Archive for the ‘Supernatural Phenomena’ Category

Proclaim What Christ Has Done For You

May 13, 2023

6th Sunday of Easter
By Fr. Victor Feltes

In today’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we heard how Philip went to Samaria and proclaimed Christ to them. “With one accord, the crowds paid attention to what was said by Philip when they heard it and saw the signs he was doing.” Who was doing these signs? The natural sense of this scripture passage refers to Philip, whom the crowds saw and heard and believed. But in a supernatural sense, it was the Christ being proclaimed to them who was performing these signs through and with Philip. In our gospel, Jesus tells us, “I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you.” Jesus would have others behold and hear of his great works in you and me.

The psalmist in today’s psalm says, “Hear now… while I declare what he (the Lord) has done for me. Blessed be God who refused me not my prayer or his kindness!” It is good to declare and share what God has done for you. St. Peter teaches all Christians in today’s second reading to “always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.” What are your life’s best God stories? What is the Lord doing with and for you recently? I have two personal examples to share, one old and one current.

When I was about thirteen years old, I remember being in the living room of my house thinking about life and death, when nature called. While heading to the bathroom on the other side of the house, I got stopped in my tracks at the architectural crossroads of our home. It would be a crossroads moment of my life. In my imagination, I stood before Jesus’ judgement seat. His sat upon a white throne atop a white stone cube and the background behind him was all blackness. Jesus did not look at me angrily, but he seemed frustrated and disappointed. And he asked me, “Why didn’t you live your life like I wanted you to live it?

I did not know whether these ideas were coming from God or my own imagination, but either way I knew that I would not be a man of integrity if I just kicked this question down the road for the rest of my life. While still needing to use the bathroom, I felt a sense of urgency to face this valid question. I stood there thinking, ‘How would I answer this question in my own defense?’ I replied, ‘Well Lord, I wasn’t even sure that you were really, really real. How could you expect me to dedicate my life to you while being so uncertain? I wouldn’t stand out on an extending cliff-ledge if I wasn’t sure that it could hold up my weight. And what if I were commit my entire life to you and die and you’re not real, what would I have?

Once I had presented my best case, Jesus immediately replied, “Did you ever really try to find out (if I was real)? Did you even read my book?” That last line made me laugh a bit even as it convicted me. I realized that if I were really looking for the truth I would be searching for answers more seriously than I was. After that I started reading the Bible and praying every night, and began earnestly learning more about our Catholic Faith.

When I eventually read the Book of Revelation at the end of the Bible, I found there a description of the Last Judgment. St. John wrote: “I saw a large white throne and the one who was sitting on it. The earth and the sky fled from his presence and there was no place for them. I saw the dead, the great and the lowly, standing before the throne, and scrolls were opened. Then another scroll was opened, the Book of Life. The dead were judged according to their deeds, by what was written in the scrolls.” A large white throne shrouded in darkness while the dead stand before him to be judged according to their deeds matches what I saw in my vision – a vision that has led to me standing here to tell you this story today.

And our Lord is still actively doing things among us today. Currently, according to our latest figures, St. Paul’s has well-surpassed $500,000 in pledges for our capital campaign, and things throughout this renovation effort have been going so providentially that I have a peaceful confidence that the Lord is helping us succeed.

What great things has the Lord done in your life? How has he been working with you recently? He is in you and you are in him. Know your stories and have the minimal courage to share with others what the Lord has done for you. Praying for the conversion of souls is important, but bearing witness to them is important too. Sharing your stories, sharing the reasons for your Christian hope, will be more effective than nagging or silence. Do not hide what God has done for you under bushel baskets. Instead, share your highlights with others.

Our Great Prayer

October 9, 2022

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Deacon Dick Kostner

Want to get to heaven? Jesus says obey the Commandments, the two greatest being love God with all your heart, soul and mind and the second, love your neighbor as yourself. Before Jesus returned to the Father he gave his followers a third commandment: “Love as I have loved you!” Love requires intimacy. It requires knowing someone’s very make up and for us humans, their faults and deficiencies and yes acceptance of those deficiencies because of their God given right of free will. It is not an easy task when you realize that people we love are going down the wrong road which will lead them to problems and maybe even death. True love requires we accept their right of choice even if its wrong our only real weapon against a bad choice being made by someone we love, is “Prayer.”

Prayer allows us to be intimate with both God and intimacy with others who we are praying for. I believe it was St. Paul who said we need to be in constant prayer to God 24/7. It shows God that we are obeying His two great commandments and Jesus’ third commandment, “Love as I have loved you.” So our next challenge is to learn how to pray every awaking hour of every day to God for our challenges and for help and guidance for those we love. What are the words of prayer? In today’s Gospel Jesus gives us a supernatural and a kind of magical word of prayer. It is easy to remember and it can transform and heal. This word of Prayer will always be heard by God and responded to by God and the Body of Christ. It is simple but bares the power of God, the word is “THANKS.”

You folks may not know this but your deacon is not very mechanically gifted. When I attempt to fix something it many times is not successful and can also result in a repair job at the doctor’s office and maybe even a new tattoo not made with ink but rather stitch’s. I can remember working at one of my rentals one morning and while trying to drive a stake into the hard ground with a hammer I missed the stake I was driving and smashed the web between my thumb and finger. Blood was all over but I was lucky to be across the street from Dr. Rosenbrook’s house and I ran to him who proceeded to take me into his kitchen and clean and stitch my wound. With age comes wisdom and now before attempting to do even a simple task I pray for safety and upon completing the task always say the prayer of thanks to God for a safe completion of that task. That pretty much covers hourly prayers for my weekend “Honey-do” projects.

Our Gospel today has Jesus instructing his readers that a “thank you” is the greatest gift we can give to God for help he provides for his faith followers. Many times we get so caught up in having been answered by God with his gifts that we forget to give thanks, for his help and miracles. Its a quick prayer but a very important prayer. When we forget to give thanks during the week God gives us another chance to say “Thanks” on Sunday by celebrating the Eucharist with the Body of Christ. “Eucharist” (in Greek) means “giving thanks.” It’s a time for us to gather as the family of God and reflect upon the grace gifts we have received the previous week. The little miracles society calls coincidences. Little things that show up out of no where, and which are many times opposed to the laws of nature that make us realize the supernatural presence of God within our lives, within our very being and existence.

Let me share with you my last encounter with the power and presence of God and the supernatural. I recently did a funeral service for a gentleman who had just died who had lived his life with a mental illness and who had been dependent on his family and friends his whole life. His name is Robbie. I did not personally know Robbie and learned about his life when his Aunt said a few words before we ended the Service. She told about a man who loved his family very much as well as the people who cared for him at the facility he lived in. She talked about how one of the caretakers would take him to Mass every Sunday and how thankful he was to have so many people who cared for him. She told the story about how Robbie and his siblings had taken him to an outdoor concert one summer day and how it began to rain at its conclusion and how they held hands running and following one of his brothers who had a flashlight trying to find their car and how they all laughed and so enjoyed the event, even though they were soaking wet when they finally found their car. After her comments I told the family and friends of Robbie that I now knew who to blame for the thunderstorm we were experiencing at the time Robbie’s funeral service. They laughed and thought I was just cracking a joke but I had a feeling that I had just done another funeral service for a saint I did not even know until that day.

As Matt (the funeral director) and I drove to the cemetery in Cornell with the crowd of family and friends of Robbie following us, Matt commented how wet it was going to be to do the committal service and I made the comment, “That will be up to Robbie!” He gave me a funny look and said he had a bunch of umbrellas in his car. When we arrived at the cemetery it was still raining and Matt told me to sit in the car until the casket was placed. I wondered if I had drawn the wrong conclusion as I held my book close to me as I went to the crowd to begin the service. I opened my book to begin and three drops of rain fell on it and then the rain stopped completely. I grinned and said to myself, “thanks Rob.” After the prayers I told the crowd that I believe Robbie was telling them that he was alright and thanked them for their attendance. I don’t think they realized that they had just experienced the spiritual presence of their brother as one of God’s chosen. (And I did say “Thank you Lord” for this experience!)

Invited Home ― Funeral Homily for Kathleen Zwiefelhofer, 82

August 12, 2022

By Fr. Victor Feltes

In my priesthood, I have visited many dying people and heard many stories told by family members about them. In this, I have found patterns among Christians dying. For instance, as I have spoken about before, the dying person may or may not know they are in their final week of life, yet he or she is often blessed to have “a last good day.” A happy day shared with loved ones or enjoying a dearly-loved activity is gifted to them by God, from whom all good things come.

Another providential pattern I often see when visiting the dying is how people come to for the Anointing of the Sick. Though wavering in consciousness when I call their names and they open their eyes and they realize a priest has come to share God’s grace. When I came Kathleen’s side in the emergency room to give her the sacrament for those in danger of death, I called her name and she opened her eyes, and knowingly received this consolation from God. Kathleen’s journey from this life features two more elements dying Christians commonly experience. The first was her desire “to go home.”

As we grow old, our bodies are beset with infirmities. This reminds us that all of us must “appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense, according to what [we] did in the body, whether good or evil.” Our physical frailty helps to detach us from this world so that we are open to something greater. Our weakness leads us pray like the psalm: “Put an end to my affliction and my suffering; and take all my sins away. … To you, O Lord, I lift my soul.”

Throughout this year, burdened in her mind and body, Kathleen has expressed a desire “to go home.” She said this while still living at home, in the house she grew up in, next-door to St. Paul’s Church. So what “home” did she mean? Kathleen, in faith, was expressing her longing for heaven. St. Paul writes, “We know that if our earthly dwelling, a tent, should be destroyed, we have a building from God, a dwelling not made with hands, eternal in heaven. [And so] we are courageous, and we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord.

The second detail from Kathleen’s story which I have encountered before in others is visions of visitors. Kathleen’s parents, George and Catherine, and her husband, Leon, each died many years ago. Yet Kathleen reported being in dialogue with them. She said they discussed with her whether or not it was “time for her to go.” We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, by saints and angels who desire us to dwell with them in God’s holy city, the new and heavenly Jerusalem. They pray for us and help us. On the morning before Kathleen was taken to the hospital, she had another vision. She extended her palm before her saying, “He’s right here. He’s right here,” though she did not clarify whom.

Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” “Behold, I make all things new,” Jesus declares, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.” Jesus is the reason we are here. He is why Kathleen did not fear to die. And he is the cause we have for hope in unending life and a greater home. Let us pray for Kathleen’s soul, entrusting her to our loving Lord.

A Heaven-Sent Hug

July 10, 2022

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time
By Fr. Victor Feltes

Last month, a parishioner told me she looked forward to the great stories I would bring back from vacation. Today, I would like to tell you the best story from my time away. It’s actually a story of Tori, the wife of a former college roommate I visited. It is a God story which all involved are happy to share with others, and this story is entirely true.

Tori worked ten years at a Christian school in Oregon with a much-beloved Bible teacher named Dave. He was like a father figure for her. Tori did not really know his wife, Marcy, but he often spoke of her in glowing terms. When Tori had left her teaching job and moved away, Dave was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer shortly after his retirement. Dave and Marcy helped keep their friends and family in the loop through their joint Facebook account until he passed in 2017.

Amanda Robin Sandberg

Fast-forward to May of 2022. Tori and her family have lived in Northern Idaho for a little more than a year. And it so happens that Marcy, the now remarried widow, has also moved to Idaho and lives less than two miles away from Tori, though they still remain merely acquaintances. One Monday, Tori is scrolling Facebook and sees one of Marcy’s posts: it’s the picture (right) of a smiling 42-year-old woman paired with the caption “My beautiful daughter.” This seems like a rather benign item, but Tori’s thoughts keep returning back to it, over and over. So Tori revisits the post the next day and reads its many replies. From this she learns that Marcy’s daughter Amanda has died, recently and suddenly, in an unmentioned way.

Being a mother herself, Tori’s heart breaks; she weeps, moved with compassion. Seeing far away Facebook friends writing to Marcy saying “I wish we could be there for you,” Tori prays, “I’m right here, I’m close. God, what can I do?” And the idea she receives is, “Go! Go to her house!” Tori thinks, “I don’t know her very well. I should bring her cookies or flowers.” But this was answered with, “No, don’t bring anything. … Bring her a hug. That’s what you’re allowed to bring her and nothing else.”

Now Tori is very kind, but naturally an introvert. This plan to just drop-in on a mourning acquaintance was not her preference. She asked, “Is this really what you want me to do?” And the compelling idea continued urging her like a mantra: “Show up, bring her a hug. Show up, bring her a hug.” Like she had experienced in previous inspired episodes, this thought’s persistence despite Tori’s personal fears and doubts were a sign to her that it was coming from the Lord. Tori reports, “I felt stronger and stronger: ‘This hug is from her daughter. This is what she wants to give her.’

Late Tuesday afternoon, her stomach sick with anxiety, Tori went to Marcy’s home and rang the bell. Marcy soon opened the door with a surprised but friendly expression. Tori said, “I believe I saw something on Facebook.” Marcy’s face fell and she nodded. Extending her arms, Tori said, “I’m here to give you…” and Marcy interrupted, “A Hug!” Tori is ordinarily a light hugger but she gave Marcy strong embraces. Marcy joyfully said to her husband, “She hugs just like Amanda!” The two women smiled, cried, and hugged again and again.

Amanda had died just four days before in a car accident. She was the same age as Tori. Marcy had Christian faith her daughter was in heaven but was asking God for a sign that Amanda was alright. Just hours before Tori’s visit, Marcy had told her husband one of the things she was going to miss most were Amanda’s hugs. Marcy told Tori that Amanda had once hugged her mom so tightly that she broke some of her mother’s ribs. “I never told her,” Marcy said, “but I guess she knows now!” What beautiful things would the Lord do through us if we were more open to his promptings?

This morning, Jesus shares with us one of his greatest Gospel stories. In this famous parable, after evil befalls a traveler on the road at least three people happen by. When the priest, Levite, and Samaritan began their days’ journeys none of their plans had foreseen a detour to help a stranger in need. The priest and the Levite both saw the robbers’ victim but they were too busy or too afraid to help, or they simply assumed God didn’t want them to get involved. The Samaritan, however, was open to the will of the Lord that day in a way the other two were not. The Samaritan was moved with compassion and approached the man; cared for him, lifted him up, provided help for him, and left him better than he found him. Of the three, Jesus presents the Good Samaritan as an example for us to follow, telling us to “go and do likewise.”

You can do likewise by being open and asking, by asking the Lord and being open to his promptings. First, choose to increase your openness to loving “the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Then ask the Lord in prayer to use you as his voice, hands, and feet; as his conduit, his vessel, his powerful instrument in your daily life. (“God, please show me your will.”) Finally, as you go throughout your day, be open to his invitations.

What are the Lord’s promptings like? When some innocuous thing seems highlighted in Tori’s attention or when someone comes to her mind during prayer, in a dream, or in the course of her day, she pauses to ask Jesus about it. Maybe she is supposed to reach out to someone with inspired words or some good deed. Tori notices the Lord’s ideas hit her differently than her own, they stick with her rather than fade away, returning to her in quiet moments. And if she were ever to hear an evil suggestion, she would then know it’s not from him. Provided Tori does not give in to busyness or distraction, when she is welcoming heaven’s invitations, “Every time I’m open to God doing something,” she says, “he does stuff.”

This spiritual openness, asking and listening and doing, is a skill to practice. Like when cultivating a new garden or starting to lift weights, it is better to begin small and to grow over time than to never start at all. Be prepared to take some risks for Jesus. It is better to make small mistakes than to miss amazing opportunities. Christ died for us. We must be concerned about more than merely our own comfort and plans. Like the Good Samaritan, be interested in helping to save and bless others. Be open and ask God to use you, ask our loving Lord and be open to his great ideas.

The Power of the Sacraments, the Importance of the Priesthood

June 27, 2022

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time
By Fr. Victor Feltes

It is possible to receive the sacraments and greatly benefit from their graces without feeling very much. Some babies, for example, sleep entirely throughout their baptisms. The power of the sacraments do not depend upon our emotions. Yet sometimes God gives us the grace of sensible consolations from them. Consider, for instance, the St. Paul’s second grader who, when asked by her mother how she felt after her 1st Confession, joyfully answered, “My soul feels so light!

When I was in high school, as we drove to a restaurant following my Confirmation, I wondered at why I felt so very joyful. Then I remembered, “Oh yeah, the Holy Spirit.” In college, sometimes when I attended weekday Masses I felt very little but sometimes I experienced great consolations. Eventually, I realized that my most consoling Masses typically preceded hard times to come. After that, I would be at Mass and think to myself, “Wow, this feels wonderful. Oh no… Well Lord, thanks for heads up.”

Thirteen years ago this week, I was ordained a priest of Jesus Christ at our cathedral in La Crosse. I knew going in that my ordination would come through the bishop’s laying of hands and his consecratory prayer immediately thereafter. I realized I would be a priest by the time my bishop said “amen” at the end of the prayer, but I wondered if there were some precise moment before that when I would be ordained. I had not studied the words of the ceremony beforehand, so after the laying of hands I listened to the words of the bishop’s prayer closely.

For ten sentences, through more than twenty-two dozen words, the prayer recounts what God has done in the past: the Old Covenant priesthood, the high priesthood of Jesus Christ, and the priesthood of his apostles. Then comes these words:

Grant we pray, Almighty Father, to these, your servants, the dignity of the priesthood; renew deep within them the Spirit of holiness; may they henceforth…

At the moment I heard that word, “henceforth,” I felt a pleasant but unsettling wooziness. And the words which followed were these: “may they henceforth possess this office which comes from you, O God…” There was power in those words.

I answered God’s call to become a priest, forgoing the goods of natural marriage and children, because I believe the sacraments and teachings of Jesus Christ’s Catholic Church are that important for souls. The seven sacraments are not empty words and gestures, but important and effective instruments of God’s saving power.

My own ordination came to mind as I contemplated Fr. Matthew Bowe’s priestly ordination last Saturday. I’m reminded of my own ordination day whenever I attend an ordination. I imagine the same thing happens for those of you who are married when you attend a wedding; you’re reminded of your own wedding day and the vows that you made. Now a wonderful thing about entering into priesthood or marriage is that you now know your calling, your vocation, the state of life in which Jesus wants you to follow him. There is then no purpose to looking back, lamenting what was left behind, or looking to alternate life paths on left or right, but to simply plow ahead.

Jesus called Matthew Bowe, Fr. Matthew followed after him, and this brings all of us great joy. People tell me Matthew was so quiet and shy as a child. But if Jesus is calling you, he grows and strengthens you, so there’s no reason to be intimidated. Many feel unworthy to be a priest or a religious brother or sister. Of course! Everyone is unworthy, but Jesus still calls us like he did the apostles; asking us to follow him before long we’re perfect. The priesthood saves souls and God’s vocation for your life (whatever that is) is always the best, so if Jesus is calling you to be his priest, follow him. And if you see someone else who seems to have a calling to priesthood or religious life, do your part to encourage them to follow Jesus Christ.

Ephphatha! Be Opened!

September 5, 2021

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

What message does the Holy Spirit want you to hear through this homily? In what way does Jesus want you to be opened?

In today’s gospel, people bring to Jesus a deaf man with a speech impediment. They had heard Jesus’ teachings and reports of his miracles. Maybe they had seen and experienced his healing power themselves, so they bring this man to Jesus and beg the Lord to lay his hand and heal him. See how they lead someone they care about to meet Jesus and intercede before the Lord on his behalf. You and I are called to bring people to Jesus, too, and pray to God for their salvation. This gospel story shows that miracles can happen when we do.

Jesus takes this deaf man off by himself, away from the crowd. Like St. Zachariah, the father of St. John the Baptist, whose neighbors and relatives had resorted to making gestures to ask him the name of his newborn son, the deaf man’s speech problem is related (at least in part) to his inability to hear. Jesus wills to restore both the man’s hearing and speech, and see how our Lord does it: he puts his finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touches the man’s tongue. Notice that Jesus does not heal this man through a word alone but through a physical encounter with himself. Likewise, Jesus encounters us today not only through his Scriptures and his Spirit, but through his Body and his Sacraments. The visible Church of Christ on earth and this material world have key parts to play in our salvation. And notice that this deaf man is delivered not merely through action alone, but also through prayer.

Jesus looks up to his Father God in heaven and groans, and says to the man, “Be opened!” (which is, “Ephphatha” in the Aramaic tongue). Behold the intensity of Jesus’ desire for this man’s good, the yearning in our Lord’s prayer. St. Paul writes in his Letter to the Romans that the Holy Spirit intercedes within us to help us intensely will what God wills, aiding our prayer with what Paul calls “inexpressible groanings.” St. Augustine preaches that the task of prayer “is generally accomplished more through sighs than words, more through weeping than speech.” So remember that you do not need many eloquent words in order to powerfully pray. A heartfelt groan can obtain a miracle.

Jesus says to the man, “Be opened!” and immediately the man’s ears are opened, the man’s mouth opens too, and he begins speaking plainly. The Holy Spirit inspired this story’s inclusion within St. Mark’s Gospel, and Christ’s Church recalls this episode in her Masses all around the world today. This is because Jesus’ healing of that deaf man has relevance for us all. This is reflected at sacrament of baptism. There is a custom of the priest or deacon touching the baby’s ears and lips with his thumb and praying: “May the Lord Jesus, who made the deaf to hear and the mute to speak, grant that you may soon receive his word with your ears and profess the faith with your lips, to the glory of God the Father. Amen.” This tradition is called the Ephphatha Rite. The story of Jesus curing that deaf man is meant to make us consider: how is the Lord wishing me, commanding me, to be opened?

Today’s first reading from the Prophet Isaiah proclaims that our God comes to save us, to clear the ears of the deaf and cause the tongues of the mute to sing. But this reading begins by saying “to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not!” Do not be afraid of what our Lord wishes for you. Be strong and fulfill his command. Ephphatha! Be opened! But in what way does Jesus want you to be opened? Would he open your ears to somehow listen, or open your mouth to somehow speak, or open your heart to feel somehow, or open your mind to somehow think anew? The Holy Spirit can tell you.

Perhaps, like St. James talks about in today’s second reading, you are called to be more open to respecting and caring for the poor. Or perhaps there’s a person in your life whom you’ve been overlooking, neglecting someone you are called to be more open to. Maybe Jesus would take you off by yourself, away from the crowd, to be open to more daily prayer, or calling to follow him more closely in your vocation.

After curing the deaf man, Jesus ordered that the miracle be kept secret (for the time was not ripe for it to be shared). Yet the more he commanded this, the more they proclaimed it. Now we are commanded to share the Good News with others, and yet we are often silent. Perhaps Jesus wants you to be open to speaking with other people about your Faith. Maybe invite a non-Catholic person you’re close to to attend RCIA, which begins at St. Paul’s on September 16th.

I do not know in what particular way God desires you to be opened. But I believe that Jesus Christ, who “has done all things well,” who succeeded in making even the ears of a deaf man hear him, can surely tell you his will through the Spirit.

Lovingly Received — Funeral Homily for Allen Pietz, 62

June 22, 2021

Allen is a dear acquaintance of mine. Unlike many of the persons I offer funerals for, I know him really well. But today I’m going to begin by telling you about another warm acquaintance of mine and the story he once told me. I went to seminary with a fellow who is now a diocesan priest in South Carolina named Fr. Andrew Trapp. Fr. Andrew looks a lot like the actor Tobey Maguire (who starred in the Spider-Man movie franchise) and Andrew also has a Peter-Parker-like friendly goodness. Fr. Andrew got a little famous back around 2010 when he beat the champion poker player Daniel Negreanu on a TV game show. He won $100,000 and donated his whole prize (after taxes) to his parish’s renovation project. Before he was ordained, Andrew spent a summer in Paris, France improving his French and helping out at a Catholic church.

There he met a former satanic worshipper who had repented, reconciled to God, and became a member of that parish. Andrew knew that Satanists were known to steal the Holy Eucharist, the Body of Christ, for use and abuse in their rituals. (I’ve heard elsewhere that Satanists are interested in stealing only the Catholic Church’s Communion Hosts to perform Black Masses and other sacrileges.) Andrew asked the man whether it was true that Satanists test their followers using these stolen Hosts, placing a Consecrated Host in a line-up of identical, unconsecrated wafers to see if the person could identify which one it is. The man responded that he had undergone this test and successfully passed it. Andrew asked him, “How did you know which host was the Lord?” And the man replied, “It was the one that I felt hatred towards.”

No brief funeral homily can tell the whole story of a person’s life, but sometimes a particular aspect of a Christian’s life can proclaim the most important things. Allen did not grow up Catholic. He started attending Mass at St. Paul’s in the front row with Sylvia. And it was here that he fell in love with the Holy Eucharist. Sylvia remembers Allen pointing to the altar and saying, “I want that Bread.” This desire was the main reason Allen became Catholic, got Confirmed, and received his First Holy Communion here in 2020, exactly a year and one week before his death. Allen was always eager to receive the Holy Eucharist on Sundays. And whenever he couldn’t come, he missed it profoundly. Sometimes he could barely walk and he still came to Mass. What fueled this intense longing and devotion in Allen? It was the love he felt for Jesus in the Eucharist.

It was Jesus, who said, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my Flesh for the life of the world.” When those in the crowd murmured at this, objecting, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” Jesus answered, “Amen, amen, I say to you… [M]y Flesh is true food, and my Blood is true drink. Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood remains in me and I in him.” Jesus says, “Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.”

In truth, Allen’s great love for Jesus in the Eucharist was only a weak reflection of Jesus’ love for Allen. And what will separate friends of Jesus Christ from the love of Christ? Neither death nor life, neither present things nor future things, neither height nor depth, neither angels nor powers, nor any other created thing will be able to separate them from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. It is right that we pray today for the perfection and glory of our friend Allen’s soul, but we do so with great peace and confidence that Allen, who was so eager to receive our Lord in the Eucharist, will himself be eagerly received by our loving Lord.

Allen Pietz after his 1st Communion

Allen Pietz on the day of his First Communion, June 7, 2020

A Treasured & Entrusted Child — Funeral Homily for Adelaide Marie Borofka

April 26, 2021

The dominant culture in the days of Jesus’ public ministry oftentimes did not treasure children. A firstborn baby boy might have value to a Roman father, but a baby who was a girl, or malformed or disabled, or simply unwanted might be killed or abandoned in the woods, exposed to die. The early Christians, however, rejected infanticide and adopted foundlings, raising them as their own. This is reflected by a first century Christian text called The Didache (also known as “The Lord’s Teaching Through the Twelve Apostles to the Nations”) which commands: “You shall not procure an abortion, nor destroy a newborn child…” From where did the Christians get this countercultural concern for all children, born and unborn? From our Lord Jesus Christ, of course.

Adelaide Borofka feetThough children are small and weak, Jesus says, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.” They have no wealth or worldly power, but Jesus says, “Unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus, calling a child over and putting his arms around it, says, “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus says that children are to be treasured and loved like himself: “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.” Jesus says, “Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” In just the same way as a good shepherd hates to lose even one of his many sheep, Jesus says, “it is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost.” Indeed, ‘Jesus loves the little children, all the little children of the world.’

So even when a child dies without baptism, we can entrust them to God’s mercy with great hope, that the love of God which has brought us into being will transform the painful mysteries of the Cross into a reunion of Easter joy. In the midst of any tragedy, we always have a general Christian hope that God will bring good out of what is bad. But in regards to little Adelaide it appears that God has granted us a special, particular consolation. This is Veronica’s story, which she has given me permission to tell you, and which she wants me to share for your benefit.

On Easter Sunday, Veronica began to feel severe abdominal pain. She was admitted to Sacred Heart Hospital in Eau Claire with a blood pressure so high that she was in grave danger of suffering a stroke, even dying. Then, through an ultrasound, it was discovered that the child within her, the child she lovingly carried for seven months, no longer had a heartbeat. Around 2 AM on Monday, April 5th, while she was in great physical and emotional pain, her husband Zach and their gathered family members were praying a Rosary with her. Veronica was praying along with them, off-and-on, as she could manage. And in the midst of all this painful suffering, as she paused with her eyes closed, she saw something. Even though Veronica is certain that she was awake at that moment, she beheld something remarkable. Before I describe Veronica’s experience and what she saw, I will speak briefly about private revelation.

As Catholics we believe that Jesus is not dead, but risen and living. We believe that his saints in heaven are all alive with him. We believe that Jesus and his saints and angels know us, that they care about us, and that they continue to lovingly help us here on earth. We believe visions, messages, and miracles still happen in our day. And sometimes instances of these phenomena are judged by the Church’s authority to be “worthy of belief.” However, unlike public revelation (which consists of Sacred Scripture and the apostolic teachings in the Deposit of Faith) private revelation, even when officially recognized by the Church, is not binding to be believed by all the faithful. I am not personally qualified to make any official judgment for the Church about private revelations, but I tell you: if I did not personally believe that what Veronica saw was of a heavenly origin, I would not be about to share it with you.

Veronica, with her eyes closed during that Rosary in the hospital, saw a woman standing before her bed. There were pretty, puffy, white clouds behind the woman and to each side of her. And rays of sunlight from the left peaked through gaps in the clouds. The woman wore a dazzling, bright white gown. The fabric of her beautiful, full-length dress looked like satin. It had a modest scoop neckline and sleeves that went down to her wrists. The woman also wore a blue, cathedral-length veil of traditional lace, which extended down to the floor. She was dressed similarly to a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary from Germany which Veronica’s grandfather had given her years before; a statue Veronica used to play with as a girl.

The woman had long, curly, dark hair, snow white skin, and beautiful blue eyes which gazed at Veronica. The expression on the woman’s face was very pleasant, calming and peaceful, concerned for Veronica and reassuring. Veronica says “she looked absolutely beautiful and gorgeous,” such that, “no model could compare.” The woman’s lips moved as she slowly spoke with a very feminine, light and calming, beautiful voice, which echoed with some reverberation. And this is what she said: “Veronica, do not be afraid. I will take care of this child as I have taken care of my Son, Jesus. Do not worry and do not cry.

In this vision, Veronica held in her hands her swaddled baby, wrapped in the gray swaddling cloth she had bought for its birth. (Veronica did not yet know whether she had a girl or a boy, since Adelaide had not yet been delivered.) Hearing the Virgin Mary’s words gave Veronica great relief, for who could be better than the Blessed Mother to care for her lost child? Veronica raised up her arms in the vision, completely entrusting her child to Mary. Mysteriously, Mary remained where she stood but seemed to come closer. Veronica says, “I handed her my child and then she was gone.” The entire vision was very brief, perhaps just ten or fifteen seconds, about the length of one Hail Mary prayer.

Veronica was left with feelings of peace, calm, reassurance that everything was OK, and wonder that the Blessed Mother would make herself known to her. Veronica did not share her story right away—she was worried people might think she was crazy—but after this vision she began comforting those gathered around her bedside. When her mother began to cry, Veronica told her, “Don’t cry, you don’t have to cry.” As St. Paul told the Corinthians, “[God] encourages us in our every affliction, so that we may be able to encourage those who are in any affliction with the encouragement with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

Veronica is saddened, of course, still grieving and mourning, but not crushed or depressed like one might expect. She always had faith in God and Jesus Christ, but this experience has reinforced it, and she desires the same growth in Christian faith for you. “There’s beauty in the suffering,” she told me, adding, “I just want everyone to know what I know and to feel the peace that I feel with God and his love.” This the Lord Jesus Christ’s wish for you, too. Clouds may limit our vision in this world, preventing us from seeing all that God is up to, but even in the hardest times rays of light still shine through. This light comes from the Lord Jesus who loves us, who treasures little Adelaide and who also treasures you.

“You Have Nothing to be Ashamed of”

April 17, 2021

3rd Sunday of Easter

When I was 26 years old, in my second year of major seminary, I was bothered by a worrisome question or doubt. “Of course, God loves me,” I thought to myself. “He loves everyone – even those in hell. But does he like me? Even the eternally damned are loved by God though they don’t love him back. I know that God loves me, but is he pleased with me?” I was burdened by this question for several weeks until, I believe, God personally addressed my concern.

During the summer of 2007 near the end of an hour of prayer (which is called a “Holy Hour”) sitting in a chapel before Jesus in the tabernacle, I heard him say in my thoughts: “You have nothing to be ashamed of.” I replied that I would love for him to say that, but how could it possibly be true? I knew my sins, and he knew them far better than I. So he would have to convince me.

He asked me, again in my mind, “When you sin in a big way, you always try to get to Confession, right?

Yes,” I answered.

And when you sin in a small way, once you realize you’re doing it, you try to stop, right?

Yes, that’s true.”

And then he said, “You’re for me.”

I recognized in this an echo of a verse from the Letter to the Romans: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Jesus was telling me, “If you’re for me, how could I possibly be against you?” The nagging doubt I had carried for a couple of months he resolved in a couple of minutes by highlighting my concern over the very sins which had made me feel ashamed.

On Pentecost Sunday, fifty days after Easter, St. Peter preaches to the crowd in Jerusalem:

[Jesus the Christ] you handed over and denied in Pilate’s presence when [the governor] had decided to release him. You denied the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. The Author of life you put to death, but God raised him from the dead; of this we are witnesses.

Peter is charging them as accessories to deicide. He is declaring them guilty accomplices in the murder of God. And this crime is ours as well, because the sins of all humanity sent Jesus to the Cross. But Peter is preaching not to condemn the world to hopeless shame, but so that the world might be saved through Christ. “Repent, therefore, and be converted,” Peter proclaims, “that your sins may be wiped away.

In our Gospel, Jesus shows his disciples the wounds in his hands and feet not as a bitter reproach but that they may share his joy. The greeting of the risen Lord is not “I condemn you,” but rather, “Peace be with you.

As St. John writes in our second reading:

My children, I am writing this to you
so that you may not commit sin.
But if anyone does sin,
we have an Advocate with the Father,

Jesus Christ the righteous one.
He is expiation for our sins,
and not for our sins only
but for those of the whole world.

In conclusion, know and remember that guilt is different than shame. We should feel guilt for the sins we commit. When I sin, guilt says, “I have done foul, ugly, and unlovely things, and I must repent.” But shame says, “I am foul. I am ugly. I am unlovable. And I cannot be saved.” The feeling of guilt can be a gift from God, but the Evil One wants you to feel ashamed. Shame is unhealthy, causing us to despair and hide from God. Guilt, on the other hand, is useful when it spurs us to conversion, to spiritual health and our salvation.

Jesus loves you and he likes and is pleased by every good thing about you. Repent, therefore, and be converted that your sins may be wiped away and your love of God may be truly perfected in you.

You are Called to Read the Gospels

January 24, 2021

Word of God Sunday, The 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

When I was about thirteen years old, I remember once being in my living room thinking about death, until nature called, and I headed toward the bathroom on the other side of the house. Our entryway was the crossroads of my childhood home, with doorways and stairs leading to different rooms and levels. This would be the setting for a crossroads moment of my life. For as I set foot there I pictured myself standing before God’s judgement seat after my death. The Lord sat on a white stone throne. He didn’t look angry (that would have scared me off) but he seemed disappointed and frustrated, like I had promised to meet him somewhere and never showed up. And he asked me, “Why didn’t you live your life like I wanted you to live it?

I knew what he meant. I was a cradle-Catholic and not a terrible kid but I also wasn’t much of a disciple of Jesus Christ either. I still needed to use the bathroom but I knew this question would be wrong to ignore. So I stayed there, though pacing a bit, thinking with urgency what would I say, what could I say, in this situation? You only get one Last Judgment. So I replied, “Well God, I wasn’t even sure that you were really real. How could I entirely commit my one life to you while being so uncertain? How could you expect me to stand out on a cliff-ledge without me being sure that it would hold up my weight?

Once I had made my case, he promptly replied, “Did you ever really try to find out? Did you even read my book?” I laughed at that pithy line and said something slightly stronger than “Oh crud” because the Lord had called me out. If I were really looking for the truth, if I were truly seeking after him, I would be searching more seriously than I was. Soon after, I resolved to pray every day and read the whole Bible. I remember sneaking around my mother to fetch our big, family Bible from our dining room cabinet and quietly take it back to my room. I didn’t want her asking me, “What are you doing with that?” because then I’d have say, “Well, Mom, I may have had a vision and I need to read the Bible now.

I started regularly praying before bed and reading the Scriptures fifteen minutes a night, starting with the Book of Genesis. If I happened to miss one night, I’d read for thirty minutes the next. In this way I learned a lot more about the important and famous biblical characters and events I had previously only heard of. I saw the consistency of human nature throughout history and humanity’s need for a savior. I recognized Jesus Christ prefigured within the Old Testament, such as in the lambs of sacrifice at Passover and at the Temple. Somewhere in the midst of reading the books of the prophets I realized I didn’t want to risk dying without ever having read the gospels, so I skipped ahead. And reading the gospels changed my life.

The Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s Gospel challenged me with a beautiful, new way of living: for instance, trusting in God rather than living in fear, generosity in giving rather than clinging to my every possession, and forgiveness with goodwill towards my enemies rather than nurturing poisonous hatreds. I did not wish to wind up someday on my deathbed without having given these teachings a try, so I did, and experienced their benefits. And Jesus Christ in the gospels inviting the fishermen to follow him opened me up to answering his calling for my life.

I recount these stories this morning because of today’s feast. In September of 2019, Pope Francis decreed the 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time to be henceforth celebrated as “The Sunday of the Word of God”; a day “to be devoted to the celebration, study, and dissemination of the word of God.” Pope Francis wrote:

“As Christians, we are one people, making our pilgrim way through history, sustained by the Lord, present in our midst, who speaks to us and nourishes us. A day devoted to the Bible should not be seen as a yearly event but rather a year-long event, for we urgently need to grow in our knowledge and love of the Scriptures and of the Risen Lord, who continues to speak his word and to break bread in the community of believers. For this reason, we need to develop a closer relationship with Sacred Scripture; otherwise, our hearts will remain cold and our eyes shut, inflicted as we are by so many forms of blindness.”

The fifth century Doctor of the Church, St. Jerome once said, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” Since no books of Scripture reveal Jesus Christ better than the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, today I am urging you to begin reading these, the most important books within the most important book in history.

Have you ever read an entire gospel? If not, why not? There are many easily readable, modern translations these days, without any “thee’s” and “thou’s.” You can even read or listen to the Bible for free over the internet (though I would recommend choosing a Catholic edition with all seventy-three books.)

Let none of us claim that we don’t have time to read the gospels. Based on their word counts and a typical reading speed, Mark (the shortest gospel) can be read in a little more than an hour, and Luke (the longest gospel) can be read in less than two. To read all four gospels requires just slightly more than six hours’ time. To put that in perspective, six hours is two NFL football games, or two Major League baseball games, or three NCAA or NBA basketball games. How many sporting events have we seen in our lives, and how many complete gospels have we read or listened to in comparison? Even before this pandemic, the average American—at home, not at work—spent seventeen-and-a-half hours a week on the internet. So it’s not a question of time, but a question of our priorities.

If you read for fifteen minutes a day, or fifteen minutes a night, you can complete Matthew’s Gospel in a week and can finish all four gospels in twenty-five days. Of course, if you pause to ponder and to pray it will take you longer, but that’s OK, even preferable. I hope you’ll accept this gospel challenge and invitation.

As an epilogue to my first story, when my younger self finally reached the Book of Revelation at the end of Sacred Scripture, I found something of a confirming sign. When God judges the living and the dead—all people on the last day, the Scripture says he sits upon a “great white throne.” When you reach your deathbed, or when you stand before God’s judgment seat, will you have read the gospels and been blessed by the experience in life? “I tell you, brothers and sisters, the time is running out.” “This is the time of fulfillment. … Repent, and believe in the gospel.” And part of believing in the gospel means devoting our time and attention to it.

My Ascension

May 23, 2020

Ascension of the Lord—Year A
By Deacon Dick Kostner

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord. We also need to celebrate the the fact that Jesus remains with us for all eternity individually for all to rejoice by and through the Sacraments gifted to us by Jesus and the vocation directed to all who have received the Sacrament of Baptism by being called to be the body, hands, mind, heart, and feet of Jesus here on Earth by and through his marriage with us as members of the Church of Christ. Wow, what a privilege, but what a responsibility.

Our readings tell us that we have been chosen to respond to the call to be the Body of Christ here on earth as we continue our journey, our “Ascension” to Jesus who resides with the Father and the Holy Spirit. It is through the Sacraments that we receive a helper to guide us on our mission. The Paraclete joins to our body and spirit whenever we celebrate the gift of Sacraments given us by Jesus when he walked in body here on earth. Through the gift of Sacrament we become one in Spirit with God who helps guide us on missions he has requested of us.

As told us in our second reading from the Letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians: “May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call, what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones, and what is the surpassing greatness of his power for us who believe…

How do we know that Jesus is still with us. Good question, but all we need to do is watch and listen for he will speak to us and help us discern the will and hopes he has for us. I will share with you a personal example of knowing God is still here with us. Everyone knows the struggle and fear that exists about re-opening with the virus still spreading. It has not been easy for your clergy to celebrate private Masses without you, the larger Body of Christ, being present. How do we as clergy know what to do or how to continue ministry during these trying times? The answer lies in prayer. Personal prayer to the one who promised to be with us always on our journey to the Father’s house. Prayer need not be formal or fancy for prayer is nothing more than talking with God about problems or challenges we are experiencing. It is through communication, it is through prayer, that relationships are formed.

Recently I have been asking God for direction on knowing what God would like me to do during these challenging times when we are asked to curb our direct contacts with others. I have also asked for some communication from Jesus as to my personal mission he desires me to embark upon. A couple of weeks ago just before celebrating Mass with Father Victor, he requested that I pick out a couple of names for our parish calendar raffle. I reached in, stirred the tickets, and grabbed two raffle tickets which were sitting next to each other. The first name I picked was Steve Turner. Steve was one of the people who joined St. Paul’s Catholic Church a year ago and had attended our Parish RCIA classes. I remarked to Father that Steve is one of those guys that has always been lucky; whether in love in finding his gifted spouse, or in fishing at the right spot. The second name I picked was, guess who? Deacon Dick. What a coincidence!

It was during the Mass that I realized the event that had just happened. I had received an answer to what God wished me to continue to do. He told me that I was important in helping others find their way to the Church of Christ and to the vocation of being the Body of Christ. And how has this affected Steve’s life? He is now an adult server in our parish and he and his wife help out with our RCIA program, with him heralding the fact that since his marriage to Elaine he has been in Church more than all of his previous years of his life. What a coincidence!

Guess what? Jesus is not up in the clouds, He is still with us through the Body of Christ and his Sacraments. Thank you Jesus for being our supernatural friend. Wishing to all of you as the Body of Christ, a blessed Ascension!

His Cause for Joy — Funeral for Michael “Mike” Rufledt, 67

February 28, 2020

If you had the chance to visit Mike over these past months of his final illness, might have come expecting to see a man anguished and crushed in the face of impending death. You might expect to find a quiet, somber, sad, inconsolable house. But if you visited, you encountered a house of joy; tears—but tears of love; and a joyful man, full of peace. How is this possible? It is the Lord. God had prepared him, God strengthened him, and God accompanied him through it all. And this began long ago.

When Mike was 31 years old, his father Ted died, and this event hit Mike really hard. Mike struggled with heavy grief, a grief he could not let go of or move beyond. He confided his pain to his mother and she gave him wise advice: “Pray to the Holy Spirit, Mike.” He took her advice and prayed. And that night or the next, he had a remarkable dream. He saw his father, standing before him, glowing with light, and smiling a large smile. His father did not say any words in the vision, but his presence and appearance were the message. Despite death, Mike’s father lived on, departed but not gone, still very much alive in God. Mike said that he was fine after that, so happy for his father that he was never stressed about his dad’s death again.

When Mike was 37, his mother Toni also died. Sometimes death’s approach is foreseen and we have time to prepare for it, but her death was sudden and unexpected. Mike was the first into her hospital room after she passed. He mournfully asked, not expecting a response, “What happened, Mom?” and kissed her on the forehead. And then, Mike reports, “I could feel her presence in the room.” Her spirit, her soul, was in his midst. And he heard her say, “It’s OK.” As you can imagine, that was incredibly consoling for Mike. About that time, his sister Mary called him on the phone. She was understandably distressed, like he had been just moments before. He told her, “It’s OK. It’s OK.” She said, “It’s not OK!” But he repeated the same words, “It’s OK.” He was too embarrassed, until recently, to share the story of the source of and reason for his peace that day.

Last year, Mike was up at his hunting cabin when he got the call from his doctor. He called with a grim diagnosis: it was cancer, serious cancer; and most likely, in the not very distant future, it would kill him. Imagine how it would be to receive such a diagnosis yourself. Mike felt like you might imagine. As he drove back home to break the news to Patti, he prayed, “I really need you now, Lord. You’re going to have to help me with this one. Let’s make the best out of this that we can.” To either miraculous recovery or death, they would take this journey together. In that hour Mike was not giving up, but surrendering himself, entrusting himself, to the Lord Jesus. And by the time he arrived back home to the farm, Mike felt peace, an incredible peace that remained with him through the months, weeks, and days that followed. Mike said towards the end of his illness. “[The Lord] really took the reigns on this one. And he stepped up immediately. He’s always there, but he went overboard on this one. I couldn’t thank him enough. He’s there for us all the time, all we have to do is ask. This has been a wonderful journey.

This Wednesday, we were marked with ashes for the beginning of Lent, for we are dust and to dust we shall return. Today we come to a Good Friday; not because death is good—death is not good—but because it is a more than OK thing to die with Jesus Christ. His life, passion, death, and resurrection—it’s all real, it’s true, and Mike’s great wish, then and now, is that you will believe in it, too. Jesus has given us the signs we need, so repent and believe in the Gospel.

Jesus’ Mediated Miracles

May 30, 2019

Icon of the Wedding Feast of Cana
Most miracles in the Gospel of John share a common trait: Jesus works great deeds but in a somewhat withdrawn manner. There’s usually some degree of distance between the Lord and his miracles in John’s Gospel. Let me show you what I mean with several examples:

  • In the second chapter of John, at the wedding feast of Cana, Jesus does not fetch water from the well or hold his hands over the water jars to change their water into wine. Jesus instructs the servers what to do and his miracle is accomplished through their cooperating efforts.
  • Later at Cana, in John chapter four, a royal official whose son is gravely ill begs the Lord to come to Capernaum some twenty miles away and heal him: “Sir, come down before my child dies.” After a dialogue Jesus replies, “You may go; your son will live.” The father believes him and leaves. The next day, on his way home, the royal official’s servants meet him and share good news about his son: “The fever left him yesterday, about one in the afternoon.” And the father realizes that was the hour that Jesus had said “your son will live,” curing him at a distance.
  • In the next chapter, at the pool called Bethesda in Jerusalem, Jesus meets a man who has been ill for thirty-eight years. Jesus says to him, “Rise, take up your mat, and walk.” The Lord makes no physical contact with him, he simply says the word. And immediately the man becomes well, takes up his mat, and walks.
  • In John’s ninth chapter, Jesus encounters a man blind from birth. Jesus bends down, makes a paste of dirt and spittle, and smears it on the blind man’s eyes. The blind man is touched by Jesus but does not immediately see. Jesus tells him, “Go wash in the Pool of Siloam.” The man goes there and washes his eyes, but Jesus is not present when the man sees for the first time.
  • In John eleven, Jesus’ beloved friend Lazarus dies and the Lord journeys to the tomb. He tells others to roll away the stone and does not go inside. Instead, Jesus commands, “Lazarus, come out!” And Lazarus comes out by himself, wrapped head to foot in burial cloths. Then Jesus directs others to “untie him and let him go.”
  • Finally, in the last chapter of John, Jesus works a post-Resurrection miracle from a distance for seven disciples fishing on the sea of Galilee. Jesus is on the shore, about a hundred yards away from Peter, John, and the others in the boat. He asks, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?” They answer, “No.” He tells them, “Cast the net over the right side of the boat and you will find something.” So they cast the net and are not able to pull it back in because of the great number of fish they catch. Jesus was not in the boat with them, but he guides his disciples’ efforts and make them miraculously fruitful.

Why do the miracles of John’s Gospel share this theme of Jesus working once removed? (John observes in closing, “There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written.” So this Gospel’s miracles have been curated, chosen over others.) Of the four Gospels, John’s was written last. By this stage in the late first century, the majority of Christian believers had never seen Jesus walking the earth and St. John was likely the last of the living Apostles. Perhaps they sensed that John too would soon pass on, which would lead to Christians questioning in their hearts, “What is our remaining connection to Christ?” John’s Gospel reassures its readers (then and now) that though Jesus is visibly removed from our eyes his power remains active among us.

In his Last Supper Discourse, Jesus says, “I am going away and I will come back to you.” (This speaks to Jesus’ death and Resurrection but also his Ascension and Second Coming.) “If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father…. I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. …Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father.

Why didn’t Jesus stay? Surely he can do what his saints can do and numerous saints have manifested the power of bi-location (being at two places at the same time.) In the twentieth century, St. Padre Pio is reported to have bi-located repeatedly; to celebrate Mass, hear confessions, visit a deathbed, and other things. The seventeenth century nun Venerable Mary of Ágreda is well-documented as having evangelized Native Americans in the American Southwest without leaving her Spanish convent. She instructed Jumano tribe members where to travel to find Franciscan missionaries for sacraments, affirmed under oath to Church investigators in Spain that she was bi-locating, and possessed inexplicable first-hand knowledge of the New World. If his saints can bi-locate, why couldn’t Jesus multi-locate on earth? He already does this in a veiled way in the Holy Eucharist; he is truly present (Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity) living in every tabernacle in every Catholic Church. So why not be visibly present in this world throughout the centuries? Jesus could be the pastor of every parish, the teacher in every classroom, the doctor in every hospital, and the leader for every country. Wouldn’t he do a better job than us?

This is why it was better for us for Jesus to ascend. We are called to be children of God; daughter or sons of the Father, and brothers or sisters of Christ. We must be childlike to enter the Kingdom but we are not to be childish. We must rely on the Lord, for apart from him we can do nothing, but he desires us to become reliable as well. If everything of importance were solely Jesus’ job how would we grow out of immaturity. How would we mature into the full likeness of Jesus Christ? Jesus desires to work through us, and with us, and in us so that we may share fully in his glory. This is the work of love for God and neighbor and it is vitally important; it’s important for your soul, it’s important for the salvation of others, and important to God.

The Church Father, St. Jerome, living in the late 300’s A.D., leaves us this extra-biblical story about St. John the Apostle:

The blessed John the Evangelist lived in Ephesus until extreme old age. His disciples could barely carry him to church and he could not muster the voice to speak many words. During individual gatherings he usually said nothing but, “Little children, love one another.” The disciples and brothers in attendance, annoyed because they always heard the same words, finally said, “Teacher, why do you always say this?” He replied with a line worthy of John: “Because it is the Lord’s commandment and if it alone is kept, it is sufficient.”

This work of love in Christ is important for our souls and the salvation of others; it is the mission entrusted to us by the Lord so that we may share fully in his glory.

Mary in History: A Healing Spring

February 24, 2019

February 25, 1858 – Lourdes, France

By the time of this, the ninth appearance of the beautiful Lady to the fourteen-year-old St. Bernadette Soubirous, word had spread about these apparitions and the visionary. On this date, about 300 people accompanied Bernadette to the grotto near the Gave River outside Lourdes. No one except Bernadette could see the Lady nor hear her speaking aloud in their local French dialect.

On this occasion, the Lady told Bernadette, “Go and wash and drink in the spring.” But Bernadette became confused because there was no spring to be seen. At first she thought she meant the river, but the Lady directed her to the back of the grotto cave. Bernadette walked there, kneeled down, and dug at the earth with her hands. Water began seeping into the hole, turning the soil to mud. Bernadette drank it and washed her face with it. She also, at the lady’s command, ate some of the grass there. Understandably, the crowd was dismayed and thought her crazy. Bernadette answered, “It is for sinners.”

There had been no spring there before, but by the next day the spot was producing a thin stream trickling down to the river. Later, Louis Bourriette, a blinded stonecutter, bathed his eyes in its water and regained his sight. In another famous case, a desperate mom prayerfully plunged her weak and dying infant into the cold spring waters and he became healthy and strong for the first time, amazing the doctors. (This child, Justin Bouhort, who would go on to attend the canonization of St. Bernadette seventy-five years later, on December 8th, 1933.) Though there is nothing scientifically unique about the chemical makeup of this water, more than 7,000 miraculous healings have been counted at Lourdes, of which 67 have been officially recognized as “medically inexplicable” by the International Medical Association of Lourdes. As we see in the spring at Lourdes, St. Bernadette, and Our Lady, the Lord exults the lowly, leading all future generations to call them blessed.

Sound Interpretations

February 17, 2019

Last year, the internet hotly debated whether a particular sound clip was saying Yanny” or “Laurel.” While most people can only hear one name or the other, some people can make out each. In fact, both of the names are sounding in the clip together but at higher and lower pitches. In another online curiosity, a short video shows a small figurine glowing and emitting a sound, either “Brainstorm” or “Green Needle.” The amazing thing is that if you listen to this clip with either phrase in mind then that is the phrase you’ll hear. You can even alternate back and forth between the two. In each of these examples, the messages are indeed there to be heard if one has the ears to hear them.

These phenomena suggest how people in the Bible may have been present to the same auditory events but heard things quite differently. On one occasion recorded in John’s Gospel, Jesus prayed aloud, “Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from Heaven, “I have glorified it and will glorify it again.” John notes, “The crowd there heard it and said it was thunder; but others said, ‘An angel has spoken to him.‘” Later, at Pentecost in The Acts of the Apostles, the disciples “were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.” At the sound of it others in Jerusalem from many nations gathered in a large crowd “but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language. … They were all astounded and bewildered, and said to one another, ‘What does this mean?’ But others said, scoffing, ‘They have had too much new wine.’” Sometimes people can hear more than one thing in the same divine message, or dismiss it all as nonsense.

Does each passage of the Bible have only one true interpretation? Some reject that Isaiah 7:14 (“The virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel”) could foretell the virgin birth of Jesus, arguing “the author was referring only to the political situation of his day, not to an event centuries later he couldn’t possibly have known.” But this view forgets or denies that human beings are not the sole authors of Scripture. They are co-authors inspired by the Holy Spirit. God is all-knowing and alive outside of time. He can inspire prophesies with both near and distant fulfillments. And God can invest passages with multiple true and divinely-intended meanings. For example, in the Book of Revelation, John beholds in the sky, “a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.” She gives birth to a son, the Christ, and then she is protected by God from a red dragon, the Devil. Does this represent God’s people of the Old and the New Covenants, or does it symbolize Mary the Mother of God? Yes. The answer is both.

Sacred Scripture, like other things of God, may be compared to a magic pool. It is a pool in which a small toddler may safely play and a great whale may deeply swim. Let us not remain shallow in our understandings, but explore the true depths of God’s Word.