Family and Fruitfulness: A Father’s Perspective

It’s getting quiet around here.

This weekend, Emma and Trevor are helping with our church’s Core Team Retreat, so just Jodi, Lily, and I, along with our Airedale Bruno, are at home. It’s a preview of our new reality beginning early next month—our youngest as an only child; we, as nearly empty-nesters.

This situation is not extraordinary. Indeed it is almost inevitable, and certainly preferable to a basement full of adult children without direction or dreams. But both Jodi and I agree that the approaching transition feels different.

* * * * *

In the wee hours of Thursday morning, our oldest son Brendan, his bride, and his two little sons left Bismarck in a plane, bound for Minneapolis, Boston, and, ultimately, Rome. They arrived in the Eternal City early Friday; they will make their home in a convent apartment for 10 months out of 12 for the next two to three years as Brendan oversees Student Life for the University of Mary’s Rome campus.

We hope to visit them this spring. We didn’t travel back and forth to Bismarck often these past few years, but seeing the four of them in person just once a year—and the stark reality that an ocean and two half-continents lie between us—leaves a hollow feeling in my chest.

* * * * *

Tomorrow morning, we take our youngest son, Trevor, to Saint John Vianney Seminary (SJV) at the University of St. Thomas in Saint Paul to begin his undergraduate studies and formal discernment of priesthood. In his case, he’ll be less than an hour away, but it seems further somehow. SJV is an island of clean-cut, well-dressed young men living and praying together amid the highs and lows of life on a fairly typical college campus. The young men’s schedule is structured and rigorous; their access to technology—especially smart phones—is strictly limited; their studies are not oriented simply to a career field and a job, but to a lifelong vocational call.

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Wednesday Witness: What Are We Doing Here?

Blogger’s Note: Originally published on the Saint Andrew Catholic Church and School website, July 18, 2018.


One of the spiritual practices I am trying to cultivate in my life these days is holy simplicity. For example, just today I finally ditched my sleek Motorola smartphone for a bulky blue flip-phone with very limited data capabilities. My smartphone had become a distraction from the things that matter—family, friends, and even strangers who are present to me in the moment—as well as a source of frustration and anxiety. I can’t remember how to get anywhere without Google Maps and at random moments through the day, I feel the phantom buzz of notifications that don’t exist. It’s too much.

So I’m trying to simplify: to limit the number and kind of things I am about and to do what I am doing. Continue reading

Wednesday Witness: Do What You Are Doing

mduv60nlydoh277fe0hd2b7yg0l.jpgBlogger’s Note: Originally published on the Saint Andrew Catholic Church and School website, July 11, 2018.

I came to Saint Andrew after leaving a great job as faith formation director at St. Michael Catholic Church to strike out on my own as a writer, speaker and evangelist. When I arrived here, my new career was not going according to plan: I had been unemployed for a couple of months and was getting up at 2:30 AM to sort packages for FedEx.

The part-time job I took here—communications, evangelization and outreach coordinator—was a godsend, and shortly afterward I drummed up enough freelance work to leave FedEx just as my spine was beginning to feel its age. My family had come through my unemployment without falling behind on bills, and I could clearly see that God was working in my life.

Then partway through last fall, the faith formation director here received a great job offer in the Cities. I, along with several others, stepped in to fill the void while we sought another director. The initial search was fruitless, and Fr. Mark began to nudge me to consider the role myself. Since I had just left a similar job at my home parish, I wasn’t particularly interested. But as my freelance project wrapped up, my bride and I began to wonder again how we would make ends meet. Jodi loved the prospect of steady, full-time income again. I told her and Father that I would pray on it.

I went to Adoration and raised the question with God. Not ten minutes in, He said to me, “Why do you think I put you there?”

He reminded me that He brought me here. He reminded me that I had the skills and experience to do the work well. And He urged me to be straight with Father about my concerns and needs.

Working here full-time has been a tremendous blessing—and as my spiritual director put it, I began to realize that God works not only in the big circumstances of our lives, but also in the details. He is placing us, moment by moment, where He wants us to be. Our job is to stay open to His plan, not to assume we know what He wants and run off on our own.

Over the past few months, however, I’ve again realized I haven’t been as open as I ought to be. This job has seemed like a safe haven from which I can plan my next endeavor while preparing Saint Andrew for a more permanent director. But each time I try to do something—anything—in addition to my work here, nothing goes according to plan. I began to wonder if God was again trying to tell me something—possibly, “Do what you are doing.”

Finally last week I had the opportunity to spend some time away. I rose early each morning to pray, read and reflect. One morning, I asked God specifically, “Am I where you want me to be?” I am currently reading a book of letters of spiritual direction from my patron, St. Francis de Sales, and that morning, I opened the book to the next letter:

Here I am writing you not knowing what to say except to tell you to continue joyfully along the heavenly path where God has placed you. I shall bless Him all my life long for the graces He has prepared for you. In exchange for this, you, on your part, should be ready to be totally abandoned to Him … Do not consider the importance of the things you do, for of themselves they are insignificant; consider only the dignity they have in being willed by God’s will, arranged by his providence, and planned according to His wisdom. In a word, if they are pleasing to God and acknowledged to be so, to whom should they be displeasing? – St. Francis de Sales to Madame Brûlart, June 1605

I choked up a bit as I read, knowing He was speaking to me through His saint. I was awash in peace knowing that He has placed me precisely where He wants me, and that He has the future well in hand.

I share this story to let you all know that I truly believe I am right where I’m supposed to be. I will be here as your director for as long as God’s good pleasure permits me to be, and we are going to do great things together. I am praying for you and your families, and I hope you will pray for me.

Heartstrings II

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.

301091_2215092411351_1388302_nAs with my first “Heartstrings” post, I keep noticing little connections to the Sacred Heart from earlier in my family life.

Posted to Facebook, Sept. 4, 2011: “A little end-of-summer love: Gabe saw it first; Emma noted that she was wearing her Burning Love t-shirt (featuring 1 Corinthians 13:4-7: ‘Love is patient, love is kind…’), and Trevor noticed it has three nails in it, just like Jesus…”

This is the shirt Emma was wearing in the post above. Notice the image of the Sacred Heart on it. I picked it for her.



Dust Bunnies and Mud Bubbles

“A puddle repeats infinity, and is full of light; nevertheless, if analyzed objectively, a puddle is a piece of dirty water spread very thin on mud.” ― G.K. ChestertonManalive

Scripture tells us that God took a bit of dust from the earth, shaped a man, and breathed life into him. The breath of God—spiritus—brings the unliving to life.*

I have seen what this windy world conjures when its breath stirs the dead earth: dust bunnies and mud bubbles. Continue reading