Archive for the ‘Hope’ Category

Our Mountaintops & Valleys

March 4, 2023

2nd Sunday of Lent
By Fr. Victor Feltes

Jesus went up a mountain to preach his Sermon on the Mount. Later, after feeding more than five thousand people using five loaves and two fish, he withdrew up a mountain alone for prayerful solitude. Today, Jesus leads Peter, James, and John up a high mountain by themselves to witness his Transfiguration. So why mountains? What is it about mountain heights which make them the preferred setting for so many biblical events?

Three themes occur to me: First, mountains remove people from the ordinary. They are remote places removed from everyday life. Second, mountains offer a greater perspective. A mountaintop can allow someone to see for many miles. And third, mountains elevate us. Mountaintops are not only literally higher but symbolically closer to heaven as well. Jesus takes Peter, James, and John to the top of Mount Tabor to give them an extraordinary experience, to give them a deeper vision into himself, and to give them strength for their trials ahead.

The Mass prefaces celebrating Jesus’ Transfiguration say:

“After he had told the disciples of his coming Death, on the holy mountain he manifested to them his glory, to show, even by the testimony of the law and the prophets, that the Passion leads to the glory of the Resurrection.”

“He revealed his glory in the presence of chosen witnesses… that the scandal of the Cross might be removed from the hearts of his disciples.”

The disciples had not imagined that the Jewish Messiah, God’s Holy Anointed One, would be gruesomely murdered. The Transfiguration helped prepare them to understand that Christ’s suffering was a part of God’s salvific plan. They also came to realize that Jesus’ teaching, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me,” would involve sufferings of their own. The apostles’ memories of beholding Christ’s miracles and glory and their ongoing relationship with their Risen and Ascended Lord strengthened them through their trials.

You and I will face trials as well. As St. Paul tells Timothy in today’s second reading: “Beloved: Bear your share of hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God.” What have been the spiritual mountaintop experiences of consolation in your life? Remembering these moments gives us spiritual strength in hard times, and Jesus Christ walks alongside us through all our dark valleys.

Yesterday, I encountered the story of a man about my age named Mike. Not long ago, Mike was diagnosed with a cancer so advanced that he had back operation which removed one of his vertebrae. Mike is married and has two sons around middle school age. Though previously a somewhat lukewarm Christian, he began “searching for the understanding of the LOVE of Jesus.” Here is the amazing thing: Mike writes, “This last several months, with a few nudges from God, I have been overwhelmed with Jesus’ love. It’s been so powerful that the pain and uncertainty of the cancer have taken a back seat to it.” If he continues to carry this cross with Christ, no matter what happens, Mike is going to be OK.

Our spiritual mountaintop moments are extraordinary experiences that give us a greater perspective and draw us closer to God. But also remember the great consolation that Jesus Christ, our good and loving Lord, remains with us in our dark valleys as well.

Hope, Joy, & Salvation

December 11, 2022

3rd Sunday of Advent
By Fr. Victor Feltes

On Friday afternoon, while Fr. Chinnappan offered the funeral Mass for Dr. John Eberle, I drove to McDonnell high school in Chippewa Falls to hear sacramental Confessions with several other area priests. Before everyone else arrived, I was able to spend some time with Fr. Paul Hoffman, whom I had not seen for a while. He heard my Advent confession and afterwards I asked him about what he had been reading lately. Fr. Paul has previously told me that his senior priest status allows him read more theology books like he has desired, to learn more about God before he ultimately departs to go to him. One of the questions Fr. Paul has been pondering lately is, “What will bring them back?” That is, what will bring the younger generations back to church?

I am now almost 42 years old, and I am among the youngest people at most Sunday Masses. This is a troubling trend. Young adults today usually do not believe they need the Church. Many disbelieve they even need Jesus Christ’s salvation. What could change this outlook? What might bring them back? The answer which occurred to me was: “Real Hope.”

As the culture continues to abandon the wisdom it has inherited from Christianity, the consequences of foolishness and sin will become increasingly clear. It will be seen in the sickness of society and felt in the pain of peoples’ personal lives. A life without true meaning or purpose in a world “with no hell below us and above us only sky” is an emptiness full of suffering. Where can people discover real hope—hope in something within this world and yet beyond this world? This real hope is found in Jesus Christ and his Catholic Church.

After our first round of hearing confessions from students and staff in the gym, we priests got a bit of a break, so I walked over to see Fr. Bill Felix and Fr. Brandon Guenther. We chatted a bit about Bishop Callahan, who was hospitalized with an illness this week, Then I asked them a question: “What are you thinking about preaching this weekend? I’m still looking for ideas.” Fr. Felix said, “Well, there’s always the obvious: Joy.” (“Oh, of course,” I thought. This Third Sunday of Advent is Gaudete Sunday and in Latin, “Gaudete” means “Rejoice.”)

Fr. Felix said the great thing about joy is that we can have it even when many things in our lives are bad. Happiness depends upon what happens, but joy does not and so it endures. To press this idea, I asked them in so many words how someone can feel joy when things are crummy? The answer given by both priests was: “Hope.” Fr. Guenther added, “Joy without hope is just optimism.” This reminded him of an old, witty observation: “An optimist is a happy fool. A pessimist is an unhappy fool. But someone with hope (real hope) is not a fool and will one day be happy.

We then returned to our confessionals to hear the older students’ confessions. Some people come to Confession after many months and confess rather superficially, but I was edified by hearing these teenagers confessed. Unlike many young people of their generation, their earnestness, honestly, and striving after God and his holiness were evident. I expect Christ’s Church to struggle in the coming decades, but our Faith is far from dead. Christian hope produces joy and manifest joy shines out. It shines out in the darkness of this world, drawing others to Jesus Christ and his Church. Our Lord lives and we possess a real hope. So let your Christian hope generate joy in you, and your joy will help save souls.

A New, Joyful Day — Funeral Homily for Robert “Bob” Sobotta, 77

September 26, 2022

By Fr. Victor Feltes

It was the day after Bob’s nineteenth birthday and the day before he would marry Joann. Bob and Joann had met at a Pines Ballroom dance and now they were at The Pines Ballroom again, together with family preparing food for the next day’s festivities. They listened to the radio as they labored, and that’s how they learned what had happened at 12:30 PM that day in Texas. A short time later that same afternoon, the first report of grim news was followed by another: President John F. Kennedy was dead. It was Friday, November 22nd, 1963.

Presidential assassinations had happened before, first and most famously with President Lincoln. But it had been sixty-two years since the last murder of a president, when President McKinley was shot and died in Buffalo, NY in 1901, and few were still alive who remembered living through it. So Joann recalls how shocked everyone was that a president, America’s first Catholic president, was killed. They were all discussing it, stunned. They just couldn’t believe it, it seemed so unbelievable — and yet it was real, as real as death.

I asked Joann whether that mournful news, whether this national tragedy, soured their “Big Day”? No, she said, it was “just as joyful.” Bob and Joann awoke the next day and were married in the morning (as was the custom then) in a 9:30 AM Saturday wedding Mass at St. Peter’s in Tilden in the company of many loved ones, their family and friends. This was followed by a dinner at the Sundial Club and then a reception back at The Pines, a feast and a dance for them all. Bob loved to dance, polkas and waltzes in particular, and he enjoyed dancing with his new bride. Bob and Joann would happily share their next fifty-eight years together loving God, each other, and their family, friends, and neighbors, until Bob’s recent passing.

Death is sad and unsettling. Though common to history, it still remains shocking for us. But suffering and death are not the end of our stories. Though we mourn now, we will be comforted. We expect a new dawn, a new day, when the blessed friends of Christ – our King who dies no more – will awaken to celebrate his wedding feast with him. Jesus our Good Shepherd will spread the table before us, and the just shall dance with delight, and every tongue shall give praise to God. Though today we walk in the dark valley, the day we prepare for, the day we look forward to, the day that awaits us, will be full of joy.

Born Again

September 10, 2022

24th Sunday of Ordinary Time
By Dcn. Dick Kostner

Our readings for this Sunday have people who are either sinning or are in trouble with God or life and who are redeemed by either their faith or the faith of the followers of Jesus. Recently I was asked to do a funeral service for someone in our community who had committed suicide. It was a new experience for me which ultimately made me feel the love that God has for each one of us and how important being a part of the family of God has for our mental and physical health an well being. I related this to the great number of people who showed up to give their support to the grieving family, telling them that they were being called by Jesus to represent him in body form, to help family and friends get through and understand they are not alone when a tragedy and confusion occurs.

Life within our world has its ups and downs and we are all dependent upon divine help and a calling to be a spiritual representative of Jesus to help others continue on with experiences which have them feeling confused and alone. Sometimes the problems exist because of our inability to clearly see a situation and to realize that through the love of God and his followers any storm in life can be weathered. I can remember many years ago when my son and I went fishing with a neighbor and his son. While fishing the neighbors son was rambling on and on about all the material “things” a friend of his had and was feeling jealous of that friend. His dad blurted out that we all need to not worry about the gifts others have received if we but look at our own lives and realize all the good that God gives to each and every one of us, and how gifted we all are by those treasures we have already received.

This is what the elder son in today’s Gospel was mad about. He was upset because his father had held a party for his younger brother who had spent his inheritance on foolishness and had come to realize just how good he had it before leaving home. His insight caused the younger son to repent and return “home” to his family. Sometimes we are lost and need to be hit in the head before we come to our senses and realize how good life and God is to us. Many others who witness this get confused with divine forgiveness that allows conversions to occur to others who have experienced this divine love and forgiveness. That’s where the followers of Christ come in as a representative of the Body of Christ.

That is the vocation of those who have been baptized into the family of God. We are the flesh and blood of the living Christ. We are called to preach the gospel of love and forgiveness to those who have blinded by their sins and weaknesses, letting them know that God is waiting for their return home where there will be a great rejoicing by their spiritual family when they turn from their ways and proceed with their vocation of love of God and neighbor. Our Lutheran brothers and sisters call this “Being born again!

This “Being born again,” has its affect on us and how others “see” us. It is not hidden. I can remember when I did a wake service for the father of one of my high school classmates, who came up to be after the service and shook my hand and blurted out, “You scare the hell out of me!” Or a client classmate friend of mine I was doing some legal work for last year who said “I can’t believe you are the same person I went to high school with years ago!

We all have within us a soul that provides us with a hot line to God and his forgiveness and love. All we need to do is pick up the phone and yell “Help!” Help for ourselves or “Help!” for those we witness who need divine intervention and support. And to this assembly of the “Body of Christ” I say: “Welcome Home – And Happy Birthday!

Christmas, Unlike We Envisioned It — Funeral Homily for Dr. S. Ann Hartlage-Feltes, 79

December 16, 2021

Ann and Larry realized something was gravely wrong during their recent vacation abroad. She was experiencing persistent and unexplained fatigue and shortness of breath. Just some forty days later, the cancer present and growing within her ended her earthly life. It’s stunning, it’s shocking, that a woman we know as being so energetically alive could pass away from us so quickly. As a good and faithful spouse to Larry after James’ passing, as a loving, caring mother to David, Kristin, and Ken, as a devoted, attentive grandma to her grandkids, as a dedicated psychologist to the clients and couples she served, as someone known and loved by us, her death creates a painful absence. How strange, how jarring, how incongruous it is, to be having her funeral now – so very close to Christmas. At a time for togetherness, we’re separated. In a season celebrating heavenly peace, we’re unsettled here on earth. Christmas joy, veiled by dismay. This is not how we imagine Christmas to be. And yet… the first Christmas was troubled too.

About fifteen months before the first Christmas, when Zachariah exited the temple sanctuary after having encountered an angel, he made excited, mute gestures to the people. Some concluded that he had seen vision but Zachariah was unable to speak or hear for many months. His wife, Elizabeth, may have worried whether her beloved suffered a stroke. Would he ever speak again? Then Elizabeth herself began to be unwell. She felt nauseous every day and noticed her abdomen expanding. Could she “who was called barren” somehow be pregnant, or was something gravely wrong?

Nine months before the first Christmas, the Blessed Virgin Mary gave her “Yes” to God’s plan at the Annunciation in Nazareth. An angel told Mary she would become the mother of the Messiah, but many details about her future remained hidden from her. Would her husband. Joseph, believe her when she told him? Would he become angry or afraid and decide to leave her? Joseph came very close to erroring and divorcing Mary, either because he judged her unworthy of him or because, believing her, he thought himself unworthy of her. After a torturous time of doubt and uncertainty, an angel visited Joseph in a dream and got him back on the right track.

Joseph resolved to be the very best protector and provider to Mary and her Holy Child that he could be. So imagine his great frustration that first Christmas night, consider his distress at being unable to find a proper place for Mary’s labor and Jesus’ birth; only an unclean cave with a feed trough for a crib. The first Christmas and the events leading up to it were not easy for the people who lived them. Their times were troubled, with hardships and fears. But in the end, now looking back, the accomplishment of God’s loving plan for them was more beautiful than any of them would have imagined.

See what God did for these saints of his who suffered: St. Elizabeth was not sick and dying but with child, carrying the forerunner of the Christ. St. Zachariah would regain his voice and rejoice in their firstborn son, St. John the Baptist. St. Mary would never be abandoned, but was lovingly cared for through it all. And St. Joseph succeeded in his mission to be the best father on earth. Jesus Christ’s birth in a stable was not an accident, not a divine oversight, but according to God’s plan. Their stories are a sign for us, a lesson for our lives. The Scriptures repeatedly tell us to hope in God and the good things to come.

The author of today’s first reading laments, “My soul is deprived of peace, I have forgotten what happiness is,” yet the prophet does not despair. “The favors of the Lord are not exhausted, his mercies are not spent. … Good is the Lord to one who waits for him, to the soul that seeks him. It is good to hope in silence for the saving help of the Lord.” St. John tells us in our second reading: “The way we came to know love was that [Jesus] laid down his life for us.” Our Lord faced dying so bravely because he knew not even death would end God the Father’s blessings toward him.

Today we gather in this famous and beautiful cathedral to offer the Church’s greatest prayer, the Holy Mass, for Ann’s soul and our consolation. She and Larry have been parishioners here at Holy Name for years, attending Sunday Mass and sometimes weekday Masses, too. From this altar, Ann received her Lord, his Body and Blood, his Soul and Divinity, his living and entire Self, in the Holy Eucharist. Jesus says in our Gospel, “My Flesh is true food and my Blood is true drink… Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.” Today, we remember and are consoled by Jesus’ promise to Ann and us: “Whoever eats this bread will live forever.

Because of Ann’s parting, this Christmas will not be as we envisioned. But we are consoled by the truth that even amid these trials God is accomplishing his loving plan for us, a plan which is more beautiful than we can now imagine.

What do you Wish?

October 23, 2021

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

John the Baptist was once with two of his disciples and as he watched Jesus walk by he declared, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” Hearing this, the two disciples began tailing Jesus. Jesus turned, saw them, and asked them a question: “What are you looking for?” Last week, we heard how James and John, the sons of Zebedee, approached Jesus saying, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” Jesus began by asking them a question: “What do you wish me to do for you?” This Sunday, a blind beggar, Bartimaeus the son of Timaeus, calls out to Jesus from the roadside. Jesus summons the man and once he comes near Jesus asks him a question: “What do you want me to do for you?

Why does Jesus pose these questions? Surely he already knows the answers. “Jesus immediately knew in his mind what they were thinking to themselves,” either from his divinity, or by reading their souls (as some saints have been known to do), or through his profound knowledge of human nature. Jesus “did not need anyone to testify about human nature. He himself understood it well.” So why does Jesus ask, “What are you looking for, what do you wish, what do you want me to do for you?

Jesus knows us through and through but how well do we know ourselves? To answer Jesus’ questions we must consider and articulate what we truly desire: “What do I really want? How could life be better?” Forming the answers helps us know ourselves. Sometimes we neglect or avoid such self-reflection. We assume or despair that the unsatisfying status quo is the best we can expect. But to name our wishes and longings and present these to Jesus is an act of faith, and hope, and trust in him.

When Jesus turned on the two disciples of John the Baptist (one of whom was St. Andrew) and asked “What are you looking for?” they answered, “Rabbi (Teacher), where are you staying?” And Jesus said to them, “Come, and you will see.” What they desired was to know Jesus better, and Jesus gave them what they asked for. Last week, James and John said what they wanted was to sit at Jesus’ right and left in his glory. What they desired was not chairs but a greater share in Christ’s glory, and Jesus gave them what they asked for. Today, Jesus asks Bartimaeus, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man answers, “Master, I want to see.” What he desires is deliverance, for his blindness has kept him a beggar, and Jesus gives him what he asks for.

Today, you have come before Jesus and approach him here. What are you looking for? What do you want him to do for you? What do you wish for him to do? In St. Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus says, “Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive.” Jesus says, “Ask and you shall receive.” So I dare you to take courage, discern your desires, and present your requests to Jesus with faith, that he may give you what you ask for.

Longing to go Home — Funeral Homily for Donetta Bowe, 90

September 27, 2021

You may or may not have known it, but Donetta wrote poetry. She wrote these words during her retirement:

“I want to go home
  Not to the house in town
  But back to the farm.”

In the following lines she went on to fondly recall the farm’s many sights and sounds, the cardinals and chickadees, the wild turkeys and pheasants, “the humming birds by the flowers,” the deer crossing through the fields, and the barn cats she left behind.

“But it’s not the same anymore,” she wrote,
“I need to find another way
  To satisfy those feelings now.”

In her later years, Donetta felt the fading of her flesh, and lamented at not being able to do all that she could do before.

“Only in my spirit,” she wrote,
“Only in my spirit
  can I run up a green grassy hill.
Only in my spirit
  can I skip along a shady park path.
Only in my spirit
  can I still run up the stairs.”

Over time, our lives accumulate losses. We painfully lose people and places and bodily powers. If this were only natural, why doesn’t it sit more naturally with us? Why do we desire the infinite? Where is the fulfillment of our insatiable longings to be found?

As Martha mourned the death of her brother Lazarus, Jesus assured her this was not her loved one’s end. She replied to him, “I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus told her, “Whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live… Do you believe this?” She answered him, “Yes, Lord,” and Martha saw his words proven true sooner that she had expected.

Therefore,” as St. Paul told the Christians of Corinth, Greece, “we are not discouraged… Although our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day… This momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory… We look not to what is seen but to what is unseen; for what is seen is passing, but what is unseen is eternal.

Despite looking back, Donetta looked ahead, to the ultimate fulfillment of her longings through our Lord, Jesus Christ. Here are the words of a final Donetta poem, as it appears on her funeral card:

“My time has come for me to go
  and say goodbye to the ones I know.
My body is tired my mind is weak
  it’s difficult for me to speak.
And now I’m waiting by the gate
  so as I go don’t be sad
  for I am grateful for all I had.
Embrace the day and smile for me
  for I am going where I want to go.”

The Day of Calamity

July 17, 2021

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today I will be speaking to you about why the Jewish calendar is different from our own, about why this Sunday is of special significance in Jewish history, and about the enduring faithfulness of our Lord towards his people.

Like many ancient cultures, the Jews kept a lunar calendar, while we, and most of the world today, follow a particular solar calendar. Our modern calendar is called the Gregorian Calendar, instituted by Pope Gregory XII in 1582. For the Gregorian Calendar, one orbit around the Sun makes one year, counted as 365 days (or 366 days in a leap year). The Jewish calendar, instead, is focused on the Moon: one cycle of the Moon through its phases makes one month, counted as 29 or 30 days. Because the cycles of the Sun and Moon do not perfectly match-up, particular dates on solar and lunar calendars do not line-up either. This means the dates of Jewish holidays and observances float around on the Gregorian calendar. Today, for instance, is the ninth day of the Jewish month of Av. The ninth of Av falls on July 18th this year, but next year it will land on August 6th.

Detail of Destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem by Francesco Hayez, 1867The “ninth of Av,” also known as Tisha B’Av, is no ordinary day for observant Jews, but a day of fasting and abstaining, because ninth of Av has seen multiple calamities in Jewish history. First, during the Exodus, when the twelve spies sent by Moses returned from scouting the Land of Canaan, most of them voiced negative reports, saying there was no way The Promised Land could be conquered. The Hebrews despaired and cried and refused to proceed. As a consequence, God made his people spend 40 more years in the desert until almost all the adults of that generation had died without entering The Promised Land. The next calamity came in the days of the Prophet Jeremiah, after the founding of the Kingdom of Israel. In the sixth century B.C., the Jewish Temple built by King Solomon in Jerusalem was destroyed by the conquering Babylonians. With that disaster, the Jews were forced to leave their homeland and resettle in the East, and this Babylonian Exile lasted about seventy years until a significant number of Jews were able to return. A third catastrophe occurred in 70 A.D., when the Second Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in response to a Jewish revolt. Not one stone was left upon another, as Jesus had foretold about 40 years before it came to pass. All of these devastating catastrophes, all three of these traumatic, mournful events (the denial of The Promised Land and the destruction of the first and second Temples) are remembered as occurring over the ninth day of Av.

Each of these disasters flowed from the faithlessness or unfaithfulness of God’s people. All of the Hebrews in the Exodus had witnessed the Lord’s mighty power wielded against Egypt, yet they disbelieved that God would be with them and would enable them to enter the land he had promised to Abraham’s descendants. The Prophet Jeremiah in our first reading decries the shepherds of his day (that is, the leaders of the people) whose wickedness would lead to the fall of the nation and the scattering of the sheep. And before his Passion, Jesus once lamented: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how many times I yearned to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her young under her wings, but you were unwilling! Behold, your house will be abandoned, desolate.” Jesus foresaw how that generation’s rejection of their Messiah would be followed by disaster.

Yet, in the face of this faithlessness and unfaithfulness among God’s people, God remained faithful to them. The first generation of Hebrews who had left Egypt were too afraid to enter the Promised Land, but God did not void his covenant with them. While denouncing the bad shepherds who led to the Babylonian Exile, God promises to gather his scattered flock again. And even as Jesus Christ was foretelling doom for Jerusalem from rejecting the Messiah, he spoke of his own people’s conversion to faith in him one day: “I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’

So what does all of this mean for you and me and the Church, the people of God’s New Covenant? Can calamities come to us? Yes – through our own unfaithful foolishness, or through the sins of others impacting our world; grave wrongs, tragic losses, painful sufferings, death. But when these calamities come, will the Lord still be with us? Yes. Through the Prophet Jeremiah he promised: “I myself will gather the remnant of my flock from all the lands.” In today’s Gospel, “When [Jesus] disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.” Jesus declares, “I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me.” The Lord is our shepherd. He refreshes our souls. He guides us in right paths. Even when we walk through the dark valleys we need not fear evils, for he is at our side.

Last Sunday, a young woman named Sarah who graduated college five years ago, posted a beautiful tweet on Twitter that has been liked nearly 2,000 times. She wrote: “I looked at the crucifix at Mass today and saw love rather than death for the first time in my whole [dang] life.” Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world through the Cross. The Good Shepherd knows firsthand what it’s like to be a sheep like us. Jesus reassures us that he is with us and we need not be afraid. For whatever day of calamity may come, it is not the end of our story; the friends of God will rise again in glory.

Wisdom for the Discouraged

February 7, 2021

5th Sunday in Ordinary Time

In our first reading, we hear the deep discouragement of Job:

“Is not man’s life on earth a drudgery?
…I have been assigned months of misery…
…My days… they come to an end without hope.
…I shall not see happiness again.”

If you are familiar with Job’s story you know he says these words during a very dark time in his life. Though innocent, he is in the midst of an extended trial, with emotional suffering, physical pain, loss, and loneliness. His words, like all the words of Scripture, are offered for our benefit — thanks be to God. And indeed, the Book of Job has lessons to teach us in our hard times.

One thing we learn from Job is that we can be real and honest with God. By the end of the book, Job is shown that God’s vast creations, plans, and purposes are beyond Job’s comprehension, for “Great is our Lord and mighty in power; to his wisdom there is no limit,” yet the Lord does not condemn Job for his questioning. In fact, God has Job intercede on behalf of his friends who had argued Job’s sufferings must be on account of his own sins. God has Job pray for them that they may be forgiven their error. The number of plaintive psalms that God inspired and made sure were included in Sacred Scripture suggests that he wants us to bring our complaints to him. The very name of God’s people “Israel” means “He who wrestles with God,” and you cannot wrestle with someone without drawing close to them.

The Lord wants us to be honest with him because that is the real us and the kind of relating that will actually help us. If you wear a disguise in God’s presence, it won’t fool him and it won’t help you. In spiritually directing others and in studying myself, I have noticed that when we are avoiding times of prayer or finding our prayer times very dry, it is often because we are avoiding relating something to the Lord. There’s something we don’t want to look at or talk about with him. Imagine if you had a good doctor, indeed the very best doctor – would it be wise to find excuses to miss your appointments or lie to your physician about how you were feeling? Reveal your wounds and symptoms to the Divine Physician that you may be healed. As today’s psalm says, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Today’s gospel tells us, “Rising very early before dawn, [Jesus] left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.” If making time for daily personal prayer was a top priority for Jesus, how much more important must it be for us?

A second thing we learn from Job is that God is with us in our struggle and that the struggle is worth it. Though Job did not understand why he suffered, God was never far from him. God was proud of Job and praised him, “There is no one on earth like him, blameless and upright, fearing God and avoiding evil,” and through his trials and sufferings God made him greater still. Other Christians sometimes ask why we have crucifixes on our walls rather than a bare cross. “Christ is risen,” they remind us, “so why depict him as still suffering on the Cross?” In his post-Ascension appearance to one of the Church’s early persecutors, Jesus said, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” When asked by Saul, “Who are you, sir?” the reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” If you are a suffering member of Christ’s body then know that you do not suffer alone. This Saul is better known to us as St. Paul. When St. Ananias hesitated to visit him and heal his blindness, the Lord insisted, “Go, for this man is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before Gentiles, kings, and Israelites, and I will show him what he will have to suffer for my name.” St. Paul writes in today’s second reading that his life’s mission, the preaching of the gospel, was an obligation imposed upon him. He could either see this as a hard burden to grumble over, or as an opportunity to rejoice in, and thereby gain reward. St. Paul knew God’s purpose for his life and embraced it to great benefit.

Dr. Viktor Frankl was a Austrian-Jewish doctor who was deported to a Nazi concentration camp during the Second World War. After his liberation, Frankl wrote about what he observed and discovered about human nature during that terrible ordeal in his famous book “Man’s Search for Meaning.” Frankl says, “Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.” He says, “Nothing is [more] likely to help a person overcome or endure troubles than the consciousness of having a task [a purpose] in life.” So many people, believing that our existence in this universe is an accident and disbelieving that life has any objective purpose, grope through life striving to generate their own meaning and purpose. But you know you are not here by accident. “[The Lord] tells the number of the stars; he calls each by name.” Each one is in their place according to his purpose and so are you. Who made you? God made you. Why did God make you? He made you to know Him, love Him, and serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him for ever in the next. But even Christians sometimes wonder, “Does what I’m doing really matter? Is my life important? Are my struggles really worth it?” They think to themselves, “If I wasn’t here, I’d be replaced by someone else.” Perhaps, but that’s not the right way to frame your thought. What if you disappeared from your home, your job, your community, and no one came to fill your void? Consider all the good things that would go undone. That is your contribution to our world and those around you. And God has eternal purposes for you that extend beyond this life and world.

A third and final thing we learn from Job is that things are not so hopeless as they may seem and there are better things to come. The way that we happen to feel in any particular moment does not necessarily reflect reality. One afternoon when I was a seminarian, I was in my dorm room and had homework to do, but I was fed up with it, I had no motivation, and decided to give up and to go to bed. When I woke up three hours later, the world was transformed, brighter. I was happier, eager to work, and even the view outside my window seemed better. Of course, it wasn’t the world that changed but me. I was exhausted and I didn’t know it and this was coloring my perceptions. You are an union of body and spirit. You need sleep, and food, and personal connection. Self-care is important, so love yourself as well as your neighbor. If someone is diabetic, we do not tell them to just buckle down and change their attitude. They need insulin to be healthy. Sometimes people suffer chemical imbalances in their brains, often hereditary in origin, which burden their experience of life. We live in an age of wonders with remarkable medicines and we should be unashamed to seek help. As the 38th chapter of Sirach teaches: “Make friends with the doctor, for he is essential to you; God has also established him in his profession. From God the doctor has wisdom… Through which the doctor eases pain, and the druggist prepares his medicines.” Sirach explains that a good doctor is one of God’s instruments in doing his work on earth.

The story of Job shows us things are not so hopeless as they may seem – there are better things to come. We heard Job’s lament, “I shall not see happiness again,” but he was mistaken. Job’s lot got better. Much better. God restored the prosperity of Job and even gave him twice as much as he had before. Then all of his brothers and sisters came to him, and all his former acquaintances, and they dined with him in his house. They consoled him and comforted him and gave him gifts. Job would see his children, his grandchildren, and even his great-grandchildren in fullness of years. Thus the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his former ones. But what if the remaining years of my life do not get better? What if each new year becomes harder than the last? What if I have a stroke, or a heart attack, or terminal cancer and I am dead in six months? How can better times still be waiting for me? Are you not promised Heaven where you will experience the restoration, fellowship, and consoling joys Job knew? Then, in the end, as St. Julian of Norwich said, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.

So remember that you can be completely real and honest with God, he invites this. Remember that the Lord is with you in your struggles and that these struggles are worth it. And remember that things are not so hopeless as they may seem, for with Jesus Christ there are surely better things to come.

Revealers of God — Funeral Homily for Kevin Lenfant, 70

December 3, 2020

In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth,” God said: “Let there be light, and there was light.” By God’s Word all things were made and his divine attributes are reflected in this universe he’s created. In the inspired word of God, the Holy Scriptures, we read about how he reveals himself to humanity throughout salvation history, through powerful deeds, prophetic words, and poetic images that reveal what he is really like. But ultimately and greatest of all, God reveals himself to us through the Son. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.“In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; (but) in these last days, he (speaks) to us through a Son, …through whom he created the universe,” the Word of God. Jesus Christ, the Bible, and God’s creation make use of familiar things to help reveal God to us. There’s warriors battling, couples marrying, fathers fathering, shepherds shepherding, and plants producing new life. A faithful Christian’s life will reveal God too, as his mysteries are reflected in the features of our lives.

There is a great deal of war and conflict in the Scriptures. This should not be surprising, since this world is broken and often evil. Wickedness is at war with goodness, so good men are called upon to defend the defenseless, to shield the innocent from evil assault. No nation is without flaws, but we should love and defend the goodness of our own. In the Old Testament, armed conflicts abound, but in the New Testament the martial imagery is turned to focus upon the spiritual battle which is being fought around us and within us. St. Paul tells us, “put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day,” for our greatest struggle is not with flesh and blood but with spiritual evils in this world. Our calling is to Semper Fi, being “always faithful”, but we know how difficult this is, “for a righteous man may fall seven times.” So when a brother dies we pray for him, like the Maccabean army prayed for their fallen in today’s first reading from the Old Testament, that whatever flaws or attachments to sin remain in them may be purged away, that those who die as friends of God may experience his full and splendid rewards in Heaven.

Another very plentiful thing found in the Bible is shepherds. Among the Old Testament patriarchs there is Abraham, Jacob-Israel, and his twelve sons – shepherds all. Later, there’s the prophet Moses, King David, and Amos the prophet, each of whom tended flocks for some time before receiving a higher calling from God. The first to hear the happy news of Christmas night were shepherds. The bond between a shepherd and his flock can be a very close one. So close that David, in writing today’s psalm, the most famous of all the psalms, depicts God as his shepherd and David himself as his well-cared-for sheep. The sheep of a good shepherd are like his children to him. He is as a father to his flock. “The sheep hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep by name… and they recognize his voice.” He knows his own and they know him. The good shepherd devotes his life to his sheep and little lambs. He delights in his flock and his presence comforts them. Rita tells me that family came first for Kevin. She tells me how he loves his children and grandchildren, that he loved to watch them grow, and how extremely proud he is of them. Such is his fatherhood.

A third common theme we encounter is married love. The saints see an allegory in the romantic Old Testament book The Song of Songs: God’s pursuit and love of his people Israel. In the Gospels, Jesus Christ calls himself the Bridegroom, and New Testament passages call the relationship of Jesus Christ with his Church a marriage. As Book of Revelation declares, “The marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready. … Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” This leads us to a mystery: did God use our familiar and intimate knowledge of human marriage, the covenantal love of a man and woman, to describe the union of Christ and his Church because this was the best available image for him to borrow, or rather did he create and establish marriage from the beginning to reveal and foreshadow the fulfillment with him that was always meant to be?

Rita told me the delightful story of how she and Kevin met. It was another Normal day at Illinois State University where they were both college students. Rita was having a hard time in a political science class, while political science was Kevin’s major, so he came over and tutored her. Apparently Rita was very impressed by many things about him because once he had left she turned to her friend and said, “Don’t let me marry him.” But she did. And it’s a good thing she did. Why was Rita afraid? ‘Well,’ she thought, ‘I’m so young, we’re both in college, he’s planning to be in the Marines, and how would all that work?’ But thankfully these doubts did not prevail. Imagine how much would have been lost if they had! When our Lord Jesus Christ proposes to be a greater part of our lives, we can similarly balk, all sorts of doubts and fears arise, but I urge you, I plead with you, to say “Yes” to him all the same. In this life, opportunities for some relationships pass by without another chance for something more. But with God, no matter where we’ve been or what we’ve done, all long as we still live, we can start more devotedly following him today.

Jesus often preached to the crowds using familiar things. For example, Jesus spoke about fish around fishermen, of bread and salt to bakers and cooks, and of plants to farmers in the countryside. He says, “Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?” At one point Kevin and Rita owned three flower shops. Now there is just the one they started in Bloomer more than forty years ago. Rita tells me that Kevin, between the two of them, probably likes flowers more. The flowers they sold would sprout and grow, beautifully blossom, and then fade and wither. This is a sad reality, but we are consoled by the knowledge that there are more flowers for us to enjoy. Similarly, in this world we are born and grow, we blossom and die, but we are consoled by the knowledge in Christ that this is not our end.

In today’s Gospel Jesus says, “unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.” Jesus was not eager to suffer, he asked his Father in the Garden if it were possible that this cup of suffering might pass him, but he was not unwilling to die because he knew that would not be the end of good things for him. It’s O.K. to want to live, to fight against illness and death, for life is a great good. But it is also O.K. to die. “For if we live,” as St. Paul says, “we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; …whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.” It’s O.K. to mourn. It’s O.K. to cry. But God’s Word reveals to us that we should not despair. Heed God’s word, in creation, on the Sacred Page, and in the person of our Savior, so that you and I and Kevin may all be happily reunited in God story one day.

The Source of her Devotion — Funeral Homily for Donna Hedler, 88

December 3, 2020

St. John the Baptist Church is honored to be offering our greatest prayer, the Holy Mass, for our well-known and well-loved parishioner, Donna. We also pray today for you who love her and mourn her passing, for your consolation and the strengthening of your spirits in Jesus Christ. No brief funeral homily can capture the fullness of a faithful Christian’s life, but when I spoke with Donna’s children about her they emphasized her devotedness: her devotion as a wife, her devotion as a mother, her devotion to her friends and extended family, her devotion to her Catholic Faith.

She was married to Jerome for fifty-five full years and was devoted to him even after his passing. She never removed her wedding band and at the first Christmas after his death she set an empty place for him at the dinner table. Yet she did not grieve like those who have no hope. Several years ago, while she was visiting Jerome’s grave in Thorp, she lost her footing and fell down backwards into about one foot of snow. At that, she made a snow angel. Today, her earthly remains will be buried alongside his there to await the resurrection.

Her children tell me of Donna’s devotion to her friends, grandchildren, nieces and nephews; reflected, for instance, in her visits and hosting, in her correspondence and gifts, in her lit-up smile and kindly words. Her kids tell me she was always there for them, desired the very best for them, and gave them a moral compass. What was the source of Donna’s devotion?

When family gathered at her house around her table to enjoy a Polish meal upon her fancy china, Donna led the prayer – an individual prayer she would compose herself, giving thanks to him from whose bounty we have all received through Christ our Lord. While she was able to attend church she sang his praises here, and once poor health confined her to home she gratefully received Jesus in his Blessed Sacrament. Her devotion was like that of the psalmist who wrote, “This I seek: To dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life. That I may gaze on the loveliness of the Lord.

He, our Lord Jesus Christ, is the source of all our devotion. God is devotion, because God is love, and he calls us to be like himself. But without God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit all human devotion is negated and futile. Without more than just this world alone, the view of the foolish, that the dead are gone forever and their going forth from us is utter destruction, would be right. Instead, like the Song of Songs says, “[As] stern as death is love, relentless as the nether world is devotion; its flames are a blazing fire. But Jesus tells us, ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. And I desire to prepare a place for you so that we all may dwell together always.’

So while we pray for Donna’s soul, that she may now joyfully dwell in our Father’s house forever, let us also learn from her devotion. Reconsider and renew your devotion, for the love with which Christ loves us is true, it is life-giving, and it is the way that leads us to Heaven.

Advent Hope

November 30, 2020

1st Sunday of Advent
By Deacon Dick Kostner

Today we begin the Holy Season of Advent. It is a time for us to be uplifted in Spirit. The year 2020 has been, and continues to be a difficult year for not only our Country but the whole world. The Coronavirus has transformed our life and threatens our economic prosperity. Hospitals are reaching capacity levels and our health professionals are wore out and tired. Our Bishops and priests struggle with trying to maintain Parish attendance and some type of normality. Civility and love thy neighbor seems to have vanished from our way of life. We are told to forgo our family get-togethers, having only “household” Thanksgiving meals and Christmas meals; no more packed Christmas Masses with standing room only; and yes no Christmas choir’s and singing Christmas songs with our family and friends. So you may ask, “Deacon, how can we have an uplifted Spirit when we are tired and down?

The answer can be found in our readings. Our Responsorial Psalm gives us the answer: “Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.” Our first reading from Isaiah reminds us of our Christmas gift from our heavenly Father, “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down with the mountains quaking before you…No ear has ever heard, no eye ever seen any God but you doing such deeds for those who wait for him.

Advent is a time for us to prepare our inner selves for the gift of salvation from our heavenly Father. We are tired and wore out with our present life, but God is about to descend from heaven and become one with us in human body and form to save us from despair, to save us from our own weaknesses and fears.

If you are like me you want your prayers of deliverance answered like yesterday. That’s because we live our lives by and through a calendar, on a lineal schedule. Our scriptures teach us a new way to govern our lives, a biblical way to measure our lives and that is by realizing that there are “times” for everything. Times of happiness; times of sorrow; times for living; times for death. All of these “times” are controlled and governed by God. Scripture also instructs us on how to acquire more “happiness times”. We are told to obey God’s Commandments if we do so our “bad times” will be reduced. We are instructed to serve others instead of ourselves. If we do so we will have many “good times”. We are told that God will descend from heaven and join us through the “good and bad times”. We are told to Listen to and live out the teachings of Jesus and our “bad times” will be washed away with happiness.

Our Gospel tells us another way to have “good times” and that is to prepare ourselves for the Parousia, the second coming of Jesus, when we will be united with God for all eternity and where only “good times” will be allowed to exist. We have scripture to guide us to this holy reunion where body and spirit will be united with God and sickness and death will no longer be a part of our lives. Only love and peace will prevail.

Jesus tells us in our Gospel this First Sunday of Advent, to get on the ball and prepare for this coming feast for we do not know when this time event will happen. Advent is the time for us to structure our priorities of life around this ultimate Christmas Birthday Party and the death of bad times for all of eternity. We need to love God with all our heart, souls, and minds. We need to love our neighbors and serve them with our life even when they dislike us. We need to celebrate Christmas even during “bad times”, knowing that good times are awaiting us just around the corner. Scripture tells us that “time” is coming!

This weekend around the world we give witness to the individuals who are planning for the future life with God by becoming members of the Church of Jesus. The bride of Jesus. What a wonderful Christmas gift to our spiritual Savior. We have at St. Paul’s one individual who has made the pledge and is studying to rejoin our Catholic Faith Community through reception of the Sacraments of Initiation. It is a “good time” for Saint Paul’s Congregation to see and to pray for Heidi as she journeys to reception of these Sacraments. Through our Parish prayers and support we will have helped someone become a member of God’s family for all eternity. It is the “time” for joy and peace so let us all pray silently today’s Psalm: “LORD, MAKE US TURN TO YOU; LET US SEE YOUR FACE AND WE SHALL BE SAVED!

The Disciples’ Burdens

August 2, 2020

18th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Only one miracle (besides the Resurrection) appears in all four Gospels: that’s today miracle – Jesus’ multiplication of five loaves of bread and two fish into enough food to feed more than five thousand people. Bringing all four of these Gospel accounts together provides us with a detailed picture of that day, one of the most amazing days in Jesus’ ministry. However, for the apostles, much of that day probably felt far from awesome.

First, the terrible news had recently arrived that John the Baptist had been murdered by the government, his neck severed by a soldier at Herod’s command. John the Baptist was Jesus’ beloved relative. At least two of the apostles had once been John’s own disciples. They all held the Baptizer in high esteem. So the unjust killing of this righteous man was shocking, and the senseless death of their friend was sorrowful.

Another strain on them that day was their shared fatigue. The apostles had just come back from the villages Jesus had sent them out to in missionary pairs to preach, and heal, and cast out evil spirits. Upon their return to Jesus, Mark’s Gospel tells us that “people were coming and going in such great numbers that they had no opportunity even to eat.” So Jesus says to his apostles, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” The apostles might have thought to themselves, “Finally, a break.

Jesus and his apostles embark in the boat by themselves toward a deserted place called Bethsaida on the other side of the Sea of Galilee. But other people see them leaving, word gets around, and many come to know about it. They hasten there on foot from all the towns and arrive at the place even before the boat did. So when Jesus and the apostles disembarked, a vast crowd of thousands was already there waiting for them. Imagine the apostles’ mixed emotions; “Great, another massive crowd. I guess our retreat is over.” But Jesus beholds the crowd and his heart is moved with pity for them, for they are like sheep without a shepherd, unsettled and unled. Jesus cures their sick and proceeds to teach them many things. So maybe the apostles got a little break that afternoon after all.

When evening came, the apostles approached Jesus to say, “This is a deserted place and it is already late; dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.” Jesus says to them, “There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves.” They respond, “Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.” They’re already mourning an unexpected, painful loss. They’re burnt-out from their recent labors. And now, Jesus seems to expect the impossible from them. Can you relate to that today?

Of course, we’ve heard the gospel story and know how it ends. You and I now already know what happens next. Taking the five loaves and two two fish, and looking up to his Father in Heaven, Jesus says the blessing, breaks the loaves, and gives them to the disciples, who in turn (at Jesus’ command) give them to the crowds. They all eat an are satisfied and finish with more than they began. Jesus takes what his disciples offer him (as meager as it is), gives each of them an important role to lay, and works something amazing through them.

Brothers and sisters, what will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? Do these things separate us from the love of Christ? What of pandemics, or quarantines, or closures, or face coverings, or financial troubles, or personal failures? Will these things separate us from the love of Christ? No, in all these things we can conquer overwhelmingly through him who loves us. For neither death, nor life, nor spirits, nor politicians, nor time, nor space, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. These are hard days, and we might be tired and discouraged. But do not doubt the good you are doing, nor the good that you will do, because Jesus Christ is with you.

Beware of False Dilemmas

March 24, 2020

Tuesday, 4th Week of Lent

Now there is in Jerusalem at the Sheep Gate a pool called in Hebrew Bethesda, with five porticoes. In these lay a large number of ill, blind, lame, and crippled. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been ill for a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be well?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; while I am on my way, someone else gets down there before me.” Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your mat, and walk.” Immediately the man became well, took up his mat, and walked.

Jesus asks the infirm man lying near the pool, “Do you want to be well?” He answers, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; while I am on my way, someone else gets down there before me.” The best early Greek manuscripts of John’s Gospel do not contain the verse (John 5:4) and many modern Bibles omit it, but this ancient passage explains what the surrounding verses imply: “From time to time an angel of the Lord would come down and stir up the waters. The first one into the pool after each such disturbance would be cured of whatever disease they had.

The afflicted man perceives only two possibilities, a dilemma; either be healed by being the fastest into the water or continue in his infirmity. The first path is impossible and the second leaves him miserable. The man is tempted toward despair yet he remains patiently near the pool. And there he encounters Jesus who reveals a new, third way he had not imagined, a better option he had not seen. Jesus says to him, “Rise, take up your mat, and walk,” and immediately the man arises cured.

Beware of accepting false dilemmas in life. They can take many forms. Should I keep on being late into the water or give up on ever being cured? Should I ignore the Church’s teaching or be unhappy for the rest of my life? Should I keep on sinning and confessing or give up on my fight against habitual temptation? Should we allow this pandemic to totally destroy our economy or just let everybody die? Realize that the Lord can deliver us through ways we are not perceiving. When facing a painful “either-or”, an intolerable Trolley Problem, ask Jesus to reveal a third track. What if Jesus can heal my legs? What if following the Church’s teaching will lead to both my holiness and my joyful peace? What if my necessary resolutions and humble appeals for Christ’s saving grace can lift me up from my struggle? What if, in the near future, more treatments, testing, and technologies will allow us to save both lives and livelihoods?

Do not despair of your deliverance. “Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect. … Now to him who is able to accomplish far more than all we ask or imagine, by the power at work within us, to him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Romans 12:2, Ephesians 3:20)

Jesus and His Wounded Church

October 27, 2019

On October 15th, her feast day, I heard a story told of St. Teresa of Avila I had never heard before. It may be a pious legend (as I have not found any primary sources for the tale) but it contains a truth all the same. The story goes that Satan once appeared to the 16th century Spanish nun in the glorious guise of Jesus. Satan intended to lead Teresa astray, but she quickly saw he was not Christ. Before departing from her the Devil asked how she was so certain. She replied, “Because you have no wounds.”

In the Book of Acts we read that on the road to Damascus Saul heard a voice say, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” “Who are you, sir,” asked the afflictor of the Early Church. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” Jesus had already, some months or years before, bodily ascended into Heaven, but Our Lord felt all the afflictions of the Church on earth as his own. Saul repented, converted, and became St. Paul.

Jesus hates the grave mistreatment and harming of his members but his Body suffers and bears wounds still; wounds inflicted both from outside and within his Church. Jesus told his disciples, “Things that cause sin [literally “skandala,” scandals or stumbling-blocks] will inevitably occur, but woe to the person through whom they occur.” Yet even as Jesus heals and avenges his innocent, injured sheep he desires the salvation of wrongdoers too – that, justly-chastised, the sinner would ultimately appear before God as a saint.

Pray for our whole Church without despairing, for the victory of our Faithful Bridegroom is assured. St. Teresa of Avila said, “I do not fear Satan half so much as I fear those who fear him,” and she urged her sisters to unshakable confidence in Jesus Christ:

“Let nothing disturb thee; Let nothing dismay thee:
All thing pass; God never changes.
Patience attains all that it strives for.
He who has God finds he lacks nothing:
God alone suffices.”