Tuesday, December 5, 2017

December 2017 Bulletin:
Merry Christmas

Lead article from the December 2017 bulletin, online now.

We have Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's all within the final five weeks of the year. It is a wonderful  opportunity to bring our families together and experience the blessings of the season.

First there is Thanksgiving, a day to get together, bond and give thanks for all we have.  It is relatively stress-free, and you can eat great food and watch football all day.  It sets the table, if you will, for Christmas inasmuch as it refocuses us on the most profound and influential things in our lives: our faith and our families.

Try as it may, the secular world, filled with its hyper-consumerism, glam and outright indifference to Christ, can never diminish our Savior from the season. We spend many stressful hours shopping, preparing, running, planning and worrying. When Christmas finally comes we find ourselves giving it up to Christ at Mass. Millions of Americans in countless communities fill our churches. God refocuses us and sets our year's end on His terms.

Even unbelievers in the secular world are compelled to take stock in their disbelief. Does Christ not cross the minds of doubters as they lay awake just having watched their children at their most happy? They know what the day is about. Does the plastic nativity scene made in China that a stressed-out father struggling in his faith plugs in the day after Thanksgiving not give him pause? What about those factory workers in China seeing them roll by the assembly line? How many of them have explored Jesus as a result of this?

These are not just rhetorical questions. I truly have not a clue, but surely God has countless ways to plant Himself in our conscience.

Every year we watch A Christmas Carol in its many incarnations. A miraculous allegory written by Charles Dickens, a self proclaimed Christian who never mentions Christ in the novelette, but for his final entry when Tiny Tim proclaims, "May God bless us, everyone."  The story itself glistens with biblical references and values.  Many must have been moved by this story and many others during the holiday season.  I wish all Knights and their families a very merry and blessed Christmas.

Gary Frandsen
Grand Knight

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

November 2017 Bulletin: God’s Not Dead! He Is Surely Alive!

Lead article from the November 2017 bulletin, online now. Reminder: The November council meeting is moved to Thursday, Nov. 9!

OK, so in 1990 I ventured out of my indifference to embrace my higher power that was and is God almighty.  I left behind my irreligious, if not atheist, upbringing that stood at odds with that which was all around me.  I was no longer an agnostic; I was officially a believer.  What then to do?  It was much easier just to believe in God than to sort through all the organized manifestations of worship.

Because the beauty of my natural surroundings brought me to where I was, pantheism seemed the place where I stood.  I saw God everywhere!  Nature was God, and it left me underwhelmed.  It gave me little passion.  I could never bring myself to hug a tree.  Nature was awesome!  But God created nature.  I was much more likely to cut it down and have a fire.  My kids then came, and I remembered a commitment.  My wife Gina was Catholic, and Father Joe at St. Gerard's would only marry us if we agreed to raise our kids in the Catholic faith.

We started going to Mass and enrolled them in the parish school.  I found passion as I observed the way fathers and husbands led their families to Mass and conducted themselves.  I then realized and embraced the truth of Jesus Christ.  I went thru RCIA and was led into the water by Fr. Gregory Abbott at the Easter Vigil 2009, the same baptismal font my daughter Anna was baptized in five years earlier.  I then went through CRHP and joined the KCs. I became hyperactive with all things Catholic.  And then one day I was told it was my job to get my family to heaven.  What?!  Great, I was pretty sure I would not be allowed safe passage considering some things I left out of the introduction I just wrote.   Now I was faced with a heavy task, like three tons laid on my shoulders.  Just do good works, go to Mass and enroll them in the parish school? That was all I needed do, right?

All of a sudden it all seemed insufficient.  I worked 60 hours a week and only saw my wife and kids on weekends, which were also filled with doing "good works" and such.  Was I doing too much?  Was it getting in the way of my task?  It looked as if the train was going to derail.  Flash forward eight years or so, and I am now retired with two teenage girls and a wife who still needed me to help get them to heaven.

I now have more time. I also have much more to do.  I thought I could get it all in if I did not work.  What was I thinking?  I found myself losing ground to contemporary culture (they wanted to go to a movie about a homicidal clown bent on murdering kids) rather than a Christian one: smart phones, social media apps, pop song lyrics and teenage drama to beat the band!  The train is still clearly in danger of coming off the rails.  I sometimes search and long for signs of progress.  Some evidence that my duty is not left undone.  They are only going to be with us for five or six more years.  I spend much time worrying about it, praying on it, thinking about it and trying to unwrap its mysteries.

Recently, following some significant turbulence there was a time of peace and enjoyment on a family three-day outing in Rochester, where these signs came in at a pace I was not prepared for.  My daughters both made me aware upon arrival that we would need to plan for Mass.  We toured the city on foot, ate at expensive restaurants, laughed and had the most fun we have had in a long time.  Marina asked me if she could go with her friend to a Catholic youth retreat called Steubenville next summer.  Anna wanted to listen to Christian pop music the whole time there.  We walked our dogs in the park in between showing them in competition, and the girls worked together at the dog show.  It seemed too good to be true, but it was true.  An answer to my prayers?

We arrived home and my wife was at work and the kids were in school while I was chasing dust balls and dog hair bunnies with my "Shark" vacuum. When going by my little Anna's room I sent skidding across the room a piece of art that had been taped to her door and fallen.  It had been there since the third grade. The artwork read, "Gods Not Dead He Surely A Live," and it was a drawing of Anna, God, God's people, the sun and a roaring male lion, maybe representing  fathers trying to get their kids to heaven.

Was it a sign that the weekend had not been a fluke, that indeed the train to heaven was not derailed?  Had God himself caused the bonds to be loosed?  It was progress in my task to help get them where we all long to be.  God can do anything.  He can surely borrow a third-grader's illustration to bring his point home to a struggling servant on Earth.

God Bless.

Gary Frandsen
Grand Knight

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

Monday, June 5, 2017

June 2017 Bulletin:
Don't Wait; Step Up!

Lead article from the June 2017 bulletin, online now.

I sit here looking at my one week old son Micah thinking “Is this really such a good time to be taking on the role of Grand Knight?”  This is how I started the first article I wrote as Grand Knight. Micah is almost two now and I have another one-week-old son name Declan at home.  Instead of sitting on the couch holding him I am outside at my son's baseball game writing so my wife can be at home with the little ones. 

The point of that first article was that we always shy away from commitments because we convince ourselves that we do not have enough time.  Well I have less time to do this now then I did when I started so I'm glad I didn't convince myself to delay.  I wouldn't hesitate to do it again and look forward to serving the council as a regular member once again.  It's been an honor to serve in this role for the last two years and I want to thank everyone for making this council so great.  I especially want to thank all of the officers and directors that do so much outside of the regular meetings to keep the council operating smoothly. 

I encourage everyone to think about volunteering for one of the leadership roles at some point.  It really gives you an appreciation for how much this council does and how well it is run. There are many leadership positions that do not require much of a time commitment so don't let that scare you away.

Please join us at the June meeting as we celebrate the year with a great meal and social.

Joe VanHoorik
Grand Knight

Saturday, April 29, 2017

May 2017 Bulletin: 100th Anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima and Reminders!

Lead article from the May 2017 bulletin, online now.

2017 marks the 100th Anniversary of the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary to three shepherd children at the Cova da Iria, Fatima, Portugal, beginning on May 13 and ending October 13, 1917.  The children were Lucia Santos, age 10, and her younger cousins Jacinta and Francisco Marto.

This amazing story begins with these children reporting that on May 13, 1917, a woman adorned like the sun appeared to them from the sky and lighted on a shrub.

The woman asked them to devote themselves to the Holy Trinity and to “pray the Rosary every day, to bring peace to the world and an end to war.”  The woman asked the children to return on June 13th, and when Lucias’ mother heard about this she sought counsel from the parish priest, Fr. Ferreira.  He suggested she allow them to go and said he would question them afterward.

The Virgin Mary appeared as promised and told the children to pray the Rosary daily to bring an end to World War I – the war which precipitated the rise of godless Communism in Russia with the Bolshevik Revolution occurring in October, 1917.  Mary also revealed that Francisco and Jacinta would be taken to heaven soon, but Lucia would live longer to spread her message and devotion to her Immaculate Heart, which she promised would eventually triumph over Communism’s errors.  The 1918 flu pandemic, from which about 50 million died globally, took Francisco in 1919, and Jacinta in 1920.  Both were beatified by St. John Paul II on May 13th, 2000.

Our Lady allowed the children to see a vision of hell and asked them to pray for sinners.  They became fervent in their prayer life for the conversion of hardened sinners.  She also entrusted to them a secret.

Government officials intercepted the children before they reached the Cova da Iria on August 13th.  The parents and officials tried to convince the children to stop what they perceived as nonsense; but neither derision nor threats persuaded the children, and they courageously held true to their witness.

The Virgin Mary appeared to them on Sunday, August 19th, at nearby Valinhos, and spoke to them about a miracle at the Cova da Iria on October 13th. She reminded them to pray the Rosary daily and “pray a lot… for sinners and sacrifice a lot, as many souls perish in hell because nobody is praying or making sacrifices for them.”

Although it rained incessantly for three days before October 13th, an estimated 70,000 people gathered to witness the promised miracle, soon to be called “Miracle of the Sun”.  Our Lady appeared to the children and Lucia saw light rising from Mary’s hand and reportedly cried out, “Look, the sun.”  For about 10 minutes the sun seemed to dance and then zigzagged to the earth only to spring back to its original position.  The people were at first horrified thinking it was the end of time, but then they broke out in praise as the sun returned to its position, and all their clothes had become dry. 

In 1930, after ongoing investigations, the Catholic Church officially recognized the apparition events as “worthy of belief”.  It is important to note that the Catholic Church defines these events as “private revelations.” They do not form the deposit of the Catholic faith, and we are not bound to believe in them.  Yet, Holy Mother Church holds them out to those who wish to receive such miracles as supernatural gifts to deepen the practice of their Catholic faith by following Jesus in his Catholic Church.

In the coming monthly newsletters there will be small vignettes of the miracles and messages of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary of Fatima until its conclusion on Oct. 13th, 2017.   Look for opportunities at both St. Albert and St. Michael Churches to draw closer to God’s promises through devotion to Our Lady of Fatima.  First monthly event: Mass, May 13th, 9:30 a.m. at St. Michael Catholic Church with Patriotic Rosary until Noon near the Historic Church (unless inclement weather).

Father Thomas McCabe
Council Chaplain

*     *     *

Deputy Grand Knights Message

Hello Knights.

The long winter's over and we will be mowing our lawns soon.  We are also nearing the end of Grand Knight Joe VanHoorik's  second year at the helm and I would like to personally thank him for his great leadership and the great things he has accomplished for Council 4174.  We are also closing in on the Albertville Friendly City Days (AFCD) softball tournament and beer tent event.  This three day annual effort funds much of what we do during the year.  We will need the assistance of many Knights to make this important three day event a great success.  Multiple shifts on June 8th, 9th, and 10th will be open on the Sign Up Genius website soon.  We will need more volunteers than in years past.  There will be opportunities to serve beer as well as help out with score keeping and ball shagging during our new multi-tier softball tournament.  I would like to ask the new Knights in particular to sign up for this year's AFCD events.  Let's get this new 4174 Council year started with a bang!  Thank you for your help. God bless you and your families.

Gary Frandsen
Deputy Grand Knight


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

April 2017 Bulletin:
First Degree on Thursday, April 6

From the April 2017 bulletin, online now.

Why are you a Knight?

Do you remember why you joined the KCs?  When your annual dues statement shows up in the mail do you stop and think about why you are still a member?  Take a few minutes and think about those two questions.  Are your answers to each question different?  I joined because I was fresh off of a CRHP retreat and on fire to get engaged somewhere.  I really had no idea what the KCs did but I knew it was for Catholic men and that was enough for me to give it a shot.  That was six years ago this June.  

I'm still a KC because I love the cumulative power we have to help those in need.  I cherish the friendships I've made.  I really enjoy being a part of the 4th Degree Assembly.  I am honored when we show up in number to pray the Rosary for a deceased member.  I am humbled by each and every thank you I get because of something this council did.  

What is your reason?  Is it a particular activity you enjoy participating in each year, values we promote, things we do for the youth, the insurance program, or something else?  Is there someone else you think could benefit from that answer?  If so, consider inviting them to the First Degree at our next meeting. 

Joe Van Hoorik
Grand Knight

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

March Bulletin: Father-Son/Father Daughter Events Successful!

From the March 2017 bulletin, online now.

Everyone had a great time at the Father-Son event and the Father-Daughter dance.  We had 60+ in attendance at the Father-Son day at the Monticello community center, swimming, rock climbing, shooting hoops and eating pizza.

It was wonderful watching 225+ handsome fathers and their beautiful daughters dancing and "bustin' some moves" at the Father-Daughter Dance at St Albert's Parish Center.  DJ Bill Lage spun the disks, and Michelle LeMonds snapped some great photos.  Donald Duck made an appearance and the well=dressed dancers snacked on goodies provided by the KCs. Special thanks to my wife Gina, and the Patton, Kunzman, and VanHoorik families for their help making these fantastic events happen.

God bless,
Gary Frandsen
Deputy Grand Knight

Friday, January 27, 2017

February 2017 Bulletin:
Midwinter Blues

Lead article from the February 2017 bulletin, online now.

It's nearly February, and we are in the middle of winter.  It's that time of year when the kids are driving us crazy.  There is constant sickness in the house.  It's dark all the time.  The holidays are over so if feels like there is nothing to look forward to.  The road conditions can turn a simple errand into a white-knuckle nightmare.  In our family this is also a heavy swimming season, so nothing makes you realize how miserable it is outside until you sit in a sweltering pool for three hours then walk directly into negative cold outside.  The midwinter blues are setting in hard.

So where is the positive in this whole situation?  For me its two things.  First of all, have you ever seen a Minnesotan on the first 50 degree day of the year?  Nothing makes us appreciate spring more than a rough winter.  The same goes for fall after a hot summer.  One of the greatest things about living here is fully experiencing all four seasons.

The second positive for me is that this general mood can only mean one thing:  Lent is almost here!  This is the time of year when all our bad habits we developed throughout the year come into fruition.  Whether it be a bad diet, drinking too much, cursing, not praying enough, or whatever your weaknesses are, I'm going to bet for most of us they are probably at their worse right now.  But Lent gives us an opportunity to hit the reset button.  I love Lent because I see it as a six-week challenge between me and God.  It gives me a reason to set goals for myself and stick to them.  It's a time when I can reconnect with myself and with my faith.  After Ash Wednesday, I cannot keep saying I will start tomorrow.  I encourage you to start examining yourself this month and prepare for Lent.  Don't wait until the last minute to come up with a resolution.  Put some thought into it and prepare yourself for the six-week challenge!

God Bless,
Joe VanHoorik
Grand Knight