Out of Our Minds and Into Christ’s Heart

For this blog post, I am going to focus on these two lines from the Gospel of Mark (3:20, 22):

“Jesus came HOME with his disciples…. When his relatives heard of this, they set out to seize him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind.’”

So, the event of coming back home for Jesus was not one marked with joy, acceptance, and love.  How ironic, and yet in some ways how sadly typical, that his own relatives labeled Jesus as ‘out of his mind.’

Therefore, if anyone has ever told you that YOU are out of your mind, you are in good company with Jesus!

But of course, Jesus was very much in his right mind.  It is the mind of Jesus, as well as his heart, that provide our best examples for living.  Indeed, to have the heart and thoughts of the Lord Jesus is what we all attempt to strive for, day by day.

However, the relatives of Jesus apparently did not see it that way.  They judged him for being different… perhaps they were threatened by the big following he had;  maybe they didn’t appreciate his uniqueness;  and sadly for them, they did not want to learn from this man who was also Divine.

We also may have experienced times in life when we were not understood.  Because of daring to be different, we also may have been called putdown names such as ‘crazy’ and ‘out of our minds.’  Please know that it is okay to be different, and that each and every one of us is unique.

In our modern day, with advances in psychiatry, we know there are real biological conditions, referred to as mental illnesses, that have to do with brain chemistry and the uptake of neurotransmitters.  These illnesses can be helped through appropriately prescribed medications.  Mental illness diagnoses are more common than many might think.  In fact, in most church congregations, there is a prevalence of approximately 1 out of every 4 or 5 people sitting in the pews suffering from some form of mental illness.

So please note, having a mental illness is not a sign of weak character, a punishment from God, a sign of being possessed by the devil (as Jesus was accused of), an indicator of poorly developed faith, or a lack of trying.

We need to be respectful with our language (unlike how Jesus’ relatives spoke of him!), and it can help so much if we are willing to be open to talking about mental health.  We also need to be supportive of the struggle and recovery of others, by encouraging others to seek the help they may need.

Another situation where we might personally feel like we are “out of our minds” is in the midst of grief.  Each one of us grieves our life losses differently.  Sometimes we can go through periods where we would like to cry, but we can’t.  Other times it may seem like we cry continuously, and we wish we could stop.  All kinds of grief reactions are normal, and are a sign of great love.  However, grieving is hard work, and at times you may wonder if you will ever again be back to your “right mind”… whatever that might be!  By grieving, you actually will not go back to normal, so to speak, but will grow into a new normal.  And you come to realize you will survive.  But please, reach out for help… perhaps through a counselor, a support group,  your pastor, or a chaplain.

Remember that the shortest but one of the most profound verses in Scripture is  “Jesus wept.”  Jesus too experienced grief… in this verse Jesus cried in response to the death of a friend..  and He was not afraid to show his feelings.  Such truth there is in the song, “What a friend we have in Jesus.”  Jesus truly “gets us.”  Allow Jesus into your thoughts and hearts, and he will help guide you.

Deb Forstner is daughter of Bob and Joan Forstner of Fargo, ND. She is a graduate of Fargo Shanley High School, the College of St. Benedict, University of Wisconsin-Stout, and St. John’s School of Theology. She worked for many years in the St. Cloud Schools as a school psychologist. She currently serves as a NACC-certified chaplain at Lake Region Healthcare in Fergus Falls, Minnesota, and is a member of Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church. She is the owner of two rescue dogs; one of which is a certified therapy dog who at times accompanies her in ministry, named Deacon.

“Power In My Hands”

“Power In My Hands” is a brand new film that uncovers the beauty and power of the rosary. The Rosary Evangelization Apostolate, a non-profit organization, have answered the pleas of the Popes from St. John Paul II to Pope Benedict XVI to Pope Francis to call upon humanity to turn to Jesus through the rosary. Through various Mary apparition messages given at Fatima, Akita in Japan, Kibeho in Africa, and San Nicholas in Argentina (approved by the Church in 2016), Our Lady has encouraged the recitation of the rosary daily.

The production is 80-minutes in-length and intended to fill the viewer with hope. It also represents various ethnic cultures and is all about encountering Jesus Christ and Our Lady through the rosary.

The film, Power In My Hands, was launched at the World Premiere in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in April, 2018, and showings in area theaters are currently being shown. Additional showings will be available upon request for dioceses, parishes, schools, and organizations. After the premieres, DVD distribution will take place across the country and beyond.

The film portrays that America is in a spiritual crisis and the solution is Jesus Christ through Our Lady and her Rosary. The movie encourages one to “gaze on the Face of Jesus with Mary” to help bring about a spiritual transformation in the world.

Philip Rivers, quarterback for the NFL Los Angeles Chargers, Jeff Cavins, a Catholic convert and Biblical Scholar, Nancy Salerno, a wife and mother of four children in Wisconsin, Rebecca Roubion and Chris Czarka, young music recording artists and Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers from Portland who gives a beautiful witness to being raised fatherless are well known individuals who share their testimony and individual stories in this very recent film.

This film will provide encouragement, hope with original music and a truthful message and also a much needed spiritual boost for families around the world! I am looking forward to seeing the movie and will promote it to be shown at St. Boniface Church in Cold Spring in the near future.

Guest blogger, Sheila Pulju, is pictured here with her husband Rich. They are members of St. Boniface Church in Cold Spring, Minnesota.

A DAY IN THE LIFE: Seminarian Rick Aubol

Seminarian Rick Aubol

Introducing a new monthly series called, “A Day in the Life.” This section will feature a day in the life of Catholic folks from around the diocese. This is the first in the series and features seminarian Rick Aubol, who is studying for the priesthood at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. He is scheduled to be ordained as a transitional deacon on June 16 at 10:30 a.m. at St. Mary’s Cathedral in St. Cloud.

From Rick:
This is my first view early in the morning. We wake up very early to pray morning prayer and Mass so we have time for breakfast and walking to class.
Next is of us walking into the chapel for prayer as said above.
Then breakfast.
On the walk to class. This is the market in il Campo de Fiori. Here they sell all sorts of produce and products.
The second is from a different route along one of the main roads through town which goes by San Andrea delle Valle, which is like a mini St. Peter’s.
This is part of the excavated Roman ruins and Trajan’s column with a statue of St. Peter atop it at the bottom of the hill my university sits on.
The gate of my university, the Pontifical University of St. Thomas in the city, or the Angelicum for short.
A view inside a classroom.
Place for breaks, the back garden. Beautiful and peaceful, especially in the spring with the orange and then lemon blossoms bloom. Also home to the biggest olive tree I’ve ever seen.
On the way home, Trajan’s column and twin Marian churches.
Back roads way home where we have a community lunch, or pranzo, in Italian.
My somewhat messy room where I often study. The afternoons are our time to get everything done, including meets, apostolates, and homework.
Going into the chapel for vespers. After this dinner, or cena in Italian, is served. Then the night is often free. Guys may watch movies, read, study, hang out, etc. Some go out to eat in the city instead.

Bottles and Water (part three in a series)

Guest blogger Yvette Piggush shares reflections about her recent trip to Lourdes, France. This is the final in a series.

My bottles of Lourdes water.

Souvenir shops in Lourdes sell many kinds of water bottles: gallon jugs, plastic bottles shaped like Mary with a screw-off crown, spray bottles, and tiny, jewel-like glass bottles. I had only seen water from Lourdes reverently stored in these special containers. In my experience, people regarded this water almost as a kind of miracle-working juice, one drop of which could defeat cancer or mend a broken heart. At the shrine, by contrast, the water was so abundant it almost seemed ordinary. People collected it using regular water bottles and they spilled it everywhere in the process. No one acted as though a drop or two would change their lives. Yet, in February 2018, the Catholic Church officially recognized the seventieth miracle attributed to Lourdes (https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/its-a-miracle-lourdes-healing-officially-declared-supernatural-84194).

Lourdes water special equipment.

St. Bernadette insisted that Lourdes water was not a magic potion. “One must have faith and pray,” she urged, “the water will have no virtue without faith.” The spring had its origins in an act of penance. In her apparition on February 25th, Mary directed Bernadette to scrape water out of the muddy ground at the back of the grotto and to drink and wash with it as a sign of penitence. Disgusted, Bernadette spit out the murky brew several times before managing to swallow some of it and to smear the rest on her face. People thought she had gone insane.

Pilgrims fill bottles with water from the miraculous spring at a row of taps.

Struggling for a way to say goodbye to Lourdes, I recalled Mary’s instructions to Bernadette. I went to the taps, cupped my hands, and drank, spilling water everywhere. I then took another handful of water and poured it on my head. I realized that I like bottles too much. Open gestures of faith are difficult for me. Yet faith, like water, needs to be poured out in order to have any effect. The most penitential experience I could muster in the moment was braving my friend’s quizzical look at my dripping face. But, just as the water has no virtue without faith, so too does our faith lack virtue if it is not like water, poured out, spilling over, and making us look a little silly for Christ.

Yvette Piggush is active in St. Mary’s Cathedral parish in St. Cloud. She teaches in the English Department at the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University. When she isn’t reading something, she may be found baking desserts, going on long walks, and enjoying time with her nieces and goddaughters.

The Grotto of Lourdes (part two in a series)

Guest blogger Yvette Piggush shares reflections about her recent trip to Lourdes, France. This is the second in a series.

The grotto at Lourdes. The statue marks the niche where Mary appeared to St. Bernadette.

The shrine of Lourdes in southern France commemorates the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Saint Bernadette Soubirous between February 11 and July 16, 1858. The majority of these apparitions took place in February and March, but the pilgrimage season is from May through October. So, when we arrived in Lourdes in early March, we quickly learned one French word: fermé (closed). The tourist information office was “fermé,” many shops and restaurants were “fermé,” sites related to Bernadette’s life were “fermé,” and even the parish church was “fermé.” As a result, we approached the shrine itself with some misgivings about what might be “fermé” there.

Pilgrims touch and kiss the rocks of the grotto as they pray.

But the fact that the town was “fermé” meant that the shrine itself was very open. We joined a handful of other pilgrims for a rainy morning Mass in front of the grotto where the apparitions occurred. After Mass, we wandered freely in and out of the grotto. We viewed the spring welling out of the back of the cavern and touched the rocks polished by the hands and lips of millions of other pilgrims. I had expected barriers, lines, crowds, and lots of regulations. Instead, the grotto space was peaceful and largely empty, a mixture of shrine and park. I watched a nun kneel on the ground absorbed in prayer; a grandmother snap photos of her sticky-faced grandson; and a couple have an animated, whispered discussion about their relationship. People carried out their lives at Mary’s feet, praying, nurturing, and loving unselfconsciously and without shame.

Night life in Lourdes: a candle-lit procession with the grotto in the background.

I understood then that the real world at Lourdes did not consist of the shops, hotels, and tourist sites that were “fermé.” The most real world, the world where people became present and alive, was at the grotto. There it was just us and Mary, the silence and the weak spring sunlight, as it might have been for St. Bernadette 160 years ago. There, God had made an opening to His love that could never be shut.

Yvette Piggush is active in St. Mary’s Cathedral parish in St. Cloud. She teaches in the English Department at the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University. When she isn’t reading something, she may be found baking desserts, going on long walks, and enjoying time with her nieces and goddaughters.


Take Nothing for the Journey (part one in a series)

Guest blogger Yvette Piggush shares reflections about her recent trip to Lourdes, France. This is the first in a series.

I packed my suitcase for my trip to Lourdes so carefully. I tried to plan for every drop of rain and gust of wind. Of course, this isn’t how Jesus suggests that his disciples travel. Jesus urges us to “Take nothing for the journey, neither walking stick, nor sack, nor food, nor money, and let no one take a second tunic” (Luke 9:3). I told myself Jesus didn’t necessarily mean this literally.

A few minutes before the train to Brussels arrives.

When I arrived in Amsterdam, I discovered that my next flight was canceled. A snowstorm had shut down nearly every airport in England where I was supposed to meet my friend so we could travel together to Lourdes. On the advice of an airline representative, I decided to try to reach England using the “channel tunnel” train from Brussels to London. “How do I get my luggage?” I asked. “You don’t,” the airline representative replied. It was in an inaccessible storage area. I left the airport for the train station with only the clothes I was wearing.

Travel goal: Lourdes. The Basilica of the Immaculate Conception sits above the natural grotto where Mary appeared to St. Bernadette.

Taking nothing for the journey made me feel terribly vulnerable. As I stood on the train station platform in Amsterdam, I anxiously checked and rechecked the pocket with my passport. What more might I lose? But I couldn’t be worried and suspicious for long because I had left behind something else: English. Bewildered by signs and announcements in Dutch, I turned to a young woman beside me. She didn’t speak Dutch and her English had a French accent, but we puzzled out that the train I had been told to take to Rotterdam was canceled. I got on a different train. When I arrived at Rotterdam, other passengers pointed me to the train that would take me to Brussels. There, a station worker showed me the boarding area for the train to London.

I never reunited with my suitcase. But what I gained was more important than the carefully curated collection of socks and sweaters I lost. When I was compelled to take nothing for the journey, I discovered Jesus in the kindness of the ordinary people willing to help a stranger.

Yvette Piggush is active in St. Mary’s Cathedral parish in St. Cloud. She teaches in the English Department at the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University. When she isn’t reading something, she may be found baking desserts, going on long walks, and enjoying time with her nieces and goddaughters.


Opening Doors Lay Ministry: a new book by Franciscan Sister Pat Forster on Mexico Missions

Guest blogger Franciscan Sister Rose Mae Rausch is a co-founder of the Mexico Mission and wrote this reflection on Sister Pat’s new book.

Sister Patricia Forster, Franciscan from Little Falls, Minnesota, has just published the book, Opening Doors Lay Ministry: Mexico Mission 2002-2017.

Sister Pat writes from personal experience, where she and other Franciscans contributed much. The mission has flourished because local lay people were immediately invited and trained to participate and take leadership in the many forms of outreach.

Fifty-two villages, comprising the parish of San Rafael, Nuevo Leon, are being served.

A new mission in northwestern Mexico at Ocampo has just been started.

This book, with its many detail, is a story of what can be done with an inclusive pastoral ministry, with God’s help!

Sister Rose Mae Rausch is co-founder of the Mexico Mission. She served the mission for five years and two additional years as novice director for the two Mexican young women who joined the Franciscans from Little Falls. She currently serves as a staff member at Franciscan Community Volunteers in St. Cloud.



Miracles surround beautiful Costa Rican basilica

Sheila Pulju is a guest blogger and a member of St. Boniface Church in Cold Spring, where she lives with her husband, Rich.

Recently, my husband and I visited Costa Rica, and one of the highlights during our vacation was our one day trip to Cartago, a city in Costa Rica about 16 miles from the capital San Jose. The main historical attraction in the center of Cartago is the Basilica de Nuestra Senora de los Angeles (Basilica of Our Lady of the Angels), which is a Roman Catholic Church and dedicated to Virgen de los Angeles (the Lady of the Angels and national patron of Costa Rica).

Basilica of Our Lady of the Angels in Cartago, Costa Rica

The Basilica is consecrated to the Virgin de los Angeles, which supposedly represents the Infant Jesus being carried by the Virgin Mary. Many pilgrims come to the Basilica daily all year in hopes of resolving health or other issues in their lives.

The church is beautiful with an interesting and unique story behind it. A peasant girl from Cartago supposedly found a black stone statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary and her baby (La Negrita) on a rock, and she brought it to her home. When she went to get the statue in her home the next morning, she could not find it, but instead found it was back at its original location. She then gave the statue to her priest and he locked it in a box! The next day, it was again back on the rock!

The church was destroyed many times by earthquakes during construction. Consequently, they then built the church on the exact location where the La Negrita statue (Queen of Cartago) was found. The statue is inside a golden shell inside the church. In 2004, there was a major renovation and chapels added to the church making it more spiritual much like the churches in Italy.

The Basilica is a true treasure in Costa Rica. It is famous for the annual August pilgrimage when thousands of devoted Catholics from around the world walk or crawl the 22-kilometer trek to the church during the Romeria pilgrimage. Actually, many pilgrims were crawling up to the altar while we were touring the church.

Also, on the same location where the statue showed up, there is a holy water spring where people drink the water, wash themselves and/or collect holy water in containers. The water has been tested and found safe needing no chemicals or purification systems and continues to provide water to this day. Many miracles have been reported.

Some places just leave you speechless with its divine beauty. This church is one of them and so beautiful inside and out with amazing architecture, stained glass, sound acoustics and gorgeous internal decor. It is finished in a white and gray façade with a blend of 19th century Byzantine and Colonial architecture style, which makes it a bit different than a lot of other Catholic churches.

Everything about this church was intriguing from the story on how this church was built to the numerous people who enter this place on their knees in prayer, from the story of multiple failed attempts to build the church to the story of millions of people walking to the church in August. A special added gift was we were able to attend a Spanish Mass during our visit on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. There was also a Christian bookstore close by the church.

I highly recommend a visit to the Basilica de Nuestra Senora de los Angeles if you find yourself traveling to Costa Rica. Hopefully, it will be a highlight of your trip, as it was for us. This Basilica will take your breath away!

Sheila and Rich Pulju are members of St. Boniface Church in Cold Spring, Minnesota. They recently traveled to Costa Rica and made a pilgrimage to the Patron of Costa Rica in Cartago, which is located a few miles from the capital city of San Juan.

Triduum engages the senses

For every single person, the body is the place in which the most internal and the most external meet…”
– Chauvet, The Sacraments, p. 1

I have always found Lent and the Triduum to be my favorite days of our liturgical calendar. I’m often met with strange looks when I confess that to others. In the years I have reflected on it, I think it comes down to the symbols and the rituals we use during these 40+ days. Mass and our liturgies are beautiful throughout the year, but for me nothing compares to the liturgies over these days of the Triduum, where I feel the most connected to my faith.

Last night we celebrated one of the most beautiful liturgies of the year, Holy Thursday. From start to finish, the liturgy engages all of our senses. It is the same liturgy every year and it never fails to move me to tears. The smell of the incense as the procession began was a reminder that it was a special celebration. The loud crashing sounds of the final chimes of the church bells which usually ring hourly but won’t be heard again until the Vigil on Saturday night seemed to reach into the Church and into me. The sight of my community, washing one another’s feet is the most poignant for me. Friends, families, and strangers knelt down at one another’s feet, just as the Scriptures describe Jesus doing, to show the love we have for one another. I watched as they washed with care and genuine love for one another that was palpable. It was such an intimate and beautiful act to witness and be a part of. And seemed to me to be exactly what we need in the world today. The taste of the bread and wine at Eucharist, our last Mass and full celebration until Saturday. And the touch of my knees onto the ground, as we knelt while the procession of the Blessed Sacrament into its place for the evening began.

Today, while our senses are still utilized, the liturgy is largely about absence. The silence through the somber day of prayer and reflection today on Good Friday and into Saturday morning while we wait for the Resurrection seems to bring a certain quiet and hush to my world, one that is constantly full of sights and sounds. The absence and the bareness helps me enter spiritually into these days where I must confront what I need to die to in my own life. It’s uncomfortable and unfamiliar. But we must go through it to get to Easter.

At the Easter Vigil, we will again share in a liturgy that is rich and engages every sense. We begin in darkness, I imagine in those hours between Christ’s death and resurrection, his followers felt like they too were living without light. We will smell the smoke from the fire and hold candles “But now we know the praises of this pillar, which glowing fire ignites for God’s honor, a fire into many flames divided, yet never dimmed by sharing of its light…” (The Exultant). We will hear the story of our salvation history proclaimed followed by the The Exultant, telling us our Easter joy of the sacred night: “This is the night, when Christ broke the prison-bars of death and rose victorious from the underworld.” We will again participate in the celebration of the Liturgy of the Eucharist and taste the body and blood of Christ. I know that I will feel within me the celebration of God’s love for the world and will share in the joy of Christians throughout the world celebrating together, through all of rich symbols and rituals of this liturgy.

Bailey Ziegler serves as the director of human resources for the Diocese of St. Cloud.

Talking Faith and Francis in Rome

The following is a guest blog post by Barry Hudock. Barry works as publisher for parish resources at Liturgical Press. He lives in Albany with his family.

My job at Liturgical Press typically has me sitting at my desk on the campus of Saint John’s Abbey and University in Collegeville, toiling away with colleagues or tapping away email conversations with authors about various book projects we’re working on. Rarely does it get as exciting as it did earlier this month, when I found myself in a conference room a stone’s throw from the Vatican with some of the most fascinating voices in the church today.

Liturgical Press has just published a new book called A Pope Francis Lexicon. It’s a collection of essays contributed by a remarkable set of 54 authors. Each author chose a single word that has been important in the teaching and ministry of Pope Francis, and wrote about what the Holy Father’s use of the word says about him and about what it means to be a Catholic today. For example, Cardinal Donald Wuerl wrote about Baptism, Sr. Simone Campbell wrote about Justice, Fr. James Martin took Discernment, and Carolyn Woo had Periphery. The result is an inspiring and fascinating set of reflections. (An edition in French is already available and an Italian edition will be published soon by the Vatican’s own publishing house!)

On March 1, Liturgical Press sponsored an event in Rome to mark the publication of the book. It was held in a conference room at the Jesuit Curia building, the world headquarters of the Jesuit order. The evening featured five incredible panelists:

  • Cardinal Kevin Farrell, Prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life;
  • Teresa Forcades, a Spanish physician and Benedictine nun;
  • Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, a member of Pope Francis’s Council of Cardinals advising him on the reform of the Roman Curia;
  • Norma Seni Pimentel, Executive Director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley in Texas; and
  • Phyllis Zagano, a scholar who is serving on Pope Francis’s commission to study the possibility of women deacons.

It also included the book’s two editors (the people who did all the work getting the chapters together), Joshua McElwee, the Vatican correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter, and Cindy Wooden, Rome bureau chief for Catholic News Service.

Our event was attended by about 175 people, including over two dozen journalists (Rome correspondents for media like CNN, ABC News, NPR, Fox News, and EWTN), several bishops (besides those on the panel), and even a few ambassadors to the Holy See from several nations. All in all, it was sort of dizzying to take in!

As each panelist took his or her turn speaking, we received a steady stream of insightful comments about Pope Francis and what he is up to in leading the Church. Sr. Forcades focused her comments on Pope Francis’s teaching on legalism, saying, “The legalistic mentality perceives grace as a threat. Grace subverts any system that tries to objectify the human experience.”

Phyllis Zagano had some beautiful things to say about the Pope’s understanding of service. Cardinal Maradiaga explained how and why the Pope is trying to reform the Roman Curia. And it was not all cheerleading; some difficult questions were raised too. In the end, though, maybe what was most exciting was to hear Cardinal Farrell comment emphatically on the Lexicon, “Anyone who wishes to understand Pope Francis must read this book.”

My experience in Rome this month was more than an exciting professional experience. It helped me understand and love my Catholic faith and our extraordinary Pope much better than I had before.

It was very inspiring to see The Visitor to produce its own version of the Pope Francis Lexicon with contributions from people from around our diocese. It demonstrates that you don’t have to be a global church leader or brilliant scholar to have some pretty profound insights about the Pope and the Church.

Barry Hudock works as publisher for parish resources at Liturgical Press. He lives in Albany with his family.