The Paschal Mystery

The Second Vatican Council’s document on the Sacred Liturgy reminds us that “the church has never failed to come together to celebrate the paschal mystery, reading those things ‘which were in all the scriptures concerning him’ (Lk 24:27), celebrating the Eucharist in which ‘the victory and triumph of his death are again made present,’ and at the same time ‘giving thanks to God for his inexpressible gift’ (1 Cor 9:15) in Christ Jesus, ‘in praise of his glory’ (Eph 1:12) through the power of the Holy Spirit” (n. 6).

This celebration of our Lord’s paschal mystery is what makes the week we are now beginning holy, the summit of the church’s life.

That word paschal reminds us that Jesus’ entire life was directed toward the gift of himself in love to the Father for us.  Because, as Fleming Rutledge points out in her fine book The Crucifixion, “the life of Jesus is single-mindedly directed toward his self-offering…His death…was the willed culmination of that life of self-giving for our good” (p. 31).  His resurrection was the Father’s embrace of that gift in joy and faithfulness.

That word mystery reminds us that this act of love is not confined to history, but is a present reality.  As the biblical scholar Luke Timothy Johnson points out, “Christian faith has never—either at the start or now—been based on historical reconstructions of Jesus, even though Christian faith has always involved some historical claims concerning Jesus.  Rather, Christian faith (then and now) is based on religious claims concerning the present power of Jesus…Christian faith is not directed to a human construction about the past: that would be a form of idolatry.  Authentic Christian faith is a response to the living God, whom Christians declare is powerfully at work among them through the resurrected Jesus” (The Real Jesus, 133, 143).  Mystery is the present experience of a once for all event acting powerfully in our lives today.

Please do what you can to find your way to church this Holy Week for the various celebrations of our Lord’s paschal mystery.  Open yourself to the act of love in which Jesus offers himself to the Father for us present here and now in love and power, to heal and save, to empower and send forth on mission.

Circles of Understanding

Do not mistreat foreigners who are living in your land … Love them as you love yourselves. Lev. 19:33

Many people in the St. Cloud area have been struggling over the fact that we have many Muslim refugees living in our community. Some struggle because they are afraid. With the increased attention from national news, it’s not hard to understand. But it shouldn’t be that way.

Refugees from Somalia make up the largest number of Muslim residents in the area and have been coming here for many years. Many of them are citizens now, which is why we need to make an effort to get to know them. Their stories are fascinating and sometimes heartbreaking.

On March 24, people from different faith communities gathered at Discovery School in St. Cloud for the second “Circles of Understanding” event.

Sponsored by the St. Cloud Area Faith Leaders group, a group that Bishop Donald Kettler helped to create, the events aim to bring people from varied faith backgrounds together in small groups to get to know each other. Many from the Somali community participated.

“So much of what is causing the fear that seems to be rampant is misconceptions, false ideas or ‘fake news’, and people not sitting down with each other,” said Kathy Langer, director of social concerns for Catholic Charities and an organizer of the event.

“In Circles of Understanding, people spend two hours together, getting to know each other.  Not playing a game and not checking their phones, but really talking and listening with their hearts open. No distractions, no entertainment, but just listening and sharing stories and thoughts,” she said. “People are really amazing when they are given the opportunity to be a part of Circles. You can see it on their faces. Walls of fear and misconception disappear. That is what Jesus did and that is what we are all called to do…to sit with and to listen.  What comes from a heart open to listening is the Spirit’s work.”

This effort is something that is very close to our bishop’s heart.

“As a priest and bishop, an important part of my ministry is to bring unity between people and God as well as strive to unite people in the community,” Bishop Donald Kettler said in a column last year. “Since arriving in the diocese three years ago, I have worked to foster peace and unity among our faith communities.”

“Get to know better some of our Somali-Muslim brothers and sisters,” he recommended. “Search for opportunities to share a conversation or a meal.”

And the timing of the “Circles” event couldn’t have been better because earlier in the week, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops released a reflection titled “Living as a People of God in Unsettled Times.” The reflection was issued “in solidarity with those who have been forced to flee their homes due to violence, conflict or fear in their native lands,” according to a news release. In this short document, the bishops encourage Catholics to reach out to immigrants and refugees in their communities.

“Let us not lose sight of the fact that behind every policy is the story of a person in search of a better life,” the reflection says. “They may be an immigrant or refugee family sacrificing so that their children might have a brighter future.”

You can read the whole reflection here:

You never know what someone has been through in their life. Take the time to get to know these new members of our community. You won’t be disappointed.

Dianne Towalski is a multimedia reporter for The Visitor as well as the paper’s page designer. Read more about Dianne on our Meet Our Bloggers page.

Hi-yo Silver, away!

The other day was my youngest daughter’s birthday. By happy coincidence it was also my birthday. She turned 5 years old, and so did I (except that there’s another number in front of my 5).

Due to the “busyness” factor of our family, our birthday celebrations were stretched out over three days. Today, five days after my birthday, my wife found a present that Gloria had made for me. It was in a gift bag, and I had the honor of opening yet another present in front of the family.

Inside the gift bag were a couple of wads of tissue paper, and inside one of the wads was something wrapped and taped in more tissue paper.  Opening this I found an aluminum foil packet about the size of the palm of my hand. I opened the packet and inside were little pieces of aluminum foil, some were rolled up like balls.

I said, “Wow, Gloria. What is it?”

She said, “Silver bullets.”

My heart just melted. My daughter thinks I’m the Lone Ranger! I really like the Lone Ranger, but didn’t think my fondness for the masked man had registered with her that deeply.

Do you know why the Lone Ranger used silver bullets?  The movies and TV show about the Lone Ranger are based on a series of books by Fran Striker Jr.  I’ve only read the first one, appropriately titled “The Lone Ranger.”  It’s a fictional origin story of the Lone Ranger, giving the back story to his name and “accoutrement” (that’s French for all the cool stuff he wore).  It explains that silver is a fairly soft metal, so that bullets made of silver won’t kill anyone, but is more like a punch. As the Lone Ranger puts it: “I don’t shoot to kill. I want a silver bullet to be a symbol of justice.”

Fran Striker also wrote a “Lone Ranger Creed,” part of which reads: “… God put the firewood there but that every man must gather and light it himself.” Think of that the next time you gather around the old campfire. It’s fun to sit there and swap stories or jokes, perhaps trying to top the last whopper with something bigger and better.

Our mouths, like a six-shooter, are capable of shooting lead or silver. The Book of James, in Chapter 3 says: “For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. This need not be so, my brothers.”

This Lent I’m going to gentle my words, to try hard to control my mouth.  To think before I talk.  Maybe I really don’t need to top the last whopper.

Stephen Miller
-Member of St. Mary of Mount Carmel Parish, 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.

Do pretzels have anything to do with Lent?

The pretzel indeed has its origins as an official food of Lent. In the early Church, the Lenten abstinence and fasting laws were stricter than what the faithful practice today. Many areas of the Church abstained from all forms of meat and animal products. The general rule was for a person to have one meal a day, in the evening or at three o’clock in the afternoon, and smaller snacks to maintain strength. So a need arose for a very simple food, which would fulfill both the abstinence and fasting laws.

According to pretzel maker Snyders of Hanover, a young monk in the early 600’s in Italy was preparing a special Lenten bread of water, flour and salt. To remind his brother monks that lent was a time of prayer, he rolled the bread dough in strips and then shaped each strip in the form of crossed arms, mimicking the then popular prayer position of folding one’s arms over each other on the chest. The bread was then baked as a soft bread.

Because these breads were shaped into the form of crossed arms, they were called “bracellae,” the Latin word for “little arms.” From this word, the Germans derived the word “bretzel” which has since mutated to the familiar word “pretzel.”

If you would like to make soft pretzels with your children as a “teachable moment” before Lent is over, this recipe will work (as would thawed frozen bread dough from the grocery store).

Soft Pretzel Recipe
(I actually mixed the dough using my bread machine but if you don’t have one, this isn’t hard either.)

1 package active dry yeast
1 ½ cups warm water (110 degrees)
1 Tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
4 cups all purpose flour
1 egg
2 Tablespoons kosher salt

In a large bowl, combine yeast, water, sugar and salt. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes. Stir in the flour until a stiff dough is formed.

Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover and let rise until doubled in volume.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 18 pieces. Roll pieces out into long strips and shape into the form of arms crossed in prayer.

Place on parchment-lined (or sprayed) baking sheets. Brush with a beaten egg to give a shiny finish (I skipped the egg on ours). Sprinkle the tops with kosher salt if desired.

Bake in preheated 375-degree oven for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown.

Rita Meyer is married and the mother of four children age 17 and under. She and her family are members of St. John the Baptist Parish in Meire Grove.

There’s no place like home

Early in March, I was up on a step ladder painting my 13-year-old son’s bedroom a brilliant red on one wall and a royal blue on another to coordinate with his two favorite baseball teams: the Minnesota Twins and the Chicago Cubs – who, by the way, he was a fan of BEFORE they won the World Series last year.

I was mid stroke with the paintbrush when I heard my cell phone ring. I had been alerted the day before that I might be “on call” if the Benedictine sisters were getting close to naming a new prioress. So I left my post and grabbed my phone, careful not to swipe the screen with the splatters of paint on my hands. And indeed, it was Sister Karen Rose telling me it was almost time.

Normally, I might be annoyed at being interrupted, that I’d now have to abandon my project, clean myself up and dash out to the assignment, leaving behind my family and unfinished work on a precious Saturday “off.” But, instead, I felt excited and I hurriedly showered, threw on some non-paint splattered clothes and some make up. Less than an hour later, I had my jeep warmed up and waiting at the house of our photographer, Dianne Towalski. The two of us then headed for St. Joseph.

As we walked into the vast gathering space at the monastery, it was very quiet. We were greeted by a volunteer who told us, “It shouldn’t be long now.” The great doors of the chapel were closed but from outside we could hear cheering and clapping. Then music began to play and we could faintly hear the sisters’ voices in song. After just a few more minutes, the great doors were opened wide and out came two sisters, Sister Agatha Muggli, vice president of the Benedictine Federation, and Sister Susan Rudolph.

Dianne Towalski/The Visitor

The two sisters hugged tightly and then Sister Susan, the newly named prioress-elect, walked down the steps and awaited the greetings of each of her sisters. One by one, they came and hugged her, congratulated her, assured her of their support and love.

As Dianne captured the hallowed moments with her camera, I tried to drink in the beauty and sacredness of witnessing this blessed time. Many of the sisters whom I knew also came to welcome me. As Prioress Sister Michaela Hedican greeted me with open arms, I felt an incredible surge of love and admiration for these women of God. I felt the seriousness of their vocation, the resounding “yes” each had given to their calling, the reverence of their past, the excitement of their present, their hopefulness for their future. In those precious minutes there, I

Dianne Towalski/The Visitor

felt awed, humbled and grateful amidst those who were there, those who walked before them, those who will carry on their legacy and tradition; those who paved the way, those who shape the now, those who will lead into the light of the future.

It was a little like a trip to “Oz” for me – transported to a special colorful world with enchanting people who I felt like I’d known forever. It was a little like a dream, something to ponder and cherish. And just like the wizard in the classic movie, the sisters imparted gifts to take with me, gifts I’ve always had inside of me, given to me by the Lord, gifts I used to help tell their story.

And just like that, it was time to leave. Though I didn’t have sparkly red shoes nor the inclination to click my heels together, like Dorothy, I knew in my heart that there’s no place like home.

What seemed like only moments later, I was once again back on that trusty old step ladder, the bright paint bringing new life to the walls and new joy to my son’s eyes. In that brief window of time with the sisters, they, too, gave me new life, new joy and perhaps new understanding of my own unique God-given purpose as a wife and mother, and as a writer.

Thank you, Lord, for my vocation. Please help me always to use it to your glory. And thank you for the vocations of others through whom we can see you more clearly. Please help all those who are searching to find their own calling, that they may hear your voice and courageously answer. Amen.

Kristi Anderson is a multimedia reporter and blog coordinator for The Visitor. Read more about Kristi on the Meet Our Bloggers page.