The Webcam’s Back

Webcam: Sauk Centre MN is back online. And has been for several days.

I may or may not have uncovered and corrected whatever was keeping you, and me, from seeing my corner of central Minnesota on this page.

Since it’s been working for three days now, I’m hoping that it will stay online.

And now, the inevitable links:

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Another Saturday

Despite this blog’s tagline, “Following Catholic beliefs and practices in America: one man’s experience,” I haven’t written much about what I do.

How I see national holidays, space exploration, ancient history and paleontology — yes.

What it’s like, being a Catholic in 21st century America — maybe not so much.

So I’m trying something new: writing about what’s happening today.

Some of what’s happening, at any rate. Much of it’s routine: necessary, but hardly interesting. I’m nowhere hear the sort of media superstar whose “flossed my teeth” post would get attention.

About that photo. It’s a view across our back yard and several others.

Changing Plans

I’d planned on spending part of the afternoon at the other parish’s Eucharistic adoration chapel. (October 15, 2017)

That didn’t happen. My son is using the family van. He’s working today and his pickup is still out of commission. And it will be until a part comes in.

The good news is that it can be fixed, and we have a ‘spare’ vehicle.

More good news. I’ve been thoroughly enjoying listening to the youngest guest we’ve had in a long time.

Our young guest took his first nearly-solo step recently, which makes him a young toddler. Or maybe an old infant.

Either way, he’s been chatting with someone. And enjoying the process.

One of my wife’s sisters is here for at least part of the afternoon. So is one of my nieces and her kids. This niece is my wife’s sister’s daughter, which makes the youngster my great nephew. And me his great uncle.

Kinship terminology in our culture is — interesting.

Kinship Terminology: a Geeky Digression

Depending on who’s talking, I’m a great uncle, uncle, brother-in-law, father, grandfather and husband. More, as you travel out through the extended family.

It’s complicated, and doesn’t take long before someone’s a “great-uncle of my great-great-grandfather’s third cousin.”

Small wonder most of us limit our working vocabulary to “uncle,” “aunt,” “niece,” “nephew,” “cousin” — and skip the fine points.

It’s also the system used by pretty much everyone in English-speaking cultures. Some kinship systems work like the Anglo-European one. Others don’t.1

I grew up with this system, so it feels natural — if overly complex — to have so many different titles for one person. And that’s another topic.

Enough. Back to what’s happening. Or, more accurately, isn’t.

Another family would have been coming, too, but one of the kids has a bug they’d rather not share. A decision which the adults appreciate.


It’s a couple hours later now. I’ve had a cup of coffee, shared a few words with my wife, and checked my blood sugar level.

I’ve said ‘hi’ to my sister-in-law, but otherwise kept out of the way.

Except for when my son dropped by during a break, the other adults here are women. I figured they’d have a better time without a man underfoot.

There’s more to say, like what I’d have done at the chapel. That’ll wait until after the next time I’ve been there.

One more thing, and I’m done for today.

Several years back, my father wrote this:

Autumn Yard Work
Life passing
Leaves falling
Birds flying
Clouds floating
I’m watching
(Bernard I. Gill)

Not-entirely-unrelated posts:

1 How we say who’s who in families:

Posted in being a writer, being Catholic, journal, poems | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Labor Day: 1882-2019

Labor Day started with a Knights of Labor meeting in New York City. Or maybe American Federation of Labor vice president Peter J. McGuire thought of it.

Either way, the American holiday was launched around 1882. Oregon made it an official public holiday in 1887. It became a Federal holiday in 1894.

Quite a few countries celebrate Labour Day, either with or as International Worker’s Day. Their celebrations are often around the first of May.1

America’s labor holiday might have been then, too; if 1880s politics and my country’s cultural history had been different.


America was going to Hell in a handbasket in the 1880s and 90s.

Or, from another viewpoint, developing a little common sense.

“The Obferation of Christmas having been deemed a Sacrilege, the exchanging of Gifts and Greetings, dreffing in Fine Clothing, Feafting and similar Satanical Practices are hereby FORBIDDEN”
(Public notice deeming Christmas illegal. Boston (1659))

“…They deserve to be cast into Hell….”
“…The God that holds you over the Pit of Hell, much as one holds a Spider, or some loathsome Insect, over the Fire, abhors you….”
(“Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” pp. 6, 15; Jonathan Edwards (July 8, 1741) (via Digital Commons@University of Nebraska-Lincoln))

“What the Puritans gave the world was not thought, but action.”
(“The Pilgrims” speech, Wendell Phillips (1855))

“…You shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns, you shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.”
(“A Cross of Gold,” William Jennings Bryan (July 8, 1896))

“Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.”
(“A Mencken Chrestomathy,” H. L. Menken (1949))

As I see it, H. L. Menken was a tad unfair in his description of Puritanism. And I’m very glad that the ‘good old days’ aren’t coming back.

Nice Weather and “Satanical Practices”

I’ve read that America’s Labor Day is the first Monday in September because we’re more likely to have nice weather then. That makes sense.

I also suspect Labor Day promoters wanted to avoid tangling with stalwart defenders of yesteryear. Bygone days as seen through rose-colored glasses, at any rate.

And that’s almost another topic.

Let’s see. Where was I? Labor Day. Trade unions. “Satanical Practices.” Loathsome insects. Right.

America’s sometimes-grudging tolerance for folks who aren’t Puritans or at least Calvinist may account for our historically lax attitude toward May Day.

Or maybe Boston banned Maypoles and suchlike “heathenish vanity” along with Christmas. If so, I haven’t found documentation for that blue law.

England’s Cromwell and company were more proactive. Under their guidance, Parliament outlawed the observance of Christmas, Easter, and Whitsuntide. And, of course, banned maypoles.

“The Puritans detested May Day because it was rooted in paganism and reminded them of idolatry. Maypoles were banned by parliament on 8 April 1644:

‘And because the profanation of the Lords Day hath been heretofore greatly occasioned by May-poles (a heathenish vanity, generally abused to superstition and wickedness), the Lords and Commons do further order and obtain, that all and singular Maypoles, that are, or shall be erected, shall be taken down and removed.'”
(“The Romantics and the May Day Tradition,” Essaka Joshua (2007) via Google Books)

But all good — and not-so-good — things pass. After killing Charles I, establishing a Commonwealth and then The Protectorate, the Interregnum lost steam.2

Good grief. I’m wandering off-topic again.

May Day

I’m not particularly upset that some folks celebrate May Day and dance around maypoles.

I’m okay with Easter eggs and Christmas trees, too. Maybe I’ll talk about that, and why jack-0′-lanterns don’t horrify me, around Halloween. Then again, maybe not.

My guess is that America’s Labor Day — I’m back to that, finally — isn’t near May Day partly because of the Haymarket affair.

And partly because of May Day’s “heathenish” associations. Maybe.

The Haymarket affair started in Chicago on May 4, 1886.

The Haymarket Affair

The Haymarket affair started when peaceful rally in Chicago’s Haymarket Square took a bad turn.

Methodist preacher, socialist, anarchist and labor activist Samuel Fielden — that’s quite a portfolio — had just finished his speech when police showed up.

Lots of police.

They were dispersing the crowd when someone threw a bomb. We don’t know who.

Throwing the bomb may or may not have had something to do with the police killing eight workers the previous day.

The bomb killed policeman Mathias J. Degan and six other officers. Then the police opened fire on the crowd. Understandably, I suppose.

The New York Times and others said folks at the rally started shooting at the police.

What’s more certain is that Chicago’s police scored four kills and winged at least 70 other folks. The exact numbers are uncertain. Some folks probably got friends and neighbors to treat their wounds.

Remember, this was 1886. Folks wounded at the rally might have thought they’d be arrested if they went to a doctor or hospital. And Americans were still getting used to doctors who occasionally washed their hands. (October 30, 2016; October 14, 2016)

Newspapers, business leaders and the judicial system leaped into action. Citizens were told that anarchists caused the “riot.”

The powers that be suspended legal inconveniences like search warrants. Law enforcement collected dozens of suspects. Eight were tried and convicted.

Five were German-born immigrants. One was born in America, with German ancestors. One was a British-American, another was British. Some were hanged, slowly. One committed suicide. Opinion’s divided on whether and how justice was served.3

Living in the 21st Century

More than a century has passed since the Haymarket affair and W. J. Bryan’s “Cross of Gold” speech.

I figure that many folks know Labor Day honors the labor movement. And for most of us it’s also the unofficial end of summer.

Working eight hours a day, five days a week, became widely accepted. Workers, blue-collar and otherwise, often get medical insurance and other benefits besides their paycheck.

I think life in America is better for many folks now, compared to the 19th century. I’m also quite sure this isn’t a perfect society. We have real issues and bogeymen, and folks with more zeal than sense.

But as I’ve said before, I’m glad the ‘good old days’ aren’t coming back.

There’s more to say about work, social justice and the common good. A great deal more. But that will wait for another day.

Besides — I’ve talked about some of that, and natural law, before:

1 A holiday by any other name…:

2 Cracking down on “heathenish vanity” and all that:

3 Remembering Haymarket:

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“Sharing Your Catholic Faith Story”

Nancy H. C. Ward’s “Sharing Your Catholic Faith Story” has been in print and available on since April, 2019.

Back cover blurbs include Lisa Hendey’s “an enjoyable template for the challenge of evangelization” and Gary Zimak’s “a book that needed to be written.”

“Sharing Your Catholic Faith Story” is a big deal for me, too. It’s the first time I’ve had a byline in print since I wrote articles for the Red River Valley Historical Society’s Heritage Press. That was in the 1970s.

Evangelizing: Tools, Tips and Why it Matters.

Sharing Your Catholic Faith Story: Tools, Tips, and TestimoniesSharing Your Catholic Faith Story: Tools, Tips, and Testimonies by Nancy H.C. Ward
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As the title says, Nancy H. C. Ward’s book gives you “tools, tips and testimonies.”

The first half opens with a definition of “faith story” and discussion of why evangelizing matters, and ends with an “Ask Yourself” section. So do the rest of Part 1’s chapters.

‘Tools and tips’ start with Chapter 4, “Start with Your Spiritual Journal.” This chapter has two “Ask Yourself” sections, one at the end and another before the “Best Practices for Keeping a Spiritual Journal” section.

I’m one of those folks who hasn’t kept a journal: spiritual or otherwise. Journaling seems like a very good idea. That’s why I’ve tried keeping a journal. “Tried” being the key word. So far, journaling is something that I haven’t been able to do.

That’s a tad frustrating, since Spiritual Journal is the first of five points covered in Chapter 7, “Five Tools for Stirring the Waters of Christian Testimony”. The other four are Timeline of Faith Events, Faith Biography, Formal Testimony and Elevator Speech.

But it’s not all that frustrating, since Ward explains why the five tools are important. Basically, they’re — for most folks — pretty good ways of organizing ideas.

As she says: “…You don’t need to memorize word-for-word the facts of your faith story or your elevator speech. Just spontaneously give the highlights of how you became a Catholic, or why you returned to or remain in the Church. Be ready to elaborate….”

A 10-Point List

We run into another list in Chapter 9, “Gentleness and Reverence: Tips for Sharing Your Faith Story:”

  1. Be specific, not vague
  2. Speak in the listener’s language
  3. Speak with substance, not just emotion
  4. Speak the truth
  5. Keep focused
  6. Avoid self-righteousness
  7. Don’t pick apart other people, churches, or ministries
  8. Stick to your part of the story
  9. Discretely avoid sordid details
  10. Relax. Speak matter-of-factly

Those ten points make sense to me: not just for sharing why I’m a Catholic, but in almost any sort of conversation.

I’ve run into Catholics, and others, who did pretty much the opposite of what’s recommended here. And that’s another topic.

“Sharing Your Catholic Faith Story’s” Part 2 is thirty “testimonies:” including mine.

A Motley Gallimaufry

We’re a motley bunch: an atheist-turned-Catholic, cradle Catholics, a former Mormon and previously-Protestant Catholics. I’m in the last category.

A few of the other 29 folks have a “faith story” that’s a bit like mine, more intellectual than emotional.

Others are, by my standards, brimming with bubbly effervescence.

Like I said, we’re a motley bunch. What we have in common is a love for and acceptance of Jesus.

I plan on reviewing “Sharing Your Catholic Faith Story” after what I’ll call a cooling-off period. Who knows? I might even start a spiritual journal: and stick with it.

(Adapted from my GoodReads review. View all my reviews)

“Sharing Your Catholic Faith Story:” Contributor Links

Each testimony in “Sharing Your Catholic Faith Story” ends with a biographical sketch; maybe a hundred words. Some sketches include the person’s blog.

After a little checking, I found that 16 contributors have blogs or other online content. 17, counting the one you’re reading, my A Catholic Citizen in America:

And here are the inevitable links to more A Catholic Citizen in America posts:

Posted in being Catholic, book reviews, discursive detours | Tagged , | 2 Comments