Monday, November 7, 2011

My Teaching Hat

This is not my teaching hat.  I just like to wear it.
Generally speaking, priests like to teach.  To some extent it is pent up aggression from eight long years spent in the classroom preparing for ordination desiring to revenge itself upon the unwary that prompts our taste for the lecture hall.  More importantly, however, I think it comes from a genuine desire to spread the gospel.  For diocesan priests at least, teaching happens most frequently at the pulpit, and the occasional RCIA or adult formation class.  Seldom, however, do we have the opportunity to gather a class before us in the classroom.  Even more seldom are we provided the opportunity to attempt to feed the eager young adolescent mind (tongue in cheek).  So, it is a blessing and a privilege of mine, this year, to have the opportunity to teach two classes with a group of home-school students who gather for collective learning opportunity once each week.

I have been charged with the task of trying to present a coherent and thoughtful assessment of the Church's history over the course of twenty-two weeks.  This means that I have to cover roughly one hundred years every sixty minutes.  This has proved a challenge.  Likewise, because I do not grade the students and cannot really dole out any real consequences for failing to assimilate the material, I find myself a bit at wit's end at times trying to figure out how to engage a handful of obviously uninterested and unimpressed teenaged boys.  I console myself with the knowledge that one day they will lose a great deal of money on Jeopardy because they do not remember the name of the early heresy that claimed that Christ was less than completely divine.  Alas . . . 

Church history was my primary area of study while pursuing my MA in Theology, and I approach this opportunity to present the Church's history with gusto, but I find that I, as a teacher, am far more engaged with my second class.  Along with one of the mothers, I am teaching a literature course.  To date we have read The Hobbit, and in the coming weeks, we will take up To Kill a Mockingbird.  Most of my literature students are of late middle school or early high school age.  As a result, they are just now at the point of beginning higher level thought.  They are able to think deeply and begin asking important questions.  They are able to begin exploring the contours of their own beliefs and convictions (or perhaps, rather, they are beginning to develop their own convictions).  Perhaps the most interesting part, however, as their interior turmoil manifests itself exteriorly as they struggle to find the words to explain what they think.  And, generally speaking, what they think can be tremendously insightful and enlightening.

I had not really begun to articulate the struggle these kids were experiencing until a few weeks ago when I arrived in class, and wrote the following questions on the marker board:
1) What is a hero?  How do we recognize one?
2) Is our destiny predetermined, and shaped by forces entirely outside of ourselves, or do we have the capacity to change and determine it for ourselves?
I then assigned the following project.  Prepare a 3.5 to 4.5 minute speech in which you answer the one of these questions.  Be sure to employ examples from The Hobbit to defend your position.

Quite honestly, I wasn't sure what to expect from this assignment, and my co-teacher was a bit incredulous.  Having raised several children, she knew that this was going to be very hard for them.  Nevertheless, I had already given the assignment, so we agreed to cross our fingers and hope for the best.

To put it simply, I was overwhelmed at the quality of the speeches and the arguments each of the students made.  While none delivered Winston Churchill quality orations, each of them had obviously thought seriously about the questions and had made the effort necessary to develop a thorough and coherent argument.  These were very good speeches considering the fact that this was the first public speaking assignment most of them had ever had.  I was thrilled.

So now, I am champing at the bit to get into the next novel.  The text is hard for a middle-schooler, and the themes are very mature.  These young men and women, however, have convinced me that they will handle them with grace.  I am already excited to hear their responses to the question, "Why did Harper Lee choose the title, "To Kill a Mockingbird"?  


Friday, November 4, 2011

That Has Made All the Difference?

The Road Not Taken 

TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,       
And sorry I could not travel both      
And be one traveler, long I stood      
And looked down one as far as I could        
To where it bent in the undergrowth;        

Then took the other, as just as fair,    
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;       
Though as for that the passing there  
Had worn them really about the same,                  

And both that morning equally lay    
In leaves no step had trodden black. 
Oh, I kept the first for another day!  
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,       
I doubted if I should ever come back.                   

I shall be telling this with a sigh        
Somewhere ages and ages hence:      
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—       
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

- Robert Frost

I grow rather weary, at times, of people approaching Robert Frost's poetry as though it were all happy verse with glad imagery.  Perhaps it is the ease with which it is read and the sort of warmth that some of his images evoke within us that allow us to overlook the irony to be found in a poem such as the one plagiarized above.  The fact of the matter is that no one really knows what might have come to pass has the narrator traveled the other path.  He has no idea whatsoever how life might have been different had he chosen other than did.  Maybe he would have become rich and famous after have discovered a new variety of truffle.  Perhaps he would have been eaten by bears.  Perhaps he would have found that a giant sequoia had fallen across the path and he had to go back and take the other path anyway.  He might have spontaneously combusted.  And that really is the point.  We don't know.  We haven't any sense at all what might change if we were to choose differently than we do.  This poem is not one of happy reminiscence.  This poem, to my mind, is an expression of bitterness and resignation.  It is a "sour grapes" poem.  The narrator, unable to know what might have been, can console himself only by assuming that what he abandoned was worth abandoning.  And the reader is left to wonder, "How do you know?"

To read the poem in this manner, I think, is a much more realistic assessment of the human condition.  Bound by time and space, we are forced to make decisions.  We haven't the liberty of having all experiences or of following all paths.  When we make an affirmative decision for one thing, we are necessarily deciding against another.  That's the way life is.  This is part of what it means to be a grown-up.  It does us no good to sit around and speculate as to how life may have been otherwise.  This, in part, must be what drives men to midlife crises.  They regret the decisions they have made and try to reverse them in their later years.  It is absurd, because in the end, I don't have what might have been.  I have here, and I have now, and I have a God who loves me, and in his providence, can make all possibilities work for the good.  This, not a leafy road of happy nostalgia, makes all the difference.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Windy Day Reflections on the Devil

The few colorful fall leaves to be found in western South Dakota were to reach their peak this week, so, in typical fashion, a strong wind picked up overnight and is expected to blow throughout the rest of the day.  So, now until the snows fly, South Dakota's foliage will best be observed in the gutters of streets.  Along with the wind, today marks the arrival of this year's celebration of the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary (previously known as Our Lady of Victory) which is celebrated on the anniversary of the Battle of Lepanto during which an out-manned and unlikely navy, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, defeated the navy of the Ottoman Turks, thus saving European Christianity (especially in the South) yet again from the incessant threat of the spread of Islam.  Had the Turks won, they would have enjoyed an uncontested route to Italy and its surrounding environs.  Likewise, the Mass readings for this today bring us to Luke's account of Jesus' remarks about a house divided against itself.

The coincidence of all three of these events make a strong point to me.  The word diabolical, in its Greek origins, means to drive a wedge between or to separate something.  This is always the goal of the Evil One.  He desires that we would flutter scattered and without direction just as the wind blows the leaves.  He wants our defenses to be broken and to prevent us from having access to one another.  He wants us to become isolated, alone, and convinced that we have no friend, no advocate, and no place to turn.

Nature demonstrates the danger of such isolation.  The turkeys just outside my window this morning instinctively know that they are safer in a group than they are as individuals.  Cows know this.  Deer know this.  Wildebeests know this. Only humans, it seems to me, are unaware that to become isolated is to risk destruction.  

We need a Church.  We need a family.  We need the security of recognizing that we are never alone, and we are never abandoned.  A house divided cannot stand.  A man alone will likewise be destroyed. 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Daily Grind

Blessed John Paul the Great wrote a beautiful encyclical about the dignity of human work.  Therein he describes how, in work, man participates with God in the process of bringing order to creation and finds meaning for himself.  All work can have this effect provided that the laborer is treated with due dignity.  Whether a ditch digger or a sultan, man can take pride in and draw dignity from his work.

My own experience has proved the late pontiff's words to be true.  There were many times, mostly as a student, when I went to bed at night tired, but having done nothing during the day.  Those moments before drifting off to sleep were filled with a certain dissatisfaction and restlessness.  By way of contrast, especially since having been ordained, there have been many nights when i have gone to sleep exhausted but content at having spent my day well.

Nights such as these have become much more common of late.  Besides the general responsibilities of priesthood and ministry, I have also agreed to teach a Church History and a Literature Course for a group of home school students, I am a sponsor for two different teenaged boys, and I am the alpha and omega of the Confirmation Program at Blessed Sacrament.  Likewise, I am helping to create and educate a parish youth commission.  In a word, I find that I am happily, gloriously, swamped.

Work, as Bl. JPII points out, however, cannot become an end unto itself.  Man was not made for the sake of work.  work exists for the sake of men.  For this reason, man must always take time for the sabbath.  He must rest, and he must acknowledge that life will continue with or without him.  The world does not depend upon the accomplishments of any single individual (aside from Christ himself).  Work should lead us back to an acknowledgement of our need for and relationship with our creator.

For these reasons, I do not feel especially guilty for having taken an extra day two weeks ago to attend the Bishop's Hunt for Seminarians (to my knowledge, we have never bagged even one seminarian), and last week to attend the first annual emergency relief Fishing Tournament.  Nor, I think, will I be especially troubled to take an extra day in the coming week to go camping with Fr. Sparks.

My work, I find, is deeply fulfilling.  In the midst of so much of it, I find myself thinking, "This is what I was made for."  One of the most satisfying parts of work, though, is this:  When one works hard, one also gets to play hard.  So, to all of your laborers out there, carry on.  Build up the Kingdom of God, and work so as to deserve a rest.  Here is a song to speed you along the way:


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

WYD Blog

I will be trying to Chronicle our World Youth Day Adventures at this address:  

A Post In Which I Catch Up

Until the autumn following my ordination, had someone asked me what my favorite season of the year was, I would have immediately responded, "The Fall."  Fall, for me, is filled with a million happy memories.  In the Autumn, I went back to school to be reunited with friends I hadn't seen in months.  In High School it meant the beginning of anew theater season.  It meant the beauty of the changing leaves, and reprieve from my summer job.  Most importantly, it meant that the days began to cool.  Then, I spent two of the coldest most miserable snow-filled winters that I can remember in Rapid City.  That first winter, I distinctly recall making the decision that, should the snow ever melt, I would spent some amount of time outdoors every day that it was warm enough to do so.  I think I kept that pledge.  I also learned that people have lots of parties in the summer, and that kids are allowed to stay up late in the summer.  So, these days if someone were to ask my favorite season, I think that I would have to concede that summer wins hands-down.  Sadly, fun summers are not entirely complimentary to the process of keeping a blog.  So, the following is a bit of a summary of what has happened in the month since last I wrote.


Amid great sadness and tears, I bid my farewell to the Cathedral at the final 5th and Broadway performance.  The theme this year was World War II era music.  I sang "It's Been a Long Time" as my solo, and joined the ensemble for the closing number, "I'll Be Seeing You."  The next morning, I packed the remainder of my belongings in my car and arrived at Blessed Sacrament in time to celebrate Mass for the Feast of the Sacred Heart.

Presbyteral Ordination

The ordination for Fr. Nathan Sparks was truly beautiful.  As he made his solemn promises to the Bishop, I was reminded of my own promises, and I recommitted myself to keeping them well.  Besides my happiness for him, it was a time to recollect, and to adopt in a deeper way my primary identity as a priest united in a special way to Christ the Head.  I have to admit I was a little envious of the new priest.  For the next year or so, he will experience all of his "firsts" of priesthood.  There is nothing quite like it.

Following the ordination, I hosted a party at my new rectory.  People from all over the diocese were there, and I had a marvelous time.  My new place is well suited for parties.  I expect to have many more.

Totus Tuus Boys Camp

I spent a week at the Totus Tuus Boys Camp this summer, and it was really a superb camp.  The High School Leadership was truly exceptional, and with a focus on the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I think that every boy, as well as the priests and seminarians, had a profound encounter with the love of the Lord.  If the reports I have been hearing from mothers of campers is accurate, it was a camp well-received, the 100 degree days notwithstanding.

This year featured no serious injuries or illness, and no particular acts of heroism.  It was just boys being boys, and men being boys with them.  All in all, a lovely way to spend a week.  At the end of the camp, we bid farewell to Fr. Brian Christensen as Director of Vocations and handed the reigns to Fr. Kevin Achbach.  If we can maintain any of the fervor the camp generated, he is going to have his hands full in a few years.


I was sent by the diocese to preach in Columbus, Ohio hoping to raise some money for us.  I discovered that Ohio is a pretty dreadful place, at least in terms of climate.  With a stiff breeze, I could easily have gone surfing outside my window given the humidity of the place.  Other than that, it was a lovely weekend in a quaint little Ohio town.  Unfortunately, due to the size of the parish, I doubt I made enough money to even pay for my plane ticket.  I would feel slightly guilty about that had I not enjoyed the pastor of the parish so much.

He is a tremendously interesting man.  He studied for a time with Benedictines, he has a doctoral degree from Rome, which is interesting only because it allowed him to meet so many people.  He drops names in his conversations with people, but not in an arrogant way.  It is just that he happens to be acquainted with a lot of rather significant people in Catholic circles.  He would say things like, "I went to see Cardinal O"Mally receive such and such an award, and was seated with Fr. Groeschel.  I hadn't seen him in years, so we were catching up when Cardinal Rigali, stopped by our table to, etc . . . )  What really captured me about this man, however, was his love for young priests and the hope they bring to the Church.  There are times when old priests are antagonistic toward their younger brothers.  This man was not that way at all.  It was encouraging.

Episcopal Ordination

I finally have a new bishop, and from what I have experienced so far, a very good one.  As yet, there is no clear indication as to what his program will be, but this much seems certain:  he will make us holy.  I am amazed at his humility and his candor when he speaks.  I think I will be glad to follow and obey him.

World Youth Day

Tomorrow I leave for Spain.  About fifty pilgrims from this diocese will join about 1.5 million other Catholics from around the world to share our faith, to celebrate it, and to hear our Holy Father address us.  Spain is hot, Madrid is an old city, and Italians can always be counted upon to be the most inconsiderate people in Europe, so it promises to be perfectly dreadful.  But, a pilgrimage should entail some degree of suffering.  Pray fr us and our safety while we are away.  Follow our adventures here:

So, by the time I return the kids will be back in school, pheasant season will be on the horizon, and it will be nearly autumn.  Football and soccer will be in full swing, and life will be back to the frantic pace that comes with the school year's arrival.  But, all in all, it has been a good summer. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

Woodstock Revisited

I have mentioned in the past that I am a fan of the theater, and Rapid City, as small as it is, has a fairly active arts community.  In general, I would consider myself a patron of the arts.  The Church has a long and rich history of helping to provide for the needs of artists, particularly inasmuch as she has historically been one of the primary institutions to commissions great works of art.  Significant names such as Michelangelo, Mozart, and Bernini are among the artists whose fame was achieved, in some part, by work they accomplished for the Church.  Thus, I feel largely vindicated in paying an outrageous fee for a ticket to a show.  Likewise, I strive to support the efforts of students involved in the arts at school.

My patronage, however, has its limits.

About a week ago, a friend from high school and I decided that we would go to the Black Hills Playhouse to take in their latest production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.  I had seen a Playhouse interpretation of this musical in the past and was very pleased with it.  I expected that, though different in some ways, this production would be similarly satisfying.  I managed to maintain this merry sentiment until we arrived in the driveway of the Playhouse.  We were greeted by a youthful hippie directing us toward our parking place.  Other young hippies were doing similar work.  Exiting the vehicle, we discovered that the entire campus of the theater was infested with hippies.  Beads and leather and fringe abounded.  They were scattered about the lawn playing games with one another, others huddled in small groups chatting and smoking near the restroom door, and still others wandered among the gathering crowd welcoming viewers to the performance.

We acquired our tickets from the box office and were escorted to our seats in the right balcony by a less flamboyant hippie.  To my horror, a whole separate group of hippies had taken control of the stage and were regaling the audience with hippie propaganda in the form of some bizarre Mother-earth story.  When they had finished, we were treated to an a Capella rendition of I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing.  About the time that the singing hippies were pining to buy the world a coke, a wandering minstrel hippie with a guitar arrived to join the fun.  He played along with the singing she-hippies until the end of the song.  So entranced were they by their own music that they took to dancing on the stage.  This was followed by an impromptu acrobatic performance by several other hippies.  I cannot be certain, but I think this was intended to be interpreted as an homage to the sexual revolution (after all, everything a hippie does is at least implicitly meant to celebrate the sexual revolution).  Having cast their spells over the less wary members of the audience, the hippies then convinced people to join them onstage for dirty hippie games until the beginning of the performance.

By this time I had ascertained that these hippies were all to be in the show.  Soon the lights dimmed, the hippies scattered like cockroaches (an apropos metaphor for them, really), the spotlight came up, and one of the she-hippies made her appearance playing the role of the narrator.  Other than the hippie stuff, she was excellent.  Likewise, some of the dancers in the chorus were quite good.  In all, though, the show was mediocre.  The man cast as Joseph was apparently chosen less for his ability to sing and act than for his physical approximation of Donny Osmond.  The character of Pharaoh was a sad imitation of Elvis, more akin to the broken old man who died on his toilet than the virile white southern boy who could sing like a black man.

In one of his less lucid moments, the director decided that the song Any Dream Will Do was to be cut from the beginning of the show (it is hard to reprise a song at the end which was never sung in the beginning).  The Playhouse either cannot afford or cannot find live musicians, leaving them to depend upon a recorded version of the soundtrack for the music accompanying the performance.  Better recorded music can be found in a karaoke bar.  Other than Dan Workman (who, though a seasoned actor and a theater coach at Augustana College, was extremely disappointing) in his role as Jacob, the whole cast was very young, perhaps too young.  This performance was at best, an ok college performance.  

As I have said, I am not indisposed to pay for good art.  I am, however, indisposed to pay rather steep prices for poor seats at a less than stellar performances of well known and much loved musicals.  I appreciate the difficulties the playhouse has encountered in the last several years.  If, however, they desire to succeed and even excel in the theatrical arts as they once did, they are going to have to send their hippies backstage and do the hard work necessary to win patrons as once did the venerable artists upon whose shoulders they would presume to stand.    

Thursday, July 7, 2011


For several weeks now, I have known that I needed to get home.  I hadn't seen my parents in several weeks, we had talked on the telephone only long enough to convey various pieces of vital information, I was getting edgy.  Likewise, I hadn't seen my brothers in any kind of prolonged way for months, and for whatever reason, our phone conversations occurred only in quick snippets as I ran from one thing to the next.  But, I was moving and trying to see everyone before going, and I put off visiting home knowing that it would still be there when I eventually got there.  That, I know, is a dangerous assumption to make.  If one stays away long enough the home one left behind begins to disintegrate.  What was old and familiar disappears.  For me, this has not happened yet, but I know it can happen if I am not careful.

I have reflected on this fact to some degree in the weeks since I last wrote.  To a certain extent, my immediate biological family suffers as a result of my own vocation.  I know that they love me, I assume that they know I love them, but there are moments when I struggle because I am the father of a family here in Rapid City, and that fatherhood has to take precedence over what would otherwise be pressing obligations to my biological family.  They, however, are (usually) very deliberate about keeping themselves connected to me.  This is a fact for which I am very grateful.

In the last several weeks, I have run the emotional gamut.  Near the end of last week, I was exhausted in body and spirit.  Like my phone whose battery constantly seems to be on the verge of dying, I new I needed to be recharged, and I knew that a strategic withdrawal to Red Owl would be the only way to accomplish such a renewal.  So, shortly before the Fourth of July, I called my brothers and more or less begged them to come home, and I arranged to spend two days on the ranch.  They were among the best days of the summer so far.  I played catch with my dad, brother, and nephews.  I threatened to attack my mother with the garden hose.  I went swimming in a small stock dam.  I went fishing for bass.  I shot skeet with my dad and brothers.  I lit fireworks with my whole family.  I surveyed the garden and greenhouse.  I harassed my sisters-in-law, and held my baby nieces.  We played guitars and harmonicas, and ate food prepared over good hardwood embers.  We drank some beer, shot pistols (not necessarily in that order), and generally had a good time of it all.  The next day I helped slaughter a beef, and then I slept and slept and slept.  In the evening I fished again, and finally came back to town.

From all of this I acquired a lovely bronze hue in the face and arms, and a less lovely pink hue across the neck, shoulders, and legs.  More importantly, I got plugged in.  I was reminded of where I came from, who I was, and what I am about.  Most certainly, I rested, but more importantly, I really lived.  A good plunge in a stinking mossy water hole does a great deal to revive the soul.  Thus revived, a great meal in the American tradition gives a soul luster and sheen.  A family, though, is the thing that sustains it.  Early this week, my family did that for me.    

Sunday, June 19, 2011


Life unfolds at whirlwind pace sometimes.  I am always amazed when people ask what I have been up to, and I cannot quite recall though I know that I have been on the go.  It has been that way for several weeks.  Oddly, it is most when I am trying to make life stand still for a moment, to savor something good for just a little longer, that the pace really seems to accelerate.

The seniors have all graduated from high school.  They were the first group of kids with whom I worked when I started at the Cathedral.  I made appearances at several receptions, and was able to attend the St. Thomas More commencement ceremony.  Andy Hanson and Johnny Hofer addressed their classmates at that ceremony, and both spoke well.  Johnny was exceptional in his witness to the faith as he spoke.  That day left me feeling great pride in their success and a little sad at their impending departures to universities and institutions all over the nation.

I find that I am out of the loop here in the parish.  Because of my new assignment, I am largely excluded from the decision making process here at the Cathedral these days.  As a result, I notice a lot going on around here, but I seldom know exactly what is happening.  Other than my usual schedule of Masses and confessions, I don't officially have a lot to do.  Nevertheless, various surprise appointments and the like seem to pop up every day.

I find that I am spending a great deal of time with "my kids."  The more time I spend with them before leaving only reminds me, though, that no amount of time will be quite enough.  Happily, in an attempt to squeeze out every moment I can, I have caught vast numbers of trout already this summer.  Most are only mediocre in size, but a few have been over the seventeen inch mark.  I intend to go again this evening.

I spent last week on retreat, which should have been a great experience, but was not.  I had a hard time focusing.  I didn't want to be away; I wanted to be at home absorbing a few more moments with the people here.  There were graces for sure, and the fraternity with the brother priests was good for my soul.  To return home, however, was the greatest consolation of the week for me.

I have begun meeting with various staff members at my new parish working on plans for next year.  I will be leading the confirmation class, and will continue to play a part in the Life Teen Program.  Likewise, I will be responsible for the Wednesday evening Youth Masses.  It looks like I will be doing some teaching among the home school crowd, and otherwise, I will do the things that a priest does.  Masses, Confessions, Weddings and Funerals - the bread and butter of a parish priest.  In some ways, I look forward getting over there just so that my schedule can adopt a certain structure.

In the meanwhile I continue to lose weight, and I can't seem to find enough to do to keep me outside.  The days have been so lovely that I was even conned into playing Ultimate Frisbee a week ago.  I finally managed to get a garden in, so that provides me a little recourse to the outdoors.  Presuming, of course, that something will grow.  The cantaloupe are already dying.   

I have been beset with odd dreams which dissolve into only faint recollections as I awake.  I remember only enough to know that they are odd.

All over town, people congratulate me on my move, and most seem sincere when they tell me that they are excited to have me come to their parish.  I am starting to get excited too.  As miserable as it is to say goodbye, I am reminded that we are a people born of the resurrection, and that these goodbyes at the Cathedral give rise to new life at Blessed Sacrament.  Christ surely did not enjoy the cross, but he was glorious on the third day.

I was recently thinking about my graduation from eighth grade.  I was allowed to address my classmates for that event, and as I spoke, I reminded them that change was inevitable.  It remains one of the few constants in life; all things change.  The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus concluded that all things, like a river, are in flux.  Along with Heraclitus, I was only half right.  Almost all things change.  What does not change, however, is God himself.  From eternity until eternity, he remains the same, perpetually existing as a communion of persons and yet one.  The love of our God, three and one is also unchanging.  So, try as I may to cling to these fleeting moments, they manage to slip away as sand falls through ones fingers.  But, to my wonderment, as my fist closes around them and they vanish, I find that I am left holding a little piece of our unchanging God who was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever, whether here, at Blessed Sacrament, in the Boundary Waters, on retreat in North Dakota, or anywhere else.    


Saturday, May 28, 2011


So, I have returned from my great northern adventure, and am now able to add to the list of things I have accomplished, "Paddled a Canoe to Canada and Back".  This achievement is of monumental importance to me, but it remains uncertain as to exactly how to describe it, as I am not sure what it all means for me.  For now, I conclude that this trip was the capstone of a year and a half transformation in my life wherein God has revealed a part of my manhood (and thus, also my priesthood) that had heretofore gone unrecognized.  It was necessary that I paddle that canoe.  I had to prove that I could.  Having done so, I am a little disappointed that I did not experience a Braveheart "Freedom!" sort of moment, nor a surge of testosterone compelling me to return from the woods with a full beard and dressed in the skins of recently dead animals.  At the end of it, I find I remain very much the same as I was when I left.  It is all a bit anticlimactic, but nevertheless, it is a very big experience which will take me some length of time to digest.

There is too much to detail as a narrative.  I did it.  I am glad to have done it.  I don't anticipate repeating the experience soon, but who knows.  I am told that it gets a little easier every time.  In what follows, I will try to address various vignettes of the trip in a somewhat thematic way.

Near Death Experiences

Of these, there were only two.  It is worth noting that when we embarked on our little journey, the ice had only been off of the water for about two weeks.  It was still bitterly cold, generally very deep, and often we were what seemed like miles from shore as we crossed the various lakes.Likewise, it is worth noting that until last Saturday, my experiences with a canoe were limited to about a two hour paddle on Lake Pactola with Fr. Tim Hoag and Fr. Marcin Garbacz (actually Fr. Tim and I paddled.  Fr. Marcin sat in the middle reading and enjoying the lake as though he were Cleopatra floating down the Nile).  As a result, I did not realize, as we made our way into the wilderness toward our campsite, that we had arrived at a bit of a crisis situation when the nose of our canoe crashed into a rock while the current of the river pushed the tail of the same canoe into another rock leaving us sitting perpendicular to the flow of water.  Michael Hofer was very patient as he said to me "What you are doing really isn't helping."  I only began to grow concerned when I heard that panic in his voice as he announced that water was coming over the side of the canoe.  Somehow we managed to push off the rocks and right ourselves.  The remainder of the trip to the campsite was relatively uneventful.

Upon leaving the boundary waters on the last day, we encountered a little wind making the water pretty choppy.  It was impossible to see rocks hiding just below the surface of the water.  Their presence became immediately apparent, however, when Michael and I suddenly found ourselves high-centered on top of one.  After several minutes of trying to finagle our way off of it, Michael instructed me to balance myself and grab the rails of the canoe.  Because he was behind me,. I couldn't tell what he was doing (which, it turns out, was probably best).  He managed to get one foot out of the canoe and push off the rock with one foot.  We rocked and rolled, and finally righted ourselves.  "Were you just standing up in the canoe?" I asked.  "No."  Michael responded.  Like I said, it was best that I didn't see what he was doing.

Wherein I Felt Compelled to Beat Someone with a Canoe Paddle   

The entire trip to the campsite was somewhere between fifteen and twenty miles.  The paddling was occasionally interrupted by portages wherein we were required to carry canoe and gear overland to get to the next lake.  While the packs were heavy, most of the portages on the way in were pretty short, and I felt much more secure on terra firma than on the water, so I rather enjoyed these little walks.  The last portage came about halfway to the campsite.  It was at this point that I actually left the canoe and walked onto Canadian soil.  Reaching the end of the portage, we took a short break, and as I rested, spread-eagle, on a rock near the water, I explained to Michael that my arms had staged a coup against my brain and were no longer taking orders.  They would not paddle another stroke.  Michael laughed and assured me that I would get a second wind.  Within ten minutes of reentering the canoe for the longest paddle of the trip, the rain began.  It was not cold, and at first, not unpleasant.  It was however, quite wet.  I got even wetter a couple of hours later trying to disembark from the canoe for a short break on the shore when a convenient looking rock turned out to be as slippery as a trout.  Happily, Michael fell in trying to get out on the same rock, demonstrating that it was not simply a lack of grace on my own part that had landed me in the water.  We sat a few minutes and then decided that it was just as good being miserably wet in the canoe as it was being miserably wet on shore.  We took off paddling toward what Michael assured me was the second to last bay we had to cross on the trip.  As it turns out, he was wrong, and we had taken a scenic detour to explore the contours of Wednesday Bay.  Retracing our path back toward open water, I wondered if I had enough strength left to kill him.

It was not until we were on the return trip that my homicidal longing was reignited.  The packs on the way out were, despite all logic, heavier than the packs going in to the campsite.  This was not such a bad thing.  They were heavy, but I was doing alright.  I was winded when we reached the top of one portage, not long but very steep, and asked who had placed a lake on top of Mt. Kilimanjaro.  The next portage, however, was at least a mile long - significantly longer than any I had walked before.  When I finally reached the far shore, I looked at the man who had arranged the trip (and who, coincidentally, had decided that it was necessary to bring a small gas stove, camp chairs for every camper, and a variety of other items I deemed more and more unnecessary every time I took a step), and without even a hint of sarcasm told him that if I had had to walk even one hundred yards more, I would have beaten him with a canoe paddle and thrown all the gear in the lake.

Of Fish

The fishing was amazing.  Within ten seconds of dropping my line in the water I had caught my first walleye.  I caught two more within the hour.  By the end of our trip we had caught 142 walleye, and well over 200 fish total.  Of them, we ate twenty-five and threw the rest back to breed another year.  The largest catch was a eight or nine pound walleye.  There is photographic evidence of this somewhere.

These campers were walleye snobs.  If they caught a bass, they threw it back at the water with disgust as though it were a bullhead or a bluegill or some such thing.  In South Dakota, we would have been proud to have kept fish like they threw away.  Absolutely great fishing.

The twenty-five that we ate were perhaps the best tasting fish I have ever consumed.  One of the survival skills natural selection has given to the vast majority of fish is their repulsive odor and taste.  Too bad for the walleye that when battered and fried, they are succulent.

Sundry Boundary Water Horrors

I am not sure that in the boundary waters there exists a truly pleasant day.  While there we experienced all of the following in greater or lesser quantities:  Mosquitoes and Sandflies (like tiny houseflies, and undeterred by deet) in quantities akin to the Plagues of Egypt.  I accidentally ate many of them, some took up residence in my ears, and others in my nose.  Wind.  Rain.  Scorching heat.  Cold, cold nights.  It was all par for the course, though, and a necessary part of an authentic boundary waters experience.  I must say, however, that I have bites in various places on my body where no insect had any business being.  I'm not sure how they got there.

Small Treasures

One learns to really appreciate dry clothes, warm feet, and wood dry enough to start a good fire.  One also learns to appreciate one's own foresight in having brought along a goodly amount of pipe tobacco and a couple of pipes.  One appreciates good friends who live along the way who let you stay at their houses for the night, and wait up for you as you get lost trying to find them.  On returning home, one appreciates a bed, a pillow, and the familiar smell of woodsmoke from one's own area.  Most of the wood we burned was birch.  It never smelled quite right to me.  Give me pine and ash smoke over birch smoke any day.   

Behold, I am With You Always

It is pretty cool to celebrate Mass in the wild knowing that regardless of how far I was from humanity, I was still able to do the most essential thing for the salvation of their souls.  God was not necessarily more apparent to me in the natural world, but he was close in new ways.  I liked that a lot.

Insight Into the Lives of Our Forefathers

Had it been my responsibility, the people of the great lakes region would never have been evangelized.  After one day of paddling, I would have said to my companions, "I've had enough.  Let them go to Hell."  It is amazing to me that people once traveled everywhere by canoe, or by horse, or on foot.  They carried everything.  They made everything themselves.  When crippled, they had to care for themselves.  When sick, they lived or they died without the ministrations of a medical professional.  I thought of that often as we swung the ax to split firewood, or as a hook tried to lodge itself in a finger.  People used to be tough.  While I am awed by them, I do not envy them; I harbor no desire to live as they did.  I rather like my cell phone and indoor plumbing.


Beyond the fish, I saw beavers and beaver dams.  After crossing over the dam, I decided that beavers are a menace.  We killed a mouse who was helping himself to our supplies (among them, the Ibuprofen).  We saw a small snake, and a junebug.  There was also a moose in our camp one night, but I did not see it.  That was a disappointment, as moose are pretty much my favorite animals.


In total our party was eight.  Two of us were novice campers, the rest had varying levels of experience.  I was particularly impressed by one guy, about ten years older than me.  He grew up on those waters, worked for some years with an outfitter who prepared people to travel the waters, and he has vacationed there regularly for his whole life.  He was genuinely kind, always helpful, full of incredibly useful information about the flora, fauna, and geography of the region, and ultimately, a deeply devout man.  His example of true Catholic masculinity was incredible.  He is the kind of guy that other men are born to follow.  It was great to meet him.  The other men on the trip were great too, but as an introvert, it was a bit hard for me to be with a group I didn't know especially well.  Because of this, the conversations we had often remained superficial and sometimes dull.  If I go again someday, I will go with more people that I know.

In Conclusion . . .

The trip began on Friday, we paddled on Saturday, it concluded on Wednesday, and I was home on Thursday.  I find that it was good to be away from my phone and computer, and the trip allowed me a little time to get used to leaving this parish.  It will still be sad, but like any knight errant or adventurer, I have come to realize that it is time to move on.  As I said, this was a pretty significant trip.  I have some mementos of it that I will probably frame eventually.  In the meanwhile, I will content myself with catching trout.  That sort of fishing is a little more my style (I caught five last night).  One of these days, I suppose I will go back.  But not anytime soon.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

On A Lighter Note

I think I might die on Saturday.

About two weeks ago, a status update appeared in my Facebook newsfeed asking if anyone wanted to go to the Minnesota Boundary waters.  Half-jokingly, I sent a note to the author suggesting that i would want to come.  He returned a message asking if I was serious and giving me a few things to consider before making a final decision.  Among these factors was that the trip would entail between six and ten hours of canoe paddling.  I thought about it but decided it would be hard to get the time off, and decided not to do it.

A few days later a seminarian from our diocese called to tell me that he would be joining that trip, but would be going later, and did I want to go with him.  It seemed too providential that this opportunity should present itself twice, and so after a brief conversation with the pastor (it took him about three minutes to arrange the schedule to permit me to have the time off) I called the seminarian and told him I was in.

I have wanted to do a boundary waters trip for about a year now.  The Lord has placed all of these new interests and hobbies (hunting, fishing, etc . . .) in my life, and such a trip seemed like a perfect culmination to a lengthy process of growth.  The idea of going into the wilderness with a bunch of other men was, for the first time, attractive to me.  I envied others who were planning such trips for themselves, and unsuccessfully tried to get myself invited.  It comes a bit of a surprise to myself, then, that even though I am excited to leave, I am also experiencing a vague feeling of panic.  Ten hours of rowing (One way) is a lot of rowing.  I am severely out of shape.  I am not a strong swimmer.  I get cold easily.  I like indoor plumbing.  I don't especially like insects.

But, this is a great adventure, and an adventure is just what I need.  I think it will help put into perspective the new leg of the adventure of following Christ I will undertake beginning July 1. 

I leave tomorrow and paddle on Saturday.  I'll write more when I return next week. Presuming, of course, that I don't die in the boundary waters.   

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

What Becomes of the Broken-hearted

It's official.  Effective July 1, I will become the associate pastor at Blessed Sacrament Church in Rapid City.  Soon thereafter, Fr. Nathan Sparks will assume his duties as associate pastor of the Cathedral Parish.

For months now, I have suspected that this would happen.  To some extent, because of that, I have been too easily convinced to go out and have fun with people rather than do my work in the office.  I have been trying to milk every moment of time I can with the people I have come to love.  For several weeks prior to learning this news myself, I found myself in tears for no apparent reason just because the thought of leaving was so painful.

I had hoped that once I knew for sure, it would get easier.  It didn't, especially because I was not allowed to tell anyone that I would be leaving until they learned it through the official announcements in the parish.  I have to admit that I did not keep this secret well.  There were plenty of people who knew before the announcement was made.  It was too much to carry alone.

For some, I suppose, this may sound silly.  I am just moving across town, after all.  It is much more than that, though.  I am leaving my family, and I am entrusting them to the care of another.  I am leaving my fishing buddies, my hunting buddies, my friends, my brothers, my sons.  While there will remain perpetually a special bond between us, from now on, they are no longer mine.  And as ridiculous as it is, a part of me worries, "Will I be replaced in their hearts?  Am I just one more in the progression of priests who pass through the Cathedral every couple of years?"  For Fr. Nathan's sake I hope I will.  For my own, I hope I will not.

I feel terrible too, because I worry that I approach my new parish with a heart divided.  I wonder how I am going to be able to love them?  They are good people and they deserve a priest dedicated to them?  How do I give my heart to them now?

The realistic part of myself knows that this was going to happen sooner or later, and that when I eventually leave Blessed Sacrament it will happen there too.  That knowledge terrifies me.  How many times can I give my heart knowing that it will ultimately be rent in two?  It is this reality that I have been writing about for several posts now.  I need to let my heart be pierced, and to recognize this experience as a profound experience of love.  But it is, literally, the most painful thing I have ever had to do.

Once I made light of a difficulty a cousin of mine was having in a relationship with a woman.  My Father rebuked me, "Has your heart ever been broken?  When it is maybe you will understand."  

It seems that I am finally beginning to understand.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Mission Accomplished (Sort Of)

One year ago today I published my first post for Prairie Father.  At the time, I had great aspirations of publishing one a day.  Then once a week.  Then, as the mood struck me.  I find, nevertheless, that the reasons for which I first began writing remain much the same: To have a place to help process the experiences of a young priest hoping to become a better priest, and to pursue holiness.  This blog has done a great deal to help me.  Without it, I would likely not have articulated the change of course I needed upon arriving at my thirtieth year.  Without it, I would likely not have understood how I was being called to allow my heart to be pierced like the heart of Christ.  Without it, I would likely not have been able to give a name to the ways in which God was calling me to give vent to newly discovered facets of my personality.  So, in many ways, Prairie Father is doing what it is supposed to do.  Thanks to all of you who are reading.  Because of you, I am encouraged to give words to thoughts, feelings, and experiences that would otherwise go unexplored in my own mind.  Thank you for your prayers, your encouragement, and your challenges to me.  Once again, I commend this work to the intercession of our Blessed Mother and St. John Vianney.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us.
St. John Vianney, pray for us.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Self Improvement

For reasons I cannot fully explain at present,  I have been little inclined to write for a while. Suffice it to say that I am a little blue these days.  Every day, however, comes with its own set of blessings, and today's was a rather encouraging one.

As I noted in my last post, during Lent, I began visiting a dietitian.  I saw her again today, and  can report that after seven weeks, I have lost twenty-six pounds, nearly four inches around the waist, and almost two around the hips.  This has happened primarily through a major change in diet; more vegetables more often and less pasta (in other words, none).  I find that this is a small price to pay for the benefits I am already enjoying.

Though diet itself will help a great deal, I am told that I need to include an exercise regimen into my lifestyle.  I am encouraged to find something that I like to do, which is easy enough except that the things I like to do don't really lend themselves to everyday engagement.  For instance, while I sometimes walk great distances in giving chase to the wiley pheasant, I am only allowed to do this a limited number of times between the months of October and January.  Likewise, I am willing to walk some distance to do battle with the elusive trout, but my schedule permits me only a miserly quantity of time to devote to this pursuit.  One thing that my schedule does seem to permit, however, is two bowling.  I can bowl two games almost every day, and finish within half an hour or so.  Unfortunately, bowling is hardly an aerobic workout.  While it does seem to do a lot of good in terms of muscle, it dos little to actually raise my pulse.*

I recently went outside to play catch with some teenage kids and got a real kick out of it.  Sadly, I throw like a girl.  I would like to believe that this is the natural side effect of having thrown nothing but a rope as a child, and I might be able to convince myself of the veracity of this sentiment were that I had ever been even a mediocre roper.  Such is not the case.  I find that I rope like a girl too.  No.  Strike that.  Most girls rope better than I do.  As it is, I have decided that it is high time for my father to teach me to throw a ball.**

In the seminary, I walked a great deal.  I was glad for the anonymity an evening constitutional granted me.  In the neighborhood of the Cathedral, to walk is to beg encounters with parishioners, and it is therefore less appealing.

I would like to begin lifting weights, and I think that I could deal with the fact that most teenage boys could lift more than me, but I just can't stand the idea of going to the gym to do it, and I would need to find someone to go with me besides.  I have some light weights and an exercise band in my rooms, but I find that given my approach to morning (i.e. avoiding it as long as possible), I have little to time to commit to these tools.

But, I have lost twenty-six pounds and intend to lose a great deal more.  One thing at a time I have to remind myself.  One thing at a time.

* This statement is not altogether true.  I find that throwing a ball down the gutter three frames in a row actually does raise my pulse.  Just not in the helpful exercisey sort of way.

** This should explain m urgent demand that my father dig through the closet to find the ball, bat, and glove that live there.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Refining Dreary

Paul Gustave Dore, A Midnight Dreary
Having arrived nearly at its end, I am just now getting around to talking about Lent.  I haven't any profound meditations on the theological and liturgical meanings of the season.  Rather, I offer some insight into my own Lent.

Historically speaking, I don't like Lent.  It is long, and it comes at the most dreadful time of year when the snow has been around interminably, the skies remain a consistent, brooding, dull gray, and people having grown weary of the cold become listless and sulky.  Moreover, for the ten years during which I was in formation, Lent hailed the arrival of Seminary Evaluations.  Though a necessary evil, no one enjoyed the process.  "Dreary", I suppose, might describe how I have known the season of Lent.  This year was different.

As far as my own penances go, I adopted two principally.  First, I would get out of bed by 7:00 AM or earlier.  While this does not seem a sacrifice to most people I suspect, it was a major sacrifice for me.  I hate morning.  It is a deeply painful experience for me to be required to communicate with parishioners in the sacristy as I prepare for the 7:00 AM weekday Masses.  I am generally much better by the end of Mass, but prior, I am best left undisturbed.  This penance has proven a nearly total failure.

Second, in keeping with a months long argument I have been having with the Lord and the revelations I wrote about on the occasion of my thirtieth birthday, I decided it was time to take up arms against my vanity, swallow my pride, and ask for help in losing weight.  In the first week of Lent, I saw my dietician for the first time.  Though she forbade me from eating nearly everything I like most, this resolution has proven enormously successful.  Thus far, I have lost around twenty pounds, my mood (even before the early Mass) has improved tremendously, and I find a new joyfulness.

Likewise, I redoubled my commitment to my prayer.  My reflections the last time I wrote are connected to this action.  I find that the Lord is taking me more and more into the mystery of his own pierced heart.  There are times when I hang with him on the Cross, knowing full well his presence, but crying out with him, "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?"  These are what I can only describe as a hard consolation; they reveal the depths of love and are filled with a simultaneous experience of agony and joy.  My heart has been pierced, and to be a good priest, I must allow it to be pierced over and over again.

Arising from my prayer have come both a new and insatiable desire to be holy and a longing to sacrifice.  The latter of these is connected with my celebration of the Mass and with what I wrote in the previous paragraph.  Such sacrifice, I believe, will lead me to holiness.  For my people who read this, please remind me to be holy.  Don't let me off the hook.  I can do nothing for you if I do not attempt to be holy myself first and foremost.

In a new way, the Lectionary readings for the season of Lent have had profound meaning this year.  I have preached repeatedly on the need to use Lent as a time to tame our wills.  All that I have preached has been equally applicable to myself as to my people.  I seem to be listening to myself in a way that I had not always done before.

Holy Week and Easter now loom before me.  I will sing the Exsultet for the first time at the parish in Custer this year before baptizing (and confirming) my sister-in-law and my niece.  Easter promises to be especially glorious.

All in all, the Lord has been doing tremendous work in me this Lent, and it has been a joyful season full of hope, gratitude, and gladness.  These adjectives, I find, are much more satisfying than is "dreary". 

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Won't You Stay

Over and over, I find myself talking of love, demonstrating that Christ on the Cross reveals love in its purest form.  "His love is selfless," I remind people.  He pours himself out freely, completely, faithfully, and fruitfully.  He holds nothing back for himself.  It has no desire to possess, to grasp, to take.  It only desires to give.  It is this same love that we find each time we receive the Eucharist, and each time that husband and wife reaffirm their wedding vows in the marital embrace.  It has no desire to possess, to grasp, to take.  It only desires to give

It is this same love, too, that a priest should express each time he celebrates the Mass.  I find, though, that my love is selfish.

As I climb the stairs toward my room each Sunday, I am filled with a deep sadness, loneliness, and aching.  I have spent the day with my people: Mass, Prayer Groups, Life Night, Confessions.  But, at the end of the night, they go home, and I wander to my room, wondering, "Do they know how much I love them?"

Sometimes I leave the rectory and go elsewhere, spending the evening with people, knowing that if I am tired enough when I return home, this longing to love and be loved will be numbed.  Sometimes I sit in front of the television until it has anesthetized me.  Sometimes I read until I can't keep my eyes open.  On my best days, though, I sit in my room and I wallow in the aching, wanting so badly to possess those whom I love, and knowing that were I to possess them, were I to be like them, were I to be going to their homes and families, and lives apart from me, I could not love them as I love them, for to be like them in that way would mean that I could not love them as a priest.

When last I wrote, I suggested that love will always wound us.  It always comes at a cost.  I suspect that I will pay for the love I find in Christ in weekly installments.

Jackson Browne seems to capture this sentiment in some ways.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Little Prince

A common strategy in preaching, employed with parents who tend to stop listening when the homily begins, is to preach to the children.  Parents think this is cute, and they pay strict attention to see what  cute things Father is saying to their children.  Father, however, knows that this will happen, and so he says things that, while comprehensible to the children, are really directed at the parents.  It works every time.

Such, I think, was the strategy of Antoine de Saint-Auxupery when he wrote his famous novella for children, The Little Prince.  While in Minnesota several weeks back, J. Thorp had shown me a copy of the book that he intended to read.  I was paging through and decided I would need to revisit the text as I had not opened my own copy since my senior year in college.  Thus, after Dostoevsky, hoping for something lighter, I devoured the novella.  In tone, it is indeed much easier to read.  In substance, it is equally profound.

The work begins with the narrator, have made a crash landing in the Sahara Desert, attempting to fix his plane.  In the midst of this, he meets a boy who asks him to draw a sheep.  The man, after several failed attempts, draws a box and tells the boy the sheep is within. The boy claims that he can see the sheep, and thereafter, begins, piecemeal, to describe how he came to be in the desert alone.  He has arrived from his own planet where he lived along with a very vain Rose who believed herself to be unique in all of creation.  Eventually the boys leaves the planet and visits several others, inhabited by foolish men, before coming to Earth. 

On earth, he meets a variety of creatures teaching him valuable lessons.  Among them are a desert flower, a snake, and a whole bed of roses like the one he has left behind, and a fox who asks the boy to tame him so that the two might play together.  The fox explains to the prince that to tame him means "to establish ties."  He goes to to explain the nature of the ties established when one tames something:

If you tame me, it'll be as if the sun came to shine on my life. I shall know the sound of a step that'll be different from all the others. Other steps send me hurrying back underneath the ground. Yours will call me, like music out of my burrow. And then look: you see the grain-fields down yonder? I do not eat bread. Wheat is of no use to me. The wheat fields have nothing to say to me. And that is sad. But you have hair that is the color of gold. Think how wonderful that will be when you have tamed me! The grain, which is also golden, will bring me back the thought of you. And I shall love to listen to the wind in the wheat...

The prince tames the fox, but after a time knows that he must move on.   As he prepares to depart, he and the fox share this interchange:

And when the hour of his departure drew near—

"Ah," said the fox, "I shall cry."

"It's your own fault," said the little prince.
"I never wished you any sort of harm; but you wanted me to tame you…"

"Yes that is so", said the fox.

"But now you're going to cry!" said the little prince.

"Yes that is so" said the fox.

"Then it has done you no good at all!"

"It has done me good," said the fox, "because of the color of the wheat fields."
And then he added: "go and look again at the roses.
You'll understand now that yours is unique in all the world.
Then come back to say goodbye to me, and I will make you a present of a secret."

The little prince went away, to look again at the roses.
"You're not at all like my rose," he said.
"As yet you are nothing. No one has tamed you, and you have tamed no one.
You're like my fox when I first knew him.
He was only a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes.
But I have made a friend, and now he's unique in all the world."
And the roses were very much embarrassed.
"You're beautiful, but you're empty," he went on. "One could not die for you.
To be sure, an ordinary passerby would think that my rose looked just like you
–the rose that belongs to me. But in herself alone she's more important
than all the hundreds of you other roses:
because it is she that I have watered;
because it is she that I have put under the glass globe;
because it is for her that I've killed the caterpillars
(except the two or three we saved to become butterflies);
because it is she that I have listened to, when she grumbled,
or boasted, or even sometimes when she said nothing.
Because she is MY rose."

And he went back to meet the fox.
"Goodbye" he said.

"Goodbye," said the fox.
"And now here's my secret, a very simple secret:
It is only with the heart that one can see rightly;
what is essential is invisible to the eye."

"What is essential is invisible to the eye,"
the little prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember.

"It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important."

"It is the time I have wasted for my rose–"
said the little prince so he would be sure to remember.

"Men have forgotten this truth," said the fox. "But you must not forget it.
You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.
You are responsible for your rose…"
 This, to my mind, is a masterful conceptualization of the meaning of love.  Love tames us.  It forges ties between us.  Love will always hurt us.  This, I think, is the truth of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  Him, whose heart was filled with love for us, to show his loved, allowed that same heart to be pierced by a lance.  So too must we love.  So often we hesitate because we have been hurt by love.  We hold back for fear that our love will bring us to pain, but in truth, it is that same pain that becomes the surest mark of true love.  Pain is the cost of being tamed.  Would that all of us allow ourselves to be tamed by another.

I think of this today, having spent the afternoon with a family who made the difficult decision to discontinue life support for their 14 month old daughter.  The little girl had tamed them.  And, for all the pain, they are better for having been tamed.