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Casting perfect in Chan’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’

March 14, 2016

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Muscle-bound Aleks Knezevich as Gaston isn't impressing Belle (Ruthanne Heyward), the beauty in Chanhassen's "Disney's Beauty and the Beast." Photos by Heidi Bohnenkamp, 2016

Muscle-bound Aleks Knezevich as Gaston isn’t impressing Belle (Ruthanne Heyward), the beauty in Chanhassen’s “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.” Photos by Heidi Bohnenkamp, 2016

I didn’t walk out of the Chanhassen Dinner Theatres humming a memorable tune after seeing “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.” What kept coming to mind, though, was, one, how spot-on each of the actors was cast for their roles, and, two, how perfectly the actors played their characters.

Yes, of course their are terrific voices, and yes, the full-cast song-and-dance numbers — what the Chan does best — were top-shelf. But the actors were exactly right for each and every role to the point that I wondered if anyone could have played a single one any better than the folks on the Chan’s stage.

Ruthanne Heyward is lovely and talented as the beauty Belle, and Robert O. Berdahl has all the right moves and hits all the right notes as the beast. Yet it was the other players who fit their roles to an even greater extent.

Aleks Knezevich was perfection as the muscle-bound egotist Gaston, who chases after Belle. If you created an animated cartoon character for the part you would use Knezevich for the model. Not only did he look and play the part to comic perfection, his voice is superb.

Scott Blackburn is Cogsworth the clock and Mark King Lumiere the candlestick, both perfectly cast in "Beauty and the Beast" at the Chan.

Scott Blackburn is Cogsworth the clock and Mark King Lumiere the candlestick, both perfectly cast in “Beauty and the Beast” at the Chan.

The smaller (but not small) parts of Cogsworth the clock (Scott Blackburn), Lumiere the candlestick (Mark King) and Mrs. Potts the teapot (Susan Hofflander) were right up there with Gaston, perfectly cast and played so well it was as if they were born for the parts.

Costume designer Rich Hamson pulled out all the stops to create amazing looks for  the various household-item roles, with Laura Rudolph’s two-tiered serving tray perhaps the most creative.

A tip of the hat to director Michael Brindisi for pulling off another winner, scheduled to run through this autumn, and to Brindisi and choreographer Tamara Kangas Erickson for great casting, with assistance from Andrew Cooke, music director.

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Local priest describes trip to Rome to become missionary of mercy

February 19, 2016

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Father John Ubel greets Pope Francis during his trip to Rome.

Father John Ubel greets Pope Francis during his trip to Rome.

By Father John Ubel

My brief trip to Rome began with a plethora of questions from an inquisitive Jewish woman sitting next to me on the flight from Minneapolis. Among them: “What do you mean by mercy?” and “But does forgiveness actually accomplish anything?”

While a great discussion starter, on this evening flight to Amsterdam, I was most interested in sleeping. But when the pilot kept giving us Super Bowl updates every 20 minutes just as I began to doze, I accepted reality! But, her pointed questions left me pondering some very basic concepts, and how I ought to be able to explain mercy in terms understandable even to those who do not share my faith.

After a two-hour layover at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, I arrived in Rome on Monday afternoon (Feb. 8) only to discover that my phone’s battery had inexplicably gone completely dead, even though turned off. My rusty Italian was enough for me to comprehend that it was indeed an expensive fix and I’d be better off seeing if it was under warranty back home.

On to Plan B. I said a quick prayer they had Wi-Fi at the Domus Paulus VI. This is the clerical residence for priests working in the Vatican near the Piazza Navona that also welcomes occasional priest guests. Pope Francis stayed there in the days leading to the conclave that elected him, and you may recall the photo of him returning to pay his bill!

Thankfully they had Wi-Fi, because in typical “Fr. Frugal” fashion, I was too cheap to purchase a data plan for my iPad. My simple but comfortable room looked right over a bus stop (if elected to the Italian parliament, I’d immediately sponsor legislation to outlaw scooter horns and pigeons), but the priests and staff were most gracious and welcoming of their American interloper.

When I mentioned at table that I was from Minnesota, I was met with deadpan stares. I clarified that it was six hours from Chicago — still nothing. Finally I said that I lived near Canada! I began writing this travelogue while enjoying my third (alright, perhaps my fourth) cup of cappuccino on Tuesday morning. I could get used to this! I had time to pray and go to confession, as well as purchase a few Holy Year related gifts. While visiting the tomb of St. Monica in the Church of St. Augustine, I prayed for my mother and all mothers, as they labor tirelessly to pass the faith along to their children.

The Holy Year theme “Merciful like the Father” and the Jubilee Logo are omnipresent, as are the pilgrims here to venerate the mortal remains of St. Padre Pio, brought here from San Giovanni Rotondo in Puglia. The logo was emblazoned on a beautiful commemorative violet stole given to each priest, which I plan to wear in the confessional. St. Pio stands as a model confessor, humble and simple, and he reminds me that we must never tire of offering forgiveness. I have a special devotion to Padre Pio since my days at St. Agnes, when I prayed for his intercession at a critical time in that school’s history in 2007. He came through then, and continues to inspire.

On Tuesday afternoon, the universality of the Church was especially evident as nearly 700 priests designated as Missionaries of Mercy gathered at Castel Sant’Angelo for a solemn procession toward St. Peter’s Basilica to enter through the Holy Door. It was a prayerful walk as we recited designated prayers, gathering by language groups. The procession took us inside the Basilica, all around and back out again. We continued around the perimeter of the outside of the Basilica leading us to the Apostolic Palace and the Sala Regia (Regal Room). Completed in 1573 A.D., it is adjacent to the Sistine Chapel and was originally used to receive foreign princes and ambassadors. But the purpose of this meeting was quite different.

Without really trying, I wound up in the eighth row, as the room quickly filled up. Archbishop Rino Fisichella prepped us for the audience. Among other things, he encouraged a total fast from all food on Ash Wednesday and reminded us to silence all cellphones. His American assistant, my friend Father Geno Sylva from the Diocese of Paterson, New Jersey, then stepped to the microphone and asked those without headsets (for the purpose of providing a simultaneous translation for non-Italian speakers) to move to an overflow room just off to the side because the headset reception only worked in the main Sala. No, please don’t ask me to move! Since I had chosen not to take a headset, I was banished, and would watch the address on a monitor.

But as it turns out, the Holy Father walked right past me on his way to and from the audience, and on his way out I shook hands with him and greeted him. God provides — the last shall be first! During his address, the Holy Father exhorted us to be patient and kind confessors — and not to ask too many questions! He reminded us that the sacrament of penance is an encounter with our loving and merciful Father and that sometimes our words get in the way. It was sage advice and I plan on heeding it carefully. After the meeting, we were treated to a delicious dinner in the atrium of the Pope Paul VI Audience Hall. It was after all, Martedi Grasso (Fat Tuesday), so I enjoyed it as well as meeting priests from various parts of the World, truly a highlight for me.

On Ash Wednesday, I had the rare luxury of not needing to set my alarm. The fatigue of travel and the excitement from Tuesday’s activities coalesced, enabling me to sleep in until nearly 6 a.m.! I made my way down to the refectory for a cup of coffee at 6:45, but it was still brewing. I said my morning prayers and patiently waited. Roman coffee is always worth the wait, and I took the time to finish writing a Cathedral bulletin column before emailing it back home. Later in the morning I visited with David Kirsh, a lifetime Cathedral parishioner and St. John Vianney College Seminary student, spending the semester in Rome through the University of St. Thomas’ Catholic Studies program.

Desiring to keep the rest of Ash Wednesday in a spirit of preparation, I neither shopped nor did any sight seeing. Instead, I spent some quiet time in prayer and reading at the Augustinianum, a Pontifical University right next St. Peter’s Square, specializing in Patristic studies. And where, I might add, I took the toughest oral exam I have ever had in my life 10 years ago — it still stings!

It was peaceful and prayerful, and I eventually made my way to St. Peter’s, thirty minutes ahead of our appointed time. But I was still far from first in line. The piazza was packed and people were trying to acquire tickets for Mass. One lady even asked if I would give up my ticket so she could attend with her toddler.

I politely declined, noting that the gold tickets were for concelebrating priests only. She was not impressed! We priests spent the next 90 minutes waiting patiently, as this is just part of the deal in the Eternal City. Those cobblestones really do a number on one’s back — a chiropractor could make a fortune in Rome! But it provided ample opportunity to visit with the other priests, whether Italian or English speakers, and I found this quite enjoyable.

A prayerful, yet jubilant spirit was kept throughout. While waiting I met Father Joseph Reilly from Newark, New Jersey, and learned that he was the rector of their Cathedral. I replied, “Father, you and I have at least two things in common — we’re both rectors and we are currently sharing an Archbishop!”

We made our way to the bronze steps where we waited for Mass to begin. There, final instructions soon followed in five languages (no, I did not need to be reminded to refrain from taking pictures during Mass!) and the long procession began. While I ended up toward the back of the reserved section for priests, it mattered little because we were all there together concelebrating with the Holy Father.

The Sistine Choir, composed of men and boys from the Basilica, provided the beautiful music. Readings, petitions and the gift bearers were provided by men, women and children from different countries, and the distribution of ashes began with Cardinal Angelo Comastri, the Archpriest of the Basilica, imposing ashes upon the crown of the head of Pope Francis. In Rome, the ashes are not placed on the forehead in the shape of a cross, but rather sprinkled on the crown of your head, recalling the Book of Nehemiah 9:1 in which the “Israelites gathered together while fasting and while wearing sackcloth, their heads covered with dust.”

The highlight for me was the commissioning ceremony at the end of Mass. The prayer asked the Lord to “watch over these your servants, who we send forth as messengers of Mercy, liberation and of peace. Guide their steps with Your right hand and sustain them with the power of Your grace, so that they do not come under the weight of apostolic endeavors. May the voice of Christ resound in their words, and in their gestures the heart of Christ.”

It was so clear that the human aspect of the encounter is central for Pope Francis, and even his commissioning prayer was a sober reminder of the role that we are called to play. I would not be surprised if he wrote the prayer himself. I will not soon forget this powerful exhortation and the brief, but extremely rewarding, time I spent in Rome. And, I felt uplifted by the prayers of so many from home and kept the good people of the archdiocese close in my prayers.

Father Ubel is rector of the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul. He was commissioned to be a Missionary of Mercy by Pope Francis on Ash Wednesday in Rome.

 

 

 

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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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