Category: The Northern Cross

Bishops Paul Sirba, Robert Barron & Father Michael Schmitz on The Sexual Abuse Crisis Revelations

God Made Us a Family

We need one another.

We love one another.

We forgive one another.

We work together

We play together.

We worship together.

Together we use God’s word.

Together we grow in Christ.

Together we love all people.

Together we serve our God.

Together we hope for heaven.

These are our hopes and ideals.

Help us to attain them, O God,

Through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

 

Aug 22, 2018

I know the answer is Jesus Christ. Hope is found in the dying and rising of Jesus. The day of restoration and renewal will happen through the mercy of Jesus and our full cooperation in the work of the Redemption of Jesus Christ. I can also hear Jesus saying, “I’ve got this.”

For the past five years, in a more intense way — the first revelations go back to the 1980s and 1990s — Catholics in the state of Minnesota have been exposed to the sins of the Church’s priests and bishops. Now the Church in Pennsylvania and across the nation has had to look at the horrendous sin of sexual abuse of minors and the failures of the Church in protecting the people of God, yet again.

When it comes the crime of the abuse of minors, our hearts break open as sordid details call for independent investigations and the work of very trusted lay faithful to assist the bishops within the Church to remedy the problems. In the tumult, we must never lose our focus of providing healing for the victims and help for those who have been hurt and preventing this sin in the future.We need to name the shame, anger, and sadness. The sexual abuse of minors, episcopal failures, cover-ups and enabling behaviors, homosexual subcultures in the priesthood, and sins against celibacy must be confessed, rooted out, and repaired. To quote Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the USCCB, “We are faced with a spiritual crisis that requires not only spiritual conversion, but practical changes to avoid repeating the sins and failures of the past that are so evident in the recent report.”

Our experience of the clergy sexual abuse crisis in the Diocese of Duluth is unique to us in some ways, but the underlying sinful human condition is universal and will be brought to light across our nation and our world. While we have been living with the crisis most recently through our bankruptcy, we have to be spiritually prepared for whatever new revelations may come to light in other parts of the Body of Christ, as well. This purification, although excruciatingly painful, is necessary for healing. The light of Christ scatters the darkness of sin and evil.

The Scriptures that come to mind for me are: “It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck and he be thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin” (Luke 17:2), the parable of the weeds among the wheat (Matthew 13:24-30), the woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8:1-8). These and other sacred texts provide ample reflection for my personal conversion and institutional change.

I have said that the protection of our youth and providing the safest environment for our young people is the work of our lifetime. I know our efforts in the Diocese of Duluth have made a difference. As a diocese we will continue to offer prayers for healing and reparation. I ask the clergy, religious, and lay faithful to pray and fast so as to lead the Church to enact canonical changes that hold bishops accountable, protect men discerning a call to the priesthood, and lead to new mechanisms of holding bishops accountable that have never been in place before to safeguard our children and restore trust.

I apologize and humbly ask your forgiveness for what I and my fellow bishops have done or failed to do. I am sorry for anyone who has been hurt and the scandal caused in the Body of Christ.

Bishop Paul D. Sirba is the ninth bishop of Duluth.

 

We invite you to listen to Bishop Robert Barron & Father Mike Schmitz, Diocesan priest, chaplain at UMD’s Newman Center, and nationally renowned speaker, on the horrific news of the Pennsylvania sex abuse scandal.  His heartfelt message imploring us to, “lead, not leave, our Church is gut wrenching and moving.  Please listen.

 

 

 

April 30: The Feast of St. Pius V: Rediscovering A Beautiful, Ancient Prayer

Father Richard Kunst

October is the month of the rosary, but there is good reason to focus on the rosary in the month of April as well.

The last day of April is the feast day of St. Pius V, A Dominican pope who was very much devoted to the rosary and was the eventual cause for the feast day of Our Lady of the Rosary on October 7th, and the patronal feast of our diocese.

The rosary is perhaps the most common of the Catholic devotional prayers.  Up until recently it consisted of 15 decades of “Hail Marys” with each decade proceeded by the Lord’s Prayer and followed by a doxology, accompanied by a meditation upon the life of Christ called a mystery.  A few years back Pope John Paul the Great introduced five more mysteries, making the complete rosary twenty decades.  This is the first substantial change to the rosary in nearly 500 years.

When the whole rosary is prayed, it is a virtual epitome of the liturgical year and the Gospels, though ordinarily only five decades are prayed at a time.

Pious tradition states that the Virgin Mary appeared to St. Dominic and gave him the rosary.  Though Dominic and his order really are responsible for popularizing this form of prayer, in fact the rosary pre-dates Dominic by at least 100 years.  In reality, the rosary had a slow development.

It is a form of prayer that did not come from church authority but from the faith of the common people.  Many monasteries at the time would pray all 150 Psalms every day.  Though it was impractical, many lay people wanted to imitate this form of prayer.  Eventually the normative practice became quoting 150 short Scripture passages, hence the fifteen decades.  Through time, the passages became regularized as quotes from the first chapter of Luke’s Gospel: the words of the Angel to Mary, “Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with you” (Luke 1:28), and the words of Elizabeth to Mary, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb” (Luke 1:42).

It should be clear to anyone at this point that for the most part the rosary is little more than simply quoting Gospel passages in prayer.  Anybody who does not have a problem praying with the Scriptures should not have a problem praying the rosary.  For this reason, it is unfortunate that it is primarily only a Catholic prayer.

Although the mysteries of the rosary also had a slow development, they were pretty much accepted in their current form by 1483.  In 1573 St. Pius V established the feast of “Our Lady of the Rosary” in honor of the defeat of the Turkish Muslim fleet at Lepanto on October 7, 1571.

Because so many different religious traditions have used beads to help them in prayer, the word itself is actually synonymous with prayer; the Old English word for “prayer” is “bead.”

There is nothing magical about the beads.  They are simply a mechanical device to keep track of where you are in the prayer.  With so many repetitions of different prayers, the beads become almost necessary; they themselves should never be the focus but in fact should help us to concentrate on the prayer.

To pray the rosary appropriately we almost should ignore the beads.  People who go out of their way to find the most beautiful rosary may in fact be missing the point; the beads should very much be of secondary importance.

Although the rosary is not a mantra in the strict sense, it certainly can act as one.  Mantras, mostly a part of Hindu prayer, are a continual repeating of words to “get in the zone” of prayer, to make the prayer as natural as the breath you are taking.  Saying the same prayers over and over again certainly lend themselves to acting as a mantra, all the while meditating on the life of Christ in the mysteries.

It is an unfortunate reality that so many non-Catholics have a problem with the concept of praying a rosary.  There is no reason to shy away from this prayer anymore than there is reason to shy away from the Gospels.  The rosary quotes the scriptures and traces the entire life of Jesus in prayer and meditation.

Catholics, too, should be more accustomed to praying this beautiful and ancient prayer.

I often will tell parishioners to pray the rosary often enough so that it will not look out of place in their hands in the casket.

 

Pope St. Pius V

The Northern Cross Interview with George Weigel

George Weigel

An interview with George Weigel
Mar 2, 2018
Deacon Kyle Eller, N/C

On March 12, St. John the Evangelist Church in Duluth, fresh off hosting the daughter of St. Gianna Molla in October, will host another distinguished guest: George Weigel, who is a distinguished senior fellow of the Ethics and public Policy Center, author of three volumes on the life of Pope St. John Paul, and a distinguished conservative Catholic intellectual and media figure.

The event at St. John’s will focus on St. John Paul II. It will begin with Mass at 6:30 p.m. and be followed by Weigel’s presentation, based on his latest book, “Lessons in Hope,” the third of his volumes on John Paul.

Weigel agreed to be interviewed by email in advance of his appearance this month. The interview follows:

George Weigel
The Northern Cross: Would you tell our readers a bit about what you will be speaking on in Duluth? I understand from Father Kunst that it is related to your newest book, about your personal friendship with Pope St. John Paul II.

Weigel: Yes, that’s right. I’ll be talking about “Lessons in Hope: My Unexpected Life with St. John Paul II,” but also about the pope and his legacy. “Lessons in Hope” is a book, of stories, quite different in that sense from the two volumes of my John Paul II biography, “Witness to Hope” and “The End and the Beginning,” so I hope the talk (and the book) will help people come to know John Paul is a more personal way.

TNC: Is there an anecdote from that friendship you would be willing share to give readers a flavor of what you will be talking about?

Weigel: In March 1996, John Paul said to me, in respect of other biographical efforts, “They try to understand me from outside, but I can only be understood from inside.” That idea — learning a saint “from inside” — will help frame my remarks. I’ll also be introducing the audience to some of the remarkable cast of characters that surrounded John Paul II, and helped form his “inside.”

TNC: It’s now nearly 13 years since Pope John Paul went to the house of the Father. Those days were so full of powerful, memorable scenes: his last gestures, the large, peaceful crowds, the cries that he immediately be recognized a saint. I’m sure they must often come to mind for you. Now, more than a decade later, is he remembered and revered as you imagined he would be? Or to put it another way, how do you see John Paul’s place in the church as a member of the Church Triumphant?

Weigel: He’s obviously a venerated figure all over the world. Unfortunately, his insistence on the great Catholic “both/and” — truth and mercy, revelation and reason, love and responsibility — is being forgotten in some parts of the church. And it doesn’t seem as if the senior diplomats of the Vatican have learned much from the most politically consequential pope in a millennium, which is a real shame. As for John Paul’s place as a member of the Church Triumphant, I’m sure he’s a powerful intercessor for many people — as well as a continuing model for priests and bishops.

TNC: St. John Paul’s long, fruitful pontificate left a great body of teaching, and many of the issues he dealt with not only remain with us but sometimes have come dramatically to the fore. I’m thinking, for instance, of his Theology of the Body and the meaning and “language” of the body in an adequate Christian anthropology, and how this relates to gender ideology and the definition of marriage; or of his great teachings on the family in light of contemporary ecclesiastical debates about pastoral outreach to those in irregular situations; or of his great encyclical on moral theology in light of debates over the meaning of Christian conscience. What, in your view, are some of the most important things John Paul’s teaching has still to offer us in 2018?

Weigel: The Theology of the Body is the most coherent Catholic response to the cultural tsunami of the sexual revolution ever articulated, and ought to be a much larger part of catechesis and marriage preparation, although it’s already had an effect on both. John Paul’s social doctrine, with its emphasis on the imperative of a vibrant public moral culture for both democracy and the free economy, has a lot to say to contemporary American discontents. And then there is Veritatis Splendor, the great encyclical on moral theology, which tried to re-ballast a Western world collapsing into moral subjectivism; that’s still a huge issue, and there is much still to learn from Veritatis Splendor. I’d also cite his encyclical on faith and reason, which ought to be read by every Catholic educator today, as we try to keep Catholic education, especially Catholic higher education, from imploding into the incoherence you see on so many campuses today.

TNC: Many believe that Pope John Paul II changed people’s expectations of the papacy, because of his great gifts of charisma and communication and his willingness to travel the world and evangelize and be a public figure. Pope Francis is also a pope who seems to embrace that kind of a role. (In fact, some who are younger may not recall that there was a pope with “star power” before Francis.) How would you compare and contrast the way they live out that aspect of their ministry?

Weigel: The pope has been at the center of the world Catholic conversation — and the world’s perception of the Church — at least since Pius IX (1846-1878), and perhaps since Pius VII (1800-1823). There are obvious advantages to this, but there are also disadvantages. The pope cannot and should not be the protagonist of everything in the Church. We all have our roles in the Body of Christ, and we all have a responsibility to live as missionary disciples. Both John Paul II and Francis have insisted on that.

— By Deacon Kyle Eller / The Northern Cross

Our Pastor’s Northern Cross Column for May

Father Richard Kunst

We are blessed to share our pastor with our Diocese via the Northern Cross.  Here is Fr. Rich’s column for May.  Enjoy!

Father Richard Kunst: Jesus appeared only to his disciples — for good reasons

May 17, 2017

May 2017 is an important month, because it marks the 100th anniversary of Our Lady’s appearance to the three shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal. I had every intention to write on the subject of Our Lady’s appearance this month, but as I sit at my computer writing this column, it is Easter Monday, so the resurrection is vivid in my brain right now, and since Mary appeared in Fatima for six months, I will have other opportunities to explore this important occurrence.

It is not possible to improve upon Christ’s resurrection and his appearances on Easter Sunday and the 40 days that followed, but that does not mean that I wouldn’t have done it differently. What do I mean by that? Well, there are two things I would have wanted to do differently had I been the resurrected Christ. (I know this sounds heretical, but bear with me.)

Now let’s dissect this a little. How do you suppose Pontius Pilate would have responded, and how do you suppose the Sanhedrin would have responded? What I offer is pure hypothetical speculation, but it is food for thought.Had I been Jesus after the resurrection, one of the first things I would have done is to go and knock on Pontius Pilate’s door: “Hey, Pontius, remember me? I am that guy you had crucified last Friday. Look at my hands and feet. What do you think of that?” Then I would have gone to the next gathering of the Jewish Sanhedrin as an uninvited guest to scare the bejeebers out of them, since they were the ones who spearheaded the crucifixion.

My guess is that the Sanhedrin would have tried to put Jesus to death again. There are clear indications in the Gospels that the Sanhedrin accepted the fact that Jesus was doing some amazing things. For example, they admitted that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, but they still killed Jesus and even wanted to kill Lazarus too, since many people were believing in Jesus because of him!

So the majority of the Sanhedrin were completely closed-minded when it came to Jesus. In fact, Jesus even hints at that at the end of his parable of the rich man and Lazarus, when he says, from the mouth of Abraham, “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be convinced even if one should rise from the dead” (Luke 16:31). That being said, I do not think there would have been any benefit to Jesus showing up at the meeting of the Jewish leadership.

How about Pilate? How would he have responded had Jesus shown up at his door after his crucifixion and resurrection? Again this is pure, hypothetical speculation. I think Pontius Pilate would have been awestruck at the appearance of Jesus and his crucifixion wounds and glorified body, but I do not think his response would have been very good.

Remember, Pilate was a pagan. He believed in a whole host of unbelievable mythical characters as gods. I suspect that Pilate would have tried to get the emperor and the Roman Empire to accept Jesus as one of the many gods of their pantheon, and were he successful, what do you suppose would have happened? Christianity would have died out when the Roman Empire ended. Christianity would have become one of those strange Roman mythologies we studied in school, just like Venus and Minerva.

God had a better plan.

Between the resurrection and the ascension, Jesus appeared only to those who were his disciples in life. While on one hand we may question why that was the case, and we may think that it would have been more effective if Jesus appeared to some of his enemies, the fact is Jesus knew what he was doing.

Suppose the Christian message would have had the backing of the Roman Empire from the very beginning. Then the spread and growth of Christianity would have been attributed to human power. The fact that Christianity spread at a miraculous rate despite the furor of the political power of the day is just that: a miracle. The hand of God, not the hand of man, caused its growth. The very disciples who cowered in fear of the Jewish authorities, the very disciples who ran away and showed themselves to be hopelessly dumb during the life of Jesus, were the ones who were emboldened after his death to spread the Good News.

God’s ways are not our ways, and although I think it might have been pretty cool to watch Jesus appear to Pontius Pilate and the Sanhedrin, it was not of God. By appearing only to those who were his disciples before he ascended to heaven, Jesus shows clearly that God’s plan is perfect.

The Northern Cross: What Can I do to Help My Children Stay Catholic

Father Mike Schmitz

Father Mike Schmitz

The following column from the September 2016 issue of the Northern Cross is being used with the permission of Father Mike Schmitz.  It is a subject that is pertinent to Catholic parents and contains, some very power things you can choose to do that will make a difference in your children’s lives.

We thank Father Mike for his willingness to allow us to re-print his column here.

 

 

 

 

 

Father Mike Schmitz:

The Question:

I keep trying to do all that I can to help our children know of God’s love for them.  I want them to be truly “Catholic”; not merely in name, but as their deepest identity.  In the face of a seemingly hostile culture, what can I do?

 

Thank you so much for asking about this.  While there are no fool-proof “strategies” for passing along the Faith to your children, there are some very powerful things that you can choose to do that will make a difference in your children’s lives (and their eternities).  In fact, I will name four here.

First, teach your children how to pray.  I have a friend who lamented the fact that, as Catholics, we “have been taught how to repeat, not how to pray”.  I don’t know if you are aware of this, but a recent study indicated that upwards of 47% of Catholics in America state that they are not absolutely certain that a personal relationship with God is ever possible.  Reflect on that for a moment.  The entire basis of Catholicism is centered around the fact that God broke into this world in Jesus Christ, and that He continues to animate and engage us through the Holy Spirit on a moment-by-moment basis.  As Catholics, we have unprecedented access to the Father.  And it has even been revealed that God is not some distant “power”, but that He has become our Father when we were made His children through Baptism!  And yet, almost half of the Catholics in this country are not aware that we can have a personal relationship with Him.  Teach your children how to pray.  Teach them that God is their Father and show them how you talk to Him.

Second, speaking of fathers, there is something that is often entirely missed in our culture: the power of a father’s blessing.  Dads, bless your children.  Did you know that, in God’s original plan for the people of Israel, every father of a family was the priest of the family?  At the golden calf incident, this was obscured and in many ways lost.  But in the new covenant, the father of the family is the priest of the “domestic church” (aka “the family”).  This means that there is power in a father’s blessing.  This was brought home to me in a real way when I was having a conversation with a priest who is an exorcist in another diocese.  He described to me the case of a young woman who had been cursed by her father.  While the exorcism was freeing her through the power of Jesus Christ, there was a bunch of “push back” because her father continued to curse his own daughter.  He noted how powerful that curse was because it was her father who was doing it.  After staring at him in shock that a dad would do that, a thought suddenly came to my mind.  I said, “If that is the case with a father’s curse, what does that mean if a dad blesses his child in the Name of Jesus?”  He looked at me and said, “You can’t imagine the power of grace that a dad’s blessing has over his children.”  Fathers, pronounce the blessing of God over your children.  It can be a simple sign of the Cross traced on their foreheads…or if they are far away from you, raising your hand in their direction and praying, “Bless you in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”  It might not be “Sacramental” in the way a priest’s blessing is, but it is part of the “primordial sacrament”.

Third, there is very little can compete with an authentic witness to Jesus Christ and His Church.  When moms and dads give witness that they truly strive to live what we profess on Sundays, there is power.  This does not mean being overly strict or demanding with one’s own children.  In fact, St. John Paul testifies to the authentic witness of his own father.  He wrote, “The mere fact of seeing [my father] on his knees had a decisive influence on my early years. He was so hard on himself that he had no need to be hard on his son; his example alone was sufficient to inculcate discipline and a sense of duty. He was an exceptional person.”   He went on to state, “…his example was in a way my first seminary”.  For another incredible example, Saint John of the Cross cited his mother and her willingness to raise him and his brother in the Faith despite the great sacrifices she had to make in order to be Catholic.  It was her example that inspired him and his brother.  Many mothers have had that sanctifying effect on their children. 

Fourth, we must not underestimate the power of prayer.  As many people know, Saint Augustine was absolutely opposed to the Catholic Faith of his mom in his early years.  An incredibly bright young person, he seemed to delight in throwing his mom’s faith in her face (and seemed to despise her desire to share Christ with him!).  But she remained steadfast in prayer.  But here is something we often overlook: she did not merely “throw up a few prayers”.  She begged God on behalf of both of her sons.  She prayed.  She fasted.  She was so vigilant in her prayers that Saint Ambrose once famously told her, “As you live, it is impossible that the child of such tears should perish.”  A father’s blessing is powerful.  A mother’s prayers have power as well.  If you desire this conversion, be gentle with your child, but be strict with yourself.  This might mean fasting for them.  The spirit of this age is alive and well.  It can often only be driven out of your children with prayer and fasting.  Fast for your children.  This might be a fasting from food.  But it can be any mortification.  Offer up your grief and your sufferings for your children.  You can even ask God to accept whatever suffering you experience as you age and approach death for the salvation and sanctification of your children. 

You may not see the fruit of these four powerful tools in your life.  But you are a person who knows that there is more to this life.  Do not lose heart.  Never lose heart.  God desires the salvation of your children even more than you do.  Trust in Him.

in Christ.

fathermike

 

July 24: The Feast of St. Charbel, & Fr. Rich’s Commentary

Saint Charbel Makhlouf

Saint Charbel Makhlouf

St. Charbel, A Role Model About Preparation for Eucharist

When Pope John Paul the Great was criticized for canonizing so many saints, he acknowledged that he did, indeed, deliberately raise more saints to the altar than any of his predecessors, because he believed we are living in a time that needs saints as witnesses more than ever.  There have been books written about the people he canonized and beatified, and it is quite refreshing to read about many of them, because we can identify with people from our own era who lived a heroic faith life. 

As much as I like hagiography, the study of the saints, I have to admit that many of them, living in a different era, seem to be a bit untouchable, or even unreal.  In many cases they became “kitsch,” entering so much into the piety of worldwide Catholicism that they became little more than statues.  I am reminded of St. Therese of Lisieux who has rightly been called the greatest saint of modern times.  Her statue seems to be in a majority of churches, but I’d like to know how many people in the pews actually know anything about her life. 

I very much enjoy reading about those who lived seemingly normal yet holy lives.  They were simply examples of the Gospel, lived.  However, we can also learn something from the “untouchable” saints, those who for whatever reason seem otherworldly to us.  In the month of July we have one such saint.  On October 9th, 1977, Pope Paul VI canonized a Lebanese Maronite Rite monk, Charbel (or Sharbel)) Makhlouf.  While very few saints are honored with a place on the universal liturgical calendar, St. Charbel is one who is so revered that he does, indeed, have a feast day, which we celebrate on July 24th.

St. Charbel was born in 1828 in Northern Lebanon.  In 1859 he became a priest with particularly strong devotions, both to the Blessed Mother and even more so for the Eucharist.  For the last decades of his life, he was a hermit, living in the mountains in complete poverty. This austere behavior is one of the reasons he seems to be untouchable: how many of us can identify with a Lebanese Maronite monk, living in complete solitude, eating hardly anything, and all the while performing miracles?  Probably not many of us.  Yet it is St. Charbel’s prayer practice that makes him even more unique, while at the same time giving us an incredibly relevant example.

St. Charbel’s life was centered on the Eucharist and the celebration of Mass, and this devotion intensified in his last twenty years.  He would regularly celebrate Mass at noon, but he would awaken eight to ten hours beforehand to pray continuously in preparation for receiving Christ in the Eucharist.  Imagine!  Ten hours of prayer in preparation to receive Communion!    But it doesn’t end there.  Afterwards, he would spend another eight to ten hours in a prayer of thanksgiving for having received the Eucharist! 

The Eucharist was literally the center of his life, and everything else revolved around it.  This seems to add to his otherworldly status; who among us could do something like that, day in and day out for decades?  Who among us would want to?  And yet, what a beautiful example!

Reflecting on the life of St. Charbel calls to mind a common frustration among my brother priests and me.  On a regular basis, many people come into Mass late.   Often they are so late they miss one or two of the readings.  It is even more common for whole portions of the church to be empty after communion.  While we are happy that these people at least come to Mass, think of the contrast between our experience and that of St. Charbel, who would spend hours in prayer both before and after receiving communion. 

We would never go to a movie late, or leave before the story was over.  Why in the world, then, would we do that with the Divine Liturgy where heaven and earth meet?

St. Alphonsus de’ Liguori (1696-1787), born 130 years before St. Charbel, believed that if we didn’t receive our first communion until we turned 100, we would still not have sufficient time to prepare.  At another time, he said that once we receive communion, twelve angels surround us, worshiping what we just consumed.  Obviously, that is not dogma, but it is food for thought if we are tempted to leave Mass early.

The saints are always icons of having lived the Gospels, including those who seem to be so different from us.  St. Charbel is a great example of this.  I pray to him that through his intercession more people will grow in awe and reverence for Christ’s Eucharistic presence.  —Father Rich

St. Charbel, pray for us!

Blessed Pope Paul VI canonized Charbel Makhluf on October 9, 1977.

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Here is a link to the official website of Saint Sharbel Makhluf whose feast day is July 24th:

http://www.saintcharbel-annaya.com/