Grabbing the brass ring

What is the symbolism of grabbing the brass ring? “Grabbing the brass ring” or getting a “shot at the brass ring” also means striving for the highest prize or living life to the fullest. It is not clear when the phrase came into wide use but has been found in dictionaries as far back as the late 19th century.

On Sept. 25, 2017, I am headed northward to “grab the brass ring.” Since I am a veteran (thank you for your taxes), the VA is going to send a van to Sioux City Holy Spirit Retirement Home. I will be a passenger for a five-hour drive to Minneapolis, where I will spend the week at Veterans Administration Medical Center, which boasts having a thousand ways, ideas and brass rings which I can grab on to, as I seek all sorts of prizes, that is, strategies that will improve my life.

Speaking of brass rings: Did you know there is another kind of brass ring – a “nose ring?” It is a ring made of metal designed to be installed through the nasal septum of domestic cattle, usually bulls. Nose rings are often required for bulls when exhibited at agricultural shows. There also is a clip-on ring design used for controlling other cattle.

By the way, if you are interested in purchasing one for a spouse, they are sold in many sizes. For example, a medium-size one (0.375 x 3” costs $11.95.) I saw a cartoon illustrating a husband with a brass nose ring. The caption below said, “Marriage is a relationship in which one is always right and the other is the husband!”

Jesus did not have to use nose rings to force the apostles to follow him. There are beautiful words in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Paragraph 4. Christ’s Faithful – Hierarchy, Laity, Consecrated Life 875: “How are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher? And how can men preach unless they are sent?”

No one – no individual and no community – can proclaim the Gospel to himself: “Faith comes from what is heard.” No one can give himself the mandate and the mission to proclaim the Gospel. The one sent by the Lord does not speak and act on his own authority, but by virtue of Christ’s authority; not as a member of the community, but speaking to it in the name of Christ. No one can bestow grace on himself; it must be given and offered.

Pope St. John Paul II speaks of dreams, visions and fulfillment as he says, “It is Jesus that you seek when you dream of happiness; he is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; he is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is he who provoked you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is he who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is he who reads in your heart your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle. It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be ground down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal.”

Remember, dreams are important. “A person without dreams is like a bird with a broken wing.” By the way, I’ve never seen a bird with a nose ring.

So, there you have it. I prefer the more positive image of grabbing the brass ring or living life to the fullest. If you know anything about the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Minneapolis, send me an email at

Father Dennis Meinen serves as chaplain at Holy Spirit Retirement Home, Sioux City, for Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts in the diocese, and Faithful Friar of the Garrigan 4th Degree Assembly of the Knights of Columbus, Sioux City.


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