‘Love is not boastful’: A marriage of two servants

By Deacon Mark Krejci, Ph.D./Director of the Office of Marriage, Family and Life

The example I use to start this column will turn some of you off. You will not even get through the first paragraph before saying “I’m not reading about this” and not finish the column. But don’t worry, I am not going into too much detail and will quickly move on.                 

As many of you know, I have been reflecting on Pope Francis’ Amoris Laetitia – Chapter 4 – and the next section covers “Love is not boastful.” Upon reading the title to this section, I immediately thought of a classic Broadway musical Annie Get Your Gun. There is one song where Annie Oakley, the title character, and her sharpshooter rival Frank Butler, sing a song called Anything You Can Do (I Can Do Better). The opening line of the song starts with Annie singing, “Anything you can do, I can do better, I can do anything better than you.” and then Frank and Annie going back and forth, “No, you can’t”, “Yes I can” two or three times. One boasts that they can “shoot a partridge, with a single cartridge” and the other replies “I can get a sparrow with a bow and arrow.” If you are not familiar with the song, you can find the movie version on YouTube. Now I know some of you do not like musicals but I come from a family that loves musical theatre and so I end up with this example of being “boastful” stuck in my head.

Pope Francis says that love is not to be “haughty, pushy, or arrogant” but I wonder if you know of any married couples who always seem to be in competition with each other, who in their own way are singing the “Anything you can do” song in their marriage. If they disagree with their spouse, they want their idea to “win” – they want their way to triumph. But Pope Francis points out to us, “Jesus told his disciples that in a world where power prevails, each tries to dominate the other, but ‘it shall not be among you’ (Mt 20:26).” He sums up his reflections on “Love is not boastful” with great insight when he writes, “In family life, the logic of domination and competition about who is the most intelligent or powerful destroys love ... for ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble’ (1 Pet 5:5).”

We should not be boastful with our spouse, we should not be pushy or arrogant but, in contrast, we should be like Jesus and be a servant. An alternative to seeing yourself needing to be “on top” in your marriage is to follow the teaching of Jesus when he says “the first is to be the last.” So, in your marriage, you should think of your spouse as someone to serve. What would it mean to be a servant husband or a servant wife? It means that we would seek to understand our spouse, to show concern for them, to help them see God by reflecting the love of Jesus to them. It means that we will set our needs aside to help meet the needs of our spouse. This is not meant to give your spouse permission to take advantage of you; each spouse is to equally respond with a servant’s heart. An attitude of service, when held by both husband and wife, will mean that a good balance will emerge so that both are being served as they serve the other.

I knew one couple where they “bent over backwards” to serve each other. He would always look for the opportunity to do something nice for her and she would do the same for him. They were always thinking about kind and caring things they could do for each other, often doing these things without the other even noticing. They both acted as a loving servant to the other, reflecting as best they could the loving service of Jesus to us all. Contrast this with a couple where the husband never wants to give in to his wife and the wife never does anything nice for her husband. This is the type of couple that will “keep count” of the number of times the other has bothered them or done something inconsiderate but never even notice when their spouse does something nice for them. Guess which couple is going to be happier in their marriage?

Let me suggest you each pray this prayer for your marriage every day: “God, grant me a servant’s heart towards my wife/husband. Jesus, show me how to place my wife/husband first in my life. Holy Spirit, help me love my wife/husband as God loves us all.”

Enough! It is time to be president, Mr. President

By Father Don Braukmann/Parochial Vicar - St. Philip’s, Bemidji and St. Charles, Pennington

We just celebrated our 241st Independence Day. I admit, the pessimist in me sometimes wonders how many more we still have coming.

We truly are a blessed nation. What a gift to live where we can gather where we wish, as we wish, to worship how we wish.

As a child I used to fret I would wake up from a dream and discover I am living in a war-torn, poverty-stricken nation surviving from one meal to the next. I have not woken up to such a reality so far! I think I am safely awake, overweight and aware of the blessings granted this nation and my life.

And yet, I see storm clouds brewing not that far in the distance, not that far at all.

America, our moral compass has been turned upside down. Too many of our political leaders act like spoiled children who take their ball and go home if they don’t get their way. Civil (and I do mean civil) discourse has been replaced with name calling, pouting, slanted news and revenge seeking.

There seems to be no statesmen or stateswomen left who have a clue when it comes to the definition of “compromise” for the common good. Other nations who once looked at us for leadership (both moral and political) now shake their heads, or worse, snicker behind our back.

And, it must be said, in the mix of it all is our President treating the high office of the Presidency as it if were play land at “McDonald’s.”

Mr. President, it is time to be a real president. Yes, you won the election but are tragically and dramatically losing the governing.

As pro-lifers we seem willing to contort our own moral sensibilities to accommodate a man who occasionally says he is pro-life, yet speaks and tweets like anyone but a true pro-lifer.

I think we all hoped the president would grow up once he stepped into the Oval Office when it came to his treatment of women and those who disagree with him. That hasn’t happened and clearly never will. How can someone claiming to be pro-life publicly denigrate the physical characteristics of women on a regular basis? Actually, the word “denigrate” is putting it mildly!

Mr. President, it is through those bodies where life itself comes into being!

We may gain a “pro-life” Supreme Court on the issue of abortion during this president’s time in office, but reversing Roe v. Wade places abortion laws back in the hands of the states. What good is that when the reputation of the pro-life movement is being desecrated by a President who refuses to understand what it means to live and breathe the pro-life cause?

We will look like fools when we try to convince the nation, state by state, that we are pro-life when our model and spokesperson for the pro-life cause has uttered the most horrific, disgraceful, sexist statements. He has done this before he was a candidate, while he was a candidate and now as President of the United States of America. For the first time ever in my life, parents need to take their children out of the room when the president speaks.

Yes, Mr. President, you have not gotten a fair deal from some in the media but a primary culprit is looking straight at you in the mirror each morning.

Our health care system is in shambles. Why on earth would we replace a “Democrat Health Care System” with a “Republican Health Care System” when in two, four or six years the party in the majority will “replace and repeal” their opponents plan? Basic health care is a right each person in this wealthy nation has; it is not merely a privilege ... check Catholic teaching. Why would we want one party to run the health care system when both Democrats and Republicans get sick? Stability in the system is critical, not a system that puts its political finger in the wind every two years!

Education is the key to self-sufficiency. Why are both parties going to their respective corners and barking at each other instead of finding a middle ground to help the most people? This is true of issue after issue that involves the dignity of human life.

Of course this is not all on the president’s lap, but it is the president who sets the tone, just as Lincoln, Roosevelt, Kennedy and Reagan did before him. Men with human weakness, but men who did not lash out with childish rants about a person’s body parts or character.

We are pro-life. Being “pro-life” means more than being simply “pro-birth.” When Roe v. Wade falls our work REALLY begins and where will our reputation be? Mr. President, you continue to embarrass us as pro-lifers and as Americans. It must stop. Take the higher moral ground, let those filled with hate humiliate themselves.

Lead and inspire us with a new hope and commitment to justice for every human being no matter their age, their health, their wealth or their convenience.

Proclaiming the Gospel is essential to evangelization

By AJ Garcia/Director of the Office of New Evangelization and Justice

Evangelization is a number of things, but there is one aspect that is essential to evangelization. It includes embracing virtues and learning to grow in them and improve their application in our lives. Evangelization includes participating in and receiving the sacraments. Evangelization includes being hospitable, welcoming and treating others as you want to be treated. However, any of our efforts in evangelization are incomplete without a proclamation of the Gospel and an invitation to follow Jesus Christ. It is essential.

What does it mean to proclaim or share the Gospel? In his Apostolic Exhortation to the Church in Asia, St. John Paul II said, “There can be no true evangelization without the explicit proclamation of Jesus as Lord” and there is no true evangelization, “… without the primacy of the proclamation of Jesus Christ in all evangelizing work.” The final quote from this document that I would like to share is this: “If the Church is to fulfill its providential destiny, evangelization as the joyful, patient, and progressive preaching of the saving death and resurrection of Jesus Christ must be your absolute priority.” Reflecting on these same three quotes, Pope Francis tells us that “these words hold true for all of us.”

Often in evangelization – whether we work for the Church or long for a family member to return to the Church – we are in search of the “silver bullet”. We seek that one video, talk, book or program that is going to convince someone to commit to Jesus and the Church on the spot. While that is certainly possible, and the Lord can do whatever he wants, this can’t be our expectation. Pope St. John Paul II said evangelization is a joyful, patient and progressive preaching. Maybe we’re not all preachers. That’s OK. Let’s insert the word teaching or invitation in the place of preaching. We all have the capacity to invite someone to know and follow Jesus!

I would say there are four basic elements of sharing the Gospel:

1. We are created for relationship. God created us to love others, be loved by him and to return to him one day in heaven.

2. Through our sin and rejection of God, that relationship is broken.

3. God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to save us from our sin and be restored to the relationship we were created for.

4. Finally, if this is true, we have a decision to make: Will we repent of our sins, acknowledge Jesus as Lord and follow him?

There is a time and place to share the Gospel. It is best received and welcomed when you have a friendship … or at least a mutual respect for one another. Think about when you would be more likely to listen to someone share a passion of theirs. Are you more likely to listen to a stranger that approaches you or to someone you trust or whose reputation you respect? This is why we can’t wait for someone else to invite our family and friends back to the Church, it is our responsibility.

Sharing the Gospel and inviting someone to follow Jesus is something we should pray about doing, plan for and practice. I am not saying that we should limit the power of the Gospel and of the Holy Spirit, but we should be more intentional and thoughtful in our approach to evangelization.

Evangelization includes the things mentioned above, such as treating others nicely, being respectful, etc. However, evangelization cannot be limited to those things. Without a specific proclamation of the Gospel including an invitation to follow Jesus, what we’re doing isn’t actually evangelization.

Entering into politics for love of Jesus, good of our neighbors

By Rachel Herbeck/Outreach and Policy Coordinator, Minnesota Catholic Conference

In my work as the Policy and Outreach Coordinator for the Minnesota Catholic Conference, I meet many Minnesota Catholics who have a deep aversion to politics. In their experience, politics are so steeped in special interests and dominated by power games that they don’t see why a Catholic should wade into such an imperfect arena.

These sentiments are understandable. The state of politics can be incredibly discouraging, and it may be tempting to simply wash our hands of the whole business.

But a recent meeting with some women involved in the Catholic Advocacy Network reminded me of why that’s not an option for disciples of Christ. These ladies were not political activists, yet they were doing their part to influence the political process for good. When asked to explain why, one said, “We don’t like politics, but we love Jesus.”

This is the foundation for our political participation: our love for Jesus. Being active in politics is a practical way in which we answer Christ’s call to love him through love of neighbor. With this mindset, we can face the discouragement and obstacles not out of love for politics, but out of love for Jesus.

Our Firm Foundation

We are created to love God in everything that we do; we exist to love God. While there are many ways to do this, Christ tells us that we tangibly love him by loving our neighbors. We truly love our neighbors when we begin to will their authentic good. In Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis writes,

“Accepting the first proclamation, which invites us to receive God’s love and to love him in return with the very love which is his gift, brings forth in our lives and actions a primary and fundamental response: to desire, seek and protect the good of others.

Jesus’ love is the first principle. We encounter his love and we truly love him in return when we seek and protect the good of others.”

The political arena provides us with concrete opportunities to love our neighbor. Political participation allows us to influence law and policy-making to uphold and pursue the good of every human person. We are convicted that the social doctrine of the Church proposes the very key to human happiness and fulfillment. We love our neighbor when we work to create a society where every person can truly flourish.

The public square is a place that is in desperate need of Catholics on fire with the love of Jesus, and it is exactly where we belong. We see clearly that the public square is seemingly devoid of goodness and truth. We are being beckoned into politics to fill that void of with the light and love of Christ.

As we set out on this task, our relationship with the Lord fuels us. We go forward, energized by loving Jesus through our love for others.

Overcoming Challenges

Keeping Christ as our foundation will allow us to persevere in the face of the setbacks and challenges we’re bound to experience in the political arena. It is no secret that we don’t always seem successful when it comes to politics; our viewpoints do not always win the day and the process can be frustrating and imperfect.

Set afire with love for Jesus, we can persevere through setbacks and discouragement.  If we merely loved politics, our measure would be success. But as Mother Teresa reminds us, we are called to be faithful, not successful. We press on through discomfort and willingly make sacrifices, not because we are convicted of politics, but because we are convicted that our participation is a vital expression of our love for Christ.

Inspired by and rooted in this love, let us claim our place as Catholics in the public square. Let us tirelessly work to influence our laws and lawmakers to cultivate communities rooted in truth, not because we like politics, but because we love Jesus.

VFTV: July 12, 2017

SUITS

As I mentioned to you previously, the case filed against the Diocese of Crookston and against me personally was originally scheduled for a hearing on August 3, 2017. We chose the earliest of the options we were given. Now, the hearing date has been changed by the Court due to scheduling conflicts of the attorneys. The new hearing date is September 20, 2017. Again, this hearing is a first hearing, not the trial. We have made a motion for dismissal on the grounds that there was failure to state any viable claim. I remain committed to keeping you informed regarding this matter as the case progresses through the judicial system. Please continue to pray for a quick and fair resolve to all our lawsuits and for all harmed by the matter of sexual abuse.

A NEW PRIEST

Since the June 17 ordination, this is the first opportunity I have had to write and congratulate our new priest, Father Matthew Schmitz!

“So it was that Christ sent the apostles just as he himself had been sent by the Father. Through these same apostles he made their successors, the bishops, sharers in his consecration and mission. Their ministerial role has been handed down to priests in a limited degree. Thus established in the order of the priesthood, they are co-workers of the Episcopal order in the proper fulfillment of the apostolic mission entrusted to the bishops by Christ. Inasmuch as they are connected with the Episcopal order, the priestly office shares in the authority by which Christ Himself builds up, sanctifies, and rules His Body.” (Presbyterorum Ordinis)

What a wonderful blessing it is as a bishop to administer the Sacrament of Holy Orders and ordain a young man for service as a priest. We thank Father Matt for the gift of his life for priestly service to God’s people here. Please continue to pray for our priests and pray that the Good Lord will continue to bless us with the priests we need.

Parents and grandparents, please continue to help your young sons as they discern what God wants them to do as his disciples. Help them be unafraid to consider being a priest. We look forward to the next General Synod of Bishops at the Vatican this fall. The topic will be about young people in the Church and vocational discernment. How can we accompany all our youth in their faith journey and help them be truly missionary minded disciples of Jesus Christ in our day?

OUR NORTHLAND DIOCESE

Congratulations are in order once again for our great diocesan newspaper. The Catholic Press Association has awarded OND a third place award in the category of “Best Coverage of the Year of Mercy” by Janelle Gergen, Associate Editor, and Katrina Genereux, Staff Writer. Deacon Mark Krejci is our Editor. We congratulate and thank him, Janelle and Katrina for their great work.

REFUGEES

At the June meeting of the nation’s bishops, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops heard a rather sad report on the state of refugees in our world. We were told there are about 65 million refugees in the world. This is the largest number of refugees ever! At no other time in the history of the world have there been as many people fleeing their homelands, leaving most – if not all – of their possessions behind. These 65 million people are in need of food and clothing and housing and care! How do we see these refugees? As aliens? As workers? As dangerous? How about as our brothers and sisters, people made in the image of God?

In 2012, the Catholic bishops of Minnesota issued the statement “Unlocking the Gates of our Hearts.” We spoke of the need for immigration reform in our country, reform which respects the dignity and inherent human rights of every person and which also respects the rights and obligations of a country to protect its citizens and to control its borders. This need continues today. Some people might want to come to our country to do us harm, but that cannot stop us from reaching out a helping hand to those who genuinely need our help and care. The USCCB continues to work for comprehensive immigration reform with leaders at the federal level. May all of us continue to call on our legislators and leaders to work hard for comprehensive, good, just and merciful immigration reform.

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

We have once again celebrated our Independence Day on the Fourth of July. We Catholics of the United States have finished our Fortnight for Freedom, our novena thanking Almighty God for the freedoms we have in America and asking that our religious freedom not be lost.

At the June meeting of the USCCB, we heard a report on the work being done in our nation’s capital on health care reform. In America, we not only have the freedom to worship but we also have the freedom to follow our conscience and the freedom from interference of government in the practice of our religion. Currently, our government leaders are considering health care legislation and we need to urge our leaders to respect our rights of religious freedom as they do. Any health care legislation must contain conscience protections, not only for recipients of health care, but also for health care providers – that is, for doctors, nurses and hospital systems – who find themselves being asked to provide services they believe are immoral. Health care legislation must avoid the use of federal funds for abortion. Health care legislation should provide for quality, affordable, and accessible health care for all, especially for the poor, while providing protection of conscience and protection of life in all its stages. Again, the staff of the USCCB continues to work with federal legislators on forming good health care legislation. May all of us continue to call on our legislators and leaders to work for good health care legislation. We also need to continue doing all we can in defense of our religious freedoms.

‘Love is not jealous’ or ‘how much time should we be apart?’

By Deacon Mark Krejci, Ph.D./Director of the Office of Marriage, Family and Life

A fear I have about my column in OND goes something like this: One spouse reads my column and thinks I have written something that his/her spouse needs to read. This spouse takes OND and marches up to their beloved and says, “Here, you have to read what Krejci wrote in his column because he is talking about you!” I envision that this is not done by a spouse to point out to the other how “loving” or “caring” they are, but instead the person  uses my column as leverage to get the other to change something about him or herself. And so, with some trepidation, I take up the next line covered by Pope Francis in “Amoris Latetia”: “Love is not jealous.”

This was a tough column to write because I have raised a topic but will be unable to give a clear answer for your marriage. I will share my thoughts about a particular type of jealousy but my concern, following the premise from the first paragraph, is that one spouse will think I am making a point that fits their marriage while their spouse will think what I write has nothing to do with it. The jealousy we will consider in today’s column is TIME.

Are you jealous of your spouse’s time spent away from you? I have heard many scenarios on this topic. Forgive my stereotyping but I have heard from couples’ concerns about the husband spending too much of his time hunting or fishing with his friends. I have heard about wives who spend too much time with friends working on hobbies or meeting for coffee. I have even heard wives and husbands who are jealous about the amount of time their spouse is spending in activities connected to their parish. I have been asked from time-to-time, “How much is too much time spent apart from each other?” I cannot give an answer that is exact. I cannot say that, outside of an 8-hour workday, spouses should be apart no more than an average of 32 minutes, or perhaps 1 hour and 20 minutes, or even longer (some people look for an answer that specific). The right answer depends on the couple. I do not mean how long will the couple “tolerate” being apart but rather what is in the mind of the couple when it comes to time.

Are you jealous of how your spouse spends their time? On one hand, we should be happy when our spouse is able to find satisfaction in catching their limit of 6 walleye (or sitting in a boat for hours without a nibble from anything larger than a sunny i.e. my fishing life). On the other hand if a spouse is doing this so many times this summer that you (and your children) are being neglected then shouldn’t you be concerned by this? How about the case of a wife golfing with her friends? We should be happy she enjoys the challenge of the golf course and relishes winning her women’s golf league. But what if she joins so many golf leagues that she is gone every day and/or night?

Jealousy is a form of envy which, according to Pope Francis, “... is a form of sadness provoked by another’s prosperity; it shows that we are not concerned for the happiness of others but only with our own well-being.” If you think your spouse is spending too much time away from you, is this thought motivated by your envy of their happiness or is it motivated because you miss them? If one person in a marriage is repeatedly concerned about the amount of time the other spends away from the family, it needs to be addressed because concern can grow into frustration and even anger. When you address this I suggest you raise the topic but then, rather than “solving” the issue in one conversation, take time to pray about how you spend your time with and apart from each other.

I wonder how many readers are now thinking, “That’s it? That is all he can tell us about this complex situation!” I am sorry to say that this is as far as I can go because every marriage is unique and I am running out of space. For me to be able to give any specific answer you would have to give me a call and we would have to talk for some time to work through your specific situation. That is why I am recommending prayer be at the center of this conversation – give God a call and openly offer this topic to God and listen for his answer. It will come out of God’s love for you as husband and wife and you will take that love into your marriage and find your answer.

‘I get sick to my stomach and then ask God’s forgiveness’

By Father Don Braukmann/Parochial Vicar - St. Philip’s, Bemidji and St. Charles, Pennington

Years ago I wrote I was a member of the National Rifle Association (NRA). Needless to say, it created some interesting feedback! This time, there is no need to send letters of support or opposition, but if you are reading this I humbly ask for your consideration.

To be clear, I don’t own a gun ... never have. I don’t hunt ... never have. I believe the right to “bear arms” written into the law of this land continues to serve a vital role in what keeps America, America. In my opinion, it goes a long way to assure the government remains of, by and for the people.

I also must be clear that I do not believe in handing out guns (or any other weapons) like Knights of Columbus members hand out Tootsie Rolls outside Wal-Mart!

In the Bible, Cain killed Abel with a rock. The terrorist in Paris this week tried to kill a police officer with a hammer. I believe we have a heart problem more than a gun problem!

I believe much work must be done in the area of mental health and how to keep guns out of the hands of those suffering from mental illness. I wish I had the perfect answer on how to make that happen. I don’t. But I worry if the definition of “mental health” is left up to those with power it will be used as an excuse to ban gun ownership for most people.

Of course there should be a sensible and calm debate in this country over gun issues but the key words here are “sensible” and “calm.” For the most part, with the NRA on one side and the pro gun control folks on the other, all we have is a yelling contest. There is so little patience to listen, respect or find common ground. With most social conversations today, the group who shouts the loudest wins. So, logically, nothing gets solved, resentment grows and the desire for revenge takes root.

I believe the most fundamental and critical unit of our society is the family. With the pressure mounting on family life and all the social ills the family must struggle through, it is the collapse of the family which has led to the mess in which we find ourselves.

Why do we have gangs? Because our youth want to be somebody to somebody. Don’t we all?

A stable home life demands steady employment, opportunities for quality education and a sense of hope in the future. When a person is living in crushing poverty or in a home where brutality and addiction reign, is it any wonder rage and fear are unleashed through violence? Do you get that democrats and republicans? Family first!

An untended, wounded heart so easily creates more untended, wounded hearts.

One of the hardest things for me to get past when discussing the issue of gun violence and/or gun control policy is when I hear an anti-gun lecture from those who think it is okay to kill the child in the womb. There is no credibility, to me, in such a position. No credibility whatsoever.

When I walk up to the local Planned Parenthood office and see posted on the front door a sign which reads, “No guns allowed on the premises,” it sickens me. Guns are not needed to wipe out 4,000 children in the womb each day in this country. Yet, when there is outrage (as there should be) at the death of a child or children in a shooting rampage, removing guns is the target, the perceived solution to the problem. Guns are not the issue, broken hearts are!

When the Catholic House Minority Leader in Congress says she is “morally horrified” by one issue or another (especially when it comes to those opposing gun control) yet votes every chance she can to let the children die ... I cannot listen. If I do, I get sick to my stomach and then ask God’s forgiveness for the lack of charity in my mind and heart.

It is no surprise to anyone who has been reading my column over the past 25 years when I say there is no issue ... no issue ... more devastating to our world, our nation, our communities, our families, our marriages and, of course our children, than abortion. 4,000 a day in the United States of America. Guns, on their own, have killed no one.

The need for breaking the state’s monopoly on hearts and minds

By Jason Adkins/Executive Director, Minnesota Catholic Conference

The well-being of Minnesota students took a hit during this year’s legislative session, as the Opportunity Scholarship Program was left by the wayside during final negotiations. Despite the fact that similar programs have been successful in several others states and could have played an important role in closing Minnesota’s unacceptable achievement gap, it was scrapped after an all-out revolt from the public school establishment.

The public school establishment’s condemnation of Opportunity Scholarships had little to do with concerns over student success, or even the impact on public schools (after all, 31 studies show that public school student performance improves when choice programs are introduced).

The real fear is the loss of a monopoly – a monopoly over the hearts and minds of students and thus the shape of America’s future.

An Irreligious Education

Public education and public schooling are different. Everyone should support the former, but public schools can either be a help or a hindrance to the education of the public.

And it’s no secret that public schools are being used to promote harmful ideas to our young people. From dangerous and unscientific gender ideology to an implicitly relativistic, skeptical, and utilitarian worldview, state-sponsored education is not merely “not Catholic” – increasingly, it is in direct opposition to reason and the truths of our faith.

We may hope that public schools are a value-neutral environment that focus on reading, writing, and arithmetic, but this is a fantasy. As Pope Pius XI declared: “[T]he so-called ‘neutral’ or ‘lay’ school, from which religion is excluded, is contrary to the fundamental principles of education. Such a school, moreover, cannot exist in practice; it is bound to become irreligious.”

Clearly, not everyone involved in our public schools is an active and onboard participant in the irreligious indoctrination of the public education establishment. There are Catholics and others of good-will who are public school teachers and administrators, and many faithful parents who don’t have access to Catholic school are able to supplement the public school education their children receive with religious instruction.

But one must wonder how long this can continue to be the case, especially with proponents of the new “orthodoxy” leveraging the state’s monopoly on education to enforce conformity, and doing everything in their power to maintain the public school establishment’s grip upon our children.

Restoring the Role of Parents

One of the defining dynamics of the Catholic Church’s relationship to the modern state is its work to prevent a state monopoly on education. According to the Church, when the state lays claim to an educational monopoly, it oversteps its rights and offends justice.

As the domestic Church, the education of children is the prerogative of the family, not the state. Parents are the first educators of their children. Though the state can subsidize parents in this role, it cannot subsume that responsibility entirely.

As Pope Leo XIII stated over a century ago in words that are just as relevant today: “[I]t is the duty of parents to make every effort to prevent any invasion of their rights in this matter, and to make absolutely sure that the education of their children remain under their own control in keeping with their Christian duty, and above all to refuse to send them to those schools in which there is danger of imbibing the deadly poison of impiety.”

And according to the Second Vatican Council, “[t]he public power, which has the obligation to protect and defend the rights of citizens, must see to it, in its concern for distributive justice, that public subsidies are paid out in such a way that parents are truly free to choose according to their conscience the schools they want for their children.”

A one-size-fits-all model of education that subsumes the role of parents by inculcating its own values does not work, and must not be tolerated.

New Opportunity

The push goes on to expose more young people to so-called “progressive values” espoused by the modern state: free college at the federal level; the expansion of pre-K programs that pull children out of the home unnecessarily; and the Minnesota Department of Education’s aggressive new transgender/gender non-conforming toolkit and directives.

Therefore, in the same way that the Church called for the creation of a parallel Catholic school system in the late nineteenth century, today we need to consider renewing this Church-wide sense of purpose: fighting for school choice and creating access to affordable, rigorous, and faith-filled Catholic schools for all kids. Not to close ourselves off from the world, but so that we can be leaven. Souls and the soul of the nation are at stake.

VFTV: June 14, 2017

Lawsuit

As much as I can, I want to keep you updated on the lawsuits recently filed against the Diocese of Crookston and me personally. Attorneys for the Diocese of Crookston and for me have filed notice of pre-answer motions to dismiss the lawsuit on the grounds that there was failure to allege any viable claim. We hope to receive the date for the hearing of this motion soon.

I ask you again, while we are dealing with this matter, please (1) be patient, kind and non-judgmental; (2) pray daily for a fair, just and timely resolve to this matter; (3) include the following prayer in the Prayers of General Intercession in every Mass celebrated in the Diocese of Crookston: Let us pray for a fair and just resolve to all our law suits and for all persons harmed in any way in matters involving sexual abuse, let us pray to the Lord; (4) join me in making each Friday a day of fasting and abstinence from eating meat as a sign that we know our most important sustenance comes from our loving God.

Summer Days

Did you hear the one about the husband and wife who first met at a travel agency? It was love at first sight. As she liked to tell it, “I was looking for a vacation and he was the last resort.”

Now that June is here and summer is right around the corner, I do hope that your summer days are delightful and safe. We welcome all who come north to the lakes and resorts for vacations. We open St. Catherine’s Church at Itasca State Park and St. Charles in Pennington for the summer months. At a Mass I celebrated at St. Catherine’s, people from eight different states packed the place. Thanks to Fathers Chuck Huck and Don Braukmann for covering St. Charles for the summer and thanks to Mrs. Pat Evenwol and company at Itasca for arranging for guest priests for each weekend at St. Catherine’s.

Convocation

The national Convocation of Catholic Leaders is fast approaching. From July 1-4, more than 3,000 Catholic leaders from all corners of the United States will gather in Orlando. We will join together in prayer, reflection and discussion on where the Holy Spirit is leading the Catholic Church in the United States. The centerpiece for these days will be Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel.”) The convention days will focus on four key questions: What is the nature of this current historical moment in the Church and in our nation? How do we respond to this moment as missionary disciples? Where are we called to go – to whom are we being sent on this mission? What will we do when we get there to engage the mission?

I am delighted that we have a contingent of 9 from the Diocese of Crookston who will make the trip to engage with their brothers and sisters at the convention and return to help us all apply and advance the “missionary conversion” Pope Francis calls for here in this local Church. In addition to myself, our team will consist of Msgr. Mike Foltz, Mr. AJ Garcia, Deacon Mark Krejci, Mrs. Jayne Miller, Mr. and Mrs. Dave and Kari Zavoral, Ms. Sue Hengel, and Deacon Steve Thomas. I invite your prayers for the success of this historical gathering and the safe travel of all participants. May our group return inspired to help us celebrate, implement and live the principles of the New Evangelization. Jesus asks us to go out to the whole world and spread the Good News and, in our day, we are all challenged to “be bold and creative in rethinking the goals, structures, style and methods of evangelization” (“Evangelii Gaudium”).

CONGRATULATIONS New Deacons

On June 10, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, I was privileged to ordain six men to be permanent deacons for service in the Diocese of Crookston. They are: Mr. Paul Erickson, Mr. Aaron Kaiser, Mr. Mark Krejci, Mr. Mark LeTexier, Mr. Robb Naylor, and Mr. Tim Pribula. These men have prayed and studied and worked hard for the past five years and I am happy to have Holy Mother Church ask me to ordain them deacons. Deacons are ordained for service of the Word, of the altar, and of charity. In addition, I ask our deacons to include daily prayer intentions for peace, for family life and for vocations. I ask them to foster perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and to pray for vocations. I ask them to do all they can to build up family life in our parishes and to be involved in marriage preparation, Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) programs, and to be active in the New Evangelization. Thank you to all our deacons for their wonderful service. We thank their spouses too because, if married, a man may be ordained a permanent deacon only with the permission of his wife. Congratulations to our new deacons!

VFTV: June 1, 2017

Congratulations Deacon Nate Brunn 

The years of study and formation and hard work have paid off and Nate Brunn is now Deacon Nate Brunn. I had the delight of ordaining Nate on May 20, at St. Joseph Parish, Moorhead. What a wonderful liturgy and celebration it was! Congratulations to Deacon Nate, and to his parents Leonard and Mildred, and their entire family. Deacon Nate will exercise the ministry of deacon this summer at St. Philip Parish in Bemidji and then return to St. Meinrad Seminary to complete his final year of preparation for being ordained a ministerial priest of Jesus Christ. As we began the ordination liturgy, I reminded all present that it is as bishop I am asked to ordain this man to the Order of the Diaconate. It is not Nate who asks this, nor his family or friends. It is our Holy Mother Church who asks the bishop to ordain, Holy Mother Church who knows the needs of her children and who, with deep love, desires to provide for them through the deacon’s life of service. The life and ministry of a deacon is one of service to God’s People, a service described as the ministry of Word, of Sacrament and of Charity. A deacon is a proclaimer of the Good News of Jesus Christ. He is a teacher of the faith. He proclaims the Gospel at Mass, prepares the altar and sacrifice and is an ordinary minister of Holy Communion. He presides over public prayer, administers Baptism and assists at and blesses marriages. He brings Viaticum to the dying and conducts funeral rites. Deacons are also ordained ministers of charity, sent especially to look after the poor. Truly, Mother Church takes care of us through the life and ministry of our deacons. How blessed are we, the faithful of this local Church in the Diocese of Crookston, by the service of the deacons God has called forth for us. Give thanks to God and thank our deacons too.

Congratulations Graduates 

We have many young people being graduated from high school through our diocese, and others too who are finishing degrees in higher education. To all our graduates we say: “Congratulations and well done!” These milestones are important ones not only for those being graduated but also for their parents and families. Congratulations to you too. And, of course, graduations are important for us all as those finishing school, having developed their talents, now use their gifts for good. God bless all those being graduated this year and through the contribution they make, may God bless us all.

Our Northland Diocese

As your bishop, I am the publisher of Our Northland Diocese newspaper, our fine OND. Last fall, I appointed a Communication Task Force and mandated them to survey clergy and parish staff members from all of our 66 parishes and gather feedback regarding OND, as well as our diocesan website, social media and other methods our diocese uses to connect with you, God’s faithful here. I have reviewed the results of the Task Force’s work and their recommendations and now am happy to share with you some changes that will be implemented by OND staff. In the upcoming months, we will begin to diversify our offerings for readers and expand our digital footprint. In addition to OND newspaper sent to your mailbox, a website will be developed completely dedicated to full news stories, commentary and photos gathered from around our diocese. In addition to these local stories, national and international Catholic news will be available to you online. OND’s mission, and the goal of  OND staff, remains the same: “to publish Good News for the purpose of strengthening and furthering the Reign of God in the Diocese of Crookston.” 

It is my hope that you will continue to keep yourself well informed of our Catholic life both here and around the world to assist you in living your vocation and furthering the Reign of God. I am excited that soon, in addition to our fine OND newspaper, we will have a new website to help us all do just that. You will hear more about these changes in a July issue of Our Northland Diocese newspaper. 

He didn’t need to say a word ... I could see a smile in his eyes

By Father Don Braukmann/Parochial Vicar - St. Philip’s, Bemidji and St. Charles, Pennington

I don’t think I have ever re-printed a previous column I had written until now. Twenty six years later what I wrote in an August 1991 issue of OND seems to be as relevant as ever. The little girl mentioned in that column was married the Friday before Memorial Day at St. Joseph’s Church in Moorhead. Those eyes ... those beautiful eyes. From August 8, 1991:

The most important thing that happened this summer in the pro-life movement took place on a rainy summer night on August first when three sets of eyes helped me realize what my work in the pro-life movement was all about.

I had just finished a meeting in Fargo and although it was nearly 10:30 p.m., I decided to stop by Dakotah Hospital to visit Elmer, a parishioner who had had major surgery that same day. So, I parked my car, dashed into the lobby to escape the rain, looked up and there was Michael, a friend who I knew had been waiting any day for the birth of his child. He didn’t need to say a word because I could see in his eyes a smile as big as he was tall! Ashlee Mae had come into the world just a few hours before and “Daddy” was still walking on air.

Before I knew it, I was standing in the nursery gazing upon the little girl who made her daddy’s day. She was beautiful! When the world outside was madly racing toward power, wealth and prestige, there was Michael hovering over his daughter in awe at the power of her tiny hands, the wealth of her helplessness and the prestige of now being called “Daddy.”

Just as we were about to leave the nursery, Ashlee opened her eyes just far enough to take another peek at the voices which had surrounded her with love. In the coming days, those eyes would see a Mom who was ready for the title and worthy of the honor, and a Dad who was (and probably always will be) trying to figure out why he deserves so much happiness.

Although I could not see Mom (Nancy) because she was asleep, I told Michael to give her my greetings and then I took the elevator up a couple of floors and down the hall to visit Elmer in intensive care. As I walked down that hall I could feel the excitement of Ashlee’s arrival slowly give way to the apprehension of wondering what I would find when I walked into Elmer’s room.

As I stepped in I had to take a deep breath. Ashlee’s room was so filled with the energy of life, but Elmer’s room was filled with the machines used to avoid death. He was awake but could not speak and his eyes shouted out the pain he was feeling. It took only a second for those eyes to lock on to me and in that brief and quiet moment I felt so helpless as I stood before the eerie battle for life. I wanted to fix Elmer and end the pain. I wanted to bring the hope that his eyes so desperately searched for as they clung to my face. All I could do was hold his hand, wipe his forehead and let him know I cared.

Just minutes before I had gazed into the eyes of a newborn which hesitated to open almost in fear of the life that would leak in, now I was with Elmer whose eyes didn’t dare close in fear of the life that would never return.

Those eyes. The eyes of a Dad who were filled with peace after seeing the power of a Creating God; the eyes of a little girl whose first experience of this world is one filled with love; and the eyes of a gentle and fragile man who knows how human he really is.

Those three sets of eyes taught me that no matter how much suffering, hatred, violence and death this world manages to dish out, God will still stand tall and offer hope, courage, strength and love to those young enough and old enough to accept it!

Michael Novak and the moral foundations of a free society

By Jason Adkins/Executive Director, Minnesota Catholic Conference

The Catholic world lost one of its most illuminating thinkers when Michael Novak recently passed away at age 83. Novak can be credited with articulating a vision of the moral foundations necessary to maintain a system of democratic capitalism (political freedom and free enterprise).

Likewise, one could say Novak was one of the originators of a theology of economics, that is, an understanding of how man’s creative participation in social and economic life contributes to the development of his personality, fulfills his vocation to be a steward, and realizes his dignity as a co-creator made in the image and likeness of God, who Himself creates out of love.

Continued relevance

Novak’s work remains important today, as our supposedly free market economic system, as well as the system of global capitalism, is not operating as it should. Greed, cronyism between government and corporations, and outright corruption create what Pope Francis calls an economy of exclusion. Too many economic actors focus on extracting wealth from the system as opposed to creating it, and put up barriers to entry instead of expanding participation.

Rather than serving as a playing field in which all persons find sustenance and develop their God-given potential, this economy of exclusion, in the Pope’s estimation, is an “economy that kills.”

What’s needed is a recovery of the sense of the moral foundations that undergird a properly functioning economy. For his part, Novak cited caritas (love), as the cornerstone of this societal architecture, and saw that persons could not flourish without it.

Caritapolis

In his later work, Novak proposed what he called the Caritapolis, the city of Caritas—“one human family of brothers and sisters who are willing to give their lives for each other.” It had three foundations: political, economic, and moral.

Novak asked, “What would it profit the human race if we were to achieve a higher level of political and economic liberty than ever before, only to live like pigs, enslaved to our desires without reflection and deliberation? This would be a travesty, for it is not only our political and economic systems that must be worthy of our human nature, but also our habits of moral living.”

His assessment was especially needed at a moment when capitalism had defeated communism, and was set to reshape the global economy. Prescient thinkers such as Novak and Pope John Paul II – whose encyclical “Centesimus Annus” shares many strands of thought with Novak’s Caritapolis – knew that without the proper moral and anthropological basis, the triumph of democratic capitalism would turn into soft totalitarianism, and that we would indeed have a consumerist economy that commodifies persons.

All is gift

Novak expanded upon this idea in his description of Caritapolis, noting that free societies and free enterprise systems must be animated by people who understand that they have been created and redeemed by the gratuitous and undeserved gift of God’s love. Therefore, all of creation, including our own individual lives, should be viewed as a gift to be shared with others.

Understanding ourselves within the context of this narrative of gift, we create a Caritapolis when our actions are rooted in this great gift of self. We understand that everything we have is a gift, including our economic resources, and that, being good stewards of this gift, we are called to invite others into greater participation in the gift.

In the Caritapolis’s economy of gift, those with property and economic resources must work to foster greater labor participation and create meaningful work for others; they create new enterprises that are both profitable and contribute to the common good; they avoid the vice of luxury; and they channel excess profits into its employees, the community, and new creative enterprises. Their business ethic is animated by self-giving love (caritas).

Lest this sound like pie-in-the-sky romanticism, Novak distinguished caritas from merely sentimentalism or romantic love: “We must fix our eyes on the points of suffering at the heart of things and watch for concrete results, not sweet talk. Caritas is a teacher of realism, not soft-headedness; of fact, not sentiment; of suffering love, not illusory bliss. To think in a utopian way is a sin against Caritapolis.”

As Pope Francis continues to challenge us to consider how an economy can lift up or degrade human dignity, Michael Novak’s many books and writings on the subject are worth revisiting. While not all Catholics need agree with his prescriptions, each of us should similarly strive to put love at the center of all our actions.

Love is kind: ‘Love is at the service of others’

By Dr. Mark Krejci/Director of the Office of Marriage, Family and Life

You may have heard the phrase, “kill them with kindness.” It is a phrase used in popular culture and so you will hear this line used by any one from William Shakespeare to Selena Gomez. The song, “Kill em with Kindness” was written by Gomez to respond to the people who do not like her or her music (I guess she receives some rather nasty texts, tweets and other electronically-delivered comments). The lyrics reflect an attitude of love towards one’s enemy – and yes I really did listen to the song to prepare for this column!

Shakespeare uses the line set in the context of a marriage. In his play, the “Taming of the Shrew”, a man plots to teach his wife (who is a nagging, ill-tempered woman i.e. the “shrew”) how to obey him. One of his teaching techniques is to make her life miserable until she finally gives up and obeys him. As the husband says, “This is how to kill a wife with kindness.”

Now let me make one thing perfectly clear – THIS IS NOT WHAT IS MEANT TO BE KIND IN MARRIAGE. I put this line in all cap letters because I want to make sure you notice that this column will go in a completely different direction. While the husband in the “Taming of the Shrew” uses kindness in a manipulative and self-serving way, the role of kindness in marriage is to be something completely different. I will continue focusing on Pope Francis’ reflections on 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7. The Holy Father writes about love as “kind” in a way that he suggests the meaning behind the word kind, “… indicates that love benefits and helps others.” Thus, love in marriage is not meant to be used to manipulate others but should motivate us to serve others. “Love is at the service to others” is the title of the section where Pope Francis addresses “love is kind.”

In marriage, each spouse should see that they are called to serve the other. Pope Francis writes that Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, is attempting to show Christians that love is “more than a mere feeling.” It should be seen as reflective of the Hebrew verb “to love,” making love an act that we do versus an emotion that we experience. Just as God freely shares his love with us, so we are to freely share our love with our spouse. Thus, your experience of love in marriage should have more to do with you loving your spouse.

So how have you loved your spouse today? How have you served her/him without expecting anything in return? Did you experience happiness, or perhaps even real joy, in serving your spouse on this day or did you do so grudgingly? When your spouse interrupted your TV show with “Oh dear, can you help me?” did your heart leap with excitement that you have another opportunity to serve your beloved? When your spouse began to talk about something that was troubling or annoying him/her, were you filled with a desire to hear everything he/she wished to say?

While reading through the previous paragraph you may wonder why I phrased all of the points in a series of questions. I did so because I encourage us all to reflect on how well we do showing kindness in our marriage, a kindness that is meant to be lived by being a servant to our spouse. Being a servant without expecting anything in return is a tough thing to do because, I suppose, it goes against the part of our human nature that wants to “receive” love. Our society teaches us that love is only experienced when we receive affection from our spouse, but Pope Francis has us focus on marital love as something we give away. Of course both wife and husband must do this because the gift of love in marriage is meant to be a reciprocal gift – love given by each spouse to the other. Such couples will find that the more they love their spouse, the more they will receive. When a husband and wife each see love as being in service to the other, both will experience the love of God through their marriage.

Let me conclude this column by suggesting one way that every husband can serve his wife or how every wife can serve her husband every day. For those that regularly read this column you probably know what I am going to say: pray for your spouse. It can be as brief as the Lord’s Prayer or the Hail Mary, but say a prayer for your spouse every day as an act of loving service in your marriage.

A letter to parents of the graduating class of 2017

By Father Don Braukmann/Parochial Vicar - St. Philip’s, Bemidji and St. Charles, Pennington

Over the years I have written an annual column to graduates encouraging them as they enter the next chapter of their lives. I always wrote as if I were writing to my own nephew or niece including what I would want them to hear from someone other than me. This year, I am more aware of the support the parents of seniors may need!

For some parents there is a feeling of grateful relief! “We got them through high school and now they are on their own! Alleluia!” For others it is a bitter sweet time of remembering the first day of kindergarten for their “baby” and how proud they are now when pictures are taken at prom or high school graduation. For others, especially if the youngest is graduating, it is a time of anxiety. After so many years with kids in the house they face an empty nest!

Finally, and these are the parents I am writing to this year, there are the parents who worry they have been failures in raising their children. It may be discipline problems at home and school, poor grades, or their child suffers from an addiction.

The feeling of failure I come across most in parents is when their child’s faith in God and the Church goes dormant or seems to die altogether. Any priest can tell you of the heartache we often hear in the reconciliation room from parents grieving children who have wandered away from the faith and somehow blame themselves for the heartbreak.

In the end, in my opinion, it comes down to this: Parents, you have done what you could with the faith, inspiration and gifts you had while raising your graduating son or daughter. No more guilt or shame, live your life and your faith and trust your example and witness will carry the day in the end.

You know, in your heart, there are many voices in the world that are not your own, nor the Lord’s. Those voices are loud, tempting, seductive and gripping.

I bet when you graduated from high school yourselves you did not rank your parent’s opinions in the top 50 which carried any weight! It is only later in life that we learn the wisdom of our elders!

One of our great saints of the 4th century, St. Augustine committed every sin you can name during his youth and into his adulthood. His mom, St. Monica, abhorred his actions and then prayed for 30 years that God put someone in her son’s life to remind him who was ... whose he was ... Jesus Christ’s! The prayer was answered all those decades later when St. Ambrose stepped into Augustine’s life and the rest is history ... Augustine is now known as Saint Augustine!

As a priest, especially after being in a parish over several years, it is hard to watch so many members of one confirmation class after another wander off into the septic tank of our society and suffer from dementia when it comes to their faith. As priests, our hearts ache right along with a parent’s blaming ourselves for not having “done enough, taught enough or cared enough” to help them see what we, by the grace of God, already see.

St. Monica could have blamed herself for the actions of her son, Augustine. Instead, she fell to her knees for 30 years praying for someone like St. Ambrose to step into her son’s life. That is what I pray for at each Confirmation and graduation I attend. “Lord, I have done what I could with what I had and with what I knew ... send someone to guide them the rest of the way home.”

An organization called “Casting Nets” (CastingNetsOnline.com) was recently in the parish for a Lenten mission. They shared with us two prayers. One asking for the intercession of St. Monica and, the other, the intercession of St. Ambrose. I offer these prayers to you, parents, as you nudge your kids out into this crazy world.

St. Monica, as you prayed so faithfully for your son’s conversion to Christ for many years, I ask for your intercession as I pray for my loved one. Please grant them, by the power of the Holy Spirit, clarity of mind and purity of heart according to the Truth of Jesus Christ and His Church, so that they will have the courage and conviction to live in knowledge, love and service of Jesus Christ in this life and the next. Amen.

St. Ambrose, you were sent as an answer to the prayers of St. Monica for the conversion of her son, St. Augustine. I now humbly plead for your intercession to send someone, like you were to St. Augustine, into the life of my loved one. May they be led to know our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and the truths of His most holy Church. I pray that I may be a fit instrument in and not an obstacle to their conversion, and that I may have the wisdom to see the difference. Amen.

Viewing immigration as Easter people with confidence in Christ

By Jason Adkins/Executive Director - Minnesota Catholic Conference

The Easter season is a time to confidently celebrate the victory of Christ over death, once and for all. But the confidence of the Resurrection is too often missing from our lives as Christians – in our commission to proclaim the Good News, yes, but also in our call to faithful citizenship.

The radical social demands of the Gospel – to welcome the stranger, to prioritize the needs of the poor and the vulnerable, to protect life at every stage – can too easily be rationalized away as “naïve” and “unrealistic.”

I encountered this dynamic firsthand as a participant in a recent debate on the proper Catholic response to the president’s immigration and refugee policies. The debate showed that Christ’s commandment to selflessly love our neighbor (and our enemy) remains the hardest part of Christian discipleship. It also exposed how easily we can turn from Our Lord (and the social doctrine He has passed on to us through the Church) when his demands involve hard work and uncertainty.

In other words, the immigration debate highlighted a crisis of confidence in Christ and his Gospel.

Principled, Not Fear-Based

Let’s start with this fact: a faithful Catholic need not support the specific immigration and refugee provisions endorsed by the U.S. bishops. As migration policy is a matter of prudence, people of good will can come to different conclusions about specific policy outcomes, so long as their conclusions are the product of a prayerful, good-faith effort to apply the Gospel and the social doctrine of the Church to complex problems.

But in my recent debate, my opponent made no such effort to ground his support for President Trump’s immigration and refugee policies in the Church’s social teaching. Instead of appeals to Scripture or the Magisterium, he built his case primarily on a foundation of idolized nationalism and fear-driven consequentialism.

For instance, his final point against a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, delivered as if it was the decisive word on the matter, was that migrants from Latin America were an invasion force being ushered in to further the progressive agenda. Similarly, he opposed resettling Muslim refugees from Syria because Muslim newcomers, he claimed, would inevitably impose an Islamic theocracy upon us all.

Confidence, Not Consequentialism

These all-too-common arguments flow from an impulse that seems less concerned with doing the hard and difficult work of loving and evangelizing our neighbors, and is instead animated more by a kind of passivity unbefitting of Christians.

The doom-and-gloom outcomes forecasted – that people or their descendants to whom we offer hospitality will respond with malice or engage the social order in a way that some find harmful may, perhaps, be somewhere deep within the realm of possibility, but they are anything but inevitable. In fact, these scenarios seem possible only if Christians sit on their hands and do nothing.

Like with the Good Samaritan, love is a risk. Hypothetical outcomes don’t absolve us from our responsibility to do the right thing when the situation is presented.

Ultimately, scapegoating others, particularly Latino immigrants and Muslim refugees, as threats and harbingers of the inevitable downfall of the United States is a convenient way to avoid our responsibility to roll up our sleeves and do the hard work of welcoming newcomers and reclaiming society for Christ.

Christ is Risen!

Confidence in Christ is not stupidity, nor is it a suicide pact. We need not toss common sense and prudence out the window when it comes to crafting and enforcing just immigration and refugee policy.

But we must also not let fear obscure the fact that the millions of undocumented immigrants in the shadows of our society and the tens of thousands of refugees on our doorstep are providing us with an opportunity: an opportunity to love Christ boldly by welcoming the stranger, confidently accepting the missionary demands that might follow.

For as Christ proved through his death and resurrection, we have nothing to fear when we follow him. His grace is sufficient. Like the Apostles, hiding in the Upper Room, we will be able to live confidently in this truth only when we allow the Lord into our midst and accept his spirit into our life, not clutching at the ring of power for temporal security.

Only we can separate ourselves from the love of Christ.

‘Love is patient’ and for some marriages that means again and again!

By Dr. Mark Krejci/Director of the Office of Marriage, Family and Life

Perhaps you know of a married couple like one I knew some years ago. They seemed more interested in pointing out what each other did wrong than thinking about complimenting or thanking each other when they did something right. The husband would say something and his wife would respond “that is silly.” She would misunderstand something about the news and he would gleefully point out her error and say “don’t you pay attention.” When they were out in public they regularly pointed out when each other would make a mistake to the point that it made others feel uncomfortable in their presence. Again and again this pattern of picking on each would occur to the point that they experienced so much resentment towards each other that hostility had become the primary emotion in their marriage.

I once witnessed a “classic” (and sad) argument between them. The wife said to the husband, “why do you keep making the same mistake over and over” to which the husband responded “Why do you keep picking on me!” “Keep picking on you!” the wife replied, “you pick on me all of the time and I am getting tired of this.”

This story brings us to the first phrase from 1 Cor. 13:4-7 that Pope Francis reviews in chapter 4 of “The Joy of Love:” Love is patient. The previous couple had little patience with each other and their marriage had descended into a verbal shouting match of two self-centered persons who wanted more to bring down the other than to lift them to God. The Holy Father writes:

“We encounter problems whenever we think that relationships or people ought to be perfect, or when we put ourselves at the center and expect things to turn out our way. Then everything (that doesn’t go our way) makes us impatient, everything makes us react aggressively. Unless we cultivate patience, we will always find excuses for responding angrily. ... our families become battlegrounds.”

This couple had no patience with each other and the Holy Father’s words were played out in their marriage. Their marriage had become a “battleground” of two self-centered people not wanting to back down, to show any signs of “weakness,” to admit that they were wrong, to say “I am sorry” and ask for forgiveness.

Contrast this with the following couple who demonstrated something quite different. One time a wife said something to her husband that was mean and hurtful. Instead of saying something, he let things go for a time because she was upset and said this hurtful thing in the midst of her frustration. To help calm himself, he said a string of Hail Mary’s because, as he later admitted, he thought it was better to put a prayer in his mind than to think the words he could have said to his wife at that time. His patience reflected God who, in the Old Testament, is said to be “slow to anger.” Pope Francis said that the patient love of God was a restraint in order to “(leave) open the possibility of repentance.” God loves us so much that he accepts that we will make mistakes. He does not move immediately to judgement but gives us the opportunity to repent – to say I am sorry to God. In part, this is why he gave us the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation – to give us the means to say “I am sorry” while he patiently waits for our contrition.

We should do the same for our spouse. We should not match their mistake with retribution, but have the patience to allow for their reconciliation. And so, after calming down, this wife recognized what she had done and she approached her husband with sorrow that he graciously received and their reconciliation was complete. He did not think “I am going to get back at you some time” but rather “I have you back in our love.” There are limits, which is why Pope Francis writes: “Being patient does not mean letting ourselves be constantly mistreated, tolerating physical aggression or allowing other people to use us.” We should not respond to another’s violence with violence or passivity but should protect ourselves into the future.

 

For the vast majority of couples, we should recognize that we are blessed when we can again and again and again give the gift of patience to our marriage because “Love is patient.” What is this Love that is patient? “God is Love” and so when we share patience in our marriage we are sharing love and when we share love we do our best to reflect God.

Making sure our water works: Steps to protect waterways

By Shawn Peterson/Associate Director for Public Policy, Minnesota Catholic Conference

In the Land of 10,000 Lakes, it can be easy to take water for granted – it is literally all around us, even more so in the rainy spring.

But as the recent water crises in Flint, Michigan, and the state of California should remind us, the accessibility and quality of water can never be assumed, even in the United States in 2017. There may be no known instances of systemic lead contamination in Minnesota water, nor are there major droughts on the horizon, but we face our own share of water challenges, from widespread water pollution to an inadequate water supply in too many rural communities.

As Benjamin Franklin once observed, “When the well is dry, we will know the value of water.” With a bit of foresight and ingenuity, though, we can take commonsense steps to protect our clean water supply now, so we need not discover its worth only when we no longer have it.

TROUBLED WATERS

According to a 2015 report by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, half of the lakes and rivers in southern Minnesota are often so polluted that they are unsafe for swimming and fishing. Much of this pollution can be traced to phosphorus and manure in runoff from farm lands, and also from other chemicals such as detergent and road salt. These toxins flow into our lakes and rivers and can seep their way into the water supply.

To compound the problem, many communities in Greater Minnesota are already struggling to update their aging water treatment and supply systems, which can be prohibitively expensive to improve. As a result, communities are forced to purchase hundreds of thousands of gallons of water from outside sources, doing nothing to increase their own water independence while depleting their ability to develop a long-term solution. This sort of financial burden places undue stress on the already-fragile economies of rural Minnesota.

These seemingly local issues carry with them statewide consequences. If water treatment systems are breaking down or are overwhelmed during heavy rains, polluted water can flow downstream towards our urban centers. If rural Minnesota can’t keep up with basic infrastructure needs, residents could seek greener pastures in other states. And, of course, if Minnesota’s lakes can’t stay clean, our state’s tourism industry and quality of life will be adversely affected.

NOT JUST ANOTHER COMMODITY

Minnesotans might not be in any immediate danger of losing access to drinkable water. But given the essential role of water in so much of human life, as well as our obligations to future generations, any threat to our water supply must be taken seriously.

There’s a reason scientists look for signs of water as a prerequisite for the possibility of life on a foreign planet; there can be none without it. From a human perspective, clean water plays an integral part in nearly every aspect of our lives: we use it to clean ourselves and our clothing, grow and prepare our food, and provide irreplaceable hydration to our bodies. And Minnesotans, in particular, look to water as a medium for recreation.

The ubiquity of water in the most essential acts of human life makes it unlike any other substance. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church affirms, “by its very nature, water cannot be treated as just another commodity among many.” Since water is needed for human flourishing, all human beings have an inalienable right to it, by virtue of our God-given dignity.

Our public policies and individual actions should contribute to the conditions in which all have access to clean, drinkable water, now and in the future. As Pope Benedict XVI stated in his address for World Water Day 2007, “… the sustainable management of water [is] a social, economic, environmental and ethical challenge that involves not only institutions but the whole of society.”

REPLENISHING OUR SUPPLY

Thankfully, there are several public policy measures currently being considered at the Capitol that will help us to address our water worries in ways that are consistent with the principles of both subsidiarity and solidarity. 

We can take steps to protect our waterways and limit the amount of pollution present in them through commonsense environmental protections such as strengthening buffer strip requirements on public waters. We can also use our surplus budget prudently by providing grants to rural communities to update their water supply system, helping them reach a status of self-sufficiency. Finally, we can affirm, as a state, our commitment to providing clean, drinkable water to all Minnesotans.

These are solutions that come from all sides of the aisle, reflecting the reality that clean water isn’t a partisan issue, but is a policy goal towards which both political parties should work. Just as all ships rise with the tide, all Minnesotans will benefit with cleaner water and greater access to it.

Keep Lenten prayer habits growing through the Easter season

By AJ Garcia/Director of the Office of New Evangelization and Justice

Happy Easter! What a blessing to be able to celebrate the Resurrection for an entire seven week liturgical season. I pray that you are finding ways to continue growing closer to the Lord and building on the habits you established during Lent. Hopefully, you are still living out some of the habits that brought you closer to Christ during those 40 days.

What a struggle it is to remain committed to new or different habits we may have started during Lent, I certainly can relate! The hardest part about improving in or starting a new habit or hobby is simply getting started, right? For example, it’s hard trying to learn a sport or skill like photography, gardening, or carpentry. Realistically each of those will take more than 40 days to master.

Someone preparing for a half-marathon has probably thought about it more than 40 days in advance! Think about the preparation entailed if you don’t want to fall flat on your face the day of the race. First, is the day even open on your calendar? Hopefully that is something you’ve considered more than a month in advance. As you move closer to race day, you put in the time and effort to train, you adjust your schedule to make time to exercise. Also, you make sacrifices and adjust your diet for optimal performance. Maybe you’re not a runner, but you get the picture: there is much planning, time, effort, and sacrifice to prepare for a race. In comparison, what we are preparing for as Catholics and followers of Christ is much more important than a race. We are preparing for eternal life!

“Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win. Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. Thus I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadow boxing. No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.” (1 Cor 9:24-27)

We are training for an imperishable crown; to be united forever with the Father in Heaven. However, we do not train merely for ourselves. Today we are so much more willing to prepare and sacrifice for a half marathon than we are for the REAL race we are running. As Blessed Pope Paul VI said in “On Evangelization in the Modern World”, “Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize.” In pursuing our goal to return to the Father, we have the opportunity and responsibility to bring many more with us! How do we do that?

Many people have asked me, “what are some practical things I can do to evangelize, what can I do to start evangelizing?” The answer is something that is essential and I fear we let become cliché: pray.

If we want to evangelize, if we want our friends and family to return to the faith, or start living the faith, we must pray! This concept of prayer is often something we, as a community, open ourselves to during Lent, but we seem to easily abandon good habits of prayer we formed. Before we go out and represent the Lord and his Church, we have to become more conformed to him. We have to know Jesus if we’re going to talk about him! Being active in evangelization does not mean we have all the answers or that we are perfectly holy, but that we are striving to know Jesus increasingly more and have a zeal to make him known to others.

Before we take care of others, let’s not forget to take care of ourselves. Let’s allow ourselves to be evangelized first by Christ and then by holy people around us. Spend time with the Lord every day. Learn to be more like Him so that you can become who he made you to be. In closing, I will share a quote in honor of St. Catherine of Siena, whose feast day was celebrated on April 29, “Become who you were created to be and you will set the world on fire.”

‘Father, I don’t want to go to heaven ... I’m afraid of heights’

By Father Don Braukmann/Parochial Vicar - St. Philip’s, Bemidji and St. Charles, Pennington

A pre-kindergarten student informed me at Easter, “Father, I don’t want to go to heaven ... I’m afraid of heights!”

Fear. It paralyzes us. The fear of rejection. Fear of not being good enough. Fear of the unknown. Fear of being who we are.

Fear of speaking in front of crowds (or writing columns such as this) nearly kept me from being ordained! Still not sure how I broke that fear other than by the grace of God, of course.

Fear of actually having to step onto the field and play in a middle school football game against Menahga in seventh grade was the reason I asked the coach “Isn’t there anyone else?” when he told me to go in for an injured player! I joined the team out of fear from peer pressure but prayed every game I wouldn’t have to go in. It’s funny now, but not at the time!

The words “Do not be afraid!” appear 365 times in the Bible. One for every day of the year.

As we read the Easter stories of the resurrection, we hear of the absolute fear the disciples lived with as they tried to figure out what happened.

The very people who knew Jesus, lived with Jesus, ate with Jesus and prayed with Jesus stuffed themselves into an airless room somewhere in downtown Jerusalem terrified of what would happen next. Would they be killed? Would they be crucified like Jesus because they were seen in his presence day after day? What should they do? Where could they run? Was anywhere safe? Who could they trust?

They had heard Jesus say “Do not be afraid!” many times. And now, in the moment of their greatest fear, they could not move. They were frozen in the mystery of all that had taken place.

Days earlier, in the Garden of Gethsemane, a handful of disciples were with Jesus. What happened the moment the guards showed up and Judas delivered his kiss? They scattered! Fear overtook them. Even Peter, the first pope, ran and did his best to pretend he had never heard of Jesus over and over and over again. Even a rooster accused him of betrayal.

Our human nature is filled with fear. There is a saying, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” 2,000 years ago, when the going got tough, the disciples just kept on going ... right out of sight!

Sadly, it seems like not much has changed in 2,000 years.

While in school, long ago, there was a man on our floor who was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. We were friends one day, and I abandoned him the next. He quit school to die. I never spoke to him again. What changed? Fear, ignorance and self-righteousness took over my life. I ran away right when I was needed most.

So, too, with the disciples. A week after the Resurrection, even though they had seen the Lord Easter night, they were still breathing stale air, petrified with fear and shaking in their sandals. This time, however, Thomas, the doubter, was with them. So Jesus, stubborn in his determination to save them and us, walks through the walls they had built to keep people out. What were the first words out of his mouth? “Peace be with you!” He knew their fear and accepted them where they were at. He then revealed to them his hands, his feet and his side, each engraved with the mark of devoted love.

In an instant he snatched Thomas’ hand and placed it in his own side as if to say, “No more fear Thomas! No more fear! I am real and I am alive!”

That is exactly what Jesus says to each of us when we stumble down the aisle in our blindness, selfishness, greed, lust, envy, gossip and hypocrisy ... broken and wounded ... filled with old grudges and new. We stand before the foot of the altar, the foot of the Cross and say “Amen” as Jesus comes to rest in our soul.

My friends, Jesus says to us all: “No more fear of what the world can toss at you because I have killed death and buried it six feet under. You are good. You are loved. It matters not what the world may say or think or do. Go ahead and weld shut the doors to your heart if you think that will bring you happiness. It won’t because it can’t. I refuse to live without you!”

The fears which come from living are many. From North Korea to the clamor over our politics and from sickness and disease to the slaughter of the innocents; so many living so long in so much fear.

The lilies may have faded in our homes and churches but may the mighty voice of the Risen One whisper into the deepest recesses of our frail, beautiful souls, “Do not be afraid! Do not be afraid!”

Let us ‘speak of love’: Chapter 4 of ‘Amoris Laetitia’

By Dr. Mark Krejci/Director of the Office of Marriage, Family and Life

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, a well-known “new media” evangelist from the 1930s through the 60s (when “new media” was the radio and then television) was often complimented for his inspiring talks. He would respond that it was easy to put together his presentations because he had such great ghost writers: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. As I developed a plan for this first year of my column “Praying with the Family” I found ideas in Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” as well as the writings of St. John Paul II, Holy Scripture and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. These sources, plus a few others, have served as my “ghost writers.” For those who have approached me and graciously shared that you have enjoyed my column, let me again say thank you but, like Archbishop Sheen, I access some pretty powerful sources for ideas.

Over the next few columns I am going to focus on one source. I will take my readers through Chapter 4 of “Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love)”, in which Pope Francis reviews the passage on love from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, 13:4-7. Let me save you the time of looking it up by sharing it with you now:

“Love is patient, love is kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way, it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

I suppose many of you have heard this reading at wedding celebrations over the years and so believe that Paul is writing to engaged or married couples. To go one more step along this line of thinking, some of you may believe that these next few columns will not have anything to do with you because you are not married or engaged. But 1 Cor 13:4-7 is meant by Paul to apply to all Christians because all are expected to be a reflection of God’s love in the world. While my words will focus on married couples given the focus of Chapter 4, we are all called to love God and to love our neighbors.

So with this in mind, the love that Paul is writing about is not the understanding of love that many will imagine when it comes to couples who are dating, engaged or are newlyweds. The culture portrays “romantic love” as the heart of marriage and, while I hope you experience romantic love with your spouse, you probably know that there are other dimensions of love that sustain a marriage. There is the love of a deep friendship, there is the love sacrifice, there is the love when making ourselves a gift to our beloved and there is the love where every part of your being is oriented to loving the other for the good of the other, and not expecting anything in return. All of these dimensions of love come from our God who is love. As others have written, God does not love in the manner of one human loving another, but God is the very act and being of love itself. If you wish to read one of the best explanations of a Catholic understanding of love let me refer you to the work of another Pope, Benedict XVI, who in 2005 signed his encyclical “Deus Caritas Est (God is Love).”

A husband and wife are to love each other as God loves us. I shared this idea with a couple and they responded by saying that this was an unrealistic goal. “Oh come on, no one can live up to that standard!,” he responded (with a tone that made me put an exclamation mark at the end of his quote). They could not imagine how they could ever love each other that much and I was not surprised by their response, for their understanding of love was pretty limited and even self-centered. No doubt all married couples are on a journey where we should be, in the words of Pope Francis, using the “grace of the sacrament … to perfect the couple’s love.” Love in marriage is a work in progress where we are to grow into deeper and deeper love for our spouse as we should all be growing into deeper and deeper love for our Lord. As I review Pope Francis’ writing on 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 over my next few columns, it is my hope that couples use the reflections of the Holy Father to better perfect their love for each other, to better reflect God, who is love, to each other and throughout their family.