Weekly Reflection

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Weekly Reflection

 

November 27, 2022

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

“HOLY MARY MOTHER OF GOD, PRAY FOR US SINNERS.”

A while ago, Father Bill announced that in the upcoming year, he wanted to increase our devotion to Mary in the parishes and our devotion to the Rosary. I wrote a column about starting out simple with the Three Hail Mary devotion. Since that time, I have had the privilege to sit in a couple of RE classes and to see the students start their night with praying the Rosary together.

Watching and participating with the students in praying the Rosary was a good thing for me to see. I watched the little ones struggle to stay focused, to keep saying the words, or even sit up straight as they prayed their way around the decades. But they stuck with it. They have more stamina than some adults I know.

Well, watching those kids made me ask myself, “What’s the matter with me?” I told you before that the Rosary wasn’t one of my devotions, but watching those children who did their best and prayed the Ro-sary touched my heart and inspired me to begin to pray a Rosary a day.

There are many Catholic websites that explain the prayers and Mysteries of the Rosary. It is such a beautiful prayer because it makes us slow down. It helps us to think and pray on several levels. As we say the simple prayers of the Creed, the Our Father, and the Hail Mary, we get to know Christ better by contemplating the Mysteries. We pray the Rosary with special intentions in mind. We pray to end abortion, for the holy souls in purgatory, for our relatives in their time of need, and to ask for help for ourselves. Mary is the Mother of God, Mary is the Queen of Heaven, what better person to have intercede on our behalf. Even though we don’t always see the results of our prayers, we trust in God to deliver in His time and His ways.

For the last month, I have been praying a Ro-sary a day. I want to tell you that praying the Rosary has been a game changer for me. Now, I know the main purpose of praying the Rosary is not about me, but there have been some instantaneous results in my life. I can literally feel the stress and tension drain from my mind, my body. I am more at peace with myself and others. My inclination to do wrong, to sin, has diminished greatly, and these things I find amazing! I’m not saying that I have become a saintly person with no more need for the gift of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. That will never happen. Saying the rosary does not take the place of the rest of my prayer life, but by adding the rosary to my prayer life I feel like I’ve been selected for the bonus round. I can’t lose. All for an extra twenty minutes a day.

All I can tell you is that I have been a fool all these years. Those children convinced me to do something that no adult would have. So, I urge all of you who don’t pray the Rosary to give it a try. It will be the best 20 minutes of your day and will add peace to your life.
Viva Christo Rey,
Deacon Gary


November 20, 2022

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The Miraculous Medal is considered to be a sacramental. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church (par. #1678-ff), sacramentals are visible signs, either objects or actions, that dispose the faithful for receiving grace and render holy various occasions of daily life. Examples of other sacramentals include blessing oneself with holy water and blessed medals, crosses, and statues. The Miraculous Medal, just like all the sacramentals cannot be used in a superstitious way. Rather, sacramentals are visible reminders of our salvation through Jesus Christ so they must be used with devotion and faith.

The front of the Miraculous Medal depicts Mary as she appeared to St. Catherine Laboure. Mary’s position above the world indicates that she is the Queen of heaven and earth. She fulfills the prophecy from Genesis 3:15, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers, he will strike at your head and you shall bruise his heal.” The woman’s victory (Mary’s victory) is shown in Revelation 12. St. Catherine asked what the rays of light symbolized, and Mary responded that these were the graces that God was giving to the world through her intercession. Not all the rays of light reached the world. According to Mary these were graces that God wished to give to the world, but the hearts of the faithful had grown too cold and too hard to ask for them.

The back of the medal shows a Cross interwoven with the letter M. M stands for the Holy Name of Mary, and being interwoven with the Cross, shows Mary’s close association with the redemptive death of her Son on the Cross. This fulfills the prophecy that Simeon gave to Mary in the temple, “and behold, your heart too will be pierced by a sword” (Luke 2:35). The two hearts represent the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary and show their great love for us. The twelve stars have various meanings, they could represent the twelve stars that crown Mary’s head or even the twelve apostles gathered around Mary and Jesus.
Blessings,
Father Bill


November 13, 2022

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The Miraculous Medal is a popular Catholic devotion to Mary. Mary appeared to a young religious sister, St. Catherine Laboure on November 27, 1830, at her convent in Paris. St. Catherine saw Our Lady standing on a globe, with dazzling rays of light streaming from her outstretched hands. Mary was framed by the inscription: “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.” Mary instructed Catherine to have medals struck with the image that she saw and gave the promise that all who wear it would receive great graces.

The bishop of Paris gave permission for these medals to be made and distributed. Millions of medals were distributed throughout France and beyond. In very short order, people began to report miracles associated with wearing the medal, and for that reason it became known as the Miraculous Medal. These included a nearly paralyzed woman, who was returned to full health, and a blind child in Belgium receiving back her eyesight.

It is important to note that the faithful cannot use the Miraculous Medal superstitiously. All the miracles that have been attributed to the medal were always accompanied with persistent prayer, and conversion of life.

The Catholic Church used to celebrate a liturgical feast in honor of the Miraculous Medal on November 27, the anniversary of the apparition. St. Catherine Laboure’s feast day is kept on November 28.
Blessings,
Father Bill


November 6, 2022

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
During the Crusades, Catholics throughout Europe adopted the practice of ringing the church bells at morning, noon and evening. The bells served as a ready reminder to pray for the Christians who lived in the Holy Land under the oppressive Islamic Fatimid regime. Over time, the faithful started to pray three Hail Mary’s when the church bells were rung at those times. This was the beginning of my favorite Marian devotion, the Angelus.

The Angelus is traditionally prayed at 6:00am, 12:00pm, and 6:00pm. It consists of three verses and responses, each followed by a Hail Mary. It is concluded with a short prayer. For me, it is a reminder to pause and pray. It reminds me that Jesus chose to dwell among us and that He gave us Mary as our spiritual Mother. In the morning, I conclude it by praying the Morning Offering. By midday, my thoughts and efforts are usually scattered, and this pause of prayer serves as a point to recollect my thoughts and refocus my efforts. Lastly, in the evening, I join the Angelus with a daily examination of the conscience.

It does not take a lot of time, but through Mary’s maternal intercession, a commitment to praying the Angelus provides a good foundation for building a daily habit of prayer.
V. The Angel of the Lord declared onto Mary…
R. …and she conceived by the Holy Spirit.
Hail Mary…
V. Behold, the handmaid of the Lord…
R. …be it done unto me according to thy word.
Hail Mary…
V. The Word become flesh…
R. …and dwelt among us.
Hail Mary…
V. Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God…
R. …that we may become worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray: Pour forth, we beseech thee, O Lord, thy grace into our hearts, that we, to whom the Incarnation of Christ, thy Son, was made know to us by message of an angel, may by His Passion and Cross, be brought to the glory of the Resur-rection. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

The second verse: “Behold, the handmaid of the Lord… be it done unto me according to your word.,” helps to unlock the mystery of my calling to the priesthood. Reflect upon Mary at that moment. She was a Jewish girl, at the edge of adulthood. She had hopes, plans, and dreams for her future. She was engaged/betrothed to Joseph. Yet, at this moment, an angel came with the most amazing message. God had a different plan for her. It is not that there was an-thing wrong with what she was planning. It was the normal life of a young Jewish woman to become a wife and mother. Yet, God was calling her to something greater, much, much greater. It was a sacrifice for her to say “Yes,” but how much have we benefited from her “Yes”?

A young man, who God is calling to the priesthood, has the same choice to make. He has hopes, plans, and dreams of his future. Yet, if he feels God is calling him to be a priest, he is being invited to give himself to something greater. It is a sacrifice to set asides one’s dreams, but it is also an invitation to become part of God’s plan.

As I pray the Angelus three times a day, I make sure to offer up a prayer for the young men from our parishes. I pray that like Mary, they may be open to the invitation to become a priest. I pray that like Mary, they may have the courage to say “Yes.”
Blessings, Father Bill


October 30, 2022

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

One of the biggest divides between Catholics and other Christians is the place that Mary has in the Christian Faith. From the very beginning, Christians have had a
special love and devotion towards Mary, the Mother of Jesus. As the Faith developed, so did the Church’s teachings and devotions about Mary. For most devout Catholics, the Church’s treasury of Marian prayers and doctrines are the crowning glory of our religion.

Yet for Protestant Christians, the Catholic emphasis on Mary is the single greatest objection they have to the Catholic faith. They worry that raising Mary so high obscures the uniqueness of Christ. Protestant almost imagine that there is a rivalry between Christ and Mary, as if the honor we direct towards her would somehow diminish the worship we owe to Jesus.

How do we respond to this objection?

Imagine for a moment your favorite work of art that depicts Mary. It could be Fra Angelico’s Annunciation or Michelangelo’s Pieta. Or my favorite, the image of Mary on the tilma of Saint Juan Diego, which is the image of our Lady of Guadalupe. What you almost always notice is that Mary is rarely shown to be alone. She is always shown in relationship to Christ. She’s either about to con-ceive Christ, as in the Annunciation. Or she is pregnant with Christ, as in the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Or she is pointing towards Christ in a Nativity scene. These works of art visibly show us the center of the Church’s teachings about Mary: Mary is important to us, because through her, Christ entered the world and through her, we are led back to Christ. Mary delights in leading people to Jesus, her Son.

Could the sun be jealous of the light of the moon? Of course it can’t, since the moon’s light is but a reflection of the sun’s own light. In the same way, early Christian teachers taught that Mary is like the moon. She has no light of her own, but we honor her since she totally reflects the light of Jesus. She shines with his light, not her own.

There is not a rivalry between Jesus and Mary. All her beauty is a reflection of his glory. She was found to be great, not by insisting on her own will, but rather by saying, “be it done unto me according to your Word” (Luke 1:38).

Mary, lead us to your Son. Mary, lead our parish to your Son. Mary, lead all the Catholics who do not come to Mass back to your Son, who is really and truly present in the Eucharist offered at our altar.
Blessings,
Father Bill


October 23, 2022

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

Last week we discussed the historic reason why October is the month of the Rosary. In last week’s homily, I shared how prayer can be a powerful spiritual weapon, and this was demonstrated at the Battle of Lepanto. There are many other historic examples of the Christian faithful using the Rosary as a powerful spiritual weapon.

Do you pray the Rosary? For generations the Rosary was the most popular prayer among Catholics. It is easy to learn. The twenty mysteries of the Rosary are a summary of the life of Jesus and Mary. It has a familiar rhythm that is consoling in moments of need. Generations of people have found the Rosary to be a powerful intercessory prayer. Yet, in the past few decades the Rosary has fallen out of fashion.

I was not taught how to pray the Rosary as a child. It was not prayed in my family, and I was not taught how to pray the Rosary in Religious Education. I did not learn how to pray the Rosary until I was in college. For me the Rosary started as a spiritual chore. At first, I found it to be monotonous, and I felt self-conscious praying the Rosary. Yet, it grew on me. And I have found praying the Rosary to be powerful. When someone asks me to pray for them, it is the Rosary that I most often turn towards. When my mind is unsettled and distracted, the Rosary draws me into prayer. Now the Rosary is no longer a chore, but an anchor of my prayer life, and something that I cannot live without.

The Rosary originated about 800 years ago. Pious legend tells us that the Blessed Virgin Mary, herself, appeared to St. Dominic and shared with him the Rosary. She encouraged all Catholics to pray the Rosary. Since that time almost all of the Popes and many saints have continually recommended the praying of the Rosary. It is a simple prayer, but it is “a spiritual lightning rod” that draws down grace through the intercession of Mary.

How do we pray the Rosary? Take the Rosary one step at a time. There are two components to praying the Rosary. The first are the vocal prayers, that is the Our Father’s, Hail Mary’s, and Glory Be’s that are repeated. The Rosary beads are simply there to keep track of our prayers. The second component of the Rosary is the meditation upon the Mysteries. There are twenty mysteries, organized into four sets: Joyful Mysteries, Luminous Mysteries, Sorrowful Mysteries, and the Glorious Mysteries. If you do not currently pray the Rosary, focus on the vocal prayers first. Get yourself comfortable using the beads to keep track of your prayers. Muscles grow stronger and bigger through repeated and consistent exercises, and so the Rosary’s power is found in repeated and consistent recitation.

Often people stop praying the Rosary because they do not feel like they are getting anything out of it. Remember first of all, the effect is found in consistency and commitment. Going to lift weights once will make no difference on the body. We will notice no difference by praying the Rosary once. But consistently lifting weights, transforms the body over time. Just so, consistently praying the Rosary transforms the soul. Second, remember that you are not praying the Rosary primarily for yourself. With each decade of the Rosary, pick out a specific intention in which to offer up that decade of the Rosary. Even if you do not feel like you are getting much of the Rosary, pray it with fervor because the person that you are praying for will be blessed. Pray the Rosary not primarily for yourself, but for others.

I will keep you in prayer.
Blessings,
Father Bill


October 16, 2022

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

October has long been especially devoted to praying the Rosary. To find out why there is a connection between October and the Rosary, we need to look at the big picture. For centuries Christian Europe faced the very real prospect of being conquered by Muslim powers. At first the Islamic state attacked Europe from the south from across the Straits of Gibraltar. We often forget that Portugal and Spain were ruled by Muslim powers for centuries, and their rule was oppressively cruel. The Muslim threat from northern Africa faded, and new threat emerged from the east in present day Turkey, the heartland of the Ottoman Empire.

From its origins, the Muslim Ottoman Empire looked towards conquering Christian Europe. Everywhere the Ottoman Empire spread, Christians were cruelly persecuted. More than half of the New Testament consists of letters written by the Apostle Paul. These letters were mostly addressed to churches that were located in modern day Turkey. Where are the Christians in Turkey now? After eight-hundred years of persecution, forced emigration, and even genocide, it is not surprising that Christianity in Turkey is today a mere remnant of it’s former self.

In the 1500s, Europe was a house divided between the rebellion of the Protestant Reformation and the Catholic powers. The Ottomans took advantage of the infighting by assembling a large navy fleet. They set their sights on conquering Italy. Just as Churchill would later describe Italy as the “soft underbelly of Europe,” the Ottomans saw Italy as their gateway to Europe. As the threat of invasion grew imminent, all of Europe, both Protestant and Catholic, faced the real prospect of conquest and occupation. Since all of Europe was at threat, Pope St. Pius the Fifth sent an appeal to all of Europe.

To almost no one’s surprise, the Protestant powers were apathetic to the Pope’s appeal. But with shame, many of the Catholic powers also proved to be indifferent to the threat. Perhaps remembering their own suffering under Islamic power, and having only been liberated the previous century, Spain sent reinforcements, along with Venice. Together they formed the Holy League. Even still, they were out-gunned and outnumbered.

Seeing how the appeal to the powers of the world had failed, the Pope made an appeal to Christian faithful. He appealed that they would take up not the weapons made of steel, but rather the weapon of the Rosary. Where kings and queens had failed, the common person was victorious.

The two great fleets met in a surprising manner on October 7, 1571, and engaged in battle. Each Christian ship flew under a banner depicting Our Lady. Both sides lost ships and men. However, contrary to everyone’s surprise, as the smoke settled, nearly the entirety of the Ottoman fleet was destroyed. The thousands of kidnapped Christians who were enslaved by the Ottomans and forced to row in their galleys were liberated. And Europe was saved (for now). The commander of the Holy League, Don Juan of Austria, immediately recognized the miraculous nature of the victory. Instead of keeping the trophies of victory for himself, he deposited them in the church of Our Lady of Victories in Rome. The Ottoman banners captured at that battle were hung in that church. They were only recently removed due to political correctness.

In thanksgiving, the Pope established October 7 as the liturgical feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, and asked that the whole month of October be dedicated to the Rosary.

There are spiritual lessons to be drawn from this history, but those lessons will be saved for upcoming columns.
Blessings,
Father Bill


October 9, 2022

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Most Catholic churches are celebrating the Twenty-Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time. Bishop Ricken has asked that the parishes of the diocese remember the apparition of Mary to the young immigrant girl, Adele Brise, on October 9, 1859.

Ever since the earliest centuries of the church, there have been thousands of people that have reported that Mary has appeared to them in a supernatural manner. These appearances are referred to as apparitions. The church authorities assess every claimed apparition. Most are never formally approved. Some are determined to be false, mistaken, or fraudulent. Only a few are determined to be “worthy of belief.”

Some of the most famous approved apparitions of Mary include Our Lady of Guadalupe (1531, Mexico), Our Lady of Lourdes (1858, France), Our Lady of Knock (1879, Ireland), and Our Lady of Fatima (1917, Portugal). Often Mary speaks to the visionary, who sees her and shares messages that call for increased prayer, calls to conversion, and a desire for peace. Apparitions of Mary are signs of Mary’s ongoing motherly care and concern for the Church and the Christian faithful. Often her messages are comforting, but sometimes, like a good mother, she offers correction to behaviors or attitudes that lead people away from the Gospel of her son, Jesus.

The only approved apparition of Mary in the United States is located in the diocese of Green Bay and is only about an hour drive away from these parishes. On October 9, 1859, Adele Brise, a teenaged immigrant girl from Belgium, was walking from her home to the closest Catholic church. This was a distance of about ten miles. As she was walking to church, she saw a mysterious woman standing between two trees. The presence seemed supernatural and mysterious. At that time, the woman did not speak, but left an impression on Adele. After Mass, Adele asked her priest about this appearance, and he told her that if she saw the woman again, she should ask her what she wanted. As Adele was returning from Mass, again she saw the mysterious woman, and asked her, “In the name of God, what do you want?”

The lady responded, “I am the Queen of Heaven, who prays for sinners…” She also extorted Adele and her companions to penance and conversion, along with telling them to teach children the catechism, how to sign themselves, and how to properly prepare for the sacraments.

After this apparition, Adele devoted herself to teaching children. She sometimes journeyed as far as fifty miles on foot to teach the basics of the catechism to immigrant children. Her example attracted a small community of followers and inspired the construction of a chapel on the site of the apparition. Over the years this appearance of Mary became known as Our Lady of Good Help. This shrine still exists and was formally approved by Bishop Ricken on December 8, 2010.

Many miracles have been associated with the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help, and many people find it as a place of peace to visit and pray. It is a spiritual treasure for the faithful people in the diocese of Green Bay and the whole state of Wisconsin. If you have not visited, take the time to visit and to pray.
Blessings,
Father Bill


October 2, 2022

Hear to Serve
THREE HAIL MARY DEVOTION

Father Bill has said one of the things he would like to see in our parishes is an increase in our devotion to Mary. This is a most worthy goal to achieve. A priest once told me, “If you have the Mother of God going to bat for you, you can’t go wrong. Now, go say three Hail Mary’s.” You know that priest was spot on.

The number one way to increase our devotion to Mary is by saying the Rosary. It is such a powerful prayer. Truth be told, it would be a wonderful thing to pray a daily Rosary. Getting into the daily habit of saying the Rosary can be difficult. We tell ourselves that we are pressed for time, can’t seem to concentrate, or that we don’t have all the prayers or mysteries memorized. There are many excuses, and the devil hates for us to say the Rosary, and he will do anything to stop us.

Maybe, the best way to strengthen our devotion to the Blessed Mother is to start simple. There is a short devotion begun by St. Mechtilde, a Benedictine Mystic nun who lived in the early 1200’s. The Blessed Virgin appeared and told St. Mechtilde to say this devotion twice daily, once upon rising and then again before bed. Mary promised that she will appear at the hour of our death, and our souls will be filled with heavenly consolation.

Mary told St. Mechtilde to say the first Hail Mary to honor God the Father. It was by the Father’s omnipotence, (unlimited power) that Mary was raised above every other created creature. At the hour of our death, the power of God the Father will keep hostile powers away from us.

The second Hail Mary is to honor God the Son who communicated His inscrutable wisdom to Mary. At the hour of our death, Mary will bring us the wisdom of her Son so that all darkness, ignorance and error will be dispelled from us.

The third Hail Mary is in honor of God the Holy Spirit who filled Mary’s soul with love, tenderness and mercy. At the hour of our death, Mary will ask the Holy Spirit to change the bitterness of death into sweetness and delight.

After each Hail Mary say, “By thy pure and Immaculate Conception O’ Mary, may my body be pure and my soul holy.”

Does this devotion take the place of saying the Rosary? Not at all. But if we are not in the habit of saying the Rosary this may be just the devotion to start us on the path. Remember, starting out small is better than not starting at all.

Let us follow the advice of our very own pastor, and increase our devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and ask her to go to bat for us. Let us pray, Hail Mary ….
Viva Christo Rey
Deacon Gary


2022 Archived