‘Humanae Vitae’ as a guide for a holy marriage: Part 1

By Deacon Mark Krejci, Ph.D./Office of Formation in Discipleship

In my previous column, I noted that July marks the 50th Anniversary of “Humanae Vitae.” I concluded that column by promising a series that will dig into the teaching of “Humanae Vitae” as a guide for a holy marriage. This is the first installment of the series; thank you for reading along.

I was recently reading something that made me say, “Hey Julie, have you heard this?!” Julie is my wife, and she regularly hears me say this when I am reading something incredible or shocking. The thing I shared with her was a news item in a magazine where a couple was entering a “part-time” marriage. They decided that they would live as husband and wife on the weekends but consider themselves single during the week. Now I am not talking about a married couple who must be separated for work during the week – no, this was something else. This couple believed that they were “married” on the weekends and “single” during the week. They lived apart (in the same town), went about their weekday lives without any expectation of contact, and then came together on Fridays after work and spent the weekend together. Their rationale was based on the idea that if they each had their own “me” time during the week they would be able to sustain their marriage at a time when so many of their friends were getting divorced.

I am sure you do not need me to quote “Humanae Vitae” to know that this is not what marriage is meant to be, but let me quote Pope Blessed Paul VI anyway: “Then, this (marital) love is total, that is to say, it is a very special form of personal friendship, in which husband and wife generously share everything, without undue reservations or selfish calculations.” (HV 9, emphasis added). Without a doubt the couple in the news story did not generously share everything! No, they only shared Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday while Monday through Friday afternoon was selfishly reserved for themselves.

It would be easy to dismiss the couple as an aberration and think if you are married or expecting to be married one day, you could never be so self-centered as that “weekend couple.” Good – I am glad you dismiss that idea – but now reflect deeply on the words: “generously share everything.” If every married couple lived by these words, there would be peace and joy in every marriage.

There are three parts to this phrase: an adverb (generously), a verb (share) and a noun (everything). Sorry for the grammar lesson, but each word of that phrase written by Pope Blessed Paul VI is a gem combining into rich treasure that can guide every marriage to holiness. When we get married we are to involve “everything.” Every day, every item, every emotion, every part of our being. We are to “share” this with our spouse which turns into a mutual gifting of oneself to the other. The husband makes a total gift of himself to his wife and the wife makes a total gift of herself to her husband. But the attitude you have in your soul is the key to the gift of sharing everything: “generously.” We do not partially share, we do not reluctantly share, we do not resentfully share everything! NO! We “generously” share to reflect the generous love of God who created us out of an act of love. Generosity in our marital sharing of everything is meant to reflect the love of God to our spouse. When both husband and wife – in a spirit of generosity – share everything, they become a “living icon” of God’s love in the world. Thus, everyone can see an iconic image of God’s love in the married couple who “generously share(s) everything.”

If every couple would “generously share everything” in their marriage, they would be filled with “rejoicing” every time they lived as a gift to their spouse. Why? Because they would reflect love which comes from God. What a beautiful way to live in marriage as described in “Humanae Vitae.”

In my next column, I will bring out one more point, but for now, let me again say, happy anniversary to the Church and the world for Pope Blessed Paul VI’s gift of this holy teaching.

Who would have guessed this is where we both would be?

By Fr. Don Braukmann/St. Philip, Bemidji

I met Cindy soon after arriving in Greenbush to serve the people of Blessed Sacrament Church and St. Aloysius of Leo in 1996.

Eight years earlier, Cindy was diagnosed as having multiple sclerosis. Not only was it the generic brand of MS, which attacks the central nervous system, but it was the far more rare and destructive brand of the disease called “Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis.” Just 15 percent of those who have MS have this version of the disease.

Cindy explained to me early on how she had a vision of sorts after being diagnosed. She was in high school and on a particular day attended a lyceum in the gymnasium. Everyone was excited, first, because they were getting out of the school routine and second, because God was the featured speaker that day!

In this vision, Cindy tells the story of how God calls her up onto the stage. She was so eager to meet God she could barely contain herself. As she told me the story she said, “I know I was looking good in front of my classmates. My hair was perfect. I had on a great dress. I looked like a million bucks!”

When Cindy got to the stage, God gave her a gift, a wrapped package. She wasted no time in shredding the wrapping and when she tore the box open, inside was a message: “You have multiple sclerosis.”

In an instant her hair drooped, her dress was tattered and she felt ugly. Her world had collapsed as those words shot like lightning in her mind: “You have multiple sclerosis.”

During the eight years I served as Cindy’s pastor, I watched as she fought with all she had to keep walking and then fought to continue feeding and dressing herself. During this time, her marriage collapsed and in so many ways – although loved by many, including a large family – Cindy had to face what seemed like a demon within her alone. Yet, in Cindy’s eyes, she was never alone. She would be the first to tell you how God sustained and strengthened her. As the disease claimed one bodily function after another, Cindy’s faith seemed to grow stronger and stronger.

She was in her own home the entire time I served in Greenbush (1996-2004) and spent time each Tuesday in adoration. She hosted a prayer group in her home and remained fully engaged in life with her children, siblings, community and parish family.

In January of 2016 she moved into the care center in Greenbush where she still resides today.

We spent a lot of time talking during those years. She didn’t know it at the time, but she had become, in truth, my spiritual director! She reminded me often how earlier in life, before MS, how having a nice tan and losing ten pounds were her main concerns. All that had changed in one visit to the doctor’s office.

From those powerful talks back then to our relationship now, Cindy remains a gifted spiritual director in my life. I remember the day she told me how she “thanked God” for her MS because it made her totally dependent upon God. To this day, Cindy states with a clear mind that she would never trade MS for the world’s definition of good health. “Good health” for her is being right with God.

Cindy is still able to slightly move her left hand and head; she can still talk up a storm although her voice is hoarse.

Who would have guessed all those years ago that Cindy would be walking me through a similar disease. Whether it is her MS or my ALS, the letters used to describe these crosses really don’t matter. They are not “gifts from God” but they are opportunities heavily laden for God to do what God always does … bring victory from defeat and resurrection from the darkest of nights.

She longs for heaven; to discard the body and be free. I am not there yet in my journey. Cindy is showing me the way through her example of profound and undisturbed faith.

Cindy wrote a prayer she has given me permission to share. It is entitled “Happily Ever After.”

I don’t always like the things I have done. Doing right for you is not always fun.

You are my God, the only one. You redeemed my sins by giving your son.

You said to obey my mom and dad. The times I didn’t, I wished I had.

“Love your neighbor” is one of your laws. Loving myself I see all the flaws.

Forgiving others that hurt me you command; not seven, but seventy-seven times is your demand.

Merciful forgiveness is mine for the asking. In your grace I could be basking.

All this I know, for I’ve heard it from Thee. “Happily ever after” is eternity.

Is Kavanaugh a Catholic judge, or a judge who happens to be Catholic?

By Jason Adkins/Minnesota Catholic Conference

President Trump has selected Judge Brett Kavanaugh to fill the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court left by Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement. Unless something damaging emerges from his background, Judge Kavanaugh will be confirmed.

Judge Kavanaugh has highlighted the importance of his Catholic faith in his personal life. But he will likely indicate in his confirmation hearing that his faith convictions do not and should not have an impact on his judicial decision-making. He will stipulate that when deciding cases, it is his responsibility to say what the law is, not what it should be.

His nomination raises the question whether there can be such a thing as a Catholic judge? Or is good judging merely a matter of technical skill, like fishing, where one’s religion has no role in the task?

TRANSCENDING TODAY’S JUDICIAL POLITICS

The Church (in the United States) does not support or oppose candidates for office, including judges. Catholics can, however, turn to Church tradition for guidance in arriving at their own conclusions about the merits of candidates. Here, as on many topics, St. Thomas Aquinas provides remarkable wisdom.

As a judge’s main responsibility is to apply the law to specific cases, the interpretive methods a judge uses to identify the applicable legal rule are paramount. According to St. Thomas, judges should judge according to the law as written, noting that the act of judging is nothing other than rendering a decision about what is just (ST II-II, q. 60, art. 5).

The written law is an attempt to codify acts that are just by their nature or by agreement among persons. Quoting St. Augustine, St. Thomas highlights that once a legislator establishes the law, “judges may judge no longer of them, but according to them.” In other words, ignoring the written law usurps the legislator’s role in determining what is just when the written laws are created.

But, St. Thomas continues, “[j]ust as the written law does not give force to natural right, so neither can it diminish or annul its force, because neither can man’s will change nature.” Therefore, “if the written law contains anything contrary to the natural right, it is unjust and has no binding force.”

In cases of unjust laws, or those laws that when observed perpetrate an injustice contrary to nature in their effects, St. Thomas says that “judgement should be delivered, not according to the letter of the law, but according to the equity which the lawgiver has in view.” Here, St. Thomas transcends all the contemporary legal debates about, for example, “originalism,” “textualism,” “legal realism,” and the “living constitution.”

Depending on their judicial office, judges are not necessarily mere legal technicians – umpires calling balls and strikes, in Chief Justice Roberts’s famous analogy. Judges can also be agents of equity. To do justice means that a judge must, on occasion, correct inequity, whether it is perpetrated directly by a statute, or in its effects.

To do so effectively, however, means the judge must have the character, knowledge, and wisdom to be an agent of justice and equity. The judge’s equitable power is not an invitation to lawlessness.

A CATHOLIC JUDGE?

So where does that leave Judge Kavanaugh? Is he a Catholic judge, or a judge who happens to be Catholic?

Liberal senators and activists committed to preserving the abortion license, and intuitively grasping that judges, inevitably, impose normative values on legal rules, will grill Judge Kavanaugh about his Catholicism, because they fear it will threaten cherished legal victories related to, among other things, abortion and same-sex marriage.

Conservatives will howl that this is an impermissible religious test for public office. But a judge’s religion, personal convictions, and background are relevant if a judge is required to authoritatively render judgments to achieve justice. Supreme Court nominees are wise to skillfully sidestep them, but the questions, rightly directed, are not out of bounds.

These questions should not, however, descend into bigotry, and politicians who overstep the bounds of civility or respect should be held accountable.

Judge Kavanaugh, like the other Catholics who have served on the Supreme Court, will have to forge his own jurisprudence and reconcile his faith commitments and role as a judge. A Catholic judge serves with virtue and does not perpetrate injustice in rendering decisions. But there is no specifically “Catholic” theory of legal interpretation, and no prescribed Catholic handbook for being a judge.

Still, Judge Kavanaugh and other Catholic jurists may consider rediscovering the wisdom of St. Thomas to transcend yet another false either/or dichotomy in contemporary politics.

VFTV: August 1, 2018

JPII CAMP

The Diocese of Crookston’s St. John Paul II Camp has come and gone. This year was our second time holding two sessions of the middle school camp. In previous years, registration would open; sign up would begin, and almost immediately all the slots would fill up. In response to the many, many requests from parents whose youngsters so wanted to attend but couldn’t get in, there are now two camps a summer.

WHAT’S THE ATTRACTION?

On the final day of St. JPII Camp, I have the opportunity and delight of celebrating Mass with campers, camp staff and the parents who have come to collect their sons or daughters. Before the closing Mass, campers have an opportunity to take the microphone and say a few words about what was meaningful to them. Some mentioned making new friends, or the fun they’ve had. But what is mentioned most often as profoundly impacting the young camper, is the evening which includes the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and the four-corners prayer experience – a time when the young people, if they wish, can speak to a staff person from the heart about their journey. When it all comes together, the young people who attend St. JPII Camp are blessed with a true, genuine, heart-felt faith experience. One of those not-to-be-forgotten faith experiences where they encounter Christ Jesus who touches their hearts in a deep and lasting way. At the microphone, they say they want to return next year. They say they want to return as a staff member. They tell the parents that if there is one thing they as parents do, it should be to send all their kids to JPII Camp.

You parents, of course, are the first and best teachers of your children in the ways of faith. I am happy that our St. JPII Camp continues to be of help to parents and of assistance to young people. I offer my thanks to those who make these JPII Camps possible: our diocesan staff, the faith formation and religious education volunteers, and the young people who volunteer as staff members. All the middle-school students who attend attest that they do a fantastic job in this great labor of love. But, most of all, thanks be to God who continues to draw our young people close to him. May the St. JPII Camp experience continue to bear good fruit in the faith journeys of our young people.

Happy 50th anniversary: Why isn’t the world celebrating?

By Deacon Mark Krejci, Ph.D./Office of Formation in Discipleship

This month marks the 50th Anniversary of the publication of Blessed Pope Paul VI’s encyclical “Humanae Vitae” which is held up by some as a prophetic witness by Pope Paul to the goodness of following God’s design for sexual life. On the other hand, it is completely ignored or ridiculed by others as being “out of touch” with the modern world. It’s teaching about the role of sexual union in marriage and the moral approach of fertility is largely ignored by the Church – the people of God – with various surveys indicating that over 95 percent of Catholic married couples in their child-bearing years use artificial birth control.

Why do so many Catholics ignore this teaching? No doubt many go along with a society that argues that sexual behavior is up to the individual, can be indulged in at any time, and that one or both parties use artificial birth control to avoid pregnancy. Along with this view is the idea that sexual morality should be left up to the individual and/or couple and Catholic leaders should not weigh in on what happens “in the bedroom.” And so, the “drug store artificial means” of birth control is used by almost everybody and few acknowledge that God has a plan for sexual union, that it is only to be part of marriage and it is meant to be open to life. As Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia noted at a recent commemoration of the document’s 50th anniversary, “... good and decent people today are blind to this good news.”

Why are so many Catholics blind to the “good news” God has for love, marriage, and sexual union? My answer will upset some of you (please feel free to let me know). The reason so many Catholics have ignored living the guidance given by Pope Paul VI in “Humanae Vitae” is they do not truly understand the teaching because the Catholic Church has not adequately taught “Humanae Vitae” and followed up that teaching with readily available and affordable Natural Family Planning (NFP). Of course, there are many in the Diocese of Crookston and around the world who have worked their entire lives to share the teaching in good and holy ways – but it has not been enough to stem the “tidal wave” of secularism. The Church has failed to successfully teach and follow “Humanae Vitae.”

This is so sad because “Humanae Vitae” is a beautiful teaching meant to explain a “total vision” of what it means to be human – a person created in the image and likeness of God – and given the gift of sexuality which “reveals its true nature and nobility when it is considered in its supreme origin, God who is love” (HV 8). Married couples are called to celebrate the gift of conjugal (sexual) love and “responsible parenthood” and see these as part of their holy vocation. In this vocation, when living in faithfulness to God’s design, married couples will experience freedom in its most sacred form.

Why are all Catholics not celebrating the 50th anniversary of this great teaching? Rather than writing about what has kept the Church from embracing Blessed Pope (soon to be St.) Paul VI’s teaching, let us as a Church reverse the trend. There are many in the Church who are doing this in good and holy ways and so allow me to join the effort, starting with a series of columns which will dig into the beauty of this wonderful teaching. This series will NOT be a theological review of “Humanae Vitae” but will instead show how the encyclical can be used as a guide for marital life. And let me beg the indulgence of my Catholic brothers and sisters who gave up on following God’s teaching for marital sexual life or never tried it in the first place for all sorts of reasons – please stick with me through this series of columns and see what happens. There will be no judgment here, just a series of proposals. I will be so bold as to guarantee that married couples who faithfully follow God’s plan for marriage as so beautifully described by Pope Paul VI in “Humanae Vitae” will experience a holy and happy union. Please don’t take my word on this, listen to a person who will be declared a saint October 14.

The Supreme Court and this moment in history

By Father Don Braukmann/Parishioner, St. Philip, Bemidji

Since I was 13 (1973) I have been waiting for this time in American history. As I put pen to paper, President Trump is about to nominate a Supreme Court justice who will tilt the judicial philosophy of the court to the right.

I wish my dad was alive to see this time. Legalized abortion on demand changed his political allegiances dramatically. He, more than anyone, shaped my political views which, today, stand outside the purview of the donkey or the elephant.

Of course, nothing is certain once a judge gets on the court. Just ask Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush with their appointments of Sandra O’Connor and David Souter. However, there is a great deal of confidence that Trump’s nominee will be pro-life (at least on the abortion issue) and help change the shape of the abortion debate dramatically.

It is no secret to readers of this column as to my opinion of President Trump. I have never considered the president to be pro-life. In fact, I believe his antics as president have hurt the pro-life cause far more than helped. His actions – from the denigration of women to his sophomoric tweets and outbursts – do not portray what it means to be pro-life … respecting the dignity of every human person. Worse, he shows no remorse. Such behavior doesn’t invite those open to a discussion on the issue of abortion to consider the pro-life perspective when he is our mouthpiece.

Yet, the fact is, we are where we are: on the verge of having a chance to overturn Roe v. Wade which brought us abortion on demand in 1973. Even with a (hopefully) pro-life majority on the court this will take time … time we need.

I have written earlier on how the reality of overturning Roe v. Wade is just the first step in defending the lives of the children in the womb. The abortion law of each state prior to 1973 will be the law of that state. This means, in Minnesota, abortion would be legal and would only be restricted with new legislation. This is the same in most states.

Let me get to my point. Are we in the pro-life movement ready? We have been the dog chasing the car for all these years … what if we actually catch the car?

This is where I feel present political leadership is certain to fall off the rails.

If abortion ends, will we in the pro-life movement be there with the finances needed to assure women’s health care and support? Will those who want to see welfare reform be ready for the certain increased costs of supporting the new lives among us? Will WIC (Women, Infants and Children), just to name one such program, be bolstered, or dissolved in the name of balancing a budget?

Will we be ready to spend what is needed and do what is needed in our education system to empower our children with the knowledge and skills to care for themselves? Or will we leave them to fend for themselves and bloat the welfare rolls all the more?

Will those who claim to promote family values fix the immigration policy in this country and stop dragging children from the arms of their parents?

The list goes on.

This is my fear … that those with the loudest voices and clearest actions are promoting anything but the dignity of every human life.

As Catholics, we are about to celebrate the anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s encyclical “Humanae Vitae” which, in 1968, articulated the strongest pro-life message to date in the Catholic Church. He was clear that the objectivization of women and our sexuality would lead to the chaos we are presently in.

I hope we are ready. The bullying, name calling, prejudice and pornographic talk must end.

What does it mean to be pro-life? If we are not clear and consistent and united … the pro-life message will fall on deaf ears … actually, correct that, our message will be heard loud and clear: “Have your baby! You are on your own!”

From Mother Teresa once again:

America needs no words from me to see how your decision in Roe v. Wade has deformed a great nation. The so-called right to abortion has pitted mothers against their children and women against men.

It has shown violence and discord at the heart of the most intimate human relationships. It has aggravated the derogation of the father’s role in an increasingly fatherless society.

It has portrayed the greatest of gifts, a child, as a competitor, an intrusion, and an inconvenience. It has nominally accorded mothers unfettered dominion over the independent lives of their physically dependent sons and daughters. And in granting this unconscionable power, it has exposed many women to unjust and selfish demands from their husbands or other sexual partners.

Human rights are not a privilege conferred by government. They are every human being’s entitlement by virtue of his humanity. The right to life does not depend, and must not be declared to be contingent, on the pleasure of anyone else, not even a parent or a sovereign.

‘Gaudete et Exsultate’ teaches us to make civic life a labor of love

By Sarah Spangenberg/Minnesota Catholic Conference

Holiness in politics? Is that an oxymoron?  Not for Catholics. In Pope Francis’ recent exhortation “Gaudete et Exsultate”, he reminds us that the two are indeed connected.

EITHER-OR?

Unfortunately, Catholics in politics and social ministry sometimes tend to fall into one of two errors.

First, there is the activism “of those who separate [the] Gospel demands from their personal relationship with the Lord, from their interior union with him” (GE, 100). It is thinking that Christianity is all about doing good things. The problem is that it separates Jesus’ commission from the deep prayer which opens us to his grace.

Second is the error of those “who find suspect the social engagement of others, seeing it as superficial, worldly, secular,” as if this aspect of the Church’s life were unimportant. It is the false notion that we ought to be preoccupied only with “spiritual” things, even to the neglect of our duties (GE, 101).

Both are rooted in the same belief: we must decide to be either spiritual or productive, a mystic or an activist, a citizen of heaven or a citizen of the United States. This is alien to our Catholic faith. “At such a time as this” (Esther 4:14), we can and must be present to minister and to serve others now, and at the same time remain fixed on “the life of the world to come.”

WORK AND PRAY

Christ commanded his disciples to be leaven in the world by preaching the Gospel (Mk 16:15), making disciples (Mt 28:19), and serving Him in the least of our brothers and sisters (Mt 25:31-46). Therefore, Francis writes, we cannot “love silence while fleeing interaction with others, … want peace and quiet while avoiding activity, [or] seek prayer while disdaining service” (GE, 26). We who are called to the lay vocation cannot excuse ourselves from public life under a false pretense of holiness. 

Similarly, the temptation to activism is also real. It is easy to treat the Church like “a sort of NGO stripped of the luminous mysticism” that marked the lives of the saints (GE, 100). But consider that Francis of Assisi and Mother Teresa were among the most influential people in history, yet they also “wasted” the most time in prayer. They worked hard, but never sacrificed intimacy with God. Mother Teresa famously said, “If you are too busy to pray, you are too busy!”

In the Gospels, Jesus himself shows the importance of prayer, regularly withdrawing from the crowds for long periods of time spent in union with the Father. His was not an activism focused on worldly success – what could be a greater (apparent) failure than the Cross? – but a single-hearted pursuit of the Father’s will.

To imitate him, then, is not to be so engrossed in “spiritual” things that we withdraw from the world, nor is it to become so busy that we no longer rest in the Father’s heart. Rather, it is the union of action and contemplation, the “work and pray” of St. Benedict. Amid activity, we must also “recover the personal space needed to carry on a heartfelt relationship with God” (GE 29).

POLITICAL LIFE: IT COMES DOWN TO LOVE

How might we apply the teaching of “Gaudete et Exsultate” to political life? First, we should be clear that the goal of our work (at least, the ultimate goal) is not to win every battle in the public square or resort to tactics that seem to promote success. Of course, we should strive to build up the common good, but paradoxically, our true victory is not in success but in faithfulness.

We cannot see the full plan of God, the way he intends to use our “yes,” the unseen battles that are won when we are obedient – even in the face of apparent defeat or futility. Only prayer can detach us from visible results and free us to seek God’s will with an undivided heart.

Finally, our engagement in politics is a mission in which our holiness of life is far more potent than mere activity. Ultimately, it comes down to love. We love God by laboring for him, and we love our neighbor by pursuing what is good and just. Francis writes that when we let God fill both our prayer and our public lives, “every moment can be an expression of self-sacrificing love in the Lord’s eyes” (GE 31). Self-sacrificing love: what a vision for faithful citizenship!

There is freedom in letting God be God so we don’t have to be

By Fr. Don Braukmann/St. Philip, Bemidji & St. Charles, Pennington

As I shared with you a few months ago, I have ALS. I won’t try to spell it but it is also called “Lou Gehrig’s Disease,” after a professional baseball player who died from ALS in 1941.

In short, ALS is a muscle debilitating disease for which there is no cure. It is also fatal as, in the end, it attacks the diaphragm and/or the heart. I was diagnosed this past December, and because of the disease’s progression, Bishop Hoeppner has given me permission to retire from active ministry July 1.

At this point, I intend to continue writing this column, although it may take a slightly different direction in tone as I face what lies before me.

I was ordained on March 15, 1986. It is an odd date for a priestly ordination (usually they are in late spring) because Bishop Balke suggested moving up the ordination date after hearing my Dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Dad would not have made it to the original ordination date of May 31. Bishop suggested March 15 and that was the plan.

On March 3, my Dad suffered a massive stroke and died. His funeral was on March 6, and my ordination went ahead on March 15.

Needless to say, those were emotional days!

Over the past 32 years, there have been a lot of “emotional days.” As with everyone’s life, there were highs and lows. Highs when serving Christ was easy and fulfilling, and other times when my human frailty kept me from being the priest Christ intended me to be.

Through it all, Christ was and is faithful. Even when the brokenness of humanity tarnishes the beauty of Christ’s bride, the Church, he remains vigilant, awaiting the prodigal ones to return.

St. Philip’s in Bemidji, where I have lived the past seven years, has served as bookends, in a sense, to my vocation. In the fall of 1979, while a college student at the University of Minnesota, Crookston, I attended my first TEC (Teens Encounter Christ) here. It was during that weekend I realized the call I had been avoiding was real. 10 months later I was in the seminary!

I was not from the Diocese of Crookston (my hometown is New York Mills, in the St. Cloud Diocese) so upon entering the seminary I had to jump a few hoops to commit to Crookston. It was the example of Bishop Balke, Monsignor John Stearns, Monsignor Mike Patnode and other priests from Crookston whom I had come in contact with through TEC who were key in helping me realize the Diocese of Crookston was HOME.

The greatest joy of these years has been standing in awe of the faith of so many I have come to know in the parishes I have served.

The greatest sorrow has been, as I mentioned above, my own frailties that fell far short of the man I was called to be.

The greatest lesson I learned was how God cannot be outdone in generosity and that all things do work out, in the end, for the glory of God!

Over these years, as you well know, I have done my best to raise my voice for the voiceless child in the womb along with all those who are forgotten by society.

These are difficult days for me on that score as I feel the reputation of the pro-life movement is being smeared by leaders who claim the pro-life mantle yet act and speak in ways that are anything but pro-life. I know others reading this disagree sharply but I ask myself daily when I listen to the news, “What would Jesus think?”

In the end, I praise God for God’s mercy in my life. “Mercy,” as one definition states, is “kindness we don’t deserve.” I also praise God for the incredible people I have met and still love over these years.

I used to “play Mass” often as a kid. I have been humbled by Christ’s invitation to do the “real thing” over 11,700 times!

For now, it is ONWARD! Time to let God be God so I/we don’t have to be. Makes life a whole lot easier!

My conversation with ‘Colin the Catholic’ regarding my previous column

By Deacon Mark Krejci, Ph.D./Office of Marriage, Family & Life

In my previous column, I wrote about the role of conjugal (sexual) love within the Sacrament of Marriage, how sexual intimacy was created by God to be part of the sacrament. At the end of the column, I suggested that the world would be a better place – with less divorce, marital affairs, premarital sexual encounters, fewer abortions, etc. – if we would follow God’s plan. An acquaintance of mine, I will call him “Colin the Catholic”, asked me about this statement, wondering what evidence I had for my claim. What follows is an edited version of the conversation with some additional questions I have added – call this artistic license – so that I can make a final point. So, my conversation with Colin went something like this:

Colin the Catholic: I read your OND column. Thanks for tweeting it out because I don’t get the paper, so I depend on twitter for the OND. Don’t you think your column was a bit far-fetched? I mean, that list you had about all the things that are bad and suggesting that everything would be better if people would follow the Catholic Church’s teachings on sex ... where did you come up with that?

Deacon Mark: Colin, I did not make up this list, a prophet predicted this would happen even before it did.

CC: A prophet? Like some Old Testament guy? Which prophet are you talking about?

DM: Pope Paul VI was the prophet and he predicted the world’s current predicament regarding sexual morality back in the 1960s when he wrote something called Humanae Vitae.

CC: Oh that! That’s where a pope for the first time said that birth control was wrong, but no one really believes that anything is wrong with birth control, do they? I mean, OK abortion of course, but the rest of it is accepted as OK.

DM: Well Colin, you are not right when you say that the pope taught that birth control was wrong for the “first time.” In the Bible, and going all the way back to the early Church, we have regularly taught that artificial approaches to regulating birth are wrong. Pope Paul VI addressed the new technologies of birth control in a specific fashion for the first time because such things as the pill and IUDs were just being developed and really, for the first time, people were questioning whether pre-marital sex was even wrong.

CC: Well, the teaching is out of date, look at the overpopulation in the world and all of the starving people in places like Africa. The only way they are going to get out of poverty is by having fewer babies and they need birth control to do that.

DM: That is such an old argument. When I was a kid, science magazines were saying the world was going to run out of food by the year 2000 because of overpopulation. There is also something else you imply in your argument – that we in the “developed world” should be telling the people in African countries that they should not be having so many children. There are even some aid agencies that will only help feed the poor in other countries if those countries adopt certain birth control laws.

CC: All I know is that these poor countries need to have fewer children because too many kids go hungry and that is just not right.

DM: I agree with you that it is not right – we have enough food to feed everyone we just do not have the will to get them the food! I am glad your ideas were not around when my mom grew up. Her family was poor, and my mom talked about how she was hungry. She was also one of the youngest in her family of eight, so with your way of thinking – if a family is poor they should not have many children – my mom would not have been born.

CC: Well, sorry, I didn’t mean for it to get so personal. But in the end, what is wrong with a couple using birth control? If they think it is not the right time for a child, there is nothing wrong with using the pill or other means to prevent a birth.

DM: You think that, what I will call the “drug store” approach to birth control, is OK, but it seems to me that you do not really understand what Pope Paul VI explained to the Church and the world in Humanae Vitae. It is too bad that the Church has not been more successful in getting the word out, because Humanae Vitae celebrates God’s plan, the natural plan, for marriage. The “drug store” methods use artificial means to attempt to control fertility which creates an artificial plan for marriage. Plus, the “drug store” methods allow society to treat sexual relations as just one of many pleasurable activities that couples (married or not) can do with each other.

CC: I don’t really know what is in Humanae Vitae, can you explain it to me?

DM: I will attempt to explain this in my next column.

Religious liberty and constructive freedom past and present

By Jason Adkins/Minnesota Catholic Conference

Almost 40 years ago, in June 1979, Pope John Paul II traveled to his homeland of Poland, and within nine days ignited a human rights revolution that continues to shape the Church and the world today.

Against an atheist humanism that dictated that man is no more than matter and that his life has no cosmic significance, Pope John Paul II reminded his fellow Poles of their great dignity as made in the image and likeness of God.

The lessons from those “Nine Days in June” continue to be relevant as the Church in the United States observes Religious Freedom Week from June 22-29 against the backdrop of a renewed atheist humanism that imposes its own creed, has its own rituals, and demands conformity – all in the name of freedom, of course.

ATHEIST HUMANISM TODAY

The communism that John Paul II fought against, and the prevailing form of liberalism today about which he warned us, are both variants of atheist humanism – the project of fostering individual liberation (autonomy) and mastery over nature to relieve pain and suffering.

Though communism seems to be undergoing a rehabilitation in the West, especially among the young, it is liberalism that poses the bigger threat to religious liberty and constructive freedom.

The liberal project of fostering individual autonomy and overcoming the limitations of nature (death, illness, pain, etc.) through scientific mastery are undoubtedly the highest cultural and political values today.

Our culture promotes creative self-expression (particularly in the realm of gender and sexuality), consumerism, convenience, and every form of physical and psychological therapy in order to improve one’s life and ease pain.

This false humanism is perpetrated through legal means behind the veil of neutrality and pluralism, giving it an air of irreproachability. Yet it is anything but neutral. It is an imposition of a new orthodoxy, namely, that man lives by bread alone – or, in today’s terms, by the newest food fad, sex, on-demand entertainment, and technology that allows you to swipe right or add a filter to create your own reality.

Matter is all that matters, and it is yours to shape as you will. You can supposedly make your own happiness – your own truth.

CONSTRUCTIVE FREEDOM

The Church and her members propose a deeper freedom not attainable on Amazon.com. Like Pope John Paul II in Poland, the Church today proposes constructive freedom, which is the ability to respond to God’s call consistent with one’s conscience formed by moral truth.

The Church promotes political, religious, and economic liberty so that people can live the constructive freedom to which they are called by God.

Atheist humanism, based as it is on a false understanding of human fulfillment, cannot tolerate alternative accounts that reveal true liberation. Therefore, it suppresses alternatives, particularly that which is proposed by the Catholic Church. The Church reminds all persons of their dignity as sons and daughters of God, and of the higher calling to constructive freedom that goes along with that dignity.

Those who do not embrace atheist humanism’s worldview, however, are publicly shamed, trolled, and even forced to choose between the truth and their livelihoods.

Hence, religious sisters are forced to provide contraception to employees, Christian adoption agencies cannot operate according to their convictions about marriage, Christian ministries are sometimes forbidden to serve the homeless or immigrants, and pregnancy resource centers must refer people for abortions.

These coercive forces of atheist humanism must be confronted – confronted with the truth about God and man, along with a better proposal to foster the flourishing of all persons (Catholics and non-Catholics alike) that is consistent with their dignity and spiritual destiny.

Though liberty in all its forms is important, religious freedom is at the cornerstone today of the Church’s proposal for the good of society (aka Catholic social doctrine), as it provides the space for constructive freedom.

ATHEIST HUMANISM IS NOT ‘NEUTRAL’

If we take secular, liberal regimes and their defenders at their word – that they prize pluralism, social peace, justice, and the common good – then they should be continually exhorted and reminded of the cornerstone importance of religious liberty.

Religious liberty is not a get-out-of-jail-free card. It is the freedom to do as we ought, not to do as we want – a freedom that fosters the common good.

If secular states are what they claim to be, then they should protect and promote constructive freedom in the name of pluralism and the common good, not use secularity as a mask of neutrality to impose atheist humanism.

Otherwise, as Pope John Paul II noted, politics and democracy devolve into “thinly disguised totalitarianism.”

VFTV: June 13, 2018

HOLY ORDERS

In my last column, I mentioned the Church’s mission to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to the whole world (Mk. 16:15). Under this umbrella, the Church speaks of two specific sacraments of mission: Matrimony and Holy Orders. Both “Holy Orders and Matrimony are directed towards the salvation of others, if they contribute as well to personal salvation, it is through service to others that they do so. They confer a particular mission in the Church and serve to build up the people of God.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1534) How blessed and privileged we are in this local Church that two young men will receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders this month: Deacon Nate Brunn was ordained a priest on June 9, and Mr. Michael Arey will be ordained a deacon on June 16.

Bishops receive the fullness of the Sacrament of Orders. Christ Jesus, through his apostles, has made their successors, the bishops, sharers in his own consecration and mission.

“Marked with the fullness of the Sacrament of Orders, bishops are stewards of the grace of the high priesthood …” (Lumen Gentium, 26, 27). Bishops, in turn, hand on in varying degrees a participation in this apostolic ministry. And so, I was pleased to ordain Deacon Nate Brunn to “serve to build up the Body of Christ” as a priest. At ordination, he, like all of our diocesan priests, made a promise of obedience and respect to me and my successors for, as an ordained priest, Father Brunn will be a co-worker and collaborator with me, the bishop.

“Even though they do not possess the fullness of the priesthood and in the exercise of their power are subordinate to the bishop, priests are nevertheless linked to the bishop in priestly dignity. By the Sacrament of Orders, in the image of Christ the eternal High Priest, they are consecrated to preach the Gospel, to shepherd the faithful, and to celebrate divine worship as true priests of the New Testament.” (Lumen Gentium, 28)

I am also so pleased that I will ordain Mr. Michael Arey to “serve to build up the Body of Christ” as a deacon of the Diocese of Crookston. At ordination, he too will promise obedience and respect to me and my successors as all deacons of the Diocese of Crookston have done. As an ordained deacon, Mr. Arey will be a co-worker with me and with our priests. A deacon “receives the laying on of hands (Holy Orders) not unto priesthood but for a ministry of service.” Strengthened by sacramental grace, deacons “have as their service for the people of God, in communion with the bishop and his college of presbyters, the ‘diakonia’ [service] of altar, word, and charity.” (Lumen Gentium, 29) As a minister of the altar, he will proclaim the Gospel, prepare the Sacrifice, and distribute the Lord’s Body and Blood. He will exhort and instruct the faithful, preside over public prayer, administer Baptism, assist at and bless marriages, bring Viaticum to the dying and conduct funeral rites. He will do charitable works in the name of the bishop or pastor in such a way that those whom he serves will recognize Christ Jesus.

Mr. Arey will be what is called a “transitional deacon” for it is his intention to continue his studies and in one year’s time, God willing, be ordained to the priesthood.

At each Confirmation, I always say a few words about vocations and the first word is to ask you to keep praying for vocations. We are thankful that God has heard our prayer and is giving us Father Nate Brunn and soon-to-be-Deacon Michael Arey to “serve to build up the people of God” here, that is, to help us grow in holiness and fulfill our mission to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to the world. Please continue to pray for our young people, and for all who serve in Holy Orders: for Father Brunn and Mr. Arey, for all our deacons and priests, and for your bishop too.

ESTO VIR CAMP

Speaking of vocations, each summer, here in the Diocese of Crookston, we are fortunate to have the Office of Vocations host a camp for young men, ages 16 and older. Esto Vir is an opportunity for young men interested in looking at the possibility of serving God and God’s people as a ministerial priest. “Esto vir” is Latin; in English it means “be a man.” Esto Vir is run by priests and seminarians of the Diocese of Crookston. It affords a wonderful opportunity for like-minded young men of faith to join together for prayer, fellowship and fun, and to learn about what it is to be a man ordained a priest. Esto Vir will be held from August 7-9 at Sand Hill Lake Bible Camp near Fosston. It is free of charge. I encourage all parents and grandparents to discuss this camp with their sons and grandsons. For more information, visit www.crookston.org/vocations/estovir

Seek ways to shepherd the periphery in the pew

By AJ Garcia/Office of New Evangelization & Justice

Buzzwords can be hard to keep up with when it comes to church jargon. Some of the recent buzzwords that have become popularized include: new evangelization, discipleship, missionary discipleship, periphery, etc. None of them are bad in of themselves, but when they are liberally applied and stamped on programs and events without their meaning truly being embodied or demonstrated, it can be more negative than fruitful. The words above have come straight from the mouths or pens of our most recent Holy Fathers. Read what Pope Francis says about the peripheries in “The Joy of the Gospel”:

“In our day Jesus’ command to ‘go and make disciples’ echoes in the changing scenarios and ever new challenges to the Church’s mission of evangelization, and all of us are called to take part in this new missionary ‘going forth.’ Each Christian and every community must discern the path that the Lord points out, but all of us are asked to obey his call to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the ‘peripheries’ in need of the light of the Gospel.”

Generally, peripheries are places on the fringes, whether it is a physical location or an outcast group of people. The peripheries are not held in high regard and are possibly neglected. There is no doubt that these are the places and groups that require (and deserve) our attention, time and resources.

However, I believe there is a periphery right in front of us that we fail to recognize or choose to ignore; a group of people that are in our pews regularly. These are people that attend Mass often, possibly even daily. This periphery likely identifies as Catholic, but may not know Jesus Christ in a personal way. This periphery may further be described as associating with Jesus and the Church on a “fringe” basis, a group that attends Mass and goes through the motions, or maybe they hardly go through the motions and are only physically present. Certainly, attending and being present for Mass is good, but if that’s it, mere physical presence, is that enough? Surely, we hope they would get more out of their Mass experience and truly encounter Jesus Christ in a personal and more meaningful way. There are few situations in life where it is acceptable or where we would encourage one to simply “show up.”

Necessary emphasis should be made for us (those active in the Church) to reach the peripheries such as the poor, sick, and unchurched, but how much more effective and fruitful would our efforts be with those peripheries if we were even better shepherds to the periphery in the pew? In each of our parishes and communities this periphery looks different, but it is there no less. Let’s all improve the way that we engage them and be more willing to go out of our comfort zones and greet that family or individual that we’ve maybe only smiled at or greeted during the sign of peace (you know, because we had to). I’m not encouraging us to neglect any periphery; rather, I offer a challenge to continue seeking ways to improve the care we give those in our midst.

This is my final column for Our Northland Diocese. I am excited to share that I am going to be the new Executive Director for Arise Milwaukee (www.arisemke.org). It is a dynamic and impactful nonprofit lay apostolate whose mission is helping people to encounter and fall in love with Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church. I cannot wait to get started! I am very thankful that the Lord led me here and gave me the opportunity to serve you and walk alongside many of you in your pursuit of knowing and growing in relationship with Jesus Christ. Now, it is on to the next chapter of my journey. The Diocese of Crookston will continue to be in my prayers!

I leave you with the words of St. Catherine of Siena: “Be who you were created to be and you will set the world on fire.”

My words of advice to the graduating Class of 2018 … ONWARD!

By Fr. Don Braukmann/St. Philip, Bemidji & St. Charles, Pennington

Last weekend we celebrated First Eucharist with 38 of our second graders. It was on that same day 50 years ago I made my First Eucharist. Fr. Steve told us, “This is the most important day of your life!” At the time I was so excited, and so young, I did not fully comprehend what those words meant. As time marches on I have come to learn exactly what he was saying.

To become a “walking tabernacle” is the greatest honor a human being could possibly manage on this side of heaven. That is what I/we had become, as did those 38 second graders days ago. What a tremendous gift to stand in the midst of the world, wherever we go, and bring Christ to every person, situation and event we step into. Just by our being present, Christ is present.

Well, that part of my journey began 50 years ago. Another “make me feel old” moment happened 40 years ago with my graduation from high school! I look back at pictures and wonder where the hair went and how the roll around my midsection got there!

I remember, as a child, thinking the year 2000 would never ever come. No way! I would be 40 years old and that could not possibly happen. Not sure what I thought the options were to avoid 2000 and “40” but I was certain they would not arrive.

OK, enough rambling about the past!

There are three things I want to share with the graduating class of 2018 whether it be high school or college youth. In no particular order…

First, remember your roots.

I had the privilege of spending the first 18 years of my life living in the same house and attending the same school. So many of you in this year’s class have been much more mobile, but I hope you have been able to make “home” wherever you have been.

Home is where your heart is … and I hope your heart has felt at home no matter where you are.

When I hear of children trapped in abusive homes my stomach curls with anxiety. I had a safe home, a safe place where I was accepted for who I was. And, I must admit, being the baby of the family, I was spoiled rotten! Remember your roots and the people (parents, grandparents, teachers, staff and friends) who made you who you are. Rejoice in the good stuff, try to forgive the bad and move on!

Second, don’t abandon your faith.

A tsunami awaits you as you head off to college, tech school or out into the workforce. It is a cultural tsunami which insists the Catholic Church is out of touch and has very little to say about very little.

This year we are remembering one of the most profound documents of the Catholic Church which was written 50 years ago by Pope Paul VI: “Humane Vitae” (“On Human Life”). In it, the “old man who has no clue” predicted exactly where we are today when it comes to our treatment of women, the dignity of the human person and how the contraceptive mentality gnaws at the very core of our humanity. Pope Paul (soon to be Saint Pope Paul!) was and is a prophet.

Of course the scandals which have betrayed the innocent souls in the pews over the past years offers no reason for you to trust anything the Church may say. I offer no excuse which would restore your trust … but Christ does.

From the moment Christ took the weak and sinful apostle Simon aside and called him Peter, “Rock”, the sinful frailty of humanity has tried to live within the mighty strain of also being a divine institution. Christ promised: “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)

Without Christ rescuing the Church over and over again, we would never have survived 2,000 years. Our divine purpose for and in the world still stands.

Third, do not let joy slip out of your hands.

Earth is not our home, we are in exile. The sooner we realize that simple fact, the sooner we can live life on this side of heaven in joy! Don’t confuse joy with “happiness.” Although happiness can give us a glimpse of what heaven will be like (the birth of a child, the rising sun, the laughter of friends), happiness is fleeting and offers a sliver of light peeking through the doors of heaven.

The high paying job, the new car, a younger spouse or a new baby cannot give you the full joy your heart craves. Seek Christ first through his Church, his Bride, and the perspective you gain on life will prepare you for the next, eternal, life. Joy is knowing the rest of the story and that, in the end, we win!

God bless you, class of 2018.

Examining God’s gift of the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony

By Deacon Mark Krejci, Ph.D./Office of Marriage, Family & Life

Here is a Catholic “parlor game” (does anyone really use this phrase anymore?) a married couple could do some evening. List all of the gifts God has given you. No need to go in order of significance; this isn’t a theological debate. I hope that all Catholic couples would list things such as life, Jesus, each other, children if you have been so blessed, the Church, the beauty of creation, the goodness of the saints, the truth of God, and of course the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. God created marriage and the family, and through the Church, Jesus gave the world the seven sacraments which includes the Sacrament of Matrimony that a married couple lives every day of their lives.

I pray that all married people reading this column experience marriage as a gift from God. Each of the seven sacraments are “signs and instruments by which the Holy Spirit spreads the grace of Christ the head throughout the Church which is his Body.” (CCC 774). This means that marriage is a “sign and instrument” used by the Holy Spirit to share the “grace of Christ.” Your marriage is a gift of grace not only to the two of you, but to the entire Church including your children, your extended family and your parish and local communities.

The celebration of the seven sacraments involves words as well as an action that is part of each sacrament. The minister of the sacrament must carry out what is called the “form” (the words) as well as the “matter” (the action) to make the sacrament valid. Could you imagine if I was baptizing a baby and I said the words but did not pour water from the baptismal font over the baby’s head? The gathered family members would wonder if I was even a validly ordained deacon! You must have the water bathing the body AND the words “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” or you do not have baptism.

Let me now comment on the words and actions to be completed by the ministers of the Sacrament of Marriage. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that the ministers of this sacrament are the husband and wife and that the minister witnesses the consent of the man and woman as they enter sacramental life. The “form” of the sacrament is the “I do” that each states as a sign of consent to their vows. The “matter” of the sacrament is ultimately the fulfillment of the two becoming one flesh in conjugal (or sexual) union.

Thank you if you have stuck with this column to this point because I guess I turned the first half into a catechism lesson. Think about what the Church teaches for a moment. God created marriage and the family – OK, pretty easy to get – God created everything. Next, Jesus gave us the Church, and through the Church we receive the sacraments. Again, something that most Catholics can get their heads around. God gave us the gift of sexual union to be a part of one of the sacraments – Matrimony – and marital sexual union is meant to be a beautiful sign of grace within the sacrament each time that sexual union occurs.

Now this is where much of the world (including a number of Catholics) are going to say “Hey Deacon, you lost me on that one.” A reason why this is a tough concept for some is the fact that our society teaches that sex is one of many pleasurable behaviors that any consenting adult can engage in with another consenting person or with themselves. In contrast, what Jesus and his Church teaches is that sexual union is meant to be a physical sign of the marital sacrament, and is only to be entered into by two people after they have expressed their “I do’s” before the Church in the wedding ceremony.

Let me say to some of you, the ones who are ready to turn the page because you think the Church is out of touch with reality and needs to “get with the times about sex,” please stick with me. I hope that even those who are ready to walk away from this column can see that the “sexual revolution” that started in the 30s or the 50s or the 70s or any point in between has not led to a “Garden of Eden.” We live in a world where divorce is too high, women are objectified via rampant online pornography, more than 40 percent of all births are outside of marriage, STD’s continue to increase and mutate, and abortion is described as a “health” or “economic” choice. How different would the world be if we all saw sexual union as a gift given by God as part of the Sacrament of Marriage?

I am out of space, so in my next column I will again take up this topic and write about the role of conjugal love – sexual union – in marriage and how the Church understands God’s gift of marital sexual union.

Advocacy – More Life-Giving Than You Think

By Rachel Herbeck

As Catholics we are called to actively live out the Gospel in public life. A call that sometimes solicits the thought, “Do I really have to?”

From what we see and hear in the world, politics can seem like a dirty arena, completely devoid of principle. We may see the process as being too complicated or impossible for citizens to make a difference. Because of the vision we have of politics, we think that our experiences will be negative and draining. These misunderstandings often keep Catholics from making a difference in our communities.

This session, two members of the Catholic Advocacy Network decided to get more involved in politics. By taking steps to get equipped, stay engaged, and build and maintain relationships with their legislators, they learned that getting involved was life-giving and an essential part of spreading the Gospel.

Get Equipped

Julie Schweich, a parishioner of Nativity of Our Lord in St. Paul, attended Capitol 101 this session. After a morning of hearing from legislators, asking questions, and discussing critical issues, she felt more confident meeting with her legislators.

“I never thought I would be able to go sit and talk to my Senator about an issue, but after learning more about the pornography and human trafficking bill and asking questions, I felt more confident conveying my thoughts and opinions. At the end of the meeting, I actually felt like I did something to help my Senator understand the bill and our point of view.”

Julie’s experience at Capitol 101 gave her the tools she needed to be an effective advocate.

Stay Engaged

Not only can you engage directly with your legislators, you can stay up to date on bills as they go through the legislative process.

John Lucke, a junior at the University of St. Thomas, had an interest in the issue of pornography and its ties to human trafficking. Before the House of Representatives voted on this bill (HF 2967), John attended its committee hearing. At a committee hearing, a group of legislators discuss the bill, ask questions, hear from testifiers on the issue, and vote on whether the bill should continue to the next step.

John’s experience at the hearing convinced him that he needed to be more engaged in the process.  

“Hearing the experiences of the testifiers was a turning point for me, a moment of reinvigoration. I left convicted that this fight was worth my time and effort.” Not only did the hearing energize John, but the legislators also took notice that constituents were there in support of the bill.

John continued his engagement and took the issue to his Senator. At the meeting, they discussed the dangers of pornography for over 30 minutes. By the end, the Senator agreed that pornography is dangerous.

By taking one simple step to attend a hearing, John learned more about the political process and was motivated by the prospect of the positive change that could happen through the lawmaking process.

Maintain Relationships

John says he now sees that his legislators needs him as a resource, and all he had to do was take time to be one. “Taking advantage of MCC’s resources and my own willingness to speak up was all I needed to begin that relationship,” he said.

Julie tries to be a resource to her legislators through consistent phone calls. “I’ve gotten into the habit of making quick calls to my legislators while I’m driving home from work. In the last month, I’ve called my Representative about pornography, human trafficking, and gambling. The calls take me less than five minutes.”

While on the phone, Julie reminded her Senator of their meeting at Capitol 101 and the importance of passing the pornography and human trafficking bill (SF 2554). Not even a month after their meeting, the Senate bill, which would require police to collect information on the connection of pornography to human trafficking cases, passed unanimously.

Her Senator’s “yes” vote helped Julie to see the importance of maintaining that relationship. “When I heard that the bill passed, I felt that I had a hand in helping make that happen.”  

Life-Giving Truth

Both Julie’s and John’s experiences were entirely different than they expected. “The media makes you think that politics is just like the show House of Cards,” John says. “Once I began to get involved, my experience was actually really life-giving because I was on the front lines, really living the Gospel in action.”

John and Julie show that getting involved is not only simple, but enjoyable and life-giving. Whatever our perceptions may be, if dread is your response to the call, participating in politics may be a more positive and effective experience than you think. All you have to do is give it a try.

Rachel Herbeck is the Policy and Outreach Coordinator of the Minnesota Catholic Conference.

VFTV: May 16, 2018

MAY FOR FATHERS, MOTHERS AND FAMILY

In May, it’s easy to think of family and thank God for the blessings we enjoy in family life. We began the month with the feast of St. Joseph the Worker on May 1.

Joseph was chosen to act as a father to Jesus on this earth, to care and provide for Jesus and Mary, to watch over them and love Mary and love Jesus with a father’s love. Joseph worked hard to support his family.

In his humanity, Jesus exercised human knowledge, which is limited. He would have to inquire for himself about things that can be known only from human experience. Joseph was there to teach him so that Jesus could “increase in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” (Lk. 2:52) Jesus learned about obedience from Joseph and Mary. Most importantly, Jesus learned from Joseph about being the son of a loving father. May St. Joseph help all fathers as they work hard to provide for their family and fulfill their role in the lives of those God has given to their care and love. St. John Paul II has entrusted the whole family mission to St. Joseph’s particular care.

In May, we celebrate Mothers’ Day. We thank God for our mothers and pray for them that they too may fulfill the wonderful role God has given them in family.

Mary, the Mother of God, is the perfect model of motherhood. Mary, full of grace, loved God and responded perfectly to all God asked of her. She trusted God completely, even when things were confusing or difficult for her. She loved Jesus and Joseph and continues to love all God’s children with a mother’s love.

In the month of May, we particularly delight to call upon Mary for her intercession and care. I hope all families are praying the Rosary daily together, inviting Mary’s intercession. This year, Pope Francis has asked that we “prolong for the whole month of May praying the Rosary for peace.” May Mary our Mother help all wives and mothers fulfill their wonderful roles.

In the Gospel for Ascension Sunday, we heard Jesus give the universal call or mission to his disciples: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved …” (Mk. 16:15) Under this umbrella call or mission to proclaim the gospel in word and deed, the Church speaks of two specific Sacraments of mission: Matrimony and Holy Orders. Both “Holy Orders and Matrimony are directed towards the salvation of others, if they contribute as well to personal salvation, it is through service to others that they do so. They confer a particular mission in the Church and serve to build up the People of God.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1534)

In May, may St. Joseph watch over all fathers. In May, may Mary, the Blessed Mother, watch over all mothers. In May, may God help all married couples and families joyfully live the mission God has given them: to help one’s spouse and the children God gives them to come to salvation in Jesus Christ and then go out to the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.

THE ASCENSION

One reason I love the Feast of the Ascension is because it helps us understand how, in God’s great plan, the Church is necessary for salvation. We know and believe that only Christ Jesus brings salvation. The Son of God becomes man and takes on our humanness. He laid down his life for us in love, dying on a cross; conquering sin, death and the devil. As the Son sent by the Father, only Jesus – God made man – could win this victory. Objective redemption of all humanity becomes a reality as the Father’s love-giving response to Jesus’ loving sacrifice is to raise him from the dead. At the Ascension, Jesus, in his whole being, divinity and humanity, ascends and takes his place at the right hand of the Father. As Jesus ascends and “returns to his Father,” his humanity is fully brought into the giving, receiving, re-giving cycle of love between the Father and the Son. Jesus’ prayer that the Father glorify him with the glory he had with the Father from the beginning (Jn. 17:5) is answered as the humanity – taken on by Jesus – at the Incarnation now shares in this glory. And so, there is established a “new creation” in Christ: “humanity in glory.” Jesus, now established at the right hand of the Father as Lord and Messiah, “firstborn of many brothers,” can now send the Holy Spirit “who proceeds from the Father and the Son.”

Redemption, Christ the Son of God, now in his glorified body sitting at the right hand of the Father, turns his face towards us for our salvation. He sends the Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of our sins so that we, even now, can begin to live the glorified life – life in communion with God and one another. He respects our humanness and it is through his glorified humanity that he reaches out to us. How are we earthly people going to encounter the glorified Redeemer who has ascended to heaven and is invisible to us? We do so as he now makes his heavenly glorified bodiliness available to us by taking up earthly realities into his glorified saving activity. He uses the Church, making her the first sacrament, the earthly prolongation of his glorified body. The Church is the Body of Christ and Christ our Redeemer uses this reality as the means to encounter him. He uses the Church’s sacraments as true encounters with him so that through them he might give us the glory the Father give to him so that even now, we may be one with God and with one another.

So it was that St. Paul, who had not encountered the earthly Jesus in faith, was baptized. Christ has chosen the Church and her sacraments and life to be the means to make contact with him so that he might fill us with new life, eternal life, glorified life, until that day when even our mortal bodies, having passed through death, are assumed into heaven and are fully glorified and we enjoy the fullness of the life of heaven with God and all the saints. Yes, as taught by the Church Fathers and Vatican Council I too, “outside the Church there is no salvation” and by this we mean, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it: “all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body.” (CCC 846) May the Feast of the Ascension fill us with gratitude for Christ Jesus who shares with us the glory he enjoys with the Father and who will bring that glory to fullness for us one day.

To end abortion: There is another way other than through the Supreme Court!

By Fr. Don Braukmann/St. Philip, Bemidji & St. Charles, Pennington

The 1973 Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade unleashed abortion on demand in our country. Planned Parenthood and other pro-abortion organizations which profit from the carnage of abortion are determined to make sure the ruling is never overturned.

Now, maybe, there is another way to go instead of through the Supreme Court.

Over the years, pro-lifers have declared small victories when we are able to chip away at abortion laws in the more outrageous cases. It is as if we have had to “settle” for the little gains and we may have become complacent.

Pro-life senators in the United States Senate are proposing another option. It may be time to bypass the Supreme Court and use the Constitution as it was meant to be used. The senators are proposing a “Life at Conception Act” which declares children in the womb “persons” as defined by the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, entitled to legal protection.

In 1973, the justices who voted to open the doors to legalized abortion at every stage admitted in their decision that such a legislative move as the one being proposed would cause the case for legal abortion to “collapse.”

The Roe v. Wade decision was made based on a new, previously undefined “right of privacy” which it “discovered” in the Constitution. But the Court never declared abortion itself to be a constitutional right.

Part of the decision reads: “We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins. The judiciary at this point in the development of man’s knowledge is not in a position to speculate as to the answer. If this suggestion of personhood is established, the case for abortion collapses. The fetus’ right to life is then guaranteed specifically by the 14th Amendment.”

The 14th Amendment could not be more clear: “… nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law, nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the law.” The Amendment also says: “Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.”

As I have explained previously, if the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade is overturned, the abortion laws of each state prior to 1973 would be back in force. Over half the states would see little change in the abortion rate or availability.

The Life at Conception Act returns the debate to Congress, those we elect, and its passage would clearly define “personhood” to include the innocent child in the womb.

So, in the end, we remain firmly planted in the political process to elect those who see and defend the dignity of life from conception to natural death. The work to defend life is complicated especially by Catholic politicians and voters who somehow justify a pro-abortion position in politics on election day while praying to God, the Creator of All Life, on the weekend. I have never understood how that can be. Denial is a powerful reality when we are determined to have what we want no matter who gets run over or dismembered in the process.

Even the late Ted Kennedy, the “Lion of the Senate” and self-professed champion of the pro-abortion movement once held a different view. I keep the words from a letter he wrote to a constituent in August of 1971 close at hand.

“While the deep concern of a woman bearing an unwanted child merits consideration and sympathy, it is my personal feeling that the legalization of abortion on demand is not in accordance with the value which our civilization places on human life. Wanted or unwanted, I believe that human life, even at its earliest stages, has certain rights which much be recognized – the right to be born, the right to love, the right to grow old.”

Two years later the political breeze changed for Senator Kennedy (and others) and somehow the human life in the womb had become a blob of tissue to be dealt with as desired.

That letter inspires me to fight the fight, to seek the truth, and never take for granted the power of the evil one. St. Peter says of him in 1 Peter 5:8: “Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

Sports gambling: Its better to leave the money on the table

By Sarah Spangenberg/Minnesota Catholic Conference

In the coming weeks, the U.S. Supreme Court may loosen federal restrictions on sports gambling. As a result, many states have proactively drafted bills that would create regulated sports gambling industries at the state level – Minnesota included. The changes could greatly expand legal gambling in Minnesota, for example, by making online gambling accessible 24 hours-a-day from any computer or smart phone.

Proponents argue that legalized sports gambling would create a safer and more regulated environment for those who already gamble. But gambling expansion would also carve out space for an industry that preys on addictive personalities and irresponsible players – often those who can least afford to gamble. Others hope to bring in tax dollars by regulating the gambling industry. However, increased revenue streams in one area may lead to significant costs in other areas, such as court costs related to bankruptcies, and the need for increased safety net funding for people losing their livelihoods. The expansion of our state’s gambling laws could be disastrous for families and the common good.

A PREDATORY INDUSTRY

Sports gambling is inherently predatory. Daily fantasy sports, for example, rely heavily on a large base of unskilled players who gamble (and lose) against experts or those who use algorithms and other tools to rig the outcomes. As reported in news outlets such as the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and Washington Post, for every skilled player, there must be many unskilled ones to compensate the winners and provide the profit margins – so sports betting companies must constantly lure in new players with the promise of big rewards.

Gambling companies also bank on the addictiveness of the game. The more players return – and lose – the better the industry does; it feeds on the destructive behavior of compulsive gamblers. Choices and habits that destroy lives and tear families apart are also precisely the behaviors that line the gambling industry’s pockets the most.

Professional sports leagues, too, are eyeing gambling expansion to increase their revenues and to keep increasingly bored and distracted fans entertained. In transformed stadiums more closely resembling racetracks or casinos, fans could bet on practically anything at any point throughout the game – whether Tom Brady will score a touchdown in the third quarter, or how many strikeouts Santana will throw against Cleveland, for example. Obviously, this could easily become an addictive and troublesome social phenomenon.

ABOUT MORE THAN THE BOTTOM LINE

As mentioned above, a popular argument in favor of legalized sports gambling is that it will bring in more revenue for the state. Yet this ignores the hidden cost associated with legalized gambling: erosion of trust and financial stability within families; an increase in divorce and family fragmentation; crippling unpaid debts; check fraud, embezzlement and other forms of economic theft committed by problem gamblers. Gambling also increases criminal justice costs related to problem gamblers who commit crimes to finance their habit and debts.

All told, we can expect a government cost of three dollars in social welfare spending for every dollar that gambling generates, according to the 2008 U.S. International Gambling Report Series. Those who say legal gambling will boost our state’s economy are only looking at part of the picture.

Increased revenues will always be a strong incentive to consider new policies, but it is an incentive that must be kept in check. Let’s remember that the state exists for the good of the people in it – not the other way around. Enabling predatory business practices and destructive habits just so that the state can make a buck is a clear sign of skewed priorities.

A DANGEROUS CULTURAL SHIFT

This isn’t bingo in your church basement, pulltabs at the bar, a March Madness bracket, or the school raffle. As Catholics we recognize that these forms of gambling can be a legitimate form of entertainment, not inherently problematic or contrary to justice.

Problems do arise, though, when gambling deprives people of what is due to them or to those under their care (CCC 2413) – when, for example, players bet away their life savings or amass unmanageable debt to finance a gambling habit. Or when an entire industry revolves around them doing so.

This is about more than revenue, and it’s certainly about more than sanctioning a harmless pastime. We’re talking about a major cultural shift with the potential to feed destructive cycles of greed and addiction. The potential for serious harm to Minnesotans and their families makes gambling expansion an unacceptable option.

The gambling industry is motivated by greed and propped up by addiction, both evils that seriously tarnish the dignity proper to human persons. When it comes to gambling expansion, the hidden, human costs are much higher than the economic benefit.

VFTV: April 25, 2018

PRIESTS’ DAYS

Your priests and bishop spent three days in Bemidji April 16-18, praying together, celebrating God’s gift of ministerial priesthood, enjoying one another’s company and reflecting on topics related to priestly life and ministry. For example, topics included what a presbyterate is and how to grow in unity, spiritual leadership and pastoral leadership. It is the Church’s understanding that priests are not priests simply one by one. Priests serve the mission of the Church in a presbyterate with the bishop. The Sacrament of Holy Orders is conferred upon a man individually but he is inserted into the communion of the presbyterate united with the bishop. And so, all priests are united among themselves in an intimate sacramental brotherhood and together they form one presbytery in a diocese to whose service they are committed under their own bishop. Each and every priest, therefore, is joined to his brother priests by a bond of charity, prayer, and every kind of cooperation. (cf. Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests, Vatican II, #8) It is good to remember the unity of which we speak is really a gift given in the Holy Spirit, a gift to the Church, a gift to a presbyterate. Priests living this unity promote their effectiveness and are a sign to you and the whole world of the unity to which God draws all people. Thank your priests for the gift of themselves to you but also for their gift of themselves to the presbyterate of the Diocese of Crookston.

JESUS, THE BREAD OF LIFE

Our Spring Priests’ Days are usually held the second week after Easter. The weekday Gospel readings at Mass at this time are from St. John’s Gospel and what is called “The Bread of Life Discourse.” Jesus tells the crowd gathered to hear him: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.” (Jn. 6:35) The Father gives this bread, Jesus, true bread from heaven for the life of the world. Jesus gives his very life so that we may live. Jesus makes clear reference to the Eucharist that he will give the night before he dies as he tells the crowd that his flesh is real food and his blood is real drink. “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” (Jn. 6:57)

There is no time on earth comparable to the time we receive Holy Communion at Mass! In Holy Communion we receive Jesus. We accept his gift of himself to us. We eat his flesh and drink his blood. As we receive Jesus in Holy Communion, the Holy Spirit of love floods our heart with the love of the Father and of Jesus the Son. Previously, I have referred to the little book by Timothy P. O’Malley: “Bored Again Catholic: How the Mass Could Save Your Life.” Reminding his readers that the moment of Communion is an occasion for personal encounter with the living God and then the very presence of Love dwells within us, he says we need to really “savor how good the Lord is.” He says, “parishes often fail at this moment most of all.” We need time after the Communion Procession is complete, to take in and savor communion with Jesus, the Bread of Life, that we have just received.

The heart of the new evangelization we are all called to engage in is and will be the Eucharist. We do need to take time after receiving Holy Communion “to welcome Jesus into the intimacy of your [our] heart and soul.” (Meeting Christ – Living Christ, p. 8) Therefore, at Spring Priests’ Days, I instructed our priests to allow at least one full minute for meditation and prayer at every Mass after the Communion Procession has finished. I certainly know that in some parishes at a Sunday Mass, young children want to head for the doors and not sit quietly in a pew after Communion. Yet, we do need to take the time to welcome Jesus into our hearts. At weekday Masses, this time for intimacy after receiving Holy Communion might be extended even longer as we become more adept and eager to savor deeply the encounter with Jesus which is his gift of himself to us in Holy Communion. Let us see how well we can do with this and learn how wonderfully God will bless our efforts.

Be more like ‘Jane and Joe’ and less like ‘Sue and Sam’

By Deacon Mark Krejci, Ph.D./ Office of Marriage, Family & Life

I have written about this column’s topic before but it is a key teaching of Jesus that bears repeating. What made me think of this topic was a memory that popped into my mind of a married couple, which lead to me thinking of another married couple. The first couple, Jane and Joe (not their real names), were models of Christian love in so many ways. In contrast, the other couple, Sue and Sam (not real names), while equally committed to their marriage as Jane and Joe, often fought with each other. During many years of conflict, they never considered getting divorced but they fought often and many times over the same. While Jane and Joe really understood what it meant to love each other as people created by a loving God, Sue and Sam, to put it bluntly, did not.

I am not going to give you a complete biography of the couples, but I will highlight just one aspect of their lives that makes my point about love. Joe and Jane had a unique challenge in their marriage. Joe had a number of medical issues that, while not life threatening in any way, did require them to follow a certain dietary and environmental lifestyle. Jane often had to set aside her wishes when Joe’s medical condition flared up, and she did this with love. Time and again Joe’s condition would alter how things had to happen and Jane lovingly responded every time. She did not resent Joe, she did not think “this isn’t fair” or “when do I get things my way.” In fact the opposite seemed to occur. When Joe’s condition flared up it seemed that Jane would be happy. Not happy for what Joe was going through, but happy that she was the one placed in Joe’s life by God to help him during his time of trial. She saw Joe’s challenging times as an even greater opportunity to reflect to Joe God’s love. Jane understood that a key to living a Catholic sacramental marriage is to give our love to our spouse, to see that our life was a gift from God, and so, in marriage, we make our life a gift to our spouse.

Let me say something about Joe as well: Joe received Jane’s gift with great appreciation but also saw his life as a gift to Jane. There were many times when Joe would quietly cope with his illness without Jane even knowing what was going on. Joe saw that Jane was focused on the children or something else and so Joe would suffer in silence. You could say that he gladly suffered with his condition as a gift to Jane so that she could concentrate on something other than him. Joe never thought “Oh, look how I am such a martyr, suffering for the sake of my wife.” No, Joe did not even think about what he was doing – he just loved Jane and happily gave her the opportunity to think about something other than his condition. I could tell you about the multitude of other ways this couple gave to each other. They understood that being married and following God meant that they each saw their life as a gift of love to the other and to their children as well.

If you read my columns you probably have a good idea that Sue and Sam were the opposite of Jane and Joe. Now, not in every way. Sue and Sam were devoted to each other and to their family, they were committed to their marriage and no matter how much they fought, they were not going to get a divorce. And, like Joe and Jane, they also dealt with medical conditions. For a period of time Sue was dealing with an illness and then, after she had recovered, Sam developed one. Rather than react to the needs of the other out of a divinely inspired love, they responded in a self-centered way. Sure, when Sue needed help during her illness Sam jumped right in and did whatever needed to be done and Sue did the same for Sam later on. But even while they were helping the other, resentment was growing in their hearts. When Sue was ill and needed help, all too often Sam would think, “Oh, not again, when do I get a break.” When the situation was reversed, Sue admitted that she would react to Sam with “I never was such a baby while I was sick, your illness is not nearly as bad as mine but you are so much more demanding!” (BTW – Sue was the type of person who would not “think” such a thing – she would come right out and say it).

With such resentment building in their hearts while the other was ill, I suspect you can imagine how fights would occur. The healthy one felt “put upon” by the other and started a “pity party” for themselves in their own mind – “Oh, what a burden I have to put up with and what a saint I am for helping my spouse.” With that in their mind, they would be helping the other but the resentment would come out in their tone of voice, the pace of their action, the look on their face. And to these, the one being helped would react with defensiveness and in no time a fight would break out. After multiple years of acting this way towards each other, not only related to illness but to most other aspects of their married lives, they were both at a point where they said, “I feel no love in this marriage.”

They felt no love because they were not giving love away. Authentic love is not an emotion we feel when our beloved does something for us or “makes us happy.” Authentic love is when we give love to our spouse. We experience love in the act of giving ourselves away. The reciprocal exchange of love in a marriage occurs when each person gives their love to the other freely and completely without any strings attached. When mutual self-giving occurs, the way that Joe and Jane lived their marital lives, a married couple shares a glimpse of the love of God who created us as an act of love. When Sue and Sam understood this, and they only got there through much prayer, Eucharist, Reconciliation, and heart-to-heart conversations, their marriage was transformed.