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Why this scientist is pro-life

January 22, 2016

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Although temperatures were in the low 20s, Ken Cobian — double hip replacements and all — joined in both the annual Jan. 22 Prayer Service for Life at the Cathedral of St. Paul and the March for Life down to the State Capitol. Bob Zyskowski/The Catholic Spirit

Although temperatures were in the low 20s, Ken Cobian — double hip replacements and all — joined in both the annual Jan. 22 Prayer Service for Life at the Cathedral of St. Paul and the March for Life down to the State Capitol. Bob Zyskowski/The Catholic Spirit

Two new hips and all, Ken Cobian walked from the annual Jan. 22 Prayer Service for Life at the Cathedral of St. Paul down to the March for Life rally at the Minnesota State Capitol.

I first spotted him with his gray and blue knitted cap pulled over his ears as he slowly but steadily made his way back up St. Paul’s Cathedral Hill, Prolife Across America poster in hand, at the end of the rally.

Cobian, retired from his job as a material scientist at Medtronics, stopped back in the Cathedral to warm up before heading home, which was where I caught up to him.

I asked the question I’ve been asking folks at this Jan. 22 event since the first one back in 1974, when snowflakes kept smearing the ink on the notes I was taking outside the federal building in Peoria, Illinois: “Why is it important for you to be here today?”

Cobian had a ready answer, just as people have had since 1974: “I’m very much opposed to abortion, ever since I saw my children born years ago. That turned the light on for me.”

A parishioner with his wife, Susan, of St. Charles Borromeo in St. Anthony, Cobian earned a chemistry degree at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls and did graduate work at both the University of Minnesota and at UCLA. Like some in the science fields, at one point he had turned away from his faith, he admitted. “My wife brought me back,” he said. “She’s my rock.”

He was at the pro-life rally two years ago, too, he said, but last year he couldn’t make it because he was in the midst of having hip replacements on both sides. “I’m fine now,” he said. “It’s nothing compared to the sin of abortion.”

He grabbed his hat to leave. “I’ve got to get home and get cleaned up,” Cobian said. “We’ve got a pro-life Mass tonight at St. Charles.”

 

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Franciscan Blessing Alive in Colombian Mission Work

January 21, 2016

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May God bless you with DISCOMFORT
at easy answers, half truths and superficial relationships,
that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with holy ANGER
at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people,
That you may work for justice, freedom and peace.

May God bless you with TEARS
to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection,
starvation and war, that you may reach out your hand to
comfort them, turning their pain to joy.

May God bless you with enough FOOLISHNESS
to believe that you can make a difference in this world,
doing what others claim cannot be done.

CASFA and Cristo Rey students at dispensary praying before serving elderly Photo by Shelly Gill Murray

CASFA and Cristo Rey students at dispensary praying before serving elderly. Photo by Shelly Gill Murray

An unlikely partner resides a hemisphere away where mountains hover over a city in a bowl of ten million people, Bogota Colombia is intimately connected to Minnesota.  Fifty years ago Franciscan Sisters of Our Lady of Lourdes from Rochester, Minnesota opened a convent in Bogota.  They then started an all-girls school called Colegio Santa Francisca Romana or “PACHAS” now considered one of the top ten schools in Bogota.  Thirty years ago, they added a second school, Colegio Anexo San Francisco de Asis or “CASFA,” for children with limited resources.  CASFA students walk up and down the mountain to school every day.  They work to learn professional skills and go to school six days a week.

This vibrant community remains linked to Minnesota, both by its roots in Rochester and its friend Grace Strangis, the founder of Pathways to Children.  Grace, one of 12 siblings from rural Minnesota has two Franciscan sisters.  She founded Pathways to Children to support schools in Colombia, Ethiopia and India.  She provides trips for students who share her passion for mission work.  Unlike other mission programs, however, Grace recognizes those who give most abundantly are found in unlikely places…

The students at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School Minneapolis are also part of a unique program where students attend school four days a week and work the fifth.  In exchange for tuition payments, students train for the professional world working in a variety of industries.  95% graduate from high school and nearly all enter college.  However, the resume of these students does not begin to tell their story.

Last month, Pathways to Children brought 16 students from Cristo Rey across the Americas to learn about the culture of Colombia from CASFA students.   These students were chosen from 80 applicants.  When asked why they thought they were chosen, one said they may not know until the future. What is clear is they felt “chosen” not because they wrote a better essay or gave a better interview or had better grades or any other thing really-just Chosen. For some of them, it is probably the first time in their lives.  As he got on the bus to go to the airport, one student handed his phone to a parent because “This is a trip of a lifetime and I don’t want to miss a minute of it!”

Stepping off the bus onto the grounds of CASFA, the Cristo Rey students noticed a giant magnolia tree that somehow survived the surrounding sea of concrete.  Its single beautiful white bloom signified the positive outlook of the school community.  The older students and certainly the younger ones, likely don’t know the purpose of the plastic sheeting on the classroom windows to prevent injury from shattering glass caused by car bomb attacks in the 80’s.   More like a reunion than an introduction, the CASFA and Cristo Rey students became fast friends despite being from different schools, two countries, and four cultures: Colombian, American, Ecuadorian and Mexican.  Their connectedness allowed them to pass over the first-meeting awkwardness and dig into the work.  And they all gave as if they would never run out.

Early Thanksgiving morning the students headed up the mountain to build a playground out of old tires, paint, scraps of wood and rusty equipment. The work was heavy, hard and hot.  In five hours they transformed a gravel lot into a fenced brightly painted park with its own decorated Christmas tree!  Another day, students discussed political messages in music from both countries and took a CASFA student guided tour through Calle 26 known as the “street of murals” artists created to explain the peace process in the country’s 55-year civil war.  Then they went back to work in the southern suburb of Soacha.  This mining town grew from 200,000 to one million in the last seven years and it shows in the dusty streets surrounding the barrio’s single remaining tree.  The students’ task was to paint an after school haven for kids whose only fresh water comes by truck once a month and whose school recess was discontinued because drugs were being thrown over the playground fence to entice them to trade.

After several hours of work, one of the women in the community arrived with a huge pot of soup ladled with a hand-carved wooden “cuchara” the size of a dinner plate.  She planned to serve 50, but the steamy chicken and plantain broth aroma enticed those living nearby and the line grew.  The woman did not stop ladling bowls until 150 people were fed.  This modern “loaves and fishes” story serves as an apt metaphor for the students’ deep giving wells.  They might not know why they were chosen for the trip, but later recalling this memory, perhaps they will say it was the hand of God on the ladle and sense a deeper meaning in their presence in this place.

Some wonder why those who have less often give more than those with more to give.  How do CASFA teenagers walk up and down a mountain twice a day beginning at 6 am, work and attend class until 7 pm six days a week, have anything left to give?  The nightly check in with Cristo Rey students took on a theme of humble wonderment at the hospitality, acceptance and love they felt in Bogota.  Perhaps the answer lies in the Cristo Rey students’ capacity to receive the grace being offered.  Therein lies the definition of CHOSEN.

Shelly Gill Murray has visited Colombia many times over the last 18 years and dedicates significant time to mission work, including work with Pathways To Children.

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Saying good-bye to dad

January 15, 2016

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Mark Zimmermann, who edits the Catholic newspaper in Washington, D.C., has written a wonderful piece about his father, Wes Zimmermann age 83 of Barnhart, Missouri passed away Jan. 10.

By Mark Zimmermann

I’m back in my boyhood home in the woods of Missouri with my mom, trying to help however I can before we gather for my dad’s burial and pray that he is being welcomed home to the house of the Father, as Cardinal Ratzinger said at the Funeral Mass for St. John Paul II.

Dad took up the tools as a sheet metal worker, the family trade of my Grandpa Zimmermann, his four sons, my brother and several of our cousins. My father was a devout Catholic who knelt and prayed beside his bed each night, and he sacrificed to send each of his children to Catholic school, and helped us become the first generation of our family to attend college.

Dad always had time for his kids, and I remember many days when he’d come home tired from work, but still play badminton or ping pong with us, still wearing his work boots.

My dad was my hero, and I like to think the best parts of me came from lessons I learned from the example of faith, love and selflessness that he and my mom lived out quietly day in and day out.

About three years ago he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and it was hard to see such a sharp, witty, strong man become more and more frail and have difficulty putting his thoughts together. The books, movies and football games that he once enjoyed so much no longer mattered to him.

One of our favorite pastimes over the years was walking down the country road to the Mississippi River. I can remember when I was a little boy, riding on my dad’s shoulders up the last two hills on the way home from the river.

In the fall of 2013, I took a walk with my dad down our country road that I’ll never forget. This time, I tied his boots and buttoned his coat for him, and we set out. It was an idyllic fall day, and not just because the St. Louis Cardinals were in the World Series. The sky was a beautiful blue color, the air crisp, the leaves on the trees were in fall hues of yellow and orange, with some fluttering to the ground as we walked on, father and son, laughing and making small talk.

I hope heaven is like that, and we can walk together again on a glorious day, not ever wanting the walk to end.

Rest in peace, Dad!

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Prepare the Way, Be a Witness

December 4, 2015

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By Crystal Crocker

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”  Luke 3:4-6

Returning from work exhausted, I plopped down on the sofa and clicked on the evening news. The drone of sad and shocking stories gave a sinking feeling of a world that is lost. Lost in a wilderness without God. Darkness seemed to envelop everything and everyone in it. I reached for the remote to change the channel but stopped just as I heard someone say, “I became a Catholic.”

The woman, a nationally known political analyst, beamed as she reported receiving the sacraments and entered the Catholic Church. Enthusiasm oozed as she radiated light that transcended the television screen. I was stunned that in our politically correct world, a national news show would allow one of their analysts to share their new Catholic faith on live television. Most shocking was that she was a former atheist who first became an Evangelical and then on October 10th of this year became a Catholic. The sacramental image of baptismal water being poured on her head flashed on the screen as proof! She ended by giving thanks to the priest who had given spiritual guidance through her journey.

And just like that. A light shot through all of the world’s darkness.

On this day, the second Sunday of Advent, we hear in the gospel of a light shooting through the darkness. We hear it from John the Baptist who cried out to a brood of vipers.

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”

Like John, we are called to be a light and proclaim the love of Jesus Christ to all those we meet. It is our baptismal responsibility and mission as Catholics. But how are we to do that when the world may feel like a brood of vipers? How can we be a witness in a politically correct world that seeks to push us out of the public square and confine us to the pew?

The answer can be found in the example of St. John the Baptist, who showed sacrificial love, true humility and faith.

  • Love Jesus and I mean really love him! John loved Jesus so much that he told all of his friends to leave him and follow Jesus. He even sacrificed himself while proclaiming the truth to the very end. Only the love of Jesus Christ has the power to change hearts and heal the soul. This is the most important gift a witness can share, the love of Jesus to others. We cannot give what we do not have ourselves . . . and so love Jesus with all of your heart, mind and soul. Be with him everyday as you would be with an intimate friend. Love him so much that His light can’t help but shine through you to another . . . and then love them too!
  • Practice true humility. John said he was not even worthy to carry Jesus’s sandals which was the job of the lowest servant. A true witness guards against self-love and seeks a humble heart. Make an examination. Are you content in being second, living a simple life in the background? Or do you seek to advance yourself in family, work or Church through acknowledgements and fame? A true witness does not preach, teach or save anyone out of pride and acknowledgement. They keep Jesus as the focus and    point to Him as the Hero, while always remaining a humble vessel of His love.
  • Live with faith. John proclaimed that Jesus would come. He had great faith that he was doing what God called him to do and he never wavered. Even after he knew Jesus had come and baptized Him, he did not stop what he was doing but continued to point to Jesus. A witness continues to live with faith as light in a dark world. The greatest faith is to be a witness and never know what your work might have done, trusting that God is doing the real work with His grace.

Do not be afraid to take the opportunity to speak the truth about Jesus to anyone. You never know what God will do! Some day you may hear someone say, “I became a Catholic,” . . . just like Kirsten Powers, political analyst and former atheist now Catholic.

Read more on the second Sunday of advent (December 6) at the WINE blog, From the Vine.


 

References about Kirsten Powers becoming a Catholic:

Pope Francis’ Latest Convert: Kirsten Powers

Kirsten Powers’ Twitter announcement

Catholic Preaching

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Pope Francis’ ‘Prayer for Our Earth’

October 15, 2015

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prayingNeed a prayer?

If you’re ever called upon for a prayer or struggle finding words to express yourself in prayer, Pope Francis has you covered.

The following is a prayer the pope included in his recent encyclical, “Laudato Si’.”

A prayer for our earth

All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe
and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love,
that we may protect life and beauty.
Fill us with peace, that we may live
as brothers and sisters, harming no one.
O God of the poor,
help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth,
so precious in your eyes.
Bring healing to our lives,
that we may protect the world and not prey on it,
that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.
Touch the hearts
of those who look only for gain
at the expense of the poor and the earth.
Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,
to be filled with awe and contemplation,
to recognize that we are profoundly united
with every creature
as we journey towards your infinite light.
We thank you for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle
for justice, love and peace.

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10 rules of thumb for living with less

August 24, 2015

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It’s not all about you — or your stuff

The search for meaning in our lives, for activity that truly satisfies, is a spiritual journey even for people not connected to any organized religion.

BlessedByLessThat’s the belief of author Susan V. Vogt, and in “Blessed by Less,” her book about living lightly, she named the spiritual principles that guided her and “rules of thumb” as practical advice. Her principles “are about letting go of what is less important to make way for a contemplative heart in action.”

One’s worth and importance, Vogt wrote, are not dependent on what we own, how we look and feel, how much we know and what we can accomplish.

“Spirituality is about seeking the Divine Presence. It’s not all about me,” she noted. “God’s presence surrounds me if I but look and listen. The spiritual response is to turn this contemplative awareness into action for the good of humanity.

“Uncluttering our lives, both materially and inwardly,” Vogt wrote, “can bring us a fuller, more meaningful life and free us to attend to the needs of others. . . . We want to make a positive difference in our world. Learning to live more generously, humbly and lightly is a way to do this.”

Deciding how much is enough — and how much is too much — is something every person needs to answer for him or herself, Vogt added, but she included the following 10 “Rules of Thumb for Living Lightly”:

  1. Living in destitution in not a virtue; helping people out of destitution is.
  2. Be prudent, responsible and wise.
  3. Be generous, unencumbered and fair.
  4. The less I have, the less I have to guard, clean and repair.
  5. If I don’t need it now (or soon), can I give it to someone who does?
  6. Spend in order to save.
  7. Decide which technologies save time, energy and money — and which ones waste time, energy and money.
  8. Let go of anger, grudges and compulsions to lighten the heart.
  9. Smile and laugh more.
  10. Forgive others. Forgive myself. It lifts the spirit.

 

Excerpts are from “Blessed by Less: Clearing Your Life of Clutter by Living Lightly,” by Susan V. Vogt. Loyola Press (Chicago, 2013). Paperback, 122 pp., $13.95.

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Rosemount pastor: Ease Nepal’s suffering with CRS donation

May 12, 2015

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Nepalese military personnel remove debris in Kathmandu, Nepal, in search for survivors after an earthquake struck May 12. The magnitude-7.3 quake hit a remote mountainous region of Nepal that day, killing at least 19 people, triggering landslides and top pling buildings less than three weeks after the country was hit by its worst quake in decades. CNS photo

Nepalese military personnel remove debris in Kathmandu, Nepal, in search for survivors after an earthquake struck May 12. The magnitude-7.3 quake hit a remote mountainous region of Nepal that day, killing at least 19 people, triggering landslides and top pling buildings less than three weeks after the country was hit by its worst quake in decades. CNS photo

Editor’s Note: Father Paul Jarvis shared the following with parishioners of Christ the King in Minneapolis after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal April 25,  prior to another major earthquake hitting the nation May 12. Father Jarvis is pastor of St. Joseph in Rosemount, but is transitioning to a new assignment as pastor of Christ the King, beginning July 1.

At the Request of Archbishop John Nienstedt, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis is taking a special collection to fund Catholic Relief Service’s work in Nepal May 16-17.

Twenty-five years ago, I was studying Tibetan culture, religion and language in Kathmandu Nepal. I met some wonderful people who were of Newari, Sherpa, Tamang, Nepali and Tibetan background. They were truly as beautiful and cultured as the country they inhabit.

Back in the early 90s, Nepal ranked among the world’s poorest. Since then, they have suffered greatly with the killing of the entire royal family by the crown prince, a long-lasting civil war, the civil war’s mass migration of war refugees into the capital — and the overcrowding that comes from such migration. The new democratic republic seems to be just as inept as the monarchy before it.

And then came the recent devastating earthquake!

Matters went from terrible to catastrophic. Not mentioned in the news reports you’ve seen is the extent of damage to the cultural centers that have been a significant draw for tourists. Will tourists come in the future?  How will trekkers trek without trails?  Without quaint villages and their temples and lodges?

One of the many things we Catholic Christians can take pride in is the Catholic Relief Service (CRS). When I was a seminarian CRS Fellow in Cambodia (2003), I saw first-hand how CRS works with local populations in solving local problems with local ways and local wisdom. CRS is not your typical international aid program that foists Western solutions upon people in developing countries.  CRS believes that the best solutions come from the people being assisted.  This is truly unusual aid thinking.

CRS also has an extremely low administrative overhead. Again, this is because they focus on hiring talent from within a country, and not well-paid Westerners.

Lastly, CRS is known to be “the first in with food.” No aid agency gets food to those in desperate need faster. CRS enjoys utmost respect from its fellow aid agencies.

Our diocese is supporting CRS in its aid efforts in Nepal. All parishes have been asked to take a second collection for Nepal aid relief, which will be used by CRS to bring food relief to remote areas of Nepal in addition to the capital.

I have communicated with all my friends in Nepal — they’ve survived the earthquake, thank God, and have joined others in a collective national response to the crisis.  They tell me that as bad as it is in the capital, it is far, far worse in the remote areas.  Entire villages have been destroyed, and there are no roads for them to get to centers of assistance. CRS and other agencies will have to helicopter the aid in.  And this will be very expensive.

I know I am biased. I consider Kathmandu to be one of my home-away-from-homes. And I admit to my past association with CRS.

On the other hand, this connection may be of benefit in my plea. I’ve heard directly of the devastation from friends through Facebook, and the catastrophe is real. I can also vouch for CRS.

Please be generous. I have heard that CTK parishioners are very generous with their charity.  I hope you will be with this dire situation in Nepal.

You can do your own research on CRS here: http://www.CRS.org. Try googling “Catholic Relief Service” and “Catholic Spirit.”

Namaste (Nepali) and Tuchenang (Tibetan),
Father Paul

With local collection already planned for Nepal, second earthquake boosts need

Help Earthquake Survivors in Nepal and India

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“Don’t let the bedbugs bite”

May 10, 2015

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mothersday

By Fr. Paul Jarvis

I think I know how moms – and dads – feel after they tuck in a kid at night:

Heavenly!

Lately, I’ve been trying to take as many opportunities to visit my mom in this the final leg of her journey.

I especially like the ritual of tucking my mom into bed at night.  A ritual I know she enjoyed when I was kid in Hartford City – a good-night ritual I drew out as long as humanly possible.

As lights were turned off.  As sheets and blanket were drawn up under my chin.  As my footy-pajama’ed feet and legs shook in pure joy:

Mom: “Good night”

Kid: “Sleep tight.”

Mom: “Don’t let the bedbugs bite.”

Kid: “Don’t accept any wooden nickels.”

Then after a kiss, she leaves … only to sneak back later to watch me sleep.  I know this because I watched her watch me through my barely opened eyelids.

Heavenly! This must be what Heaven is like.

Although my mom has Alzheimers, she still knows who her husband and kids are.  And so when we Jarvis kids visit our mom, we don’t really expect there to be much of a dialogue.  We mostly just sit, perhaps watch some TV, patiently answering the same question again and again, and let our mom softly scratch our arms – as she did when we were kids, nestled into her hug in our living room.

Then it’s bed time.  As I now lean over and tuck her in, she says “Ohhhhhh, how I love you, Popo.  I really, really do!”  I love you too, mom, I say.

Me:  “Good night.”

Mom:  “Sleep tight.”

Me: “Don’t let the bedbugs bite.”

Mom:  “Don’t accept any wooden nickels.”

Then – and this is the best part, something every parent has experienced and treasures – this childless bachelor sits nearby in the dark, beside his sleeping loved one.  Just watching over her.  Watching her breathe.  Watching her listen to the drone of the nearby WCCO radio.  Watching her enter dreamland.

I have no doubt that many of us during the recent May Crowning of Mary imagined the St. Joseph School eighth grade girls crowning not just Mother Mary.  Not just giving our celestial mother flowers.  But imagining our own moms being crowned and gifted with flowers.

This Mother’s Day, I urge you to be a mom (or dad) to your mom.  Of course, remember the flowers.  But make sure you re-enact the ritual you treasure from your childhood.  Perhaps reversing the roles, as I do now.  That ritual, that crowning will be worth more than a gazillion flowers.

Fr. Paul Jarvis, Pastor of St. Joseph Church in Rosemount

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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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