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Editorial: Where are the real ‘extremes’ in the abortion debate?

Catholics and others of good will who oppose legalized abortion in defense of the right to life have grown accustomed to being accused of “extremism.”  

Now, this raises a whole host of questions, beginning with the ones Pope Francis posed in a recent press conference aboard the papal airplane: “It is a human life, period. And this human life must be respected. This principle is so clear, and to those who cannot understand, I would ask two questions: Is it right to kill a human life to solve a problem? Scientifically, it is a human life. The second question: Is it right to hire a hitman to solve a problem?” 

What, exactly, is “extreme” about recognizing that the correct answer to these questions is no? 

As has become clear in recent years, it is actually the other side of this debate that is demonstrably extreme. Due to various U.S. Supreme Court decisions, the United States already has among the fewest legal restrictions on abortion of any country in the world — the entire European Union is more restrictive of late term abortions than the United States, for instance. 

And yet it’s become clear that advocates of legal abortion are not satisfied with this. Consider the so-called Women’s Health Protection Act passed by the U.S. House of Representatives last month that would not only establish in federal law a legal right to abortion on demand at all stages of pregnancy but according to critics would overturn a host of widely supported state laws such as waiting periods, informed consent laws, conscience protections for medical professionals who object to abortion, and even laws designed to make abortions safer for women. And as has already been established, abortion advocates have also been working hard to open the floodgates of federal taxpayer funding for abortion. 

These policies are extreme by any reasonable measure. 

It’s probably too much to expect that many of our cultural institutions will treat that reality in an even-handed way. But those of us paying attention to the abortion debate should not be fooled by that rhetorical sleight of hand. When it comes to abortion extremism, it's staring us right in the face, right in the halls of Congress. 

Father Richard Kunst: Homilies are not the most important part of Mass — but they are important

About 20 years ago, I remember talking to one of my brother priests who had recently done a survey in his parish. I don’t know the details of the survey, but he did it to gauge the faith of his flock, and I remember him expressing his surprise at the answer to one of the questions on the survey. The question, as I recall it, was to see what part of the Mass his parishioners thought was most important. To his shock, the overwhelming number of parishioners thought the homily was the most important.  

Father Richard Kunst

It is not. Not even close. 

The most important part of the Mass is when you are kneeling and the priest is at the altar — the consecration, or the words of institution to be exact. If we could see with our eyes what happens at the altar at the point of the consecration, we would never even think of skipping Mass; we cannot fathom with our finite brains how much God expresses his love for us in the act of the Eucharistic Prayer, and so we kneel to express our humility in light of that reality.  

So the homily is not the most important part of the Mass. In fact, it is possible to have a Mass without a homily, and maybe in some instances it is better that way! 

All this being said, I do not want to shortchange the importance of the homily, because it is indeed important, maybe more important than you think. You might think the priest (or deacon) is the south end of a horse, you might think his homilies are too long and too boring, you may think his homilies are too hard to understand or follow. All these things might be true, but the fact is, because he is ordained, it is his responsibility and duty to preach. When a deacon, priest, or bishop are ordained, they are ordained in part to preach. It is an essential part of their duty as ordained ministers. This has always been the case from the very conception of the church, and it is rooted in scripture. 

Writing to his younger assistant, Paul’s letters to Timothy are full of priestly advice, including advice concerning homilies. In the fourth chapter of his first letter to Timothy, Paul says, “Do not neglect the gift you have, which was conferred on you through the prophetic word with the imposition of hands by the presbyterate” (1 Timothy 4:13). The gift Paul is referencing is Timothy’s ordination, his priesthood. “The imposition of hands by the presbyterate” is the actual ordination rite both in the ancient church and today. This is why if you have ever gone to an ordination of a priest, you have seen all the other priests one by one lay hands on the head of the one being ordained. 

Just a couple lines after Paul tells Timothy not to neglect the gift of his priesthood, he says, “Attend to yourself and your teaching; persevere in both tasks, for by doing so you will save both yourself and those who listen to you” (4:16). Read that line a couple of times, because it packs a punch if you understand it appropriately. Paul is stressing the huge significance of priests preaching of homilies, that they are preached in order to save the priest himself, as well as his listeners! 

The first take away for me in this verse is that when we priests and deacons preach, we are also preaching to ourselves. Do not think for a moment that just because we are preaching, that we have it all together. We do not! I am very aware that I need to hear the words of my homilies as much if not more than anyone else.  

But think of that when you hear that homily on the weekend. The end goal and purpose of that homily is to get you to heaven. That is a pretty big deal. For my part, I have always thought of my homilies as a five to seven minute chance to offset all the crud and junk we get exposed to all throughout the week, and because of this I have always taken the writing of my homilies to be of great significance in my own ministry. 

By no means is the homily the most important part of the Mass, but it is indeed important because of its purpose, which is to get you to heaven. Even if the homily is long and boring, or you don’t like the priest or deacon, still pay as much attention as you can to get something out of it so as to get closer to Christ and be with him forever. 

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

Betsy Kneepkens: Brazen comments on abortion and Down Syndrome show why we need Respect Life month

It was the Catholic Church that designated October as Respect Life Month. October was likely chosen for many reasons, but one among them is that this month contains the feast of the Most Holy Rosary. The rosary is considered the most powerful prayer to defend life on earth. This Marian devotion is commonly prayed by pro-lifers when matters of life are at stake.  

Betsy Kneepkens
Betsy Kneepkens
Faith and Family

Every month should be Respect Life Month. Identifying October specifically as Respect Life causes pause, heightens awareness, and helps us renew a focus on doing everything humanly possible to protect, respect, and uphold the dignity of every unique and unrepeatable child of God.  

The Catholic Church often gets negatively portrayed in the media for its consistent and unwavering work on behalf of the unborn, suggesting Catholics think other life issues are secondary. A short read of church documents would say otherwise. However, the reality is that we must speak louder for the unborn because they can never advocate for themselves. I am repeatedly impressed by the work of the lay faithful who give tirelessly to save the lives of our most vulnerable and least able in the world.  

Scripture proclaims in Luke 1:42 that God's design intended something extraordinary about motherhood and the child a mother carries within, "Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb!" Way back then, before the ultrasound, it was known that another person, a complete and sacred being, was being housed, fed, and kept warm in the shelter of her mother's womb until she was developed enough and readied for the next phase of life outside the womb. No one ought to be surprised that Catholics see responsibility for the unborn.  

Working in the Catholic Church for nearly a decade, I am confident that we are world leaders serving endlessly on behalf of all matters that concern the dignity and respect due to all human life. The church's voice in the wilderness keeps the "wolves" at bay as this world tries to iron out attempts to reduce the sacred dignity due to the human person.   

 There has been a lot of news and noise coming out of Texas recently regarding the issue of abortion. I am not a legal expert, and lawmakers' recent attempt to reduce abortion in Texas is a bit complicated to understand. It seems that Texas lawmakers believe abortion is not a right granted in the Constitution. Instead, Roe v. Wade, the case used to disallow states from banning abortion, was a workaround to the Constitution to legalize abortion in all 50 states.  

Consequently, the new Texas law is not an overturning of Roe v. Wade but rather an attempt by the state legislatures to work around Roe v. Wade. Abortion is still legal in Texas, but this new law allows a private citizen to sue someone aiding and abetting an individual attaining an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy. Some would say this is essentially making abortions unattainable in Texas, because many women don't know they are pregnant at six weeks.   

As you can imagine, there was a great deal of chatter on social media regarding this law, both pro and con. There was one comment which exemplifies, for me, what legalizing abortion has done to our society. Dr. Richard Hanania, a research fellow at the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies at Columbia University, posted his concerns about the new Texas law, stating, "You can't screen for Down syndrome before about 10 weeks, and something like 80% of Down syndrome fetuses are aborted. If red states ban abortion, we could see a world where they have five times as many children with Down syndrome and similar numbers of other disabilities."  

Since our society legally believes unborn are expendable, Dr. Hanania does express very matter-of-factly our culture's norms, which makes it sound reasonable to eliminate those that are not preferred.  

If Dr. Hanania and others seek a world of peace and justice, perhaps they should look at people with Down Syndrome's impact on others. I do not have a child with Down Syndrome; however, I have many close Catholic friends who allowed their child to live. These children with Down Syndrome are certainly not "normal," because they can love others in ways "normal” people often struggle to do; they love as Christ loves.  

My observation of these individuals is that they accept and tolerate others. They seem to lack the ability to prejudge people. Their personalities exuberate in the simplest things. They are gifts to humankind, because they remind us about how Christ calls us to love others unconditionally. The world is lacking 80% of those individuals now because of abortion.  

Dr. Hanania's brazen comment epitomizes why we need a month of Respect for Life. When it becomes legal and, worse yet, acceptable, not to find value in categories of individuals who are not preferred, we can never live in a just society.  

More importantly, we are intentionally disrupting God's plan for his Creation. Every life needs to be respected; every life has a purpose. When some judge that others aren't worthy of their contribution, we can't ever have peace. When allowed to live out their God-given purpose, every person contributes in ways that make for a better world. Respect Life month reminds us to always fight for those lacking the dignity God intends for their existence. God intended those beautiful human beings with Down Syndrome and others with disabilities to make us better human beings.  

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

Father Nicholas Nelson: October: the month of the Rosary

Growing up, one of our favorite movies was the animated film “The Day the Sun Danced: the True Story of Fatima.” I can’t tell you how many times we watched it. I highly recommend it for families. It tells the story of Our Blessed Mother’s appearance to three young Portuguese children in 1917. For five months, angels and our Blessed Mother appeared to Francisco, Lucia, and Jacinta. In July, Mary told the children, “You continue to come here. In October, I will tell you who I am, that which I want, and I will do a miracle that all can see and believe.” The children shared this news with anyone who would listen. 

Father Nick Nelson
Handing on the Faith

On Oct. 13, 1917, roughly 70,000 people gathered for what would be either the vindication of three young Portuguese children or their utter humiliation. The children had been continuously ridiculed by the townsfolk. That day was a rainy one, and there was mud everywhere. Yet that didn’t keep the people from coming to the prescribed place. At noon, Lucia, moved by an interior impulse, told the people to shut their umbrellas and to pray the rosary. At that, a light appeared, and then Our Lady arrived. Only the children could see her. Lucia then asked her usual question, “What do you want of me?” 

Our Lady replied, “I want to tell you that a chapel is to be built here in my honor. I am the Lady of the Rosary. Continue always to pray the rosary every day. The war (World War I) is going to end. And the soldiers will soon return to their homes.” She continued, “Do not offend the Lord our God anymore, because he is already so much offended.” 

What happened next was visible for all those who were present and people as far away as 25 miles. One eyewitness, Mary Allen, said: 

“Suddenly the rain ceased, the clouds separated, and I saw a large sun, brighter than the sun, yet I could look at it without hurting my eyes, as if it were only the moon. This sun began to get larger and larger, brighter and brighter until the whole heavens seemed more brilliantly lighted than I have ever seen it. Then the sun started spinning and shooting streams of light, which changed it to all colors of the rainbow …. At the same time, it started getting bigger and bigger in the sky as though it were headed directly for us as though it were falling on the earth. Everyone was frightened. We all thought it was the end of the world. Everyone threw themselves on their knees praying and screaming the Act of Contrition.” 

This lasted for about ten minutes, and afterwards everything was completely dry as if it hadn’t rained in weeks. 

This apparition of Mary, the miracle of the sun, and her messages to us through the children have all been affirmed by the Catholic Church. She identified herself as “Our Lady of the Rosary.” She is the patroness of our diocese, and the rosary has been a staple of Catholic life for centuries. And throughout her appearances at Fatima, she stressed over and over again the importance of praying the rosary. 

When we speak of liturgy, liturgy is public and official. A Mass offered by a priest by himself is still considered public. And by official, we mean that there are specific rules for the rites. When we actually consider what the church says and teaches in regards to liturgy, it is very precise, and not a whole lot of room for personal taste. On the other hand, when we consider devotions such as the rosary, devotions are private and orthodox. This means that a rosary being prayed by a stadium full of people is still private, in a sense. And by orthodox we mean that there aren't as many rules and guidelines, only that it must be orthodox—it must be consistent with the Catholic faith. 

So, there are many ways a person can incorporate the rosary into their life. There is a lot of freedom to praying the rosary. You can pray all five decades every day. You can pray just one decade a day. When you pray the rosary, you can focus on the words you are praying or you can meditate on the mysteries. You can add Scripture passages between the decades or even between each Hail Mary. You can pray it kneeling, sitting at home, or even while you go for a walk. 

October is the month of the rosary. Oct. 7 is the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. This is a great time to begin or to begin again to pray the rosary daily. Our Lady told us that bad things will happen and will continue to happen unless we pray the rosary for peace in the world. Pray it individually. Fathers, gather your family to pray it at night. Eventually when I was in high school, we would pray a decade every night as a family. We would begin with each of us saying something we were thankful for and something we wanted to pray for. Don’t worry if the kids are antsy or restless. It’s OK if it is a little messy. It’s the intention and effort that matters.  

Our Lady of the Rosary, Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us! 

Father Nick Nelson is pastor of Queen of Peace and Holy Family parishes in Cloquet. 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: Coming to believe in God’s love for us — and for every single person around us

Call it my inner poet shining through or call it a divine encounter and grace from God — in any case, it happened many years ago, soon after my conversion to the Catholic faith, at plain old Cub Foods in Duluth of all places.  

Deacon Kyle Eller
Mere Catholicism

I was shopping for groceries, and suddenly my heart was flooded with wonder and joy and awe at the fact that God was holding every single person in that crowded store in existence at that very moment, that he created each one of them with full intention, that he knew each one of them more deeply and intimately than they knew themselves, that he loved them with a love so profound I could not even imagine it — the love that went all the way to the cross — and that his deep desire was to be in communion with each of them into eternity.  

This was true for all of them, without exception, whether they had any inkling of this or not. His love for the hardest person to love in that whole building was infinitely deeper than my love for the people I loved most.  

Of course, I “knew” this already, in an intellectual way. Any Christian does (or should). This is stuff from Christianity 101. It’s central to the entire Christian perspective on just about everything — why we're here, why Jesus came, why he sent the apostles and the church forth into the world. 

Pope Benedict XVI frequently and beautifully alluded to this truth. In the Mass to begin his pontificate, when he received the fisherman’s ring, he said: 

“Only when we meet the living God in Christ do we know what life is. We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary. There is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel, by the encounter with Christ. There is nothing more beautiful than to know Him and to speak to others of our friendship with Him.” 

In his first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est (“God is Love”), he describes an encounter with this divine love as the heart of Christian faith and central to our own lives and faith. Quoting St. John, he says: 

We have come to believe in God's love: in these words the Christian can express the fundamental decision of his life. Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.” 

These things are easy to understand in the intellect but, I find, harder to grasp and keep firmly in the heart and soul. In fact, I think that’s why people so often treat these truths as empty platitudes and sometimes criticize preaching that focuses on it as a kind of cop-out, as a way of avoiding the challenging “hard teachings” of our faith. Of course it’s possible to turn them into empty platitudes, but if we truly grasp these truths in the heart and soul, if we truly understand their implications for ourselves and those around us, they are anything but empty platitudes. They are life-changing, life-giving realities that one feels can and should infuse our every encounter, and the very truths that undergird all the teachings of our faith, including the unpopular ones. 

When I call to mind that moment in Cub Foods, I will often have an echo of that experience. But in day-to-day interactions, dealing with a difficult person, it can be so hard to remember the truth of it and live out its call in the way I treat them. 

As I look out at the world and see the bitterness and anger and division, at the demonization and dismissiveness and eagerness to “excommunicate” each other I can't help thinking of how different it would be if every professed Christian held in his or her heart the truth of how much God loves those difficult people. When I look at the despair and nihilism that are afflicting so many people, with rising rates of depression and anxiety, I can’t help wondering if it would help for people to know in a deeper way that we’re loved, to “come to believe in God’s love” for us, and to be among people who recognize that “each of us is necessary.” 

But how can we make that more of a reality? 

Based on the principal that we cannot give what we do not have, I think the first thing is to come to believe in — and to personally encounter ­— the love God has for us personally, and to receive that love, which is pure gift, not something we could ever earn. This corresponds to the deepest desires of our hearts. 

And it’s actually by this love of God in our own hearts that we can truly love our neighbors as we ought to, recognizing in each person a deliberate, loved creation of the most high God whose own hearts, whether they yet know it or not, are crying out for the peace, joy, and fullness of life that can only be found in the love of God. 

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

Father Mike Schmitz: Duties weighing on us? Remember ‘backwards blessings’

I find myself consistently becoming more and more aware of the good things in other people's lives — and the lack of good things in my life. The demands of work and family and taking care of my parents is really weighing on me. 

Father Michael Schmitz
Ask Father Mike

This is such a fantastic question. And this is such a fantastic problem to have. 

I apologize: I can imagine that my excitement over your dilemma doesn't help all that much. But I hear something in your question that has resonated deeply with me recently. 

Students have recently returned to the campus where I serve as a chaplain for our Newman Center. After a year and a half of looking across the street and seeing the parking lot less than a quarter full and only having limited contact with our students, it has been such a blessing to see them in person and to have the parking lot full again.  

At the same time, since it has been so long since we have been able to have them all back, I have to admit that I became a bit accustomed to having more space in our little Newman House to myself. Now, I can't walk through the living room without noticing all of the dirt that students have tracked into the house. I walked into the chapel the other day and someone had left all of the lights on. I was trying to record an episode of the podcast for the Bible in a Year, but musicians were practicing for Sunday Mass in the basement, and I had to wait until they were done before I could hit “record.” On top of all of that, with so many students back, I am constantly tired and dream of the day when I will be able to get to bed at a normal hour for a middle-aged man! 

I was praying about all of this one day. And I have to confess that I was feeling a little bit salty (which is Gen-Z for “bitter”) about the lights and the mess and the noise and the lack of sleep. But then I realized something: there is a mess in my house because students feel comfortable spending time at our Newman House. The lights were left on in the chapel because our students have been choosing to make time to pray in the Lord's Presence. I wasn't able to record a podcast because we have students who generously offer their musical gifts and practice for Sunday Mass. And I've been tired because so many young people are responding to the call of Jesus to follow him, and they just want some guidance on how to do that. 

All of my complaints were actually “backwards blessings.” 

Would I prefer that the house was clean and no students were there? Would I prefer space and time to myself rather than having the chance to be a part of the miracle that God is working in the lives of future saints? How crazy would I be to trade having a front row seat to what God is doing on campus for a full night’s sleep? 

And I wonder if this isn't true for many of us. You note that you have experienced the demands of “work and family and caring for your parents.” Those demands are real. I would never want to minimize the difficulty and real suffering that accompanies so much of life. The idea of ”backwards blessings” isn't an invitation to ignore real trials and difficulties. But it is an invitation to look at the other side of things. 

Yes, our jobs sometimes place more stress on our lives than we prefer, but what a gift to have a job. Family can be a real thorn, with fights and disagreements and more demands on time and resources, but what a gift to have the responsibility of family. And certainly, it can be taxing to have to care for elderly parents, but the day is going to come when we would give anything to be able to care for them one more day. 

Again, I do not want to make light of real pain. But almost every pain in our life can be lightened by perspective. I wonder if this isn't why St. Paul invited Christians in Thessaloniki to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). We can do this when we know that God is in all circumstances, and that even many of our pains contain hidden “backwards blessings.” 

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.

Bishop Daniel Felton: Our diocese has 44,000 vocation coordinators — including you

As I am writing this article, I am also packing my suitcase to leave for Rome. I will be attending the diaconate ordination of Daniel Hammer on Sept. 30 at St. Peter's Basilica. Cardinal Wilton Gregory will be the principal celebrant at the ordination. It is a great privilege for me to represent the Diocese of Duluth at the soon to be Deacon Daniel's ordination celebration. And you have to admit, with his first name being Daniel, he is going to be a great deacon! 

Bishop Daniel Felton
Bishop Daniel Felton
Believe in the Good News

Daniel cites the move his family made to Brainerd and his parish community of St. Andrew as being significant factors in his call not only to the transitional diaconate but hopefully in June as a priest. Many priests would claim that their home parish experience played a major part in their discernment of being called to the priesthood. This includes their parish sacramental programs, Steubenville trips, the celebration of the Mass, parish social events, pastors, and the many ways the parish supports and fosters vocations. 

Even though Father Nick Nelson is our vocations director, in my mind we have over 44,000 vocation coordinators in our diocese. Each of you as parishioners is responsible for calling forth men from your parish to the priesthood. Studies show that it takes at least five people telling someone that they would be a great priest for that young man to begin hearing the voice of God speaking to them through those five invitations.  

God continues to have a great purpose and mission in mind for His Diocese of Duluth. God will always give us all that we need to fulfill His plan for us — including enough priests. We have plenty of potential vocations to the priesthood in our diocese, we just need to keep extending the invitation to those we think have a vocation to be a priest.  

We also need to keep praying that they will respond yes to God's call. For many of us, we have memorized our diocesan vocation prayer. That is a good thing, as long as it doesn't become so routine that we are just saying and not praying the words. 

Let us pray for Daniel Hammer as he is ordained a transitional deacon. Let us pray for all of our seminarians pictured below. You will notice that there is an empty space without a face. Just remember, that empty space might be filled with the next young man that you tell he would be a great priest.  

Who knows, you could be that fifth invitation that makes the difference! 

Bishop Daniel Felton is the tenth bishop of Duluth. 

Advocates say the public is with them on payday lending reform

By Deacon Kyle Eller 
The Northern Cross 

Supporters of payday lending reform, including representatives of the Diocese of Duluth and the Minnesota Catholic Conference, held a press conference in Duluth Aug. 17 to announce polling showing that an overwhelming majority of Minnesotans support their proposal — a 36% cap on interest rates — or even stricter limits.

Ryan Hamilton, government relations associate for the Minnesota Catholic Conference, addresses the media in Duluth Aug 17 in support of payday lending reform. (Deacon Kyle Eller / The Northern Cross)

Officials for Minnesotans for Fair Lending, a nonpartisan campaign focused on the issue, say that in 2020, the most recent year with accurate data, the average interest rate on payday loans in Minnesota was a whopping 208%, based on self-reported statistics from the payday lending industry to the Minnesota Department of Commerce. 

Speakers at the press conference described situations in which the global pandemic, coupled with rising costs for basic necessities, put pressure on vulnerable people who get stuck in escalating debt. 

“That financial duress can drive a family into the arms of a payday lender,” said Ryan Hamilton, government relations associate for the Minnesota Catholic Conference. 

Then with the high interest rates, the loans are so expensive they cannot be paid back. 

Hamilton said that the mere agreement between a lender and customer doesn’t make excessive interest rates right. “Minnesotans oppose this form of modern day usury,” he said. 

Speakers said it’s a problem throughout the state. 

“It’s a trap!” said Patrice Critchley-Menor, director of social apostolate for the Diocese of Duluth. 

She said payday lending “impacts our neighbors” within the boundaries of the Diocese of Duluth. For instance, in Duluth alone last year, 3,929 loans went to 348 borrowers, who paid $117,088 just in fees and interest. The average loan amount was $445, and the average interest rate was 226%. 

She said the poor should not be seen “as potential profit centers.” 

“When we focus our greed on those most in need, we are broken, and it’s going to take all of us to repair each other,” she said. 

Meghan Olsen Biebighauser, economic justice organizer for Minnesotans for Fair Lending, said efforts at the state Legislature to impose a 36% interest rate cap, a measure taken in 18 other states and the District of Columbia and already in place to protect military service personnel, have not yet been successful, to the point that even some cities, like Moorhead, are taking their own action. 

In nearby states, a South Dakota referendum passed with more than 75% of the vote in 2016, and Nebraska passed a referendum with 83% of the vote a little over a year ago. 

Asked about the difficulty getting the measure passed here, she said, “The payday lending industry in Minnesota has deep pockets.” 

However, polling presented by the organization, which was conducted by Emerson College Polling, suggests popular support isn’t an issue. The polling showed a dislike of the payday lending system throughout the state, across party lines, with common descriptors being “predatory,” “loan sharking,” and “scam.” 

The poll found that 60% of Minnesotans supporting limiting interest rates on payday loans to 36%, and that of the 15% who oppose the measure, the most common reason is that they believe 36% is too high. 69% of respondents favor increased regulation. 

Hamilton said the Minnesota Catholic Conference has been advocating on the issue for more than a decade and standing for policies that will truly strengthen families. 

Citing Pope Francis, who called families the fundamental building block of society, Hamilton said we have to make sure the family is supported or at least “held harmless.” 

“Minnesota can be a place where we have fair lending practices,” he said. 

First diocesan Family Camp draws more than 100

By Deacon Kyle Eller
The Northern Cross

The first diocesan Family Camp, organized by the Office of Marriage, Family, and Life, was held at Big Sandy Camp Aug. 13-15 with about 20 families (more than 100 individuals) in attendance.

Photo courtesy of Betsy Kneepkens

“I think that it was successful in accomplishing the goal, which was to bring Catholic families together enjoying life as family, without the burdens of the outside world,” said Betsy Kneepkens, who directs the Office of Marriage, Family, and Life, and led the event on site.

She said Catholic families from around the diocese got to know each other and that the various aspects of the weekend — prayer, Mass, and play — seemed to be successful. “People just continually shared how grateful they were that this opportunity was given to them,” she said.

The camp was “intentionally non-structured,” with even most of the planned events being optional, but the goal was things of interest for the variety of ages present: swimming, Catholic trivia, praying the rosary around the bonfire, laser tag, and even a special episode of “Old Fashioned Catholics,” a YouTube show by Nic Davidson and Kevin Pilon, filmed on site.

There was even a ping pong and Foosball championship for the older kids present.

A variety of lodging options, including RVs, tents, and the camp’s lodges, were available, and Kneepkens said there is room to grow for what she hopes will become an annual event.

“We’re working on a date for 2022 and hope to get that out soon,” she said.

The event was supported by “a kind benefactor” and by the United Catholic Appeal, keeping costs relatively low.

Father Richard Kunst: God’s name is important — treat it with respect

The very first thing we do when we meet someone is ask them their name. We do this simply to start a relationship with that person. It is the most basic thing to know about another person; it is how we start social interaction.

Father Richard Kunst

In the Old Testament, a lot of things happen prior to the third chapter of Exodus, a partial list being the fall of Adam and Eve; Noah and the great flood; the tower of Babel; the stories of the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the story of Joseph sold into slavery by his brothers only to save them from famine decades later; and then the birth of Moses. All of these are very important, to say the least, but in the third chapter of Exodus we are presented with an event that we might call the watershed moment between our human species and our Creator. It is a story you are familiar with, though you may not be aware of the monumental nature of that story.

Moses is tending the flock of his father-in-law when he notices a burning bush, which was not being consumed. Drawn into this strange sight, he comes closer, only to hear the voice of God telling him not to come any nearer. The voice from the bush proceeds to tell Moses that he has been chosen to lead the Hebrew people out of Egypt when Moses askes the all-important question: “When I go to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers have sent me to you,’ if they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ What am I to tell them?” (Exodus 3:14).

Everything that happens in the Bible before this is obviously important, but it is only here that we learn of God’s name, so that we can initiate a proper relationship with him. It is with the revelation of his name that true intimacy with him can happen. And his name? “God replied, ‘I am who am.’ Then he added, ‘This is what you shall tell the children of Israel: I AM sent me to you’” (3:15). The name “I am who am” in ancient Hebrew is YHWH, or in our modern way of speaking “Yahweh.”

As you may know, the name Yahweh became so sacred to the Hebrew people that they refused to even utter it. They believed that we as a sinful people are not worthy enough to so much as say the name of God, so they came up with alternative names, most prominently Adonai. The ancient Greek equivalent of Adonai is the familiar Kyrie, which translates into English as “Lord.”

So here is the question: When we hear in the second commandment that we are not to take God’s name in vain, what exactly does that mean? If we exclaim “Oh, my God!” for some trivial or insignificant reason, are we, in fact, violating the second commandment? Dare I say this is an important question, since we are speaking of God’s commandments?

To answer this question, we need to look at the etymology of the word “god.” I have to come clean and tell you that I looked this next part up. From what I have found, the word “god” derives from the proto-Germanic word “gudan,” which is based on the root of the word “ghau,” which means “to invoke” or “to call.” So to be technical, the word “god” is what God is, it is not his name. In the Judeo-Christian world, the name of God remains YHWH or even Adonai/Kyrie/Lord. So when the commandment commands us not to take the name of God in vain, are we violating it by saying something like, “Oh my God it is hot out!”? Technically speaking, no.

In saying this we have to understand that there is the letter of the law and the spirit of the law, so to exclaim “Oh, my God!” is not a technical violation, but it is a violation of the spirit of the command, because in our culture we interchange the word “god” for what God is and his name. We don’t differentiate the two in our day-to-day life in 21st century United States.

All this being said, if it is your practice to use the phrase “Oh, my God!” in a trivial matter, then I would suggest you try to change that habit, because even though it is not a technical violation of the second commandment, it is trivializing God’s name as we use it in our own era. We need not be like the ancient Hebrews who did not dare utter the name, but we shouldn’t be flippant about how we use the word “god” either, since our Creator deserves much more reverence than what we usually give him.

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