Browsing News Entries

Browsing News Entries

Editorial: Pray for peace

If the global pandemic and major civil upheaval and even political violence in the United States over the past few years haven’t convinced us that we are living in strange, unpredictable, and consequential times, events unfolding across the world in response to the invasion of Ukraine should do the trick. 

It seems sometimes as if the whole geopolitical world map is being rewritten in a matter of days, with nations rethinking their whole foreign policy approach, old alliances being revitalized and new ones formed, and some being broken. The world economic system and other forms of “soft power” are being brought to bear in an unprecedented way to try to stop, or at least punish, the invasion. The threat of nuclear weapons looms larger than it has in decades, recalling scenes from the worst days of the Cold War. 

Meanwhile, the scenes in Ukraine are at times heartbreaking and inspiring, but what cannot be lost in the spectacle is the immense cost war always brings. People, including many civilians, are dying, and many more are injured. Half a million refugees have been sent fleeing. Homes and cities and the infrastructure of modern life are being destroyed in scenes that haven’t been witnessed in Europe since World War II. War’s costs on the battlefield are horrifying, but that is only the beginning of the evil it causes. 

For ordinary Russians, too, many of whom oppose the invasion, there will be devastating costs. 

As the invasion unfolded, Pope Francis called for prayer and fasting for Ukraine on Ash Wednesday. We should continue those prayers, for Ukraine and for peace in the whole world. In God’s providence, the Diocese of Duluth has been placed under the patronage of Our Lady of the Rosary. The rosary has for centuries been considered one of the greatest prayers for peace. So please consider offering rosaries for peace in the Ukraine and beyond in these uncertain times. 

Bishop Daniel Felton: Lent a time to be ‘filled to the brim’ with God’s love, goodness, and mercy

I hope that you had a Mardi Gras of great feasting. As we enter the 40 days of Lent, Mardi Gras reminds us of the lavishness of God’s love, the abundance of God’s goodness, and the bounty of God’s mercy. Mardi Gras also reminds us that Lent is not so much what we are going to do for God as it is what God wants to do in and through us. 

Bishop Daniel Felton
Bishop Daniel Felton
Believe in the Good News

Only when we have experienced the lavishness of God’s unconditional love for us can we be a Lenten people of almsgiving. Filled with God’s love to the brim, we seek to share that lavish love with others. God uses us during Lent to bring his love to the poor, the marginal, the neglected, the lonely, the hurting, the abused, the forgotten, and to all those who believe that they are unlovable. 

Only when we have experienced the abundance of God’s goodness can we be a people of Lenten prayer. Filled to the brim with God’s abundant goodness, we pray for those who are depressed, carrying a heavy cross, overwhelmed by life’s challenges, and for those who believe that they are so bad that they can never know God’s goodness. 

I would encourage you during Lent not only to pray for others but with others. In the moment, ask the person before you if you can say a pray with them. For your brief prayer, just acknowledge God as the source of goodness, pray for the intention of the other, and conclude with a sentence of your confidence that God is good. The prayer is simple but can have a profound impact on those who have asked for your prayers. In the end, it is not about us but about how God wants to use us to reach out with his prayer for those in need of his goodness. 

Only when we have experienced the bounty of God’s mercy can we be a people of Lenten fasting. Filled to the brim with God’s bountiful mercy, God uses us to invite others into his divine mercy, especially those who desire to fast from their temptations, anger, resentments, impatience, sins, addictions, and for those who believe that God will never forgive them for what they have done. 

Remember, it all begins with a Mardi Gras of great feasting. Nemo dat quod non habet — you cannot give what you do not have. At the beginning of Lent, remember that you are lavishly loved as a son or daughter of God, that God wants to share with you the abundance of his goodness and the bounty of his mercy. And then, and only then, remember Lent is not so much about what you are going to do for God as it is about what God wants to do in and through you. 

As Lent begins, I would also like to invite you to be a part of our Let’s Listen endeavor. If you have yet to be a part of a Let’s Listen session, I would encourage you to do so. You can also fill out the Let’s Listen page in this issue of the Northern Cross, or go online at

The Let’s Listen experience seeks to invite us to share where we are hurting and in need of healing and where we are healthy and hopeful in our personal life, the life of our parish or experience of the church, and in our civic communities. The sessions held so far have been a profound experience of God talking in and through us as we simply listen to one another to discern how we can bring alive in this moment and time his lavish love, abundant goodness, and bountiful mercy. 

Finally, as Lent begins, please pray for those who are preparing to be baptized or received in the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil. During this time of final preparations, they are counting on us to pray for them, fast for them, and to share our almsgivings with them, so that through us they may filled to the brim with God’s lavish love, abundant goodness, and bountiful mercy. 

Bishop Daniel Felton is the tenth bishop of Duluth.

Father Mike Schmitz: I don’t know what to do for Lent. Suggestions?

I want to do something for Lent, but I never know what. I have a hard time sticking with things. Do you have any suggestions?

Father Michael Schmitz
Ask Father Mike

Do I have any suggestions? Absolutely I do.

First, let me tell you a little tale …. So, way back in 2020, there was this thing we were all introduced to called a “global pandemic.” (You might have heard about it, it was in all of the newspapers.) Kidding aside, this has been devastating in so many ways for so many people. Not only have people lost their lives, their livelihood, their family members and friends, but our world has been thrust into a whole new set of challenges we will need to work out for a long time to come.

Well, when the lockdowns first happened, I was quite distressed that I wouldn’t be able to connect with our students. (I live and work on a college campus and didn’t even get to say goodbye to them as all of this began while they were away on Spring Break.) So I started to livestream our Sunday Mass so that we were able to have some form of contact with our students and to try and provide some sense of prayer for those who were suddenly unable to pray the Mass in person.

Now, while there is no shortage of opinions about the helpfulness of online Masses, it has turned out to be a good thing for most of the people who “attended” and prayed with us. We also discovered that there were a few other people who were unable to get to Mass who appreciated being able to tune in and pray.

So, we realized that we needed a different camera, since the one we first used didn’t really do the job. After a while, it turned out that the sound quality was kind of hit-or-miss, so we needed to figure out a different way to capture the sound. Then we realized that, if we were going to continue with the online Mass for those who have remained isolated and shut in (for any reason, whether that be the decisions of their governments or because they simply happened to be sick that week), we would need to get a different system for broadcasting.

Over the course of two years, this has meant trying something different about every four to six months.

Now, for some people, this might be a frustrating reality. They could think to themselves, “I thought that we had already solved this problem! We made a decision and simply need to stick with it!” That might be something that I have been tempted to think as well. But I was recently speaking with some of the folks who have helped us in this process. They are video and audio engineers, producers, and technicians who deal with filming and broadcasting on a regular basis. And they didn’t see this as “failure.” In fact, they had another word to describe what we were doing: “iterate.”

They didn’t see the fact that we were needing to regularly reevaluate and change what we were doing as an indication of failure. They looked at it all with the perspective that this was part of what they called the “iterative process.” Aside from sounding cool and intellectual, the “iterative process” is recognizing that life is rarely a “set it and forget it” venture. To “iterate” is to repeat over and over. The “iterative process” is an ongoing method of building, refining, and improving a project. It is “alive” in a sense.

Let’s bring this to our approach to Lent.

For many of us, we want to decide what we are going to do and then simply stick with it throughout the next 40 days. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, it could be a virtuous way to move forward. Committing and sticking with one’s commitments can be a great exercise in virtue. But there is also the approach that Lent gets to be an iterative process.

For example, say that you have noticed that there are certain things in your life that have become obstacles to your relationship with God. Maybe your decision of what to sacrifice for Lent involves one or more of these things. Maybe you’ve noticed that time spent on social media takes up the time you are being called to spend in prayer (or more focused on your work or the people around you) so you decide to eliminate social media for Lent.

But then, as Lent goes along, you realize that the actual “time and attention thief” was YouTube. Now, you could say, “But I decided to give up social media, so I’ll just stick with that.” Or you could iterate. You could recognize that watching all of those videos on YouTube was the real source of distraction and avoidance and make the decision to pivot. In other words, you could allow the season of Lent to be an exercise in the iterative process.

Lent is classically the season of “purification and enlightenment.” We know that purification is a process. We know that enlightenment (aka “learning”) is a process. Doesn’t that leave at least a little bit of room to allow our Lenten practices this year to also be a process?

That is my suggestion. If something is working, there’s no need to mess with it. But if this Lent reveals the opportunity to change, then do not be afraid to iterate.

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.

Lenten regulations

Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are obligatory days of fasting and abstinence for Catholics. In addition, Fridays during Lent are obligatory days of abstinence. 

For members of the Latin Catholic Church, the norms on fasting are obligatory from age 18 until age 59. When fasting, a person is permitted to eat one full meal, as well as two smaller meals that together are not equal to a full meal. The norms concerning abstinence from meat are binding upon members of the Latin Catholic Church from age 14 onwards. 

Members of the Eastern Catholic Churches are to observe the particular law of their own sui iuris Church. 

If possible, the fast on Good Friday is continued until the Easter Vigil (on Holy Saturday night) as the “paschal fast” to honor the suffering and death of the Lord Jesus and to prepare ourselves to share more fully and to celebrate more readily his Resurrection. 

— Source: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops 

Duluth Diocese launches ‘Let’s Listen’ initiative


The Diocese of Duluth has announced a new initiative called “Let’s Listen” to better understand the spiritual needs of the people of northeastern Minnesota and discern the next step in the church’s mission.

Let's ListenLet’s Listen will primarily consist of small group listening sessions throughout the diocese. Online and mail-in survey options will offer other avenues for people to participate.

“The Holy Spirit always calls us to discern our next step as missionaries of Christ,” said Duluth Bishop Daniel Felton, “and this process will allow us to reflect on how the Spirit is speaking to us through the voices of our brothers and sisters.”

Let’s Listen coincides with and cooperates with Synod 2021-2023: For a Synodal Church, an initiative of Pope Francis, but Bishop Felton emphasized the local importance of the process.

“The church in our diocese has been through difficult times in recent years, and this listening is needed,” Bishop Felton said. “What the Spirit reveals through Let’s Listen will be as important and useful to Floodwood as it is to Rome. What we learn will help us discern the next step as our diocese mobilizes to the mission God has given us.”

The sessions are open to Catholics and non-Catholics alike residing in the Diocese of Duluth.

“Each session follows a model inspired by the account of the disciples walking the Road to Emmaus, described in the Gospel of Luke,” said Andrew Jarocki, Diocese of Duluth Contact Person for the Synodal Process. “As the disciples first shared their hurts with Jesus before realizing their hopes, so too does this process encourage the people of the diocese to share both what is in need of healing and what offers them hope in their personal lives, in the church, and in the communities where they live.”

The process begins with an official Kick Off Week of events throughout the diocese Feb. 20-27 and concludes in April 2022. To learn more about how to get involved in Let’s Listen, visit or call (218) 623-5038.

The Diocese of Duluth serves the 10 counties of northeastern Minnesota with more than 44,000 Catholics and 71 parishes.


Nonpublic schools doing more with less; bi-partisan opposition to assisted suicide

By the Minnesota Catholic Conference
Inside the Capitol

Minnesota has a longstanding policy that certain financial supports are allocated for all K-12 students irrespective of a family’s choice of school, including textbooks, nursing services, transportation, and counseling aid. Minnesota Catholic Conference (MCC), and an interfaith coalition of nonpublic school stakeholders (Nonpublic Education Partners), advocate to ensure those nonpublic pupil supports are adequately funded and easily accessible.

Since the pandemic began, nonpublic schools have done heroic work to provide in-person learning as much as possible. As a result, many nonpublic schools are seeing significant enrollment increases.

Yet because the state ties nonpublic pupil aid to public school usage, the funding for those student supports has decreased. In other words, on top of an already difficult job, Catholic schools are doing more with less.

Restoring nursing services

For example, the per pupil allocation for nursing services has dropped by $20 per student. As a remedy, nonpublic school advocates are requesting a one-time fiscal appropriation to restore nursing services for the current school year and prevent a funding shortage that is slated to occur due to shifting enrollment during the pandemic. There is no excuse to shortchange nursing services with the persistence of COVID-19 and the availability of related federal COVID relief funds that can be used.

Counseling services

A recent U.S. Surgeon General report makes clear that mental health issues among young people are growing exponentially. Yet under the current law, only nonpublic students in grades 7-12 receive these services. We are asking for an extension of services to students in grades K-6.

Independence in transportation options

Transportation funding has also gone down, and nonpublic school families sometimes lose their public transportation altogether when public schools go to distance learning. In addition to advocating for a backfilling of transportation funds, MCC will be advocating for a policy change to allow school districts and non-public schools to find alternative transportation arrangements for nonpublic school students if the school and district mutually agree.

Vigilance needed against assisted suicide bills

While we will continue to advocate for our Catholic school students when the legislature gavels back into session on Jan. 31, we also know there will be a flurry of other issues impacting life, dignity, and the common good.

One issue with growing bipartisan support is that Minnesotans deserve real health care throughout life’s journey. As a founding member of the Minnesota Alliance for Ethical Healthcare, MCC has played a leadership role in creating ongoing educational webinars designed to highlight the breadth and diversity of voices who support real care and oppose assisted suicide.

The latest installment featured Senators John Hoffman and Jim Abeler, who discussed their bipartisan advocacy for people with disabilities. Specifically, they outlined the inherent discrimination and ableism of assisted suicide laws and how their opposition of assisted suicide transcends party affiliation. They encouraged advocates to continue to talk to legislators and share stories about why assisted suicide is the wrong policy for Minnesota and endangers the healthcare choices of everyone. You can watch this and past webinars by visiting

MCC looks to stop gambling expansion, support policies benefiting families

By Joe Towalski
The Central Minnesota Catholic

With the start of the 2022 Minnesota legislative session on Jan. 31, among the top policy priorities for the Minnesota Catholic Conference will be stopping efforts to legalize sports betting in the state, increasing supports for nonpublic school students, and ensuring the budget surplus is used to benefit one of the state’s most important resources: families. Efforts to legalize sports gambling have been gaining momentum and bipartisan support, said Jason Adkins, executive director of MCC, the official public policy voice of the Catholic Church in the state. The church does not prohibit Catholics from participating in games of chance or charitable gaming. But sports gambling promoted by large online betting companies raises the stakes for potential abuse, and MCC will oppose efforts to legalize it in Minnesota.

The first-floor rotunda and interior dome of the Minnesota Capitol in St. Paul, 2022 State Legislative Session (Dianne Towalski/ The Central Minnesota Catholic)

“Sports betting — and sports betting accessible via smartphone — is a really dangerous door to open and could really harm Minnesota’s families,” he said. “This is not simply innocent fun that people use to make their game-day watching experience more exciting. This is something that could result in significant detriment to those who already have addictive personalities and gambling problems and to their families. We all suffer when that happens.”

On the educational front, MCC will seek to extend counseling and mental health services aid to nonpublic school students at the primary school level, Adkins said. Currently such aid is only available to nonpublic school students in grades 7 through 12.

“We’re seeing mental health challenges and mental health needs growing among young people,” he said, “and those counseling services are important supports for our students.”

MCC and its nonpublic education partners also will advocate for changes to transportation aid funding and policies that provide more flexibility when public schools move to distance learning. Currently, when public schools opt for distance learning, private school students may lose their busing services.

MCC also will be watching how legislators address the state budget surplus — approximately $7.7 billion — to ensure that economic security for families is prioritized.

With regard to the surplus, it’s a “false binary” to approach it as a choice between only two options: spending it on new programs or providing across-the-board tax cuts, Adkins said.

“Let’s break that Gordian knot and have the best of both worlds by targeting tax relief to the state’s most important producers: our families,” he said. “They produce our most important and precious resource — our children, who are our future.”

The goal would be to provide economic support and security to low- and middle-income families with paid-leave programs and tax relief options that give families the flexibility to use the funds in ways that will benefit them most.

“If you create a child tax credit or a child allowance, people can use that on child care if they want. Or if moms decide to stay home with their kids, they can take those dollars and use them on something else they need to support their families,” Adkins said. “We want to transform the policy debate and get past the false binary. Our Minnesota bishops support a long-term look at ways to promote family economic stability. So this is a conversation you’re going to hear more about as we look to the future.”

The Minnesota Catholic Conference also will monitor other issues during the 2022 session:

Legalizing recreational marijuana: MCC will continue to oppose efforts to legalize recreational marijuana use. A bill that would have created a commercial recreational marijuana industry in the state passed last year in the House but failed in the Senate. The issue was highlighted at the virtual Catholics at the Capitol event last April, and Adkins credits proactive outreach and educational efforts for garnering increased opposition to the idea, including among some business groups. “I think we’re in a really good spot, and we’ve helped put on the brakes regarding this issue,” he said.

Physician-assisted suicide: Opponents of physician-assisted suicide have been effective in helping to shape the public conversation regarding the moral and ethical concerns it raises, said Adkins, adding that he doesn’t expect the issue to gain much traction this session. “We still have to be vigilant and that’s why we’re continuing to build our coalition, which is now over 70 organizations,” he added. “We continue to do education webinars and outreach.”

Positive Alternatives Grant Program: MCC supports increased funding for this program which supports the work of crisis pregnancy centers. The program promotes healthy pregnancy outcomes and assists pregnant and parenting women in developing and maintaining family stability and self-sufficiency. In a budget that will reach $60 billion by 2024, the state allocates only $3.7 million for these services, according to MCC, although the most recent round of grant applications totaled about $6.5 million.

Educational efforts

Care for creation also has been an ongoing priority for MCC. In 2019, MCC released “Minnesota, Our Common Home,” which applied locally the message from Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical “Laudato Si’ on Care for Our Common Home.” This led more recently to

MCC joining a new campaign called “Upstream” to help foster a culture of stewardship in the state.

“What Upstream is really about is to create a platform where Minnesotans can share their story and express their commitment to stewarding our great natural resources and trying to move it beyond a narrow concern of certain groups to a broader base movement that everyone can get behind no matter their background,” Adkins said.

“We love this state, we love its beautiful natural resources,” he added. “We can all express our commitment to stewardship, and then the politics will work itself out when we build some common ground for the common good.” (Learn more about Upstream at

Stay connected

The Catholic Advocacy Network is an initiative of the Minnesota Catholic Conference. The nonpartisan network — for which you can sign up at — alerts Catholics via email and/or text to important state and federal legislative activity about which they can contact lawmakers with a single click. MCC also sends e-newsletters with ways to learn about the church’s social ministry as well as advocating for life, dignity, and the common good.

MCC’s podcast “Bridge Builder: Catholic Faith and Politics” features interviews with guests to help Catholics stay informed on timely issues and learn to live out faithful citizenship. Episodes also feature a “bricklayer” action item that gives listeners practical tips to build the bridge between faith and politics. Listen to current and past episodes at

Archbishop Hebda stresses conversion during ordination of new bishop 

By Maria Wiering 
Catholic News Service 

Surrounded by the Spanish-speaking people he has ministered to throughout his two decades as a priest, Auxiliary Bishop Joseph A. Williams was ordained a bishop for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

The Book of the Gospels is placed over the head of Auxiliary Bishop Joseph A. Williams during his episcopal ordination Mass at the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul Jan. 25. Pope Francis appointed then-Father Williams as an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis Dec. 10, 2021. (CNS photo/Dave Hrbacek, The Catholic Spirit)

During the ceremony at the Cathedral of St. Paul Jan. 25, the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda, who heads the archdiocese, described becoming a bishop as a rebirth, much along the lines of what the Apostle Paul experienced while on his way to Damascus. 

While Bishop Williams today is more likely to be found on a bicycle than on a horse, the invitation to become a bishop that came in a Nov. 22 phone call from the U.S. papal nuncio “would be enough to knock any man, any priest to the ground,” Archbishop Hebda said. 

The nuncio’s call came ahead of Pope Francis’ appointment of then-Father Williams as an auxiliary bishop Dec. 10. 

Despite temperatures hovering near zero degrees and wind chills below zero the day of his episcopal ordination, the cathedral was filled with family, friends, and faithful of the archdiocese, among them representatives of several religious communities. 

Many of them were Latino, an indication that, since being ordained a priest in 2002, Bishop Williams’ ministry has included a special affection for Spanish-speaking Catholics. In his current assignments as pastor of St. Stephen Parish and parochial administrator at Holy Rosary Parish, both in Minneapolis, he serves a predominantly Latino community. 

The opening procession included Latina women and girls carrying flowers, and men, women, and children wearing Latin American cultural dress, including a tunic with Our Lady of Guadalupe. 

Accompanying Bishop Williams as a priest-chaplain during the Mass were his younger brother Father Peter Williams, pastor of St. Ambrose Parish in suburban Woodbury. In addition, a dozen bishops concelebrated the Mass. 

After the Liturgy of the Word, Archbishop Christoph Pierre, papal nuncio to the United States, offered remarks before reading the papal mandate naming Bishop Williams as auxiliary bishop. It was Archbishop Pierre who placed the November phone call to Bishop Williams informing him of his appointment. 

The nuncio then handed the mandate to Bishop Williams, who showed the document to Archbishop Hebda and then processed around the cathedral, holding it out to the faithful, who applauded and cheered as a Latino choir sang. 

In his homily, Archbishop Hebda, the Mass’ principal celebrant and the principal consecrator in the ordination rite, spoke about the archdiocese’s patron saint, stressing the importance of conversion. 

With particular beauty, he said, the 17th-century Roman painter Caravaggio captured St. Paul’s conversion — which included being struck blind on his way to Damascus. In the masterpiece, Paul, “practically spilling out of the canvas,” is on his back with eyes closed, hands reaching to the heavens. 

“It’s not the dignified posture of an apostle or even of a Pharisee or Roman citizen,” Archbishop Hebda said of the painting, “Conversion on the Way to Damascus,” which is in a church in Rome. “Rather, it’s much more reminiscent of a certain helpless infant next to a donkey in a Nativity scene.” 

“What we’re dealing with here is rebirth,” Archbishop Hebda said. “Through this powerful encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus, Saul is reborn, even taking a new name: Paul. It’s out of this experience that knocks the self-confident Paul to the ground, rendering him vulnerable, that he would be able to convincingly share with the Corinthians: that ‘it is when I am weak, then I am strong.’” 

The archbishop noted that the ordination rite includes going “to the ground,” as Bishop Williams would lie prostrate before the altar during a sung litany of the saints. 

“We’re hoping that through [the saints’] spiritual accompaniment, you will be confirmed in your great desire to joyfully accept the new call that has been given you through Pope Francis,” Archbishop Hebda said, “even when you, like Paul, recognize it will, at times, be a sharing in Christ’s cross that requires you to die to yourself.” 

Commending Bishop Williams’ “incredible natural gifts,” Archbishop Hebda said “even they will pale in comparison to what the Lord desires to shower upon you today through the Holy Spirit.” 

At the close of Mass, Bishop Williams, wearing his miter and a vestment with an embroidered icon of St. Paul, addressed the congregation in English and Spanish. He said that it was the work of God that brought about his ordination, and that he was hoping for what Archbishop Hebda preached about: the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. 

“I don’t have a mission statement,” he said. “We heard the mission from Archbishop Pierre: I’m here to assist Archbishop Hebda in his pastoral care of this archdiocese.” 

He continued: “All of us have one mission: to go out and proclaim the good news. What is the good news? It’s Jesus Christ.” 

Bishop Williams ended his remarks with the words of St. John Paul II: “Follow Christ.” 

“You who are single, or who are preparing for marriage, follow Christ,” he said. “You who are old or young, follow Christ. You who are sick or aging, follow Christ. You who feel the need of a friend, follow Christ.” 

Bishop Williams, 47, is one of youngest Catholic bishops in the United States, according to data at

Wiering is editor of The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. 

Father Richard Kunst: Did Jesus have a ‘total recall’ memory?

There is a difference between being smart and knowing a lot, though people tend to confuse the two as being one and the same. I am pretty good at trivia games, and I have lots of data in my brain for the things that I am most interested in, but I would never describe myself as being smart. Though I am decades removed from school, if you were to see my report cards you would certainly agree. 

Father Richard Kunst

That being said, there is one subject that I would claim to be an expert in, and that would be papal related memorabilia, anything associated with the person of the pope, past and present. It’s an incredibly small and useless niche, but I am probably one of the foremost experts on the topic in the United States (if I may say so). I have advised radio shows, television shows, auction houses, and even museums on the subject. 

Yet sometimes I get stumped. Sometimes someone will send me a picture of something they want information on, and I don’t know the answer. When that happens I reach out to some colleague in the collecting world to look for help, and often they will say, “Aren’t you the one who is supposed to know? Why are you asking me?” It is humbling, but it has happened more than a few times. 

Jesus Christ is the Second Person of the Trinity; he is God the Son incarnate. Before he was incarnate, before he was born, as the second Person of the Trinity he was largely responsible for the writing of the Old Testament. It was God the Son who was inspiring the Old Testament authors to write the sacred texts in preparation of his coming to earth in human form, so no one knew the Old Testament writings better than Jesus of Nazareth! He was its author. And yet we see in at least one passage of the Gospels where Jesus gets some of his information wrong when quoting the Jewish scriptures. 

In the Gospel of Mark, when Jesus and his disciples get accused of breaking the Sabbath by picking and eating heads of grain, there arises a debate between Jesus and the Pharisees concerning the true nature of the Sabbath. In rebutting the Pharisees’ accusation, Jesus brings their attention to a story about King David in the Old Testament book of 1 Samuel. “He said to them, ‘Have you never read what David did when he was in need and he and his companions were hungry? How he went into the house of God when Abiathar was high priest and ate the bread of offering that only the priests could lawfully eat, and shared it with his companions?’” 

There are some important discrepancies from how Jesus tells the story and how it is recorded in 1 Samuel. In the telling of the incident in 1 Samuel, Abiathar is not the priest, his father Ahimelech is the priest in the story. Also, David does not go into the house of God as Jesus says; rather the priest Ahimelech brings the bread out to him. And finally, Jesus implies that companions are with David, but in the portrayal of the story in the Old Testament, David is alone. 

There have been all sorts of theories as to why there are such important differences between how the story is recoded and how Jesus retells it. Might I suggest as a theory that Jesus did not have perfect and total recall of the Old Testament? Even though he was God incarnate, who inspired the writing of the Old Testament, he may not have had the entire text perfectly memorized. Are we prepared to accept this as a possibility? I think we should be. 

Remember that Jesus took on our human nature in every way except for sin. If Jesus would have wanted to fly to the moon, could he have? Of course, because he is God, but he chose to take on the fullness of human nature, which meant he was limited in what he was able to do in that nature. 

There is something pretty cool about this, if I may say so. Think of how often we have fuzzy memories about things from our past, things we have learned, or even remembering our kid’s and grandkid’s names. It is a normal part of the human experience to have memories that are not always perfectly sharp. Should we be scandalized by the fact that Jesus may have experienced this same frailty? We shouldn’t be. 

Now, there could be some other valid explanation for the discrepancies between Jesus’ telling of the story and what actually appears in 1 Samuel, but from my viewpoint I like the explanation that Jesus had the same human experience as you and I in every single way except sin including a sometimes imperfect memory. 

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

Father Nicholas Nelson: ‘The Churching of Women’ — give it a try!

On Feb. 2, we celebrated the feast of the Presentation of the Lord. It is the day we remember Mary and Joseph bringing the newborn Jesus to the Temple 40 days after his birth. It is there that they meet Simeon and Anna the prophetess.

Father Nick Nelson
Handing on the Faith

In the Old Covenant, mothers were obliged to be purified following childbirth before partaking again in communal worship. They were to go to a priest and offer a lamb if she could afford it or two doves or pigeons as an offering. After this ritual offering, she would be ritually clean. In the Old Covenant, it was also the case that first-born sons needed to be redeemed. The first-born belonged to God and was to serve him as a priest. Therefore, if the family didn’t want him to be a priest, the son and to be redeemed or bought back from the Lord. It was necessary that the family pay a priest five shekels to do this.

These were the circumstances of their visit to the Temple 40 days after Jesus was born, although as I wrote last month it wasn’t absolutely necessary for them to do this. Mary was the perpetual virgin, immaculately conceived. She didn’t need to be purified as there was no change to her bodily integrity during childbirth, and Jesus wasn’t redeemed from the Lord but actually presented to the Lord. As faithful Jews, they went to the Temple to be an example to others.

While the purification of women following childbirth and the redemption of the first-born son became unnecessary in the New Covenant, which Jesus inaugurated by his self-offering on Calvary, there is still a little-known Christian ritual and blessing for mothers following childbirth. It is called the “Churching of Women.”

Centuries ago, when the infant and maternal mortality was high, the baby was brought to the church for baptism within the first few days, even a few hours after birth. Most times, the mother was not yet well enough to leave the bed or at least leave home and make the trip to the church for the baptism. So the baptism was generally done without the mother present.

Older people today have told me that even as recently as 50 or 60 years ago, mothers still normally didn’t come to the baptism. However, it wasn’t necessarily that they were still bedridden but that they were home getting things ready for the reception and party following the baptism! In any case, and in lieu of the mother taking part in the baptism, there was a special ritual and blessing for her when she finally did enter the church for the first time after giving birth. This is called “The Churching of Women.”

St. Charles Borremeo said it was a praiseworthy custom for the mother to present herself in the church as soon as she is able to leave the house. Realize that in this ritual there is no sense of the woman needing to be purified. Rather, churching is the way for the mother to give thanks to God for her child and her health and pray to God for the graces necessary to raise her child in the faith. Churching would even take place if the mother lost her child to stillbirth. It showed her trust in God even in spite of that tragic event.

Churching begins with the mother kneeling at the threshold of the church with a lighted candle, and the priest blesses her with holy water. He recites Psalm 24, after which the priest puts the end of his stole on the mother’s hand and leads her to the sanctuary. praying “Enter into the temple of God, adore the Son of the blessed Virgin Mary, who gave you fruitfullness of offspring.” This is an image of Christ leading his sister to the altar.

Outside the sanctuary she kneels again giving thanks to God for her child. The priest then says this powerful blessing: “Almighty, everlasting God, through the delivery of the blessed Virgin Mary, Thou hast turned into joy the pains of the faithful in childbirth; look mercifully upon this Thy handmaid, coming in gladness to Thy temple to offer up her thanks: and grant that after this life, by the merits and intercession of the same blessed Mary, she may merit to arrive, together with her offspring, at the joys of everlasting happiness. Through Christ our Lord.” He then sprinkles her once again with holy water in the form of a cross.

I’ve had the blessing to celebrate this ritual a number of times, and it is quite beautiful and meaningful to the women. It is a thanksgiving to God, a celebration of femininity, and a blessing upon mother as she begins to raise this child. It is short, probably no longer than ten minutes.

I would encourage all mothers do this. Contact your pastor. It would be best to do it the first time you return to church even if it was before the date of baptism. It could even be the same day as the baptism, just immediately prior to the baptism. I’ve done that before.

Giving birth is a big deal, it’s important that there is some solemnity around this occasion. Churching of women is a great tradition in the church giving proper solemnity to motherhood!

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].