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A curious detail about Matthew’s Ascension gospel

May 22, 2020


The Ascension is entirely absent in Matthew’s gospel. All of the details of the other accounts (Mk 16:19; Lk 24:51; Acts 1:9) receive no mention. There is no cloud, no lifting up, no vanishing from their sight, and no enthronement of Jesus at God’s right hand. This oddity is no oversight. It is not an error or a mistake.

Matthew did not leave out the Ascension because he did not know about it. He was there with the other apostles when it took place. Matthew used the gospel of Mark as a resource when he wrote his own gospel, and Mark specifically mentioned the Ascension in his conclusion (Mk 16:19). This glaring omission is intentional, something Matthew did with a purpose in mind.

Matthew’s gospel ends with the Great Commissioning. Jesus sent the Eleven to do three specific things: to make disciples of all nations, to baptize new believers, and to teach people to observe all that he had commanded.

From the time that Jesus delivered his commissioning until the time that Matthew composed his gospel, over fifty years had elapsed. Matthew could look back and see the enormous hardship associated with these three orders. The disciples were supposed to reach out to all nations, except this would involve traveling, and traveling was dangerous. By land, there were long walks over difficult terrain. They were exposed to sun, wind, and rain. Sometimes there was searing heat, other times chilling cold. They were vulnerable to thieves and bandits. They had to deal with hunger, thirst, and fatigue. Nighttime accommodations were unfamiliar and often inadequate. By sea, there were storms, pirates, and shipwrecks.

Once the disciples arrived at their destination, they were supposed to make disciples, except this, too, was an extremely formidable task. The disciples needed to learn the local language and customs. They were foreigners and faced fierce resistance from the townsfolk who were tightly knit and usually excluded outsiders. The local residents had their own religious beliefs which they held strongly, and many were unwilling to consider a change.

The disciples were supposed to baptize new believers. These baptisms posed a serious problem. Some converted and were baptized, others did not. When one person in a family accepted baptism, the other family members who refused to convert often became enraged, not only at the family member who was baptized and had abandoned their family’s religious tradition, but also at the person who performed the baptism. The disciples were persecuted for performing baptisms, and in a number of cases it led to torture and martyrdom.

Finally, the disciples were supposed to teach the people to observe all that Jesus commanded. The gospel was an entirely new concept that was welcomed by some but bitterly opposed by others. Often the disciples were ridiculed for their teaching. Many days their audiences were small and their results meager. Their mission to preach the gospel could be very discouraging.

For Matthew, the last thing he wanted was for Jesus to ascend and be far removed from his disciples. As they were about to undertake their commission, they needed Jesus to be their daily companion, their guide and helper, and a constant source of strength and courage. So instead of the absence of Jesus associated with the Ascension, Matthew chose to highlight Jesus’ promise to remain with his disciples always. The last word of his gospel is “Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Mt 28:20): now, wherever we are, wherever we go, whatever we do, Jesus is always present, never to leave, at our side for all our days.

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St. Martin de Porres

November 3, 2019


St. Martin de Porres was born on November 9, 1579, in Lima, Peru. He was born outside of wedlock, the son of John de Porres, a Spanish knight, and Anna, a freed black slave from Panama. His father was mortified when he observed how his newborn son had inherited his mother’s African features and dark complexion, and he refused to acknowledge him. Martin’s baptismal records show him listed as the “son of an unknown father,” and as a result he was considered “illegitimate,” a terrible social stigma in Peruvian society. He was raised in the faith by his Christian mother.

As a boy St. Martin studied medicine and was an apprentice to a barber-surgeon. He also became a Third Order Dominican, a person who adopts Dominican spirituality as an associate member while still a lay person. In 1595 he moved into Rosary Convent in Lima as a helper, and in 1603 he joined the Dominican Order and made his religious profession as a Brother.

Brother Martin distinguished himself in personal holiness. He had a great devotion to the Eucharist and prayed regularly in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. He was strict and highly disciplined with himself, performed rigorous acts of penance, was exceptionally humble, and gladly performed menial tasks. Within the community he served as the infirmarian, the community’s caretaker of the sick and disabled, the barber, the wardrobe keeper, and the gardener, and he swept the floors and cleaned the toilets. He operated the community’s food shelf and distributed food, clothing, and medicine to the needy.

Brother Martin also ventured out of the convent to serve the poor in the city of Lima. He put his medical training to good use with his competent and compassionate care for the sick. Because of his expanding reputation, more and more people came to him for help. For some he administered medical treatment, for others it was a handshake or a simple touch, and there were so many healings and such remarkable cures that the people considered him a miracle worker.

Brother Martin also had a special place in his heart for African slaves that had been forced to come to Peru, and he conducted a special outreach to them. He also founded an orphanage and a hospital for them.

St. Martin was immensely popular with the people of Lima because of his tremendous dedication to the poor and his exemplary personal holiness. He also was held in high regard by his fellow Dominicans who called him the “father of charity,” a title he shunned, and out of self-deprecation he referred to himself as a “mulatto dog.”

St. Martin was a close friend of St. Rose of Lima. He reportedly had the supernatural gifts of bilocation and aerial flight.

St. Martin de Porres died of a raging fever at Rosary Convent in Lima on November 3, 1639, at the age of sixty. He was beatified in 1837 and canonized by Pope John XXIII on May 6, 1962. He is the patron saint of hairdressers, public health workers, social justice, and race relations.

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March 22, 2019


“Repent” (Mk 1:15). In the gospel of Mark, Jesus began his preaching with this expectation. It is a shocking opening line. Jesus does not begin with a polite greeting like “my dear friends,” nor does he begin with a blessing like “grace and peace to you,” nor does he begin with a compliment like “noble citizens and good people of this country.” He did not mince words. He was a straight shooter. He struck early with a dagger to the heart. He was brusque and abrasive.

RepentRepent. It was a bold declaration. Jesus was saying to every one of his listeners, “You are a sinner.” It is not the sort of thing that people like to hear. Every person is guilty of evildoing. No exceptions. Each person has freely chosen to disregard God’s commandments, offended God in multiple ways, inflicted harm upon others, been a source of conflict, caused unhappiness, disregarded the standards of right conduct, and done things that are hurtful to self.

Repent. It was more than a statement of fact. It was an order: “Stop it!” “Quit sinning!” Jesus did not make a request. It was a demand. It is obligatory, not optional. Jesus insists on change. Wrongdoing must stop, and it must end abruptly, without a moment’s delay.

If a person wishes to stop sinning, it is necessary to realize that sin is present. Big blatant sins are easy to recognize, but there are many times that we are blind to our sins, minimize them, or fail to consider certain wrongdoing sinful at all. At one time a small sin bothered our conscience, but over time the same sin has been repeated so many times, and it has grown larger bit by bit, and it bothers the conscience less and less, and after a while the sin is overlooked as no big deal. Other times we go easy on ourselves, trying to convince ourselves: “What I did is not so bad,” or “What I did is not nearly as bad as what someone else did.” Another common error is to think that only bad deeds are sinful, while in fact, the failure to do good can also be sinful, and a person’s interior mental world of thoughts, desires, and plans can be wicked and immoral, sinful in themselves, and springboard for sinful deeds.

Two elements of repentance are contrition, sorrow for one’s sins, and a firm purpose of amendment, the intention or resolve to no longer commit those sins. Again, this is not so easy. We might be sorry for the sins, but not disgusted or revolted by them. If fact, we may think, “These sins are part of who I am and what I do; there is something rewarding, fun, or exhilarating about them; and I will probably repeat them again sometime.” True repentance is not only to be sorry for the sin, but to hate the sin, to consider the sin absolutely objectionable, deplorable, and unthinkable, to detest the sin so much that the idea would be swiftly and firmly rejected and the wrongful deed no longer an option.

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The Five Names of the Sacrament of Reconciliation

December 7, 2018


Sacrament of ReconciliationConversion. Conversion is to switch from one thing to another. Jesus asks us to “Repent” (Mk 1:15), to make a metanoia, a change of heart and direction, a conscious choice to quit doing one thing and start or resume doing another. Conversion is the shift from sin to grace, evil to good, wrong to right, vice to virtue, deception to truth, darkness to light, the flesh to the spirit, indulgence to self-control, and from personal gratification to pleasing God. Conversion admits an evil deed and makes a firm commitment never to repeat it, or breaks a bad habit and replaces it with a pattern of good decisions and behaviors. It is common to say, “I am sorry for this sin,” and then commit the same sin over again, because the person prefers the sin. True conversion is not only to stop the sin, but to detest the sin, and consider it unthinkable now and in the future.

Penance. Penance is to make “satisfaction” for sins that have been committed. There is nothing “satisfying” about sin. In this context, penance is an expression of sorrow for sin, a sign of a change of heart, an attempt to make up for sin, to make right a wrong, or to repair the damage. Peter wrote, “Love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Pt 4:8). So does almsgiving (see Tb 12:9; Sir 3:29b). The four penitential practices are prayer; fasting, self-denial, and sacrifices; almsgiving; and acts of love, charity, and service.

Reconciliation. Sin causes alienation. Trust is broken. Relationships are weakened, damaged, and sometimes shattered. Sin separates a person from God, who has been disappointed, offended, or angered; from other people, who have been harmed or misled; from the community of the Church, that has been let down, and if the sin were known, would be shocked, scandalized, upset, or saddened; and from one’s self, estranged from one’s authentic goodness, blemished, and diminished by self-inflicted wounds. Reconciliation is to reconnect what has been separated, reunite what has been apart, settle differences, heal wounds, and restore wholeness; it is to make amends, restitution, and reparation.

Confession. Confession is the disclosure of sin. We are prone to make excuses, dodge responsibility, and go easy on ourselves. Sometimes we are so mired in our sinful ruts that we become blind to our wrongdoing, grow callous and insensitive to our own sin, and fail to be honest with ourselves. The apostle John writes, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves” (1 Jn 1:8). Honesty and humility are indispensable. Each of us has greatly sinned, in thought and in word, in what we have done and what we have failed to do. Once we realize our sins, it is necessary to take them to God through a priest, confess them, contritely acknowledge and name them out loud, and humbly ask for pardon.

Forgiveness. God forgives sins. God is “gracious and merciful … slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment” (Jl 2:13). Even though our sins are scarlet, God makes them white as snow (Is 1:18b); though they be crimson red, God makes them white as wool (Is 1:18c). God wipes away our offenses, and our sins he remembers no more (Is 43:25). It is by Jesus, the Lamb of God, and the Blood that he shed on the Cross, that the sins of the world are taken away (Jn 1:29). Jesus asked his apostles to mediate his forgiveness when he instructed them, “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them” (Jn 20:23). It is through the Holy Spirit that God absolves sins and grants pardon and peace. Forgiveness is an unmerited and undeserved grace granted by God out of his infinite love and mercy.

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The Wedding Rings

July 2, 2018


Wedding RingsA Symbol of the Sacrament of Marriage

The Wedding Rings. In the rite for The Order of Celebrating Matrimony, the exchange of consent or wedding vows is first, followed by the blessing and giving of rings. The sacrament takes place with the exchange and reception of consent. The rings add beauty, represent fidelity, and signify the permanence of the union of the husband and wife. Wedding rings are the most common symbol of the Sacrament of Marriage in Christian artwork, and Mary and Joseph are frequently depicted exchanging them before a priest in a synagogue or the Temple.

The Ring Finger. After the thumb, the ring is worn on the third finger of the left hand. In prescientific times before advances in medical science and anatomy, it was commonly believed that there was a nerve or blood vessel that ran directly from the ring finger to the heart, the symbolic seat of love (Klein, P., Catholic Source Book, 425).

Circular Shape. A wedding ring is a circle without beginning or end. It goes around and never stops, thus represents something that is everlasting, eternal, or timeless. The roundness of the wedding ring means that the marriage covenant is a lifelong promise, unceasing, and continues unbroken and uninterrupted, for the rest of one’s life. It is a love that never ends (1 Cor 13:8a).

Hollow Interior. A wedding ring has an open center which can be interpreted to represent the inside of a pipe or a piece of conduit. As liquid flows through a pipe or electricity flows through wires inside a section of conduit, so a steady stream of love flows through the ring from one spouse to another. It is a channel for patience, kindness, humility, politeness, self-control, forgiveness, generosity, truthfulness, endurance, trust (1 Cor 13:4-7), compassion and gentleness (Col 3:12-13).

Tight fit. The ring is worn snuggly around the finger so it will remain in place and not slip off. It is so tight that is presses against the skin and bone and cannot slide over the knuckle by itself. The tightness represents that the husband and wife are bound tightly to each other. The pressing or restrictive nature of the tight fit also symbolizes chaste love, an intimate love that they share exclusively with each other and no one else.

Wedding Chasuble with interlocking wedding ringsInterlocking rings. One of the most common symbols of the Sacrament of Marriage is a pair of rings that are linked together with one ring intertwined with the other. It serves as a sign that the husband and wife are inseparably joined. Sometimes a cross is placed between the rings which signifies that Jesus is the center and binding force of a Christian marriage, and that they will carry their crosses together. Occasionally two whites candles are also added, one within each ring, which represent their baptismal faith which will serve as the foundation of their marriage. It also indicates their intention to complete their Sacraments of Initiation with marriage, a Sacrament of Commitment, and how their joint membership in the Body of Christ will serve as a powerful unifying force in their life together.

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What I took away from the Rediscover: event

October 17, 2013


Father Robert Barron at the Rediscover: Catholic Celebration. (Dianne Towalski/The Catholic Spirit)

Father Robert Barron at the Rediscover: Catholic Celebration. (Dianne Towalski/The Catholic Spirit)

I left the Rediscover: event at the Saint Paul RiverCentre on Saturday with fresh encouragement to take my faith to the next level. Matthew Kelly challenged all 5,000 of us by asking whether the would be a life-changing day or just another day? “It’s up to you,” he said. “You decide.”

George Weigel urged us to take our baptism much more seriously. The world needs us, he said. “We are on a battlefield and the walking wounded are all around us.” He called this “mission territory,” and said it has never been more important that we fulfill the great commission to spread the Good News.

Father Robert Barron capped the day with practical suggestions for all us modern-day evangelists. Bringing a little notebook with me to the event, I wrote the suggestions down, and am delighted to share them here, in case you weren’t there on Oct. 12:

Lead with beauty to get to goodness and truth. Father said it is rare to win someone over with arguments about goodness or truth. Secular culture has relativized goodness and truth to the point where people have trouble agreeing on what is good and what is true. But most of us can recognize beauty. And the Church has so much beautiful music, architecture, art, etc., to share. A person might become more disposed to accepting goodness and truth if they have been prepared by common admiration of true beauty.

Don’t dumb down the faith. Father Barron said we have hurt ourselves by reducing the message of Vatican II to “banners and balloons.” Noting the rich intellectual tradition of the Church, Fr. Barron said we need smart explanations of the faith to counter the arguments against God and Church coming from the secular world, which is largely well-educated.

Preach with ‘ardor.’ That’s an easy one to understand. Who would you rather listen to: a dull speaker or an exciting speaker? Of course, we all prefer the exciting speaker. People can hear the passion in your voice; let it come through when you are talking about your faith.

Tell the great story. Explain that Jesus Christ was crucified and rose from the dead in the climactic story of the Bible. This is THE good news. All the stories in the Bible – creation, the fall, the formation of the people of Israel, the life of Christ, the early Church – are part of the Great Story. And the story doesn’t end with the Bible. We are part of the story, too! “Teach the Bible,” Father Barron said.

Emphasize the Augustinian anthropology. Father unpacked that one for us. What he means is that St. Augustine said, “Lord, you have made us for yourself, therefore our hearts are restless until it rests in Thee.” Because of the way God made us, we all have a void in our lives that only can be filled by God. We mistakenly try to fill the void with things like wealth, pleasure, power and honor, but everything leaves us wanting. This is a belief shared by some of our most famous modern-day philosophers – Mick Jagger said, “I can’t get no satisfaction;” U2 sings, “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for,” and Bruce Springsteen has a song called “Everyone Has a Hungry Heart.”

Stress the Irenaeus doctrine of God. St. Irenaeus taught that God does not need us. This is great news because it means that God does not give us things and do things for us to get anything back from us. The only reason He does anything for us is because He loves us.

Any one of these tips can make us better evangelists. There’s a lot of work to do, so let’s get to work!

Blog author Tom Bengtson is a local small business owner and writer. You can contact Bengtson by visiting his website

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Today is Give to the Max Day! Support your favorite Catholic School or cause!

November 15, 2012


Today is the day to potentially give your giving a little more punch.

From the GiveMN website:

Today our communities come together for 24 hours of online giving. Every donation you make during Give to the Max Day 2012 will help qualify your nonprofit or school for prize money and awards, furthering the impact of your donation.

There are several ways your donation can go further on Give to the Max Day.

Leaderboard prize grants – nonprofits which raise the most dollars will earn a spot on one of the four leaderboards. There are prize grants for each of the top 10 spots on all leaderboards. Prizes are as follows: 1st place – $12,500; 2nd place – $5,000; 3rd place – $2,500; 4th-10th place – $1,000.

Golden Tickets – One nonprofit donor and one K-12 public schools donor will be randomly chosen every hour to have $1,000 added to their donation. One nonprofit donor and one K-12 public schools donor will also be selected randomly from throughout the 24 hours of giving to have $10,000 added to their donation!

Matching grants – hundreds of nonprofits are offering a dollar-for-dollar match so you can double your donation.

Learn about the nonprofits and schools serving our area, make a donation, and watch your generosity change lives. For complete rules and prizes, click the link below.

Here’s how to find your Catholic School or organization

1) Click on this link




Note: The “Find a School” button seems to apply to public schools only.


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