Father Justin's weekly write-ups are contained within our Parish Bulletin. Please select that link to access his 'blog.'
In the Gospel of Luke for this Sunday we read: “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. (Luke 15: 20)
Every third year we hear this parable in the Sunday readings—“The Prodigal Son” or sometimes we call it—“The Forgiving Father.” We’ve studied it in our Rel. Ed. Classes, we have heard countless homilies and yet, it always touches my soul. Jesus, the wonderful story-teller, knows that when real forgiveness happens, we tell the story. Jesus tells the story as well—it is his way of letting us know how the old things have passed away and new things have come, and how all of this is from God.
In a Peanuts cartoon, Peppermint Patty asks Charlie Brown for advice. She says: “Charlie, what do you do when something you counted on to happen doesn’t happen? This thing I really believed was going to happen didn’t happen. What do I do?” “Well,” says Charlie Brown, “you could admit you were wrong!”
There are many things we hate to face and confront. Being wrong is one of them We might sense an invitation from Jesus to find ourselves in the text of the parable. With whom do you identify at this time in your life?
Are you the wayward son whose dreams of a good, happy and wealthy life evaporated due to poor choices? You spread your wings and went your way to enjoy life, only you dishonored those you love and had to come back to your senses and ask for forgiveness.
Are you like the dutiful, but resentful older son? Being always angry and resentful, always feeling that you don’t get your fair shake (of whatever it is). Do you see yourself like the father? Parents I am sure can sympathize with this generous man whose child’s actions have hurt him………but can we be as welcoming and forgiving?
So often I hear parents who are wracked with guilt, “Where did I go wrong?” they ask recounting stories of their children’s escapades. When your children’s decisions and behaviors contrast sharply with your beliefs and opinions, that does not label you as a failure. It challenges you to continue loving and praying for them, that someday, like the Prodigal Son, they will see the light. As parents and leaders, we cannot control, we have to give others space so that they can find their own way. We did the best that we could, and that is all that God expects of us. In the parable, the loving father stepped aside and give his son permission to spread his wings and enjoy life (and make his mistakes). Whether we feel like the younger son or the elder son we have to realize that we are called to become the loving and forgiving father. We in our turn must be willing to deal with people in that same loving and forgiving way. Let our life be filled with compassion and not resentment.
Lent is at the halfway point. Time to celebrate the Lord’s mercy and forgiveness! Look for the Confession schedule in our parishes. During this Jubilee Year of Mercy, God will put loving arms around you and welcome you home. Let us too, run to God’s open arms of compassion and mercy.
Lenten Penance Services in the Area:
Sunday, March 13—3:00pm at Holy Ghost and 5:00pm at Cornell
Monday, March 14—7:00pm at St. Charles
Tuesday, March 15—7:00pm at Notre Dame
Wednesday, March 16—6:30pm at St. Bridget’s
Thursday, March 17—7:00pm at Boyd and 7:00pm in Bloomer
…..written by Sr. Yvonne in the absence of Fr. Justin
The first corporal work of mercy is feeding the hungry. We are blessed in our community to have many opportunities to put this into practice. IN addition to our giving to various charitable endeavors, we also have very concrete ways to feed the hungry. We have the Francesca Resource Center, which is a great asset to our community. We have groups that work at Agnes' Table or the Sojourner House. Many of you help with the various food drives or the giving tree at Christmas. Money that the parish receives for funerals goes to our charity account which we use to help where possible those of our parish or in our community who are in need.
The point is that we each need to make sure that we are doing something to feed the hungry. Two things strike me about this work of mercy. That we 1) feed, 2) the hungry. Concretely, the two must go together. We concretely work to alleviate someone's hunger by providing food, and we remember that we are working to bring relief to someone -- a person, made in God's image and likeness, with a lofty dignity in their own right.
A story comes to mind that represents both of these important pieces. In Rome, Mother Teresa's sisters run a soup kitchen. I've worked there and so have many of my students. The poor come and eat, but the sisters do everything from the preparing to the serving to the cleaning up with great love. That's feeding the hungry. The sisters give them both sustenance and love. Another group of sisters I know in Rome ar also great friends to the poor. They themselves are beggars and go door to door in order to get their daily bread. They tell a story one day of going to eat at the soup kitchen of Mother Teresa's sisters. They got their food and sat down next to one of the persons eating there. He began to cry. When asked why he was crying, he said, "Usually I come here to eat with the Church. Today, the Church has come to eat with me." In this case, the sisters were feeding the hungry.
What I like about the story is that it illustrates the two aspects involved with feeding the hungry and neither can be left out. In practicing this corporal work of mercy, make sure you feed the hungry.
Men's Group: We will take a week off so that I can get to the Education Commission meeting -- No Men's Group on Thursday, January 21. But we will meet the next week on Thursday, January 28 at 5:00.
Last Week's Homily Suggestion: I know that it will be hard to believe me since I didn't mention it, but my idea really was to suggest that you and I find out our baptism date and put it in our calendars in order to celebrate. I didn't mention it, and it turns out that Pope Francis did at his Angelus on Sunday afternoon. Even if you don't believe that it was my idea first, it's an idea worth doing. Find out your baptism date and celebrate it! I don't know mine, so I will report back.
The Rachel Dawes character in the 2005 Batman Begins says, "it's not who you are underneath, it's what you do that defines you." St. Thomas Aquinas in his 1270 Summa theologiae says, "External acts belong to that virtue which regards the motive for doing those acts." While they are not saying exactly the same thing, they are pretty close. If you and I want to label ourselves good persons, then we will do good things.
When we do good to someone who is in need, that is what we call an act of mercy. Another word for giving mercy to someone is granting them relief. Mercy, aid, relief, these are all great words that get us thinking about how we help our neighbors. The Church has this great set of actions that provide mercy, aid, help, and relief to those in need that we call the spiritual and corporal acts of mercy. Some of them are intuitive, some not so much, all of them are works of mercy. All of them will be acts that we do which reveal the kind of person we are or hope to become.
I will list the works for you today, and then break them down for you in the weeks to come. The corporal works of mercy are 1) feeding the hungry, 2) giving drink to the thirsty, 3) clothing the naked, 4) housing the homeless, 5) visiting the sick, 6) ramsoming the captive, and 7) burying the dead.
Both sets of works of mercy are ways to give mercy, aid, help, and relief to those in need. How are we doing with the works of mercy? I am going to go out on a limb and suggest that in some way or another, each of these works of mercy needs to be part of our life if we want to be who we are called to be. Remember, it isn't good enough just to think about them, or to want to do them, just ask Rachel Dawes or Thomas Aquinas.
Results of the Holy Ghost and St. Bridget's Fantasy Football League: I would like to congratulate Fr. James Kurzynski's "Fighting Pygmies" for his victory in our Fantasy Football League. Bob Springer's "HolyPacker" came in second place. John Abbe's "Thunder" took 3rd. Yours truly's "Mediocre Shepherds" finished proudly in 7th place. Thanks everyone for a great season.
Men's Group: A reminder that Men's Group is back and again meeting Thursdays at 5:00 p.m. Guys, you can still join; the videos we have been watching do a good job at summarizing what was said before.
New Year of Mercy’s Resolutions
Merry Christmas! I guess that I thought that I would use this opportunity to talk about what we can do to get the most out of this year of mercy. We can be sure that there are unique opportunities of grace which the Lord intends to give us this year.
The Holy Father’s declaration of a holy year announces a special time of such opportunities of grace. These opportunities come because the Lord has put on the pope’s heart a desire to declare such a year of mercy. So in a way, we know these graces are there because the pope says they are. But we could also say that these graces are present anytime we would direct our attention in an intentional way to receiving grace. So in another way, we know these graces are there because we are now intentionally asking for them. Either way, there is much of divine help on the way in this year of mercy.
So how are you going to celebrate the Year of Mercy? Turning your attention to receive whatever grace the pope’s intuitions perceive regarding this outpouring of mercy will increase your experience of the year. So what are you going to do? Might I suggest some things? The pope has singled out confession. Can we make it a priority to go more frequently? What if for a year, we resolved to go to confession What if, for a year, we resolved once a month to go confess before God and before man, how we are struggling to embrace the good. What if, for a year, we experienced once a month the redeeming love of the Father who comes racing out to meet us even though we are still a long way off and who puts shoes on our feet, a ring on our finger, and a robe around our shoulders and brings us into a banquet in our honor? This happens every time we go to confession.
Do you know the Divine Mercy chaplet? Look it up online. What if we tried to pray the Divine Mercy chaplet once a week? What if we tried to pray the rosary as a family, or as a couple, or as an individual once a week?
As we get closer to the feast of Divine Mercy, I will recommend that we do the “Consoling the Heart of Jesus” retreat available on formed.org. But if you haven’t yet done “33 Days to Morning Glory”, locate a feast of Mary and try to do that consecration 33 days in advance of the Marian feast in preparation for the “consoling the Heart of Jesus” do-it-yourself retreat.
Or try to put into practice even more the works of mercy. Starting next week, I will begin to reflect on the Works of Mercy. Certainly, putting these into practice to a greater degree will help us mine whatever graces are hidden in the next year for us!
To celebrate the Year of Mercy, declared by Pope Francis, and to celebrate the fact that Mercy becomes flesh in the Incarnation and is revealed at Christmas, I wanted to start with a reflection on the mercy revealed in the parable of the prodigal son.
We left the younger son last week with his decision to return home. We are told that “while he was still a long way off” his father comes rushing out to greet him, embraces his wayward son, and before the son can finish his rehearsed confession, the father puts sandals on his feet, a ring on his finger, and a robe over his shoulders. Each detail is significant. First, we have the fact that the patriarch of the family comes running out to meet him. We who didn’t grow up Jewish and are conditioned to slip into a pious coma when we hear this story often miss this point. It would have been considered a bit unsightly for the patriarch of the family to come bounding toward anyone, especially his son who had betrayed him and wasted his hard-earned cash. For us to get a sense of how strange it is that the father comes racing toward him, I like to compare it to a patriarchal image from pop culture. Ever see the Godfather, Part One? At the beginning of the movie, Vito Corleone is seated at a famous desk and at the celebration of his daughter’s wedding, people are permitted to approach the Godfather and present their request. The Godfather sits; you approach him. Here is how a patriarch was meant to behave. If you prefer a more biblical image, think of how Jacob and Esau, in competing for their father’s blessing, are to approach him with gifts and then make their request in Gen.25.
However, this is not the Father in the parable. This is not our Father. Our Father comes racing out to meet us, picks us up, puts shoes on our feet, a ring on our finger, and a robe over our shoulders. What do these details mean? In an ancient Jewish household, only children wore shoes. The slave went barefoot. Although the younger son hoped to return as a slave, his father bestows again on him the dignity of being his son. What about the ring? Rings today still mean authority and commitment, think of the bishop’s ring or a wedding ring. When the father gives his son a ring, he puts in him charge and commits to him a role in the convenant relationship (i.e. the family). Finally, the robe: the robe brings our thoughts to the story of Joseph and the “Technicolor Dreamcoat”. That robe signified what this robe also signifies. The robe signifies that the son is beloved, even favored.
So when the Father comes racing out to meet us, he puts shoes on our feet. He makes us his sons and daughters. He puts a ring on our finger. He gives us authority and brings us into his covenantal (family) relationship, and he declares us his beloved or favored child.
Jesus Christ is the one who tells us the story because he is the one who has come to reveal the Father’s Mercy. He is the Father’s running down to meet us. He is God with us, Emmanuel.
Christmas Message: I want to thank everyone for the kindness, generosity, and sign of God’s blessing that you have given to me these past six months. I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year. May the God who reveals himself this season make himself known to you and yours. May he fill you with the joy of an increase of divine life and an abundance of divine blessings in the New Year. Merry Christmas to all!
Rectory Christmas "Wish List": I thought that I would put together a wish list from the rectory. This list is exactly that, a "wish list," so if you have a connection with the bearded guy in red and white, this is what the rectory would ask for:
- new tablecloths for the dining table in the rectory
- a clock radio for the basement laundry room
- I've been thinking about purchasing a new couch for the upstairs common room in the rectory, anyone want to help?
Homily Suggestion for this week: For Christmas, watch the first episode of Fr. Barron's Catholicism, it takes you through the places of the Nativity, gives you a chance to see the spot in Bethlehem where God was born. He gives you a compelling picture of the mystery of the nativity with a comparison between the baby Jesus and the Roman emperor 23 minutes in. If you only have a few minutes, go to minute 23 and watch for 6 minutes! All told, with the time to register, it would take you 10 minutes to complete this suggestion and help you dive even deeper into the Christmas Mystery. 1. Go to Formed.org, 2. Scroll down to "for individuals" and in the box for the parish code enter: WPK4JB, 3. Click "submit code," 4. Fill in the requested information in order to create a profile (this allows us to see who has registered and the value we are getting from it). The next page is "purchase" or "subscription," simply click "I've entered my parish code - take me to Formed." The access is FREE!
We might be familiar with the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11, but if we focus on some of the details of the story, we can learn a lot about God's mercy. There was a man with two sons. The younger son, for reasons we don't know, demands his inheritance while his father is still alive. This demand is insulting to the father on more than one account. First of all, his father is not dead yet. Here is the son effectively saying to his father, "you are dead to me." Second of all, he is the younger son. Typically the younger son didn't have much claim to an inheritance at all and here he is in all his pride demanding the inheritance from his dad. It is a sign already of the father's love that grants the younger son his request.
There are three details that I want to focus on in this column. They are the details that highlight for us the real situation of the younger son.
- The son moves away from home to a far off country. This isn't just a geographical point. The son has moved from his origins, he has forgotten who he is. He is away from the father. He is estranged from him. He feels the abandonment that is wrought by his own doing.
- He squanders his property. This notion of his property doesn't just refer to the money he wasted. The younger son has squandered himself. He has whittled away at his own being and identity. He doesn't know himself anymore. We can imagine him not recognizing himself in the mirror.
- When the younger son is on the brink of starvation and yearns to eat the slop given to the pigs, when pigs were considered unclean by Jews, we see really the depths to which he has slipped. He seems not to be able to get out of it. He is stuck.
In a moment of inspiration, he decides that a life as a slave in his father's house is better than starvation. He resolves to go back home, confess his sins against heaven and against his family and believes that his father would receive him as a slave.
Of course, the Father doesn't receive us slaves, but in his mercy, the mercy on display in this Year of Mercy, and in the rest of the story of the prodigal son, he makes us sons and daughters. Tune in next week for the rest of the story.
Last Week's Home Suggestion: Place your hope in Jesus and allow him to bear fruit in your life. That fruit will be love, joy, and peace at a time when I suspect that we could all use a little more fruit.
Rectory Christmas "Wish List": I thought that I would put together a wish-list from the rectory. This list is exactly that, a "wish list," so if you have a connection with the bearded guy in red and white, this is what the rectory would ask for:
- new tablecloths for the dining table in the rectory
- a clock radio for the basement laundry room
- I've been thinking about purchasing a new couch for the upstairs common room in the rectory, anyone want to help?
At the root of every good thing is the mercy of God. We can think of it in this way: the precondition for any good thing that we receive is that we exist to receive it. Existence and life are ways of talking about the first gift of God. We didn't ask to exist, we didn't deserve it (because we weren't), God chose to grant us existence and so doing laid the groundwork for every other gift he desires to give us.
So at the root of whatever else we might attribute in our lives to the mercy of God, that we are, is the first. It is better to be than not to be. I have meant people who when asked how they are doing, respond with "I am blessed." I admit that sometimes, particularly when I am having a bad day, this can be an annoying response, but we could all truthfully say it, no matter what trials are facing us in any given moment. What if we cultivated an awareness on our part that God has continually blessed us and that we are recipients of his gifts way above what we would ever have a claim to? We are all recipients of God's mercy.
Perhaps we can grow in our awareness of God's merciful love toward us by counting our blessings. Reflecting on the mercies and gifts of God is an expression of prayer, that language of hope that I was talking about last Sunday. We can certainly reflect on the great gift that God makes of Himself this Christmas in the Advent of the Incarnate Word, God made flesh, in Christ Jesus.
In his Wednesday audience this last week, the Pope calls Jesus, Mercy made flesh. He encouraged us as we walk through the doors of mercy to discover the infinite mercy of the Father. He says, "To pass through the Holy Door means to rediscover the infinite mercy of the Father who welcomes everyone and goes out personally to encounter each of them. This will be a year in which we grow ever more convinced of God's Mercy." He is referring to the passage of the prodigal son, a good place to start with God's mercy next week. Pray now that this Year of Mercy be what it is, a time in which we grow in our awareness and experience of God's merciful love.
Thank you, for your words of prayer for the death of my grandma. As some of you have heard, I was at my grandmother's funeral last week. The condolences and prayers offered by so many were really comforting. I really want to thank those responsible from the parish who arranged to have flowers sent to my grandmother's Lutheran church in the middle of no where Wisconsin - that took some very serious detective work. Thank you, again, to everyone for your prayers.
Last Week's Homily Suggestion: Pray the rosary. There are many Catholic apps that can remind you how if it has been awhile. For something cool, look up the Miracle of the Sun from our Lady's appearance at Fatima, or read something about Our Lady of Guadalupe. For Our Lady of Guadalupe, try: http://www.cruxnow.com/faith/2014/12/12/four-awesome-facts-about-our-lady-of-guadalupe/
We have a year of mercy which begins on the feast of the Immaculate Conception this Tuesday. We have a whole year to think about the mercy of God and how we can both experience and extend that mercy to others. We can think of the beatitude, “Bless are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” So we already have something to keep in mind, that if we want to receive mercy, then we have to give it away. There is that Bible logic or spiritual physics that shows up again. If you and I want to live, then we have to give life away. If we want joy, then we need to bring joy to someone else. If we want our faith to grow, then we have to share it with someone else.
What can we say about God’s mercy? We pray in the liturgy that God’s mercy is his characteristic that chiefly manifests his omnipotence. God’s all-powerfulness is revealed in his mercy, and not just revealed, but revealed best in it. Why is that?
Well, in every good work of God there is something of his mercy. God gives gifts. It is what he does. Sometimes he gives gifts that are proportionate with what we deserve. We call this gift-giving of God his justice. At other times, God gives gifts disproportionately from what we deserve. This is what we call his mercy.
Mercy is what makes God generous to us. Mercy is what makes us generous to others. Recognizing how we have received mercy and how we need mercy is going to be the first set of my reflections on mercy.
Because if we are excited about a year of mercy, it means that we have things for which we need to ask mercy. We have sins, moments where we have squandered God’s good gifts, or moments where we have chosen to act selfishly or our own way, instead of the way the One who has given us everything would have wanted us to act.
This is why a good confession, and a habit of going to confession regularly, is going to be the best way that we take full advantage of the Year of Mercy. What if after this year of mercy, all of us were just a little bit better in receiving God’s mercy regularly? This is one reason why we are having confessions more often. Everyday, Tues. to Sat. at 7:45 am. We also have confessions Sat. at 4:00. We will also have our penance service at Holy Ghost next Sunday, December 13 at 3:00. Take advantage of these opportunities or some of those listed below to get into the habit of regular contact with the characteristic of God that most reveals his all-powerfulness – his mercy.
Last week’s homily suggestion: prepare for the Christmas by either looking up the readings for the Christmas Mass that you plan on attending. They can be found at usccb.org . Or read the Gospel of Luke. Or by all means, come to confession.
Adult Faith Formation: Adult Faith Formation has one more week left, Wednesday, Dec. 9. We will meet at 5:30 pm in the rectory. Feel free to come check it out as part of your New liturgical Year’s resolutions!
Men’s Group: Men’s Group will continue on Dec.10, at 5:00 pm. It has been going well, and we are more than open to having new guys join at any time.
Sunday, December 13 – 3:00 pm at Holy Ghost Monday,
December 14 – 7:00 pm at St. Charles
Tuesday, December 15 – 7:00 pm at Notre Dame
Wednesday, December 16 – Time? At St. Bridget’s
Thursday, December 17 – 7:00 pm at Boyd
Happy New Year! Well, happy new liturgical year. Advent resets our annual walk through the life of Christ by helping us place ourselves in the mentality of the centuries who had been anxiously awaiting His arrival. We are meant now to anticipate His arrival, His Advent, in this season.
We also await the beginning of the year of Mercy on December 8. Here is a holy year declared by Pope Francis to put our focus on the attribute of God that, as our tradition says, best illustrates his omnipotence. There will be opportunities for pilgrimages to walk through designated “Holy Doors” either at Sacred Heart in Jim Falls or at the Cathedral or Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse. These bulletin columns will offer reflections on the Lord’s mercy and the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. We will offer some more opportunities for the Lord’s mercy here in the parish.
Starting next week, you will hopefully notice that we will have members of our pastoral council and finance council greeting you as you enter Church. All of them will have name tags. This is to begin what I hope becomes a bigger ministry at our parish, that in addition to the ushers who are busy making sure the last minute things are in place, enough Eucharistic ministers have checked-in, taking the collection and bringing up gifts, we will have individuals and families whose unique job is to welcome you to Mass. We will see how this goes. Our target date for this is the second Sunday of Advent (mostly because the first Sunday sort of snuck up on me).
To celebrate the Year of Mercy, I also want to bring back our Saturday morning Masses. Again, we will have to wait a couple of Saturdays for this one, because I am teaching in Marathon the first Saturday of December. But starting December 12, which happens also to be Our Lady of Guadalupe, we will have a Saturday, 8:30 am Mass.
Finally, to celebrate the Year of Mercy, I wanted to increase opportunities for us to receive Mercy in its most concrete and personal way in the sacrament of confession. Starting Tuesday, December 1, I will be in the confessional making dedicated time for confession available (confessions are always available at any time) before our daily Masses. In additions to our standard Saturday time at 4:00, confessions will now be 7:45-8:15 from Tuesday to Saturday. This should get us rolling on the Year of Mercy.
As part of the New liturgical Year, how about some New Year’s resolutions. Try out formed.org, and start watching The Bible and the Virgin Mary, or wait for the specials on the Year of Mercy: Go to formed.org Scroll down to “For Individuals”, and in the box for the parish code enter: WPK4JB Click “Submit Code” Fill in the requested information in order to create a profile (this allows us to see who has registered and the value that we are getting from it) The next page is “purchase” or “subscription”, simply click “I’ve entered my parish code – take me to Formed”. The access is FREE for you
Last week’s Homily Suggestion: Confession certainly helps with this suggestion, but the suggestion was to allow Christ into every room of our hearts -- both public and personal -- and let Him be what He is: King of the Universe.
Can we put together just some of the things we have been talking about? From the Holy Father’s conception of “integral ecology” we arrived at the need to respect the natures of things and the laws that correspond to those natures. We are bad judges in our own cases, if you remember the case of the squirrel and what makes it happy and how I tried to explain that to a Tiger cub. What is good is discerned from natures with the help of what God has communicated to us through the Church.
Our happiness is conditioned by our avoidance of destructive and sinful behaviors and the gift we make of ourselves so that others can live. A discussion of the dignity we have, and the total gift of self that we are asked to make if we want to be happy, the faithfulness of a vocational love and acting on behalf of life blossomed into these four characteristics of free, total, faithful, and fruitful.
These become the characteristics of a happy life as they are appropriated into each vocation. While Christ is the ultimate origin of all these characteristics lived well, we are meant to be able to see them concretely in the life of our priests. Pray that I live my life as a gift for others in a free, total, faithful, and fruitful way. My happiness is what is at stake! The total gift of self in my vocation to my spouse the Church explains, in part, the Church’s emphasis on a celibate, male priesthood.
The self gift that I am meant to make of myself is even more concretely evidenced in family life. Because there, in the family, this gift of self so that others can live, expresses its openness to life very concretely. Love and life are protected by and united in marriage. The dignity of the person and the gift that each spouse makes to the other is open to life in its very nature. Only by respecting the nature of these things can the persons involved truly flourish. For people to reach their true potential, happiness, and to really flourish, they will live these characteristics of free, total, faithful, and fruitful.
So we can draw out the teachings of the Church that our co-workers might find difficult based on what she believes makes people truly happy. Respecting the nature and order of things, so that people can reach their full potential, the Church calls all to be free, total, faithful, and fruitful in their lives. This involves a possession of oneself so that one can give of oneself appropriately. This self-possession for the purpose of selfgift is chastity. All are called to this virtue for their own sake.
Those that enter marriage are called to live this very high ideal of becoming a “partnership of life and love” in this free, total, faithful, and fruitful way. So when the Church teaches on marriage issues such as fertility practices, artificial contraception, sterilizations or even same-sex unions what she believes she has in mind is the full potential, the true happiness of the persons and their call to live in their state of life a total gift of self so that others can live in line with the great dignity that they have, for love and life, freely, totally, faithfully, and fruitfully.
Last Week’s Homily Suggestion: I suggested that we make a practice of an examination of Conscience at the end of the day as practice for the end of days when Christ who comes as our Judge will ask us to render an account of the gifts we have given and for whose Glory we have used them.
Thank you all for your singing of Happy Birthday and the many wonderful birthday well-wishings last weekend at the pancake breakfast at Saint Bridgets or at Mass at Holy Ghost. Such an expression of love and support was really humbling and a great source of consolation. Thank you all. I joked with some that the last three years were spent with the university students on their silent retreat. My birthday would always land right in the middle of the silent retreat, so the last three years have been relatively quiet birthdays. This year was something completely different. Thank you.
Going back to our discussion, I have basically two weeks to wrap it up, because with the upcoming Year of Mercy, I would like to talk about Mercy and the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.
We have been working on the ideas of the dignity of the human person and the fulfillment one finds in making a gift of oneself, on the one hand, and the complementarity of love and life, on the other. Maybe we can relate these four with four characteristics of free, total, faithful, fruitful. "Free" does describe something very unique about our dignity. The philosophical tradition describes free will as an interaction between our thinking and choosing. It is ordered to a good. We are truly free when we can choose what is really good for us without hesitation. That good is what will truly make us happy and so is the true "freedom for" rather than "freedom from".
That our happiness is wrapped up with a total gift of self, then, suggests this second characteristic of total. We are really only fulfilled with a total gift of self, as it relates to our vocation in Christ to be married, single, consecrated, or ordained. If we hold back something, if our gift of our self is not total, then we stunt our happiness.
While all the four characteristics of free, total, faithful, and fruitful can all describe love, perhaps faithful describes love best. Thick or thin, easy or hard, good times and bad, ups and downs, love really shows its strength when it is faithful. Why come to Mass Sunday in and Sunday out? Because that faithfulness reveals a committed love for God. Why attend to the needs of our spouse (in my case the Church) or the needs of our children or the needs of our parish year in and year out? Because that faithfulness is the proof in the pudding of our love.
Finally, "fruitful" is best associated with "life." We are called to be live-giving. This openness to life is again related appropriately to each vocation, but unless we are life-giving, giving of ourselves, we limit our fulfillment. By considering these characteristics of free, total, faithful, and fruitful, then we can understand a lot of the Church's teachings on priesthood and marriage.
Last week's Homily Suggestion: Be a generous giver this week, and try and take note how the Lord has blessed your giving.
The kind of thing we are and the dignity we have tell us that as “made in the image and likeness of God” we are made by and for love. That we are happy only by a sincere gift of ourselves so that others can live specifies that love. We find true fulfillment when we give of ourselves in service of life. Love and life become two ends which we pursue in all of the most important things. Love and life go together. Love and life can’t be separated without doing damage to one or the other or very often both.
So if we have discovered that love and life flow from these two truths about the kind of thing we are and the way that we are happy, then keeping love and life together ensures the best possible chance at anyone’s happiness.
Our dignity bespeaks love. Our happiness requires us to serve life. Ultimately love and life are going to be two necessary sides of the same coin if we are going to reach our full potential and achieve the fulfillment and happiness that we are meant for.
Some examples are easier for us to see. Certainly in my life as a priest, I will be happy to the extent that out of selfless love I spend myself so that everyone around me can grow in life and holiness. Selfish acts on my part will hinder that growth in life and holiness in others. I have mentioned the example of families, the selfishness that we sometimes suffer from, does hurt the flourishing of our families. When I act for my own interests instead of the interests of others, I do damage to the flourishing of others.
All this is a way of restating that love and life go together like the dignity we have and the happiness that we called to which is expressed as a sincere gift of ourselves so that others can live.
Last Week’s Homily Suggestion: I suggested that we dig up our confirmation names and learn something about the saints we chose. Or, we could learn something about a saint that we know of or find curious or attractive. These are signs that those saints are already praying for you, acting as your protectors and interceding on your behalf.
THE NATURE OF THINGS
The two ideas that we are thinking about are the two wings of our belief expressed as the inherent dignity of every human person and that we are only really happy by a sincere gift of ourselves. These two lights also help us navigate certain questions at the beginning of life.
Life in the womb certainly represents one of the most vulnerable moments of human life. The dignity that a child at the beginning of life has is the same as that which is described in the beginning of creation: made in the image and likeness of God and called to life with him forever.
At the same time, the child in the womb represents one of the littlest ones that Christ spoke of. They are those whose voices are not heard because they are too young to speak for themselves. You and I, and the Church, speak on their behalf.
When it comes to questions of abortion or fertility questions, there is also the person of the mother. This is one reason why “rights” talk, although there is a legitimate sense of a “right to life”, may not be the most helpful way to talk about what we believe. My right to do something is often pitted against someone else’s right to do the opposite. Rights-talk, in this way, can be combative. That said, the principles of the civil rights’ movement are all engaged in the talk about the rights of the unborn.
Instead, I propose to you, so that you can propose to your colleagues at those “watercooler” conversations, that keeping in mind also that we are happy only by a sincere gift of ourselves so that others can live, combined with the inherent dignity of human life, moves us out of whose rights do we focus on and into what is best for the child and for the mother.
Given the inherent dignity of all life and that we are happy only by a sincere gift of ourselves illumines one undeniable path – that we choose life. There is much more to say, so we will continue the conversation next week.
Last Week’s Homily Suggestion: I suggested that in our prayer this week, we ask ourselves “what would be good news?” or we picture the Lord asking us “What do you want me to do for you?” and that we answer those questions and place our request trustingly before the Lord.
Also: Go to formed.org Scroll down to “For Individuals”, and in the box for the parish code enter: WPK4JB Click “Submit Code” Fill in the requested information in order to create a profile (this allows us to see who has registered and the value that we are getting from it) The next page is “purchase” or “subscription”, simply click “I’ve entered my parish code – take me to Formed”. The access is FREE for you
THE NATURE OF THINGS
To return to our previous discussion, we were talking about how almost all of the teachings of the Church that our contemporary culture finds difficult can be rooted in our belief in the inherent dignity of every human person and that you and I are happy only by a sincere gift of ourselves so that others can live.
Think of the issues surrounding life. The dignity of each and every human life dictates that all human life must be treated in a certain way. It is because of this value of every life that we will always speak out especially on behalf of those whose voice goes unheard. Those voices on behalf of whom the Church speaks are for sure the poor and the hungry. Mission Sunday comes to mind. We think of the little ones from the Gospel – those to whom Christ referred when he said, “What you do to one of these least ones, you do to me.” We feed the hungry – whether they are without food or even if they cannot eat on their own. So we think here of both those who are starving because there is not enough available to them and those who, because of some condition or trauma, require feeding tubes.
Other voices on behalf of whom the Church speaks are others who are included as one of these least ones, namely, the terminally ill or the aged. Because of the great dignity we have, we are not the kind of thing, even if we wanted it, that can be “put down” – even to alleviate suffering, which is a good desire, or because of a lower quality of life, which seems inevitable. We are worth too much, and even our suffering is not worthless. Our example and standard here is Christ – by whose suffering we are all redeemed even in our own suffering.
Keep in mind that you and I find our purpose in a generous offering of ourselves so that others can live. I have met people whose heroic and patient bearing of very serious crosses allow God’s grace to shine in spite of weakness and inspire all those around them to bear their own much smaller crosses with patience, gratitude and even joy. Through their sincere gift of themselves, they help me and you to live.
Last Week’s Homily Suggestion: Although I mentioned it only in 2 of the 4 homilies: try doing something nice for someone this week without them noticing and without keeping score, so to speak, in your own mind. Also, something I did mention in all of the homilies: Register for “Formed” and take advantage of Catholic Netflix by following the following instructions.
- Go to formed.org Scroll down to “For Individuals”, and in the box for the parish code enter: WPK4JB Click “Submit Code”
- Fill in the requested information in order to create a profile (this allows us to see who has registered and the value that we are getting from it)
- The next page is “purchase” or “subscription”, simply click “I’ve entered my parish code – take me to Formed”. The access is FREE for you
End of Life issues / Advance Directives from a Catholic Perspective: I would like to draw attention to something that the Catholic Medical Association is offering for EVERYONE. Mass, dinner, and a talk on how to approach Advance Directives from a Catholic Perspective. If we haven’t thought of these things, questions about care at the end of life can be overwhelming. There are principles which we can apply to decide what care we need and what care is beyond what we need and so can be chosen or not. One way to know the difference is to be educated, and one way to be educated is to attend this event on November 5 at 5:30 pm in Altoona. If you have named a power of attorney, or if you are a power of attorney for a loved one, this meeting would be especially beneficial to informing you. There is a $15 fee. Please email Mary.Bliss@hshs.org or call Sharon at 715-835-1012 to register.
Adult Faith Formation and Men’s Group continue at their usual times.
There are lots of things to talk about, so I thought that I might dedicate the whole column to them. First of all, what I am most excited about is that Holy Ghost and St. Bridget’s have subscribed to something called Formed. It is pitched as “Catholic Netflix”. Through contributions from St. Bridget, the Knights of Columbus, and Holy Ghost, we are able to offer to you all free of charge access to a great deal of Catholic videos, movies, books online.
If you have attended any of the adult faith formation sessions, or one of the sacrament preparation meetings, then you have been exposed to some degree to Symbolon. Symbolon is available to you now also online. So if you are interested in knowing what we do on Wednesday nights, or if you are interested in catching up on one of the episodes that you missed, you can go on-line, register, and have access to all of the videos from the series as well as a whole bunch more.
You’ll have to go see what is all there, and maybe we will over the next few weeks, feature some of the items, but there are marriage enrichment videos, bible studies, Catholic movies, books, Bishop Barron’s Catholicism Series, and much more.
To get access to the content, you will have to register with your email address. In addition to giving you free access to Catholic media through Formed, this also allows us to see who has registered. This will be one way for us to see if it is worth the subscription.
Go to formed.org Scroll down to “For Individuals”, and in the box for the parish code enter: WPK4JB Click “Submit Code” Fill in the requested information in order to create a profile (this allows us to see who has registered and the value that we are getting from it) The next page is “purchase” or “subscription”, simply click “I’ve entered my parish code – take me to Formed”. The access is FREE for you. This would be one case where binge watching is encouraged.
Last week’s homily suggestion: In your prayer this week, ask the Lord “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”. End of Life issues / Advance Directives from a Catholic Perspective: I would like to draw attention to something that the Catholic Medical Association is offering for EVERYONE. Mass, dinner, and a talk on how to approach Advance Directives from a Catholic Perspective. If we haven’t thought of these things, questions about care at the end of life can be overwhelming. Unfortunately, the culture we live in is likely to pressure with nice-sounding words families into making comprising decisions. They don’t always consider life as possessing the same dignity as we believe it does. One way to be prepared is to be educated, and one way to be educated is to attend this event on November 5 at 5:30pm in Altoona. If you have named a power of attorney, or if you are a power of attorney for a loved one, this meeting would be especially beneficial to informing you. There is a $15 fee. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Sharon at 715-835-1012 to register.
Thanks for your prayers
Italians in general, and Rome in specific, are not known for their efficiency, and while in the story that follows you will see a glimpse of what I am talking about, that so much got done in such a short amount of time really is a miracle. After Sunday night at my sister’s, Monday flights from Milwaukee to Chicago to London to Rome got me to Rome Tuesday afternoon. Upon arrival in Rome, I took a walk to get over jetlag to one of Rome’s major basilicas, and my favorite basilica now named St. Peter’s, St. Mary Major. I went to confession, because it had been a couple of weeks, and I prayed at the relics contained there. Mary Major houses the relics of the manger from the stable in Bethlehem, an image of Mary thought to have been painted by St. Luke the Gospel-writer, and the remains of St. Pope Pius V. After a quick lap around the basilica, I went to a nearby church and prayed at the original image of Our Lady of Perpetual Help – not only because I am in need of help perpetually, but also because I have a particular devotion to that image. That image of our Lady (that’s the one with Jesus’ shoe falling off his foot) has followed me around for a number of years. That evening I joined for Mass a group of college seminarians studying for a semester in Rome and then a priest friend for dinner. I watched the packers’ highlights before drifting off to sleep. Wednesday morning I got up early and after my prayers went to the library to get work done. I thought the library opened at 8:00 am. I was wrong. When the library opened at 8:30, I greeted the librarian, whom I know, in the library, of which I have given tours, and found out that over the summer the university had cancelled me as a student. The librarian refused to let me enter. We figured the problem was that I hadn’t yet paid my bills. When I went to pay my bills, I found the offices closed until 9:30. Ugh. I moved to a different library. When I finished my initial work, I went to get the 750 pages printed in order to hand them to my professor who has to read it one more time. While they were printing, I went to pay bills. What I discovered was that the university wasn’t billing me correctly, and that subsequently, there were a couple more lines to stand in and people to talk to. The bills are now paid. Wednesday afternoon, I went back to the original library and was allowed to enter. I worked until I was scheduled to have Mass at the tomb of my favorite saint, St. Philip Neri with a group of students from the University of Dallas. On the way, I ran into the bishop of Madison, Fr. Felix and his group from the area, and priest friends who were also visiting Rome. Mass, a walk around the city, and dinner with the Dallas students concluded the day. Thursday was the ordination to the diaconate of two from the area – Joseph Baker and Daniel Sedlacek. I somehow ended up in the sanctuary at the altar of the chair (named after the pieces of Peter the Apostle’s chair contained in the sculptor hanging above the altar). I had a good view of our bishop, all the ordinandi (those men to be ordained), many of whom were my students last year, and Cardinal Dolan who celebrated the Mass. It was so edifying to see the men ordained, filled with joy, ready and willing to offer themselves in service to Christ and his Church. The graces from that Mass will last me a long time. After Mass, I returned to the library to finish up the last modifications to my footnotes with books that I hadn’t been able to find in libraries around here. Thursday evening, I did some necessary liturgical shopping. Dinner was with newly-minted Deacon Sedlacek and his family. On Friday, with flights from Rome to Charlotte to Philadelphia to Milwaukee, I was back at my sister’s Saturday morning and drove back to Chippewa. In other words: bills are paid, foot notes are completed, ordination was attended, shopping was successful and the doctorate is ready for the defense in Feb. Not bad for a little over 60 hrs. in Rome-thanks to your prayers. Adult Faith Formation: we will continue viewing of Symbolon on Wed. 6-7; be attentive in case we change the times. Men’s Group: Men’s group will meet Thursday, 5-6 .
On the Nature of Things
In listening to just a few words of Pope Francis' address at the White House, a couple of things strike me. It strikes me that the Pope has worked very hard to work on his English. To hear him speak in English is a great gift. His message reflects the same things that we have been considering in this column. You will remember his idea of integral ecology. That things have natures which must be revered and which have certain orders, even laws, which lead to their flourishing or their happiness. These laws must be respected for the thing to flourish. This truth applies to both the environment and the human being. Thus the pope, in almost one breath, can talk about cleaning up our air AND the need to defend marriage and family. These things go together -- the same logic that leads us to talk about the integrity and inherent value of one leads us to talk about the integrity and inherent value of the other.
Last week, we talked about how many of the teachings of the Church which our world finds difficult can be explained because of our belief about the inherent dignity of the human individual who is made in the image and likeness of God and that the true way to happiness is only found in a profound gift of self so that others can live.
Thing again in terms of the environment. A selfish act does damage to the world around us. Think in terms of the recent reports of Volkswagen or even of throwing garbage out of your window. While it might not seem like selfishness, what we are really doing is allowing us something that if everyone did the same our world would quickly become uninhabitable.
There are parallels in marriage and family for sure. An act of selfishness, even small, in our family life can lead to an environment not conducive to our flourishing.
The pope and the Gospel invite us to a self-less donation of ourselves to our families and to our world. That self-donation will lead to the flourishing of both.
Last week's Homily Suggestion: Go back and read some of the pope's addresses, many of them are yet to be given at the time I am writing this column. Pray for the flourishing of our pope and of our country.
Stay tuned at Mass if we continue next Wednesday or wait for me to get back from Rome for Adult Formation.
Men's Group: We will have the first meeting of the Men's Group: Thursday, October 8, at 5:00 in the rectory. This will involve some time of prayer and a short video series called "That Man Is You" and discussion. Invite your friends.
Men's Conference: There will be a Men's Conference in La Crosse, "Men of the Cross -- The Call to Fatherhood" on October 24. You can register at www.menofthecross.org
The Nature of Things
The Second Vatican Council in a document called Gaudium et Spes or "Joy and Hope" teaches, "if man is the only creature on earth that God has wanted for its own sake, man can fully discover his true self only in a sincere giving of himself" (GS 24). What a great line! This notion gets at what will make us truly happy and ties it to the kind of thing we are. We are created by God, not for the use of something else, but for our own sake. We are the part of creation willed by God as the culminating point of creation. We are created in his image and likeness. We are happy in the way that God is happy by a sincere gift of ourselves.
The things wrapped up in this teaching of the Church lead us to many of the ideas that our culture, perhaps our co-workers, find difficult. At the root of the teachings of the Church which people find difficult is going to be that we are created in God's image and likeness and that we are happy only by a gift of ourselves. The kind of thing we are is that we are made in the image and likeness of God. The way that we are happy -- the way that we are good -- is by doing things that God does -- by giving ourselves so that others can live.
This is why the same document of the Second Vatican Council can say, "In reality it is only the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of man truly becomes clear" (GS 22). The Word of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, took on a human nature, and showed us how to be happy, how to give ourselves completely so that others can live. He did this in a very literal way on the cross, but it is also how He chose to live his life in the service of others. Much of the Church's teachings that the world finds difficult are tied also to this image. While we don't mind hearing about God who came not to be served but to serve, who offers his life for us, we might mind more when something is brought to our attention which tells us that we are not living for others as much as the Lord might hope. At the root of it all is that we are made in the image and likeness of God and that we are happy by giving of ourselves so that others might live.
Last week's homily suggestion: Last week, we unrolled the Diocesan Annual Appeal. Please consider giving of yourselves and your means to support the many apostolic activities of Christ's Body in the diocese of La Crosse. And remember that the Diocesan Annual Appeal is the best way for you to give your whole dollar to the parish.
ON THE NATURE OF THINGS
It is not easy to discern what is good for us and so what will make us happy. This alone might cause some unease at the water cooler. A notion that you and I are prone to make errors about what will make us happy is a result of the original sin of our first parents. Because of original sin, we have darkened intellects, weakened free wills, and concupiscence. That last one is just a fancy word for saying that what we actually are more likely to tend toward is precisely what will not make us happy.
There is plenty of unhappiness, frustration, and discontent around. At the root of our discontent, our unhappiness, ultimately is going to be sin – both the original sin of our first parents Adam and Eve and also our own personal sin or the effects of sin that we experience in our lives. Have you ever looked at the hatred spewed out in the Pope’s twitter feed, or really any twitter feed for that matter? Did you know that Brandon Bostick (the famous Tight End from last year’s Packer’s loss in the NFC Championship game) received death threats? Expanding our horizons from social media to the world at large, we notice so much going the way that it is not meant to go.
Or we can go the other direction and look at ourselves. Rather than looking out, we can look in. Why is it that we do not do the good that we want to do or know that we should do? In our more honest moments, we might realize how much help we need.
I think if we were talking to people at the water-cooler so to speak, the admission of societal sins and structures of sin are more easily admitted. We can get people to agree that violence, war, aggression, hatred are not part of what is meant to be. We can also make the next step and say that sorry state of society is reflected also in our own hearts from time to time. Whenever we act selfishly, without regard to the effects of our actions, or the way those actions effect our capacity to give of ourselves, whenever we judge our own way without heeding God’s hopes for us, we contribute to the way the world is not meant to be, and lead to our own frustration.
The good news is that there is hope. Adult Faith Formation: We will have Adult Faith Formation starting on Wednesday, September 23 from 6:00 to 7:00 in the rectory. We will be going through a series called Symbolon and it will take us through the end of November. . The DVD lasts for about a half an hour and the other half hour will be informal discussion and Q&A. We will provide child-care should you need it, just let me know.
Last week’s homily suggestion: The suggestion last week was to talk to someone about your faith, either someone who believes what you believe or someone who doesn’t.