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Salonen: Five years of 'Living Faith' rouses reflection

Roxane Salonen

In January 2013, after an announcement here sharing of a new religion column, I sat down to pen my first "Living Faith" essay.

That inaugural column transpired from a hospital room at St. Alexius in Bismarck, where my father had been ill since Thanksgiving, and was now in a grave state.

But I didn't know just how close to death he was. Shortly after submitting that first piece, "A holiday diversion: my father's illness," I found myself cobbling together an addendum for my editor. "My Dad died last night," I emailed. "Can we add something to the end?"

I knew when I proposed the idea of a faith column that it would be an interesting adventure, but I couldn't have prepared for this sadness as my starting point.

Certainly, the faith life can involve great sorrow; the human story necessarily contains the elements of conflict, drama, pain. But with faith, a bright light, a hope, shines, and this became apparent as I wrote those first follow-up pieces, including, "Dad's passing stirs memories, deeper faith."

Right out of the runway, I was reminded that belief in a living God can bring solace in sadness like nothing else.

Over these five years, this column has brought much my way, including a fair amount of derision that has, at times, seemed most prominent. But from my perspective, it's been far from the final word.

Behind the scenes, I've been prayed over, consoled, encouraged and lavishly loved and appreciated. The private moments, such as when a new reader-friend invited me to her home for fresh muffins and coffee in gratitude, stand out, along with the many emails saying, "I really needed to hear that," and, "Please, keep it up."

A subjective sharing can never please all, but it seems fitting that on the Christian Feast of the Epiphany — an affirmation of universal salvation, the magi being the first fruits of the Gentiles leading all people of the earth to Christ — we can hope for more communion.

On this five-year anniversary, I'm grateful anew for the chance to share my thoughts about the faith life, and for all of you who've lifted me up in my own times of darkness.

It seems right, as we head into a brand-new year, and as I prepare to celebrate the fifth anniversary of my father's death, too, to end with words he'd have appreciated from Philippians

4:8; words worthy of contemplating as we turn, in expectant hope, to what's ahead.

"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things." A blessed 2018 to you all.

Salonen is a freelance writer who lives in Fargo with her husband and five children. Email her at