Father to Five, Married to One…for 25 Years

Time is a strange phenomenon. We’ve all experienced that sensation in which the days seem long and weeks short; where the whole summer stretches out in front of us for sunlit miles…and then suddenly it’s Christmas. Marriage is like that, too. On a hot summer’s day on the South Dakota plains—August 17, 1996—in a little Spanish-style stucco church named for a German bishop, St. Liborius, two kids got hitched. The tall, slim, cleancut groom in white tails was me: book-smart and big-hearted, a little awkward and a lot emotional, with an insecure streak, a dose of self-righteousness, and a professed agnosticism that bore little resemblence to the faithfulness I was prepared to promise to this girl.

And what a girl! Jodi was, then as now, beautiful: dark wavy hair, eyes that went from brown to hazel to green and back, quick to laugh, solid and peaceful, steadfast in her Catholic faith, and willingly to pour herself out entirely for those she loved. She was a fountain flowing; I, a bottomless bucket.

One of us cried at our wedding—the one who saw too well that he was getting the better end of this deal. How could I ever love her enough?

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Equipped by the Struggle

Note: This post appeared in the Sunday, November 22, bulletins for St. Michael Catholic Church and the Church of St. Albert.

Some of you know that my bride and I are discerning the diaconate. Many years ago I mentioned becoming a deacon to a priest-friend. His response was that I should focus on my marriage and family, not ordination.

At the time, I took his response as absolute: The diaconate is not for me. Then, several years later, our beloved retired deacon Maynard Warne suggested it to me. I mentioned the priest’s advice, and Deacon Maynard said it might be time to reconsider.

In the years since, multiple people—friends, acquaintances and colleagues—have nudged me toward the diaconate. And I do feel called to serve the Lord in some deeper and more radical way.

But ordination…really?

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Leaving Home, Heading Home

Earlier this week, our second son, Gabe, returned to NET Ministries for a third year, this time as a staff member and traveling team supervisor. When he graduated from high school, college wasn’t calling him; God was. We are blessed to live in a Catholic community with a history and large appetite for supporting such missionaries—the past two years he has been fully funded, enabling extra donations to flow to teammates and friends with less support. He has crisscrossed the state and much of the country, logging tens of thousands of miles on lots of prayer and little sleep, fueled by egg bakes and pizzas, sloppy joes and taco bars. He has shared the word of God, the love of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit with thousands of middle- and high-schoolers.

He is doing what he loves, and he is good at it. You can get the low-down on the past two years and this year on his blog, Stand Against Goliath—click Mission Update 2020: A New Adventure.

Coronavirus brought him home early this spring, and we were glad to have him. He helped tremendously around the house, schooling his youngest sister, eight-year-old Lily; discovering new recipes and cooking several great meals; helping me get into the habit of praying the Liturgy of the Hours, and generally doing whatever we asked of him. Continue reading

A Man of Many Mothers

I am blessed to have so many wonderful mothers in my life, and on this day, it is my joy and honor to lift up many of them to God to receive His blessing. Happy Mother’s Day!

To Sharon, my mom and busia to my children: God bless you for your love and affection for me (I was and am a boy who needs it!), for the great gift of baptism into God’s family, for your faithful example of marriage and motherhood as we started our own family, and for your constant support and prayers for our family. I love you.

To Jodi, my bride and mother of my children: I would not be any sort of man, husband or father, without your constant love and mercy. God bless you for always making time for others, for your steadfast and peaceful spirit in the face of my sudden emotions, for seeing me as God does and loving me while I was stuck in sin, and for making me a father six times over (five here and one in heaven). I love you.

To Becky, the bride of my eldest son and expectant mother of our grandchild: You are a beacon, dear daughter-in-law, and a source of strength and blessing for Brendan and our entire family. God bless you for your deep love of Christ, your yes to marriage and motherhood, your joy in your vocation, even during these challenging times—and for the new life in your womb. I love you. Continue reading

Called to Another Country

“The land you are to enter and possess is not like the land of Egypt from which you have come…” – Deuteronomy 11:10

I am reading The Seven Storey Mountain, the autobiography of Thomas Merton, a broken and sinful young man who grew up between the World Wars, converted to Catholicism in his 20s, and ultimately became a Trappist monk and priest. Merton is complicated, and his later writings indicate a potentially dangerous attraction to Buddhism. But externally, at least, he never left the priesthood or his order, and his conversion story is a profound and thought-provoking read.

Merton regrets that he did not have the sense to embrace the life of grace the Lord was providing on the day he joined the Catholic Church. Following his baptism and first Holy Communion, he returned to the life he led before—as an aspiring intellectual and writer—except with a few spiritual practices added to the mix: He attended Mass on the weekends and sometimes during the week, went to Confession more than once a month, and engaged in spiritual reading on a fairly regular basis.

To my eyes, that list reads like the makings of a strong disciple. Merton saw it differently: “A man who has just come out of the hospital, having nearly died there, and having been cut to pieces on the operating table, cannot immediately begin to lead the life of the ordinary working man. And after the spiritual mangle I have gone through, it will never be possible for me to do without the sacraments daily, and without much prayer and penance and meditation and mortification.” Continue reading