Daily Mass – rural style: Saturday

Daily Mass on Saturday turns out to be somewhat complicated, but not in a bad way.  Most churches in the area offer a Mass on Saturday, but it’s a late-afternoon or evening vigil Mass for Sunday.  Since it’s our only option, I’ll treat the vigil Mass like a Saturday Daily Mass and still attend Mass on Sunday.

Our Mass options are:  Swanville at 7:30 pm (13 miles away), Long Prairie at 5 pm (14 miles away), Flensburg at 4:30 pm (16 miles away), Grey Eagle at 4:30 pm (22 miles away), Sobieski at 7:30 pm (22 miles away), and Belle Prairie at 8 pm (28 miles away).

I’ve only been to meetings in the basement at Sacred Heart in Flensburg, so it will be a pleasure to be in the Sanctuary.  I was hoping that they would let us in.   Years ago, at the meeting my wife and I attended at Sacred Heart, we were trying to kick-start a youth program for the tri-parish community.   For my part in the meeting I played a Peter Furler song.  It was loud.  I think it was kind of unexpected.

When we arrived there were no barricades or checkpoints.  There was however a young dad holding a baby.  They were surrounded by adoring onlookers.  Hmmm…  Baptism?  That would be a nice celebration.

There was a good size crowd inside (in a small church it doesn’t take much).  We found a pew and knelt.   Father Jimmy Joseph came out and Mass started.  Yes, there was a baptism!

The sanctuary reminds me of a wedding cake topper, and that’s not a criticism.  It’s bright and white but easy on the eyes.  Perhaps the wedding cake analogy is not so bad, since the Eucharist has been described as  the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.  I like the idea of cake for dinner!

I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen exit signs in any building that quite caught my eye as well as the ones at Sacred Heart.  St. Anthony beckons for the left hand door, and St. Therese offers guidance to the right.  Of course, you can also turn around and exit through the doors you came in through.












Daily Mass – rural style: Friday

I have the day off today because I worked a (very) long day on Tuesday.  I’m really looking forward to mowing 2 acres of rough-and-tumble lawn today (do I sound as sarcastic as I did when I was a teenager? Some things never change).

Todays Mass offerings are:  Browerville at 8:30 am (10 miles away), Swanville at 8 am (13 miles away), Long Prairie at 8:15 am (14 miles away), and Flensburg at 8 am (16 miles away).

We don’t often go to Christ the King in Browerville so we decide to celebrate there.  After the debacle of Thursday, missing Mass because of the seasonal change in the time of the Mass, I decided to double-check the Mass times by going to the parish website and reading the latest bulletin.  It’s not often I say this, but:  thank goodness for computers!  According to Christ the King’s bulletin, they cancelled their Friday Mass this week.   So I go to St. Mary of Mt. Carmel’s website and verify that the Mass time there is still 8:15 am.  All of this took some time because of the snail’s pace of our Internet connection.  I want to rant about the inequity of high-speed Internet access among rural folk, but that’s a blog for another day.  Of course after all this I walked into the living room and there, on the coffee table, was the latest bulletin from St. Mary of Mt. Carmel Church.  I didn’t really have to go to their website after all.  Insert sound of man slapping his forehead!

The drive in was beautiful.  The sun was shining, the sky was blue, and “that ole weepin’ willa is laughin’ at me.”  It was that kind of morning.  I was tempted to belt it out like Gordon McRae, but prudence, which is not always my strongest virtue, won out.

The Church was not packed like it was on Wednesday.  There are the regular homeschoolers and the seasoned veterans.  We take a pew near the front (you know, closer to Jesus) and kneel.

In a few minutes Father Ken Riedeman comes out and we stand and Mass begins.  I think that Father Ken could have a side-job of being a reader for an audio book publisher.  He has a wonderfully deep, clear, resonant voice.

He also told a good joke during the homily:  There were 3 people from 3 different countries arguing about whose country was the greatest.  The first person said “Our country is the greatest.  We were the first country to put a man in space!”  The second person said “No, our country is the greatest.  We were the first to put a man on the moon!”  The third person said “That’s nothing.  Our country is the greatest because we’re going to put a man on the sun!”  The other two looked at him and said “Are you crazy?  You can’t put a man on the sun!  He’ll burn up!”  The third man smiled and said “No he won’t.  We’re going to do it at night!”

As Father Ken said, St. Philip Neri (whose feast day fell today) probably would have loved that joke (after a few hours of explaining ballistics, astrophysics and planetary science).

Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe nos bendice al salir. ¡Somos tan afortunados de pertenecer a esta parroquia!


Daily Mass – rural style: Wednesday

Up and at’em at 6:30 am.

Today’s Mass offerings are:  Browerville at 11am (10 miles away), Swanville at 5:45 pm (13 miles away), Long Prairie at 8:30 am (14 miles away), and 2 churches in Little Falls offer Mass at 7:30 am or 8:30 am (22 miles away).

For our schedule today Long Prairie is most convenient, so the home parish, St. Mary of Mt. Carmel, it is!

It’s a busy day for us:  Father Jimmy Joseph is coming over to our house at noon for lunch and then to bless our gardens and fields, Jenna has a cello student coming to our house at 2:00, and I have a Schoenstatt Boy’s Group meeting at St. James Church in Randall at 3:00.  Jenna is also making lunch: carnitas and cole slaw.  Yum!  But morning Mass is brief and shouldn’t disrupt any of that.  On the way to Long Prairie, Jenna casually mentions that since it’s Wednesday, it will be a class Mass (St. Mary of Mt. Carmel is blessed with a Catholic elementary school).  Well, even a class Mass won’t make it that much longer.

Vera (11) comes with us.  We don’t listen to the radio or play a CD on our way to Masses.  Instead we have conversation or enjoy the quiet.  Having a wife who is studying theology in graduate school provides ample opportunity for intellectual discussions.  Lately she’s been thinking about Mary as the gateway to the Church, and we’ve been discussing the beatitudes and comparing that with the qualities of our Blessed Mother.

We arrive at St. Mary of Mt. Carmel and reflect on how many cars are lining the street.  We park, walk up the stairs and enter the sanctuary.  We are met by 8 sixth grade ushers, who provide us with a printed program.  I look at the cover and see that it’s a graduation Mass.  This will be no quick 1/2 hour daily Mass or even 45-minute class Mass!

The front of the church is packed with kids and the other pews are pretty full.  Long Prairie has a population of about 3,500 and it looks like everyone in town showed up for this Mass!  Father Omar is in his element, questioning the sixth grade kids and enjoying their answers.  It’s a little like a tv game show, but without the technicolor sets or commercials.  Linda Dinkel, the Principal at the school, is out of town enjoying her first grandchild who was either just born or almost born (it was a little unclear).  Brenda Gugglberger, the former Principal, took over the role as commencement speaker.  The air was filled with outstretched arms as electronic devices “capture the moment” as the children participate in the various ceremonies.

An hour later (after the Eucharistic feast and before the final blessing) my wife leaned over to me and said, “I think this could go on for some time.”  Yesterday I was worried about being excommunicated for being late to Mass.  Now we’re leaving before Mass is officially over!  But we have a merciful and forgiving God, and as lovely and emotional as the ceremonies were, we thought it prudent to quietly excuse ourselves and go.

I wonder how many kids are tempted to pull the bell ropes on their way out of the Church?  I know I am!

Daily Mass – rural style: Thursday

It’s springtime in Minnesota.  The swallows are swooping, the broccoli is bursting, and school is ending!  Our homeschool year ends today and we have big plans tonight.  Mostly a goof-off evening:  nachos, ice cream sundaes, and a movie.  Jenna and I choose the movie Babe.  I’m not crazy about anthropomorphizing animals, but Babe is a pretty good movie.  Every year we raise some hogs, though none of them have ever talked back to me.  Grunted: yes, chewed on my pantleg: yes, provided us a lot of bacon and roasts: oh yeah!

Our Mass options today: Randall at 8 am (12 miles away), Swanville at 8 am (13 miles away), Long Prairie at 8:15 am (14 miles away), Grey Eagle at 8:30 am (22 miles away), Sobieski at 4 pm (22 miles away), and Belle Prairie at 8:30 am (28 miles away).

Morning Mass works best for us, since we’re having a family party tonight.  It’s always interesting to attend a different church, so we’re off to St. Joseph’s Church in Grey Eagle.

How to get there?  I know that if you’re in Swanville you can just keep going and end up in Grey Eagle.  I make a quick check of that route on Google maps and verify the route.

Once again we head down the Morrison-Todd County Line Road.  I expect road work and am not surprised when we see the sign that reads “Road contruction ahead.”

Then we see a sign that reads “Flagman ahead.”

The next sign reads “One lane traffic ahead.”

I fully expect to see a sign that reads “I’d turn back if I were you.”

The flagman stops us and I have the opportunity to see what the farmer has planted in his field.  Oh, corn!  I think that’s what he planted last year.  And the year before that.  And the year before that.  And shall I go into my rant about how there should be farms where vegetables that people actually eat would be grown?

After a short wait the flagman lets us pass.  We drive by the big native Minnesota machine that chomps up the old road and lays down a new one behind it.  Just amazing!

It’s a long winding beautiful drive from Swanville to Grey Eagle.  We arrive and, unbelievably, can’t find the church!  How do you hide a church in a small town like this?  We finally find the church after asking directions from a guy walking his dog.  We were a little late (two minutes, tops).  Probably not enough for excommunication (that’ll be the last time I use that joke).

Even though we left early enough, we’re still a couple of minutes late.

We got out of our cars (we took two, I needed to get to work after Mass).

Father Ron Dockendorf hails us from the front of the church.  Thinking he was just going in to celebrate Mass I jubilantly shout “We made it!”  He informs us that Mass was at 8:00 am (they had just switched to their warm weather schedule).  So as it turns out we were 32 minutes late and we completely missed Mass.

Father Ron was very kind and gave us a blessing right there in the parking lot and sprinkled us with holy water.

We act like tourists and take pictures of the beautiful Marian grotto in front of the church.

But I failed.  No Mass.  No Blessed Sacrament.  I’m hungry.  I’m hungry for the Real Presence.


Daily Mass – rural style: Tuesday


Yesterday, going to Mass was easy.  When it’s just Jenna and I there are so few complications.  Today we’re up again at 6:30 am.  Vera (11) and Gloria (5) are both feeling better and are going to attend with us.

Today’s Mass offerings are: Sobieski at 8 am (22 miles away), Grey Eagle at 8:30 am (22 miles away), Randall at 7 pm (12 miles away), and Long Prairie at 7 pm (14 miles away).  The early bird catches the Mass, so it’s off to St. Stanislaus Church in Sobieski.

I scarf down 1/2 a banana and a cup of coffee for breakfast, and Jenna does without.  Unfortunately the usual charming breakfast rituals of the kids seem to stretch out longer.  Later, most of us are dressed and ready but Gloria is taking a little longer with her pink sparkly shoes than usual.

The one-sided (my side) conversation as we leave the porch goes something like:

“OK, let’s get going.  It’s getting late.”

“C’mon Gloria, you can pet the kittens later.”

“Let’s go, it’s getting late.”

“No Gloria, put the kittens down.”

“C’mon let’s go!”

“No Gloria they don’t allow kittens in church.”

In the car and off we go, once again down the Todd-Morrison County Line road.  Only this time we turn on Highway 27 and take the Flensburg exit.  We drive through Flensburg (“Oh look, the liquor store is for sale.”) and then on to Sobieski.

Arriving at St. Stanislaus (at 8:05) we park in the “lower” parking lot and climb the two flights of stairs up to the church.  As we open the doors we can hear Father Jimmy Joseph reading the first Scripture reading.  Thoughts of excommunication for being late and “we really ought to get rid of those kittens” cross my mind.  After all, WWSPS (What Would St. Paul Say?).  We take a pew a bit further in the back than usual so as not to distract the 11 parishioners who arrived on time.

Father Jimmy has a lovely singing voice and I wish there were more opportunity in this Mass to hear it.  I think Father Jimmy, Father Matthew Crane, and Father Aaron Kuhn should form a singing group.  Their first record could be a devotion to our Blessed Mother and they could call themselves “The Mama and the Papas.”

After Mass Father Jimmy stops to talk with us (we used to be members of his parish in Randall).  Then some of the ladies come up and start speaking with Jenna.  It turns out that one of them knows Sister Jessica from the Schoenstatt Shrine down in Sleepy Eye.  Since we’re involved and devoted Schoenstatters this is a joyful coincidence.

But I can’t stop looking at the interior of this church.  It’s gorgeous!  I start taking pictures, and then I can’t stop taking pictures.  It’s like being in a National Park!  Everywhere I turn there’s something incredible; so much history, so much beauty.  Jenna said much the same later, but that it also has a very “homemade” feel.  As if the artisans of the Church were very skillful, but made everything for love of God and not for money.  The interior of the church inspires worship, but the statuary and ornaments don’t feel pristine or sterile.  They’re as if loving hands have caressed them over the years.  Even the floor tiles, linoleum squares like you might see in an old drugstore, have the look of polished marble.  I had to touch them to make sure they weren’t stone.

As we leave the sanctuary, we pass under a banner.  I have no idea what it says, but I know that I’ve been blessed.

Outside the skies are cloudy and mist is falling.  We retrace our drive back home.  I hurriedly fix lunch and dinner for myself to take to work (it’s going to be a long day).   It was a roundtrip journey of 44 miles, with a priest from Karola, India and banners in Polish.  I feel a little like I’ve just come back from a journey to a far-away and seemingly enchanted place.

Daily Mass – rural style: Monday

Blessed are you who live in close proximity to a church that offers daily mass!

Every once in a while my wife and I attempt the holy grail of Catholics: to go to daily mass.  After all, as St. Bernard put it: “You will gain more from one single Mass than you would from distributing all your goods to the poor or making pilgrimages to all the most holy shrines in Christendom.”

Since we live in a rural area our options are limited.  None of the parishes within a half-hour driving distance offers daily mass.  So we map out our options.  We find that if we draw a circle with a radius of 25 miles (or so) of our home we can find various churches that offer mass on each day of the week.  Unfortunately those churches within that radius do not offer masses at the same time.  Morning masses at 7:30, 8:00, 8:30, 10:00.  Afternoon masses at 4:30, 5:00, 6:30, 8:00.  So not only do we have to map out daily masses at a number of churches, we have to make ourselves available at that time on that day (did I mention that we have 6 kids and homeschool them all?).  General Patton had it easier organizing the supply train for his troops!

Our monthly issue of the Magnificat will act as a sort of “Boedekkers Guide” for us (spiritual direction, as opposed to actual physical direction).  So come with me as my wife and I attempt the greater good: going to daily Mass in rural Minnesota!


Up at the usual time, 6:30 am.  Our mass options:  8:00 am in Swanville (13 miles away), 7:00 pm in Flensburg (16 miles away), and 7:00 pm in Belle Prairie (28 miles away).  Mondays have the least number of masses offered in our area, and evening masses are harder for us to schedule for than a morning mass.  So our choice is St. John the Baptist Church in Swanville.

It’s an easy drive down the Morrison-Todd County Line Road for us.  This morning it’s just Jenna and I, since some of the kids are down with colds, and those who aren’t are taking care of the ones who are, while also trying to get their schoolwork done.

We leave at 7:30.  It’s a beautiful morning: the sun is a welcome sight after days of rain.  After 10 minutes we cross Highway 27 and see a sure sign of Spring in Minnesota.  Lilac trees in bloom?  No.  Rhubarb springing up?  No.  Road construction?  Yes!  Welcome to Minnesota!

12 minutes later we park across the street from the church.  As we enter the sanctuary we bless ourselves with holy water from a solid stone font.  I guess the sponge is in the basin to keep you from dripping water on your forehead.  Since I can use all the blessings I can get I’m tempted to dunk my head in the font, but decorum wins out and I simply dip in a finger.

There are 9 other people sitting in various pews, mostly toward the back of the church, reciting the rosary.  We walk down the aisle as the 5th joyful mystery is prayed.  We choose a third-row pew and kneel.  I’ve heard it said that if you want to be closer to Jesus then sit nearer the altar.  I’m in that club!

I seem to remember that this church and the church in Randall, St. James, were designed by the same architect.  There are similarities: a lot of exposed wood, simple plain walls and no ornate decorations.  Very 1960s Scandinavian design, which I like.  There are two recessed grottos: one has a statue of St. John the Baptist and the other has a statue of the Holy Family.  The grotto of St. John the Baptist is relatively unadorned, befitting the man who cried out in the wilderness.  In contrast, the grotto with the Holy Family is bedecked with flowers, featuring a beautiful arch of flowers over their heads.  It looks wonderfully celebratory.


Father Ron Dockendorf walks down the aisle.  We stand and mass begins.  I’m reminded, being at a different church than my usual, of the days before Jenna and I were married, and well before my conversion to Catholicism.  Out of curiosity, I would attend morning mass at a Catholic church not far from my apartment in Alameda, California.  I found the whole service confusing, but I was also fascinated by all of the rituals.  Now, years later, I’m less confused and still fascinated.

The first Scripture reading is appropriate to what I’m attempting in this week-long blog.  In the Acts of the Apostles 16:11-15, St. Paul describes the beginning of a long journey.  And while Swanville is not exactly Phillipi, Father Ron spreads the good news with a quiet fervor that I think St. Paul would be proud of.

After mass Father Ron stops and speaks with us.  He recognizes us from when I worked at the library in Swanville and sometimes went to morning Mass at St. John the Baptist.  I ask him if he still rides a motorcycle.  He does, and he is looking forward to warmer (and drier) riding weather.

As we drive away (and after the almost mandatory after-mass stop at a grocery store) we head north, back to our family, thankful for the quiet time we’ve had together.