Archive for the ‘Service’ Category

“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!

Plant Using Your Tiny Seed of Faith

October 1, 2022

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time
By Fr. Victor Feltes

Today the apostles beg our Lord, “Increase our faith.” They feel apprehension at Jesus’ teachings. Christ asks extraordinary things of his disciples, and they fear their faith is insufficient. The Lord replies, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” Realize that faith (like courage or love) is not necessarily a feeling. You can be courageous, even while feeling fear, by doing the right thing anyway. You can be loving, even while feeling strong dislike for your enemies, by willing their good anyway. And you can be faithful, even when you feel apprehensive like the apostles, by acting on your trust in God anyway.

Perhaps you feel nervous when you fly on an airplane, yet you buy your ticket and board the flight because you believe commercial jet is a very safe way to travel—and it is. If you were a business traveler, taking dozens of flights each year, your anxious feelings would calm and come to better resemble your sincere conviction about the safety of flying. Faith is like this, too. You may or may not have feelings of great faith, but when you choose to trust God and do the faithful thing you are acting in faith. Exercise your faith and your faith will strengthen, because you will see that God is faithful, and then your emotions touching on faith will naturally follow.

Jesus says, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed,” you could miraculously transplant a tree with your command. When I was younger, the first time I read Jesus’ answer, I was discouraged by it—“I’ve never performed a miracle like that. How microscopic must my faith be!” But I had misunderstood him. Jesus’ reply is meant as an encouragement. Our Lord is saying, “Even if your faith is tiny, it is more than enough for you to fulfill my will.” What is God’s will for you? What does he want you to do? If you do not know this already ask him to reveal it to you. And “if today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”

On another occasion, Jesus said “the Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants. It becomes a large bush, and the ‘birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.’” So using your tiny seed of faith, plant in the field of your life as the Lord commands you. It may take awhile for the results to sprout but be patient. As the Lord said to Habakkuk, “The vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint; if it delays, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late. The rash one has no integrity; but the just one, because of his faith, shall live.

Mustard bushes grow very large and the mustard it produces has a very potent taste. Given time, what you plant in faith will change the landscape and the flavor of our world. When you go on to see the incredible transforming results which faith allows you may become inflated and vulnerable to pride. People through whom God has accomplished great things may be tempted to think their serious sins are therefore no big deal, or may abandon serving the Lord before their days on earth are done. For this reason, Jesus follows his parable about faith and the mustard bush with another parable about a servant and his master.

Jesus asked his apostles, “Who among you would say to your servant who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here immediately and take your place at table’? Would he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat. Put on your apron and wait on me while I eat and drink. You may eat and drink when I am finished’? Is he grateful to that servant because he did what was commanded?” Jesus here is not describing how the world ought to be, but describing how their familiar, ancient world actually operated; where the stronger dominated the weaker. It is like when Jesus told them, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant.”

The apostles would not expect a slave’s master to be much grateful to his slave, and they would judge a slave to be most prudent in his position to remain humble and obey his master. “So should it be with you,” Jesus says, “When you have done all you have been commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.’” Indeed, apart from God we can do nothing, and keeping a humble servant’s attitude protects us from dangerous pride and presumption and helps us to fulfill what Christ commands. But the Master who is our Lord differs from other masters of the earth.

At the Last Supper, after he had washed his apostles’ feet, Jesus asked them, “Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” Although our Lord, being God, is rightfully entitled to all we have and are, he is grateful for our labors. If we do not let up our efforts, when our hard days on this earth are complete we can look forward to hearing him say: “Well done, my good and faithful servant… Come, share your master’s joy!

So while your faith may feel small, it is more than enough to do Christ’s will. If you do not know God’s will already, seek and ask to know it. Then plant your seed of faith in action and patiently watch it grow. And when you see the great things our Lord achieves through you do not let up your efforts slip, knowing that his reward for you is eternal joy in Heaven.

In the Boss’s Shoes

August 7, 2022

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time
By Fr. Victor Feltes

Once upon a time, you had an idea, an idea to bless the entire world by starting a new business from scratch. You fully invested yourself into the project – your time and talent and treasure – to make this enterprise successful, and it was very successful. After leading your business for many years without a single vacation, you announced you would be taking some time away. You reassured your employees the company would continue and that you would be back, perhaps in a few weeks or maybe several months.

You gave careful instructions to all of your managers for what they were to do in your absence, and then you left on a journey which was out of this world. You celebrated a beautiful, destination wedding which you had long-looked forward to and enjoyed many other things. Then one Friday afternoon around 3:00 PM, you returned to your workplace, your creation.

Driving into the parking lot, you’re surprised by how few cars there are. Your confusion turns into shock when you discover the building’s front doors are locked, despite it being business hours. Fishing out your keys from your pocket you unlock the door and walk into an empty lobby. First, you go to your office and find your dear secretary, Mary, at her desk.

Thank God you’re here,” she says and she begins to tear up. “After you left, everything became horrible. Despite what you told them, people started doing their own thing. When I tried to correct them, they wouldn’t listen and were cruel.” “Where are they now?” you ask. “Most of the salaried employees have simply stopped showing up, and the rest are skipping work today to make it another ‘long weekend.’” “Mary, I thank you for your faithfulness. I’m sorry this happened to you, and I will make it up to you.

As you walk throughout the building you notice many empty beer bottles and pizza boxes laying around. The cubicles and warehouse are nearly deserted, except for Jennifer helping customers over the phone at her computer and Michael moving shipping crates on his forklift. Then you find several of the junior employees goofing-off in the break room. They become very quiet when you enter.

Why aren’t you working?” “Because… no one has told us what to do.” “Fine! Start by clearing these tables and picking up the floor. Clean these workspaces and take out the trash. Then report back to me.

Returning to your office, you immediately dictate two memos: the first, firing all of your current managers for cause, and a second memo giving large raises and promotions to Mary, Jennifer, and Michael, appointing them as the new leaders of their departments. I trust this tale sounds familiar; it is similar to Jesus’ parables but dressed in modern clothes.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus urges us to be prepared “like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks.” Blessed will such servants be upon his arrival, especially if he finds them vigilant in nighttime’s “second or third watch,” that is, during this world’s darkest hours. Their joyfully returning lord and master will be so grateful for their proven faithfulness. “Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself, have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them,” just like Jesus washes his disciples’ feet, dries their feet with a towel wrapped around his waist, and gives them his Eucharist at the Last Supper. Our Lord and Master, who shall come knocking on an unknown future day – either on the day we die or on the Last Day – is Jesus Christ himself.

As for those who say “the master is delayed in coming” or imagine he is never coming back, who mistreat other people (the menservants and the maidservants) and serve their own selfish desires (eating and drinking and getting drunk), our Lord will come at an unknown hour and punish them severely, condemning them to where the unfaithful go.

In the beginning, God had an idea, an idea to bless our entire world, creating this universe from scratch. Jesus Christ, through whom all things were made, has fully invested himself into his enterprise’s success. Yet Jesus has given us all freewill. Though never far, Christ leaves us free to choose to be his good co-workers or to do our own wicked thing. Today I hope that, having imagined yourself in the Boss’s shoes, you may better personally feel and appreciate how much our Lord treasures your faithfulness and how eager he is to reward it.

Our Mother Needs Help

May 8, 2022

4th Sunday of Easter
By Deacon Dick Kostner

Happy Mother’s Day! Jesus refers to his Church as his mother and his bride. While God does not need us he requests that we be a part of his mystical body. The vocation he gives to his Church is to preach and live the gospel message of happiness and love not only in this life but also in the next with him, in heaven. The problem that this brings to us is that this vocation can only be accomplished in this life, by and through the carrying of crosses during this life.

At the beginning of Lent we walked through a trailer movie of our life here on Earth displayed to us by reflecting upon the “Way of the Cross,” displayed here on our Church Mother’s walls. We discovered that while completing his vocation, which was opening the door to heaven for his Church, he got tired of carrying the cross and fell three times. Three times he felt he could not go on. Ordinary people like you and me, together with his heavenly Father, gave him help and the courage to go on. Jesus relied on faithful friends and the Father for help and moral support.

As you know since I was ordained a Deacon some twenty plus years ago, I have been involved with the RCIA program which invites adults to become members of our faith and the Mother Church. In the early Church it was directed to people who did not know Jesus or the Christian faith. Now, that program has also been available to Christians of other faiths, who are interested in becoming members of the Catholic Church. In the twenty some years I have been involved in the program I believe there has only been three or four individuals who joined the Catholic Church who were not previously involved in and educated in the Christian faith. Times have changed and the Mother Church is now involved in what it calls the New Evangelization. It’s our new challenge which is trying to get Christian educated individuals back into being active members of the body of Christ. People know about Jesus but are finding it difficult to witness his presence and help within their busy lives.

Our RCIA team is determined to help RCIA Candidates to recognize just how involved God is within our lives. The best way to teach this is by sharing our encounters with God in ordinary experiences of life. At every class we share what we call our “Spirit Stories” with each other to show just how important a part we play in God’s plan for us to be active participants in His plan for our happiness and salvation goal for us and our friends and neighbors, to be with him for all eternity. We are blessed in this Community with many active members of the body of Christ but the Covid has weakened our mission to be example setters for making everyone’s life happier and more faith filled by supporting our Mother Church. Attendance has not returned to pre-Covid numbers for many of our parishioners at Sunday Mass. Those who are still active in Church ministry are not only getting older but also are being overwhelmed with the responsibilities of keeping our Parish healthy in mind and spirit.

Liturgy is the generator, the battery charger for the Faithful to continue to be example setters for the faith community. The Liturgy cross our parish is carrying is getting too heavy for it to handle without the help of the Simon’s and Veronica’s. There are many members in our Parish still attending our Liturgies who used to be active Liturgy ministers of the word; greeters; and Ministers of Holy Communion, that no longer wish to be active for a variety of reasons. All of us will fall down numerous times on our trip to eternity but with a little help from the Simon and Veronica’s our St. Paul’s and St. John’s Body of Christ will continue on as Jesus did to fulfill our vocation to preach and teach by example, the gospel message of love of God and neighbor.

You will find forms and pencils in your pews to sign up and help carry our Parish crosses on our “Way of the Cross.” Not ready to sign today? When my wife asks people to help with ministries and they are reluctant, I will quote her by saying to you. “Pray over it.” and return your sign up sheet next week. I would also suggest you request St. Joseph to “sleep over” your requests for help in making a decision. I have acquired for our Parish a Sleeping Joseph Statute which is located on our Sacred Heart of Jesus Altar. Saint Joseph had many communications from God in the form of dreams and he always obeyed these communications. You may ask St. Joseph to ask God to help you make important decisions in life by placing your written requests in the box on which the Statute rests. We will have the Sleeping St. Joseph statute available for your help requests for a couple of weeks. Pope Frances does this on a regular basis and he encourages the faithful to do the same.

The Church realizes that some of you are physically or mentally unable to help carry this ministry cross. Veronica was unable to help carry the cross for Jesus but she did what she could do to help him. To people who can’t help carry this vocation anymore, you can still be a “Veronica” to those who need help, wipe their face, tell them thanks, and tell them they are needed. As Jesus told us in today’s Gospel, “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand. My Father who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand.”

I will close with a Psalm Prayer for our Parish “Mother”: “Lord, God, your only Son wept over ancient Jerusalem, soon to be destroyed for its lack of faith. He established the new Jerusalem firmly upon rock and made it the mother of the faithful. Make us rejoice in your Church and grant that all people may be reborn into the freedom of your Spirit. Amen!“ On behalf of Fr. Victor and all our Parish Ministers, Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there and to our Mother Church!

Associated Priests

October 30, 2021

31st Sunday in Ordinary Time

For the past four weeks, our second reading has come from the Letter to the Hebrews. This New Testament book shows Jesus Christ as our great, faithful, and merciful high priest: holy, innocent, and undefiled, yet patient and compassionate. He is able to personally sympathize with us in our weaknesses because, though sinless, he shares in our humanity and struggle. Jesus Christ is a priest forever offering his one perfect sacrifice to God the Father in a priesthood which does not pass away.

As the Catechism teaches, the redemptive sacrifice of Christ is unique, accomplished once for all; but this sacrifice is made present for us at Mass. The same is true of the one priesthood of Christ; Jesus’ priesthood is unique, but it is made present for us through the ministerial priesthood which he founded at the Last Supper. Jesus commands his apostles, “Do this in memory of me,” ordaining them priests of his New Covenant. Yet only Christ is the true priest, while they are merely his ministers.

Besides the unique priesthood of Jesus Christ and the ministerial priesthood of his ordained bishops and priests, there is the common priesthood (that is to say, an equally-shared priesthood) of all the faithful, which is ours through baptism. Sharing in Christ’s identity as priest, prophet, and king, each of us have holy sacrifices to offer, each of us have holy truth to proclaim, and each of us have holy power to wield. The Second Vatican Council noted, pastors “know that they themselves were not meant by Christ to shoulder alone the entire saving mission of the Church toward the world.” The ministerial priesthood is at the service of your priesthood, so that you — sanctified, strengthened, enlightened, and formed — can be as Jesus Christ and his saints for this place and time.

The scribe in today’s gospel approaches Jesus and asks: “Which is the first of all the commandments?” Jesus answers that the first in importance is this: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” And the second is this: “‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” We must be entirely devoted to God, lovingly serving his kingdom according to our personal gifts and callings. And yet, even when we’re giving our all, we remain limited creatures. For instance, time spent doing one thing cannot be spent doing something else. And we are not pure, angelic spirits but physically embodied creatures, beset by weakness and fatigue.

I have experienced this these past four years as your pastor, having two parishes and a school, celebrating thirteen or fourteen Masses a week, with usually five Masses to offer on the weekends. Plus there’s confessions, funerals, anointings, and weddings; school activities and CCD; answering correspondence and completing paperwork; writing for the bulletins and the Sunday homily; and meetings or appointments on most weeknights. I mention this not to brag or complain, but to show why this is grinding and draining and why I do not do more — there is only one of me. I would like to do more than these things I do, but I feel I can’t – not without some help or relief. That’s why I have been working with our parish councils for several months seeking a good solution.

Today, I can announce good news: St. Paul’s and St. John the Baptist’s parishes will soon have an additional priest. This associate priest will assist me, your pastor, in serving you. His name is Fr. Chinnappan, a priest from India, who presently happens to be Fr. John Potaczek’s associate in Mauston. Fr. Potaczek will have a new associate, but Fr. Chinnappan will officially begin ministry here with us, with lodging at St. John’s rectory, on December 1st of this year.

This means that our current weekend Mass schedule will not need to change next year. We’ll have more flexibility in scheduling funerals and more opportunities for confession. Weekday Masses will become Communion Services much less often than before. And visiting priests will no longer be needed for helpouts. Fr. Chinnappan is excited to teach a religion class at St. Paul’s School next semester, and now there will typically be at least one priest around at both parishes for each night of CCD.

I look forward to the unique gifts and perspective Fr. Chinnappan will bring to St. Paul’s and St. John the Baptist’s. I trust that you will make him welcome, and be patient with us who serve you. For myself, I am most excited to have more opportunities to engage, teach, and evangelize, drawing souls more closely and profoundly to Christ here at our church and school. I have some new ideas in mind, and I want to hear your ideas and any offers to help. Jesus wills for you and I to be one hundred percent devoted, with all our heart and mind, soul and strength. Let us serve Jesus Christ, our priest and king, as saints for this parish according to our own unique gifts and callings.

God’s Confirmation Gift to You

September 19, 2020

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time
By Deacon Dick Kostner

From our first reading from Isaiah we hear from God our lesson for today: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.” God is telling us to think above what the world teaches and we will find the Kingdom of God with all its treasures.

As we continue on in Ordinary Time, Jesus continues to educate us about experiencing the Kingdom of God here and now through parables. Remember parables are stories Jesus uses to move a preconceived thought we hold to the flip side so as to move our thoughts and life to a higher level; to the level all experience in the Kingdom of God. The story we are told is about a landowner who needs help harvesting his crops. So he goes out and asks for help and agrees with others the wage that will be paid for their help. He does this in the morning, noon, three o’clock, and at five. When evening comes he directs his foreman to pay the laborers starting with those who came to help last. The wage was the same for all the workers but the ones who came to help first thought they would receive a greater wage and when they received the same they grumbled and complained to the landowner because they had worked more and so they felt they should get more.

In our ordinary way of thinking we are taught that the more we work the more we should get paid, right? That’s the way things work in our world, right? We should be paid according to how much time we spend working for others because that’s only fair, right? Jesus is saying to us that although this is the way of the world it is not the way found in the Kingdom of God. God thinks differently. God rewards those who respond to his call for help when he asks for help. The workers were thinking only about themselves and what is in it for them. They failed to see their call from another for help and the joy that can be found in helping others not to better ourselves but to better the life of another.

This higher level of service is done not for ourselves but rather to elevate and help others who need our help. Our Catechism tells us that we were created to know, love, and serve God. To serve God is to serve others. The body of Christ consists of human bodies who consent to the call from God to help him serve other people by and through our actions. The reward is the same for all who answers God’s request for help it is not governed by the amount of time we spend accomplishing the call, or even if we are successful, but rather it is paid because we consenting to answering God’s call for help.

These last few months we have people who have answered God’s call for help. These people have or will be receiving the last of the three Sacraments of Initiation, that being Confirmation. It is their final great gift of the presence of God’s Holy Spirit through the Sacraments of Initiation. The first was Baptism; the second is Holy Communion; the third, Confirmation. This is the final Sacrament which makes them full-fledged members of the Church of Jesus. It is the Church’s way of recognizing their importance and having reached the maturity level necessary to become active members of the Body of Christ. It is this maturity that allows them to speak to God and say, “Lord, I am ready and willing to help in any way I can to further the Kingdom of God in ways that I will be personally requested by you to accomplish.

But you may ask, “But how will I know what God wants me to do?” The answer is that God has given each and every one of His chosen people what I will call a personal pager powered by the Holy Spirit. That pager will go off and you will hear the call in your mind, when God desires your help. It will only go off when God has picked you personally to help. I will give you an example. A few years ago, I received a call from my best friend who told me that his dad was dying. I told him I was sorry to hear this and that I would pray for him and his family. In my mind I wondered whether I needed to do anything other than pray. One part of me said the family is going to want to be alone with their dad during this trying time. This made good sense to me and besides I felt uncomfortable experiencing death. And then the pager went off. And a voice screamed out to me and said, “Deacon, your friend was calling for support, if you can’t go to the aid of your best friend how will you ever go and help someone on my behalf that you might not even know?

Boy, how could I ever respond in a negative way to that kind of call? I grabbed my prayer book and took off for the hospital. When I entered the room and began praying with the family I witnessed the peace that came and I knew that I was indeed the Agent of Jesus to this family. I was to them the physical body of Christ present during this time of suffering.

Jesus tells us that the pay for helping him will be the same whether he calls once a month for help or once a year. The pay is not based on the number of calls he makes but the number of times we willingly agree to respond to the landowners request for help. The Kingdom of God exists now and forever for those who are willing to answer God’s call for assistance to those he loves. May you receive the peace of Christ today and every day and never refuse to answer His page to you for help!

Jesus Washed Their Feet

March 10, 2016

Jesus Washing Peter's Feet by Ford Maddox Brown, 1852-6.[Jesus] loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end. … So, [during the Last Supper,] he rose from supper and took off his outer garments. He took a towel and tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel around his waist. … So when he had washed their feet and put his garments back on and reclined at table again, he said to them, “Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do. Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it.

—The Gospel of John, chapter 13

In 1955, Pope Pius XII inserted an optional washing of the feet rite into the Mass of Holy Thursday, the liturgy which commemorates the events of the night before Jesus died. This foot-washing rite is called the Mandatum (from the Latin for “the Mandate”) for Jesus said, “as I have done for you, you should also do.

Though the rubrics (that is, the rules for the liturgy) required no specific number of persons to have their feet washed in this optional rite, they indicated that the participants were to be men. This year, this rite which recalls Christ’s humble gesture of service and charity has been revised by a decree promulgated by Pope Francis. Where this rite is celebrated, pastors are to “select a small group of the faithful to represent the variety and the unity of each part of the people of God. Such small groups can be made up of men and women, and it is appropriate that they consist of people young and old, healthy and sick, clerics, consecrated men and women and laity.”

In past years, it has often been difficult to find people to humbly “bear their soles” on Holy Thursday but perhaps it may be a little easier this year. If you would volunteer to take a seat in this year’s washing of the feet, please contact Father so that he may create a representative group of our faithful.

Simon’s Missed Opportunity — Thursday, 24th Week in Ordinary Time—Year I

September 19, 2013

Simon the Pharisee missed his opportunity. He invited Jesus to his house, but neglected to provide him water for his feet, oil for his head, or a kiss of greeting. Maybe Simon was preoccupied and the oversight was accidental, or maybe the discourtesy was intended, but in any case Simon failed to minister to Jesus from head to toe, he missed this chance to show him love.

We, however, are offered Simon’s opportunity every day, for the members of Christ’s body are in our midst. When we serve and greet them, his high and his lowly, we are serving  and loving him. Whatever you do for one of the least brothers of his, you do for him. (Matthew 25:40)

We’re in a Hurry — 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year C

July 18, 2010

The other day I was thinking about this homily when I heard the words of some modern poets on my radio. They said:

I’m in a hurry to get things done,
Oh, I rush and rush until life’s no fun.
All I really gotta do is live and die,
But, I’m in a hurry and don’t know why.

This goes to show that we still have a Martha problem today. The group Alabama said that they didn’t know why we get in a hurry, even though we’re not having fun, but I think I know the answer. The reason is that our loves and good desires are mixed with fears. If we would take that fear away, we would find peace.

Martha loved the Lord and wanted to serve Him well, but she had fears mixed in. She was the one who invited Him to the house and He probably had His apostles and other disciples with Him. She was busy serving them all, perhaps making the biggest meal she had ever made, and she was full of worries. “What if I’m a poor host and Jesus is disappointed with me? What if there’s not enough food for everyone to eat?”

We are often the same way. We fear that our lives are on the edge of disaster if our own plans and efforts should fail. We worry about bad things happening to ourselves and the people we love. We are anxiety about how Jesus feels about us.

Martha had a great desire to do good, but Martha’s fear tempted her to do harm. Her sister, Mary, was sitting at Jesus’ feet, listening to His words. (The Greek word for disciple actually means “one who sits at the feet of.”) Martha tries to take Jesus’ disciple away from Him.

Similiar thing can happen in our live on account of fear mixed with love. A husband and father can obsess about his work, out of a love for his family and a desire to provide, but his family can be left feeling like they come second in his life. A wife and mother can be so concerned that her loved ones will be safe and happy that she tries to control everything, making her family less happy because of it. Martha’s problem and ours is not that we work–work is a part of life–but in how we go about it.

Jesus says to Martha, and to us, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing.” What is this one thing we need? We need the peace of Christ. What is the peace of Christ? It is several things.

It is the awareness that God is near and guiding us. In the first reading, three heavenly visitors approach outside of Abraham’s tent. Now, the Holy Spirit dwells within our tents, Jesus is at our side, and we have a Father above. We are never left on our own.

With the peace of Christ we recognize that whatever may happen to us or those we love, it is for our good. As St. Paul observes in the second reading, even his sufferings are a cause for rejoicing for they advance the salvation of the whole Church with Christ.

With the peace of Christ we recognize that misery is not just around the corner, nor is happiness out of reach. Happiness is at head, in the knowledge that Jesus loves us, likes us, cares about us, and cares for us. Living in the peace of Christ means there is no reason for us to be unhappy.

Let us continue to do works of love for God, ourselves, and others, but let us do them always in the peace of Christ.

Preparing for Tests — Friday, 8th Week of Easter

May 31, 2010

Today were heard from the first encyclical of the first pope. Today’s first reading came from the First Letter of St. Peter. And what he said applies to you: “The end of all things is at hand.” Originally, St. Peter meant that Christians should always be ready for the end of their lives or the end of the world (whichever comes first.) But this morning I think we can hear the Holy Spirit speaking to us about the coming end of this school year.

At Columbus, the end of all things is at hand: that means finals week, with all of its due dates, studying, and exams. Don’t be surprised that this trial by fire is occurring among you, as if something strange were happening to you. Finals week happens every year. I know that finals time is a challenge and that it takes some hard work, but why should this trial overwhelm us or make us behave ugly towards each other? If we have Jesus Christ in our lives we should face difficulties differently than the world does. The beauty of a soul at peace in Christ, is seen through the person’s  graceful actions.

So how should we face our finals? First of all, have faith in God, and remain at peace, confident that no matter what, everything is going to be ok.  Second, be serious and sober-minded. You’ve worked for the whole semester. Now keep going just one more week to maintain or even improve those grades you’ve worked for all semester. And third, above all and through it all, let your love for one another be intense, be hospitable to one another without complaining, and as each of you has received gifts. Use them to help one another.

At this Mass, prepare yourself. Ask Jesus for constant peace, for steady focus, and for generous love throughout finals week so that you may perform at your best in every respect. It’s nice to get good grades in school, but that’s not the most important thing. The most important thing is to be prepared for the final exam which awaits us all.

Gift of Self — 5th Sunday in Easter—Year C

May 2, 2010

I would like to begin today by telling the beautiful story of a gorgeous young woman named Leah Darrow. Leah grew up in a strong Catholic family in Oklahoma, but when she was in high school she says that her Catholicism started to get “fuzzy.”  By the time she was in college Leah says she had become a “Catholic But.” She would say, “I’m Catholic, but I don’t agree with the Church’s teaching on cohabitation,” or, “I’m Catholic but I don’t see the problem with a couple who love each sleeping together before their marriage… I think the Church is behind the times.”

One evening at college she saw a reality TV show called “Americas’s Next Top Model,” with Tyra Banks and thought to herself, “I’m pretty cute, maybe I could be on that show.” She tried out and got on, but lost the competition, yet she was resolved not to let her TV elimination mean the end of her modeling career. And she was rather successful.  She still recalls her excitement at receiving her first paycheck with a comma (a comma!) in it.

Leah eventually found herself at a photo-shoot high above 5th Avenue in New York that would change her life forever. She came to pose for an international magazine which wanted to help her develop a more risque image. They brought out a number of itsy-bitzy outfits for her to wear.  She picked one out and shooting began. Now Leah says that every model knows not to look at the flash when the photos are being taken (and she insists that she didn’t look at the flash) yet while she was posing, a vision flashed in her mind, three images in the span of perhaps a second or two. This is what she saw:

She saw herself standing in a large white space in the immodest outfit she was wearing. In this scene she wasn’t in pain, but she had the sense that she had died. In the second image Leah was looking up, holding out her open hands at her waist, with the knowledge that she was in the presence of God. In the third and final image, another white flash hit her eyes and Leah saw herself holding her hands all the way up, offering to God all that she had, but in that moment she realized that she was offering Him nothing. For her entire life up to that point, with all of the blessings, talents, and gifts that God had given her, she had wasted them all on herself. If she had died at that moment, Leah knew that she would have nothing to offer Christ.

She came back to reality when the photographer said, “Leah, Leah, are you OK?” She shook her head and said, “No, I can’t.” He said, “Ok, we can go over here.” And she said, “No, I can’t .”  She ran back to the makeup counter, changed back into her own clothes, and ran down 5th Avenue, balling her eyes out, afraid that she might be losing her mind.

She called her dad and said, “Dad, if you don’t come get me I am going to lose my soul.” Dad drove across the country to New York, and when he arrived she wanted to leave town, but he said he couldn’t wait to see the sights; Central Park, the Empire State Building, the Carnegie Deli, “But first we go to confession.” She made a good, tearful confession spanning the ten commandments like she was ordering off the dollar menu: ‘Two number ones, four number twos…’ She came out like a new woman, healed.  Today she goes around telling her story and supporting an organization that promotes modesty in young lades’ dress.

Leah says she was living a very selfish life before her conversion. Perhaps she was confused, as many in our culture, about the nature of true love. In English we use the word love in a broad and ambiguous way.  We say, “I love that TV show. I love the Packers. I love my children. I love my wife. I love God. I love my dog.” But all of these loves are different in kind and degree. When we say, “I love pizza,” or, “I love wine,” it is not really pizza and wine that we love so much as  ourselves.  I love myself, and that’s why I consume pizza or wine. Yet, not all love is easy, warm, and fuzzy. True love is a sacrifice, and often feels that way.

As St. Paul tells us in the first reading, “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” And Jesus says in the gospel, “I give you a new commandment: love one another.” Love how? “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” How did Jesus love us? Through a total gift of self.

Now we know from the Gospels that Jesus’ self-giving wasn’t always a ordeal. It was often joyful. Jesus enjoyed going to weddings, dinner parties, and spending time with His friends. But Jesus’ acts of love were the most powerful and manifest when they were hard, as when He was on the cross.

Self-gifting love powerfully good. Someone can live a life of great fame and wealth, but without self-gift their life will account for nothing.  This is the world of difference we see between George Bailey and Mr. Potter in It’s a Wonderful Life.

Difficult self-gifting love is also the most powerful witness. Some theologians have speculated that Jesus could have redeemed in other ways besides the cross. (Perhaps a single cry from the infant God-Man would have been enough if that had been the divine plan.) But Jesus dying for us on the cross communicates a powerful message about His love for us. Jesus said, “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” The way we love should be a witness, it should make us stand out.

Earth is a training ground. Our life here on Earth is training for Heaven. In Heaven, self-gifting is the rule and the norm. If that’s not the sort of thing we are interested in, there will be no place for us to be at home in heaven–and there is only one other place for us to go forever. In today’s second reading, Heaven is seen “coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” It is a revealing description, for spousal relationship prepares us for the life of Heaven.

We are all called to marriage and parenthood, either natural or spiritual. Some are called to live single lives, to enter religious life, or be ordained, in a fruitful spousal relationship with Christ and/or His Church. Others are called to natural marriage and to fruitfulness seen in their spousal love and its natural or spirital children.

Self-gift is the life of marriage. What if there is a priest who does not pray, who does not serve, but who seeks only his own comfort? Such a priest will eventually leave his priesthood. So it is with a natural marriage. If one spouse seeks just their own pleasure, their marriage will seem empty. But if both spouses seek to make a self-gift to the other, they will both be satisfied. Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all thing will be added on to you.” If we go for self-gratification, even that escapes us, but if we focus on self-gift, satisfaction comes as well. This is the reason for the Catholic tradition of a crucifix hanging over a husband and wife’s bed.

Jesus has given us a new commandment: love one another. As He has loved us we should love one another. Such love is powerful. It should make us stand out as disciples of Christ. And it prepares us for the life of Heaven, where self-gift is rule.

Leah Darrow Interview on the Drew Mariani Catholic radio show (4/30/10)

Leah Darrow Talk to a Boston Catholic Women’s Conference (2/27/10)

For One’s Friends — Tuesday, 3rd Week of Easter

April 20, 2010

Jesus said, “No one has greater love than this, [than] to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Have you ever wondered if that’s true? Is that really the greatest love? Wouldn’t it be greater for someone to lay down their life for their enemies? No, for I tell to you that no one can do this. It is impossible to lay down your life for an enemy. You can only lay down your life for people you love.

St. Stephen, like the Savior he followed, loved those who killed him. Stephen’s murders hated him, but he did not hate them in return. He was their enemy, but they were not his. Stephen loved them enough to challenge and correct them, but this made them very angry. Before dying, Stephen said, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” He was acting with mercy, generosity, and prayer in imitation of Jesus Christ, his role-model.

In this community, I do not feel that we are plagued with the disease of hatred: hatred for others, hatred for classmates, or hatred for God. But I do fear that we are infected by indifference: indifference towards each other, indifference towards those in need, and indifference towards God. I challenge you: in the past week what have you done to be more merciful, more generous, or more prayerful?

St. Stephen had mercy, generosity, and prayers for those who hated him. St. Augustine wrote that if it had not been for this, that young man named Saul who was guarding the cloaks, consenting to the execution, would not have later converted to become St. Paul, the great apostle. If St. Stephen overcame hatred and did this, imagine what overcoming our indifference could do?

We may not necessarily have to die as bloodied martyrs, like St. Stephen did, but Jesus asks each of us to lay down our lives for our friends.

Our World’s Salvation — February 2 — Presentation of the Lord

February 2, 2010

Simeon’s eyes looked upon a baby and foresaw our salvation in Him. When we look back today, at the centuries past, we can see that Jesus Christ has indeed been a light for all the nations.

Even if one were to look at Jesus of Nazareth without the eyes of faith, any fair assessment of history must name Him and the Church that He founded as the greatest cause for good in human history. Jesus Christ came and was the light for a darkened world.

For example, in the ancient world, women’s status ranked near that of slaves, but Jesus showed a reverence towards all women, even intimately involving them in His ministry. Christianity noted His example and began to acknowledge women’s dignity and equality as persons.

While the ancient world wielded total dominance over slaves, Christianity professed slaves’ equality as persons before Christ. (In fact, several early popes were former slaves themselves.) Christianity told masters that they would be held accountable at the Judgment for the good or bad treatment of their slaves, for Jesus had said, “Whatever you do to the least of my brothers you do to me.” The abolishment of slavery came gradually, but it finally came as the result of Christians’ efforts in light of Christ.

Infanticide was common in the ancient world. Sometimes the unwanted little one was physically disabled, or female, or merely inconvenient. But Jesus treasured all children, and He said, “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.” So Christianity renounced infanticide and would later establish orphanages and promote child adoption.

Jesus showed concern for sick persons and healed them. Jesus also feed hungry crowds. So Christianity has established hospitals and soup kitchens. Today, as throughout the centuries, the Catholic Church is the largest charitable organization on earth.

An eye for an eye was the ancient law, and hating one’s enemies comes naturally, but Jesus did not seek revenge.  Jesus said, “Love your enemies,” and He prayed for His enemies from the cross. Many Christians have followed His example, promoting peace and reconciliation.

Jesus taught his wisdom to great crowds of men and women, the poor and rich, the young and old, so Christianity established schools and universities. Today the Catholic Church educates more children than any other scholarly or religious institution and you are a part of this number.

Our Marshfield area Catholic schools exist today because of Jesus Christ, the greatest person who has ever lived. The public schools have Jesus to thank for their schools, too, but they are not allowed to speak His name. But we can speak His name, and we can thank Him like Simeon here today, for coming into our darkened world and shining His saving light.

(Recommended viewing:  “Epic” produced by Catholics Come Home )

Carrying Water — 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year C

January 20, 2010

Today’s Gospel, the miracle at the wedding fest of Cana, is a scene rich in symbolism and has many preachable parts. For example, the water of Old Covenant law is changed into New Covenant wine. It is the seventh day in John’s Gospel, according to the narration, pointing to a new Creation and rest. And the New Adam and the New Eve are at a wedding feast together, foreshadowing the marriage of Christ and His Church. But this morning, I would like to bring your attention to an extraordinary part of this Gospel which we disregard as being ordinary. I’m referring to the six stone water jars and the servers who carried them.

“Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings, each holding twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus told them, ‘Fill the jars with water.’ So they filled them to the brim.”

You’ve carried a gallon of milk before.   Imagine carrying 25 gallons of milk. I doubt you could do it all at once. Not only would they be too bulky, they would be awfully heavy too. Maybe you could put them on a pole and carry them with a partner. Maybe that’s what the servers in the Gospel had to do, or maybe they were doing laps between the well of Cana and the stone jars at the party. In either case, they we’re hauling an awful lot of water and weight.

Now a gallon of water weighs a little more than eight pounds. If each jar in the Gospel was at least 40 pounds of stone and held 20 to 30 gallons, then we are talking about six filled jars weighing 200 to 300 pounds apiece. And we know they were completely filled, for Mary had told them, “Do whatever he tells you,” and Jesus had told them, “Fill the jars with water.” “So they filled them to the brim.”

The saying “To carry water for (someone)” means to do a menial or difficult task for others.  That’s what these servers were doing and they definitely felt the burden.  Did they have any idea, as they carried those 1,500 pounds of stone and water, that they were a part of something remarkable? Did they know that they were playing an intimate role in one of Jesus’ most memorable miracles? No, they had no idea, not until later, and this reflects a encouraging truth for us to hold onto this week. We often don’t realize the extraordinary impact of our ordinary sacrifices.

You may feel burdened in your life, like your just scrapping or limping along; at work, at school, or at home; with your peers, your friends, or your family. But you do more good than you know. Sometimes we catch glimpses of this, like when someone takes your hand and says, “Thank you sooo much,” or when someone shares with you that they have always looked up to you, or when a child grows to realize and thank you for everything you did for them. After this life, one of our joys in heaven will be seeing how our ordinary sacrifices have touched and changed the lives of thousands, even millions, of people.

Like the servers with their six stone jars, we disregard our efforts as ordinary and do not realize their extraordinary impact. Maybe you don’t see it now, but your ordinary sacrifices do more good than you know. Let us be encouraged by recalling this truth in our daily lives, for if you’re carrying water for Jesus, you’re going to have a part in His miracles. So, “do whatever He tells you,” no matter how ordinary it may seem.

Tuesday, 3rd Week of Advent

December 16, 2009

Is it more important to say the right thing, or to do the right thing? As people like to say “Talk is cheap,” but “Actions speak louder than words.”

Some Christians say that if we merely confess Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior then we are assuredly saved. But Jesus Himself says that ‘not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.

It is easy to feel righteous like the chief priests and the elders if we subscribe to the right and enlightened opinions, but we should be humbled by the fact that scandalous sinners have turned to Christ and today harvest more fruit in the vineyard than we do.

We have to do more than talk a good game, we have to show up on the court. For example, you say you oppose the killing of the unborn? Good! But what are you doing to end it? Do you pray for mothers and their babies? Do you march for life?

You say that hatred between peoples should end. Absolutely! But is there someone here that you cannot bring yourself to pray for, or say “hello” to in the hallway?

You say that we must care for people in need. Indeed, and Jesus says the same. But do you give of your time, talent and spending cash until it hurts a bit, like an actual sacrifice?

If I were to end this homily here and now with an exhortation that you should go out into your world and to work hard for good in that vineyard, you might decide to listen and your life might change a little bit for a little while. But I would not expect your life change a great deal, unless you also respond to another calling; the calling from our Father that you work in another vineyard first. This vineyard is within you, it is an inner-vineyard. You work it alongside Christ in prayer and what you harvest from it is intimacy with God.  Of this encounter, St. Augustine wrote:

“Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you!  You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you.  In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created.  You were with me, but I was not with you.  Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would not have been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness.  You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness.  You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you.  I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more.  You touched me, and I burned for your peace.”

In the labor of prayer (and it does take a daily effort) you encounter God. He surprises you with gifts of consolation and peace, and you overflow with His love. This overflow is what makes the saints the saints. It is what makes their holy lives possible. The saints are not self-made men and women. Their cups runneth over within them, and it is from out of this abundance that they love the vineyard of the world and work in it for the better.

You say that you believe in God, and in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. So come to the work of prayer each day, or your devotion and service to God will remain forever little more than lip-service.