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Father Mike Schmitz: How open can I be with people?

I am wondering how much I can be vulnerable with people. I have been able to tell some key people in my life about struggles of mine, but when can I tell others?

Thank you very much for writing. As I see it, based on the rest of your letter, there are two issues at work here.

Father Michael Schmitz
Father Michael Schmitz
Ask Father Mike

The first is your very good question about when to be vulnerable with others. In my years of working with young people, I find this is a lesson that is often learned the hard way. It usually goes something like this: A young person makes a connection with another young person and they become “instant friends.” Because this might be the first new friend they have ever had (all other friends are either family members or people they have known for their entire life), this relationship has a lot of new elements that those other relationships don’t. For example, those other relationships are close because of the very nature of the relationship. A situation in which a group of cousins who have been raised together doesn’t require that each cousin “bare their soul” to the others in order to have a solid friendship. What is more, when they do reach a point in their lives where they share deeper things, there is a history and a knowledge to guide that process.

And this is the missing piece. In a relationship that has just started, it is necessary to reveal things about yourself to the other. That is one of the key ways two people get to know each other. And yet, since they are still getting to know each other, they do not know the degree to which they can trust each other. And herein lies the problem: In order to be known, I have to reveal myself. But in order to know the depth to which self-revelation is wise, I need to know if I can trust the other person.

The solution? Patience.

Every one of us has had to learn that just because we have bonded with another person over sports, comic books, or even God, that doesn’t mean that we can trust another person with our heart. We want to be known. We want to know the other person. And there can be, at the start of a friendship, a certain urgency to share. But if we have ever made that mistake, we know that real wisdom in this situation demands slowing down and being wise. We have learned that trust has to be earned.

I want to repeat that: Trust must be earned.

How can you be vulnerable with people? By naturally sharing some things and seeing how the others respond. Do they honor those things you have shared? Do they fail to respond well to them? Over time, do they demonstrate that the are a “friend for a moment” and “friend for a season,” or a “friend for a lifetime”? That can only be known over the course of time. They truly have to prove themselves. And you will have to prove yourself as well.

Some might think that this is incorrect. They might claim that friendship ought to be freely given. I disagree. Love can be freely given. A person might not have to prove themselves in order to be loved. But we are not talking about whether or not someone is “worth loving.” We are talking about whether or not someone is worth trusting. The fact is, many people do not deserve your trust and being vulnerable. They have to prove themselves.

Now, onto the second part of your question.

You mentioned in your letter that the issues you are talking about are things that you struggle with. You further clarified that you’ve brought these things to confession and have shared these with close family members and a couple of select friends.

My question to your question is: Why does anyone else need to know?

I would imagine that this primarily comes from the (good) desire to be known. We all have this. It is the recognition that we are made for relationship. And in real relationship, there is a certain depth of self-revelation and “knowing” the other person. So it makes sense that you would want to share these things in order to be known more deeply.

But the issue as I see it is that you have “identified with” these actions or with the shame attached to these actions to such a degree that they are what you want to share, as if they are your true self.

But that is not true. You are not your sin. You are not your shame.

Of course, you might want to share these with others so that you can be reassured that you can share your shame and still be loved, but you have already done that with important people and with God. And they still love you. God still loves you. Why are you still carrying your shame? Jesus has already forgiven you, he does not want you to torture yourself over what he has already suffered in order to forgive you and set you free.

You are not disqualified from God’s love. You are not your shame. You can share it with those who have proven themselves worthy, but you can also leave it at the foot of the cross.

Father Michael Schmitz is director of youth and young adult ministry for the Diocese of Duluth and chaplain of the Newman Center at the University of Minnesota Duluth. Reach him at [email protected].

Compassion in Times of Transition

Living in a transitional age is scary: It’s falling apart, it’s unknowable, it doesn’t cohere, it doesn’t make sense, it’s all mystery again, and we can’t put order in it. Yet there is little in the biblical revelation that ever promised us an ordered universe. The whole Bible is about meeting God in the actual, in the incarnate moment, in the scandal of particularity, and not in educated theories—so much so that it is rather amazing that we ever tried to codify and control the whole thing. The Bible seems to always be saying that this life is indeed a journey, a journey always initiated and concluded by God, and a journey of transformation much more than mere education about anything. We would sooner have textbooks, I think. Then the journey would remain a spectator sport. The transformation model risks people knowing and sharing “the One Spirit that was given us all to drink” (1 Corinthians 12:13). So sad that we have preferred conformity and group loyalty over real change! But chaos often precedes great creativity. Darkness creates the desire for light. Faith actually precedes great leaps into new knowledge. That’s the good news. Our uncertainty is the doorway into mystery, the doorway into surrender, the path to God that Jesus called “faith.” I’m seeing people of great faith today, people of the Big Truth, who love the church but are no longer on bended knee before an idol. They don’t need to worship the institution; neither do they need to throw it out and react against it. This is a great advance in human maturity. We are slowly discovering what many of us are calling the Third Way, neither fight nor flight, but the way of compassionate knowing.

—from The Wisdom Pattern: Order, Disorder, Reorder by Richard Rohr, OFM

 

No Dream Is Perfect

No dream is perfect, no way the only way, no direction irreversible by God, whose way is the way of reversal, as Mary’s son soon will make clear when he leaves her and Joseph in the lurch at the age of twelve and does not accompany them home to Nazareth from Jerusalem. So Mary makes her way back to Jerusalem, where she and Joseph search anxiously among the crowds there for Passover, looking for their lost son. However, as they soon discover, he is not lost. He has, at twelve years of age, found himself. They find him in the temple teaching. Mary is hurt by this unexpected reversal, this atypical behavior from so perfect a son who had been growing in grace and wisdom; she feels her own son wielding the sword that is piercing her heart. And she says as much. “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety” (Luke 2:48). Jesus’ response must have been hurtful to Joseph, who was already painfully aware of how little he had to do with the conception and birth of this child: “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49). The implication hits so hard—my real father, the one who matters, the God of Abraham. Joseph now gives back God’s gift, Joseph the mystic, who has known the revelation of dreams and angels. Mary must hurt for Joseph, but they both understand that the Holy Spirit has once again surfaced, this time painfully, their own small roles clearly evident in this huge story of God’s prophecies coming to pass. Their road suddenly shrinks; their way seems poor compared to the way, who is this very boy, so good and obedient and kind who now, like Joseph and Mary before him, has heard the Spirit’s call and recognizes that voice and suddenly begins to remember who he is, dimly, but certainly; no other voice will have the same power over him as this voice, the echo of his own. It is as if his own voice is calling him, yet it is the Holy Spirit. They somehow are one. Mary and Joseph in humility and love begin to recede into the background, Joseph forever, and Mary emerging only briefly throughout her son’s life on earth.

—from Mystics: Twelve who Reveal God's Love  by Murray Bodo

 

Holiness Is Living in God's Grace

One misconception about the mystics is that they are singularly holy people, set apart from us ordinary Christians by their holiness. Nothing could be further from the truth. Mystics are singular and different because of their mystical experiences, their visions, not their holiness. Holiness is about living in the grace of God, about virtue, especially the virtue of charity, which is available to all; it is not about visions. Holiness is about faith, not knowledge. Holiness is about abiding in faith, hope and charity. And such is available to everyone open to the Holy Spirit. Another misconception is that the mystics are special friends of God, and the rest of us are not. Again, that is not true. We are all special friends of God if we keep God’s commandments. What is unique about the mystics is the revelations they receive. That makes them distinctive persons in the Body of Christ, but no more necessary. As Saint Paul says, there are many gifts of the Spirit, but the most important, and the only essential one, is the one available to all: charity. “Love never ends,” he says. “But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end” (1 Corinthians 13:8).

—from Mystics: Twelve who Reveal God's Love  by Murray Bodo

 

Calendar

Editor’s note: Due to the spread of the coronavirus, schedules are rapidly changing. Please check in advance before attending an event. This calendar has been updated since the print edition.

Traditional Latin Mass

St. Mary’s Catholic Church, 124 Fifth St. S.E., Cook, will begin offering the Traditional Latin Mass every first Saturday of the month beginning May 2. St. Mary’s will offer a first Saturday Mass in honor of our Blessed Mother in the extraordinary form at 9 a.m. Saturday. Everyone is welcome.

Carmelite community

A third order Carmelite community meets monthly at St. Joseph’s Church, 315 S.W. 21st St., Grand Rapids. Meetings are held the first Saturday of each month. Rosary at 8:30 a.m., followed by Mass at 9 a.m., and morning prayer. Meeting at 10 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. For information on the Carmelite community, please call Deacon Richard Johnston at (218) 966-8251 or Ann Johnston at (218) 966-3052.

Mass on TV

The Diocese of Duluth sponsors a televised Mass at 9:30 a.m. every Sunday from the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., on WDIO-Duluth and WIRT-Hibbing. Donations are welcome and can be sent to TV Mass, 2830 E. Fourth St., Duluth, MN 55812. Please make checks payable to TV Mass. For information contact the diocese at (218) 724-9111 or visit www.dioceseduluth.org click on “Donate.”

Communion and Liberation

The Communion and Liberation School of Community meets every Sunday evening at 5:45 p.m. at St. Benedict Church, 1419 St. Benedict St., Duluth. Prayer, singing, and sharing experiences in light of our friendship in Christ, the group finishes in time to join the congregation in sung vespers at 7 p.m. The community is a companionship that educates. They are currently reading “Generating Traces in the History of the World” by Father Giussani. For more information, please contact William Vouk at (320) 630-8119 or at [email protected]

Living in God’s Divine Will

A group meets Mondays from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. at St. Benedict Church, 1419 St. Benedict St., Duluth. Come learn how living in God’s will is so much more than doing God’s will. For information, call Barb Larson at (218) 724-0368.

Centering prayer

The Center for Spirituality and Enrichment is offering times of centering prayer. It will be on the first and third Mondays of the month from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. through May 18 at the McCabe Renewal Center, 2125 Abbotsford Ave., Duluth, facilitated by Jim Reinke. It will also be hosted the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. through May 12 at the McCabe Renewal Center, facilitated by Pat Winkelman and Judy Russell. Cost is $5 per session or $45 for all sessions. To register visit www.retreatduluth.org.

Grief support

A grief support group meets the first and third Thursday of the month from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at Immaculate Heart Church, 35208 County Road 37, Crosslake, in a lower level classroom. For more information call Jean at (218) 839-1958.

Prayer group

A prayer group meets every Thursday at 7 p.m. at St. James Church cafeteria at 721 N. 57th Ave. W., Duluth. Please park in the back parking lot. Coffee and goodies for a social after prayer. Handicapped accessible. Contact Sharon (218) 590-2265 for questions.

Kateri Circle (Duluth)

St. Lawrence Church Kateri Circle meets the second Sunday of each month at St. Lawrence Church, 2410 Morris Thomas Road, Duluth, after the 11 a.m. Mass. Contact Michele at (218) 591-0556 for more information.

Together for Life banquet

An online Together for Life fundraising banquet, in support of the organization’s Star of the North Maternity Home, has been scheduled for May. An online auction opens May 10 at 6:30 p.m., and the online program, which will features keynote speaker Nic Davidson and will include presentation of the annual Father Crossman Culture of Life Award, runs from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. May 17. Both auction and program can be found at www.togetherforlifenorthland.org.

Carmelite community

A third order Carmelite community meets monthly at St. Patrick’s Church, 203 Lawler Ave. S., Hinckley, from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. the second Tuesday of the month. For more information on the Carmelite community, please contact Gail Von Reuden, TOC, at (320) 384-7305.

Charismatic prayer group

Proclaimers of Christ Catholic charismatic prayer group meets the second Thursday of the month at St. Agnes Church, Elm at Division Street, Walker. A potluck supper starts at 6:15 p.m. with praise and worship at 7 p.m. On the fourth Thursday of the month gatherings will be at Sacred Heart Church, 300 First St. N., Hackensack, starting at 7 p.m. For information contact David LaFontaine (651) 503-0168 or Don Rudquist (218) 675-7701.

Father Solanus Casey Fraternity

The Father Solanus Casey Fraternity of the Secular Franciscan Order meets the third Sunday of each month at 12:30 p.m. at Holy Family Church, 2430 W. Third St., Duluth (lower level). Secular Franciscans are lay Catholics and diocesan priests who commit themselves to living lives of simplicity, prayer, peacemaking, and service to the church and others, especially the poor. Secular Franciscans are part of the worldwide Franciscan family, including friars and religious sisters, who follow in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi. For more information contact Franz Hoefferle, fraternity minister, at (218) 728-4904 or [email protected]

Zenith City Catholic

Zenith City Catholic is a Catholic young adult group in the Duluth area that meets on the third Tuesday of each month for adoration at 6 p.m. at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary, 2801 E. Fourth St., Duluth. After, the group meets for a time of fellowship. For questions or to learn more about other upcoming events, email [email protected] or visit Zenith City Catholic on Facebook.

Public square rosary

Our Lady of Fatima, Garrison, and Holy Family, Bulldog Lake, holds a Public Square Rosary the fourth Tuesday of each month at 1 p.m. near the big walleye fish at the lookout on Mille Lacs Lake in Garrison (Highway 169). All are invited to join in prayer. The rosary is prayed for the intentions of our Blessed Mother, the conversion of sinners, and to reconcile ourselves, our families, and our nation back to God. For more information contact Jean Fetters at (218) 764-2665.

Log church tours

Tours are being offered of the old log church at Sts. Mary and Joseph Church in Sawyer. The log church is on the National Register of Historic Sites. Narrated tours are led by Deacon Bryan Bassa. Call Deacon Bassa at (218) 879-6933 or Betty at St. Francis Church, Carlton, at (218) 384-4563 to schedule a tour. For more information on the church visit www.stkaterisawyer.com.

Courage/EnCourage

Do you have a family member or loved one who is experiencing same- sex attraction? Consider joining EnCourage, a support group for Catholics seeking to balance the love of their faith with the love for their family member. The group meets the third Monday of the month at 7 pm at St. John’s Church, 1 W. Chisholm St., Duluth. Please contact Deacon Walt Beier at [email protected] org to confirm the meeting schedule. Are you experiencing same-sex attraction and looking for answers? Contact Deacon Beier at [email protected] dioceseduluth.org for support group information. Also visit www.couragerc.org.

Catholic Singles Group

Catholic Singles Group in the Twin Ports serves singles age 40 and up and hosts weekly and monthly events such as swing dance lessons. Contact Laverne at (218) 491-3241 or visit twinportscatholicsingles.blogspot.com. Call at least one day in advance of event to register.

Magnificat breakfast

Our Lady of the Lakes Magnificat will hold a breakfast on Saturday, June 27, at St. Agnes Parish, 210 Division St., Walker. Father Michael Arey from Holy Rosary Catholic church, Detroit Lakes, will be sharing his testimony. Registration is at 8:30 a.m. with breakfast at 9 a.m. Cost is $15. To register, call Lorri at (218) 507-0953.

Vatican Returns to Duluth

The Vatican Returns to Duluth, featuring the papal archives of Father Richard Kunst, which had been scheduled for the DECC in August, has been postponed until 2021. Visit www.papalartifacts.com for event updates.

Holy Land pilgrimage

Join Father Brandon Moravitz and Father Drew Braun on an 11-day pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The pilgrimage will include visiting Mt. Carmel, Nazareth, Caesarea Philippi, the Mount of the Beatitudes, Jordan River, Bethlehem, Dead Sea, and more. Contact Father Moravitz at (218) 741-6344 or contact the tour company at (800) 515-2632 or www.true-catholic-pilgrimages.com for more information.

Father Mike Schmitz: How open can I be with people?

I am wondering how much I can be vulnerable with people. I have been able to tell some key people in my life about struggles of mine, but when can I tell others?

Thank you very much for writing. As I see it, based on the rest of your letter, there are two issues at work here.

Father Michael Schmitz
Father Michael Schmitz
Ask Father Mike

The first is your very good question about when to be vulnerable with others. In my years of working with young people, I find this is a lesson that is often learned the hard way. It usually goes something like this: A young person makes a connection with another young person and they become “instant friends.” Because this might be the first new friend they have ever had (all other friends are either family members or people they have known for their entire life), this relationship has a lot of new elements that those other relationships don’t. For example, those other relationships are close because of the very nature of the relationship. A situation in which a group of cousins who have been raised together doesn’t require that each cousin “bare their soul” to the others in order to have a solid friendship. What is more, when they do reach a point in their lives where they share deeper things, there is a history and a knowledge to guide that process.

And this is the missing piece. In a relationship that has just started, it is necessary to reveal things about yourself to the other. That is one of the key ways two people get to know each other. And yet, since they are still getting to know each other, they do not know the degree to which they can trust each other. And herein lies the problem: In order to be known, I have to reveal myself. But in order to know the depth to which self-revelation is wise, I need to know if I can trust the other person.

The solution? Patience.

Every one of us has had to learn that just because we have bonded with another person over sports, comic books, or even God, that doesn’t mean that we can trust another person with our heart. We want to be known. We want to know the other person. And there can be, at the start of a friendship, a certain urgency to share. But if we have ever made that mistake, we know that real wisdom in this situation demands slowing down and being wise. We have learned that trust has to be earned.

I want to repeat that: Trust must be earned.

How can you be vulnerable with people? By naturally sharing some things and seeing how the others respond. Do they honor those things you have shared? Do they fail to respond well to them? Over time, do they demonstrate that the are a “friend for a moment” and “friend for a season,” or a “friend for a lifetime”? That can only be known over the course of time. They truly have to prove themselves. And you will have to prove yourself as well.

Some might think that this is incorrect. They might claim that friendship ought to be freely given. I disagree. Love can be freely given. A person might not have to prove themselves in order to be loved. But we are not talking about whether or not someone is “worth loving.” We are talking about whether or not someone is worth trusting. The fact is, many people do not deserve your trust and being vulnerable. They have to prove themselves.

Now, onto the second part of your question.

You mentioned in your letter that the issues you are talking about are things that you struggle with. You further clarified that you’ve brought these things to confession and have shared these with close family members and a couple of select friends.

My question to your question is: Why does anyone else need to know?

I would imagine that this primarily comes from the (good) desire to be known. We all have this. It is the recognition that we are made for relationship. And in real relationship, there is a certain depth of self-revelation and “knowing” the other person. So it makes sense that you would want to share these things in order to be known more deeply.

But the issue as I see it is that you have “identified with” these actions or with the shame attached to these actions to such a degree that they are what you want to share, as if they are your true self.

But that is not true. You are not your sin. You are not your shame.

Of course, you might want to share these with others so that you can be reassured that you can share your shame and still be loved, but you have already done that with important people and with God. And they still love you. God still loves you. Why are you still carrying your shame? Jesus has already forgiven you, he does not want you to torture yourself over what he has already suffered in order to forgive you and set you free.

You are not disqualified from God’s love. You are not your shame. You can share it with those who have proven themselves worthy, but you can also leave it at the foot of the cross.

Father Michael Schmitz is director of youth and young adult ministry for the Diocese of Duluth and chaplain of the Newman Center at the University of Minnesota Duluth. Reach him at [email protected].

Father Richard Kunst: Does the pandemic make these the end times?

I almost always write my columns a couple of months in advance of their being printed. As I sit at my computer writing this column for the May edition of The Northern Cross, it happens to be late March, and although it is spring, it feels like we are in the depths of the cold winter, not because of the weather but because of COVID-19.

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Father Richard Kunst
Apologetics

Everybody is in their houses, the streets are quiet, businesses are shut down, and there is a lot of anxiety and fear in the United States and the world. I am hoping by the time you are reading this that things are much improved and that we have this virus contained, but right now, even in secular media I am hearing about stories of the end times. I have had more than a few people ask me about this subject in light of the pandemic, and how the world is reacting to it, so although by May we hope this is all contained, it seems there’s no better time to look at what the church teaches about the end of the world.

First we have to set one important thing straight when it comes to the “end times”: It is not a bad thing. In fact it is a great thing!

Right now we live in a world of pain, suffering, fear, loss, and sadness, so if we are afraid of the “end times” or what we might call the second coming of Christ, then we must like to suffer.

Every part of the Christian message is a message of hope and joy. Towards the end of the book of Revelation, we get a glimpse of just how great things will be at the end of the world as we know it: “Then I saw a new heavens and a new earth. The former heavens and the former earth had passed away …. This is God’s dwelling among men. He shall dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and he shall be their God who is always with them. He shall wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, crying out or pain, for the former world has passed away. The one who sat on the throne said to me, ‘See, I make all things new!’” (Rev. 21:1,3-5a). Does that sound like something we should be afraid of? No, we should greatly anticipate it!

Now to be fair, fear comes as a result of the unknown, and although Scripture gives us every reason to be filled with hope and joy, it does not give us great details about how the end will come about, and that is where fear can creep in. Another thing that might cause some to fear is what Jesus says in the 24th chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, where he warns about signs that will accompany the start of the end times, such as wars, famines, earthquakes, persecutions, and great tribulations.

Although all of those things sound very scary, they happen all the time! Turn on the evening news and you will see that all those things Jesus warns about are happening on a regular basis in various parts of the world. The point, then, is not to look for signs, but just to be prepared.

So is COVID-19 or the coronavirus one of the signs of the end? Who knows? Jesus says something rather surprising in the Gospel of Mark as to when it will happen, “As to the exact day or hour, no one knows it, neither the angels in heaven nor even the Son, but only the Father. Be constantly on the watch! Stay awake! You do not know when the appointed time will come” (Mark 13: 32-33). God the Son said in his human nature, not even he knows (he is of course omniscient in his divine nature), so why would anyone think they know or even guess that the current pandemic is a sign of the end times?

If we read the earliest writings in the New Testament, such as some of Paul’s letters, in particular First Thessalonians, we see that there was an unhealthy preoccupation on the second coming of Christ and the end of the world. The earliest Christians expected it to happen at any moment, and certainly in their lifetime. As a result, many of them stopped their livelihood and changed everything to be prepared for the end.

We might say that was a bit unbalanced and unhealthy, but we live in a world that is equally unhealthy. Before this pandemic (and even now) people live as if the second coming or the end of the world will never come. That is maybe even more problematic than thinking the end is right upon us.

The current pandemic is nothing like anyone alive has ever seen, and we hope the next one will be many centuries from now, but that does not mean it is a sign of the end of the world. Jesus gives the best advice when he said, “Be constantly on the watch.” We should always be ready to meet our maker, whether it is our own personal end or the end of the world.

And if we are always prepared, then we should greatly anticipate it, because God himself said there would be no pain or suffering in the world he makes new. So bring it on!

Father Richard Kunst is pastor of St. James and St. Elizabeth in Duluth. Reach him at [email protected]

Father Nick Nelson: Parents are the primary educators of their children

Now that Lent is over, I started to listen to sports talk again here and there. One morning they were doing “Shutdown Shoutouts.” People were to call in to affirm and compliment and recognize those who have been handling the current situation well.

Father Nick Nelson
Father Nicholas Nelson
Handing on the Faith

The producer of the show gave his own “shout-out.” He said, “To those parents out there. Moms and dads. You are teaching your children, doing distance learning while still trying to work from home. You bring home the bacon, you put food on the table, and now you are tasked with teaching your children, juggling limited attention spans and seeing to the education of your children …. Bless you moms and dads for being heroic!”

I agree that many parents are indeed heroic during this time. They are doing so much. But his comment belies a common fallacy today. He may not have meant it, but his comment expresses the common attitude that ordinarily I am not responsible for my children’s education. It says that this COVID-19 situation is a little inconvenient for me because I have to concern myself with educating my children.

And while this idea is common, it is not right. It is not Catholic. The church’s Declaration on Christian Education says this: “Since parents have given children their life, they are bound by the most serious obligation to educate their offspring and therefore must be recognized as the primary and principal educators. This role in education is so important that only with difficulty can it be supplied where it is lacking” (Gravissimum Educationis, 3).

I think many parents, even many Catholic parents, have outsourced and delegated their responsibility for educating their children elsewhere. This is especially troublesome when we consider the state of public schooling. The public school system has become an institution of secular and atheistic indoctrination. There are many good teachers, many good Catholic teachers in public schools, but they are hamstrung by curriculum, rules, and regulations. These teachers are heroic missionaries seeking to bring truth, goodness, and beauty to these children.

But even with great teachers, public schools are inadequate for our children. Our children are taught atheistic evolution. They are taught sex education which says, “If it feels good, do it. Just make sure it’s consensual and safe.” Public schools tell us that our kids have a right to privacy and that there are things that parents are kept in the dark about. Our kids are around other kids who come from families that don’t have the same values and expose our children to things that are spiritually and physically harmful. And if Jesus isn’t allowed in the school, it simply isn’t good enough for our children.

Some will argue that our children can be missionaries, just like the good teachers. But that isn’t the purpose of school for a child. They don’t go to school to be a missionary. They go to learn the truth and to be formed in virtue. They are simply not mature or well-formed enough at 12 or even 17 years to be a missionary.

Whatever model it is, we as pastors, parents, and Catholics at large must work to provide Catholic education from first grade to 12th grade. Whether that be an actual school, homeschool or co-op, or a one room school house. All of these have been done before successfully. They can be done again. There are more and more great examples of this throughout our diocese. Two lesser known examples are Mater Dei Apostolate for ninth through 12th grade in Duluth and the homeschool co-op in Crosby. Models such as this are possible where there aren’t enough numbers for your typical school.

I used to think, just 10 years ago, that if the family is strong, then they can overcome any deficiencies in the public school. I don’t believe that anymore. When your child is immersed for seven hours a day in a culture that is diametrically opposed to us, the battle is almost impossible.

Call me “opportunistic,” or not “allowing a crisis to go to waste,” but many of you are currently doing distance learning at home. And yet, you have yet to go to the loony hospital. You are not duct taped to the ceiling by your children who have staged a mutiny. It is challenging, but you are doing it!

So even if there is no Catholic school option near you, you can homeschool or do some sort of hybrid. Why not never return your kids to the public school? This is a perfect time to transition. It may mean adjusting the budget, sacrificing the annual cruise, or driving the old van for a few more years. But this is that important.

Parishes need to offer resources to support parents in this endeavor. Because it’s the entire church’s responsibility in passing on the faith. But it’s ultimately up to the parents. It’s the parents who got Mater Dei Apostolate and other Catholic education options going.

I think too often we don’t think big. We aren’t magnanimous. We say, “I’m powerless. This is the way it is. We just got to go along with it.”

Baloney! We are the church. You are your children’s parents. You have the responsibility to see to their proper education in truth and you have the power to make it happen. Be not afraid!

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]

School briefs

St. Francis to expand preschool offerings

St. Francis of the Lakes School in Brainerd will expand its early childhood program to two preschool classes for the 2020-21 school year. Classes will be offered students ages 3 to 5. During the present school year, staff and school leadership carried out research on an additional preschool class. Steps included a survey, space availability, and program budget. School leadership believes the expansion to two classes will benefit the community at large and the preschool students. The St. Francis early childhood education program has a positive history of preparing students for kindergarten. “We are excited for this opportunity to expand our preschool program here at St. Francis Catholic School and believe that it will help meet the needs of the community,” said Principal Jen Nagel. “We offer a comprehensive curriculum that is faith-based with a fully trained and licensed staff who love being with young children.” For additional information in regards to preschool, please contact the school at (218) 829-2344.

Stella Maris thanks donors

Students, parents, teachers, and staff of Stella Maris Academy extended their gratitude to the Duluth community for helping them achieve fundraising success through the 2020 Catholic Schools Raffle program. The school was able to raise $43,105 through the program in ticket sales and donations. From January 17 to March 1, students at Stella Maris sold raffle tickets at $5 each to raise funds for their school. Costs to run the raffle are provided by its sole sponsor, Catholic United Financial, so every dollar raised by ticket sales stays with the school. The fundraiser came to an official close on March 12 with the prize drawing ceremony, during which winners of $40,000 in prizes, from gift cards and vacations to a brand new Buick Encore SUV, were announced by guest emcees Super Bowl Champion Matt Birk and Miss Minnesota 2019 Kathryn Kueppers. Stella Maris Academy and the other 88 participating schools in Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota together raised more than $1.3 million — a new annual record for the program. “All the credit goes to students, families, and parish and school staff, and the wonderful communities that support them,” said Harald Borrmann, president of Catholic United Financial. “It is an honor for us to show our unconditional support of Catholic education through this program year after year.”

Registration open

Registration at the Catholic Schools in the diocese is now open. Please contact your school for more information.

Brainerd: St. Francis of the Lakes School, 817 Juniper St., 56401; (218) 829-2344; www.stfranciscatholicschool.org; [email protected]

Cloquet: Queen of Peace School, 102 Fourth St., 55720; (218) 879-8516; www.queenofpeaceschool.org; [email protected]

Duluth: Stella Maris Academy, www.stellamaris.academy; SMA. [email protected]

  • Holy Rosary Campus, 2802 E. Fourth St., 55812; (218) 724-8565
  • St. James Campus, 715 N. 57th Ave. W., 55807; (218) 624-1511
  • St. John’s Campus, 1 W. Chisholm St., 55803; (218) 724-9392

Grand Rapids: St. Joseph’s School, 315 S.W. 21st St., 55744; (218) 326-6232; www.stjosephscatholic.org/school; [email protected]

Hibbing: Assumption School, 2310 Seventh Ave. E., 55746; (218) 263-3054; www.acshibbing.org; [email protected] acshibbing.org.

International Falls: St. Thomas Aquinas School, 810 Fifth St., 56649; (218) 283-3430; www.stthomascatholicschool.com; [email protected] duluthcatholic.org.

Virginia: Marquette School, 311 S. Third St., 55792; (218) 741-6811; www.marquettecatholicschool.com; [email protected]

Jerry Hilfer: Education’s real purpose is pursuit of wisdom

By Jerry Hilfer
Guest columnist

Last August, way before the pandemic, when Corona was only a beer and social distancing was something you did after a romantic breakup or a spat with a friend — yes, way back then — two former colleagues, a college classmate from long ago and a retired teacher, both gave me the same Atlantic magazine article.

“The Radical Case for Teaching Kids Stuff,” by Natalie Wexler, discussed several issues facing schools today: the achievement gap, low reading scores and America’s standing in international literacy rankings, ever changing educational theories, and policy changes that affect classroom instruction and student learning. The author’s specific focus was on teaching reading skills vs. teaching content.

The article triggered such concern in both readers that they brought it to my attention. I, a building principal, an educational leader, someone they knew, had worked with over the years, and had confidence in, can do something about their concern. “Jerry will have some insight as to how to address the problem.” The pressure’s on! Go ahead, raise my anxiety with great expectations! Thanks a lot, friends!

As I read the article, it told me nothing that public school principals and today’s classroom teachers don’t already know. Schools are under great pressure to achieve. Despite their best efforts, our public schools don’t succeed with all students. Some fall through the cracks. Educators receive conflicting messages from parents, policy makers, politicians, and the public. Over the years, the pendulum swings from one solution to another — Whole Language to phonics-based instruction; homogeneous to heterogeneous grouping; Outcome Based Education (OBE) to Madeline Hunter Model to Response to Intervention (RTI); district and state level standards to Common Core standards back to state and local standards.

Now, this author is able to articulate a problem and provide another sure-fire new solution in no less than 2,500 words. Oh, if the concerns were only that easy to address.

My initial thought is, shouldn’t our focus be on the person instead of the individual? In referring to humans as persons, Christianity focuses on our common humanity, that which we share with one another. The relationships into which we are born — with our family, our village, our tribe, or our nation, and above all with God — help to make up our identity as a person.

Today’s culture gives priority to self, which focuses on individual differences, plurality, separateness, and the importance of choice. Emphasizing freedom of choice when entering relationships can often lead to confusion, selfishness, and focus on pluralistic values.

We live in a polarized, fragmented, and oftentimes isolated society. Identity politics has led to further fracturing of American culture. As a result, students no longer share a common American culture and the background knowledge they bring to the classroom is varied and sometime limited. This affects a student’s ability to grasp new ideas and make connections. The author makes a strong argument for the movement to knowledge-building curricula in elementary classrooms. I agree, this may be helpful, but it doesn’t go far enough.

There are no simple answers. Education is complex, with many differing needs. One size doesn’t fit all. Diverse needs need diverse solutions and diverse service providers. Education involves more that teaching skills, objectives, standards, scope, and sequence. It’s affective, relational, motivational, intuitive, and emotional. I’ve never come up with a definitive answer to the question: Is teaching more an art or a science?

Education is not primarily about the acquisition of information. It is not even about the acquisition of skills to equip us for a particular role in society. It is about how we become more human. Its real purpose should be the pursuit of wisdom. We’ve been educating ourselves for doing rather than being. We live in an excessively activist civilization where contemplation and interiority are suppressed in favor of action and reaction.

Is that how it should be?

This is my response to the article, which is adapted from “The Knowledge Gap: The Hidden Cause of America’s Broken Education System – And How to Fix It,” by Natalie Wexler. Check it out in the August edition of The Atlantic, p. 20-23. What are your thoughts?

Jerry Hilfer is principal of St. Thomas Aquinas School in International Falls.