Archive for the ‘Real Presence’ Category

“My Portion is the Lord” — Funeral Homily for Audrey Schillinger, 87

December 5, 2022

By Fr. Victor Feltes

When her husband, Marvin, passed away in 2013, Audrey became a widow. In these recent years, she has endured breast cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and other bodily ailments. We all walk through dark valleys in this life. Who strengthened Audrey to endure all of this with unconquered joy? She was not alone through her trials. She had her dear friends, siblings, sons, and granddaughters, but most importantly of all, Audrey had the Lord Jesus. With him, as we heard from St. Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians, “although our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.”

Her Lord, the Good Shepherd, was near. The 23rd Psalm says of him: “You spread the table before me… and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for years to come.” For many years, Audrey faithfully approached the Lord, at his table in this, his house. She came here to St. Paul’s Church for Mass every Sunday until the arrival of the pandemic. Thereafter, concern for her vulnerable health kept her at home but she continued to watch the Mass on TV. Yet the Lord Jesus still came to her and she eagerly welcomed him to her home.

Rod Ramlow (the lector for today’s funeral) and his wife Betsy have lived next door to Audrey since 2016. In the final seasons of her life, each Sunday morning, Rod brought Jesus Christ to Audrey in the Holy Eucharist. Rod tells me that when he would arrive at her door, he would have barely rung the doorbell when Audrey would quickly answer. He says it was as if she were practically waiting at the door. Like we heard from the Book of Lamentations: “My portion is the Lord… Good is the Lord to one who waits for him, to the soul that seeks him.

As an aside, are you or someone you know homebound or greatly hindered from coming to Mass? Please contact the parish office so we can organize Holy Communion to be regularly taken to you or them. Others have simply neglected to come back to church without good reason, or else they have never known that Jesus is really here in the Holy Eucharist. Whatever the case, the Lord awaits to encounter them.

Who does Jesus tell us is blessed, or blest? We just heard from St. Matthew’s Gospel the Beatitudes of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” Someone who knows the poverty in their spirit or soul, will seek out and rely on the Lord’s fullness and strength. Jesus says, “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.” Someone who hungers and thirsts for righteousness, will hunger and thirst for the Righteous One. Jesus says, “Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.” Someone whose heart is clean or pure — uncluttered by lesser things — will intensely desire God. Audrey sought out and relied upon Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. She hungered and thirsted for him, saw him and received him, the one who drew her to himself. So today, as we pray for her soul, we have well-founded hope that the desire of Audrey’s heart will be satisfied by entering the Kingdom of Heaven to be with her Lord.

Meet Your Hero

August 29, 2022

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
By Fr. Victor Feltes

Have you ever met a famous person? There’s feelings of excitement and pleasure when you get that opportunity but often there’s some nervous awkwardness as well. You know a little about celebrities, about the things they’ve done, but you don’t really know them. You are really strangers to each other and that colors your encounter, limiting your connection. But by spending an hour sharing company and conversation of your admired person you would begin to deepen your acquaintance.

What if you had a sibling, a childhood friend, or a best friend in college who went on to fame and success? Encounters with that celebrity would feel very different because of your existing relationship. The pope, the president, tech billionaires, and movie stars have family and friends who have known them since long before they were famous. And when those close relations get personal invites to the Vatican, to the White House, to go yachting, or to attend a film premiere they rejoice at the opportunity, but they do not come to meet a celebrity but be with their friend or family member.

Imagine yourself back again in high school or at your first job, but possessing the wisdom that you have now. If it were revealed to you that one of your peers, one of your classmates or coworkers, would become truly great, like one day be canonized a saint, would you be interested in befriending them? Of course! You would be blessed to share their friendship. What sort of person would neglect the opportunity to get to know such a person better? One day, “at the name of Jesus every knee shall bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Jesus Christ is our admired hero whom we can get to know in deeper, more intimate, friendship now before his greatness is acknowledged by all the world.

The Letter to the Hebrews says, “You have approached Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and countless angels in festal gathering, and the assembly of the firstborn enrolled in heaven, and God the judge of all, and the spirits of the just made perfect, and Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant…” Yet these realities, present at every Mass surrounding Jesus in the Eucharist, remain veiled to our sight. They are not yet clearly manifest like the blazing fire, gloomy darkness, storms, and trumpet blasts which terrified the Hebrews at Mount Sinai. These supernatural realities are hidden for now, such that non-believers dismiss them and even believers can neglect them. Too often, Catholics neglect the Lord who calls us to celebrate the Holy Mass and to worship him truly present in the Eucharist.

Jesus says, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet… go and take the lowest place so that when the host comes to you he may say, ‘My friend, move up to a higher position.’ Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table.” It takes humility to consistently come and worship him, the proud refuse, but faithfulness will be rewarded with glory, for “the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” The Prophet Sirach wrote, “My child, conduct your affairs with humility, and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts.” Who does the Lord delight in more: those who give their gifts of money or those who give him themselves? “Humble yourself,” as Sirach says, “and you will find favor with God.”

One way to humble yourself, to grow in friendship with Christ and open yourself to receive his graces, in addition to coming to Sunday Mass, is through praying Holy Hours in the presence of our Lord. The Eucharist is “the Source and Summit of the Christian life” because it is the encounter with Jesus Christ and his one sacrifice. And at the conclusion of the Mass the Real Presence of Jesus (his Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, his whole living person) endures in all of the consecrated Hosts which remain. We keep these Host of our Lord inside the tabernacle. This is why when we enter, or exit, or cross this church, we genuflect (bending our knee) towards Jesus present there. So even outside of times of Mass, we can take a seat or kneel before Christ’s enduring presence sharing his company and conversation in worship. When you do this for sixty minutes it’s called a Holy Hour, which is a practice highly-recommended by the saints.

One of the best ways to pray a Holy Hour is at Eucharistic Adoration, when our Lord is placed upon the altar in a golden holder called a monstrance, which has a window so that you may gaze upon him. Adorers speak silently to Jesus and listen in their minds and hearts for his occasional replies. Some people bring their bibles or spiritual books to read and then relate to the Lord about what they’re read. Some people pray devotions, like the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. Some people simply sit with Christ; they look at him and he looks at them. Once it becomes a habit, these Holy Hours pass swiftly, like an episode of your favorite TV show. Simply sitting in the sunlight—doing nothing—will give you a tan. Likewise, spending time with the Lord in this way will change you, it will not be without effect. Your personal relationship with Jesus Christ will grow and what is more important than that?

For years, St. John the Baptist’s Church in Cooks Valley has had 1st Friday Eucharistic Adoration on Thursdays before the 1st Friday of each month, from their 8:30 AM Thursday Mass until the 10:30 AM Mass on Friday. Now, St. Paul’s Church in Bloomer is beginning monthly Eucharistic Adoration as well, on Thursdays before the 2nd Friday of each month, following their Thursday morning Mass until 7 PM that day. Please say to our Lord, “Yes Jesus, I can devote one Holy Hour a month to you in the Blessed Sacrament.” Give him this gift, because God will not be outdone in generosity, and you will grow in your friendship with Jesus Christ, our hero, whose name shall be exalted above every name.

The Master Chef — Funeral Homily for John Kenneavy, 74

July 22, 2021

John KenneavySt. John the Baptist Parish is honored welcome you and to offer our greatest prayer, the Holy Mass, for John’s soul and the consolation of all who know and love him. No short funeral homily can capture the fullness of a person. If I were to preach to you for an hour about his life, afterwards I bet that each of you here could add another unique story. This morning, I’m going to reflect upon just a single aspect of John’s life, one that all of you who are his family and friends are already familiar with: his being a chef.

John opened and operated the Kenneavy’s Kitchen restaurant for seventeen years, preparing homestyle dishes, fresh bakery items, and his famous pizza. After selling that restaurant in 1993, he cheffed at several other Door County restaurants. He went on to be one of the first cooks hired to run the kitchen at a brand new, area nursing facility. And, in his own retirement, he helped to helped cook and serve a weekly lunch for his Florida residential community. In addition to his customers and neighbors, how many countless times did he use his culinary talents to feed his family and friends? Consider how much nourishment and delight John provided for literally thousands through his culinary gifts in life. And John delighted in doing it.

So what is the joy in cooking? Everyone likes to eat good food – chefs included – but the joy from cooking is more than merely eating. There is delight in creating a dish and delight in sharing it. The chef offers up a gift of self to create a great meal and offers this meal to others. A chef’s feast is offered for peoples’ nourishment and joy, that they may have life and have it more abundantly. And a great feast brings people together, connecting the chef with his friends, family, or guests.

At the Last Supper and at the Holy Mass, Jesus gathers his friends for a feast. The Good Shepherd spreads a table before them in the house of the Lord. Christ prepares a meal for his family, makes a gift of himself for us, and offers us this gift. Jesus says: “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. Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.” This is not mere metaphor, for Jesus insists, “my Flesh is true food, and my Blood is true drink,” and so his Church has always professed and believed. This meal brings us into communion with the Chef who prepares it: “Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.” Whoever eats this bread will live forever with the Lord on the holy mountain that the Prophet Isaiah describes, where death will be no more and those who are saved will rejoice in their salvation.

When St. Augustine’s mother, St. Monica, was dying she famously told her son, “Bury my body wherever you will…. Only one thing I ask of you, that you remember me at the altar of the Lord wherever you may be.” St. Monica knew the Holy Mass is our greatest prayer because this feast connects to the Lord and one another, that we might have life and have it more abundantly. Today, let us pray for the peace of John’s soul and receive Christ’s consolation for ourselves. Jesus Christ the Master Chef has prepared his feast for us, and “blessed are those called to the Supper of the Lamb.”

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

Believe Like Children

June 5, 2021

Solemnity of Corpus Christi

Earlier this week was the last day of classes for another academic year at St. Paul’s Catholic School. This pandemic-impacted year posed challenges, but we prevailed. Our school met in-person throughout and gave our children a full education – focused on forming not only their minds but also their souls as well. This aspect is so important, it is the reason the Catholic Church has schools. A true education is not complete unless a person learns about God, about Jesus’ saving words and deeds, and how to live, both now and forever, as a Christian like him.

This is why I encourage any of you who have children attending public school to enroll them into Catholic school for this fall. Ask our school families about how excellent a school it is. They’ll tell you. Pray on this decision, ask the Lord where he wants your sheep to be. And realize that a great Catholic education for your children is much more possible than you might think.

My favorite part of being the pastor of a Catholic school is teaching and speaking with the children. Their openness to the things of God is beautiful. In their classroom or in church, you can teach these little ones holy truths and they joyfully believe them. This openness is part of why Jesus says, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like little children, you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven,” and “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Sometimes I’ll meet with a class of youngsters and their teacher in the church outside of the Mass. We remind the children how to use the Holy Water at the doors to bless themselves and to genuflect when they reach their pews. Then I love to teach them and ask them questions, questions like, “Where is Jesus here?

Sometimes kids point to the big crucifix on the wall and I tell them, “That’s only a statue of Jesus. Seeing it reminds us of Jesus and can help us pray to him, but that’s just a statue which looks like him. Where is Jesus really, truly present in this room?

The children then point to the golden box at the foot of the cross – the Tabernacle – inside of which, I explain, within a special container called a ciborium, is kept Sacred Hosts consecrated at previous Masses. At the priest’s words of consecration at Mass, these Hosts became Jesus Christ, his Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, really and truly present, really and truly him.

In our Catholic churches, what is typically located front and center? Not the priest’s chair, not a donation box, not even the baptismal font, but Jesus’ Tabernacle and the altar. This is because Jesus Christ and his Holy Sacrifice are at the center of our Catholic Faith. At the Last Supper, Jesus said, This is my Body, and Do this in memory of me. And his Bride the Church has listened, believed him, and obeyed him, celebrating his Real Presence at the Holy Mass throughout the centuries to this day.

It has been humorously observed that for second graders preparing for and receiving their First Communion it can be harder for them to believe that the round, flat, unfluffy, Consecrated Host was ever bread to begin with than it is for them to believe it is Jesus. This is because they believe that Jesus can do, and does do, the things he says. On this feast of Corpus Christi, let’s humbly turn and become more like those children, who accept that their good and loving friend, our Lord Jesus Christ, is truly here before us.

The New Passover Lamb

April 1, 2021

Holy Thursday

The Lord gave specific instructions to Moses and Aaron for the feast of Passover—commandments containing secret significance only later to be revealed. Every Hebrew family had to procure a lamb, a year-old male without blemish, one apiece for each household. If a family was too small for a whole lamb they were to join the nearest household in obtaining one and feast in the same house together. The lamb could not to be eaten raw nor boiled in water, but had to be roasted, baked whole and entire, once some of its blood had been taken to be dabbed on the house’s doorposts and lintel. The whole community of Israel was to celebrate this feast and no one was to go outdoors until morning.

The first Passover was held for the salvation of God’s people, so that deadly judgment would pass over their households and they would no longer be slaves in Egypt. Once they were freed, they continued keeping the Feast of Passover, renewing and celebrating their great deliverance by God’s power. All of these were signs and symbols of things to come, of the still-greater things which came with Christ.

At the Last Supper, Jesus told to his apostles, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you.” The Gospels note the bread and wine on the table, in accord with the Jewish Passover tradition, but where is the lamb at the center of the meal?

The Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.

Jesus asked the apostles that night, “Do you realize what I have done for you?” Jesus is the Passover Lamb of God: an innocent young man, unblemished by sin, whose blood is poured out upon the vertical and horizonal beams of the Cross, to free and save all within his house. Tonight we gather in one house, Christ’s Church, as a family, joining with other households together at Mass, to really receive in the form of baked bread Jesus’ whole self. As St. Augustine once preached to newly baptized Christians: “Recognize in the bread what hung on the cross, and in the cup what flowed from his side. [T]hose old sacrifices of the people of God…represented…this single one that was to come.”

Jesus’ sacrifice saves us from deadly judgment and slavery to sin, and at this meal we renew and rejoice in our great deliverance through him. By God’s grace, may we always have priests and the freedom to offer the Mass on earth, and the grace to never wander off from God’s house into the outer darkness until the first light of the new dawn breaks—when Jesus Christ returns in glory.

Jesus asks his apostles, “Do you realize what I have done for you?” Do you realize what Jesus has done for you? Know that he has eagerly desired to share this Passover with you.

Living Christ’s Mysteries — Funeral Homily for Deacon Ed Feltes, 65

February 23, 2021

On the day Victor and Ramona brought their eighth son to be baptized, while his little head was still damp from holy water, Edward Joseph was draped with white linen. And the priest said (in Latin), “Receive this white garment, which mayest thou carry without stain before the judgment seat of our Lord Jesus Christ, that thou mayest have life everlasting.” Today, we bring Ed’s body before the Lord, draping him in white cloth once more. My uncle Ed told me that as a deacon he would always say yes to doing baptisms. It was, he said, “the introduction of a new life into the Church. By baptizing them you are basically installing them into a Catholic environment and hopefully they will grow in it and not back away from it.” Ed has been a Catholic Christian for more than sixty-five years, ever since he was baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection. And throughout his nearly twenty-four thousand days Jesus Christ accompanied him through life. The life of a Christian is found in Jesus Christ. And the mysteries of Christ’s life are reflected in, shared with, the faithful Christian. We see this throughout Ed’s life.

At his First Communion, young Edward approached and saw the Real Presence of his Lord held before his eyes: “The Body of Christ / Corpus Christi.” Ed received Jesus and Jesus received Ed into a more profound union, a more intimate relationship, between them. In receiving Christ’s Body, Ed was called to be the Body of Christ for this world. When Jesus tells us at the Last Supper, “Do this in memory of me,” he not only commands that we would receive him at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, but that we would imitate him in his self-gift: “This is my body, which will be given up for you. Do this in memory of me.” When Ed was sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit at his Confirmation, he entered a more powerful relationship with that same Spirit of inspiration, grace, and power who led Jesus in his works on earth. The Holy Spirit’s gifts manifested through Ed not merely for himself, for his own salvation, but to serve the wider mission of Christ’s Church, that every person in this wayward world might be saved.

The main vehicle of Ed life’s work and witness would be through his first vocation: marriage. Ed and Jessica meet during his studies at Notre Dame University and the year he graduated they entered a new covenant together. Almost forty years ago, they freely committed without reservation to give themselves to each other in marriage, to love and honor each other for as long as they both would live, and to accept children lovingly from God—raising them up according to the law of Christ and his Church. Recall that Jesus Christ called himself the Bridegroom and that in Sacred Scripture his Church is called his Bride. Every Christian is called to imitate Christ, and every Christian soul is spiritually his Bride. But just as the Holy Eucharist we celebrate is not merely a symbol or a memory but Jesus’ Real Presence among us so the Sacrament of Marriage makes present the mystical marriage of Jesus and his Church, within and between a husband and a wife. In beholding a holy, Christian marriage, in its loving, mutual, and lasting fidelity, we see a sign for us and for the world. That love is real, that love is foundational, that love is fruitful. That we were made in love, made to love, made for a holy communion of love, a family. We saw this in Ed and Jessica’s strong marriage which bore fruit, not least of all in their children: in their living son, Christopher, of whom they are so proud, and four other loved children who passed away very, very young; Francis, Steven, Elizabeth, and Meagan. Ed said he looked forward to meeting them and now has that opportunity.

In his marriage, together with Jessica, Ed discerned and pursued a call within his call, a second vocation. Relying on the help of the Lord God and our Savior Jesus Christ, Ed was chosen and ordained for the Order of the Diaconate. After the laying of the bishop’s hands and being dressed with stole and vestment, he was handed a Book of the Gospels with this admonition: “Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.” Deacon Ed then ministered here at St. Catherine’s, celebrating in this sanctuary and serving throughout this parish. Teaching and preaching, even though he often found preaching difficult. Ed told me that he primarily sought to advance the Kingdom by sharing his life, showing how he lived. He said, “Always live your life such that people want the same that you do.” Looking back at the end of his quiet life, Ed had few regrets, but he did wonder if he was “maybe quiet too long.” Deacon Ed understood well that we need not enter into every pointless, unhelpful argument, but the Spirit does call and help us to speak the important words people need to hear alongside seeing our deeds.

In these last years, these final years, Ed reflected Christ and became configured to him in a new way, by joining him in suffering. Ed had at least six different strokes—twice nearly dying yet surviving—and endured strokes’ debilitating effects. Ed and Jessica described these past several years to me as an experience of continuous loses and grief, but also of continuous mercy and grace. Reportedly, the devastating impact of strokes often breaks up families, but this family grew closer through the trials. I think Ed also became bolder in Christ. While under hospice care at home he never stopped offering good things to his guests; blessings, prayers, holy water and blessed salt, to anyone who visited, wherever they might be in their faith walk.

When I last spoke with my uncle Ed I asked him what he was looking forward to. He simply said, “Heaven. I poured a lot of my life into experiencing, into living life on earth with a heavenly approach.” Asked as to what his near future held, he said, “It’s really up to God. I accept everything he has for me.” Ed and Jessica related to me that it was last March, almost a year ago, over a lunch at Panera Bread, that he told her, “I’m going to go to the Lord in six months to a year.” And he was right. Ed knew he was in God’s hands, being led and offered like an oblation for his glory and as a blessing for many. Knowing that this day was not in the far-distant future, I asked Ed about his wish for all of you on this day of his funeral. He answered, “Pray that they seek God more closely and live a more Christian life. I wish they would seek God for the answers and not just rely on themselves.” So if you have seen Jesus Christ in the life of Deacon Ed Feltes, please listen and heed his words.

And now, in conclusion, like Edward heard in his Last Rites:

I commend you, our dear brother, to almighty God and entrust you to your Creator. May you return to God who formed you from the dust of the earth. May holy Mary, the angels, and all the saints come to meet you as you go forth from this life.

May Christ who was crucified for you bring you freedom and peace. May Christ who died for you admit you into his garden of paradise. May Christ, the true Shepherd, acknowledge you as one of his flock.

May the Lord forgive all your sins and set you among those he has chosen. May you see your Redeemer face to face and enjoy the vision of God for ever.

A Prophet’s Reward

June 27, 2020

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jesus says, “Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward.” So what is a prophet’s reward? Being a prophet in this world is a kind of a mixed bag.

On the positive side, a prophets’ words and deeds and their role in working miracles can give great blessings and yield joyful fruits for both the preacher and the people. For instance, the Shunammite woman in our first reading repeatedly received the prophet Elisha into her home and to her table, and he was pleased to be so warmly welcomed. First, she was graced by the holy man’s words and presence, then she was blessed through the miracle he announced: “This time next year you will be fondling a baby son.” She was overjoyed at the birth of a son, and Elisha surely shared that joy. Those who heed the word of God are blessed to see its fruits.

On the other hand, on the negative side of the ledger, the prophets and their words were not always welcomed and received. In fact, they were usually met with hostility. The Letter to the Hebrews recalls how some of the prophets “endured mockery, scourging, even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, sawed in two, put to death at sword’s point; they went about in skins of sheep or goats, needy, afflicted, tormented.” Knowing this, is it worth it for a prophet to answer God’s call?

Well, consider what else belongs to the prophet’s reward: Consider the value of living a holy life with a clear conscience. There is a great peace in doing what is right that is unlike the spiritual disquiet of sin. Consider the value of a life doing good with holy purpose, helping to save others’ souls. A selfish life lacks deeper, greater meaning, and its emptiness is a terrible taste of what Hell is like forever. Consider the value of a life that will be remembered. Remembered by people on earth? Maybe, maybe not, beyond the people whose lives you bless— but certainly remembered by God, who will reward his faithful ones with the joy of Heaven, an everlasting reward beyond our imagining. And all along this way to Heaven, you will share in the personal, intimate, friendship of God.

Now Jesus says, “Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward” and “whoever receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward.” But where can we today find a prophet and righteous man to share in his reward? Long ago, Moses said, “A prophet like me will the Lord, your God, raise up for you from among your own kinsmen; to him you shall listen in all that he may say to you. Everyone who does not listen to that prophet will be cut off from the people.” Remembering this, when the crowds saw Jesus perform the miracle of the multiplication the loaves they said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.” On one occasion, Jesus stated that the men of Nineveh “repented at the preaching of (the Prophet) Jonah; and there is something greater than Jonah here.” Then, after Jesus’ Ascension, St. Stephen the first martyr preached that the prophets had “previously announced the coming of the Righteous One…” and St. Ananias announced to Saul, who had encountered the Lord Jesus on the road to Damascus, “The God of our fathers has appointed you to know His will and to see the Righteous One.” Thus, the one who receives Jesus Christ will receive a prophet’s and righteous man’s reward. “And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because the little one is a disciple —amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward,” for Jesus says, “whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine you did it for me.

How can we receive the Lord? First of all, through the sacraments. Are you unaware that in baptism you were baptized into Christ? To quote St. Paul, “all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” And your baptism has led you here today, to receive him anew in the supreme gift of the Holy Eucharist, the Most Blessed Sacrament. (For some of you, you are blessed to be about to receive Jesus in this way for the very first time, and we’re all very happy for you.) In this sacrament Jesus Christ comes to visit and dine with you with you: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me.” And if we have prepared a place for him and welcome him to dwell, Jesus stays and remains with us. The good Shunammite woman prepared room for Elisha in the highest place of her home, upon the cool rooftop, and furnished it for him with a bed, table, chair, and lamp, so that he could comfortably stay. She converted and reorganized her house for her holy guest. Jesus expects the same of us; the conversion and dedication of our lives, our souls, our homes; for Jesus wishes to dwell with us.

Receiving Jesus Christ in the Eucharist is not a one and done event. Even returning to encounter him here again at Mass every Sunday – as we are rightly commanded to do – is not all that he desires of us or for us. Jesus says, “Whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.” Following Jesus requires us to die to sin and offer loving sacrifices like himself. It’s often hard to live for Christ. Knowing this, is it worth it to answer his call?

Consider the value of living a holy life with a clear conscience, with the peace that come from doing what is right. Consider the value of a life doing good with holy purpose, helping to save others’ souls. Consider the value of a life that will be remembered by God and those whose lives you bless forever. And consider how Christ will reward you with Heaven, an unending joy beyond imagining, and share his personal, intimate, friendship with you all along your way there. Jesus says, “Whoever finds his life will lose it,” but “whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” And whoever truly receives our Lord Jesus Christ will receive the Christ’s reward.

Jesus’ Longing for You

June 14, 2020

Corpus Christi Sunday—Year A

After the suspension in March, our parish went eleven weekends without the public celebration of Sunday Masses. Throughout Salvation History, the number forty symbolizes times of purification, preparation, and longing. For most people, being away meant about eighty days (forty twice over) without physically receiving our Eucharistic Lord. For many, their yearning for Jesus in the Eucharist has never been greater. Feast of Corpus Christi homily usually focus (quite fittingly) upon the Real Presence, the beautiful truth that Jesus Christ is truly present, body and blood, soul and divinity, alive in the Holy Eucharist. As St. Paul says in our second reading, “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the Blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the Body of Christ?” You are probably well-informed about this already; that’s why you have been longing for Him in the Eucharist. Today I feel moved to speak about Jesus Christ’s Eucharistic longing for you.

Jesus Christ’s desire for us is foreshadowed in the Old Testament; for instance, in The Song of Songs. There the beloved says of her spouse: “My lover speaks and says to me, ‘Arise, my friend, my beautiful one, and come! Let me see your face, let me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely.’” Later this same man, prefiguring Christ, declares: “I have come to my garden, my sister, my bride; … I eat my honeycomb with my honey, I drink my wine with my milk. Eat, friends; [and] drink!

In the Book of Proverbs, God’s personified wisdom speaks: “Let whoever is naive turn in here; to any who lack sense I say, Come, eat of my food, and drink of the wine I have mixed! Forsake foolishness that you may live; advance in the way of understanding.” The foolishness we must forsake is our sins, for what is freely-chosen sin if not harmful foolishness? Jesus seeks to bring about sinners’ salvation, in part, through drawing them to his meal, to share his presence, his food and drink. Jesus once responded to criticisms of his ministry saying: “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, `Behold, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.

A Samaritan woman with many sins once asked Jesus, “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” He answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” Later, on the last and greatest day of a Jewish feast, Jesus stood up in the temple area and exclaimed: “Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink.” Before his miraculous multiplication of loaves of bread, Jesus called his disciples to himself and said, “I feel compassion for the people, because they have remained with me now three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not want to send them away hungry, for they might faint on the way.” Jesus wants to feed us (we who have remained with him) as well, to strengthen us on our way. The food and drink Jesus desires you and I to receive are not mere objects for bodily sustenance — it is his very self. “I am the living bread that came down from Heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever… For my 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.

At the Last Supper, which was the first Mass, Jesus told his disciples, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you… Take this, all of you, and eat of it, for this is my body, which will be given up for you.” Jesus earnestly desires to share his feast, this Mass, to unite with us today. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will enter his house and dine with him and he with me.” Jesus is divine, but he’s also human. He dwells in Heaven, but he has human desires for you and me and our world. If you have yearned for Jesus in the Eucharist, if you have desired to receive him these past months, consider how much more Jesus Christ longs and desires for you.

Finding Jesus in our Isolation — 3rd Sunday of Lent—Year A

March 16, 2020

Today’s Gospel story contains a valuable lesson for us in our present situation.

Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there
at [Jacob’s] well. It was about noon.
A woman of Samaria came to draw water.
Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.”

There is a weird detail contained in these passages: the woman is going to the well to draw water at noon. It’s hot at noon in the Middle East, so Jesus and the woman are the only ones there. Why didn’t she come in the morning or the evening when the heavy job of hauling water would not have the added burden of the midday sun and heat? It’s because she didn’t want to be there when the other women would be around. Jesus reveals that the woman has no true husband and that she has had five different mates through the years. Jesus knows this supernaturally but her neighbors know something of these facts naturally, through local gossip. This woman has a reputation and if she were to go to that well at the same time as the other women they would make her feel unwelcome, through their words or their silence, with their eyes and their body language. They have quarantined themselves from her and she has socially distanced her heart from them.

In the middle of her day,
in the uncertainties of her life,
amid the stress of her tasks,
in her personal isolation,
she is surprised to encounter Jesus there.

He says to her:

“If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water. … Whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Jesus wins over the woman’s soul, she leaves her water jar behind and joyfully proclaims her great discovery. Meanwhile, the returned disciples urge Jesus, ‘Rabbi, Teacher, eat something!’ But he says to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know. … My food is to do the will of the one who sent me and to finish his work.” Of course Jesus is hungry—physical realities are real—but he has nourishment in his soul, from his relationship with God his Father and his deepening relationship with those he has come to save, like this woman at the well.

Now in likening the woman at the well to one quarantined from others, I am not advising you to take unnecessary or imprudent risks amidst this current Coronavirus pandemic. In these months ahead, some of us will be called to acts of particular courage; nurses and doctors come first to mind. But we should not blithely, unnecessarily place ourselves in foreseeable natural dangers expecting God to perform miracles to protect us. Recall how Satan tempted, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you’ and ‘with their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.” Jesus answers, “You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.” We must not act presumptuously.

The reason I mention the woman finding Jesus in her isolation is because, whatever our health may be, we need to encounter him there as well. Public Masses continue in our diocese, but it is very probable that these will be suspended in the future, just as Catholic Churches suspended public Masses a century ago during the Spanish Flu pandemic. I will personally be very surprised if we are having Mass here together two weeks from today. [Post-Script: On the evening of March 17th, Bishop William Callahan directed his priests to abide by Wisconsin’s statewide ban on all gatherings of more than 10 people announced earlier in the day. As a result, we are cancelling all remaining public Masses at my parishes.] Yet even in times when public Masses are readily available, most hours of our week and not spent inside of a church.

In the middle of your day,
in the uncertainties of your life,
amid the stress of your tasks,
in your personal isolation,
you can encounter Jesus there.

He is with you and within you, so you are never really alone.
Jesus says:

“Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink.
Whoever believes in me, as scripture says:
‘Rivers of living water will flow from within him.’”

Wherever you are, find him there, and draw on his graces.

I seem to recall a story about St. Faustina Kowaska, the Polish nun and visionary most closely associated with the Divine Mercy devotion. When she was confined to her convent infirmary, suffering from the tuberculosis which would eventually take her life, she lamented that for one or more days in a row she had been unable to receive Holy Communion. In a vision, Jesus reassured her, saying, ‘Whenever you receive me in the Eucharist, I remain within you until you receive me again, unless you cast me out through mortal sin.’ Similarly, in the sixth chapter of John, Jesus famously declares:

“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst. … Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.”

Christ’s Church encourages frequent, even daily, reception of Holy Communion as a helpful devotion toward holiness, but whether your next communion is one week or three months from now, know that Jesus is with you to provide his sufficient graces for your life. If public Masses are suspended in our diocese, realize that I and other Catholic priests, even if standing alone in our churches, will still be offering the Holy Mass daily for you and the whole world. And we will be bringing Confession, Holy Anointing, and Viaticum to the sick, as is our calling and duty, for as long as we are able. This Wuhan Coronavirus pandemic is rightfully concerning. (I urge you to read my bulletin article this weekend.) But whatever comes we need not fear, for “we know that all things work for good for those who love God,” and “whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.” As Jesus would very often say, “Be not afraid.

Really Present — 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time—Year C

August 12, 2019

The Pew Research Center, which conducts surveys on religious belief in America, published a poll this week which asked self-identifying, Catholic adults this question:

Regardless of the official teaching of the Catholic Church, what do you personally believe about the bread and wine used for Communion? During Catholic Mass, the bread and wine…
  1. Actually become the body and blood of Jesus Christ, or
  2. Are symbols of the body and blood of Jesus Christ.

65% of respondents said that the bread and wine are symbols of the body and blood of Jesus while only 30% said the bread and wine actually become the body and blood of Jesus. This is discouraging, but I’m inclined to think that many people are misunderstanding the question.

As you know, when the priest says the words of Consecration at Mass (“This is my body… This is the chalice of my blood”) what we see with our eyes appears unchanged. What the priest holds still looks like bread. What the chalice holds still looks like wine. On well-documented occasions throughout the centuries, Eucharistic miracles have occurred in which Hosts have turned into visible human flesh and the chalice contents have become visible blood. I encourage you to read about and investigate these ancient and modern miracles for yourself. But outside these extraordinary cases, if you looked at the Eucharist under a microscope, or ran a chemical analyses before and after Consecration, the Eucharist would appear unchanged. Catholics who have made their First Communion know the Host doesn’t taste like meat and drinking from the chalice doesn’t taste like blood. So, strictly in this outward sense, when people say “The bread and wine do not actually become the body and blood of Jesus” they are correct. But after the priest’s words of consecration at Mass, are the gifts on the altar just symbols of Jesus’ body and blood? No! Something very real and wonderful occurs.

Now Jesus does give his Eucharistic meal intrinsic symbolic meanings. For example, breaking the bread which is his body and pouring out his blood for us are symbols of his Passion. Separating his body and blood is a symbol of his death. And sharing his meal with us symbolizes our intimate communion with him. Yet, the Eucharist is no a mere symbol, any more than baptism can be called just a washing with water. After the water and words of baptism, a newly baptized person appears unchanged (they have the same height, same weight, same hair and eye color as before) but they have been radically transformed within; the baptized person’s soul is cleansed, they have become a child of the Father, a temple of the Holy Spirit, a new person in Jesus Christ. Likewise, at the Consecration, though appearances remain unchanged, the gifts on the altar undergo a radical transformation; in fact, apart from outward appearances they can no longer truly be called bread and wine at all; for they become the body and blood, soul and divinity, of the living person Jesus Christ. In the Eucharist, Jesus’ real presence is really present, and it is no blasphemy to gaze upon the Host and say, “My Lord and my God!

Our belief in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is not something the Church just invented. This teaching goes back to Jesus himself. St. John writes about the Real Presence in his Gospel, St. Paul writes about it to the Corinthians, and the Church Fathers write about it throughout the first centuries AD. God has confirmed this mystery with Eucharistic miracles, as I mentioned before (miracles which occur in no Protestant denomination.) The Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist her been our Catholic Church’s teaching from her beginnings to this day.

I am somewhat encouraged that when other polls ask Catholics adults about their belief in the Real Presence in a different way, using different words than in the recent Pew poll, their responses are different as well. When given a choice between saying: “Jesus Christ is really present in the bread and wine of the Eucharist,” or “The bread and wine are symbols of Jesus, but Jesus is not really present,” about 60% of Catholics give the first and correct answer. However, we should be only somewhat encouraged by this. Four out of ten Catholics not believing in the Real Presence of Jesus is a tragic and terrible thing.

This week, I visited an old college roommate friend and his wife and children in Oregon. He is a very faithful Evangelical Christian; following Jesus is the most important thing in his life. But he and his family haven’t attended a church on Sundays for some time. It’s partly because he has two very young children, but he also confided over dinner that it’s because he has difficulty seeing the point of going just for a message and some songs. My friend studied in a Protestant seminary and could probably give a better sermon than most preachers. He plays guitar and has a great voice; why can’t he just sing and worship with his family at home? Discussing the recent Pew poll and my plans for this homily with him, he asked me — not to challenge me, but to better understand — “What difference does it make whether Catholics believe in the Real Presence or not? What is the harm in them receiving Communion without holding this belief?” I answered that, without the Real Presence, the Holy Mass becomes optional. And when we skip the Mass we miss out on the source and summit of the Christian life, the most intimate sacramental encounter we can have with Jesus on earth, the Holy Eucharist. And if we do go to Mass and receive Communion without believing it’s really Jesus, we do not receive the fullness of graces he wants to give us, and perhaps — by receiving him unworthily — we are offending him and doing ourselves actual harm.

In a chapter of Luke’s Gospel different from the one we heard today, Jesus asks, “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’?” This is the attitude of a very earthly master. Yet notice what the master does in one of today’s parables. Jesus tells us, “Gird your loins and light your lamps and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival. Amen, I say to you, [the master] will gird himself, have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them.” This is a parable about the coming of our Lord. We are to be diligent, vigilant, and ready for his Second Coming, or for the unknown day and unknown hour of our death. But Jesus, our Lord and Master, wishes to come to us more than just once at the end of our lives. He would come to us at every Mass. Blessed are those servants whom our master finds vigilant on his arrival on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation. They open the doors of their lips and hearts to him receive him. He has returned from the wedding of Heaven and earth and desires to feast with us. Amen, I say to you, he girds himself, gathers us at his table, and proceed to wait on us. And he does not serve us mere things, dead foods, but the greatest gift and nourishment conceivable, his very living self.

Jesus says, “That servant who knew his master’s will but did not make preparations nor act in accord with his will shall be beaten severely; and the servant who was ignorant of his master’s will but acted in a way deserving of a severe beating shall be beaten only lightly. Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.” What greater thing could be entrusted to us than Jesus in the Holy Eucharist? Let us not spurn but cherish this precious gift of Jesus Christ; let us nor hesitate but dare to share with others this good news of Jesus’ Real Presence here. “Blessed is that servant whom his master on arrival finds doing so.”

Mass Apparitions of Our Lord

June 26, 2019

So there’s Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Knock, Our Lady of Fatima, and Our Lady of lots of places. Our Lady of the Rosary, Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, Our Lady of Good Counsel, Our Lady of Good Help, Our Lady of Sorrows, Our Lady of Victory, Our Lady of Grace, Our Lady of Peace, and Our Lady of lots of other good things, too. When I was a kid, I didn’t realize that all these ladies were the same lady. But eventually I figured out that these were all titles of the Blessed Virgin Mary. With that confusion cleared up, I went on to wonder why there seems to be so many apparitions of Mother Mary throughout Church history and so few of her Son, Jesus Christ.

Sure, there are famous exceptions. In the 18th century, Jesus appeared to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque to invite devotion to his Sacred Heart. The month of June is now dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. And in the 20th century, St. Faustina Kowalska had visions of Jesus encouraging devotion to his Divine Mercy. As a result, the first Sunday after Easter is celebrated as Divine Mercy Sunday. But it’s usually Mary who we hear about appearing here or there around the world, encouraging people to repent, to listen to her Son’s words, and be saved.

So I wondered, “Why aren’t there more apparitions of Jesus in the world?” Eventually I figured out the reason: there’s an apparition of Jesus Christ at every Holy Mass. At every Mass, Jesus’ words are proclaimed. At every Mass, he works a miracle for us. At every Mass, his Real Presence come to us by the Eucharist. Compared to how frequently Jesus appears before us at Mass, Marian apparitions are the rarity.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus multiplies five loaves and two fish to feed more than five thousand people (and that’s just counting the men.) He has them sit in groups of about fifty, blesses and breaks the food, and hands it to his disciples to serve the people. They all eat and are satisfied, and the leftovers are more than Jesus had started with. The day after this amazing event (a miracle recounted by all four Gospels) St. John tells us that Jesus was in Capernaum, teaching in the synagogue about the Bread of Life:

I am the bread of life,” he said, “whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” At this the Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” And Jesus replied, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. …My 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. …The one who feeds on me will have life because of me. …Whoever eats this bread will live forever.

The crowds were perplexed by this teaching and St. John notes that after this many of Jesus disciples left and no longer followed him. But Jesus doesn’t chase them down saying, “Come back, you misunderstood, I was only using a figure of speech.” Instead, he turns to his apostles and asks, “Do you also want to leave?” St. Peter, not understanding but trusting, replies, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” After the Last Supper, recounted by St. Paul in today’s second reading, the Early Church understood Jesus’ teaching. Multiplying five loaves into enough bread to feed thousands is a miracle, but Jesus’ far greater miracle is feeding the world with bread transformed into himself.

If someone asked you, “Are you an object? Are you a thing?” how would you answer? If someone asked me if I was an object, I’d say that I do have many qualities and traits of an object; I have size, and shape, and color, and weight. But an object or a thing can be bought or sold, used and discarded, held cheaply and treated cheaply. You and I are not merely objects or things, but persons; persons meant to be loved and to recognized as worthy of love. So much about our devotion is set right when we recognize that the Holy Eucharist is not merely an object but a person.

When we dress up for Sunday Mass, we dress up for him. When we sing as Mass, we’re singing for him. Unlike Judas, who took the morsel and left the Last Supper before it was over, we remain until the end of Mass because he is here. Sunday Mass in not merely an obligation, but an opportunity for encounter with him. And when we visit him (on Sundays, or at a weekday Mass, or just stopping by the church) he is please that we are here. In love, Jesus offers us a communion with himself through the Eucharist more intimate and profound than that shared by spouses. Our Eucharistic Lord wants us to behold him, recognize him, and rejoice to receive him. So, if a Christian ever asks you, “Have you personally received Jesus?” you can answer, “Yes, in my hand, on my tongue, into my body and blood, in my soul and in my heart, through the Most Holy Eucharist, which is his very self.

Princess Grace (née Kelly) of Monaco receives
the Holy Eucharist at her 1956 nuptial Mass


The Saints Speak of the Holy Eucharist

May 30, 2018

“If the Angels could envy, they would envy us for Holy Communion.”  —St. Pope Pius X

“Man should tremble, the world should vibrate, all Heaven should be deeply moved when the Son of God appears on the altar in the hands of the priest.”  —St. Francis of Assisi

“One single Mass gives more honor to God than all the penances of the Saints, the labors of the Apostles, the sufferings of the martyrs, and even the burning love of the Blessed Mother of God.”  —St. Alphonsus Liguori

“All the good works in the world are not equal to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass because they are the works of men; but the Mass is the work of God. Martyrdom is nothing in comparison for it is but the sacrifice of man to God; but the Mass is the sacrifice of God for man.”  —St. John Vianney

“The Eucharist is the Sacrament of love; it signifies love, it produces love.”  —St. Thomas Aquinas

“The Eucharist is a never-ending sacrifice. It is the Sacrament of love, the supreme love, the act of love.”  —St. Katherine Drexel

“The Eucharist is that love which surpasses all loves in Heaven and on earth.”  —St. Bernard of Clairvaux

“The Eucharist is Divine Love made visible in the Sacred Host!”   —St. Teresa of Calcutta

“Do you realize that Jesus is there in the tabernacle expressly for you – for you alone? He burns with the desire to come into your heart.”   —St. Thérèse of Lisieux

“The Eucharist is a fire which inflames us.”  —St. John Damascene

“The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life.”   —St. Pope John Paul II, quoting Vatican II

“The Eucharist is the supreme proof of the love of Jesus. After this, there is nothing more but Heaven itself.”  —St. Peter Julian Eymard

Visiting Our Eucharistic Lord

July 11, 2017

In every Catholic church around the world, Jesus sits within the tabernacle like a king upon his throne, waiting to receive anyone who would approach him with their praises, thanksgivings, and requests. Whether they stop inside for a just few minutes or spend a full “holy hour” in his presence, our Lord delights in the companionship of those who lovingly seek his audience.

St. Josemaria Escriva said, “When you approach the tabernacle, remember that He has been waiting for you for twenty centuries.” Escriva’s contemporary, St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, remarked, “People ask me: ‘What will convert America and save the world?’ My answer is prayer. What we need is for every parish to come before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament in holy hours of prayer.

In order to facilitate more of these beautiful and powerful encounters with Christ, St. Paul’s Church has begun keeping its church doors open until 7:00 PM daily. Come by to visit the Lord after work or school, or amidst your errands around town. (Please contact Father if you are willing to keylessly lock the church during the seven o’clock hour on particular evenings each week.)

St. Faustina Kowalska records Jesus telling her, “Behold, for you I have established a throne of mercy on earth — the tabernacle — and from this throne I desire to enter into your heart. I am not surrounded by a retinue of guards. You can come to me at any moment, at any time; I want to speak to you and I desire to grant you grace.” He waits for you. So come, let us adore him.

Aphantasia — A Corpus Christi Homily

June 5, 2016

Aphantasia (Greek for “without fantasy”) has been written about since 1880 but it has recently gained increased attention. To understand what I am talking about, picture a red triangle, a horse running, or the house where you grew up. With a moment’s attention you can see them in your mind. However, people with  Aphantasia are incapable of voluntarily forming images in their mind’s-eye.

Blake, a successful 30-year-old software engineer only recently learned he experienced the world differently from others. He relates a conversation similar to this with a Facebook friend:

—If I ask you to imagine a beach, how would you describe what happens in your mind?
    —Uhh, I imagine a beach. What?
—Like, the idea of a beach. Right?
    —Well, there are waves, sand. Umbrellas. It’s a relaxing picture. Are you okay?
— But it’s not actually a picture? There’s no visual component, right?
    —Yes, there is, in my mind. What are you talking about?
—Is it in color?
—How often do your thoughts have a visual element?
    —A thousand times a day?
—Oh, my goodness…

An African BeachIf someone were to ask Blake to “imagine a beach,” he could ruminate on the concept of a beach: it has sand, waves, heat, sun. He could recognize a beach when he saw one, but even if he were standing on a beach he could not recreate or remember the image with his eyes closed.

Philip is a 42-year old photographer from Toronto. He is happily married, but he cannot conjure up his wife’s face (or any other image) in his mind’s eye. He was recently listening to a podcast presenter describing aphantasia. He says it came as a complete surprise, “I was like ‘what do you mean? People do that?’” He thought it was a joke so he checked with his four-year old daughter. “I asked her whether she could picture an apple in her mind, she said ‘yeah, it’s green’. I was shocked.

A 2009 survey of 2,500 people suggests that aphantasia is the experience of about 2% of people. So far, I have found it in two of my friends, including  a fellow priest. He tells me that when our spiritual director in seminary would tells us to prayerfully picture ourselves, say, at the table of the Last Supper he thought it was just a metaphor. He was surprised to learn that when people “counted sheep” to fall asleep that was more than just a figure of speech.

Disbelief is a common response when people on either side of this phenomena hear that other people do no experience the world like themselves. (“That’s impossible. You’re lying. You’re pulling my leg.”) However, unless we happen to carry around an MRI machine, we have to take our friend at his or her word in order to know the truth. And here we come to the connection with this Feast of Corpus Christi.

An extraordinary experience at the center of our Faith is founded upon a trust in our friend Jesus Christ’s testimony. At the Last Supper, Jesus does not say, “This is like my body,” or “This symbolizes or represents my body.” He says, “This is my body.” Around the year 150 AD, St. Justin Martyr described what early Christians everywhere believed about these words:

“The apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them; that Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, said, “Do this in remembrance of Me, this is My body;” and that, after the same manner, having taken the cup and given thanks, He said, “This is My blood” … “This food is called among us the Eucharist… For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Savior, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.”

Princess Grace (Kelly) Receives The Holy EucharistThe Church has always proclaimed and worshiped Jesus Christ as truly present, body, blood, soul, and divinity in the Eucharist. This belief has been confirmed for us throughout the centuries. The Holy Spirit, whom Jesus promised would lead us to all truth and remind us of all that he told us, has reaffirmed this teaching in Councils of the Church. Jesus has also allowed Eucharistic miracles to unveil this mystery we cannot normally perceive. For instance, at the Miracle of Lanciano in eighth century AD, a priest who was doubting Jesus’ Real Presence witnessed the bread become flesh and the wine become blood (which coagulated and broke into five globules in the chalice) as he said the words of consecration. In 1971, scientific analysis indicated that, as at similar miracles, the Host was human cardiac muscle. Who would go through such trouble when a fraudster’s more convenient use of pig’s flesh would have been undetectable? The truth is that Jesus gives us his heart in the Eucharist, along with his whole self. You can go to Lanciano, Italy and behold this Host today.

For many Christians, the Lord’s Supper is merely a symbolic commemoration, a ritual that remembers him. But if Jesus is everywhere, then he is nowhere. It then impossible to physically draw near to him any place on earth. Unless you are blessed with a vision of Jesus, you can never see him with your eyes or touch him in your flesh until after your death and resurrection. But with the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, “Behold, I am with you always…

If you have always enjoyed mental images, or if you have received the Real Presence of Jesus in Holy Communion since you were a child, then you may not appreciate the gift you have. If you experience aphantasia, or if you have never believed in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, then you may not even know what you are missing. So for our non-Catholic family and friends, tell them about this treasure—Jesus wants them to receive him, too. And for ourselves, let us truly appreciate the incredible gift that we are blessed to receive.