When I was ordained a priest in 2007, I thought I knew what my future would be. I had it all planned out and designed in my head. However, what I discovered when cooperating with God is that rarely are His plans the same as my plans. Earlier this month, it was mutually decided with the Archbishop that I would receive a new assignment. I made this decision with much thought, prayer, and with acknowledgement and humility that my charisms and skills can be put to best use in the high school as a chaplain and teacher. I have learned a lot, and am so grateful for the patience, prayers and love you all have shown me. I am sorry for any feelings I have hurt or any missteps I have made along the way. Please know of my love for you, this parish and our Catholic faith. I know this is difficult for the parish to go through another transition of pastors, as this parish has been through several in a relatively short amount of time, but I believe this is the best decision for this parish and me.
Beginning July 1st of this summer I will be assigned to Holy Family Catholic High School in Victoria, MN. The school has been seeking a full-time chaplain for several years and the Archbishop has asked me to fill that role. I will be serving as chaplain and teacher at the high school.
I am encouraged with the priest who is coming as the next pastor. His name is Fr. Nathan Laliberte. He is a young priest with experience as a pastor of a parish with a school. He comes from St. Maximilian in Delano, Minnesota. He is part of a group called the Companions of Christ, who are a fraternity of diocesan priests who make a commitment to prayer and common life together. To this end, Fr. Nathan will be living at St. John the Baptist in Savage, MN, just as I have been, where it happens that the associate is also a member of the Companions of Christ.
At this time of transition, I think it is very fitting that we are in the season of Easter. In the first few days of the Resurrection, the disciples were confused, questioning, and disoriented by what was happening about the unexpected changes that had occurred in their lives. They thought they knew what Jesus would do, but it didn’t happen as they planned. However, as we now know, God’s plan for the Easter Resurrection was so far better than all the designs they had created for themselves and it became a moment of great peace, and so too it will be for us at Nativity of Mary.
I will continue to hold the entirety of Nativity of Mary parish in my prayers as this has become a powerful part of my priesthood. May God bless you all with the peace that can only be found in Jesus Christ.
P.S. Please keep my standing reservation at White Castle.
Today, we celebrate the most important day for Catholicism, and, in fact, for all of humanity...the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is on Easter where all of the preaching of Jesus, all of his teaching, all of his miracles actually find their meaning. Because without the resurrection, our faith is merely an idea with a positive message. Without the resurrection, nothing has changed for humanity.
St. Paul writes, “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ.” (1 Cor 15:14-15). Without the resurrection of Jesus Christ, his preaching is merely an early version of a TED talk that inspires a nice idea that is repeated, but nothing has substantially changed in the life of each human being. If Jesus is not raised from the dead, then I cannot have a relationship with him...but that is the beauty of this day, because in fact, Jesus Christ is risen!
When Jesus rose from the dead, he was not merely resuscitated, but is alive in a whole new way. He is alive in the fullness of living. The great theologian Romano Guardini wrote, “Christ rose again; therefore resurrection is possible, and his Resurrection is the foundation of the true world.” (Guardini, The Lord). It is a living that is not encumbered by death, nor affected by sin. It is a living in the fullness of the love that is alive in every sense of the word: physically, psychologically, socially, and spiritually. This is the great victory!
And as if that is not enough, by his resurrection, Jesus Christ not only accomplished his own victory over death, but also offers to all people the same hope in the fullness of life. It is now, on this day, where we celebrate and open our hearts to receive his love into our lives all the more. Through the gift of the sacrament of baptism, we were all “buried” with Christ and rise with him. So that by his resurrection, we now have the real hope of that same resurrection to the fullness of life in the true world. We are invited to experience and live in the life-giving love of the Trinity; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are beloved children of God as well.
So this day, let us rejoice with all the Saints in heaven that Jesus Christ is fully alive and let us rejoice because he is the way, the truth and the life for us today and every day.
This weekend we celebrate Passion Sunday, or Palm Sunday. I have many memories of this day from my childhood. I certainly remember learning to braid the palms with my mom. I remember the unique procession into the church. And I remember the reading of the Passion of our Lord...but not because it was so long, but because it was so different. While it was like the other Gospel readings on a typical Sunday, this one was different because it was read with even more emotion than one would often encounter.
The Passion of our Lord is read in its entirety because this is the central act of love by God for us. It is in the Passion where we see God put into action his great words: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down his life for his friends.”No one has greater love than
this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13). When Jesus said these words, he knew that he was going to practice what he was preaching. Though, it would not be laying down his life for only his friends in front of him, but for all humanity, from the beginning of time to his return in glory. And in the Passion, we become witnesses again to the reality
of his love.
In preparation for the Easter Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Vigil), I encourage you to read this Gospel again during the week. We read the account from the Gospel of Luke (Luke 22:14—23:56). As you read it, see the love of that Jesus has for you as he is preparing to give his life. See in his face the decision that he is making with you in
mind, out of love. See that he is not doing this for gain or for glory, but only out of a loving action. Pay attention to the feelings that arise in your heart as you “see” just how loved you are by God, that he would do this if you were the only person in the world. This is the full expression of Jesus’ love for you.
As we prepare for the Easter Triduum, certainly learn from mom how to braid your palm, be sure to sing “Hosanna!”, and especially pay attention to just how much God loves you as we read the Passion of Jesus.
I feel so excited and blessed to be at Nativity of Mary. So far, I have had such a warm and genuine welcome from everybody and I'm really looking forward to getting to know everyone. I was born and raised in Saint Louis Park, so after a few years up in North Saint Paul at the Church of Saint Peter, I'm really pleased to be on the west side of town again— much closer to my parents and extended family! I grew up attending Holy Family Church, and it was there that I began my path with church music. I started out playing flute for the adult choir there along with my two older siblings, who are also musicians (horn and violin). We are all pianists as well since my mother is a piano teacher, so eventually, we also began to play organ for the liturgies. My primary instrument then was the flute, and the orchestra was my first great love. I pursued a career in an orchestra, first in an undergraduate degree at Boston University, then a Masters from Boston Conservatory.
After graduation, I was auditioning for orchestral jobs, but continued to play at Holy Family...and the organ grew on me. I fell in love with the relationship the organ has with the congregation in the prayer of the Mass. Eventually, I had to acknowledge the path God was laying out before me, and I began to formally study the organ and also to develop my singing abilities. My pursuits lead me to study liturgy at St. John’s University at the School of Theology. The more I learn about theology and the relationship between how we pray and what we believe, the deeper I fall in love with the beauty and wisdom of our Holy Mother Church.
Outside of the church, I’m blessed to have a wonderful family, both near and far. I’m a proud “Auntie” to my godson, niece, and another nephew in Denver. Thus far, I’ve been lucky enough to get out to Denver to make many elaborate birthday cakes for my godson (he gets to pick the theme!). I love to bake, and tend to do so for important people in my life—generally the more extravagant or experimental, the better! (I may or may not have a photo album dedicated exclusively to my baking creations….) This coming year is very special because my niece Kate will be confirmed in May, and my godson Timothy will be confirmed in November—and he has asked me to be his confirmation sponsor! I also have two nephews in Innsbruck, Austria. My father is actually from Austria, so half of my family lives there. Having grown up with lots of exposure to my Austrian heritage, I developed a strong interest in languages and all things linguistic. I speak German fluently (preferably in the Austrian dialect of my father!), but have also dabbled in a number of other languages. When I get the chance, I love to travel and have spent quite a bit of time in Europe. I also have two birds--Indian ring neck parakeets--whom I find to be pretty hilarious. They are both named after French Catholic organists and composers: "Marcel" after Marcel Dupré and "Ollie" after Olivier Messiaen. Alas, they haven't learned to whistle any works by their namesakes just yet, but there is still time...!
So far at Nativity, I've really enjoyed how well you all sing! It’s so wonderful to hear a congregation lift up their voices together with full voice in song, and it’s such a beautiful expression of our unity as a Church. I mentioned earlier that the orchestra was my first love, but the organ has surpassed that in many ways: I have a veritable orchestra at my fingertips, and the best part is when all of your voices join in with the organ. Pope Emeritus Benedict spoke about the theology of the pipe organ and how it so beautifully reflects the Body of Christ: the organ has many pipes that make many different types of sounds, and yet together it can create this majestic sound. And so it is with the voices of all the people of God: we are all unique and have our own voices, but united in mind and heart in song, we offer our glorious sacrifice of praise to our Lord.
Please feel free to come up and introduce yourself after Mass! I look forward to getting you know all of you!
We often hear the term “conversion” in the Catholic life. It is a term that comes from the Latin mean, “turn about.” It is a term that seems simple at face value. When I am driving, to change direction, I simply turn the steering wheel and I am now driving in a new direction, toward a new destination. If I am going to change directions in my studies at college, I simply fill out the forms and enroll in new classes, then I am directed toward a new career.
At the beginning of Lent, we often take a similar approach. Often, when we begin our season of Lent, we make beautiful resolutions and intentions with the Lord to eliminate certain vices and practice certain virtues. We intend to sin less and love more. It’s as simple as turning the steering wheel...right? Unfortunately, it is not. For to have a conversion of heart and soul, it is more than a singular moment like driving or enrolling. Spiritual conversion happens not in a moment, but over a lifetime. It is much more like the constant course corrections that are needed by a sailing ship at sea. When a ship is at sea, it may begin by having a certain trajectory, however, as it sails along, winds blow swells in the sea rise and fall, sometimes the horizon disappears. If the captain of the ship is not attentive to the instruments or the visual cues, the ship can easily fall off course, or even be headed toward dangerous rocks. This is why course corrections or conversion is continually necessary for ships...and so too with our spiritual lives.
It is very easy for us to forget to pay attention to the trajectory of our spiritual lives. We have many events in our lives that can cause us to drift off course. Some by our own making, some by forces outside our control. Regardless of their source, they cause our souls to go adrift from the direction that is needed for our fulfillment, for our salvation. It is in this moment where we reach out to the true guide, the real “captain” of our lives, Jesus Christ, and seek that course correction that is needed. Jesus is the one who will tell us which direction we need to go, what we need to remove from our lives, what we need to embrace, and he will even give us the grace to make these changes. We need only be open and seeking his love and mercy on a daily basis, because that is the ultimate conversion: Allowing myself to be loved by Jesus and loving him all the more.
As we continue to sail through our Lenten journey, let us not simply pass by the buoys that are there to guide us, but heed their direction and embrace the conversion of our souls so that we might be open to the love of Jesus more than ever before and love him in return.
Fr Nathan LaLiberte