Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Greetings my friends

Hello! Welcome "Praying at the Bricks!" This is the personal blog of John "JM" Kraemer. This is an extension of the  "The Lego Church Project" Face Book Page! Here you will find posts related to The Project along with writings dealing with the Catholic Faith and issues related to disability awareness. 

The Project is a yearly tradition and is a massive Catholic Parish built using LEGO bricks. We are currently into Season 19. 

"Praying at the Bricks" is a common phrase I use when I'm working on the project as it is at time of prayer and reflection. I write about issues relating to the Catholic Faith. More so about spirituality and understanding. I try to avoid political mind fields in my writing. That is not my focus or the purpose of this place. However sometimes the lines between faith and politics get a little blurry. 

If you would like more information drop me an email at Feel free to check out the FAQ for extra information or any of the other links. 

Monday, June 4, 2018

The Empty Church: A Shepherd's Worry

On the Feast of Corpus Christi Fr. Ron of Christ the Good Shepherd opened up his homily with something a little bit different. In his eyes it was not so much of a homily than it was a reflection. It was a look into the heart of a priest about the state of the parishes in the Saginaw Diocese and in many ways the entire Catholic faith as a whole. It was at times sorrowful and a nearly heart breaking reflection on the state of the parishes and the too few priests who are able to serve. Many of them already serving more than one parish community as it is. Fr. Ron was giving us a head up that down the road. Probably sooner than later our Mass time that we have had for ages would probably be changing. He talked about the parishes Pastoral Council and their efforts to evangelize to the surrounding neighborhoods in an effort to try and bring more people to Mass. But also expressed sorrow at the too few people answering the call to vocations. Mind you this was by no means a lesson in self pity. This was not a “woe is me” kind of view. But rather it was shepherd who was probably way more frustrated at the state of things than he has ever let on. For almost ten minuets he poured out his heart to the congregation. For that moment we felt as he felt. It was not necessarily Fathers intention to pass his personal anxieties on to us. However it was probably way more needed than he realized.

Fr. Ron's reflection bothered me heart and soul. For many years I have, with the Lego Church Project, put a deep focus on the importance of the Mass. I use the project to share the faith and to try and evangelize on how important the Mass should be. My Projects are always filled with as many mini-figures as I can because it is not a reflection of the past but rather a reflection of how things need to be. That if we do not make the Mass more than a priority in our lives then we could very well lose our ability to be able to attend and miss out on so much. Fathers words are a reminder that such a reality may very well happen given the state of things in many dioceses.

The answers to the problems at hand will not be easy to find. Mainly because there is no single root cause for what we are dealing with. It is not a simple matter of men and women answering the call to vocations. Or even people attending Mass again. While those would indeed help with the matters at hand they would only be a band-aid over much bigger issues. The reality is that we have lost our way. We do this when we allow the distractions of the world to remove us from the path of Christ. This happens when we don't make an active effort to spend quality time in prayer. Either by ourselves or as a family. Prayer becomes something to do in times of crisis rather than something we do to open up our hearts to the will of God. We tend to water down the importance of our faith by allowing ourselves to embrace the sins of the world. This becomes more of a problem when the “laws of the land” says such sins are OK. We tend to make too many compromises and in the end we put God on the back burner and no longer take our Catholic faith seriously. Such issues remove us from the Body of Christ and the community that becomes the core of our faith.

Homilies like Fr. Ron's show us the passion that our Priests have for the faith and their concerns for the future. It is also a wake up call to us as parishioners. A reminder that we also have ownership in the fate of our communities. Our personal goals should always live for Christ the best the we are able to. We do this by living our lives the best that we can. Making sure that we do not let these distractions take us away from God and by extension the Mass itself. From there our ability to reach out and evangelize will begin to plant the seeds that can help restore our parishes. We should always use our talents to the best of our abilities and to make use of those to help show people how important our faith really is. If we can start from with in our own hearts then perhaps we can open up the hearts of others to come home to the Catholic faith. Even in this current age of so many distractions.

Till Next Time 


Sunday, April 29, 2018

Excuse me while I laugh.

Their are times when I'm way to easily amused. More so when it comes to how people react to me while I'm out on a bike/trike. Today is one of those times.

So Kat and I went up to McDonald's not far from my apartment for lunch. She walked and I took the trike. I had my helmet and sunglasses as well. During our time at the restaurant we had a group of young men show up. They looked like the came from one of the schools in the area. Probably Michigan Lutheran Seminary. They are the only place like that in area that I know of. Didn't think much of it. During the return trip I got a little farther ahead of Kat and was inside the complex. I stopped for a moment trying to decide if I was going to loop back to see where she was at. From behind me I hear "There he is!" and a few moments later I see a car pull up and pass me on the road inside the complex. Sure enough it was the same guy we saw at McDonald's. They didn't stay long and did a turn around and came back the way they came. You have to wonder what was going though those kids heads as they saw me on the trike. I'm 454lbs. I know I look odd while on I'm the trike. I could have cared less if they were ridiculing me. Or found it funny to see someone of my size moving at a pretty good speed. Fact is the trike has been slowly helping me with my walking. Those kids don't know the battles I've had to deal with lately. If they realized that on my old bike I use to put five to ten miles they might turn a whiter shade of pale. Either way I found their reactions kind of amusing. They probably saw me as some kind of side show oddity. But come on people. This is not the first time I've been heckled while on the ride. Sure as heck won't be the last. If they are that shallow in personality so be it. I can get a little bit of a chuckle at their reaction. Anyway if you don't mind I'm going to end the blog post here and go finish laughing to get it out of my system. Because right now I'm just too easily amused.


Thursday, March 29, 2018

The Review: Catechism of the Seven Sacraments

So recently I found out about an amazing book that is coming out on April 4th and talks about about the faith using LEGO style parts.

"Catechism of the Seven Sacraments" is by Kevin and Mary O'Neill. It tells the story of the Seven Sacraments of the Catholic faith by using LEGO. The reader walks along with Fulton as he explains to his friend the history of the Sacraments page by page. Going into the history with amazing illustration using some impressive building tricks.

This book is very much geared to children. However even I as an adult loved the simple but effective explanations given along with the Biblical history and connections. Each chapter moves very smoothly from one section to the next. Everything is very clear cut. Each of the Sacraments is explained in vivid detail. Sharing with us the importance if each one and the direct links to the Bible itself. What is also important is that every term used is explained at the end of the book with an expansive glossary. Their is no questions left unanswered.

The brick work is also extremely impressive. Each scene jumps off the page with amazing detail. You can easily spend more than a few hours trying to figure out how the scenes were built. While the book does use both LEGO and off brand that should not be a distraction given what the goal of the book is. It really was the only way for them to be able to pull such an amazing idea. You feel drawn into the story and at the end get a better understanding of the Catholic faith.

This is a book that is good for any age. It contains a lot of useful information. I found myself learning a lot along the way. Catechism of the Seven Sacraments goes on sale April 4th and is $34.95. Can be ordered directly from StoryTel FoundationThe Lego Church Project/Praying at the brick was given permission to review a PDF copy.

If you can please check this book when it comes out. You will truly enjoy it. Till Next Time! -JM

Sunday, March 18, 2018

A diocese in crisis.

This post was adapted from a FB post that I wrote earlier today. It has been rewritten and expanded from the original content. 

With in the last few weeks. Two major cases of sexual misconduct have come to light in the Saginaw Diocese of which I live in. To say the news is a shock is putting it mildly. As we go about our daily lives we realize that at some point we must face a storm darker than what ever we have faced. One that will test our own resolve to remain true to what we believe in.  Any time someone with in our religious leadership is accused of a crime. It is extremely hurtful to us as a community. Trust is shattered in the blink of an eye. Even if that person is not guilty of the crimes that they have been accused of. That sigma that those accusations carry will remain. The court of public opinion is easily angered and they will want vengeance that instant. Never mind if the person is truly guilty or innocent. That same court will also go after that religious institution. They see that religion as the source of the evil. Even though that is clearly not the case.

When accusations are proven true. They do far more damage to the religious community than those on the outside realize. The damage runs deep and creates fissures and fractures that most cannot see. It plants seeds of doubt. Often times making us question why we follow this religious path. Makes us question why we even stay. Does staying mean we are turning a blind eye? Or by staying are we making a silent stand and making it clear that want action. True change that those seek will not come from the outside.  It does not come from those who chose to leave. But rather it comes from with in. From those of us who have chosen to remain faithful. That change comes from standing firm and not being afraid to speak out when the time is called. If a religious leader is accused of a crime we allow the law to do their job. We let the courts decide their fate. We offer up our prayers to the victims and that God's justice be delivered fairly. We always show mercy and compassion when it is needed. Above all else we use this storm as a way to build up our faith and not allow it to break us down.

My heart has been troubled by the news coming out of the Saginaw Diocese. I have anger that such actions have taken place in our region. However I temper my feelings. I do not presume guilt or innocence of anyone. Instead I will allow the law to do their job and do what I can not to rush to judgement. Despite the grim news this will not change my opinion of the Catholic Church. My faith has always been rooted deeply in Christ. In these times of crisis we need people to step up and not walk away from the faith. As I've prayed on this issue lately I am reminded of a phrase I use: "Surrender to Christ all things." It serves for me as a constant reminder that we are in the hands of God. That during the most difficult storms Christ walks with us. Even when we cannot see the road in front of us.

I want to make something extremely clear: I do not condone evil acts committed by our religious leaders. If they are guilty of the crimes that they have been accused then they must be held accountable. I do not condone any in leadership in either turning a blind eye or trying to cover up those crimes. If they have done so. Let them be held accountable for their actions. I will however stand firm in my faith. For that is what Christ has called me to do. Please pray for the Saginaw Diocese. Keep them in your prayers. The storm that we are facing now. Has only just begun. 

Till Next Time.


Monday, February 19, 2018

Look Into History: Season 15

Season 15 (2014-2015): The Priest in the photo is Fr. Emmett. He retired a few years prior and was filling in while Fr. Ron was on sick leave. It is an important reminder of how long the project has been around and how important the various displays that I do mean to me. It is a chance to share my gift with others.

The Project build was pretty straight forward. As you can tell it was one of my more infamously massive works with a side wind design that has not been really repeated. Though the tapered windows in that section are a bit of a tribute to the Season 4 project. Some of the windows were developed from the same ideas I used in the previous year. However they did have the same issues as last season. But over all the building was rather structurally sound. The balcony went though a minor revision from the previous season. Adding an extra spot to bring out some more detail.

This was also the season that really hammered into the point of "Just because it looks finished doesn't mean that it is." On the balcony section as I was waiting for a friend to show up. I decided to put a floor with a pattern. I had planned to not do anything for that section of floor. But since I had the parts left over I figured I would. Turned out rather nice for the short amount of time it took.

The other major addition was the upgrade of the Christmas Lights. Switched over to LED's that I got from Bronner's in Frankenmuth, MI. They have lasted rather well over the years and are a bit easier to set in that the normal bulb lights that I had used in the past.

Season 15 turned out to be an amazing year for me. Had some neat displays and a good time. Thanks for reading.


Look Into History: Season 14

Season 14 (2013-2014): This season was dedicated to the life of (now Saint) John Paul II. That part alone added some extra challenges to the build. I had a small statue of him inside which meant the wing section had to be built a little higher so it would be able to fit inside. It was a fun addition and one that for me added a personal connection to my work. As I had seen Saint John Paul II during WYD2002.

One of the biggest changes that took place started in this season and has continued very year sense in some form. Which is having a balcony! Now some people may not think much of it. Their are probably may ways to build one effectively. Mine probably not the most practical at the time. But the idea came about even before the Season 14 layout had been established. As with many things on these Project it started off as a simple question of "Can I do it?" and after more than a few hours of tinkering the answer was indeed yes. Their were a few issues with the over all setting of the section into place. But over all those issues were resolved later on down the build.

The window on this project were also a bit of a hit or miss. While the building was pretty solid. I had designed the windows to come apart so people could look inside. On one hand the idea worked. On the other hand the windows were not easy to remove and did not always want to stay together. But over all it didn't effect the building that much. It held together pretty well considering.

This Project was a neat one to build. One that turned out rather well. Thanks for reading.


Sunday, February 18, 2018

Look Into History: Season 13

Season 13 (2012-2013): This Project was a very interesting build. I was trying to capture some of the feelings of the older seasons. With the massive window so people could look inside and see just about everything. From a pure technical stand point this was the first time I had nearly the full sides with secondary sections. This created the extra challenge of making sure I had all the support pillars in place to help support the upper sections of wall. Unlike last season were the tower was planned as an after thought. The bell tower on this was planned out from the start. 

A few fun things happens with this season. Our Sunday Visitor ran an amazing story on me. Was also the first display at Knights of Columbus Council 4232. A council I would later join as a result of that display. 

It was a rather fun build over all and one of the projects that stand out as a good example of what I do.