Tag Archives: God

Travels to Tanzania are inspiring

December 4, 2017

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Father Michael Skluzacek, center, during Mass while on his trip to Tanzania. Courtesy Father Michael Skluzacek

By Father Michael Skluzacek

The Mass for the dedication of a new church is one of the most inspiring liturgies there is. I recently had the great privilege to concelebrate the Mass of Dedication for the new church of St. John the Baptist in Ngujini, Tanzania.

I traveled to Tanzania in early November with four other pilgrims: Renée Hosch from St. John the Baptist in New Brighton, Father Cory Rohlfing and Laura Stierman from St. Jude of the Lake in Mahtomedi, and Molly Druffner from St. Michael in Stillwater.  Molly is the Director of Partners 4 Hope Tanzania, and serves as a missionary in Tanzania with her family.

Ngujini is an “outstation,” served by Father Dr. Beda Kiure of Immaculate Conception Parish in Bwambo. In April 2016, Molly Druffner came to St. John the Baptist in New Brighton and did an appeal for funds to build a church at Ngujini.  Parishioners at St. John the Baptist responded with overwhelming generosity, and work soon began on the church.

Over the next 18 months, parishioners set to work in building a beautiful church that seats more than 200. Villagers of all faiths pitched in to help, and the project became a unifying force and source of pride for the entire community.

As the new church neared completion and the date was set for its dedication, Bishop Rogath Kimaryo of the local Diocese of Same (Sah’may) decided to name the church St. John the Baptist in honor of the people of St. John the Baptist in New Brighton. As gifts for the new church, I brought over several altar cloths from the New Brighton St. John’s, as well as three chalices given by Knights of Columbus.

During the liturgy, when those chalices were brought out, and the altar cloth was placed on the newly anointed altar, I was deeply moved by the significance of our two parishes being united in the Eucharist. Every time that Mass is celebrated at Ngujini, St. John’s in New Brighton will be present there, through the sacred furnishings that adorn the Body and Blood of Christ.The Body of Christ that is the Church is present in the Body of Christ really and truly present on the altar.

When I was on sabbatical in Tanzania two years ago, I baptized three baby boys at an outdoor Mass at Ngujini. Now, on that very site stands a beautiful new church.

I was asked to give a speech at the end of the dedication Mass. I extended the greetings of the people of St. John’s in New Brighton to the people of St. John’s in Ngujini. I spoke of how we will always be united in Christ whenever the holy Mass is celebrated.

As I was speaking, three little boys, about 2 ½ years old, approached the sanctuary with their parents. The boys squirmed and wondered what was going on, but I realized that these were the three boys I had baptized two years ago. I saw in their parents’ eyes the gratitude and the love that unite God’s holy people through the saving grace of the sacraments.

 

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Glorify the Lord with me, let us praise God’s name

February 1, 2017

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Praise

To God goes the glory!  Really?  Maybe it should go that way, but there are plenty of times that it does not.  When we have done a good deed, quite often God is not the first person to come to mind.  If we are honest, we have to admit that we regularly think of ourselves first.  Our mindset is, “After all of the hard work that I have done, after all of the good that I have accomplished, I deserve some credit around here.”  It translates, “To me goes the glory!”

Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount, “Your light must shine” and “People should see your good deeds” (paraphrase, Mt 5:15,16), so we take his words to heart and put his teaching into practice.  We do good deeds exactly as Jesus wants.  It might be cooking a delicious dinner, doing an excellent job at work, getting a high grade on a test, completing a big chore at home, or offering a thoughtful gift.  It could also be a donation to the food shelf, volunteering at school or church, or helping someone who is sick.

After doing our good deed, we wonder, “Will anyone notice?”  We eagerly wait in expectation.  Our ears perk up, longing for a word of thanks or a compliment on a job well done.  We feel like we deserve some appreciation, maybe a card, a gift, or flowers.  When our good deed has been exceptional, we feel we deserve some recognition:  a favor, a privilege, an award, a pay increase, a promotion, or a bonus.  Our mental framework is:  “After all of the time and energy that I have put into this, after all I have done for you or this group, it is about time someone pays attention to me.  I deserve thanks, appreciation, and recognition.”  It translates, “To me goes the glory!”

It is very easy to be self-centered when we have done something well.  My high school basketball coach had a saying, “No matter what success you may have had, your hat size should never change.”  He would go on to explain, “If you were the high scorer for the game, named the most valuable player for the season, or selected All State, you should never get a fat head.”  It is a temptation to get caught up in our good deeds and accomplishments.  We congratulate ourselves and think others ought to congratulate us.  “To me goes the glory!”  We may not be blatant about it, but it is prideful, egotistical, arrogant, and conceited.

Jesus frames this in a way that is contrary to our human nature.  He taught, “Your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father” (Mt 5:16).  When I moved from my playing days to my coaching days, we used the words of Jesus to keep our hat sizes the same.  Many players had stellar performances.  Even more put in stellar efforts.  Their lights shone before their teammates, classmates, and the crowds.  After their good deeds, I would ask, “Who gave you your life and your health?”  “Who gave you your talents and abilities?”  “Who gave you this opportunity?”  To those with faith, it is eminently clear that it is all a gift from God.  We often turned to a quote from the prophet Isaiah, “O Lord … it is you who have accomplished all that we have done” (Is 26:12).  Once the realization sets in that the ability to do good deeds is a gift from God, Christian athletes, whether they receive accolades or not, redirect attention from themselves to God, and with humble appreciation are able to say, “To God goes the glory!”  The ideal is that our good deeds would glorify God, and that others, upon seeing our good deeds, would be led to glorify – not us – but almighty God.

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What place does hunting have in my life?

September 14, 2015

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I have been reflecting quite a bit about my passion for hunting and the place it has in my life. With the archery deer season right around the corner, it’s a good time to take a look and reflect on the sport I have enjoyed since childhood and am getting ready to enjoy yet again.

What I have learned from my reflections is that the practice of taking to the woods in search of a game animal runs deep. I shouldn’t be surprised, given my background and lineage. My grandfather, Lawrence Kramer, prowled the woods and waters of Meeker County west of the Twin Cities and near his hometown of Litchfield. He fished, hunted and trapped, not just for sport, but to put food on the table. He and my grandmother, Ruth Kramer, lost their farm during the Great Depression, and he had to find ways to feed his family of eight children. My mom, Eunice, was the oldest.

When my mom married my dad in the 1950s, Lawrence Kramer took my dad out and taught him the skills needed to be a good hunter and fisherman. Those skills eventually passed down to my brothers and I. We got to fish a few times with Grandpa Kramer before he died in the early 1970s, and I feel proud to continue his legacy today.

Like him, I like to put food on the table, and I have been fortunate to do so many times. I never tire of a meal of venison wild turkey. And, I like to throw in a few meals of pan-fried walleye. In addition to hunting, I also like to go fishing, and I have had many great adventures on the water.

I’ll be honest, as much as I enjoy the sports of hunting and fishing, they wouldn’t hold much meaning without the table fare that comes as a result. That is why I will never consider myself a trophy hunter. Don’t get me wrong, I like a big buck as much as the next guy, and I have mounted two nice ones. But, I experience a deep satisfaction when my family is able to partake in a wild game dinner.

To me, nothing beats the enjoyment of knowing I harvested what our family is going to eat. That is a big reason why hunting is so important to me. Oftentimes, when our family is eating a meal that I prepared, I will stop during the meal and look around the table. When I see my wife and kids enjoying it, I am filled with pride.

I also have served wild game to my friends, and I try to invite my parents over, too. My dad loves it, my mom tolerates it, but she is willing to at least try everything I make.

With my birthday coming up next Tuesday, Sept. 22, my thoughts are turning to the potential outdoor adventures coming up this fall. I won’t be able to get out for the archery opener this year, but I hope to be in one of my stands when the whitetail rut kicks into full gear in late October and early November. That is prime time to be in the woods, and it’s a beautiful time to be up in a tree, even though the leaves will be down by then.

I would do well to appeal to St. Hubert, the patron saint of hunters. I ran across a good article on him on a website called The Catholic Gentleman. There is a story about his life, plus prayers hunters can pray.

Asking the intercession of St. Hubert could be as important as tuning your bow or placing a new tree stand.

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Turkey hunt brings unexpected challenges

May 15, 2015

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Turkey hunting is hard. That is the beginning and the end of a sport that is more obsession than recreation.

We hunters think we have the birds figured out as we stroll into the woods all pumped up and cocky.

Then, the birds humble us. We sometimes leave the woods thinking we know nothing at all about how to kill a bird with a brain the size of a pea.

That’s how I ended seven days of hunting on Tuesday afternoon. Yes, I did manage to kill one bird— a young tom known as a jake. But, I exited the beautiful rolling hills of Wisconsin feeling like a failure.

Why? I had matched wits with an old, mature gobbler for four days, and lost.

Oh, I came close to giving him a ride out of the woods in my worn, torn turkey vest.

But, this crafty bird managed to stay out of shotgun range, and out of view. I heard his lusty gobbles, but never laid eyes on him.

These are the kinds of birds you think about — and are haunted by — for 12 months before you get another chance at them. Last year ended quite differently. I took three longbeards and did not have much trouble doing so. They gobbled enthusiastically to my calls, then paraded in fast and hard into gun range.

I got spoiled by that experience. The easy birds of last year were nowhere to be found either in Minnesota or Wisconsin. I got blanked in Minnesota, and got only the one jake in Wisconsin. My turkey expert friend, Steve Huettl, blames the very early spring we had for the toms’ lack of interest in early May. In a normal year, hens are nesting in early May, and the gobblers have plenty of zeal left for finding new girlfriends.

Not this year. Some hunters, myself and Steve included, found ourselves on properties that seemed devoid of lovestruck toms. Gobbling was way down on some properties, though still strong on others.

The bird I went after for four days on a farm near Ellsworth, Wisconsin, seemed to have plenty of energy. He would come in gobbling hard after he responded to the first series of calls I sent out, then he would eventually hang up. Sometimes, he was only about 40 or 50 yards away, but through some thick brush so I couldn’t see him. There were several times I was sure he would keep coming and eventually absorb a load of pellets.

But, alas, he stopped short of that every time. In the end, I must pay tribute to this tough old bird. He got the better of me, though he was merely trying to survive and not trying to outwit a hunter determined to put him in the cooler for the trip home.

This year, I made the same mistake many turkey hunters make — thinking it would be easy.

It never is. A hunt can be fast, but it is never easy. With a turkey’s sharp eyesight and hearing, and its wary, skittish nature, bringing down a bird is a great accomplishment, especially a long-spurred old tom.

One of the challenges of hunting in May is that the birds have seen and heard other hunters. And, believe me, they get educated fast. I think that’s what happened with this bird. When I talked to the landowner later, he told me that there was another hunter out on his land before me. Sometimes, it only takes one hunter walking around bumping birds to make them even more wary.

But, I’m not going to make excuses. I had chances at this bird, but I didn’t quite seal the deal. I think it’s like what happened to the NHL’s Washington Capitals in their recent playoff series with the New York Rangers. Up three games to one, the Capitals managed to lose the next three, the last one in overtime, 2-1. They thought they would win the series, but came up against a very resilient opponent that wouldn’t lay down in defeat.

So it was with this bird. He played the game, but got the upper hand in the end. I guess you could say this was a home game for him, and the advantage of being in familiar territory proved beneficial to him and bad for me.

I walk away vowing to be better next year. My friend Steve says these are the kinds of years that can teach you much and make you a better hunter. It remains to be seen if that will happen for me. What I do know is my desire will be fueled next year, and I will take to the woods loaded with new strategies, fresh zeal and an expanded base of turkey hunting knowledge.

I can’t wait!

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Life’s mysteries, from another point of view

October 15, 2014

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images

“God should hang up a mailbox for people to send questions and complaints.”

When your world turns upside down, it may pay to look at it that way.
Young Anna does just that — and takes her grieving father along — in the subtly worded and creatively illustrated “Anna’s Heaven.”
Anna coverTranslated by Don Bartlett from the Norwegian, this picture-heavy and text-terse Eerdman’s Book for Young Readers would make for an interesting parent-child reading time, especially in households dealing with the death of a loved one.
The dialogue between father and daughter mixes the realistic and magical, often terrific role modeling for parents trying to cope with the curveballs life throws.
Stain Hole, both author and illustrator, includes interesting questioning of the role God plays in life’s mysteries.
“Why can’t he who knows everything, who can pull and push and turn over clouds and waves and planets — why can’t he invent something to turn bad into good?” Anna says.
“God should hang up a mailbox for people to send questions and complaints,” Dad answers.
Take this journey to the upside-down world. Oh, and look for Elvis and Pablo Picasso in Anna’s version of the hereafter.

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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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Something Beautiful…

October 14, 2013

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Something Beautiful

Something Beautiful

Last week a speaker/entertainer came to speak at the Champions for Life luncheon.  Danielle Rose, a music missionary sang from her prolife CD and spoke about her missionary work in China.  Because of the one child only policy and the poverty of most of those who live there, many families abort their daughters in favor of having a son who can care for them in their old age. As she was explaining this horrible reality, she described that this country had 20 million young men who will never have a wife and family.

 

What happens in a country where you have millions of young men with no future?

 

With such hope and innocence she said.  “Maybe God will raise them up to become priests.”  I am sad to say that most of us in the audience chuckled at that statement.  Maybe we have become so cynical that we don’t believe God can really do such things. China is, after all, an atheist country where it is illegal to evangelize.  Then, Danielle caught our attention and said compellingly “No, really! God can make something beautiful.”

 

At that moment, Danielle asked the Holy Spirit to help her find the right words to say.  I wish I could remember her exact words but she went on to compare Christ’s passion to the situation in China.

 

 

She said, “God can take something ugly and sinful and horrible and make something beautiful happen from it.” Of course I know this; I just need to be reminded.

 

I don’t know about others in the audience, but I wasn’t thinking about the situation in China.  I was thinking about situations in my own heart, situations closer to home.

Her words reminded me to hope and trust that “God really can make something beautiful!”

 

Here is to something beautiful!

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Going up? St. Thérèse was confident in her elevator to heaven

October 1, 2013

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Elevators aren't always reliable but St. Therese had great confidence in hers--the arms of the Lord lifting her to heaven. Photo/kio. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Elevators aren’t always reliable but St. Thérèse had great confidence in hers–the arms of the Lord lifting her to heaven. Photo/kio. Licensed under Creative Commons.

I’m not as eager to take an elevator as I was before I got stuck in one with five other people on a hot July night. We waited only 40 minutes before the power was restored but it seemed like a lot longer as we called for help on the elevator phone, wondered if rescuers were coming and worried about whether the elevator had an air vent.

One saint who had more confidence in her elevator was St. Thérèse of Lisieux, whose feast day we celebrate on October 1. Elevators must have been more novel in the late 19th century. I’m not sure how many St. Thérèse actually rode on or if she had any experiences like mine.

The Little Flower’s elevator wasn’t designed to take her from floor to floor in a building; it was meant to take her to heaven—on God’s power, not her own. The “button” she pushed to call the elevator was her confidence in the Lord, especially in light of her littleness and weakness. It was this confidence in God that would be a centerpiece of her much loved and imitated spiritual work, the Little Way. She wrote in her autobiography:

We are living now in an age of inventions, and we no longer have to take the trouble of climbing stairs … I wanted to find an elevator which would raise me to Jesus, for I am too small to climb the rough stairway of perfection. … The elevator which must raise me to heaven is Your arms, O Jesus! And for this I had no need to grow up, but rather I had to remain little and become this more and more.

The foundation of St. Thérèse’s confidence, as her autobiography states, was recognizing her own nothingness and expecting everything from God as a small child expects everything from its father.

Our misery attracts God’s mercy, St. Thérèse believed. “She regarded her faults as “reminders of her weakness and of her essential need for Our Lord’s constant support; they caused her to turn more completely to Him that He might alone be her sanctification. … her confidence, now unhindered, carried her swiftly towards perfection.” (Spiritual Childhood by Vernon Johnson, p. 103)

St. Thérèse became so confident in the Lord through the assistance of the indwelling Trinity, according to Johnson, who states, “Confidence is a gift of the Holy Spirit, refused to none and granted in proportion to our faith.”

This confidence is the key to Jesus’ Heart and He opens His arms, but it doesn’t disregard our shortcomings. The Lord continues that work of purification. (I Believe in Love by Père Jean du Coeur de Jésus D’Elbée)

In order to purify and sanctify us, Jesus needs only our humility and confidence, D’Elbée writes.

And your confidence will be in proportion to your humility because it is to the extent that we realize our need of Jesus that we have recourse to Him, and we sense this need to the extent that we justly realize our unworthiness.

We need this confidence when receiving the sacraments, including confession, according to D’Elbée.

We think about examining ourselves, yet we do not think, before the examination, during the examination, and after the examination, to plunge ourselves, with all our miseries, in the consuming and transforming furnace of his Heart, which is open to us through a single humble act of confidence.

St. Thérèse’s faith in the Lord’s love for her gave her complete confidence. At the same time she didn’t forget that He was doing the good in her.

When someone told St. Thérèse near the end of her life that she was a saint, she pointed to the tops of the trees in the garden, which looked golden in the setting sun.

“My soul appears to you to be all brilliant and golden because it is exposed to the rays of Love.  If the Divine Sun stopped sending me His fire, I would immediately become dark and full of shadows.”

(Autobiography, D’Elbée)

Our elevator eventually brought us to our destination and of course, St. Thérèse’s brought her to heaven. During her elevator ride through life, her autobiography reveals that she also had to wait sometimes. Even so, St. Thérèse never lost confidence in the One running the elevator.

St. Thérèse, help me to have complete confidence in God’s care for me today.

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Church job or not, ultimately we have the same Employer

August 30, 2013

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Parish sanctuary renovation in progress. Work done directly for the Church or for a secular employer is all work for God.

Parish sanctuary renovation in progress. Work done directly for the Church or for a secular employer is all work done for God.

Renovation of my parish’s sanctuary began this week, and along with fellow parishioners I enjoy checking out the progress. As workers rebuild the altar, lay marble tile and complete other project tasks working directly under the sanctuary crucifix, they clearly are laboring for the Church.

But next month when these workers are laying tile at a car dealership or in a private home, will they still be working for God? What about the rest of us who hold jobs in secular professions, is the Lord in our work as much as He is in that of a priest or others working for the Church?

God and our work

Since Labor Day is about celebrating the economic and social contributions of workers, I thought it would be a good time to look at the role God plays in our work.

Regardless of whether our work is manual or intellectual, religious or secular, we engage our whole selves—body and spirit–in what we do, Bl. Pope John Paul II wrote in his encyclical Laborem Exercens (On Human Work.)

There’s much more of a spiritual connection than we might think because ultimately, our work is really a sharing in the Creator’s work, Bl. John Paul wrote:

The word of God’s revelation is profoundly marked by the fundamental truth that man, created in the image of God, shares by his work in the activity of the Creator and that, within the limits of his own human capabilities, man in a sense continues to develop that activity, and perfects it as he advances further and further in the discovery of the resources and values contained in the whole of creation.

As Creator, God alone can bring something out of nothing, Bl. John Paul wrote in his Letter to Artists. “The craftsman, by contrast, uses something that already exists, to which he gives form and meaning.”

Creator and crafts-person

Even though we’re not all artists or craftspeople, we are co-creating in some way with God when we work. Bl. John Paul illustrates the relationship between Creator and crafts-person/worker by pointing out that the Polish word for craftsman, “Tworca” can be formed from the word for Creator, “Stworca”.

As we share in God’s work, we also need to share in His rest, as Genesis tells us He rested on the seventh day. And we should be aware that we’re participating in God’s activity even in our smallest ordinary tasks.

Work isn’t just about making and improving things, we also improve ourselves by working. We learn, develop our faculties and transcend ourselves, according to the Vatican II document, Gaudium et Spes. This growth is more important than the value of what we produce and the document goes on to say,

“Technical progress is of less value than advances towards greater justice, wider brotherhood, and a more humane social environment. Technical progress may supply the material for human advance but it is powerless to actualize it.” (35)

As a worker Himself, Jesus undoubtedly made technical improvements in his carpentry work. In his preaching he spoke frequently about ordinary jobs done by men and women. Bl. John Paul writes in Laborem Exercens that we unite with the Crucified Christ when we go through the toil of work and in a way collaborate with Him for human redemption.

A “new good” from our work

Whatever work we do, when we take on our work we accept a small part of the Cross and “accept in it the same spirit of redemption in which Christ accepted His Cross for us.” As a result, according to Bl. John Paul, a “new good” springs out of our work which is a kind of foreshadowing of heaven.

Sometimes after a long week it’s hard to imagine “new good” springing out of work. But when we consider the Source and object of our work, whether or not it’s directly for the Church, it’s easier to understand its spiritual and temporal value.

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Separating human-made law from natural law

July 11, 2013

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There's a reason behind every law--even ones governing ducks on the head. Not all laws have reason on their side, however. Photo/keepon. Licensed under Creative Commons.

There’s a reason behind every law–even ones governing ducks on the head. Not all laws have reason on their side, however. Photo/keepon. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Cross the Minnesota border with a duck on your head and you may face legal consequences. Tap your foot to the music in a New Hampshire tavern and you’ve violated the law. Throw pickle juice at a Rhode Island trolley (if you can find one) and you could receive a citation.

These old laws must have made sense when they were enacted but now we just wonder what legislators were thinking.

Those studying our laws 100 years from now might also scratch their heads at some of our statutes—and they may already feel the effect of some of our human-enacted laws that diverge from God’s natural law.

All human-made statutory laws are considered positive law. What exactly is positive law? What’s the difference between positive law and natural law? Do they have anything to do with each other? And what happens if positive law doesn’t align with natural law?

The term “positive law” was first used by the philosopher Thomas Hobbes in his 1651 work “Leviathan:”

Positive, are those which have not been for Eternity; but have been made Lawes by the Will of those that have had the Soveraign Power over others; and are either written, or made known to men, by some other argument of the Will of their Legislator.

Positive law also refers to the establishment of specific rights for an individual or group.

According to one legal definition:

Positive laws may be promulgated, passed, adopted, or otherwise “posited” by an official or entity vested with authority by the government to prescribe the rules and regulations for a particular community. In the United States, positive laws come in a variety of forms at both the state and federal levels, including legislative enactments, judicial orders, executive decrees, and administrative regulations. In short, a positive law is any express written command of the government.

Positive law can also be divine. Canon law and other Church laws are humanly instituted but inspired by God’s revelation. Natural law, on the other hand, refers to God’s laws governing the nature of things. Positive divine law can’t contradict natural law, instead it confirms and further defines it.

Separable or inseparable from our nature?

Natural law is proclaimed to us by the natural light of reason and is inseparable from our nature, whereas positive law is made known by outward signs—word of mouth or writing and is not inseparable from our nature.

Natural law is the foundation and root of the obligation of all positive laws. We can’t violate the natural moral law and the positive laws that are rooted in it without opposing God’s will.

Human-enacted positive laws can be amended or rescinded. Natural law, however, comes from the unchanging God and can’t be revised or avoided. When a positive law violates natural law, as sure as the former is temporal and the latter is immutable, there will be consequences.

A law governing pickle juice and trolleys doesn’t challenge the natural law, although maybe someone was spared inconvenience or even injury because of it.

Defying natural laws

But positive laws that disregard natural law are still subject to it, much the way someone who exercises a legal right to “fly” from a 15-story building will quickly become acquainted with the more established law of gravity.

In the case of some of our newer laws, especially those dealing with sexual morality, it just might take a little longer to hit the ground.

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