Divine Mercy and Lawrence N. Kaas

We set a time for my father-in-law’s funeral: 3:00 p.m. this Friday, September 21, 2018.

The last I heard, all but one of his children have been told about his death. The one remaining has been, I understand, somewhere in Spain. I hope she gets one of the messages that have been sent to places where she’s likely to check in.

Contacting everyone involved, coordinating preparations, and dealing with my father-in-law’s household effects is a logistical exercise I’ve been very glad to have in other hands. That sort of thing is very much not my area of expertise.

Neither, I find, is summarizing my father-in-law’s life. This is his home area, and he’s been part of Sauk Centre’s doings for many decades. His obituary covers a few of the highlights:

One sentence, the one about “his shop,” describes a familiar part of Main Street’s 500 block:

“…He opened his shop, and over the years was known for fixing first typewriters and office machines, then sewing machines, canvas work, woodworking, clocks and even violins….”
(Obituary for Deacon Lawrence N. Kaas, Patton-Shad)

The L. N. Kaas Company is now part of Sauk Centre’s history.

I don’t know what will happen to the signs.

The house, with its shop and clock museum that wrapped around the front and north side, will almost certainly be sold. My household isn’t in a position to take over upkeep of the family place, I don’t know that anyone in the immediate family is. We’re going to miss it, but we have memories. Lots of them.

Christmas displays in Sauk Centre will be different, too.

The local Knights of Columbus council have had their Creche set up on the front lawn each year for a long time now. It’s possible that new owners will let that custom continue, but the K of C may be looking for a new location. Time will tell.

Divine Mercy

Friday at 3:00 in the afternoon is a wonderfully apt time for his funeral. It’s the hour of mercy, as my wife put it.

One of my father-in-law’s main interests was the Divine Mercy devotion.

There’s a story or two about the carving he made for the local Divine Mercy outfit: which will wait for another time.

I’ve mentioned it, and the devotion, before. (October 15, 2017; April 23, 2017)

I’ve also talked about mercy and our Lord’s death. I think mercy is important, so I’ll go over pretty much the same stuff again.

I’ve got a very personal interest in mercy. Without it, I’d be toast.

Not that I’m a particularly bad person, or guilty of some outstandingly heinous crime.

The problem is that I’m not a perfectly perfect person either. Not even close.

It’s not my fault, not entirely. This world was messed up long before I came along.

I could say that I’m affected by original sin, and leave it at that. Problem is, I’m a Catholic living in America.

I like being an American, for the most part; but my homeland’s traditional spiritual ideas aren’t entirely consistent with mine.

What I mean by “original sin” is not the familiar notion that we’re garbage, or that there’s something basically wrong with being human. I suspect at least some of our restlessness comes from realizing that we could be doing a lot better than we are. As it is – – –

Something Went Wrong

Like everyone else around here, other than angels, I’m a human.

We’re a particular sort of creature: rational and able to decide what we do, like angels. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 311, 328336, 1704, 17301731)

We’re also material beings. That makes us significantly different from the angels. We’re spiritual beings, with God’s “breath of life” — and with a body made from the stuff of this world. (Genesis 1:2627, 2:7; Catechism, 325348, 355370)

Having a body isn’t a problem. God didn’t make a colossal mistake by creating a material world and putting humans in it. Like I keep saying: God doesn’t make junk.

This world is still “very good.” So are we. Basically. We’re still made “in the divine image,” as Genesis 1:27 puts it. (Genesis 1:31; Catechism, 31, 299, 355)

Something went wrong. Anyone who reads the news, or knows other humans for that matter, has most likely noticed our problems. It doesn’t take much self-awareness to realize that I’m flawed too.

Again, it’s not entirely my fault.

Trouble started when an angel decided that doing what God wants didn’t outweigh personal interests. That angel became something of a celebrity, acquired a following and chucked citizenship in Heaven. (Catechism, 391395)

I’m over-simplifying, of course.

The first of us made pretty much the same decision. They decided, with a little nudge, to do what they liked — not what God wanted. When it started going wrong, the man tried blaming his wife. And God. (Genesis 3:112)

Things kept going downhill, and here we are: stuck with consequences of that early decision. (Catechism, 396412)

Original sin, the Catholic view, is that we’re still made “in the divine image.” We made a huge mistake when we got started. That decision affected what we have been doing ever since. The harmony we had with ourselves, with the world, and with God has been broken. (Genesis 1:27, Genesis 3:53:13; Catechism, 400)

Each of us lives in a world that’s not what it might have been. We inherit a human nature that’s been wounded. (Catechism, 396, 401, 1701)

Wounded: not changed. Our nature is still what it was. Each of us is still good. Basically. (Catechism, 31, 299, 355361, 374379, 398, 400406, 405, 17011707, 1949)

Needing Mercy

If we’re still basically good, how come we need mercy?

Can’t we just decide to start being nice, acting as if human history never happened?

I don’t think so. But it’s a nice idea.

Many of us decide that we’ll try acting up to our ideals, not down to expectations.

Some of us make a little headway. Some of those folks get recognized as Saints, and that’s another topic. (September 4, 2016)

The way I see it, I’m like someone scraped out of a wrecked car and in the emergency room. Good news: I’m still alive. Not-so-good news: I’m in bad shape.

Concentrating on “still alive” and imagining that I don’t need help wouldn’t make sense.

Neither does imagining that I don’t need God’s mercy.

Sin?

I’m a sinner — I’d better say what “sin” is.

I think I’m a sinner because I don’t consistently do what I know is good for me, and avoid what’s bad. (Catechism, 1706, 1776, 1955)

Any time I deliberately do something that hurts someone else, or me, that’s a sin. Acting that way doesn’t make sense. It’s an offense against reason, truth and God. (Catechism, 18491850)

I commit a sin whenever I don’t love God and my neighbor, and see everyone as my neighbor. (Matthew 22:3640, Mark 12:2831; Matthew 5:4344; Mark 12:2831; Luke 10:2530; Catechism, 1825)

That happens much more often than I like. (December 10, 2017)

When it does, I’ve got choices.

I could decide that I’m depraved, doomed to a life of wickedness and a future rife with woe and despair. Or that “sin” is a silly notion imagined by prudes who don’t enjoy life. Or that if I ignore my problems, they’ll go away. I’ve got a plethora of options along those lines.

Some self-described paragons of virtue have helped make “sin” look good by comparison. And that’s yet another topic. (January 8, 2018; October 1, 2017)

I prefer trying to make sense. Once I calm down, at any rate.

A New Option — and the Best News Yet

Our options changed, about two millennia back. John 3:1621 talks about it: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son….”

What Jesus said was a big deal.

But it’s what our Lord did that got the attention of the surviving Apostles.

A few days after Jesus had been tortured, publicly executed and buried — the Son of God stopped being dead. (March 4, 2018; April 30, 2017; April 16, 2017)

That, by any reasonable standard, is a big deal. It took a few meetings and a working lunch to convince the Apostles, particularly Thomas, that death hadn’t won. (July 2, 2017)

Since then, we’ve been passing along the best news humanity ever had.

God loves us. All of us. Each of us. And God wants to adopt us. (Romans 8:15; Ephesians 1:35; Peter 2:34; Catechism, 13, 2730, 52, 1825, 1996)

Accepting God’s offer made sense to me. So does trying to act as I if take it seriously. That includes learning and accepting the family values.

Quietly believing won’t cut it. I should act as if what I believe matters. (James 2:1719; Catechism, 18141816)

On the ‘up’ side, what’s expected of me is quite simple.

I should love God and my neighbors. All my neighbors. Everyone, no matter who they are or where they live, no matter what they’ve done. No exceptions. (Matthew 5:4344, 22:3640; Mark 12:2831; Luke 6:31 10:2527, 2937; Catechism, 1789)

Simple, and very far from easy. But I think trying makes sense.

“…Illuminating the World….”

The core of our faith, the basics of what we believe, hasn’t changed, and won’t.

How we express that faith — our habits and customs, laws and devotions — that’s changed as centuries and millennia passed. Some changes happened when different cultures added their traditions to our Tradition. (Catechism, 7583, 172175, 12001206)

That’s a good thing. The world we live in has changed and keeps changing. Cultures, like people, aren’t all alike. We’re not supposed to be. (February 4, 2018; December 3, 2017; October 15, 2017)

The Divine Mercy devotion is quite new.

Sr. Faustina Kowalska’s diary, mostly entries from the 1930s, gave us the devotion’s ideas. Having a Pope who spoke Polish helped, and that’s yet again another topic.

She’s St. Faustina Kowalska now. Folks around the world practice the devotion. You’ll find an English-language approach at thedivinemercy.org: The Divine Mercy Message and Devotion and Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska.

I want to finish this post before starting my hour at the local Eucharistic Adoration chapel, so here’s a few quotes, a little more about Deacon L. N. Kaas’s work, and the usual link list:

“…‘Give thanks to the Lord for he is good; his steadfast love endures for ever’ (Ps 118: 1). So the Church sings on the Octave of Easter, as if receiving from Christ’s lips these words of the Psalm; from the lips of the risen Christ, who bears the great message of divine mercy and entrusts its ministry to the Apostles in the Upper Room: ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you…. Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained’ (Jn 20: 2123).

“Before speaking these words, Jesus shows his hands and his side. He points, that is, to the wounds of the Passion, especially the wound in his heart, the source from which flows the great wave of mercy poured out on humanity. From that heart Sr Faustina Kowalska, the blessed whom from now on we will call a saint, will see two rays of light shining from that heart and illuminating the world: ‘The two rays’, Jesus himself explained to her one day, ‘represent blood and water’ (Diary, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, p. 132)….”
(“Canonization of Sr. Mary Faustina Kowalska,” Pope John Paul II (April 30, 2000) (Divine Mercy Sunday) [emphasis mine])

Legacy

That’s what the northeast corner of L. N. Kaas’s shop looked like around December of 2010.

The big carving of Mary, next to the Divine Mercy devotion picture, is among the best pieces he’s done. My opinion.

Last Sunday I learned that it’ll be going to the Poor Clares, the Order of Saint Clare outfit that’s down the road from here.

I think giving it to the Poor Clares is a very good idea. They’re a Franciscan order, cloistered, and a good bunch of folks. I’m sure they’ll appreciate the gift and make good use of it.

Finally, the usual — inevitable? — links. And, today, something Deacon Kaas said at the end of many homilies: “…be Good, be Holy, preach the Gospel always and if necessary use words.”

About Brian H. Gill

I'm a sixty-something married guy with six kids, four surviving, in a small central Minnesota town. I mostly write and make digital art. I'm only interested in three things: that which exists within the universe; that which exists beyond; and that which might exist.
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2 Responses to Divine Mercy and Lawrence N. Kaas

  1. mseagrif says:

    Brian

    So sorry to hear of your father-in-law’s death. May the good Deacon’s soul and the souls of all the faithfully departed rest in peace.

Thanks for taking time to comment!