Is it seriously Thanksgiving already!? I can’t believe how fast time goes. I want to take a minute to thank you for everything I have in my life because without you I would have nothing!
First of all, thank you so much for my wonderful family and for giving me such great friends. You know that when I am struggling in my faith journey I really rely on these people to lean on. So I appreciate all the great examples you have given me to learn from and model after.
I would also like to thank you for the roof I have over my head and the food I am fortunate enough to eat. I pray that no one has to go without food, this weekend especially. Thank you for keeping me safe as I commute to work, especially in the snow and rain we have been having lately!
As you know, the past year has been tough one, but I appreciate all of the trials you have given me and for making me prove that I trust you. Through each trial this year I have learned so much about myself and I feel closer to you and my family each and every day. A special thanks for helping mom get healthier and stronger each day. Thank you for helping us learn so much about Lyme disease and be able to guide other people struggling with the same thing!
Last but certainly not least, thank you for giving me this day, my eyesight, the clean air I breathe and for the most amazing gift of the Catholic Church! I pray for all those searching for truth and peace that they will find you this holiday season to make it the most joyful yet!
Without a doubt Advent is my favorite time of year. The decorations, music, baking, twinkling lights and anticipation turn me into a little girl again each and every year. Admittedly, without proper planning Advent can also be the time in which I can most easily lose sight of the true meaning of the season. It’s hard to keep my heart and mind focused in this preparing season amid the bright lights, shopping and distractions. It’s easy to rush through the four weeks lighting the proper candle each week and race to the Christmas finish line.
But wait! Was my heart ready for the birth of the King? It hardly seemed it was.
What seemed to help me realign my intentions was creating Advent traditions with our family. Our favorite one begins each year on November 30, the feast of St. Andrew. This year will mark the seventh year when we’ll gather around the table each evening, light the candles and pray the simple prayers. Once again, I don’t doubt that it will calm and soothe my soul to pray for both the simplest and also the weightiest intentions on my list this year.
The novena prayers are prayed fifteen times daily from November 30 to Christmas. Our family was gifted with St. Andrew chaplets made by a friend several years ago. They consist of a cord of fifteen knots and a cross, looking similar to a rosary. The tradition of the novena is to pray for any particular intentions on your heart. I found out when we began this novena and were walking our own road of secondary infertility that St. Andrew is also the patron saint of those desiring to conceive. Do you know of a couple who could use your novena prayers for this intention?
Perhaps there are other intentions close to your heart this Advent. Carry them with you in these waiting weeks, light your Advent candles and pray fifteen times:
Hail and blessed be
the hour and moment
in which the Son of God
was born of the
Most Pure Virgin Mary
at midnight, in Bethlehem, in piercing cold.
In that hour
vouchsafe O My God,
to hear my prayers,
and grant my desires,
through the merits of
Our Savior, Jesus Christ
and His Blessed Mother. Amen.
Do you have favorite Advent traditions to walk you through this beautiful season? Can you find one way this year to make this a new season of anticipation as you await Jesus’ birth? Consider joining my family this Advent and praying your way to the manger. May He bless these upcoming weeks for you with Hope, Faith, Joy and Peace.
“I worry when I see young people who have ‘thrown in the towel’ before the game has even begun, who are defeated even before they begin to play, who walk around glumly as if life has no meaning.” -Pope Francis
At World Youth Day, we were blessed with multiple opportunities to hear Pope Francis speak. He spent a lot of time encouraging us young people not to indulge in “sofa-happiness,” meaning we should not be laying around and just let things happen; we shouldn’t let our future be decided for us. We need to get up and make the change that we want to see.
“Dear young people, we didn’t come into this world to “vegetate”, to take it easy, to make our lives a comfortable sofa to fall asleep on. No, we came for another reason: to leave a mark. It is very sad to pass through life without leaving a mark. But when we opt for ease and convenience, for confusing happiness with consumption, then we end up paying a high price indeed: we lose our freedom.”
I had to let that one marinate for a while: “Leave a mark.” How are we supposed to leave a mark on this world? We can feel so small in such a large world, but from being with the 2 million other young Catholics I soon realized we were doing just that. We were leaving a mark not only on Kraków, but we made a statement to the whole world. Our faith is so important to us that we were willing to endure countless hours on airplanes, stand in seemingly-endless lines, and walk for miles and miles (I blew my 10,000 step goal with a whopping 36,000!). We were willing to rely on a couple hours of sleep and limited food in order to strengthen our relationship with Christ and our Catholic community. What was truly amazing was that even though everyone was tired and even suffering from heat exhaustion- everyone was so full of life and joy. The pope addressed this energy that he had also noticed:
“Nothing is more beautiful than seeing the enthusiasm, dedication, zeal and energy with which so many young people live their lives. It is beautiful. It is the source of beauty. When Jesus touches a young person’s heart, he or she becomes capable of truly great things.”
“He or she becomes capable of truly great things.” It makes sense. We can only make a mark on this world (the mark that matters, that is) with His help. We are not in this alone. I have been thinking of some practical ways that we as young adults can make a mark on this world. Seeing the effects WYD made, clearly we are stronger in numbers. So why not:
start a rosary group or find a group that is already formed
join or start a bible study with a couple friends
teach Faith Formation or volunteer with youth groups from the area (you may never know how much you can influence kids)
get a group together and go volunteer; or join a group like the Knights of Columbus
If you are in the St. Cloud area, a young adult group just started and you can keep in touch with us on Facebook under: St. Cloud Metro Young Adults. We hope that by connecting as young adults through this group we can help each other to make our mark.
At the vigil Pope Francis used the neatest analogy. He told us to get off our couches and put on our shoes – better yet, our soccer cleats! He said this world needs starters, not reserves. It’s so easy to expect others to make the change we want to see, but we can only win the game if we get out on the field.
“So today, my friends, Jesus is inviting you, calling you, to leave your mark on life, to leave a mark on history, your own and that of many others as well.”
Recipes in my collection often elicit a sweet memory — the event where I first tasted it, the person I received it from or someone in my life who especially likes that dish. Most foodies can probably relate.
When I asked Visitor columnist Rita Meyer about featuring her Caramel-Crowned Pumpkin Squares recipe in the Meire Grove “St. John the Baptist Catholic Church Cookbook,” she recalled getting the recipe from her friend Margaret Arnold, a parishioner of St. Anne’s in Kimball. Rita contacted Margaret who reminisced about acquiring the recipe from a friend in Edina at a dinner party around 15 years ago.
They were a definite hit with The Visitor staff when I baked a pan to share at the office. I agree with Margaret that they are a scrumptious alternative to pumpkin pie at this time of year. Rita thinks it’s a delicious recipe, too. She admits to loving “anything pumpkin” and told me that the recipe for “Pumpkin Chip Cookies” on page 31 in the cookbook is also one of her favorites. (Hint: She always makes them with milk chocolate chips.)
Caramel-Crowned Pumpkin Squares
1 cup flour
1/2 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup butter, melted
Filling: 2 cups canned pumpkin
1 (13 oz.) can evaporated milk
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. cloves
Topping: 1/2 cup chopped pecans
2 tbsp. butter
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
Whipped cream, as desired
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Crust: Mix ingredients (in a food processor, by hand with pastry blender or on low with electric mixer). Press crust into bottom of 13 x 9 x 2 inches pan. Bake for 15 minutes.
Filling: Combine ingredients in large mixing bowl. Beat thoroughly. Pour over crust. Return to oven and bake for 20 minutes.
Topping: Combine ingredients. Sprinkle them over the pumpkin filling. Return to oven and bake 15 to 20 minutes, or until filling is set. Cool and cut into 2-inch squares.
Serve with whipped cream, if desired.
St. John’s Cookbook was published in 2014 and features 140 pages filled with great recipes from parishioners. It sells for $12 a copy (with an additional $6 for postage and handling). If you want to order copies by mail contact Rita Meyer at 320-987-3113 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, if you are passing through Meire Grove, stop at the QPC (Quality Plus Convenience) gas station to skip the shipping costs. They are open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week.
It hit me most unexpectedly, a few months back while watching the movie ‘Risen’ with my family. You know, one of those moments where a scene grasps your heart and finds a way to reside there long after the moment is gone? It’s one of those little ways God sneaks in when you least expect it.
I wasn’t ready for it.
As I watched the movie, the man who played Jesus struck me like no other actor playing ‘Jesus’ ever had. Every scene, it was like his eyes were piercing, his gentleness and compassion so extraordinarily portrayed. I couldn’t even grasp how this actor made Jesus so different for me compared to other actors as I sat watching. The longer I watched, I soon figured it out. He was the Jesus with whom I had come to identify with my entire life. The Jesus who I’d read and learned about as a child. The Jesus whose story and parables I have heard countless times.
He was MY Jesus, my friend, mentor and confidant who played the familiar roles in my head and memories all these years. He who has shared my joys and sadness and seen me at my weakest and greatest moments.
Just as I’m coming to this revelation, a scene comes into view and I recognize that I can also identify with the soldier, Clavius, He is so recognizable because he is ME. He is there, after the resurrection, by the sea of Galilee at night and while the disciples sleep. Clavius awakens and sits next to Jesus. They look at one another and Clavius speaks, saying, “I don’t even know what to ask”. You see, there’s been this inner turmoil and questions that Clavius cannot comprehend because his human mind cannot explain them. Jesus looks to Clavius with compassion and gently says, “Speak your heart.”
No longer is it just the characters with whom I can establish a connection, but their words as well. They struck a chord and have since resonated in my heart. My eyes have brimmed with tears nearly every time this scene replays in my mind because I have come before Jesus countless times admitting the same thing. I have failed at relationships, been uncharitable, lacked humility and severed ties from actions that would speak that I am a Christian. I have failed. I’ve come up short, but he already knows this and loves me just the same.
I don’t even know what to ask.
Too often, this is me in prayer and in my relationship with Jesus. I come to him full of needs and desires, prayers for me and for others, but yet, with no words to speak. My human longing to really know Jesus and live a faith filled life with him, too easily gets lost in the hustle and bustle. My daily conversations with Jesus take a backseat to human interactions and acts of daily survival. I feel a strain in our relationship because perhaps things just aren’t going my way and I feel my heartfelt prayers will never be answered. As I walk into church and look to him to fill me, I approach with reservation not knowing where to begin again. Not knowing what to ask.
I’ve come to find that it’s okay to come humbly to Jesus, acknowledging that I don’t know what to ask, how to pray and how to quit making these same mistakes. What I’ve also learned is that Jesus turns to me and is ready to forgive, love and hear me as he leads me to speak my heart. He’s ready to listen. With intent eyes, he speaks love that is overflowing from his heart as a father to his child.
Do you struggle to find the words in your prayer or conversations with Christ? Do you find it difficult to reconnect with him after being busy and keeping distant in your relationship with him? He still knows you and calls you by name. He’s ready to listen even if you aren’t ready to speak or don’t know what to say.
With almost perfect timing, in light of this year’s election and all, I fell upon a poem I hadn’t seen before from one of my favorite poets, Seamus Heaney. It is entitled, “Whatever You Say, Say Nothing.”
I’m writing just after an encounter
With an English journalist in search of ‘views
On the Irish thing’. I’m back in winter
Quarters where bad news is no longer news,
Where media-men and stringers sniff and point,
Where zoom lenses, recorders and coiled leads
Litter the hotels. The times are out of joint
But I incline as much to rosary beads
As to the jottings and analyses
Of politicians and newspapermen
Who’ve scribbled down the long campaign from gas
And protest to gelignite and Sten,
Who proved upon their pulses ‘escalate’,
‘Backlash’ and ‘crack down’, ‘the provisional wing’,
‘Polarization’ and ‘long-standing hate’.
Yet I live here, I live here too, I sing,
Expertly civil-tongued with civil neighbours
On the high wires of first wireless reports,
Sucking the fake taste, the stony flavours
Of those sanctioned, old, elaborate retorts:
‘Oh, it’s disgraceful, surely, I agree.’
‘Where’s it going to end?’ ‘It’s getting worse.’
‘They’re murderers.’ ‘Internment, understandably …’
The ‘voice of sanity’ is getting hoarse.
Yes, it has it all, doesn’t it. Incivility of politicians and journalists, the reality of civility still found among neighbors, things apparently getting worse, polarization and hatred, and, even, the backlash we are experiencing in city streets.
But I too would like to say, “I incline as much to rosary beads.” Which is to say, remember what is truly substantial and dependable. Substantial and dependable is the faith that puts us in touch with a living God who sorts all things out, who possess the power of peace-giving to hearts receptive, and who empowers us always and in the face of all things to take up the task of doing good by loving our neighbor as we have been loved by God. These are things no election, no government, no politician, no journalist, nor even no ‘crowd’ can take from us.
And so, because “I live here, I live here too,” I will insist on singing as I incline more toward God for what is truly ultimate and strive to work with the others while not expecting so much from them.
When I go on assignments for The Visitor, I take a lot of photos. Sometimes it’s hard to choose which ones are published, and most of the time, no one gets to see all the others. So this blog is a great opportunity to share some of those behind-the-scenes photos!
I recently visited Holy Spirit’s bouja kitchen with writer Carol Jessen-Klixbull to see how their famous soup is made. In 2004, I also photographed the process for a story in The Visitor, but this time I was able to taste the results of all the work that goes into it. Definitely worth getting up early on a Sunday morning for!
Home. There’s something so great about hometowns—so many memories, milestones, and family ties forged there. I’m so blessed to have been able to return to my hometown after college; going back to where your roots are helps you to remember who you are and see how much you’ve changed and grown in your time away.
When we were in Poland, we had the incredible opportunity to visit Wadowice, the hometown of Karol “Lolek” Wojtyla, the future St. John Paul II! We visited his parish church where he was baptized and received his First Holy Communion, and when we went to the side chapel where the baptismal font is located I immediately noticed a picture on the wall behind the font. It was St. John Paul II, as Pope, touching this baptismal font and praying before it on his knees. That image really struck me—here was St. John Paul II coming back to where it all started for him spiritually, the moment he became a child of God. I can only imagine what must have been going through his mind—So much had changed since he and his dad had moved to Kraków when he was 18. Was he flooded with memories of his mother and brother who both died by the time he was 12 years old? Did he think of all the times he would come to this church before school in the mornings and pray before the image of Our Lady of Good Help? Did he thank God for what He had done with him since then—not only giving him the gift of the priesthood, but making him bishop, archbishop, cardinal, and then Pope?
After we visited the church, we got to see his home which has been turned into a museum about his life. One of my favorite parts was this window where John Paul II would always look out, the view being the side of the church. There was a sundial was painted on there with the words “Time flees, Eternity dwells” (in Polish, of course!). This really struck all of us—little “Lolek” would have looked out this window almost every day and had those words imprinted into his heart and mind. It’s so easy to forget about eternity and focus solely on this life—but St. JPII reminded us over and over with his preaching, life, and example of suffering that eternity should always be our main focus as the only thing that will last.
The other incredible part of the museum was seeing the gun used by the would-be assassin in 1981 when St. John Paul II was shot in St. Peter’s square. The gun is placed under glass in the floor, which was a neat way of showing that the evil of that act wasn’t on the same level of the things on the walls. And it was what was on the wall in that room that hit me—a huge picture of St. John Paul II forgiving his would-be assassin, Mehmet Ali Ağca, in prison. JPII didn’t just talk about God’s mercy, which was a huge theme of his pontificate, but he lived it in the most powerful way possible, by forgiving the person who tried to kill him. That picture spoke more about what mercy truly is than a thousand homilies. He didn’t hold on to any grudge, but wholeheartedly forgave, even though Mehmet didn’t ask for that forgiveness and most likely didn’t want it. We often forgive the people we deem ‘worthy’ of being forgiven, who are truly sorry, and even those people we have trouble forgiving. But someone who’s not sorry, who would hurt us again if they could, are we capable of forgiving them? The two most powerful things we can say are ‘I’m sorry’ and ‘I forgive you.’ In this Year of Mercy, who has hurt you the most and needs your forgiveness? Can you lean on God’s grace to forgive them, even if they’re not sorry?
The liturgical season of All Saint’s and All Soul’s has arrived. I really have come to appreciate this season and find it perfect for my ability to embrace all that it can teach me about living into our baptism and death.
At the moment of our baptism, we are baptized into new life in Christ that also recognizes we will die in Christ to live again. An incredible concept and I continue to be in awe of all that this means for my life, and my death.
We begin this month by remembering and celebrating the saints. Our heritage, our lineage, our relatives in our Catholic family…our saints. All those holy men and women that we can rely on to pray with and for us…our saints. Our own holy group of those who have gone before us, living faith-filled lives, many sacrificing their earthly life for faith. Many of the Saints we recognize are those that our Church has officially canonized. Then there are the group of people who by living their lives, have inspired, touched and continue to hold a piece of our heart – the people whose lives have interfaced with ours and we are better for that blessing.
We also take this time to remember all the souls of those who have died. In our parishes we take the time to name our beloved who have died this past year, light a candle and support those that are grieving. We trust in their eternal salvation and a great reunion one day. A time to pause and remember all who have loved us and we have loved that have died as well as those who continue to live on in this world. We trust in their eternal salvation and a great reunion one day.
But in the meanwhile we journey through our lives without them in our physical lives.
I know this journey and pain well, my beloved soul mate and my life’s great love died. He was a wonderful friend, husband and the very best father God could have blessed our sons to have in their lives. He was a faithful and faith-filled man of God and of service and humility. So when this time of year now comes around, for the third time since Dave has died, I realize how much more this season and time means to me. I am exhausted from his death. I miss him, I miss who I am with him and I’m not so sure I like the person I am without him. Grief permeates my life and the ripple effect touches those in my life.
I can through my personal experience come to more fully realize more than ever the pain that people who have lost their loved ones journey with. How much it can mean to hear the name or memory of our loved ones. To remember that they are not forgotten, they are still in our mind and hearts as well of the minds and hearts of others. Even when their name is not spoken it is on our minds. We remember, we celebrate them and we believe in the resurrection.
All Soul’s Day has become a great season for me to stop and take the time to remember others who have lost their family and friends. To take the time to make a phone call to let them know I hold them in thought and prayer. To send that sympathy card that was never sent at the time of death. To remember.
I have come to embrace that these days of All Saints and All Souls are very much of memorial, for those who have died and for those who continue to journey in this life her on earth.
This past weekend we had the chance to go to an awesome All Saints’ Day party hosted by one of our good friends. It was targeted for young kids, but since we’re kids at heart, of course we took advantage of the opportunity to dress up as well! Who wouldn’t want to be a saint for at least a couple hours!? It was quite a ‘cloud of witnesses,’ from St. John the Baptist, to St. George the dragon-slayer (one even with his baby brother dragon!), to St. Faustina, to St. Kateri, to St. Maximillian Kolbe, to a guardian angel! There was even a sign when we came in pointing the way to Heaven (the party). Being surrounded by all these little saints in the making helped us reflect on why we want to become saints ourselves. So these are our 7 reasons why you should want to become a saint too!
Because sin is so mainstream. Seriously, everyone is doing it. Striving to be a saint is the most original thing you can do! Catholic saints are some of the most unique and influential people in all of history.
Your prayers will be so powerful that you will be like Superman (minus the goofy suit). Even though our prayers for others while we’re here on earth are pretty powerful, once we’ve finished the race and are purified of all sin & selfishness, our prayers will be even MORE powerful! We’ll spend all our time in God’s presence and we’ll be able to help those still on earth to stay strong and fight the good fight, which is pretty cool.
Because little kids will dress up as you at Halloween and All Saints’ Day parties! Okay, maybe not unless you are canonized, but still you’ll have the chance to be a great role model and example for others, especially kids who are searching for someone to follow. Remember that a saint is just anyone who has made it to Heaven, so even if you never become as famous as St. Francis, you can still be a saint!
You’d be in great company. Jesus, Mary, the Angels, our faithful loved ones who have passed away, the whole communion of Saints… you could be chilling with Mother Teresa and St. John Paul II forever. How much better could it get?!
You’ll never be bored. Imagine being completely happy, not needing or wanting anything more. We may think of Heaven as boring, but it’s anything but! Actually, it’s the exact opposite of boredom: it’s being filled to the brim and being happier than we could ever imagine being on earth.
Because becoming a saint is the only real success that you can have. I mean, as impressive as your resume might be, I’ve never seen one featured at a funeral… nor have I ever seen a hearse which is followed by a trailer of all the material goods the person accumulated during their lifetime. Sainthood is the one and only success that follow you when you die.
Because Jesus tells you to. (and other cool people, like Mary, Bishop Kettler… your grandma) Jesus tells us to “strive to enter by the narrow door,” (Lk 13:24) so even though He makes it clear it won’t be easy, He tells us to follow Him and trust that He will provide the grace we need to become saints! Don’t be afraid of being “too holy,” because we can never become too much like Jesus and our Blessed Mother!
So how are YOU striving to become a saint? Do you have other reasons to add to this list?
We hope you have a blessed All Saints’ Day! All you holy men and women, pray for us!!