Marriage as Covenant, Church as Marriage

Today is the twenty-second anniversary of our marriage. It has been, and continues to be, a crazy-busy, head-spinning, gut-wrenching week, so we’ve agreed to postpone our celebration until sometime late next week or the following week. It’s an important day, but also no big deal. We’re in it for the long haul.

Not long ago, one of my dear spiritual daughters asked me: If it is natural for people to grow out of some friendships over time, what about marriages? I told her that it’s natural that certain feelings toward your spouse might change over time, like they do toward anyone else. The difference is that married love is not friendship.

Love is choosing the good of another regardless of the cost to yourself. Marriage is a lifelong commitment to love one person above all others save God. Love is an act of the will. Married love is an act of the will—a choice you make, as best you can, for the good of another—every moment of every day for the rest of your life.

In this light, married couples might grow out of friendly feelings, but must not grow out of love for each other. Continue reading

Wednesday Witness: Private Little Wars

Last weekend I was blessed to make my fourth annual silent retreat at the Jesuit Retreat House at Demontreville, near Lake Elmo, Minnesota. My two eldest sons went with me for a weekend of rest, reflection and spiritual rejuvenation.

The music that is played over the weekend ranges from Gregorian chant to sax-and-bongos praise music that too frequently causes my sons and I make eye contact and stifle laughter. Over the past few weeks, the three of us had been trying to recall a particular song from the late 1960s that seems to be played at every retreat, every year. It isn’t a bad song, but a little too…’60s…for us to really enjoy. We couldn’t remember the name, but knew that the instant it started our eyes would meet, for better or worse. And sure enough, they did, on Friday—the first full day of the retreat. Continue reading

Wednesday Witness: Is This Seat Taken?

Blogger’s Note: Originally published on the Saint Andrew Catholic Church and School website, August 1, 2018.

Have you ever been a guest at a friend’s home and found yourself standing at the dinner table, trying to decide where to sit without being presumptuous or disrupting your hosts’ plans? This situation is common enough that Jesus references it in His teaching:

“When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not recline at table in the place of honor. A more distinguished guest than you may have been invited by him, and the host who invited both of you may approach you and say, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then you would proceed with embarrassment to take the lowest place. Rather, when you are invited, go and take the lowest place so that when the host comes to you he may say, ‘My friend, move up to a higher position.’ Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table” – Luke 14:8-10

That moment of awkward hesitation around the table stems from the recognition that there is a natural order to a dinner party: the head of the table is a place of honor; the host knows who is invited and who should sit where; we should follow his or her lead. Once the guest of honor or the head of the household is seated, the other guests generally move quickly into place. Continue reading

The Narrow Way

Blogger’s Note: This is the latest in a collection of daily posts outlining my journey to the Sacred Heart over the past year or more. See an overview and links to past posts here.

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.” — Matthew 7:13-14

The narrow way leads ever upward, and you follow as you can. Bare rock and brambles, clefts and washouts so steep and deep you turn sideways to pass or clamber out on all fours. Feet and fingers dirt-caked and bloody; knees rubbed raw, and muscles aching, you begin to imagine the weight of the wood.

The path that left the road was barely a path at all: a crooked parting in the thistles and brush, leading up to scrub oak and pines. Emerging at last above the trees, at intervals you glimpse the road below, broad and easy, winding downward into the cool shadows of the valley; you hear snatches of ribald song, bells, and laughter.

But that was hours ago—the temptation to join the carefree throng is long past. Beyond birdsong and brooksong, the air is thin and sharp as a blade in your lungs. As the sun drops, the urge now is not to turn back, but simply to cease. Continue reading

Spiritual Cardio, Part 2

Blogger’s Note: This is the latest in a collection of daily posts outlining my journey to the Sacred Heart over the past year or more. See an overview and links to past posts here.

My departure from home to the Engels was bittersweet, of course. I was sad but resigned to going solo and making the most of my time alone with God. Even as I drove, I prayed for the ability to forgive my family, for Jodi (and Emma) to forgive my anger and hurtful words, and for God to have mercy on us all.

I arrived after dark, opened things up and turned on the lights, then turned Bruno and Dusty loose in the house together. Immediately they began tearing around the house, wagging, snarling, rolling, and wrestling. I began streaming the Friday night blues programming from Jazz88 and opened the windows to the lake breezes and nightly noises, then cracked a beer. I sat, watching the dogs, listening to the blues, nursing a beer, and feeling calm but discontented. Continue reading