Browsing News Entries

Browsing News Entries

Diocese of Winona renamed with addition of Rochester co-cathedral


The Congregation for Bishops has decreed that the Diocese of Winona will now be called the Diocese of Winona-Rochester and that St. John the Evangelist Church of Rochester will be designated as a co-cathedral, according to a March 27 announcement from the newly renamed diocese.

“This is a significant moment in our diocese’s history,” said Bishop John M. Quinn of the Vatican’s announcement. “My heart is lifted by this news, as I know that the presence of a co-cathedral in Rochester will provide unique ways to share the Gospel in our diocese’s fastest growing city.”

The word “cathedral” is derived from the Latin word cathedra, meaning “chair.” The chair is an ancient symbol of apostolic authority. The cathedral is generally located in the major metropolis of a diocese. At the time the Diocese of Winona was established, Winona was a key location, by the railroad and along the Mississippi River. Now, 128 years later, populations have shifted. Rochester has become the third largest city in Minnesota, and three-quarters of the diocese’s population resides in the region between Rochester and Mankato.

In 2015, an initial inquiry was sent to the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops asking for the designation of a co-cathedral in Rochester. The Congregation for Bishops subsequently sent the diocese requirements for the process and directed the establishment of a diocesan planning committee.

This committee determined that St. John the Evangelist Church should be elevated to the status of a co-cathedral. The co-cathedral committee, and other groups involved, considered the size of the church building, location, architecture, and overall ability to function as a co-cathedral. Other factors included its proximity to the Mayo Clinic, the arts, culture, media, and industry, which provide an opportunity for further evangelization. St. John the Evangelist Church is also considered the “mother church” of Rochester, being the oldest parish in the city.

The Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Winona will not change in status. It will continue to be the seat of the diocese and will host diocesan celebrations and Masses and ordinations.

A liturgical ceremony is scheduled for June 24, at which the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Pope Francis’ delegate to the United States, will formally designate St. John the Evangelist Church as the co-cathedral. During this ceremony, a new cathedra, or bishop’s chair, will be blessed, bearing witness to the apostolic ministry of sanctifying, teaching, and shepherding.

Adoption of the new title, “Diocese of Winona-Rochester,” throughout the parishes, schools, and diocesan institutions is expected to be completed by July 1.

— The Northern Cross

Church leaders praise Hawking for contribution to science, dialogue

Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, who said he did not believe in God, was still an esteemed member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and fostered a fruitful dialogue between science and faith.

The academy, which Pope Pius IX established in 1847, tweeted, “We are deeply saddened about the passing of our remarkable Academician Stephen #Hawking who was so faithful to our Academy.”

Stephen Hawking and Pope Francis
Pope Francis greets Stephen Hawking during an audience with participants attending a plenary session of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences at the Vatican Nov. 28, 2016. Hawking, the British-born theoretical physicist, cosmologist and popular author died March 14 at the age of 76. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano, handout)

“He told the 4 Popes he met that he wanted to advance the relationship between Faith and Scientific Reason. We pray the Lord to welcome him in his Glory,” @CasinaPioIV, the academy, tweeted March 14.

The Vatican observatory, @SpecolaVaticana, also expressed its condolences to Hawking’s family.

“We value the enormous scientific contribution he has made to quantum cosmology and the courage he had in facing illness,” the observatory tweeted in Italian.

The British-born theoretical physicist, cosmologist and popular author died March 14 at the age of 76.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster tweeted, “We thank Stephen Hawking for his outstanding contribution to science. As a member of the Pontifical Academy of Science, he will be missed and mourned there, too.”

Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury tweeted, “Professor Stephen Hawking’s contribution to science was as limitless as the universe he devoted his life to understanding. His was a life lived with bravery and passion. As we pray for all those who mourn him, may he rest in peace.”

St. John Paul II named Hawking a member of the papal academy in 1986. The academy’s members are chosen on the basis of their academic credentials and professional expertise — not religious beliefs.

Blessed Paul VI, the first of four popes to meet Hawking, gave the then 33-year-old scientist the prestigious Pius XI gold medal in 1975 after a unanimous vote by the academy in recognition of his great work, exceptional promise, and “important contribution of his research to scientific progress.”

Pictures from the academy’s archives show the pope kneeling before Hawking, who was seated in a motorized wheelchair, to present him with the medal and touch his head.

Hawking had most recently met Pope Francis when he delivered his presentation on “The Origin of the Universe” at the academy’s plenary session on science and sustainability in 2016.

In interviews and his writings, Hawking asserted that God had no role in creating the universe.

Yet his avowed atheism did not keep him from engaging in dialogue and debate with the church as his work and contribution to the papal academy showed.

He also debated on CNN’s “Larry King Live” in 2010 with Jesuit Father Robert Spitzer — a philosopher and educator — over the scientific underpinnings of the beginning of the universe and the theological arguments for the existence of God.

Vatican astronomer, Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno, who has studied both physics and philosophy, told Catholic News Service in 2010 that “the ‘god’ that Stephen Hawking doesn’t believe in is one I don’t believe in either.”

“God is not just another force in the universe, alongside gravity or electricity,” he added. “God is the reason why existence itself exists. God is the reason why space and time and the laws of nature can be present for the forces to operate that Stephen Hawking is talking about.”

— By Carol Glatz / Catholic News Service

Bishops urge federal protections for supporters of traditional marriage


The chairmen of two U.S. bishops’ committees March 14 called the First Amendment Defense Act “a modest and important measure” because it protects those who believe marriage is “the union of one man and one woman.”

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, recently reintroduced the measure in the Senate.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops “has been vocal in support of the legislation since its inception,” said a joint statement by Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, chairman of the Committee for Religious Liberty, and Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln, Nebraska, chairman of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.

In welcoming its reintroduction, they said the First Amendment Defense Act “is a modest and important measure that protects the rights of faith-based organizations and people of all faiths and of no faith who believe that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.”

People who believe marriage is the union of one man and one woman, they said, “are increasingly having their religious freedoms jeopardized and even forfeited.”

“In a pluralistic society,” they continued, “faith-based charitable agencies and schools should not be excluded from participation in public life by loss of licenses, accreditation or tax-exempt status because they hold reasonable views on marriage that differ from the federal government’s view.”

In a 5-4 decision in June 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that same-sex couples have the right to marry in all 50 states.

The Catholic Church’s leadership will continue “to promote and protect the natural truth of marriage as foundational to the common good,” they said. “The church will also continue to stand for the ability of all to exercise their religious beliefs and moral convictions in public life without fear of government discrimination.”

“In a climate of increasing intolerance, these protections are urgently needed,” Archbishop Kurtz and Bishop Conley said.

“The teaching of the Catholic Church about marriage is based on both faith and reason. Using right reason, one can know that given the nature of the human person, created as male and female, marriage is the union of one man and one woman,” they said.

Editor’s note: The text of the letter can be found at

— Catholic News Service

James Reinke: Catholic teaching can aid discussion of Polymet mine

By James Reinke
Guest columnist

The Catholic voice has been missing from the public debate on the Polymet mine. Pope Francis made it clear in “Laudato Si,” his encyclical on the environment, that since Vatican II there has been a growing ecology component to the social dimension of the gospel. He wrote: “Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork (mother Earth and all her creatures) is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or secondary aspect of our Christian experience.”

For sure, individual Catholics have contributed to the discussion. However, some explicit and specific Catholic criteria for sustainable mining that could add to the quality of this debate have not been stated. What the papers and television generally report are largely hyperbole spoken from “I’m right and you’re wrong” perspectives, as though it were a competition.

The public is used to this. It’s what typically comes out of our political debates. One side claims that all hard rock mining, such as Polymet, results in an acidically contaminated site. The other soothingly assures that since they are Minnesotans they will do it “right.” Neither claim can be substantiated and, of course, can guarantee nothing. It is a contentious debate.

Environmentalists can point to acidic pollution and degradation all throughout the world and the United States (including the heavily polluted South Dakota copper-nickel Gilt Edge Mine pit visited by Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton) created by mining enterprises — some pursued in a very slipshod manner and others that resulted in unexpected pollution. Given so many negative outcomes, Mark Twain quipped that “a mine is a hole in the ground with a liar at the top.”

On the other hand, there is a growing realization on the part of mine executives that it is in their best interest and most profitable for all to extract minerals in a sustainable and nonpolluting way. Mother Earth would agree.

The Catholic Church does not have an answer for whether or not the Polymet proposal should go forward. However, the church offers four general principles garnered from its social teaching that set criteria necessary for creating consensus on mining proposals. First, the upholding of the human dignity of every person involved in some way with the mining is nonnegotiable. Second, human beings are stewards of the environment, not dominators and exploiters. We have an obligation to pay to our home planet, God’s creation. Third, the principle of solidarity requires the interconnection of people locally, globally, and intergenerationally. Fourth, the common good requires an outcome that promotes the human flourishing of all.

These principles underlie key issues raised by Pope Francis. Assessing the environmental impact of this Polymet venture demands transparent political processes, characterized by a farsighted statecraft that prioritizes the long-term common good, and a decision-making process that is interdisciplinary, transparent, and free of all economic and political pressure.

This process should be geared to facilitating consensus among all stakeholders. The potential negative outcomes require that decisions be made based on a comparison of the risks and benefits foreseen for the various possible alternatives. The principle of subsidiarity demands that the local population has a seat among the stakeholders, given their special interest in the project’s impact on themselves and anticipating their children’s’ future. Likewise indigenous people have a vested interest.

Also, some considerations, such as water, must have a higher priority, since it is an indispensable resource and a fundamental right. The pope writes: “This indisputable fact overrides any other assessment of environmental impact on a region.” Additionally, when comparing the risks and benefits of the venture remains inconclusive, the Precautionary Principle defined in the Rio Declaration of 1992 demands that those supporting the mine prove it will not cause uncontrolled environmental damage, versus the typical expectation of being required to prove or demonstrate that it will.

Given such caveats, which stem from previous mining disasters, opposition to every new venture is not in the common good’s best interest. Rather, the final choice must show itself as stemming from a balanced, transparent process that is manifestly free from every dominating special interest, ideology, power, and financial consideration.

Pope Francis was educated as a scientist. He encourages informed and inclusive participation in a decision-making process that is transparent with necessary nonnegotiable priorities, and the precautionary principle — all of which stem from scientific consensus.

The Minnesota approval process should reflect such requirements. All perspectives need to be included to make this a fully informed process. We local Catholics, as well as those throughout the world, are stakeholders in this process and should question, research, Google, talk, participate, and join with others more informed.

Living out our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork" demands that each of us become involved with a perspective supporting the common good, and not just to join one of the competing teams. As stated earlier, the Catholic Church does not offer a specific answer to this enterprise. However, the church does offer four necessary Gospel principles, an expression of our most noble human qualities, to guide us in “striving intelligently, boldly and responsibly to promote a sustainable and equitable development within the context of a broader concept of quality-of-life” (192).

Take these principles and their goal, do some research, raise questions, and network, then go to for information and to enter your comments on the four current permit requests by March 16. Contribute to a process that should be determined by current science and engineering, and not by loudness, money, numbers, or power.

This is not a team sport. Either we, all the generations after us, and the earth are winners, or we are all losers.

James Reinke writes from Duluth, where he attends St. Benedict Church.

Minnesota archbishop: Catholics belong in the public sphere

Archbishop Bernard Hebda of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis said it is the duty of the laity to represent the Catholic faith in the public arena, especially pointing to the current debate surrounding immigration.

“Within the Church, it is the laity who are called upon to ‘especially assist with their Christian wisdom’ the shaping of the temporal order in order to both further the common good and prepare the way for the Gospel,” said Archbishop Hebda, citing the “Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity” from the Second Vatican Council.

The archbishop’s call to action in a March 8 column for The Catholic Spirit came in preparation for the second of three “Capitol 101” workshops, focusing on educating and encouraging the Minnesota faithful to better participate in the legislative process.

The first session was held by the Minnesota Catholic Conference on Feb. 26, and follow up sessions will be held March 16 and April 17. At the workshops, attendees are able to meet Minnesota senators and representatives and learn about relevant policies and the legislative process.

Outside of the event, the Minnesota Catholic Conference has encouraged Catholics to offer an hour of adoration or a rosary for lawmakers and ask for the intercession of St. Thomas More, patron of statesmen.

The first workshop coincided with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishop’s National Catholic Call-In Day in Support of Dreamers, which took place on Feb. 23.

The Call-In Day encouraged Catholics to contact their representatives in Washington, D.C., asking them to work toward a fair and compassionate solution for Dreamers — immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children.

A program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) had offered protection for these individuals, but the policy is set to expire. The U.S. bishops have called for a solution that protects Dreamers from deportation and provides a path to citizenship.

“Many of the Dreamers, through no fault of their own, had been brought here as infants or toddlers; the United States is accordingly the only home that they have known, and the prospect of deportation to an unknown country is devastating,” Archbishop Hebda said.

While political philosophies and perspectives differ, he said, it is always the obligation of Catholics to aid the process of peace.

He quoted the U.S. bishops’ document “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” which says, “Catholics may choose different ways to respond to compelling social problems, but we cannot differ on our moral obligation to help build a more just and peaceful world through morally acceptable means so that the weak and vulnerable are protected and human rights and dignity are defended.”

Noting that America’s Founding Fathers sought to protect the practice of faith in public life, the archbishop rejected the argument by some that separation of church and state means that religion should be excluded from the public square.

“They misread our Constitution as requiring a division between personal belief and public action, or between moral principles and political choices.”

Archbishop Hebda expressed gratitude for the success of first “Capitol 101” workshop and encouraged participation in the next two workshops, noting it is a responsibility of every Catholic to pray for the vulnerable and build a just community.

“All of us share the responsibility of striving to build a just community in which the weak and vulnerable are protected and human rights and dignity are defended. Let us pray for one another in undertaking this important work,” he said.

— Catholic News Agency

USCCB chairmen call faithful to prayer and action urging congress to enact the Conscience Protection Act


Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, chair of the USCCB’s Committee for Religious Liberty urge the faithful to flood Congress with emails and calls asking for enactment of the Conscience Protection Act as part of the 2018 funding bill and to pray for this outcome. Congress is currently considering whether to include the Conscience Protection Act in must-pass government funding legislation, and a decision on the Conscience Protection Act’s inclusion will be made prior to March 23, 2018.

The joint statement follows:

“Increasing and fierce attacks on conscience rights regarding abortion cry out for an immediate remedy. Nurses and other health care providers and institutions are being forced to choose between participating in abortions or leaving health care altogether. Churches and pro-life Americans are being forced to provide coverage for elective abortions—including late-term abortions—in their health care plans. Opponents and supporters of abortion should be able to agree that no one should be forced to participate in abortion. Congress must remedy this problem by enacting the Conscience Protection Act now as part of the FY 2018 funding bill.

“We call on all the faithful to pray and to act by emailing and calling Congress in the coming week especially on Monday, March 12 with the message that enacting the Conscience Protection Act is urgently needed to protect Americans from being forced to violate their deeply held convictions about respect for human life. Your calls and emails to your Members of Congress really do make a difference, so please act now to protect conscience rights!”

Members of Congress can be reached by calling the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and asking to be connected with your representative or senator.

Or you can email and call your Members of Congress quickly and easily at

The USCCB has also created a video available on its YouTube channel and Facebook page.

For additional information and videos featuring nurses who were forced by their employers to choose between their jobs and participating in abortions go to


Faith in the Public Arena: Fighting fake news with the Truth of Christ

Fake news that distorts public discourse and manipulates the public will not be countered effectively by a renewed interest in journalistic ethics or more laws aimed at improving disclosure of the sources of online content. It is a cultural problem.

In an increasingly secular society that no longer recognizes objective truth, politics loses a standard to which policies should conform, and the media loses its influence as an instrument of accountability and judgment.

Jason Adkins
Jason Adkins
Faith in the Public Arena

The public discourse becomes merely a battleground for those driven by greed, ideology, and the naked lust for power. In such a culture, leaders work not to defend the truth but rather to gain control of the process and impose their own ends — their own “truth.”

The news business, especially, and the proliferation of media across social networks play a key role in the battle to manipulate hearts and minds for ideological, political, and economic goals.

It is the truth, however, that sets us free from the slavery of the 24-hour media cycle and those who would seek to control it for their own interest.

But to convert our hearts to the truth, and make them open to it, we need the truth of a person — the Truth of Jesus Christ to transform a people who deceive and are willing to be deceived.

The fake news phenomenon

We should not be surprised today by the presence of “fake news,” recently described by Pope Francis in his World Communications Day 2018 message as “the spreading of disinformation online or in the traditional media. It has to do with false information based on non-existent or distorted data meant to deceive and manipulate the reader. Spreading fake news can serve to advance specific goals, influence political decisions, and serve economic interests.”

Fake news has instant allure for the consumer, wounded by original sin. As Pope Francis says, “[t]he effectiveness of fake news is primarily due to its ability to mimic real news, to seem plausible. Secondly, this false but believable news is ‘captious,’ inasmuch as it grasps people’s attention by appealing to stereotypes and common social prejudices, and exploiting instantaneous emotions like anxiety, contempt, anger, and frustration.”

Pope Francis equates the tactics of the producers of fake news to those of Satan, the father of lies, whose use of mimicry is a “sly and dangerous form of seduction that worms its way into the heart with false and alluring arguments.”

Hearts open to truth

Undoubtedly, all of us have trafficked in fake news (gossip included), either as producers or as willfully ignorant consumers, spreading lies and disinformation to others, often to assassinate the character of other persons or achieve partisan or ideological goals. For example, clicking on and sharing media content with sensational headlines about a person without actually reading and evaluating its content is one way to fall into the functional equivalent of the sin of gossip.

As Pope Francis clarifies, “the economic and manipulative aims that feed disinformation are rooted in a thirst for power, a desire to possess and enjoy, which ultimately makes us victims of something much more tragic: the deceptive power of evil that moves from one lie to another in order to rob us of our interior freedom. That is why education for truth means teaching people how to discern, evaluate, and understand our deepest desires and inclinations, lest we lose sight of what is good and yield to every temptation.”

We combat the temptation to traffic in fake news by recognizing first that God does not need our lie to build his kingdom. What is needed to bring true peace and order into the world is an encounter with Christ the Lord, and the transformation that springs from that encounter.

According to Pope Francis, “we discover and rediscover the truth when we experience it within ourselves in the loyalty and trustworthiness of the One who loves us.”

When we open our hearts to the truth of Jesus Christ, Jesus opens our hearts to reality, that is, the truth of all that he has made and that he continues to sustain in existence by his love. This truth brings both the interior freedom and peace of soul that is the effective remedy to the cultural problem of fake news.

Jason Adkins is executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference.

Betsy Kneepkens: Broken wrist was good preparation for Lent

Just a couple weeks ago, my arm cast was removed after the broken bones in my wrist healed. Back in November, while rebounding for my son, I stumbled and crashed to the ground. My seventeen-year-old, who likely was embarrassed by his mother plopping to the floor, chastised me: “Mom, just sit down; I don’t need your help!”

Betsy Kneepkens
Betsy Kneepkens
Faith and Family

This comment had little to do with the chance I could get injured. More likely, he was horrified by the fact that others may witness again the scene of his middle aged mother dropping onto the basketball court. The whole thing was rather dumb, so being a stubborn soul, I followed dumb with being dumber. I quickly got up and insisted that I chase balls for him again. In a matter of minutes, as my son anticipated, I fell a second time. I think it was flop two that ultimately did in my wrist bones, but who could be sure?

I can often, reflectively, see how God is alive in all areas of creation and certainly in my life. Even in a situation like breaking my wrist bones, I could see how God graciously provided an invitation to improve my relationship with him. I consider this recent incident when my arm was immobilized to be preparation for the upcoming Easter.

To live out this time of year thoroughly, I think approaching Lent with a heart of gratitude is essential. Before my little gym escapade, I honestly believed that I had a grasp of how fortunate I am and how others suffer. I thought I was appreciative of what I had and what I could do. Well, I was mostly wrong.

With these little bitty broken bones causing some minor inconvenience, I was quickly drawn to notice others who can’t change their circumstances. I found myself more deeply moved that their burdens remain with them the rest of their lives while mine was just temporary.

With my messed-up wrist, everyday tasks like zipping my coat, putting earrings in my ear, slipping a note in an envelope, and washing dishes became a huge hassle. It now brings a more profound pause when seeing others who constantly lived “hurdle” lives. My challenges became bummers and theirs significant, appreciated, and honored.

I understand a mature, empathetic person likely already has this sort of realization, but I needed to feel it and not just know it. God gifted this situation to stir my heart. Lent should stir our hearts, and God’s generosity has given me a broader, more outward perspective to take on this Lenten season.

Up until this time, one of my few claims to fame was that I had never broken a bone. I don’t know why I thought it mattered, but it did to me. One thing I quickly learned is that broken bones hurt. Well, everyone knows injuries like these are painful. However, until you feel that kind of pain you may not completely understand. I didn’t.

Once I met with the orthopedic hand doctor, and she determined the degree of breakage, the offer of pain meds quickly followed. Because of some misguided fear, I refused the prescription. Although I am somewhat convinced I would not get addicted to this sort of medication, I decided that due to the significant prescription crisis, I would abstain. I am well aware that my decision was not rational and probably lacked good science, but I made the decision, nonetheless.

The discomfort was more challenging than anticipated, affecting things like sleep and everyday tasks for a few days. I did, however, realize on about the second day that I could use this suffering as a way to offer the pain up for the sake of others. This decision immediately changed my perspective, and the situation became transformational. I sensed there was a use for the pain, creating in me a broader purpose and an opportunity to deepen spiritually. I was granted this realization through this recent event, allowing me to grow in ways I hadn’t before.

In a certain sense, fasting could now have the same sort of goal during Lent. When determining what I chose to do this year, I sought out opportunities that would frequently gnaw at me, create a generous amount of discomfort so that I would be reminded to offer the sacrifice up for others but more importantly for Christ this holy season. In the past, I gave things up because it would directly make me better. Hopefully, this Lent my sacrifices will lead me away from myself and focus outwardly. I firmly believe God planted that idea in me as early as the moment I thumped to that gym floor.

I continue to see how God remained with me even when my cast was removed. I foolishly assumed that at the last stage, when you no longer have to wear the splint anymore, the wrist is healed. Well, the bones are better, but full use of your wrist is not possible. It will take time, daily exercise, and some dedication to get my wrist to where it was before. I think, in a way, God uses this same message about Lent. I have always let Lent be just 40 days for me, but I now see that to indeed gain what I seek during Lent, I must use this time as only a starting period. The “cast” of Lent may be removed before Easter day, but to be transformed into the goodness we were created for and continue the spiritual path I seek, those changes must go past the Easter season.

Some might say I should have listened to my son that morning when he told me to sit down. I, however, see everything about this time as God using my lack of judgment as an opportunity to show he continually works in my life. His invitations are ever-present and always inviting, as long as I am willing to respond.

With that said, you can expect to see me again in the neighborhood gym rebounding basketballs for my children. Going forward I am not sure of exactly what lesson God has in store for me, but I remain hopeful that I answer when he is inviting me to learn.

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

Liz Hoefferle: Honoring sabbath rest helps us ‘fill up our tanks’

“Remember to keep holy the sabbath day” (Exodus 20:8). It seems that a commandment telling us to rest would be an easy one to follow. Being told to “take a break,” especially when it is God directing us to do so, would appear to provide a welcomed respite in our busy lives.

However, our secular culture and goal-driven society makes following even this commandment difficult. Sunday can easily become a “catch-up” day in order to complete those tasks we didn’t finish during the week. Or an excess of sporting activities offered on Sunday can distract us from the true meaning of “rest in the Lord.”

Liz Hoefferle
Liz Hoefferle
Handing on the Faith

While we may be tempted to justify a disregard for or minimize our adherence to this commandment, there are a lot of good reasons why we should take this commandment seriously.

A day of rest

Divine revelation shows us the value of work, but also the necessity of rest. The Book of Genesis describes how, after God completed his work of creation, he rested. Man, who is made in God’s image and likeness, is, thus, called to imitate his Creator. “Six days you shall labor, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a sabbath day to the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work” (Exodus 9-10).

Under the New Covenant, this day of rest and worship is celebrated on the day of Christ’s Resurrection — Sunday, the first day of the week. It is the day that Jesus rose from the dead, appeared to his apostles, and met the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Sunday is the day of the Holy Spirit’s outpouring at Pentecost and the day of the first baptisms in the church. This day of the “new creation” is a foreshadowing of eternal life, or “the day without end” (cf. Dies Domini 19-26).

We can trust that God knows what is best for us by commanding us to observe a day of rest and worship. There are many benefits to be gained from the renewal that results when abstaining from work. There is the physical rest needed to refresh our tired bodies. As sleeping patterns indicate, the human body is designed for a minimum amount of rest each day. Carrying this pattern into our work week by taking one day to deviate from the physical demands of our job or household work contributes to a good rhythm of rest for our bodies.

Rest from work on the Lord’s Day is also important for authentic human development. When we leave behind the worries of the workplace and our daily chores, we are free to give ourselves over to a time of holy leisure and direct our thoughts toward others. We can grow more fully in our social relationships and through our cultural expressions. We have time to strengthen family bonds, respond to the needs of others, and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation.

Sunday rest prevents us from becoming slaves to our work and being lured into the worship of money. It helps us keep work in its proper perspective. Such restraint from work also allows us to grow in our trust of God by recognizing our dependence upon him. It leads us to acknowledge that our work is not actually our own but a gift from God meant to be used for his glory.

The most important form of renewal attained through observation of the Lord’s Day is that of our spiritual renewal. With the celebration of Mass as the high point of Sunday, we are reminded that the Mass is the “source and summit” of our entire lives. We encounter the risen Lord, and we bring the joy of that encounter and the power of his sacrificial love back into the world. As I heard a Catholic school teacher recently say, “On Sundays, we fill up our tanks.”

Listening to our Lord

Far from being a day of sloth or laziness, the rest commanded of us on the Lord’s Day is ordered to our growth in relationship with God and others.

As with all of the commandments, this has not been given to us as a hoop to jump through in order to get to heaven or a test to pass to determine if we are worthy enough. The commandments are laws from our Creator which help us grow in the ways of love.

Man’s ultimate fulfillment is found in a living relationship with God. By taking a day to focus intentionally and fully on God turns our hearts from the things of earth to the things of heaven.

I often find myself going through the week with a mental checklist, thinking about what I need to do next. I’ve come to realize that such a checklist can get in the way of listening to God. Sunday gives us the perfect opportunity to set aside our checklists and open ourselves more fully to God’s presence.

Such practices of trust and openness to the Lord on Sunday can, then, lead us to greater attentiveness to his presence throughout the entire week. (Those for whom family obligations or important social services require work on Sunday may need to make adaptations but should still ensure adequate time for rest and holy leisure.) Thus, let us use the opportunity we are given each week to become more and more who God has created us to be.

Liz Hoefferle is director of religious education for the Diocese of Duluth.

Father Michael Schmitz: ‘Test of Three’ can help us eliminate gossip

I know that you have commented on gossip in the past, but I sometimes struggle with practical ways to determine whether I should share information or not. Do you have any advice?

The fact that you want to honor the truth and honor God with your words is a very good sign. We know how often the Bible admonishes us to choose our words wisely. In fact, in the Letter of James chapter 3, he says “the tongue is like a fire.” The way we use our words can either provide light and comfort for someone, or they can do irreparable damage. James also says that one who does not know how to control his tongue deceives himself and his religion is worthless (cf. James 1:26).

Father Mike Schmitz
Father Michael Schmitz
Ask Father Mike

But since you already know how serious this is, what are some practical tips for implementing the wise and prudent use of language?

I came across something that referred to Socrates’ “Test of Three.” I found it to be incredibly helpful in sorting out what should be said from what ought not to be said. It was a story (most likely fictional) about an individual who wanted to share some news with Socrates about one of his people.

Before he could share the information, Socrates asked him, “Is what you have to share with me true?” The man admitted that he wasn’t sure if the information he had was accurate or not. At this, Socrates challenged him over why he would want to share information that he wasn’t certain was true.

This happens to us all of the time. How many times have you heard a tidbit of information about some celebrity, politician, or person in our lives, and we were more interested in sharing that piece of gossip than we were in checking out whether it was true or not? This was Socrates’ test of Truth.

Next, Socrates asked him, “This information you want to share with me, is it good news?” The man replied that it was most definitely not something good. Again, Socrates challenged him regarding why he would be willing to share something that was not favorable when he didn’t even know if it was true.

How often do we stumble into that trap? Typically, the kind of information that gets spread is the same kind of information that gets headlines or clicks on the Internet. In our fallen human nature, we are often more fascinated and preoccupied with bad news than we are with good news. Yet sharing someone else’s bad news (or sharing something negative about another person) can be a sin against charity.

Lastly, Socrates ask the man, “Is what you have to share with me useful to me?” He was asking if this kind of information (even if it was bad information) was it something that Socrates himself could benefit from knowing.

How quick many of us can be to simply talk and utter many words rather than weigh out whether or not what we have to say would actually help the other person? As Scripture tells us, “Say only the good things that men need to hear, things that will really help them” (Ephesians 4:29).

These questions could be incredibly practical ways that we can learn how to prune our speech so that it does not hurt but only helps. The “Test of Three” asks the three questions: Is this true? Is this good? Is this useful? If not, then consider it not worth sharing. I hope that helps!

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 [email protected]