Father Howard Hansen entered my life on Holy Thursday, April 17, 2003. At the time, I was not ready to meet him or understand the impact that he would later have on me. Fr. Howard died on Palm Sunday, April 17, 2011.
I attended the Franciscan Retreat Center’s Men’s Holy Week Retreat for the first time in 2003 and it was here that I met Father Howard Hansen for the first time. Fr. Howard was a Franciscan Friar dedicated to his vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Immediately I felt connected to him because of his booming voice, tremendous passion for the gospel of Jesus Christ and routine displays of humility.
What sent me to this wonderful place, the Franciscan Retreat Center, tucked-away in an unassuming neighborhood in Prior Lake, I cannot say. I first heard about the opportunity to attend such an event from Deacon Bob Wagner at St. Hubert Catholic Community in Chanhassen, MN where I am a member and have been since August of 1998.
During Mass one Sunday, Deacon Bob mentioned a retreat center that he was involved with and the various types of retreat activities that went on. He talked more in-depth about the men’s retreats as a way for men to strengthen a relationship with Christ and that piqued my interest. Or, as I now believe, through the infinite Grace of God, the Holy Spirit tapped me on the shoulder and said, “follow-up on this.” I did, and my life has never been the same since.
For me, my spiritual awakening has not been a “born-again” or “flash of light” type of experience. It’s more like a flowing river that cuts its path through a slow, meandering series of changes that ultimately helps the water to flow where the Creator intends it to go.
Like a river, there are times when I am:
- flooded-flowing beyond my limits, struggling to understand what it is that I am destined to pursue or become.
- dry-searching for the living water to quench my thirst and looking to find ways to serve.
- calm-flowing in the gentle harmony of God’s Grace and humility.
On November 22nd of this year, Fr. Howard would have celebrated his 84th birthday. I miss having lunch with him, talking about living a life consistent with the Gospel, hearing him laugh and listening to his stories. He had the most wonderful laugh and I can still hear him as I write these words.
I believe in the power of the Holy Spirit and that things come to me when I am ready to accept them. Father Howard came to me when I needed him and as I reflect on the relationship that we had, I realize that I took more than I gave. While thinking about it that way makes me sad, it also gives me hope. Fr. Howard was a person with so much to give and I believe that he expected nothing from me. This is a humbling thought to me.
My hope for the future is that I can repay my debt to Fr. Howard by giving of myself to people with no hope of a return. I miss him a great deal and I pray that he will continue to plead for me to our Savior in whose presence he most surely now exists.
Thanks, Father Howard, for all that you did for me and my family while you were here on earth. As you watch over me now, I know that sometimes I disappoint you. One more time, I ask you to beg for Him to forgive me for those times that I fall down and please guide me to carry my cross and live each day to the fullest.
The Franciscan Retreat Center publishes some of Father Howard’s Homilies. He wrote a lot more and I wonder if I should explore publishing these homilies in a format that may help others?