Thursday, May 16, 2019

May 2019 Bulletin: Easter Vigil

Lead article from the May 2019 bulletin, online now.

For the first forty-nine years of my life, the Easter Vigil meant nothing to me. That all changed at the Easter Vigil 2009 when Fr. Gregory Abbott and Fr. Michael Becker led me into the water as a Catechumen as I welcomed the light of Christ. I found myself immersed in the same baptismal font that my youngest daughter Anna was baptized in five years earlier. I had literally followed all three of my girls into the faith.

The occurrence would not have taken place without them. God set me on my path in February 1986 aged twenty six years. The journey was started as a result of my signature on a document that clearly explained my commitment to raise my future children in the Catholic faith. Father Joe at St. Gerard's Catholic church would not marry us without it. After all, I was being honest when I informed him of my agnostic beliefs. We hoped to have a bunch of kids, but they did not come.

The next 14 years were filled with infertility, doctors and frustration. As a Catholic, my wife Gina prayed on it. I also offered prayers that followed within my agnostic parameters, you know, "If you are up there please present us with children" type of prayer.

Those prayers were answered in 2001- 2003 when we journeyed to the Russian Republic on four occasions and gained our daughters through adoption. We moved to Albertville between daughters and set up shop. We were reminded of our commitment to raise our daughters Catholic and began to attend Mass on Sundays. Father Siebenaler then baptized Marina in 2003 and Father Michael Becker baptized Anna in the new church in 2005.

For the next five years I attended Mass with my family on a weekly basis. I behaved myself as a non-Catholic and stayed in my seat during communion while paying close attention to that which was going on around me. I asked Gina many questions about the Mass the stand- up-sit down stand-up sit-down, the doing of the dishes and such. What I witnessed also was a lot of men bringing their families to church, and leading them to faith filled lives.

This began to chip away at my uncertain position about Christ and God. I began to watch the EWTN network and studied Pope John Paul to some extent due to his huge cultural impact in the Christian world. My wife asked me if I was stalking the Catholic church. I guess I was, and we placed both girls on the list to attend the Catholic school and continued attending Mass. One day I found my way to Father Abbott's office discussing the RCIA program. I joined and spent the next year pouring over the Catechism.

The long, 49-year, meandering path then ended in 2009 at the Easter Vigil where Fr. Abbott and Fr. Becker led me into that same baptismal font that my daughter was led into five years earlier. The congregation that night could not have made me feel more welcome. I was bathed in Christ's light for the first time in my life. Delivered there in no small part due to my three girls.

So when you are thinking about which Easter service to attend, please consider the wonderful Easter Vigil. Where else can you witness a large group of people coming into the light of Jesus and embraced by his welcoming arms?

God bless, 

Gary Frandsen
Grand Knight


Wednesday, April 3, 2019

April 2019 Bulletin: "Prickly Pear"

Lead article from the April 2019 bulletin, online now.

The working definition of faith has always been belief without proof. Inasmuch as the word relates to Christians. Consider the Opuntia "Prickly Pear" that not only grows, but flourishes in my back yard garden. One would seldom associate this thorny cactus with the inhospitable climate we Minnesotans tolerate. It is much more prevalent in Mexico and the southwest United States. Yet here it is. Last year it produced over 100 obnoxiously gorgeous bright yellow flowers. Each one features a blaze-orange bed deep within its depths to tantalize bees and hummingbirds into spreading its pollen which cling precariously in clumps on the ends of pale green stems. I have watched many territorial hummingbird skirmishes over these blooms. Each flower lives exactly 24 hours with 15 or so per day for a week or so. The fruit that follows is sold in the open markets of central America and Mexico. 

Charles Darwin was fascinated with these little gems and studied their peculiar tendency to setup shop in northern climates. Even before I was welcomed into the Church in 2009, the beautiful realities of nature (Gods creation) would not allow me to step out of pantheism into outright atheism. It was much easier to call myself agnostic. The Church gives none of the three a passing glance. And for good reason. All of the three fail to recognize what God intended for them to see. For a long time I wanted proof for the existence of God. I needed a miracle just for me and I felt that I deserved one. None came. I did not realize nor pay heed to the fact that these miraculous things were all around me. I simply had lost my ability to wonder. Something I possessed as a child had been vanquished as a mature adult. Beaten into submission by years of capitulation to the cynical contemporary culture we exist in. 
Luke 12:12 2-9: "Consider the lilies, how they grow. They neither toil nor spin. Yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these."
Proof enough if I could hear. I don't need to test God and have him preform a miracle on a stage with me alone in the audience. He has given us a bounty of evidence. Just open your eyes, the proof is everywhere. It is not without irony that I offer up the vagaries of this little plant species with its glorious flower as evidence of God. Even Charles Darwin, the man cited for a theory used to argue against God also fell under its spell. The next time you think you need some kind of supernatural proof or you travel to some far away destination to be where miracles have taken place, remember to pause for a second and realize you may need travel only as far as your back yard. God bless!

Gary Fransen
Grand Knight
Job 12 7-9: "Ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the sky they will tell you or the bushes of the earth; they will show you and the fish of the sea will teach you.  Who among all of these does not know that the hand of the lord has done this"


Sunday, March 17, 2019

March 2019 Bulletin: Ice Cream

Lead article from the March 2019 bulletin, online now.

I tend to struggle with the Lenten tradition of giving up some perceived vice or indulgence in order to suffer to some extent as we consider the profound suffering of Christ in the time leading up to his passion. I will of course follow all the Lenten rules. I also have much admiration for those who give up significant habits and routines so as to draw them closer to our saviors suffering.

I have given up things in past Lenten seasons only to feel underwhelmed about my sacrifice as I resume them after Easter Sunday. Did I suffer much? Nope. Did it bring me closer to understanding his suffering? Not really. So what should I do?

I may have had some small revelation in this regard on our recent trip to Florida. We were Staying at a Daytona beach hotel. Hotel guests were venturing out to the beach to see the strange family who were swimming alone in 65 degree cloudy skies weather. They came wearing parkas and took our pictures and asked us where we came from that we would be swimming on this day. We told them and a look of "Oh, I get it now" came over their faces. We hit the hot tub for a bit then decided to walk downtown where we could see a boardwalk and amusement park waiting for our arrival.

There were some Hurricane "Irma" ravaged hotels along the beach as we made our way. A few lined with fence and under repair and others seemingly abandoned. We noticed that the homeless were taking up residence in some of the lower floors of the abandoned buildings. Makeshift homes consisting of wood, cardboard, worn mattresses and the like. A young couple caught our attention as they moved a mattress out of the chill drizzle that was falling at the time. They were in the middle of a heated obscenity laced exchange about some grievance between them. There were many homeless along our way. Their deeply lined faces spoke to the nature of the untold witness they held from us. We made it downtown and the homeless quickly slipped from our minds.

We had much fun looking at shops, walked the pier and listened to the Atlantic. We had a great meal and started back. My youngest noticed a Baskin Robins Ice Cream shop and grabbed my arm. We made progress across the street via skyway where a vagrant was taking some rest. As we approached our destination, a tall thin elderly homeless black man was speaking to each passerby with his head down. I grabbed my eldest daughter and shifted her to my left as we neared the tall man on my right. I could barely hear him speak as we passed. "Could you please buy me some food, good sir." We hustled our step as we passed him a glance.

My eldest told me that he looked hungry. I mentioned some nonsense about his life choices and we joined the line at Baskin-Robbins. We were waiting about a minute for our 1,000 calorie indulgence when the brick fell upon my head. I looked at Marina and told her that she was spot on. He did look hungry. We bolted out and found the same tall black homeless man making his way down the sidewalk. When the distance was made up my daughter ask him if he was hungry still. He affirmed this and we crossed the street to the Burger King restaurant.

Marina then bought him a meal with a $20 bill and gave him the change. We could barely hear him say as we left "God bless you". I think it's more likely that God dropped the brick on my head than bless me. What value was the cash to me? Very likely much less than it was to him. What did he give up for lent? What did the homeless couple moving the mattress out of the rain give up for lent? Unknowable. Here is what I am going to give up for this Lent. I am going to give up making assumptions about homeless folks. I am going to give up judging them. I am going to give up donating nothing to their empty pockets. Hopefully it will continue long past Easter. I will end by quoting our new homeless and hungry friend.

God Bless.
Gary Frandsen
Grand Knight