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Bishop Felton celebrates annual White Mass

By Deacon Kyle Eller
The Northern Cross

Duluth Bishop Daniel Felton celebrated the annual diocesan White Mass Oct. 17 at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary in Duluth.

Bishop Daniel Felton blesses those who serve in the medical field as well as some medical instruments at the diocesan White Mass Oct. 17 at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary in Duluth. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Gordon Harvieux)

The annual Mass honors those in the medical profession and is organized in conjunction with the St. Raphael Guild of the Catholic Medical Association, the chapter of the national organization that is active in the Duluth Diocese.

The liturgy included a blessing of those who serve in the medical field and some medical instruments that had been brought to the Mass, and following the Mass, Bishop Felton and Father Anthony Wroblewski, the cathedral rector, led a rosary for an end to the coronavirus pandemic and other intentions.

In his homily, Bishop Felton reflected on verses of a hymn, “The Servant Song,” by Richard Gillard, noting that those in the medical profession live out in a particular way the call of Christ in the Gospel to be servants of all. He called that service a “vocation in life. It’s not just your job.”

He said that while this is always true in the medical profession, it’s been especially so over the past couple of years with the ongoing pandemic.

Bishop Felton said that service is about what Jesus does in and through those serving.

“And why it’s important to know that a vocation in the medical profession is always connected to the great physician, to Jesus Christ, is that sometimes not only are we ministering to those who are suffering, but sometimes we in the medical profession ourselves are suffering, as well, from the great fatigue, from the overload, from being overwhelmed,” he said. “And yes, as Jesus said, I will even give my life for the ransom of many, there have been those in the medical profession who have died this past year because they were being of service to all, and they were ready to lay down their life for the healing of all.”

He said the call really was about grace and God’s bounty. “God would never give us a calling in his life that he does not bestow the grace that we would need to fulfill that purpose and to accomplish that mission,” he said.

Stella Maris completes purchase of high school site

By Deacon Kyle Eller
The Northern Cross

When Stella Maris Academy, the Catholic elementary and middle school operating across three campuses in Duluth, announced early this year the intention to begin offering high school classes in 2022, few would have imagined that instead of making room at one of the existing campuses, by the end of the year the school would own a large, well-equipped facility adjacent to one of those campuses to house the high school.

In October, Stella Maris Academy purchased The Hills Youth and Family Services, which will provide a space for a new high school beginning in the fall of 2022. (Photo by Deacon Kyle Eller / The Northern Cross) 

That possibility unexpectedly opened up when The Hills Youth and Family Services, next to the St. John’s campus, closed June 30. School officials quickly expressed their interest and submitted a purchase offer, which was accepted Aug. 23. After a series of hurdles and necessary approvals, the purchase was completed in early October.

The purchase marks a kind of homecoming for the facility, which was originally opened in 1910 as St. James Orphanage, operated by the Diocese of Duluth. The late Father Richard Partika, who lived at the orphanage as a child, celebrated his first Mass in its chapel.

The diocese sold the property in 1971 to Woodland Hills, where it provided residential treatment from youth around the region until its closure in June. Over the years it has had multiple renovations and additions.

Stella Maris president Andrew Hilliker says that while renovations will be needed to get it ready for the first classes in the fall of 2022, the facility has 140 acres, a beautiful (and already equipped) gym built in 1998, a cafeteria, a chapel in which to celebrate Mass, and a secure facility, all things a Catholic high school would need.

“All of these things exist with this property,” he said.

He added that there is ample space in the main building for other mission-minded organizations to rent out. And apart from the main building, there are multiple outbuilding, like a barn and an activity center.

Hilliker, who is in his first months as the academy’s president, said when he took the job, one of his concerns was about where they were going to put the high school, and it’s something he’d been praying about. He said God answered those prayers “with abundance.”

Money raised by private donors

At $4 million, the purchase was a significant one. Within the church, it required approval from diocesan committees and even the Vatican.

But Hilliker said although there will be operating costs, the money for the purchase was raised entirely through private donors and came quickly, with a sense of divine providence. “$4 million within a week, I would say,” he said.

He said offering Catholic high school in Duluth and in the diocese has been a conversation and a hunger for decades, and the facility makes it “really real” that it’s happening.

He said faculty, staff, families, and the whole community have been supportive.

The academy’s leadership team is already largely moved into the facility, the property is being prepared for winter, and work is being done to determine how best to phase in high schools classes in the fall — the first traditional Catholic high school in the city in 50 years.

Also yet to be determined is a new name for the high school, which Hilliker says will come “in the short term.”

“Many people have been working hard and praying for a long-term, viable place to welcome students to high school in the Fall of 2022,” Hilliker said in a news release. “This property is bringing our efforts and goals to a very real and meaningful place. Our students will feel the benefits of this for years to come and we are forever grateful for the opportunity.”

Washington cardinal ordains deacons from North American College in Rome

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory of Washington ordained 21 men from the Pontifical North American College to the diaconate Sept. 30 in St. Peter’s Basilica. One of them was Deacon Daniel Richard Hammer, 27, of the Diocese of Duluth.

Deacon Daniel Hammer

Hundreds of family members, friends, and students attended the Mass at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s, watching the joy-filled liturgy rich in symbolic tradition.

Those concelebrating the Mass included U.S. Cardinal James Harvey, archpriest of the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, and Australian Cardinal George Pell, former prefect of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy. Also in attendance were U.S. Cardinal Edwin F. O’Brien, retired grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem and a former rector of the U.S. seminary in Rome, and several U.S. bishops, among them Duluth Bishop Daniel Felton.

Deacon Hammer, the son of Dr. William and Teresa Hammer, is from Baxter and comes from St. Andrew Church in Brainerd. He is studying at the Pontifical North American College in Rome.

Two of the new deacons studying at the college are Australians; one was ordained for the Archdiocese of Sydney and the other for the Archdiocese of Melbourne. The 19 Americans were ordained for 15 different dioceses across the United States, with three from the Archdiocese of Washington.

Cardinal Gregory, who was elevated to the College of Cardinals by Pope Francis 10 months ago and took possession of his titular church in Rome at the end of September, delivered the homily.

“The church has always had exceedingly high standards when it comes to choosing those whom she summons to sacred orders,” he said. The order of diaconate is an important “transitional moment” for those who will continue to prepare for the priesthood, and it is an important opportunity to grow in Christ and humbly serve God and his people.

The office of deacon is associated with “the ministry of charity,” he said. A deacon must be “a man of charity, [with] real and heartfelt compassion and concern for the poor, the neglected, and the marginalized members of our world. A deacon without a heart for charity will be a hollow and worthless son.”

“Deacons are called to visit the sick, to work for justice, for immigrants, to comfort those who are in sorrow, to help the hungry find food, the naked clothing and the homeless a dwelling place. Deacons must visit those in prison and in nursing homes,” the cardinal said. “Deacons are never far removed from those that the Lord Jesus has identified as the least of his sisters and brothers.”

However, their ministry is much more than “mere social work” because they are filled by the Holy Spirit with the grace of their office, he said.

They can offer the bread of eternal life from the Lord’s altar and proclaim the Gospel, sharing God’s invitation to seek his kingdom.

“Today you become preachers, please do so with fidelity to the truth of the Gospel and the church’s tradition,” Cardinal Gregory told the new deacons. “People are looking for inspiring preachers who challenge them, encourage them to deepen their faith, and help them discover God’s presence in their lives.”

He asked them to “be attentive celebrants of the church’s liturgical life, consider carefully the details of the rituals so that people will be edified by the church’s worship and sanctified by the sacraments and the church’s prayer” and never distract them by being “too casual or too obsessive.”

Their embrace of the gift of celibacy will be less burdensome, he said, when they live like Christ with transparent modesty, great simplicity, and draw strength from constant prayer and conversation with God.

“When your prayer life is strong and faithful, when your lifestyle is unencumbered by too many possessions, comforts, and distractions, your living and your loving will reflect the same appearance as Christ himself provided for people who found his teaching and his ministry so compelling,” the cardinal said.

Deacon Kyle Eller contributed to this report.

Pope names auxiliary bishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis to Crookston, Minn.

By Catholic News Service

Pope Francis has named Auxiliary Bishop Andrew H. Cozzens of St. Paul and Minneapolis to head the Diocese of Crookston.

Auxiliary Bishop Andrew H. Cozzens of St. Paul and Minneapolis is seen in this undated photo. Pope Francis appointed him to head the Diocese of Crookston Oct. 18, with his installation Mass scheduled for Dec. 6. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

He has been an auxiliary bishop for the Minnesota archdiocese since 2013. A native of Denver, he was ordained a priest for St. Paul and Minneapolis in in 1997.

His appointment to Crookston was announced in Washington Oct. 18 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

Bishop Cozzens succeeds Bishop Michael J. Hoeppner, whose resignation was accepted April 13 by Pope Francis. As requested by the pope, Bishop Hoeppner, 71, resigned following a 20-month investigation into allegations that he mishandled claims of clergy sexual abuse.

The pope appointed retired Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, to serve as apostolic administrator of the Crookston Diocese until the appointment of a new bishop.

Bishop Cozzens, 53, will be installed as the eighth bishop of Crookston Dec. 6 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Crookston. Prior to the installation, he plans to celebrate a Mass of thanksgiving Nov. 28 at the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul.

“I am grateful to our Holy Father for entrusting to me this important mission, and my heart is already filled with love for the faithful, the priests, and the religious of the Diocese of Crookston,” he said in a statement from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis Oct. 18. “I have great excitement for this opportunity to serve.”

“At the same time, I also grieve the fact that I will be leaving my home,” he said.

“After almost 25 years of serving in the archdiocese, I have immense love and gratitude for the innumerable ways the people, priests, religious, and bishops have blessed and formed my life,” Bishop Cozzens said.

“The life of the church in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis is vibrant, and in many ways, unparalleled in our country,” he said.

“I have experienced personally that God is doing incredible things here through so many good people who love Christ and his church, and I expect that to grow as the archdiocese brings the synod to completion and begins a new phase of evangelization,” he added.

Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda of St. Paul and Minneapolis said the archdiocese is honored that Pope Francis has chosen “our auxiliary” to be Crookston’s shepherd.

“I am not surprised that Pope Francis would have seen in him the extraordinary priestly gifts that have long been recognized by the priests and faithful of this archdiocese who have come to know him and love him as an energetic and capable shepherd with a huge heart, sharp intellect, and unfailing love for Christ and his church,” he said in the archdiocesan statement.

Born Aug. 3, 1968, Andrew Harmon Cozzens is the son of Jack and Judy Cozzens and the youngest of three children.

He is a graduate of Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, where he grew in faith through the Catholic Charismatic Renewal.

Prior to entering the seminary, Bishop Cozzens served from 1991 to 1992 as a team leader of NET Ministries, a traveling missionary outreach to youth. NET stands for National Evangelization Teams.

His first NET Ministries assignment was to the Crookston Diocese. The following academic year, he was co-director of campus outreach of St. Paul’s Outreach, a college campus ministry. Both NET and St. Paul’s Outreach have their headquarters in the Twin Cities.

As he discerned priesthood, Bishop Cozzens and a small group of other men formed the Companions of Christ, a fraternal community of priests and seminarians that has since established communities in the Archdiocese of Denver and Diocese of Joliet, Illinois. The organization received canonical recognition in 1992.

As an auxiliary bishop, Bishop Cozzens has assisted Archbishop Hebda in leading the archdiocese and has been at the helm of several initiatives, including as chairman of the executive team for the 2022 archdiocesan synod, a process that began in 2019.

He has served as vicar for Catholic education and overseen the archdiocesan offices of Latino Ministry, Evangelization, and Marriage, Family, and Life.

He served as interim rector of St. Paul Seminary from June 2018 until January 2019 and has long been a leader in national efforts to strengthen seminary formation.

He is president of the board of directors of the Seminary Formation Council and also is the president of the corporate board for the Institute for Priestly Formation in Omaha.

He is chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, and in that position is leading a three-year National Eucharistic Revival that will begin in June. He also serves as chairman of the board of NET Ministries and St. Paul’s Outreach.

Bishop Cozzens’ episcopacy has coincided with exposure of the clergy sexual abuse crisis in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

As an auxiliary bishop, he helped lead the archdiocese through a Chapter 11 bankruptcy from 2015 to 2018 that involved more than 450 abuse claims and resulted in a $210 million settlement with victim-survivors.

He also was involved in working to resolve criminal and civil charges filed against the archdiocese in 2015 related to its handling of clergy sexual abuse. That case and its settlement brought about serious, positive reform in the archdiocese’s culture and safe environment efforts, Bishop Cozzens has said.

A month after he was ordained bishop, he also became involved in an internal investigation of sexual misconduct against Archbishop John C. Nienstedt, who led the archdiocese from 2008 until he resigned in 2015.

Bishop Cozzens later called that investigation “doomed to fail” because it was conducted internally and without its leaders having authority to act. He joined other U.S. prelates calling for a national, independent structure to investigate bishops accused of wrongdoing.

A structure was ultimately established worldwide through Pope Francis’ 2019 legislative document “Vos estis lux mundi,” which revised and clarified norms and procedures for holding bishops and religious superiors accountable for protecting abusers.

In his statement, Archbishop Hebda praised Bishop Cozzens for “his steadfast advocacy for those who had been hurt in any way by the church, his passion for Catholic education and evangelization, his creative guidance of our synod process, and his love for immigrants, refugees and those on the peripheries.”

These qualities have “have all left what I hope will be an indelible mark on me and on this archdiocese.” He added.

Located in northwest Minnesota, the Diocese of Crookston was established in 1909. It comprises 17,210 square miles and 14 counties.

According to its website, it has about 35,000 Catholics in 66 parishes served by 41 diocesan and three religious order priests; eight Catholic grade schools and one Catholic high school; and three Catholic hospitals and two Catholic nursing facilities.

It is considered “entirely rural in nature,” the diocese’s website states, with farming, logging, and tourism as its main industries.

Contributing to this story was Maria Wiering, editor of The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Father Nicholas Nelson: Dying a happy death

Above the right side altar of my church, Queen of Peace Church in Cloquet, there is a beautiful painting of St. Joseph in the moments before his death. In the painting, our Blessed Mother kneels at his feet, and our Lord Jesus stands at the side of the failing Joseph. We call on St. Joseph as the patron of a happy death. Why? For just that reason: He died with our Lord and Mary at his side. You can’t die a happier death than that. 

Father Nick Nelson
Handing on the Faith

It is a lost but important tradition to pray to St. Joseph for a happy death. I remember discussing with others when I was younger how we would like to die. This always included the most painless ways of dying. This is not what we mean by a “happy death.” A happy death does not mean a painless death. A happy death means dying in friendship with God. It means dying in a state of grace having received the Last Rites, or Last Sacraments. Knowing that we have received the promise of grace through the sacraments makes one happy as one dies. People can’t truly be happy if they are questioning or unsure of where they stand with God as they take their last few breaths on this side of eternity. 

Those who receive the Last Rites can die happy and in peace knowing that while they may need further purification, they won’t be lost for all eternity, they will eventually be on their way to eternal beatitude in heaven. 

When we speak of the Last Rites, we mean three sacraments. A person first confesses their sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The person then receives the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick. Finally, the person receives Holy Communion. We call this last Communion before death “Viaticum.” Viaticum comes from its Latin root meaning “provisions for the journey.” Here we can call it “Food for the Journey” — food, the Bread of Life, helping us on our way to heaven. There are also other comforting prayers and even a plenary indulgence called the Apostolic Pardon available. Oftentimes, a person will be very close to death and unable to confess and unable to receive Viaticum. However, as long as they are alive, they are still able to receive the Anointing of the Sick. And God is so merciful and so generous with his grace that Anointing of the Sick has the power to forgive sins, even mortal sins if the person is unable to confess. 

God is so good to give us the sacraments. God doesn’t want us to be anxious about our relationship with him and where we stand with him. He gives us concrete tangible rituals through which he promises forgiveness of sin and grace. That is the peace that Christ brings us, the peace of knowing we are right with our Creator. 

In 1672, Jesus began appearing to a French nun, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque. Jesus wanted to reemphasize the infinite depth of his love for humanity, how available his love and mercy is, but also that so many are cold to it. In order to draw people to him, Jesus offered St. Margaret Mary 12 promises. The last of these promises concerns a happy death. He said, “I promise you in the excessive mercy of my Heart that my all-powerful love will grant to all those who receive Holy Communion on the First Fridays in nine consecutive months the grace of final perseverance; they shall not die in my disgrace, nor without receiving their sacraments. My divine Heart shall be their safe refuge in this last moment.” This is where we get the First Fridays devotion. If you haven’t made your nine First Fridays, consider it as you next spiritual undertaking. 

As a priest, I will get a call from a funeral home saying a Catholic had died and the family wants to do a funeral, or a family will call me once the person has died and they want me to come bless the body. And way too often, no one even told me the person was dying. We can do the funeral, and I can bless the body, but it’s sad, because these individuals still missed out on the sacraments. The sacraments cannot be given to those we know have already died. 

Now, we can always have hope for a person’s salvation, but we can have much greater peace knowing someone has received the sacraments and their promise of grace and mercy before they died. 

Friends, make it clear that you want to see a priest before you die. Let your entire family know. If you have a loved one who is dying, make sure a priest comes. And don’t wait until the last minute! You may have to make a few calls, especially if you aren’t familiar with the area or parish or who the priest is. But be persistent and make sure a priest comes. It truly can be the difference between eternity in hell and eternity in heaven. 

I’ll end with the words of St. Cyprian, “What an honor, what happiness to depart joyfully from this world, to go forth in glory from the anguish and pain, in one moment to close the eyes that looked on the world of men and in the next to open them at once to look on God and Christ.” 

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].

Father Richard Kunst: How to ‘win’ an argument on social media

Many of my brother priests are on social media, and a lot of them do great things with that form of communication. The last few popes have repeatedly encouraged the church to utilize the most modern form of communications and technologies to spread the Gospel and to evangelize, so the use of social media can be such a great thing. 

Father Richard Kunst

I, however, choose not to use it, and for a few reasons. 

First, I cannot stand technology. I am somewhere in the 16th century when it comes to technology, and I am happy to be there. Our former bishop, Archbishop Dennis Schnurr, used to say to me regularly, “Father Kunst, that is willful, culpable ignorance.” I can hear his voice now. Another reason I do not use social media is that I know my own weakness. I had a Facebook account for a few months, years ago, and I quickly realized just how much of my time it sucked up. 

And finally, I don’t do social media because I really like to debate, and dare I say even argue, and there is just no good or easy way of ending arguments in the world of social media. 

We all experience conflict in our lives, whether it be with family, friends, coworkers, you name it. If you are a pastor of a parish, you experience conflict more than most! But it is social media that seems to be the new front of conflict in our modern world. It is so easy and tempting to anonymously type a comment to a post that you know will evoke a negative response. Maybe it is not so much that it is anonymous, because people can see who is doing the posting. Maybe it is easier to do it from the computer, because we tend to be more bold when we do not have to immediately face the person we are criticizing. 

Conflict, in and of itself, is not necessarily sinful, although it can easily get there. We are all different, and we all have our opinions, so conflict is inevitable. How we end conflict is the key. There is obviously a good and proper way to end conflict and a bad way to end it. 

The Scriptures, as we can imagine, are full of examples, mostly of the bad kind, and we see that right from the beginning. The third and fourth people on the earth were the two sons of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, who famously give a bad example of conflict. The story is well known, and it is so void of details that we are left to guess exactly what happened, but as we all know, their conflict ended with Cain killing his brother, the absolute worst way to end a conflict. 

As always, the good example comes from Jesus himself. The four Gospels are full of instances in which the scribes and Pharisees try to get into conflict and arguments with Jesus. One example is particularly poignant, and that is in the eighth chapter of Mark’s Gospel. Read the following three verses closely, because they provide us a very good example: 

“The Pharisees came forward and began to argue with him. They were looking for some heavenly sign from him as a test. With a sigh from the depth of his spirit, he said, ‘Why does this age seek a sign? I assure you, no such sign will be given it.’ Then he left them, got into the boat again, and went off to the other shore” (Mark 8:11-13). 

Here is the deal about Jesus: He is God. Not only does he have truth on his side, he is Truth personified. He could win any argument he ever had, and there are times in the Gospels we see Jesus clearly winning an argument. Caesar’s image on the coin comes to mind. But there is at least the one example just quoted in which Jesus chooses not to “win” the argument. Rather, he simply ends it. 

We might wonder why he chose to leave this argument instead of engaging in it further. We are left to speculate, yet to me it is pretty obvious: The Pharisees were not open to what Jesus had to say. If one side of an argument is not open to the other side’s thoughts and ideas, then the argument becomes pointless. And argument should be a free exchange of ideas robustly exchanged but in charity. Jesus saw in this group of Pharisees no openness, so he simply got into the boat and took off. 

This is an example for all of us, especially on social media. All too often we think that if we leave an argument, we have been defeated, but that is not the case. Leaving an argument is often the best way to end an argument. 

All too often it is our pride that makes us determined not to back down, but the last I checked, pride is not a virtue. 

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

Betsy Kneepkens: Becoming more aware of demonic influences

When it comes to sayings, I might not be the most creative person in the world. I seem to repeat a short list of statements over and over again. I believe these verbal assertions help my husband and I attempt to parent our children in this out-of-control world. 

Betsy Kneepkens
Betsy Kneepkens
Faith and Family

My kids would tell you that one of my more common phrases is “in God’s divine providence.” I say this often because I want my kids to see how God’s desired path for us is ordered toward the good. My children know I have delighted in picking out situations that made the genius of God’s plan and his hope for us seem apparent. When options presented themselves and my children selected godly ways, the results were affirming, joyful, and uncomplicated, although not always easy. In God’s divine providence, that beauty is made most apparent as you look back at the results. As a parent, I am happy we have worked hard to unpack the marvels of how God continues to offer his interaction through grace and love for us even in this broken world. 

We have just completed the trifecta of eternal holidays that focuses on life beyond earth, Halloween, All Saints Day, and All Souls Day. Living in accord with God’s providence is intended to help us navigate our way through the narrow gate. And although I was pretty good at pointing out how to identify God’s providence, I haven’t done a perfect job teaching my kids that “the gate is wide and the road broad leads to destruction” (Matthew 7:13-14). This wide road is riddled with the work of the demonic. 

I don’t think I am alone when I avoid the discussion of the devil. I believe in our society it is becoming more and more common to believe that the devil is more of a fictional character than a reality of this fallen world and the frequent persuader moving us away from the Heavenly Father. 

The deceiver is downright deceptive and crafty while doing his ungodly work. Eve proclaimed as much when she said, “the serpent tricked me into it” in Genesis 3:13. I think it is easy to tell the devil uses trickery, but I haven’t spent enough time explaining to my children how with his deceit, he can move comfortably and acceptably within our lives if we let him. 

A few of my children have a view of Satan as portrayed in several Hollywood movies. Satan looks like a possessed person whose head spins around, projectile vomits, and walks across walls and ceilings for some of my kids. Satan does possess people, but I think we are more likely to encounter the demonic while he uses incitement in subtly seductive ways. I believe Satan’s mode of operation is not hard to recognize if you understand his wicked motive. He wants everything God wants but without the light and love of God. 

When one of our extended family members died, I should have pointed the works of the deceiver. Satan often uses the money to cause disunion in families. He did in mine. Disunity is a classic means of the demonic. Having material wants as a priority ties us to our earthly existence, and God wants us to be seeking eternal life with him. A plan of the evil one is to encourage us to love the things of our loved ones more than we love each other. Although the immediate feelings of acquiring items seem fulfilling, the continued, long-term pain in producing rotten fruit causes a lack of family communion. The devil is pleased when he brings these choices on. 

We had many opportunities to unpack conversations with our children when some Catholic friends, who claim to be pro-life, actively supported laws to keep abortion legal. This common demonic technique makes it appear responsible and reasonable to do something that is indeed evil. God created us in his image and likeness, and he entrusted women to carry his adopted children. You can see the work of the deceiver so clearly when you realize that the evil one relishes the slightest twist by tempting us to believe that a greater good would be to eliminate a person that God willed into existence at the hands of difficulty. 

Over and over again, Satan has convinced even those with the best intentions that difficult is better than impossible. The devil even manages to take the word “choice,” which used to mean wanting coffee or tea, or “should we go out tonight or not,” and makes the word appear appropriate for someone to believe a choice is between letting your child in your womb live or not. These are examples of how manipulative the devil is, selling his concept successfully to even the brightest intellects, who are trying to be morally upstanding human beings. I need to be more direct in expressing this reality to my children. 

God is Truth, and Satan can’t do anything about that. I surmise that there is not a quality more wanting for Satan than to be Truth. For the past couple of decades, I think there are few things more attractive to the demonic than our willingness to distort the truth. Raising my children, I was afforded more opportunities than I can count to observe the devil’s works relative to how he masterly twisted truth and hijacked, if you will, our ability to reason. The fallen angels have willed themselves away from God, and Satan is trying to convince us to do the same. 

God provided us with objective truth that can be known not just by reason but by our senses. The evil one has managed to neutralize our will and empowered our feelings to mean more than we objectively experience through our senses and science. God gave us life to work in cooperation with reason to discover objective truth. Satan has, however, suggested that we use feelings to create our personal truth. Instead of explaining to my children why our society is morally declining, I should have spent some of that time explaining why the devil wants us to use feelings to define truth, which is malleable and self-defining, the direct opposite of what truth ought to be. 

The devil has not treated all individuals and times the same. Some people are more valuable to Satan than others. The demonic have seized different times in the past and attempted to overcome God’s kingdom. When you see Catholics and church leaders, and they are not acting in accord with the church, Satan is at work. When a culture is blessed with an abundance of God’s grace and manages to twist reality so it makes us feel better, Satan’s persuasion is working as he intended. Satan is an opportunity seeker, and this is an important concept to share with my young adult children. 

I am satisfied with how I have shared with my children the work of God’s divine providence in our lives and the life of the world. I regret that I did not speak equally on how the demonic desires us and tempts us in a cunning way to choose his path instead of our loving God’s. 

Spiritual warfare is real, but in order to win you must know the M.O. of the opposing forces. As long as my husband and I are here, there are still so many situations we can point out more clearly so our adult children can reject the efforts of Satan and live within God’s divine providence. 

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

Bishop Daniel Felton: Do we count ourselves ‘in that number’ of the saints marching in?

I played the baritone in the school pep band. One of my favorite songs to play was “When the Saints Go Marching In.” This rousing song calls us to “be in that number, when the saints go marching in.” 

Bishop Daniel Felton
Bishop Daniel Felton
Believe in the Good News

A saint is defined as a “holy one” who leads a life in union with God through the grace of Christ and receives the reward of eternal life. At every Sunday Mass we acknowledge the communion of saints as we profess the Nicene Creed. Often during the celebration of the sacraments, we pray a litany of saints. Likewise, in the liturgical calendar of our Church, we celebrate those men and women that have been formally recognized in the canon of saints as “holy ones” who led a life in union with God through the grace of Christ and received the reward of eternal life. 

When you think of a saint, who comes into your mind and heart? Perhaps it is one of the holy ones acknowledged in the litany of saints. We are fortunate to live in a time when we remember not only the saints of old but also those who have been proclaimed saints in our own time, like St. John Paul II, St. Teresa of Calcutta, and St. John Henry Newman. 

Perhaps when we think of a saint, we may find ourselves remembering a grandpa or grandma or teacher or religious whose witness to what it means to be a holy one leading a life in union with God through the grace of Jesus Christ has inspired us or given us a great example of how we want to live our lives. 

When you think of someone who is a saint, how many of you named yourself? Interesting, how rarely we think of ourselves as a holy one — that is, as a saint. Why is that? Perhaps you are thinking I am the last person in the world that should be thought of as a saint. I have so many limitations, imperfections, and sins that I think disqualify me from sainthood. So did St. John Paul II and St. Teresa of Calcutta and every other saint known to the Church. 

Remember, a saint is a holy one in union with God through the grace of Christ. Left on our own we all fall to the ground as sinners. The difference between a sinner and a saint is that the sinner remains on the ground helplessly groveling, while the saint gets up and surrenders to the grace of Jesus Christ for the strength to grow in holiness. It is only in the grace of Jesus Christ that we can be a holy one leading a life in union with God. 

As we celebrate the Feast of All Saints on the first day of November, I have the honor of dedicating All Saints Church in Baxter. On that solemn occasion, we will gather as “holy ones” who are seeking to lead a life in union with God through the grace of Christ so that we may receive the reward of eternal life. We will pray the litany of saints as our intercessors and spiritual guides in the journey of life to everlasting life. As we proclaim the Nicene Creed, we will announce to the secular community of Baxter and Brainerd that we believe in the communion of saints, the resurrection of our bodies and life everlasting. Finally, we will recommit ourselves to the mission entrusted by Jesus Christ to All Saints parish and to every parish community in our diocese, that is to make sure that every person in our parish boundaries is in that number, when the saints go marching in — beginning with ourselves! 

Bishop Daniel Felton is the tenth bishop of Duluth. 

Father Mike Schmitz: God has forgiven me; how do I forgive myself?

I messed up in some pretty big ways in my life. I made some decisions that have wrecked relationships and have done significant damage to myself. I’ve been to confession, and I know that God in his mercy has forgiven me. But I can’t seem to be able to forgive myself. What do I do? 

Father Michael Schmitz
Ask Father Mike

This is a fantastic question. Not only are you asking about something that nearly every person who takes sin and the effects of sin seriously experiences, but you also have clearly taken God’s mercy seriously. You noted that you know that God has forgiven you; this is so critically important. Too often, one of the obstacles to receiving forgiveness is the fact that we miss how much forgiveness has cost God. 

Before looking at your question, I think that it might be worth it to look at this a little more closely. I will often speak to people who observe that going to the Sacrament of Confession is “too easy.” All a person has to “do” is show up, name all of their sins, and Christ forgives us through the ministry of the priest. It isn’t painful (usually), and it rarely costs a person more than the slight discomfort of coming face-to-face with our sins and admitting them to the priest. 

But we realize that truth. Being forgiven by God is easy — for us. It costs Jesus everything. The only reason we can be forgiven is because Jesus Christ willingly embraced his suffering, death, and resurrection for our sakes. It is this Mystery (what we call the “Paschal Mystery”) that makes forgiveness possible. Without Christ’s allowing himself to be overwhelmed by death and conquering it, we would still be dead in our sins. Therefore, when someone experiences God’s mercy as coming a bit “too easily,” they do not understand what they are saying. God’s mercy is free, but it is not cheap. It was purchased at a price. You were purchased at a price. 

And you understand this. You know that it is not your resolution to do better that makes you better. It is not your desire to be made new that makes you new. And it is not you who has to be the first to forgive, it is God himself who forgives us first. 

But now it is your turn. You now need to forgive yourself. But how? 

The Second Great Commandment is: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” There is quite a bit to unpack in this commandment (it is, after all, “Great”), but I want to highlight two aspects. 

First, when Jesus affirms the command to love your neighbor as you love yourself, he is implying that you would first actually love yourself. In many ways, the first step to being capable of loving our neighbor is the capacity to love ourselves. And yet, there are a great number of very normal people who do not actually believe that they are worth being taken care of. I came across the observation that many people are more likely to give their pets medication on a regular and consistent basis than they are to take important medicines themselves. This seems to indicate that these people are capable of caring — for others — but that they find it somewhat difficult to care for themselves. 

Could it be that you need to grow in this area? Could it be that God is inviting you to begin seeing yourself as someone worth taking care of? 

Second, you are being called to love yourself (and others). What is love? The classic definition of love is “willing the good of the other.” In this case, we could alter the definition to include yourself: willing your own good. We don’t always like the person we’ve become. We definitely do not always like what we’ve done. But we must love ourselves. This is to say that you must will your own good. How would you treat yourself if you a) were someone worth caring for and b) truly chose the good for yourself? 

At times, the most important way to move forward is to make whatever restitution we possibly can. If I can pay back what I’ve cost, I need to try that. If I can heal what has been hurt, I need to try. 

I believe that the heart of being unable to forgive oneself has other realities that are hidden from us. For example, we feel shame that others know our sins. We know that the consequences of our sins are real and that others truly have to pay for them. We know that the wounds that have resulted from our sins are self-inflicted. Because of this, I find it helpful to take all of this and to place it under the Lordship of Jesus. 

When there are situations that cannot be made right, I place them under Christ’s dominion. When there are wounds I cannot heal on my own, I place them under the Lordship of Christ. Essentially, I try to say, “Jesus, there is nothing more that I can do to undo what has been done. There is so much out of my control. But I place all of this under you and your will. Use this — even this brokenness — for your glory and for the health and help of all of the people who have been hurt by me.” 

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.

Deacon Kyle Eller: Ongoing formation is part of what it means to be a disciple

Years ago, during a diocesan assembly, one of the speakers said something I had not fully grasped: ongoing catechesis is part of being a disciple of Jesus. 

Deacon Kyle Eller
Mere Catholicism

That idea dovetails with advice I got in confession on a pilgrimage once. I had confessed some struggles with faith, and the young priest advised me that continuing to spend time learning about the faith would be a helpful remedy for those struggles.  

All this may even seem counterintuitive to us at first. After all, isn’t being a disciple more a matter of the heart than of the mind? As last month came to a close, we heard in our Sunday Gospel about the two greatest commandments in the law, about loving God and loving our neighbor as ourselves. Surely it is this love, one might argue, that is the true measure of our discipleship, not the depth of our knowledge of theology? 

But knowledge is part of love. With any relationship, we seek to know more and more deeply the one we love. It’s hard to imagine a real friendship or marriage in which those friends or spouses at some point just stopped caring about knowing the other person more deeply. Why should it be any different in our relationship with God? We keep learning about him because we love him.  

Think of how often Scripture refers to Jesus’ closest companions as “disciples” — the very word meaning those who learn from their teacher and then pass on what they have learned. 

It is possible to turn learning about God into a mere academic exercise, and maybe such experiences are what sour some people on learning their faith. But when catechesis is directed to love, it is a joy, not a chore. 

In a similar way, if we struggle with the faith, the temptation can be to think about something else. Or maybe we will begin to focus on apologetics, delving into arguments in defense of the faith, rather than simply seeking to become more deeply formed in it, as the counsel I got seemed to suggest. 

Apologetics certainly has value, but I have come to believe there is a lot of wisdom in the idea that it’s helpful to more deeply “put on the mind of Christ,” as St. Paul admonishes. The Catholic Christian faith is not just a matter of affirming some more or less arbitrary doctrines and rules, it is truly light in the darkness of this fallen world. God, in his Son, has revealed for us the truth about ourselves, about the whole creation, about the point of life. It is a whole way of thinking and seeing — a profoundly different way than what we find in those governed by the “spirit of the world.” 

How often do our struggles with faith come from being better versed in the “catechism” of the world than we are in our faith? Even among practicing Christians, for instance, biblical literacy has reached a scandalous decline. How often do our struggles come from trying to understand some doctrine or moral teaching ripped from its context in that whole deep vision of the universe that our faith presents to us, because we’ve simply lost that vision? 

In fact, this vision is so deep and rich that its fullness is always partially beyond us in this life — there’s always some new insight, some ongoing need for conversion on our part. We can never really be done learning it and learning to conform ourselves to it. This always presupposes work, because left to inertia our lives trend in the other direction, both because of our own woundedness and because the spirit of this world never stops shouting its alternative. 

If we are not progressing in putting on the mind of Christ, we’re slipping backwards. 

I was thinking of this recently in terms of memory. A book I recently read spoke of the challenges 21st century life presents to memory. “Everything about modern society is designed to make memory — historical, social, and cultural — hard to cultivate,” the author, Rod Dreher, wrote. 

I’ve been noticing this more and more. Our culture, perhaps in part because of our short attention spans damaged by social media addictions and omnipresent distractions, forgets even important ideas and events from only a few years or at times even just months ago. How much more so does our whole culture, in particular secular media, academia, and the arts, seem ordered to erasing or redefining the deeper things, like historical, philosophical, and most important of all religious truths, that make us who we are? 

Because of that, it’s all the more urgent that we continue to learn our faith and put on the mind of Christ, as the best way to swim against that tide of amnesia. 

So find ways to continue learning your faith. Join a parish Bible study. Get involved when adult catechesis programs are offered. Take part in a Catholic book club. Spend time reading and praying with Scripture and the Catechism and the writings of the saints. 

As our bishop noted in one of his own recent columns, we are lifelong learners in the faith. So let’s be intentional about that, and seek out ways we can continue to grow as disciples, learning about the one we love. 

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