“Without Wax:” Living the Authentic Life!

Chocolate bunnies.

Okay, okay, I know it’s not even Lent yet, much less Easter, but chocolate is already on my mind! Do you ever remember as a kid taking a bite out of a chocolate bunny, only to find out that it was just a shell rather than solid chocolate? Nothing was more disappointing than to find out that nothing was in the middle— even though the chocolate on the outside was good, the bunny was hollow!

I started re-reading “Rediscover Catholicism” with an RCIA candidate a few weeks ago, and one thing in particular has really intrigued me—the fact that we’re called to live authentic lives. To live authentically is to be real, sincere, genuine, hiding nothing. Our culture is largely based on appearances, which ultimately are superficial and don’t show what’s on the inside. Matthew Kelly points out, “Our hunger is not for appearances, nor is it for the fleeting and superficial; it is for something of substance. We are hungry for truth. The people of today are starving for the authentic, thirsting for the tiniest droplet of sincerity, aching to experience the genuine.”

We’re hungry for something lasting, something real. When other people meet us, is that what they find? Or are we like the chocolate bunny, attractive on the outside without anything of substance within?

I heard a story once from a Catholic speaker that in the Greek and Roman days, some column makers who wanted to save a buck would fill their columns with wax and sell them as genuine marble columns. They looked good on the outside, but the buyers soon discovered they had been scammed—the columns they had thought to be pure marble were really just hollow shells. Some etymologists even trace the word “sincere” back to the Latin “sine” + “cerus” which means “without wax”!

As we prepare to enter into this season of Lent, it’s the perfect time to take a good, hard look at ourselves. Are we sincere, “without wax”? Are we filled with Christ, Who makes us genuine and real? Or do we fill ourselves with a cheap imitation, with our own selfish wants, material things and money and TV and smartphones and a million other distractions? When we fill ourselves with wax, we sooner or later find ourselves to be hollow, and the state of our hearts soon starts to show on the outside, through selfishness and pride and resentment and other vices.

This week for me is always crunch time for figuring out my Lenten penance. Maybe the best way to figure out what God desires for me (and you!) to do for Lent is to start with this question: How can I become more authentic this Lent? How can I surrender more completely to what God wants to do with me so that He can fill me and be the center?

The more authentic we become, the more others will be able to see Christ in us. This is the most powerful thing we can do, before anything else—to become the person we’re called to be. Only then can others be drawn to that beauty, that goodness that comes from God alone. What our world needs more than anything else are authentic witnesses, people who have surrendered to God and strive to be sincere disciples!

“At every moment, the entire modern world kneels before us, begging, pleading, beckoning for some brave man or woman to come forward and lead them with the example of an authentic life.”

So what’s holding you back? What do you need to give over to God this Lent that’s keeping you from taking on this challenge to become an authentic disciple? Christ is calling YOU! Join me this week in taking time to ask him how you can become more authentic, more sincere, and more genuine than ever this Lent. I’m praying for each of you as we start this Lenten journey together! Come, Holy Spirit!

— Nikki

Tricia and Nikki Walz are proud Minnesotans who were born and raised in the heart of St. Cloud with their younger sister Briana. Read more about them on the “Meet Our Bloggers” page.

Marriage and St. Cyprian

Much concern has been expressed over Pope Francis’ Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, and in particular its eighth chapter.  This document is the pope’s summary statement on the deliberations of the world’s bishops over the last several years on the question of marriage and family.  There has been considerable discussion, controversy even, over whether or not this document of our Holy Father gives permission to the divorced and remarried to receive the Eucharist (without an annulment).

The question of mediating the grace and mercy of God to human beings, all of whom are touched in one way or another by sin and failure, is always challenging.  In Western Civilization, the breakdown of marriage has left us with so many Catholics who no longer participate in the life of the church because of failed marriages and entering new unions.  Are these people always to live on the fringes of the Christian community?  Are they forever to be excluded from communion in the Church?

It is not my intention to go into all the aspects of this very complex pastoral and moral dilemma.  There is, however, something I would like to share from my own reflection on the problem.  The problem of failed marriages has always faced the Church.  Still, in our culture, it has taken on new dimensions and become very prevalent, demanding new reflection from all who care to bring Christ to those in need of his grace.

This complex question brought to mind, and I ask you to bear with me on something that will at first seem very far removed, the so-called de lapsis controversy.  In the middle of the 3rd century AD, there were repeated outbreaks of serious and protracted persecutions under the emperors Decius (250-1), Gallus (252), and Valerian (257).  During these persecutions, rather than facing imprisonment, torture and death, many Christians renounced their faith in Christ.

Up until this point in the life of the church, Bishop Cyprian doubted that one who denied God could ever be reconciled with the Church.  This is not to say that bishops didn’t have to deal with this and find ways to reconcile some who had fallen before, but it never happened in such overwhelming numbers as during this 3rd century persecution throughout the whole Roman Empire.

In an attempt to both uphold the Church’s ancient faith concerning the absolute sacredness of the Christian’s baptismal vows and to, in some way, extend God’s mercy to reconcile the fallen to the Eucharistic table, there were synods and councils held throughout the Church.  Bishop Cyprian, who eventually was martyred in the persecution of Valerian, wrote a letter which has come to us as De Lapsis.

In light of our contemporary challenge, I reread Cyprian’s important statement.  I was struck by so much in it:  how intensely St. Cyprian upheld the traditional teaching of the Church, how profoundly he called the lapsed to recognize what they had lost and to repentance, and how real the mercy of God remains with power to reconcile.

One thing, in particular, I want to share is the starting point from which Bishop Cyprian approached the question.  How he, first and foremost, placed himself in a position of intense compassion, identifying himself with those who had denied their faith.  After praising those who gave their life in witness to the faith and those who suffered for their refusal to abandon Christ, he reminds his people of the sorrow in the Church that remains because of those who denied Christ,

“…these outstanding exploits of our brethren [the martyrs and confessors] cannot, alas, remove one cause of sorrow:  that the Enemy’s violence and slaughter have wrought havoc amongst us and have torn away something from our very heart and cast it to the ground.  What shall I do, dear brethren, in face of this?  My mind tosses this way and that—what shall I say?  How shall I say it?  Tears and not words can alone express the grief which so deep a wound in our body calls for, which the great gaps in our once numerous flock evoke from our hearts.  Who could be so callous, so stony-hearted, who so unmindful of brotherly love, as to remain dry-eyed in the presence of so many of his own kin who are broken now, shadows of their former selves, disheveled, in the trappings of grief?  Will he not burst into tears at sight of them, before finding words for his sorrow?  Believe me, my brothers, I share your distress, and can find no comfort in my own escape and safety; for the shepherd feels the wounds of his flock more than they do.  My heart bleeds with each one of you, I share the weight of your sorrow and distress.  I mourn with those that mourn, I weep with those that weep, with the fallen I feel I have fallen myself.  My limbs too were struck by the arrows of the lurking foe, his raging sword pierced my body too.  When persecution strikes, no soul can escape free and unscathed:  when my brethren fell, my heart was struck and I fell at their side

(Cyprian, translation by Maurice Bevenot, S.J., Oxford:  Clarendon Press, 1971, p. 7).

Notice, Cyprian’s intense, experiential identification with those who had denied their baptismal vows with the body of Christ.  Indeed, later he repeats boldly to those who have fallen that the bishop “feels your wound as his own” (Ibid., p.35).  All those who have fallen are part of the body which leaves not only them wounded, but the whole body wounded.
Our sisters and brothers who have experienced failed marriages bear wounds that we all share.  Their shame, their loneliness, their disappointment and bitterness, is ours as well.  Their longing for healing, for new life, for new love, is our longing.

Before discussing others, their sins and failures, and their place in or out of the Church, we must first find our place with them in their wounds, their need for mercy and their longing for reconciliation.

And before saying anything, we must be willing, like Cyprian, to weep with them in their sadness and brokenness.

Father Tony currently serves as pastor of Christ Church Newman Center in St. Cloud.

Summer, Winter or Anytime Reading

Every year, at one season or another, some well-intentioned soul comes up with a list of books that they think everyone should read.
Being a well-intentioned soul myself (and a former librarian), I couldn’t resist adding my own list to the pile.

Last spring my wife and I taught a literature class for the homeschool group we belong to, Regina Caeli.  The focus of our choices was the concept of divine mercy.

Jenna chose books in which divine mercy permeated the writing and fairly leapt off the page:  Corrie Ten Boom’s “The Hiding Place,” an amazing true story about her horrifying experience in World War II, and A.J. Cronin’s “Keys of the Kingdom,” about a priest setting up a mission in China and learning tolerance and compassion.

My choices, a little more off-beat, challenged the reader to find the concept of divine mercy.  These, and a few other titles, are my recommendations for anytime reading.

Shane, by Jack Schaefer – The second-best western I’ve ever read.  Very little gunplay, but with incredible dramatic tension, especially between two men and a stump!  The teens in my group loved this book.  They were especially impressed by Shane’s compassion at a key moment in the book.

War of the Worlds, by H. G. Wells – Everybody knows the story, but have you ever read it?  “Rule Britannia!” comes crashing down, saved in the end by…  If you don’t know, then you haven’t read the book, so I’m not going to spill the microbes here (oops!).

A Canticle for Liebowitz, by Walter M. Miller, Jr. – An oddly reassuring book that shows that the Catholic church will endure, regardless of the megatonage of nuclear weapons that obliterate civilization.  The smartest and most Catholic science fiction book ever written.

The Smiling Country, by Elmer Kelton – My own personal favorite work of fiction.  A little rough around the edges, but the best western I’ve ever read.  An aging cowboy in the prettiest part of Texas dealing with the intrusion of internal combustion machines.  An amazing cast of characters (his best friend’s name is Snort Yarnell), a touching and realistic romance, and no gunplay.  Guys: the end will make you cry, and that’s a good thing.  Wives: buy this book for your husband.

Yeah, I used to be a librarian.  But that didn’t keep me from liking good books.

Stephen Miller
-Member of St. Mary of Mount Carmel, Long Prairie.
-Not a native Minnesotan.
-Not a cradle Catholic.
-Former Librarian.
-Likes kids, somewhat baffled by adults.
-Married to the smartest and most beautiful woman in the world with whom we have six astonishing children.

God, the Ultimate Driver

Photo courtesy of St. Peter and St. Paul parishes.

This past week, the parishes of St. Peter and St. Paul in St. Cloud hosted a parish mission where Father Peter Schavitz gave different talks throughout the week.

One thing Father Peter did incredibly well was correlate our faith with real life stories. If you are like me, stories you can relate to and visualize tend to stick with you! Father Peter told one story in particular that really stuck with me:

A couple was stopped at a light and there was a car in front of them. This was in the time period when there was just one long seat and not individual seats in the front of the car. The couple in the first car were sitting so close it was hard to tell which one was even driving. The wife in the car behind pointed it out and laughed, looked at her husband, and said, “Do you remember when we used to be like that?” Her husband smiled and nodded. The wife pointed to all the space between them and asked her husband, ‘What happened?’ The husband smiled, looked at his wife and replied, ‘Honey, I haven’t moved!’

Father Peter related this story to our relationship with God. At times, we can get frustrated with God and ask, “Where were you?” or “How did you get so far away?” but God’s answer would be similar to that of the husband: “I haven’t moved!” He has always been in the same spot, but we are the ones moving away from Him!

At the times in our lives when we are stagnant or lukewarm in our faith, we are actually creating more distance between ourselves and God. Instead, we should be doing things to help us grow in our relationship and help bring ourselves closer to God, the ultimate driver of our lives. Think about your life at this very moment – are you scooting closer or further away from our driver?

–Tricia

Tricia and Nikki Walz are proud Minnesotans who were born and raised in the heart of St. Cloud with their younger sister Briana. Read more about them on the “Meet Our Bloggers” page.

Pain and the gift of community

While away from the parish recently, I was able to take time reflecting on what community is about.  I was helped with this by the wonderful little book Welcome as a Way of Life by Benjamin S. Wall.  The book reflects on the reality of community as it has been lived and reflected on by Jean Vanier.

Vanier is the French-Canadian founder of the communities called L’Arche, where people of normal capacities and people with intellectual disabilities live together in community as friends searching together for human fulfillment.  Jean Vanier is truly one of the spiritual giants of our age.

There is one significant point that Wall makes as he reflects on Vanier’s experience that really strikes me and challenges me.  Vanier insists that we often look to community as the place to heal our pain, our loneliness, and to free us from our sense that our lives don’t matter. In fact, however, “community accentuates these realities.  Although community can be life-giving, ‘it is also a place of pain because it is a place of truth and of growth’” (p. 30).  Community confronts us with the truth about ourselves as well as the other.   “While we are alone,” Vanier says, “we could believe we loved everyone.  Now that we are with others, living with them all the time, we realize how incapable we are of loving, how much we deny to others, how closed in on ourselves we are” (p. 31).

How often I encounter this in parish life.  People come to a parish to find God, to experience God’s love and to love others in the name of God.  People come to find others who know God and can help them grow closer to God.  Me, too, I would say.

Instead, what we often discover in the parish community are people who know less about God than we think we do, people whose lives do not match up so well with Jesus’ kingdom way, people who are hypocritical, controlling, judgmental and mean-spirited.

This, in turn, makes us angry, touching deep sources of anger within us.  We begin to find ourselves judging and talking negatively about the others.  Our own need to control comes out, as we in frustration realize we cannot control all the others in this parish.

Ironically, and painfully, this is the very place of encounter with reality, with what is true.  It is the encounter with the truth of our and others broken humanity.  This encounter is what has potential to lead us to the greatest truth:  that is, the truth of our need for and discovery of a savior who loves us not despite our brokenness, but with our brokenness.

As Vanier so powerfully reveals, in the painful encounter of community, we discover the truth that, “We must cry out to Jesus, the Saviour, who will send us his Spirit and guide us, and forgive us.  Only then can the truth make us free” (p. 28).

Community frees us from the illusion of being self-reliant and self-sufficient.  Community reveals to us our need for a Savior who loves us and who possess the healing balm that our broken self so desperately needs.  This is precisely the role of Christian community, to unmask our broken humanity and to turn our hearts to the God who is the source of authentic life.

And yet, make no mistake about it, this is a painful process.  It is why so many leave our parishes, deciding I suppose that it is much easier to live with the illusion that somewhere I will find and be part in the making of the perfect community, because I am good enough, rather than embracing the truth of my, and others, terrible vulnerability and need for constant mercy and healing generated by God.

Father Anthony Oelrich currently serves as pastor of Christ Church Newman Center in St. Cloud.

Bishop Kettler shares mother’s recipe in honor of Crêpe Day, February 2

February 2 is the Christian holiday of Candlemas, called “la Chandeleur” in France. It is also “le Jour des Crêpes” (the Day of the Crêpes) in this European country known for good food and wine.

Crêpes — both savory and sweet — will be created in home kitchens and quaint little “crêperies” all over France to celebrate this special day.

St. Cloud’s Bishop Donald Kettler

Recipes abound for these scrumptious super-thin pancakes but the one that his French mother, Marguerite, followed stirs up special memories for Bishop Donald Kettler, ordinary of the St. Cloud Diocese. The options for filling them are endless though his family especially enjoyed them served with butter and syrup or sugar (or sometimes fruit) for breakfast.

“Delicieux”!

Crêpes

(Submitted by Bishop Donald Kettler)

4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/3 cups milk
2 tbsp. butter, melted
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tbsp. white sugar
1/2 tsp. salt

In large bowl, whisk together all ingredients until smooth.

Heat a medium-sized skillet or crêpe pan over medium heat. Grease the pan with a small amount of butter or oil applied with a brush or paper towel. Using a serving spoon or small ladle, spoon about 3 tablespoons crêpe batter into hot pan, tilting the pan so that the bottom surface is evenly coated. Cook over medium heat, 1 to 2 minutes on a side, or until golden brown. Serve immediately.

A note at the bottom of Marguerite’s recipe advises, “You might add a couple more eggs.”

♥♥♥

Marguerite (Raiche) Kettler passed away at the age of 100 on October 13, 2013.

 

Carol Jessen-Klixbull is a copy editor at The Visitor. She is a former Family and Consumer Science teacher who has a passion for all things “food.”