Two Simple Prayers for Troubled Times

Note: This post appeared as a column in the Sunday, January 17, bulletins for the St. Michael and St. Albert parishes.

Despite what you may have heard growing up, curiosity is not a virtue. It’s natural for children to be curious: everything is new and wondrous, and developing brains absorb it all like a sponge. Parents are naturally excited to see their children explore the world around them and encourage them to take it all in—but at a certain point, our desire to know outstrips our need.

[T]he snake said to the woman: “You certainly will not die! God knows well that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, who know good and evil.”

Genesis 3:4-5

It is not insignificant that the tree at the center of Man’s fall from grace into sin is the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Adam and Eve had all they needed. They walked in perfect love and justice with each other and with God. But they grasped at more and fell—and all of us with them.

The solitary serpent that tempted our first parents seems to have the entire world in its coils today, and I find myself increasingly drawn to try to make sense of the chaos. On some level this makes sense: I have a family to care for and protect, and a responsibility to build God’s kingdom even in the ruins around me.

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You Don’t Stand a Chance

Note: This post appears as the Sunday, January 10, bulletin column for St. Michael and St. Albert parishes.

Many years ago, I ran across this bit of wisdom from Chinese poet Ching An:

“The joke’s on me: This year’s man is last year’s man.”

Ching An

Ain’t that the way of things? It may be a new year, but old habits die hard. As a result, many of us step boldly into January with big plans and a lot of false bravado to disguise our limp and cover our crutches.

For example, every January I struggle to accept all the things I haven’t accomplished in the previous year. What I have achieved doesn’t matter; the list of things I wish I’d done is always longer—invariably leading to speculation about what I need to do differently:

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Suffering For, Suffering With

It’s Independence Day: a time to celebrate life and liberty in these United States. We are blessed, even in these strange days, with much of the country under some form of quarantine, protests in our streets and ugly politics blaring from every screen and speaker. God continues to guide us with His providence, though we cannot see His ends.

One of the things I love about the Catholic Church is her defense of meaning. For example, not everyone distinguishes between liberty—freedom to do the good—and license—freedom to do whatever you want. That’s an important distinction with real outcomes for society: A culture that espouses liberty believes in good and evil, and facilitates the good—but a culture that embraces license ultimately finds no common ground, no good to support—so what happens when what I want conflicts with what you want? Continue reading

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

Waiting for the Other Shoe

“Seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.” – Matthew 6:33-34

One of the aspects of my personality that can be maddening to those blessed to live with me is that, regardless of how well or how poorly things are going in the moment, I am constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop. If all is going well, I marvel at the fact, and since I’m certain I don’t deserve it, I wonder how long it can last and how it will end. When things are going poorly, I think not so much about when it will turn around, but how much worse it will get first.

I know, I know. It’s part of my charm.

I don’t think I’m entirely alone in this. These days the anxiety is palpable among so many people—and if I immerse myself too deeply in what passes for coronavirus “coverage,” the fear grows in me, as well. Much of what I read is of the “pick your poison” variety—give up your personal freedom or contribute to mass casualties. Are we overreacting, or underreacting? Will this disease fundamentally change the way we live? Or will government efforts to manage it be the thing that does?

So people change the subject, trying to avoid the question on everyone’s mind: What’s going to happen next? Continue reading