Nov 18

Cranberry-jalapeño appetizer delivers zippy spin on comfort food

By From the Heart | Carol Jessen-Klixbull |Taste of the Diocese

The number of new or classic recipes that surface for Thanksgiving can nearly overwhelm us as we plan this year’s rendition of the time-honored feast. I enjoy watching cooking shows on TV or perusing magazines, blogs and Pinterest to delight in the creativity other cooks — from homemakers to top chefs — perform with the foods in this traditional meal. My long-time friend and occasional “From the Heart” blogger, Sheila Ballweg-Pulju, does the same.

Sheila remembered another friend applauding a cranberry-jalapeño cream cheese appetizer that her family devours every holiday. After looking through several similar recipes, Sheila found a version on that she plans to prepare for her family next Thursday. She made a special batch of it this week for The Visitor staff to sample. (What a sweet friend she is!)

This Cranberry-Jalapeño Cream Cheese Dip is the first recipe in “The Cranberry Collection” I plan to share with you between now and Christmas. I hope your family and guests love it!

Cranberry-Jalapeño Cream Cheese Dip
Sheila Ballweg-Pulju

1 (12 oz.) package fresh cranberries, chopped*
1/4 cup green onion, chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
1 small jalapeño, finely chopped*
1 cup sugar*
1/4 tsp. cumin
2 tbsp. lemon juice
Dash of salt

2 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese*

Crackers, tortilla chips, pretzels, celery sticks, etc.**

Mix the chopped cranberries, green onion, cilantro, jalapeño, sugar, cumin, lemon juice and salt. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least four hours before serving. Stir the mixture frequently while it is in the refrigerator to incorporate the sugar.

To serve, either spread the cream cheese out on a plate or simply place the blocks of it on a plate or platter. Pour the cranberry mixture over the cream cheese and serve with your favorite dip-carrying tidbit — crackers, tortilla chips, etc.

Yield: 15-20 servings

*Notes from Sheila:

  • I chopped the cranberries with a mini food processor. I was careful not to overdo the chopping as I didn’t want the cranberries to release their juice.
  • Wearing disposable gloves when chopping jalapeños helps to avoid the capsaicin in the peppers from burning your skin. You can add all or some of the seeds — depending upon the level of heat you want in the dish. I added all the seeds with a small jalapeño. When I tasted the dip right after preparing it, I thought it was too hot but later that day, the heat of the peppers had subsided as the flavors in the dish mingled with each other.
  • The original recipe called for 1 1/4 cups of sugar but Carol and I feel that 1 cup (or even 3/4 cup) would make the mixture sweet enough.
  • If you have two occasions that are occurring within a week or so of each other, half of the recipe could be served at each if you divide the cranberry mixture in half and use only one block of cream cheese.

**Notes from Carol:

  • This creation is simply delicious all on its own! It could even be served without the cream cheese and crackers as a cranberry sauce variation at a meal. (Actually, I ate it this way and really liked it!)
  • Other ideas that surfaced as co-workers sampled it are topping a cracker with a piece of turkey and then “garnishing” it the cranberry mixture or using it as a zesty spread in a turkey wrap.


Special blessings to each of you this Thanksgiving!

“Bless the food before us, the family beside us and the love between us. Amen.”







Nov 13

Aging Gracefully: Loving Our Family and Ourselves Through Life

By From the Heart | Community Contributors

November is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. Guest blogger Peter Mullin writes about “Aging Gracefully,” in a chapter of his latest book, False Financial Finish Lines. Peter grew up in St. Cloud. He brings his expertise as a professional together with his personal experiences to this idea of aging through retirement. The heart of “Aging Gracefully” is about accepting one another – including ourselves – as we are.

President Ronald Reagan is famous for many things. A part of what became his story after his presidency is his battle with Alzheimer’s. He wrote a letter where he said his thanks and farewell to the nation while he still could do so. What a hard letter to write. I can’t imagine sitting down. I imagine Reagan’s loyal spouse, Nancy, at his side. He writes succinctly. He wants to tell the nation that he is not afraid. He writes, “When the Lord calls me home, whenever that may be, I will leave with the greatest love for this country of ours and eternal optimism for its future. I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life.”

Good for him. I’m sure that letter had to leave him with a sense of peace. And it certainly did bring awareness to the condition that confronts many Americans. We likely all know someone who has suffered or suffers some form of memory illness.

My Grandpa Tabor saw Alzheimer’s Disease set in during at least his last decade of life. He treated those with mental illness. He retired late in his life. Grandma spent his remaining years shielding him from minor mistakes at first. Those minor social miscues became significant.

Once grandpa walked off at a family dinner. The local police helped us find him blocks away. Eventually, Grandpa moved to the care of a memory unit at a nursing facility. I remember seeing him there. A smile on his Polish face. (He loved that he was Polish and pierogis and his Catholic-Polish Pope, Saint John Paul II.) There was still love in his heart.

It was tough to see the door shut to Grandpa’s unit when we left. It was like watching the door shut on me for the first time, as I dropped my son off at daycare. We were helpless. He was under the care of providers and his Lord. I took another peek through the narrow window on the door to the memory unit. Grandpa was already asleep in a recliner. By the way, these changes for Grandpa didn’t come about with ease.

The strain of being a caregiver wore on Grandma, I think. She was strong up to Grandpa’s last day and at his funeral. Then something changed. Grandma was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. Then came dementia. My grandma, with the biggest heart in the world, was receiving care.

First by drop-by caregivers. Then the caregivers were present 24/7.

Grandma continued to live in her home throughout her remaining years. The stories remained around her, and the visits continued. Often the visits and the photos our family continued to share with her were enough to share our love. She kept the photos of her great-grandchildren next to her recliner.

Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s, dementia, and ill health in general, can afflict those we love. It forces us outside our comfort zone. Any illness –– be it mental or physical –– is difficult and calls for an ocean of grace.

I write about the late years of our lives because it’s helpful to begin with those final years in mind. How would you want to live? What would you want your family to know? What would you want to say to your community and loved ones if you no longer knew who they were?

When we imagine retirement from our early years through our 50’s and 60’s, we likely imagine our active years. We’ll catch up with friends. We’ll play 36-holes of golf and have an early dinner. We’ll chase our grandkids around wherever they may be. We’ll reignite that passion we had for music, crafts or sports. We’ll discover new hobbies like painting.

While you’re busy living, consider planning for your late years, too. Now, I have no idea what it takes to age gracefully. I know all sorts of folks that lead examples of what aging gracefully might look like. I’ve listened to some of those from The Greatest Generation. I’ve heard inspirational stories about seniors on TV. A great tale teaches aging. Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom is about a man who becomes ill with Lou Gehrig’s Disease. An old student who was caught up in the fast pace of life reconnects with his teacher. Morrie speaks candidly about life, joy, pain, and relationships.

So strive to age gracefully. Then write to me when you find out what that entails.

I have some ideas of what it means. It means deciding and reaffirming early and often that you will accept help from loved ones. That you will cherish the opportunity to relate your experience to all who will listen. That you will give up your driver’s license.

It means realizing that you have immeasurable worth.


Significant excerpts of this article are taken from, False Financial Finish Lines, a book by Peter Mullin. It is published with permission. Please contact Peter Mullin for permission to copy or distribute. Securities offered through LPL Financial. Member FINRA/SIPC.



Nov 09

Sharing in the healing mercy of God

By From the Heart | Community Contributors

Current and retired health care professionals from around the diocese gathered Nov. 4 in the Sacred Heart Chapel of St. Benedict’s Monastery in St. Joseph for a special “White Coat” Mass in recognition of their dedicated work. The Mass, which takes its name from the white coat most commonly worn by those in the medical field, was held to acknowledge the caring outreach practiced by health care professionals. The event was sponsored by the Diocese of St. Cloud, Sisters of St. Benedict, St. Cloud Hospital and St. Benedict’s Senior Community in partnership with the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University. The following is the homily given by Father Tom Knoblach at the Mass.

20 years ago, I was living in Houston, Texas and going to grad school in philosophy. The study of Schopenhauer and Kant does indeed stimulate thoughts and questions … for instance: What on earth am I doing this for? Where is my life heading when the sun is shining and the birds are singing and I am reading about Dasein – being there – which ironically simply makes me think of lots of other places I would rather be?

Photo of the “White” Mass for healthcare professionals Nov. 4 at Sacred Heart Chapel in St. Joseph. Dianne Towalski/The Visitor

I needed some diversion from Plato and Hegel, and so I answered a postcard on the philosophy department bulletin board, looking for a volunteer to take an older couple on local errands once a month. And that is how I met Dr. Marian Krzyzaniak in Houston. If you are a diligent student of business economics, you may have heard of him – a Polish native, a published economist, a retired professor from Rice University after some 30 years, by then largely forgotten, struggling towards the end of his life with Parkinson’s disease and cancer. Most striking, though, he had survived 4½ years in the concentration camp of Auschwitz during World War II. You could still read clearly his prisoner number tattooed in blue on his forearm. One day, as we got to know one another better, he told me the story of his arrest. He was a young officer in the Polish Army, leading a squad of his men through the woods, when they were captured. Though he spoke fluent German, he pretended not to know a word of it. So a young German soldier who knew Polish was brought in as an interpreter. Dr. K was amazed to hear this young man lying to spare him … no, he was NOT an officer, it was a borrowed uniform, this man knows nothing important. For some reason, the interrogators believed him; and after they had left, Dr. K. asked this young German soldier, “Why did you do that? Why did you lie to save me?” The young man said simply, “Because I believe in God.” There, in the face of fear and torture and the threat of death, in the midst of such a dark time in human history, the light of God’s love shone through, and Dr. K found, against all odds, one who loved him in a way that literally saved his life that day. And, while he had many other terrible experiences at Auschwitz, because it began this way, with hope and faith and a demonstration that divine love could reach even into that misery, he managed to survive where so many others did not.

This is the Love that is at the heart of all ministry – love for God that flows over into love of neighbor, and love for those around

Photo of the “White” Mass for healthcare professionals Nov. 4 at Sacred Heart Chapel in St. Joseph. Dianne Towalski/The Visitor

us that leads us back to God, our common origin and end. Whether we praise God or serve one another, we are called to live immersed in this mystery of divine love, made visible, tangible, salvific … just as your patients and families and all those you serve encounter through your service, and just as Dr. K experienced it from a man he never saw before or after, and never even knew his name.

 “No one dared to ask him any more questions,” Mark tells us; and indeed, questions are an occupational hazard of being human and being a disciple. We may wonder many things that seem hard to reconcile with our faith, and you deal each day with questions that admit no easy answers. Factual questions are sometimes easy enough … the lab results, the clinic hours, the room number. But there are other questions not so simple … what do I do now with this cancer diagnosis? How can I get over this addiction? Why did this happen to my child? Those are questions answered best, not with professional knowledge and the possibilities of technology and pharmaceuticals, but with compassion, human concern, a listening heart … with love.

Photo of Father Tom Knoblach at the “White” Mass for healthcare professionals Nov. 4 at Sacred Heart Chapel in St. Joseph. Dianne Towalski/The Visitor

We bring our skills and our answers to serve those who are sick, troubled, uncertain, fearful, angry, sad … but even more, we bring our questions and theirs to the mystery of the Cross, where death becomes life, loss becomes victory, and human pain becomes the occasion to reveal God’s redeeming love. Thank you for that witness … the Gospel lifted off the page, brought to life, and sharing in the healing mercy of God. Love, received and given, assures us that we are not far from the Kingdom of God.

Nov 07

The Catholics

By Tim Welch | Catholic Education

The Catholics descended upon my household again.

Actually, I call them my Leaf Angels, but my neighbors call them “The Catholics” and threaten to convert to our church… though they haven’t quite yet.

With my wife in a nursing home due to radiation injury from a brain tumor, I am continually amazed by the support network I need, and receive, from my faith community… my larger faith community.

The Catholics are from St. Francis Xavier School. They have been coming for a few years now. They have raked leaves from our massive silver maples, mowed the fall lawn, cleaned up my poorly kept gardens, and even washed windows. They are such help! One year I had hand surgery; last year it was hernia surgery (is this TMI?). In both cases I really needed the help physically, still it was very humbling for me to let go of my desire to be self-sufficient.

This year was different. My need stems more from being overwhelmed. As my wife’s status slowly declines, I need to make her my priority over housekeeping and yard work. And this year, on the day of the descent of The Catholics, Mandy, sister-in-law and another Angel, had asked my wife to co-host a niece’s baby shower at the nursing home. What a gift! Mandy knew she would be doing the work, but she wanted to involve my wife as much as possible. And I needed to be there to host as I could.

So here were The Catholics, giving up their Saturday, while I left them working in my yard. I felt bad and worked out at least a small bit of time to help them help me. I finally got out there, and offered a meager bit of time. A lead Catholic said, “No this is for you. We have plenty of help.”

The phrase “this is for you” really touched my heart.

I wanted to graciously accept their help, so I went back in, took a few surreptitious photos for this post, and pondered their gift. I mulled over how they were making real the Reign of God right in my front yard. Regardless of their theologies, ideologies, or backgrounds, they came together in a working community and reached out, not only to my wife and me, but as a witness to my neighbors, all those who saw them working together, and those who see the “Saints in Service” sign in my front yard as I write this post. Maybe I should add “The Catholics in Community”.

Since that Saturday, I have pondered more about making real the Reign of God. Faced with so many societal and church challenges, could that be the solution to shaping our environments? Rather than spending time festering on opinions and polarizations, maybe I can simply ask myself, how can I, like The Catholics, DO more to make real the Reign of God?

What would God’s dream be for the Reign Jesus announced? What is God asking of me in terms of immigration, life issues, ecology, healing, and justice… and even church issues like parish planning? My priority is shifting from having to know the right answers to trying to do the loving thing. All because of The Catholics.

How can I thank them? My guess is that they don’t need my thanks… that making real the Reign of God is enough thanks for them. They are, after all, The Catholics.

 Photos were created with Photofunia. While some of the effects are simply ‘fun’, it is another graphics program to become familiar with to add to your repertoire as a digital storyteller. It is good to have a number of tools at hands for 'that right moment' as you create your posts.

Tim Welch is the Consultant for Educational Technology at Catholic Education Ministries, Diocese of Saint Cloud, MN. With more that 35 years of experience at the parish and diocesan levels, he is continually searching for ways of journeying with others to implement proven technologies that can serve ministry (especially catechesis).

Nov 02


By From the Heart | Nikki and Tricia Walz | A Tale of Two Sisters

These past two weeks, I have had the incredible opportunity of staying with one of my closest friends in New Mexico. The beautiful ranch she her and husband live on has everything you could want: mountains on every side, beautiful sunsets, and the heat that Minnesota unfortunately won’t see for a while. The only thing it does not have— believe it or not— is any cell phone service. When I arrived I quickly learned just how attached I am to my phone. I always have it on me and check it far too often, even though I honestly did not think I was attached at all. As time went on, I realized how much I enjoyed not having it on me 24/7! It was a breath of fresh air to be able to just focus on what I was working on and not get pulled in a bunch of different directions. I spent the past two weeks catching up with my friend Catherine, sleeping, relaxing, and reading. I have always enjoyed reading, but ever since college when I was forced to read so much I have backed away from it quite a bit and haven’t enjoyed it like I used to. I just never seemed to “find the time.”


One of the books I have had on my book list for what feels like forever is “Resisting Happiness” by Matthew Kelly. I have heard wonderful things about it but just never “had the time” to actually sit down and read it. Right before my trip a friend mentioned that I should read it, and when I got to New Mexico Catherine had it sitting on the coffee table. I took this as a sign that this was the time!


The first thing Matthew Kelly talks about in his book is resistance. He defines resistance as “that sluggish feeling of not wanting to do something that you know is good for you… the inclination to do something that you unabashedly know is not good for you, and it’s everything in between. It’s the desire and tendency to delay something you should be doing right now.” He goes on to state that resistance stands between you and happiness. I think back to all the times I opened a book and read no more than a sentence or two. I either got a text, Facebook message or email that I would much rather respond to. Or I spent that time catching up on my TV shows that I didn’t get a chance to watch earlier in the week. I didn’t notice feeling unhappy by any means. Reflecting on these past two weeks, though, I have realized how happy I have been. Sure, it could be that I just spent two weeks with my best friend, that I slept more than I have in the last many months combined, or that I got off the grid and had no distractions, but I definitely think part of it is that I beat resistance and read three amazing books.

I encourage you all to go “off-the-grid”, whether that means just turning your phone off for a while, going on a retreat at a place like Pacem in Terris, or going to southern New Mexico. I encourage you all to enjoy the silence and to pick up a good book.



Tricia and Nikki Walz are proud Minnesotans who were born and raised in the heart of St. Cloud with their younger sister Briana. Read more about them on the “Meet Our Bloggers” page.

Oct 31

Pumpkin Pie Bars enticing twist on autumn tradition

By From the Heart | Carol Jessen-Klixbull |Taste of the Diocese

It’s that time of year when the warm, comforting aroma and piquant taste of pumpkin pie spice — cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice and cloves — fills our senses and reminds us of autumns past. It’s well-loved and versatile and flavors just about everything from latte and ale to ice cream and cereal and anything in between.

The first treat I think of when this season rolls around is pumpkin pie bars. My favorite recipe comes from the Kraft Foods magazine “Food & Family.” I like the bars much better than pumpkin pie because the crust (made with butter, oats and pecans) is so delicious!

Pumpkin Pie Bars
From Food & Family magazine

1 1/3 cups flour
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) cold butter or margarine
1 cup old-fashioned or quick-cooking oats, uncooked
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 pkg. (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
3 eggs
1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin
1 tbsp. pumpkin pie spice

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 13x9x2 inches baking pan with foil, with ends of foil extending over sides of pan. Spray foil with nonstick cooking spray.

Mix flour, brown sugar and 1/4 cup of the granulated sugar in medium bowl; cut in butter with pastry blender (or two knives) until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in oats and pecans. Reserve 1 cup of the oat mixture; press remaining mixture onto bottom of pan. Bake 15 minutes.

Beat cream cheese, remaining 1/2 cup sugar, eggs, pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice in small bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Pour over crust; sprinkle with reserved crumb mixture.

Bake at 350°F for 25 minutes. Cool completely on wire rack. Use foil handles to lift from pan. Cut into 24 bars. Store leftover bars in tightly covered container in refrigerator.

Yield: 24 bars

A friend recently passed this sweet sentiment my way when we were discussing pumpkin recipes. How true it is…

Being a Christian is like being a Pumpkin

God picks you from the patch and brings you in. (John 15:16)
He washes all the dirt off of you. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
He opens you up and scoops out all the yucky stuff. He removes the seeds of doubt, hate and negativity. (Romans 6:6)
Then he carves you a new smiling face. (Psalm 71:23)
And, he puts his light inside you to shine for all the world to see. (Matthew 5:16)


Carol Jessen-Klixbull is a copy editor at The Visitor. She is a former Family and Consumer Science teacher who has a passion for all things “food.”





Oct 25

Anything But Ordinary

By From the Heart | Sarah Heidelberger | Hearth and Homestead

The household has been bustling over these last months in hurried speed. Hanging on to Summer’s end, I took a couple of outings with my teens, including enjoying a show at Chanhassen Dinner Theater and hitting up the State Fair. The younger kids had an afternoon at Hemker Zoo with my husband, and we all did a family day Sunday to Inspiration Peak.

September launched us back to schoolwork.  A couple of field trips with our homeschool co-op group. My youngest turned three and oldest turned sixteen. And, because my teens are currently in a season of being theatre junkies, “mom’s taxi service” took on evening rehearsals. Fall entered the scene and decided to disturb the ordinary with a wet, rainy plot twist, rather than blissful, warm daylight hours. It felt like a week without sunlight, but plenty of rain, was going to last nearly forever and keep us away from our beloved outdoors indefinitely!

All of those full calendar pages and weeks in my planner that fly by with flip after flip of the pages, and cold, rainy days could easily get me down on what is lost—summer and a long, beautiful Fall. I could dwell on the years that are gone and the moments that passed too soon. As I’ve been reminded many times recently when people look at my children in wonder or express the popular “You must be busy!”, time marches on with life’s ebbs and flows. Am I losing something in the meantime? Am I cultivating relationships and growing children who will be able to withstand life outside our domestic church?

I’m so glad that I take imperfect selfies, impromptu precious, as well as awkward, photos, as often as I do. If I didn’t, I think I’d forget about that season when the toddler stuck his tongue out during every photo, or the afternoon we made a quick drive to attend the St. Padre Pio relic tour at the cathedral. When I look back at the photos from the month as I upload them on my computer, the ordinary is fondly recalled. At our home we often can be heard saying, tongue-in-cheek, as if it had been a long time past, “remember that time we….?” about something that happened only the other day, last week or at some point in the very recent past, but already feels like a distant memory. The point is, while in this stretch of mothering through an active season of family life, the seemingly little things or smallest of moments tend to get lost in the pages of the bigger memory book. That’s so unfortunate because if I really think of it, the small nuggets of everyday life could be as fondly recalled as the bigger celebratory times.

I guess I’m an “ordinary time” kind of gal. I used to joke when I worked for a parish that I liked the church’s ordinary time the most, because it was less busy.  Less altar cloth changing and planning ahead for those intricate details of upcoming feast days. There are special days that still fill these ordinary times that help to build up and anticipate the momentous ones too. That week of gray, gloomy weather reminded me that my body needs the warmth of the sun and the sight of the splendor of fall colors. When the sun shone again, my heart lifted, and my soul found new refreshment. The same happens when we step out of ordinary time to the next liturgical season, where our hearts will swell and await another big, amazing happening in our Church life. We don’t wish away the ordinary for the extraordinary, but instead take in the journey one step at a time, careful not to wish or rush away the present.

What ordinary things and limited moments are you taking the time to enjoy during this season? Who can you share them with and what unique memories can you make during these ordinary times?

Sarah Heidelberger is a wife and homeschooling mom of five who keeps her days steady with her planning and organizing skills. Read more about her on the “Meet Our Bloggers” page.

Oct 21

Rainbow of hope

By From the Heart | Catholic Culture

Recently I was invited to attend a meeting of dialogue for people of different political persuasions for the purpose of understanding and finding areas of common ground.

I did not respond immediately, only to receive a follow-up email saying they were still looking for participants, but they had enough people who considered themselves “blue” (liberal) and needed more “reds” (conservatives). It made me wonder how long we have used these two primary colors in that way.  Red and Blue states took off from the maps shown on TV news of our country in the 1996 Presidential Election.  And clearly, it has stuck.

So what color AM I?  I am in the mishmash of purple.  And not the fun of saying ‘Purple Pride” as a Vikings fan, but more of the purple that can come in bruising from a world so divided (and of course being a Vikings fan has a bunch of associated bruises as well).  I try to inform my politics through Catholic Social Teaching and a What Would Jesus Do philosophy.  So is that red or blue?  Again, I turn to purple, a color of Advent and Lent.  We are in a time of repentance, knowing our lives are flawed and that there is no perfect candidate or party.  So when we turn to Catholic Social Teaching and Christ, what colors do we see?

Blue can remind us of the waters of our Baptism, and Red the fire of the Holy Spirit from Confirmation.  The Catholic Social Teaching of Life and Dignity of the Human Person can be the brightness of yellow, and the glow from the ultrasound machine showing a life being knitted in the womb.  This beautiful dignity of life is also seen in a sunny smile when an elderly person finds joy in the simple.  Catholic Social Teaching challenges us that the poor and vulnerable need protection, so I think of the silver of a shield, as well as gold representing the sharing of our treasure.  And green can represent our care for God’s creation.

So the world is not simply black or white… or red vs. blue.  I believe God was trying to teach us that things do not boil down to just two colors when he sent us the rainbow of hope.

Deb Forstner is daughter of Bob and Joan Forstner of Fargo, ND. She is a graduate of Fargo Shanley High School, the College of St. Benedict, University of Wisconsin-Stout, and St. John’s School of Theology. She worked for many years in the St.Cloud Schools as a school psychologist. She currently serves as a NACC-certified chaplain at Lake Region Healthcare in Fergus Falls, MN and is a member of Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church. She is the owner of two rescue dogs; one of which is a certified therapy dog who at times accompanies her in ministry, named Deacon.



Oct 18

Be Joyful Always

By From the Heart | Rita Meyer | Making it Real

It has been an especially trying season the past two years. There have been numerous changes in my life including my oldest child leaving home to start college and my mom suffering a stroke and now living in an assisted living facility not far from me. And the list could go on and on. But why? Why go there? Like I tell my youngest often, “Your whining is hurting my ears.”
And so I’m not. I’m not going to be a half-empty person. I’m choosing half-full. I’m choosing joy.

Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5:16: Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

I made a landscape purchase this summer. These two Adirondack chairs and footstools were built from repurposed metal drums.  Someday (OK, there’s no better time than the present, I know!) I’m going to sit in them, sipping a glass of something cold while reading a good book. For now, they’re my lawn ornaments along busy Highway 4. My daughter Justine made the “Be Joy Full Always” signs (misspelling on purpose as per my request). Every time I go past – whether it’s running, biking or driving – I try to remind myself to “Be Joyful,” no matter what is currently happening in my often-times crazy life.

Be Joy.
Be Joy Filled.
Be Joy Full Always.
Be Joyful Always.

Lord, help me to be. To just be. Be more aware of your presence. To be the joy that someone else might need today. To be joy filled, no matter the circumstances. To be joyful always, especially when things are difficult and my patience is running thin. I know I only gain this inner joy from knowing you, by loving you and by serving you. Help me to grow closer to you so I have a deeper love for others. Amen.

Rita Meyer is married and the mother of four children age 19 and under. She and her family are members of St. John the Baptist Parish in Meire Grove.

Oct 15

Fall has come

By From the Heart | Lucas Gerads | Totus Tuus (Totally Yours)

The season of fall is probably one of my favorite seasons of nature. Leaves are changing, temperatures are dropping, the smells of pumpkin and different spices. I tend to find myself hiking more and drinking more coffee because I just wanna sit in these moments. Families are starting to make plans for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Farmers start harvesting their crops and the canning process is in full swing for most houses.

The season of Fall is a time of preparation. We see families prepare for the holidays and winter months, just as farmers are preparing their fields for the next season and selling their crops for the next year. Even nature is preparing for what is to come. Trees start to change color and lose leaves. Animals start to store food for the winter. How are we preparing for what is coming? We have the very real season of winter to prepare for with jackets, hat and mittens, hot chocolate and firewood. But how are we preparing for what is coming up spiritually? The season of winter has some beautiful liturgical seasons in Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter, with the first, Advent, being only two months away. Now Advent is a time of preparation by itself, but for what? It’s easy to sit here and say we’re preparing for the coming of Jesus, but are we really ready for that? Jesus loves us no matter what, but personally, I know I would like to grow a lot more in my relationship with Him before that time so when the time comes I can be with Him in a deeper way.

So how can we start preparing for the season of preparation? We can FALL-ow suit with nature. (Hehe. Get it? FALL-ow, like ‘follow’ but with the word Fall).  The trees are being stripped of leaves and the animals are storing food. A prayerful reflection on these is necessary for this time of the year on how are we stripping ourselves and what is it we are storing? What places in our life is taking away from Christ? What things do we store that bring us comfort and not closer to Christ? The season of Fall is a beautiful time but it’s also a time of death in a sense. The trees losing their life and animals will be hibernating. As we reflect on our life how can we die to our self, as to rise to higher beauty when the season comes. Advent is a time to dive incredibly deep into a relationship with Christ but it’s also supposed to be a season of life and joy. How can we taste the richness of life and joy more fully? As we reflect, we should look to how the people in the bible prepare for the coming of Christ. We see Mary and Joseph of course, but we also have Zechariah, Elizabeth and St. John the Baptist.

These five are all stripped of something in a sense as to follow the will of God to prepare the way for Christ. Mary and her ‘yes’ to being the mother of God, sacrificed her image in the time. To bear a child before she was actually married could have shamed her family, Joseph could not have married her and risked her livelihood. But, by sacrificing her life, she bore, and birthed the living God into the world. Joseph surrendered his wife to God and took Mary as his life nonetheless. By doing this, He was able to be the earthly father to Jesus.  Zechariah in preparation to glorify God for the miracle of John was stripped of his ability to speak. When time came and John was born all that could come from his mouth was praise. By sacrificing his voice and the freedom to name his son many including himself glorified God and drew them closer to him. Elizabeth was barren to help the way of Christ. She was given the gift of John late in life and glorified God for such an amazing gift. St. John the Baptist literally was given the mission of preparing the way of Christ by fasting and baptizing. He sacrificed much and was able to bring many close to God. They were all stripped of something that brought them comfort so as to rise when the time came to glorify, praise and love God more fully. As the angel Gabriel told Zechariah, “Do not be afraid.” (Mk 1:13) Change and sacrifice can be uncomfortable and hard but Christ rewards those who follow the way of the Cross.


Lucas Gerads is currently taking the year off from pursuing a degree in Philosophy to discern God’s will. He was raised in St. Cloud and is an alumni of Apollo High School. Read more about Lucas on the Perpetual Posters page.

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