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Share your Easter stories with The Catholic Spirit

March 14, 2014

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Being initiated into the Church this Easter season?Share your story with The Catholic Spirit

We’d like to hear what brought you to the Catholic faith.

What are your Easter traditions?

Share the special ways you observe Christ’s death and resurrection.

The Catholic Spirit would like to hear from you and possibly highlight your story in our Holy Week and Easter issue, April 10.

Please email the following information to Jessica Trygstad, assistant editor, at trygstadj@archspm.org:
  • a brief description of your story
  • name
  • parish
  • daytime phone number
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How the movie ‘Gravity’ is an allegory of the Christ story

February 27, 2014

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By Bob Busch

(Warning: spoilers ahead.)Scene from movie 'Gravity'

I highly recommend the movie “Gravity.” I found it to be a riveting space-survival story, and, whatever the filmmaker’s intent, also an allegory for the Christ story.

“Gravity” is set in low-earth orbit in the present day. The movie’s heroine, Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), is not a professional astronaut. She’s only aboard the space shuttle to deliver her research work, a new set of eyes so the Hubble Space Telescope can “scan to the edge of the universe.” Her colleague, Matt Kowalski (George Clooney), is a veteran astronaut on his last mission before retirement.

While Kowalski marvels at the beauty of the earth brimming with life below, Stone has turned her back to it. Her spirit died the day her young daughter died in a tragic accident, and she’s since buried herself in her work. Disasters ensue, and all but the two perish. And then Kowalski gives the supreme sacrifice so Stone might live. Stone is now alone and struggles to survive against insurmountable odds.

To me, “Gravity” is a movie masterpiece, both as a space story and as a spiritual metaphor for the Christ story. Kowalski represents Christ. Stone represents us, humanity. The voice from the Houston ground crew represents the voice of God. Contact appears lost when disaster strikes, and the astronauts’ pleas to “Houston from the blind” represent humanity’s pleas to an unseen and unheard God.

Kowalski’s sacrifice in the untethering scene represents Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Stone exclaims humanity’s cry: “But I had you!”

Abandoned and alone, literally and figuratively out of fuel, Stone despairs in the Upper Room of her marooned space capsule. She laments that no one will mourn for her, and she dismisses praying since she’s never prayed in her life. Bereft of hope, she chooses death by turning off the capsule’s oxygen.

Then the key scene: the miraculous visitation by Kowalski. He enters directly through the Upper Room capsule door. Is Kowalski a low-oxygen hallucination or a dream, or is this truly a resurrection visit from the divine? Whichever, the visit changes everything for Stone.

She’s now found the reason and purpose to go on. We see her Pentecost as she turns on the oxygen and breathes new life in the spirit. We see her re-entry from space, complete with tongues of fire as the space debris descends into the atmosphere. We’re witnessing the descent of the Holy Spirit onto man.

Whether she burns up in the next 10 minutes, or lives to tell the tale, she’s now fully embracing life’s every moment. She emerges from her water landing and her space-capsule womb, representing rebirth of body and soul. She crawls from the water onto the shore, representing man’s evolution to a new life in the spirit.

She clutches at the sand, uttering the simplest and most perfect prayer: “Thank you.” They are the movie’s final words. Finally, she marvels at life all around before walking off into the distance to begin her life anew, on this earth and life eternal.

As I look back at the movie, I ask what Stone was searching for in outer space. To me, she was searching for the key that would open the door, between heaven and earth, which stood between her and her beloved daughter. Her search for that key represents humanity’s search to be with God.

Nothing of this world proved to be the key that brought her to her daughter. Humanity’s greatest technologies failed and fell away. No solely human effort or idea or human being came to the rescue. The one and only key that opened the door was not of this world, but rather of the divine. It did not come from within Dr. Stone, but through a relationship with another. It was not earned through her efforts or intellect, but was freely given as a gift.

The one key that opened the door was Kowalski, symbolizing Christ. His sacrifice and resurrection was the key that allowed her to transcend the bonds of this world, to connect with her child. When she finally spoke to her daughter, she did not do so directly, but rather, through Kowalski: “Tell her I love her, and I’m not quitting.” Jesus is the intermediary who opens the door between heaven and earth.

Once the door opened, where did it lead? Not to a God residing somewhere “out there” in the heavens of outer space. As the movie’s opening credits state: “Life in space is impossible.” No, God is life, and life resides right here, at home. God is in the ground crew. Stone looked for the answer at the farthest edge of space. In the end, she found the answer was right here all along, in her own backyard.

And the rescuing voice that immediately called out to her, when her craft broke through the clouds, as she re-entered the land of the living? It was God’s voice in the Houston ground crew, calling out to her, amidst the other radio clutter symbolizing life’s daily distractions that keep us from hearing God’s call. Houston had appeared to her as an unresponsive dial tone when she had called, unseen and unheard. But Houston had been there all along, calling out to her, wanting to be with her. Only when she entered her new life in the spirit was she able to hear God’s ever-present call: “I’m here! I’m coming to rescue you!”

When Stone says “thank you” at the end, who is she thanking? An abstract God? A low-oxygen hallucination of her own making? I don’t think so. She’s thanking a very real God, made fully human and yet fully divine, through Kowalski (Christ). Jesus renamed Simon as “Peter,” meaning “the rock,” and like her namesake, Dr. Stone goes forth to the ends of the earth to share her new life in the Spirit.

The father-son team that created “Gravity” acknowledges many other spiritual paths throughout the film, from references to Buddhism to the Ganges River that is at the juncture of the Muslim and Hindu worlds. However, whatever the intent, to me, “Gravity” is a space movie that also serves as a beautiful metaphor for the Christ story.

Busch resides with his wife and three children in Minneapolis, where he raises money for new medicines development and doctor training at the University of Minnesota Health. The family attends the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis. He can be reached at robertbusch27@gmail.com.
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Crashed Ice construction

February 7, 2014

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The track is being constructed. Follow along with photos of the construction on The Catholic Spirit’s Facebook page. The Crashed Ice competition will take place February 22 at the Cathedral of St. Paul, National Shrine of the Apostle Paul.

 

Photo by Michael Pytleski / The Catholic Spirit

Photo by Michael Pytleski / The Catholic Spirit

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Matt Birk to sign copies of his new book at Saint Patrick’s Guild

January 28, 2014

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BirkBookCoverA little over a year after Matt Birk and the Baltimore Ravens emerged victorious in the Super Bowl, Matt will be back home in the Twin Cities signing copies of his new book All-Pro Wisdom.

Birk, a former player for the Minnesota Vikings and graduate of Cretin-Derham Hall in St. Paul is a committed Catholic and active in the pro-life, pro-marriage and religious freedom movements.

When: 10:30 – Noon, February 8

Where: St. Patrick’s Guild
154 Randolph Ave
St. Paul, MN 55105

 

Read more

Matt Birk: NFL great, faithful Catholic and . . . author

Super Bowl champ speaks to men about defending faith

Faith on fire – Archdiocesan Youth Day draws 1,600

Video and Photos: Minnesotans rally for religious freedom

Pro athletes thankful for life lessons learned in CAA

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9 days, 4 high tech ways to pray to end abortion

January 17, 2014

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9days-day1-color-ENGThis year, to mark the 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the USCCB has made available four different ways to engage in a novena for life:

  • App for iPhone or Android
  • Daily text messages
  • Daily emails
  • Online novena page

To sign up for any or all of these, visit the 9daysforlife website.

The USCCB also has a People of Life Facebook page which includes a 9 Days for Life event page.

 

More about 9 Days for Life

9 Days for Life: Get your information here! Kathy Schneeman on what’s going on locally

A day to march for the unborn and a culture of life Archbishop Kurtz of Louisville, Ky on the pro-life efforts of the Church nationally

Nine days of prayer part of Roe v. Wade anniversary General information from Catholic News Service

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‘The Catechism of Hockey': not just for sports fans

December 10, 2013

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It doesn’t matter whether you have season tickets to the Minnesota Wild or don’t know what to call that black disc thingy on the ice rink. In her book “The Catechism of Hockey,” Alyssa Bormes will help you understand the complexities of the Catholic Church using hockey analogies.

Cat of Hockey CoverSkeptics, take heed. Bormes is the first to admit she knew very little about hockey before writing the book. (Her “technical adviser” is a friend’s son and bonafide hockey player.) But for me, who has only a fascination with hockey because of the fights, the parallels Bormes makes between the sport and my faith make complete sense. (Sports enthusiasts, please don’t dismiss my opinion just because I proclaim my sports apathy. Surely, between my Gopher hockey fan of a brother and my husband, who takes an interest in everything from football to curling, I know how important sports are.)

Bormes compares going to “the box” in hockey to going to the confessional. She suggests that we’re at our best in the confessional; our worst was when we were sinning. The redemption found in the confessional brings us back to playing at “full strength.”

She pushes us past the analogies and makes us question why we don’t put as much fervor into our faith as we do our beloved sports:

“In hockey, families will sacrifice physically, spiritually, and financially. . . . We rarely ask our children to physically and spiritually sacrifice when it comes to the Faith. This is exactly why offering it up has been relegated to a type of Catholic humor. Yet, suffering for the Faith doesn’t break the souls of our youth, it elevates them. There is a great satisfaction in having given everything — putting the heart into it. When our youth learn to serve, to really offer up, to be Christ to others, they experience a new sort of victory.”

web.Alyssa BormesBormes merges two worlds that are often separate, but shouldn’t be. People talk about the game after Mass, but do they ever talk about God during the game? The book has been lauded as an unconventional evangelizing tool. And rightly so. Her approach makes people ask themselves: What am I doing to live my faith, to share my faith?

What gives merit to the book is Bormes’ personal story of how she took a 17-year hiatus from the Church only to return with gusto — speaking about her faith publicly, studying in Rome, receiving a master’s degree in Catholic studies, leading retreats and teaching Catechism.

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Boy joins Pope Francis on stage, steals the show

November 1, 2013

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This story was all over the internet. Here are a couple of videos:

A child walks near Pope Francis as he addresses pilgrims in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Oct. 26. The pope addressed an estimated 100,000 people taking part in a Year of Faith celebration of family life. CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters

A child walks near Pope Francis as he addresses pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Oct. 26. The pope addressed an estimated 100,000 people taking part in a Year of Faith celebration of family life. CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters

 

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What I took away from the Rediscover: event

October 17, 2013

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Father Robert Barron at the Rediscover: Catholic Celebration. (Dianne Towalski/The Catholic Spirit)

Father Robert Barron at the Rediscover: Catholic Celebration. (Dianne Towalski/The Catholic Spirit)

I left the Rediscover: event at the Saint Paul RiverCentre on Saturday with fresh encouragement to take my faith to the next level. Matthew Kelly challenged all 5,000 of us by asking whether the would be a life-changing day or just another day? “It’s up to you,” he said. “You decide.”

George Weigel urged us to take our baptism much more seriously. The world needs us, he said. “We are on a battlefield and the walking wounded are all around us.” He called this “mission territory,” and said it has never been more important that we fulfill the great commission to spread the Good News.

Father Robert Barron capped the day with practical suggestions for all us modern-day evangelists. Bringing a little notebook with me to the event, I wrote the suggestions down, and am delighted to share them here, in case you weren’t there on Oct. 12:

Lead with beauty to get to goodness and truth. Father said it is rare to win someone over with arguments about goodness or truth. Secular culture has relativized goodness and truth to the point where people have trouble agreeing on what is good and what is true. But most of us can recognize beauty. And the Church has so much beautiful music, architecture, art, etc., to share. A person might become more disposed to accepting goodness and truth if they have been prepared by common admiration of true beauty.

Don’t dumb down the faith. Father Barron said we have hurt ourselves by reducing the message of Vatican II to “banners and balloons.” Noting the rich intellectual tradition of the Church, Fr. Barron said we need smart explanations of the faith to counter the arguments against God and Church coming from the secular world, which is largely well-educated.

Preach with ‘ardor.’ That’s an easy one to understand. Who would you rather listen to: a dull speaker or an exciting speaker? Of course, we all prefer the exciting speaker. People can hear the passion in your voice; let it come through when you are talking about your faith.

Tell the great story. Explain that Jesus Christ was crucified and rose from the dead in the climactic story of the Bible. This is THE good news. All the stories in the Bible – creation, the fall, the formation of the people of Israel, the life of Christ, the early Church – are part of the Great Story. And the story doesn’t end with the Bible. We are part of the story, too! “Teach the Bible,” Father Barron said.

Emphasize the Augustinian anthropology. Father unpacked that one for us. What he means is that St. Augustine said, “Lord, you have made us for yourself, therefore our hearts are restless until it rests in Thee.” Because of the way God made us, we all have a void in our lives that only can be filled by God. We mistakenly try to fill the void with things like wealth, pleasure, power and honor, but everything leaves us wanting. This is a belief shared by some of our most famous modern-day philosophers – Mick Jagger said, “I can’t get no satisfaction;” U2 sings, “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for,” and Bruce Springsteen has a song called “Everyone Has a Hungry Heart.”

Stress the Irenaeus doctrine of God. St. Irenaeus taught that God does not need us. This is great news because it means that God does not give us things and do things for us to get anything back from us. The only reason He does anything for us is because He loves us.

Any one of these tips can make us better evangelists. There’s a lot of work to do, so let’s get to work!

Blog author Tom Bengtson is a local small business owner and writer. You can contact Bengtson by visiting his website

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Canonize Lino Rulli? His new book shows how we’re all saints in the making

September 28, 2013

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photoThe Catholic Church calls each and every one of us to answer the call to holiness and strive toward sainthood — even in light of our obvious weaknesses and everyday struggles with sin.

It’s a daunting task for most, but Lino Rulli is up to the challenge. In fact, the St. Paul native and host of Sirius/XM Radio’s “The Catholic Guy” show would like to get there a little faster than the rest of us. In his new book “Saint,” he makes the tongue-in-cheek case for why the Church should canonize him today. (After all, why trust your friends to push your sainthood cause after you die when you can do it yourself?)

In all seriousness, however, the book has a deeper purpose: to encourage you to focus on your spiritual growth and help you “to realize that you might not be as big a sinner as you think, and that, with God’s help, you might just become a saint.”

“Saint” is a follow-up to “Sinner,” Lino’s first book of short, humorous and inspiring stories aimed at encouraging us to live out our faith despite our imperfections. In “Saint,” Lino turns once again to short stories about his life — some funny, some painfully honest, and many with a short nugget of reflection about lessons he learned along the way.

At the end of one story, for example, about an instance when he successfully resisted what can be described as a “temptation of the flesh,” Lino writes: “A saint isn’t someone who has never been tested; a saint is a person who has been tested and, with God’s help, has passed — or, with God’s help, has gotten up the next morning and tried again.”

Saints you can relate to

While Lino was in town yesterday to talk about his book, I asked why he would invest the time and energy to remind people about the call to sainthood. Here’s what he said:

“I guess the reason people like [‘Sinner’] is because a lot of them could relate to it. But, the other side of that coin is the fact that we do need to be reminded that we’re not just a bunch of miserable losers because we fail. For whatever reason, God loves us and we’re still called to holiness. It’s sort of a contradiction in our lives, but it’s the reality of our lives.”

And where can average Joes like myself draw that affirmation and inspiration, other than from Lino and the stories of people who already have a place in the Church’s catalog of saints?

“I get inspired by the average person in church. When I see the mom and dad in church Sunday morning with kids running around like maniacs and you’re going to lose your mind, it inspires me. They don’t have it all together, but they know it would be ten times worse if they didn’t try to go to church. . . . Those are the saints who inspire me: the guy who says I went out Saturday night but I’m still waking up and going to church Sunday morning. Or the single mom. Or even the older people who have their own problems and struggles. I really do look around and I go: We’re all called to be saints, but we’re all saints in the making.”

Chances are future generations won’t be reading about St. Lino in the Church’s official catalog of saints. But he — and the rest of us — should always be striving to be counted eventually among those in heaven.

“Saints” concludes with these wise words:

“Sometimes you chase me, Lord. Sometimes I chase you. But the only time I’ll quit running, the only time I will finally feel at peace, will be when I’m at home with you: there in heaven. That’s when I’ll truly be called a saint.”

Read more about Lino and his new book on his website. You can also order the book from Servant Books.

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Pope Francis, line one

August 27, 2013

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Apparently Pope Francis is calling people in Italy. He’s not having his people make the call mind you. He’s just picking up the phone and making a personal call.

‘Hello, it’s Pope Francis': Italian teenager gets surprise phone call  (Telegraph)

So what do you say if you get the call?
Telephone etiquette for ‘the cold-call pope’ (NCR)

 

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