St. Lambert’s is blessed by the communities that have immigrated from a Thailand refugee camp over the past decade. What a blessing it is to me as their pastor to know that this Bishop Steven Tjephe of the Diocese of Loikaw still cares for them in this way. Might we all at St. Lambert pray for this holy man and the people he cares for in his Diocese and across the globe.
In the last few years, I have said to numerous people that once you’ve been to St. Lambert whether for years, months, or a few weeks, you belong – you will always have a place here. I firmly believe it, but I recently was blessed with the opportunity to see this reality reach across more than 4 decades.
This July, Annie Nguyen from Vancouver, Washington called the office and spoke with Cheryl about her parents’ connection to St. Lambert and asking if anything could be found in the archives regarding them. Rosemarie went through some things and a bulletin from December 7-15, 1975 gave a snapshot of the family.
“Two weeks ago a Committee of Concerned welcomed the Family of Biet Van Nguyen – parents, four little children, a brother and a sister of Biet – to the St. Lambert Family. Then the blizzard came . . and we find this family in need of clothing for winter . . . . .”
Two St. Lambert families sponsored the Van Nguyen family to come from a refugee camp at Ft. Chaffee, Arizona after escaping communism oppression and Christian persecution in Vietnam. Annie was not one of the “four little children” mentioned in the bulletin but one of the 4 children born after coming to the US. Her parents were returning to South Dakota on a trip and wanted to stop at St. Lambert and she was helping facilitate the trip. The visit was to occur on a Saturday and we exchanged contact information and I made plans to greet them.
When they arrived, it was clear that though a great many years had gone by, Biet and Lac felt a deep connection to the St. Lambert family and spoke with great animation and joy about Fr. Ryan and the friends they made here. In a serious moment, Biet stated that if it weren’t for St. Lambert, they would not be here. They were very excited to see the growth and numerous changes of the whole facility. Though a wedding was taking place at the time, requiring them to look into the main church through the windows and chapel rather than entering, they were struck by the beauty of the sanctuary. The tour ended in the Mary garden where pictures were taken and hugs and well wishes were exchanged.
They are hopeful to one day return for a longer visit and attend Mass. The Van Nguyen’s proved once again that Family is Forever – once you come to St. Lambert, you belong and will always have a place. “Church” was never intended to mean a building, but a people. St. Lambert is more than a community of believers, we are a family – a people changed by Christ.
Biet and Lac, all 8 children and their own families currently live very close to one another in Oregon…..cities of Portland, Beaverton, Tigard and Clackamas. The driving distant of no more than 30-40 mins apart.
What a joy it is to be a father! This week I was guest pitcher for 1 inning on the St. Lambert/St. Mary school baseball team. I was amazed at their light-hearted joy to play ball. Yes, some cried when something didn’t go as hoped, but they were filled with excitement because of great plays. At times they were quick to the plate and other times absent minded about the game. Some wanted more action on the field and some were busy filling their gloves with dirt. You never knew what might happen next. I was struck by two things.
First, the peace and happiness I personally experienced standing by the fence watching these boys play ball. My soul needed this simple and beautiful evening. I was reminded that being a father is to live the Presence of Christ in the midst of the people. It isn’t simply sitting behind a desk or only standing behind an altar. I must share my life with the people and allow the people to share their lives with me. I understand better why Pope Francis has told priests to smell like the sheep: It’s not just for the people but for the priest too! I didn’t realize the sheep would smell like grass and gloves and bats and balls!
Second, I was struck by the team picture at the end. Look at the faces! I can’t help but acknowledge my presence brought gladness to the boys-and I think to the dads and moms too. Everyone wanted to belong to the team! This game is Christianity: a life lived aware that Christ is in our midst! We have ups and downs, sad times and happy times. Sometimes we’re interested in what’s happening and sometimes we’re not, but the Christian knows the Presence of God, Christ in our companionship. It makes all the difference when we know the “team” to whom we belong!
Thanks boys for letting me be a part of the team! What a joy to know the Father’s love!
P.s. As an added bonus, one of the father/coaches was my a best childhood friend, Ryan Noonan! What a blessing to both be fathers today!
I was invited to speak for Catholic Young Adults at Monks in Sioux Falls. At first glance Monks sounds like just the place for a priest! However, Monk’s House of Ale Repute brings this guy back to by-gone days: a location where life’s desperate anxieties and the heart’s endless longings were quieted by bourbon and beer. This night, I was there early and alone, which historically didn’t help matters much. However, I felt oddly at home and surprisingly at peace among those hanging at the bar. Waiting endlessly for something—for Someone to arrive.
The group arrived quickly and filled tables in the back room to listen to me teach. A well-dressed man entered at the last moment and sat in a chair among the crowd. I talked and taught about Christian faith. In the middle of my talk he offered his own commentary and to my amazement he knew something of what I was speaking about. He had comments and questions and perceptions, which were striking to me. Most striking was that he didn’t know anyone in the room.
From his bar stool, he had watched us gather and accepted the invitation from our companion who had recognized his curious disposition. I only discovered his status following the presentation, when my own curiosity went to work. I spoke with him about his life and about his faith. He said his relationship with Jesus was personal and he found God in nature: he’s from Montana. With certainty he stated, “Big Mountains and Big Rivers!” is where he finds God. He had been looking for the experience of living among the mountains and rivers. His heart was open but the plains of South Dakota were leaving him desolate and dry. He acknowledged his search for the spiritual life.
We were the last two to walk from the back room. While he was returning to his barstool, and I to the dark of night, he looked in the direction of the back room and said, “those people tonight were good people.” He paused, smiled and proclaimed, “Big Mountains and Big Rivers!”
I spent much of my life in drinking establishments unaware of what my heart was made for: unaware of the Real Presence I was waiting for. As I walked past the corner of the bar that night, I alone again but certain Someone had arrived!
Someone arrived! —Fr. John Rutten
P.s. this is not a picture of the man. This is Alex from CYA teaching me how to take a picture with his iWatch! (Big Mountains, Big Rivers!)
St Lambert Lenten Retreat – February 20, 2016 by Joe Gannon
So I have two things from today. I wasn’t really prepared for the two things that kind of came about today. So if they’re a little bit off the cuff and a little unprepared, forgive me. About 8:45 when Mass started I came to a realization about something that I’ve never accepted before in my life. It’s the fact that as Father was sitting there talking about something; I realized that I’m not afraid of sin anymore. I’ve never been able to say that – that I’m not afraid of sin anymore. What that comes from is 3-6 months ago Father were together after meeting and I asked him for confession in the conference room and him and I were just sitting across the conference room table, and then said confession and I looked at him and I said “How can you sit there… with your friends, your family, your parish and the sins we confess and still look at us with loving eyes?” That was a comment about me, how can he still look at me as a friend, with all the sins I confess every week, two weeks, when they come about. And he sits there and looks at me and paused and somehow he comes up with. “It’s because I’m not afraid of sin anymore.”
And it hit me that that wasn’t me, I didn’t share that disposition. I was afraid of sin. I was afraid of who I am and what I represented in my choices. Today when I was sitting here praying, I was saying a little prayer and I realized I said it out loud to myself that “I’m not afraid of sin anymore.” Something I’ve never been able to admit. In my life I’ve always run from it. I’m trying to hide it, trying to change it. I, I – those are I statements, not that guy statements (pointing up towards the crucifix). Through the last two years there’s been a lot of stuff that I’ve gone through as a man, as a dad, as a husband, and it’s been a little humbling. Today I realized that I need all of you. I met Martin for the first time, Erica and a bunch of other people and I can’t do this alone. Sometimes this world is a little too hard, a little too evil a little too black and I cannot do it alone. I need all of you to pull me out of the darkness, out of my own head, out of my own thoughts. I know I don’t know a lot of you but I watch most of you, when you genuflect, when you pray. You pull me out of myself up to there (pointing towards the crucifix).
So, a real event that happened 2-3 nights ago, I was over here by this book, and it’s a prayer book where people write down prayers with what they want and I went over there to get a pen, just a random pen while I was in Adoration and I was by myself. I go over there and try to get a pen because I just wanted to underline a word in a book that I was reading and most of the stuff is written in such a way that it’s kind of hard to read, and you don’t really want to read it because it peoples prayer, maybe that’s personal, but I see a name and it sticks out – Dante. I don’t know who Dante is or who wrote him but I started bawling, crying on that stand because all someone wrote was somebody’s name. How how lonely that is. That there is someone out there named Dante who is in need of prayer. I realized that even writing prayers down means something. The person that wrote it didn’t realize what it meant but it hit me hard. I didn’t know who Dante was but I felt like I should pray for him and so I did. I got back to the pew and I started crying again. I’m a grown man I don’t cry at work. I’m very proud and I just look up and I say out loud to the Monstrance, “Dante must be in need of Christ.” Then I started bawling and drool and spit and everything.
Today I thought it was funny that all we talked about in our group was Jesus. We didn’t talk about the Sacraments, we didn’t talk about the right way to say this or the Greek meaning of that or any of these high intellectual confusing discussions, we talked about something real, a real relationship. That’s what gets me, that’s what pulls me out. As I knew Father put my name down on an agenda so I knew it was going to happen. I realize that there is a prayer I pray every time I get a little nervous and it’s my own personal prayer and sometimes I hold very deep, and I’ve never even shared it with my wife. And so because it helped me today I share it with you all and I ask you to maybe pray it with me:
In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Jesus in this moment I choose you. In this moment I love you. Take my eyes, take my mouth, take my ears, take my heart, my mind and my soul and make them yours. I give you my wife and my children, my friends and my family. Take it all away from me. I’m afraid of what will happen if I’m in control. I give it all to you. Pry it from my hands and make it yours. In this moment I love you. In this moment I am yours. Amen.
This photo was texted to me by the mother of a seven year old boy. I was in awe that his heart would be filled with such love. His words filled my heart, and I expected to take him that day to the Bishop Dudley Hospitality House to meet our brothers and sister who are homeless.
I didn’t expect what transpired. Carson walked silently up to each person, looked at them and placed the crucifix in their hands. How can I describe it as person by person, cross by cross, Carson walked among the crowds and revealed what every human person is looking for: a Presence. The presence of Someone who will come to us and look at us and gift us. Neither seeing our circumstances as obstacles nor our deepest needs ignored. A presence who will bring us the Presence of Jesus!
I’m not sure what was in their hearts, but their faces were filled with smiles and their gestures spoke of goodness and of God. As we departed, the gentleman in the black coat, leading us all in a daily Good Friday liturgy, lifted the cross high and said, “God bless you”.
I did not hear Carson pray or offer a blessing to anyone and wondered what changed since morning, when he put pencil to paper. Then it occurred to me…his presence was the blessing. Carson, a seven-year-old, was Jesus teaching us to go out and walk among the people and show others how much they are loved by God.
Afterward his mother texted me, “Carson said he did not want to hand out an empty cross. It had to be a crucifix so people could see and touch Jesus. When I asked him why he wanted to do this he said, ‘Everybody needs Jesus’. That truth, took some of us a lot longer to realize. Watching people react to you and him, changed me. This afternoon I witnessed, ‘Everybody needs Jesus.'”
“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” -Matthew 18:3
Fr. John Rutten
It’s amazing how I have transitioned from not going to church and not believing, into someone who wants to tell about what God has done for me in hopes that in time, God will come to others and show them the way.
I found myself thinking this morning, “I don’t want to go to Mass today, I want to stay in my warm bed and sleep.” But then I thought of wise words that were spoken to me. “I don’t have to go to church, I GET to go to church.” And so I came to Mass, got to talk with the pastor, went in and took my seat, I knelt and said prayers, and I caught myself praying for the priest, praying for St. Lambert’s, and how there isn’t another place in the world I would rather be than here, without anyone telling me to do so. I have felt nothing but love and compassion from St Lambert’s. I have been noticing that I have been using the “how-to” book to follow along with Mass less and less. Instead of having my nose stuck in that book and simply reading it, I find myself memorizing, knowing by heart, and having the words come from the heart.
“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me” (Revelation) I have opened the door, and wow, what an experience can start, if only we open the door.
Thank you and Many Blessings!