Browsing News Entries

Browsing News Entries

Hallow app available for free 

By The Northern Cross 

Diocesan officials announced in February that Hallow, an app primarily for use on mobile devices, is being made available free for all parishioners across the Diocese of Duluth for all of Lent in 2023, thanks to a generous grant from the diocesan CREED fund.

Hallow is billed as the No. 1 Catholic app worldwide. It includes more than 5,000 audio guided sessions designed to help people grow closer to God and develop a daily habit of prayer. It includes prayers for children and families, resources for mental health, meditations for sleep, seasonal music, daily trivia, podcast-style courses to learn more about the faith, and more. 

Parishes have received promotional kits to help people get signed up. A simple way to do it is simply to visit and search for your parish name. 

The Catholic Religious Education Endowment Fund financially assists Catholic School Education and individuals formally preparing for ministries and responsibilities in parishes or diocesan programs within the Diocese of Duluth. 

Sisters of St. Scholastica Monastery receive Vatican approval for sponsorship model change 

By The Northern Cross 

The Benedictine Sisters of St. Scholastica Monastery in Duluth recently received approval from the Vatican to shift the Catholic sponsorship of their ministries – Benedictine, the College of St. Scholastica, and the Catholic facilities of Essentia Health, St. Francis Regional Medical Center, and St. Mary’s Health – from a Sponsor Council model to a Ministerial Public Juridic Person. This new structure will be called Duluth Benedictine Ministries, and the official change will take place on July 1. 

Aware of the declining availability of Sisters at St. Scholastica Monastery to provide oversight to their sponsored ministries and institutions, the Duluth Benedictine Sisters began exploration and discernment of options that would allow their ministries to continue to grow and thrive when the sisters were no longer available to provide leadership and direction. This effort began in 2010 with discussions and education arriving at the decision to establish a Sponsor Council composed of knowledgeable laypersons and sisters to continue learning and research on appropriate sponsorship model options for religious congregations with multiple ministries. The sisters decided to pursue a petition to the Vatican for a ministerial public juridic person as the most appropriate model for the future. The completed petition was sent to the Vatican for review and consideration on June 2, 2022. 

“We are delighted that our sponsorship petition to the Vatican was approved, because it will ensure our ministries that serve thousands of people each year will adhere to Catholic identity and Benedictine charisms well into the future,” said Benedictine Sister Beverly Raway, prioress of St. Scholastica Monastery. 

Lori Collard, chair of the Sponsor Council, adds, “The approval of this comprehensive document by the Vatican was a result of a thoughtful, planned effort by many individuals dedicated to the mission and ministries of our sisters. This work will have a long-lasting impact on the regional populations our sisters have served for over 125 years.” 

For clarity and understanding in this context, officials say sponsorship means a structured relationship through which the sponsor, in the name of the church, directs and influences a ministry that meets an apostolic need and furthers the mission of Jesus (2021 Guide for Sponsors in Catholic Health Care). Catholic sponsorship of an organization has most often been a function of religious congregations that founded organizations in education, health care, and other services. Because these religious communities were officially recognized by the church, the organizations they sponsored were considered extensions of the work of the church. 

Duluth Benedictine Ministries will be located at St. Scholastica Monastery in Duluth at 1001 Kenwood Avenue. In the upcoming months, staff for Duluth Benedictine Ministries will be hired to oversee the work of the MPJP. It is anticipated that this change in sponsorship will not affect the day-to-day operations of the ministries and that there will be a smooth transition in the governance and leadership of the new organization. 

New bishop of St. Cloud, Minn., to build his ministry on mercy, hope, justice

By Kristi Anderson 
OSV News 

From Portland, Oregon, to Peru and many places in between, hundreds of people came to St. Mary’s Cathedral in St. Cloud Feb. 14 to witness the ordination and installation of the Diocese of St. Cloud’s 10th bishop, Bishop Patrick M. Neary, an Indiana native and priest of the Congregation of Holy Cross. 

Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, read a decree from the pope and offered brief remarks to Bishop Neary, who succeeds Bishop Donald J. Kettler, the diocese’s shepherd from 2013 until his retirement in December.

Bishop Patrick M. Neary shows the mandate from Pope Francis to the congregation during his ordination and installation as the 10th bishop of St. Cloud at St. Mary’s Cathedral Feb. 14. (OSV News photo/Gianna Bonello, The Central Minnesota Catholic)

“Mercy is a great gift. The Holy Father has taught us that mercy is the very heart of God,” he said. “You told the people when you moved that you learned the motto of the Diocese of St. Cloud: ‘Heart of Mercy, Voice of Hope, Hands of Justice.’ … This motto also describes your ministry. You have shown mercy and justice in your many assignments as priest, campus minister, missionary … perhaps the first impression that someone has when encountering you is that you are a voice of hope.” 

“It is obvious that you have met Christ, that you encounter him each day in your prayer,” Archbishop Pierre added. “For that reason, I am eager for you to share Christ with the good people of this diocese.” 

Serving as the principal ordaining bishop was Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda of St. Paul and Minneapolis. The co-ordaining bishops were Auxiliary Bishop Peter L. Smith of Portland and Bishop William A. Wack, who heads the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Florida, and is a Holy Cross priest. 

“If Pope Francis needs any confirmation that he has made a good choice for the Diocese of St. Cloud,” said Archbishop Hebda in his homily, “all he needs to do is consider the motto that the bishop has chosen for his episcopate, ‘Ave Crux, Spes Unica,’ ‘Hail the Cross, Our Only Hope.’” 

“Sure, it is the motto of the Congregation of Holy Cross, the religious community that has sustained Father Pat’s priestly ministry for more than three decades,” he said. “But it is also an insight into what the new bishop finds important and inspiring, where he has found his hope and how his ministry embracing the cross will bring hope to others, and most especially to this local church.” 

Representatives from the diocese and the community also came forward to greet the new bishop, including St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis; leaders of the Franciscan, Crosier, and Benedictine religious communities; and the youth representative on the Diocesan Pastoral Council. In addition, the Diocesan Council of Catholic Women, the Hispanic community, and the Knights of Columbus also were represented. 

“It was incredible to see the involvement of so many people, both locally and from so many areas of the world,” said Jane Marrin, recently retired chancellor of the Diocese of St. Cloud. 

“It is obvious that Bishop Patrick has already had a wide impact on the hearts of the people he has served, and we are ready and willing to welcome him into our hearts here in the Diocese of St. Cloud,” she told The Central Minnesota Catholic, the diocese’s magazine. 

Courtney Huiras, a sophomore and theology major at the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph, was excited to help with hospitality at the ordination, especially after missing the installation last fall of the new bishop in her home Diocese of New Ulm. Bishop Chad W. Zielinski, former bishop of Fairbanks, Alaska, was installed Sept. 27. 

“I’m really looking forward to Bishop Neary coming to our campuses and to see what we are doing in campus ministry,” she said. 

More than 150 bishops, priests, and deacons attended the ceremony as well as members of the diocese’s religious communities. Many of Bishop Neary’s confreres from the Congregation of Holy Cross also attended, including Superior General Brother Paul Bednarczyk. 

For Father John Paul Igbokwe, a visiting priest from the Archdiocese of Owerri, Nigeria, this was his first experience of an ordination and installation of a bishop in the United States. Father Igbokwe attends St. Cloud State University and serves locally in parishes in the St. Cloud area while completing his studies. 

“My heart is full of joy. I had an encounter with the new bishop, and he is a gift. We are happy to have him. I am also happy to meet new priests and see the ones I have met before. It is a special day to get together and share that fraternity and love,” Father Igbokwe said. 

The diocese’s seminarians also participated in the Mass and prayed a Holy Hour for the new bishop just before it began. 

“We prayed for him to have the light of the Holy Spirit to guide the whole diocese through these tough times and to keep his trust and hope in the Lord,” said seminarian Kevin Soenneker. 

About 45 people traveled the 1,600-plus miles from Portland, Oregon, where then-Father Neary had been serving as pastor of Holy Redeemer Church. Among them was Carmen Salvador. 

“It was very important for us to be here today to support [Bishop] Neary,” Salvador said. “He is a very holy man who always shows God’s love to people. He has helped so many people come back to God and to the church. It is a very sad day for us because we will miss him but, at the same time, we are very happy because we know he will help so many more people here to know the Lord.” 

The bilingual Mass was livestreamed, and many parishes and schools across the diocese hosted watch parties, including St. Ann Parish in Wadena, part of the Mary Mother of the Church Area Catholic Community. 

About 25 people gathered there for a soup and sandwich lunch, followed by the livestream. 

“It was really good for people to get a glimpse of the process and to be able to hear what the people had to say,” said Jessy Waldock, communications director at the Catholic community. “People enjoyed both the serious and lighthearted moments at the same time. I think that was reassuring for people to see in the new bishop that he can be fun and spiritual and human at the same time.” 

In remarks at the conclusion of the Mass, Bishop Neary thanked all who were there — especially the many ministers, staff and people in attendance — as well as those who were not present. Following the Mass, he stood on the steps of the cathedral and gave a blessing to the city and diocese. 

Bishop Neary’s parents, Jacob and Marybelle, had front row seats at the Mass, along with members of his family. 

“I am very proud of my brother,” said Laura Duncan, one of Bishop Neary’s five sisters. “I watched him from an early age take care of all of us and care about people. It’s just really thrilling to know that he is going to shepherd the flock of so many and change their lives. That is what he is the best at — changing lives.” 

Kristi Anderson writes for The Central Minnesota Catholic, magazine of the Diocese of St. Cloud. 

Suspect in shooting death of LA Bishop O’Connell charged with murder

By Angelus Staff 
OSV News 

The suspect in the shooting death of Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop David G. O’Connell was formally charged with murder Feb. 22 after admitting to killing him. 

Bishop O’Connell was found dead of at least one gunshot wound to his upper torso in his home in the Los Angeles suburb of Hacienda Heights on the afternoon of Feb. 18. 

Carlos Medina, 61, faces one felony count of murder and a special allegation that he used a firearm, according to the LA County District Attorney’s Office. His formal arraignment is scheduled for March 22 at the Foltz Criminal Justice Center in downtown LA. 

Medina is the husband of Bishop O’Connell’s housekeeper and had done handyman work at the home, authorities said. He was arrested at his Torrance home Feb. 20, after a six-hour standoff with SWAT and LA County Sheriff’s deputies. 

District Attorney George Gascón said at a press conference Feb. 22 that Medina admitted to the killing. If convicted, Medina faces up to 35 years to life in prison. 

“This was a brutal act of violence against a person who dedicated his life to making our neighborhoods safer, healthier, and always serving with love and compassion,” Gascón said. 

“As Catholics around Los Angeles and the nation start the holy season of Lent, let us reflect on Bishop O’Connell’s life of service and dedication to those in greatest need of our care,” Gascón added. “Charging Mr. Medina will never repair the tremendous harm that was caused by this callous act, but it does take us one step closer to accountability.” 

At an afternoon news conference Feb. 20, LA County Sheriff Robert G. Luna announced that citizen tips led to the 8:15 a.m. arrest that day of Medina after an all-night search. 

In an emotional press conference, Luna said “my heart grieves” for the death of Bishop O’Connell, based on all the calls of support he received in the investigation over a period of 48 hours. 

“This man, this bishop, made a huge difference in our community,” said Luna. “He was loved. It is very sad that we are gathered here today about this murder.” 

Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, one of the speakers at the press conference, stopped several times during his remarks to collect himself. At one point, Luna put his arm around Archbishop Gomez’s shoulder to comfort him. 

“On behalf of our entire community, I want to share thanks for your professionalism and sensitivity,” Archbishop Gomez said of the investigation. “It is a sad and painful moment for all of us. Let us keep praying for Bishop Dave and his family, just as he prayed for law enforcement officials.” 

Bishop O’Connell was originally from Brooklodge, Glanmire, in County Cork, the largest county in Ireland. He studied for the priesthood at the former All Hallows College in Dublin and was ordained to serve in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in 1979. 

Bishop O’Connell was named an auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles by Pope Francis in July 2015. Since then, he had served as episcopal vicar for the San Gabriel Pastoral Region, one of the LA archdiocese’s five regions. 

During his time as auxiliary bishop in Los Angeles, evangelization, pastoral care for immigrants, and ensuring the future of his region’s Catholic schools were all top priorities for Bishop O’Connell, who believed that “parishes and schools are powerful instruments of transformation of people’s lives and of neighborhoods.” 

Before being named a bishop, he was well-known for his pastoral work in south LA — where he served as pastor of four different parishes — in the years before and after the 1992 Rodney King riots. He played a key role, along with other local faith leaders, in bringing together communities already suffering from gang violence, poverty, and drugs, while working to restore trust between community members and law enforcement. 

Angelus is the news outlet of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. 

Families First Project moves forward as a new Minnesota Child Tax Credit gains momentum

Inside the Capitol 

“Public authorities have the duty to sustain the family … the family does not exist for society or the State, but society and the State exist for the family” (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, no. 214). 

This is a bold calling, and as faithful citizens, we need to be advocates for policies that prioritize the family. Without strong families, we cannot expect to have a strong society. 

One such policy that will put families first is a nation-leading Minnesota child tax credit. Economic relief in the form of direct cash support to families, such as a refundable CTC, not only helps sustain families but does so in a manner consistent with the church’s teaching on subsidiarity. This form of tax relief provides families with the freedom to choose how best to structure their budgets. 

A Minnesota CTC could also help address our state’s long-term workforce and population concerns. While many studies show that financial difficulties encourage divorce and family fragmentation, the lack of economic security also discourages family formation. A nation-leading fiscal commitment to families could be a catalyst for new families to be formed or for existing families to stay together. 

Partnering to advance pro-family policies 

The Minnesota Catholic Conference is working with an array of partners to pass a CTC. Our work began last year when MCC, along with Children’s Defense Fund and Legal Aide, convened a meeting between the Republican and Democrat Tax Committee Chairs to present a CTC as the solution to the gordian knot between GOP-favored tax cuts and DFL-favored “Walz checks.” 

This year, the Minnesota Budget Project joined our efforts, and we began promoting this relatively novel concept to the governor’s office. Those efforts proved successful when the Walz Administration included a CTC proposal in their budget recommendation. Simultaneous outreach to build a groundswell of public buy-in has resulted in over 30 advocacy organizations adding their names to a letter of support. 

We crossed another significant milestone when a bill to create a new Minnesota CTC (H.F. 1369) received its first hearing in the House Taxes Committee on Feb, 9. Four parents from MCC’s Catholic Advocacy Network participated in the hearing by sharing their own stories of how the proposal would provide them with much-needed economic relief. 

While only 12 states currently offer a CTC, there are several ways in which the policy can be crafted, with per-child benefit amounts and income eligibility thresholds being the most significant variables. It was important to offer a positive, personal display of support for H.F. 1369 because it would be nation-leading in terms of per-child benefit structure, flexibility, and inclusivity. 

A CTC would send a signal to Minnesota families that our state supports their vital contribution to society. This families first proposal has built great momentum, but we need the voices like yours to help get it over the legislative finish line. 

If you would like to share your story of how the 2021 Expanded Federal Child Tax Credit helped your family, please contact Ryan Hamilton, MCC government relations associate, at [email protected]

Betsy Kneepkens: Learning from a second Dad how to live without bitterness

Adversary balloons are flying in space, and a horrific war is happening. Violence using weapons has dramatically increased since COVID began. People without appropriate shelter plague every large city in this country. The rate of loneliness has been the highest since recording began, and the number of suicides has increased in nearly every age category for both males and females. The inflation rates are high, the supply chain is broken, and there are not enough people willing to work, so businesses have staff shortages. 

Betsy Kneepkens
Betsy Kneepkens
Faith and Family

My father-in-law is experiencing the end stages of life. 

Whenever I describe my relationship with my father-in-law, I get uncomfortable when I say he has been like a father to me. He has never been nearly my father. From the moment he met me, I was his daughter, and not once in the past 40 years has he treated me as anything other than his seventh child. He is a grounded individual where life was faith, family, fun, and faith again. 

Most young people would think my father-in-law’s upbringing was brutal, tragic at times, and unimaginable in many ways. Born the 11th child, he lost two siblings from the Spanish flu and two brothers to World War II. They lived in a two-bedroom home. Some children slept in the hallway, and they had no indoor plumbing, using an outhouse and a push pump (some young ones wouldn’t even know what a pump is) for water. The family had a small kitchen and tiny living room and eventually got a radio for entertainment. He was raised in Kimberly, Wisconsin, with cruel winters, while his father was a janitor for a paper company. 

My father-in-law was an Eagle Scout, had a paper route, delivered groceries, and walked into town to pick up milk, just one of his many chores. He was a straight-A student and boasted he was an altar boy until he was 50. Aware he was at the top of his class, a teacher recommended he complete a college ROTC application early in his senior year. He barely knew what a college was, and not entirely sure what ROTC was, he received a full tuition scholarship to attend the University of Wisconsin in Madison. He cleaned the Catholic Newman Hall for his room and board. With no money, he hitchhiked his way back and forth from Madison to Kimberly each weekend. He has always been proud of his service to his country and the Navy. More importantly, he was sure to wear at least one piece of Badger and Packer apparel weekly, if not daily at times. 

My father-in-law shares stories of his childhood but never considered his upbringing difficult, tragic, or unimaginable. He married his high school sweetheart on the weekend of his college graduation and commissioning into the Navy. He was overseas for two years and met his first son when he was a year old. He was a faithful husband, a loving father, and a terrific grandpa. 

He was that guy who would buy 30 of the same winter coats in the spring sale because he knew there were at least 30 fellow community members in need next winter. My father-in-law would never get annoyed by the person in the grocery line that couldn’t pay for his groceries. Instead, he would slip a larger bill to the cashier and tell her to tell the person in need the matter was taken care of. 

However, he got annoyed when he sat on committees and councils responsible for helping those in need and they did not do their jobs. If these charitable organizations were stingy or unwilling to give to the disadvantaged, he let them have it. We would hear him complain over and over again, “If we have it, give it. If they are hungry, they can return to the food shelf as often as needed.” He did not care what the policies were or who was in charge. If there was hunger, he found a way to feed them. He loved being Catholic, but when his Catholic friends or organizations forgot their obligation to serve the poor and marginalized, he had no tolerance for that. 

My kids’ grandpa never found a fault in his grandkids and managed to share his pride with everyone he met, often telling the same story about them repeatedly. He managed to make every family member feel like they were his favorite. He made time for each one of us, and toward the end they all made time for him. 

Life passes so quickly that from the time I started writing this article until now, my beloved father-in-law passed into eternal life. As one of my husband’s brothers said, “There was a special grace about Dad.” He managed to touch each person he encountered, and then you knew you reigned in his heart from that moment forward. My father-in-law was a good man, and he died a happy death. Appropriately, his final morsel, the Eucharist, remained central to his life. He held the recipe for a life well lived. 

You can read or watch about anything, and a macro view of our world does seem distressing. The outlook is extremely difficult, tragic, and unimaginable in many ways. We must remember that we don’t have to be defined by the overwhelming, nasty, and unfair. 

My father-in-law was dealt all of that but chose to live without bitterness, hopeful and generous. We can choose to live with the special grace God gave us. I have learned from my second Dad that it is possible. I saw how that grace makes life better. We might all have to bring the goodness God has intended to change our world perspective. 

And so, my parting words to him are, “Dad, you were a good and holy servant. Eternal rest grant unto you, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon you. May your soul and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.” 

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

Editorial: Continuing to pray for peace 

It’s now been a year since Russia invaded Ukraine, and the war goes on, taking its dreadful toll. Over that year, other nations around the world, including our own, have been drawn deeper and deeper into the conflict, through sanctions and countless billions of dollars in arms shipments and diplomatic crises. 

The effects are being felt far beyond Russia and Ukraine, whether it’s economic turmoil and austerity or fears over a broader, even deadlier conflict emerging. 

The end of the conflict does not appear to be near at hand. And this is just one of the conflicts raging in the world. 

Our Catholic faith has a long tradition of working for peace, advocating for peace, and praying for peace. As we observe this grim anniversary of a brutal invasion, may it serve as a renewed call to take our prayers to the Prince of Peace, especially in praying the rosary for peace in our world and for a just resolution to all its conflicts and hardships. 

Father Richard Kunst: When doubt creeps in

Perhaps this might sound like I am stating the obvious, but I feel like I have a pretty strong faith. Faith is a gift, so I certainly do not take it for granted, and yet in saying I have a strong faith I also have to admit that from time to time I have small shades of doubt, and that these tremors of doubt almost always come when I am reading about astronomy, which is a subject I have always been interested in. 

Father Richard Kunst

As science develops and we have a greater awareness of the universe, we get a clearer picture of the size and scope of it all. As new telescopes get sent further out into space, we are seeing images of distant galaxies that seem to be more science fiction than fact, but they are indeed fact. I don’t want to overwhelm you with data, but just give you enough to have a healthy appreciation of the world we live in. 

As a benchmark, it has been slightly over a billion minutes since Jesus was crucified. Let that sink in a little. Our sun, which is one star in the galaxy of the Milky Way, burns off 350 billion tons of its weight every day. Again, let that sink in. In the Milky Way, astronomers estimate there to be 100 billion stars. Thanks to modern telescopes, we can detect about 200 billion other galaxies like ours. To put it another way, it is said that there are more stars in the universe than there are grains of sand on earth! 

I would like to say “let that sink in” again, but it can’t sink in. There is no way we can fathom this sort of number and size; it is too far beyond us. The fact of the matter is that the more we learn about the universe, the more unbelievable Christianity becomes. The more modern astronomy reveals the secrets of the universe, the more farfetched Christianity’s claims seem to be. 

There are 100 billion stars in our galaxy and 200 billion other galaxies besides ours, and yet Christianity’s claim is that the person who created the entire universe came to earth in our image because he loves us so much. Seem farfetched? 

At this point there is an attractive quote in one of the Gospels which I would like to draw our attention to. It takes place in Mark’s Gospel. Some of the Apostles are trying to cure a young man of some possessed spirit, but they are unable to do so. Then the father of the man asks Jesus to help, and the man says: “I do believe, help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24). 

It is natural and even normal to have doubts from time to time. How can there be a being that created this universe and then came to our insignificant planet because he loves us? It is OK to scratch your head from time to time and wonder about all of it. It is OK to say, “I believe, help my unbelief!” 

But the line spoken by the father of the possessed man should always be read in tandem with another line from the Gospel of John. After Jesus gives the “Bread of Life” discourse, in which he repeatedly says that in order to have life we have to eat his flesh and drink his blood, many, if not most of those who had been following Jesus left him, because they could not accept what he was saying. The Gospel says that they abandoned him because the saying of eating his flesh and drinking his blood was “too hard,” to which Jesus turns to the Twelve and asks if they are going to leave too. Peter responds, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). 

“I do believe, help my unbelief.” “Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” When we are faced with doubt, no matter what that doubt may look like, whether it’s from studying the size and scope of the universe or from anything else that might cause doubt, there is really nowhere else to go, there is no viable second option to Jesus. 

Jesus is the one who gives our life meaning; without him we are truly nothing more than microbes feeding off a speck of dust traveling around an average size star in an averaged size galaxy among 200 billion other galaxies. By any measure, we are pretty insignificant, unless we believe. Unless we believe that the one who did create all of this truly did come to our little planet so that we could be with him in heaven. It may all be farfetched, but it is all true. 

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

Father Nicholas Nelson: Virginity, the more excellent state

The other week while I was on retreat, I came across a collection of letters written either to St. Therese of Lisieux or by her. One in particular really struck me. It was written by Therese when she was already at Carmel to her sister, Celine, who was discerning what vocation she was called to. Therese was encouraging Celine to join her at Carmel. This letter struck me by its appreciation for virginity and a life given totally to God. 

Father Nick Nelson
Handing on the Faith

St. Therese wrote, “Celine, let us make of our heart a little garden of delights where Jesus may come to rest, let us plant only lilies in our garden, yes, lilies, and let us allow no other flowers, for other flowers can be cultivated by other souls, but it is virgins alone who can give lilies to Jesus. Virginity is a profound silence from all cares of this earth. Not only from useless cares but from all cares. Since Jesus was born by his will of a Lily, He loves to find Himself in virgin hearts.” 

Marriage is a beautiful vocation. The church needs it. But without diminishing it, I wish to express the church’s appreciation for virginity. Normally the church uses the terms “virgin” regarding women and “celibacy” regarding men. I will use “virginity” and “chaste celibacy” interchangeably to mean a non-married life consecrated to God. 

Jesus speaks of virginity as a great good to be received, if one is called to it. “The disciples said to him, ‘If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.’ But he said to them, ‘Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it’” (Matthew 19:10-12). 

St. Paul praises chaste celibacy. He says, “So then he who marries his betrothed does well, and he who refrains from marriage will do even better” (1 Corinthians 7:38). 

In the 4th century, St. Ambrose spoke so beautifully and highly of virginity that mothers and fathers wouldn’t let their daughters go to hear him preach, because he would undoubtedly convince them to pass on marriage and enter the role of virgins. 

St. Thomas Aquinas held that virginity was preferable to marriage. He wrote, “By the example of Christ, Who both chose a virgin for His mother and remained Himself a virgin, and by the teaching of the Apostle who counsels virginity as the greater good” (II.II.q.52a.4). 

The most authoritative pronouncement comes from the Council of Trent, “If anyone says that the married state excels the state of virginity or celibacy, and that it is better and happier to be united in matrimony than to remain in virginity or celibacy, let him be anathema” (Trent 24.10). 

In 1954, and realizing that chaste celibacy was being more and more forgotten and underappreciated, Pope Pius XII wrote an encyclical specifically on consecrated virginity. He said, “Virginity is preferable to marriage then, as We have said, above all else because it has a higher aim: that is to say, it is a very efficacious means for devoting oneself wholly to the service of God, while the heart of married persons will remain more or less ‘divided’” (Sacra Virginitas). 

While it has been consistently the mind of the Church that virginity is objectively a preferable, higher, more excellent, more perfect state, it doesn’t mean that the individuals living in that state are necessarily better or holier. 

My point in writing this is to say that we only get one life. We only get one opportunity to glorify God in the greatest way. We only get one opportunity to merit the greatest beatitude in heaven, and therefore it’s worth living the Gospel in the most radical way. It makes sense to conform your life as completely as possible to that of Christ’s life, and that includes chaste celibacy. This is on condition that one is being called to this vocation. Because it is Christ himself who said, “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given.” 

In promoting vocations, we can focus on doing priestly work or doing the work of religious sisters as a motivation. But it’s primarily the call to chaste celibacy that distinguishes these vocations from the married vocation. The longer I am a priest, the more I appreciate having received this calling of chaste celibacy. Marriage and children are so beautiful, and our sexual nature is such an important part of us, that to sacrifice its immediate fulfillment and reorder it towards spiritual fruitfulness is truly special. There is something ennobling and fulfilling knowing that I am totally consecrated to the Lord. 

Let us all appreciate whatever vocation we have been called to, but at the same time encourage our young men and women to consider the priesthood, or religious life, or consecrated virginity. Let us help them realize it is a more excellent state, that it is a more radical way to live, modeled after the life of Christ. It is a vocation that brings a great amount of fulfillment knowing that one belongs entirely to God! 

Father Nick Nelson is pastor of Queen of Peace and Holy Family parishes in Cloquet and vocations director for the Diocese of Duluth. 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: Serenity Prayer offers needed wisdom in how we spend our energies

One of the first prayers I remember encountering outside of going to church or praying before bedtime was the short version of the Serenity Prayer. Attributed to the Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, it came into widespread use through Alcoholics Anonymous, especially the first few lines. The version I learned went like this: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” 

Deacon Kyle Eller
Mere Catholicism

It has come to my mind a lot lately, in my own life and those of people around me, observing how we spend our efforts. There is a surprising depth to its three petitions, which seem so simple on the surface. 

It’s helpful to begin with the last, which asks of God the “wisdom to know the difference” between what I can change and what I can’t. This does require wisdom — and the cardinal virtue of prudence — because it’s not always obvious. In fact, most of the time, things in our lives seem to be a mix of both. 

I’ll give a personal example. I’ve worked as a journalist most of my adult life and loved journalism longer than that, since childhood. I care about journalism. I believe in its value for society and advocate for it, especially when it’s a thankless task: when it reports uncomfortable truths and when it includes voices we find hard to hear. 

But on a daily basis now, I’m watching that kind of journalism die, being deliberately dismantled, often by people whose job is supposed to be practicing it, its sense of ethics and fairness and civility and balance ignored or even explicitly rejected. On a whole host of social issues, many news outlets no longer even pretend to care about treating the multiple perspectives within their communities fairly. Whole segments of our communities are, routinely, falsely accused of bigotry and hatred and ignorance and cast as villains, denied a chance to rebut those accusations and characterizations, denied even the most basic justice of seeing what they actually think, say, and do reported accurately. 

This breaks my heart and makes me fear for our society, where amid our polarization, journalism should be playing an urgently needed service of allowing people to encounter the best version of opposing views. It grieves me that this is lost. The injustice of it angers me. Things shouldn’t be this way. 

People who hold the view of matters like abortion and human sexuality outlined in the Catechism of the Catholic Church have exactly the same right to be heard and treated with fairness and respect as anyone else. That shouldn’t be a controversial statement. When it doesn’t happen, it’s wrong. 

After a particularly egregious newspaper article recently, I posted a blistering, detailed critique of it for my Facebook friends. But then I found myself recalling the Serenity Prayer and asking myself: “Is this something I can really change?” (Gulp.) 

Well, maybe I can, a tiny bit. I have the knowledge to identify and articulate what’s wrong and why in a way most people can’t, which can help others experiencing these injustices and at least let them know they’re not alone and not imagining things. I can pray. 

But the difference I can make, while perhaps needed, is so tiny that even to speak of it in those terms feels like rationalizing, justifying how upset I let myself get about it. It would be absurd hubris to imagine some criticism of mine changing things significantly even in my own small city. Reporters behaving this way generally do it deliberately. 

I see similar things so often. Probably egged on by some media outlet profiting on our perpetual outrage, we get mad at some public figure doing or saying something wrong. We can add our small voices to the din. Maybe we should. But then? Do we let it go or keep fueling that anger, as if it’s accomplishing something? 

It’s true closer to home too. We can let our hearts get overwhelmed with how some circumstance or some other person’s behavior ought to be different, but often our ability to change those things is minimal at best. Sometimes we even get overwhelmed focusing on things of the past, wasting our hearts on grudges or shame instead receiving and extending mercy to ourselves and to others. 

Discerning what we can change and what we can’t helps us refocus our energies and keep custody of our hearts. Where there is little we can do, we do the little we can. A quote often attributed to St. Thomas More is a good way to think of it: “What you cannot turn to good, you must at least make as little bad as you can.” But then we let it go, with trust in God’s providence. This is where we can find the serenity to authentically “accept the things we cannot change.” 

That frees us for the things we can change, and it’s wise to ask for courage for them, because that’s often what we’re tempted to avoid. They can be difficult and painful. 

After all, what I have the most power to change is myself: my reactions, my choices, my deeds, my words, my thoughts. I may be called to do something difficult, like repenting, forgiving, reconciling, making amends, trusting, loving, hoping, letting go of something, committing to something, persevering in hardship, beginning again, healing. 

Praying for that courage is another way of asking the grace we need from God to do these good things, because the truth is that often they are not things we can do entirely on our own. 

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” 

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