Leaving Home, Heading Home

Earlier this week, our second son, Gabe, returned to NET Ministries for a third year, this time as a staff member and traveling team supervisor. When he graduated from high school, college wasn’t calling him; God was. We are blessed to live in a Catholic community with a history and large appetite for supporting such missionaries—the past two years he has been fully funded, enabling extra donations to flow to teammates and friends with less support. He has crisscrossed the state and much of the country, logging tens of thousands of miles on lots of prayer and little sleep, fueled by egg bakes and pizzas, sloppy joes and taco bars. He has shared the word of God, the love of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit with thousands of middle- and high-schoolers.

He is doing what he loves, and he is good at it. You can get the low-down on the past two years and this year on his blog, Stand Against Goliath—click Mission Update 2020: A New Adventure.

Coronavirus brought him home early this spring, and we were glad to have him. He helped tremendously around the house, schooling his youngest sister, eight-year-old Lily; discovering new recipes and cooking several great meals; helping me get into the habit of praying the Liturgy of the Hours, and generally doing whatever we asked of him. Continue reading

George Floyd: What Can I Do?

Blogger’s Note: This is a long post. I hope to do some shorter ones, rooted in specific Catholic teachings and principles. But I think I need to say a few things first. (Photo courtesy of a local Catholic friend, Jim Lang.)

* * * * *

For days, I have wanted to write and couldn’t—not because I didn’t have anything to say, but because I had too much to say, and most of it felt too easy. I re-read an essay I wrote from four years ago, when the dead man’s name was Philando Castile, then reposted it—but that seemed too easy, as well. Something was different this time. Something more needed to be said. Something else needed to be done.

I wanted to have said something so I could stop thinking. I even sat and began to type a time or two. But the only clear thought that came, again and again, was, “What can I do?”

I also worried about saying the wrong thing. It doesn’t take long online to discover that too many people are looking for fight. I’ve seen folks advocating violence, dismantling the reputation and character of businesses and strangers, and dismissing people entirely for using the wrong word in the wrong way.

And I am prone to vainglory (worrying overmuch about what people think of me) and have a hard time letting things go, especially when misunderstood.

So I’d much rather sit this one out.

With Philando Castile, I simply described the tension in my heart and mind. This time I leaned into that tension, not looking to respond, explain or excuse, but to see, hear and learn about myself.

Something is different this time. Something more needs to be said. Something needs to be done.

What can I do?

* * * * *

I can tell people where I stand. George Floyd’s killing is an outrage, and I am angry. This should not have happened and should never happen again.

Perhaps, like me, your first instinct now is to say, “Yes, but…”

Hold that thought.

Just sit in silence with the image of a six-foot-six man, created in God’s image, dying in the street, held down by police officers who would not help him and watched by bystanders who could not. Let that break your heart. Continue reading

Wednesday Witness: Belong. Believe. Behave.

This piece was published in the May 24 edition of the St. Michael Catholic Church bulletin.  At the time, I thought it resonated with our typical approach to welcoming people into our church, but a week and a half later, I challenge myself and everyone else to read and reflect on it in light of the killing of George Floyd and the aftermath.

People need a place to belong. They want a reason to believe.

* * * * *

Two weekends ago, Fr. Richards preached a homily that has not left me. Over the years, he has talked often about the need for hospitality in our parish—and more recently, he has urged us to move beyond welcoming to actively inviting people into relationship: with ourselves, with Christ and with the Church.

This time Father presented a simple model of how to do this—or more precisely, how we often do it wrong. The model was summarized in three short words: Belong. Believe. Behave.

People are looking for a place to belong. We are made for love and community—without it, we can’t step forward in trust toward belief. And if someone does not believe—specifically, if someone does not believe in a God who loves us and has a plan for us—why would they ever behave? How can they receive a love they cannot see? Why would they follow a God they do not know? Continue reading

Wednesday Witness: Simple Act of Mercy

Five minutes ago, my smart phone buzzed to say a new text message had arrived. This is a fairly frequent occurrence on weekdays, but this was no ordinary text:

Wednesday, May 13, 2020 12:22 PM

Archiocese SPM – Anointing: Please now pray one Our Father for someone suffering from COVID-19 who is about to be anointed in our Archdiocese; one Hail Mary for comfort for the patient’s family; and one Glory Be in thanksgiving for and in protection of the priest and the medical team ministering to the person. Mary, Mother of the Church, pray for us! St. Roche, pray for us!

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has set up two text-based prayer groups that anyone can sign up for: The first sends out a message whenever a priest in the archdiocese has been sent to give the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick to a COVID-19 patient who is seriously ill or facing death; the second sends a message whenever a frontline healthcare worker in the archdiocese has asked for prayer support for their work. Instructions for signing up for these prayer lines can be found on the Archdiocese COVID-19 Prayers webpage.

I signed up to support the Anointing Corps on Friday. Within a couple hours, my phone buzzed, and when I saw the message, I choked up. It is easy—in a third-ring suburb, in a Midwestern state that thus far has not been hit as hard as my homestate of Michigan or either of the coasts—to get frustrated with not being able to do what we want, when we want, and to forget that somewhere not far from here, this virus is stealing a life.

I wiped my eyes and prayed.

I have received seven more texts since then—including two overnight last night and the one from the top of this post. That’s not so many, perhaps, but it’s enough to keep me aware of the need for God’s love and mercy for those most affected. And what simpler way to be an instrument of that mercy? In less that two minutes, we can lift an entire family and team of caregivers in real time.

It’s humbling. God does not need our help in His saving work, and honestly, often we fumble in our attempts. But like a good and patient Father, He wants us near, learning and growing in our half-hearted attempts to be like Him.

Wednesday Witness: Business as Usual

It has been almost a month since Catholics in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis were dispensed of our Sunday obligation to attend Mass, and even less time since public Masses were suspended and we were told by state officials to stay home for two weeks. It seems longer, doesn’t it? It appears likely we will be asked to persist in this relative isolation awhile longer.

People are rightly concerned about the health of their loved ones, the most vulnerable among us and healthcare workers (among other “essential” employees). They are also rightly concerned about their livelihoods and the economy, their family’s mental and spiritual health, and how much freedom and control we are willing to sacrifice based on what evidence.

That’s a great deal of concern. It’s exhausting to carry, and people everywhere are asking, “When will things get back to normal?”

I am not sure they should. Continue reading