Weekly Reflection

Experience God's Presence

Weekly Reflection

 

May 22, 2022

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Many of us remember the great Pope, Saint John Paul II. Perhaps it’s a sign that I am getting older that there are also many people that no longer remember him. He was the Pope that led the church into the third millennium. To prepare to enter into this new era he issued a document called “Novo millennio ineunte - At the beginning of the new millennium” (NMI). In that document, John Paul II expressed the desire that parishes truly become schools of contemplative prayer.

In that document, he made two observations as he reflected on the state of the world as it entered into the third millennium. The first was that there was a deep desire of many people, both Christian and non-Christian, for a sense of meaning and purpose, for a sense of God’s presence, and for a deeper spirituality. The second observation was that by leading people to open their hearts to the love of God will also open their hearts to love their neighbors, and in fact allows Christians to begin to form history according to God’s plan (NMI para-graph 33).

I do believe that John Paul II was correct that parishes must become schools of prayer, and I believe that this movement towards prayer is also the key to reviving parish life. I also believe that most people desire something deeper from their life of faith, and that prayer is the key to achieving that deeper and richer faith. My hope is that your hearts desire that deeper faith, and that deeper relationship with Christ. If your heart wants a deeper faith, you share the same desire that the disciples had when they approached Jesus and said, “Lord, teach us to pray as John taught his disciples” (Luke 11:1, ESV).

These bulletin columns will focus on this line from the Gospel of Luke, “Lord, teach us to pray,” and will be a little catechism on prayer. I hope that it deepens your own prayer and draws you into a deeper relationship with Christ.
Blessings,
Fr. Bill


May 15, 2022

Hear to Serve
This Is How I Will Know

When the news was leaked that the Supreme Court had voted to overturn Roe vs Wade, I heard several Catholics say, “We finally won.” I hated to have to break it to them that this is just a very small victory because the war wages on. In fact, there will be a very powerful backlash from those who support abortion. We are not policy makers, billionaires, or online influencers. What can we do?

As followers of Christ, we must always begin with the Gospel. In our reading from the Gospel of John this Sunday, Jesus says, “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:35). The kind of love Jesus means is the kind He has for us. This is a radical love that wills the good of the other be-fore our own. So, how does this apply to the abortion issue? The United States Council of Catholic Bishops has a plan that has four main areas where we can all help. (You can read all about it on their website: usccb.org.)

The first thing we can do is to educate ourselves on the issue. We have to learn what the Church’s teachings are and why. We must then educate our fellow Catholics because over half of the Catholics in the United States believe that legalized abortion should remain available. Whenever we share the truth with others, we must do it out of love. We should share the dignity of all human life and the love that God has for every human person at all stages of life.

The second part of the plan is to provide help for women who are experiencing problems due to their pregnancies. Too often, those who call themselves pro-choice say that those of us who are pro-life are anti-woman and that we only care about the unborn. The Church defends the dignity of women and upholds the role of motherhood. The love of Jesus demands that we help to get rid of the social, economic, physical, and emotional barriers to bringing a child into the world and that we care about the welfare of every child. We have to meet people where they are at, and many people are in very dark places. Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Green Bay has several organizations and ways for each one of us to will the good of the other.

The third thing we can do is to support those people who are working to change our laws and policies. This is a long, hard fight, and even dangerous. Like Paul and Barnabas, in our second reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we must strengthen the disciples and remind them that the work of sharing the Gospel is filled with many hardships. Write letters to our pro-life lawmakers letting them know that you support their work. Also write letters to those politicians who are working to keep abortion laws in place. Tell them that you support protection of the unborn and policies that are morally acceptable alternatives to abortion.

Finally, we must pray. We pray because we have hope. John tells us in Revelation that the “old order has passed away.” On His throne Jesus says, “Behold, I make all things new.” It is with this confidence that we should pray, knowing that the Lord hears the cries of the poor and vulnerable and answers them.

Now is the time to take a stand. Speak up for Christ and for life in your home, at work, and everywhere you go. Now is the time to love one another as Christ has loved us.
Viva Christo Rey,
Deacon Gary


May 8, 2022

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This Sunday of the Church’s year is often known as “Good Shepherd Sunday” since each year the Gospel reading is taken from John 10, the “Good Shepherd Discourse.” As a result, it is often observed as a day of prayer for vocations to the priesthood and religious life, since priests, and religious brothers and sisters, are visible manifestations of Christ in his role as the Good Shepherd. Bishop Ricken has asked all the parishes in the diocese to focus on praying for more vocations this Sunday.

Praying for more vocations is powerful. There was one little village in Italy that produced over 152 priestly vocations and 171 religious sisters. This little village in northern Italy called Lu, with only a few thousand inhabitants, is in a rural area 50 miles east of Turin. It would still be unknown to this day if, in the year 1881, the family mothers of Lu had not made a decision that had “serious consequences.”

The deepest desire of many of these mothers was for one of their sons to become a priest or for a daughter to place her life completely in God’s service. Under the direction of their parish priest, Msgr. Alessandro Canora, they gathered for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, asking the Lord for vocations. They received Holy Communion on the first Sunday of every month with the intention that one of their children would receive a call to serve God as a priest or a religious sister. After Mass, all the mothers prayed a particular prayer together imploring for vocations to the priesthood.

Through the trusting prayer of these mothers and the openness of the other parents, an atmosphere of deep joy and Christian piety developed in the families, making it much easier for the children to recognize their vocations. Did the Lord not say, “Many are called, but few are chosen” (Mt 22:14)? In other words, many are called, but only a few respond to that call. No one expected that God would hear the prayers of these mothers in such an astounding way.

The prayer that the Mothers of Lu prayed was short, simple, and deep:
O God, grant that one of my sons may become a priest!
I myself want to live as a good Christian
and want to guide my children always to do what is right,
so that I may receive the grace, O God,
to be allowed to give you a holy priest or religious sister! Amen.

I believe that there are vocations to both the priesthood and to life as a religious brother or sister in our parishes. So beginning this Sunday until Corpus Christi (Sunday, June 19 this year), as a parish we will be praying the “prayer of the Mothers of Lu” after every Mass. I would also like seven volunteers to commit to coming to the church weekly (one for each day of the week) to pray for both an increase in vocations from our parishes and also that our pews will be filled. Prayer is powerful! Let us be committed to prayer for these holy goals. Lastly, I encourage every parent in our parishes to ask their sons if they would consider a call to the priesthood or as a religious brother, and to ask their daughters if they would consider a call to be a religious sister.
Blessings,
Fr. Bill


May 1, 2022

Blessed Easter Brothers and Sisters!
“This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad!”
Psalm 118

I would like to draw our attention to one detail from this Sunday’s Gospel. Towards the beginning of today’s Gospel, Peter declares, “I am going fishing.”

Have you ever wondered why the disciples found it so difficult to recognize Jesus after the Resurrection? After all, they shared a life together as a community for three years before the death of the Lord on the Cross and his Resurrection on the Third Day. And at this point, this would have been at least the third time that Peter and the other disciples would have seen the Lord after his resurrection. Yet, they have eyes, but they do not see. Why is this?

I think a lot of it has to do with Peter’s simple statement, “I am going fishing.” Peter was a fisherman before he met Jesus, and now that he has followed him for three years and witnessed the Resurrection, he is simply returning to his old life. It is almost as if the time that he spent with Jesus did not change him at all. But Jesus wanted to transform his disciples by his presence, the gift of his grace, the gift of new life, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. To be a follower of Jesus means that Jesus will change and transform your life. Peter had a hard time recognizing Jesus on the shore since Peter was resisting the work of grace that was supposed to transform his heart.

Many people in our own day have a very difficult time recognizing the Lord’s presence. But the Lord is present to us! Afterall, as he was ascending into heaven he made this solemn promise, “I will be with you always until the end of the ages.” The Lord is present to us in the most profound way in the Eucharist. But he is also present to us in and through the events of our everyday life. Do we have a sense of his close presence to us?

Many people refuse to let the Gospel change them. They are like Peter. They spend time with the Lord at times of prayer, at times to study God’s Word, and at times in Church to celebrate the sac-raments. But in the end, they, like Peter “go fishing”. That is they return to their old lives. Like Peter, if we do not let the Lord change and transform us, we will not recognize the Lord’s closeness to us.

Do you want to see the Lord? I hope that answer is YES! And the Good News is that the Lord wants to see you too! Let his grace into your heart. Let it change you. And you will start to recognize the Lord and how you encounter him through the sacraments, and the events of your everyday life.
The Lord is Risen!
Fr. Bill


April 24, 2022

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Divine Mercy Sunday is a fairly recent addition to the Church’s calendar. It was added to the calendar by Pope Saint John Paul II in the year 2000. Although it is a recent addition to the calendar, it has proven to be a very popular feast, with millions of people looking forward to it and being profoundly moved by it each year.

The devotion to Divine Mercy is based upon the visions of Jesus experienced by St. Faustina Kowalska beginning in the 1930s in Poland. Jesus communicated to St. Faustina that she was to be the “secretary of his mercy.” There are a number of aspects to the devotion to Divine Mercy.

First is the veneration of the image of Divine Mercy, which Jesus revealed to St. Faustina. It depicts Jesus standing in a white robe, with two rays of light, one white and the other red, emitting from his heart. Jesus encouraged that the image be carried in procession, publicly displayed, and that the Catholic Faithful hang it in their homes.

Second is the recitation of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. A chaplet is a repetitive prayer said with a set of beads to keep track of the prayers. The Rosary is the most famous chaplet, but there are other chaplets, including the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. I started reciting the chaplet on a daily basis by junior year of college. I still recite it to this day. It is through the chaplet that I started to experience, feel, and understand God’s love for me. It is through the chaplet that my faith grew deeper, and I consider the chaplet to be a key part of my calling to the priesthood.

Third is observing the “Hour of Mercy.” According to the Gospel of Mark, Jesus died at 3:00pm on Good Friday. Since we are redeemed from our sins by the death of Jesus, 3:00pm is the “Hour of Mercy.” Many people will make sure to recite the chaplet at 3:00pm (it can be recited at any point of the day of course). But it is also a time that St. Faustina encouraged all Catholics to pray and do voluntary acts of penance for the conversion of sinners.

Fourth is praying the Novena of Divine Mercy. Jesus requested that the nine days between Good Friday and Divine Mercy Sunday be offered as a novena of prayers for the world and the conversion of sinners.

The devotion to Divine Mercy is not a substitution for seeking forgiveness of sins through the sacrament of Reconciliation. Rather, the devotion to Divine Mercy is meant to move our hearts to seek God’s Mercy through Confession and acts of penance. Devotion to Divine Mercy has also proven to be a strong spiritual help for Christians who are earnestly trying to eliminate vices and sins from their lives and embrace virtues and holiness.

The devotion to Divine Mercy can be summarized as (1) seeking and obtaining God’s mercy through prayer, Confession, and penance, (2) trusting in Jesus’ abundant mercy, and (3) showing mercy to others, especially those most in need of mercy, so that we can become conduits of God’s Mercy.

I encourage all of you to foster a devotion to Divine Mercy. Its fruitfulness is firmly proven by experience.
Blessings,
Fr. Bill


April 17, 2022

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Christ is Risen! He is truly Risen! This simple phrase was actually a greeting among ancient Christians. Upon meeting, the first would say: “Christ is Risen!” and the other would respond with, “He is truly Risen!” For two Christians meeting each other, there is nothing more important than sharing the Goods News of Christ’s victory over sin and death.

During these celebrations of the Sacred Triduum – that is Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter, the Catholic Church makes use of many rich symbols: fire, light and darkness, water, the white garments of the newly baptized, the scent of the newly consecrated Chrism, and the various colors of the vestments and other decorations.

All of these communicate to our five senses the reality of what we are celebrating: the death and Resurrection of Christ. These symbols are so varied and rich in meaning that whole books have been written to explain their meaning.

I will limit myself to one symbol: water. Before Holy Thursday Mass, all the Holy Water in the parishes was removed and poured out in the cemetery. At the midway point of the Easter Vigil, the new water is blessed. We know that water is essential for life. One time when I was staying in the desert in southern California, there was a rare rain storm. Usually in that desert it only rains two or three times a year. Over the next day the once barren desert yielded an abundance of new plant life and flowers. It was one of the most beautiful things that I have ever seen. Just as quickly, as the water dried up, the plants returned to dormancy.

The desert appeared dead, but water brought it to new life. The blessing of the Easter water reminds us that what seems to be spiritually dead can be brought to new life. Part of the joy of Easter is this new life. And we should be rejoicing in the new life.

During the past two years, many of us have experienced a desert. Many of the things that we used to take for granted, both in the church and outside the church, dried up for us. This is a type of emotional death. Many of us also had to look inwardly, struggle with an inner spiritual desert, and start asking the questions about what truly mattered, and what truly had meaning. As life returns to normal, it is also time to sprinkle the water of grace upon these desert experiences and these moments of emotional and spiritual death. Take the time to ask yourself, “Where is Christ calling me to new life in my moment of struggle? Where does Christ want to pour the water of his grace upon my spiritual emptiness?

Wherever we invite Christ to come and sprinkle the water of his grace, there will be new life. My prayer for you and my invitation for you is that this Easter is not just an event that we remember, but even more, a reality that we experience. This Easter Christ comes with the water of his grace. Bring him your desert, and together with him, rejoice in the new life that he wishes to bring you.
Happy and Blessed Easter,
Fr. Bill


April 10, 2022

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
With the celebration of the Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion, we enter into the most sacred time of the Catholic liturgical calendar: Holy Week. Through sacred symbols and actions, we liturgically participate in the Paschal Mystery of the Lord. That is the death and resurrection of the Lord.

The word paschal originally relates to the Jewish Passover or more specifically to the lamb that was sacrificed for the Passover. For Christians, since Jesus is the true Lamb of God, Paschal refers to Jesus himself, since he was sacrificed for our sins.

The word mystery is not used in the same way as it is used for an Agatha Christie novel or the TV show Unsolved Mysteries. It is not about what we do not know, rather for a Christian the word mystery refers to those things that exceed our ability and understanding. The mystery for a Christian is that during Holy Week we do not merely remember what Jesus did nearly two thousand years ago. We do much more than remember. The symbols and actions that we use during the liturgy makes us present to the Lord. Liturgical mystery makes the death of the Lord and the resurrection of the Lord present to us here and now.

We don’t just remember the death and resurrection of the Lord, we participate in it!

One of my favorite practices of Holy Week highlights our participation. Have you ever noticed that during Holy Week you do something during Mass that you never do during any other time of the year? Normally at Mass the deacon (or priest) are the only ones that proclaim the Gospel, but on Palm Sunday and Good Friday the whole congregation proclaims the Gospel.

This highlights that the Lord did not offer him-self only for the people of his time, but we also take part in his sacrifice. When we together proclaim that Peter denied Jesus, we come to realize that we too often deny Jesus in our thoughts, words and actions. Together we say, “Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us.” When do we make the same choice in our life today? It’s no secret that the Gospel makes demands on us that often are unpopular in today’s culture. Do we choose the Gospel or do we choose what is popular? Do we choose the Gospel or do we choose what is politically correct? Every time we do not choose the Gospel, we cast our vote for Barabbas.

Take time to reflect on the Passion narratives this week. Take them paragraph by paragraph. Ask yourself: when have I voted with the crowd against Jesus? When have I chosen Caesar over the King of heaven and earth?

But as you reflect, never forget the reason why the Lord offered himself as a sacrifice. Reflect not just on our own words, but also on his words. “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” Or the words that he speaks to the dying thief, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

And lastly, let us imitate the Lord as he entrusted himself to the loving hands of his Father, and together with the Lord, we say, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”
Blessings on the Holy Week,
Father Bill


April 3, 2022

Hear to Serve
BOLD STATEMENTS

In our second reading today, St. Paul makes a pretty bold statement in his Letter to the Philippians. “For His sake I have accepted the loss of all things and consider them so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him” (Phil 3:8).

Can you and I also make that claim? In today’s world we place our values and our worth on material and monetary possessions and absolute truth has become covered up by relativism. How many of us would accept the loss of everything we own? How many of us are willing to let go of our comfortable religious practices and really live them? How many of us would be willing to suffer if only we could come to know Christ better and have our lives become more grounded in Him?

Since St Paul (Saul) had his dramatic encounter with the risen Christ, everything else in his life became rubbish, unimportant. His eyes, his mind, and his heart were opened up to a much greater life, a life in the Risen Christ. Paul left behind his old understanding of faith where following laws and rules was the most important thing. He realized that Christ’s resurrection will elevate us to a life so much better than we can ever imagine.

As a kid I was pretty fascinated with National Geographic Magazine. Some of my favorite pictures were of the tropical fish. I could look at them for hours. But it wasn’t until I got in the water on a snorkeling trip that I realized the injustice that pictures do to these creatures. Their color, movement, and beauty was so much more intense in the living experience of being with them.

That must have been in a small way what it was like for Paul to interact with the risen Christ. That is what he is trying to tell not only the Philippians but us today. We have to have a living relationship with Jesus. We have to look at every aspect of our faith and connect it to the living Christ. It is not about following the Commandments and all of the rules, but living them out in love of God and each other.

This is not easy. The Catholic writer, Flannery O’Connor wrote, “What people don’t realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross.” If we had perfect maturity, we would be able to see past the cost to the glory of the prize. Even St. Paul admits he hasn’t attained that perfect maturity, he hasn’t mastered it all since being taken possession of by Jesus the Christ. This is a life-long relationship that grows, changes, challenges, and matures.

We should remember that we too have been taken possession of by Jesus the Christ in our baptism. It is up to us to continue toward the goal of the next life, a better life, a life that will offer us things we can’t even imagine. St. Paul tells us to forget what lies behind us. He urges us to let go of material and monetary possessions and to forget about our self-fulfillment in relativism. None of these things are life-giving experiences. He tells us to focus on what lies ahead and aim for the prize of everlasting life through Jesus the Christ. Let us make a bold statement today.
Viva Christo Rey,
Deacon Gary


 

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