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Browsing News Entries

Browsing News Entries

Pope Francis: Jesus journeys with us even in bad times

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has told pilgrims that God walks with us always, “even in the most painful moments” of our lives as he did with the disciples on the road to Emmaus. 

Pope Francis continued his series of reflections on Christian hope at his Wednesday General Audience shortly after his meeting with US president Donald Trump. The Pope spoke about the disciples’ meeting with Jesus on the Road to Emmaus, in Luke’s Gospel, as “a journey of hope”. 

He told pilgrims gathered in St Peter’s Square that Christians today are a bit like those two disciples: so often we find ourselves “a step away from happiness” but then experience sadness and disappointment.

The Pope said Jesus’ accompaniment of the two disciples shows a “therapy of hope” which “gradually opens us to trust in God’s promises”. Hope, the Pope said, is “never a small price” to pay and always involves defeats and sufferings. However, walking with the disciples in a discreet way, he said, Jesus is able to rekindle their hope.

Pope Francis explained that it was only when the disciples witnessed Jesus breaking the bread that he is revealed to them as the Risen Lord, who is present in their midst. This, the Pope said, “shows us the importance of the Eucharist in which, like the bread, Jesus ‘breaks our lives’ and offers them to others”.

Noting how the disciples return to Jerusalem after their encounter with the Risen Lord to proclaim the good news, the Pope said that “we too are sent forth to encounter others, to hear their joys and sorrows, and to offer them words of life and hope, based on God’s unfailing love.”

“All of us,” the pope said, have had difficult and dark times, when there is “just a wall in front” of us. But “Jesus is always beside us to give us hope, warm our hearts and say, "Go forward, I'm with you. Go forward.”

Listen to Richard Marsden’s report here:

 

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope and Trump discuss peace, dialogue, support for immigrants

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis and U.S. President Donald Trump met in the Vatican on Wednesday, discussing issues of peace, interfaith dialogue and religious freedom, as well as the role of the American Church in education, healthcare and support for immigrants.

Listen to Philippa Hitchen's report:

The American leader spent half an hour in conversation with the Pope behind closed doors in the Apostolic Palace, before meeting with Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Holy See’s Secretary for Relations with States or foreign minister.

Press office statement

A statement from the Vatican press office said during the course of the cordial encounter, the two men discussed the good bilateral relations that exist between the U.S. and the Holy See. They also spoke of their “joint commitment in favour of life, religious liberty and freedom of conscience”.

The statement expressed the hope for a “serene cooperation between the State and the Catholic Church in the United States", which is engaged in service to people "in the fields of health care, education and assistance to immigrants".

Dialogue and negotiations

It said the Pope and the President also exchanged views on international affairs and on the promotion of peace through political negotiations and interfaith dialogue, mentioning especially the situation in the Middle East and the protection of Christian communities.

Trump, who was accompanied by his wife Melania, as well as his daughter and son-in-law, is on the third leg of a nine day presidential tour that has already taken him to Saudi Arabia, Israel and Palestine.

Sistine chapel visit

After the papal audience, Trump was taken on a tour of St Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel, before meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella and with Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni.

Melania Trump, meanwhile, visited Rome’s 'Bambin Gesù' Children’s Hospital, while the president's daughter, Ivanka, was scheduled to meet with victims of trafficking together with members of Rome's Sant’Egidio lay Catholic community.

Please find below the full statement from the Holy See press office:

This morning, Wednesday 24 May 2017, the Honorable Donald Trump, President of the United States of America, was received in Audience by the Holy Father Francis and subsequently met with His Eminence Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, accompanied by His Excellency Msgr. Paul Richard Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States.

During the cordial discussions, satisfaction was expressed for the good existing bilateral relations between the Holy See and the United States of America, as well as the joint commitment in favour of life, and freedom of worship and conscience. It is hoped that there may be serene collaboration between the State and the Catholic Church in the United States, engaged in service to the people in the fields of healthcare, education and assistance to immigrants.

 The discussions then enabled an exchange of views on various themes relating to international affairs and the promotion of peace in the world through political negotiation and interreligious dialogue, with particular reference to the situation in the Middle East and the protection of Christian communities.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope: ‘a Church without martyrs breeds distrust’

(Vatican Radio) On the second anniversary of the beatification of Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was killed in 1980 by military squadrons linked to the Regime in San Salvador as he defended the poor, Pope Francis recalled Romero’s religious fervor and passion for justice while warning the faithful against a ‘lukewarm’ Church. 

The Pope was speaking during Mass at the Casa Santa Marta.

Listen to Linda Bordoni's report: 

Pope Francis exhorted believers to leave comfort to the side and embrace an energetic lifestyle proclaiming Jesus with joy. 

He reflected on the liturgical reading of the day which tells the story of Paul and Silas in Philippi where they were followed by a slave girl with an oracular spirit who was shouting “These people are slaves of the Most High God”. This seemed like praise, the Pope said, but Paul became annoyed and cast out the spirit.  Paul understood, the Pope explained, that that was not the path to conversion of that city; it was not the Church of Christ. Everyone there accepted the doctrine, there were no conversions.

Similar situations, the Pope continued, have been repeated in the history of salvation: when the people of God are quiet, they do not take risks, but are servants of ‘worldliness’.

Then the Lord, he said, sent the prophets who – like Paul - were persecuted "because they made people uncomfortable." 

“In the Church when someone cries out against the many ways of worldliness, they are given ‘the crooked eye’ as if something were wrong with them, and then they are distanced” he said.

Francis spoke of personal memories from his own homeland recalling many men and women, whom he said, were not supporters of an ideology but  “were good consecrated people” who spoke out saying “No, the Church of Jesus is like this....: they were branded as communists and persecuted” he said.

“Think of the Blessed Romero.What happened to him for having told the truth? And so many others in the history of the Church, even here in Europe. Why? Because the evil spirit prefers a tranquil, risk-free Church, a business-like Church, a comfortable and lukewarm Church” he said.

In chapter 16 of the Acts it is also said that the slaves of the slave were angry: they had lost their hope of earning money because the slave could no longer divine. 

"The evil one, the Pope warned, always starts from the pocket. When the Church is lukewarm, quiet, organized, when there are no problems, look to where business is to be made" he said.

Pope Francis also focused his homily, on joy. In fact, he told of how Paul and Silas were dragged by the slaves to the magistrates who ordered them to be beaten and then thrown into jail. The jailer threw them into the innermost part of the jail where the two men broke into song. Towards midnight a tremendous earthquake flung all the gates of the prison open.  The jailer was about to take his life because he would have been killed if the prisoners had escaped but Paul urged him not to do so because, he said, “we are all here”. Then the jailer asked for explanations and converted. He washed their sores, was baptized, and “was filled with joy”. 

This, the Pope said, is the path of our daily conversion: “to move from a worldly, tranquil, safe, Catholic” lukewarm yes, to the true proclamation of Jesus Christ; to the joy of ' Christ's announcement. We must move, he said, from a religion that looks too much to earnings, to faith and to the proclamation that ‘Jesus is the Lord'.

This, Francis continued, is the miracle performed by the Holy Spirit, and he invited the faithful to read Chapter 16 of the Acts in order to see how the Lord “together with his martyrs” makes the Church move forward.

The Pope concluded his homily saying that a Church without martyrs breeds distrust; a Church that doesn’t take risks breeds distrust; a Church that is afraid of proclaiming Jesus Christ and of chasing out demons, idols and the lord of money is not Christ’s Church.

“Let us ask the Lord for the grace for renewed vigor in faith and conversion from a lukewarm way of life so we are able to make the joyful proclamation that Jesus is the Lord” he said.  

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis: condolences to Manchester victims

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a telegram expressing condolences to the victims of Monday night's bombing of a concert venue in Manchester, England, and condemning the attack, in which at least 22 people were killed and 59 thers injured. Please find the full text of the telegram, below... 

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His Holiness Pope Francis was deeply saddened to learn of the injury and tragic loss of life caused by the barbaric attack in Manchester, and he expresses his heartfelt solidarity with all those affected by this senseless act of violence. He commends the generous efforts of the emergency and security personnel, and offers the assurance of his prayers for the injured, and for all who have died. Mindful in a particular way of those children and young people who have lost their lives, and of their grieving families, Pope Francis invokes God’s blessings of peace, healing and strength upon the nation.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope to Sister Disciples of the Divine Master: 'be prophets of hope'

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Monday greeted the Sister Disciples of the Divine Master (PDDM) and encouraged them to go forward in their mission to bring the Gospel to the men and women of today with joy in unity, giving voice to plurality and respecting each other’s differences.

The Pope words came as he addressed the Sisters who are holding their 9th General Chapter in Rome (10 April-28 May) on the theme “New wine in new wineskins.”

Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni:

First of all, Pope Francis said to the Sisters, always be open the Holy Spirit, Master of diversity, Master of unity within differences.

“Walk together in communion, he said, respecting plurality and tirelessly weaving your legitimate differences into unity, taking into account you are present in different Countries and cultures”.

Basing his discourse on the many fruits yielded by communion, the Pope encouraged the Sisters to allow each other to express themselves freely, to be accepted with their own special gifts, and to become fully co-responsible.

He urged them to cultivate mutual attention and practice sisterly correction and respect the weakest members.

“Grow in the spirit of living together, banish divisions, envy, and gossip from your communities, speak frankly and with charity” he said.

The Pope noted that the Disciples of the Divine Master share Fr. Giacomo Alberione as father and founder with the Pauline family, as well as the mission to bring the Gospel to the men and women of our time.

He spoke of the fruits of communion born from collaboration with other charisms saying it is the time for synergy between all consecrated persons who are called to welcome the riches of other charisms and put them all in the service of evangelization, remaining faithful to their identity.

“No one, he said, builds the future by isolating themselves or on their own strength alone” and he invited them to cultivate dialogue and communion with other charisms, and to combat self-referentialism in every way.

The Pope also mentioned the importance of the fruits produced by communion with the men and women of our time: “Our God is the God of history and our faith is a faith that works in history. In the questions and expectations of today's men and women, there are important indications for our pursuit of Christ”.

Pope Francis said the Chapter is a time to listen to the Lord who speaks to us through the signs of the times.

He said it is also a time for peaceful and unbiased confrontation which requires the opening of mind and heart, and he urged those present never to tire of the practice of listening and sharing with the men and women of today.

“In this time of great challenges, which require devoted creative fidelity and passionate research, listening and sharing are more than ever necessary if we want our lives to be fully meaningful to ourselves and to the people we meet” he said.

Pope Francis then told the Sisters that to this end it is necessary to maintain a climate of discernment, to recognize what belongs to the Spirit and what is contrary to it. 

He said that a world of possibilities is open before us and that “the culture in which we are immersed presents them all as valid and good, but if we do not want to fall victim to the culture of zapping and sometimes to a culture of death”, we must always be discerning and never tire of asking the Lord “What do you want me to do?”

The Chapter, the Pope said, is also a time in which to renew our docility towards the Spirit that animates prophecy. This, he said, is an indispensable value for consecrated life which itself is a special form of participation in the prophetic mission of Christ. 

“As consecrated women, you live the prophecy of joy, that joy that comes from your encounter with Christ through a life of personal and communal prayer” he said, as well as in a joyful life of fraternity within the community and in your embrace of Christ’s flesh when you minister to the poor.

Joy, the Pope said, is a beautiful reality in the lives of many consecrated persons, but it is also a great challenge for all of us because joy must be of the authentic kind, never self-referential or self-satisfied.

“This joy, Francis continued, which fills your hearts and shows on your faces will lead you to go out to the peripheries and participate in the joy of the Church that is evangelization, convinced that Jesus is the Good News and is joy for all. This joy distances you from the cancer of resignation, the fruit of sloth that withers the soul”.

Pope Francis concluded his address encouraging the Sisters to be prophets of hope with eyes turned to the future, and to let themselves be guided by the Spirit in order to continue to do great things.

Trusting in Christian hope and in the strength it gives you, he said: “fortify your vocation of morning sentinels in order to announce the coming of the dawn: Wake up the world, light up the future”.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis: Open your heart to the Holy Spirit

It is only the Holy Spirit Who can teach us to say: “Jesus is the Lord.” That was the focus of Pope Francis’ reflections during the morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta on Monday. The Holy Father emphasized that we must open our hearts in order to hear the Holy Spirit, and thus be able to bear witness to Christ.

Listen:

“Be calm, I will not leave you orphans; I will send you an advocate, the Holy Spirit, to defend you before the Father.” Pope Francis based his homily on the long discourse of Jesus to His disciples at the Last Supper. The Pope dwelt especially on the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, who accompanies us and “gives us the assurance of being saved by Jesus.”

The Holy Spirit, the gift of Jesus, is the travelling companion of the Church

It is only the Holy Spirit, the Pope said, Who teaches us to say, “Jesus is the Lord”:

“Without the Holy Spirit, none of us is able to say it, to perceive it, to live it. Jesus, in other places in this long discourse, said of Him [the Holy Spirit]: ‘He will lead you into all truth,’ He will accompany you towards the full truth. ‘He will bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you; He will teach you all things.’ That is, the Holy Spirit is the travelling companion of every Christian, and also the travelling companion of the Church. And this is the gift that Jesus gives us.”

We must open our hearts to the Holy Spirit; otherwise, He cannot enter in

The Holy Spirit, he continued, is “a gift, the great gift of Jesus,” Who does not lead us astray. But where does the Spirit dwell? the Pope asked. He looked to the first reading, from the Acts of the Apostles, where we see the figure of Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth, someone who “knew how to do things.” The Lord opened her heart, so that she might follow the Word of God:

“The Lord opened her heart so that the Holy Spirit could enter, and she became a disciple. It is precisely within our hearts that we carry the Holy Spirit. The Church calls the Spirit ‘the sweet guest of the heart’: He is there. But He cannot enter a closed heart. ‘Ah, but where can one buy the keys to open the heart?’ No! That too is a gift. It is a gift of God: ‘Lord, open my heart so that the Spirit can enter it, and I can understand that Jesus is the Lord.’”

This, the Pope said, is a prayer that we should say every day: “Lord, open my heart so that I can understand what You have taught us; so that I can remember Your words; so that I can follow Your words; so that I can come to the fullness of the truth.”

Let us ask ourselves if our hearts are truly open to the Spirit

Our hearts must be open, then, so that the Holy Spirit can enter, and so that we can hear the Spirit. Pope Francis said the readings of the Mass suggest two questions we can ask ourselves:

“The first: Do I ask the Lord for the grace that my heart might be opened? The second question: Do I seek to hear the Holy Spirit, His inspirations, the things He tells my heart that I might advance in the Christian life, and that I too might bear witness that Jesus is the Lord? Think about these two things today: Is my heart open? Do I make an effort to listen to the Holy Spirit, to what He tells me? And so we advance in the Christian life, and we too bear witness to Jesus Christ.”

(from Vatican Radio)

Father Richard Kunst: Jesus appeared only to his disciples — for good reasons

May 2017 is an important month, because it marks the 100th anniversary of Our Lady’s appearance to the three shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal. I had every intention to write on the subject of Our Lady’s appearance this month, but as I sit at my computer writing this column, it is Easter Monday, so the resurrection is vivid in my brain right now, and since Mary appeared in Fatima for six months, I will have other opportunities to explore this important occurrence.

It is not possible to improve upon Christ’s resurrection and his appearances on Easter Sunday and the 40 days that followed, but that does not mean that I wouldn’t have done it differently. What do I mean by that? Well, there are two things I would have wanted to do differently had I been the resurrected Christ. (I know this sounds heretical, but bear with me.)

Father Richard Kunst
Father Richard Kunst
Apologetics

Had I been Jesus after the resurrection, one of the first things I would have done is to go and knock on Pontius Pilate’s door: “Hey, Pontius, remember me? I am that guy you had crucified last Friday. Look at my hands and feet. What do you think of that?” Then I would have gone to the next gathering of the Jewish Sanhedrin as an uninvited guest to scare the bejeebers out of them, since they were the ones who spearheaded the crucifixion.

Now let’s dissect this a little. How do you suppose Pontius Pilate would have responded, and how do you suppose the Sanhedrin would have responded? What I offer is pure hypothetical speculation, but it is food for thought.

My guess is that the Sanhedrin would have tried to put Jesus to death again. There are clear indications in the Gospels that the Sanhedrin accepted the fact that Jesus was doing some amazing things. For example, they admitted that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, but they still killed Jesus and even wanted to kill Lazarus too, since many people were believing in Jesus because of him!

So the majority of the Sanhedrin were completely closed-minded when it came to Jesus. In fact, Jesus even hints at that at the end of his parable of the rich man and Lazarus, when he says, from the mouth of Abraham, “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be convinced even if one should rise from the dead” (Luke 16:31). That being said, I do not think there would have been any benefit to Jesus showing up at the meeting of the Jewish leadership.

How about Pilate? How would he have responded had Jesus shown up at his door after his crucifixion and resurrection? Again this is pure, hypothetical speculation. I think Pontius Pilate would have been awestruck at the appearance of Jesus and his crucifixion wounds and glorified body, but I do not think his response would have been very good.

Remember, Pilate was a pagan. He believed in a whole host of unbelievable mythical characters as gods. I suspect that Pilate would have tried to get the emperor and the Roman Empire to accept Jesus as one of the many gods of their pantheon, and were he successful, what do you suppose would have happened? Christianity would have died out when the Roman Empire ended. Christianity would have become one of those strange Roman mythologies we studied in school, just like Venus and Minerva.

God had a better plan.

Between the resurrection and the ascension, Jesus appeared only to those who were his disciples in life. While on one hand we may question why that was the case, and we may think that it would have been more effective if Jesus appeared to some of his enemies, the fact is Jesus knew what he was doing.

Suppose the Christian message would have had the backing of the Roman Empire from the very beginning. Then the spread and growth of Christianity would have been attributed to human power. The fact that Christianity spread at a miraculous rate despite the furor of the political power of the day is just that: a miracle. The hand of God, not the hand of man, caused its growth. The very disciples who cowered in fear of the Jewish authorities, the very disciples who ran away and showed themselves to be hopelessly dumb during the life of Jesus, were the ones who were emboldened after his death to spread the Good News.

God’s ways are not our ways, and although I think it might have been pretty cool to watch Jesus appear to Pontius Pilate and the Sanhedrin, it was not of God. By appearing only to those who were his disciples before he ascended to heaven, Jesus shows clearly that God’s plan is perfect.

Father Richard Kunst is pastor of St. John the Evangelist in Duluth and St. Joseph in Gnesen and administrator of St. Michael in Duluth. Reach him at rbkunst@gmail.com.

Father Michael Schmitz: Our duties to family members include love, but with wisdom

Question: There is a family member who keeps intruding in my life. I want to love them well, and I don’t want to go against God’s teaching about the duty we owe to family, but their constant interruptions and negative attitude are really affecting me and my family. What can I do?

Answer: This is an important question, both for those who need a reminder that we have an obligation to the people around us and for those who need to remember that our families do not have an absolute claim on our time, energy, or resources.

Father Mike Schmitz
Father Michael Schmitz
Ask Father Mike

We have experienced an unprecedented fracturing of the family in our society and in our age. This is the cause of many of our problems. If you experience great loneliness or overwhelming detachment from the people around you, from your home, or from your place in this world, it is likely a partial result of the breaking apart of the family. For the first time in history, we exist in a society that has reduced human life to the individual. While this movement has a grain of truth and goodness to it (the human person truly does have great intrinsic dignity and goodness), it has also resulted in exalting the individual to an absolute level.

We need to return to the full biblical truth regarding our responsibility to our own families. This includes the relationship that we have with our extended family members and our adult children, siblings, and parents. God is very clear (in the Bible and through the church) about the responsibilities children have to their parents. In his Letter to the Colossians, St. Paul writes, “Children, obey your parents in everything” (Colossians 3:20). This is a command from the Lord.

As children grow and gain more independence from their parents, this command changes in practice but not in essence. The Catechism of the Catholic Church clarifies, “As they grow up, children should continue to respect their parents. They should anticipate their wishes, willingly seek their advice, and accept their just admonitions. Obedience toward parents ceases with the emancipation of the children; not so respect, which is always owed to them” (CCC 2217).

Further, once parents reach the place where they need the assistance of their grown children, they are owed a certain level of care. The Catechism states, “As much as they can, they must give them material and moral support in old age and in times of illness, loneliness, or distress” (CCC 2218). It further reminds us of Christ’s condemnation of those who would forsake the care owed to parents for the sake of an imagined “offering to God” in Matthew 15 and Mark 7.

All of this reminds us of God’s commands to be involved, to the degree that we are able, in the lives of family members. Please note, however, that the exact manner of this care is not specified. There are times when a grown child cannot care for the exact needs of siblings or parents. There are times when someone in need will require the help of those outside of the immediate family. There are times when professional care is required.

And there are times when one will have to set boundaries on the level of involvement one’s family has in one’s life. Jesus makes it clear that we are called to love him above father or mother, spouse, sibling, and child (cf. Matthew 10:37, Luke 9:59). The Catechism states it in this way: “Family ties are important but not absolute. Just as the child grows to maturity and human and spiritual autonomy, so his unique vocation which comes from God asserts itself more clearly and forcefully. Parents should respect this call and encourage their children to follow it. They must be convinced that the first vocation of the Christian is to follow Jesus” (CCC 2232).

Therefore, we are left with the need for love and wisdom. We are commanded to love those people to whom we are related. Yet we also need to be wise in the manner of that love. This “wise love” will necessarily involve creating boundaries.

We don’t often think of boundaries when it comes to love, but they are essential. Consider the following two examples. Imagine that a man’s mother is an addict. He consistently offers to be a part of her life, but she consistently avoids him — until she needs money for rent. One evening, she calls him and tells him that she needs a few thousand dollars for rent. If she can’t pay, she may be homeless. Now, her son has no obligation to enable his mother’s destructive behavior. He could, weighing out the options and the need for his mom to reach a “rock bottom,” allow her to fall.

This would not be done recklessly or without due consideration. It would also not be a final rejection of his mom. It would be temporarily withholding help so as to help her when she is ready to change. He could draw a boundary.

Another example could be a family member who is consistently negative. It might be wise and loving to let them know that you will not tolerate a certain way of acting or speaking. You can politely and kindly draw a boundary around what you will accept and what you will not accept. I have found that we typically continue the kinds of behaviors that others allow us to get away with. The same is true for others: They usually continue the behaviors we allow them to get away with.

Keep this in mind, however. Once you draw a boundary, they may get upset with you. That’s fine. If someone had become used to poisoning your drinking water and you responded by placing a seal around your water, and they became angry with you for that, you wouldn’t remove the seal so they could keep on poisoning you. The same is true for poisonous behavior. If you place a boundary around yourself that keeps out the behavior, they may become upset that you are not allowing them to poison your mood. That is no reason to allow the poisonous words and behavior to continue.

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. Reach him at fathermikeschmitz@gmail.com.

5th Sunday of Easter

itunes pic
May 14, 2017

Betsy Kneepkens: Children marrying outside the church is a mother’s worry

My grocery store trips are never short. You can ask my husband. Even if I just have one or two items to pick up, a five-minute jaunt turns into a half hour or 45-minute excursion.

The reason is that grocery stores are much more than a place to purchase staples. They are opportunities to connect with friends and acquaintances you have not seen for a while. I rarely run into the same people, and the wide array of friends make each grocery run refreshing and worthwhile, even if I come home with nothing.

Betsy Kneekpens
Betsy Kneepkens
Faith and Family

Obviously, the connections vary from person to person, but as I look back over the years, there appear to be timely themes.

In the early years, discussions included questions like, “How many children do you have now? Are they walking yet? Or are you potty training? Do you get to stay home with them, or which daycare do they attend?”

As years pass, the questions change. “Which school are your children attending? What sports or activities are they participating in?” Later you begin hearing things like, “Now how old are your kids? Are they driving? Boy, they are busy. I bet you never get to see them.”

And it is not much after that you begin talking about what your child will be doing after high school. You ask, “Work, college, military?” You tend to connect with people who are in similar situations, and as your family progresses, others seem to go through the same issues at about the same time.

In the not too distant past, the discussions started to evolve further. The most recent encounters have included, “What sort of job does your child have? Are they dating anyone special? Are any of your children married?”

I don’t have a child that is getting married, but if my friend does, I undoubtedly ask how the wedding plans are going.

Interestingly enough I have discovered a typical angst shared by many in my generation that is a result of a rather new phenomenon. I frequently hear moms in the grocery aisles share their frustration or excitement about their son or daughter’s impending wedding based on the location where their adult children choose to get married. Unfortunately, you can no longer assume that a child raised in a faith-first family will ultimately want to get married in a church.

The conversations I have had with mothers vary. For instance, those whose children are getting married in a church have expressed how relieved and overjoyed they are that their children have made that decision. The hope I hear is that faith appeared central enough to their child and future son- or daughter-in-law’s relationship that the place of their wedding reflected that priority. I think this gives the mothers assurances that faith, throughout their son or daughter’s marriage, would be a priority.

On the other hand, moms who have children planning to get married at places like beaches, backyard gazebos, or mountainside resorts often share their disappointment with that sort of arrangement. These mothers seem bewildered that the faith priority they encouraged while raising their child did not appear to resonate enough for their son or daughter to see that the logical place for their wedding would be at the house of worship they grew up in. These moms know this decision is out of their control but are frustrated nonetheless.

I think getting married outside of a church building is a massive cultural shift. Every single wedding I attended just 30 years ago happened inside a church. Now a church wedding seems to be the exception, not the rule. With six children, I can only imagine it won’t be too long before I encounter this same matter.

It seems to me that people entering into enduring relationships think so very differently these days. I have to wonder how the current culture has persuaded people of faith to think that scenery like nature or quaint buildings are much more meaningful than saying your vows at a consecrated altar or a sacred sanctuary.

How has the norm of “it’s your day” been taken so seriously that God the Father, the creator of the union, becomes perhaps a secondary or lesser thought in the wedding day planning process?

I am additionally perplexed by faithful engaged couples who may not see the significance of starting this one-flesh union, the foundation of a new Catholic family, in the spiritual home of Christ. I think the hardest concept to overcome by Catholic parents like me is that we know Catholics are so very blessed to have the true presence of Christ in our parish tabernacle, which is so special because it is not possible at other locations. Therefore, not having your wedding in a Catholic Church can make a parent, in a certain sense, think their child has uninvited Christ to their marriage ceremony.

Fortunately, I have some time to propose what really is an old idea to my children: getting married at their parish. This is such a novel concept these days that I think I can make it sound like a brand new idea before the first one gets engaged.

The significance of starting this new state of life under the best possible conditions, which include the special graces bestowed upon a newly married couple in the sacrament of matrimony, cannot be overstated nor under-appreciated. I can’t help but empathize with friends I visit with in the grocery story who are currently dealing with this situation. God only knows it may not be much time before I may be struggling with the same family faith dilemma. I can’t even imagine how long my grocery store trips will take then, much to my husband’s displeasure.

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