‘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.

VFTV: May 3, 2017

By Bishop Michael J. Hoeppner

EASTER CONTINUES

The Easter celebration continues. I always find the days of the first weeks of Easter uplifting. In the Scripture readings at Mass, we continually hear about the first days of the Church. We hear from the Acts of the Apostles how the faithful continued to meet and, sometimes, as they prayed together, the place where they met shook (Acts 4:31). The word of God was proclaimed boldly. The Holy Spirit filled the faithful. They worked miracles just as Jesus had, and they were even happy to suffer for the name of Jesus. The Church continued to grow. We hear the encouragement and reminder that Jesus “left us an example that we should follow in his footsteps” (1 Pt 2:21). The word used for “example” in that passage is, in the Greek text, “hupogrammos.” In Greece, youngsters were taught to write using a wax tablet and a stylus. The teacher would make an imprint in the wax, writing a word or sentence at the top of the tablet with the stylus. The student would then take the stylus and follow the grooves left by the teacher to learn to make the same letters and write the same sentences. The sample sentence was called the “hupogrammos”. A good teacher would even place his hand over the hand of the student as the sentence was traced, guiding the student to make the same letters, to write the same sentence, without a mistake.

It is a wonderful thought to know that not only has Jesus left us an example to follow, but his hand is there to guide us to do as he did in living the way of love. The disciples on the road to Emmaus were downcast, walking away from the faith community. They tell Jesus the good news but communicate it as bad news. Jesus joins their journey and helps them understand the good news as good news. Then he sends them back to join the faith community to share the good news. I pray that as we continue to celebrate Easter, you know the presence of the Risen Lord in your daily journey, and that you know his gentle guidance as you follow his example for living and share the good news with others.

WORLD DAY OF PRAYER FOR VOCATIONS

On May 7, we will celebrate the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. On this day of prayer, the word “vocation” is understood as specifically referring to the call to live as a sister or brother, a nun or a monk, an ordained deacon or priest. I ask that special prayers be offered at the Masses on the weekend of May 6-7, first, in thanksgiving for the many wonderful vocations the Diocese of Crookston has known in our long history. Second, I ask that special prayers be offered asking the Good Lord to continue to bless us with the vocations we need. In his message for this World Day of Prayer for Vocations, Pope Francis encourages “parish communities, associations and the many prayer groups present in the Church, not to yield to discouragement but to continue praying that the Lord will send workers to his harvest.”

The Holy Father notes that vocations come from “attentive listening to God’s word” and he highly encourages the “cultivation of a personal relationship with the Lord in Eucharistic Adoration, the privileged ‘place’ for our encounter with God.”

 

Indeed, prayer before the Blessed Sacrament has been shown to be prayer that God truly answers. You have heard me before invite you to make use of the opportunities for Eucharistic adoration in your parish or deanery, and to pray for vocations while you are before the Blessed Sacrament. May the Good Lord bless us with good workers for the harvest here.