Monday, October 31, 2005

words are broken... am i to write my term papers? i only hope i can fix my head soon.

Friday, October 28, 2005


convulsions. pain. relief. predestination and communal salvation. blurs and nuisances. triumph and self congratulations. ill. pills and waves of dissolution. relief. discomfort. uncertainty and decisions—lost in a sea of limbs. breuer, embarassment, and weighed down with books. lost. thrilled. home. always home. sometimes frustrated. sometimes angry. but always home.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

bar experience

after a miserable class that i nearly walked out on out of sheer disgust, i went to the bar with my fellow classmates to bitch and moan... but also to chat about life, the universe and everything. few things stimulate good conversation in this frigid weather like a glass of merlot. except maybe a glass of shiraz, but bars don't seem to offer that by the glass around here.

me: i'll have a glass of wine

bartender: this is a bar...

me: i understand that

bartender: so, you kinda need to order something. you can't just walk in and drink our water.

me: uh-huh...

she goes to get me a glass of water. at this point, i realize she mistook 'wine' for 'water.'

me: i actually ordered a glass of wine...

she laughs and i smile indignantly, but leave a fair tip anyway. as i approached the bar for my third glass, she said, 'cheers! this ones on the house!"

a decent night.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005


walking home at 2:30a is a quiet experience. shoes on concrete believe i can fall asleep while crossing the road. the men offering 'coke, smoke, weed, blow, man...' fade to nothing and pass on their way. the rats scurry about their world and i wish for something different. my happiness creates anew. nimble feet navigate better than concrete shoes but ultimately find no destination. i'm here. i'm tired. i know what to do but i refuse. i laugh at tomorrow. buddy can you spare two fifty? will you bring any guests? here's your master list. now fuck off and let me soar.

Monday, October 24, 2005


sometimes i feel like tom cruise on oprah. all ridiculous and excited in love. well. what can i say? i have a terrific life... both in the present and a wonderful future to look forward to. over the past weekend, i officially proposed to melissa and she accepted!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


have you ever caught an image of yourself in the mirror and not recognized yourself? today i was waiting in line to purchase a soda before class and was startled by my reflection. i can't say what was so jarring about the experience. i wonder what it was that struck me so much in glimpsing myself.

i'm tired. and getting annoyed. i want to sleep. but first, i have to prepare coffee for the morning, set out my clothes, rinse off in the shower and peruse some deluze.

yeah. that's what i'll do.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

raindrops keep falling on my head...

so much rain. it creates a rather absurd city. first, most streets and sidewalks here seem imperfect in such a way that every block or so you'll find a monstrous puddle that will threaten to spoil your entire day. getting to work having braved the rain is fine and even exciting, but getting to work with soaked shoes and socks is at least five hours of discomfort. umbrellas literally choke the narrow sidewalks and i've somehow managed to communicate to other umbrella carriers, "ok, you hoist your umbrella high above your head, i'll squat down low, and we can both pass by each other in relative comfort." its really quite ridiculous to watch people, especially people who don't seem to find this ridiculous, but instead demeaning. they have muddled faces and always seem to be talking to themselves under their breath, reminding themselves of their inherent self worth and decency in the face of such an awkard commute to work. after coming upon a puddle so large it warranted several large pieces of construction materials for one to cross as a small child might skip over a brook, i took a route that involved a leap and sustained balancing act while juggling my coffee mug, umbrella and briefcase. i was so proud of this feat that my triumphant smile surely communicated it and i half expected applause as i continued on my way.

yesterday was fun, but i'm afraid that it was only on account of my strong will for a day of glee. can my will be so strong today? it looks like rain for the next several days straight through, so perhaps i should get used to it. but i also feel like my patience is wearing thin. and i wanted to do laundry today without worrying about my clothes being soaked by the trip home.

ok. time to go to work.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

the exorcism of emily rose

a one-hundred percent chance of rain?! one-hundred! imagine me checking the weather report for the evening, only to find this forecast. "IT WILL DOWNPOUR!!!!" still, i couldn't help but argue with the forecast... really, was i completely idiotic to think that it MIGHT stop raining? yes, i was... the forecast left no possibility for it NOT to rain. how can that be? these bizarre predictors of the future... how can someone predict anything with one-hundred percent certainty? surely, the sun will rise tomorrow and matthew will find himself on a subway route to work... but even these things we couldn't REALLY say with one-hundred percent certainty...

but, rain it did as we trudged through the drowning city to see 'the exorcism of emily rose'. the movie was wholly laughable, with some quite terrifying scenes thrown in. the exorcism bits would have gotten under my skin had it not been for the court room melodrama that accompanied it, which made me want to puke for its ridiculous treatment of kantian ideas of hope, which i actually take quite seriously. and so did the film. but the film couldn't present these ideas in a way to be treated seriously, regardless the pains they went through to do so. rather than feeling vindicated for believing in the possibility of a supernatural realm, i felt ridiculous for holding such a belief while watching the film. note to the producers: if you can't do something well, maybe you shouldn't do it at all. you've only spoiled a pregnant idea.

Friday, October 07, 2005


the past several weeks have been like a blur of malcontent. and slim pickin's on wireless networks in the area. i used to have a fantasy that new york was like the city of the future, so that when even in the midwest i could find wireless signals in very surprising places i thought, surely, new yorkers must have a hard time breathing for all the wifi in the air. not the case. and it isn't just wifi. debit cards, too, though i thought surely these must be the wave of the future, i doubt the jewish man who is repairing my shoe accepts anything but cash. so cosmopolitan, but so old fashioned. i like it.

needless to say, being cranky and having difficulties getting a wireless signal have made this blog the last thing on my mind. however, through the desire for emotional outlet, creative exploration, social connection and an inspiring email from a friend, i've been wanting to post more lately.

soon, through the good graces of road runner, i should have a wireless network of my very own and then you may expect more regular updates. you don't want to know what torture i had to put myself through just to post this.

this weekend i'm going to start one of my papers. it will compare kant & gadamer and try to find some reconciliation for their differences. the goal is nothing short of an introduction and an outline, though i'm nervous because without much of a library, i'm not entirely certain how prepared i can make myself. but enough excuses.

and now to sleep.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

National Catholic Reporter article

Someone from the National Catholic Reporter recently did a piece on my dad. It's attached below...


No pretension: Family keeps parish administrator grounded

The first thing that strikes you when you meet Tom Johnson is that he talks like a character in a “Prairie Home Companion” skit. Like the Minnesotans created by Garrison Keillor, Tom is unassuming, with little regard for titles and other matters he calls “pretentious.”

For three years Johnson has been a “parish director,” hired by a cluster of three parishes in the Winona, Minn., diocese: St. Joseph in Good Thunder, St. Matthew in Vernon Center, and St. Teresa in Mapleton. He came from St. Gertrude Parish in the New Ulm diocese where, for 11 years, he was called the “pastoral administrator.”

Elsewhere lay people who do what Johnson does might be called “parish life coordinators” or “parish administrators.”

“A standard title would help, I suppose,” Johnson mused. “After I tell people my title and they look confused, I just say I’m like a lay pastor and then they understand what I do. The title really doesn’t matter to me.”

Johnson spends his day like a pastor. He presides over Communion services, visits the homebound, counsels the occasional troubled teenager, and stops to talk with whoever appears in his office. He’s involved in ecumenical work and meets regularly with other pastors in the area. He has an associate, School Sister of Notre Dame Lois Wickenhauser, a retired teacher who takes on most of the pastoral care and continuing formation, but on the day we talked he was preparing for a meeting with catechists about the new guidelines for confirmation.

Tom’s strengths are in liturgy and administration so he gathers the musicians from the three parishes to prepare worship and he goes to a lot of meetings. There is a finance council for each parish; one combined pastoral council; and he’s on several diocesan committees, including the “adult ed formation advisory committee.” Just like a pastor, indeed.

Except he’s a layman. Tom is married to Jeanne -- “spelled like Jeanne d’Arc.” Jeanne is a registered nurse and works in a nursing home. “She has a gift for working with people with dementia.” They have three children, Matt, Ben and Rachel. Matt, 24, is in graduate school at Stony Brook in New York and Johnson says he enjoys talking philosophy with him. Ben, 21, is an undergraduate and lives in Chicago. Rachel, 19, moved to Duluth to live in a Catholic Worker House and now works as a cook.

Growing up with their father being like their pastor, the kids “got teased some. I think one of the boys was called ‘Church Boy’ in a pejorative way. It wasn’t a big thing.” Today, he said, “they may not be every-Sunday Catholics, but their ethos is Catholic. They live out of their Catholic values.”

He admitted that sometimes there are conflicts between family and ministry, but no more than for than a doctor who is called out on an emergency. “Coming home to someone who cares and just being yourself keeps you grounded. So often pastors can be pretentious and I just don’t think that’s right. Sometimes it’s helpful that I’m married. It’s like, ‘He’s married -- he knows what it’s like.’ ”

He wanted to be a priest when he was a boy, he said. “I used to wonder how I could best know God. I thought if you really loved God you would be a priest or a nun. I come from a family of 11 kids -- that’s how Catholic we were. My mother would have been happy if all seven of her sons had become priests and her four daughters had become nuns.” None of the sons became priests, but one daughter is a Sinsinawa Dominican.

Johnson went to Nazareth Hall Preparatory Seminary in Arden Hills, Minn., during high school, and St. John Vianney Seminary at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul for college. “As I tried to discern how I was being called to come to know God closely, I spent some time at St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville to try the contemplative life. I don’t know. Somehow I just knew I needed one intimate friend to spend my life with. I knew I should be married and I wanted to serve the church.”

Johnson worked for 13 years as a parish liturgist, but he felt called to be a pastor -- or as much like one as he could be. He clearly loves his work. He mentioned getting together with others who do the same work and how they soon discovered that “griping” was not fruitful. Now they check in with each other, talk about situations in their parishes and enjoy each other’s company.

When asked what the top three gripes are, he was quick on the first two: lack of acknowledgment from some priests and sometimes the bishop; and the “tough plowing” if you’re the first of your kind in the parish. “Folks are grieving the loss of a priest and are sometimes slow to accept the giftedness of lay people.” As for the third, he said that loneliness can be a problem -- “well, not for me, but for the single ones.”

Johnson said he and Jeanne hope to do some kind of work in Latin America. It was on a mission trip to Guatemala that he was moved by the simple gratitude of people who have so little. “I want to live like that -- to be that graceful and hospitable and that dispossessed of my possessions. I’ve got a lot to learn.”

Paige Byrne Shortal writes from her home in rural Missouri.

National Catholic Reporter, September 16, 2005