Weekly Reflection

Experience God's Presence

Weekly Reflection



July 14, 2024

Hear to Serve ...

In this week’s Gospel, Jesus sent out the Apostles two by two. What is the first thing Jesus assigns them to do? They are to fight unclean spirits. The first thing the Apostles do in a pastoral capacity is to cast out demons.

Back in the 60’s and 70’s, talk of demons and unclean spirits were dismissed as nothing more than superstition. The devil was downplayed as something we made up in our minds as an excuse for our bad behavior. This is still a very common belief today when we talk about the devil. We have made the devil something very abstract. By doing this, we have played into his hands. When we see families, societies, communities, and parishes collapsing, we no doubt will find a plethora of accusation and division. You can be sure that this is the devil at work. We would be fools to front and center. He is clandestine. He likes to use suggestion, temptation, and influence to get us to do his will. Very seldom is the devil’s work like that movie The Exorcist. No one’s head is spinning 360 degrees, and we’re not floating in the air above our beds.

The devil is much more subtle. One of his greatest devices is to scatter and pull apart causing division and lack of peace and understanding. Another trick is accusation. If we think about it, how often do we find ourselves thinking otherwise.

But Jesus through His Death and Resurrection has won for us a victory over these dark forces. He has given us the weapons to fight them. As we follow the Apostolic succession, we come to our own Bishop David Ricken. He too recognizes the need to fight these unclean spirits, to fight the devil. This is one of the reasons that he instituted the Five Alive practices in our Diocese. He wants us to renew our lives with weapons that we have forgotten about, or we have dismissed, to fight the devil. These weapons are the Mass, Lectio Divina, Eucharistic Adoration, Confession and praying the Rosary. Now, I know you have all heard about these practices before, but on this 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time it is a good time to reflect. Have we made any effort to bring these practices alive in our lives? Have we made them a relevant part of our lives to help fight against these attacks of the devil?

If we haven’t done that yet, now is a good time to start. The devil is not going to go away by us ignoring him, or by us thinking we can battle him on our own. We need these tools given to us by Christ and His Church to help us.

Let us use the tools given to us by Christ and His Church to Fight the Good Fight.

Deacon Gary

June 30, 2024

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

For my last bulletin column, I will offer the words when I announced by reassignment back in April.

These two parishes are amazing, and God will continue to do amazing things here. With the level of personal investment and initiative that so many parishioners have, I am confident that there will be continued growth and new life at both of these parishes.

As I reflect on my two years of ministry at both of these parishes, I will be filled with gratitude. At the end of my service in the navy, I was worn out, and found School Hill and St. Nazianz to be a place where I have healed, and really rediscovered the joy of being a priest. My heart is filled with gratitude that God has given me the time here that He has. Your welcome and hospitality, support and prayers, have all been much more than I deserve. Thank you.

Looking to the future, have confidence. God will continue to do amazing things here. In cooperation with the grace that God has given to these communities, I do ask for the following: be generous with your service to the parishes. Numerous parishioners have taken real ownership in outreach, evangelization, and faith enrichment. Continue to do the good work that God has inspired you to do. Some of this work may seem like a spark, but the Holy Spirit can fan it into a blazing fire, if you keep at it.

Let the promotion of priestly vocations be a central focus of these parishes. Unfortunately, in the church, we do not always talk as directly as we should. So let's be direct, the main reason that parishes in the diocese of Green Bay do not have the stability of longterm pastors is the continued shortage of priests. Pray for more vocations to the priesthood. Encourage your sons, grandsons, and nephews to be priests. I am convinced that there are four priestly vocations among the young men and boys at St. Gregory Parish, and two priestly vocations among the young men and boys at Holy Trinity Parish. It will be a joy for me to return to these parishes multiple times to share in the celebration of the first Mass of the priest sons from these parishes.

God has done great things here and will continue to do great things, if we continue strong in faith and confident in hope.

Blessings and Gratitude,
Fr. Bill

June 23, 2024

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This is my second to last column for you. When I arrived, I was told to expect to be with you for five years. If I would have known that my time was going to be cut short, I would have taken a different approach to my mission here. I would have still loved you all the same, but it is not right to leave projects open ended.

Shortly after my arrival, both parishes relaunched the One-by-One campaign. Both parishes made their goal. Both parishes have good projects that the money raised will support.

Will these projects be completed? I do not know, but you are owed a status update.

The main project for Holy Trinity was to reconfigure the offices so that parishioners can be better welcomed for funeral and wedding planning, for pastoral counseling and meeting with the priest, to provide a better working environment for our administrative assistant, and to have a place to store records rather than the parish garage. The septic system was a higher priority, and once that is completed, a committee will be formed to develop some proposals.

The main project for St. Gregory was to make a final decision about the status of the rectory building. The buildings and grounds committee has hired a home inspector to get a better idea of the scope of required work, and pending the outcome of that inspection, a decision will be made. Both remodeling or demolition are significant expenses. The decision will be determined by the scope of the work that is required. If maintaining the rectory is a financially viable project, it would provide a pastor a choice about where to live.

I will be honest, the current rectory at Holy Trinity feels like I am living in a fishbowl. I have shared with the financial and pastoral councils of both parishes that there has to be a long term plan developed for providing a living space for the pastor that truly provides him a home with adequate privacy.

Fr. Bill

June 16, 2024

“We walk by faith and not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This weekend you will receive the last monthly prayer card. At the beginning of the third millennium, Pope St. John Paul the Second wrote a message to all Christians, and indeed to the whole world. In that message, he expressed the earnest desire that parishes become genuine schools of prayer and that all Christians become serious disciples of the great Catholic traditions of prayer.

Leading a parish is a complicated business. It is all too easy to get lost in the details. At these times we forget our mission. Our mission is not to make a profit. We do not manufacture any product. We do not grow any crops. Jesus Christ gives us the mission: “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:15-6, the Gospel for Ascension Sunday). Our mission is to first become disciples, and then to make more disciples. And by the clear words of Jesus, this mission affects the eternal salvation of souls.

Prayer keeps us focused on the mission. Without prayer, we inevitably get distracted by the minutia that simply does not have any eternal significance. Prayer is the only way to truly be a friend of Jesus. Without prayer, there is no friendship with Jesus. If we are not a friend of Jesus, how can we invite other people to join us?

Prayer is the only thing that Jesus asked for from his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus told his disciples that it was only by prayer and fasting that demons could be driven out. Last weekend I preached about “spiritual combat.” The battle is real. Without prayer, we are going into this battle without weapons and without armor.

Apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary were rare in the early church but have been increasing. In each apparition, she shows great concern that countless souls are being lost and that evil is increasing. And at each apparition she calls us to greater prayer. Mary is preparing us, her children, for battle.

Blessings and prayer,
Fr. Bill

* A selection of some of the more famous approved apparitions: Guadalupe, Mexico (1531), Laus, France (1664-1718), Rue de Boc, Paris, France (1830), La Salette, France (1846), Lourdes, France (1858), Champion, Wisconsin (1859), Filippsdorf, Czech Republic (1866), Fatima, Portugal (1917), Beauraing, Belgium (1932), Knock, Ireland (1936), Akita, Japan (1973), Kibeho, Rwanda (1981-1989).

Book recommendations: Philippe, Fr. Jacques. Nine Days to Rediscover the Joy of Prayer. Martin, Ralph. Fulfillment of All Desires. Dubay, Fr. Thomas. Prayer Primer.

June 9, 2024

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

At the end of the Gospel this weekend, it seems like Jesus treats His own family quite harshly. They are outside, and they are calling for Him. But He seems to ignore them.

But is this what is really going on?

The Gospel passage ends with these words, “whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother” (Mark 3:35, ESV). Rather than rejecting His family members, Jesus is expanding who can be in His family. Family relationships with Jesus are no longer limited by “blood and law.” Rather, anyone who does the will of God, now has the full right to call themselves the sons and daughters of God.
Is this not what we pray for when we pray, “Our Father, Who art in heaven… Thy will be done…”?

At times in our lives, we can feel like the relatives of Jesus in today’s Gospel. We feel outside of His presence, and we are calling, but He seems to ignore us. As we reflect on this, we need to ask, “Am I trying to conform my will to the Lord’s will or am I trying to impose my own will on the Lord?”

It is difficult to do, but the inner peace that we seek is not found by trying to impose our own will, but rather by saying “Yes” to God’s will. When we do this, we find that we are brought into the Lord’s “inner circle” and close to His presence.

This is modeled for us by the Blessed Virgin Mary. How did she respond when she received the amazing message from the Archangel Gabriel, “You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus” (Luke 1:31, ESV)? She could have easily responded, “But I have a plan to get married, and have a family with Joseph.” She could have sought to do her own will. But she did not respond this way. Rather, she says, “Behold, I am the servant[f] of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38, ESV).

By Mary’s “Yes” to God’s plan for her life, she became the Mother of God, both spiritually and bodily. We too, can follow her example, and by our “Yes” to God’s plan, truly be called brothers and sisters of Christ.

Fr. Bill

Book recommendation: Nine Days to Welcome Peace by Fr. Jacques Philippe

June 2, 2024

“Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20 (ESV)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

At the conclusion of last week’s Gospel, we heard this promise from our Lord Jesus, “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” However, mere moments after saying these words, He ascended into heaven, leaving behind Mary, the Apostles and the other disciples.

How can He promise to be with us even as He seems to depart from us? The Lord leaves us in body, but remains with us by grace. He remains present in His Church, especially when her members are gathered in praise and prayer (see Matthew 18:20). Through the gift of the Holy Spirit that we received at Baptism and Confirmation, He dwells in our hearts (see John 15:4). But He is especially present to us in the Eucharist.

This is difficult to understand, and in fact it surpasses understanding. Where explanation falls short, we turn to the words of the Lord Himself, and with trust, we listen, “This is my body… this is my blood” (see Matthew 26:26-28, Mark 14:22-24, Luke 19-20). There are Christians of good will that will read these words, and say that the Lord was not speaking literally, but was rather using figurative language. Leaving aside the fact that this is probably the only passage of the Gospels that other Christians will not read literally, we need to ask, how did the Lord himself understand these words that He was leaving us?

The Lord did not choose just any meal to share the ritual of bread and wine, but rather He chose a Passover celebration. When Jews in Jesus’ day, along with Jews in our own day, gather to celebrate the Passover, their celebration is not merely remembering what the Lord God did for them roughly 3,200 years ago, rather they see their celebration as a real participation in the Lord God’s saving actions. They do not pray, “we remember the night that the Lord God led our people out of Egypt… across the Red Sea.” But rather they pray, “this is the night that the Lord God leads us out of Egypt… this is the night that He leads us through the Red Sea.” They understand that through their rituals, they are able to participate in the saving events accomplished many centuries ago.

Jesus, the Son of God, is greater than Moses, a mere prophet. If the Passover instituted by Moses has such power, would not the Eucharist instituted by the Lord have even greater power? This is the understanding of the Apostle Paul, who writes to the Christians in Corinth a mere twenty years after the Resurrection, “Is not the cup we bless a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” (1 Corinthians 10:16).

Who will have a better understanding of the words of Christ: the Apostle Paul writing twenty years after the Resurrection or the Protestant reformers who are writing fifteen centuries after the Resurrection?

Fr. Bill

“Truth himself speaks truly, or there’s nothing true.” Eucharistic Hymn: “Adoro Te Devote”

May 26, 2024

Hear to Serve ...

During this celebration of the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, we have Psalm 33 as our Responsorial Psalm. While a lot of the Psalms are prayers for help against our enemies, for deliverance from our woes, or remission of our sins, Psalm 33 is entirely to do with our praise to God’s power and providence.

How many times have we been told that we need to have a relationship with God and that we need to understand what that relationship is based on? Is our relationship with God based on our ideas, our feelings, or our knowledge? No, our relationship should be based on all that God has done for us. It is based on God’s relationship to us. That is the point of today’s psalm. It is based on the goodness, the power, and the wisdom of God.

God is all good. He is totally trustworthy. God loves justice and is righteous. He is full of kindness, and He is perfect love. We hope in God, not because we are good, but because He is.

God is all powerful. God always was; nothing created God. By His mere word He created the universe and all that is in it, out of nothing.
God is all knowing. His wisdom is unsurpassed. He makes no mistakes. For God always knows what we need, and we do not.
These three attributes of God, total Goodness, power, and wisdom make up the perfect love. St. John tells us, “Perfect love drives out all fear.” No matter how hard we try, our love is never perfect, but God’s love is always perfect.

Let us remember on this Trinity Sunday that there is One God, but He is three persons. All three persons of the Trinity possess all of these attributes. These divine and perfect attributes can be broken down in a matter of speaking. Divine power is associated with the Father, the Creator of Heaven and earth. Wisdom is associated with the Son, the Word. He was in the beginning with the Father, all things came to be through Him. The Father and the Son’s perfect love for each other is the Holy Spirit. Can you imagine a love so perfect it becomes a real person?

These perfect attributes of God allow us to have the attributes of Faith, Hope and Love, which are directed at all Three Persons of the Trinity. We should turn our faith towards the Father, the Creator and Ruler of all things. Let us turn our Hope towards the Son who is our Savior. Our Love should be credited to the Holy Spirit because it’s the Holy Spirit that gives us a share in the Divine Love of the Father and the Son.

So, this Trinity Sunday as we proclaim our Responsorial Psalm let us be reminded of God’s enduring kindness to us, not only of His past kindness and present kindness in our lives. Let us trust in God’s future kindness, and let us pray for awareness of God’s kindness in those times that we do not see.

Deo Gratias,
Deacon Gary

May 19, 2024

“For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” Romans 8:25b (ESV)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today the Church celebrates the feast of Pentecost, and I will also conclude my reflections on the Rosary.

“The Spirit himself intercedes for us…” Prayer is not primarily dependent on our effort. Prayer is primarily the work of the Holy Spirit. This is certainly true when we pray during Mass, but it is also true in our personal prayers, especially the Rosary. When prayer seems dry or dull, it is important to pause, and ask oneself, “Am I letting the Spirit lead me in my prayer?” The Spirit can be “a low whisper,” like it was for the Prophet Elijah (see 1 Kings 19:9-18), or “a mighty rushing wind” (see today’s first reading, Acts 2:1-4). In either case, the presence of the Holy Spirit gives power to our prayer.

This is modeled by the Blessed Virgin Mary. We see in Mary that her greatest accomplishments were not done by her own effort. Rather, she accomplished the most by being both receptive and responsive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. By adopting the same attitude of being receptive and responsive to the presence and promptings of the Holy Spirit, the Rosary becomes a powerful prayer.

To put this into practice, take a long pause before beginning the Rosary, or any prayer. Since you are baptized and confirmed, you have received the gift of the Holy Spirit. During this pause, recall that the Spirit of God dwells within you. Invite the Holy Spirit to be present with you and to lead you in prayer.

As you pray the Rosary, recall how the Spirit led Mary in her mission of being the Mother of Jesus. The Spirit is present in every Mystery of the Rosary, even if He is not explicitly mentioned. Reflect on how the Spirit is present as you pray each Mystery. As you pray the Rosary, when you find that you have gotten distracted, depend not upon your own effort, but rather pray, “Come, Holy Spirit,” and let the Spirit lead you back into prayer.

The Spirit is unpredictable, so I cannot promise you where the Holy Spirit will lead you, if you let Him lead your prayers. But where the Spirit is, there is life. I can assure you that if you let the Spirit lead your prayers, you will find New Life awaken within you.

Prayers & blessings,
Fr. Bill Brunner

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” Luke 1:35b (ESV)

May 12, 2024

“When people love and pray the Rosary, they find it makes them better.” St. Anthony Mary Claret

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

One of the motivations to pray the Rosary is that throughout its 800 year history the Rosary has been associated with signs and wonders. Most famously, was the miraculous victory of the Catholic forces over the Muslims forces at the battle of Lepanto in 1571. In 1858 at Lourdes, France, the Blessed Virgin Mary encouraged St. Bernadette to pray the Rosary, and later revealed to her the location to dig and unleashed a miraculous spring of water that has been associated with countless healing miracles ever since. In 1917, over 70,000 people witnessed the miracle of Fatima when the sun danced in the sky. The Blessed Virgin Mary promised this sign to the three shepherd children as a proof that she really appeared to them and exhorted them to pray the Rosary for peace.

There are many other miracles, signs and wonders associated with the Rosary. These three examples serve to remind us that the Rosary promises victory in the battle, healing in times of hurt, and strengthening of faith in times of doubt.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes many aspects of the Christian life as a battle. “There is no holiness without renunciation and spiritual battle (paragraph 2015). “Prayer is a battle. Against whom? Against ourselves and against the wiles of the tempter who does all he can to turn man away from prayer, away from union with God. We pray as we live, because we live as we pray. If we do not want to act habitually according to the Spirit of Christ, neither can we pray habitually in his name. The ‘spiritual battle’ of the Christian's new life is inseparable from the ‘battle of prayer’” (paragraph 2725). The Christian way of life is not an easy road, since it is following Christ as He carried the Cross. If Mary gave victory to the Catholic forces at Lepanto through the praying of the Rosary, can we not expect the Rosary to lead us to victory in the battles of Christian life?

Every person is in need of healing. Some are in need of physical healing. All of us carry some emotional and spiritual wounds. Unforgiveness is an epidemic striking at the heart of many families. Regret due to past sins is a heavy burden that most people carry. Many people who have bathed in the waters at Lourdes and prayed the Rosary have experienced miraculous healing. Can we not expect that Mary will bring healing to us, her spiritual children, when we have a devotion to the Rosary?

Lastly, for many reasons it seems like it is more difficult to believe in contemporary culture. We seem to live in an age of doubt. In the face of great doubts, Mary revealed a sign at Fatima to confirm the three children in their faith, along with the 70,000 witnesses who had gathered that day. Can we not expect that the regular and devoted recitation of the Rosary cannot help to strengthen our own faith?

Fr. Bill Brunner

“The Rosary is a weapon.” - St. Padre Pio

May 5, 2024

“The greatest method of praying is to pray the Rosary.” St. Francis de Sales

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We continue with the “Five Alive Practices” recommended by Bishop Ricken in his pastoral letter, Encountering Jesus in the Eucharist. The month of May is traditionally dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, so naturally, we will be looking at praying the Rosary.

As a quick and helpful introduction, I would recommend looking at the booklet by Catholic Answers: “20 Answers: The Rosary.” Here is their explanation of the Rosary:

“The rosary is a prayer in which we meditate on key events or ‘mysteries’ in the life of Jesus Christ and his Blessed Mother while invoking the prayerful assistance of both our Lord and Our Lady in witnessing their love to the world. The events are organized into four groups of five mysteries: Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful, and Glorious. The faithful pray one ‘Our Father’ (Lord’s Prayer) and ten ‘Hail Marys’ while meditating on each mystery of a group, for a total of fifty Hail Marys per group. The repeated prayers not only help Christians focus their minds while meditating on each mystery but also enable a believer to better hear how Christ may be speaking to them in their individual lives regarding particular relationships, work, other issues, etc. In this light, before beginning and while praying the rosary, Christians should keep in mind the prophet Samuel’s wise response to the Lord: ‘Speak, for your servant is listening’ (1 Sam. 3:10). People lose heart in praying the rosary when they forget that an important part of prayer is listening to God.”

The Rosary begins with vocal prayer, which is the beginning of all prayer. Vocal prayers are beautiful in their simplicity, but we must keep in mind the warning of Jesus about prayer, “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do” (Matthew 6:7). Like all prayers, the Rosary must engage in the mind and heart. Before you begin, take a moment to call to mind WHO you are praying to and WHAT you are saying. I also take a moment to think about an intention for each decade. This helps me to pray the Rosary with both care and attention.

The Rosary benefits from consistency. If one is not in the habit of praying the Rosary on a regular basis, it is unsurprising that it is prayed dully. “Even the highest mountains can be climbed one step at a time.” The change is not immediate. But when the Rosary has become a habit, each Rosary, each decade, and indeed each Hail Mary becomes a step on the mountain of holiness. The beginning can take effort and a push of will power, but with consistency the Rosary never fails to be fruitful.

We will continue to reflect on the Rosary for the following weeks of May.

Fr. Bill

“Say the Holy Rosary. Blessed be that monotony of Hail Mary's which purifies the monotony of your sins!” - St. Josemaria Escriva

April 28, 2024

“But you, take courage! Do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded.” 2 Chronicles 15:7

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On Monday, a number of parishioners from both parishes gathered to discuss parish outreach. I was very encouraged by the meeting and extend my gratitude to everyone who participated. With this kind of commitment and sense of ownership, the good things that God has started here, will continue.

Changing parish leadership is always challenging. What I have seen and experienced during my time here is that these parishes rise to the challenges before them. Both parishes routinely complete their respective Bishop Appeal goals in record time. Both parishes completed the one-by-One goal.

This week, I lay another challenge before you. This is not asking for money. This is asking for time and talent. Both parishes are looking for additional members for their Pastoral Councils. The purpose of these councils is to provide guidance and advice to the pastor and to translate good ideas into good actions. A Pastoral Council can have up to twelve members and both parishes should have full councils.

In addition, each parish has specific committee needs. Holy Trinity Parish needs two additional members for the buildings and grounds committee. St. Gregory needs four to five members for the cemetery committee.

Ask yourself about the gifts you received and how you can use them to make these parishes a better place. If you are interested in any of these councils or committees, contact your respective parish office. We will be gathering nominations for pastoral council members at all the Masses on the weekend of May 11-12, 2024, but names can be submitted earlier.

“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace.” 1 Peter 4:10

Thank you in advance for your generous service.

Fr. Bill Brunner

April 21, 2024

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In this Sunday’s Gospel, we hear the words of Jesus, “I am the Good Shepherd.” I find these words difficult this year. I have been your shepherd for nearly three years, and now I am being sent to be a shepherd for another parish.

I am given comfort by recalling my first words to you when I arrived in October 2021. I started with a question: “Who owns this parish?” Is the parish owned by the priest? Or is it owned by the people? Both answers are wrong.

Christ owns the parish. It is His Word that we hear proclaimed every Sunday. It is His Body and Blood that we receive in the Eucharist every Sunday. And it is on His mission that we are sent out at the end of Mass, “Go and glorify the Lord by your life.”

Even though I am being moved, Christ will remain here to be your Shepherd.

The Gospel passage for this Sunday also talks about hearing the voice of Christ. Are we listening for His voice? What is He telling us? And where is He leading us?

If we are a people of prayer, especially meditative and contemplative prayer, He will lead us. And if we respond to His voice, and go where He leads, He will lead these parishes to green pastures and flowing waters.

There is anxiety about having an international priest. But even in this, Christ wants to teach us, lead us, and feed us. Here is some of what I have been hearing Christ speak to my heart in prayer:

“I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Matthew 25:35b). As anxious as we are about having an international priest, he is probably just as nervous about being sent on mission to serve us. How are we preparing to welcome him as a brother in Christ? Are we grateful that he is willing to leave home and family, and everything that is familiar and comfortable to come and serve us?

“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few” (Matthew 9:37b). There really is only one reason why we are dependent on international priests: there are not enough men becoming priests. Are we determined in our prayer and spiritual sacrifices to beg God to raise up priestly vocations from our own parishes and our own families? Are we encouraging our own sons, grandsons, and nephews to consider a call to the priesthood?

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment” (Matthew 22:37-38). What is the reason that we are coming to church? Some priests are more gifted. Some are less gifted. Some priests are easy to understand. Some are more difficult to understand. I hope that you are not coming to church for the priest, rather I hope that you are coming to church for Christ. Last week, I wrote about how I was warmly welcomed here. Over the last two weeks, I have received numerous notes of appreciation. All of this deeply touches my heart, and will make it all the more difficult to depart. However, the greatest gift that you can give me is if you can truly say that you are closer to Jesus and love Him more now then when I first arrived.

We continue to keep each other in prayer.

Fr. Bill

April 14, 2024

Hear to Serve ...

It seems the older I get in life, the more things I lock up. Is it me getting older? Is it the fact that there is more crime in the world? Maybe it is a little bit of both. I remember when we moved to Manitowoc. I never locked the garage. If our car was in the driveway, I certainly didn’t bother locking it during the day, and maybe not even at night. We never used the deadbolt on the door to the house. But now you can bet things are locked up and there are even a few motion-detection lights up around the yard because there are more unsavory people in the world than there used to be. I need to be able to sleep at night.

This week’s Responsorial Psalm, Psalm 4, talks about David falling peacefully asleep because the Lord is bringing security to his dwelling. I guess David was worried about His household security as much as I am about mine. But the psalmist is talking about much more than security in his house. Just as there are unsavory characters in the physical world, there are some unsavory characters in the spiritual world. There are demons who are prowling the world searching for souls to ruin.

Believe it or not there is spiritual warfare going on around us all of the time. No matter how hard we try, we will always be tempted by the devil. Jesus was tempted by the devil, why shouldn’t we expect the same? But God is always there to help us, and we have to decide who we are going to open the door of our soul to, to let them in, and who we are going to lock the door of our soul to, to keep them out.

The psalmist tells us, “When I call, answer me, my just God.” “It’s you who relieves me when I am in distress.” For he knows it’s God who provides the true security for our souls. It’s God who is all wise and all good who will help us lock the doors of our soul to guard against attacks of the devil, and all his evil spirits who prowl about the world for the ruin of our souls.

In our time of temptation, in our time of doubt, we have to keep our faith. Even when Jesus faced death and asked His father to remove this cup, Jesus kept faith in His Father’s plan. So should we because our faith is not just feelings. We can base our faith in facts. The facts are that Jesus died for our sins; He rose from the dead to show us eternal life, and He also awaits us.

So, when we feel afraid, when we have doubts, when we have worries, and when we don’t feel secure in this world, we do not have to struggle alone. We can put our hope and trust in the Lord. Let us follow Jesus’ examples here on earth. Jesus continually prayed and so should we. Jesus gave us the sacraments. Let us boldly use them!

When those times of doubt, fear, and insecurity come, we do not have to worry if we have shut the windows, locked the doors, and reset the security alarm. We have a God who calls us into a relationship with Him. He asks us to bring all things to Him in prayer and sacrament. If we lay the security of our souls in His care, you and I will be able to fall peacefully asleep because it is, “You alone O Lord who brings security to my soul.”

Viva Cristo Rey,
Deacon Gary

April 7, 2024

“Therefore, every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.” Matthew 13:52

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This month’s prayer card is an act of “spiritual communion.”

The practice of spiritual communion may be familiar to some older Catholics but unheard of by most younger Catholics.
Spiritual communion is the expression of desire to be in union with Jesus Christ, specifically to be in union with Christ as if one was receiving the Holy Eucharist.

There are a number of reasons to make an act of spiritual communion. In times and places of persecution, participation in the celebration of the Mass was often unavailable to most Catholics. Historically, this included times such as Poland under Communist rule. In present times, this includes Catholics in countries such as Saudi Arabia and China.

There are also places where the shortage of priests means that Mass is only available infrequently. Historically, this includes Catholics in early America. In present times, this often includes Catholics living in mission territories.

Recently, in our own time, when parishes were closed during COVID, many Catholics expressed a desire to receive Jesus in Holy Communion but were unable to receive Him.

No matter the reason why a Catholic may not be able to receive Holy Communion, they can always make an act of spiritual communion, and even make an act of spiritual communion multiple times a day.

Spiritual communion is not only for times of persecution, scarcity of priests, or epidemics. We should desire to always have Jesus dwelling in our hearts. For this reason, great saints of the Church have encouraged Catholics to frequently make acts of spiritual communion. Here are some examples:

“When you do not receive communion and you do not attend Mass, you can make a spiritual communion, which is a most beneficial practice; by it the love of God will be greatly impressed on you,” St. Teresa of Avila.

“If we are deprived of Sacramental Communion, let us replace it, as far as we can, by spiritual communion, which we can make every moment; for we ought to have always a burning desire to receive the good God,” St. John Vianney.

“What a source of grace there is in Spiritual Communion! Practice it frequently and you'll have more presence of God and closer union with him in your life,” St. Josemaria Escriva.

“It is good to cultivate in our hearts a constant desire for the sacrament of the Eucharist. This was the origin of the practice of ‘spiritual communion,’ which has happily been established in the Church for centuries and recommended by saints who were masters of the spiritual life,” Pope St. John Paul the Second.

The practice of spiritual communion is an effective way to prepare for Mass, and also to deepen a sense of God’s presence throughout our day and our week.

Fr. Bill Brunner

March 31, 2024

“He is not here.” Mark 16:6

Dear Brothers and Sisters in the Lord,

Most Christian churches make the claim that you can find the Lord here, but there is one very important church that makes the opposite claim, “He is not here.” This is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, located in Jerusalem over the site of the Crucifixion and tomb of our Lord Jesus.

Even to this day, pilgrims to this church can enter the tomb and see that it is empty. There are gold letters above the slab where His body was buried that proudly proclaim, “He is risen; He is not here” (Mark 16:6).
These were the words that the angel addressed to the women who were coming to the tomb to anoint the Lord’s body. They were expecting to find the body of the Lord in the place where He was buried. These women were among the few of our Lord’s loyal followers who remained with Him, even to the foot of the Cross. They knew which tomb to go to, for they witnessed His burial (see Mark 15:40-41 and Mark 15:47).
They were the first witnesses to the Lord’s Resurrection. They were the first to rejoice in the great news that Christ has conquered death.

It is natural to question, where were the other disciples? The Gospel of Luke tells us two of them were fleeing Jerusalem, and the Gospel of John tells us that the others were hiding in the upper room. Fear kept them from going to the Lord’s tomb. Fear kept them from hearing the Good News of the Resurrection. But even if they, somehow, overcame their fear, they would not have been able to find the tomb. They were not at the foot of the Cross, and they did not witness where the Lord was buried. So, they would not have known where to find Him.

We see that there is a connection between the Cross and the Resurrection. Those who followed the Lord, even to the foot of the Cross, are the first to receive the Good News of the Resurrection. They were the first to see that the tomb was empty. This is an important lesson for us. Those who embrace the crosses of their lives, often experience the greater joy at Easter. If we run from the crosses that life brings our way, we are also running away from our share in the Resurrection.

The celebration of Easter is that joyful confidence, and bold proclamation, that God transforms the darkness of Good Friday into the light of Easter morning. It is the steady belief that God transforms the darkness of our sorrows into the joy that the world cannot take away.

“So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” John 16:22

Jesus is Risen!
Fr. Bill Brunner

March 24 2024

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” The Jesus Prayer

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Again we return to Holy Week with the celebration of “Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion.” It’s long and awkward to say, so usually we abbreviate it as “Palm Sunday.” We need to balance both the jubilant and welcoming cheers of the crowds upon Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, and the loneliness of his death on the cross with only the companionship of two criminals. We are quick to welcome the Lord when times are good, but are steadfast in the face of challenges?

Usually the deacon or the priest proclaims the Gospel during the liturgy, but on two days every member of the congregation shares the Gospel: Palm Sunday and Good Friday. This emphasizes the fact that each of us takes a part in the judgment, suffering and death of the Lord. It was for our sins that he died. He suffered the punishment that we deserve for our sins. So, as we together proclaim the “Passion of the Lord” this Palm Sunday, we also examine our own hearts and lives.

When have I been like Judas, and sacrificed our principles and convictions, for the sake of gain and profit?
When have I been like Peter, rash to promise the Lord our loyalty but fall away when I am challenged? Being a faithful Catholic in today’s world requires courage and conviction, but when have I let fear overcome my faith?

When have I been like the disciples in the garden, who are sleepy and drowsy in fulfilling their duties to the Lord? When have I been slothful in my prayers? When have I been neglectful of my religious duties?

Again, when have I been like Judas, who betrayed the Lord with a kiss? When have I given an outward show of piety, but in reality my heart has been far from God?

When have I been like the chief priests who judged Jesus? They could not convict him except by resorting to lies and distortions. Have I been honest and truthful?

Pilate knew the truth of the matter, and he knew what was right. Yet, he was swayed by the heckle of the crowds, and allowed pragmatism to triumph over what is right. When have I allowed social pressures to overwhelm my convictions about right and wrong, good and evil?

Simon helped Christ to carry his cross. In serving the poor, the weak, and the oppressed, we too help Christ to carry his cross. How have I responded to the call to serve the poor?

The centurion risked everything by boldly proclaiming, “Truly this man was a Son of God.” Have I been willing to take a risk for the faith?

In response to the ways that I have shared in the Passion of the Lord, I can only respond with the prayer of the publican, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” (see Luke 18:9-14).

Father Bill

March 17, 2024

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” 1 John 1:8

“For the wages of sin is death.” Romans 6:23

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I concluded my column two weeks ago with the observation that vibrant parishes have a healthy appreciation of the sacrament of reconciliation. This observation makes sense. Sin kills the life of grace, and without grace there is no spiritual life.

The most common objection to the sacrament of reconciliation is the assertion that one can confess directly to God.

Since we are biblical Christians, where do we find that assertion in the Bible?

The Apostle James makes it clear, “Confess to one another…” (James 5:16).

Throughout the Bible, in both the Old and New Testaments, God shows a strong preference to work through the cooperation of human mediators. God could have directly acted to free the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, yet God chose to work through Moses and Aaron. God could have chosen by divine decree to simply remit the sins of humanity, but he chose to send His Son into the world, “Incarnate by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary,” to suffer and die in the flesh for our redemption. God could have chosen to directly inspire the words of the Gospel into the hearts of all men and women, but He chose to send the Apostles to every corner of the world to preach that the Kingdom of God was at hand.

From the first verses of Genesis through the last verse of Revelation, God shows an unwavering preference to work through human agency and through human cooperation. He does not want to simply impose redemption from above. He does not want us to be merely passive spectators in the drama of our own salvation. He elevates our dignity by calling us to cooperate with His saving actions.

In the age of the church, that is from Pentecost until now (and really until the Second Coming), our cooperation with God’s saving actions is expressed through the sacraments. At the beginning of life, one cannot baptize himself. At the hour of death, one cannot anoint oneself. At both birth and death, God mediates His grace through a sacrament. Why would it be any different in those moments when we have offended Him by our sins and have need of His mercy?

Father Bill

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

March 10, 2024

Hear to Serve ...
LAETARE SUNDAY - “Rejoice, Jerusalem, and all who love her. Be joyful, all who were in mourning; exult and be satisfied at her consoling breast.” Is 66:10-11

Our opening Entrance Antiphon for Mass on this Fourth Sunday in Lent is where the theme for Laetare Sunday comes from. Laetare is a Latin word meaning rejoice. We celebrate Laetare Sunday midway through our Lenten season with 21 days left until Easter.

On Laetare Sunday, the Church takes a breather from the penitential Lenten practices. It’s a day where the clergy put away the purple vestments which signify penance and put on rose-colored vestments. (A nice way of saying pink.) The color rose symbolizes joy for the Church.

There are several traditions that go along with Laetare Sunday. The wearing of rose-colored vestments goes back to an ancient tradition of the Pope carrying a golden rose when he left Mass. The golden rose was part of a cluster of golden roses that the pope would bless and then have distributed to Catholic heads of state, churches, and shrines as a symbol of outstanding service to the Church. Normally, during the Season of Lent, there are no flowers on the Altar or in the Sanctuary, but it is permitted to decorate with flowers, preferably with roses, on this Sunday of joy.

A tradition that started in ancient times and still continues is that Catechumens on this day are given a sacred copy of the Apostles Creed, signifying they would soon come into full communion with the Church on the Easter Vigil. On the Easter Vigil, as we know, catechumens receive Baptism, the Eucharist, and Confirmation, making them full members in the Church. This is a time for rejoicing among the Church.
Other traditions practiced on Laetare Sunday begin with visiting one’s Mother Church, the parish where you were baptized. In some parts of the world, Laetare Sunday is also known as Mothering Sunday. Adult children make it a point to visit their mothers and plant a rose bush. They have a family brunch or dinner and decorate the table with roses.

However we celebrate Laetare Sunday, we should take a break from the somber mood of Lent. Today is a day to reflect on the joy of Easter to come, before we face the darkness of Good Friday and Holy Saturday. It is also a good day to reflect on our Lenten practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving and to take some silent time to let God speak to us and tell us what we need to change in our practices to make this a truly blessed Lent.

As we celebrate Laetare Sunday, let us keep our eye on the prize and not lose focus of the joy of Christ’s Resurrection. Let us link our sufferings to Christ’s suffering on the Cross for us, and let us remember we are an Easter people. Rejoice!

Viva Cristo Rey,
Deacon Gary

March 3, 2024

“Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.” 1 Corinthians 11:28-30

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Peace be with you. The next Five Alive practice that we will look at is the Sacrament of Reconciliation, also called the Sacrament of Penance or Confession.

Before we look at an explanation of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we will look at how our parishes will be offering this sacrament during the season of Lent.

Confessions will continue to be offered at the usual times. On Saturdays, starting at 3:00pm at St. Gregory. On Sunday, starting at 7:30am and again starting at 6:30pm at Holy Trinity. Additional times for Confession will be offered on Monday evenings of March from 4:00 to 7:00pm. During that time there will be the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, so anyone can come and pray during that time. You can come at any point during those times. You do not need to be there at the beginning. The priests will stay until 7:00pm, even if no one is waiting in line.

March 4 and March 18 will be at Holy Trinity.
March 11 and March 25 will be at St. Gregory.

We did a similar approach during Advent. And it worked really well. In fact, the second time Confession was offered, it was a steady stream of penitents for the entire three hours. Wow! Lots of Mercy was given that evening. A difference for Lent will be that extra priests will be available on March 11, March 18 and March 25, so the lines should move faster, and you will have the opportunity to go to Confession to someone besides your pastor.

Very few people will consider Confession to be their favorite sacrament. However, this sacrament of Mercy is a powerhouse of parish renewal. The most vibrant parishes in the diocese have a vibrant appreciation of this sacrament.

Father Bill

“And the people came to Moses and said, ‘We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.’ … And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a brazen serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.’ So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.” Numbers 21:7-9

February 25, 2024

“If lectio divina is effectively promoted, this practice will bring to the Church - I am convinced of it – a new spiritual springtime.” ~Pope Benedict XVI

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

As we have looked at the practice of “lectio divina,” how has God’s Word spoken to you?

When we are prayerfully attentive to God’s Word, we hear Him truly speaking to our heart. This cannot be a hurried reading. This cannot be a distracted reading. This is also not the way a scholar would read the Word. It is the way that the Spirit guides us in reading.
As we have read God’s Word attentively and prayerfully, our mind and our heart should have been drawn to particular words or phrases from scripture. As we ponder these words, we are naturally led into meditation.

Now as we meditate on scripture, we get to a point where we can meditate no longer. At this point, have we exhausted what God can tell us through His Word? NO! The longer we apply our heart to “lectio divina,” the more we discover that His Word is an ever-flowing font of wisdom that nourishes the soul. One cannot exhaust the depths of God’s Word. When we come to the point where we can meditate no longer, it’s not a shortcoming of God’s Word, but rather a shortcoming of our ability to pray.

At this point, our work of prayer is not finished. Now it is time for the third step of “lectio divina,” that is ORATIO. ORATIO is the Latin word for “prayer.” This can be confusing, since all of “lectio divina” is a prayer, so how is this step different? In the first step, “lectio” that is reading, God is speaking to us through His Word. In the second step, “meditatio,” we enter into our “inner room” to ponder. Now with ORATIO, we RESPOND to God’s Word, and enter into a conversation with the Lord about His Word.

How has the Word comforted you? Share that with the Lord in your own words. How has the Word challenged you? Share that with the Lord in your own words. Ask the Lord for the graces you need to rise to these challenges. Has the Word of God moved you to action? Make a resolution to act on His Word. Speak to the Lord from your heart.

The last step of “lectio divina” is “contemplatio.” “Contemplatio” means to simply rest in the Lord’s Word. Think about a couple who has been married for years. After a while they often grow quiet in each other’s presence. But even without words, they have lived together and loved each other for so long that they can share a conversation of love through their silence. “Contemplatio” is this same prayerful resting in God’s Word. Since “contemplatio” requires the least action on our part, it can feel like we aren’t doing anything. However, in prayer “not doing anything” is not a waste of time. Rather, it is time that we let the Word of God soak into the depths of our heart, and let God’s Word do something in us. “Contemplatio” is giving time to God to act in our heart.

“It is especially necessary that listening to the Word of God should become a life-giving encounter.” ~Pope Saint John Paul II

Father Bill

February 18, 2024

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We return to the guidance about “Lectio Divina.” The first step is reading. This type of reading is “listening with the heart” rather than an analysis.

The second step is “meditatio” or meditation.

If one reads scripture with attention and an interior attitude of recollection, your focus will be drawn to a specific word or phrase or verse of scripture. This may not be the main point of the passage, and in fact, may even seem like an insignificant detail to the wider passage. However, every word of scripture can nourish the soul. The word to which your heart is drawn is the word that God wishes to use to speak to your heart.

In speaking about meditation, the monks would use words like “chewing,” or “savoring.” They liked the image of a cow chewing her cud and drawing all the nourishment from it that is available. We let the Word linger with us.

At this point we reflect over it. Meditation can in fact be active. We ask questions, such as “Imagine what it would feel like for Jesus to speak TO ME in that way?” Or, if we notice something unexpected or even unsettling in scripture, we can ponder, “Why would Jesus do that or say something in that way?” Ponder and reflect over the word.

Meditation is also noticing how the word echoes in our hearts and minds. Sometimes the Word of God helps us to recall a memory, triggers a thought or insight, or we have an emotional response to the word. These responses can be comforting and reassuring. They can also be uncomfortable. Either way, rest in how your mind and heart respond to the word. Let it take root. Let it take you deeper into your insight, memory, or feeling.

Part of meditation is considering how the words relate to your life today. Ask yourself, “Have I ever been in a similar situation?” Or, “How can I relate to this passage?”

Each word of scripture can be nourishing, if we give it the attention, focus, and time for the word to take root, and reveal itself to us.
There are times in my own prayer, when I return to a familiar passage of scripture, and it speaks to me again. It’s as if I am hearing it for the first time. When we meditate on scripture through lectio divina, the scriptures do speak to us anew.

Father Bill

February 11, 2024

Hear to Serve ...

Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to be part of a presentation to our Confirmation Candidates about sexual morality. This is a topic that they have heard about before, but it is one that truly needs to be addressed many times because there is a war going on between Church teaching and what is being practiced in society. Since the sexual revolution of the 60’s, we have become a sex-obsessed culture. While sexual immorality has existed since the beginning of time, our society is the first society in history that believes sexual freedom trumps all other moral laws. We like to believe that sexual freedom is subjective and personal; there is no absolute truth when it comes to sexual issues.
We know there is truth. In the beginning God created Adam and Eve in His Divine Image, male and female. God blessed them saying, “Be fertile and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it.” This was the first marriage, this was God’s Prime Directive to us, to be fruitful and multiply. It was a union of souls in communion with God.

But our society has turned sex into parade candy. Remember parades when we were young? As they went down the street people on the floats would throw candy out to everyone and anyone standing on the side. We would try to catch the candy, but so much of it landed on the street and in the gutter, where it become dirty, but it was still picked up and consumed. That is exactly what has become of the gift of sex from God. We made it dirty, but we still consume it.

Jesus has given us seven sacraments, seven life giving sacraments, seven ways to help us achieve the ultimate life with the Father. The sexual revolution and organizations like Planned Parenthood have also given us a sacrament, a sacrament of death called abortion.
There is a growing number of people in this country that view abortion as “reproductive health care.” Abortion is often treated as backup contraception, and all contraception in any form is allowing us is to have sex without the responsibility of having children. We know it is nothing but pure and simple murder. When we use contraceptives, when we partake in abortion, we are going against God’s Prime Directive for us, when we kill babies in the womb and we are also killing off our immortal souls. Worst of all, we are attacking God Himself.

The sexual revolution, contraception, and abortion are destroying the very core of our society, the family. A stable, faithful family is the bedrock that holds society together. God designed marriage and the family to be the primary way to keep us from our natural tendency to be self-centered. Marriage teaches us to be self-giving to another, to society, and to God. Marriage teaches us to be open to giving and nurturing life.
If you think I have sounded harsh, you’re probably right, but our society has twisted what God has planned for us, for our bodies. We have personally attacked God, and we have committed murder all in the name of personal freedom.

The Good News is that Jesus Christ wants to heal us. Jesus offers us mercy and salvation through the life giving sacrament of Confession if we choose. There is no sin that we cannot repent of and ask forgiveness for. There is no sin greater than the power of Jesus Christ.

Let us follow the advice of St. Paul and “Do everything for the glory of God.” Let us pray that our young people learn the lifegiving values of the Church. Let us pray for strong marriages that are fruitful. Let us pray for those who have had abortions that they may repent and be restored to life. And let us remember the leper in today’s gospel and ask to be healed from everything that keeps us from God’s eternal love and life. “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.”

Viva Cristo Rey,
Deacon Gary

February 4, 2024

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We continue looking at Bishop Ricken’s “Five Alive Practices for Getting More Out of the Mass,” from his pastoral letter, “Encountering Jesus in the Eucharist.” The second practice we will look at is “lectio divina.” This phrase is Latin for “divine reading.” In the simplest terms, lectio divina is a careful reading of Scripture and approaching it as a living Word that still has the ability to speak to our hearts. My spiritual director in seminary would say that lectio divina is reading Scripture with the heart, more than with the head.

The classic Catholic text about lectio divina is “The Ladder of Monks” by the monk Guido the Second. Even though it was written nearly 850 years ago, it is still easy to read and understand.*

Lectio divina is divided into four steps: (1) reading (2) meditating (3) praying and (4) contemplating. Over the Sundays of February, we will look at each of these steps in turn.

The first step is reading. A good starting point is to begin with the Gospel reading for Mass for the upcoming Sunday.

The first thing to understand is that this is reading to hear what God is saying. Just as Elijah only heard God in the still small voice (see 1 Kings 19:12), in order to hear the voice of God speaking to us through these sacred words, we need to quiet both our room and the inner room of our heart. Begin by placing yourself in the presence of God, take a few deep breaths, and then begin reading. This is not speed reading. As your mind and heart ponders the words, if your heart is drawn to a particular word or phrase, pause there. Repeat that phrase a few times. Then continue.

It is helpful to read the passage out loud. This may seem strange at first when you are alone, but it does make a difference. After reading the passage, pause for a moment of prayerful rest, then read the passage again. Read it through in the same deliberate way three or four times.
This is reading for “quality,” not “quantity.” This type of reading is seeking to find how the depths of the Word of God speaks to the depth of your heart. It is alright, and perhaps even better, if the reader only ponders a few verses of scripture during their time of lectio divina.

Father Bill


* This booklet can be accessed for free online at https://nds.edu/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/The-Ladder-of-Monks.pdf

January 28, 2024

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We continue our discussion of Sunday Mass as we look at Bishop’s “Five Alive” practices from his pastoral letter, “Encountering Jesus in the Eucharist: Disciples Called to Worship.”

In the letter, the Bishop reminds us that participating in Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation is a grave responsibility. This obligation is not just a rule imposed by the church but reflects our understanding of who God is and what He expects from us.
Each Sunday, we begin the Creed with these words, “I believe in One God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.” Since these words are repeated so frequently, their impact can be muted.

But what are we saying with these words? By proclaiming Him as Creator, we are proclaiming that without God, we simply would not exist. He created us, and we belong to Him. By proclaiming Him as Father Almighty, we are proclaiming that He has given us life, provides for our needs, and enriches us with His blessings.

From God comes our existence, our life, all that we have, and all that we cherish. We do not deserve it. We have not earned it. He was not obligated to create us. He was not obligated to breathe life into our mortal bodies and to bless us with His grace. It naturally follows that we owe Him a debt of gratitude.

Religion is a virtue. St. Thomas Aquinas does not place the virtue of religion under the theological virtues, Faith, Hope and Love. He places religion under the virtue of justice. The basic definition of justice is “to give to each what is owed to them.” For example, we owe our employer an honest day’s work, and our employer owes us an honest day’s pay. The virtue of patriotism recognizes that we owe honor and respect to our nation and those who hold office in our nation. The virtue of religion recognizes that we owe God a debt of gratitude and praise. The act by which we repay to God the debt of gratitude and praise is called the act of worship.

Now, when we owe a debt to another, we do not get to decide how that debt is repaid. The bank would not be amused if one attempted to pay their mortgage with seashells, even if it was explained that seashells were once used as currency in Papua, New Guinea.

In the same way, God gets to determine the shape of our worship. In the Ten Commandments, He commands (not suggests), “Remember to keep holy the Lord’s Day.” Further in the Old Testament, the Lord gives detailed instructions to Moses about how sacrifices are to be offered.
This is reflected in the New Testament. Because the Lord was Resurrected on a Sunday, and hence He conquered sin and death on a Sunday, for Christians the Lord’s day is Sunday. Further, Jesus institutes how worship is offered in the New Covenant, when He gives us these words at the Last Supper, “He took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood’” (Luke 22:19-20, ESV).

If we take the Word of God seriously, we understand the significance of the Sunday obligation. Why should we celebrate the Eucharist on Sunday? Because God commands it.

Father Bill

January 21, 2024

From January through May 2024, we will be looking at the “Five Alive Practices” from Bishop Ricken’s Pastoral Letter, “Encountering Jesus in the Eucharist.” During the month of January we will be looking at the Sunday Mass.


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We continue our discussion of Sunday Mass as we look at Bishop’s “Five Alive” practices from his pastoral letter, “Encountering Jesus in the Eucharist: Disciples Called to Worship.”

Last week, we looked at stories, from different times and different places, of great sacrifices that Catholics have made in order to participate in the Sunday celebration of the Eucharist. What is so valuable about Sunday Eucharist that Catholics, even in the present day, risk their livelihood, freedom, and even their life in order to take part in the Eucharist?

It is true that God is present everywhere. We call this the dogma of God’s omnipresence. But even if God is present everywhere, nonetheless, God chooses to manifest His divine presence in particular times and places. We see numerous examples in the Bible itself. Moses and the Hebrew people met God at Mount Sinai, where his presence was so strong that the summit of the mountain had to be shrouded in cloud and smoke. Later, God will make His dwelling within the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. In the New Testament, Jesus chooses to be present in one place, the Holy Land, and one particular time, for the first thirty-three years of the first millennium. Everyone who encountered Jesus recognized that He was a unique divine presence that could not be found anyplace else.

So it is also true with coming to church on Sunday. You can, and in fact should, pray at home, but the Lord is not present there the way He is present in the church. Jesus, Himself, teaches that where two or three are gathered in His name, He is present among them. The church gathers in His name, and He is truly present. He is present in His Word, especially when it is proclaimed by a person of faith to a people assembled in Faith. The Second Vatican Council is even as bold as to say that when the Sacred Word is proclaimed in the Sacred Assembly, God is speaking again. Lastly, and most importantly, in the Catholic Church, Jesus is encountered in the Eucharist, and the Eucharist cannot be found anyplace else. Before the Eucharist, we are in the presence of the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus.
Our brothers and sisters in Christ that continue to suffer persecutions for their beliefs, continue to risk everything for Sunday, since they know on Sunday they encounter Jesus in a way that they do not encounter Him any place else.

Having Mass broadcasted over TV and the internet is part of the reality of our world. It is a blessing for the sick and homebound. But it does not substitute for being physically and personally present at the celebration of the Mass for those who are not physically or medically impeded. Imagine if you were invited to a friend’s house for dinner, and instead of finding a banquet laid out before you, they had you watch a cooking show and showed you photographs of food. Your hunger would not be satisfied. Simply watching Mass on TV cannot satisfy the hunger of the soul.

Father Bill

January 14, 2024

From January through May 2024, we will be looking at the “Five Alive Practices” from Bishop Ricken’s Pastoral Letter, “Encountering Jesus in the Eucharist.” During the month of January we will be looking at the Sunday Mass.


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

As many of you know, I was sent to Rome for my studies for the priesthood. One of the best parts of that experience was meeting Catholics from all over the world. These included Catholics from modern day Iraq. It might surprise you to learn that there are Catholics in Iraq, but it is one of the most ancient Christian communities in the world. Their language, culture, and spirituality is called Chaldean. Although the population of Chaldean Catholics in Iraq is ancient, the years of war, persecution, and terrorism have driven them from their home. Now there are very few Chaldeans left in Iraq, but there are sizable Chaldean Catholic populations in San Diego and Detroit.

Among my classmates were two young Chaldean men studying to be priests with the intention of returning to Iraq to preach the Gospel and celebrate the sacraments. They returned home. They were both ordained. They were both killed for being priests. They were killed on a Sunday. Those who persecute the Church, look for Christians on Sunday, since they know that Christians go to church on Sunday. This includes churches being attacked on First Communion Sunday in Baghdad, Chinese Communist police arresting Christians in their churches on Sundays, or St. Oscar Romero, the well-known Archbishop from El Salvador, who was assassinated while celebrating Sunday Mass by agents of the Salvadoran government in 1980.

All these modern day Christians, who suffer for the faith, remind us that the age of the martyrs is not something remembered in the history books but is the reality for many Catholics today. They echo the words of the martyrs of Abitene, who were killed by the Roman Empire in northern Africa in 303 A.D. When asked why they risked gathering on a Sunday to celebrate the Eucharist, they simply responded, “We cannot live without Sunday.”

In our culture that is relatively prosperous, it costs us nothing to participate in Sunday Mass. Because Sunday costs us nothing, I am afraid that we treat it as something cheap. But the poor, especially the working poor in places such as Bahrain or Dubai, show us the value of Sunday since they lose their wages and risk their jobs to go to Sunday Mass.

In our culture that is relatively peaceful, it involves no danger to gather for Sunday Mass. Since it involves no danger and no risk, Sunday Mass can all too easily become something optional rather than something essential. But my Iraqi classmates from Rome, along with so many persecuted Catholics today, show us that Sunday Mass is essential, worth literally risking life and limb, since they “cannot live without Sunday.”

This week, I ask you to reflect on the importance of Sunday. Ask yourself why persecuted Christians will risk so much for the opportunity to gather for Sunday Mass? Ponder, why do they say, by both word and action, “We cannot live without Sunday”?

Sunday's blessings be with you,
Father Bill

January 6, 2024

Hear to Serve ...

I strongly recommend reading and rereading the Responsorial Psalm for each Sunday Mass. Get out your Bible and look up the entire Psalm. The Psalms are filled with every human emotion and contain wisdom that is much needed in our world.

Psalm 72 begins as a prayer for Solomon and a hope for prosperity for his nation now and in the future. The Psalm is really much deeper than that. It is about the coming of the Messiah. It is a prayer of longing for the coming of the King of the Universe, the only King who can rule the whole world with wisdom, justice and mercy. It is a hope far beyond what a human ruler is capable of.

This is the hope that we have for our country. Isn’t that what all people hope for in their countries throughout the world? We want our country to be lands of prosperity and abundance. We want leaders that rule with justice, wisdom, and mercy. As we talk about leaders ruling with justice, wisdom, and mercy, that just isn’t for our political leaders, this includes our Church leadership as well.

In the world today it seems more prevalent than ever that there is poverty, injustices, wars, and corrupt leadership. There is a breakdown of families, a breakdown of people’s faith in the Church and its leadership. While anxiety and stress seem to be on the rise, all these problems in society and in our lives have become holes that keep getting bigger and bigger.

Well, Solomon’s reign did not go well, and Israel was split by civil war. Solomon’s sin was that while he did love God, he didn’t love God with his whole heart. God warned the Israelites not to marry people from other nations. Solomon didn’t listen to God. He had many wives; he had wives that worshipped pagan god’s and they corrupted Solomon into filling the holes in his life with idol worship.

Have we not seen world leaders get power hungry and instead of ruling their country with wisdom, justice, and mercy they become more concerned about their reputations? They seek personal wealth and power; they want to rule the world. History has shown us they will never be happy. They will never be satisfied.

In our personal lives, what pagan god’s do we try fill the holes in our lives with … bigger houses, bigger bank accounts, pleasures of the world?

We have to love God with our whole heart. Filling our lives with these pagan gods will never truly satisfy us. There will always be an emptiness in our lives. It’s only when we let the only true King Jesus the Christ take control of our hearts and minds, then these holes will be filled and we will find peace. Our hearts and minds will become filled with an abundance of wisdom, justice, and mercy for our neighbor.

Let us pray for our world leaders; let us pray for our Church leaders; and let us pray for ourselves, that we have learned a lesson from Solomon. Let’s take some time and rid ourselves of any idols in our lives. Then we can give our hearts and minds and lives to Jesus the Christ, the King of Heaven and Earth. He is the King of true justice and peace who will reign over us in His eternal Heavenly Kingdom. Amen.

Viva Cristo Rey,
Deacon Gary


December 31, 2023

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Sunday between Christmas and the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God (January 1) is the Sunday of the Holy Family. Squeezed between these two great celebrations, the Holy Family is often overlooked, but taking the extra effort to reflect on this feast provides us with a richer understanding of what it means to be a holy family of faith in the world today.

As we celebrate the Holy Family, the story of Abraham, Sarah, and Isaac gives us an example of what it means to trust God with the protection and blessing of our family. God does not simply do these things, he does them with abundance. The faith of Abraham, Sarah, and Isaac provides a model for all families to trust in God’s providence in every moment of their lives, especially at pivotal moments of discernment or crisis. Like Abraham, Sarah, and Isaac, we too are called to form families of faith who trust and believe in God’s promise of his continued presence in our lives. Remembering that God has kept his promises in the past, we can trust that he will continue to keep his promises for us in the present day. This trust provides the foundation for our obedience as we continually discern God’s will for ourselves and our families.

The story of Abraham, Sarah, and Isaac also shows us how to recognize that every good we have comes from God and ultimately belongs to him. Since every good we have comes from God, we are called to use the good gifts he has given us according to his plan. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord” (Isaiah 55:8). Often as we discern how God calls us to make use of the gifts, goods and blessings that he provides us, we are challenged, since the ways of God and the ways of the world often run in opposite directions. When God asked for Isaac in sacrifice, the way of the world would have led Abraham to turn away from God. And although Abraham was greatly grieved, he followed the way of trust. And by his trust, “he received Isaac back” (Hebrews 11:19) and was greatly blessed.

To be a holy family of faith often requires trust in God’s plan, but the examples of the many holy families that go before us, give us a reason to trust that God keeps his promises when what he asks seems difficult or even impossible. Our Father in heaven is a father who always keeps his promises.

Blessings and Merry Christmas,
Father Bill

December 31, 2023

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives.” - Titus 2:11-12 from the second reading for Midnight Christmas Mass

A Christmas Message

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Each Christmas, we recall how our Lord and God chose to enter the world. Although he could have entered our world on clouds of awe and majesty, the Son of God chose to be born of a humble maiden. Although, as King of Kings, he could have been born in a palace surrounded by splendor and riches; he chose to be born in the poverty of the stable.

Many people hesitate to approach God. Perhaps they are afraid, or they feel unworthy. However, a newborn baby draws almost everyone to the side of the crib. By being born as the infant son of Mary, our Lord Jesus shows us that we should not be afraid to draw close to God.

By choosing to be born into a poor and humble family, our Lord Jesus shows us that he has come to be a God for the poor, for the lowly, for the humble. As his mother sang in her song, often called the “Magnificat,” the Lord God “had filled the hungry with good things, but the rich he has sent away empty” (see Luke 1:46-55). So, we do not need to come to God trying to impress him with our accomplishments or our status. Rather we can come to him with our needs, our shortcomings, and even our failures. This is what we mean by coming to him in our poverty and hunger. And indeed, the greater our hunger when we come to him, even greater will we be filled with the good things that he wishes to give us.

Christmas is often a time that people feel intense competition and the stress of high expectations. But what does Jesus expect from you? All he wants is for you to draw close to the side of his manger. We do not need to try to impress him, but we do have to have room in our hearts to welcome him.

This Christmas, my prayer is that each of you find the empty place in your heart, and prepare it to welcome our Lord. There you will experience the joy of the shepherds when they found the Lord in Bethlehem.

Blessings and Merry Christmas,
Father Bill


December 24, 2023

Hear to Serve ...

As we celebrate the Fourth Sunday of Advent, our time of preparation is coming to a close. It should be a time to start to relax, start taking it easy, because we have accomplished our goals. We readied ourselves for the second coming of Jesus. We increased our prayer life; we’ve been to confession and Eucharistic Adoration. We started to pray more at home. We can now have peace and joy in our hearts. Or once again, did we get caught up in the season? Have we focused only on commemorating the coming of Jesus the first time? Did we get caught up in the season of gift giving, decorating the house, and getting all the Christmas cookies baked in time for this weekend? Well, if you’re like your Deacon, you did try to increase your preparation for the second coming of Christ, and sometimes you succeeded, and sometimes you did not. Sometimes the secular overtook the spiritual in our lives no matter how many good intentions we may have had.
St. Paul in his letter to the Romans today reminds us what to be grateful for. St. Paul tells us how we need to be faithful and obedient if we are to be successful in our endeavors to get to heaven.

St. Paul talks about the revelation of the mystery kept secret for long ages but now manifested according to the command of God and made known to all nations. St. Paul is talking about the Gospel, the Good News, the saving deed God the Father did in sending us Jesus Christ.
I’m not telling you anything new. We all know that so often we fall into the trap of desiring what the world gives us. We fall victim to giving ourselves credit for all the good that has happened in our lives. We become addicted to the desires of the world and give praise and glory to ourselves. We go through life forgetting about the Creator who is really responsible for all that is good.

St. Paul is reminding the Romans and telling us that it’s through this mystery, the one the world waited so long for, that God is going to save us from ourselves. Jesus Christ and His Gospel is what we have to put our faith in and give our obedience to if we want to be saved from the wages of sin which is eternal death.

As God strengthens us through His Son Jesus Christ and Jesus’s Gospel, this is where we owe our thankfulness, our praise. God is who receives the glory for all that is good in our lives. Not ourselves, not the rest of the world.

So, as we struggle to fight off desires of the world, as we continue to fight off giving ourselves credit and praise for all that is good, let us remember what St. Paul tells us. We need to have that obedience of faith and to have that obedience to the Gospel and Jesus Christ. It’s through our faith and obedience the Good News comes alive for us. Jesus paid the ultimate price for our sins, and we will receive a righteousness from God that cannot be attained by any other means, any other source, or from any other creature. It is through Jesus Christ that we receive a place in the Divine life forever and ever. Amen.

Viva Cristo Rey,
Deacon Gary

December 17, 2023

“The dawn from on high shall break upon us and shine on those who dwell in darkness and guide our feet in the way of peace.”
Luke 1:78-79

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In today’s Gospel, we hear the testimony of John the Baptist. That he came to testify to the light.

His days were days of confusion and darkness. There were wars and rumors of war. His nation was quickly dividing into various factions. Many people were feeling oppressed. The hopes, dreams, and aspirations of the “small guy” were getting lost in the midst of all this confusion. Most people did not know what to believe or who to trust.

Does any of this sound familiar?

But in the midst of this darkness, John the Baptist testified to the light. That light is the Light of Christ, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. In Christ’s preaching and ministry, people heard the Good News that they were first of all called to be sons and daughters of God the Most High. The voice of Christ was clear in calling people to goodness and holiness. They were challenged with these words, “If anyone would like to be my disciple, he must take up his cross and follow me.” The challenge of the Cross does call us to sacrifice, but in giving our lives to a mission that is larger than ourselves, we find meaning and purpose.

Finally, in his final sacrifice on Calvary, Christ showed our value, when he offered his Body and his Blood to redeem us from sin and death. Sin and death are the deepest darkness that we experience, and in the Resurrection of Christ, we see that his Light drives out the dark.

Our days are not much different from the days of John the Baptist. People in his day found meaning, purpose, and hope when they turned their hearts and minds towards Christ, who is the true light of the world. So in our day, Christ can and will drive out the darkness. It is our mission as Christians in these confusing times to follow the model laid out for us by John the Baptist. Just as he testified to the light, so we too should testify to the light.
Father Bill

December 10, 2023

“May Christ dwell in your hearts through Faith.” Ephesians 3:17

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

One of my favorite places to pray is the Loretto chapel. It’s peaceful. If today was not a Sunday, it would be the liturgical Memorial of Our Lady of Loretto. Fr. Oschwald brought the statue of Our Lady of Loretto with him when he emigrated from Germany. Later, he had a chapel built to house this statue.

Loretto is a town in Italy. In the center of that town is a large church that contains the house where Jesus lived with Mary and Joseph in Nazareth. The holy house of Jesus, Mary and Joseph was in danger of being destroyed by Islamic armies when they re-took the Holy Land, so it was transported to Italy for its preservation in 1294. It has been venerated as the Holy House ever since.

The legendary story is that angels picked up the house and carried it first to Greece and later to Italy. This miracle is depicted in the artwork in the church in Loretto. In addition to this miraculous story is historical documentation that a merchant family by the name of DE ANGELI lent the use of one of their ships and paid for the house to be moved to Italy.

In either case, whether by miracle or by an act of generosity of the De Angeli family, archeologists have studied the house in Loretto. They have found that it is made of stone that comes from the area around Nazareth, and that it is constructed in the style and with the techniques that were common in Galilee in the time of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. In addition, the outline of the house matches the remains of a foundation in Nazareth that has been venerated as the location of the house of the Holy Family since ancient times.

What’s more important than the authenticity of the Holy House, is that it reminds us that Jesus chose to make a home with us here on earth. As we recite in the Profession of Faith each Sunday, Jesus is “God from God, light from light, true God from true God…” yet, “was Incarnate by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary and became man.”

In Jesus, the Lord God makes His home with us. He is close to us.

This calls for a response on our part. Just as Mary and Joseph prepared a home for Jesus, we are called to prepare a home for Jesus. He no longer needs a crib or a roof over his head, but rather he makes his home in the hearts of those who are prepared to receive him. We welcome him by meditating upon His Word in Sacred Scripture, especially the Gospels. We welcome him when we receive the sacraments, especially the Eucharist in a worthy and reverent manner. We welcome him in our prayer, when he comes to dwell in the tabernacle of our hearts.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus shares this promise: “Dwell in me, and I will dwell in you” (John 15:4). Christ does come to make his home in us by the power of His Word, His presence in the Sacraments, and the fulfillment of His promise in our Prayers.
Father Bill

December 3, 2023

Year of Mary
October 1, 2022 to December 8, 2023

“At morn — at noon — at twilight dim
Maria! thou hast heard my hymn!
In joy and woe — in good and ill
Mother of God, be with me still!”
From Edgar Allan Poe’s “Hymn to Mary”

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Part of my daily prayer is a Catholic devotion called the Angelus. It is traditionally prayed three times a day: at 6 a.m., 12 noon, and 6 p.m., accompanied by the ringing of the church bells. This devotion only takes a minute or two and consists of three verses from the Gospels, each followed by a Hail Mary, and a closing prayer. The verses narrate the Annunciation of the archangel Gabriel to Mary, her humble consent to God's will, and the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us (see Luke 1:26-38 and John 1:14).

The Angelus is a simple and beautiful way to sanctify our day by pausing for a moment of prayer and remembering that “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (see John 3:16). As Pope St. John Paul II taught: "The Angelus invites us to meditate on the Mystery of the Incarnation, encouraging Christians to take Mary as a point of reference in the various moments of their day, so as to imitate her in her readiness to carry out the divine plan of salvation" (Pope John Paul II, General Audience on November 5, 1997).

By praying the Angelus, we contemplate the role of Mary as the Mother of God and our Mother. In this prayer, we join our voices with the angel who greeted Mary with the words: "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you" (see Luke 1:28). And we echo the words of Elizabeth, who exclaimed: "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb" (see Luke 1:42). We ask for the grace to follow Mary's example of obedience and surrender to God's plan for our lives as we pray: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to your word" (see Luke 1:38). And we implore the intercession of Mary, who is the "cause of our joy", to help us share in the glory of Christ's Resurrection as we pray: "Pray for us, O holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ."

I heartily recommend the Angelus, especially as we prepare to celebrate the Birth of Christ on Christmas, the very day that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Cards with Angelus on them will be distributed after Mass. It can also be found on page 273 of the Heritage Missal. It will be prayed after Communion during Advent and through the Christmas season.
Come, Lord Jesus!
Father Bill

November 26, 2023

Year of Mary
October 1, 2022 to December 8, 2023

Hear to Serve ...

How about that Pope Francis everyone? Have you ever seen a guy who liked to rock the boat so much? Certainly, seems from some of the comments I’ve heard from people, and the internet, that Pope Francis has rocked the boat really well this time with the dismissal of Bishop Strickland.

In this secular world today of “There is no absolute truth.” Anything goes. To what we deem as bad leadership in the Church, seems to me that people are worried
that the boat (The Catholic Church) is taking on water and going to sink. People are ready to abandon the boat before she goes down.

The first thing you need to realize is the boat is not going to sink; it can’t. It’s unsinkable. We have had bad captains, bad navigators in the past. That is undeniable.
But Jesus told us the boat will not sink when He said to Peter, “And I tell you Peter, on this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail.” So even if you deem the navigational skills of our leadership to be wanting, do not doubt the words of Jesus, and seaworthiness of the Catholic Church.

Our faith should not be determined by decisions of our leaders. Our faith is in Jesus the Christ. We don’t come to Mass every Sunday and Holy Days of Obligation
just because we like Father Bill. And we don’t give praise and worship to our Pope, our Bishop, or even the Deacon do we?

No, we come to give thanks to God, to give praise and worship to God, and to receive Jesus even if we don’t like our priest, or we think the Bishops and Pope are wrong in their decision.

So, if you think the seas are turbulent right now, and your faith is being shaken, don’t get out of the boat and try swimming on your own. If you want to calm the
seas and strengthen your faith you have to be persistent in your faith and do your part before making the call of a sinking ship.

Do you have a good personal prayer life? Do you not just go to Mass and Holy Days of obligation, but do you participate? Mass is not the time for silence. Do you participate in the Sacraments, especially confession so you can get the graces from the sacrament of the Eucharist? Have you fed the hungry, clothed the naked? Did you care for the ill and visit those in prison? This is what gives us the strength to stay with the boat.

We have to be careful that our pride does not lay a smoke screen when we try to navigate through these times. Remember pride can be a gift from the devil. The first of the deadly sins, pride opens the door for all the other deadly sins.

Instead pray for the gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. These gifts are the oil that will light our navigational lamps so we can set a better course in our life.

So before we declare the boat is sinking and bail out, before we point an accusing finger, let us make sure we do what we are supposed to do. Believe the Words of
Jesus. Stay in the boat and live our faith. Jesus will separate the goats from the sheep for us.
Viva Cristo Rey,
Deacon Gary

November 19, 2023

Year of Mary
October 1, 2022 to December 8, 2023

“In light of the hour of judgment, the grace of being a Christian becomes all the more clear to me. It grants me knowledge, and indeed friendship, with the judge of my life, and thus allows me to pass confidently through the dark door of death.” Pope Benedict XVI

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Peace be with you. This will be the last column about Catholic funerals.

After the Reception of the Body which begins the funeral Mass, the Mass continues in the usual manner with the Liturgy of the Word. The funeral Mass is one of the few occasions when the Church does not assign readings for Mass, but allows the family members and friends of the deceased to select appropriate readings.

Following the readings, the priest (or deacon) preaches the homily. The guidance for the homily is that it should dwell on God’s compassionate love and the paschal mystery of the Lord. The homily should not be a eulogy of the deceased. The appropriate time for a eulogy is at the Vigil or if necessary, immediately before the beginning of the funeral Mass.

The Church encourages a funeral Mass since in partaking of the Body of Christ in the Eucharist, all are given a foretaste of eternal life in Christ and are united with Christ, with each other, and with all the faithful, living and dead: “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread” (see 1 Corinthians 10:17).

And the funeral Mass concludes with the Final Commendation. In the Commendation, the body of the deceased is honored with incense, which signifies respect for the body as the temple of the Holy Spirit. In the prayer of commendation the community calls upon God’s mercy for the benefit of the deceased.

The last part of the Catholic funeral liturgy is the Committal. The Committal is the “graveside service.” It is the final act of the community of Faith in caring for the body of the deceased and expresses the hope that the deceased awaits the glory of the Resurrection. With this act, the community of Faith proclaims that the grave, once a sign of futility and despair, has been transformed by Christ’s own death and Resurrection into a sign of hope and promise.

Since the Committal usually comes at the end of a period of visitation, a Vigil, and a funeral Mass, it is designed to be brief. The grave is blessed, when possible the mortal remains are lowered into the grave while a prayer is recited, and those who are gathered are blessed. Although this ritual is short, it provides the opportunity for a final good-bye, and assists family members and friends of the deceased to find final closure.

Four bulletin columns have focused on the funeral liturgy, there has not been adequate space to address all the common questions. Next year, we will revisit the Catholic understanding of death, and our liturgical practices associated with death. The FORMED APP has a series about the Catholic understanding about death called “Eternal Rest: The Art of Dying Well.”
Father Bill

November 12, 2023

Year of Mary
October 1, 2022 to December 8, 2023

“For I trust, in whatever manner I die,
that I shall not be deprived
of the mercy of my God.” St. Gertrude

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We continue our review of the funeral practices and traditions of Catholics.

When a Catholic dies, the Church encourages the celebration of a funeral Mass. There are two primary reasons to offer a funeral Mass: to give praise and thanks to God for Christ’s victory over sin and death, and to commend the deceased to God’s tender mercy and compassion.

The funeral Mass begins with the reception of the body. In receiving the body of the deceased with honor, the Christian community acknowledges the deceased as one of their own, as one who was welcomed in baptism and who held a place in the assembly. The body is sprinkled with Holy Water, covered with a white funeral pall, and brought close to the Easter Candle. The Church uses these three symbols to intentionally recall the sacrament of Baptism.

The Holy Water recalls the waters of baptism. In the waters of baptism, the seed of eternal life was planted in the soul of the deceased, and at the funeral, we pray that the deceased will experience the fullness of eternal life in the heavenly banquet.

The white funeral pall recalls the white baptismal gown. At baptism the baptismal garment is blessed with these words, “See in this white garment the outward sign of your Christian dignity. With family and friends to help you by word and example, bring that dignity unstained into the everlasting life of heaven.” The white funeral pall also represents the white garment worn by the elders in heaven (see Revelation 4:4).

The Easter Candle is a symbol with numerous meanings. At the Easter Vigil, it is carried as the only light into the darkened church. This represents the column of fire that guided the Israelites in the desert as they journeyed to the Promised Land (see Exodus 13:21). Christ is the light of the world (see John 8:12). So the Easter Candle represents the Light of Christ that leads the deceased from the darkness of death to the light of the Promised Land of the heavenly kingdom.

The Easter Candle also recalls the baptismal candle. At baptism, the candle is lit from the Easter Candle and handed to the newly baptized with these words, “This light is entrusted to you to be kept burning brightly… when the Lord comes, may he (she) go out to meet the Lord with all the saints in the heavenly kingdom.” In this sense, the Easter Candle represents the gift of faith that the deceased received at Baptism. “You are the light of the world… let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works, and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (see Matthew 5:14-16).
Father Bill

November 5, 2023

Year of Mary
October 1, 2022 to December 8, 2023

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers,
[a] by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Romans 12:1 (ESV)

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

What is the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning? Do you check your phone or hit the snooze button? Or do you start your day by acknowledging the presence of God and offering Him everything that you are and have?

For many Catholics, the Morning Offering is a prayer that helps them begin their day with God in mind. The Morning Offering is a prayer that consecrates oneself to Jesus Christ through the Immaculate Heart of Mary. It expresses the desire to unite one's thoughts, words, actions, joys, and sufferings with the sacrifice of Jesus in the Mass, for the glory of God and the salvation of souls. It also entrusts oneself to the care of Mary, who is the mother of Jesus and our mother in the order of Grace.

The Morning Offering is not a new prayer. It has been practiced by many saints and faithful Catholics throughout history. It is promoted by the Apostleship of Prayer, a worldwide movement that promotes a daily spiritual communion with Jesus and His mission.

The Morning Offering can be prayed at any time of the day, but it is most fitting to pray it as soon as possible after waking up. This way, we can dedicate our whole day to God and make every moment an opportunity to serve Him and love Him. The Morning Offering helps us to grow in virtue and holiness, as we strive to imitate Jesus and Mary in everything we do.

The Morning Offering is a simple but powerful prayer that can transform our lives. By praying it daily, we become more aware of God's presence and action in our lives. We also become more generous and faithful in offering ourselves to Him and cooperating in His mission of saving souls.

If you have not yet made the Morning Offering a part of your daily routine, why not start today? There are a number of different versions of the Morning Offering. This weekend after Mass, prayer cards with the version used by the Apostleship of Prayer will be distributed after Mass, but you can use any version that appeals to you or create your own. The important thing is to pray the Offering with sincerity and devotion. You can also invite your family and friends to join you in this prayer. By doing so, you will be giving God the gift He desires most: yourself.
Father Bill
P.S. I will continue my series on the Catholic funeral liturgies next week.

2023 Archived

2022 Archived