“You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
I’m planning to lead a Stations of the Cross hike at Saint Patrick’s Cemetery in Inver Grove Heights on Palm Sunday (April 5), which is also the day that World Youth Day is celebrated in the local churches of the world.
I’ve chosen this location because a friend of mine, Mary Sandkamp, is buried here. Mary was a member of the Catholic young adult community in the Twin Cities and active in the local chapter of the Frassati Society. Mary died in March of 2016.
If you live in the Twin Cities and are able to attend, you are more than welcome to join me. All appropriate social distancing protocols will be observed. Here are the details:
WHEN: Sunday, April 5, 2020 – 2 pm
WHERE: Cemetery for the Church of Saint Patrick, 10499 Rich Valley Boulevard, Inver Grove Heights, MN (meet inside the entrance on the right side; Mary’s gravesite is adjacent to a series of shrubs in that section of the cemetery. A series of statues of Mary point the way to it.)
WHAT: Praying the Stations of the Cross. Click here to download/print the prayers. I will not be distributing paper copies of the prayers, so please either bring a mobile device or your own printed copy with you.
Before we begin the prayer walk, we’ll read a portion of the message that Pope Francis has written for World Youth Day 2020:
“Young man, I say to you, arise!” (Lk 7:14)
Today, we are often “connected” but not communicating. The indiscriminate use of electronic devices can keep us constantly glued to the screen. With this Message, I would like to join you, young people, in calling for a cultural change, based on Jesus’ command to “arise.” In a culture that makes young people isolated and withdrawn into virtual worlds, let us spread Jesus’ invitation: “Arise!” He calls us to embrace a reality that is so much more than virtual. This does not involve rejecting technology, but rather using it as a means and not as an end. “Arise!” is also an invitation to “dream,” to “take a risk,” to be “committed to changing the world,” to rekindle your hopes and aspirations, and to contemplate the heavens, the stars and the world around you. “Arise and become what you are!” If this is our message, many young people will stop looking bored and weary, and let their faces come alive and be more beautiful than any virtual reality.
If you give life, someone will be there to receive it. As a young woman once said: “Get off your couch when you see something beautiful, and try and do something similar.” Beauty awakes passion. And if a young person is passionate about something, or even better, about someone, he or she will arise and start to do great things. Young people will rise from the dead, become witnesses to Jesus and devote their lives to him.
Dear young people, what are your passions and dreams? Give them free rein and, through them, offer the world, the Church and other young people something beautiful, whether in the realm of the spirit, the arts or society.
Something strange is happening – there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear. He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives of Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve… The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory…. I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated.
from an ancient homily on Holy Saturday
On the fifteenth anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s death, here’s the story of the time I got to meet the Pope.
En route to a semester of seminary studies in Jerusalem back in 1996, I spent a week in Rome, and had the chance to see the Pope John Paul II twice… once at a Wednesday audience, and once at a Sunday Mass celebrated at Castel Gandolfo, his summer residence.
Meeting the Pope was without question one of the happiest moments of my life. He is the kindest, warmest person I have ever met, to say nothing of his intelligence, virtue and holiness. I have great respect for the man, even from a merely human point of view… and so to meet him, after reading so much of his work, was a real privilege.
The day before I met him, I thought long and hard about what I would say to him. I was wearing a clerical shirt with a Roman collar, so he would already know that I was a seminarian. I couldn’t think of anything for a while, and thought I might tell him my name, where I was from, and show him a picture of my family. But then I decided I needed to keep it simple, because I’d probably just trip over my tongue anyway.
During the Mass, just before I met him, he seemed very frail and weak. But when he walked around afterward, he didn’t seem weak at all. He passed by rather quickly; there was just enough time to make eye contact, and then to reach down to kiss his papal ring. Then he was on to the next person.
I thought I had lost my opportunity to say something to him. But I decided to speak up anyway, even though he had moved on. And so I said, not very loudly, “I love you, Papa.” He heard me, returned to me and took my hand again, looking at me in his gentle way. He then turned to my teacher, a priest on the seminary faculty, and asked with surprise: “Americano?” When my teacher confirmed this, the Pope looked back at me and said, “Good… good.”
I was so grateful for the chance to say these words to the Pope in person. Here he was—the philosopher, the poet, the actor, the pastor, the courageous shepherd, the contemplative, a true friend of God—standing before me, and I was able to express my affection for him. And it wasn’t simply my affection for him, but for the Church he serves, and for Christ from whom he received his commission of service. For me, it was more than a pious sentiment, it was a commitment… to Christ, to the Church, and to him as chief shepherd of the Church.
When my faith grows weak, or when temptation or doubt crowd in, I often bring this moment of commitment before the eyes of my heart. And I remember the way I was sincerely and affectionately received by this giant of our faith. To me, his whole visage proclaims the first words of Christ after the resurrection, and the first words of his papacy: Be not afraid.
Mary is… the Mother of Mercy because it is to her that Jesus entrusts his Church and all humanity. At the foot of the Cross, when she accepts John as her son, when she asks, together with Christ, forgiveness from the Father for those who do not know what they do, Mary experiences, in perfect docility to the Spirit, the richness and the
universality of God’s love, which opens her heart and enables it to embrace the entire human race. Thus Mary becomes, for each and every one of us, the Mother who obtains for us divine mercy.
Saint Pope John Paul II, The Splendor of Truth