Author Archives | Bob Zyskowski

About Bob Zyskowski

Bob is the Client Products Manager for the Communications Office of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. A 40-year veteran of the Catholic Press, he is the former Associate Publisher of The Catholic Spirit. You can follow him on twitter or email him at zyskowskir@archspm.org.

New priests ‘a dynamic group’

May 30, 2015

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Msgr. Aloysius Callaghan is excited about the eight men ordained May 30 at the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul, Minn.
“They’re a very dynamic group and filled with the light of fire for evangelization,” said the rector of St. Paul Seminary, where the were trained. “They have a great desire to reach out to people — that’s certainly timely.”
Ordained by Archbishop John Nienstedt were Fathers Jake Anderson, Byron Hagan, Peter Hughes, T.J. McKenzie, Bruno Nwachukwu, John Powers, James Stiles and Alvaro Perez.
Msgr. Callaghan said. “The Church is blessed to have these men who are filled with the Spirit.”

It was standing-room-only for the ordination Mass at the 2,500-seat Cathedral on the bluff overlooking the Mississippi River and downtown St. Paul, and the 100-year-old church gleamed in bright sunlight in what Archbishop John Nienstedt called “an occasion of joy and celebration.”

In his homily the archbishop invoked words of wisdom from both Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Pope Francis in offering advice to the new priests. He urged them to “plunge deep” into Christ’s love “and give him him your love in return.”

The archbishop said, “What we offer the people of God is not the gift of ourselves, but the gift of God, of Jesus Christ working through our personalities, flawed at times as they may be.”

As Jesus is immersing himself in them, he told the newly ordained, “. . . never cease tone immersed in the truth of the Gospel, in the truth proclaimed by the Church’s magisterium, as well as in the truth that is found in self-less service to the poor, the sick, the lost, the forgotten, the stranger in our midst. Never put off until tomorrow the needs that come to your attention today, even if it means depriving yourself of something you justly deserve.”

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10 ways Good Pope John still is guiding

May 4, 2015

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Just for Today cover“Just for Today” meshes the words of the late Pope John XXIII with the imaginative artistry of illustrator Bimba Landmann in a children’s book that will stir the soul and energize people of faith of any age.

Graphically displayed in type meant for young readers on 34 pages across Landmann’s creative scenes, Good Pope John’s 10 ideas for living a better, holier life can become a meaningful morning prayer for young people, especially, for example, first communicants.

As a seven-year-old making his first communion, Angelo Roncalli declared, “I want always to be good to everyone.” When he went on to become pope, the 10 thoughts for daily living that he wrote became well known, valued as much for the humility inherent in them as for the down-to-earth advice they offered.

The daily decalogue of now St. Pope John XXIII is worth finding on the Internet and taping to your bathroom mirror to start your day in a saintly way.

Here is just one example:

“Just for today, I will do at least one thing I do not enjoy, and if my feelings are hurt, I will make sure no one notices.”

It’s another fine edition from the Eerdmans Book for Young Readers collection.

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‘My Battle Against Hitler’

April 21, 2015

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My-Battle-Against-Hitler-Denied a professorship in Munich because of his stand against National Socialism, Dietrich von Hildebrand fled Germany when Adolf Hitler came to power. He was tipped that his arrest was imminent.

The Catholic philosopher subsequently narrowly escaped Vienna with a death threat over his head as the Nazis took over Austria. The SS missed him by four hours.

He went first to Switzerland and later to France, only to once again have to run for his life when German tanks rolled into France.

Considered by Hitler one of National Socialism’s greatest obstacles, von Hildebrand found his way to the United States in 1940 and taught for 20 years at Jesuit-run Fordham University in New York City.

What he stood for and why he had to flee come to life some three-quarters of a century later in a translation of von Hildebrand’s memoir from those turbulent times, “My Battle Against Hitler.”

John Henry Crosby — with the assistance of his father, John F. Crosby — translated and edited the Image book, which is subtitled “Faith, Truth, and Defiance in the Shadow of the Third Reich.”

By late 1921 von Hildebrand was already finding the political philosophy of National Socialism at odds with Catholicism — and earning the ire of some Germans, including German Catholic clergy, who saw it as a bulwark against communism.

By 1933, while Hitler was being appointed chancellor, the Reichstag being burned, the rule of law being disregarded by the government and Jews being arrested and hauled away, von Hildebrand was writing that one could not be both Catholic and a supporter of the Nazis.

“It was clear to me,” he wrote about that timeframe, “that I could no longer teach in a National Socialist country because I was convinced that I would be forced to make compromises, and that I would either have to keep silent about the injustices that would come or else risk the concentration camp.”

Compromise was something von Hildebrand couldn’t do when it came to what his Catholic faith taught. Nor could he be silent.

“His struggle against Hitler,” the authors note, “was above all carried out on the battlefield of conscience.”

Early on von Hildebrand warned those who thought Catholics could influence National Socialism for the better that that would not happen.

He warned Catholics, too, not to believe Hitler’s promises to respect Christian churches and to work with them, a warning that proved prescient when priests began being arrested and sent to concentration camps.

He railed against Catholics who put up with Nazi atrocities as long as the Catholic Church was not victimized.

Once safely in Vienna he launched a periodical that took on the Nazis from a Catholic intellectual perspective. It was a safety that was short-lived.

The last third of the book includes essays the von Hildebrand wrote for that Austrian journal he founded and led between 1934 and 1937, “Der christliche Standestaat” (“The Christian Corporate Standard”).

These are the persuasive writings of a philosopher who fought “at the level of first principles,” the authors explain. He argues for ethical choices and decisions, and goes point by point comparing the core principles of the Nazis against the teachings of Christ and the Church. In his writing:

• He calls nationalism the greatest heresy of the 18th and 19th centuries, justaposing it with patriotism, which he terms a love of one’s nation that acknowledges that every other nation is valuable and has rights, too.

• He lists Nazi sins, including racism, anti-semitism, the persecution and death of Jews, sterilization, regulating marriage, trumped up charges, “pharisaical trials,” defamation of individuals and murders, and warns against becoming “used to” or morally blind to them.

• Rather than politicizing Catholicism, “one must Catholicize politics,” he writes, and calls Catholics not to be silent or apolitical but to act, asking, “Are you for Christ or against him?”

In sum, von Hildebrand terms Nazism so unChristian and so unsound that it cannot be corrected or reformed, but must be destoyed.

His defense of the teachings of the Catholic faith is matched in this memoir only by his defense of Jewish people.

He defends Jews as a people of God, writing in 1937 with a Catholic heart in the very best sense:

“Above all, Catholics must all perceive the present-day attack against the Jews as something that directly threatens them. Did not Christ the Lord say, ‘What you have done to the least of my brothers, you have done to me?’

“Is not the defamation and degradation of the Jews a direct attack against the incarnate God, against human nature sanctified by the Incarnation? Indeed, what is happening today is not the special concern of a particular people. No, true for us all are the words, ‘Tua res agitur!’ — This concerns you!”

Bob Zyskowski writes the bobzbookreviews blog on
http://www.CatholicHotdish.com.

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Madonnas and memory

April 8, 2015

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Raphael's The Conestabile Madonna

Raphael’s The Conestabile Madonna

Lessons in history and humanity plus drama, unconditional love and insight into one of the most difficult to understand of all diseases — Alzheimer’s — make Debra Dean’s “The Madonnas of Leningrad” a superb, satisfying read.

There’s a sampling of an art appreciation class, too, and brief, maybe too brief snatches of modern family dynamics. But those glimpses into contemporary life form the perfect background to better contrast with the values of the Russians who survived — and even those who didn’t survive — the Nazi siege of Leningrad during World War II.

Da Vinci’s The Litta Madonna

With the war there is starvation and death and ruin, to be sure, but tremendous self sacrifice, too, and life, life so valued, life so amazing, captured so well in one scene, where women who have survived the siege learn that the story’s protagonist, Marina, is expecting and, after a winter of death, line up to touch her stomach and to feel the baby kick in her womb.

A tremendous sense of irony pours from the pages. In the godless Soviet Union the invaluable art collection of the Hermitage Museum, including precious images of the Blessed Virgin and the Christ Child, is crated and trucked away to be saved from ruin or confiscation by the approaching German army.

At the suggestion of another Hermitage tour guide, young Marina, who later in life cannot remember the names of her own family members, commits to memory of all these wonderful madonnas — the Rubens, the da Vinci, the van Dyck, the Rembrandt and more — storing in her “memory palace” not only the details of the works and the stories they tell but even where they hung on the walls of the czar’s former Winter Palace.

It’s an act of mutual benefit. Not only does Marina save the memory of the art to share with those who may never have the chance to see them, but doing so gives her a reason to live, to survive at a time when bombs, cold, starvation and illness take the lives of thousands during the siege.

van Dyck

van Dyck’s The Rest on the Flight into Egypt

And, while this isn’t an outwardly religious novel, as the situation worsens for those freezing, starving, cowering from the bombs and removing the corpses of those who die each day, even a strict non-believer decides a little prayer couldn’t hurt.

“The Madonnas of Leningrad” is not a new book. Published in 2006, it garnered a number of honors. But as timely as the topic of Alzheimer’s is, you would think someone would make a movie of this terrific story.

If you choose to read the book — and even if you don’t — you’ll find images of some of the famous works of art named within at this website, along with excerpts of how they were described in the book. Start googling the paintings and you could lose several hours of your day!

Dean also mentions the Jordan Staircase in her novel. Here’s why:

The Jordan Staircase in the Hermitage Museum in Leningrad.

The Jordan Staircase in the Hermitage Museum in Leningrad.

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Spring training for baseball fans

March 24, 2015

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Podlasek’s was where as just a boy I first was accused of being brainwashed into being a Cubs fan.

On the way home from, well, just about anywhere, dad would stop in at the neighborhood tavern at 47th and Kedvale on Chicago’s southwest side — White Sox territory. Since I was invariably wearing my Cubs cap, I was invariably verbally harrassed and ridiculed by the suds-sipping gentlemen on the bar stools.

I call the teasers gentlemen because they’d regularly buy dad a Pilsner and a root beer “for Eddie’s kid.”

When my father was in his formative years in the 1930s the Cubs had winning teams, which is why he was a Cubs fans.

A Nice Little Place on the North SideThanks to dad, if graditude is in fact appropriate, I’ve been a fan of the Chicago National Leauge Baseball Club literally since birth, a lifer as my Cubs fan brother-in-law Mike says, his words leaning toward meaning fated to a life sentence.

Naturally then I loved George Will’s “A Nice Little Place on the North Side,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist’s history of Wrigley Field and my Cubs, published last year upon the 100th anniversary of the ballpark at Clark and Addison. Any fan of the national pastime — not just Cubs fans — will be be entertained by all the baseball lore Will has dug up.

The 194 pages are actually a history of the nation, the world and life itself captured anecdotal style, because Will works into his book connections that Ernie Banks’ “friendly confines” have had with war, politics, organized crime, racism, love, McDonald’s, beer, and of course, chewing gum.

The famous, oft-told baseball stories are all there and superbly rendered in detail: Babe Ruth’s alleged “called shot” home run in the 1932 World Series; Gabby Hartnett’s “homer in the gloamin’ ” in 1938; the disastrous Lou Brock-for-Ernie Broglio trade; the Bartman foul ball episode in the 2003 playoffs; and the full, expletives-adjusted text of manager Lee Elia’s tirade against booing fans.

The obvious characters are all there, too: owner William Wrigley, his reluctant successor son P.K., Hack Wilson, Leo Durocher, Banks (of beloved memory!), Harry Caray and the infamous “College of Coaches,” plus personalities readers may not have known have a Wrigley Field connection, including Al Capone, Jack Ruby, Ray Kroc and Jim Thorpe.

The stories Will shares and enhances so well with his own research and that of previous Cubs historians understandably couldn’t possibly include everything in Wrigley’s hundred-year history, yet a few classics seemed to be missing, including:

walt moryn• Walt “Moose” Moryn’s catch of a sinking line drive to end the game and save Don Cardwell’s no-hitter in 1960.

• The tragic off-season plane-crash death in 1964 of Kenny Hubbs, the Cubs’ errorless game record-setting, Gold Glove-winning, rookie of the year second baseman.

• Carl Sandburg making the book but not Ryne Sandberg, who in 1984 hit a game-tying home run off legendary closer Bruce Sutter in the ninth inning, then a game-winning two-run homer off Sutter in the 10th, on the nationally televised “Game of the Week.”

Props, however, go to Will for giving the appropriate credit to each and every one of the sources of the tales he shares. And for writing a truly satisfying book that even has a few religious notes.

New Yorker essayist William Zinsser is quoted comparing baseball fans to “parishioners,” who every half-inning pause “to meditate on what they have just seen,” and the author himself finds that fans cheering “a kind of prayer in a secular setting that somehow helps their teams’ successes.”

It would have been easy for Will to take the “lovable losers” theme too far, but “A Nice Little Place on the North Side” avoids what could easily have turned cloying.

Instead Will puts a professorial spin on being a Cubs fan, terming it “a lifelong tutorial on delayed gratification” and Wrigley Field “the most pleasant of purgatories.”

There’s baseball trivia on these pages enough for a game-full of between-innings challenges, and any fan who picks up the book now can consider it their own spring training.

Opening day, after all, isn’t that far away.

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Don’t miss this Minnesota art exhibit

March 17, 2015

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Dawn and Sea, by George Morrison

Dawn and Sea, by George Morrison

Modern Spirit: The Art of George Morrison, is amazing for the variety of works produced by the late native American and Minnesotan.

20150210__150213wl-Morrison_78Untitled1994_Belvo_200The various genre of paintings alone is surprising, but when you see the carvings and the puzzle-like collections that compose huge landscapes, you’ll appreciate the varied gifts of the man.

Landscape

Landscape

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New England Landscape

George-Morrison-CUBE-at-Minnesota-Museum-of-ArtThe exhibit runs through April 26 at the Minnesota History Center, Kellogg Blvd. and John Ireland Blvd. in St. Paul.

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High Plains history, high drama

February 22, 2015

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The Heart of Everything That IsWaiting inside the pages of this superb work of nonfiction are captivating stories and a semester worth of U.S. history classes.

“The Heart of Everything That Is: The Untold Story of Red Cloud. An American Legend” fills in a gap in my own education  during the ’50s-’60s-’70s about native peoples, their culture and how they tried to preserve that culture from a society that considered them less than human, a society willing to do just about anything, even the immoral and unethical, to fulfill what was termed America’s “manifest destiny.”

In telling that story, these 400-plus pages convey interesting historical information about the High Plains, a section of North America that too many talk about as fly-over country, and, maybe more importantly, give the facts about what the United States leadership and military were willing to do in Euro-centric America’s quest for land and gold.

Red Cloud’s story and that of the tribes that populated the middle of the continent for centuries before the American push westward is a fascinating insight into another culture — often a brutal one, yet one laden with the same foibles, political intrigue, revenge-seeking, hopefulness, love and despair found in every other human society.

The story of the Indian wars across Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana that authors Bob Drury and Tom Clavin share comes through as interesting as any novel. But readers will be amazed when they get to the final pages of “The Heart of Everything That Is” and read about the research they did, see the pages of references to sources and view the photos of the principals who fought on both sides of those Indian wars.

This is no novel. Instead, it is a book every U.S. citizen should read for its moral implications, and one that should cause readers of every ethnic background to reflect upon their own outlook toward native peoples certainly, but toward people of every other culture as well.

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A different way to do Lent

February 18, 2015

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LentStill looking for a lenten sacrifice/service/something to do?

Here are a couple ideas paraphrased from “40 Days, 40 Ways: A New Look at Lent” by Marcellino D’Ambrosio via Servant Books:

  • Decide to forgive someone who, in your mind, has offended you.
  • Pray for the person who you find the most annoying.
  • Before work, chores or study, make a conscious decision to offer up whatever you are doing in love of God and for a person in special need.
  • Take the first available 10 minutes each day thinking about everything you should be grateful for and thanking God — BEFORE you ask for anything.
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Fat Tuesday means Polish tradition: paczki

February 17, 2015

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storefrontThe bakery and deli at Kramarczuk’s Sausage Co. opened at 7 a.m. — an hour earlier than usual — to handle the Fat Tuesday demand for paczki, but Jim Bogusz was standing outside the doors at 6:37 a.m.

It was still dark on Hennepin Avenue in north Minneapolis then, but Bogusz (pronounced “Boh – goosh”) had come all the way across the Twin Cities from the eastern St. Paul suburb of Woodbury, about 20 miles, and he didn’t want to be late to get his bismarck-like fried pastry stuffed with fruit filling. He was picking up paczki for himself, his family and his neighbors.

“You never know, with traffic,” he said.

With a knit cap pulled over his ears, he paced in front of the iconic sausage shop to ward off the cold. It was 3 degrees on this day before Lent would begin.

paczkiIn the Polish tradition, the sweet, sugar-coated paczki were a way to use up the household supply of flour, sugar and lard, which wouldn’t be used during the Lenten time of fasting.

“I’ve got all things Polish in my blood,” Bogusz said as he talked about the day-before-Ash Wednesday tradition. “It gives more meaning to this time of year. I like bringing more meaning to my kids. I want them to know where they came from,” he said.

By 7:02 a.m. the parking lot at Kramarczuk’s was full. Boxes of paczki filled tables set up in one part of the shop’s adjoining restaurant for the line-up of customers who had pre-ordered.

better boxesDozens upon dozens of empty paczki boxes lined the shelves of the bakery and deli, and store staff scrambled to fill the boxes from baker’s racks of raspberry- and apricot-filled paczki for both orders and for the walk-in customers who were lined up as well to get some paczki before they were sold out. The place was buzzing.

Martin Lukaszewski got a parking place right in front of Kramarczuk’s. Proudly acknowledging his 100 percent Polish heritage, he said he had driven in from Blaine in the northern suburbs to keep up the tradition he grew up with in South Bend, Ind. “I used to make paczki all through the year,” Lukaszewski said. “My dad’s sister and her husband owned a bakery.”

He was picking up two dozen paczki as part of a fundraiser to combat Parkinson’s Disease, which he has been diagnosed with, but admitted there was a gastronomic reason he was at Kramarczuk’s so early on a frigid February morning.

“I’ve always got to have my paczki,” Lukaszewski said, and once inside, he stood in front of the counter with a big smile on his face.

 

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‘I thought, I could do that’

January 26, 2015

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A full 45 minutes before the Jan. 22 Prayer Service for Life was to begin at the Cathedral of St. Paul, a white-haired woman had already garnered one of the best seats in the house.

Madonna ArelPews in the front half of the big church were being reserved for the thousands of young people who would be attending, so Madonna Arel prayed in the first pew after the break, right on the center aisle. It’s the perfect place to see the altar and to take in both the processional and recessional when dignitaries take part — in the case of the annual pro-life prayer service, that would be five bishops from dioceses around Minnesota.

I went up to talk with her after she’d sat back.

Although this was the 41st year for the Jan. 22 prayer service for life, Madonna told me this was only the fourth year she’d been coming.

“I was working,” she said. “Before I retired I was a corporate switchboard operator for Excel Energy. You wouldn’t believe the calls I took,” she added with a roll of the eyes.

Along with getting good quotes for my story about the prayer service, I got a little bit of an education about what it means to be pro-life. Madonna, you see, doesn’t just say she’s pro-life, she acts on her pro-life stance. It’s nothing big, really. But it’s what she can do.

“Some one asked me to write to women who were on a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat,” she told me, “and I thought, I could do that.”

Rachel’s Vineyard is a ministry of healing for those who have had an abortion.

“I’ve written to three women. I just let them know I’m praying for them,” Madonna said. “I even got to meet one of them. She just said, ‘Thank you for praying for me,’ because going on the retreat is really a healing process.”

She went on, “Life is so important. I don’t know what people go through who had an abortion, but I see the healing and the difference it makes by going on those retreats.”

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