LIFT Links for Late Summer

We’re headed into August, and summer is, for better or worse, winding down. If you’re like us, in the flurry of summer and back-to-school activities, it can be hard to find quality time to spend with God, or even with the entire family. To that end, here are a few ideas for a late summer day or weekend:

  • Lakeside Fellowship. Camp Lebanon is coming quickly, but if your summer isn’t plum full already, consider joining other St. Michael and St. Albert families the weekend of Aug. 14-16 for great food, fellowship, and lakeside fun. Details can be found here, and the registration form is here — we still need families in order to hold the entire camp for our two parishes!
  • Family Movie Night. A few years back I watched and recommend the beautiful animated movie, The Secret of Kells. Both Kells and a newer movie in the same style (which I haven’t seen), Song of the Sea, are available for unlimited streaming on Amazon Prime. Ignatius Press recently published this review of Song of the Sea — should be well worth watching. We will definitely be checking it out! (The Secret of Kells is also available on Netflix.)
  • Silent Retreat. Christ the King Retreat Center in Buffalo is hosting a men’s and women’s silent retreat in late August entitled “Sowing Seeds of Mercy.” The retreat is Aug. 21-23 at King’s House, with a suggested donation of $160. More details and registration information can be found here.
  • Spaghetti Dinner. Sometimes just having a family meal together that you don’t have to cook is the ticket to reconnecting with family. If so, you can eat for a great cause at the upcoming Kunzman Spaghetti Dinner fundraiser hosted by Knights of Columbus Council 4174 at the St. Albert Parish Center. The dinner is Sunday, Aug. 23, from 4:30 to 8 p.m., with free-will offerings to support Brother Knight Erich Kunzman and family. Erich has suffered some complications due to a significant surgery and could use our prayers and support!
Have a great rest of your summer!

LIFT Links: Summer Break Edition

Today was the final parish school Mass of the year, in which Fr. Richards and Fr. Nathan collaborated on the homily/skit to underscore to the students that we do not take a vacation from God. With that in mind, I thought I’d share a few ideas to keep growing in faith during these months of summer leisure.

The Basics

  • Make Sunday Mass a priority all summer long. Especially for those of us who like to escape to the cabin or lake, or who plan trips during the summer months, it can be tempting to skip out on Mass, or to plan to attend the last possible weekend Mass and miss accidentally or arrive late, hungry, harried, and distracted. But Mass and the Eucharist are central to our Catholic faith — the closest encounter with Christ and the most powerful prayer we can offer! Wherever you are headed, take time to find a Catholic Church along the way and make sure you make it to Saturday evening or Sunday Mass. (We once stopped at the Catholic Church in St. Ignace on the way back from Michigan, and the kids were invited by the priest to help with the May Crowning of Mary!) If you have kids, let them look online and help you pick which church you attend, then check out the stained glass, statues, Stations of the Cross, and such — and see what you can learn about that parish’s patron saint.
  • Make Confession a priority. Most of us don’t sin less during the summer, so Confession is no less important during vacation. Get it on the calendar now, so you don’t forget — and if you do happen to miss weekend Mass, make it a priority to do penance and receive absolution before the next weekend, to ensure you receive all the graces of the Eucharist when you receive Jesus again!
  • Don’t forget prayer and spiritual reading. Some of us relish our down time, and look forward to those quiet moments on the deck, in the the sun, on the water, or in the garden. Before you turn on the Twins game or grab the latest paperback thriller, take a little time for quiet prayer or spiritual reading. Give to God from the top of your time, and He will give you so much in return! Also, don’t overlook the blessings of the Road-Trip Rosary: kick off any long drive with a family rosary and see if the trip doesn’t go more smoothly!
  • Check out daily Mass or Adoration. It’s easy during the summer to run ourselves ragged and need a spiritual recharge. Daily or weekday Mass offers a great opportunity for quiet time to pray and to receive a daily dose of scripture and the Holy Eucharist. Often weekday Mass is early or late in the day, providing a nice bookend to whatever else you have planned, and most weekday Masses are only about 30 minutes long. Or for more flexibility, check out the nearest Adoration Chapel, and spend one-on-one time praying before the Blessed Sacrament. Bring your Bible or current spiritual book and see what Jesus has to say as you dig deeper into the words on the page!
Spiritual Vacations
We are blessed in our parish and area to have many opportunities for deeper spiritual recharging for Catholics of all ages — here are just a few options:
  • Sign the kids up for Vacation Bible School (VBS). This year’s VBS offering is Cathletics: Training to Be Champions for Christ! VBS is open to children from four years old through those who have just completed 5th grade. Registration forms and more information are available on the parish website, at the parish office, or in Gathering Space.
  • Take the family to Camp Lebanon for faith-filled fun on the water! Enjoy lakeside cabin and lodge style camping near Upsala for families from St. Albert and St. Michael parishes, coming up  August 14-16 – swimming, fishing, zipline, paintball, fireside rosary, Mass, and more. Information is available on the easel in the Gathering Space.
  • Register for our free series on meditative prayer. Local Catholic teacher Angie Lambert and local Catholic speaker Michelle Steele will be offering two evening sessions on meditative prayer: what it is and how to grow in it–including a little time to practice. They will also be discussing contemplative prayer, a higher form of prayer beyond meditative prayer, toward which meditation leads, as well as the virtues that lead us to a deeper life of prayer.  We all know the key to happiness and peace is a life of prayer. These sessions are free and open to all ages; they will be held at St. Michael’s Catholic Church, on Monday, June 22, and Monday, June 29, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Please RSVP by June 17 at or call Monica at the parish office at (763) 497-2745 to sign up.
  • Go on an actual retreat! We have great opportunities for Catholic retreats in this area, including King’s House in Buffalo, Pacem In Terris in Isanti, and the Jesuit Retreat House (Demontreville) in Lake Elmo. For a more complete listing of Catholic retreat centers around Minnesota, visit
Recommended Reading
Over the past few weeks, I’ve had a few conversations about books that might help rekindle our love for the Catholic faith in our families. I’ve done some reading myself and have asked around a bit — here are a few recommendations that don’t require a theology degree to read and enjoy:
  • Consider getting one of the publications for kids that explore the weekend Mass readings and discussing them before Mass. Not only will this provide a great and simple opportunity to share scripture and your faith, but it will also deepen their Mass experience, since they will be hearing the readings for the second time! Either Magnifikid! or Celebrating Sunday for Catholic Families are good options.
  • My bride and I are part of a couples group that is just finishing Jason Free’s Parenting on Purpose, an easy-to-read refresher on why Christian (specifically Catholic) parenting matters, with simple, practical ideas on how parents can raise children who catch and keep the faith.
  • For parents of teens, our youth minister, John O’Sullivan recently recommended Blessed are the Bored in Spirit: A Young Catholic’s Search for Meaning by Mark Hart. I’m just reviewing this now, but it appears to be geared toward teens who may just be going through the motions and those who care about them
  • I also know several families who swear by reading about the lives of the saints as a great way to inspire children and teens to lead holy lives. There are lots of books on the lives of the saints, saints of the day, etc. — or you can pick biographies of particular saints that might appeal to specific children. The book we gave away at the parish this past Christmas, Jason Evert’s Saint John Paul the Great: His Five Loves, is a wonderful and inspiring read for young Catholics and older alike — and I’m sure I have an extra copy of it if you missed out.
Many blessings on your summer — and for those of you traveling, Our Lady of the Highway, pray for us!

LIFT Links: Holy Week and Easter Traditions

Icons of Holy Week: Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter

I’ve been a little lax on LIFT Links lately (that’s a lot of Ls) — and now, as we’re headed into Holy Week and the Easter Season, I need to make up for lost time.

First, the basics. Until I met and married Jodi, I was vaguely aware that Palm Sunday was the Sunday before Easter, the Good Friday was the Friday before, and Easter was a pretty big deal–right up there with Christmas. At some point early in our relationship, my bride informed me that her family attended Mass at least three (and sometimes four or more) times during Holy Week, the week between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday. As I’ve said more than once, they went to church on days I didn’t know church was open!

St. Liborius Catholic Church, Polo, SD

Jodi’s family, and many of the other parishioners at St. Liborius Catholic Church in Polo, SD, went to church at every opportunity during the Holy Triduum: Holy Thursday, Good Friday, the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday, and morning Mass on Easter Sunday. Today, our family goes on Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and either Holy Saturday or Easter Sunday. It’s a beautiful way to enter into that period of uncertainty and darkness, then light and joy, that Jesus’s disciples experienced between the Last Supper and Christ’s Resurrection.

One more thing before I share some links: attending Mass on every Sunday and all Holy Days of Obligation is one of the five Precepts of the Catholic Church — the minimum requirements to be a practicing Catholic. Receiving Holy Communion is not required every Sunday, however, receiving Holy Communion at least once during the Easter season (which is Easter Sunday through Pentecost Sunday) is required. Receiving the sacrament of Reconciliation once a year is also one of the precepts — and since being cleansed of all serious sins is required to receive Our Lord worthily, Lent is a great time of year to get to Confession so you can receive Holy Communion at Easter.

Now, some links:

Have a blessed Holy Week and Easter, friends!

Confessions of a Struggling LIFT Parent

Over the past several weeks, 114 parishioners completed our anonymous LIFT Mid-Year Survey. We received a good balance of responses across all four LIFT nights and all grade levels; we heard strong, positive feedback; very frank and consistent negative feedback; and lots of great ideas about things we could do differently. The results of the survey are available on the church website,, by clicking the Faith Formation tab at the top of the page.

I take your feedback seriously, not only because it’s my job, but because I’m a LIFT parent, too. I know firsthand what it’s like to remember the night before LIFT that you haven’t even asked your kids about their homework, let alone helped them with it. I know that it’s harder to motivate myself to attend LIFT as my kids get older. I know that some nights, we’re lucky to remember to say Grace as a family before we scarf a late supper and fall into bed.

I know it’s not easy—but I’m convinced we can make it easier. Below are a few examples of things I agree that we should work to change in the coming year:

  • LIFT stands for Learning In Faith Together, but families are separated and learn completely different things.
  • The goal is to help parents to be the primary teachers of their children, but we don’t really help—we give you tons of content and expect you to figure it out.
  • Another goal is to build community, but our only adult interactions are in small-group settings that are easily the most uncomfortable and least liked aspect of the program.
  • For the price of the program, too much of the teaching falls on the parents—especially in terms of sacramental preparation.
  • At a certain point, it no longer makes sense for parents to be required to attend classes year after year with their children—and if it becomes an obstacle to their children attending, nobody benefits.

On the other hand, I also know that staying involved in LIFT has made a difference in my family. I know that when we finally remember our LIFT homework, the kids know what to expect and buckle down to do it—and since they’ve been involved year after year, the lessons aren’t as hard as they used to be. I know that the more Jodi and I model sacramental living, the more the kids pick it up and reflect it back to us. And I know there is no more powerful motivator for an adult to keep growing in their faith that to have their children pulling them along.

Certain aspects of the LIFT program will not change in the coming year. Family catechesis will remain the core model, and the price of the program is what it is in order to balance the budget. Our goal is to build a LIFT program that delivers on its promise of Learning In Faith Together, that provides better value for the cost, and most importantly, that grounds St. Michael families in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and His Church.

St. Augustine writes, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” Getting LIFT right won’t happen overnight. But when it does, I believe families will come, not because they are required, but because they want to—because their hearts long for God, and they know they can find Him here.

Blogger’s Note: This article appears in the Sunday, Feb. 22, church bulletin .

LIFT Links: Lenten Edition

Ash Wednesday is this week, marking the beginning of Lent, the penitential season that prepares us for the joy of Christ’s Resurrection at Easter. Too often we treat Lent like a do-over for our New Year’s resolutions or a chance to jumpstart our diet before swimsuit season. But Lent isn’t meant to be about loss–we fast to gain, to grow spiritually.

To that end, this week let’s look at few links on what Lent’s really about, and how to live it as a family.

One last thing: every year, people ask about “taking Sundays off” from your Lenten sacrifices. Some people insist that since Sundays are a feast day and not counted in the “40 days of Lent,” your sacrifices don’t apply to Sundays. Others say that a person out to be able to make it through the entire Lenten season, Sundays and all, without “stumbling” or “giving in.”

It is true that Sundays aren’t meant for fasting and aren’t counted among the 40 days of Lent. It may also be true that if you absolutely cannot abstain from whatever-it-is for the full Lenten season, you could be overly attached to it. My advice to my own family: decide now which you are going to observe and stick to it. If you think it would be a good disciple for you to go beerless or chocolate-free on Sundays, too, I don’t have a problem with that. Just remember that Sunday is a feast day and find ways to treat it as such. But whatever you do, don’t decide that a different day is going to be your “day off”– it’s not a day off; it’s the Lord’s Day, which makes it special — and don’t decide two weeks into Lent that maybe you could have a little just…this…once. That’s a slippery slope that quickly slides from Sundays into other days, too!