Good People of Nativity of Mary,
Near the middle of August I found myself just roaming through the dark and empty halls of Nativity of Mary School. Somebody noticed me and said, “Father, you’re pacing around like an expectant father in the maternity ward waiting room.”
That expresses well how I feel. I am an expectant Father – waiting for the children to come back. Soon the children will be here for school and for the evening religious education programs. Until then I watch for them. I am restless to make sure that everything is in order for them when they finally arrive.
So parents, enjoy what is left of summer break but then bring the children to Nativity of Mary School and Religious Education! How wonderful it is when we can pass on to the children a spirituality of love and faith.
Often as I am preparing couples for marriage I ask them to imagine what their new family life will be like. I ask them to consider what it would be like if together they decided that they would not expose their family to music. Nobody would sing or even hum in their home. There would be no radios or iPods. Spending money on music lessons and musical instruments would be regarded as foolish or wasteful.
They all agree how improvident that would be. They all acknowledge that music touches us deeply and develops a part of our person in a way that nothing else can.
How much more misguided it would be not to fill our homes and family lives with faith, prayer, and spirituality. Let’s all commit to offer the parents of our parish our support as they raise their children to be grounded with a good moral compass and strong values. Let’s pass on to our children the deep intellectual and mystical tradition of our Church. Children need the beautiful love and truths of God to touch them (and indeed to save them) in a way that nothing else ever could.
I found a couple of websites to recommend to our parents, teachers, youth ministers, and catechists – http://amazingcatechists.com/ and http://catecheticsonline.com/ . They offer all sorts of resources to inspire the children and to bring to them the light and deep joy of our Catholic faith.
I am so grateful for all of the work that is being done around here to ensure this expectant Father that we will be giving the children our best. I also am confident that God who has begun a good work in the lives of our children will bring it to a glorious completion (Phil. 1:6).
Let the school year begin! God is with us and helping us to grow strong in grace. With great hope,
Good People of Nativity of Mary,
The more time I spend here at Nativity of Mary the more blessings and perks I uncover. The first week of August I received a phone call from an events director at the Hotel Sofitel. She told me that she was looking for a Catholic priest who could do a “brief service” at the hotel.
It was for a Thursday evening and it was not a common request – so I fished for more information. She told me that there was a “football team in town” and they wanted to celebrate Mass before their game. Sure enough, when I arrived I realized that I would be celebrating Mass with the Houston Texans (the Catholic ones, anyhow) who were in town to play the Vikings the next evening.
It wasn’t a Sunday. It wasn’t a holy day of obligation. It inspired me to think some of the coaches and members of the team just wanted to get together to pray the Mass. They felt a spiritual hunger for the Eucharist on the eve of their first pre-season game.
I was listening to Catholic Relevant Radio (AM 1330) not too long ago. One of the talk-show hosts was interviewing Matt Birk, former Viking and center for the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens. Birk spoke about his Catholic faith and what a difference it made in his life. He also spoke of the tremendous stress and strain of being an NFL player. Many players, Birk suggested, face great spiritual struggles and undertake a profound spiritual journeys throughout their professional football careers.
I got a brief glimpse of that at the Hotel Sofitel that evening. One might think, at a hotel filled with NFL players, that there would be a lot of loud trash-talking, maybe some partying and reckless behavior. Instead I experienced a quiet intensity among the players. After Mass I walked past the room where most of the team was gathered for dinner. There seemed to me to be an air of apprehension as if they were a company of soldiers on the eve of battle – knowing that, after the first wave of pre-season cuts, many of them around the table would no longer be with them after tomorrow.
It is well known that legendary football coach Vince Lombardi attended Mass daily. I will post a video on our parish website that demonstrates that his faith in the Eucharist was the hidden strength of his demanding life.
The NFL regular season is soon to begin. Maybe as you settle into your couch for the game you can reflect on the great spiritual battles being fought by many of the players and their families – and offer a prayer for them. Maybe you can reflect too on some of the great spiritual battles in your own life and all that is at stake. Then maybe you too will feel the hunger and come to see how much you need the strength and help of the Eucharist as the very heart of your life.
Fight the good fight, Nativity!
I had fun at Lighthouse Night at Centennial Lakes Park on Sunday. I must have run into around 50 Nativity of Mary people. It was nice to have a parish-type get-together where we didn't have to set up, clean up, recruit volunteers, collect permission slips, etc. Plus, it was good to have a Nativity presence in the community. And, oh yes, there were 25-cent ice-cream cones and nickel balloons. Thank God for simple pleasures. See you at the parish festival this coming weekend
Good People of Nativity of Mary,
This Sunday evening, August 11, I will be at Centennial Lakes Park feeding the ducks. That has become my new favorite summer pastime. The park has free Wi-Fi so I often take my iPad, sit on the stoop by the pond, catch up on internet news and blogs, and toss a few kernels of corn to the ducks.
You all are welcome to join me. There will be special family fun that evening as August 11 is Lighthouse Night at the park. The Edina Model Yacht Club will be sailing their vessels on a pond that, beginning at 8:00, will be lit by floating torches. Live music begins at 6:30 and culminates with the John Philip Sousa Memorial Band Concert at 8:30. I heard that last year there were 25-cent ice-cream cones for sale at the park pavilion. If not, I might walk over to Cherry Berry for a yogurt, Jamba Juice for a smoothie, or Pinstripes for a glass of wine – depending on how the mood strikes.
Bring the children – they will enjoy seeing some friends they haven’t seen since school let out. It might be a good place for you departing college students to get together too and have some fun before you head off to college. Rent a paddle boat on the pond. Play some mini-golf. Most of all it’s good just to be like lighthouses ourselves and to shine some Nativity cheer throughout the community.
Then on Thursday, August 15, we celebrate here at Nativity a holy day – the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary with Masses at 8:00 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. This is also the last official day among us for Deacon Joseph Kirembwe. Deacon Joseph has been with us for ten weeks this summer but now will return to the seminary for his final year of formation before being ordained a priest next summer for the Diocese of Kampala in Uganda. So we will have a little farewell reception for him after the morning Mass on Thursday. God’s best blessings to Deacon Joseph!
Then comes the most anticipated of our summer events. Our parish festival, Nativity Fest 2013, takes place right here at Nativity of Mary on August 16-17. Plan on spending a good portion of your weekend here at the parish with your favorite people. Check out the car show, children’s games and activities, book sale, bake sale, marketplace, bingo, a variety of food trucks, a fried chicken dinner, music, dancing, talent show, raffle drawing, pull tabs, beer tent, and entertaining moments beyond anything we could have planned. The hype for Nativity Fest 2013 is building and you will not be disappointed.
So, even though the middle of August is upon us already, the best of summer is yet to come. I pray that it can be a time for us to celebrate Nativity of Mary, strengthen our friendships, share the joy of God’s blessings with our neighbors, and simply to soak up as many blessings as we can. Thanks, Nativity. You’re the best.
Fr. Zehren's Blog
Fr. Dennis Zehren is the pastor of Nativity of Mary Parish and School. Fr. Zehren has been at Nativity since June 2012. Pray that he may be a faithful servant leading us higher up and deeper into the life and love of our Triune God.