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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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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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Basilica Icon Festival goes through Nov. 23

November 17, 2014

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icon fest - Interior Basilica Altar Icons_Paul Domsten

In Minneapolis, the Basilica of St. Mary’s 20th annual Icon Festival is underway with an ongoing exhibit, concerts, talks and tours. Here’s a list of what’s on the calendar:

Icon Festival events

Icon Exhibit

Now through Nov. 23.

More than a hundred Icons, 17th century to contemporary, are displayed in the sanctuary of the Basilica of St. Mary, 1600 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis. They are borrowed from churches and individuals throughout the Twin Cities.

Rachmaninoff All-Night Vigil

Saturday, Nov. 15

Icon Festival Concert

7 p.m. — Pre-concert talk in the Basilica Church by The Very Rev. Abbott John Magramm in Teresa of Calcutta Hall.

8 p.m. — The Cathedral Choir of The Basilica of St. Mary will join forces with members of the MEOCCA (Minnesota Eastern Orthodox Christian Clergy Association) to perform Rachmaninoff’s All-Night Vigil. Sara Ann Pogorely and Teri Larson, conductors. The concert is free and open to all.

 

Sunday, Nov. 16

3 p.m. — At St. Mary’s Orthodox Cathedal, 1701 Fifth St. NE, Minneapolis.

Icon Tour

Saturday, Nov. 22

10:30 a.m. — Tour of St. Stephan Romanian Orthodox Church, 350 5th Ave. N., South St. Paul.

Byzantine Iconographer Debra Korluka will speak about The Holy Face and other Icons she is currently painting/installing at this church.

Icon Festival Talk

Sunday, Nov. 23

1 p.m. — “Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy — Historical Perspective of Similarities & Differences.” Professor John Davenport,of North Central University will speak in Teresa of Calcutta Hall in the lower level of the Basilica.

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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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Tap dancing priests go viral

October 23, 2014

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Here’s the video:

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Here’s the story:

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And here’s an interview with Father David Rider from CNS:

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Prayer discount at the diner

August 4, 2014

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A woman and her co-workers prayed over a meal at a diner in North Carolina. When it was time for the check she found that she had received a “praying in public” discount. As any sane modern person would do, she posted the receipt on Facebook and it became a viral phenomenon.

Read more:

Local story from Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Story from The Blaze

NPR wonders if the practice is in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

 

Screen shot of the Orlando radio station's Facebook post that shared the receipt.

Screen shot of the Orlando radio station’s Facebook post that shared the receipt.

 

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