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Divided by sin, but still united in pursuit of goodness

March 23, 2015

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MensConferenceKneeling

By Anthony Gockowski

In his homily at Mass during the 2015 Archdiocesan Men’s Conference, Father William Baer made one thing clear: Local news can be monotonous and dull. Covering the mundane events of ordinary life can be a drag. But the mission of The Catholic Spirit is, and always has been, to spread the good news, not the bad. Sometimes the good news is boring.

While preaching to a crowd of more than 1,300 men gathered at the University of St. Thomas, Father Baer said, “Now there’s probably a journalist here from The Catholic Spirit, and he’s going to take a few photos and write a nice story. But at the end he’s going to say, ‘And they all went home.’ You can be sure, if he uses this phrase he’s just filling up space because he has nothing else to say.”

There are two points Father Baer is making here, ad hominems aside. First, when it comes to events like the men’s conference, The Catholic Spirit has, admittedly, published a similar story with a similar photo and a similar ending.

Second, the conclusion to St. John’s account of the division in the crowd is wildly misunderstood, especially by knuckle-headed journalist folk like myself. The point of the phrase, “then each went to his own house” (John 7:53), is not to say that after an hour of bickering the Pharisees made up and returned home peacefully. Rather, each went his separate way. Division conquered. It was an appropriate point to be made given the theme of the conference: conquering sin. Men, and the Church, are divided by sin. This is the point of John’s phrase, “then each went to his own house.”

But now to the first point. The Catholic Spirit often covers annual stories. We sometimes don’t have anything else to say because we aren’t given new stories to talk about. It is difficult for a journalist to write a new story when he is given the same material every year. We can’t expect different stories if we’re not having different events. The story on the men’s conference will always be the story on the men’s conference. Should we cover it, or let it go unnoticed?

Writing a new story on an old event requires taking a different angle. I think Father Baer gave me that angle: We are divided by sin. He was expecting me to write something nice and warm-hearted. Maybe I could have said something about the toasted breakfast burritos, the warm coffee and the jolly company. Maybe I could have made an observation on the fathers and sons in attendance.

Maybe I could have commented on Jeff Cavins’ energy and charisma. Maybe I could have talked about Archbishop John Nienstedt’s words of encouragement. But all of this would just be the same story we read last year.

This year, I saw something different; I have something else to say.

I saw an archbishop worn out by scandal. I saw the gloom in the faces of men addicted to porn. I saw fathers stuff their faces with burritos while their sons slept at home. I saw a crowd of seminarians worried about the future of their archdiocese. I saw young men sleep through Father Simon’s hopeful preaching. I saw men more interested in free Butterfingers than any material the booth fair had to offer. I saw men walk out while their bishop spoke.

I heard men talk about troubles at home. I heard men worried about their alcoholism.

I heard a man tell a friend he no longer loves his wife.

And some did not go home, at least not right away. They went to the bars and drank to their hearts’ content.

The whole Church is divided by sin. But in this darkness and suffering, there is hope. We can conquer sin.

Father Richard Simon, a priest from Illinois and host of radio show “Father Simon Says,” spoke at the conference. The topic was conquering sin. In his talk, he reminded the men of this archdiocese of the purpose of life.

“We don’t exist to be happy,” he said. “We exist to love.”

Happiness is fleeting. Sin and suffering seem to control our lives. But we have to remember that we can’t fully understand this suffering from our perspective. Father Simon put it nicely: “We look at a mother holding a sick child in her arms and we see suffering. God sees love. When we finally see as God sees, we shall see that the suffering was not suffering. It was love. We will know that no tear went unnoticed and no prayer went unanswered.”

This message is particularly important for our archdiocese. The wounds of scandal have opened us up to a world of love. Wounded, we will never stop loving. As Father Simon said, “You’re doing fine if you get up again. Now go to confession!”

Sometimes, to return to Father Baer’s comment, when a journalist says something else, people get upset. But I have always thought that the job of a Catholic journalist is to be honest. And an honest approach to sin is never a pretty story. This is why we write good news. This is why some of our stories look the same, because goodness does not change.

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Months from sainthood, St. Therese’s parents already patrons for a local Catholic family

March 11, 2015

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Photo courtesy Annie Reddy

Photo courtesy Annie Reddy

By Maria Wiering

People constantly mispronounce the name of Annie Reddy’s 4-year-old daughter. Yes, it’s an uncommon name outside of France, but, after all the anticipated press, it’s likely to climb the Nameberry charts this year.

It’s Zelie – and it doesn’t rhyme with “jelly.”

It’s pronounced ZAY-lee, and it’s the nickname of Thérèse of Lisieux’s mother, who is slated for canonization in October with her husband and Thérèse’s father, Louis.

The Martins, Blessed Azélie-Marie (1831-1877) and Louis (1823-1894), married in 1858 and reportedly will be the first couple to be canonized together.

Zélie was a lace-maker, and Louis made watches. Both of them had aspired to the religious life – Zélie to the convent, and Louis to a monastery. Both were rejected, Zélie for poor health, and Louis because of his lack of Latin. The couple had nine children – seven daughters and two sons – but only five daughters would survive infancy. All five became religious sisters; four of them, including Therese (the youngest) became Carmelites at Lisieux.

Known as “The Little Flower” and popular for her autobiography where she described her “little way” to Jesus, St. Therese was canonized in 1925 and named a Doctor of the Church in 1997, one of only four women doctors.

Light in the darkness

St. Therese has always been one of Annie’s patrons; her middle name is Therese. She was the saint Annie turned to during what she called “a pretty dark time” in her life.

Five years ago, Annie discovered she was pregnant. She wasn’t married, had never intended to be, and hadn’t imagined herself as a mother. She vacillated between adoption and raising her daughter, finally deciding on the latter.

“She was going to be my adventure in life,” said Annie, now 29 and a parishioner of St. Paul in Ham Lake. “I thought forever it was going to be just me and this baby girl.”

As part of that bond, Annie named her daughter Zelie Luella for Zélie and Louis Martin, names familiar to her from reading St. Therese’s writings.

“St. Therese kind of walked me throughout life, including that dark time,” Annie said. “I wanted her (Zelie) to have a name that was part of me.”

At the time, Annie didn’t realize the Martins were on their own path to sainthood. Pope John Paul II declared them venerable in 1994, and they were beatified in 2008. On Feb. 27, the prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes announced the couple would be canonized together in October, during the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family. Both miracles attributed to the couple involved the healing of children.

Annie believes the saints’ prayers helped her parents guide her during her pregnancy and early motherhood. “They never judged me,” she said. “I think somehow Zelie Martin was interceding for me and my parents, and for this little girl to be in our lives.”

Vocation to marriage

Those prayers may also have had a role in her falling in love with her now husband, Ryan. The two had known each other since eighth grade, but Annie admits that before Zelie, she wasn’t the kind of woman Ryan would have wanted to marry.

“It’s one of those things were God breaks down your walls with children,” she said.

“She prepared me for intimacy with another human being. She taught me to be selfless and break down those dark areas in my life. Ryan wouldn’t have married me if it wasn’t for Zelie … . I just didn’t have it in my character to be married at that time, and Zelie really pulled that out of me.”

Annie had tried to name her daughter in a meaningful way, but hadn’t realized at the time how significant her name would truly be, she said. “I think that’s the work of Zelie Martin in bringing me to the vocation of marriage and family life,” she said.

The Reddys’ family has grown since their 2013 wedding; a year later, they had a son, Ezekiel.

Annie was thrilled when she heard the news of the Martins’ upcoming canonization, and she would love to witness the event in person, with her daughter. “Nobody really understands the name, so we try to tell her about it,” Annie said. “We would love for her to see that production (the canonization) go down.”

A few days before Annie heard the news about the Martins’ canonization, Zelie asked her mother if she could be St. Zelie. Annie thinks the idea came from The Way of the Shepherd Catholic Montessori in Blaine, where Zelie goes to school, but it was music to her ears. She’s convinced her daughter has transformed her life. “Now I’m working on sainthood,” she said.

Pope plans to canonize St. Therese’s parents during family synod

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“Missionary Impulse”

November 4, 2014

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bollesfamily

By Susanna Bolle

It was not long after arriving at the Proclaim Catholic Mission’s Conference that I found myself deeply moved. Before I knew it, I was surrounded by many young adults and families who have said “yes” to the radical call to serve God by proclaiming the Gospel in foreign missions. You see, I’ve flown to the famous land of the po’ boy to visit my brother, his wife, and their five beautiful children who have responded to the “missionary impulse” that the Lord inflamed their hearts with. My brother and his family were convicted of the message in Luke 18:22 to “sell everything you have and give to the poor…then come, follow me.” They have chosen to completely surrender their lives to the Lord and follow his call for their family to proclaim the Gospel in foreign lands, to “declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples” (Psalm 96:3). If you would like to learn more about Family Missions Company, or donate to the Bolle family’s fundraising efforts, please visit the Family Missions Company website.

I have come to the FMC conference to learn more about the “missionary impulse” which Pope Francis describes in Evangelii Gaudium. Pope Francis states, “If the whole Church takes up this missionary impulse, she has to go forth to everyone without exception. But to whom should she go first? When we read the Gospel we find a clear indication: not so much our friends and wealthy neighbours, but above all the poor and the sick, those who are usually despised and overlooked, ‘those who cannot repay you’ (Luke 14:14). This missionary impulse is necessary-but it is not comfortable. In Evangelii Gaudium even Pope Francis admits this, “an authentic faith-which is never comfortable or completely personal-always involves a deep desire to change the world, to transmit values, to leave this earth somehow better than we found it.”

Upon reflecting on my weekend with Family Missions Company, I am convicted of the Lord’s voice in Revelation 3:20, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, then I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me.” The Lord must knock at our door, because he cannot enter unless we let him in…and he desires to enter our home not only to share a meal with us, but to bring us out. It is my prayer that when I return home from Louisiana, I will have the courage to open the door of my heart to Christ. That I will respond to the beating of the missionary impulse and allow Christ to bring me outside of myself so that I can fulfill the call of Pope Francis’ message and “leave this earth somehow better than” I “found it.”

Bolle is the Administrative Assistant for the Office of Evangelization & Catechisis of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis

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Saints and souls

October 31, 2014

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This weekend, the Church gives honor to the saints in heaven and the souls of those who have died. Both are worthy of our prayers and attention.The saints in heaven are the “cloud of witnesses” whose model for living in the earthly world shows us how possible it is for us to live holy lives — even though it is challenging. Their prayers for us can provide real strength in our daily lives. I highly recommend that every home have a book about the saints for the family to share. Personally, I like to read about a different saint each day in Alban Butler’s “Lives of the Saints.”

All Saints Day is immediately followed by All Souls Day – the Day of the Dead – a day when we especially remember those who have died. On this day we pray for their souls and ask them to pray for us as we continue our work here on earth. Again,  I especially pray for and ask for prayers from many loved ones who are gone but who modeled Christ-like living for me.I recently went on a pilgrimage with my parents to Osakis, Minn., and Cando, N.D., to visit the graves of my grandparents. I went with them at a time when I was struggling with the weight of expectations that often feel so overwhelming that I am bowed by them. I went seeking the peace and reassurance that their faith in God and strength of character instilled in me by the model of their lives. As I traced their names on their gravestones and prayed for a reminder of their belief in me and their personal resolve in challenging times, I felt God’s holy presence — past, present, future — in all the memories of my time with them: in the current moment as I stood at their graves, in the day when I hope to stand with them again in eternity. And as I walked away with tears in my eyes, my dad reminded me of the strength that they instilled in me by their faith and that I indeed have all the strength I need to meet the tasks before me. Just because my family created a strong faith foundation didn’t mean that everything would be easy, but it would  always be founded on love for the Lord and love for others.

You may wonder why I share this with you today. I write because I feel called to as I anticipate both All Saints and All Souls Day. I write because I love Pope John Paul II Catholic School and my Catholic faith, and I write because I love the children of this school — past, present and future. Educating the whole person means that our first and primary obligation is to introduce the children to Jesus Christ at the same time as we provide them with an academic education that prepares them for high school. I write because this school makes a difference in northeast Minneapolis and it is only in strong, united Catholic parishes and schools that we can introduce the Lord to the children in our community who do not attend our school.

May all the Saints and Souls who have gone before us — pray for us!

 

Debbie King is principal at St. John Paul II School in northeast Minneapolis.

 

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Novena for a Rebirth of Chastity and Purity – Day 9

July 26, 2014

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St. Joachim and St. Anne

For all those who bear the cross of infertility

Lord, God, thank you for the gift of life and for the gift of children. This very day we ask you for a special blessing and healing upon all those couples who so desire the gift of a child and wait patiently for Your timing. Grant them the supernatural gifts of hope, trust and patience in Your Divine Providence. Guide all who labor and research to help infertile couples to your Divine Wisdom and to follow the natural law and moral order that you have established. Give all who struggle with this pain complete resignation to Your Divine Will. Bless and strengthen those families who have adopted a child or who serve as foster parents. Help all couples who struggle with infertility to remain chaste and pure. And grant them the grace to drink joyfully from this bitter cup, offering up their pain and agony for the salvation of souls. Dear St. Joachim and St. Anne, you, too, knew the sorrow of being childless. Intercede for these couples that God, too, in His perfect time and way may grant to them the precious and eternal gift of a child. Holy Spirit breathe the fire of your love into the hearts, minds and souls of all couples who yearn for a child that they may be forever blessed with such a precious gift, done all in accord with Your Most Holy Will. Amen.

One Our Father, One Hail Mary, One Glory Be.

Mary, our Mother, perfect model of purity and chastity, pray for us. 

Attributed to:
Couple to Couple League of Indianapolis

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Novena for a Rebirth of Chastity and Purity – Day 8

July 25, 2014

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St. James the Greater — Anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae

For all those who pray and labor for a rebirth of chastity and purity.

Lord, God, we humbly come before you this day asking a very special blessing upon all those who minister for the cause of life, chastity and purity. Grant all the gift of humility and purity of intention. Grant them fortitude, wisdom and counsel. Help them to see Your Most Holy Face in every single person that they serve. Let them never judge another nor bring condemnation. Bless their labors and prayers abundantly with the fruit of many conversions and many souls being led more closely to You. Help them to be like St. James, unafraid to go out into the deep, away from the safety of the shore, to bring the light of chastity and purity to those who are in most need. Protect this very special work, dearest Jesus, from all division, jealousy, bitterness and contention of any kind. May all their work be done for the sole honor and glory of God. Holy Spirit breathe the fire of Your love into the hearts, minds, and souls of all who pray and labor for the cause of chastity, purity and life that they may be renewed in spirit, fortified for the battle, and hopeful for the salvation of many souls. Amen.

One Our Father, One Hail Mary and One Glory Be.

Mary, our Mother, perfect model of purity and chastity, pray for us. 

Attributed to:
Couple to Couple League of Indianapolis

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Novena for a Rebirth of Chastity and Purity – Day 7

July 24, 2014

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For all teachers and educators

Lord, God, today we beg of you to send forth your Spirit of Love and Truth upon all who educate and instruct. Give them a sincere desire and yearning to know the Truth and a humble and open heart to accept it. We especially lift up to you our Catholic schools and universities. May these servants of yours always place chastity and purity at the forefront of their instruction. May they remain ever faithful to the teachings of Holy Mother Church. May they never tire or become afraid of being that salt and light in a world of darkness. Our sweet Jesus, awaken the minds and stir the hearts of those who are being deceived by the evil one into false teachings. O Divine Instructor, give to them all a thirst for righteousness and wisdom that comes only from You. Bless all teachers and educators, Lord, who do labor so unselfishly to spread the knowledge of Christ. Holy Spirit breathe the fire of Your love into the hearts, minds and souls of all educators that they may constantly meditate upon the Most Holy Trinity, the source of all wisdom, the source of purity and chastity. Amen.

One Our Father, One Hail Mary, One Glory Be.

Mary, our Mother, perfect model of purity and chastity, pray for us. 

Attributed to:
Couple to Couple League of Indianapolis

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Novena for a Rebirth of Chastity and Purity – Day 6

July 23, 2014

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St. Bridget of Sweden

For all divorced couples, for those having marital difficulty and for broken families

Lord, God, we come before you today to beg for mercy on behalf of all those couples and families who are hurting and who are bearing heavy crosses at this very moment. We beg for the graces for all husbands and wives to be able to give of themselves so completely and so unselfishly, laying down their very own wills and lives for one another, just as you did for love of us. Give all families the supernatural graces they need to live out their vocations as husbands and wives, as mothers and fathers, and as sons and daughters, in complete imitation of the Most Holy Trinity. Heal, in a very special way, Lord, the hearts and souls of those husbands and wives who are bearing the cross of either past or present infidelity. Allow true contrition and forgiveness to enter into their hearts. Transform and sanctify all marriages and families. Call those who have left the fold home to You and to Your Church. Help them to see the importance of chastity and purity in their lives as one of the most important means for getting back on track. Holy Spirit breathe the fire of your love into the hearts, minds and souls of all those who have been wounded by divorce, marital infidelity or other marital difficulties, that they may soon feel the presence of God’s love burning within them and for them, so as to give and share this love with their spouses and families. Amen.

One Our Father, One Hail Mary, One Glory Be.

Mary, our Mother, perfect model of purity and chastity, pray for us. 

Attributed to:
Couple to Couple League of Indianapolis

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Novena for a Rebirth of Chastity and Purity – Day 5

July 22, 2014

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St. Mary Magdalene

For all who work in entertainment and the arts

Lord, God, we ask you today to send forth in great abundance, through your Mother’s Most Immaculate and Pure Heart, the graces needed to convert and change the hearts of all those who work in the entertainment industry and in the arts. Grant them the gift to see the true beauty and dignity of the human person and thus create accordingly. Let them always place the virtue of chastity and purity at the forefront of their creations. Through the intercession of St. Mary Magdalene, may all writers, producers, artists, musicians and poets come to love you just as much as this holy woman did. Free from the bonds of slavery all those addicted to pornography and all those involved in prostitution. May Your Most Precious Blood this very day cover the multitude of sins committed against the flesh and wash clean the hearts of those who are deceived by the evil one. Holy Spirit breathe the fire of your love into the hearts, minds and souls of every single person involved with entertainment and art, that they may be directed by Your voice and Your love in the work that they produce, and as such, give You high honor and glory for all the world to see. Amen.

One Our Father, One Hail Mary, One Glory Be.

Mary, our Mother, perfect model of purity and chastity, pray for us. 

Attributed to:
Couple to Couple League of Indianapolis

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Novena for a Rebirth of Chastity and Purity – Day 4

July 21, 2014

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For all doctors, nurses, and all who work in the fields of medicine and pharmacology

Lord, God, we ask your very special blessings and graces to be showered forth upon those who serve you in their ministry to others in the fields of medicine and pharmacology. Help them always to maintain a high respect and dignity for all human life from the moment of conception until natural death. Grant to them a deep and abiding love and awe for the creative powers you have endowed to your creatures. May they use technology and medicine for your greater honor and glory and with the utmost respect to the moral law and natural order. Lead many doctors and nurses, sweet Jesus, to the Good News of Natural Family Planning. Give them all the great gift of humility and a fervent desire to know and to do Your Will. We thank you with overflowing hearts, Lord, for those doctors and nurses who have embraced your calling and who promote only Natural Family Planning to their patients. Give them fortitude to go against the tide and bless them, their practices and their families one-hundred fold. Give special strength, O Divine Physician, to those who hear your voice but are afraid to come. Keep knocking patiently and perseveringly upon their hearts and may they know and accept Your love for them. Holy Spirit breathe the fire of your love into the hearts, minds and souls of all in the medical and health fields that they may be sanctified to grow in love of chastity and purity and thus gain an earnestness to bring these holy virtues to the souls that they minister to. Amen.

One Our Father, One Hail Mary, One Glory Be.

Mary, our Mother, perfect model of purity and chastity, pray for us. 

Attributed to:
Couple to Couple League of Indianapolis

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