“LORD, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof…”

It’s been another insane attempt at church. Impatient kids fighting. Loud baby escaping. Tired parents trying. A family failing at prayer. It’s our usual scene. And amidst all the squealing, the shush-ing, the wiggling, the “stop that”‘s, and the frazzling commotion of pew #3 (aka, our pew), I still somehow (miraculously as it seems) manage to hear the priest’s words, and I respond instinctively along with the congregation in rehearsed response:

“LORD, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof…”

‘Isn’t that the truth!,’ I think to myself as I respond. My roof houses three nutsie little kids who I can’t even keep quiet and under control for an hour at Mass, let alone for the hours that make up the rest of our week. My roof sits atop disgustingly dirty floors that haven’t been swept in days – a task that was made all the harder to do this morning when the toddler pushed her big brother’s cereal bowl off the table, splattering milk EVERYWHERE. My roof covers a husband who’s been sick and a me who’s been overwhelmed and impatient throughout it (well, EXTRA overwhelmed and impatient, on top of the usual overwhelmed-ness and impatience that have been under my roof since moving in). No, unless he likes baskets of unfolded laundry, stepping on Duplos, running out of Kleenex and noise (oh, so very much noise!), my “roof” is no place for my LORD to enter!

“…But only say the word, and my soul shall be healed.”

I wish it were that simple! I think to myself, as I barely finish the sentence before having to quickly grab the toddler smiling at me as she runs down the aisle, once again having escaped pew #3. Everything about the chaos that lies under this family’s roof screams unworthy. With no sign of being “fixed” any time soon. My child now wailing because I won’t put her down again (fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice…ok four times in one Mass, shame on me!), and me frantically searching for her pacifier that isn’t where it’s supposed to be in the diaper bag which just fell and spilled all over the floor, including rolling back into pew #4. Oh my!  Thank goodness GOD isn’t knocking at my door!  It is not a worthy place for my GOD. We did it – we made it to the end of another hectic, All-Eyes-on-the-Loud-Family Mass!  As I am trying to find everything that has been spread all over (and under) pew #3 (and 4), while my husband attempts to get three squirrely kids into coats before they dart off to run up and down the sanctuary ramp, I feel a tap on my shoulder.  “You have a beautiful family!” the stranger tells me.

I think to myself, as I watch my son almost trip an elderly man in his quest for that ramp-run he’s been waiting for. Beautiful? Don’t you mean busy? That’s what we usually hear: “You sure are busy.”  And after this past hour of desperate attempts to maintain order (and a volume level acceptable to the poor worshipers around us), I find it hard to believe she meant beautiful and not busy. But it is nice of her to offer the pity compliment. I smile and say thank you, ready to get out of there as quickly as possible before my kids do anything else worthy of another comment by the strangers, or worse yet the friends, who have witnessed our Sunday morning ritual of mayhem.  I take a long, deep breath – one of disbelief. And I look at my husband, who just let out a similarly painful sigh. “How does this happen?”  “I don’t know; let’s just go home.”

Home, under that unworthy-roof.  Where chaos abounds in unending heaps. Where tidiness does not (though the heaps part is accurate).  Where noise (I’m pretty sure the neighbors across the street and down the hill can hear us despite closed doors and windows) happens. Where life happens…

Where my “beautiful” family happens.

Home, where we raise three ridiculously rambunctious, but incredibly clever, kids. Where we laugh (oh, their cute little laughs) together.  Where we cry (those heart-breaking cries) and comfort with each other.  Where we pray for one another. Where we love one another…

Where so much of GOD is present.

Home, where I am blessed by a loving husband and the three children that came from that love.  Where we enjoy enough food, water, and health to satisfy more than our basic needs.  Where we enjoy enough fun to satisfy a small army.  Where my life is made messy by the daily challenges of life and motherhood, but where those same things also offer me growth…

Where my soul is healed.

We gather up our kids, the oldest nicely saying good-bye to the gentleman he almost knocked over, the middle jumping up to hug her beloved “Daddy,” and the youngest reaching out to hold my hand in her tiny fingers as she wobbles towards the door. Another long, deep breath of disbelief. But this time, one of gratitude.

How did this happen – that under my roof lies an abundance of GOD and so much of His grace!  Blessings by the handful, all of which I am completely unworthy of. And all of which, make me whole.

“Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof…”

Yet here you are, day after day, entering and abiding with us, showing us yourself through one another.

“…But only say the word and my soul shall be healed!” 

It is, just look at them, it so is.

Tonight I will be taking my children to Mass at a time over-lapping with both their supper and their bedtimes, the longest service we go to all year. And as if that didn’t make me enough of a glutton for punishment, it is also my favorite service of the year.  Why give up my most meaningful night of prayer and community for the usual “Ritual of Mayhem” that is going to church with my kids? Because…they, like the God who gave them to me and the church I give them to, heal me in ways I never knew possible. Because the reasons why tonight is my favorite (the presence of Christ, the humble service, the feasting and fearing together with those you love) are my favorite things about being their mother, too.

Happy Holy Thursday everyone!

Kateri Mancini is the coordinator of mission education for the St. Cloud Mission Office, where she has ministered for the past 11 years. She has spent that same amount of time sharing life with her best friend and partner in parenting. As both a minister and mother, Kateri spends her days grappling with the intersection of Church and family, theology and potty training.

Let Them Eat Cake

Like most American families, we celebrate birthdays with cake. This year, we decided to celebrate my daughter’s 7th birthday at Chuck E. Cheese. I had booked the party, complete with pizza, the frivolous arcade games, and the required birthday cake for a few of her friends and a few members of our family.

After the games and the pizza, the big moment arrived.  From the back of the restaurant, our hostess got the kids excited, whooping and hollering in anticipation for the big guy himself:  Chuck E. Cheese! I noticed a girl about the same age as my daughter, whose family was dining elsewhere in the restaurant. She had come over to join the party.  The hostess said to her, “I’m sorry, this is a private party.  Could you go back over and sit with your parents?”  Even though the hostess wasn’t rude, I thought I heard an undertone of disdain.  So I told the girl she was absolutely free to join us.  “Who cares if one more child is screaming and dancing with Chuck E. Cheese, right?  I would be kinder than this hostess,” I told myself.  So for a few moments, she joined the party, laughing and dancing with the rest of the girls.

But then the cake came – gaudy pink and gooey chocolate, a 7-year old’s dream cake.  The little girl stood by watching, clearly expecting to get a piece of cake.  And something in me switched like a light.  The thoughts running through my head told me that I had paid for this cake for our family, not for her.  “Doesn’t she realize how rude she is being? Where is her mother?” I asked myself.  I don’t think I was rude when I told her I was sorry that I didn’t think we would have enough cake for her.

As we passed out the cake, I watched her eyeing every piece and I was determined that she wouldn’t get one.  When Grandpa declined, I insisted he have one.  I saved one for my son who was too busy playing games to even care, and I certainly took one for myself.  At one point I justified my behavior by the sinking ship philosophy, reminding myself that this girl had a brother and sister I had seen earlier.  And if I gave her a piece, they would want one too.  “It’s not like I am denying a homeless person food or something.  It’s chocolate cake, for Pete’s sake!”

And when the last piece of cake was plated and served, I very sadly told her I was sorry she didn’t get one, and I sat down to take a bite of mine.  Then it hit me.

It’s a Friday and I should be fasting.

I have given up chocolate for Lent.

And I don’t even like chocolate cake.

The replays in my head all show me the story in a different way, the way it should have gone.  The way I wish it had gone.  I was gracious and generous to this girl and gave her a piece of cake because we really did have plenty.  I introduced her and helped my daughter make a new friend.  I relive the fictitious scene in my head, my beautifully innocent daughter laughing and dancing with her new friend.  I imagine I have forever changed the life of this Somali girl with my kind gesture.

Did I mention this was a Somali girl?  Would it change the way YOU view the story?  Would it have changed the way I had treated her if she were NOT Somalian?  I realized the depths of racism.  I can say I am not racist, and my actions were not unkind.  They were just not kind.  In the town we are from, there are very few Somali children and my 7-year old has almost no experience with them.  I could have given her a positive experience right then, but for some reason, I didn’t.

That evening, I prayed that God would forgive me, even if this girl didn’t even notice I had wronged her.  I prayed that God will give me an opportunity each day to be kind, and that I will never again wonder whether or not race makes a difference in my decisions.  And I pray the same for all who may read this story and miss an opportunity for kindness.

Amy Wilwerding is a math teacher at Cathedral High School in St. Cloud. She lives in Freeport with her husband and four children. They are members of Sacred Heart Church in Freeport.

Seminarians March for Life

 

Seminarian Brady Keller

St. Paul Seminary first-year theology students are in Washington, D.C.,  for the annual national March for Life. St. Cloud seminarian Brady Keller, from St. Gall Parish in Tintah, will provide regular blog updates leading up to the march on Friday, Jan. 27.

 

 

Today ( Jan. 27) was the day for which we came to D.C.  We took part in the March for Life rally at Washington Monument where hundreds of thousands of people young and old gathered for fellowship, music and speakers.  It was great to see so many people united in the fight to protect life.

Pro-life speakers included presidential advisor Kellyanne Conway, Vice President Mike Pence, Baltimore Ravens tight end Benjamin Watson and Timothy Cardinal Dolan, among many others.

After the rally, we all marched to the Supreme Court building.  The street was packed with people as far as the eye could see. There was much hope and gratitude in everyone that the pro-life movement is in fact winning back the culture. We are being heard and changes are being made to protect the unborn. In was a powerful experience. Please continue to pray that laws may continue to be passed and hearts continue to be changed to protect the lives of babies in the womb.

In prayer,
Brady Keller

Opening Mass for March for Life

Seminarian Brady Keller

St. Paul Seminary first-year theology students are in Washington, D.C.,  for the annual national March for Life. St. Cloud seminarian Brady Keller, from St. Gall Parish in Tintah, will provide regular blog updates leading up to the march on Friday, Jan. 27.

 

 

National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.

Today [Jan. 26] we spent the day at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.  We were able to look around this beautiful church built for the greater glory of God.  There are 70 side altars dedicated to various saints and titles of our Blessed Mother and Jesus.  We sat in choir for the opening Mass for the March for Life.  Timothy Cardinal Dolan was the celebrant and homilist.  His message emphasized the womb as a sanctuary where babies must be protected and not killed.  Tomorrow we head out to the March for Life.  God bless.

Seminarians visit nation’s Capitol for annual March for Life

 

Seminarian Brady Keller

St. Paul Seminary first-year theology students are in Washington, D.C.,  for the annual national March for Life. St. Cloud seminarian Brady Keller, from St. Gall Parish in Tintah, will provide regular blog updates leading up to the march on Friday, Jan. 27.

 

 

 

Seminarians Tom Skaja and Patrick Hoeft having fun in Washington.

 

“Today [Jan. 25] we had the day for sightseeing. We visited the Washington Memorial, White House, National Holocaust Museum, National Museum of American History and Arlington Cemetery.  There’s so much history to learn.  The Holocaust Museum was very powerful.

 

 

 

Seminarians visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Jan. 25 in Washington, D.C.

“The changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was very inspiring. The respect and reverence shown by the soldiers for the unknown soldiers reminded me of the reverence we owe to God.” –Brady Keller

 

Sharing God’s goodness

From January 2-8,  I was blessed to attend the SEEK 2017 conference in San Antonio, Texas. I am a member at St. Michael Parish in St. Cloud, but now attend school at the University of Minnesota Duluth. Between UMD and St. Scholastica, we were able to take 95 students to the conference this year.

Featured speaker Mark Hart, vice president of Life Team, tries to inspire an audience of young adults Jan. 3 during the biennial SEEK conference at San Antonio’s Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center. The event was designed to bring evangelization efforts to college campuses. (CNS photo/courtesy FOCUS)

Throughout the week, we were given the opportunity to attend sessions from powerful speakers such as Jason and Crystalina Evert, Leah Darrow, Sarah Swafford, Mark Hart, John O’Leary and many more. Sessions touched on nearly every topic one could desire; Jesus’ Invitation to Greatness, Consecration to Jesus through Mary, men’s and women’s talks, relativism, bioethics, abortion, relationships, prayer, you name it!

Each morning began with the nearly 13,000 college students attending Mass and prayer with exposition. Passionate hearts sang at least two opening songs to allow time for all the 300 priests to enter mass each day. It was so incredible to witness so many youth on fire for their faith and to see all the priests that were able to attend Mass with us. Over the course of the week, students from around the country formed friendships and shared in their joy for Jesus Christ. We were able to attend an 80’s themed dance, a concert performed by “The Oh Hellos,” browsed through informational booths, roamed the streets of the gorgeous San Antonio city, and could talk to many sisters, friars and priests.

The most compelling part of the entire conference was most definitely adoration and confession on Thursday night. Hearts cried out in the presence of Jesus and lives were transformed. Lines weaved all the way around the convention center for confession. Many times throughout the night, the emcees announced that students had to refrain from entering the confession line because it was a fire hazard due to the length of the lines! Over 4,000 confessions were heard that night alone (and many more throughout the retreat).  The atmosphere filled with the Holy Spirit was remarkable.

One thing really touched me during this time. I was in line for confession when I noticed on the jumbo screens that the priests had been walking around the conference room with the monstrance so that each person would get to witness the presence of God up close. Noticing I had at least a 30-minute line still ahead of me for confession, I was a little bummed that I wouldn’t be in the main room while the monstrance was being carried around each section of people. However, I found peace in being able to see it on the large screen. Being Catholic and having the opportunity to attend confession I have learned is such a blessing and one that I am so grateful for; doing it with over 300 brothers and sisters in Christ at the same moment was even more life changing.

Young adults pray during a Mass during the Jan. 3-7 biennial SEEK conference at San Antonio’s Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center. The event was designed to bring evangelization efforts to college campuses. (CNS photo/courtesy FOCUS)

After walking out of confession and into the larger adoration room, I saw Jesus, in the monstrance, was coming right around the corner where I was! I had been so worried about missing this part of adoration, but now I realized I wouldn’t be missing Jesus up close at all! At the same time, the lyrics of the song being sung were “ ‘Cause You know just what we need before we say a word.” This was such an impactful moment for me. The Lord truly knows just what we need and will provide. As they rounded the corner with Jesus in the monstrance, hands were stretched out wide by many and, hundreds following in line behind to follow Jesus on his journey around the convention center room.

Another major thing that Jesus told me over the weekend was how important it is to simply extend an invitation to those around us, Catholic or not, in coming to know the Lord and the Catholic faith.  Many people shared their testimonies in the talks and around Texas in casual conversation about how they attended SEEK, some Catholic speaker at their parish, or even Mass only because they had a friend who invited them and encouraged them to go.  For each and every single one of those people, that invitation changed their lives, and now us 13,000 attendees are thrilled to go out and share God’s goodness with those back home.

Amanda Vasek is a young adult from St. Michael Parish in St. Cloud and is currently a sophomore at University of Minnesota, Duluth. When she isn’t studying or attending events with Newman Center, she is enjoying the outdoors, catching a sporting event, or eating ice cream!

The 11th Day of Christmas

Eleven guest writers from around the diocese share tips on how to keep the Spirit of Christmas alive in the new year.

11 Tips to Keep the Spirit of Christmas Alive
in the New Year

#1. Smile. Inspired by a quote from St. Mother Teresa (“Peace begins with a smile”) as well as one of our Christmas poster contest entries, the gift of a smile is a very simple thing a person can do to keep Christmas alive in the new year. We hustle and bustle around all year long and how often do we remember to sport a healthy grin to those around us? Do you ever notice how you feel when a stranger holds the door for you and offers a friendly face? A smile may be a simple offering but it can make a big difference to the person who receives it! “A cheerful glance brings joy to the heart; good news invigorates the bones” (Proverbs 15:30). —Kristi Anderson, The Visitor

#2. Spend time with family and friends. The holidays give us opportunities to gather with family and friends – to slow down and take time to reconnect with our loved ones. Though, sometimes it seems like there are so many people we do not necessarily get time to really spend time together. This time of year especially, I remind myself that Christmas, and the celebration there of, invites us to spend time – real time – with others. Go on a family movie date (we just saw “Sing” in theaters, which was a great family flick, by the way). Invite a friend or family over for dinner. Take time with a few friends or one family. Share a meal. Visit. Play. Big family gatherings are great, but there is real goodness in the smaller gatherings, too! Even meet up with a friend for a coffee (or hot cocoa for you non-coffee drinkers)… the goal is to find and share joy in spending time with people – at Christmastime and throughout the whole year. —Jennifer Adams, Christ Our Light Parish in Princeton/Zimmerman

#3. Schedule time for service. One of the things my cousin is doing is scheduling going to Kids Against Hunger each month. Sometimes it’s easier to work service into one’s schedule when you actually schedule it and it’s listed on the calendar. —Brenda Kresky, diocesan consultant for adult faith formation

#4. Step up our prayer lives. This can mean adding a rosary, chaplet or novena to your prayer routine. It can also include reading about the saints, using a Saint of the Day book, or going for a daily relaxing walk while praying the rosary. Reading aloud to your family while they sip on hot cocoa (or ice tea in the summer!) is also a fun way to add in extra prayer time. Make a ‘Thinking of You’ card and insert a prayer card in it and send it to a person you think may be having a tough time. Instead of making a New Year’s resolution to improve oneself (losing weight, exercise, etc.), consider a promise to try harder to be ‘in tune’ with others’ wants and needs and help them. —Kathy Wagner, St. Joseph Parish, Bertha

#5. Keep all your Christmas cards and letters you receive. Then after the new year (or part way through the year, when you need a little spiritual boost), put them away one at a time. On the day you put each one away (be that recycling it, scrapbooking it, or whatever you do with your greetings from friends and family), pray in a special way for the person or family who sent it to you. Dedicate that day to them and lifting them up in prayer!  It’s a great way to re-live the feeling of Christmas as you re-read their Christmas messages. And it’s a great way to remind your mind, heart and faith life of the communion we all share as you hold your loved ones and acquaintances in prayer throughout your day.  As an extra bonus, send them a little message letting them know you’re praying for them especially that day; you never know how they may be needing to hear of your prayers and support that day.  It just may help both you AND them feel the Christmas spirit – of love, generosity, faith and accompaniment – alive again! (And maybe even encourage them to start this tradition with their Christmas cards – that’s how I got started). -Kateri Mancini, mission education coordinator, St. Cloud Mission Office

#6. Contemplate, praise, rejoice, discern. God became human in the Incarnation. Contemplating this mystery, Saint Francis of Assisi saw all of creation as revelatory of God. Let us join with Saint Francis: “In art he praises the Artist….he rejoices in all the works of the Lord’s hands, and through their delightful display he gazes on their life-giving reason and cause. In beautiful things he discerns Beauty Itself” (2 Celano 124). -Franciscan Sister Michelle L’Allier, Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls

#7. Connect a part of the Christmas story in something you do everyday.  I think about the Magi, bringing gifts to the newborn baby, and ask myself how I can be a gift to others in ways I have not been before. Each encounter in the new year is a new opportunity to show love and care, to people we know and new people we meet. -David Fremo, director of campus ministry, St. John’s Preparatory School

#8. Be present. In the Advent season, we learn that Jesus shall be called “Emmanuel,” which means “God is with us,” “Dios con nosotros.” Here and now, God makes a place among us — quite literally — next to us, beside us, on top of us, underneath us, holding our hand. Like new parents ever-conscious of an infant in their home; the child’s crying, sleeping, feeding, laughing, waking, presence at all times, so God is born to us in baby Jesus. How quickly we can forget God’s living in our midst. By increasing our awareness of Christ’s continued presence among us, we incarnate the spirit of joy, charity, peacefulness, and love with us at all times. -Margaret Nuzzolese Conway, associate director of development and alumni relations, St. John’s School of Theology, Collegeville

#9. Don’t let the garbage trucks determine the length or intensity of your celebration of Christmas. CHRISTMAS is a season; it goes on and on, at least until February 2, on one level. So don’t let the garbage trucks determine the length or intensity of your celebration of Christmas! Don’t give them your untrimmed tree too soon! The longer that jeweled tree can remind you of Jesus’ birth, death on another tree, Resurrection and Ascension, i.e. the entire mystery of the season, the better! On a second level, the Nativity, imaged in the crib scene, invites us to search for God in the least likely places: among the poor, the misfits, foreigners and nonbelievers. And above all, in our humanity! So why would we let the dump trucks or the storage room rob us of time to simply sit and ponder? Besides, February 2, the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, will be here before we want it! –Benedictine Sister Renee Domeier, St. Benedict’s Monastery, St. Joseph

#10. Actively think about Christmas. Let us think about the joy that the holiday brings through the smiles, the goodwill, the feelings towards others. St. Benedict urged his monks to keep death before thine eyes daily. I don’t believe he did this to scare or remind us of our own mortality but rather as a guidance for us to live our lives more fully. For what we focus on, we will become. Christmas allows us the opportunity to focus on the pleasantries of the season. We aren’t thinking about having to go back to work, or how we can’t wait for our schedules to return to normal. We are thinking about how we can be the light and spread the good news of the season. We focus on the good and the joy because our thoughts of Christmas create our emotions and feelings. So if we want to feel the joy we have to consciously think about the joy. If we want to feel the warmth of being surrounded by loved ones, we have to actively think about what our loved ones mean to us. I believe Christmas affords us permission to disconnect us from the hustle and bustle of “every day living,” but it’s really how we change our thinking. So for us to continue in the Christmas spirit, all we have to do is to change our thinking. Our thoughts will always determine our feelings and emotions! Michael Stalboerger, Birthline board member and member of Sts. Peter and Paul Parish, Richmond

#11. Be artisans of peace. “All of us want peace. Many people build it day by day through small gestures and acts; many of them are suffering, yet patiently persevere in their efforts to be peacemakers. In 2017, may we dedicate ourselves prayerfully and actively to banishing violence from our hearts, words and deeds, and to becoming nonviolent people and to building nonviolent communities that care for our common home. ‘Nothing is impossible if we turn to God in prayer. Everyone can be an artisan of peace.'” -Pope Francis, 2017 World Day of Peace message, From the Vatican, 8 December 2016

The Third Day of Christmas

Year after year people across the world get together on January 6 to celebrate El Dia de Reyes (Three Kings Day).  This day is not only important for its significance in that it celebrates the height of the Christmas season and the journey of the Three Kings, Melchior, Gaspar, and Balthazar, to honor the birth of the born Christ, this day is important to people as a means to celebrate culture, tradition, family and friendship.

With celebrations across the world taking place January 6, I delight in my own traditions, but also in the traditions of other countries as they celebrate this special day.

In Germany, for instance, carolers go from house to house treating people with joyful music and in return receive cookies, sweets and money. People also sprinkle their doorways with holy water and write the initials of the Three Kings along with the year as a means to seek protection over their home.

In Poland, January 6 is actually a national holiday filled with street parades, caroling of songs and reenactments of the Nativity scene.

As for my native country, Mexico, El Dia de Reyes is celebrated publicly and privately like many other countries. Public celebrations include parades celebrating and honoring the three Kings. Private celebrations and traditions were filled with family, sharing, food and joy.

Growing up, preparations for El Dia de Reyes started soon after the New Year arrived, with food preparations at the top of the list. Some of the foods planned would include: tamales, posole, champurrado (traditional Mexican hot drink), churros, chocolate abuelita (hot chocolate) and more.

On the eve of El Dia de Reyes my parents would have us set our shoes by the window or outside the door because, as we were told, the three kings would pass by our house and they could take our shoes if they needed them or leave us a gift in return for our generosity.  It never dawned on me my shoes would be too small for them, but, nonetheless, I would set a pair of shoes accordingly.  Come morning time, I would run to see if my shoes were needed or if a surprise was left in return.  To my delight, I would always wake-up to money in my shoes and gifts underneath the Christmas tree.  Now, it is not that I received gifts twice, the fact is, our tradition, as well as that of many Latin American countries, is that gifts arrive on the 6th of January.  Santa Claus was not the bearer of gifts–instead, it was the three wise men who brought us gifts.  Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were always days of honoring the newborn Christ, worshiping, sharing time with family and friends, and sharing food with each other. January 6, on the other hand, was a day focused on gifts and kids–for, just like the three kings brought gifts to the newborn Christ, we also received gifts.

In addition to the gifts and the various types of food and sweets we ate and drank, there was the traditional Rosca de Reyes. A rosca is a cake pastry that reminded me of a large doughnut. The rosca was filled with a plastic baby Jesus, and the tradition was that if you were the “lucky” one to find the baby Jesus in your pastry, then you would be honored with the responsibility of hosting a party on Candlemas Day on February 2.  Looking back, I now understand why people were relieved when they ate their rosca and could not find the baby Jesus!

The entire day, as I recall, was filled with joy – sharing with family, friends, and even people you did not know, was special. Everyone felt like family.

All-in-all, growing up I enjoyed the traditions my parents handed down to my siblings and I, but now as an adult I cherish them, and I look forward to sharing these traditions, as well as those traditions my husband’s Polish/German family handed him, and give our girls a set of beautifully blended traditions.

Edith Hernandez-Fussy was born in Mexico and was brought to this country by her parents in 1988. She is married to Michael Fussy with whom she has two daughters, Clarissa Guadalupe, almost 3 years old, and Crystal Esmeralda, 13 months old. They belong to Holy Trinity Church in Royalton, but also attend St. Francis Xavier when visiting family in Sartell.

Guest post: Fiat Farewell

This blog post first appeared on the Fiat House blog Dec. 2. It is being reprinted here with permission.

As I write this blog post, the walls of the Fiat House are starting to look quite bare. In fact, they look quite a bit like they did during those first few weeks when we first moved in.  Tomorrow morning at 8:30, a small crew of friends will be coming to help me move my belongs to the Wild West (St. Anna, MN) and I will be saying my farewell to Fiat House.  In three weeks when April moves out, the Fiat House itself will be saying farewell as the Lord in His infinite wisdom, has decided to close the chapter of Fiat House to begin writing something new for the both of us.

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Last night April and I reflected on all of the beautiful ways the Lord used Fiat House for His Glory.  We remembered our first party where we unveiled our house name, we recalled the joy of our first 5k and the yearly advent retreats we coordinated.  We also reminisced about all the wonderful people who gifted us with their presence for Fiat dinners. One of the greatest gifts of this house was the beautiful friendship formed with our first roommate, Marita.

I could go down memory lane for hours, and you could too if you scrolled through the archived blog posts. But what I have been reflecting on most from my time here at Fiat House isn’t so much the memories of the house, but its purpose.

When I first moved into Fiat House I was restless to organize its vision and mission.  The Lord had mysteriously called this house forth and  I was anxious to use my gifts to help Him shape it into something organized, structured and well run.  In my mind we were a discernment house for young women interested in consecrated life.  I thought of many ways we could accomplish this goal: Fiat 5ks, nun runs, and collecting materials on various religious orders.  I thought that this house – through April and I – was meant to serve other women.

Gradually over time, the Lord began to strip me of the supports of my coordinated efforts and plans for this house.  Life at the Fiat House began to slow down and the house began to flower into something completely different from what I had thought.  I began to realize that this house wasn’t for other people’s formation, it was for our formation.

As the house began to independently take shape, I would get increasingly more annoyed with the questions: “so what exactly is Fiat House?”  “what do you ladies do?”  “What’s its purpose?”  I felt vulnerable and stupid with these questions because I didn’t know the answers.  I couldn’t see or explain what the Lord was doing, but His movements were palpable.  I couldn’t do anything besides surrender my plans to the mystery of His and let Him take over.

our-lady-of-the-millenniumIncreasingly over time, and with the help of one of my favorite books, Reed of God, it became clear that Fiat House was meant to be an almost four year Advent for both of us.  In Reed of God, Carell Houselander describes  Advent beautifully: “Advent is the season of the secret, the secret of the growth of Christ, of Divine Love growing in silence,  It is the season of humility, silence and growth.”

Humility. Silence. Growth.  These three words sum up some of the greatest lessons learned at Fiat House.  In the hum drum of our quiet life here, the Lord began to grow.  Like an expectant mother, I couldn’t initially see anything happening, but I knew he was there and I soon began to feel His presence more and more.  Perhaps on the outside nothing exciting appeared to be happening in my life.  I had my usual routine of work, grad school classes and such, but on the inside, everything was changing!  The Fiat House was a physical reminder of what the Lord was doing interiorly. Just as the Fiat House was an empty space for the Lord to work, my heart was to become an empty space for the Lord to grow.  Mother Teresa says “God cannot fill what is full.  He can fill only emptiness, deep poverty, and your “Yes” is the beginning of being or becoming empty.  It is not how much we really “have” to give, but how empty we are, so that we can receive Him fully in our life and let Him live His life in us.”

I also began to realize that my own “fiat” wasn’t a magical moment when I courageously  said my “yes” to God for the great mission for which He was going to call me.  My “fiat,” modeled after the blessed Mother’s Fiat, was meant to be a spousal “I do.”  A complete gift of myself to the Lord to do with me as He willed.  On paper this seems lovely, but through the tears, trials and pains of purifications, I began to know what kind of commitment was required to be a spouse of Christ.  The Lord began to teach me about my daily “fiat…”  the daily “yes’s” that require self denial to accomplish His will.  The Lord uses our obedience to flower within us. Every “Yes” to Him is a “No” to our self and therefore allows Him space to continue to grow in our hearts.  Mary was full of grace and God-Bearer because she was obedient.

As the physical Fiat House comes to an end, the Lord is asking us to continue the Fiat House in our hearts: an empty space for Him to grow and flower within us.  As He continues to grow with in us, He is asking us to take Him out to the new people we will encounter through our new ministries and endeavors.

img_1103As we wait in hopeful expectation for the next chapters to be written, in some ways, April and I are approaching yet another Advent.  I wait in hopeful expectation as I begin my new job as New Evangelization Coordinator at the parishes in the Holdingford area, and April waits in hopeful expectation as she begins her new endeavors elsewhere (you’ll have to ask her in person where she’s off to.  Hint: it’s a bit farther than my new location in St. Anna…)

As we journey in this season of Advent, let’s be attentive to the Lord growing in silence.  And let’s not shortchange this Advent season of growth.

Dear Jesus,

help me to spread Your fragrance everywhere I go.
Flood my soul with Your Spirit and Life.

Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly that my life may only be a radiance of Yours.

Shine through me and be so in me that every soul I come into contact with may feel Your presence in my soul. Let them look up, and see no longer me, but only Jesus!

Stay with me and then I will begin to shine as You shine,
so to shine as to be a light to others.

The light, O Jesus, will be all from You; none of it will be mine.
It will be You, shining on others through me.

Let me preach You without preaching,
not by words but by example,
by the catching force,
the sympathetic influence of what I do,
the evident fullness of the love my heart hears for You. Amen.

– A prayer by Cardinal Newman

Guest blogger Kristin Molitor, left, with Fiat House roommate, April Bechtold. Fiat House began in February 2013 with these two St. Cloud area natives as foundresses. The vision of Fiat House was unique: to provide a place for women to have the freedom and time to discern what the Lord might be asking of them, both temporarily and permanently.
Guest blogger Kristin Molitor, left, with Fiat House roommate, April Bechtold. Fiat House began in February 2013 with these two St. Cloud area natives as foundresses. The vision of Fiat House was unique: to provide a place for women to have the freedom and time to discern what the Lord might be asking of them, both temporarily and permanently.

What’s in a name: October 15 prayers

I spent years laughing at the episode. The episode of “Friends” in which Chandler’s co-worker calls him “Toby” and has for years, because once he started it was too awkward to correct the error, so Chandler just kept allowing it…until it got complicated.

I spent years laughing at it, that is until it actually happened to me.  That’s right, the owner and primary worker at the Curves where I work out regularly started calling me “Katrina.” I thought I’d corrected her but she kept at it; and though I made sure that the other employees there knew my real name in the hopes that when they left notes or talked about me, she’d catch on. But no. I remained “Katrina” for years!  Finally, when she looked at the computer and announced to me that she’d spelled my name wrong, and then proceeded to spell it out loud, correctly, I finally told her that “K-a-t-e-r-i” is actually my name.  Then in front of the whole group of women also exercising at that time, we practiced its pronunciation.  I think she may have it down now…hopefully.

But it really got me thinking about what is in a name.  Why did it bother me so much to be called something different?  Why did I want so badly to be called by my name, a name that is truly me?

My name is important to me, and always has been.  Growing up I was “Kati,” a name which still has a lot of family value for me.  But as I got into my late teens, and especially in college, I really started identifying myself more with my full name, “Kateri” – a name with a lot of value of its own, value I wanted to be mine.  I loved that my name meant something to me and called me to something more.  Every time I hear or say my name, I am think of my patron St. Kateri Tekakwitha, and am reminded to be a saint, to live for something bigger than myself.

That, in a very brief nutshell, is what my name means to me.  So when it came time to name our soon-to-be-born children, I really struggled.  I knew how valuable the right name could be (and being called “Katrina” for years has reminded me of how frustrating the wrong name can be).  I knew how important it was that the name we give our children be names that fit them and their unique selves, but also that form them and call them into something.  Hopefully something beautiful.

It’s too soon to tell for sure if we did our children’s naming well, though I’d like to think that so far at least our little ones certainly fit their names (Adrian Donald the “gentle leader,” Lilly Elizabeth the “strong woman, promise of GOD,” and Layla Josephine the “dark beauty, increase of GOD”).  I’d like to think we named all of our children well – all five of them.

Our first baby was the easiest to name.  We had a name all picked out for her.  But then came May of 2009, when we found out that our 12 week in-utero baby no longer had a heartbeat.  And for a while, my heart stopped too.  It is hard to describe how much it hurts, missing someone you never knew.  And yet, as a mother, somehow I already did know my little one.  I knew in my heart, though no ultrasounds had shown us yet, that it was a little girl.  I knew in my heart that she was going to be sweet and beautiful.  I knew in my heart that she would be daddy’s little girl.  I knew in my heart that she would be loved.  And it broke me that I never got to prove my heart right, by sharing her with the world!  And so, my heart stopped.  It stopped being joyful, it stopped being happy, it stopped being hopeful….until it came time to give our baby a name.

And in this first naming experience, I did not struggle.  Somehow, along with all I knew in my heart about her, we both knew in our hearts what our daughter’s name was:

Esperanza.4-25-10-014

Esperanza is the Spanish word for “hope.”  And though it was not the name we had picked out for her originally, this name fit her.  And this name has made her into something so much greater than just herself.  Through her name, my daughter helped me find hope again, and eventually along with it joy and happiness after that very dark period in my life.  Through her name, my little angel has helped me remain hopeful in so many other areas, including future dark periods, of my life – and especially in my motherhood.  Through her name, my daughter is hope and brings hope and makes me want to be hope. She is, in my heart and in how she lives on in my life, something beautiful.  And so with her, I know we did her naming very well.

It’s amazing all that can be in a name – the right name at least.

October 1pregnancy_infant_loss_awareness_sticker5 is a day very near and dear to my heart.  Unlike Christmas, Halloween or my husband’s birthday, this one is not a holiday I look forward to, yet one that since that difficult May of 2009 has become a day always marked on my calendar…and more permanently, on my heart.  October 15 is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.  Honored in multiple countries, including the U.S., Canada, United Kingdom, Australia and Italy, the day strives to raise awareness as well as lift up those who have suffered this loss.  It is marked by an “international wave of light,” in which all are invited to light a candle in honor of the precious lives lost at 7:00pm local time – allowing the light to flow across the time zones, nation and world.

Since losing Esperanza, my husband and I have had three beautiful, healthy children; three lives bookmarked by yet another miscarriage, suffered just a few months ago.  Many of my dear family and friends have also lost their babies, along with countless more acquaintances and strangers (an estimated one in four), who have lost their children to miscarriage, stillbirth, SIDS or other far too early ends to their precious little ones’ lives in this world.  For all you women and men out there who have lost your babies, at any stage too early, please know that my prayers are with you on this special day.

Prayers for Hope!

Kateri Mancini is the coordinator of mission education for the St. Cloud Mission Office, where she has ministered for the past 11 years. She has spent that same amount of time sharing life with her best friend and partner in parenting. As both a minister and mother, Kateri spends her days grappling with the intersection of Church and family, theology and potty training.
Kateri Mancini is the coordinator of mission education for the St. Cloud Mission Office, where she has ministered for the past 11 years. She has spent that same amount of time sharing life with her best friend and partner in parenting. As both a minister and mother, Kateri spends her days grappling with the intersection of Church and family, theology and potty training.