Sunday, October 15, 2017

October 2017 Bulletin: Deepening our Relationship With God

Lead article from the October bulletin, online now.

After beginning a new friendship one realizes that there are levels and degrees of friendship.  You can spend time with this friend on a leisurely basis only, like sports, but may want to deepen this friendship by working with this person, or sharing family time, ministry time, or deeper still, becoming intimately involved with each other’s hopes, successes, and yes, even failures and sufferings.  It is a mutual giving, receiving and supporting with varying degrees of gratitude, humility, and corresponding happiness.

Our friendship with the Lord Jesus Christ began when we were consecrated to him in the Sacrament of Baptism.  Consecration means to be “set aside” “made sacred” for God’s pleasure, and we were made pleasing to God at baptism because Jesus infused his very divine life – sanctifying grace – into our soul, simultaneously with the divine virtues of faith, hope and love.  These divine virtues are real, but they are like seeds that need to be cultivated, deepened and thus produce fruit that will last forever.

To help us with this, God has consecrated Sundays, the Lord’s Day, as a time for us to assemble to hear the Word of God and celebrate the preeminent sacrament – Holy Communion – Jesus Christ who is the source and summit of our faith, hope and love!

Although the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation are given to the soul only once, the preeminent sacrament of Holy Communion can be received weekly, even daily, if one is free from mortal sin by following the Catholic faith.  This worthy reception of the Holy Eucharist deepens our friendship with God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as well as with Mary, the holy angels, saints and all the members of the Church.

While in the state of grace, we can also grow closer to God by helping the poor, evangelizing, praying, making acts of faith, hope and love, and writing our public officials to follow the natural law by putting an end to: abortion, so called same-sex marriage and unjust wages – sins that cry out to God (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1867).

Many of us have made or are making an act of faith, hope and love by consecrating ourselves completely to Mary by reading and applying the 33 Days to Morning Glory by Fr. Michael E. Gaitley, MIC.  Since Mary is that perfect disciple of God who always conforms her free will to God’ divine will, we can be assured that when we give her all our prayers, sacrifices and sufferings she will apply their merits according to God’s divine will.

In this consecration to Mary, we are asked to deepen our friendship with her and God by giving her everything for her intention, but we still can tell Mary our intention because we trust that from her heavenly perspective she knows how to best bring about God’s will, which of course, is better than our desire.

For example, I can offer up a Rosary for my friend to pass med school, but if that fails I should not be concerned that God is not listening to my prayers, rather, I trust that Mary has better plans for my friend which could not be fulfilled if she went to med school.

Another example is when painfully misunderstood we might ask God to remove it, but when we offer it up to Mary, and it remains, we trust that she is using the merits for something far more important and perfect.  By this means we can see how God is asking us to detach from the world and our desires and trust more deeply in him and his Mother, Mary.  God will never test us beyond our strength, but if we want to become strong, we must be tested.  By consecrating ourselves to Mary we can more easily learn how to pass the tests with the graces Jesus won for us and thereby attain perfect salvation!

God bless you!

Fr. Thomas McCabe

Monday, September 18, 2017

September 2017 Bulletin: Tradition, Symbolism, and the Fourth Degree.

Lead article from the September 2017 bulletin, online now.

There is a flame that burns in virtually every man that speaks to their desire to fight for something bigger than themselves. For the American citizen, it is to look back with profound fondness and respect at our veterans of war and those who have died defending all we hold dear.

There is no higher thing we can do than to serve our fellow man in the military.  This was not lost on the Knights of Columbus at the turn of the century when in 1900 in New York, they established the 4th Degree by exemplifying its first 1400 members.  This was followed in 1903 with the Board of Directors officially approving the new degree centered around patriotism.  The current version of the regalia worn by the Fourth Degree was established in 1940.  It includes a chapeau with plume in various colors, cape, baldric, and a ceremonial sword all over the top of a black tuxedo.  The uniform appearance represents some 75 years of tradition and clearly points in the form of symbolism to Catholic men fighting for something bigger than themselves.  

The Fourth Degree KCs regalia is by nature a metaphor for the uniform that our Fraternal Catholic Order would wear in battle.  It is true our battles, unlike past world, civil and revolutionary wars, is one that does not require us to draw the blood from or kill our enemy.  We must, however, ask ourselves if the battle (considering our current fight to stop abortion) is no less bloodless?  We fight contemporary culture and the reckless way it leads our youth.  We join into the skirmish to keep Jesus in the public square.  We struggle to move to the forefront in order that we might promote the values of our great Catholic faith.  At the end of my 20 minute struggle to change into my outfit, is the sword that I attach to my baldric an anachronism?  I think not.  I remember attending Mass at the historic Church in 2003 with my wife and two small daughters as a non-Catholic.  Father Siebenaler was led in procession by the Fourth Degree in full regalia.  I mentioned to my wife that I was not sure where this Catholic thing was going to lead me, but I was sure it would not lead me to wear "that  get-up".

Flash forward 14 years, and I am eight years a Catholic and five years a Fourth Degree Knight who has worn the "get-up" multiple times.  The powers that be have determined that they will get more young men to join the Fourth Degree by changing the uniform.  They may be correct.  They actually look pretty cool.  To me they look more like the peace corps than a fighting corps.  Maybe that is what the Fourth Degree needs.  Call me a romantic, but I have discovered a renewed fondness for the "get -up" that is in my closet as I write this article.

God bless,

Gary Frandsen
Grand Knight

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

August 2017 Bulletin: How Far Can One Reach By Choosing Life?

Lead article from the August 2017 bulletin, online now.

On September 11th, 2001, at three locations in our United States, nineteen human beings chose death, desolation and darkness.  As a result, two towers filled with life crumbled to the ground on a beautiful New York morning, three airliners smashed into iconic landmarks and one plummeted to the earth as a few passengers fought to their last for precious life. Some 2,996 died and 6,000 were injured.  The victims came from every continent on the earth.  Most looked on in horror.  Those who chose death reached out and touched every corner of civilization. 

At the same time in the city of Stavropol, in Stavropol Krai in Russia, not far from where Osama-Bin-Laden received his initial terrorist training by Russian Chechen separatists, a pregnant divorcing mother by the name of Natalia could think of little other than the child growing in her womb.  She had already made the life choice.  At only 21 years of age, she chose life knowing of her impending divorce.  She had made this choice under very stressful circumstances.  She chose life knowing she could never give her infant the life she longed to give it.  She chose life as she climbed up the stairs and walked thru the front door to Maternity Hospital Of Stavropol.  She had been carrying the baby for over 9 months.  Then, a few weeks after the events of 9/11, Natalia gave birth to life.  Her next choice was to give her baby girl a beautiful name.  I could never presume to understand the emotions that tore through her as she made her final heart-wrenching choice the next day and climbed down those same stairs away from the hospital without the precious baby girl she had named Marina.  Little did she know how far her choice would stretch. Little did she know the profound effect her choice would have on two people thousands of miles away.  Two people who had prayed for the gift of life for a very long time.  A married couple who had exhausted their natural birth options.  One Catholic, one a lukewarm believer.

We had been working with an adoption agency in Anoka for about a year and that by means of planes, trains, automobiles, translators, lawyers and Russian judges finally delivered us thousands of miles directly East along the 45th degree latitudinal line to an orphanage in Stavropol, Russia.  The beautiful Caucasus Mountains served as a background in this region of Russia where we were to realize our hopes and prayers. At that point, baby Marina had been there for some 8 months along with dozens of other babies whose mothers chose life.  They all ate at the same time.  They were all given human attention during the day at around the same time.  They were all carried to the potty at the same time.  Many Russian orphanage babies are potty trained before they reach the age of one due to strict orphanage routines.  We were struck by the quiet in the baby room where the cribs were lined up in neat rows filled with quiet babies looking up at a stark white ceiling. 

We later discovered that their cries quickly diminish as they go unanswered, eventually stopping altogether.  Apparently, they stop when they realized no one would respond.  This is due to lack of staffing and nothing to do with neglect by orphanage volunteers who were truly caring and who delivered attention when they could. 

After a quick tour they ushered us into an empty room where we sat for some time finally succumbing to exhaustion after 28 plus hours of travel with little sleep.  We awoke as Andrew, our fun and animated Russian interpreter excitedly burst into the room with a beautiful baby girl named Marina whom he placed in my wife's arms.  For the first time in Marina's life, she felt the warmth of a mothers embrace.  The sound of crying that then filled the room came not from any baby, but from my wife.  When we finally arrived home with Marina some six weeks later, we positioned a recliner next to her crib so she would not be alone on her first night.  For that night and for some months to come, our baby girl would reach out from the crib every hour or so, her little fingers searching in the dark until satisfied she was not alone. 

One year later we found our way back in Russia arriving via railway to a station in Voronezh, Russia to meet another baby girl. She was in a communal play area at the orphanage in a walker chasing and harassing others in her play area.  Her birth name was Anaya; the orphanage staff called her "Annitchka;" we named her Anna.  Her mother and father had been deprived of their parental rights. She had been neglected and was undersized suffering from failure to thrive.  We were told she was likely raised in an abusive environment and that she was not fed much in her first year.  Her five siblings were placed in orphanages all over the Republic of Russia and she would likely never see them again.  Anna had serious burns on the back of her leg that required skin grafts aged only seven months.  We were told that her weak and undersized body failed to produce hormone at the proper rate and she required HGH. To this date she injects hormone from a needle into herself every night before bedtime.

Within a few weeks of arriving home, she acquired the chicken pox and RSV and spent five days at the Monticello Hospital in an oxygen tent.  Anna developed self soothing techniques in the orphanage to cope with the stresses of her early experiences.  She has also been diagnosed with severe dyslexia. Anna has overcome all of this by drawing from her sheer joy for life, optimism and an energy that never fails to astound me.  These character traits have served our family well.

Having related all of this, I must also point out that Anna's mother chose life.  I have no clue the trials that she as a mother and her family went thru. I do know that she chose life in spite of her circumstances.  She too reached thousands of miles to us as a result of her choosing life.  Her decision reached out to me and pointed me in no small way to Christ.  Insomuch as my girls, in a very real sense, are the reason I am now Catholic.  They took me by their little hands and led me to RCIA.  Only then, having become Catholic could I see clearly the path God had chosen for my family.  He calls all fathers and Knights to lead their families to heaven.  My two girls are the strongest people I have ever known, and no one comes close.  They are survivors.  It matters not what happens to them, they just get up, brush it off and move on.  They have no fear.

Gina and I wanted a large family.  He had other plans for us.  How far can one reach by choosing life?  The answer is different for everyone.  For me it is simple.  It reached across oceans.  It stretched the length of a baby's arm as she sought comfort in the night. The choice of life gave me my two girls who every day reach deep into my heart.  As a husband, the choice of  life has given us a more meaningful marriage.  As a Catholic, the choice of life has given me purpose, direction and comfort in Christ.  And as a Knight of Columbus, the choice of life has given me a way to make a direct impact and give back to my community.  As a family, we are subject to life's vagaries and trials as any other family.  Some of the time I forget my role and fall hard.  Most of the time I forget my girls are adopted.  They are all American and ours in every way.  I will however never forget the far reaching effects of the two mothers in Russia who chose life.  Who chose life no matter the raw realities in which they lived.  For this I will be forever grateful.  I pray that they have found peace and comfort in their lives.

God bless.

Gary Frandsen
Grand Knight