Home Away From Home and the Gift of Disillusionment

On Labor Day weekend, we took Emma to Bismarck for her first year at the University of Mary. The six-hour trek to Mary Hill is becoming more and more familiar: the wide open spaces, green hills and big skies, the sun and the wind…and that one stretch with the bugs splattering like rain on the windshield. The speed zone through Moorehead and Fargo. The bluffs by the James River.

It’s an easy six hour of driving, and it’s getting easier.

When we took Brendan for his first year, I likened the sensation to a taut wire from the back of my mind to him, constantly aware of his absence. When we took Gabe to NET, the feeling was a bit different: First he was just down the freeway in St. Paul, but then he was who-knows-where, living out of a van and crisscrossing state lines and time-zones.

Subsequent years it was better—easier—because they knew people. Faces unfamiliar to us spoke in smiling shorthand to them, and it was clear they were at home (a perception with its own bittersweetness).

But Emma is my daughter, my first girl-baby. And media and internet insist there is so much to be afraid of. And I was a freshman guy once.

Should I be worried?

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One Thing Leads to Another, and Another, and…

With all the world’s wickedness on display, perhaps we could use some good news today? It’s been a wonderful week, friends.

* * * * *

Brendan and Becky were in town last weekend for a beautiful wedding—and as friends on the groom’s side we made the short list of guests who could actually attend. It was a great blessing to celebrate the love of God and of two young people in a church at the end of a long week of violence and sorrow.

100991410_10222259326129831_8472946898402017280_nOn Monday, Lily, Jodi and I paraded by vehicle through the Big Woods Elementary School parking lot to cheer and be cheered by the teachers and staff. (In retrospect, Gabe should have joined; he did most to help her with distance learning these past few months.) It was a bittersweet end to the school year, capped by a tear-jerking video from Mrs. Skon to all her students later in the week. We were all blessed to have her as a teacher through these challenges—Lily most of all. Continue reading

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

Wednesday Witness: Life Abounds

In December 2017, my daughter Emma and I were driving near Clearwater, hoping to practice merging and freeway driving ahead of a long trip to Bismarck on the coming weekend. As she was getting on the freeway for the first time, a knot of cars approached, and it was difficult to tell if they were letting her in. Our passenger-side tires hit slush on the shoulder; we began to fishtail and then spun across both lanes of traffic and into the median. We were struck hard by at least one other vehicle, which also wound up in the median. It was terrifying.

I wrote about the experience afterward: how, in an instant, I came to the stark realization that my life and hers were not in my control. Strangely, that revelation came with a feeling of extraordinary peace and the desire that, whatever happened, my daughter should know that she is loved and that everything is okay. Continue reading

Am I My Brother’s Keeper?

Blogger’s Note: This was meant as a parish bulletin column for next weekend, but it seems appropriate to post it now.

As coronavirus news reached a fever pitch this past week, a friend shared the reality of the threat for his wife, whose immune system is compromised. While he would never suggest that everyone change their behaviors to accommodate the needs of him and his wife, he urged people to understand that just because you might weather the virus with no lasting effect doesn’t mean your neighbor would.

Our world is flush with information; society is rampant with anxiety on the best of days; and we don’t like facing mortality or being blamed if we fail to act. All these things make us ripe for the Enemy’s picking. Who is the deceiver, the accuser, the divider? Who benefits from the disintegration caused by sickness and fear, quarantine and “social distancing”?

On the other hand, who inspired Cain’s infamous question (Genesis 4:9), “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Our thoughts, words and actions either contribute to the spread of this virus and the fear associated with it, or they diminish it. They either divide, or they unite. Continue reading