The Zipper Resolution

I remember Lent as a kid and it was always about giving something up. Usually it was candy or sweets.  Other kids, braver and stronger than I, would give up TV.  Now Lent is different. I still try for the candy thing, but I try to look beyond food in conscious choices to do or be different.

Lent always sounds like New Year’s Resolutions and often we joke about those, and how quickly those are broken. I am happy to say that I do much better with Lent than New Years. I take that as a good sign in terms of my Catholic faith.

Some time ago, I taped a picture to my computer screen at work. Many have seen it, but only one co-worker has asked me about it. The college students who work with me probably just take it as confirmation that I am odd. It is my resolution – for Lent and really for every day.

What does it mean?

A picture of a zipper Sheila keeps on her desk.

Is it True? Is it Necessary? Is it Kind? If not, zipper (as in my mouth, as in be silent, as in walk away). There are cool looking Pinterest things with this, but my purpose is not décor for the office, or to remind others. It is for me. Quiet. Subtle.

In researching the origins of this, I found out in ancient Greece, the philosopher Socrates spoke of it and it was called the Triple Filter Test (Truth, Goodness/Intention, Usefulness/Function).

This, however, is not one of those resolutions where if you fail, you give up. Because I fail often, repeatedly. It is too important, however, to give up. The little reminder puts me back into a place to try again. Following it makes me a better person, better colleague, better friend. Giving up candy has good consequences as well, but that is between the weight scale and me. This resolution, I think, centers my life with God. My relationship with Him is reflected daily, even hourly, in my exchanges with others. My simple “T, N, K” makes me pause. Sometimes it helps and causes me to filter. Sometimes I say things anyway. This resolution helps me recognize my failings.

On the other side, “T, N, K,” also serves as an inspiration to be bold, but on the side of affirmation. Speech is all too often associated with hate and bullying. Negative stuff, but I can use “T, N, K” to lift people up. How many people need that boost? How many people get it? If it is true and it is kind, odds are it is necessary and someone really needs to hear it. Be the light in someone’s otherwise dark day.  That is why my picture is open at the top. I need to find the times when opening my mouth is important and necessary.  Why is this harder for me?  It shouldn’t be.

At the end of each day this Lent, I am going to spend a minute and ask myself “Today was I as quick with my compliments as I was with my complaints?”  If not, I resolve tomorrow to do better. Maybe at the end of the 40 days, I will be able to say “yes” more often than “no.” I know it won’t be every day. God knows that too.

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.

Living authentically

It seems to be a new catch phrase, “live authentically.” Yet, as a Catholic, sometimes that is harder than it appears. For me, this time of year is especially difficult. It has nothing to do with Christmas. Next week we mark the anniversary of Roe v. Wade which legalized abortion. It is not news to anyone who knows me well that I am a practicing Catholic and I do not hide my faith. I have encouraged Confirmation students to wear their faith like a coat. Not like a Sunday coat or Wednesday night coat (because you have to go to religion class), but every day. This is hard advice to dispense when I, myself, find myself not necessarily wearing my coat when talk around office, on the street, in the store, or wherever there are conversations and debates that split society and, in cases, split Catholics themselves.

I often go back to another question. “If you were on trial for being a Catholic, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” I got started thinking about this after a homily on Sunday where a visiting priest told us to remember that someday, in heaven, we will see someone and we will remember that we could have done more. I think this applies to individuals, as well as our faith. There is always more we can do to defend our faith, our beliefs – even those hard ones – where we are challenged. In my case, it is not doubt in what I believe, but lack of confidence in the face of belittlement, shaming, and implications about a lack of intelligence, as though Catholicism, especially certain teachings, are ignorant or misogynistic. Though I do not understand how believing, fundamentally, that life begins at conception qualifies for those labels.

We all have a faith unique to us and our process of discernment is a continuous process. Our ‘action plan’ for our faith evolves, as opportunities come up and changes force us in a different path. But is that path always moving in the direction of God? We can’t jump on and off the Catholic bandwagon depending on the issue. We can’t be on God’s team only when it is winning. This isn’t football and the Minnesota Vikings. (Speaking of which, imagine if we showed that same level of enthusiasm supporting our Catholic “team.” Wow!)

Our faith defines us. Are we authentic or are we putting on a show? Are we the same person in church as we are in school? You don’t need to be an evangelist at every opportunity, or a saint, to be a faithful Catholic. You can be you. That is enough for God. At the same time, are we speaking up to defend what we believe?

Matthew 5:14-15 says “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.”

Regretfully I admit to covering my faith with a bowl to avoid those difficult conversations. Yet, even if you do not have faith bold enough to stand on the top of a hill with your light, it can be shared. I have done so more quietly, in my own way. I know that is not enough. It is not truly authentic. We have dark corners to light. We have truth to share.

Rather than hiding it, I think we need to remember that our faith may have an impact on another. It is a deeply personal thing, but if you own it and really wear it, it will touch the people around you and it will make a difference in your families, to your friends, to complete strangers. God gave us a voice, to sing (though my case not very well) and to speak. To declare our belief that January 22, 1973, the Supreme Court got it wrong…very wrong.

This new year I am going to try harder to wear my coat, not just Sundays. I am going to try to be found guilty of being a Catholic at every opportunity. I am going to focus on that prayer we say often, but perhaps do not consider closely enough. Where we consider and ask for help “in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do.”

To my friends who are bold, who are walking proud in the March for Life, thank you for using your light. You have my admiration. I want to be as guilty as you of being Catholic.

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.

Advent Series: What we don’t know

One of my favorite Christmas songs is “Mary did you know” written by Mark Lowry. I like all renditions, but recommend googling the Pentatonix version.

I think a lot about the lyrics:

“Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day walk on water?

Mary did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?

Mary did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand?”

No, I don’t think she did. The journey she accepted was already overwhelming, knowing the situation with Joseph and the public scrutiny she would face. Imagine if she knew the full story – what Jesus would do, how He would suffer, how He would change the world. What she did have was tremendous faith, despite the unknown.

We cannot purchase faith, sell it or give it to our friends. Wouldn’t it be great if we could? It would make shopping so much easier. Here is a wrapped up package filled with faith that your grandpa will get well. Here is a cute box with a bow filled with faith about your children and their choices. Here is a gift bag, with extra tissue paper, filled with faith that the major decision you made was the right one.

How often do you wish you could just hug someone and transfer the belief you have in them, to them, giving them comfort and confidence? How different do we see ourselves, than how others see us? Wouldn’t it be a gift if we could change that? Unfortunately that doesn’t work and faith does not come in a store, with a receipt for returning it.

As we think about Christmas, faith and those gifts we wrap, I think there are two important things to keep in mind. What seems not very important to you, like casual conversation, may be vital to someone else. Those words of criticism that seem like jokes or kidding, or the verbal praise you don’t say because it’s no big deal or “we just don’t do that in our family” — are more important than you think. Words are so much more than verbal gift wrapping. And remember, someone else is keeping your words and actions close to their heart, recycling over and over in their minds what we said…or didn’t say. Think about what is actually the greatest gift you can give someone. (Hint: It can’t be gift wrapped.)

On the other side, we need to keep remember what seems damaged can still have value. We are more than what our circumstances appear to be to other people. We need to see ourselves in the mirror as God see us, not the rest of the world. This is what I think Mary did know – very well – about herself and her son. I think this is especially important during this season, because while many look forward to everything that comes with the traditions, others are scared, hurting and very much alone. Remember the first Christmas. Mary giving birth in a stable, with everything (physical and emotional) surrounding her at the time.

Finally, the song also asks Mary, did you know “when you kiss your little baby, you have kissed the face of God?” I hope you will think about that this week as we head into Christmas. Each and every person we meet provides us the opportunity to demonstrate our faith, and what is truly important.

If following the model of Mary seems overwhelming, and the approaching pressures of the holiday is overwhelming, remember one more thing. This time from another of my favorites, the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet. (I know, huge swing from Mary to the Grinch.) But he figured out that Christmas comes without ribbons and tags or from a store. Christmas “means a bit more.” Christmas is about a simple, humble stable, and had someone scared, who really didn’t know how it all would work out. Maybe we are more like Mary than we think.

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.

God can be found in the silence

Last week I volunteered at one of my favorite events at St. John’s University — serving Thanksgiving dinner to students. Students receive tickets, come all dressed up and are served the traditional foods. It is family style, so we give them the turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, dressing, pumpkin pie, and they pass it around their table. One lucky student gets designated to carve the turkey. It is a wonderful event and about 1,800 students take part and are served over the course of the night. The men’s choir stands up and sings in the Great Hall. And I got to work with Father Rene, one of my favorite human beings. It is a tradition, and a very beautiful one at that.

As I was leaving, I saw a student looking inside, through the glass doors. He was wearing sweatpants and was alone. As I opened the door, he quickly left. Maybe it was a student with class… maybe. Or maybe he had no group, no invitation to join. As I returned to my office, I hoped he had a place for the approaching long Thanksgiving weekend. I hope his solitary evening was limited to this event as the holidays approach.

I think we are quick to assume that everyone has a shared experience when it comes to holidays and family events. Do we stop to consider, as millions of pictures are posted on Facebook of happy gatherings, that maybe someone is sitting alone? There is no place they fit. Relationships are strained. Maybe they are living in fear. Or they just don’t feel welcome.

This time of year we have food drives for food shelves and volunteerism at shelters is high. These are great! Hunger and homelessness are especially tragic this time of year. But inside our own communities, in our circles, our co-workers, there are those who are broken and sad. Those who have the material goods they need, but not the spiritual support. Truth be told, being home alone over the holidays is not as glamorous as 8-year-old Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) made it appear in the movie “Home Alone.”

But for you, sitting alone Thursday, this blog is for you. You are not unimportant or unworthy. And for every amazing album of pictures shared on Facebook, there is someone just like you sitting on their couch. Remember that God can be found in the silence. He is speaking. You are not alone. Not this holiday, not ever.

Psalm 147:3 “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”

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.

What do we treasure?

Matthew 6: 19-21 “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth consume, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: for where thy treasure is, there will thy heart be also.

I helped a friend clean her attic recently. I have spent time reflecting about it since. I know, most people want to finish such a project and put it behind them. The dust…the spider webs…and other creatures you realize may be joining you (though unseen). However, in recent months I have found myself thinking about our life’s journeys. We each have a different one and we each choose to live it uniquely and, hopefully, authentically. How do we do that? Well, I am not a picture person. There is little physical evidence on this earth I exist, particularly if you judge existence by the number of photos you appear in or possessions you own. Does this lack indicate a life wasted or, at a minimum, insufficiently documented?

I saw a quote recently from Louie CK. While not the most appropriate man to quote for a Catholic blog, I appreciated his sentiment. “I don’t like taking pictures with people… It doesn’t feel normal,” CK explained about people’s need to take a selfie with him rather than have an actual conversation. “I always shake their hand and ask their name because everybody is interesting.” Imagine that, he wants to use that brief encounter, just for a moment, to learn about a stranger.

Treasuring a moment should be about closing your eyes, remembering a smell or a sound or a touch. I think we need to find a way to enjoy things beyond literal societal requirements. Observe. Let some things happen, pass, and then reflect. For instance, when you attended the state fair, would you smile at your selfie in front of the Sweet Aunt Martha’s cookie stand or do you remember the taste of the cookies? I am too skeptical for pictures. I see smiles, but I think about what is going on inside. Worries, hopes, ambitions, anxieties, love, hate, joy, sorrow, disappointment, satisfaction, anguish, anger, gratitude. Who are they really? Where do they wish they really were? I want a conversation; I want to hear your feelings. Describe it to me in words so I can feel your emotions; let’s talk.

Why does this have to do with the attic and my friend? There was a lot of “stuff.” To most, much of it would appear to be of little value or consequence. However, with each box there was a new story – Christmas gifts of long ago- some close to 70 years old, an assortment of practical jokes (definitely inappropriate for Catholic blog), retirement gifts marking a well-earned completion of a career, worn back braces from a severe injury. It was fun, almost a game – what used to be in this empty box? Where did it come from; on what occasion; who gave it; and most importantly, what did you feel about it. We built upon the stories as the day went on. Little pieces, little insights. Her son was able to hear about his mom’s childhood and touch and experience the same toys she played with as a child. She was a person, with feelings, memories and stories, not just “mom.” She joked that we were preparing for an estate sale for someone not dead yet. With that her son stopped her and pointed out that without her narrative, without her voice, all of the “stuff” would not have meaning. Now some of it seems priceless. It is the power of her story that gives it value.

At a certain age we start to think about how a particular day, interaction, experience becomes part of the great story of our life, rather than just another day. Who or what will tell our story? Will people wish there would be one more conversation, one more hug, or one more letter or card? (yes, handwritten, with an actual stamp!) One of the coolest treasures we found was a get-well poster with notes from friends and family that was from a surgery over 30 years ago. Seeing familiar names, remembering forgotten faces. Actually hand-made, handwritten (in cursive even!)

The quest for literal documentation is not new. Remember Thomas in the Gospel. In today’s world, Doubting Thomas would have demanded a picture. In the story of Martha and Mary (the sisters) in Luke 10:39-40, “Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving.” I am pretty sure Martha would have had a camera. Maybe we should be like Mary (his mother) who “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Luke 2:19.

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.

Keep the Change

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.” Jeremiah 1:5

You have seen them – those pro-life billboards between Freeport and Avon. Designed by Profile Across America, these ads offer hope and help to those in need. They are cute, tender, and touching, with facts and an 800 telephone number for help. Billboards are expensive, but there are people who recognize that this message is needed and work hard to get it out. The billboards in this area are the work of the Hartung family from St. Rosa and volunteers from the tri-parish cluster. Each year, for five days, all day long, volunteers run the fried bread stand under the grandstand at the Stearns County Fair. Armed with frozen bread dough, sugar, cinnamon, propane tank and fryer and a passion for the pro-life effort, yummy bread is sold, with all the proceeds going toward these billboards.

This effort was actually started in 1976 by Lawrence and Mary Ann Douvier, dear friends of Hartungs. When they wanted to retire, Hartungs took up the mission. It started with one billboard, then two, and, after last year, three are supported for a year, until the next Stearns County Fair and fundraising effort.

I have been privileged to work in the stand for a shift the past several years. The Stearns County Fair, much like an airport or shopping mall, is a great place for people-watching. I am struck each year by the reactions of people to the stand. A portion do not read the signs or recognize the cause, they are just hungry and fried bread is a great fair food. Others are very aware of the pro-life effort we are working for. There are words of encouragement, words of thanks. Sometimes people donate without taking any bread (clearly not recognizing the nutritional value and not knowing that bread is a “grain” in the food pyramid). Sometimes they want a partial portion, but pay for a full. Others just say “keep the change,” asking us to take their additional donation.

The dedication of the volunteers, especially the Hartungs, is truly impressive. Yes, it is hot in there. (We get that comment a lot.) Yes, it is really loud in there when the demolition derby starts. But sharing time and space (very small space) with people who share the same goal, commitment to life, and enthusiasm, makes fun. It is one of my favorite nights of the year. You leave oily, sugary, but smiling.

Parish fellowship is about enabling the gathering of friends and is usually found in church basements after Mass. I think it can also be about bringing the parish into community. Jesus had fellowship with small groups, sometimes just his Apostles, but we are asked to take our time and talents and be part of a larger Church that includes everyone – creating a community in Christ. You would not think of the Stearns County Fair as a community in Christ, but in this little corner of the fair, that is what happens.

“For where two or three gather in My name, there am I with them.” Matthew 18:20

Until next year, keep an eye out for those billboards and pray for the unborn and those who find themselves scared and confused.

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.

Works of Heart

“All the skilled women spun with their hands, and brought what they had spun, in blue and purple and scarlet material and in fine linen. All the women whose heart stirred with a skill….” Exodus 35:25-26

At St. Rose of Lima parish, if you are a member, you are in a quilting group. Each year, the “chair” of the group is responsible for the organizing of the group and making sure there is a quilt for the auction at the fall festival. You can contract with a quilter to make a whole quilt, or buy fabric and have a quilt top made, then schedule a time with the quilting ladies (Tuesdays in the church basement all winter long!).

At Christian Women’s meetings when the talk turns to patterns like “lone star” and “wedding ring,” I smile and nod, pretending I understand. All the while, I am in awe.

Last year, I was a chair. I have no idea how to quilt. I spent a traumatic three hours at the quilt store, determined to find a pattern and fabrics that would make a nice quilt. I wanted to try. I ventured into terms like jelly rolls, fat quarter, sashing. I left with the necessary supplies (thanks to very nice and patient people who work there). I promptly delivered my purchases to an amazing lady, Monika, who I had contacted earlier to assemble the top.

When complete, the church basement ladies scheduled it for hand stitching on a Tuesday and I made sure myself and other members of my group supplied lunch. Months later it was sold at our parish festival, garnering a nice sum. That is, if you only consider the materials and some nominal sum for labor. In truth, if you consider the true labor costs – creating the top, hand stitching, binding (and all the other things I have no idea about) – whatever price received at auction seems low. Yes, the auction is the reason and yes, the proceeds from the auction are outstanding and contribute considerably to our parish finances. But what is the true reward? I contend it is not the final product – the quilts – but instead it is about the process, the tradition, the friendship, the women themselves.

An internet search tells me that dreaming of sewing signifies the development of a new thought. A dream of sewing is also associated with fixing, repairing, or renewing something in your life. “Renewal of something”… that sounds like Tuesdays in the parish church basement. It is about more than sewing and hand stitching around quilt frames each week (often two quilts at a time because that many women show up). It is about the quilts, but it is about the women just as much. The conversation. Jokes. Advice. Stories. Sharing. These quilts could be made in basements around the community, in solitude and by individuals. But the value this tradition brings to the parish is immeasurable. It is what their mothers did. Their grandmothers did. What they still do together. Bringing word of engagements, pregnancies, vacations, they rejoice together. Bringing worries, fears, stress, anxiety, in the basement, they are not alone. Grief, anger, fear, worry – these things cause our hearts to tear, requiring mending and sewing to make needed repairs.

Ecclesiastes 3:7 says there is “a time to sew together.” I believe these women keep the parish stitched together literally and figuratively, binding together quilts and hearts.

“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Blogger’s note: Sunday, September 3rd @ 2 PM is St. Rose of Lima parish quilt auction. Come for a quilt and honor the work of these amazing women.

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.

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.

Stillness and rest

I have the opportunity to attend Mass at St. John’s Abbey and find myself seeking it out when life seems to be moving too fast. Why? Because there, amid the monks, is the monastic pause.

At first, I admit, that pause confused me. Possibly because my responses were always a beat ahead, causing me to be self-conscious. Then it annoyed me (let’s get this show on the road!). Now I have come to crave it. It forces you to slow your thinking.

Monks of St. John’s Abbey in prayer. Photo courtesy of St. John’s Abbey.

When I did a little research on the pause, I found monastics read words slowly to allow time to gain “stillness.” There are pauses to allow the heart to hear and the “rest” is just as important as the words. I also found out monks chant quietly enough to hear the voice of their brothers beside them. With that, I discovered why I feel the connection to this form of Mass and prayer.

We have a guitar group in St. Rose, my home parish, and my favorite moments are when the guitars, piano, all instrumentation drop and they sing unaccompanied — just the pure, clear, simple beauty of the voice, without cover. I have the same feeling when the “Our Father” is sung. Singing it seems less perfunctory. In the same way, the monks pause to allow time for words to go beyond mechanics and find their meaning.

We all have those Bible verses which speak to us. Based on this reflection, it will come as as no surprise then that I always return to 1 Kings 19: 11-12

So He said, “Go forth and stand on the mountain before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD was passing by! And a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of a gentle whisper.”

Jesus could have chosen a “louder” way of living, yet he did not. Without show or drama, he kept it simple, honest and clear. He did not accumulate stuff, but instead placed value on relationships and people.

It is with that in mind that I think this monastic idea of chanting quietly enough to hear the voice of our neighbor should be taken beyond the walls of the Abbey. I believe some of the loneliness people are often found in the loudest, busiest places. It seems paradoxical. Yet it is there they can be overlooked, their voices, their whispers, unheard due to the noise.

Pope Benedict said in his Verbum Domini in 2010 that “Only in silence can the word of God find a home in us” (VD, No. 66). Granted, He will wait for us, until we are ready to be quiet, but can our neighbor in need? We rush to commotion and excitement. Our attention is drawn to action. It is probably why I feel the pull to rush through that monastic pause, but what am I missing while my eyes are drawn to latest dumpster fire? Who am I missing? We often hear the words “I never saw that coming.” Maybe we can, if we put that pause in our everyday life and listen with the ear of our heart (Rule of St. Benedict).

Sheila Hellermann is a member of and trustee from St. Rose of Lima Church. She works at St. John’s University as a program and department coordinator for several academic departments.

Contagious Excitement: The Potential in Everyone

In a time when too many look upon vocations to the priesthood in a negative way for whatever reason – scandal, dissatisfaction, lack of engagement in the faith – I invite them to meet some of the priests I know, especially the most recently ordained one for the St. Cloud Diocese.

As our parish was preparing for the ordination of Father Derek Wiechmann, I happened across the words of Bishop Michael Burbidge of the Diocese of Raleigh, North Carolina, head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations:

“What a beautiful life it is to live in community with those who are joined together by a sacred bond, to wake up every morning and have the beautiful opportunity to bring the compassion, love and face of Christ to others… It’s a life of great excitement, every day waking up not knowing where the Lord is going to lead you and whose heart he’ll touch with you being the instrument.”

Father Derek Wiechmann’s first Mass June 4 at St. Rose of Lima Church in St. Rosa.

That excitement was on Father Derek’s face before his first Mass in St. Rose on Sunday. Every day he will wake up with the opportunity to be a light to someone in the dark, to provide comfort to the hurting, to be with people in their best and in their worst moments. Priests guide, unite, and encourage. Their job descriptions include action verbs like “counsel, teach, prepare, help, hear, lead, celebrate.”

Imagine if we could all have jobs like that!  Truth be told, it made me jealous. I know, to be jealous of someone committing to a life as a Catholic priest seems a bit odd, but here I am.

Then I remember a homily by Deacon Rick Scherping a couple Sundays ago in St. Rose. He relayed the story of a little boy who set out to meet God. He thought it could be a long trip to where God lives so he packed his suitcase with Twinkies and a six-pack of root beer and started his journey. When he had gone about three blocks he met an old man. He was sitting in the park just staring at some birds. The boy sat down next to him and opened his little suitcase. He was about to take a drink from his root beer when he noticed that the old man looked hungry so he offered him a Twinkie.
The elderly gentleman gratefully accepted it and smiled at the boy. His smile was so pleasant the boy wanted to see it again, so he offered him a root beer. Again, he smiled at him. The boy was delighted! They sat there all afternoon eating and smiling, but they never said a word. As it grew dark, the boy realized how tired he was and he got up to leave, but before he had gone more than a few steps, he turned around, ran back to the old man, and gave him a hug. He gave him his biggest smile ever.

When the boy opened the door to his own house a short time later, his mother was surprised by the look of joy on his face. She asked him, “What did you do today that made you so happy?” He replied, “I had lunch with God.” But before his mother could respond, he added, “You know what? He’s got the most beautiful smile I’ve ever seen!”

Meanwhile, the old man, also radiant with joy, returned to his home. His son was stunned by the look of peace on his face and asked, “Dad, what did you do today that made you so happy?” He replied, “I ate Twinkies in the park with God.” Before his son responded, he added, “You know, he’s much younger than I expected.”

Deacon Rick pointed out that all have a smile to share. We all can do the smallest act of caring, and with that the potential to be Christ to those around us. So maybe we were not called to be priests like Father Derek, but we can share in his excitement — not just in his potential and future, but in our own. We can all follow amazing men like Father Derek and Deacon Rick, not knowing where Lord is leading, but armed with our Twinkies, root beer and pure, genuine excitement as we embrace the opportunity to find out.

Sheila Hellermann is a member of and trustee from St. Rose of Lima Church. She works at St. John’s University as a program and department coordinator for several academic departments.