This past week, we officially entered into Summer, though many of us have already started our summer break from school. It is during these summer months that the great Twin Cities exodus begins. Bumper to bumper we sit on I-94, I -35, 169, creeping along like salmon trying to swim upstream. It won’t be long before David Attenborough and the BBC Planet Earth documentary crew will create an episode on this unique migration. Even to understand this, one needs a Minnesota-English dictionary! “Where are you going?” To which we reply vaguely “Up north!” To which the inquirer will reply, “Yes, but where up north?” And we reply “To the lake,” as if that is of any help to the listener.
It is our internally famous “cabin culture” that causes this weekly event. And it becomes an enjoyable time for many. However, there is a great temptation to see the time away at the cabin as being a time away from attending mass. We can think that because we are away from our regular parish, that it is no longer required to go to mass. This is not the case. We are the Catholic Church, which means we are just about everywhere on the planet (even Antarctica, but more about that in a later article).
Last Summer, Pope Francis was speaking in St. Peter’s Square and he said to the crowd that he knew the students were on their summer vacations and he said, “It’s important that in the period of rest and breaking away from daily concerns, you restore the energies of your body and soul, deepening your spiritual journey.” This holds true not only for the students, but for any of us on vacation, that we use our vacation time to also deepen our spiritual lives.
So, here are a few tips:
1. Find your local mass. We live in the “information age” and we have it all at our fingertips through our phones and our computers. It is easier now than ever to find a Catholic mass. Just download the app called “Mass Times for Travel” or go to the website https://masstimes.org/. Here you can put in a zip code and find the local mass and confession times. As Catholics, we are still required to go to mass on the weekends, so let’s not miss out on our greatest worship of God.
2. Pack your faith with your fishing gear! We will often make sure we have all of our fishing gear, but do we have a prayer gear? Bring along a Bible and get some reading by the lake! What better stop? Also, bring along your rosary that your mom gave you. If the fish aren’t biting, pray the rosary that they will.
3. Listen on the drive up. Rather than adding road-rage to your list of sins for confession while sitting in traffic, listen to Catholic media while in the car. There are dozens of apps that provide Catholic content, such as EWTN, Relevant Radio, Catholic Lighthouse Media, Focus on the Family, Adventures in Odyssey as well as many physical CDs that can be acquired. You will have a few hours to think about God and his love for you.
4. Talk about your faith with your family. It is the time in the car where we can become the most frustrated, so why not turn our conversation and our minds to the good things. Ask your children questions about what they are learning in religion classes. Tell about your faith that you experienced when you were young. Quiz the children on what Father’s homily was about last weekend (it will be a good refresher for you too!).
We have the great gift of vacations and weekends “up north.” So let us use them as God intended, to rest ourselves and deepen our relationship with God.
Dear friends in Christ,
Two weeks ago, I was pleased that the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis announced that it had reached a settlement with the victim survivors of clergy abuse. This settlement is a long-anticipated act of restorative justice for the victim survivors and one I pray will offer them greater peace and closure. I also join Archbishop Hebda in his thanks to the victim survivors who courageously brought forward the evil that had been done to them, to the advocates for the victims, those involved in the judicial process and the many who gave their time and energy to bring about this settlement, which will bring to a conclusion the bankruptcy claims against the Archdiocese. The settlement establishes a trust fund for the approximately 450 victim survivors amounting to about $210 million dollars. I am also thankful that the institutional changes the Archdiocese has made create greater vigilance and a safer environment for children and vulnerable adults.
I also write you today because this settlement has particular significance for Nativity of Mary parish. We were one of the approximately 100 parishes in the Archdiocese that had claims of abuse against the parish itself, as a sepa-rate legal entity from the Archdiocese. These claims against Nativity of Mary parish were filed regarding three incidences with an associate priest, Father James Stark, who served at Nativity of Mary from 1969 to 1973. Father Stark died in 1999.
The settlement that was reached on May 31, 2018 with the Archdiocese included a channeling injunction, which means that not only have the claims against the Archdiocese been settled, but also the claims against the parishes. This includes the three claims against Nativity of Mary parish.
A key element of helping this settlement come to reality was the decision by many parishes within our Archdiocese to voluntarily contribute to the restorative justice fund for the victim survivors. Many of the parishes that contributed to this settlement had claims against them, however, there were others who contributed which had none.
It is my conviction that Nativity of Mary should contribute to this effort. In consultation with the trustees of our parish and the finance council, who provided generally positive feedback, it has been decided that Nativity of Mary will contribute $5,000 to the victim survivor fund. The money for this contribution will come from our Pastor’s Fund ($3,000), which is designated for discretionary spending by the pastor and from the Pastoral Care Fund ($2,000), which is used for the care of those in need. This spending does not deplete the Pastoral Care Fund. Along with this voluntary donation, a portion of the excess premiums paid by Nativity of Mary to the Archdiocese general insurance fund and medical plan fund are part of the parish settlement payments. Finally, Nativity of Mary parish has prudently expended its funds for legal fees related to the bankruptcy and the three claims (approximately $2,800).
While the financial settlement for the victim survivors does a great deal to bring justice, it does not complete our work as a Church. We will continue to explore ways that we can bring the healing presence of Jesus Christ to those who were harmed by members of his Church. This parish must continue to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ for all those who have been harmed in any way. It is then that we are living the external mission of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Yours in Christ,
A few weeks ago, we returned to “Ordinary Time” in the yearly calendar of the Catholic Church. In the Catholic Church, we have seasons that we celebrate: Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter and Ordinary Time. Very often, when we enter into one of the first four seasons on our calendar, we know what they are about: Advent is a time or preparation, Christmas is a time of remembering Jesus’ presence in the world, Lent is a time of penance and Easter is a time of joyful reflection on the resurrection.
And then there is Ordinary Time, which is often forgotten. This season is the longest in the Catholic Church and yet it receives the least amount of attention. The season is visually marked by the wearing of green vestments, however, not much else sets this season apart.
I would like to propose that the season of Ordinary Time is used for the ordinary life of a Catholic. So what is the ordinary life of a Catholic? Simply put, it is a time to grow in holiness. The ordinary life of any Catholic ought to be centered on loving God better and loving your neighbor better. Every time we enter into Ordinary Time, we should ask ourselves these two questions: Am I loving God better than a year ago? Am I loving my neighbor better than a year ago? If the answer is “yes,” then we should challenge ourselves to improve further. If the answer is “no,” then we should focus on what needs to change.
So here are a few tips on how to grow in holiness during Ordinary Time:
1. Read the Bible every day. As I travel around, I see so many people focused on their cell phones. I do not know what they are reading, but every one of us could easily be reading the Bible verses for the day on our phones and encountering God more via our phones. An easy app that you can download right now is iMissal. This app has all the readings for each and every mass.
2. Praying with others. Families will often pray together, but praying together, not just before meals at home, but praying before meals when we are out in public. Pray with others before the family goes on a road trip for safety. Pray with others before we have a sporting event so that we all stay safe. Bring God into your everyday life.
3. Volunteer more with others. It is very easy, nowadays, to find opportunities to serve others in your neighborhood with the Internet. Sign-up your family to serve others. Sign-up with your friends to serve others. We have more time during the summer, why not use some of it as a group service project with no other goal than to do good for your community.
These are just a few suggestions as to how to enter into the ordinary life of a Catholic, growing in holiness. I pray that Ordinary Time is a season where you love God and your neighbor more than ever before.
Fr. Nels Gjengdahl