Praised be Jesus Christ! Brains and Brawn is an annual contest hosted by the Diocese of La Crosse either at the beginning or the end of Catholic Schools Week. The “Brains” component is similar to the high school quiz bowl format that was once rather commonplace and features ostensibly the smartest kids of various schools. The “Brawn” component is all about basketball. Insofar as I attended public school until my freshman year of high school, I never experienced the excitement of Brains and Brawn. That’s not to say that the two categories have not been manifest in my former associates. For example, Father Burish was definitely all brains and very little brawn. Father Kuhn was pretty much the opposite (and I won’t say anything mean about his being from Clark County). Father Sedlacek defied both categories: especially at this time of the year I’d suggest he’s in “literate Yeti” category. Father Barry is probably the hardest to classify. Some of you have openly wondered why I don’t pick on him as much as his predecessors. As I explained to Father Sedlacek a couple of months ago, Father Barry is such a genuinely good guy that it’s a bit like picking on Mother Teresa of Calcutta: all you do is come across as a big meanie! All of this is a circuitous introduction to ongoing spiritual and physical formation. January is a month when we might have more time indoors and thus is a great opportunity for learning. Over the years I’ve suggested the magazine “First Things” and I’d like to share a beautiful quote that was in the December edition: “In his commentary on the Gospel of John, Thomas Aquinas finds a clue to the relationship between the Old and New Testament in the mystical understanding of the miracle of the wine at Cana. According to St. Thomas, the pure water in the kegs is a reference to the Old Testament. Jesus does not discard the water, but transforms it. In fact all the water is converted into wine, not just part of it. This, says Thomas, refutes the Marcionites (a group of people whose beliefs were condemned) who reject the Old Testament. Jesus did not make wine out of nothing, but out of water, in order to show “that he was not proclaiming an entirely new teaching, discarding the old, but that he was perfecting it”. (First Things, Ludger Schwienhorst-Schonberger). If you want to learn more about your faith, there are so many great ways of doing so: you could subscribe to any of the daily Mass publications (e.g. Give us this Day, Magnificat, The Word Among Us, or Living with Christ) and meditate on the Scriptures. These periodicals also have reflections and great stories about the saints. If you love the Mass and want to get more out of it, I highly recommend Adoremus – it’s published four times a year and all they ask is for a donation. Adoremus is published in our own Diocese and is a society for the renewal of the Sacred Liturgy. You can subscribe by going to their website at adoremus.org. Finally, there are many opportunities for Bible studies and if you’ve never attended one, you owe it to yourself to try it sometime. Now as for physical formation, have you ever tried snowshoeing? Father Barry bought me a pair for Christmas and it’s a wonderful way to see the world recollected in the repose of winter. I’ve walked through McMillan Marsh many times in the winter without snowshoes, and while it was always beautiful, at times it was so arduous that I was reluctant to go out again afterwards. Snowshoeing is like moving from a Ford Focus to a Jeep Grand Cherokee... there I go, taking a cheap shot at the nicest associate we’ve ever had!
May our minds be open to the stirrings of the Holy Spirit, and may we respect our bodies as temples of that same Spirit!
Your friend in Christ, Father Martin