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Two Wings: President’s Posts

Two Wings No. 74

By December 2, 2023No Comments

“Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know Himself—so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves.”

–St. John Paul II Preface to Fides et Ratio


Fides et Ratio Reflections


St. John Henry Newman

 In mid-November at their annual fall meeting, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops voted 240-2 in support of a proposal by the Bishops of England and Wales to name St. John Henry Newman a “Doctor of the Church.” The conference will send a letter of support to Pope Francis for consideration.

“Doctor” literally means “teacher” as “doctrine” means “teaching.” At this time, the Church has named thirty-seven official “Doctors” for their influential, outstanding teaching and integrity of life. St. Irenaeus of Lyons was the most recent addition (2022).

I have noted before the beautiful unity of the Two Wings of Faith and Reason which St. Newman manifested.

His addition as the thirty-eighth “Doctor of the Church” would be most welcome.

St. John Henry Newman: “Pray for us.”


It’s About Time


“That They Might Have Life”

              Archbishop Samuel Aquila

On November 10—on the eve of the U.S. Bishops meeting in Baltimore—former Fargo Bishop and current Archbishop of Denver, Samuel Aquila, issued a Pastoral Letter on the impact and dangers of drug use, particularly marijuana.

That They Might Have Life – Archdiocese of Denver (

In doing so, Archbishop Aquila is seeking to “fill the void that exists in the Catholic space on this burgeoning and critical issue.”

I recall several of then-Bishop Aquila’s homilies at our school Masses about the dangers of drug use, which he had seen in his work as a young man in a hospital setting. Today’s flood of opioids and the gate-opening recreational marijuana do indeed require the two-fold response of reason and faith by followers of Christ.

As I spoke about this topic in my classroom at Shanley, I always wondered aloud if the Catechism’s pun in the paragraph on drugs was intentional: “The use of drugs inflicts very grave damage on health and human life. Their use, except on strictly therapeutic grounds, is a grave offense” (CCC 2291). “Grave,” of course, means “serious,” but it also implies death (as in “six feet under”).

Thank you, Archbishop Aquila, for this letter on such a grave matter.

O’Gorman Catholic Schools Visit

        Bishop Thomas O’Gorman

On Wednesday of this week, Vice President Mary Beth Traynor and I visited our sister Catholic school system in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Bishop O’Gorman Catholic Schools.

Just as “Shanley High School” is named after pioneering Bishop John Shanley, first Bishop of the Fargo Diocese, so, too, is the O’Gorman school system named after pioneering Bishop Thomas O’Gorman, second Bishop of the Sioux Falls Diocese.

Both Irishmen were in St. Paul when called to the priesthood, though O’Gorman was born in Boston and Shanley in upper New York.

Both bishops used their great gifts in service to build up the Church in the eastern Dakotas.

I am grateful for their witness along with all those in Catholic schools over the decades who have attended, supported, taught, and administered.

Thanks to the O’Gorman leaders who showed us such kind hospitality and engaged us in mutually beneficial conversations.


Advent 2023: “Away in a Manger”

The First Sunday of Advent is tomorrow, December 3.

This year the Vatican is highlighting the 800th Anniversary of the first manger scene by St. Francis of Assisi:

Christmas 2023 at the Vatican: Nativity to recall St. Francis’ first-ever manger scene | Catholic News Agency

To echo that, our JPII Catholic Schools Advent theme this year will be “Away in a Manger”—a simple but profound theme.

It is Biblical:

“And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”  –Luke 2:7

“And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” –Luke 2:12

“And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.”  –Luke 2:16

It is musical:

“Away in a Manger”

1.  Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,

The little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head;

The stars in the sky looked down where he lay,

The little Lord Jesus, asleep on the hay.

2. The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes,

But little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes;

I love thee, Lord Jesus! Look down from the sky,

And stay by my cradle till morning is nigh.

3. Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask thee to stay

Close by me forever, and love me, I pray;

Bless all the dear children in thy tender care,

And fit us for heaven to live with thee there.

It is visual: (see the student art above)

It is inspirational: Ponder the wonder of the Incarnation, God embracing poverty by becoming a little child, being born in the poorest of circumstances—no crib, just a manger.

It is motivational: Coming to the aid of the poor among us, our neighbors in need, donations or collections for expectant moms and newborns, the homeless, refugees, etc.

We envision many ways to manifest and integrate our schools’ 2023 Advent Theme. Have a blessed Advent, everyone!


President’s Proverb


“We have direct access to the heart of this child, and we can become His friends.”

–Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI on St. Francis of Assisi’s introduction of the manger scene



Hagstrom’s Attempt At Humor (HAAH!)




Sunday Psalm Sampler


First Sunday of Advent (Year B)


“Everything written about Me in the Law of Moses and in the Prophets and in the Psalms must be fulfilled.”

–Luke 24:44b

Lectionary Readings: First Sunday of Advent | USCCB

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 80:2-3, 15-16

Responsorial Refrain: “Lord, make us turn to You; let us see Your face and we shall be saved.”Ps 80:4

Chris Brunelle’s YouTube recording: R&A Psalm First Sunday of Advent 2023, Psalm 80 – YouTube

With the First Sunday of Advent and the call to vigilance and repentance, Psalm 80 proves pivotal with its metaphor of Israel as the vine and the vineyard, transplanted and protected by the Lord, Who guards and nurtures its growth.

That image is enveloped by stanzas in today’s portion of Psalm 80 that invoke the Lord’s saving power to protect His plant. This appeal for salvation and restoration—originally for the Northern Kingdom of Israel—by the mighty Lord, Who alone saves, is most fitting for us as we begin the Holy Season of Advent. For by God’s power will we be saved.

This Advent may we deepen our desire for the saving God as we sing, “Lord, make us turn to You; let us see Your face and we shall be saved.”



Mike Hagstrom

Mike Hagstrom was named President of St. John Paul II Catholic Schools and Director of Catholic Schools for the Diocese of Fargo on March 15, 2016 and assumed office on July 1, 2016. When he applied for the position, he wrote that his “approach would be that of stewardship of the great gift of Catholic Schools. With the help of God’s Grace and all our stakeholders we can be good stewards together, seeing that our schools not only merely survive, but also thrive. For they are designed for human flourishing, forming as we do the whole person, each and every student, made in God’s image and likeness, endowed with a transcendent dignity and destiny.” Prior to this role, he taught Religion and served in a number of other leadership capacities at Shanley High School for 31 years. There, he embraced St. Bede’s notion that “I have always found delight in learning, teaching, and writing.” Mike earned his B.A. in English and M.A. in Systematic Theology from Saint John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota. He and his wife, Shawn, have two children (Therese ’08 and Joseph ’16) and two grandchildren (James and Oliver).