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This coming week we celebrate two big events within our parish community. While I am hoping that no one guessed the Minnesota State Fishing Opener, I am also wise enough to know not to enter into this annual debate; instead, I will leave this discussion up to each family and be the eternal optimist and believe that everyone guessed Mother’s Day and Confirmation.

Do you realize that these two celebrations actually have something important in common? Quite simply, both celebrations involve an individual making a conscious choice — one to be a parent and the other to be a Catholic.

Mother’s Day involves the celebration of both our mothers; namely, our birth mother and the mother who raised us. For most of us these roles were handled by one person; and yet, this is not always the case. In fact, some people had numerous women who guided their formative years. Before a debate begins, we have to acknowledge that all women have the potential to bring a child into the world. This can be done with little or no thought or planning. Regardless of the details of our creation, on Mother’s Day each of us should celebrate our birth mother, whether she was/is a saint or a sinner, we would not be here on this earth if not for her choice to allow us to be born. In addition, we should honor the woman/women who made the commitment to help raise us. Clearly, conscious choices have been made by the mother(s) in our lives — whether they are birth mothers, step mothers, foster mothers, or simply women who have played a formative role in our development — on Mother’s Day we honor these women. Therefore, be sure to offer up a prayer of thanksgiving for the mother(s) in your life.

The Sacrament of Confirmation will be celebrated this Monday, May 12th at the Cathedral of St. Paul with some forty of our 9th grade students. This will be the first time in the lives of these young people that they will have the opportunity to confirm the decision their parents and godparents made to bring them into our Catholic/Christian faith. Each student will be completing their formal education; that is, the Church will no longer require that they participate in our formation programs. While we hope they will continue to involve themselves in our various education and service opportunities, now the decision is up to them. (Of course, when I grew up my parents had the rule that as long as I lived under their roof and expected financial support from them, then I was expected to go to Church. I still believe in and promote this principle for all families.) Therefore, please keep these young students in your prayers as they celebrate their Confirmation. May God bless them as they become fully initiated members of our Catholic Church. Also, remember that our role as the adults responsible for guiding their religious formation now changes, but does not end. If you have been blessed with having such a young person in your life, please continue to be a good role model for the faith and to invite them to be actively involved in our parish community.

Yes, God asks each of us to make conscious choices in how we will live out the gift of life we have received.

Whether it involves being a parent, a person of faith or simply a good role model, let us all continue to work hard to grow in and share our faith with the people God has placed in our lives. This is what the Easter season is all about, namely, the ongoing support of the Church and our family. This is how we build the kingdom here on earth.

Easter blessings, Fr. Brian

September 1, 2013

Here is Part II of Archbishop Nienstedt’s recent column on the Sacrament of Reconciliation. View last week’s post for Part I or go to TheCatholicSpirit.com for the full column.

Summer blessings, Fr. Brian

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Sacrament of Reconciliation: Why confess to a priest? (Part II)

confessional.stockvaultWhy would forgiveness be the first thing Jesus willed for his Church? Well, first of all, as we read in the curing of the paralytic in Mark 2:1-12, forgiving sins is reserved to God alone. To say that a human being forgives his own sins or those of another is blasphemy. Secondly, Jesus’ whole ministry was about forgiveness, about healing, about making people whole again. So, if that was the primary concern for Jesus, it has to be the first priority for his Church.

A priest is ordained to stand “in the person of Jesus Christ, the Church’s Head.” I personally was attracted to the priesthood because I believed it would be the best way I could help others to know God, to resolve their spiritual conflicts and to get to heaven. I always thought that the image of Jesus as the “Divine Physician” or “Healer of Souls” provided an incentive for my priestly service. As doctors use medicine to cure physical ills, a priest employs the Holy Spirit to cure spiritual ills. In the sacrament of confession, the priest is not there to scold or admonish, nor is he there out of curiosity to learn about your “dark side.” No, the priest is there as “Another Christ” to offer comfort, counsel and, above all, forgiveness and healing.

Speaking the words

Thirdly, we have to confess our sins to a priest because, believe it or not, it is good for us. Those who have been successful in Alcoholics Anonymous will tell you that one cannot begin to be cured until one admits out loud to another, “I am an alcoholic.” There is a real difference between thinking something in our heads and speaking it in words. Once an idea is articulated (i.e. a word spoken in anger) in speech, it takes on a life of its own. Likewise, I may think I am sorry for an evil action, but until I ask for forgiveness in words, I really do not experience the effect of that sorrow. But, once I admit I’ve done wrong, then the admission becomes tangible and it can be absolved. Also, in admitting I am powerless to overcome my sin, I can turn to ask help from the One (i.e. God) who has the power to evoke a conversion.

Fourth, as Americans, we have been heavily influenced by the Protestant notion of “predestination” that was so heavily emphasized by Luther and Calvin. They taught that, as believers, we fall under the influence of God’s eternal judgment, which already knows who among us will inherit eternal glory and who will receive eternal damnation. In previous generations, people of faith worried over the “damnation” aspect. Today, most everyone feels he or she is already destined for salvation. Thus, they reason, “What difference does it make what I do or don’t do? I’m ultimately going to heaven, God won’t stop me.”

Sin is relational

What complicates this situation even further is a superficial understanding of “sin” as a violation of a rule or an external law. Sin rather is a failure to live up to my baptismal call to love God above all things and my neighbor as myself. Sin is hurting someone I love. Sin is relational. So when I wallow in self-pity or indulge in gratifying my senses, when I prefer to go shopping rather than participate in Sunday Mass, when I intentionally ignore the needs of the world’s or my neighborhood’s poor, when I invoke God’s name or his damnation on a colleague in a conflict situation, I sin. That is to say, by this act, I have harmed the baptismal covenant relationship I have with God as well as harmed my relationship with another and upturned my own sense of spiritual well-being.

So, the question, “Why do I have to tell my sins to a priest?” is a great question because its answer explains why we need the Church, why we have to admit our wrongs in words, why we cannot presume we are already saved or damned and why sin is not the same as breaking the speeding limit or running a stop sign. This sacrament over time has been called penance, reconciliation and confession. But whatever we all it, that encounter is a meeting in time with the Merciful Jesus, the Divine Physician. It offers such a powerful assistance to our spiritual growth, why not use it? Yes, why not indeed!

God bless you!

August 25, 2015

Originally posted August 25, 2013

I am regularly confronted with people who are lamenting the “decline” of the Catholic Church.

These concerned individuals point to people they know who have either become lax in their faith or simply left the Catholic Church to join another Christian church.

sacramentsI believe a huge factor here is our loss in the understanding of and appreciation for one of the greatest gifts of our faith, namely, the Sacraments.

For example, do we know the stark difference between how a Lutheran and a Catholic view the Eucharist? Confirmation? Reconciliation? Marriage? My personal research indicates that most Catholics do not.

In response to this growing concern our Adult Faith Formation (AFF) Committee will be offering a series on our Catholic Sacraments: The Doors to the Sacred – an Adult Perspective on Sacraments with Judy Foster Mon. evenings, Nov. 4, 11, 18, 25.

Watch for the AFF’s program booklet which will list the many wonderful offerings for the coming year or visit the Adult Faith Formation pages on Faith Series Offerings, One Time Events, Book Discussions, Second Sunday Speakers and Rediscover. A calendar for the full year of adult faith formation offerings is now available. Yes, all adult Catholics have a responsibility to know and embrace our faith, especially if we expect to be able to pass it on to our children.

With this in mind, I encourage you to check out Archbishop Nienstedt’s column in the most recent edition of The Catholic Spirit – pick up a copy at church or go to TheCatholicSpirit.com  – for he has offered a great reflection on the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In fact, I am going to share his teaching in my column over the next couple of bulletins. I hope everyone will take serious this important responsibility for their continuing education in our Catholic faith.

Summer blessings, Fr. Brian

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Sacrament of reconciliation: Why confess to a priest?

— by Archbishop John C. Nienstedt

One of the most frequently asked questions that I receive is “Why do I have to tell my sins to a priest?” Actually, it is a great question because the answer to it involves the whole reason behind why Jesus established a Church and therefore, why we are Catholics after all.

You recall the scene in Matthew 16:13-20 when Jesus asks the apostles at Caesarea Philippi what people are saying about him. That episode includes Jesus saying to Simon: “I for my part declare to you, you are ‘Rock’ (“petrus”), and on this rock I will build my church…” In Matthew 18:20, Jesus in discussing prayer with his disciples tells them: “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in their midst.” Notice he didn’t say that when we are off on a mountainside or sitting beside a tranquil lake or even meditating alone in our room he would be present. No, Jesus proclaims that the only authentically verifiable place where we can be absolutely certain he is present is: “Where two or three are gathered” in his name.

Establishing his Church

From these and other scriptural texts we can be assured that Jesus intended to establish a Church as his abiding presence in the world. And, to be sure that it was his presence, he breathed on that Church his Holy Spirit the very evening of his resurrection. Again, notice carefully where he places the priority as he imparts the Holy Spirit: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive men’s sins, they are forgiven them: if you hold them bound, they are held bound.” – John 20:22-23

“Binding and loosing” implies an outsider’s judgment; it requires therefore, the context of the Church, Jesus’ presence in the world.

(Tune in next week for part II of Arch-bishop’s reflection on Reconciliation.)