Archive for the ‘Reflection’ Category

The People at the Passion (Part 2 of 3)

March 30, 2023

By Fr. Victor Feltes

Hopeful for the help of the Holy Spirit, I will share with you meditations about people personally present for Jesus’ Passion. In particular, I will reflect on those persons featured in the Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Stations of the Cross; Simon of Cyrene, who helped carry Jesus’ Cross; Veronica, who wiped Jesus’ face with her veil; and the women of Jerusalem, who followed and openly wept for Jesus along the Way of the Cross. While considering these reflections, I encourage you to look for two or three golden nuggets that sparkle for you. Tuck them into the pocket of your mind or into your notes and later bring them to prayer for meditation.

Prologue – Pontius Pilate and the Roman Soldiers

Good Friday morning, the hostile crowd cried out for Jesus’ blood. Like Joseph’s brothers in the Old Testament, this crowd intended evil for Jesus, but God intended this for good, in hopes of achieving the salvation of these sinners and the whole world. Governor Pontius Pilate, even after having Jesus gruesomely whipped, was unable to placate the mob. So Pilate washed his hands and sentenced Jesus to death despite admitting that he had committed no crime. Much evil in the world is not only from active hatred like the crowds but from the callous indifference of people like Pilate. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteous, for they shall be satisfied.”

Then, St. John records in his Gospel, the soldiers “took Jesus, and carrying the Cross himself he went out to what is called the Place of the Skull, in Hebrew, Golgotha.” The Romans would compel men condemned to death to bear the instrument of their own torture, a cross. This was an added psychological punishment and humiliation. It is like having to tie your own noose before they use it to hang you. It is like being forced to dig your own grave before they kill and bury you. It is akin to modern totalitarian states that have executed people by a gunshot to the back of the head and then sent the family a bill for the bullet. The correction and punishment of wrongdoing may be necessary both in nations and in households, but we must never do either without respect for others’ dignity.

Jesus was forced to carry his own Cross, a Cross he carried for us sinners. He carried his Cross towards a place called Golgotha, or Calvary. Golgotha was a rock mound within a limestone quarry alongside a road leading to and from Jerusalem. The Romans chose this execution site a short distance outside one of the city gates for its high-visibility to many passersby. The guards with Jesus had orders to crucify him there along with two other condemned men. But after Jesus’ violent scourging, he was in agony, dehydrated, and physically weakened. He had already fallen down at least once under the Cross’s weight.

Perhaps his guards grew impatient because Jesus was progressing so slowly. The soldiers also may have feared that Jesus would collapse from exhaustion and be unable to be made to stand up and continue. And they might get in big trouble with their superiors if Jesus died on the way to Golgotha without receiving the sentence the governor had decreed. We may feel discouraged by the power of wicked people and groups in our world but I think we underestimate their inherent weaknesses, like those reflected in these Roman soldiers. “The foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” About three hundred fifty years after the mighty pagan Romans executed Christ and began persecuting his peaceful Church, Christ conquered the Roman Empire; Christianity became its official state religion. “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.”

The 5th Station – Simon of Cyrene

Saints Matthew, Mark, and Luke all note in their Gospels that the Roman guards found a helper for Jesus. As they were going out, they met a passer-by who was coming in from the country. They took hold of him and pressed him into service to carry his Cross. By law, a Roman soldier could compel a man in a conquered land to carry a load for him for as much as one mile. Daring to refuse would bring on a beating, so this traveler to Jerusalem submitted. Laying the Cross on him, they made him carry it behind Jesus. This man’s name was Simon, a Cyrenian from Cyrene. Cyrene was a region in Northern Africa. It had a Roman colony and a sizable population of Jews.

Perhaps Simon the Cyrene, like so many other Jews, was on pilgrimage to Jerusalem for Passover. But however far his previous journeying had been, that day Simon had a place to be and things to do before the feast. Having to carry the Cross that Friday felt like a major inconvenience for Simon, but it was most likely the greatest thing he ever did. Some of the greatest things you have done in your life were probably unpleasant and inconvenient, too. Mentally, let us reframe the interruptions which arise during our days and within our lives as providential opportunities. This way we can make the most of them and engage them at our best.

One can imagine Simon feeling very reluctant to bear a stranger’s cross. Since Simon was a freeman who had not been found guilty of any crime, he may have viewed this forced servitude to be doubly degrading. Simon may have also dreaded that insults, spitting, dirt, and stones would be hurled at him by ignorant bystanders while he made his way through the streets in the procession of the condemned. Yet, even if unwillingly, Simon picked up the Cross and followed Jesus. Simon did not freely choose this burden but, because of it, Simon was probably physically closer to Jesus for most of the journey to Golgotha than Mother Mary, John the Beloved, or Mary Magdalene. We will not choose many of our life’s burdens, especially our illnesses or personal losses, but these can be God’s providential means to bring us closer to the Lord.

I find it interesting that Simon of Cyrene was chosen to carry Jesus’ Cross on the morning after another Simon, Simon Peter, denied Jesus three times and withdrew for a time out of shame. Perhaps this was just a coincidence, another apostle, Simon the Zealot, shared that name as well. But I wonder if Simon of Cyrene was a fill-in substitute for Peter. If Simon Peter had not denied the Lord, or had returned to him more rapidly, would he have been the one to carry Jesus’ Cross? How beautiful and inspiring would that have been! I do not mention this possibility to encourage you ruminate, to lament the unchangeable past and any good things left unrealized on account of your sins. I mention this so that in a moment of testing you might consider how taking the next good step makes many good paths possible.

God providentially allowed Simon to take part in Jesus’ glorious work for the salvation of the world on Good Friday. The Lord likewise invites you and me to play a role in salvation and entrusts a share in his saving work to us today. St. Pope John Paul the Great noted this in 2001 during his meditation on the Fifth Station of the Cross at the Coliseum in Rome:

Jesus could bear his Cross alone, did he so will; but he permits Simon to help him, in order to remind us that we must take part in his sufferings, and have a fellowship in his work. His merit is infinite, yet he condescends to let his people add their merit to it. The sanctity of the Blessed Virgin, the blood of the martyrs, the prayers and penances of the saints, the good deeds of all the faithful, take part in that work which, nevertheless, is perfect without them. He saves us by his blood, but it is through and with ourselves that he saves us.”

If Simon did not know or believe in Jesus before, it appears that this experience of carrying his cross helped lead to Simon’s Christian conversion and the conversion of his family as well. Amongst the four Gospels, only St. Mark notes that Simon of Cyrene was “the father of Alexander and Rufus.” Scripture scholars believe that the names of Simon’s sons were mentioned here because the first audience Mark’s Gospel was written for knew who Alexander and Rufus were. Church tradition reports that St. Mark the Gospel writer was the scribe for St. Peter the Apostle, the first bishop of Rome. And St. Paul in his Letter to the Romans writes, “Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too.” Simon’s endurance through a trial with Christ grew his faith in Christ. Simon shared this testimony with his family. And by his faithful example, they became faithful Christians too. Your non-practicing children already know that you believe, but have they heard you say why you believe and the difference that religious faith has made in your life? Be sure to tell them.

The 6th Station – Veronica

The Sixth Station of the Cross recounts an event unrecorded in the Gospels. Despite the crowd and the soldiers, a woman approaches Jesus. His face is covered with blood, sweat, dust, and spit. Moved with compassion, she removes the veil covering her head, and offers it for Jesus to wipe his face. We know this woman as St. Veronica. The Western Church calls her Veronica, while the Eastern Church calls her Berenike. Providence may have arranged that this reflects her proper name, but it seems more likely that we know her by a title which the Church has given her. We see this with other people at the Passion. The name of St. Longinus, the soldier who pierced Jesus’ side, means “Long, Extended,” suggesting “Spearman.” And the name of the Good Thief crucified with Jesus, St. Dismas, means “Sunset” or “Death.” For her part, the name Veronica is Latin for “True Image,” while the name Berenike is Greek for “Bearer of Victory.” May the good deeds we do be so impactful on earth as hers, so that long after the world forgets our names our fruits will still be seen.

Veronica is a female counterpart to Simon of Cyrene in the Stations of the Cross. They both helped Jesus along the way according to their feminine and masculine traits. Simon served Jesus with his physical strength, while Veronica served him with her beautiful tenderness. St. Pope John Paul the Great shared this meditation on Veronica and the Sixth Station of the Cross on Good Friday in 2003:

As a woman, she could not physically carry the Cross or even be called upon to do so, yet in fact she did carry the Cross with Jesus: she carried it in the only way possible to her at the moment and in obedience to the dictates of her heart: she wiped his Face.

Though our traits may differ, both men and women have valuable gifts to offer. Consider sometime what are your unique gifts as a woman or a man.

When Veronica held out her veil to Jesus, he pressed it to his face. The blood, sweat, dust, and spit on Jesus’ face wiped off on her cloth, leaving a likeness of his face, a self-portrait of Jesus. Today several places claim to possess this relic, or else an early copy of the Holy Face. Veronica’s gift of her veil to the Lord resulted in a greater gift in return. Veronica got back what she had given and received still more besides, for God will not be outdone in generosity. As Jesus says:

Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”

With this in mind, how generous should we be?

The holy veil is a memento of Veronica’s good deed which reveals Jesus Christ. All of our good deeds in Christ leave behind an impression of our Lord. In the words of St. Pope John Paul the Great meditation on Veronica from the year 2000’s Good Friday Stations:

[E]very act of goodness, every gesture of true love towards one’s neighbor, strengthens the likeness of the Redeemer of the world in the one who acts that way. Acts of love do not pass away. Every act of goodness, of understanding, of service leaves on people’s hearts an indelible imprint and makes us ever more like the One who ‘emptied himself, taking the form of a servant.’ This is what shapes our identity and gives us our true name.

The 8th Station –  The Women of Jerusalem

Finally, we come to the Eighth Station. St. Luke’s Gospel records how a large crowd of people followed Jesus, including many women who mourned and lamented him. Jesus turned to them and said:

Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep instead for yourselves and for your children, for indeed, the days are coming when people will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed.’ At that time people will say to the mountains, ‘Fall upon us!’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’ for if these things are done when the wood is green what will happen when it is dry?’”

(This is to say, ‘The evil you see now occurs while I am with you; what terrible evils will come later when I am no longer visibly here?’) Jesus prophetically speaks of how, forty years after the beginning of his public ministry, Jerusalem would be destroyed. The Romans conquered the rebellious city in 70 A.D., destroyed its temple, and put her people to the sword. Before Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, Jesus had wept over the city, saying:

If this day you only knew what makes for peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. For the days are coming upon you when your enemies will raise a palisade against you; they will encircle you and hem you in on all sides. They will smash you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave one stone upon another within you because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.”

People rejecting Christ naturally leads to personal and national consequences.

Jesus had been falsely condemned as a religious heretic, he had been falsely condemned as a political rebel, but these women did not fear to publicly mourn for him. Some of these women had accompanied him during his public ministry. As Jesus “journeyed from one town and village to another, preaching and proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God… some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities (accompanied him. For instance), Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, Susanna, and many others who provided for [Jesus and his apostles] out of their resources.

An interesting observation is that throughout the Gospels Jesus has no female enemies. Surely, there were some women in Nazareth or Jerusalem who despised Jesus, but the Gospels do not introduce us to any of them. Even the wife of Pilate advocates for Jesus, calling him a “righteous man!” This reflects that both men and women are called to be close to Christ. Though Jesus reserved the Sacrament of Ordination for men alone, without the prayers and works of holy women the mission of Christ and his Church would be hobbled, if not impossible. Just try to imagine the Gospels or the Catholic Church without them.

On Good Friday, the women of Jerusalem now saw Jesus struggling. They watched him fall down more than once. They openly wept for him and wished they could do more. Though grateful for and encouraged by the women’s outpouring of loving support, Jesus expressed his concern for them instead:

Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep instead for yourselves and for your children…

The openness of a woman’s heart for others is beautiful, but Jesus reminds them that it is not selfish to attend to the wellbeing of yourself and your own. Even Jesus took naps. Even Jesus accepted help. Even Jesus took time away, to commune with the Father. Wives and husbands are called to prioritize the salvation their spouses and their children before the world’s affairs. And if you do not take care for yourself, you cannot care for others very well.

In the days ahead into Holy Week, I invite you to meditate on these reflections that stick with you. Contemplate the lessons of Simon of Cyrene, Veronica, and the women of Jerusalem on the way of the Golgotha.

The People at the Passion (Part 1 of 3)

March 30, 2023

By Fr. Chinnappan Pelavendran

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, so everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life.” (John 3:16) God loves everyone with everlasting love. He is our Father. We are His Children. He loves each one of us individually and wants us to know and love Him.

Jesus came to the world with a mission, to serve, redeem by being the sacrifice for our sins, and to establish the church through His apostles. The Church began with Jesus and spread with by His many disciples including the apostles.
Let us now begin, with courage, as we begin meditating on the people that were present during the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ. I came upon a book titled Pieta, which listed the sufferings, indignities, and wounds that Jesus received during His passion and death. The number of armed soldiers were 150. The followers of Jesus, 23. Those in charge of putting Jesus to death were 83. The blows received on His head were 150, and on His stomach were 108, and kicks on His shoulders were 80. He was led, bound with cords by the hair, 24 times; spit in the face, 180. He was beaten on the body 6,666 times; beaten on the head, 110 times, He was pushed and lifted up by His hair; pricked with thorns and pulled by the beard 23 times; 20 wounds on the head; wounds from thorns in the head were 110; mortal wounds in the forehead were 3. He was whipped and mocked as a king and received 1000 wounds in the body. There were 608 soldiers who led Jesus to Calvary. Those who mocked Him were 1008. The drops of blood He lost were 28,430. Jesus Christ endured this for all of us.

Let us look more closely at some of the people that were there during the passion and death of Jesus Christ. After the Last Supper, Jesus took three of His closest Apostles to the garden of Gethsemane. Jesus prayed alone to do the will of His father. While they were there, the betrayer, Judas came with the soldiers to arrest Jesus.

Judas Iscariot

Who was Judas? He was one of the twelve apostles. He was the treasurer and trustworthy with the moneybag. After a time, he began to steal money. He betrayed Jesus with a kiss for thirty pieces of silver. After Jesus was condemned to die, he went out and hung himself.

Judas was greedy. Judas was possessed by the devil. Judas had to fulfill the prophecy. Judas had a political motive, he thought Jesus would become a King. We can learn from Judas, it does not matter to God how bad we are; He loves us and wants us to come back to him. Don’t judge yourself by what you have done, don’t think that you are unforgivable, and come back to the Lord like Peter did.

King Herod

Herod was a rich and important man. He had been hearing stories about Jesus. He knows the tax collectors and others of ill–repute are drawn to Jesus and repent for their sins. Jesus draws crowds of people where ever He goes, and he knows that when Jesus was 12 years old He amazed the rabbis with His knowledge of the scriptures. He is excited to meet Jesus and hopes to see a miracle.

Herod is the one who beheaded St. John the Baptist. He was captivated by St. John the Baptist and did not want to kill him, but he had no choice. He had a party, and his new stepdaughter, Salome. danced for him. Her dancing pleased him very much and he promised to give her anything she wanted. Her mother told her to ask for St. John the Baptist’s head.

His father was also named Herod. It was he who had all of the boy babies under the age of two killed when he heard about the birth of Jesus. Herod continued to question Jesus, but Jesus did not answer. Herod had hoped that Jesus would answer some of the difficult questions that his wise men could not. He was frustrated with Jesus because he had been so hopeful to see miracles performed, but it didn’t happen. The Jewish leaders were hoping that Jesus would not perform any miracles, so they were pleased.

Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate, and he and Pilate became friends. Both the king and the Governor consider Jesus to be a criminal. Oh, how wrong they are! For He is the innocent One. Like them, we also twist reality, making the guilt innocent and the innocent guilt. Every time we blame others for what is wrong with us, we are at fault, blaming others for our sins.

Oh, how tragic, except we are not our own! God calls us by the Gospel and gives us faith. The Spirit works in our lives, bringing us to seek Jesus. Unlike Herod, we want to be in his presence for the right reason, to receive His Salvation!

Pontius Pilate

He was a Roman citizen and he ruled over all non-Roman citizens in Judea and Samaria. He lived in Caesarea. Pilate did not want to pass judgment on Jesus. He did not think that Jesus was guilty of anything and wanted to release Him. His wife also wanted him to release Jesus because of a dream she had. It was customary at Passover to release a prisoner to the people. There was a murderer named Barabbas in jail at the time. Pilate asked the people whom they wanted to be released, and they shouted Barabbas. He asked them what he should do with Jesus, and they shouted, crucify Him. Pilate again said, “I see no wrong in this man,” and they shouted again, “Crucify Him!” When he saw that his attempts to free Jesus only provoked the crowd to call his crucifixion louder, he washed his hands and said, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourself.” (Matthew 27:24)

Pilate released Jesus because he wanted to please the crowd. Pilate was a people-pleaser more than a God-pleaser. How often do we want to please people, so they like us? Our human respect goes beyond our respect for God.

Pharisees, Scribes, and Sadducees

The Pharisees, Scribes, and Sadducees were the ones who brought Jesus to Pilate. They were highly educated and knowledgeable of the scriptures. Jesus was humble and a carpenter from Nazareth. He was like a magnet, drawing many people to Him by His words and deeds. The Pharisees, Scribes, and Sadducees were jealous and envious of Jesus, and that blinded them from being able to see and accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. How many people today are blinded from knowing and accepting the truth because of their pride?

The Mocking of Jesus

The Mocking of Jesus involved not only the soldiers but crowds of people. They shouted: Hail, king of the Jews, as they made fun of Jesus. They put a purple robe on Him, the type worn by the soldiers. They put a crown of thorns on His head causing wounds and much bleeding. They spit at Him, His body, and in his face. They struck Him on his body and on the crown of thorns, driving it deeper into his scalp. Who of us would be able to endure what Jesus suffered for us? The brutality, the mocking? Jesus did this for us, to redeem the world by taking our sins upon himself on the cross. He died for you and me.

The Passion of Christ

After Jesus has been severely beaten, and crowned with thorns, he is ordered to carry the cross to Calvary. Jesus picks up His cross and begins His journey through the streets of Jerusalem to the hill of Golgotha. On His Journey, He falls three times. Each time he falls, he is beaten and pulled up by his hair or arms and also beaten and spit upon. He has lost a lot of blood and is very tired. When they finally reach Golgotha, he is brutally nailed to the cross, where he will soon die.

The hour has finally come. The Son of God whom we call Jesus Christ and believed as the savior of the world is arrested, and crucified as a criminal. At about three in the afternoon of Good Friday, God the Son died and was buried.
Jesus gave His whole life to serve the people. At the last supper, He gave away His body and blood as food for His disciples. His last breath while hanging on the cross was offered to His Father. Is there any better example of a life dedicated to service and the prize for doing it is utter humiliation, condemnation, and crucifixion?

Jesus lived His life in total surrender to the will of God. The plan of salvation is to be fulfilled in Him and through Him. How does this divine plan be carried out without the participation of Judas Iscariot, Pontius Pilate, Caiaphas, Herod, and the countless nameless Jews who arrested, mocked, slapped, kicked, and beat Him? These people did the worst things to Jesus and their names and actions are remembered by generations after generations of Christians. Yet they are part of the divine plan although they were unaware of it.

We are all disciples of Jesus. Jesus is not the victim in this account. He willingly lays down his life for our sins.
Peter has the courage to use his sword at Jesus’ arrest and to be in the high priest’s inner court where there are people who may have seen him in the garden. But his courage fails and he denies Jesus. I think the lesson for disciples is to realize our own weakness, and rely on our own strength, but in humility rely on the Lord.

Jesus presents himself as the king of truth, with a mission to testify to the truth. We also must testify to the truth, some people will listen. Jesus is scourged brutally and then mocked mercilessly as king of the Jews, which he actually is! Jesus put up with this because he had a higher mission, to endure the Cross.

Pilate wants to avoid crucifying Jesus and tries several times to release him because he believes Jesus is innocent.
The Jewish leaders try to manipulate Pilate with fear, fear of punishing the son of God, Pilate is also afraid of losing his job. We as disciples need to make sure that fear is not controlling us rather than faith.

Immanuel: God Among Us

December 22, 2022

Advent Retreat Reflection
By Fr. Chinnappan Pelavendran

Emmanuel means God is with us. From the beginning even today God is with His people through His presence, He Strengthens us, comforts us, guides us, cares for us, and loves us. First, God is with us always. Secondly, he is coming every day, every hour to those who believe in him and those who do not believe in him. Third, he will come again in his glorified body, the same Jesus who was here two thousand years ago. He will be coming to judge the living and the dead.

In the beginning, God created Adam and Eve in His Image and likeness, which means God lives with everyone. God lives in you, God lives in me and God lives in each and every human being in the world. God was with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. He wanted to care for them and be with them. He created us with love because he wanted to be with us.

When Abram was 75 years old, God told him to move out of his country and to go land that God would lead him to. He told Abram:

I will make of you a great nation,
And I will bless you;
I will make your name great
so that you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you
And curse those who curse you.
All the communities of the earth
Shall find blessing in you.” (Genesis 12:2–3)

Abram had a strong faith in God. He knew that God would always be with him. He gathered his family together and they left his country just as the lord told him. Abram was 75 years old when he left the country, Abram trusted God to lead him. He didn’t know where they were going, so a map or GPS would not have helped. Everything was unknown. God was with Abram and led him to the land of Canaan. God was with him in a strange land among strangers.

God heard the cries of His people. They were slaves of the Pharaoh of Egypt. They were being treated with much cruelty. They called out to God to save them. God appeared to Moses from a burning bush and called him, “Moses! Moses!” He answered, “Here I am.” And God said to him, “I have witnessed the affliction of my people in Egypt and have heard their cry of complaint against their slave drivers, so I know well what they are suffering. I have come down to rescue them and lead them out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey.” (Exodus 3:7–8)

The suffering they endured is unimaginable to us. The Israelites worked long hard days, were frequently beaten and all male children were killed at birth. Through all their suffering the lord was always with them.

Moses was a shepherd, a common man, and not eloquent in speech. He led his people out of Egypt. They were in the desert for forty years and Moses was able to take care of all their needs (food, and shelter, Clothing and water) because God was with him.

Judith was a widow and a member of the Israelites. God was with her. They knew that they were going to be attacked by the Assyrian army led by a chief general, Holofernes. He had 120,000 soldiers and also 12,000 archers on Horseback. He took provisions to provide for his entire army. Judith’s people found safety on top of a mountain. The army camped at the base of the mountain cutting of the water supply for the Israelites that was located there. Judith came down from the mountain to meet with the captain of the enemy. She had prayed to God to help her save her people. God enabled her to take the head of Holofernes back to her people. God was with Judith.

In the New Testament, God continued to be with his people. A good example is the Blessed Mother. She was conceived without original sin because she was chosen by God. She was a single young girl when the Angel came to her and said, “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Highest, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and He will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom, there will be no end.” (Luke 1:31-33) And Mary said yes to God. Mary was well aware of the possible difficulties she could encounter, pregnant and single. If she were found out, she could be stoned to death. It would cause embarrassment to her and her entire community.

During the birth of Jesus, there was no one to deliver her baby. They did not have a place to stay. They finally found a barn and when Jesus was born he was placed in a manger.

St. Joseph was a just man and the earthly father of Jesus. When Jesus was born, King Herod issued a command to kill all the male children under the age of two. He was afraid that Jesus was an earthly king and would overthrow him. “Angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said Rise and take the child and his Mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.” (Matthew 2:13) In their life with Jesus, God was with them.

Jesus was very good friends with Martha, Mary and Lazarus and frequently stayed at their home. When Lazarus was sick, Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus. “When Jesus heard this He said, this illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” (John 11:4) Jesus came after the death of Lazarus. Martha was disappointed and told Jesus that Lazarus would not have died if Jesus had been there. Jesus went to the tomb of Lazarus and prayed, “Father, I thank you for hearing me. I know that you always hear me; but because of the crowd here I have said this, that they may believe that you sent me.” (John 11:41–42) Then He called Lazarus out of the tomb and told them to remove the burial bands. God was with his people through their pain and suffering.

Saul was a Jew, educated under Gamaliel a teacher of the law. Saul received permission to kill the Christians that were following Christ. On his way to Damascus, he met the Lord. “On his journey, as he was nearing Damascus, a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? He said, who are you, Sir? The reply came, I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.” (Acts 9:3-5) Saul then continued his journey to Damascus, then became a believer in Jesus. Saul became Paul. After his conversion, He traveled to many countries spreading the Good News of Jesus. He also wrote many of the letters in the New Testament.

During his ministry, he suffered a lot. St. Paul told the people of his suffering, “Five times at the hands of the Jews I received forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I passed a night and a day on the deep; on a frequent journey in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my own race, dangers from gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers at sea, dangers among false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many sleepless nights, through hunger and thirst, through frequent fasting, through cold and exposure.” (2nd Corinthians 11:24–27). Through all of his sufferings, God was with him.

The first time God spoke the promise of Emmanuel was to Judah’s king Ahaz. The Assyrian forces occupied the land and the king was afraid. God said if you do not stand firm in the faith, you will not stand at all. (Isaiah 7:9) Ahaz refused what God offered him. God then gave his own sign, one that would be fulfilled long after Ahaz. “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a Son, and you will call Him Emmanuel. He will eat curds and honey when He knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right.” (Isaiah 7:14)

In the Gospel of Matthew, we are told of the fulfilled prophecy. It is fulfilled through Mary with the birth of Jesus. The Angel appeared to Mary, a young woman from Nazareth, who was betrothed to a man named Joseph. The Angel appeared to him in a dream telling him that the child Mary was expecting was from God. Joseph then took Mary as his wife. “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord said through the prophet Isaiah; ‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a Son, and they will call Him Emmanuel – which means God with us.’” (Matthew 1:20–23)

The New Testament makes it clear, that Jesus God’s Son was the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophesy. He was the long-promised Emmanuel, sent by God to save His people. He came as the mediator between God and man, as our Redeemer, Savior, and Friend.

From the beginning of creation, even today and in the future, God is always with His people. Because of Jesus, Emmanuel, we never have to be alone. We never have to wonder how to please God or worry if our efforts are not enough. We know that Jesus is with us, in us, loves us, and will never leave us.

The Humility of Jesus

December 22, 2022

Advent Retreat Reflection
By Fr. Chinnappan Pelavendran

God loves the humble. St. Augustine once said, “The first virtue of Christianity, I will tell you that it is humility. If you ask me again, what is the second, I will say to you it is humility. Again, if you ask me a third time, I will say that it is humility, and as you ask me this question, I shall always give you the same answer.”

Humility enables us to accept others as God’s children, our brothers and sisters, redeemed by the blood of Christ. It encourages us to do loving and sacrificial services for them through acts of charity, mercy, and forgiveness. It enables us to accept ourselves as we are before God with all our defects.

You are all familiar with St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta and the good works she did. One time she was asking for donations for the poor in the city of Calcutta. She went to the rich man’s house and asked for help and he spit in her hand, she held that hand toward her and said this is enough for me. Do you have anything for the poor? He was humbled and now wanted to give her money to help the poor.

In the Second Book of Kings (5:1–19), we have the story of Naaman. He was no ordinary man, for he was an important figure during king Aram’s reign. He was wealthy and powerful. One day he developed the condition of leprosy. Being a leper was more than a person having a skin condition at that time. It signified that a person with leprosy was filthy and untouchable. So Naaman wanted to be cured as soon as possible because his condition was taking away everything he had. Power, wealth, and even people.

He needed and wanted help. A female slave told him to meet Elisha who was a well-known Hebrew prophet with a reputation for healing people. So he went to meet Elisha, but Elisha sent out his servant. This servant told Naaman to go into the River Jorden seven times and he will be cured. However, Naaman did not believe the servant and felt insulted. To him, he was suffering a severe disease, and to give such a simple and straightforward solution was insulting.

The servant was able to convince him to do as told. Finally, Naaman agreed, so he dipped his body into the Jordan River seven times. After doing so, he was completely healed and vowed to serve the Lord forever. It was not the Jordan River that healed him, it was the humility of receiving help from a servant. When Naaman humbled himself, he was able to witness the healing hand of God through the advice of the servant.

Solomon is good example of humility in the Bible. He was not an ordinary man. He was the king of one of the most powerful nations at the time, he was blessed with splendor, power, and vast riches. Wealth is usually accompanied by pride, boastfulness, and arrogance but, Solomon did not have any of that in his heart. One day, God appeared to Solomon in his dreams.

God asked Solomon what he wanted. Being the humble person that he was, he asked god for wisdom to rule and lead God’s people. God was very pleased to hear this and granted him wisdom, along with all the other things he already possessed. Solomon spent his life honoring the Lord. He built temples and prayed to God and he was humble until his death.

The humility of Solomon reveals the blessing received by those who are humble. He did not boast about his riches, he was powerful but knew it was only because of god’s blessing. Solomon is known to kneel in front of many people, which shows his humility. God blessed him with abundance and happiness. The world makes us think that we need many possessions to be important. However, Solomon knew that what he needed was wisdom and a relationship with God. These were the only things he really wanted. If we read about Solomon in the bible, he lived a great life. Solomon was humble.

In the Second Book of Chronicles, we read about Manasseh who became the king of Judah when he was only twelve years old. He offended God in many ways; he worshipped foreign gods and built altars to them in God’s holy temple. God spoke to Manasseh about his people’s sins but he did not listen. Because Manasseh did not listen, God brought the king of Assyria and his army to fight against Manasseh’s kingdom. It was a victory for the Assyrians who then captured the king and took him away.

During his imprisonment, Manasseh was able to see who god really is. He humbled himself before God and prayed wholeheartedly. God knew that Manasseh was genuinely sorry. He helped Manasseh by rescuing him, bringing him back to Jerusalem, and restoring his kingdom. Despite the many things Manasseh had done against God, the Lord blessed him the moment he decided to live under the influence of humility.

The Lord even gave Manasseh another chance to be king! Manasseh, honored God with all his heart. He changed his ways, and got rid of all the foreign gods and their altars. Then, he built the altar of God in which he gave praise and thanked the Lord. He used his voice to tell people, to serve God, and only God, just as the Lord wanted him to do. If you are feeling bad because you know you offended God, it is never too late to tell God you are sorry. You can humble yourself to God, like Manasseh.

In the New Testament, Jesus was often in the company of Pharisees, He noticed that many of them boasted of their good deeds and despised others. He told them this parable: “Two men went up into the Temple to pray. Once was a Pharisee, the other a publican. The Pharisee stood proudly and said this prayer to himself; O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of men, greedy, dishonest, adulterous or even like this tax collector, and particularly that I am not like this publican. I fast twice a week, and pay tithes on all I receive.” This prayer was said with vanity and pride. The Pharisees did not come to ask god for his grace, but to praise himself, and to despise those who really were praying.

The publican, on the other hand, stood some distance away from the altar, not daring, even to raise his eyes to heaven. He struck his breast and said, “My God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Jesus said, this man went home justified, the other did not. The publican had his sins forgiven; the Pharisee, with all his good deeds, went home, more in sin than when he left.

Although he was a sinner, the publican’s humility was more pleasing to God than all superficial good works of the proud Pharisee. Jesus Christ demonstrates with the example that everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, and he who humbles himself shall be exalted.

When we hear about St. John the Baptist, we know that he was concerned about the work he was doing for our Lord. He was preparing the way for people to know about Jesus. The Gospel of Matthew tells us that John’s shirt was made of camel’s hair, and it must have been very itchy. His food was locusts and wild honey.

St. John the Baptist is like a road sign. A road sign gives direction but does not get attention for itself. The road sign is there to show us the way. Like a road sign, St. John pointed to Jesus, the way to the Father.

St. John the Baptist was with two of his disciple as he saw Jesus walk by, he said, “Behold the lamb of God the two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus.” The next day Andrew introduced Simon to Jesus, who named him Peter (which means Rock). It then became a chain effect and many began to follow Jesus.

St. Luke tells us the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking whether John might be the Messiah. St. John the Baptist remains humble saying, “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the straps of his sandals.” (Luke 3:16)

St. John the Baptist humbled himself saying that he was only the prophet. He was there to prepare the way of the Lord. He pointed out to his disciple behold the Lamb of God and his disciple followed Jesus. He baptized with water and said, “He must increase, I must decrease.

We have been looking at the way God wants us to live. Jesus Christ by his example showed us how to live. He was humble. Jesus identified totally as a man. To be a man, He was not ashamed and He called us his brothers and sisters. Sometimes we feel superior to others. We feel more educated or better than other people. All of this pride is because Adam sinned. He came and became one of the lowest in the social level of His day. He came below everybody because he wanted to be a servant of everybody. St. Paul tells how Jesus humbles himself and became man:

Though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should 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. (Philippians 2: 6 – 11)

From the time he came to earth as a human being, he steadily went down in social status. He became a servant, then a slave, and finally like a criminal to die on the cross. Because it was His father’s will, He accepted and obeyed. He was humble during his entire time on earth. So God raised him up. That every knee shall bend at the name of Jesus, on the earth, above the earth, and below the earth. Every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

You have heard about St. Mother Theresa, Naaman, Solomon, Manasseh, and the Publican. They were human like all of us, and during their lives had many difficulties and problems, but they were all faithful to God. They were humble. It does not matter if you are a king like Solomon and Manasseh, or poor like St. Mother Theresa and the Publican, if you are humble before God, He will raise you up.

Good Tweetman Speaks

November 7, 2022

By Fr. Victor Feltes

This image from The Simpson’s provided the avatar (or avi) which Goodtweet_man used for his pseudonymous Twitter account.

Good Tweetman (Goodtweet_man) is a Catholic attorney in Kansas who, until recently, had a significant and devoted following on Twitter. There he would crack jokes, post others’ prayer requests, and offer sometimes salty commentary on religion and politics. But on October 27th, the same day that Elon Musk was completing his purchase of Twitter, Goodtweet_man’s account was ‘permanently suspended’ by the company for “violating our rules against abuse and harassment.”

Goodtweet_man had tweeted in reference to the Catholic bishops of Germany, whose ongoing “Synodal Way” drew a warning from the Holy See this July. (The Vatican statement clarified that “the ‘Synodal Way’ in Germany does not have the power to compel the bishops and the faithful to adopt new ways of governance and new approaches to doctrine and morals” and to do so “would represent a wound to ecclesial communion and a threat to the unity of the Church.”) The image below is a screenshot of Goodtweet_man’s suspension notice from Twitter which includes his flagged tweet and the policy Twitter found he had violated:

As word of his suspension spread throughout the Twitterverse, The Pillar editor and cofounder J.D. Flynn and others posted the hashtag #FreeGoodTweetman, and various tributes, satires, and jokes, were shared about the situation. The next day, the ambassador of Hungary to the Holy See and the Sovereign Order of Malta, Eduard Habsburg, tweeted: “This is a reminder that @Goodtweet_man is still suspended. Twitter, you don’t want all of us to lose faith in you, right?” Though the online clamor has since died down, many of Goodtweet_man’s former followers still hope for his account’s reinstatement.

This is his first public interview following the suspension.

What is your perspective on this suspension by Twitter?
While I should very much not have said what I said as it was uncharitable, it is completely silly that this of all things garnered a permanent suspension. I am aware that even people who aren’t particularly fond of me thought the same. It was likely just an algorithm.

Have you appealed your suspension? What are your hopes your account will be restored?
I have appealed the suspension, and I would have to imagine it gets restored if a human being at their offices gets some eyes on it. Of course, that may be the biggest obstacle I face.

What has your life been like unplugged from Twitter?
Well I do have an alt account which I’m slowly introducing. The name isn’t particularly vulgar but I don’t think it particularly would fit an interview from a priest we’ll say. Also, for now, it’s somewhat nice not having to deal with the people I don’t like knowing about my twitter. It’s been nice to have a little bit of a respite in any event.

Are you concerned that this other account might run afoul of Twitter’s ban evasion policy?
No, I made that account a couple years ago and the rules specifically state that only accounts made to evade the ban are subject. My account wasn’t made to evade the ban, therefore it is fine.

Any thoughts on Twitter’s new owner, Elon Musk, and the hot topic of content moderation on the platform?
As for Musk: I’m pretty indifferent overall, and I expect most people will find things aren’t terribly different once the dust settles. There’s advertisers and users to take into account after all.

What would you like to say to your friends on Twitter?
I’ll be back.

(Twitter owner @ElonMusk, @TwitterSupport, and @TwitterSafety had not responded to requests for comment on the @Goodtweet_man account suspension by the time of this interview’s publication.)

Can Computers be Persons?

September 17, 2022

By Fr. Victor Feltes

In recent years, the question of artificial intelligence (AI) possessing personhood has become a hot topic of debate. Some believe that AI could one day achieve sentience and become its own entity, while others believe that personhood is something that can only be attained by beings with a soul. The Catholic Church has not yet taken an official stance on the matter [a debatable claim –Fr. VF], but it is an interesting question to consider. For example, if an AI became self-aware and could think and feel for itself, would it have the same rights as a human being? If an AI was created with the sole purpose of serving humans, is it ethical to treat it as a mere tool?

The preceding paragraph was not written by a human being but generated online by a LaMDA (Language Model for Dialogue Applications). I gave the program GPT-3 the instruction: “Write an interesting introductory paragraph, including an example, for a Catholic article on the question of artificial intelligence possessing personhood.” The paragraph above was its first five sentences of its output. The accompanying illustration above was also created online using the image generation program DALL-E from my submitted prompt: “A robot touching a monolith (like in ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’)”. GPT-3’s paragraph and DALL-E’s image each took less than a minute for computers to produce. We can expect computers to be capable of even more amazingly sophisticated things in years to come. This leads to the question: “Can computers be persons?

Gaudium et Spes, the Second Vatican Council’s document on the Church in the modern world, says “[man] is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself.” But this teaching was written in 1965, when Seymour Cray had only begun building the earliest supercomputers in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. Could mankind now fashion a new type of rational creature, a self-aware being endowed with an immortal soul? There are philosophical and theological issues with that proposition. First, if an AI were ever self-aware, how could we know? A computer need not be conscious to say “Hello, World!” according to its programming. Second, I am aware of nothing in divine revelation which suggests God would begin imparting souls into the works of our hands. Various electronics may be equipped with sensors and speakers and means of motion but I do not believe any of them will ever truly see or hear or speak or walk. As noted in René Magritte’s famous painting “The Treachery of Images,” a mere depiction of a pipe “is not a pipe.” Pope Francis spoke about this fundamental difference between man and machine, persons and things, in a 2019 address at the Vatican:

The inherent dignity of every human being must be firmly placed at the centre of our reflection and action. In this regard, it should be noted that the designation of ‘artificial intelligence,’ although certainly effective, may risk being misleading. The terms conceal the fact that – in spite of the useful fulfillment of servile tasks… functional automatisms remain qualitatively distant from the human prerogatives of knowledge and action. And therefore they can become socially dangerous. Moreover, the risk of man being ‘technologized,’ rather than technology humanized, is already real: so-called ‘intelligent machines’ are hastily attributed capacities that are properly human.

I cannot see Catholicism ever attributing personhood to complex machines, but I predict that others will begin to in the coming decades. As new applications are programed to increasingly replicate human conversation and emotion I could see young people imagining them as their real friends. As anthropomorphized technology’s creative feats far surpass our human abilities, I could even see some adults revering them as wise and powerful idols. If so, then these passages of Psalm 115 will find a new fulfillment: “Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths but do not speak, eyes but do not see. They have ears but do not hear, noses but do not smell. They have hands but do not feel, feet but do not walk; they produce no sound from their throats. Their makers will be like them, and anyone who trusts in them.”

The potential of AI is very exciting, and yet it also holds dangers. The 5th Psalm reflects, “What is man that you are mindful of him, and a son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him little less than a god, crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him rule over the works of your hands, put all things at his feet…” Let us honor our Creator, defend the primacy of human dignity over all earthly creations, and never worship the works of our hands.

Parish Directory Photoshoots

July 20, 2022

Be included in the next parish directory by scheduling your free photo session. Both St. Paul’s and St. John the Baptist’s can have your household’s photos taken at St. Paul’s. Participants will receive a free 8×10 photo and the completed directory. Please sign up today to help make our new parish directory a complete success.

  • To reserve a time at St. Paul’s Church on September 6th-10th or September 20th-24th, CLICK HERE and enter Church Code “wi193” with Church Password “photos”.

If you have five or more in your family, please claim two adjacent timeslots. Online scheduling may be unavailable on Saturdays and Sundays to accommodate paper sign-ups at Mass.

Should Superman Be Baptized? A Thomistic Disputation

March 3, 2022

By Fr. Victor Feltes

St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274 A.D.) is often considered the Middle Ages’ greatest theologian. His most famous work, the Summa Theologica or “Summary of Theology”, tackles more than five hundred theological questions, such as “Does God exist?”, “Can the good or bad angels work miracles?”, and “Whether it is lawful to kill a man in self-defense?”. Aquinas responds using the disputational format popular in his day: first, strong objections are raised, next the author presents his own stance, then each prior objection is answered in turn. In fun commemoration of the March 7th anniversary of St. Thomas’ departure from this life for heaven, here is a question he died too soon to address presented in his classic style:

Question: Whether Clark Kent (assuming he existed) ought to be baptized?

Objection 1: It seems that Clark Kent should not be baptized. He is faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. He can even fly—like a bird, like a plane! These seem to be preternatural gifts characteristic of an unfallen creature who has no need for baptism.

Objection 2: The Protoevangelium (or “First Gospel”) announced in the Garden of Eden promised a Savior for Adam and Eve and their descendants: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel.” (Genesis 3:15) Clark Kent, however, is not descended from mankind’s first parents; therefore, Christ’s saving baptism is not meant for him.

Objection 3: The Second Person of the Holy Trinity assumed a human nature in order to save humanity. But Clark Kent’s Kryptonian nature is that of an alien race. As St. Gregory of Nazianzus (329-390 A.D.) wrote, “What was not assumed [by Christ], was not healed.” Therefore, Clark Kent’s nature is incompatible for baptism.

On the contrary,You shall not oppress an alien.” (Exodus 23:9)

I answer that Clark Kent is a created, fallen, and rational animal; a sinful man capable of receiving the gospel message in faith. “This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,” and Jesus told his Apostles, “Proclaim the gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.” (1 Timothy 1:15, Mark 16:15-16) Provided he is properly disposed to receive the sacrament, there is no reason why Clark Kent should not be baptized—apart from him being fictional.

Reply to Objection 1 (that he’s unfallen): If Clark were unfallen, his mature reason would grasp, for instance, that sexual activity outside of marriage is contrary to the natural law. His transgressions (portrayed on both page and screen) reveal that his nature has been wounded by sin and fallen short of the glory of God, requiring Christ’s redemption. (Romans 3:23)

Reply to Objection 2 (that he’s not a descendant): Of the Savior, Scripture says, “Surely he did not help angels but rather the descendants of Abraham,” and St. Paul the Apostle teaches, “It is those who have faith who are children of Abraham.” (Hebrews 2:16, Galatians 3:7) Therefore, Jesus came to save those who have faith. St. John the Baptist said, “God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones.” (Matthew 3:9) Nothing prevents God from granting the faith necessary for baptism to the Man of Steel.

Reply to Objection 3 (that his nature’s incompatible): The philosopher Aristotle (384–322 B.C.) said, “the higher includes the lower.” The title “Superman” implies that Clark Kent’s nature includes that which constitutes man. Though he can change the course of mighty rivers and bend steel with his bare hands, with just a quick change of clothes and a pair of glasses Clark Kent is entirely inconspicuous living mild-manneredly among humanity. He shares in every meaningful aspect of the human condition: joy and sorrow, strength and vulnerability, birth and even death. Our Savior himself exhibits powers and abilities far beyond those of ordinary men; walking on water, calming storms, and more. Nothing found in Superman is beyond what Jesus can image and redeem, so nothing in Clark Kent’s Kryponian nature is incompatible for union with the Body of Christ through baptism.

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Recreating the Way of the Cross

March 21, 2021

Our 1st Station, with an introduction and a map of our Way of the Cross

The experience of visiting the Holy Land (as I did in 2016) gives a person lasting impressions. One is a deepened sense that the Gospel stories were not “once upon a time” but events of a real time and place. Another takeaway is a better sense of the region’s scale – which is smaller than what you would think. The size of the nation of Israel is less than New Jersey, and the area enclosed by the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City (0.35 square miles) is that of only one-and-a-half Vatican City’s. The Way of the Cross, from where Governor Pilate sentenced Jesus to death to the place of Christ’s death and burial, is about 600 meters or 2,000 feet, less than half a mile.

Remember in the film “The Passion of the Christ,” when Jesus falls and Mary rushes to him? This is my photo of the 3rd and 4th Stations in Jerusalem.

In the Holy Land I also learned that Christian tradition not only preserves details about Jesus’ Passion (such as his three falls and St. Veronica’s veil) but also commemorates the locations at which these sad moments occurred. These fourteen Stations of the Cross are still venerated and prayerfully walked by pilgrims in Jerusalem today. It is a powerful, beautiful experience which I wanted to recreate in the streets of my community, and which you might wish to offer yours.

A present-day map of the fourteen Stations on Way of the Cross in Jerusalem

This Lent, we’ve created an outdoor Way of the Cross. It begins in front of our church and school and loops one time around the city block opposite them. After measuring maps and receiving permission from the various landowners, we posted the traditional fourteen Stations along a path which approximates the actual Way of the Cross, both in its length and its distances between the Stations. Walking it takes about twelve minutes (if one does not pause to pray) and we plan to keep the Stations up until Easter Sunday. Our small-town, local newspaper even ran a story about them.

The final five Stations, commemorating Jesus’ crucifixion and burial, are grouped closely together near the end. This is because the locations of Jesus’ Cross and Tomb were situated only about 150 feet away from each other. Both sites are now housed within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. On Good Friday, the Roman soldiers led Jesus west outside the walls of Jerusalem to a white limestone quarry. St. John’s Gospel records that many people read the sign posted above our Lord’s head on the Cross indicating the “crime” for which he was condemned (“Jesus the Nazorean, the King of the Jews”) because the place where he was crucified was near the city. It was also apparently alongside a road, since St. Matthew notes “those who passed by hurled insults at him.” Christ was crucified atop a rock formation there called Golgotha in Hebrew and Calvary in Latin, which laborers had cut around and left behind. As Psalm 118:22 had foretold, “the stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.”

A view from Calvary of the Stone of Unction in The Church of the Holy Sepulchre

The new tomb which St. Joseph of Arimathea gave to Jesus had been cut into a rock face amidst a garden nearby. Midway between these two places, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre now displays a stone venerated as the slab upon which Jesus’ body was prepared for burial by his mother and his friends. In whatever ways you accompany Christ through his sufferings this Lent, may you come to share more greatly in the graces and joys of his Easter Resurrection.

A Homily Series on The Apostles’ Creed for Lent (Year B)

March 21, 2021

I believe in God,
the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
and born of the virgin Mary.

He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died and was buried,
he descended into hell,
on the third day he rose again from the dead,

He ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty
from there He will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Holy Catholic Church,
the communion of Saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and life everlasting. Amen.

If you enjoy these Lenten reflections, I recommend The Catechism of the Catholic Church, whose discussion of The Apostles’ Creed was the primary source for my homilies here.

Five Reflections on St. Joseph

December 11, 2020

By Fr. Victor Feltes

This week, on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception and the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of St. Joseph as patron of the Universal (that is, the entire) Church, Pope Francis declared this “The Year of St. Joseph” through December 8th, 2021. The Holy Father also published an apostolic letter about Jesus’ beloved foster-father entitled “Patris Corde” (or “With a Father’s Heart”). In it, Pope Francis writes about Christian devotion to this great saint and mentions how the phrase “Go to Joseph” has an Old Testament origin. These are five of my personal reflections on St. Joseph.

Go to Joseph

In the Book of Genesis, during a time of famine across the known world, the Egyptians begged their pharaoh for bread. He in turn replied, “Go to Joseph and do whatever he tells you.” Pharaoh was referring to Joseph the son of Jacob who had risen from a very lowly state to become the viceroy of the kingdom. Enlighted by divinely-inspired dreams, this Joseph’s leadership went on to feed and save the whole world from death, including his own family. According to the genealogy at the beginning of Matthew’s Gospel, the New Testament’s Joseph also had a father named Jacob. Though poor and obscure, St. Joseph’s heaven-sent dreams enabled him to guide and protect his Holy Family, leading to the world’s salvation through the Bread of Life, Jesus Christ. Today, as a powerful intercessor in the Kingdom of God, we are wise to “go to Joseph” for needed help.

His One Word

Within the Gospels, St. Joseph has no recorded words. There is no indication the foster-father of Jesus and spouse of the Virgin Mary was physically unable to speak or ever took a vow of silence; he is simply never quoted. Yet the Gospels suggest he said at least one specific word.

Matthew’s Gospel records how an angel (probably the Archangel Gabriel though perhaps another) told Joseph in a dream: “‘[Mary, your wife,] will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus…’ When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home. He had no relations with her until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus.” Just as John’s Gospel tells us “Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book,” so St. Joseph almost certainly said many unrecorded things. But the one word that Scripture most clearly suggests St. Joseph said is “Jesus.” The name of Jesus is the sum total proclamation of St. Joseph’s life. May it be so for us as well.

Image of the Father

The Letter to the Colossians says of Christ, “He is the image of the invisible God.” Something analogous was true of St. Joseph for Jesus in being the earthly image of his Father in Heaven. Joseph’s life has no recorded beginning or end in the Bible. We know that he was a carpenter craftsman – a creator of many things to be blessing for others. Perhaps he looked at everything he made and found it very good. Alongside Mary, Jesus was obedient to Joseph; he was Jesus’ boyhood teacher, deliverer, and role-model. Jesus lovingly called him, “Abba, father.” St. Joseph was a holy and loving image of God the Father for his Son. Though imperfect, may we likewise be images of God for each of our biological and spiritual children.

The Hour of his Death

When did St. Joseph die? Luke’s Gospel tells us that when 12-year-old Jesus was found at the Temple in Jerusalem he went down with his parents to Nazareth and was obedient to them. After that joyful reunion, St. Joseph makes no further personal appearances in the Gospels. Joseph had apparently passed away by the time of Christ’s Passion since Jesus on the Cross does not entrust his blessed mother’s care to her faithful husband but to a beloved disciple. Other episodes in the Gospels suggest that Joseph died before the start of Jesus’ public ministry.

How did St. Joseph die? If Joseph, the heir to the throne of David, had been murdered we would expect this prefigurement of Jesus’ own death to be described in the Gospels like the death of St. John the Baptist. Unless some sudden catastrophe befell him, an ailing Joseph would have reached his deathbed. And who would have been compassionately comforting him and powerfully praying for him at his bedside as he reached his hour of death? His having most likely died peacefully in the loving presence of Jesus and Mary is what makes St. Joseph the patron saint of a happy death.

The Terror of Demons

St. Joseph is called “the Terror of Demons” and his spouse “the Queen of Angels.” Yet the Virgin Mary at the Annunciation was greatly troubled and afraid at the Archangel Gabriel’s greeting, and when resettling his Holy Family from Egypt Joseph feared mere flesh and blood – avoiding Judea because Herod’s son ruled there. How can this man and woman now be leaders of awesome angels or banes of dangerous demons?

One key trait Joseph and Mary shared is obedience. The Book of Exodus displays Moses’ obedience by recording God’s instructions to him and then repeatedly presenting Moses doing “just as the Lord had commanded.” Whenever St. Joseph receives instructions from God (to take Mary into his home, to escape to Egypt, or to return to Israel) the text that follows has Joseph doing exactly as God commanded. Mary was also radically open to God’s will, as when she famously said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” The demons, for their part, fell from Heaven’s glory because they refused to do God’s will.

Joseph and Mary were also among the first on earth to accept and love the (then still-unborn) baby Jesus. The demons, in contrast, were the first to reject the Son of God. We do not know the exact reasons for their primordial rebellion but some theorize the demons took offense at God’s plan that the Eternal Son would become an incarnate human being, crowning that creature with a greater glory than the angels. “By the envy of the devil, death entered the world,” says the Book of Wisdom.

Joseph and Mary’s obedience to God’s will and their love for Jesus on earth lead to them being gloriously empowered in Heaven. Jesus told his disciples, “you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel,” and St. Paul reminded the Corinthians “we will judge angels.” It seems that faithful human creatures who, by God’s grace, love and serve the Lord in the likeness of Christ himself are best suited to become powerful, humble, servant rulers in the Kingdom of Heaven.

St. Joseph, patron of the Universal Church, pray for us throughout this holy year!

Do Good While You Sleep

September 28, 2020

St. Paul wrote, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the Church” (Colossians 1:24). The sufferings we endure and penances we freely offer not only help to perfect our own souls but can spiritually benefit others as well. Doing penances of some form (classic three being prayer, fasting, and almsgiving) should be a part of our lives. “The divine law binds all the Christian faithful to do penance each in his or her own way,” says the Church’s Code of Canon Law. Whatever penances we undertake should be properly moderated and suitable to our state in life.

During my seminary days, I experimented with different penances. I practiced fasting by limiting my eating and tried sleeping on my floor, but both of these shared a serious drawback: they deprived me of the energy I needed for my studies. This led me to discover a new penance to offer in their place which preserved my nutrition and good night’s rest.

I have found that when I offer my coming nights’ dreams to God as a penance, my ordinarily unremarkable dreams change. Because they do not terrorize me I would not call them nightmares, but I would describe these dreams as stressful. Ever dream that you must do something you’re unready for, like give a talk or take a test, and then awake relieved to find it was just a dream? When I form an intention that my dreams may have redemptive value and go on to experience dreams like this, I am pleased that God has apparently answered my prayer and used my modest suffering to spiritually aid others.

I recommend trying this experiment for yourself. God will not give you anything or any more than what is good for you, and considering the burdens that others carry in our midst and around the world it’s really a small sacrifice. “[God] pours gifts on his beloved while they slumber,” even enabling us to do good for others while we sleep.

Jesus Psalms

July 30, 2020

To pray the psalms in a fresh new way, wherever you see “the LORD” in a verse substitute the name “Jesus“. For example, here is most of this Sunday’s psalm (Ps 145:8-21) as explicit praise and celebration of God the Son:


Jesus is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and abounding in mercy.

Jesus is good to all,
compassionate toward all your works.

All your works give you thanks, Jesus,
and your faithful bless you.

They speak of the glory of your reign
and tell of your mighty works,

Making known to the sons of men your mighty acts,
the majestic glory of your rule.

Your reign is a reign for all ages,
your dominion for all generations.

Jesus is trustworthy in all his words,
and loving in all his works.

The Jesus supports all who are falling
and raises up all who are bowed down.

The eyes of all look hopefully to you;
you give them their food in due season.

You open wide your hand
and satisfy the desire of every living thing.

Jesus is just in all his ways,
merciful in all his works.

Jesus is near to all who call upon him,
to all who call upon him in truth.

He fulfills the desire of those who fear him;
he hears their cry and saves them.

Jesus watches over all who love him,
but all the wicked he destroys.

My mouth will speak the praises of Jesus;
all flesh will bless his holy name forever and ever.

Meet St. Paul’s Newest Teacher

July 20, 2020

Rachael Butek is a Cooks Valley native and graduate of Christendom College. She will be teaching English and Religion at St. Paul’s Catholic School this fall.

Why did you choose to teach at St. Paul’s?
Because to me teaching is a mission, not just a job, and as a member of St. John’s for the past 15 years I desired to give back to the community which has done so much for me.

What do you love about English?
Everything! I love the intricacy of our language, and delving into its origins in order to better understand how we communicate today. I also enjoy exploring the way that good literature can communicate Truth and Beauty to us.

What are ten other things you like?
In no particular order: Anglo-Saxon England, gardening, calligraphy, wild turkeys, book binding, singing, bugs, dancing, long walks, and good conversation. Feel free to ask me about any of them!

What do you wish to become patron saint of someday?
Good communication. I think about 90% of the worlds problems could be improved by better communication skills!

To learn more about enrolling into St. Paul’s Catholic School call our principal, Jackie Peterson, at 715-568-3233.