Be present in the moment

Reflecting on this past month, I am filled with an incredible number of amazing memories. So many fun things took place that this blog could easily be made into a book!

Here are just a few of the highlights from the last month of my life:

At the end of June two friends of mine were ordained to the transitional diaconate and will become priests in just one short year!

 

 

 

 

July 1st my little sister, Briana, married the love of her life! Of course, we had the bachelorette party, Grooms dinner and the other festivities that come with a wedding!

 

 

Nikki and I were also given the wonderful opportunity to chaperone a group of high school students to Rochester for the Steubenville retreat!

 

 

I have learned so much through these experiences. First off, I never realized just how much work goes into putting on a wedding! But as much work as it was, I would wish we could re-live the day and do it all again because it was such a blast!

As hard as it was at times throughout the last month to be present in the moment and not anticipate the next fun thing, I learned that each day goes by so quickly, and to enjoy everything that comes your way, good or bad.

On the wedding day we started getting slightly behind schedule. There was a misunderstanding between the bridesmaids and the bride, so we showed up for pictures at the wrong place which put us even further behind! One thing I admired greatly from my sister was how she handled this little misunderstanding. Most brides, heck probably me, would have been anxious about getting things going and getting to the church, but Briana took things as they came. She was truly living in the moment and just embraced everything that came her way, never letting that smile leave her face! It would have been so easy to be so focused on getting to the pictures that we would have missed the fun of getting ready; or so focused on the reception that we missed the beautiful ceremony.

Overall, I took from this past month that focusing on the future will guarantee that you miss opportunities in the present!

“The present moment is never intolerable. What’s intolerable is what’s going to happen in the next four hours. To have your body here at 8 pm and your mind at 10:30 pm, that’s what causes us suffering.”

Anthony de Mello (1931-1987), Jesuit priest, author and speaker.

–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.

No one left behind

This blog post first appeared on the St. Benedict’s Monastery blog: www.stbensisters.blogspot.com. S. Renee has graciously allowed us to publish it here as well. To read more from S. Renee and other Benedictine sisters, visit their blog at the link above.

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Sometime ago, I had a dream in which I was one of a huge multitude of people. All of us had just been in a serious accident . . .but the surprising thing was that no one was afraid; rather, we were all smiling, talking animatedly, and helping one another . . .whether cleaning another’s wounds, giving water or meds to another or walking together along a very long path. No one seemed to need rest . . . but rather instinctively knew that, as we walked or limped, we were to leave no one behind! Apparently , all of us knew where we were going, i.e., to our Father’s House where we would surely see friends, members of our families, even those who made us suffer while on earth . . . Then I awakened!

Upon thinking of my dream, I realized it was expressing, for me, some thoughts on planting, watering and harvesting (of all unusual themes!). Quite literally, WE are the “crop”, the fruit of another’s labors in the family, the church, our society! I thought of the JOY on the faces of all in my dream; no one was sad! Were they so joyful because they were helping another? Welcoming another on the road? Allowing another to serve? Making sure no one would be left behind? Even more surprising to me was that everyone walked, fully confident that they were going HOME to the welcoming embrace of their Father and other family members.

I know that this dream expresses what I deeply desire—that we stand in awe of a God who depends upon us to bind up one another’s wounds or remind another of our undeserved privilege in being part of God’s family. It also expresses some of what I feel led to do: be a bridge of understanding and forgiveness, especially among the marginalized members of our society! How many more years will be given me? I don’t know. My friend, Fr. Rick Thomas gives an answer: “God speaks through circumstances. When He makes something possible, He wants you to do it; and when He makes it impossible, He wants you to quit.”

Have we reflected sufficiently on the circumstances of this day? What will I/you do so as to leave no one behind? With the Psalmist we can be sure that “ goodness and kindness will follow us all the days of our lives. . .”

Sister Renee Domeier has been a Benedictine for 60+ years. She loves to read at least one poem a day and write whenever time and inspiration are given her. She said, “I am very grateful for the gift of life within and around me!”

The Plan for the Pain

When your doctor tells you that you must have major surgery and that you will recover but that it will take two months or more, you cannot help but pause. You start asking questions fast. Is this necessary? Is there some other way? Could we reevaluate this? The answers come. You must have this surgery to solve the issues that put you in the doctor’s office to begin with. So, you make plans. You prepare those around you. You get people to schedule to help. You pack for the hospital stay. And, as a person of faith, you pray that you will be able to handle what is coming.

Waking up after the surgery, you are disorientated and there are complete strangers poking and lifting you. You look around and three angels, your people, sit in the chairs in the room. It all becomes a muddle as you fall back asleep wondering how the next days are going to go. Every time you wake up, they ask you how your pain is and you can’t tell. Nothing seems to not ache. And it hits you, in one of your more cognitive moments, is this an example of Christ’s suffering? Could this be a time for you to learn what His agony was like?

You let that go quickly because suffering in pain does not make you very popular. Besides, you are not SO holy that you would be good in physical distress. But the thoughts keep coming to you, especially when you pray. So, you give in and try to understand how this suffering can bring you closer to understanding the Cross. And you discover that pain is a nuisance. It binds you. It disturbs you. It grieves you. When people ask you how you are you repeat the same phrase hoping that they will just go away because you need to suffer alone. And again, you think of Jesus and how pain is isolating and emotional. No one can take away the pain.

Medication is a good thing. It’s amazing how medicine can change searing pain to a dull throb. Company is a healing wonder. People taking a moment to make a meal or do the dishes easies the pressure. Reading is a distracting consumer of time. Fiction about Newfoundland during 9/11, the writings of John XXIII, and a variety of things you don’t commit to reading in normal times all pass your way. Strange how they all have some form of suffering to their tales.

Jesus didn’t have any pain killers. He had some friends but they were unable to comfort him. Jesus could not be distracted. His mission was clear. Trust through this agony. Believe the Father’s plan for the pain. And there is the question. What is the Father’s plan for the pain? Will you walk out of this dying to yourself and be better? Will you now trust God, who is in our suffering, and know more of my Savior? Will you stop being ungrateful, unkind, and unavailable to others? Dozens of questions come to mind.

The contradictions of being under the influence of time and medication takes a toll on you. Should you really be reflecting on your life as you recover? Is this a good time for self-contemplation? And then you hear yourself laugh and you realize what God’s plan for your pain has been; to remember that the Cross is about love and that love is always around us, even in our pain. So, you sleep trusting and looking to the next day and the next plan.

By Guest Blogger Monica J. Simmons:

– Member of St. Michael Church, Motley.
– Crookston Native, Twins Fan, Nap Taker
– Has been in Youth Ministry for so long she forgets
– College & High School Grad, Perfect Attendance in 1st Grade
– Bible Camper, Retreat Admirer, Funniest Person in her home
– Single because Drums demand attention
– Wants a large dog really badly

Green Beans Anyone?

Father Marv’s sermon on Sunday was about the seed that’s sown in rich soil producing abundant fruit. Well, I think we’ve got good soil going here. At least when it comes to green beans. Good soil. Good seed. Good watering. Good grief! This morning I picked four 5-gallon pails of the things. Sometimes I see green beans in my sleep even.

 

We have a large garden. We don’t do a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) where we grow actual shares for customers but just about. We put our “Marvin’s Garden” sign at the end of the driveway when stuff is ready as well as taking pre-orders from our regular customers. The cute little red shed that my husband Marv built houses a frig and shelves that we sell out of.

Today’s lunch included Szechuan green beans. Nothing too difficult. You just cook your snipped green beans in a large pot of boiling water until crisp but firm (that’s called al dente!). Drain ‘em. Add some Szechuan sauce (I bought mine at Coborn’s but I know Walmart carries a couple of different brands as well; look for it in the Asian aisle next to the soy & teriyaki sauce). Toss to coat. Sprinkle on some almonds or cashews and va la’ – a spicy addition to your meal.

Keep tending the soil of your soul. Jesus wants us to bear much fruit – even “fruit” better than green beans! He wants us to respond to His Word and His Will. Keep enjoying summer. And, if you need anything green, please come our way.

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.

Missionary Disciples: Receiving our Story to Offer it to Others

Missionary Disciples

At the Catholic Convocation in Orlando, Joseph Cardinal Tobin, CSsr, of Newark, New Jersey, gave an impassioned overview of what we Catholics, as missionary disciples, are called to be for each other.

Before we can be missionary disciples of Jesus Christ, however, we need to receive the Story ourselves. Of course there are many ways to do so, but none of them are as powerful done alone as when they are when done in community.

Media: A Communal Event

Books are a prime example. But let me digress first.

When I was a child, television was still in its infancy. One neighborhood may have a lucky home wealthy enough, or driven enough, to purchase a television set. Then the neighbors would all gather around a box the size of a freezer, with a screen the size of a frozen dinner. And of course, a prime time for gathering would be on Saturday evenings, usually around professional wrestling as I recall.

According to Elizabeth Drescher in her book Tweet if you [Heart] Jesus books have a similar history. Instead of being a refuge into which a wearied soul would retreat for some isolated inspiration, education or entertainment, book reading was a communal event:

“Actually, long after the invention of the printing press, until quite late in the nineteenth century, reading was a quintessentially social medium—a communal affair with a group of hearers gathering around a reader to engage a book, letter, newspaper, or other written work. Reading together in this way encouraged not just intellectual or, in the case of religious writing, spiritual understanding, but also enhanced interpersonal relationships that contributed to the shared life of communities and, it would have gone without saying in the Christian world, their churches.”(p. 64)

Like the TV, neighbors would gather around a book to share its content.

Book clubs are still a common method of building community while receiving a story. Often I hear about groups that gather, and barely discuss the book. Their need for connection is so great, that they hardly get to the shared story. I don’t think that is necessarily a bad thing. But there is an online tool that can serve as a repository for thoughts, comments and questions about the reading. Then, when the book club meets, they can choose to unpack those reflections together… or ignore them and just visit. The web-based sharing is available 24/7 and, in fact, has already taken place to some extent before the group meeting.

Padlet: A Tool for Online Sharing

Dan Pierson’s eCatechist blog for missionary disciples engaged in faith formation offers one example of such an effort. There is a ‘book read’ on Gerard Baubach’s The Way of Catechesis: Exploring Our History, Renewing Our Ministry. You can buy the book on Dan’s site, and then join the discussion using Padlet [https://padlet.com].

Use Padlet.com to share book notes.
Use Padlet.com to share book notes.

Padlet is a free and very, very easy way to create a bulletin board for discussion. You simply double click on the board, and post what you want to say or ask. You can also attach a file, take a webcam photo, and/or embed a link to an online video.

Imagine reading a book, with your mobile device in hand (there’s an app for that) or computer in front of you, and post comments or questions as they come to mind. Or share a YouTube video that adds feeling to what you are trying to convey. Imagine watching the bulletin board grow, as well as your sense of online community, as you watch the board become populated with the posts of others. Then, when you gather, you come prepared for a deep and lively discussion. Or not… if you just want to visit. In either case, you have received, and communally unpacked, the story. Now… what Story shall we unpack this time that will help us become better missionary disciples? Hmmmm

Tim Welch is the Consultant for Educational Technology at Catholic Education Ministries, Diocese of Saint Cloud, MN. With more that 35 years of experience at the parish and diocesan levels, he is continually searching for ways of journeying with others to implement proven technologies that can serve ministry (especially catechesis).

A word of thanks

A little more than a year ago, The Visitor launched this “From the Heart” blog with the hope of giving Central Minnesota Catholics another way to see the world through a Catholic lens and be inspired to live their faith more deeply in their day-to-day lives. When you start something new — even if it seems to be a good idea — you’re never quite sure if it will really be a success.

But thanks to our cadre of excellent bloggers and the care and coordination provided by Visitor reporter Kristi Anderson, “From the Heart” has been extremely successful in its inaugural year. But you don’t have to take my word for it. The Catholic Press Association honored it with a first place award as the best group blog in the U.S. and Canada at last month’s Catholic Media Conference in Quebec City, Canada.

Here’s what the judges said: “The blog has a good balance of local, national and international stories. It demonstrates the ways to integrate Catholicism into everyday life. Diverse articles demonstrate that faith can be something that weaves through all aspects of life. They delve into difficult topics, such as reviewing a [play] about clergy abuse. They also cover recipes, aging, grief, travel, social media/internet, etc. They have a very easy search function where posts could be found by month. The writing is high quality.”

Thank you again to our regular bloggers and the guest bloggers who have joined us along the way this first year. Keep up the great work!

To our readers: If you know someone who is a talented writer and may like to contribute to the blog, please send her or his name and contact information to Kristi at KBAnders@gw.stcdio.org.

Joe Towalski is communications director for the Diocese of St. Cloud and editor of The Visitor newspaper.

Brave in the Attempt

Special Olympians are pictured here at the Minnesota State Special Olympics track competition held in Apple Valley this month.

My parents, nieces and nephews are active in Special Olympics. I have helped coach track and this spring spent the day at a swimming meet for Special Olympians. My niece has special needs and the entire family has become involved – supporting her, coaching the athletes, raising community awareness, organizing events. I have written before that we all have times and places where we KNOW God is. Sure, it is easy to experience God in church on Sunday. But I know, without a doubt, God is on the track at Melrose High School Thursday nights in the spring and summer, working in the lanes at Melrose Bowl each Sunday afternoon and evening in the winter, and is present everywhere these amazing athletes are.

There is a truth and beauty in their smiles. Nothing is hidden or masked. You can see, hear, and feel their joy. Often their spirits soar, filled with genuine excitement, and express it without fear of criticism. They are open about their feelings, not hiding behind pride or fear. They are gifted with the ability to live in the moment.

Their motto, recited before each competition, is “Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.” Loudest cheers are not necessarily for the winner, but for the final person to finish. Because they kept going. They never gave up.

It struck me – how do God’s teachings apply? I did some research and found information about the need to understand the teachings regarding salvation and having the ability to repent from sin. But what if you are unable to comprehend the idea of “sin”? Do they live in a special state of grace based on their challenges? These are all profound theological arguments for scholars far above my Catholic understanding/pay grade.

Above, some of the members of the Sauk-Melrose Golden Eagles basketball team show their medals after a competition last winter.

This is what I know. Yes, in church on Sunday, they won’t know the “right” words. (But, who are we to judge? Do we have the revised Nicene creed with “consubstantial with the Father” figured out?) They might not know how to hold their hands or when to bow or genuflect. But are the mechanics, in their cases, that important? Shouldn’t we delight in their presence in our community? What if we all could live that honesty, with our hearts on display?

I found John 9:2-3

His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

A day with these athletes will show you these works of God. I personally believe we just need to trust God’s plan for them and us. I think they are definitely created by God to teach us all a few things. (And their families teach us about strength and patience – God bless all of you!) They are gifts from God and not condemned, not punishment, not retarded, or any other awful, judgmental description.

God is alive in them! His works are displayed in them! In the Irish language, they use the term “duine le Dia” to describe individuals with mental challenges. It translates to “a person with God.” One night on the track, in the lanes, on the court, or in the pool will show you this is true.

 

Sheila Hellermann is a member of St. Rose of Lima Church in St. Rosa. She works at St. John’s University as a program and department coordinator for several academic departments. Read more about Sheila on the “Meet Our Bloggers” page.

Body And Soul

I recently ran a 5K. This comes from the girl who five years ago thought running was only for athletes. It’s also from the girl who is not competitive, therefore speed is not my goal but finishing the race is my prize.

After my Irish twins (now 5 and 6 years old) arrived in God’s amazing and surprising timing exactly 11.5 months apart, workouts and fitness became an outlet. I quickly found that the body and spirit connection was fueled just as much in prayer as it was in physical activity. Nothing crazy mind you, just moving. It started out with walking and other workouts, but eventually followed with running (aka jogging) if I could fit it in a couple times a week. It wasn’t really about the numbers on the scale, but instead more about feeling healthy and clearing my head.

Fast forward five years and I still stand firm on the belief that just as my day must start with at least some prayer time, it also needs to have some physical activity. To be physically and spiritually healthy is vital to our well-being. Each comes with its own amount of difficulty, especially when it calls on us to reorganize and prioritize our schedule and our lives. Neither activity is really about the exact perfect end or who wins the race. It’s a win-win for you either way. You better bet though that both will be challenging, laden with ups and downs, triumphs and stumbling blocks. Just about when I’m feeling confident, a plateau or a wall hits, and whether that’s with my physical body or my spiritual one, it causes me to stretch and grow.

As I ran the recent race, I found myself grateful for all of those hard workouts when I fought to stay moving. I felt confident in every stride and felt really good the whole race. Nearing the end, I couldn’t help but thank God for the gift of my health and the ability to use my body for good, for myself and for tending to the needs of others. The aches and pains weren’t at the front of my mind, but a spirit of gratitude rose to the surface.

I’ve come to know that the persistence and importance of my prayer life does reap rewards. Like physical activity, when I least want to make time for God is when I need to take the time and do it. Avoiding either makes the return ever more difficult. While neither road to well-being is consistently lined with rainbows and flowers, I know that God desires the best for me in order to serve Him well.

How well are you running the race these days, spiritually or physically? Do you find either to be especially challenging while tending to the daily to-do list, a job, your vocation and caring for the needs of others? You are not alone, my friend. I hope you can find the right way for you to take another step forward in your spiritual and physical health this summer. God may surprise you and do great things after you take that first leap.

Sarah Heidelberger is a wife and homeschooling mom of five who keeps her days steady with her planning and organizing skills. Read more about her on the “Meet Our Bloggers” page.

Fostering new growth: A reflection from Father Tony Oelrich at the Convocation of Catholic Leaders

Father Tony Oelrich is currently part of a delegation of 11 from the Diocese of St. Cloud who are attending the U.S. Bishop’s Convocation of Catholic Leaders in Orlando, Florida, July 1-4.

Father Anthony Oelrich and Father Robert Rolfes prepare for the Opening Mass at the Convocation of Catholic Leaders July 1 in Orlando, Florida.

I have the privilege of attending with other St. Cloud diocesan leaders the Catholic Convocation of Leaders:  The Joy of the Gospel. This convocation was called by the United States bishops and brought together leaders from throughout the nation to gather and reflect on what it means to share the Gospel in today’s culture. It has been a time of wonderful encouragement and inspiration.

Certainly, an aspect of the inspiration throughout the convocation is Pope Francis’ invitation:

“I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them” (The Joy of the Gospel, 3).

Many of the talks, much of the reflection and dialogue revolved around how the Church in the U.S. might extend this same invitation of encounter with Jesus to people everywhere.

Delegates pray during Mass at the “Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America” July 2 in Orlando, Fla. Leaders from dioceses and various Catholic organizations are gathering for the July 1-4 convocation. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

What makes this encounter so crucial was expressed for me in the witness talk given by Damon and Melanie Owens who shared beautifully, “We will do for love what we would never do for the law!”  Indeed, the invitation to encounter and fall in love with Jesus Christ is the heart of the Church’s mission to the world.  We are hard pressed to convince people of the truth of Christ by eloquent arguments or authoritative doctrines, but to see the beauty of the face of Jesus who heals, transforms, and frees us enkindles a love that truly inspires the gift of love in return.

One of the presenters in a breakout session helped me to see poignantly how we as Church might best extend this invitation to folks today.  What we need, she said, was “An army of missionary disciples trained in the art of relationship and accompaniment.”  Those of us who cherish our Catholic faith must be willing to extend the friendship and care of Jesus to the people we encounter—in our homes, work places, schools, places of leisure.  Like Jesus meeting up and walking with the two dejected fellows on their way from Jerusalem to Emmaus, so too must we be willing to hear the hopes and dreams, fears and disappointments of our contemporaries in order to point out the always present love and companionship of Jesus in the midst of it all.

Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl smiles while speaking during the “Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America” July 2 in Orlando, Fla. Leaders from dioceses and various Catholic organizations are gathering for the July 1-4 convocation. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

In a plenary address by Cardinal Donald Wuerl, we were reminded of the urgency of this need to extend Christ’s saving love to our neighbors.  We have been gifted with the friendship and love of Jesus in our lives.  “It is,” Cardinal Wuerl insisted, “our turn now!”  It is for us to share the gift of friendship with Jesus with others.  Now it is our turn to extend the gospel message of God’s always present mercy and grace to this generation, to our contemporaries.

It is hoped that the blessings of this convocation might extend widely throughout the Church in the U.S. and foster a new growth in all the baptized to become missionary disciples of Jesus Christ the Lord!

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