Archive for the ‘Christian Perfection’ Category

Three Imperfections in the Life of Saint Paul

February 4, 2023

5th Sunday of Ordinary Time
By Fr. Victor Feltes

 The oldest known depiction of St. Paul the Apostle, a fresco from the Catacomb of Saint Thekla in Rome dated to the 300’s A.D.

St. Paul is one of history’s greatest saints. Today I would like to talk about his vision, his preaching, and his early church communities. But what I would like show you (for your benefit) is that his vision, his preaching, and his early Church communities were not as perfect as you probably imagine.

First of all, St. Paul had vision problems. I do not mean anything was wrong with his inspired Christian insights, but that his physical ability to see was limited. When he beheld the glorified and risen Jesus on the road to Damascus, an intense light shone from the sky around him. Paul got up from the ground and opened his eyes but he could not see anything. After three days, our Lord sent a Christian named Ananias to prayerfully lay his hands upon him. “Immediately, things like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight.” Yet issues with Paul’s vision seem to have lingered or later reemerged. While writing to the Christians of Galatia more than a decade after his conversion, St. Paul recalls, “You know that it was because of a physical illness that I originally preached the gospel to you.” He does not directly identify his malady, but he observes, “Indeed, I can testify to you that, if it had been possible, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me.” And in closing this letter to the Galatians, Paul writes, “See with what large letters I am writing to you in my own hand!” These clues suggest that swapping-out his eyes for another pair would have improved Paul’s poor and ailing eyesight.

Another historical detail few notice about St. Paul is that his letters were apparently more impressive than his public speaking abilities. In his second letter to Corinth, St. Paul addresses criticisms about himself, noting “someone will say, ‘his letters are severe and forceful, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech is contemptible.’” Paul acknowledges in today’s second reading that he met the Corinthians and proclaimed the Gospel to them without “sublimity of words or of wisdom.” “I came to you,” he writes, “in weakness and fear and much trembling, and my message and my proclamation were not with persuasive words of wisdom…” By God’s grace, his preaching did bear fruit, but Paul’s writings came across as being more eloquent and powerful.

A third overlooked aspect of St. Paul’s life is that the Christian communities he led were far from perfect. People often think of the early Church as a golden age. We lament the Catholic Church’s present problems and idealize her past. Yet throughout his New Testament letters, St. Paul is constantly correcting the early Christians’ beliefs and behaviors. Consider the Church at Corinth. Paul admonishes those Corinthians for their pride, for their internal divisions, for their liturgical abuses, and for their toleration of “immorality of a kind not found even among pagans.” Early Christian communities had real issues, and St. Paul did not find it easy to pastor them.

So to recap, St. Paul’s health was not perfect, his human talents were not perfect, and his parishes were not perfect. And yet, neither his poor health, nor his uneven talents, nor the problems within the Church prevented St. Paul from faithfully bearing everlasting fruits. I wanted to highlight the weaknesses and imperfections of St. Paul and the early Christians to help us appreciate that our circumstances are not so different today. When Jesus Christ declares, “You are the salt of the earth,” and “You are the light of the world,” he really is talking about us too. Our Lord would do great and important things through you, and the good you are doing now does more good than you know. So carry your burdens, endure your trials, and keep the Faith like St. Paul did. As Jesus once said to console St. Paul in his struggles, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.”

Zephaniah & the Beatitudes Call to Conversion

January 29, 2023

4th Sunday of Ordinary Time
By Fr. Victor Feltes

Jesus’ Beatitudes are words of consolation and hope but they are also a call to conversion. Our first reading today comes from the Old Testament prophet Zephaniah who proclaimed God’s words in the land of Judah. Zephaniah denounced his people’s unfaithfulness, warning them:

“Near is the great day of the Lord,
near and very swiftly coming…
A day of wrath is that day,
a day of distress and anguish,
a day of ruin and desolation…
A day of trumpet blasts and battle cries
against fortified cities,
against lofty battlements…
Because they have sinned against the Lord.”

Less than one lifetime after Zephaniah preached, Jerusalem was conquered by the Babylonians and Judah’s earthly kingdom fell.

Zephaniah denounced those rich in material things, who hungered for feasts and comforts, who thirsted for wines and pleasures, who fashionably clothed themselves in unrighteousness. These proud rich would not be satisfied. Zephaniah said, “They will build houses, but not dwell in them. They will plant vineyards, but not drink their wine…. Their wealth shall be given to plunder and their houses to devastation…. Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to save them.

However, Zephaniah’s strongest condemnations denounced the idolatry among his people. Some worshipped idols in pagan temples, while some bowed down on roofs to worship stars, and some bowed down to the one true Lord God but would swear oaths by other gods. Zephaniah notes some said in their hearts, “The Lord will not do good, nor will he do harm.” They lacked faith, and hope, and love for him in their divided hearts. But with unclean hearts, they would not see God.

Today we hear Zephaniah say, “Seek the Lord, all you humble of the earth… seek justice, seek humility; perhaps you may be sheltered on the day of the Lord’s anger.” Then Zephaniah announces that the Lord “will leave as a remnant in your midst a people humble and lowly, who shall take refuge in the name of the Lord: the remnant of Israel. …They shall pasture and couch their flocks with none to disturb them.”

In fulfillment of God’s word, in response to a Jewish revolt, the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem in 587 B.C. They tore down the city’s walls, systematically burned its palaces and houses, and destroyed the Jewish temple. Those Jews who had made war were either killed or deported far away to Babylon, along with everyone else their conquerors saw as a threat. Yet “they left in the land of Judah some of the poor who had nothing and at the same time gave them vineyards and farms.” Blessed were the meek, for they inherited the land.

Yet even before Judah was conquered and thousands of Jews were carried off to Babylonian exile, God promised them a future return to Jerusalem. The Lord foretells through the Prophet Zephaniah: “At that time I will bring you home, and at that time I will gather you.” Blessed would be those people who remembered to mourn the loss of God’s temple and holy city, for they would be consoled. Less than one lifetime after their departure, once that Babylonian empire had been conquered by a Persian empire, the Jews were allowed to return home.

The words of Jesus and Zephaniah and the stories of their people should give us pause today, for “near is the great day of the Lord” always. How are we using our great riches? Which desires do we feed? Do we mourn the evils that we see in the world? Unless we hunger and thirst for righteousness, we will never be satisfied. We might not worship golden idols or swear by pagan gods, but idolatry still exists today. If our priorities (as reflected by our finances, Sunday sports or vacations, worldly desires or addictions, or any other things) usurp our Lord from his rightful throne in our hearts, then our hearts are not yet so pure as he wills them to be.

Seek the Lord… seek justice, seek humility… do no wrong and speak no lies.” Practice mercy and pursue peace. Christ offers you his strengthening grace. Blessed are they who heed what Jesus tells us gains his Kingdom.

Live the Beatitudes

January 29, 2023

4th Sunday of Ordinary Time
By Fr. Chinnappan Pelavendran

Today I would like to share an incident about a brother priest of mine. He was transferred to a new parish. Some weeks after he arrived, he needed to take the bus to a nearby town. When he sat down, he realized that the driver had given him an extra two rupees (about 25¢). He thought to himself, “I better give it back, it would be wrong to keep it.” Then he thought, “Oh, it is only two rupees, such a small amount, it is a gift from God.” When his stop came, he hesitated at the door and handed the money back to the driver. The driver smiled and asked, “Are you the new priest in the village?” And the priest said, “Yes.” “Well, I have been thinking about going somewhere to pray. I wanted to see what you would do if I gave you extra change. You will see me at church on Sunday.” When the priest got off the bus, he closed his eyes and said, “Oh God, I almost sold you for a quarter.

In that thirty minutes on the bus, that priest lived all seven of the Beatitudes. He was poor in spirit, not greedy. Blessed are they who mourn, he gained a new parishioner. He was meek and knew that the money was not his. He was righteous and he was satisfied. By giving the money back, he will receive mercy from God. His heart was clean, and he will see God. He was a peacemaker because he did not keep, what was not his.

Today’s readings explain our Christian goal of eternal happiness. They give us an outline for living like Christ. Jesus expected his disciples to live like Him. The Beatitudes present a positive way to live. The virtues we will receive from following the Beatitudes will lead to salvation for our souls.

Jesus teaches his disciples the blessedness of poverty, hunger, sorrow, and persecution. In poverty, we recognize God’s reign; in hunger, His providence; in sorrow, true happiness; and in persecution, true joy. In other words, the blessed ones are those who are poor in spirit, compassionate, meek, merciful, and clean of heart. They are the peacemakers and those who are willing to be insulted and persecuted for their faith.

The Beatitudes are almost like a guideline for the Ten Commandments. The Beatitudes simply guide us to a righteous and loving way of life. By living the Beatitudes, we will find happiness with God because only God can satisfy the heart. We will become better individuals and better members of our church. To be a true Christian, we give first place to God.

We need to respond to the challenges of the Beatitudes in our daily life. Millions of people are starving, persecuted, and homeless, and lead hopeless lives. The Beatitudes challenge us to be compassionate people, even when this exposes us to ridicule and persecution. We can learn from Saint Mother Teresa who showed us how to accept the challenges of living the Beatitudes in the modern world. Let us remember that each time we reach out to help the needy and the sick, we share the promises of the Beatitudes.

We need to choose wisely. The way of life is the way of Jesus that leads to eternal life. The challenge of the Beatitudes is this: Are you going to be happy in the world’s way, or in Christ’s way? If we choose the world’s way, we are seeking our blessings in the wrong place. The way of Jesus requires toil and suffering in working for the poor, the sick, and the hungry. The blessing of the Beatitudes is the possession of the Kingdom of God.

“Jesus Loves Me” — Funeral Homily for Mabel Klingbeil, 93

January 23, 2023

By Fr. Victor Feltes

Great love is powerfully expressed through great trials. When Mabel was only eleven years old, she experienced a shocking personal loss. Her ten-year-old sister Betty passed away from an appendicitis. And for the rest of Mabel’s life it seems she wanted to help make sure others were safe and well. Mabel would live to be the last-surviving member of the family of her birth. She served as a caregiver to her parents and her adult siblings as they passed on before her.

She was married in this church to her husband George in 1958. They gave life to four sons together, including two, John and Tim, who passed away in infancy. After fourteen years of marriage, Mabel became a widow at age forty-three. She raised her two boys, Michael and George, on her own; doing her best to fill the role of two parents, for instance, taking them out to go fishing. Then, after her retirement, Mabel began raising children anew at age seventy-two. She cared for her grandkids, Katie and Sarah, concerned for both their bodies and souls, for instance often saying, “Remember to pray and brush your teeth!” How did Mabel say she liked raising children? “I had a ball.”

Kindly but firm, Mabel was not swayed by the increasingly straying views of popular culture. She has been a well-known St. Paul’s parishioner for many years volunteering at our school and singing in our church choir. She would take the girls with her up to the balcony for funerals. The other choir members and widowed school teachers were often recipients of Mabel’s care.

I remember Mabel telling me in her room at Dove nursing home, that she had been a teacher for a total of thirty-three years (seven years elsewhere and then twenty-six years here in Bloomer). She loved teaching her students and said she would still like to teach—if she were not ninety-three years old. I saw her Tuesday afternoons when I brought her our Lord Jesus in the Holy Eucharist and she always received him with devotion.

Because of circumstances of her upbringing, Mabel had a hard time accepting God’s amazing love for us. She once remarked, “When I [was growing] up, I never knew that God loved me.” At times, she wondered, “How could Christ die just for me?” Yet Jesus Christ has powerfully revealed his great love for us, especially through his trials.

Why else would God become man in Jesus Christ if not from great concern that we would be safe and well? Jesus comes to us as a teacher in a visible life on earth thought to have numbered thirty-three years. Kindly but firm, he possesses and imparts truth in an errant world. He formed young disciples in his charge; sometimes he even took them fishing. He comes as our Good Shepherd, laying down his life for his sheep, desiring none of us to be lost.

Jesus worshiped at his Father’s house and offered himself in sacrifice on the Cross. Now he calls us to worship in his Church and receive the great gift of himself offered in the Holy Eucharist. Jesus, now risen, is the first-surviving member of his family. Raised from the dead, he lives forever to help us through this life into the next. He is the faithful, loving caregiver of his spouse and his brothers and sisters; that is, of his Church as a whole and each of us individually.

So you see, Jesus Christ forms faithful Christians to be more and more like himself, and shepherds them to be with him in paradise. “What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish or distress, or persecution or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword?” Despite all these things, we can conquer overwhelmingly through him who loves us. Mabel, in her final recent trial, found comfort in this truth, as she often sang that sweet children’s song: “Jesus Loves Me, This I Know.” Let us be faithful to Christ, so that together with Mabel we may “behold our God, to whom we looked to save us!

Barbershop Theology

January 21, 2023

3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time
By Fr. Chinnappan Pelavendran

Today I have another story to share. A man went to a barbershop to have his haircut and his beard trimmed. They talked about many things, and then the barber said, “I do not believe that God exists. Look at all the sick people, suffering, and pain in the world. I can’t believe that a loving God Would allow this.” The customer thought about it, but did not say anything and left the shop. Once he was outside, he saw a man with long, dirty hair. He went back into the barbershop and said, “You know what? Barbers do not exist.” “How can you say that?” asked the barber. “I am here and I am a barber.” “No,” the customer answered, “Barbers do not exist because if they did, there would be no people with dirty long hair, like that man outside.” “However, barbers do exist, that is what happens when they do not come to me.” “Exactly,” said the customer, “That is the point! God also DOES exist! That is what happens when people do not go to Him and don’t ask Him for help.”

The first reading today tells us that the people of Israel were living in darkness. They were living under the control of Assyrians. Isaiah declares that God’s power is greater than the oppression they are living under. Jesus is the great light and will lead them into abundant joy. By His resurrection, He has assured us that darkness can never overcome us. The light that Isaiah is talking about is the light of God which scatters the darkness of ignorance and sin.

In the second reading, St. Paul tells the Corinthians that they must stop fighting among themselves, and to follow the humility and obedience of Jesus. They need to work together as followers of Christ. They need to keep their focus on Jesus Christ.

Our Gospel today tells us about the beginning of Jesus’ public life, after John the Baptist had been arrested. The good news that Jesus preaches is hope, peace, promise, truth, and salvation. Jesus is the messenger of good news. As Jesus began his public life, He gathered his disciples. He found Andrew, and his brother Simon (who is called Peter). Next, He found James and John, the sons of Zebedee. They left everything and followed Jesus to be His disciples. The story of the calling of the first disciples showed their unconditional response to Jesus. The calling of the disciples is the beginning of the church. These disciples were drawn to Jesus like a magnet. They left everything not knowing where all this would lead.

We need to appreciate our call to be Christ’s disciples. Christ came two thousand years ago to share the good news with all of his people. There are still many people who don’t know about Christ, we need to be Christ’s disciples now to preach and bring them to God. God sends us to proclaim the good news of the kingdom. Jesus traveled, teaching in the synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing his people. We are asked to follow the example of love given to us by Jesus. We need to become the light of the world as Jesus. We need to receive the light of Christ and share it with everyone as love, forgiveness, and respect for all. If we want to improve our looks, we go to the barber. If we want to save our souls, we need to go to God.

How Could They Follow Him?

January 21, 2023

3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time
By Fr. Victor Feltes

When I read the four Gospels for the first time, I naturally began with Matthew’s Gospel, and I remember being offended by today’s gospel reading. Matthew tells us Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee and saw two brothers, Simon and Andrew, with their fishing nets. He said, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” And they followed him. Then the Lord saw two other brothers, James and John, mending their nets. He called them too, and they immediately left their boat and their father to follow him. This episode really bothered me. Imagine being at your home or at your workplace, and a stranger knocks on your front door or walks up to your desk and says, “Follow me.” So you quit your job and leave your family to follow this person. Who would do that? It’s crazy. How can the Lord expect anyone to do that? But John’s Gospel reveals that today’s gospel was not the first time Jesus had met these future apostles.

Simon Peter’s brother Andrew and (traditionally) John the son of Zebedee were the two disciples who heard John the Baptist point out Jesus and say, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” This declaration led them to meet Jesus and spend the day with him. After this, Andrew first found his brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah!” (that is, the Christ). Then Andrew brought Simon to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter). If John the son of Zebedee was that other unnamed disciple, then he likely told his older brother James all about meeting Jesus too. So in today’s gospel, when Jesus called the four men to follow him as “fishers of men” he was not some total stranger.

The various Gospels sometimes include or omit different details when recounting the same events. Luke’s Gospel adds further context to this scene. He records there was a crowd pressing in on Jesus that day by the Sea of Galilee. So Jesus got into Simon and Andrew’s boat, sat down, and taught the people from there a short distance from the shore. When Jesus finished speaking, he told Simon, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” Skeptical Simon reluctantly agreed, and they proceeded to catch such a great number of fish that their nets were tearing. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come help and both boats became so filled that they were in danger of sinking. Astonishment at that catch of fish seized Simon and Andrew, and likewise James and John, who were Simon’s business partners. Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”

Therefore, reading the Gospels together, we learn that Jesus was not a random stranger who just showed up one day demanding their full devotion. They were already familiar with Jesus, had heard his teaching, and witnessed his power. This enabled Simon, Andrew, James, and John to reasonably and radically follow Jesus Christ like they did.

Among all famous figures, Jesus Christ may have the highest name recognition in the world. Everyone has heard of Jesus, but how well do people know him? Surely, Jesus would like to call many to more; to a deeper relationship with himself and a closer connection to his one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. How can you help? Your non-Catholic or non-practicing family, friends, and acquaintances know you, they like you, and regard you. They rarely (if ever) see or hear me, but they frequently encounter you. Simon Peter took Jesus seriously because his brother Andrew. Andrew already knew Jesus, told stories and spoke highly of him, and encouraged Simon to meet him. You can be like Andrew for people in your life. As I preached at the other Masses last Sunday, three ways you can draw people closer to Christ and his Church are by sharing your prayers, sharing your stories, and sharing your invitations.

Share your Prayers
When you share your prayers with others it reflects that you know Jesus. Whenever someone asks for your prayers, or even when someone entrusts their burdens to you, offer to pray with them then and there. It’s easy—just talk to Jesus out loud. The words of your prayer don’t need to be eloquent, just sincere. People are typically receptive to this and very grateful for it, and your shared prayer can open the door for a miracle in their lives.

Share your Stories
When you share your faith stories with others it reveals the power of Jesus in our world. How have you encountered Jesus? What has the Lord done for you? What are your personal miracles and spirit stories? Don’t hide these highlight experiences of your spiritual life under bushel baskets, but be humble enough to share them for others’ good. When the disciples realized what Jesus Christ could do, through the miracle of the great catch of fish, they left everything to follow him.

Share your Invitations
When you share your holy invitations with others this offers them an opportunity to encounter Jesus and his Church. Invite them to join you here in the house of the Lord, for Holy Mass, Eucharistic Adoration, or parish events. Invite them to share in our Christ-centered worship and close community. Even if they decline, you will have planted a seed that may bear fruit someday.

Simon, Andrew, James, and John encountered friends of Jesus, discovered his power to do good, and had the opportunity to personally encounter him. Your faithful prayers, your powerful stories, and your holy invitations, can offer your non-practicing or non-Catholic dear ones the opportunity to follow Jesus Christ more closely. Here is your homework for this week: share a prayer, or a story, or an invitation with someone it could help. Cast your net so that Jesus Christ may be better known, and let’s see what Jesus does with it.

The Lamb of God

January 15, 2023

2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time
Fr. Chinnappan Pelavendran

I want to tell you about a tourist, who was visiting Germany. Passing a church, he was surprised to see a figure of a lamb carved on the bell tower of the church. He asked why it was there and was told that when the bell tower was being built, a workman fell from a high scaffold. His co-workers expected to find him dead. But to their surprise and joy, he was alive and only slightly injured. How did he survive? A flock of sheep was passing beneath the tower at the time, and he landed on top of a lamb. The lamb broke his fall, but the man was saved. To commemorate that miraculous escape, a fellow stone artist carved a lamb, on the tower at the exact height, from which the workman had fallen.

This statue of the lamb expresses a bit of what John the Baptist means when he introduces Jesus to his disciples saying, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Jesus the Lamb of God came to save us, from falling into hell.

In the Old Testament, lambs were sacrificed as an offering to God. The offering was to atone for the sins of the people. The first time in the Old Testament where they talked about lambs, was when Abraham was asked by God to sacrifice his son, Isaac. The boy asked where the sacrificial lamb was, and Abraham told him that God would provide. Abraham had faith in God and knew that everything would be okay.

On the day of Atonement, a lamb was brought to the temple. The high priest held his hands over its head, transferring all the sins of his people to the animal. The lamb was then released in the desert. There was also a daily atonement. Every morning and evening lambs were sacrificed to atone for the sins of the Jews.

Jesus is also referred to, as the Passover lamb. The first Passover occurred during God’s deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt. The angel of death passed over Egypt and killed the firstborn sons. The Israelites had been instructed to kill a lamb without blemish, and wipe the lamb’s blood over the doorpost. When the Angel of death saw the blood on their doors, he passed over. The Israelites were saved by the Lamb of God.

Jesus’ public life begins with his Baptism by John in the Jordan. Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament sacrificial system. He became the once-for-all offering for our sins. Jesus being the Lamb of God also refers to other prophecies regarding the Messiah. The book of Isaiah tells us that He was oppressed and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth, like a lamb that is led to the slaughter. Like a sheep that is silent before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.

During Mass, we pray, “Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us” and “grant us peace.” In this prayer, we show our understanding of the identity and purpose of Jesus Christ as our lamb and Lord. By His life of Love and sacrifice, he is the one who came and continues to come into our broken world to take our sins upon Himself.

We need to live like the Lamb of God. We need to lead our lives pure, innocent, and humble, obeying Christ’s commandment of love. If we truly appreciate the love and protecting care of the Good Shepherd, we will be able to share, that love and care with those around us.

We receive spiritual strength from his Holy Spirit through the sacraments and prayers. The more we are able to share our talents, time, wealth, and love with others; we enable ourselves to be better members of the church. We can also offer our suffering, illness, and pain for the salvation of souls and as reparation for our sins and those of others. We are called to be saints.

Share the Gospel

January 15, 2023

2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Fr. Victor Feltes

The message of the Gospel is simple:

1. We are created by an all-good and loving God.
2. But sin separates us from him.
3. So God has sent his Son to be our Savior.
4. Therefore, believe & repent, that he may save you.

St. John the Baptist proclaimed this Good News to sinners. John preached that God’s judgement is at hand (indeed, each of us only lives once, and after this life comes the judgment). And as John warned, “Every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. … [So] flee from the wrath to come.” After our harvest time, the “chaff” will “burn with unquenchable fire,” he said, but the Savior will safely “gather his wheat into his barn.” The reason why John came baptizing with water was so that this Savior might be made known. Christ is the one of whom John said, “A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.” After baptizing Jesus, John proclaimed him the sacrificial “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world,” saying, “Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.” Repent and believe in Jesus Christ, so that his sacrifice may save you.

Who will be saved? How many professed atheists, or Hindus, or Muslims, or Jews, or Protestants, or Orthodox, or Catholics will go to Heaven? Thankfully, perfect, final, Divine Judgement is not my job. My mission and your mission is the Great Commission. After his Resurrection, Jesus said, “Go… and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe ALL that I have commanded you.”

Baptism and the other sacraments are the ordinary (that is, normal) means through which Christ offers the grace necessary for salvation. Jesus established his Catholic Church as both the ordinary minister of these seven sacraments and as the one, reliable guardian of Christ’s teachings on faith and morals in a hostile, sinful world through the centuries. Our Lord Jesus Christ and his one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church are the ordinary means of salvation for the world. Your non-practicing or non-Catholic relatives, friends, and neighbors are called to more with Christ. Like St. John the Baptist, your witness can help others receive this gift.

Your non-Catholic or non-practicing family, friends, and close acquaintances know you, like you, and respect you. They rarely (if ever) see or hear me, but they frequently encounter you. So here are three ways you can draw them closer to Christ and his Church: by sharing your prayers, by sharing your stories, and by sharing your invitations.

Share your Prayers
It is important to pray for the conversion of others, but you can easily pray with them, too. Whenever someone asks you for your prayers, or even when someone entrusts their burdens to you, offer to pray with them then and there. The words of your prayer don’t need to be eloquent, just sincere. People are usually quite receptive to this and very grateful for it.

Share your Stories
Today’s Gospel reading is simply St. John the Baptist sharing the story of what he had experienced with the Lord. And through this testimony, more came to know and follow Jesus. What has the Lord done for you, how have you encountered him, what are your miracles and spirit stories? Don’t hide these highlight experiences of your life under bushel baskets; be humble enough to share them with others for their good.

Share your Invitations
Invite them to accompany you to Holy Mass, Eucharistic Adoration, or our community events. Invite them to share in the life of the Gospel. Even if they decline, you will have planted a seed that may bear fruit someday. You and they were made for the fullness of God in Jesus Christ, and our hearts are restless until they rest in him.

In conclusion, here is your homework for this week: share a prayer, or a story, or an invitation with someone it could help – you may well save a soul.

God’s Amazing Encouragements for Joseph and Mary

January 8, 2023

Feast of the Epiphany
By Fr. Victor Feltes

Unlike how some imagine the event, the magi were not in Bethlehem on Christmas night or even the following day. (You will notice that our magi statues did not reach our Nativity scene until this Feast of the Epiphany.) On Christmas night, the Holy Family was visited by local shepherds. The shepherds had seen a vision of angels proclaiming the birth of Christ. St. Luke records that Joseph and Mary “were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds. And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.”

At least forty days later, Joseph and Mary presented Baby Jesus in the Temple to offer a sacrifice for him. When they carried Jesus in, an aged prophet and prophetess named Simeon and Anna came forward to proclaim great things about the child. And again, St. Luke writes that Jesus’ “father and mother were amazed at what was said about him.” Under Old Testament Law, a firstborn son required the sacrifice of a lamb, but if his parents could not afford this, two turtledoves or pigeons could be offered instead. Joseph and Mary sacrificed a pair of birds because they did not have enough money to purchase a lamb. The magi had not yet arrived with their gift of gold.

Sometime after the Presentation in the Temple, magi from the east came to Bethlehem. (Based upon whom wicked King Herod hunted afterwards, the magi may have arrived even two years after Christ’s birth.) The Holy Family, having moved out of the Christmas stable, was now living in a house. And “on entering the house [the magi] saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” The magi explained how a certain rising star had informed them of this new king’s birth; how the star had preceded them and stopped over this place where the child was. Though St. Mathew’s Gospel does not explicitly say so, Joseph and Mary were surely amazed by this encounter as well.

The shepherds on Christmas, Simeon and Anna at the Temple, and the magi preceding the Holy Family’s escape into Egypt were amazing consolations for Joseph and Mary at challenging times in their lives. Imagine the stress of delivering a baby in a stable after being unable to find any place better. Imagine feeling embarrassment at being too poor to afford the best sacrifice for the Son of God at the Temple. Imagine the anxiety of having to flee to another land to save your family’s lives. One could imagine a person asking in such circumstances “Why is this happening? Have we done something wrong? Is God really with us in all this?” But in the midst of their difficult trials, God gave Joseph and Mary encouraging signs to reassure them that he was indeed with them and that their faithful struggles really mattered.

Our missions may not be as lofty as Joseph and Mary’s, but we can be helped by divine consolations too. In our trials, we can either choose to fall to the temptation of clinging to bitterness and settling for cynicism, or instead be receptive to signs and open to wonders. We can recall in our hearts (like Mary) the great things God has done. We can also pray to God for new gifts of consolation. We can ask to receive his strengthening reassurances, that he is with us and that our personal sacrifices truly matter. As St. Paul says, “God is faithful; he will not let you be tested beyond what you can bear. But when you are tested he will also provide a way [through] so that you can endure it.” God gives us his own Son at Christmas, on the Cross, and in the Holy Eucharist — how will he refuse to give us whatever else we truly need? As he did for Joseph and Mary before us, God will answer our prayers in times of burden with amazing and helpful encouragements.

The Openness, Obedience, & One Word of St. Joseph

December 18, 2022

4th Sunday of Advent
By Fr. Victor Feltes

Our Gospel this final Sunday of Advent centers on St. Joseph. It recounts how St. Joseph received the stunning revelation of Mary’s pregnancy. We can learn from the great saint’s response — from his openness, his obedience, and his one word.

Mary was already Joseph’s wife when she conceived her child. In their Jewish culture, a newlywed couple would live apart for the first year of marriage. Thereafter, the husband would bring his betrothed into his home to live with him. When Mary conceived a child (whom Joseph knew was not his) why did he decide to divorce her? Was Joseph heartbroken because he believed she had betrayed him? Or was Joseph frightened, because he believed her story of the Annunciation and thought himself unworthy of this holy woman and her holy child? Whatever the case, Joseph was a righteous man and unwilling to expose Mary to shame, so he intended to divorce her quietly.

Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home because it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Once Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary into his home.

I used to fret very much about precisely discerning God’s will. “What if the Lord wants me to do a specific thing but I can’t figure it out?” During my college and seminary years, I thought I had a vocation to the priesthood but how could I be sure? I worried, “What if I get this discernment terribly, terribly wrong?” Then a holy friend gave me peace of mind by pointing to St. Joseph. When Joseph was about to make a terrible mistake by separating himself from Mary and Jesus, it only took one night’s dream to get him back on the right track because Joseph desired to do whatever God willed. God can easily redirect a willing heart.

People sometimes complain, “I wish God would just tell me what to do!” But unless we are open to doing God’s will, what good would his directions do us? Imitate St. Joseph in his openness. Like with the Blessed Virgin Mary, Joseph’s openness allowed God to do great things through him. So resolve your will and pray for the grace to always be open to God’s will like St. Joseph. Another St. Joseph trait of we can imitate and profit from is his simple obedience.

St. Matthew’s Gospel records, “When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home… and he named [the boy] Jesus.” On this occasion, like later when told to flee to Egypt or told to return to Israel, Joseph does point-by-point what God commands. Like Moses in the Old Testament, whenever God instructs Joseph to do (A) and (B) and (C), the author notes how Joseph then does (A) and (B) and (C).

Moses and Joseph’s duties were different from ours today. We will not construct an Ark of the Covenant, nor protect and provide for the Holy Family, but each of us has persons and tasks entrusted to us by God; people to care for and works to be done. You already know a great deal of what God has commanded you to do; your own (A) and (B) and (C) according to your state in life. You will not fulfill your missions perfectly—and that’s OK—but imitate St. Joseph in his simple obedience because your basic, God-given duties are more important than you realize.

A third and final feature of St. Joseph reflected in today’s Gospel is his single word. Did you ever hear that in all of Scripture there are no recorded quotes from St. Joseph? It’s true: Jesus has many, Mary has several, but Joseph has none. Now there is no evidence that St. Joseph lacked the ability to speak or ever took a vow of silence.  Joseph probably said many things that were simply not written down. Yet today’s Gospel contains the strongest evidence of his having said any one particular word. What was that word?

The angel in Joseph’s dream said of the unborn child: “You are to name him Jesus.” And when Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him. Joseph named him Jesus. The name of Jesus was St. Joseph’s greatest and most important word. Ever after, the name of Jesus defined his life.

Learn from St. Joseph, the husband of Mary and foster-father of Jesus. Imitate his openness to doing God’s will whatever it may be. Benefit from practicing his obedience in your daily duties. “And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,” like St. Joseph did.

Gaudete Sunday

December 11, 2022

3rd Sunday of Advent
By Fr. Chinnappan Pelavendran

The third of Advent is called “Gaudete” Sunday and it means “Rejoice.” As we wait for the birth of our Savior, we need to rejoice. I am wearing rose-colored vestments to be joyous. It is a day of celebration as we look forward to the birth of our Savior. Our readings today invite us to be happy because the promised messiah is coming. We are thankful to god for the savior who has come, who is present, and who promises to return.

In our first reading this Sunday, the prophet Isaiah tells us to be joyful because God himself is coming to save his people. He says to us, “Courage! Do not be afraid, look your God is coming.” Our God is a generous God and has lots of good things for us. He can do all of the miraculous healing that we have read about in the Bible. There will be much rejoicing when our Savior comes, for whom we have waited so patiently. We cannot imagine the joy that will fill our hearts. Our sorrow and sadness will be gone and the future is bright with lots of prospects for us.

When we are children we get excited with anticipation before our birthdays, Christmas, and other special occasions. Waiting can be very difficult when something wonderful is going to happen. A good example is a farmer, he plants the crops and patiently waits for the time of harvest. In the second reading St. James reminds us of the promises of Christ and tells us that we need to be patient until the lord comes. As human beings, we know it is difficult to be patient when we are eagerly waiting for something. “Do not lose heart, because the Lord is coming soon.

In today’s Gospel, the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled through Jesus Christ. John the Baptist who is in prison, his longing for Christ keeps him full of hope in the midst of suffering. He lives with the expectation that he will see the glory of the lord, the splendor of our God. John hears of the miraculous deeds that Jesus is performing and wonders if he is the Messiah. Is it possible that someone can make the blind see, the lame walk, and the deaf hear? He is even bringing the dead back to life. Is this the one he has been waiting for all of his life? We too have been waiting for him all of our life.

Therefore this season, God and the Holy mother church in their wisdom have arranged our journey in such a way that there is a brief moment of joy and refreshment on Gaudete Sunday, the middle point our Journey. Let us rejoice, enjoy, and be refreshed for the rest of the journey ahead of us.

We need to learn how to survive a faith crisis. John the Baptist even after having had a direct encounter with Jesus, the messiah, had his doubts about Jesus and his teachings, we can have our crisis of faith. It is up to us to learn our Faith and ask the Lord to remove our doubts.

Go and tell others what you see and hear. We rejoice at the thought that Jesus is going to be reborn in our lives, increasing in us his gifts of love, mercy, forgiveness, and service during this Christmas season. Share your gifts with others. We need to open our hearts and God will transform our lives if we are patient and place our trust in God. The message of Advent is that God is present among us, every day. We must prepare our hearts to welcome him.

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.

The Allegory of the Jordan River

December 4, 2022

2nd Sunday of Advent
By Fr. Victor Feltes

Preceding Jesus’ public ministry, St. John the Baptist appeared preaching in the Judean wilderness. People from Jerusalem, all Judea, and the Jordan River region were going out to see him. John said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” The crowds regarded him as a prophet and were being baptized by him as they acknowledged their sins. Like a bath which cleanses one’s outer self of dirt and odor, John’s baptism was an appeal to God for an inner self cleansed from sin. John’s ministry prepared for Jesus Christ and foreshadowed Christian baptism. The Jordan River in which John baptized embodies an allegory whose symbolism remains important for us today.

The fresh waters of the Jordan River originate in the north from the living Sea of Galilee, a large lake full of fish and ringed by trees. The Jordan’s waters flow south and come to one of either two notable ends. Most of the river’s water just goes with the flow. It flows downhill (as all rivers naturally do) ultimately descending seven hundred vertical feet. These waters remain on the edge of the Promised Land without entering in. And at the end of their journey, they empty out into the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea is the lowest place on the face of the earth. After the river drains there, the water has nowhere else to go. As it evaporates to nothingness, the water leaves behind trace amounts of salt which over many, many millennia has made that sea ten times saltier than the oceans. In this oppressive saltiness, no plants nor fish can live. The Dead Sea is thoroughly dead.

Some of the Jordan River’s water, however, does not simply go with the flow downhill. This water escapes the fate of the Dead Sea, by giving itself to the Promised Land. This water enables life and generates fruit among many trees in an otherwise arid place. Jeremiah the Prophet writes of a tree planted beside the stream: “It does not fear heat when it comes; its leaves stay green. In the year of drought it shows no distress, but still produces fruit.” And the 1st Psalm likewise says: “a tree planted near streams of water… yields its fruit in due season; its leaves never wither.” These baptismal waters are willed by God to give life and bear fruit for the Promised Land.

Most of John the Baptist’s contemporaries were convinced he was a prophet, yet the Jewish religious leaders disbelieved. When John saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he admonished them: “Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance! … Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire!” It would not be enough (for them or us) to just say the right things and go through the motions. Our faith and repentance must be real, producing of good fruit.

As the life-giving Sea of Galilee is the River Jordan’s source, so God above is the source of every spiritual grace and good thing in creation here below. Having received Christian baptism, we can respond in one of two ways on this life’s journey. In this world, we can go with the natural flow of things, descending more and more, ending in the dead abyss without entering the Promised Land. But that is not Jesus’ will for us. As G.K. Chesterton once observed: “A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.” Jesus wills for us to cooperate with him, to be changed, and to change the world around us. So believe in the Lord, acknowledge your sins and repent, and bear good fruit with Christ. What is one area — just one thing — one habit or virtue, you can acknowledge today and grow in throughout this Advent season with the grace of God?

“Keep Watch!”

November 27, 2022

1st Sunday of Advent
By Fr. Chinnappan Pelavendran

Today we begin the season of Advent. The Church invites us to be ready and prepared to receive the Lord. The word Advent means waiting. The 1st Sunday of Advent gives us the warning to be watchful, waiting, and prepared.

The Titanic was the world’s largest ship when it was built. It was considered unsinkable. During the night of April 14–15, 1912 it struck an iceberg, ripping a three–hundred-foot hole in the ship. The crew received many warnings that they were speeding into an ice field, but the messages were ignored. The crew was preoccupied with dinner menus and other unimportant matters. They disregarded the danger of the weather and there were not enough lifeboats on board. It sank in two and a half hours killing 1,513 people. Sometimes we believe that our ‘ship’ is unsinkable, our life is all well planned, and the unthinkable can never happen to us. We need to pay attention to the warning signals.

Jesus is coming again and He is coming whether we are ready or not. Today’s Gospel tells the story of what happened in the time of Noah. In the days leading up to the flood, people were very naughty, not keeping the commandments and they did not care. They did not heed the warnings of God. God sent the flood. Only Noah and his family were safe inside the Ark. Everyone else was destroyed by the flood. No one knows when the end will come, ONLY GOD KNOWS!

Jesus gives us another example “Two men will be in a field; one will be taken and the other will be left. Two women will be grinding their meal; one will be taken and the other will be left behind.” Jesus then says to his listeners: “Stay awake! You do not know the day your Lord is coming. Be sure of this, if the owner of a house knew when a thief was coming, he would be watchful and prepared. You also must be prepared. The Son of Man is coming when you least expect it.

To be ready means to be awake. It means that we live in the present moment with God. Always be aware of His presence in our life. Everything we do, work, rest, eat and drink, we give glory to God. Today we celebrate the Sunday of Hope in God, and His Son, Jesus Christ, through whom God has promised to save and redeem us.

What is the pattern of your life? Do you share your time, talents and love with your family, your neighbor or even people you do not know? if we choose to do these things, we are preparing to welcome Christ. Shouldn’t we pray every day Lord, Show me someone today with whom I am to share your love, mercy, and forgiveness. St. Mother Teresa said, “Whatever you do in your family, for your children, for your husband, for your wife, you do for Jesus.” Every night let’s ask ourselves, where have I found Christ today? The answer will be God’s Advent gift to us that day. By being alert and watchful, we will be getting an extra gift: Christ Himself.

Ready for Christ’s Coming? Then & Now

November 26, 2022

1st Sunday of Advent
By Fr. Victor Feltes

Our season of Advent has now begun — a season of Christian preparation. Throughout Advent, we the Church are getting ready in two different respects: we are preparing to celebrate and commemorate the historical birth of Christ at Christmas and, at the same time, we are preparing for the day Jesus will return to this world in unveiled glory. In today’s Gospel, Jesus recalls the story of the days of Noah’s Ark, in which a few were prepared for the flood and saved while most were unprepared and swept away. “So too, you also must be prepared,” Jesus tells us, “for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.” Will we be prepared for the day of Jesus’ return? How well prepared and open were people for Christ’s first arrival and what can their examples teach us?

Local shepherds of Bethlehem were the first to hear of Christ’s birth on Christmas. An angel of the Lord appeared to them and said, “[B]ehold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy… a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord!” Now these shepherds were working, keeping night watch over their flock. They could have claimed they were too busy to accommodate Christ into their schedules. Instead they said, “Let us go… to see this thing… which the Lord has made known to us!” They went in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and their Lord lying in the manger.

Sometime later, word of Christ’s birth came to King Herod in Jerusalem, but he did not welcome this good news into his heart. This man loved to reign in his own domain and did not wish to share control. So the king sent soldiers to kill the children who could be Jesus. King Herod refused to change for Christ.

Where had Herod learned of Christ’s birth? Through Magi from the east who came to Jerusalem in good faith expecting to find the newborn king of the Jews. “We saw his star at its rising,” they said. They came with their gifts to honor him. Now most had missed the important sign from heaven (they were focused on other things) but the Magis’ attentions were not distracted, and based on what they saw, they acted. They too found the Lord amidst his Holy Family.

The examples of the shepherds, King Herod, and the Magi show us ways of either being ready and open for Christ or not. So ask yourself this Advent, will I allow work and responsibilities to crowd out my time for Jesus, or will I be like the shepherds who came to him and his Holy Family with joy? Will I cling to my own control, my wealth and my sinful pleasures like King Herod did, or will I offer and sacrifice these things to Christ? Will be distracted by the many diversions of this world and overlook what really matters, or will I be attentive like the Magi to act for the Lord?

At the start of this Advent season, St. Paul tells us, “You know the time; it is now the hour for you to awake from sleep. For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed; the night is advanced, the day is at hand.” Let us prepare to celebrate and commemorate the historical birth of Christ at Christmas, while at the same time preparing for the day Jesus will return to this world in unveiled glory.