Tag Archives: faith

When is Enough, Enough?

November 28, 2014

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Liscenced under creative commomsI have not been a Black Friday shopper ever since I used to work in retail.  Although I would go out with the family and grab lunch or look around, it was a rare occasion that I would head out early and brave the crowds while I muscle my way into a store.  When our children were little, my husband did head out at 4 a.m. to get a special electronic gift for our son, but in general I have tried to avoid the shopping frenzy.  Part of my reasoning to minimized my Black Friday shopping has come from my many years of working in retail and from working on Black Friday.  Crazy is even crazier from the other side of the cash register.

The practice if detachment is spiritual practice.  Their may be some people who are called to rid themselves of all material goods but detachment is not just about or for those in a religious order.  Just as their are different ways to approach our prayer life based on our state of life – we approach the practice of detachment in different ways. The Church teaches that we can serve the Lord and grow in holiness through many ways.  But St. Paul also tells us that the Christian engaged in secular activities must inwardly detach from them: “those who have wives should live as though they have none . . . buyers should conduct themselves as if they owned nothing, and those who make use of the world as though they were not using it, for the world as we know it is passing away.”  (I Cor 7:29-31)

Detachment  is a response to God’s love for us. When you fall in love, everyone else in your life pales beside the beloved. You change your schedule and your priorities.

Putting Paul’s advise from first century Palestine into practice in 21st century America can be tough. Having news reports and ads constantly telling you that you are missing out leave you feeling like you really are missing out but I try to remember that I have enough.  Their is this little anxiety thing that  happens. It is a cross between feeling like you are missing out because you are not spending money and the fear of not having enough or being enough. This year I am even more apprehensive to fall into the spend just to spend frenzy that happens in theses days after Thanksgiving.  Long term financial security is uncertain as I work through my next career move and though I am looking forward to the time off to enjoy the holidays I do have the realization that my life seems to give me time when I have no money.

Sticking to our holiday buying budget is always important but this year we will be trying to put our spending to where it is most important.  That may mean that if the must have item is 50% off today only, I will brave the elements to get the deal but work really hard not to fall into buying the impulse item sitting next to it.  I am focusing on my time I get to spend with family and recognizing that my time is a gift as I try to be thankful for all I already have.

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‘Gutenberg’s Apprentice’ a superb novel

November 25, 2014

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Gutenbergs ApprenticePrinting history and church history mesh to make for compelling reading in the terrific first novel of Alix Christie, “Gutenberg’s Apprentice.”

Protagonist Peter Schoeffer is the apprentice of the title, and there’s no fiction there: Schoeffer was Gutenberg’s apprentice in the 1450s as the German’s workshop developed moveable type and used it to print 180 copies of the Bible.

The fictional story comes from Ms. Christie’s imagination, but there’s hearty research behind the tale, particularly when it comes to the details of printing and the hurdles that elements of the church put in Gutenberg’s way. Interdicts on dioceses and conflicts between archbishops and religious communities are fact and a dark part of church history.

Gutenberg gets credit for combining the various elements needed for mass production of printed matter. He pulled together dozens of ideas and technological advances systematically, including the creation of metal type, ink and the press itself. But in the novelist’s hands the much-lauded inventor, talented as he is, is schizophrenic. One moment he’s praising his apprentice for his marvelous gifts and telling the tradesmen in his workshop that he couldn’t have printed his Bible without them, and the next he’s taking all the credit, declaring that he did it all alone and needed no one’s help.

Through Schoeffer, who in real life went on to become one of the first publishers of note in Europe, Christie presents a spiritual element to the process that brought about not just the first printed Bible but an invention that was key to the Renaissance and often named as the greatest invention of all time.

Christie’s  Schoeffer sees his part in the drama as one divinely led, that God has placed him in his time and his place to use the gifts he’s been given to be a part of this amazing fete that will change life on earth.

“You always did think that you had some private pact with God,” a life-long acquaintance charges Gutenberg’s apprentice.

Author Christie answers for her story’s hero: Of course. How could he not. . . . How could he have understood his own life otherwise?

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Connecting St. Francis with Pope Francis

September 25, 2014

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When Saint Francis saved the ChurchTake a refresher course in what it means to be Catholic.

Read John M. Sweeney’s new book, “When Saint Francis Saved the Church.”

Sweeney packs reminders about what faith, saintliness and the life of a Christian are all about into just 156 pages of this small Ave Maria Press book (not counting acknowledgements and notes). There are highlighter-worthy phrases, sentences and paragraphs galore, great food for thought and a bounty for discussion.

Sweeney’s hook, of course, is the connection between St. Francis of Assisi and the newest Francis on the Catholic scene, Pope Francis.

Throughout he links the revolution that St. Francis started to the hope that many in the Church today, what — entertain? predict? — with the pope who chose to be the first to adapt Francis is his papal name.

Sweeney writes about Francis of Assisi, “His spiritual vision from eight centuries ago is already familiar to anyone paying attention to Pope Francis and the changing atmosphere in the Catholic Church today.” And he adds:

“Many of us are watching carefully, and participating willingly, as that edifice softens into something less predictable, more godly. If something monumental happened 800 years ago to revive the Church, then it can happen again today; and the spirit that animated the earlier conversion may be quite similar to the spirit at work in the Church today. Much depends on what we ourselves will do.”

In sharing the historical background and development of Franciscan spirituality, the book points out dozens of interesting details of Francis’ thinking, including:

  • Faith is not something done only inside the walls of the church. Instead, “Faith today is readily seen as concerned with many things other than what you believe — it includes hope, passion, family, love, story, virtue, commitment, and identity, all of which may seem more important than matters of creed.”
  • St. Francis was relatively uninterested in theological debates and creedal statements. “When he states his beliefs in his writings it is most often regarding how one is supposed to behave toward others and the created world, not a matter of pure doctrine.”
  • The Gospel is not something to believe as much as it is a vocation to a changed life.
  • For Francis  there were no “others.” He responded to each person he met as if he were already a friend, developing a simple kindness, openness, neighborliness and looking out for their needs, an approach that is part and parcel of gospel living.
  • Francis befriended without judging, noticed and responded to people’s needs and expressed love for them simply because that person had been created by a God who says that every created thing is good.
  • Contrary to the prevailing thought of his time, he didn’t see the world as evil but instead embraced it.

Not a dissenter, a nonconformist

Sweeney writes that Francis of Assisi “rebranded” the idea of sanctity. He was never a disobedient son of the Church, although he was as nonconformist who had his own priorities.

He advocated for humble dress, fasting as part of one’s regular diet, grace before meals, nonviolence, hospitality and prayer. Sweeney notes:

“He placed such a priority on personal prayer, contemplation, charity and loving-kindness because the habits of the heart are important to God, as well as to the faithful who want to know God better.”

And all these things we not just for the friars of his community but for ordinary believers. That was revolutionary during Francis’ era, when the Church felt threatened by individual expressions of faith and priests were taught that they were the primary mediators between God and their parishioners. Along with forming the Order of Friars Minor that we know as Franciscans, Francis wrote a Rule for laity — Third Order Franciscans — that included many of the principles of his Rule for the friars, plus gathering together as community, aiding the sick and caring for those who die. These practices all became to be known as spiritual acts.

Francis lived during the height of the Gothic era, when it was believed that religious people should turn away from the coarseness of the world and lift eyes and minds upward, toward the rising height of steeples and images of angels and saints, the world to come. Francis found beauty in the ordinary things of the world.

Sweeney connects St. Francis with Pope Francis in the way that both seems to be advocates of a Church that is at times unpredictable, threatening to some, a Church listening to the Spirit. Francis the pope “meets people face-to-face as equals. He touches people who might seem untouchable. He loves to laugh. He is not afraid of change.” Pope Francis, Sweeney posits, “has begun to return the Church to a Franciscan understanding of friendship, relating to the other, poverty, spirituality, care and death,” and is “leading the Church toward greater humility; revaluing poverty, especial by his own example; and preaching as a last resort to explain the values that he wants to uphold as most important for Catholics and for all people.”

Pope Francis, in Sweeney’s mind, “is calling us to recreate God’s Church to better foster the art of true gospel living.” And he writes:

“Who knows what the next few years will bring. As a Catholic who is interested in the positive role the Catholic Church can play in sanctifying the world, I’m anxious to be part of the vision that Francis realized long ago and conscious that we live in a world ready for our making today.”

 

 

 

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The Pope’s Top 10!

July 29, 2014

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Finally – a “Top Ten” I can really use!

David Letterman of the Late Show often used a fake and funny top ten list to get a good laugh but Pope Francis’ Top Ten should be printed out and placed on everyone’s refrigerator.

In an interview published in part in the Argentine weekly “Viva” July 27, the pope listed his Top 10 tips for bringing greater joy to one’s life. Although listed one to ten in the Catholic Register, I am going to list them David Letterman style with my own commentary going  from number ten  to number one!

The number one tip for bringing joy into your life is....

The number one tip for bringing joy into your life is….

 

10. Work for peace. I am reminded that this doesn’t just go for peace in the Middle East, but for peace in my home, parish, community and work place.  Pray and work for world peace but demonstrate it at home.

 

9. Don’t proselytize; respect others’ beliefs. I love my Catholic faith and occasionally my friends and family get sick of me harping on the “Catholic ” teaching of things.  I have an obligation to live and teach my faith but I want others to recognize the beauty of the faith in me. If I am not living and radiating  joy – who would want to be Catholic like me. It may be an odd comparison but,  I think of a great line in the movie When Harry Met Sally –  in the restaurant scene the neighboring customer leans over to the waitress and says “I’ll have what she’s having.”  I want people to see me and say, “I’ll have what she’s having!”

 

8. Stop being negative. Oh, this one is so hard for me because misery loves company! I find the best way to get rid of the crabbiness is to talk to a trusted friend (or in my case my spouse) and get it out.  We have a saying in our house that we used when our kids were little. We say, “Over, done with, gone!”

 

7. Respect and take care of nature. This seemed easier when my children were little.  They would bring me a rock or (heaven forbid) lizard and marvel at how beautiful it was.  I remember one time when driving to visit my mother when my children were in the back seat.  My son pointed and yelled to look out the window at a rainbow and said, “Mom, look what God made for us!” Out of the mouths of babes…

 

6. Find innovative ways to create dignified jobs for young people. I found this an interesting thing to be on the Pope’s list.  I have , however always loved being with and working with young people.  The whole world is ahead of them and a little encouragement can bring them so far, but I have to say when I spend time with youth it is me who benefits from their enthusiasm.

 

5. Sundays should be holidays. We have sort of lost Sundays in this country.  It becomes yet another day to do chores or in this digital age catch up on work.  My parents used to talk about “Sunday go to visiting day” and we would visit family and friends and build that community that you just cannot get with virtual facebook friends.

 

4. “A healthy sense of leisure. Father Patrick Peyton used to say “The family that prays together stays together.”  While that may be true, I also believe the family that plays together enjoys each others company while they stay together. Have fun!

 

3. “Proceed calmly” in life.  I am sure you have seen the facebook memes that say “Keep calm and XXXX” With the X’s being one of many things.  Maybe facebook is catching on to the Pope! Maybe I’ll make a meme that says ‘Keep calm and listen to the Pope!”

 

 

2. “Be giving of yourself to others. Being stingy of my time or resources only leads me to misery.  The number one way to break out of a depression is to get involved and give to others.  It is like God’s very own Prozac!

 

And the number one way to bring greater Joy to ones life is: (Drum roll please!)

 

1. “Live and let live. When I find myself getting tied up in someone elses drama I need to remember this one.   The Pope said their is a similar expression in Rome with the saying, “Move forward and let others do the same.”  I prefer a Polish saying I saw recently. I even posted near my desk at work. It says, “Nie mój cyrk, nie moje ma?pe”  Translates into “Not my circus, not my monkey.”

 

Thank you Pope Francis, for reminding us once again how to live!

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Keats, Baseball and Surviving the Clergy Sex Abuse Crisis

March 29, 2014

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image

The English poet John Keats expressed the idea of negative capability in a letter to his brother in 1817. He described it as the capacity for accepting uncertainty and the possibility that certain questions might never be resolved. The great writers, according to Keats, are those with the greatest negative capability. He credited Shakespeare with the greatest talent in this regard, and thought that the dynamic tension created by perpetual uncertainty made for the most interesting characters and depth in story.

I came across this term while watching a baseball documentary called “The Tenth Inning”that addressed the steroid scandal from a few years ago.  In the documentary, writer George Will says “Now we live in a sports age and a baseball age, where nothing’s more valuable than negative capability because if we’re just in a rush, if we can’t wait to see Roger Clemens or Barry Bonds, or whoever it is, as right or wrong, then we’re missing the complexity of these people and the difficulty of the age that they’re living in.”

What does this have to do with the Catholic faith or anything to do with this blog?

Well, we are in a scandal of our own locally. A much darker and serious issue than baseball and steroids. Living through it can be a full time chore and the idea of negative capability intrigues me. I have to admit my cycles of anger, frustration, despair and a few “What were they thinking!” moments as I read, along with everyone else, the accounts reported by certain radio stations and other media outlets.  Working for the church does not make me immune to or “in the know” on anything, in fact, working for the church seems to make every news report of a fallen priest or a seemingly poor decision feel like a personal affront to my faith and work.

So how do you hang onto your faith when your church is in crisis?

I have been trying to tap into that Negative Capability.  It is a strange name and since I am not a literary intellect, I’ve never read Keats or studied Shakespeare and I am surprised at how I am drawn to this odd literary term.  But it seems to describe a way I aproach my faith life.  In my early stages of (re)conversion to the Church, I hungered for knowledge and devoured books.  Knowledge of the one I loved, the one I sought – so much like Song of Songs.

On my bed night after night I sought him

            Whom my soul loves; SOS 3:1

But in wanting to know God – in wanting to know Christ, I wanted to understand and figure out the complexities and abserdities of a virgin giving birth, the irrational math of the trinity and  duality of transubstantiation.  In my desire for knowledge, I couldn’t rest in faith.  I wanted proof. I wanted answers. In my struggles I could only hope for Divine Grace to step in. I needed to learn to rest in that negative capability and enjoy the tension of this amazing church that isn’t about either/or – but lives in the and/also of a faith based on a Man who is also the Son of God who really is present in the Mass.

Crisis of Faith

In regards to our current clergy abuse crisis, I have also had to yield to this negative capability in a darker way. I have to rest in questions that may never be resolved. I have been sickened by the reports. The victims are tragic and the deeds and actions of a few priest are abominable. It is very easy to paint a black and white picture of the people involved, but the personalities are as complex as are the times in which they live.  We are called to see everyone through the eye that God sees us. Through the fullness of who they are.

In all of this we are called to pray for the victims, but also the perpetrators. We are called to love our good priests and also the fallen. We must love the whistel blowers, the reporters, and the angry Catholics who have left the church.  Only in this strange church filled with the hard teaching are we called to forgive and love and carry on. (all while protecting the inocent and sin no more)

Only in this lovely faith called the Catholic Church could we celebrate the Friday that Christ was crucified and call it Good.

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Families are Messy…

November 25, 2013

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Licensed under Creative Commons

Licensed under Creative Commons

As we approach Thanksgiving and our opportunities to be with extended family, there is one thing we need to remember – families are messy.

I am not talking about Uncle Bob who never does the dishes or the spilled gravy at the kids table; I am saying that family relationships are messy.  Some families have a no politics and no religion rule on conversations at their family gatherings.  That may help with the tension of hot button topics like same sex unions and abortion, but as people of faith we cannot put on and take off our religion at will like a sweater.  We wear our faith all of the time!

How do we deal with some difficult situations this Thanksgiving like -

Your sister and her boyfriend, who are living together,

Your uncle who is in a same sex relationship,

Your cousin who complains about the church’s teaching on contraception,

Your nephew who has left the church because of the current Clergy abuse scandal in the news…

Jesus had the answer – He loved more!

Since I have a fondness for food and mentions of food in the bible – I am taken by this quote every Thanksgiving…

Matthew 11:19, The Son of Man came eating and drinking and they said, ‘Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is vindicated by her works.”

I think the most important thing to remember in this passage is that WE all are the sinners.  If our church only let perfect Catholics in – the pews (and the pulpits) would be virtually empty.  I am so grateful that Jesus (and my family ) eats with me!

So set the tone with a prayer of humility and gratitude and respect and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Enjoy your messy family and LOVE MORE!

 

Prayer of Thanksgiving

God of all blessings,
source of all life,
giver of all grace:

We thank you for the gift of life:
for the breath
that sustains life,
for the food of this earth
that nurtures life,
for the love of family and friends
without which there would be no life.

We thank you for the mystery of creation:
for the beauty
that the eye can see,
for the joy
that the ear may hear,
for the unknown
that we cannot behold filling the universe with wonder,
for the expanse of space
that draws us beyond the definitions of our selves.

We thank you for setting us in communities:
for families
who nurture our becoming,
for friends
who love us by choice,
for companions at work,
who share our burdens and daily tasks,
for strangers
who welcome us into their midst,
for people from other lands
who call us to grow in understanding,
for children
who lighten our moments with delight,
for the unborn,
who offer us hope for the future.

We thank you for this day:
for life
and one more day to love,
for opportunity
and one more day to work for justice and peace,
for neighbors
and one more person to love
and by whom be loved,
for your grace
and one more experience of your presence,
for your promise:
to be with us,
to be our God,
and to give salvation.

For these, and all blessings,
we give you thanks, eternal, loving God,
through Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Recovering from my broken leg with St. Ignatius of Loyola

November 22, 2013

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broken leg

Recommended reading whether or not you have a broken leg: the life of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Photo/koishikawagirl Licensed under Creative Commons

One morning in October as I was walking across a street near my home, a man in a truck didn’t see me as he crossed the intersection and hit me in the crosswalk.  The truck’s bumper broke my right femur like a karate block.

A week later, when my head cleared from the hospital, surgery and pain meds, I wanted to read about St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits. I knew that he broke his leg and had a faith conversion during his recovery.

I’m convinced that when saints come to mind it’s because God’s already dispatched them to help us.

It turns out that St. Ignatius also broke his right leg–the shin bone–almost 500 years ago. After reading about the horrifically bungled medical treatment he received, I didn’t feel so bad about the titanium rod in my leg that now stabilizes the healing leg bone. I also couldn’t help noticing that St. Ignatius bore his pain very stoically. I compared that to all my inner and outward groaning.

Just as I read about his life during my recovery, St. Ignatius read the lives of saints during his.  Reading his story just inspired me but when he read about the saints he thought about outdoing them in works of penance. Since he hurt his leg while fighting as a knight, I guess he was still thinking competitively at that time.

Before his leg was healed, St. Ignatius had a deep conversion that resulted in a complete change of heart and a new direction for life.

That’s not to say that from then on he practiced only heroic virtue. One account states that he nearly died from his injury. Then he spent time in a cave battling his scruples and stubbornly refusing to eat until God granted him peace. (His confessor made him stop.) Later he wandered around asking himself what he was supposed to do next.

But beyond those times of weakness, St. Ignatius led an extraordinary life. I was amazed by his continual perseverance in seeking and following God’s will, his great courage in founding the Society of Jesus despite innumerable obstacles, and his faith in writing his Spiritual Exercises, which have helped many grow in faith.

St. Ignatius was pursued and accused a number of times during the Spanish Inquisition. He made a long, terrible journey to the Holy Land only to be ordered right back onto the ship to Spain once he got there. He was beaten, thrown in prison and almost always harassed for his efforts but he kept going.

St. Ignatius inspired me but in reading about his life I thought that the only thing we have in common is that we both broke our legs. He seemed too big to imitate.

Then St. Therese of Lisieux, also a patron of the missions, came to mind. I think she would tell me that there’s plenty of opportunity to practice heroic virtue right where I am in the ordinary challenges and inspirations of daily life.

Good things that have come from my injury include meeting up with this great founder of the Jesuits who broke his leg and also remembering the insights of another great saint, the Little Flower, who reminds me that my own path to holiness begins right here.

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Take a peek inside the Vatican

March 8, 2013

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Vatican Diaries coverJohn Thavis, who covered the Vatican as a journalist for 30 years, betrayed his Minnesota roots when he wrote, “Attending these Rome academic conferences was like fishing on a slow day — you waited a lot and hoped something would bite.”

Thavis, a native of Mankato, Minn., and a graduate of St. John’s University in Collegeville, hooked an author’s dream: His book on the inner workings of the Vatican was ready to be released when Pope Benedict XVI unexpectedly announced his decision to retire.

Viking moved up the release date, making “The Vatican Diaries” as timely a read as a writer might hope for.

Thavis, whose byline ran in The Catholic Spirit for many years, retired just last year as Rome bureau chief for Catholic News Service.

That post and the many friends and sources he made in and around St. Peter’s often put him in unique position to observe and hear of any number of interesting goings on, some foolhardy, some machiavellian, some scandalous.

Anecdotes, even atrocities

There is, for example, the blatant disregard for an ancient cemetery by one Vatican City functionary, who is intent on bulldozing the monuments and the remains to add more parking to the cramped tiny space.

A lengthy chapter on the finally denounced, cult-like Legion of Christ gives a vivid picture of how power works in the Vatican, and it’s not a very nice portrait.

Thavis details how the once-revered founder of the Legion of Christ was protected by people in high places who refused to believe accusations made against him over the course of decades, and it was only when Father Marcial Maciel Degollado’s double life was revealed — that he had fathered children by two women, sexually abused his own son and hidden secret assets of nearly $30 million — that the Vatican finally intervened.

The incident has left an obvious black mark on the late Pope John Paul II’s record, but Thavis presents insight here that echoes in other Catholic locales around the globe.

He writes, “To a good number of Vatican officials, the calls for transparency and full accountability [in the Maciel case] were typical of moralistic (and legalistic) Americans, but not necessarily helpful for the universal church. . . As one Vatican offical put it, ‘We have a two-thousand-year history of not airing dirty laundry. You don’t really expect that to change, do you?’ ”

Thavis dives into the ongoing squabble over the ultra-conservative, breakaway Society of St. Pius X, sharing probably more than the typical Catholic would want to know about the battle over the validity of Vatican II by this hard-core group of naysayers.

Superb reporting, writing

There’s a terrific chapter that’s really a personality profile of the American priest who was one of the Vatican’s top Latin language experts — the fun, enlightening and eccentric Father Reginald Foster.

Foster — Thavis eschews his title throughout — is a reporter’s dream, someone on the inside who knows a lot, isn’t afraid to share and shares in colorful language. The chapter on “The Latinist” is of the quality of a piece you’d expect to read in the New York Times Magazine or The New Yorker.

Thavis went along to some 60 countries with John Paul II and Benedict XVI, and “The Vatican Diaries” includes hilarious anecdotes about life as a reporter on papal trips. There’s plenty about life covering the Vatican to enjoy reading, too, including the story about the pope’s preacher admitting he used Google as a source.

Readers will find that the halo they may have imagined above the heads of some high-ranking residents of Vatican City ends up, shall we say, “less glowing,” to describe it the way a Vatican official might, avoiding the use of the more accurate “tarnished.”

And that may be what Thavis does best here.

Important contribution

He offers sound reporting and analysis, to be sure. But he’s at the top of his game explaining how “The Vatican” sees things.

He translates Vatican-ese, putting in plain language what official statements really say, and in many cases what those statements say by not saying something directly.

Even when he gets into such minutia of a story that you wonder if all these details are necessary, Thavis seems to perfectly sum it up by interpreting the event’s significance. It’s as if, without using these words, he’s says, now here’s why this is important.

“The Vatican Diaries” is not only informative and entertaining. Published as the Catholic Church prepares to welcome a new leader, it gives us valuable insight into the organizational challenges the new pontiff faces.

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Looking back on 2012

January 2, 2013

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Many people are diving in to their New Year’s resolutions right now, with almost a full year ahead to test their resolve.

But, it’s not a bad time to look back, either. This year was one of my best ever in the outdoors. The highlights are many, and reflections of an outstanding year in God’s glorious creation continue to bring a smile to my face.

Turkey time

The wild turkeys got active earlier than usual this past spring, with March feeling more like May. I began the gobbler chase in April with my son, William, during the Wisconsin youth weekend.

Although we left the woods without a bird, it turned out to be an action-packed hunt. We had numerous birds gobbling on the roost not very far away, then had a group of birds come in our direction after flying down. They hung up, but eventually we had a group of 1-year-old toms (called jakes) come in, along with two hens. William got two shots off, but failed to bring down a bird. I would later redeem that hunt by getting what I think was one of those jakes a month later. On  the same piece of property, I had four jakes come in, and was able to get one of them.

I added a Minnesota longbeard to the harvest, and it didn’t even take an hour. I heard a bird gobbling on the roost, then slipped in to about 50-60 yards from the bird. He flew down and came right in. As I stood over the nice tom after pulling the trigger, and my watch read 6:21 a.m.

A wonderful surprise

With the hunt over so fast, I decided to head over to Wisconsin to see if I could fill my other tag. The state went from a series of five-day hunts to seven-day seasons. That meant my Minnesota and Wisconsin seasons overlapped by a day.

So, I registered my Minnesota bird in Red Wing, then crossed the river into Wisconsin. I tried hard to get my second bird, traveling to three different properties. On my last stop, I saw hens but no toms. I decided to try one last spot on this small farm, and saw something brown on the ground in the corner of a field. It turned out to be a morel mushroom. And, there were many more.

I filled my turkey hunting vest with them and headed home with an unexpected bounty.  I ended the day with fried mushrooms, plus a mushroom-and-cheese omelette at the home of Chris Thompson, academic dean at the St. Paul Seminary. He is an avid mushroom hunter, and he almost freaked out when he saw what was in my vest.

Saving the best for last

If someone had told me in early September that I would still be without a deer on Nov. 11, I wouldn’t have believed them. With the archery season beginning in mid September, I figured it wouldn’t be a matter of if I took a deer, but how many.

Yet, there I was in my deer stand on the afternoon of Nov. 11, the last day of the Zone 3A firearms season, hoping I would not get skunked. I had seen very little throughout the gun season, and failed to tag a deer during my numerous trips to the woods, despite hitting two deer with my arrows.

With gusty northwest winds pounding me all afternoon, it was a test of endurance. But, I still had hope, as the last hour of legal shooting hours can produce strong deer movement.

Sure enough, with only about 10-15 minutes left, a buck appeared out in a picked soybean field 180 yards away. Almost magically, he turned and trotted right to me, stopping and turning broadside at about 70-80 yards. I hit him several times, and when I found him just inside the woods, I realized I had just killed the largest buck of my life. He’s now at the taxidermist, and I can’t wait to see the finished mount.

I give thanks to God for some outstanding memories – and some great food in the freezer. Wild turkey, venison and morel mushrooms – who could ask for more?

 

 

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The Empty Manger

December 22, 2012

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The Empty MangerIn these last few days before Christmas, life can get hectic.  I have wrapping to do, Christmas cards to send, cookies to bake and my house to clean.  It is very easy to forget the true meaning of Christmas and remember what we really need to do to prepare for the coming of Christ.

The empty manger was set out earlier this week at our parish.  This was done for convenience, as the turn around time from the bare and purple Advent feel of the church to the bright and joyful church filled with evergreens and gold is very short for those who set up the church decorating.  I was in charge of this transformation at our church for 6 years and I know that it can add it’s own layer of hectic to the preparation for Christmas.

But it was the emptiness of the manger that struck me.

Along with scripture, I sometimes find that it is pieces of art or architecture that moves me to prayer and meditation.  This empty manger caused me to reflect on how well I am prepared to be filled by Christ’s love.  It is clean, swept out and ready for the next occupant.  Growing up on a farm I know that a stable has lots of muck to be hauled out. I am thankful that I made it to confession lately and cleaned out some of my own muck.

I also reflect on “who would I be” on the way to this manger scene? What is the Shepard doing today? He has no idea that he will be led to this manger by angels.  The wise men are traveling to see a great king.  Their expectations will be met, but not in the way they expect.  A lot of my life turns out that way.  Will I be able to see the true path to the manger and Christ child or will I get distracted by the idea of a different kind of King on a throne? What would Mary and Joseph be thinking the days before the birth of our Savior?

“Waiting in joyful hope.”

Every week we hear those words as part of the liturgy.  This season of Advent is a reflection on that joyful waiting.

I will take time in the days and hours before Christmas to do just that.  I hope to spend this time of preparation for Christmas to also prepare the empty manger in my heart for the coming of the Christ Child.

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