Wednesday Witness: Experience the Difference

Jodi and I are blessed with five children, four of whom are high-schoolers or older. All of them are knowledgeable about Catholicism and practice their faith daily. Indeed, they humble us with their devotion to the sacraments, their service to the Church and their willingness to evangelize.

Sometimes people ask us what we did to “make them” this way. We’ve asked them the same question. The clearest answer we’ve received is that going to Mass was never a choice or a question—but more than making them go, we never complained about it ourselves. They knew that Mass, prayer and formation were priorities, not only for them, but for us, too.

It’s gratifying to hear, but we know there is something more. Our example got them through the doors of the church, but St. Michael and St. Albert Youth Ministry made them want to come back and helped them fall in love with Jesus. First they wanted to go to Friday Night Live with their friends, then they asked to go to Extreme Faith Camp, then they began asking to go to Confession, daily Mass and Adoration. They admired the older teens who entertained and mentored them, and decided they wanted to pay it forward. They joined Core Team and began to draw the next generation to Christ. Continue reading

Stewardship Witness: The Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist

Blogger’s Note: Awhile back I offered to Father to speak to the parish on the purpose of the Open Adoration events we have been hosting, and instead, he asked me if I would share a stewardship witness—a conversion story of sorts—on the Eucharist and Adoration. This short talk was delivered after all the Masses the weekend of October 26-27, 2019.

Brothers and sisters: I’d like you to ask yourself the following question: At this moment, who is the most important person in the room? Does everyone have someone in mind? OK, on the count of three, point to that person: 1…2…3…

Several years ago, I was helping to get our faith formation program going, and the director, Carol Freeman, asked a favor of me. During LIFT we were going to spend time in Adoration—silent prayer in front of the Holy Eucharist—and she asked if I would lead a closing prayer at the end.

I said I would—then spent the rest of the session trying to figure out why she asked me, of all people. I was on the Faith Formation Committee, but beyond that, I was nobody important in the parish. I looked around the church and thought, I’m not even the most important person in the room. Father’s here; he’s more important. Carol’s the director; she’s more important. Continue reading

The Distance Is Mine

Ever found yourself so preoccupied with the task in front of you that, when you found you need help, you bellow for your next of kin, only to realize they are right next to you?

Yeah, me neither.

Yesterday I was blessed with a Holy Hour in the middle of my work day. I made my way to the chapel at noon, knelt before the Blessed Sacrament, closed my eyes, and almost immediately, the weight of countless worries settled on my shoulders, and my heart began to ache for consolation, peace and rest. In silence, I began calling out to the Lord, asking Him to come, to hurry, to reassure me.

Then I stopped and blinked my eyes open to gaze upon the Eucharist in the monstrance before me—Jesus, waiting patiently.

I resolved to begin again, recalling the advice of our Demontreville retreat leader on beginning prayer and reflection: “Look at Him looking at me, and recognize, It’s good for us to be here.” In silence I greeted the Lord, and in silence He flooded my heart with peace.

A question arose: Why had I been so distraught? I hadn’t felt that way as I walked to the chapel. Only when I knelt to pray did I feel as though God was far from me.

Then, an answer: The distance was mine.

The cry of my heart as I knelt was not the result of God’s absence, but of my inattention to Him. It was not silence on His part, but deafness on mine. I was so preoccupied with countless cares and concerns I cried out to Him—not realizing He was right beside me.

The Phantom Cross

A little more than a week ago, we dropped our second son Gabe off at the NET Center in St. Paul to begin training for nine months of drawing young people to Christ as a NET Ministries missionary. Then yesterday we dropped our eldest, Brendan, off for his third and final year at the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota.

As we sped east on I-94 last night, Jodi reflected that we hadn’t taken a photo of Bren as we dropped him off this year. The first year we took several. Last year I snapped one of Brendan and his roommate Nick for Jodi, since she couldn’t be there when I dropped him off. This time we were both there, and it was clearer than ever that our adult son has another beautiful life, mostly hidden from us. This was revealed during a brief stop  at his girlfriend Becky’s home in Moorehead for introductions and delicious, homemade double-chocolate-chip-and-almond scones on the way to UMary, by the laughter and embraces upon his arrival on campus, the excitement and shouted greetings from hallways and upstairs windows, the verbal and non-verbal shorthand between our son and his friends. He belongs there as much as in our home, and we were so subconsciously aware of this that dropping him off and driving away seemed almost natural.

It was not precisely so when we dropped off Gabe. I’ve reflected briefly on the difference when we celebrated his grad party earlier this summer: When we took Bren to Bismarck the first time, the sensation was like a long, taut line from me to him—I could not see him, but I could feel him and was acutely aware of his presence six hours to the west. But Gabe was dropped off just down the road in St. Paul, at a place he has been before. Currently he is at a camp somewhere in the woods, praying and team-building and training like countless times previously. From this perspective, this feels like no big deal—Gabe is doing youth ministry as he has for years now.

On the other hand, this time he is not coming home until Christmas and will be gone again until spring. And if he is chosen for a traveling team, as he hopes, he won’t be in any one place, but will live out of a suitcase, a van and a trailer, staying in strange homes in strange cities. Continue reading

Wholly Self-Centered

Blogger’s Note: It’s been awhile. We’ve had an eventful holiday season—I’ll catch you up soon! In the meantime, here’s a short reflection from this weekend.

I have long experience at being self-centered. Those who know me know that I am both self-critical and self-righteous, quick-tempered, easily disillusioned, and a bit of a navel-gazer. I fight against these tendencies, fail frequently, and because I know too well my own selfish tendencies, I see (or imagine) my failings in those I love.

I’m a peach; just ask my family.

Continue reading