Ash Wednesday 2016: A Commentary & A Psalm

Father Richard Kunst

Ashes, of course, but there’s more to get from Lent

Years ago one of my seminary professors cited a study listing the most well-attended Masses of the year. The first two were obvious — Christmas and Easter — but the third and fourth most attended Masses were a bit of a surprise to me at the time. They were Palm Sunday and Ash Wednesday.

I cannot remember the details of the study or who performed it, but after years of experience I must say I concur. My teacher followed up with a cynical comment, saying more people come to those Masses because they get something, namely palms on Palm Sunday and ashes on Ash Wednesday.

Let us take a  look at the use of ashes and their history in our Catholic faith.   Ash Wednesday is not even a “holy day of obligation,” but don’t tell non-readers that!

Certainly our use of ashes comes from the Jewish faith, as so many of our practices do. We can look back at the Old Testament and see many examples of their use, and when they were used it was to signify one of two things, our mortality or penance for sins committed.

The distribution of ashes in our Catholic faith reflects this reality. Consider the two formulas we can choose when applying them to the faithful’s forehead: The person distributing the ashes can say either “repent and  believe in the Gospel,” which has the theme of penance, or “remember, you are dust and to dust you will return,” which represents our mortality.

Mortality has long been a theme in our Catholic tradition and art. As I have mentioned before, some of the most prominent decorative characteristics in old European parishes are skulls, crossbones and full skeletons. Imagine if your pastor were to have a large skeleton painted on the wall of your parish! But that is a very popular decoration in Europe. The purpose is to remind us of what the ashes remind us of today: We are dust.

The ordinary minister of the distribution of ashes is either the priest or a deacon. If necessary, a layperson is also permitted to distribute. The ashes used are either from the previous year’s blessed palms or from an olive tree.

The Catholic Church has used ashes in its liturgy since at least as early as the tenth century, and of all the rich symbols we have in our faith, the ashes we apply on the first day of Lent are among the most powerful. But Ash Wednesday is only the start. This powerful symbol ushers in the holy season of Lent, which gives us a great opportunity to rely more on God and to get closer to him.

During Lent, many if not most of us will “give something up” as a small penance to get into the spirit of the season, and that is completely laudable and even expected of us. But sometimes our energy in that direction can be misguided.

I once knew someone who quit eating all solid foods during the whole of Lent and only drank malts and energy drinks, all along making a big show of it. That is certainly not the purpose of the season or the fast.

Giving up something like sweets or soda can become an issue of pride or even bragging, which becomes counter-productive to what we are about during this time of year. If we are to use Lent to get closer to God, there might be a better way.

Adding things to our life and spirituality might be better than taking them away. It would be far better to have more people go to weekday Mass than to have fewer cookies eaten. It would be better to have more people go to the Stations of the Cross than to have less pop drunk.

We should be looking for extra things to enrich our faith during this time. Certainly our parishes offer more opportunities.

This is the busiest time of the year for us priests. I would challenge you not to have Ash Wednesday Mass be the only extra thing you do all Lent. Easter is the greatest and most beautiful day of the year on the Christian calendar. It becomes even more so when we put a lot into our Lenten observance.

“Without God, all that remains of man’s greatness is that little pile of dust, in a dish, at one side of the altar, on Ash Wednesday. It is what the Church marks us with on our forehead, as though with our own substance.” 

J. Leclercq,A Year with the Liturgy

 

 

To the end, a psalm of David.
  when Nathan the prophet came to him, after he had sinned with Bathsheba.
1  Have mercy upon me, O God, after thy great goodness: according to the multitude
of thy mercies do away mine offences.
2  Wash me throughly from my wickedness: and cleanse me from my sin.
3  For I acknowledge my faults: and my sin is ever before me.
4  Against thee only have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified
in thy saying, and clear when thou art judged.
5  Behold, I was shapen in wickedness: and in sin hath my mother conceived me.
6  But lo, thou requirest truth in the inward parts: and shalt make me to understand wisdom secretly.
7  Thou shalt purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: thou shalt wash me,
and I shall be whiter than snow.
8  Thou shalt make me hear of joy and gladness: that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.
9  Turn thy face from my sins: and put out all my misdeeds.
10  Make me a clean heart, O God: and renew a right spirit within me.
11  Cast me not away from thy presence: and take not thy holy Spirit from me.
12  O give me the comfort of thy help again: and stablish me with thy free Spirit.
13  Then shall I teach thy ways unto the wicked: and sinners shall be converted unto thee.
14  Deliver me from blood-guiltiness, O God, thou that art the God of my health: and my tongue shall sing of thy righteousness.
15  Thou shalt open my lips, O Lord: and my mouth shall shew thy praise.
16  For thou desirest no sacrifice, else would I give it thee: but thou delightest not in burnt-offerings.
17  The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit: a broken and contrite heart, O God, shalt thou not despise.
18  O be favourable and gracious unto Sion: build thou the walls of Jerusalem.
19  Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifice of righteousness, with the burnt-offerings and oblations: then shall they offer young bullocks upon thine altar.

 

February 13th: Celebrating St. Valentine’s Day Early with a Commentary from Fr. Rich

Father Richard Kunst

  As you know, I generally utilize all my vacation time leading small private tours to Rome.  Although I enjoy it because I love the Eternal City, and because I love to see people bewildered by the beauty of the city, it is indeed work for me.  We have long days with little sleep, and I am on the clock, bringing people around and explaining to them what they are seeing.  When leading these tours I generally stick to the same routes and sites, but from time to time I will venture to places that are less familiar, and I did just that during my most recent tour. 

          Though I had already been there a few times, during this last tour I brought the group to a church called Santa Maria in Cosmedin.  The church is old, dating back to the 6th century, but it’s not its age that draws the crowds; rather it’s an old drain cover people go to see.  The “Bocca della Verita” (Mouth of Truth) is a massive drain cover from the ancient Roman period.  It is in the image of a large face with an open mouth, and according to tradition if you place your hand in the mouth, and if you are guilty of adultery it will bite your hand.  This of course is a silly tradition, but people like it as a photo op, so you generally have to wait in line to have the chance to test your fidelity.

            The group I brought to Rome this last time was in no mood to stand in line to see the old drain cover, so instead we went through the rest of the ancient church.  On one of the side altars was a simple reliquary holding the clearly visible skull of St. Valentine.  It made me wonder just who this saint was.  In western culture St. Valentine has become hugely popular because of February 14th and the celebration of lovers.  But does anyone really know anything about the man who lends his name to such a popular holiday?  No. No one does.  There is just simply speculation, none of which can be confirmed.

           We had one pope by the name of Valentine who reigned for 40 days in 827 AD, but he is not a saint, so the holiday cannot be named for him.  There are three other options in the official list of saints, which is called “Martyrologies.”  One of the early lists of martyologies has three different saints named Valentine; all of them are celebrated on February 14th.  But any information about them is scant at best.  One was a priest who lived in Rome.  Another was a bishop who was in a place called Interamna.  Both of these Saint Valentines died martyrs’ deaths in the third century.  On the same date is another martyred Valentine who was killed for the faith in Africa, also from the third century.  That is all we know about them.  They are examples of saints who have been lost to history and who undoubtedly lived holy lives and sacrificed themselves for the faith to the point of death.  Because of the lack of record keeping we know nothing more of the three St. Valentines who just so happen to all share the same feast day of February 14th.  In other words, I have no idea whose skull I was actually looking at in the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin!

            So why is it that they are the patron saints of lovers?  There are different theories but the one that seems to be the most acceptable really has nothing to do with the saints themselves but with a legend associated with the date of the 14thof February.  According to ancient tradition it was thought that birds began to find their mates on that date during the second and shortest month of the year.  And because there was a time when everything was culturally Catholic it was only natural to see what saint’s feast day fell on an important date.  Because there were three Saint Valentines all on the same date it was only natural to name the day after St. Valentine(s).

            The practice of sending “Valentines” to loved ones and mates is not new.  We have records of the practice going all the way back to the 1300s.  Of course the holy men who share the same date and name would never have had a clue as to what was going to become of their heroic faith and how it would eventually come to mean something very different.  In fact the Church doesn’t even have a liturgical feast day for St. Valentine anymore, and if your go to daily Mass on February 14thyou likely won’t hear a thing about the three St. Valentines.  You will hear a lot about Sts. Cyril and Methodius, two canonized brothers who were missionaries to the Slavic people.  So on February 14th this year instead of sending a card and flowers to your wife or girlfriend, send your Slovenian friends a card and wish them a happy Sts. Cyril and Methodius Day!   —Father Rich

Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Exterior

 

The Skull of St. Valentine in Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Rome

“Bocca della Verita” (Mouth of Truth)

Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Inteiror

 

 

 

 

Monday, October 30, An Update on This Extraordinary Event at St. John’s: Meet the Daughter of a Saint

St. Gianna Molla & Family

On the evening of Monday, October 30, 2017, Saint John’s will welcome Dr. Gianna Emanuella Molla, the youngest daughter of Saint Gianna Beretta Molla.  

St. John’s is one of only two places in Minnesota to have the privilege of her presence.  

 Tentatively we are planning for Mass,  with veneration of 1st & 2nd class relics of  Saint Gianna, followed by a testimony of The Life, Faith & Sanctity of her mother, and an opportunity to meet and greet Dr. Molla. 

Light refreshments will be served.

 

Daughter of St. Gianna Molla coming to Duluth Oct. 30

Oct 16, 2017

“I like the idea of having a child of a canonized saint here, and having people have as close as they can to a tangible experience of a saint,” said Father Richard Kunst.

His parish, St. John in Duluth, will be offering just that Oct. 30, when it hosts Dr. Gianna Emanuela Molla, the daughter of St. Gianna Molla, a patron saint of the pro-life movement.

The saint, canonized on May 16, 2004, by Pope St. John Paul II, was herself a pediatrician. While she was pregnant with her fourth child in 1961 — the young Gianna — she discovered she had a life-threatening tumor.

Among the options her doctors gave her were abortion, which would not have been morally licit, and hysterectomy, which would have been licit but would also have led to the death of the child. Instead, she insisted on a course of care that would put saving the life of her child as the priority.

Despite efforts to save both mother and child, the saint died a week after her daughter was born. She was 39 years old.

“She’s the patron saint of unborn children and the pro-life movement,” Father Kunst said, as well as the inspiration for parents who have given the name to their own children.

Father Kunst said the daughter the saint died saving, herself a physician as well, has become a spokesperson for her mother’s mission. For instance, she was present at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia in 2015, with Pope Francis in attendance.

She will also be appearing in the Twin Cities in October, which the Catholic Church in the United States observes as Respect Life Month.

Yet Father Kunst said getting Dr. Molla lined up to come to Duluth was difficult despite the fact that she is coming to Minnesota already.

In fact, at one point, she told Father Kunst it would be “absolutely impossible.” But the next day she wrote again to say she could come for a talk in the parish.

“I’m very excited about it, obviously,” he said.

There is a private fundraising dinner the day before, but the main public event is Oct. 30, with Mass at 6:30 p.m. followed by Dr. Molla’s talk.

This, too, will have a fundraising component. Dr. Molla is raising funds to restore the family home and “make it into a shrine,” Father Kunst said.

“She travels all over the place to share her mom’s story and the vision of what she would like to do in regard to her mother’s ministry in the pro-life movement,” he said.

So he will be asking for a generous freewill donation. But the event is free and is a unique opportunity to meet one of the few people in the world who is a living child of a canonized saint.

“St. Gianna Molla died to save this woman’s life,” he added. “… She’s an integral part of the whole story of St. Gianna Molla.”

He said there are no tickets, it’s just first-come, first-served. There will be closed-circuit TV in the parish’s basement in case there is overflow from the church, which itself can seat quite a few people.

“All they have to do is bring their willingness to support the mission of St. Gianna Molla and the pro-life movement,” he said.

— Kyle Eller / The Northern Cross

 

Here is a link to the work Dr. Molla is accomplishing through the Ponte Nuovo Project to which she is devoting her life.  We are so privileged to have her here at St. John’s and look forward to such a special event.  Here is the link:

OK St. Gianna Ponte Nuovo Project (1)

About Dr. Molla:

About me:
gianna-emanuelaI practiced as a geriatrician at the Geriatric Institute, “Camillo Golgi” in Abbiategrasso, Milan. In 2003, I left my profession to care for my dad Pietro who had serious health problems until he died on April 3, 2010, Holy Saturday, at the age of almost 98.
    Since my dad’s death, I work full time in service of the Saint Gianna Beretta Molla Foundation, which he founded in 1999 in Milan with my uncle Father Giuseppe, my Mom’s brother.
    The Saint Gianna Foundation is a non-profit-making Foundation. Its essential aim is to honor, to perpetuate and to spread out all around the world my Saint Mom’s memory, example, testimony and spirituality. It is a very small Foundation, which has always existed thanks to the Divine Providence’s help. I am the only person who works full time for it, with my siblings’ and my friends’ help.


Pope John Paul II & Dr. Gianna Molla

 

 

Built Upon a Rock Fest: Sunday, September 17th – Mark Your Calendars!

Built Upon a Rock Fest: The Thirsting Band

Built Upon a Rock Fest is a free outdoor Catholic concert to be held on the grounds of the Cathedral, in the field adjacent to Holy Rosary School. There will also be adoration and opportunities for confession in the Cathedral for those who are interested. Come enjoy this event that features stunning on stage musical performances from national and local Catholic artists.

Free live entertainment (and free food!) with the backdrop of beautiful Lake Superior: an exhilarating and breathtaking experience, regardless of your faith background!

Gates open
5:00pm

The Aly Aleigha Band
5:45-6:30pm

The Thirsting 
7:00-8:30pm

Go to builtuponarockfest.com for details about the event, including the schedule, the mission, artist bios and answers to frequently asked questions. Help spread the word about this great event that will appeal to youth and adults alike! Help spread the love of Jesus Christ through authentically Catholic music that ROCKS!

Questions? Contact Marie Mullen at 210-563-8859 or [email protected]

Check out the one-minute video below for a glimpse of what to expect from the headlining act, The Thirsting:

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.

Kindergarten Graduation at St. John’s School

We wish our Kindergartners a safe and happy summer with memories of their first school year filled with blessings, love, skills and fun.  Thank you, Mrs. Tessier!  A terrific teacher and a creative teacher.  She created this video for them and their parents.

 

 

A Message from Father Rich about Holy Week

Relic of the True Cross of Christ belonging to Pope Clement XI

Reiquary of the True Cross

Reiquary of the True Cross of Christ

 

Father Rich

 

 If You Skip Holy Week Liturgies, You’re Truly Missing Out

For a long time I referred to Easter Monday (the day after Easter) as my favorite day of the whole year.  When asked why, my tongue-in-cheek answer was always, “Because it is the farthest away from Holy Week.”

At the risk of sound scandalous I used to say that all the time because I was so stressed by the Holy Week schedule.  The Catholic liturgy for Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Vigil is a very different animal from all the other liturgies of the year, and for a long time I really had to re-learn what the heck I was doing for these important days of commemoration.

Now that I have several years under my belt, I have gotten to the point where I really get into Holy Week and the Triduum celebrations.  They really are the most beautiful thing the Catholic Church does in its liturgy, and if you don’t normally make it a habit to go to your parish for these days, you are truly missing out.

Holy Week has been known by other names throughout history.  It has been called “Major Week,” “Greater Week,” “Passion Week,” “Paschal Week,” “Authentic Week” and also “Painful Week.”  All of them are accurate titles, but “Holy Week” captures them all.

As can be figured by the name, it is the holiest time of the year for all Christians, and for the Catholic Church the three days of the Triduum (which literally means “three days”) act as one single liturgy.

This is why at the end of the Holy Thursday Mass there is no final blessing and dismissal and why Good Friday is technically not a Mass but a threefold liturgy of the Word, Adoration of the Cross and Eucharist, again with no dismissal.

And then of course the supreme day and liturgy is the Easter Vigil, taking place after dark, the day on which new members are added to the church by baptism and confirmations.

Interestingly the early church believed that the second coming of Christ would happen on the evening of the Easter Vigil, and who knows?  It could still happen.

One of the “apologetics”-type questions I have been asked over the years has to do with the three days Christ was in the tomb.

The questioner will ask, “How do we figure it to be three days when we commemorate his death on Friday and then on Saturday night we celebrate his resurrection?  It seems more like 30 hours than it does three days.”

Liturgically speaking, the Catholic Church has adopted the ancient Jewish concept of the day.  According to the Jewish concept, a day does not start at midnight, it starts at sundown.  This is why since the second Vatican Council we have had vigil Masses on Saturday evenings that count for the Sunday Mass.  Ask any old-timers and they will tell you there was no such thing as a Saturday evening Mass when they were growing up.

So going back to the three days Christ spent in the tomb, he was buried on Good Friday soon after he died, he remained in the tomb Saturday, and after sundown on Saturday it was officially Sunday, the first day of the week.  This accounts for the three days and for why the Easter Vigil starts late, to make time for the third day and allow for the darkness, which is washed away by the light of the Paschal Candle and individual candles that we each hold during this most solemn celebration.

Holy Week starts with Palm Sunday, which is April 9th  this year.  I always try to cajole you,  my parishioners,  to go to as many of the Holy Week liturgies as  possible.  

As I mentioned above, if you don’t traditionally make it a habit of taking advantage of Holy Week, you really do not know what you are missing.  Easter has so much greater meaning for us personally when we do Holy Week right.

Come to our  parishes  and enter into these beautiful celebrations that have no parallel.  I do not think you will regret it.  —Father Rich

 

A Commentary about the Relic of the True Cross, from the Papal Artifacts’ Collection:

The spirituality of the Popes, just like the rest of us, will take different forms. And some Popes have been really engrossed in things, such as relics. And this artifact is a relic of the True Cross of Christ owned by Pope Clement XI. He was Pope from 1700-1721, just to give you an idea of the time we are referring to.

Of course there are a lot of spurious relics of the True Cross out there. But I’m totally convinced that St. Helena brought back the original true cross. The mother of Constantine traveled to the Holy Land and found the True Cross, and she brought it back to Rome. However, over time, a lot of people have produced fake relics of the cross and pawned them off as real.

The best bet we have of authenticating this one, as a relic of the true cross, is that it was actually owned by the Pope, and he actually prayed with it.

And so what we have here is a relic of the true cross. It’s in a silver case, a very nice silver case. On one side it says, in Latin, “Lignum S. S. Crucis”, meaning it is a portion of the True Cross.

On the other side it has an image of the Pope’s coat of arms, and the date, 1703. And then when you open it up, there is a beautiful crystal cross that is sewn together with gold threading and small slivers of the cross are on the inside.

It’s just a beautiful item. And the fact that it was owned by one of the Holy Fathers makes it quite unique as well.

The fact is that this relic is so sacred and important to our spirituality and to who we are as Christians. It makes me not want to leave it in a box somewhere, so I have often used it for catechesis.

I keep this close to myself to use for my own prayer life. It’s a way of having that connection to Christ crucified. Obviously, but also, it’s another way of being connected to a pope who was also praying with it.

So it’s a very unique piece that I personally used in my own spirituality, and it is one of these humbling things to have one of these.

If there’s a relic of the True Cross that’s authentic, then this one is with the highest level of certitude, because the Pope owned it. It’s a very beautiful item and very precious.

The Vatican is the organization that has the care of the true cross that came from St. Helen, mother of Constantine, in the 4th century. So the Vatican always had a portion of the true cross.

The fact that this was owned by the Pope with the reliquary in his own personal possession lends credence to the authenticity of this item. — Father Rich

 

 

 

Diocese of Duluth Announces Name of New School: Stella Maris Academy

Duluth’s Catholic schools are unifying into one citywide school with multiple campuses under the new name beginning next school year. Stella Maris is a name for Mary meaning “Star of the Sea.” According to the diocese, “star of the sea” has a special significance to Duluth residents and emphasizes Mary’s role as a sign of hope and a guiding star for Christians.

Bishop Paul Sirba considered more than 20 names submitted by students, parents, staff and clergy. He decided on the name after spending time at each of the campuses and local parishes, according to the diocese.

“After careful consideration and prayer, like St. Peter in the Acts of the Apostles, I trusted the Lord to help us choose from between two beautiful names, the providential one to share with our school community,” Sirba said in a statement. “The choice places the school under the patronage of Stella Maris and speaks to our legacy of academic excellence and commitment to preparing lifelong learners who lead, love and serve as Jesus taught. This process overall will bring vitality and stability for the next generations.”

Students and families will have input in the colors and mascot as the new school identity is formed, according to the diocese. The plan calls for St. James Catholic School to become the western campus for elementary and middle school students, Holy Rosary School to become the eastern campus elementary school and St. John’s School to become the eastern campus for middle school and a new high school. St. Michael’s Lakeside School is slated to close.

Here is a link to St. John’s School’s website with more information about registering your child for the Fall semester:

http://www.duluthareacatholicschools.org/

And here is another look at the beautiful children at the St. John’s campus:

 

 

Father Rich’s Ramblings in the Bulletin: Visit St. Joseph’s in Gnesen

Here is a challenge to members of St. John’s Parish. When is the last time you have gone to Mass at our sister parish of St. Joseph’s in Gnesen? Although I rarely speak of St. Joseph’s in the context of my bulletin ramblings, it is well worth the drive to go to Mass there.

After the Second Vatican Council in the early 1960’s, many of our beautiful Catholic parishes were raped of what made them beautiful. In many churches the statues were taken out and the worst of it was that most of them had their high altars taken out as well, but that did not happen at St. Joseph’s. Though it’s a small church, it retains all the charm of an old country church, and I love going there to do Mass.

All the former pastors have told me the same. In my many conversations with past priests they all loved the opportunity of going to Gnesen for Mass not only because of it being a beautiful little church, but also because of the strong and healthy community that worships there.

It is also the oldest Catholic Church in the city of Duluth!

An added plus is that if I am the priest out there the weekend you go, Mass tends to be brief because I have to break the speed laws to get back to St. John’s in time for the 10:30 Mass!

On a completely unrelated note, I want you to know of two additional times we will be having for confessions this week. I will be in the “sin bin” this Wednesday and Thursday, April 5th & 6th, from 6:00- 7:30 pm.

Lent is a proper time to go to confession and we all need it, so please keep me busy for those times. (Fr. Rich)

Click on these photos to view larger images:

St. Joseph's Catholic Church

St. Joseph’s Catholic Church

St. Joseph's Catholic Church

St. Joseph’s Catholic Church

St. Joseph's Catholic Church

St. Joseph Catholic Church Grotto

St. Joseph's Catholic Church

St. Joseph Catholic Church

A Message from Father Rich on the Feast of Christ the King

THIS IS A MOVEABLE FEAST

Pope Pius XI: The Author of Quas Primus, the Encyclical to which Father Rich is Refering

Pope Pius XI: The Author of Quas Primus, the Encyclical to which Father Rich is Refering

An autographed blessing signed by Pius XI. It is a hand-colored photo of him sitting at his desk. It is in an ornate frame that has cross keys and a tiara as part of the frame itself.

If you are unaware of this avocation of our pastor, I’d invite you to peruse his Collection to study, to browse, to enjoy the Collection to which he has devoted himself for the purpose of education, primarily.  Father Rich believes you cannot love what you do not know.  This Collection might help you to love and know our Church.

Visit Father Rich’s incredible Collection of Papal Artifacts.  Here is a link to his Collection:

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89-year-old Encyclical Holds Key Lessons for Us Today

Encyclicals are letters of high importance. Traditionally issued by any bishop, in recent times they have become an exclusive activity of the Bishop of Rome.

They are generally written to the entire church, and often a pope’s first encyclical will give a pretty clear indication where and how he wants to lead the church. As of this writing, Pope Francis has written one encyclical. Pope Benedict XVI wrote three, and Pope St. John Paul II wrote 14, but the pope with the most is Leo XIII (1878-1903), who wrote 85!

Often the letters are beautifully written and really speak to the issues of the day, but sometimes it is worthwhile to go back in history and see what some popes in the past have written and how prophetic these writings can actually be.

One encyclical that is particularly pertinent for today was written 89 years ago by Pope Pius XI (1922-1939). His encyclical Quas Primus (Latin for “In the first”) is pertinent for the month of November because with it, Pius established the liturgical feast day known as Christ the King, which almost always falls in November, because it is celebrated the last Sunday of ordinary time, right before Advent begins.

But Quas Primus is significant to much more than just this month. One would think in reading this encyclical that Pope Francis wrote it just yesterday. It is an amazing read!

The encyclical addressed what Pope Pius saw as a growing secularism in the world. Given that he wrote it in 1925, he probably wouldn’t even know where to start today.

He wrote that Christ needs to be king in every aspect of life: over persons, families, institutions, the state and even the whole universe. In reading this incredible letter, two quotes in particular stand out as extraordinarily appropriate for today.

Pius wrote, “While nations insult the beloved name of our redeemer by suppressing all mention of him in their conferences and parliaments, we must all the more loudly proclaim his kingly dignity.”

Read that a couple times and think about it. We cannot say “Merry Christmas” because it is offensive. We can only have “holiday trees” on public property. The 10 Commandment monuments that once were all over the country are being stripped from any government building. Most public schools in the country are no longer starting their school day with the “Pledge of Allegiance” because the words “one nation under God” are included. And heaven forbid that the government allow prayer in any school activity, whether it be sports or graduation ceremonies. And in recent years there has been a growing call to remove “in God we trust” from our coinage.

A second quote worth addressing from Quas Primus should hit a little closer to home, because Pius gives the reasons we got this way: “This state of things may perhaps be attributed to a certain slowness and timidity in good people, who are reluctant to engage in conflict or oppose but a weak resistance; thus the enemies of the Church become bolder in their attacks.”

I would have to say that, second only to pornography, the most confessed sin I have heard in general terms is the times people are too timid to speak up for the church when she is being mocked or attacked by friends, family and co-workers. People are afraid to get into any conflict in defending the church. They do not want to speak out, choosing to keep silent.

This is certainly not only an issue for laypeople. We priests, I think, are even more timid in preaching on tough subjects what the church holds to be true. So often our own parishioners are at odds with the church on the “hot button” issues like homosexual marriage, abortion and artificial contraception, to name a few, so we priests do not want to preach about these issues. We are so often, as Pope Pius XI said, good people, but timid.

I am not condemning my brother priests, because I am one of them. It takes a great amount of courage to get up in front of everyone and tell them the truth when it is very unpopular, but we need to have courage.

I am not sure that even one percent of the Catholic population reads the pope’s encyclicals when they are published, but we certainly should. And I would even encourage you to go back in time to see some of the past encyclicals. Some of them are as pertinent today as they were the day they were written.

Christ the King, be king over us today and always!

–Father Richard Kunst

Ten Things to Advance the Pro-Life Cause While Waiting for the Law to Change

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There is a real risk that disillusionment will follow the expectations invested in Donald Trump by pro-lifers: if ever he can deliver — and he has promised little — it will be slow getting there. So here are 10 ways of nurturing a true pro-life culture in the meantime.

 

Commentary

Donald Trump campaigned as the pro-life candidate while Hillary Clinton not only supported Planned Parenthood but was also unapologetic about allowing late-term abortions. While many Catholics considered Trump unqualified and undesirable, they thought Clinton’s pro-abortion position even worse.

Yet while Trump trumpeted his pro-life position, he never said he would try to outlaw abortion.

We should be realistic. It is unlikely that Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that made it illegal for states to prevent abortions, will be overturned any time soon. Abortion is a terrible crime; but the pro-life cause is about more than outlawing abortion.

Of course, those engaged in attempts to overturn abortion laws should not give up the fight. But while the national battle against abortion is going on, there are ten positive things that ordinary people can do to advance the broader pro-life cause.

  1. Education. We must continue to share with the world not just an anti-abortion message, but the whole Catholic pro-life message. This includes positive and pro-active education about the Theology of the Body, the dignity of every human person from womb to tomb, and the deep and beautiful message of fully integrated, chaste and positive human sexuality. This education must be in our homes, our schools, our parishes and our world. Only as we understand the full meaning and dignity of the human person will we understand why abortion is so evil.
  2. Personal Chastity. Abortion ends an unwanted pregnancy and unwanted pregnancies are most often the result of sexual promiscuity.  Each of us has a responsibility to pursue chastity in our own lives. We should be ruthless with ourselves when rooting out every trace of unchaste behavior. We must pray for the grace to embrace chastity in marriage, chastity in families. Chastity for single people. Chastity for married people. This chastity will not be weak and sterile, but full of an integrated and mature masculinity and femininity-abundant in life and combining purity and power. Pornography must not be tolerated. Adultery and co-habitation cannot be tolerated. Not out of negativity and condemnation, but because they are the enemies of the chastity and purity that conquered the world.
  3. Support Women. Pro-abortion people like to say, “You pro-lifers only care about the fetus. You don’t care about poor women in crisis pregnancies.” This is, of course, totally untrue. There is a wide range of women centers that offer help, but we must support them and expand their services. The pro-life movement must be even more visibly pro-women. We must be active in compassionate and positive support, rolling up our sleeves and getting our hands dirty in service of those women who choose life
  4. Supporting Children. The pro-life cause does not end at the gates of the abortion clinic. We need to love children and put our money where our mouth is. We need to support good Catholic schools and day care. We need to fund youth workers and positive activities for children. We need to provide excellent care for children who are needy, sick, abandoned and abused. If we are pro-life, then we love children from the moment of conception through to adulthood. Children are expensive, but there is nothing better in which to invest than our children.
  5. The Adoption Option. I once met a Baptist couple who had just adopted a severely disabled child. They said, “Father, in South Carolina there are about ten thousand children who need adoption or fostering. There are about ten thousand Baptist churches in South Carolina. What if each church adopted or fostered just one child?” If we have courageous families in our parishes who have adopted or fostered we need to support them, helping others to step up and make the choice to adopt. Adoption is often financially prohibitive. We need to pressure politicians to provide funding to take care of the legal fees to make adoption easy, safe and affordable, and extra tax breaks should be offered to families who foster and adopt.
  6. Contraception and Sterilization?If you say you are pro-life, why do you continue to use artificial contraception? If you say you are pro-life, why do you consider sterilization? If you are pro-life be pro-life. Avoid the contraceptive culture of death. Children are a blessing. I know so many couples who, when times were difficult and they could see no way forward, chose sterilization. They regretted it afterward. The most common complaint is “We can’t afford another child.” Really?
  7. Lobby Locally. We may not be able to overturn Roe v. Wade anytime soon, but there are plenty of good efforts at the state and local level that seek to restrict and control abortion. We should lobby our local politicians about this and about legislation that supports women in crisis pregnancies, supports adoption, supports families who choose to adopt. Maybe we are called ourselves to enter the political arena and stand for public office. Why not?
  8. Campaign and Give. March for Life, Forty Days for Life, Life Chain-all these keep the abortion issue alive and in front of people. Make sure you take a stand in the protest movement against abortion, but also in favor of life in all its abundance. The pro-life movement requires funding. Give generously to the pro-life charity of your choice and stay involved, both financially and prayerfully.
  9. Be a Happy Warrior. The pro-life movement must continue to be joyful, confident, young and strong. Do not be discouraged, but continue to support life with joy and confidence. Sour faces, angry protests, gruesome videos and violence are never the way. Think of the Blessed Virgin Mary. She was not angry and violent in the face of evil. She reacted with confident joy and the power of purity.
  10. Have Faith. Sometimes we tend to despair and think the battle will never be won. Do not despair. Fear not. Truth will always triumph. Goodness will always prevail. Life will always win. Remember history. The battle has always been grim and the forces of evil do not sleep. Take heart. Have faith. Work hard. Pray more. Be joyful and be blessed.

Here is a link to the fairly new on-line Catholic magazine of which John Allen is the editor:

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