Archive | June, 2017

Independence Day

June 30, 2017

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USSeal

July 4th is our greatest civic holiday.  It commemorates the unanimous Declaration of Independence of the thirteen colonies that comprised the United States of America in General Congress on July 4, 1776.  With the Declaration, a new country was born, and July 4th serves as our nation’s annual birthday celebration.

July 4th is a time to honor our country, and there are many splendid traditional hymns to do so.  There is The Star-Spangled Banner, the National Anthem, by Francis Scott Key (1779-1843) and John S. Smith (1750-1836); Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory, the Battle Hymn of the Republic; America, My Country ‘Tis of Thee; America the Beautiful; and God Bless America; to name some of the best known and most used.

July 4th is an important day to pray for our country.  The Roman Missal contains a Mass for the Dioceses of the United States, and it contains two options for each of the orations (Collect, Prayer over the Offerings, and Prayer after Communion) and the Preface, as well as a Solemn Blessing (pages 744 to 749).  The special Mass for peace and justice is highly appropriate, and a number of suitable readings are recommended in the Lectionary (Nos. 831-835).

There are several recurrent themes in the prayers.  There are multiple references to true justice and lasting peace.  Justice is the pathway to peace.  It is our fervent prayer that both the leaders and citizens of the United States will be guided by the principles of justice and truth and uphold them both at home and abroad, for when all are treated fairly, all can live together in mutual respect and harmony and enjoy safety and security.

The prayers also mention that our nation was drawn from many peoples of many lands, both the Native Americans who have lived in America for centuries, and countless waves of immigrants who have come since before the founding of the country to the present.  We pray that as diverse as we may be, that we will recognize that all are made in the image and likeness of God, all fellow human beings, all fellow Americans, brothers and sisters, and that God would continue to mold us into one great nation where all live together united as one.

The prayers also recognize how those who live in America have been richly blessed by the providence of God.  Ours is a land of plenty.  God has provided in abundance.  For those who have been given much, much is expected.  These blessings are not to be kept for ourselves alone.   The prayer makes a special petition:  “Grant that our country may share your blessings with all the peoples of the earth.”  We implore God’s help for an ever-increasing spirit of generosity.

While the orations make no mention of those in the armed forces, every national holiday is an opportune time to pray for those in the military, past and present. For those who have served loyally and bravely, we give thanks for the sacrifices they have made, we offer our appreciation, and for those who have died, we commend their souls to almighty God.  For those currently serving, we ask God to grant them wisdom, courage, and protection, and after the successful completion of their tour of duty, that they would be returned home safely to family and friends.

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Zechariah, an inspirational father figure

June 15, 2017

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St. John the Baptist. His name is John

Father’s Day is an occasion to reflect on the vocation of fatherhood.  Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, is most remembered for not believing the angel Gabriel’s announcement and being struck speechless as a punishment, but he has many admirable qualities for fathers.

Zechariah was married to Elizabeth, and both of them were advanced in years and still together.  Zechariah loved his wife and he was completely faithful to their marriage covenant.  Fatherhood is not a married man’s first vocation, but rather being devoted to one’s wife and being an excellent husband.  Good husbands make good fathers.

Zechariah was righteous.  A righteous Jew is law abiding.  This does not refer to his observance of civil law and his status as a citizen of his country, but rather his observance of the Mosaic Law and his spiritual standing before God.  Zechariah carefully and conscientiously obeyed the Ten Commandments as well as all of the other 603 precepts of the Law.   A good father observes God’s laws and has high moral standards, and then teaches these laws to his children, first and foremost with his example, and also with his instruction, house rules, and implementation.

Not only was Zechariah righteous, he was righteous in the eyes of God.  God sees everything, not only public and external things, but also private and internal things.  Zechariah obeyed God’s laws whether people were watching or not.  His observance was not for show.  He was good inside and out.  He was authentic, a man of integrity, truthful and honest.  Fathers like Zechariah help their children understand that God’s laws apply at all times under all circumstances, and that the top priority should be to please God in every instance, not to win the approval of others.

Zechariah was old and had no children.  This was a tremendous disappointment to him, but he did not turn sour, negative, rebellious, or cynical.  Zechariah was stable and he handled his troubles with grace and composure.  All fathers are faced with various setbacks, and fathers like Zechariah are able to remain calm and levelheaded, and able to carry on with purpose.

Zechariah went to the Temple where he prayed, and he took regular turns doing so.  He had a personal relationship with God which he nurtured with frequent prayer which was an intimate conversation which kept them closely bonded together.  Fathers who go to church and pray on a regular basis are guided by God in how to raise their children, and they receive God’s help.

When Zechariah’s son was born, he insisted that his name would be John.  This choice violated the custom of naming a child after his father or another relative.  Zechariah was not swayed by pressure or the expectations of his neighbors and relatives.  The angel had conveyed God’s wish, and Zechariah was adamant and unyielding when it came to obeying God.  There are many opinions and social expectations for how to raise children.  Fathers like Zechariah take their cues from God and are not unduly influenced by other people, old customs, or modern trends.

Finally, Zechariah offered a canticle of praise (Lk 1:68-79).  Zechariah was able to see and count his many blessings, and with faith and gratitude, he honored and glorified God with words of thanks.  Fathers like Zechariah are alert enough to take stock of the good things that God has given them, have an appreciative attitude, and frequently lift God’s name in praise.

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Behold, I am the hostess (in training) of the Lord

June 8, 2017

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While my Mama is ever learned in the gentle art of making others feel welcome, her natural flair for hospitality has not passed along very easily to her youngest child. Sure, I’ve always received complimentary coffees and extra bathroom towels with deep gratitude. But my linear-minded self tends to error on the side of modest (and sadly stingy) hospitality. Less food means less waste! My guests can’t expect me to stay up past my usual bedtime, right? And nobody scrubs floors in college apartments anyways…  Striving for simplicity has left my hostess abilities pitifully lacking, much to the chagrin of my poor guests.

Kate Anderson

Kate Anderson

The saving grace for any future visitors of mine was at hand when I accepted an invitation to the Behold Retreat. This beautiful day sparkled with speakers, resources and lovely surprises for young women in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. The talks I heard at Behold cast a warm new light on the welcoming domestic churches which my Mama and countless others have always beautifully kept.

A theology of hospitality began to unfold as wife and mom Justina Kopp and Sister Eileen Leon spoke from their unique vocational experiences. These women shared a foundational cornerstone long upheld by the Church to make sense of many a thing: God is the perfection of beauty, truth and goodness. Every beautiful thing, from cathedrals and sunsets to clean homes and joyful families, points us to God. A sacramental worldview opens our eyes to the divine dimensions of life which cannot be seen at a mere surface glance. Understanding the purpose of beauty strengthens our spiritual eyesight — but the real joy in seeing beauty anew is sharing that vision of goodness with others!

Since hospitality happens to be all about ‘”the other,” Dia Boyle put our renewed appreciation of beauty to work with her talk on “the others” we encounter in the domestic Church. She explained that the home can be an instrument for beauty because home is the place where we are most influential. Members of a home naturally return to this physical structure out of need. Whether those necessities are rest, resources or relationships, homes ideally meet the needs of those who dwell there. We become people of influence through words and actions we extend toward friends and family in this ordinary place called “home.”

Now people of faith can certainly be influential showing extraordinary love in abysmal conditions, as St. Teresa of Calcutta and countless others have taught us! But knowing what we know about the good, true and beautiful God, couldn’t most of us put a little more effort into creating homes that point others to him? There’s a difference between houses filled with “stuff” and homes that only contain what is beautiful or useful. Rather than trying to impress others with wealth or false appearances, a beautiful home can be an instrument for blessing others.

Warm spaces with cozy lamps and flickering candles invite people to linger. Guests will hope that conversations last longer in a place that is smells fresh and feels clean. And company will always stay later if dessert is served! With this encouragement to remain together, our investment of time yields a harvest of influence. My worries about hospitality becoming an occasion for vice were soothed by the wise words shared this day, because a clean space, plentiful meal and lovely home will always lead our hearts and minds back to our perfectly pure, generous, and beautiful Father.

These beautiful musings from the Behold Retreat explained the theology of hospitality I have long encountered but never understood. Lovingly decorated Christmas cookies, freshly laundered sheets and tastefully selected paintings are the little things which give way to big truths. Hospitality brings us back to our fundamental need for relationships, with Christ and our neighbors. And if warm coffee cake and fresh flowers help us point others to God, then goodness truly is beautiful!

Kate Anderson is a young Catholic with an old soul who spends her days in the Twin Cities learning about banks. 

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The theophany of Pentecost

June 2, 2017

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Pentecost

On Pentecost “suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house” (Acts 2:2).  It was sudden, startling.  It came up like a storm.  The noise was loud.   The wind roared.  Presumably, the house shook.  For the disciples, it was frightening yet awesome, glorious and enthralling.  They were immersed in a mystical experience, the powerful presence of almighty God in the Person of the Holy Spirit.  It was a theophany.

A theophany is an appearance of God accompanied by astounding signs and wonders that attest to God’s divine majesty, supreme authority, and infinite power.  A theophany involves one or more major forces of nature:  an earthquake, crushing rocks, dark clouds, storm, thunder, lightning, torrential rain, hail, howling winds, raging fire, billowing smoke, and blaring sounds.

The theophany of Pentecost recalls the great theophany of the Hebrew Scriptures, the appearance of God when Moses and the Israelites arrived at Mount Sinai.  The sequence of occurrences was phenomenal:  peals of thunder, lightning, a heavy cloud, and a very loud blast (Ex 19:16); rising smoke, fire, and a quaking mountain (Ex 19:18); and the blast of the shofar that grew louder and louder, and yet more thunder (Ex 19:19).

The combination of natural signs pointed to a supernatural reality, that the omnipotent God was truly with Moses and the Israelites in the desert, and that this would be an encounter of epic proportions.  God created the world with a mighty wind (Gn 1:2) and put into place all of the forces of nature.  Then, with the forces of nature making a dramatic and impressive display, God confirmed Israel as the Chosen People and renewed the covenant through the conferral of the Ten Commandments and the Mosaic Law.

On Pentecost the disciples were all together in one place for a theophany that was similar, yet different.  God had appeared in the desert.  This time God appeared in Jerusalem.  The former appearance took place at Mount Sinai.  This appearance took place on Mount Zion.  Previously the Lord came down upon the mountain in fire.  This time the Holy Spirit came down over the heads of the disciples as tongues as of fire.  The former appearance enabled Moses to speak on God’s behalf.  This appearance enabled Peter and the other disciples to serve as God’s spokesmen.  The former involved spectacular natural signs.  This appearance involved fewer and smaller natural signs.

Like the appearance at Sinai, this appearance would be an event of epic proportions.  The coming of the Holy Spirit established the Church as the People of God.  After Jesus, both priest and victim, sealed the new and eternal covenant with the blood that he shed on the Cross, the Holy Spirit joined the Son in the institution of an everlasting unbreakable covenant extended to all of the nations on earth.

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