a war between the light and the darkness.  St. Paul speaks about a fierce struggle between the spirit and the flesh.  The choice is between good and evil.

We are constantly being attacked.  We are bombarded with temptations.  The devil is on the prowl, and the devil is relentless and deceptive.  The devil does propaganda warfare trying to blind us to the evil of darkness and the pursuit of selfish pleasure.  The devil does reconnaissance on us, analyzes our defenses, pinpoints our weak spots, waits for our most vulnerable moment, and then goes on the offensive.  And it is not just a little attack.  Like a special tactics operative, the devil comes with the best weaponry at a time when our defenses are down.  It is foolishness not to be on guard and battle ready.  Those who fail to prepare, prepare to fail.

The devil is coming.  We need to sound general quarters!  It is time to man our battle stations!  We need to be equipped to escape the wickedness and snares of the devil.

After Jesus was baptized and the Holy Spirit had descended upon him, the Holy Spirit led Jesus to secluded place in the desert.  Jesus was fully human, like us, and vulnerable to attack.  The Holy Spirit was Jesus’ ally.  The Holy Spirit, the wisdom of God, knew that the devil was plotting and that attacks were inevitable.  The Holy Spirit could do Jesus a tremendous service by helping him to prepare.  Jesus went into basic training.  It was a forty day regimen.  Jesus had to submit to the discipline and drill each day.  Jesus toughened himself for the battle with fasting to achieve self-mastery over his body.  War is a mind game that requires mental toughness.  Jesus spent long hours in prayer, in contemplation, sitting silently with God, and in mediation on Scripture, devouring God’s holy Word.

The devil attacked three times.  Jesus was armed and ready.  Each assault was repelled immediately, and his defense tactic was to quote Scripture.  To fend off the devil once was not enough.  He would come back again, and Jesus resorted to the same defense.  It took three times for the devil to finally leave, but only for a time.

If we hope to be battle ready and successful with our intention to live a good and holy life, we need to train the same way that Jesus trained.  We need to pay attention to body and soul, to master our bodies with some form of self-denial, and to prepare our minds and hearts with prayer, solitary time in contemplation, listening to God speak to us, and time reading and reflecting on Scripture, because the Word of God is our security and our sure defense.

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The great voyage of life

February 12, 2016

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voyageThe course of our life may be likened to a great voyage.  Our life is a boat.  We set sail at birth.  The length of the voyage is our allotted time.  Conditions vary greatly as we cruise along.  The calm days when the wind is light and the sea is smooth are those times when all is good, and the blustery days when there are whitecaps and the sea is rough are those times when we are beset by hardship.  Headwinds are our challenges and opponents.  Tailwinds are our good fortune and helpers.  The deep, dark sea represents the forces of evil and temptations that rise up and try to swamp our boat, or, if we fall out of the boat, try to engulf or drown us.  Our final destination is a well-protected, safe harbor, and when our ship ties up for the last time and we step onto the dock, and then onto peaceful shores, we have arrived at our eternal homeland, heaven.

One day Peter was in his boat by himself close to shore.  Jesus happened by.  Jesus got into Peter’s boat, and Peter joyfully welcomed him into his life.  Once Jesus was in the boat, he went to the front.  From the first moment, Jesus was in charge, and Peter, who formerly had been at the helm, relinquished control and took his directions from Jesus.  Jesus was the captain.  Peter was the first mate.  They were on the voyage together.  It is the best way to sail through life.

Initially Jesus and Peter put out from shore a short distance, only a few yards, and the water was shallow, only a few feet.  Jesus starts slowly.  The first leg of the voyage is rather safe and not all that demanding.  The important thing is that Jesus and Peter were spending quality time together and a new bond was quickly forming between them.

If a sailor is to reach the final destination, one cannot stay moored close to shore.  At some point it is necessary to shove off and set sail.  It is much riskier away from shore, but absolutely necessary to venture forth.  As the boat edged away from shore, Jesus was Peter’s constant shipmate and his reliable partner.

Jesus asked Peter to enter deep water and to lower his nets.  As Peter would sail through his life as a disciple, Jesus wanted him to take on matters of deeper significance.  Jesus wanted Peter to go after more fish and bigger fish, to preach to more people and to influential people, to catch more believers, and to take on a larger leadership role.  “The deep” is scary and intimidating.  Jesus certainly reassured Peter, “Do not worry.  We will do this together.  I will always be in your boat with you, and as you sail along, and as the storms come up, and as your challenges intensify, I will with you to guide, help, and protect you.”

Not only did Jesus want Peter to go out into deeper water to catch more fish, Jesus also wanted Peter to go deeper spiritually.  Jesus wanted Peter to go deeper in his relationship with him and commitment to him; deeper in faith and prayer, virtue and holiness, generosity and service, integrity and character, and willingness to sacrifice.

Similarly, Jesus wants to come into our boats.  He is hoping that we will welcome him into our lives.   Jesus will chart the right course for us.  Jesus will ask us to go out into the deep, to embrace some major tasks.  He will be our constant companion and helper, and as the voyage nears completion, he will guide us to safe harbor, our dwelling with him forever in heaven.

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Minnesota turkey lottery: I’m a winner!

February 12, 2016

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Late yesterday afternoon I decided to check the Minnesota spring turkey lottery results. This year, the first two seasons are drawn by lottery. Prior to that, it was the first three seasons. And, another change is every season but the last is now seven days long instead of five, which means every season will include a weekend. I was thrilled to go online and discover that I got picked for the first season. Praise the Lord!

For about the last 10 years, I was hunting later in the spring, during Season E. But, I changed my thinking after having a tough hunt during the E season last year and having some great action with my daughter Claire during the first season. We only hunted one day, but she got a chance at two gobblers that I called in during the first hour, along with nine hens.

The landowner told me about a spot where he always sees birds, especially during the early seasons, and I set up the blind for Claire and I there. Sure enough, we had action. In fact, there were two vocal toms roosted within 40 yards of the blind. It’s about as close to a roosted gobbler as you can get.

It was not fun watching those two toms run away after Claire missed the shot. I have kept thinking about those two birds, and decided that I wanted to try to hunt that spot again during the first season. Thankfully, I’ll get my chance after getting picked in the lottery. I am super excited about a first-season hunt.

I wasted no time getting on the phone to talk to the landowner where Claire and I hunted. I also called his next-door neighbor, who also has a nice piece of land with birds on it. In fact, Claire and I went there after she missed the shot at the two toms, and we had a bird gobbling there, but he wouldn’t come in. I also took my son Andy to this property about six years ago, and he shot a nice tom after three came in.

I was able to reach both landowners, and secured permission to hunt there first season. I’m stoked! I have hunted early seasons quite a bit over the years, and have had success more often than not.

One challenge is there are lots of hens running around at that time, and gobblers find them soon after flying down from the roost, and often stay with them all day. The key is to do one of two things: 1. Find a tom that isn’t with hens, or 2. Call the hens to you and bring the tom along.

The latter isn’t necessarily easy, but it can be done. I have done it a number of times, including last spring with Claire. Usually, if a hen starts talking, you can call her in. Just mimic what she does, with just a little extra volume and intensity, and she often will come in eventually. But, it may take a while. Also, the tom sometimes will hang back even after the hens come in, but eventually he should come into range.

With seven days to hunt this year, I’m optimistic. It will be fun coming back to the property where I killed my first Minnesota longbeard in 2003. In fact, it happened very close to where I was set up with Claire last year. I hunted the property for several years and killed another nice bird there in 2004. Then, more hunters started showing up and I ended up going elsewhere to hunt.

There are still a high number of hunters on the two properties, but there also is a high and stable population of turkeys. And, between the two properties, I will have more than 600 acres to hunt. So, even if there are other hunters out there during first season, I should be able to find good spots to set up.

The key is to do scouting and find several areas where birds are hanging out.I have walked both properties extensively both in spring and fall, so I have gotten to know them well. That should pay dividends this spring.

It’s now time for the next step of my preparation: practicing my turkey calls. I have done a lot of practicing over the years, so it shouldn’t take much to get me ready. I use mouth calls, slate calls, box calls and other friction calls. It helps to be versatile, and sometimes, turkeys seem to favor one call over the others. I’ve never been able to explain why. I just know that it happens. So, I want to be ready with whatever call will work.

I also got the chance to call a landowner in Wisconsin to get permission to hunt the fourth season there, which begins in early May. This is my top property to hunt in Wisconsin, both in terms of good bird numbers and in terms of the fellowship I have with the landowner. He is a wonderful, kind man and we have struck up many a conversation at his house when either my hunt is over or I’m taking a break.

We had another great conversation last night, but he told me his wife has cancer and has been struggling with her health. The treatments have helped, but some of the cancer is still there. He said she feels a little depressed about it, which is understandable.

Seemed like he needed to talk about it, and our conversation lasted quite a while. But, I paid no attention to the clock as I spent time talking with this fine man. In fact, he inspired me by telling me that he now tells his wife every day what she means to him.

That’s a great example to follow, and I was able to tell my wife Julie what she means to me. I did it last night and again this morning, and want to do it every day. I told the landowner I would be praying for he and his wife in the coming days. May God restore her to health and bless them for their continued generosity to me!

 

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Sighting in new crossbow a breeze

February 11, 2016

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Got my hands on my new Parker Bushwacker crossbow last week. I didn’t wait long to put it together and sight it in.

I found it simple to put together and easy to use. I really like the way it feels in my hands, and it was amazingly easy to sight in. I started out at 10 yards, and it was very close. I moved back to 20, and it was just a tad low and to the left. A few clicks on the scope adjustments and I was dialed in dead center.

I took a few more shots to make sure, and every one hit the bullseye. I am supremely confident about hunting with this weapon. And, my hat’s off to Parker for making a solid crossbow that I’m sure will take down some animals for me.

I plan to use it this spring for turkey hunting. There’s a place in Wisconsin where I bow hunt where the landowner only allows bow hunting. And, with crossbows being legal for any hunter in this state, I plan to try mine there.

Should be fun. I feel confident I can make a shot on a gobbler out to at least 20 yards, even though a tom’s vital area is only the size of a tennis ball. The crossbow certainly is capable of hitting the target.

But, a critical decision is what broadhead to use. After doing some research online, I plan on trying the Spitfire Gobbler Getter by New Archery Products. It’s designed specifically for turkey hunting, and it has features to help put the bird down where he stands or close to it. Many hunters agonize over birds they hit with an arrow, but run or fly off. My brother-in-law just recently told me about a friend of his who hit three turkeys while archery hunting last spring, but didn’t recover any of them. That’s definitely an outcome I would like to avoid!

I may also try archery hunting for turkeys in Minnesota with my compound bow. An archery tag is good for the entire spring, so that would give me lots of time to try for a gobbler. I applied for the first season in the lottery. If I don’t get picked, I’m seriously thinking about buying an archery tag. I consider getting a turkey with a bow to be the supreme challenge in archery.

I need to decide if I’m up to the task!

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