(Written on Wednesday, Nov. 17)
Hi to all you bloggers,
I’m all excited about tonight’s activities for our teenagers: square dancing. I love to square dance. I grew up with it as part of family weddings and physical education in school. I also square-danced when I used to have a date or two (boy, has that been a while). I still call them for different functions, and now we have this activity as part of our religious education program.
You may ask, “How is square dancing related to religious education?” First of all, my cousin, Fr. Mel Lochtefeld, taught square dancing years ago. Much of our faith comes from tradition. I’m just continuing the tradition.
Next, our students are studying the Theology of the Body. So much is made of what is inappropriate. We thought of a way to teach what is appropriate. Just because you dance with someone of the opposite sex doesn’t mean that you are dating them.
My nieces and nephews have been square dancing with each other at weddings for years. They’ve been dancing since they’ve been in grade school. To be able to hold hands with boundaries and a purpose is a good thing. So much of what we teach in regards to the physical person is taught in response to fear or suspicion. Dancing gives an outlet for good fun and social appropriateness.
The Church says, in John Paul’s writings on The Theology of the Body, that the physical aspect of man is good. I believe that our square dancing lessons will bring out the good in our students and respect for the physical person.
If you’ve ever seen our students in sports, you know how physical they can be. Tonight, they can see how they can work together to dance with the stars. We need a name for our class. “Dancing with the Stars” is taken. Maybe someone can come up with a good name.
I’m off to practice my Li’l Liza Jane.
A while ago I heard an elderly person struggling with issues of old age say that in his life Jesus endured every kind of human suffering except old age. I thought how true, he was only 33 years old when he died. He could not have faced any challenges that we might experience as we grow older. However, I recently realized how wrong that statement was.
Consider Jesus today. It is really, truly Jesus in the Sacrament of the Eucharist – body, soul and divinity. All that was Jesus during his 33 years of life on Earth is all present as the Eucharist. Certainly for us as humans, the visual presence of Jesus has changed, but that does nothing to alter the fact that it is the same Jesus. With that in mind consider what he continues to endure in his “old age”.
Like a person confined to home or a health facility, Jesus waits for his brothers and sisters to come visit him, he can not go out to them without help. He sees that some come willingly, anxious to be with him. He sees those who come grudgingly, inattentive, sharing nothing with him. He sees those who are distracted, focused on something else. He sees those who smile and those who scowl. He witnesses the closeness of some and the distance of others. Perhaps most of all, he is painfully aware of those who did not come at all. Jesus knows exactly what it is like to be immobile and unable to communicate.
With that in mind, how are we responding to Jesus in his “old age”? Do we come willingly and openly to Mass? Do we participate and include everyone? Do we make time to share an extra visit with Jesus in addition to Sunday Mass? Do we take advantage of Eucharistic Adoration to gaze on him? Are we aware of his look of love toward us?
Sometimes our worship as Catholics is picked apart because it is different from other religious denominations. It needs to be different. It can not be the same as a social gathering – the King of the Universe is in our midst. We can not receive the host without reverence – we hold the Savior of the World. The reverence of the priest and the people is the only way we have to outwardly communicate that Catholic worship is different because present physically in our gathering is God.
I have to admit it was pretty neat to see my nephew on national television. His five minutes of fame gave me five minutes of fame.
I also have to let you know that it was my first time watching HG (Home and Garden) television. Real men don’t watch such shows.
Isn’t it funny what we brag about. I’ll associate myself with someone famous or on television but will distance myself from a perceived woman’s show. I thought it might make for a good discussion or thought provoker when it came to being a Christian.
We will associate with all kinds of music or activities but rarely will tell our friends or colleagues at work that we went to church over the weekend.
We’ll say that we went to a sports event but will shun going to a church retreat. What will others say or think? When did it become so unpopular to be good or go to church? When did everyone’s opinion sway me from doing what is right for me?
This is a guest post by Connie Cleemput the Director of Religious Education.
Where do you stand on abortion, on underage drinking, on the death penalty? Where do you stand on taking time to pray as a family, on having a meal together or attending church on Sundays as a family? Where we stand, so stands our children. They mirror what we say and do as their parents, as their role models, as they people they look up to.
When practicing songs and prayers for Mass (after three weeks of practice) I mentioned to the First and Second graders to ask their moms and dads to take them to Mass on Sunday mornings or Saturday afternoon. I said “Your parents will say yes, just ask them.” I can not tell you how disheartened I was when a second grader told me that he had asked his parents and they said no.
Where do we stand? How can you, as parents, help your children be the best Catholic they can be? How can you help them form their consciences so they can make good, moral decisions?
As parents we have a moral obligation and a Catholic obligation to help form and support our children into whom God calls them to be. Yes, God calls all of us to take a stand. God has placed these children in our care, knowing and trusting we will do our best to raise them in our Catholic faith.
Take a stand. Take them to church, pray as a family around the dinner table at least once a day, tell them about God. Look in the mirror and you will see a reflection of your child. Listen to your voice and you will hear your child. Do you like what you see and hear? Take a stand.
It’s October and St. Michael’s always puts on a Pre-Cana to help couples get
ready for living their marriage. Topics such as communication, finance,
in-laws and faith are covered in the day. Much time is spent putting on
a festive event. During our Pre-Cana time, we try to look at putting on a
I love weddings. I have done over 900 weddings and love every one of them.
It is nice to share in the excitement, joy, fear and commitment of the couples and their guests. It is often at these heartfelt times, in the
depth humanity, God is found. I love weddings.
Some of my best priest stories happen around weddings. With over 900
weddings that I have witnessed as a priest, there have been some very human and very Godly times. Here are a couple of stories.
I had a wedding when the 17 year locust epidemic was in full bloom in
Virginia. As the bride made her way to the church, the locusts were
attracted by a white moving object. By the time she got in church, the
dress was a moving living brown outfit.
With 5 minutes before the ceremony, bride remembered to pick up her mom at the hotel which was 45 minutes away from the church.
I got to marry a couple in the hospital two days before the groom went to
his eternal reward.
I got to be the DJ at the reception when the hired help became intoxicated.
(There was a lot of “Brick House” (my favorite dance tune) being played that night.
I especially like to talk to couples in my office to hear their stories
first-hand. My job is to talk them out of getting married. If I can talk
them out of getting married they were probably not too ready in the first
place. (There is a movie starring Robin Williams which has the same story
line.) If a couple passes my interviews, I’m ready to celebrate their vows
We have a good time in the office and the questions are fun. The youngest couple to come in to get married was 14. The oldest person I married was 92. Marriage is a lifetime in which a couple picks each other to share in the fullness of life, to share in finding the Lord. They celebrate that God has called them to share in the fullness of life as a couple.
I have lots of weddings coming up including three family weddings. The best to all of you. The best to our Pre-Cana weekend.
What advice can you give our Pre-Cana couples this weekend?
I talked to my travel agent this week to check on a return trip to New Zealand. It looks like there’s a spot for me in mid-January. I can’t wait to return. I’ll be away from Putnam County for ten days. Ten days goes so fast so I want to do as many fun things as possible. The country has so much to offer like mountains, beaches, hiking and biking, wineries, cafes and cows. New Zealand is known for its natural beauty – I may not know where to start.
But I do know where to start, and that is with all the people I miss. As a parish priest of small parishes, you get to know people pretty quickly. I’m not going back just to see one of the world’s most beautiful countries. The warmth of the people is calling.
This weekend I’ll canoe with a group of high school seniors from our church. I had to check out the conditions of the river on Tuesday to make sure everything was good for the kids later in the week. On the trip down the mighty Blanchard River, we saw lots of birds (including a bald eagle), a raccoon and squirrels, fish jumping into our boat and just the calm of leaves falling from the trees above the river. We hope to offer the kids a day of beauty and calm away from texting and cell phones.
Putnam County has a lot to offer. Some refer to it as God’s Country.
Last weekend, people from all over came back to Kalida for Pioneer Days. It was a nice weekend, with tons of people coming back to Putnam County for all the best it has to offer. The parade route was filled, as was the downtown square. As I drove our church float, it was a nice feeling to see all the people joined on a glorious day.
People from New Zealand ask me what Putnam County offers. I could tell them about the eagle on The Blanchard, the rich heritage of the people and its beautiful churches and the flat, productive farmland, but I would rather tell them about what happens at Pioneer Days: people gathering for friendship.
During Pioneer Days, the offer of a hand of friendship was offered hundreds, maybe thousands of times. Many times the offer came with the offer of a beer – it seems the German thing to do. Ever since I was shot when I was eight years old, my stomach can’t do certain foods and beverages. I can’t do apple juice, Hawaiian punch, Sunkist Orange or beer . It is easy for me to say no to this offer of liquid hospitality and to be able to tell the difference between the offer of friendship and the offer of a beer.
It is not just a weak stomach that makes me say no to the beer, either. I do worry that sometimes our young people can’t distinguish between the offerings. Somehow beer, hospitality and friendship fused together in this community. With my stomach injury I said no to the one offer and yes to the other offer quite easily. But our young people and others who want to avoid alcohol may find it difficult becuase they don’t want to reject the offer of hospitality and friendship.
In New Zealand the offer of hospitality also included a drink: usually a hot beverage of tea, coffee, milo (hot chocolate) or hot water. In this German community the welcome comes out, “Want a beer?” Translation: “It’s good to see you, welcome to our home.”
This area offers so much. Just like New Zealand, the greatest gift is the gift of its people. The kindness, hospitality and friendship keep people coming back. When people from New Zealand ask what the area offers, I tell them to come and meet the people. They offer the best the world can give.