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.
On Tuesday, May 29, Nativity of Mary will be hosting over 150 relics of the Saints of our Church. It will be a wonderful time for us to encounter the Saints. So, what are relics?
A relic is a piece of the body of a saint (1st class relic), an item owned or used by the saint (2nd class relic), or an object which has been touched to the tomb of a saint (3rd class relic). Because the remains of a Saint are still connected with who they are, the relics become a way of connecting with the holiness of that individual.
In the Bible, we find several accounts where individuals would come into
contact with holy people and they would receive a special grace:
· When the corpse of a man was touched to the bones of the prophet Elisha, the man came back to life and rose to his feet (2 Kings 13:20-21).
· The signs and wonders worked by the Apostles were so great that people would line the streets with the sick so that when Peter walked by at least his shadow might ‘touch’ them (Acts 5:12-15).
· When handkerchiefs or aprons that had been touched to Paul were applied to the sick, the people were healed and evil spirits were driven out of them (Acts 19:11-12).
We are celebrating Memorial Day this Monday, and many people have the tradition of going to the graves of relatives or friends who have passed away. They go to the grave to connect with that person. Even though they know that the person has passed on, the mortal remains still carry with them a connection for the individuals. In a similar way, the remains of Saints connect us with the ones who have been canonized and are in heaven.
The veneration of relics has a long history in our faith. At the martyrdom of St. Polycarp in 156 AD, the people knew that he was holy, and so they had great respect for his remains, “We adore Christ, because He is the Son of God, but the martyrs we love as disciples and imitators of the Lord. So we buried in a becoming place Polycarp’s remains, which are more precious to us than the costliest diamonds, and which we esteem more highly than gold” (Acts of St. Polycarp).
One key distinction is that we do not worship the Saints. They are humans, just like you and I. They are not the ones who can save us from our sins. However, they are great examples of our faith and God continues to give his grace to us through the Saints. St. Jerome explained our veneration of the Saints well when he said, “We do not worship relics, we do not adore them, for fear that we should bow down to the creature rather than to the creator. But we venerate the relics of the martyrs in order the better to adore him whose martyrs they are” (Ad Riparium, i, P.L., XXII, 907).
We venerate relics only for the sake of worshiping God. So, I invite you all to come to this great event at our parish on Tuesday, May 29 at 7 PM, beginning in the Sanctuary. Bring your family and friends. It will be a time filled with great grace for all those who attend and Nativity of Mary Catholic Church.
We have many different calendars in our lives: The yearly calendar, the fiscal calendar, the school calendar. One calendar that affects all Catholics is what we call, “The Liturgical Calendar”. This is the calendar that informs us what spiritual event or Saint we celebrate on each day of the year. For example, the liturgical calendar informs us what day we celebrate Easter, each year.
Many Catholics are unaware that there are many different celebrations throughout the entire year: The feast day of St. Francis (October 4), the feast day of Nativity of Mary (September 8), the feast day of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (June 8). Because we have so many different feast days that have been added to the calendar over the 2,000 year history of the Church, it is rare that anything would be added to the calendar (not unlike a family’s calendar). Admittedly, not all of these feast days are Holy Days of Obligation, however, they are still of great importance.
On March 3, 2018, Pope Francis made the rare move and actually added a feast day to the official calendar of the Church. He declared that every Monday after Pentecost would be celebrated as “Mary, Mother of the Church.” The Blessed Virgin Mary has the most feast days of any Saint in our Church (18, before this new celebration), and with good reason. So, it is even more surprising that, yet another Marian feast day would be added to the calendar. However, Pope Francis truly felt this conviction from the Holy Spirit to bring the new feast day to the Church.
We know that Mary is the Mother of God in that she is the mother of Jesus and Jesus is God (Mary, Mother of God feast day is January 1st). She has always been taught to be the Mother of the Church as well, going back to St. Augustine (d. 430 AD). In the proclamation about this new feast day, it was written, “Indeed, the Mother standing beneath the cross (cf. Jn 19:25), accepted her Son’s testament of love and welcomed all people in the person of the beloved disciple as sons and daughters to be reborn unto life eternal. She thus became the tender Mother of the Church which Christ begot on the cross handing on the Spirit. Christ, in turn, in the beloved disciple, chose all disciples as ministers of his love towards his Mother, entrusting her to them so that they might welcome her with filial affection.” As Jesus was on the cross, he said to John, “Behold, your mother.” And with that statement, Mary became the one to care for the entire Church.
“This celebration will help us to remember that growth in the Christian life must be anchored to the Mystery of the Cross, to the oblation of Christ in the Eucharistic Banquet and to the Mother of the Redeemer and Mother of the Redeemed.” So it is with great joy that every year on the Monday after Pentecost, we will celebrate Mary, Mother of the Church.
At the beginning of every Mass, we make the sign of the cross. Following that, is the first greeting. There are several different options for the priest to greet the people: “The Lord be with you,” or “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,” or “The grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”
These greetings are not merely creations of the priest at the moment. Rather, they come directly from the Bible. St. Paul, in his letters, often begins with a salutation, similar to the beginning of our letters today when we write, “Dear So-and-so.” However, if we pay attention to the greetings of St. Paul, they are not simply a way to say “hello” to one another, they are a theological statement.
St. Paul wants his readers to recognize that even in their greeting they are living in the grace of God. St. Paul was so connected to Jesus Christ, that he would not forget about Jesus, even when writing to others. It was Jesus Christ who taught him how to treat his neighbors, how to treat the Romans and the Ephesians; how to love the Corinthians and the Thessalonians. It was Jesus Christ who shaped everything in his life, including his friendships.
And so, at the beginning of each Mass that we Catholics celebrate, we greet each other, not as mere acquaintances, but as people who have been baptized into the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. As a result, when we begin our Mass, we do not merely say “hello” to each other, but rather, we greet one another in the grace of Jesus. This type of greeting ought to remind us why we are gathered together each Sunday morning. We are not a social club, but a people who know that God loves us and that we are gathering to give God worship, praise, and honor.
And so, the priest greets the people in the grace of God and the people respond, “And with your spirit.” This is a rather recent re-translation of the Mass and its meaning is much more obvious than in the previous translation. When the people say “spirit,” we are acknowledging that we are entering into a spiritual reality, a spiritual encounter with the true and living God. We are preparing for a moment of grace as we celebrate the Mass together.
So at the beginning of Mass, let us all pay attention to the words we are using to greet one another and let us see that we gather as a people prepared to encounter the grace of the divine.
As was mentioned in last week’s bulletin, some of our young people will be receiving their First Communion this weekend. It is a great time for not only celebration, but also for all of us to reflect on what Holy Communion means for us in our faith.
First, we make a distinction in our faith between the terms “Eucharist” and “Communion.” When the Church uses the term “Eucharist,” the first meaning of the word is the entire celebration of the mass. This might surprise people because we often use the term “Eucharist” to refer to the consecrated host, however, the first meaning of the term Eucharist is the entire celebration of the mass from the opening hymn to the proclamation to “Go in peace.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “The Eucharistic celebration always includes: the proclamation of the Word of God; thanksgiving to God the Father for all his benefits, above all the gift of his Son; the consecration of bread and wine; and participation in the liturgical banquet by receiving the Lord's body and blood. These elements constitute one single act of worship.” (CCC 1408).
The term “Communion” or “Holy Communion” refers to the part of the Eucharist where Catholics, who are properly prepared, come forward to receive communion. The term “communion” is an interesting phrase. When we break down the term “communion” we conjoin two words “union” and the prefix “com.” The term “union” is rather obvious; it is the act of joining together. The prefix “com” means “with.” So, when we put the two together, we see that communion literally means “joining with.”
In our Catholic faith, we recognize that when one comes forward to receive Holy Communion, there is a “joining with” that occurs. In fact, there are two “joining with” events that occur. First, when we receive Communion, there is a joining with our Lord and God. The consecrated host may appear to be bread, however we understand from the words of our Lord at the Last Supper that it is not merely bread, but rather it is the real presence of Jesus Christ. So when we receive Holy Communion, we are uniting ourselves to the very person of Jesus Christ. It is very important that we see with the eyes of our hearts that this is the God who died for us and rose from the dead for us.
The second “joining with” that occurs when we receive Holy Communion is that we are joined with all the other people who receive communion. We are one Church in the Body of Christ, and thus, when we receive communion, we become united with all the members of that Body, both those who are on earth now as well as those who have gone before us and are in heaven: all of our loved ones who are in heaven and the Saints. So we must see that intimate connection as well.
This weekend, please pray for those young people who are receiving Communion for the first time at the Eucharist. Let us pray for our parish and the whole world, that we might all grow in our appreciation of the great gift that it is to receive Holy Communion.
A friend of mine here in the Twin Cities takes his Catholic faith seriously and works to live it out on a daily basis. By this, I do not mean that he only spends time praying his rosary (though he does do this), but he also realizes that our Catholic faith is not something that is discovered by accident, but has been intentionally shared from one generation to the next. As a result, he has stumbled upon one of the most authentically Catholic practices: porch ministry.
He has six children and works full time. As a result, he does not have much free time to go out and about. Rather, he is one who invites in. During the spring, summer and fall months (and sometimes winter), he invites men over to have dinner with his family and then retreat to the porch for time to chat. The conversation usually starts with the simple enjoyments of life, such as sports, or movies. Very quickly, though, the conversation will move to the much more important elements of life: growing-up, maturing as a man, being a father, living the Catholic faith, encounters in prayer, etc. What makes this particularly important is that he will intentionally invite younger generations to be a part of this conversation. He recognizes that it is essential that we mentor the younger generations in the Catholic faith beyond the catechesis that we receive at school or at religious education.
It is very tempting to complain about the lack of practicing Catholics among the younger generations. It is as easy as complaining about blizzards in April. Though, I see Christ as responding to us with the question: What are you doing to mentor them? And there is the key...mentoring. The younger generation needs not only information, but the environments to learn from the Catholics who are actually living the faith, who are practicing the faith from day-to-day. Their encounters with the faith cannot only be the priest’s homily on Sundays and the informational websites that Google prioritizes for them. They need the previous generation to actually mentor them.
I encourage all of the Catholics here at Nativity of Mary, and beyond, to make the time to mentor the younger generations. Welcome not only your peers to dinner, but welcome those who are younger than you. Share your wisdom with them. Enjoy their company. Build the relationships.
I know that for myself, as a priest, I am indebted to many of the veteran priests who are in their twilight years for reaching out to me. I still meet with some of my brother priests who are in their nineties. When I was newly ordained, I would never have thought to invite myself over to their parish for dinner, but they reached out to me. From them, I learned not only the data of our Archdiocese, but also the spiritual wisdom they gained from years of experience.
This ought to be the case for living our lives as Catholics. Resist the temptation to only have friends of the same generation. Recognize our opportunity to foster deeper relationships that allow the Holy Spirit to work through us to mentor the next generation of Catholics.
Sadly, we live in a world that will often choose vengeance over mercy. As a consequence, we can sometimes have a difficult time even believing in mercy. This expounds the fact that we need to celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday all the more.
As I mentioned in the bulletin last week, there is a chaplet that we can pray to meditate on the mercy of God. The closing prayer of the chaplet is a revelation of the power of God’s mercy:
“Eternal God, in whom mercy is endless and the treasury of compassion — inexhaustible, look
kindly upon us and increase Your mercy in us, that in difficult moments we might not despair nor become despondent, but with great confidence submit
ourselves to Your holy will, which is Love and Mercy itself.”
This prayer says that God’s mercy is inexhaustible. We humans all have our limits. Some people are more merciful than others, though we all have our limits. This is not the case with God. Like the father in the parable of the Prodigal Son, our God will only welcome us back if we submit ourselves to his mercy for the wrong we have done.
This may be difficult for us to believe. It may be even intimidating to think that there is this powerful mercy for us. That is why the closing prayer of the chaplet
requests for “confidence” as we put ourselves before the mercy of God.
I invite you to join us all in prayer this Sunday at 3 PM, either in person at the church or wherever you find yourself. Join the entire Church throughout the world in praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet so that we might open ourselves to the mercy that we all need.
May God bless you on this day of great mercy and may God’s love direct your minds & hearts.
- Fr. Gjengdahl
Twice a year, we Catholics are obliged to fast from eating: Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Naturally, this seems like a peculiar practice. When we do not understand the “why” behind our practices, many people can be tempted to ignore the practice and even become a detractor of the practice. So what is fasting and why do we fast?
Fasting is the refraining from eating for a set period of time. In the Catholic faith, we define it as consuming only one meal as well as two other smaller meals that would not together equal a full meal. It should also be noted, that only those who are ages 18-59 are obliged by the Church to fast, however, if you are under the age of 18 and mom decides that you are to fast, you should probably follow her direction.
So now for the bigger question: Why do we fast?
First, let us turn to the Bible. In the Matthew 6:16, Jesus says, “When you fast…” Notice here, Jesus does not say, “If you fast,” he says, “When you fast.” As Jesus is speaking to his disciples, there is the expectation that they will be fasting.
One reason for fasting is to gain self-mastery. We all have passions or desires for various things. However, these desires can grow out of control and eventually become destructive. For example, the desire to have money is not, in itself, evil. However, if that desire is uncontrolled, then we will be tempted to steal money that does not belong to us and ultimately that desire leads to our suffering. If we have periods where we resist our desires, we can put them under control. Thus, when we fast, we are learning to have self-mastery.
As second reason for our fasting is for discernment. We see in Acts 13 that the Apostles were fasting before they made the decision about Judas’ replacement. The fasting was a way for them to open themselves to the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. When we fast, we necessarily turn to God to fill us. We do not have the assistance of the things of the world and we are more oriented toward the things of heaven.
Finally, fasting is a form of worship. Many people think about the self-benefit for every action. However, fasting is a sacrifice for God. All worship is about someone else and when we fast, we do not do it for ourselves, but rather we do it for God. If we make this sacrifice of food, we turn the day into a form of worship.
So, as we prepare for our second day of fasting this Lent, Good Friday, let us understand the “why” behind our action and so make the fast an act of holiness. May God continue to bless you with his mercy and love this Lent so that you might rejoice with him wholeheartedly in his Easter resurrection.
Nota Bene: We as Catholics are obliged to fast for one hour before we receive Holy Communion. More on this in a future article.
The Fourth Sunday of Lent each year is called “Laetare Sunday,” which means “Rejoice Sunday.” This is the Sunday where the priest is allowed to wear rose colored vestments, as opposed to the violet vestments. The name “Laetare
Sunday” comes from the introit (entrance antiphon) which sets the tenor for
the entire mass. The introit comes from Isaiah and reads:
Rejoice, Jerusalem, and all who love her. Be joyful, all who were in mourning;
exalt and be satisfied at her consoling breast.
In the middle of our Lenten fasting and penance, we are reminded to rejoice. This may seem contradictory, however, it is a Catholic reality. In the middle of suffering, we are still a people who rejoice...why? We are still able to rejoice because we know the reality is that Jesus is risen and that he offers us forgiveness for our sins.
It often happens that people have a sin that they regularly commit, a sin that doesn’t seem like it is going away. When this happens, many people react in one of two ways: Either they deny that the sin is actually a sin in an attempt to quiet their conscience or they will stop trying to eliminate the sin thus allowing it to continue on. I say that these are both wrong because neither acknowledges the essential element to our sins, namely, Jesus Christ.
Our Lord Jesus Christ is more powerful than any sin that we can commit. He is more powerful than all of the sins of the entire world. He is the one to whom we need to reach out to in prayer. He is the one that is able to bring us the hope of a conversion. He is the one who conquered sin and death on that Easter Sunday. We must not be tricked into thinking that our sin is more powerful than Jesus and his forgiveness.
And so, on this Sunday, the Church reminds us to rejoice because the celebration of God’s death of sin is near to us again and we can truly be a people of hope.