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Praising God for gift of creation leads to respect for it, pope says

Human beings are called to praise God for his gift of creation, not be predators out to plunder the earth and all it contains, Pope Francis said.

This is an aerial view of a deforested plot of the Amazon at the Bom Futuro National Forest in Porto Velho, Brazil, Sept. 3, 2015. In a message sent in early July to participants of an Italian conference on the consequences of deforestation in the Amazon, Pope Francis said the current situation in the South American rainforest "is a sad paradigm of what is happening in many parts of the planet."(CNS photo/Nacho Doce, Reuters) 

In a message sent July 8 to participants of an Italian conference on the consequences of deforestation in the Amazon, the pope said the current situation in the South American rainforest "is a sad paradigm of what is happening in many parts of the planet."

It is "a blind and destructive mentality that prefers profit to justice; it highlights the predatory attitude with which men and women relate to nature," he said. "Please do not forget that social justice and ecology are deeply interconnected."

According to its website, the international forum sponsored by the Laudato Si' Community, an association inspired by the pope's encyclical on the environment, reflected on the Amazon as "the key to 'ecological conversion'" in order to obtain a "better understanding of integral ecology and obtain the knowledge of living in harmony with creation."

The conference took place in the central Italian town of Amatrice, which was devastated in 2016 after a 6.2 magnitude earthquake struck the region. Amatrice was the hardest-hit town, accounting for 234 of the estimated 290 deaths, according to the Italian Civil Protection office.

In his message, the pope said the conference's location was "a sign of hope" as well as a "sign of closeness to so many brothers and sisters who still live at the crossroads between the memory of a frightening tragedy and a reconstruction that is slow to take off."

Regarding the conference's theme, the pope said the deforestation and exploitation of the Amazon and its inhabitants has brought thousands of men and women to their knees and forced them to "become foreigners in their own land, deprived them of their own culture and tradition and broke the balance that united these peoples to their land for millennia."

Citing St. Paul VI's encyclical on integral human development, "Populorum Progressio," the pope said that humankind can no longer "remain an indifferent spectator in the face of this destruction, nor can the church remain mute: the cry of the poor must resound."

Pope Francis also offered three attitudes for the conference participants to reflect upon when discussing the care of the environment. The first word, doxology -- the liturgical formula of praise to God - is the attitude that all men and women must have before the beauty of God's creation.

"Praise is the fruit of contemplation, contemplation and praise lead to respect and respect becomes almost veneration before the goods of creation and its creator," the pope said.

An attitude that is eucharistic, he continued, helps men and women grasp the gift of life and recognize that "everything is given to us free of charge, not to be looted or devoured but to be a gift meant to be shared, a gift to be given."

Finally, an ascetic attitude toward the environment is important so that people may "know how to give up something for a greater good, for the good of others.

Asceticism, Pope Francis said, "helps us to convert a predatory attitude - that is always lurking - into sharing, building a relationship that is ecological, respectful and kind."

- By Junno Arocho Esteves / Catholic News Service

Father Nick Nelson: Are socialism and Catholicism compatible?

"Socialism” was the most looked-up word at in 2012 and is currently second all time. Recently, especially among the young and idealistic, socialism has developed a more favorable opinion. It has become increasingly popular and trendy to call oneself a socialist or espouse socialist ideas and goals.

Father Nicholas Nelson
Father Nick Nelson
Handing on the Faith

This is understandable considering what socialism promises — equality, a good standard of living, solidarity. And at first glance, socialism can seem to be very compatible with our Catholic faith. We are called to care for the poor and to help those in need.

But when we consider the fundamental principles of socialism, we see that it is contrary to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In fact, our Holy Fathers since Pius IX in 1849 have repeatedly condemned socialism. Here are just a few examples:

Pope Leo XIII wrote, “They [socialists, communists, or nihilists] debase the natural union of man and woman, which is held sacred even among barbarous peoples; and its bond, by which the family is chiefly held together, they weaken, or even deliver up to lust. Lured, in fine, by the greed of present goods, which is ‘the root of all evils, which some coveting have erred from the faith’ (1 Timothy 6:10- 13), they assail the right of property sanctioned by natural law; and by a scheme of horrible wickedness, while they seem desirous of caring for the needs and satisfying the desires of all men, they strive to seize and hold in common whatever has been acquired either by title of lawful inheritance, or by labor of brain and hands, or by thrift in one’s mode of life” (encyclical “Quod Apostolici Muneris,” 1878).

Pope St. John XXIII wrote that no Catholic can even subscribe to moderate Socialism, “The reason is that Socialism is founded on a doctrine of human society which is bounded by time and takes no account of any objective other than that of material well-being. Since, therefore, it proposes a form of social organization which aims solely at production, it places too severe a restraint on human liberty, at the same time flouting the true notion of social authority” (encyclical “Mater et Magistra,” 1961).

St. Pope Paul VI emphasizes the real historical failures of socialism. “Too often Christians attracted by socialism tend to idealize it in terms which, apart from anything else, are very general: a will for justice, solidarity, and equality. They refuse to recognize the limitations of the historical socialist movements, which remain conditioned by the ideologies from which they originated” (apostolic letter “Octogesima Adveniens,” 1971).

History has shown that socialism doesn’t work even as an economic theory. See the current situation in Venezuela. It doesn’t work because incentive is so important to the economy, and socialism minimizes or eliminates incentive. In his 1995 essay “Why Socialism Failed,” Mark Perry wrote that incentives are based on the three Ps: 1) prices determined by market forces; 2) a profit and loss system of accounting;and 3) private property rights which are a natural human rights. When you don’t have these three Ps, you don’t have an incentive to work hard, and the economic system fails.

And maybe most condemning of socialism is St. John Paul II. He wrote, “We have to add that the fundamental error of socialism is anthropological in nature. Socialism considers the individual person simply as an element, a molecule within the social organism, so that the good of the individual is completely subordinated to the functioning of the socioeconomic mechanism. Socialism likewise maintains that the good of the individual can be realized without reference to his free choice, to the unique and exclusive responsibility which he exercises in the face of good or evil. Man is thus reduced to a series of social relationships, and the concept of the person as the autonomous subject of moral decision disappears, the very subject whose decisions build the social order. From this mistaken conception of theperson there arise both a distortion of law, which defines the sphere of the exercise of freedom, and an opposition to private property” (encyclical “Centesimus Annus,” 1991).

St. John Paul II gets to the heart of the matter. Socialism’s only measure of well-being is material well-being and production. The good of the individual is subordinated to the good of the economy. Socialism sets up a system and envisions a world where everything is equally distributed, and therefore there is no need for voluntary human acts of justice, charity, compassion, etc. The human person isn’t called to make morally upright choices because there is no room for them, no need for them. But as we know, part of being a good human person is exercising our free will and autonomy for the good.

We must not be fooled by the utopian promises of socialism. Socialism has failed over and over again. Its fundamental principles contradict the truths of our faith regarding the nature of the human person, the family, and natural rights. Abortion, contraception, sexual license, and non-traditional family structures are hallmarks of socialism.

Yes, there are inequalities in the world, and that is where the Gospel challenges us personally. “Those of you who have two cloaks should give one to him who has none” (Luke 3:11). But it’s not for the state to demand and orchestrate at the expense of the dignity of the human person.

Father Nick Nelson is pastor of St. Mary, Cook; St. Martin, Tower; and Holy Cross, Orr. He studied at The Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Rome. Reach him at [email protected]

Deacon Kyle Eller: Dealing with the weariness of our seemingly endless culture war

Many years ago, at the height of the Iraq War, I got an email newsletter from a well-known evangelical Protestant pro-life and pro-family group. In it was a deeply unworthy column mocking concerns over the torture of prisoners that had come to public prominence at that time.

Deacon Kyle Eller
Deacon Kyle Eller
Mere Catholicism

This was a betrayal of the principles, such as the dignity of the human person and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, that the organization was supposedly based on, principles I shared. It strongly suggested partisan politics as the real motivating principle. (I have since come to learn that that is all too common.)

I was quick on the “unsubscribe” button.

Another scene: Last year, as Ireland prepared to vote on whether to legalize abortion, one of my favorite bands, U2, a band with music so full of Christian references that in its early days it had to resist being classified as Christian rock, came out in favor of legalizing abortion.

Now, when U2 comes on the radio, I change the station.

Those examples come to mind from an extremely long list — human rights organizations like Amnesty International that abandon the human rights of unborn children, pro-life media outlets that consistently sensationalize and take quotes from their opponents out of context, Catholic musicians posting rainbow flags and ignoring questions about whether they hold the fullness Catholic belief regarding human sexuality.

Often (not always) my response is to simply walk away and no longer associate with such things. Or, one might say, I let them walk away.

Sometimes I express my sadness as this happens, but for me, the point is not really boycotting or protesting, not anymore. I do believe in miracles and grace, but short of such divine intervention I have no illusions posting some message on social media in the midst of a public controversy is going to make a difference to the people involved here.

Even imagining I’m wrong about that — suppose, for instance, U2 faced so much backlash that they felt compelled to walk it back in some way — what would it really accomplish? Not, I think, a real change of heart for people who, presumably after due consideration and reflection and consultation, decided a “right” to dismember helpless unborn children was a cause they wanted to get behind publicly.

Absent some kind of personal relationship, of course they are not going to care. Offending people like me is often part of the point.

Many people responding to these things seem driven by outrage. I feel like I’m less and less so. Mostly I feel sadness. And the more I admired the person or group, the worse that is. Countless famous musicians publicly support abortion, but it’s not like the visceral gut-punch I felt seeing U2 do it, because U2 was supposed to be (and in many ways was) the good guys. There’s an old Latin maxim, “corruptio optimi pessima,” which means “the corruption of the best is the worst.” I think that’s true. The more admirable people are, the worse it is to see them embrace something awful.

This has all really come to a head for me over the past month, with half of my social media draped in rainbow flags and much of corporate America demanding abortion. I’m experiencing a deep weariness of it all.

Once upon a time, not so long ago in years, although it feels like another lifetime, every square inch of public and private life were not a culture war battlefield.

Once upon a time, I didn’t know every ugly thought that went through the mind of everyone I know. Boy, do I miss those days.

Ideology and politics have long infused news and entertainment media, and to a lesser degree sports. But it wasn’t this way, this endless, dreary, daily drone.

I remember when major companies such as Netflix kept to themselves their contempt for huge numbers of customers and whole states regarding controversial topics like abortion. (Did I miss a memo here? Aren’t the sexual revolutionaries at this very moment hauling business owners to court arguing they should not be allowed to conduct business according to their moral and religious convictions?)

I remember when the Minnesota State Parks and Trails did not celebrate “Pride” on its Facebook page and neglect to delete comments by the “inclusive” suggesting that those who have objections should get off the trails. (Did I miss another memo? It seems like only yesterday the sexual revolutionaries demanded government remain as neutral as possible on moral and religious issues.)

And I think I remember a time when outrage over the outrage du jour was not the measure of one’s commitment to a good cause, and a time when being kind and reasonable in hopes of persuading rather than being pugnacious and bitter in hopes of destroying was a virtue.

So what do we do? Compromising the faith is not a solution — the faith is the most critical good of all to defend, the true hope of the world. But what, then? Walk away? Speak up? Stand silent? Start building small, intentional communities where our faith is lived and loved? Rely on the “apostolate of friendship” and walk with one soul at a time?

Depending on the circumstances, any of those (or several of them) might be a right answer. It’s that old question of what it means for us to be in the world and not of the world, and it seems, in our time, to be getting harder.

Whatever we do, we should recognize that this kind of discernment is difficult and think gently of those struggling to manage it. And most of all we should sincerely forgive and pray for those who have betrayed the things we hold dear.

Deacon Kyle Eller is editor of The Northern Cross. Reach him at [email protected]

Bishop Paul Sirba: Steps to hold bishops accountable were taken at USCCB meeting

At our June meeting, the bishops of the United State of America approved documents to hold bishops accountable for instances of sexual abuse of children or vulnerable persons, sexual misconduct, or the intentional mishandling of such cases. We committed to involving lay professional experts. We also established a new, independent mechanism for the reporting of such cases.

Bishop Paul Sirba
Fiat Voluntas Tua

Following the Apostolic Letter, or motu proprio, issued by the Holy Father, Pope Francis, in May 2019, which strengthened current practice for the universal Church by establishing broad mandatory internal reporting, establishing whistleblower protection for those making those reports, expanding the definition of vulnerable adults to include anyone coerced into sexual acts through an abuse of power, and reiterating and clarifying that bishops are subject to the universal law of the Church that forbids sexual abuse and its intentional mishandling of cases, the U.S. bishops added significant new measures.

In addition, our votes in June mean that the bishops will establish a national reporting system for complaints against bishops. This will reaffirm our commitment to place ourselves under the very same codes of conduct that hold priests, deacons, and employees accountable. It includes prohibitions on sexual harassment and other sexual misconduct and made more explicit the fraternal correction necessary when a brother bishop fails in his obligations to the people of God, such as restricting the privilege to participate in the USCCB.

While these new initiatives or in some cases refinements of protocols and policies we have had in the United States dioceses since 2002 are concrete steps to hold bishops accountable, they are still a work in progress, and we will need constant vigilance. It will continue to be the work of our lifetime.

The full text of the pope’s motu proprio, entitled “Vos Estis Lux Mundi” (“You are the Light of the World”), as well as the reforms we voted on at the June meeting of the USCCB, are available on the new website the USCCB launched June 7:

I received an advance copy of Bishop Robert Barron’s book, “Letter to a Suffering Church: a Bishop Speaks on the Sexual Abuse Crisis.” I know many of our priests have received a copy already, and I ordered copies for the pastoral center staff and our deacons. I recommend this fine piece to you. I share the sentiments of Bishop Barron. We are contemporaries, ordained the same year as priests. He traces the painful reality of clergy sexual abuse, calling the recent crisis “the Devil’s Masterpiece.” He also proposes the way forward, which is to stay and fight.

Above all, among the compelling arguments he offers for reforming the clergy and by extension all the rest of us is to fight by our pursuit of holiness in our own lives. Fight by becoming the saint that you are meant to be.

During this month of July, when, please God many are able to take some vacation days or at least some time to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation in a Minnesota summer, we can bring to God our needs and bask in His love. Jesus is victorious through His cross and resurrection and we can never forget that.

Bishop Paul Sirba is the ninth bishop of Duluth.

Editorial: Remember the facts in the abortion debate

The abortion debate that has sometimes smoldered and sometimes raged since even before the 1973, when the travesty of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision was made, has flared dramatically in recent weeks. States are jockeying to position themselves for the possibility the court could overturn Roe. Some states have passed laws restricting abortion, in part hoping to get Roe overturned. Others have lurched the other way, eliminating abortion regulations in extreme and barbaric ways, aiming to preserve legal abortion in an America after Roe.

Along with this has come an increase in vitriol, especially directed at the pro-life movement, and a flood of biased reporting.

In such cases, it’s often helpful to go back to two basic facts at the heart of the matter: Human life begins at conception, and the point of abortion is to end that life.

That’s not a religious view. That’s biology.

This is true whether the person saying it is a woman or a man or whether they favor this political party or that, and no matter what religion, if any, a person adheres to. From a strictly logical point of view, it remains true whether the person saying it is a saint or a mean, hypocritical villain, although we’d certainly prefer the former. And while we care deeply about the suffering of those who have been wounded by abortions, the truth of these facts also does not depend on whether people find it hurtful or offensive.

This is just what is.

When all the sophistry is stripped away, when all the feet have been stamped, when all the name-calling has been exhausted, these facts remain, even though only one side seems to want to take them seriously.

Where our faith comes into these facts is in bidding us to defend the innocent while loving and supporting both mother and child. Our culture would have us pretend not to see these truths. That ought to be a very clear choice for us all.

Deacon Kyle Eller: Homemade pasta was a rebellion against the tyranny of efficiency

Last month, I had a couple of hours to myself at home. I’d been feeling a bit down. I needed supper. The easy chair and the Internet were beckoning — or, to use the correct verb, “tempting.”

Deacon Kyle
Mere Catholicism

Instead, I switched things up. I decided to do something I had never done before: make fresh pasta, from scratch, by hand.

I had been thinking about it, learning about it, wanting to do it — and not doing it. It was a perfect opportunity. I could be my own guinea pig before rolling it out (pun intended) for my family and others. If I messed it up too badly, all I would be out is some basic ingredients, and it was only my own meal, so I could easily fall back on the usual fare.

So I did it. I put out the flour, made a well, tossed in eggs, and made dough, following the process I’d learned about. You don’t even need a recipe.

As advertised, it was really sticky at first, but it all came together. I kneaded it for a solid ten minutes, the gluten in the flour did its thing, and the result was a glorious ball of dough that looked exactly like it was supposed to.

I went simple on the sauce. While the dough rested, I gathered some ingredients — onion, garlic, cherry tomatoes, some olive oil and balsamic vinegar, some seasonings — and cooked that while the pasta cooked. I finished the whole dish with fresh grated Parmesan, cracked pepper, and crushed red pepper.

This was work. It took more than an hour. Rolling the dough out thin enough by hand was especially challenging.

But the end result was so worth it. It was certainly one of the best meals I have ever personally cooked, reminding me of my favorite locally owned Italian restaurant. It was a great learning experience that prepared me to do it better when I did it a few days later with my family.

Perhaps most surprisingly, the work was joyful. Admittedly, this was something new, which is often more fun. And I’m the sort of person who likes to cook when he feels like it. As a daily chore, I could see doing all this by hand being wearisome.

But I feel like there was more to it. Kneading the dough in front of the kitchen window on a sunny spring afternoon was profoundly peaceful. For someone whose daily work often consists of moving words around a screen, it was refreshing to work using my hands to develop the natural gifts God has given the world into delicious food.

I loved seeing the little ordinary, everyday miracle of a pile of flour turn, with the help of eggs and oil, first into a blob of sticky goo and then into a wonderfully elastic ball of dough.

I’m still a little awed by how frugal it was, by how little it cost to make such a wonderful, abundant, satisfying, even indulgent meal. (One of my inspirations for doing this was reading a book called “Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4 a Day,” by Leanne Brown, which you can find for free download on the Internet.)

Then there was the time itself. That’s the big worry, right? Like walking to work when there’s a car in the driveway that will get you there in a fraction of the time or planting a garden that may only end up feeding the local wildlife while produce at the grocery store is easy and cheap, taking the time to make pasta from scratch when many now find even opening a box of dried pasta and boiling water too taxing can feel a little crazy.

But somewhat to my surprise, I had no regrets about spending that time. I felt like I’d used it well, better than I often do, and certainly better than I would have in the easy chair. The time spent later that week with my family making homemade tortillas and quesadillas and then a couple of days later making pasta with them was even better spent. They were some of the most enjoyable hours in recent memory.

As I reflect on why, I come up with a number of reasons. Of course I cherished my family’s company and their creativity and skill in a shared task. (We need more of that.) And in a world that often feels like it’s spiraling into insanity, there is something grounding about working at a task that’s ancient and concrete and natural, physically connected to the real world and therefore to the living God who made it.

Perhaps more subtly, spending time this way feels like a wholesome rebellion against the tyranny of efficiency, this attitude we can unwittingly embrace that demands every moment be spent in a maximally, measurably productive way.

This is the same attitude that keeps many of us from spending the time with God in prayer that is both our vocation and our birthright as Christians. Prayer, too, is often perceived as a “waste of time” when in reality it’s anything but. Communion with him is, after all, how we hope to spend eternity.

Giving yourself permission to “waste time with God” is actually a definition of prayer I like. Even though it’s never a waste, it can feel like it is, so giving ourselves permission to do it anyway is an explicit rejection of the strange modern idolatry that makes the clock the measure of all things.

We need to stand up to it. Even if you don’t do it with homemade pasta, you should definitely do it in your prayers, beginning with your approach to Mass this coming Sunday. Resolve to let it take as long as it takes. You’re practicing for eternity.

Deacon Kyle Eller is editor of The Northern Cross. Reach him at [email protected]

Betsy Kneepkens: Including faith in family travels enriches relationships.

With spring comes travel season for the Kneepkens household. There are plenty of events to attend with children in three different geographical areas outside the Northland. We have college events to attend, birthdays to celebrate, and we travel for sports for our two youngest. I enjoy the hopping from city to city, from one kid event to another. If I calculate the time, I might find I am outside Duluth more than I am at home this time of year.

Betsy Kneepkens
Faith and Family

Some might see traveling like this as a drag. Others, like me, see an opportunity to meet people I would not get to know otherwise, see places out of the ordinary, and dine out where the town regulars eat. As it should, our faith travels with us, whether we are in small towns or large cities. Unquestionably our travel experience is enhanced because we intentionally include our practices, devotions, and rituals of our Catholic faith.

One of these enrichments happened a couple of months ago. My daughter and I discovered the most charming Catholic figure in someone’s front yard. Perched at the top of the hill on I-35, just before Spirit Mountain, we became aware of this massive statue of Mary. This symbol of Mary seems to be watching over the Northland.

Since finding this sacred art, our family has made it a practice to begin our journey with a Hail Mary as we drive by, which provides us with an opportunity to seek her intervention for Duluth, our trip, and any needs we have at that time. Not surprisingly, that same image of Mary greets us on our way back home. Well lit up at night, this sacred art provides us with a great reminder to end our travels in prayer.

As we crisscross the Midwest, we have experienced others who, like the family with the Mary statue in their front yard, have taken it upon themselves to encourage others toward holiness. For instance, when I drive down I-39 to my son’s college in St. Louis, we will see many farm fields that have, over a series of miles, the words for the prayers for the rosary. How generous and evangelical of those families to create reminders for us travelers! What a beautiful way to turn what was otherwise a boring drive into faithful moments.

When you travel as we do, you quickly learn that there are few places in the country where a Catholic Church is not within 30 minutes of you. Therefore for almost 20 weekends a year, we attend Sunday Mass outside our home parish. As Catholics, we know the soul of the Mass is the same no matter where a person attends. However, my family has learned that every parish has a charism or character about it. We have experienced many unique perspectives of our faith just by attending Mass elsewhere. Our travels have been made more profound and more vibrant just because we are committed to having this as part of our journey. Let’s say we have been pleasantly surprised by all the difference we have seen and how incredibly alive the Catholic Church is in areas you may never expect.

On occasion, not often, I will see a country Catholic Church on the side of the road and daily Mass is going on. What an unexpected treat and even better way to encounter the Lord. Traveling is often rushed and at times stressful. There’s no better way to redirect your heart than a 30-minute daily Mass at tiny town church — always an add-on to our drive, but a slice of heaven I would not have had if I did not stop.

In a couple of instances, the only Sunday Mass we could find was at a Spanish-language Mass. Honestly, we were a bit uneasy at first, because we thought we would feel lost. However what we found was a welcoming community, pretty much the same Mass we go to each week, and delightfully easy to follow, even though spoken in a language we don’t know. What was most endearing was having the opportunity to participate in their passion and enthusiasm. The Mass to those Spanish-speaking folks was clearly a celebration of faith. If we were not living out our Sunday obligation — or, better said, desire — our family would have missed out on this beautiful experience.

Once again, while attending a sports tournament in Spooky Nook, Pennsylvania, we learned that the closest Catholic church was 15 miles away. When we approached this tiny church, I did not expect much. What I learned was truly inspiring. This parish priest shared one of the best homilies I have ever heard about the Book of Revelation. What a blessing that Mass was, and what a horrible miss it would have been had I ignored my Sunday obligation.

It seems I have countless stories about our family’s faith encounters on the road. These experiences add to the richness of our family and our faith. Traveling as a family is almost always intended to add life to a family.

As summer begins and you hit the road for vacation, trust me when I say including a spiritual component to the experience will enhance your relationship with each other and with God. I know that our family will be participating in many faith acts as we travel near and far. I also know that including Christ will make the time together an even great gift.

What an absolute blessing, and I hope the same for you! Enjoy summer.

Betsy Kneepkens is director of the Office of Marriage, Family, and Life for the Diocese of Duluth and a mother of six.

June has many celebrations for us

This month of June boasts some significant liturgical feasts and diocesan celebrations.

Bishop Paul Sirba
Fiat Voluntas Tua

The weekend of June 2 celebrates the Ascension of the Lord. Jesus commissioned his disciples to baptize in his name. He ascended to the Father and sits at His right hand in glory. Traditionally, the weekdays beginning on Ascension Thursday (May 30, 40 days after Easter) leading to Pentecost Sunday, June 9, are days for us to prepare for the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete — the original novena.

On the feast of Pentecost, the celebration is more than memory. We believe that the Old Testament Feast of Passover was fulfilled in the New Testament by the institution of the Eucharist by Jesus. We also believe that the Old Testament Feast of Pentecost, which was a celebration of the receiving of the law on Mt. Sinai, was fulfilled in the New Testament Feast of Pentecost, 50 days after the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

I will have the privilege of confirming candidates from the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary, St. Raphael, St. Rose, St. James, and others in what is a new Pentecost for them. God, the Holy Spirit, descended upon the first apostles to show that He was the new law, which sealed the new and eternal covenant and consecrated them to Himself. Instead of the law that was written on stone tablets, the Holy Spirit will write the law of love upon these new disciples’ hearts. He will give them a new heart and a new Spirit. He will invite them into an intimate relationship with Him.

All of us have been baptized into one and the same Spirit and live by that same Spirit. God the Holy Spirit is continually purifying and renewing His Church. The Holy Spirit, the Advocate, will help our Diocese to heal and go forth to proclaim all that Jesus Christ said and did to renew the face of the earth.

On Pentecost Sunday, the Sequence, “Veni, Sancte Spiritus,” is said. The Easter candle is lit at all the Masses. We are dismissed with the double alleluia, and the Easter season ends with the conclusion of Evening Prayer.

Trinity Sunday follows on the weekend of June 16. Corpus Christi is celebrated on the weekend of June 25. Our Diocese will celebrate with the parishes of St. Andrew’s and St. Francis in Brainerd as they dedicate and bless their new additions. Improvements focusing on hospitality, evangelization, and sacred worship will greatly enhance the work of these vibrant parishes. A Eucharistic procession from St. Francis to St. Andrew’s will conclude the festivities — please come!

The month of June concludes with the great feasts of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and the World Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of Priests and the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, June 28 and 29 respectively.

Of course, included in the festivities of this month are graduations from our Catholic grade schools. Many thanks to our Catholic school principals, teachers, staffs, and parents for another exceptional year of learning! Weddings, anniversaries, including Father Eamonn Boland and Father Charlie Flynn’s 50th ordination anniversaries — ad multos annos! — and the beginning of summer are also in the mix.

Celebrate well!

Bishop Paul Sirba is the ninth bishop of Duluth.

Clergy assignments effective in July

Bishop Paul D. Sirba has announced the following clergy assignments, effective Wednesday, July 17.  

  • Father Paul Strommer, parochial vicar of St. Francis, Brainerd; All Saints, Baxter; and St. Thomas of the Pines, Brainerd, to parochial vicar of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary and St. Mary Star of the Sea, Duluth. 
  • Father Jeremy Bock, parochial vicar of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary and St. May Star of the Sea, Duluth, to parochial vicar of Blessed Sacrament, Hibbing. 
  • Father Beau Braun, parochial vicar of Blessed Sacrament, Hibbing, to parochial vicar of St. Francis, Brainerd; All Saints, Baxter; and St. Thomas of the Pines, Brainerd.  
  • Father Andy Knop OMI, National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows, Belleville, IL, to Administrator of St. Michael, Duluth.
  • Father Francis Kabiru, Administrator of St. Michael, Duluth, to Archdiocese of Nairobi.
  • Deacon Chico Anderson, deacon at St. Lawrence, St. Joseph, and Holy Family, Duluth, to deacon at Benedictine Living Community and St. Scholastica Monastery and College of St. Scholastica. 
  • Deacon John Foucault, deacon at St. Benedict, Duluth, to deacon at St. Lawrence and Holy Family, Duluth.  
  • Deacon James Philbin, deacon at St. Benedict, Duluth, to deacon at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary and St. Mary Star of the Sea, Duluth. 
  • Deacon Richard Laumeyer, deacon at St. Mary Star of the Sea, Duluth, to retirement. 
  • Deacon David Lindmeier, deacon at St. Michael, Duluth, to retirement. 

Deacon Kyle Eller: Lost in the fire? Notre Dame invites us to consider rebuilding other treasures

Sometimes the coming together of seemingly unrelated events sparks a new insight. In the days after the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris burned, I was preparing for a radio interview about something else, a sacred music workshop in Hibbing I’m helping with in early May.

Deacon Kyle Eller
Mere Catholicism

In the midst of this, a line from one of the documents of the Second Vatican Council came to mind: “The musical tradition of the universal Church is a treasure of inestimable value, greater even than that of any other art.”

That’s the first sentence from the chapter in the council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy — the magna carta of modern liturgical reform. If you really stop to think about what those words mean, it’s an extraordinarily bold statement. The events at Notre Dame really put its question to us. Here we are in the midst of grappling with the potential loss of the cathedral and its contents. Catholics, of course, thought (or should have thought) of the most precious thing the cathedral contained, infinitely more precious than the whole building and everything else in it, the Blessed Sacrament. We also thought of irreplaceable relics.

These things are of a different and higher order than any mere artwork.

But we were rightly grieved, too, at the thought of losing the architecture and irreplaceable and priceless works of art. Consider their worth to the human race. Now multiply that. Think of St. Peter’s in Rome. Think of all the other beautiful churches in Rome, let alone all of Europe.

For that matter, think closer to home. Last year around this time, I had the privilege of going to St. John Cantius parish in Chicago for liturgical training, and it seemed like every time I walked around a corner there was another amazing nook with relics or sacred art. Every time I step into the beautifully renovated St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Sioux Falls, where I have family, or even into its adoration chapel, my heart is lifted to God.

Think of the treasures even just in our own local parishes.

And here are the fathers of the Second Vatican Council saying the treasure of the church’s sacred music exceeds all of that other art. Imagine!

The rest of the chapter is about how this “treasure of sacred music is to be preserved and fostered with great care” by the church in her liturgy, giving Gregorian chant “pride of place,” with greater formation for clergy in sacred music, the fostering and promoting of choirs, improved versions of the chant books, liturgical training for composers and singers, and so on.

As I read it, new compositions are put in the context of this incredible patrimony of sacred music we were to receive and preserve and foster — as taking their place within and building upon that living tradition.

And then the absolute opposite of that happened.

While vestiges still remain, in many parishes, this tradition of sacred music was almost completely eradicated, replaced with music that both in form and in lyrical content is often utterly alien to it.

Over many years now, I have worked to learn this lost patrimony of sacred music myself and to share it with others in my small way through singing it and teaching it and encouraging it. It is easy for me to grieve over what might have been, what ought to have been, had the church carried out this aspect of liturgical reform in the way I believe Vatican II intended.

I can imagine magnificent plainchant adaptations, harking to ancient modal melodies of millennia-old chants, the faithful still praying in vernacular translations the rich liturgical texts that now languish largely unsung, unsaid, unnoticed in the missals.

I can imagine what it would be like had new generations of composers and choirs, formed in the mind of the church, who knew Palestrina and Byrd and the rest, built on that tradition, and what their motets might sound like during the Offertory had we invested in that since 1963.

But rather than dwell on what has been lost in the metaphorical fire, as it were, perhaps this literal fire at Notre Dame presents us an invitation to a more positive approach.

We have been reminded that beauty matters — that it can be, in fact, a way to God, even a privileged way in our difficult times of evangelization. The church even has a name for it — the “via pulchritudinis,” the “way of beauty.” Debate over how Notre Dame is to be rebuilt has rekindled in us a renewed sense of why it was built in the first place. It has, too, proposed for us the question — the examination of conscience — over why we “don’t build them like that anymore.”

Should our renewed sensitivity to these questions not transfer over to the rest of our faith life? Should we not reconsider the other things that have been lost, particularly when it’s clear they were great treasures never, ever meant to be lost? Ones that can be recovered, rebuilt?

I’m very grateful to belong to and to serve as a deacon in a parish in which plainchant and other forms of sacred music are no longer alien, no longer like a long forgotten musical “mother tongue.” They are part of our liturgical life every weekend. It is my fond hope that they become ever more so, in our parish and in many others.

It’s true that this rebuilding is difficult, especially at first. But do you know what else it is? Possible. Possible, that is, if we want it to be.

Deacon Kyle Eller is editor of The Northern Cross. Reach him at [email protected]