Saturday, November 27, 2010

Advent begins!

My bulletin letter for this week is some encouragement on the observance of Advent. Enjoy!

Vigil for Nascent Life

Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, called for a Vigil for Nascent Life to begin the saeason of Advent. And so, we did! There were a number of options but they were more for those who don't already have Mass. So... At Holy Family - Arcadia and St. Boniface - Waumandee, we prayed a pro-life rosary before Mass then after Mass we exposed the Most Holy Eucharist and offered prayers for life and in reparation for the sin of abortion. We closed with benediction.

If you were not able to participate in the celebration at your parish, or if your parish did not observe this vigil, you can still do so in your home and with your family. Pray the Joyful Mysteries and add a prayer for the unborn, for mothers, fathers, doctors, and in reparation for the sin of abortion, fetal stem cell research, IVF, and medically challenged children at the beginning of each decade. Here is a link for some prayers to use in a pro-life rosary.

One of my parishioners commented on how nice it was to pray for the unborn as opposed to hearing about how wrong it is. I would agree! It was wonderful to do this. Maybe we can do a repeat come January. In any case, it is important to hear from your priest that it is evil. It is also VERY important for all people of good will to pray, and pray regularly for an end to this scourge.

I'd like to encourage all to make this your special prayer throughout this Advent season. I would also like to encourage devotion to the Infant Child Jesus (aka: the Infant of Prague). Maybe you could buy a statue of the Infant Child for your parish and ask your pastor to mount it some place suitable within your church. Provide holy cards with an image of the Infant Child along with a pro-life prayer of reparation for distribution in your parish.

There is so much that CAN be done. It's just for all of us to get out and do it. Don't forget to organize letter writing campaigns to our representatives, and not just those who are pro-choice! Our pro-life legislators need to know that we are behind them. Let them know that you appreciate their stand.

May God bless you as you continue to fight the good fight for these modern day "Holy Innocents". May the ever-virgin Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe, and protection of the unborn, continue to hold you in the fold of her mantel, close to her most Immaculate Heart.

Pray Well!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Many Blessings on Raymond Cardinal Burke!

I've seen many stories, blog posts, etc. regarding this weekend's consistory wherein Cardinal Burke received the "red hat". That is all wonderful and I am certainly among those who is proud of this latest recognition for "one of our own". However, I want to share a few thoughts that go beyond "local pride" and the "we always knew" pronouncements. Cardinal Burke has gotten where he is because of deep faith, hard work, profound humility, and great fortitude.
Cardinal Burke didn't get to where he is by "making all the right political moves", or by knowing which winds to follow. He is not of the party of the left, nor of the right. Cardinal Burke belongs to the party of the Lamb.
One thought that came to mind over and over again, as the significance of the Cardinal's crimson vestments was explained, was that Raymond Burke, Fr. Burke, Bishop Burke, Archbishop Burke had already amply demonstrated his willingness to give himself completely to Christ and the service of His Church. In the many years I have known him, Cardinal Burke has always been about the glory of Jesus Christ and His Church. Because he, himself, believes so profoundly in the goodness, truth, and beauty of the Gospel, Cardinal
Burke has always sought to draw others to the same Jesus Christ who fills him so wonderfully.
Does this mean that his every move was perfect? That is for God to judge. However, Cardinal Newman's quote regarding the intention to serve well fits Cardinal Burke to a tee. At once it recognizes that mistakes may be made. It also recognizes that these can be forgiven and perfected as long as our intention is purely to do God's will as best as we can know it.
Cardinal Burke's fortitude has always been in inspiration to me. He knows what it is to which God calls us and never shrinks from proclaiming the truth in charity. In season and out of season, no matter the political consequences or the way the liberal press would portray it, he has always told the truth. He has always proclaimed the Gospel.
I have several times told people that it was easy, in some ways, to be a pastor under Cardinal Burke. There was no question about where he was and where he wanted you to be. Even when it seemed that everything was crashing down around me, I could follow his lead in confidence because not only did I know where he wanted me to be, but also why. Not just that, but it was always clear that what we are about is proclaiming the Gospel.
Cardinal Burke's humility is the gold standard. It is obvious to anyone who really knows him that he is a man of humility. He is not afraid to be critiqued. He does not need to be recognized nor has he ever been the kind of man who is looking for the next promotion. His moves were in response to obedience, not self promotion. His gaze is always on The Other, and others - not on himself.

Cardinal Burke has always been an inspiration to me. When I get the chance to see him in two weeks and I kiss his new red ring, that kiss will not only be a sign of great respect for a man that I love, but a witness to the inspiration he is for me to aspire to that same willingness to give myself completely to Christ with faith, hope, love, humility, and obedience.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Missionary Nature of the Church

Two weeks ago, my very good friend Fr. Sebastian Kolodziejczyk, who is the director of Casa Hogar Juan Pablo II orphanage in Lurin, Peru, gave the annual mission co-op for my parishes in Arcadia and Waumandee. His address on the missionary nature of the Church, and in particular, the place of charity, that is the virtue of caritas, was so inspiring that I have wanted to relate it here so that his message might be more widely known. I am relating his message as best I can recall it in his voice. It's a bit long, but I think that it is worth it. I hope that you will be inspired as I have been.

"Ihave always felt that I have needed to make and excuse for my vocation to priesthood in the missions. I have had this desire to serve in the missions since high school. Even when I announced this to my parish priest, who was very supportive of my more general desire to be a priest, I was immediately called to defend this call. Why should this be?

From the very beginning the Church has been missionary in Her very nature. In the gospels Jesus instructs his apostles to "go out into the world and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. (cf. Matthew 28) They didn't wait for Jerusalem to be fully evangelized before spreading out and taking the gospel to all the known world.

How is it that these twelve were able to be so successful? How is it that this little group of Israelites was able to grow and grow to, in a mere 300 years, become the official religion of the empire? I have wondered and wondered about that. I mean, if you were making up a religion that would be appealing to people on a purely human level it wouldn't be Christianity! Think about it. Our God is three persons yet one god. How do you explain that? Jesus Christ is true God yet true man - two natures: human and divine. How do you explain that in any satisfactory way? And the Eucharist, 30% of Catholics in the United States don't even understand and believe that. So how do you explain the growth of the Church? What is its attraction? Where is its power?

Then I was reading a book about the history of the Church and I came across Julian the Apostate. Julian was the emperor a mere 60 years after Constantine legalized the Church, but he was afraid of how influential and powerful the Church had become and so he sought to destroy it. Hence the name "apostate". He decided to bring back the pagan religion of Rome. He put all his imperial weight behind supporting the rise of the pagan priesthood, temples, feasts, and customs. He also made one other thing a part of his pagan revival - charity. Julian recognized that the power of Christianity, its earthly power in any case, was its concern for the poor, the widow, the orphan, the foreigner.

Fr. Joe Walejewski came to the diocese (of La Crosse) from Detroit. He related to then Bishop Treacy how he made a promise to God that, if he were to become a priest, he would spend himself for the missions. Bishop Treacy then allowed him to go to Bolivia where he presented himself to the local bishop and was asked to go and care for the people of the poorer districts of Santa Cruz. So, "Holy Cross Parish" was established. He labored there for many years and established a community of faith which continues to this day under the leadership of Fr. Robert Flock.

From Bolivia, Fr. Joe moved on to Peru where a great earthquake had struck. He started working among the people there when, one day he was walking along and saw a newspaper on the ground move. Under that newspaper he discovered and poor abandoned child. From this experience Casa Hogar was begun.

Through a series of providential occurrances I came to be introduced to him. In time he presented me to Bishop Burke who accepted me as a seminarian for the diocese of La Crosse. After a year of priesthood I returned to Peru to take over the orphanage where I have been director for the past ten years.

Last year I took some of our graduates into the jungle to Oaxapampa where Fr. Joe spent his last years. I was surprised to see that a brand new school had been constructed and even more surprised to see that it had been name "Fr. José School". He had only lived there a few short years and he had made such a huge impact that they named their new school after him!

Last Easter I was told that one of the women who had formed an association to support Fr. Joe's work had entered the Church. I then recalled a conversation that I had had with her some years earlier. She said that she always felt called to do some sort of charity work and everywhere she saw charitable work be done it was under the auspices of the Catholic Church.

When Fr. Joe died the were thousands who attended his funeral, and five bishops among them. As people passed by his coffin the reached out and touched it and then signed themselves with the Cross, the sign that they considered him to be a saint. These people didn't love him because of his eloquence in delivering homilies. They didn't love him for his great ability at explaining the faith. They loved him because he loved them.
Charity is the power of the human side of the Church. No other organization takes it upon itself to look out for the poorest of the poor. No one else cares for the widow and the orphan, the foreigner, the outcast, the sick, and the imprisoned. Anyone who does these things does it, like Julian the Apostate, in immitation of Christ and His Church. That is why it is so important that every member of the Body of Christ be joined with Christ our head in His care for the poor, His work of charity. And that is why I am here today, to offer you the opportunity to join yourselves more fully in this work of the Body of Christ."

Sunday, November 14, 2010


Yikes! I see it's been over a month since I've posted anything. It's been an extremely busy month and so there just hasn't been the energy. It's also been one of those months where we just keep getting things done, keeping things moving. So, not a lot of time for reflection either. However, it is now time to make up for that! (A "bye" week for the Packers doesn't hurt either)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Blessed Chiara "Luce" Badano

My homily for this past weekend reflected first on the lived response of the the foreign lepers to God's gift of healing, how they recognized that their lives were now changed because of the grace of God. It struck me at how we have all been "healed" of that which afflicts us most in life (sin) in the waters of baptism. So, where is our response to this gracious gift from God? Too many of us go on to live our lives however we will. It almost seems as if our baptism has had no effect on us, not because God hasn't redeemed us, but we have forgotten that this redemption requires a continued response. Some will tell me that I need to be more patient because they themselves hadn't really gotten serious about their faith until somewhat later in life. My concern is that in that time we have missed the opportunity to give real and effective witness in our lives. Even more however, not everyone gets 70, 80, 90 years to "get it right". A beautiful example of both of these concerns being played out well is the story of Blessed Chiara "Luce" Badano. Read her story related here by Chris Stefanick, director of the office of youth ministry for the Archdiocese of Denver (formerly of La Crosse). Here is another link from the EWTN News story. It has already inspired a couple of my younger girls. I am certain that it will inspire yours as well! Help me to get this amazing story of effective faithfulness out!! Blessings!

Give thanks to the Lord for He is good...

Here's a little reflection on the response to God bounty. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...

As I reflect on Respect Life Sunday I can't help but feel as though I'm in a Charles Dicken's novel. As I look around me it truly does seem to be both the best of times and the worst of times. On the one hand I have been privileged to baptize three children this past weekend including one born to an unwed mother. All of these families, inspite of the obvious difficulties some of these births present, have JOYFULLY welcomed these children into their families and, as of this last weekend, our family of faith.

Contrast this with the story I read this past week on a friend's blog about:
The following narrative illustrates something we encounter all too frequently outside abortion facilities – teenage girls brought in by their mothers. This situation happened during last spring’s 40 Days for Life. We ask you to join us in observing 40 Days for Life this fall, to pray for an end to abortion – so no 15-year-old girl, or anyone, will ever be forced into abortion again.She had somewhere to go. On her way, Teresa thought she would stop by the abortion clinic on Farwell Ave. in Milwaukee and pray for an hour as part of the 40 Days for Life campaign. It was Friday and she was praying at the clinic when a young girl of 15 walked up to the clinic, obviously pregnant.
I’ll call her Doris (not her real first name). She was there with her boyfriend. She told Teresa she was 21 weeks pregnant and did not want to have an abortion. Her mother wanted her to have an abortion. Her mom was threatening to sue her boyfriend if she did not kill her child. The boyfriend did not want her to abort their child. Teresa and a sidewalk counselor tried to offer her help and other options. She went in the clinic anyway, but on her way in she turned to Teresa and said, “Are you going to be here when I come out?” Teresa replied yes, not knowing when Doris would come out. Teresa would be late to her next stop.When Doris came out of the clinic, she would only tell Teresa that she had made an appointment for the abortion the next day at 8:30 am. The abortion clinic had closed the deal. Teresa and others promised to pray for Doris and her child. Teresa would return to the clinic the next morning after many hours of prayer and after asking an army of people to pray for Doris and her child. It was hoped that she would not return to the clinic but when Doris did return, she was extremely sad and said, “I can’t back out now, my mother has paid $2,000 to the clinic.”Teresa describes Doris as “well off” in her appearance, not poor. However Doris is truly the poorest of the poor when her own mother forces her to abort her large, kicking unborn child. Doris’ mother does not realize that Doris will at least resent and probably hate her for a very long time. Teresa was afraid her mother wouldn’t care. If that is so, how poor is that?“Are you going to be here when I come out?” Even though Doris felt she had to give in to the extreme coercion that she was under, she still wanted to know, “Are you going to be here when I come out?” Is this not the cry of the poor? Was she not begging for someone to come after her with love? Are we not all wanting God to “come after us” when we sin? Are we not all called to be the hands and feet of Christ to the women coming to the abortion clinic who are so poor that they are not just hungry; they are so poor that they feel trapped into having their babies stolen from them by a curette or a suction machine at our abortion clinic… right here in Milwaukee? Can we not find an hour or two to pray for these women, to be there for them, to offer them love and hope?

It is truly the best of times and the worst of times.

Abortion is not the only front however. Women in Mexico killed their infant children days and weeks after their births into the world. Abortion advocates and femnists made it sound like they had been imprisoned for having abortions and the Mexican legislative and judicial organs were sent into overdrive because of these lies.

In America, in certain states, one can neglect one's parent(s), spouse, or others, making them feel like they are a burden on the family because of the needs brought on by their advanced age or medical condition. Not wanting to be a burden they begin to consider assisted suicide.

This is contrasted with the many elderly people whom I visit who are taken care of so lovingly and devotedly by their families. I often hear from them also, "Oh! I don't want to be a bother! I know how busy everyone is." But I also see the smiles and little chuckles when their children tell them how much they love them and how it is not any bother at all.

It is the best of times and the worst of times.

Finally, I read about those who are encouraged to abort children because of the possibility of birth defects. I also read about the ongoing intellectual groundwork being laid to justify the forced subjection of those with severe mental challenges to medical testing/experimentation.

Contrast this with a friend of my parents who gave birth to a child with Downs Syndrome. Several years after the boy was born I saw this mother in the grocery store and she told me, with tears in her eyes, about what a blessing this boy has been in the lives of her whole family. Yes, his condition demands consistant and constant attention, therapy, adjustments in family life, etc. But what he has given to that family in love and joy far outweighs any other factors.

It is the best of times and the worst of times.

There is so much for which to give God praise and thanksgiving. There is also much work for us to do. May our Father in heaven continue to fill our hearts with the love necessary to overcome the evil in our midst.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Family Life Is The Answer

On this "Lord's Day" I have read a couple of articles which deserve a wider audience as well as some little comment. These articles were written from different points of view by very different men. They converge, however, and contribute to the answer to that question which dogs so many of us: "How do I find happiness, peace, contentment?" Over the years we have seen so many feeble attempts to answer the above question. Every attempt has been hobbled by the same shortcoming - it has been rooted in the "wisdom" and presumptuous mechinations of man rather than the wisdom of God.

Over these many years we have convinced ourselves that kids would be happier and healthier, and therefore society would be even more advanced, if we built up their "self-esteem", if we did this through scads of organized activities which are designed to assure the success which would bring higher self-esteem and therefore happiness, peace, and contentment.

I have often thought over the years that there is a biblical principle which is being ignored. Jesus never said: "Love thyself". Dr. John Rosemond, psychologist and columnist, discusses the fruits born by our preoccupation with children's self-esteem. So, while the rest of the world continues to "build up" our children's self-esteem and get no more result in the above named fruits, we would do well to consider the bibilical principles at play here.

I regularly remind my young people that the Great Commandment states that we are to love God with our whole heart, mind, and soul; and to love our neighbor as ourself. I think that this is a biblical standard for us with regards to where our attention ought to be. When we are "other-focussed" we find our true and best selves - both individually and as a society.

Can this be over done? Is it possible that we can be lost in this focus on the other? If we look to the life of the Trinity as our model and standard, or even the sacrament of marriage (which is an icon of the life of the Trinity), we see that this is only possible if all parties are not bound up in this life of complete "self-giving".

Archbishop Dolan writes in his archdiocesan paper about the scientific evidence beginning to be released detailing the benefits of real family life in the lives of children and the subsequent benefits to our society. The only reason any of this is "too hard" or "unrealistic" is that we've spent 30 years telling ourselves that our children must have everything. In the end we deprive them of what they really need, and I believe what they down deep inside want - family.
What is your experience? Let me know! I love hear from readers. Until then - Peace be with you!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

So Curious...

Isn't it interesting that after eight years of pillorying the Catholic Church for its handling of the sex abuse crisis the legal community of Wisconsin doesn't have a clue when it comes to cleaning its own house? I see that after getting a "proper complaint" from a citizen of Calumet County our governor and attorney general are finally going after Calumet District Attorney Ken Kratz.

After clobbering the Church for keeping these records confidential we find that according to Wisconsin Law complaints against attornies must be kept confidential. After demanding that priests be immediately suspended without any proof of wrong-doing Mr. Kratz is still in office except when he's taking "medical leave" when he's not otherwise busy being the DA.

This guy lies, get's caught in his lies, and is more worried about his reputation and declaring his actions a "non-story" than he is in justice. The state legal authorities are so concerned about "due process" NOW, when it's one of their own. GIVE ME A BREAK!

Have we learned so little over these eight years that we still can't see that a public official who abuses his power over the weak for sexual-egoistic satisfaction must be suspended immediately for the safety of society and his victims? Or maybe all of their self-righteous anger over the abuse of the weak by priests was a sham, a thinly veiled excuse for attacking the Church.

Don't get me wrong! Priests, and all others, who abuse their position must be brought to account for their actions. This is especially true when the abuse is of one who is in an inferior and weaker position. What am I missing?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Rural Life Day

Today is celebrated as Rural Life Day in the Diocese of La Crosse. It is being celebrated Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday as the "Ember Days" in my parishes of Holy Family (Arcadia) and St. Boniface (Waumandee). The Ember Days were traditionally celebrated the Wednesday, Friday, Saturday at the beginning of four agricultural seasons with prayer and fasting. In the case of the fall harvest, the Ember Days traditionally fall after the Feast of the Triumph of the Holy Cross (Sept. 14) and celebrate, in thanksgiving, the bountiful harvest as a gift from God. Unfortunately, the Wed, Fri, Sat following that feast included some pretty great memorials. And so, since the diocese was celebrating Rural Life Day today, I used my pastoral prerogative to move the celebration of the Ember Days to this week.

I think that it has become even more important to celebrate the Ember Days in our contemporary society. The celebration of the Ember Days reminds us that even after all of the work we may have done to help things along, in the end we are stewards of what God has given us. Thus, we recognize that all good things are indeed a gift from God.

We also recognize that these good things are given to us by God, not for our own selfish use, but for the building up of His kingdom. This is not the case of a despot deity using us to support His own liberality towards man. Well, maybe our work does support His liberality but it also reveals to us what true love is, that is, "that one would lay down his life for a friend".
We have been given much. And from those who have been given much, much is expected. (cf. Luke 12:48). And in using well the gifts we have been given we become the stewards God envisioned when He first set Adam in the garden. (cf. Genesis 2:15 ff) That is the response of gratitude from those who understand that what they have received is ultimately from God.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Andrew Kim Taegon & Paul Chong Hasang, Martyrs

Today is the memorial of St. Andrew Kim Taegon, priest & martyr, and St. Paul Chong Hasang, martyr. The story of these men and of the birth of the Church in Korea is utterly inspiring. I've linked the stories of these two glorious martyrs so that you may read their individual stories. What I want to reflect on is how far we have fallen in relation to the faith that inspired these martyrs to give all for Christ.

Andrew Kim Taegon was the son of nobility. He was also the son of a convert martyr - his own father. But the faith had been so strongly planted in him that he was led to become a priest and was ordained the first native born Korean priest.

Paul Chong Hasang was a sort of Justin Martyr of Korea. He wrote a treatise explaining to the Korean royal court that Christianity was NOT a threat to their rule. He also worked heroically to bring priests to Korea after the priesthood had been wiped out by a persecution of the Church. I'll let you read the rest and be inspired!

My question is (not to be too delicate about it): What kind of cowards have we become??? Can we really say that we are the heirs to the faith of these great men and the hundreds who were martyred with them in the mid-18th century in Korea?

Here are men who, being the sons of martyrs, continued to give all they had to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to Korea. They gave everything even after seeing what a committment to Jesus Christ could mean. When the weakness of fallen man tells those faced with torture and death to hide, obfuscate, or otherwise minimize their belief in Jesus Christ these men proclaimed it with conviction with their very life blood!

In our country, which proclaims itself to be Christian, we can't even agree that our faith is not a merely private matter. We, who have not been threatened in the least with anything other than being called names by the forces of social, sexual, moral liberalism (darkness, EVIL), can't even muster up the courage to agree among ourselves on what is right or wrong or even worth fighting for. :((

Our bishops teach, rightly, that one cannot be pro-choice and Catholic and we continue to vote for those who fight day and night for the "freedom to choose (evil)". We even flock to the banner of those who proclaim to be proudly and devotedly Catholic and yet have a 75% or better rating from Planned Parenthood (aka planned barrenhood). Heck! Some of our bishops can't even seem to get it through their skulls that such Catholic politicians have no business receiving the precious Body and Blood of our Lord!

Our bishops, following the constant teaching of the universal Church, teach that our immigration laws are unjust and they are accused, even by Catholic commentators and political operatives, of trying to fill pews and coffers at the expense of national security.

Is this the kind of witness Sts. Andrew, Paul, and their companions died for? I think not. Unfortunately, the few people who read this will probably be part of the "choir". I hope and pray daily that the rank & file as well as the leaders of our Church will take up the banner so nobly carried by Saints Andrew, Paul and their companions.

May we, at last, wake up and recognize the cross our actions have built for us and finally shoulder it. We will be better men for it and our nation and the world will be better for it as well. How do I know? Check out Acts 2:42, John 15:14 and then John 10:10. It doesn't get any more clear than that.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Morning Prayer

I've been talking to my teens about prayer. This week I wrote to the parish as a whole about morning prayer. Enjoy!

Friday, September 3, 2010

An Invitation for Input

Dearest Friends,
As a pastor, one of the truly difficult tasks is discerning when a reply in the public forum is necessary, helpful, or prudent. If it is something that can be addressed in my own bulletin or in homilies then that is what I prefer. However, there are times when your target audience is not in your parish or within the reach of the community "grapevine". I have been known to respond in the public forum when the attack is against my own parish such as happened this past spring with regards to the alienation of property and fixtures from a church building that is no longer in use. But this one is a real clinker for me. Thus, the invitation.

There is a woman in Winona, MN, who claims to be a Catholic Priest. She is part of the "Roman Catholic Womanpriest" movement. Normally I'd figure, she's in the Winona Diocese, let them deal with it. The problem is, she regularly writes letters to the editor or is afforded "guest editorial" space in order to publicize her heretical views and many of my parishioners take that particular paper and are thus confronted with this. It is also the case that she is a "chaplain" at one of the local healthcare institutions.

So, my question is this: What would you want your pastor to do? Would it be best to rebutt her in the same forum in which she has put forward her views so that there is no confusion on the part of the faithful and others as to where their pastor(s) and the Church stand? Does this give her too much standing? (Maybe that's why the Winona Diocese has said nothing since the notification of her "ex communication" was explained some time ago.) Maybe it's best to simply deal with this in my own bulletin. But then, what about the salvation of this woman's soul? (Of course, the best of all worlds would be that the laity could/would rebutt her when in the public square.) It's a real conundrum. It would be wonderful to receive your input/insights. Thanks! and, Blessings + to you all!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

"No one who prays is ever alone"

I just had to share this piece from Archbishop Dolan's blog. It is SO wonderful! Now, how to get others to see, realize, and practice it. Hmm...

Sunday, August 29, 2010

And they're off!

A little something for everyone as the rush of the school bears down upon us. Enjoy!

Blessed are the meek and humble...

In this week’s readings from Wisdom and from the Gospel we are clearly called to the virtue of humility. Personally, I’ve struggled with how to identify with this virtue, even to understand the nature of this virtue, not least because of the message that the world consistently presents to us. I remember everyone from parents to coaches to teachers to Marine Corps drill instructors urging me to show some pride! PRIDE! Isn’t that one of the seven deadly sins? I even had the experience of a brother priest telling me that if I wanted to be noticed, if I wanted to achieve the things that are near to my heart, I would have to promote myself – get myself out there! That seems so wrong to me.

As Christians, we are called – very clearly today – to be humble, meek. We are also called, elsewhere in the scriptures to have courage, to be confident. Very often our difficulty is in recognizing where that calls us to be. Again, this confusion is fed, in no small part, by the messages the world gives us with regards to these words, even by our natural human tendencies.

Pride is offered by parents, coaches and teachers (even drill-instructors) as a positive thing. It is that by which we can go out with confidence and achieve great things. Unfortunately, when it is not touched by humility, it can tip over into arrogance, triumphalism, even militance.

Humility also suffers from historical caricature. So often we are given a picture of humility or meekness as walking around with our heads lowered, meek to the point of mousiness. It is a picture of one who gets run-over, one who is a doormat.

I’ve struggled over where courage/confidence and humility/meekness meet. This is an important struggle because we are called to both. What is the virtue where these meet? What is the word?

It occurs to me that the answer is found in the baptismal rite. In the baptismal rite, after the washing with water and the anointing with chrism there is the presentation of the baptismal garment. Along with the white garment comes this injunction: “See in this white garment the outward sign of your Christian dignity…bring that dignity unstained into the everlasting life of heaven.

Dignity! That’s the virtue whereby we have confidence and act with courage, meekness, and humility all at once. But, having the right word is not enough. How do I find that dignity in my heart? Who will show me? Who will be my role-model?

When I began to think this over my mind almost immediately turned to Venerable Pierre Toussaint. Unfortunately, Venerable Pierre is not very well known to us. But, he is an utterly fantastic role-model for all people, especially with regards to seeing very clearly that intersection between confidence/courage and humility/meekness.

Venerable Pierre was born into slavery in Haiti in 1766. His master, a French plantation owner, taught him to read and write. Following the French Revolution there began to be more frequent slave uprisings in Haiti and so Pierre’s master moved his family and some of their household slaves to New York City. Once there, Pierre’s master apprenticed him to a hairdresser. He became very adept at dressing hair in the European fashions popular with the elite of New York society. He came to be much in demand and he was able to take on many clients and was able to make a great deal of money. He was popular with New York’s society women because not only was he an excellent hairdresser, but he was an excellent listener and gave them spiritual advice drawing on his experience of attending Mass at 6:00 am each morning at old St. Peter’s and reading the works of such masters as St. Alphonse Liguori. He was well known for his respect for the confidentiality of his patrons. He was well-known for saying, “Toussaint is a hairdresser, not a newspaper”.

He used the wealth he accrued to buy the freedom of many slaves in New York, including the woman who was to be his wife. He also started an orphanage and donated to schools, hospitals and other charitable works. He didn’t just donate money. When a great epidemic hit New York he went out and personally cared for those who were stricken. He also donated for the construction of the old St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

Ironically, he never bought his own freedom. In fact, when his master lost everything in the slave uprisings in Haiti, it was Pierre who supported his mistress for the rest of her life. She seems to have never known that it was her slave who was supporting her in the lifestyle to which she was accustomed. He cared for her until the day of her death when, at the age of 41, he finally was granted his freedom.

This man of dignity and grace continued to make a living dressing hair and continued to use his wealth to free other slaves and to support, and gain support through his many patrons, for so many charitable works in New York. A friend once suggested that he was wealthy enough to retire to a very comfortable life. He agreed that he could live comfortably on what he had, but if he quit working he wouldn’t have the resources to assist so many of those who were in need.

This man of grace would not even bow to self-righteous rage when he was denied entrance one day to the very church that his money had done so much to build. Imagine! He remained faithful to the end in a way that completely befuddles the spirit of this world.

Because of this his funeral was quite the affair. This man who had no family was sent off by a church filled with admirers – Catholic, protestant, black, and white. They knew that they were commending to almighty God a saint who had walked in their midst.

Today, Venerable Pierre Toussaint lies at rest with the Cardinals and Archbishops of New York beneath the altar of the new St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

At the intersection of confidence and humility, there is God – and Venerable Pierre Toussaint. Through the example and prayers of this great Catholic-American, and the grace of God, may we too be found there, not only in the life to come, but even yet in this life.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Feast of St. Augustine

TOO late have I loved Thee, Beauty so ancient, and so new ! Too late have I loved Thee! And behold, Thou wert within, and I without, and without I sought Thee; and I, deformed, ran after those forms of beauty which Thou hast made. Thou wast with me, and I was not with Thee. Those things held me back from Thee, which could have no being but in Thee. Thou calledst, Thou criedst, and Thou breakest through my deafness. Thou flashedst, thou shinedst, and Thou chasedst away my blindness. Thou didst become fragrant, and I drew in my breath, and panted after Thee. I tasted, and I hunger and thirst. Thou touchedst me, and I burned for Thy embrace.WHEN I shall cleave to Thee with my whole being, I shall have no more sorrow and labour; and my life shall be a living life, all full of Thee. But now, seeing that all whom Thou fillest, Thou liftest up; I being not full of Thee, am a burden to myself. Sorrowful joys contend with joyous sorrows; and which will conquer, I know not. Ah me! Lord, have mercy upon me! My evil sorrows contend with my good joys ; and which will conquer, I know not. Ah me! Lord, have mercy upon me! Alas ! Look, I do not hide my wounds; Thou art the Physician, I the sick man; Thou art merciful, I am miserable.
-Selection from The Confessions for the second reading at Vigils

I know that often we, in theology and philosophy, reflect on how "there is nothing new under the sun". From time to time there is a new insight in the particulars, but when it comes to the basics I think it holds true. Nothing shows this more beautifully than the above quote from St. Augustine.

Unfortunately, in many ways, it is an insight that each individual must come to in the recesses of their hearts. It can't be taught. It can't be forced. It can't be reasoned. It can only be surrendered to.

Yes, I know. We can help by setting up the circumstances. We can give good example. We can even try to point out the logic of it in contrast to the incredible pain and evil. But, in the end, we must go about it in the same manner as St. Monica - prayer, prayer, and more prayer.

We propose, but God disposes in His own good time and for His own good purpose. Who is it in your life that stands in need of prayer? Who, in your life, is just a change of heart away from doing great things for the Lord?

Let us pray for ourselves, that we may have the humility and the courage to continue in our life of surrender, allowing the Lord to work His wonders through us - great or small as they may seem to us. And let us pray too for those who have such great potential and yet stand in need of surrender - that their potential may become actualized and contribute to the building up of the City of God. Pray well!
(Thanks to Br. Stephen @ "Sub Tuum" blog for picture and quote)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A Personal Reflection on the Recent Scandal

What follows was written for my parish community two weeks after the recent scandal. Apparently it has found somewhat wider circulation than I had intended and there have been requests for a wider availability. So, here it is. Just remember that this is a reflection of how I felt at the time that I wrote it and was written to deal with the pastoral needs of my local parish which was one of Fr. Pat's more recently former parishes. As always, comments are welcome under the usual conditions.

I had hoped that my internet blog entries would suffice in responding to the unfortunate situation of Fr. Pat Umberger, your former pastor. However, there are enough folks commenting, and enough of you that don’t access the internet that it seems to have become necessary to say something.
First of all, I would like to reiterate a couple of points made in my blog entries. I received the news while I was on vacation. I wasn’t looking forward to coming home and having Mass that Saturday evening. When I was a teacher and the priest abuse scandal hit in 2002, one of my students had the gall to ask me how many altar boys I had abused. He was immediately supported by a number of his classmates. At that point I had only been a priest for just over a year! I could only imagine how many of you might be looking at me and wondering what I’ve been up to. Thankfully we got through that weekend and no one has said anything to me about Fr. Pat except to say how sad they were about it and how important it will be to pray for him. Since then, you have only been supportive of me and I thank you for that. I would also bring to your attention that a number of priests in our diocese have been keeping all of us at Holy Family Parish in prayer.
I also pointed out in my blogging that we should not be so completely surprised when a priest falls prey to the temptations of this world. We live in a world that is saturated with sexual imagery. The internet has provided a whole new and largely private forum within which to indulge in these perversions. Over the years I have heard my share of confessions which included an admission to viewing pornography over the internet. Priests will, from time to time, fail. I am grateful that in the Diocese of La Crosse those failures are rare.

Priestly Celibacy At Fault?
It seems odd to me that some would suggest that priestly celibacy is at fault. Fr. Pat has stated that he is attracted to teen boys. How would marriage to an adult woman have prevented the use of child pornography in his case? In that scenario he would have just been another one of the thousands of men caught by the police whose cases are processed almost unnoticed by the public at large. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, from July 1, 2000 until June 30, 2001 some 1,700 men were arrested and charged with possession of child pornograpy in the United States. 91% of these were white males. 41% of these men were single and never married, 59% were currently married or living with a partner, separated, divorced or widowed. I am told that these numbers have stayed fairly consistant.

Have Any Of Our Children Been Abused?
Fr. Pat has been adamant on this point: he has never had sexual contact with ANY children or teens. In this case, we can be thankful that his moral failure did not include any actual abuse of youngsters. However, if you have reason to believe that any one of our children has been abused, ever, PLEASE report this to me or to the diocese immediately!

What Did The Diocese Know And When?
Fr. Pat stated that after the incident in which he was barred from the water park in Wisconsin Dells, he was spoken to by Fr. Hirsch, the Vicar for Priests, and Jim Birnbaum, the diocesan attorney. We have only Fr. Pat’s side of the story on this as the diocese is not commenting beyond Mr. Birnbaum’s acknowledgement that he had met with Fr. Umberger. My own belief is that if there had been any prior complaints we wouldn’t be talking about this today.
I personally have confidence that if any credible reports or complaints had been made to the diocese it would have been dealt with. After the experience of the last ten years I can’t bring myself to believe that anyone would be stupid enough to engage in any cover ups. In fact, my own experience of how Bishop Listecki operated is that he erred on the side of caution and safety for our children and young people.
According to news reports, the Lake Delton Police Department pressed no charges but they informed the Onalaska Police Department of the incident. It was the O.P.D. that contacted the Wisconsin Department of Justice and they began keeping an eye on him.
As I’ve pointed out before, the diocese did what it could, given the information it had: one unsubstantiated complaint which was not acted upon by the civil authorities in Lake Delton. The civil authorities did what we expect them to do: their attention was drawn and they continued to watch. They have done and continue to do their duty and we should all be thankful to them.
We might remember that the crime of which Fr. Pat stands accused is possession of child pornography. This is a crime that is, of its nature, very secretive and exceedingly hard to detect. Thus, it is unreasonable, I believe, to expect that the diocese should have known anything or could have done other than what it did.

Will Funds From The Diocesan Annual Appeal Be Used To Defend Fr. Pat Or Otherwise Deal With This?
The short answer is “no”. First of all, when a priest is personally in trouble, he is responsible for his own legal defense. The diocese does not provide for this. If necessary the diocese will provide for its own defense should the need arise.
However, we should remember that the Diocesan Annual Appeal is bound by the “case statement” provided at the beginning of each campaign to fund those, and only those, things which have been put forward in the case statement. There has never been a line item in the diocesan annual appeal for a legal defense fund of any kind.

What is the Catholic response to such scandal?
I think that Bishop Callahan said it best when he said that at times like this we can only fall on our knees before our merciful God. I know that many people will be angry. In this anger some will want to lash out at Fr. Pat, the diocese, the priesthood, or the Church.
I suppose it is natural to be angry and to demand answers, even a sure “fix” to make sure that this never happens again.
While anger may be a reasonable first response, it cannot be held onto. It is, after all, one of the seven deadly sins (along with lust). To hang on to anger is to hang on to the self-righteous attitude that we are not sinners “like those others”. Unfortunately, we are all sinners and deserving of punishment. It is only through the self-sacrificing love of Jesus Christ that we are made righteous and fit to be called sons and daughters of our Father in heaven.
And so we fall on our knees and pray. We pray for Fr. Pat. It is obvious that he is in need of our prayers regardless of his eventual judgement of guilt or innocense. We also pray for the people of St. Patrick’s – Onalaska. If some of us are in shock and running the gammit of feelings, we can only imagine what they are going through. We must pray too for all of those who are affected by this terrible scourge on society – victims and perpetrators. I pray in a special way for those who will be scandalized and challenged in their faith because of this. I also pray for those who will hold this as “proof” that the Catholic Church is corrupt and not to be trusted, believed, or followed.
In addition to prayer it is important that WE do acts of penance for this latest outrage. Yes, WE. While we may not be personally responsible for this scandal we are all members of Christ’s body – each of us, including Fr. Pat. And, like any body, when one part of the body is hurt or in pain the whole body is in need of healing, not just the part or parts injured.

The Safe Environment Program
The Diocese of La Crosse has been a leader in properly responding to the failings of its employees in this arena. That is why it has been a relatively rare problem in comparison to others around us. When the abuse crisis hit the United State ten years ago many of the response procedures were already in place. What was not in place were the preventative measures which are just another tool, though not fool proof, for furthering the safety of the environment in which our children and young people are taught to call God their Father, and the Body of Christ their family.
The Safe Environment program of the Diocese of La Crosse is able to be accessed on the internet at: On the front page the information is clearly marked on the left hand column about 2/3 the way down the page. This information can also be obtained in the parish office. All you need to do is ask. We will gladly provide it to you.
The basic elements of the Safe Environment program include criminal background checks of all volunteers who will be working with, or in the vicinity of children and young people. Also, all paid personel, even those who have no regular contact with children, are checked out in this way. These are re-checked every three years.
There is also a review board, made up mostly of lay people who are expert in law enforcement, psychology, education, and related fields. This board assists the bishop in assessing the information available when a complaint is made and an investigation undertaken. There are also personel who walk with alleged victims through the process of seeking justice and healing.
Another element is the training of all volunteers and paid staff with regards to safe environment. This includes “boundary issues”, signs to recognize abuse, signs for recognizing abusers, and how the safe environment program works once a complaint is made.
So, when you volunteer and are asked to fill out the criminal background check and accompanying questionaire, please remember why we do this! We have lost a number of volunteers over the years because they didn’t want to undergo this scrutiny. Yet, as you can see by the statistics quoted above, this is not a problem of celibate priests. This is a societal problem. And just because the vast majority of perpetrators are men this does not rule out women as we have seen in the news in recent years.
Remember! While our Safe Environment Program is an excellent tool for the protection of our children and young people, it can only work when rules, boundaries, and procedures are followed and suspicious behavior is reported.

Finally, please remember that ultimately only prayer, penance, and a life of virtue on the part of every member of the Body of Christ will heal the wound that has been inflicted. Our virtue and example of holiness does much to strengthen those who may be weak. Our understanding and love, shown in how we confront those tempted by these issues, can do so much to lead those who are weak to seek the help they need. May the Mother of God, Our Mother of Perpetual Help, St. Joseph, guardian of the Body of Christ, and St. Michael the Archangel pray for us, and guard and protect us always.

Busy, But Mindful Little Bee

As is the case with many of you, especially those with families (schools, CCD programs, etc.), I too have to stop and remind myself about what it's really all about. Thus, this week's bulletin letter. Enjoy!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

On the Monastic Life

I know that the monastic life is a particular vocation. However, I also know that we are all called to contemplation of God's glory and love. I have become even more aware in the course of my pastoral ministry that if we don't learn the art of contemplation it is sure to cause us trouble in the future!

The memorial of St. Bernard has fallen on a Friday this year. Every Friday my pastoral staff and I visit the shut-ins of our parish. For many years, as I have made these visits, I have come to recognize that too many of our shut-ins have not been properly prepared for their later years. As a result, most of them are left sitting in their homes wishing that their legs worked better, or their eyesight was better, or their aches and pains were somehow lessened. I know that a number of them very faithfully pray their rosary each day, or several times a day, but most are still so very focussed on wanting things to be different than they are.

With the lessened concern with being at Mass on Sundays, a lack of concern with participating in Eucharistic adoration, and a lessened desire for daily Mass participation, I think that our future generations could be in even more trouble in this regard. I have come to recognize even more that if you haven't cultivated a sense of devotion and contemplation in your younger years, it isn't going to somehow naturally show up in your advanced years. Thus, how to cultivate this sense of contemplation NOW???

I think that two things need to happen here. First of all, our sense of urgency for participation in Sunday Mass needs to grow. It IS about being at Mass, come hell or high water, every Sunday and Holy Day. But even more, it is about actually participating in the Mass while you are there!

Here, I think, the argument in some circles about what the Second Vatican Council meant by active participation is a real stumbling block. Don't try and explain the arguments to me. I know them very well. The problem is that when our people are sitting there and not participating in and exterior way, they are not participating, in too many cases, in an interior way. Many have forgotten that we are soul AND body. Participation in the body is meant to excite participation in the soul. Participation in the soul shows itself, gives public witness, through participation in the body. So start participating people!

The second issue is our personal daily prayer. As I talk to confirmation candidates, even those who have been listening to me talk about the importance and form of daily prayer year after year, I find that we are firmly stuck in saying a couple of prayers before bed and maybe a prayer at mealtime. These prayers before bed consist mainly of thanking God for favors granted and asking for more.

Our daily prayer needs to be more than this! We need to become practiced in prayer being, first and foremost, praise of God. Thanksgiving is good and important, but we need to become much more aware of loving God for who He is and not as the great "gift-giver" in the sky. We need to cultivate a desire to just BE with God, as we would our best friend or lover.

I sometimes fear how we will fair in our pursuit of heaven. Given the choice, I think that too many of us are going to mistake what the devil offers for heaven. Why do I think this? I see far too many people, even my "good" parishioners, choosing the things of this world over the things of heaven. I have come to believe very firmly that if we are to enter the holy monastery of heaven we must become more aware of our shared contemplative vocation on earth.

The rhythm of life has taught me that we are ALL called to the contemplative life, even a kind of monastic life. If we don't respond to a call from God to enter the monastic life in youth, it will come upon us naturally enough in old age.

The memorial of St. Bernard reminds me that we have much to do in preparing ourselves for both old age AND for heaven. As always, I welcome any comments you might have, under the usual conditions. Blessings!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

This week's bulletin letter deals with some "Assumption" basics. Enjoy!

Some thoughts on being "Father"

I'm sorry that I haven't had much to say over the past few days. Last week was two funerals, Bishop Callahan's installation, our deanery Marriage Preparation Retreat (Friday night and Saturday), and the St. Boniface Fall Festival in Waumandee. It's been mostly a matter of keep up and catch up. Oh, yeah, and my water heater went on the fritz last night as I was trying to get five loads of laundry done. Ugh!

So, at this point, some might be saying, "What does this have to do with pastoral insights?" And the answer would be: Folks, just when you think a priest has no idea what goes on in the lives of people, remember that priests are people too."

I once had a women tell me, when I was a seminarian working in a parish of the diocese, that a priest is the last person she would go to if she was having problems within her marriage or at home. I was kind of taken aback at how boldly she proclaimed the ignorance of priests.

I also remember how another woman gushed about how great this book was that she had read (in transcript). She went on and on about how wise the person who had written the book was; how his insights into relationships and married life were so "on the mark". She wondered at how long he must have been married and what a lucky woman his wife was. Imagine her shock when it was revealed to her that the author was Cardinal Karol Wojtyla - a.k.a. Pope John Paul II (the Great). The book was "Love and Responsibility".

As I said to the engaged couples on retreat, just think of how many marriages, families, and other relationships we priests have the privilege of observing on a daily basis. What's more, we have access to the memory of the Church which has been proclaiming the truth about humanities greatest yearnings for two thousand years!

And don't ever tell your priest that you didn't call or come to him because "he's so busy". Just like any parent out there, we have no shortage of things that we can be doing. But, also like any good parent out there, we will gladly drop it all so that we can walk with you - not only in your joys (Baptism, First Communion, Confirmation, Marriage), but also in your pain, sacramentally and otherwise!

I was ordained to be "Father", not "administrator". Administration comes with the job, just as it does in any household, but I AM Father and that comes first.

Blessings on you all!

Thursday, August 12, 2010


The installation of Bishop William Patrick Callahan was fantastic! Great liturgy, great music, a great start to our shared pilgrimage of faith.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Update: Installation of Bishop Callahan - Vespers

After taking my parents out to dinner in honor of their 48th wedding anniversary, we proceeded to St. Joseph the Workman Cathedral for Vespers. Bishop Callahan was welcomed into the Cathedral for the first time and, after prayer before the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist, Solemn Vespers began. Wow!!!

The music was gorgeous! Dr. Brian Luckner composed much of the music and it was glorious - an emminently prayerful experience.

I had a little surprise once we started, the new Noack chancel organ (14 ranks) has been completed and was used tonight. Very beautiful. Makes me even more excited for the completion of the main gallery organ (58 ranks) which will be dedicated on Nov. 7, 2010.

Fr. Paul Hoffman, newly ordained priest of the diocese, gave an excellent homily.

Afterwords, many commented on what a beautiful cathedral we have in La Crosse. (I would agree most heartily. I think it's the most beautiful and worthy cathedral in Wisconsin, and one of the top cathedrals in the upper mid-west. I might be a little biased, but I also think it true!)

All in all, a worthy reception for our (almost) new bishop!

In the receiving line, Bishop Callahan gave my parents a blessing for their anniversary which will be tomorrow. A connection for the three of them in the sharing of an anniversary from now on.

It was wonderful to see Archbishop Listecki, our Metropolitan, again. He will always be remembered with fondness and respect. And, of course, it's also wonderful to see folks from around the diocese. It's very much a "family reunion" or sorts.

Tomorrow will be even bigger! Oh, boy!

Faith in Action!

Thomas Peters over at "American Papist" is publishing a talk he gave on Catholic Activism. It's definitely worth a read. Especially for any laity out there. So, here's a link. Enjoy!

Bulletin Letter for August 8, 2010

This week's letter is a short reflection on the installation of our bishop-designate and a little encouragement for our servers. Enjoy!

Monday, August 9, 2010


Great meeting today in preparation for the installation of the Most Rev. William Patrick Callahan, O.F.M. Conv., the tenth bishop of La Crosse. If you can make it, Evening Prayer at St. Joseph the Workman Cathedral is open to the public. It begins at 7:00 pm. A short reception follows.

If you couldn't snag a ticket for the installation it will be on WKBT-TV 8 (La Crosse), WXOW-TV 18/19 (La Crosse / Eau Claire), EWTN, and live streamed on the internet (Diocese of La Crosse, WKBT, WXOW). I will be doing "color commentary" for WKBT along with Mike Thompson and Martha Koloski. If you can't be at the Cathedral, tune in!

After the Mass there will be a reception at the La Crosse Center which is open to the public. Come on down and shake hands with our new bishop!

To learn more about him go to our diocesan web-site.

As a dean of the diocese, I've had the privilege of meeting and dining with Bishop Callahan already. I've also been in contact with a couple of friends who have had the opportunity to spend LOTS of time with him (one even lived with him). Everything I have heard makes me VERY excited for the future of our diocese.


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Vanity of vanities!

This week's bulletin letter: "Vanity of vanities!"

Wouldn't it be nice?

This past Saturday was the second anniversary of the dedication of the shrine church at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe located just south of La Crosse. As I sat looking around at the great beauty of this church I couldn’t help but think about all of the grace that has flowed out from that place. So many have been comforted in tragedy, renewed and invigorated in faith, given hope in adversity. There have even been miracles reported.

So this got me thinking about how hard some people fought to keep this shrine from being errected and how many more have been bad mouthing it over the years. This brings me to my central question for reflection: Why is it that we, as a culture, waste so much time and effort tearing down or bad-mouthing others? We don’t just voice disagreement with the ideas, efforts or decisions of others. More and more we get intensely personal about it. We assign bad intentions to their efforts and decisions.

We seem to trade in bad news in a way that sometimes makes me feel like we are wallowing in used motor oil. More than once I’ve had people tell me that if I want to know what people are saying I should just ask them since they hear all the gossip.

I don’t want to know! I’m not burying my head in the sand. I know the gossip is out there but I refuse to get drawn into the game. As my dad always used to say, “You can’t fly with the eagles when you are trudging about with the turkeys”. Besides, if the people who are talking really loved me, cared about being good Christians, or wanted their community to be its best they would talk to me directly.

But what REALLY makes me shake my head is people who feel the need to comment on things that don’t even affect them. For instance, if you don’t like some privately funded project then why get so worked up about it? Don’t contribute if you don’t like or agree with it! Don’t join if you disagree with how that particular group sees the world or operates!

I would love to live in a community where people accentuate the positive. If you don’t like it, leave it alone. This assumes, of course, that it is an issue which is morally neutral and doesn’t affect the community at large.

Wouldn’t it be fun to live in a community where people refrained from commenting on that about which they know nothing or have information that is incomplete? Wouldn’t it be great if we spent more time “gossiping” about the good things in our community? And when the negative does come up we would discuss it with an eye towards what we can do to make things better for those involved? Wouldn’t it be totally cool if we could be as interested in, and kind to the person with whom we disagree as we are to the person with whom we agree completely?

Join the revolution! Speak the truth in love. Do the good. Think the best of those you meet. Build positive relationships by getting to know those around you personally. Know and care as much about what is going on on the other side of town as you do about what is going on on the other side of the world. In other words: Love your neighbor, and walk humbly with God. Just a thought!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Basic Discipline of Prayer

Ever wondered how to build a really basic, but solid, prayer regimen? Check out this week's bulletin article. As always, comments are welcome.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Drama Continues...

Sadly, Sunday brings us another story in the La Crosse Tribune on the sad case of Fr. Patrick Umberger. It was a not a complete loss however. At least they did a good job of making the case, whether it was their intention or not, that the survival of a parish and the Church as a whole is not dependant on the virtues or even continued service of any one priest or other pastoral minister. My compliments to the people of St. Patrick's who understand this and gave witness to the true foundations of our faith. I especially want to thank Kim Seidel for her excellent editorial regarding how she talked to her two daughters about this. What a great example!

What I object to is the way the Tribune leaves us with the impression that the Diocese of La Crosse could have or should have done more at the time of the incident at the water park. One person talked about how we should know who knew what and when. While that might satisfy the purile curiosity of some people, what is the can of worms that would be opened morally, legally, and practically? Does a parish need to know that their pastor, or any employee, has been accused of something, especially when the police do not feel there is enough to file charges or make an arrest? What will this do to their trust in that person if it comes out later that the charge was without merit or even false? That is the real reason that the Church's policies in this regard insist upon secrecy.

I have had some experience already in my few years of two lay-teachers having their careers ruined because kids new that if they said the "magic word" that teacher's career would be over. And I KNOW for a fact that in both cases the tween or teen girls complaints were without merit. In one case the girls in question were chuckling about it a few years later - but, too late for the teacher whose life was ruined. Thankfully he just lost his job (and career) and not his freedom!

In any case, I have spoken with lawyers who, like us, only know the information that has been printed in the Tribune stories. They have all said that the diocese did what they could have done and what they should have done given the information available at the time. They also agreed that the Church is doing more than what other entities are doing. One does wonder, however, if the diocese is communicating as effectively or aggressively as it could be under the circumstances.

Actually, this problem was illustrated well in a recent CARA (Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate) poll. In this poll it was revealed that only 34% of Catholics even know that there is a safe environment program in the Church, and only 17% of those polled know what the Church does when there is an allegation of sexual misconduct. If that is the case then it is obvious that we need to do a lot more educating regarding the Church's "Safe Environment Program".

I do wonder why the Tribune even bothers to quote Mr. Isely (of SNAP) anymore. He obviously knows more about what he wishes diocesan review boards would be doing as opposed to what they are supposed to be doing. But then, that shouldn't surprise since he is also more aware of what he wishes the Church was as opposed to what She, in fact, is.

Let us continue to pray for all involved in this sad situation. May the ever-virgin Mary, Our Mother of Perpetual Help, continue to hold us in her loving arms.

Comments? Let me know what you think, especially regarding what else the Church could be doing to reassure people with regards to the safety of their children.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Vacation Time as Sacred Time

Last week's bulletin letter (I write one each week in our Sunday bulletin) was on the nature of the well spent vacation. It is my own reflection based on years of reading about JPII and B16's vacationing and the message they send regarding the taking of vacations. Whether you are preparing for vacation or have already taken yours, I hope this is a helpful reminder regarding the art of Christian vacationing. Enjoy!(?)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Reflections on a recent scandal

Well, I’ve been thinking and praying about this all weekend. The news regarding Fr. Patrick Umberger hit me like a ton of bricks this past Wednesday. My first reaction was: "Oh, no! Not this. Not now." My heart sank. A wave of shame washed over me. And then I prayed for my brother priest and the people who would be scandalized by this. My next thought was, "at least no one was actually abused here." Then, I reread the article and my thoughts went to the children who were exploited by those taking the pictures.

I have been surprised by my lack of anger regarding this situation. There is a terrible inevitability about this. We live in a sick and broken society. So it should not surprise us that even a man who has faithfully served God’s Church for 30 years is subject to temptation and may even succumb to it. Remember, Judas was with Jesus himself for three years and he succumbed to the temptations of Satan and went on to betray our Lord. Peter denied Him and all of the other apostles abandoned Him. Some of us betray Him big, others of us betray Him in smaller ways, but we all betray Him who loved us and stand in need of mercy and forgiveness from Him and from one another. I think I’ll be going to confession Monday.
Fr. Pat immediately preceded me at Holy Family Parish. I have to admit, I didn’t relish coming home from my five days of vacation and facing my parishioners. My first Mass on Saturday night was a trial. However, I inserted a special petition for those priests who have failed in some way and those hurt or scandalized by them. We got through the weekend ok, but with no one broaching the subject I am now wondering how best to address the issue, or even if I should. What would you want your pastor to do?

I have been greatly heartened by some of what I have seen on facebook and on the blog of a friend of mine. One young lady on facebook very rightly pointed out that this isn’t the time for finger pointing but the time for prayer for those men who have been sickened by this attraction to young teen boys. My friend, over at "Credo Catholic", wrote a beautiful, three paragraph posting on the appropriate response to scandal. There was also a very good, heartfelt editorial in the La Crosse Tribune which also gave me much hope.

It was inevitable that SNAP would have their say. Too bad they used this situation to try scoring rhetorical points which did nothing to advance understanding and healing, or to address the real situation. But then, that is what we’ve come to expect from them. You can’t destroy a man based on unsubstantiated fears, suspicions, or allegations. You can however test those suspicions which is exactly what the Onalaska Police Department and the Wisconsin Child Pornography Task-Force did. We should all be grateful for the difficult task they perform. Because of their work Fr. Pat and many like him are able to get the help they obviously need.

Msgr Gilles, our diocesan administrator, conveyed bishop-designate William Callahan’s sentiment that "During difficult times like this we are all brought to our knees". Bishop Callahan went on to state that "as we approach Jesus in Holy Communion today we can pray for God’s healing for one another, for Fr. Umberger and for all of us in the Diocese".

Msgr Gilles went on to announce that the diocesan curia would be celebrating Mass for healing and strength for Fr. Pat, the parishioners of St. Patricks - Onalaska, and the priests of the diocese. I would ask that all of us offer at least one Mass or communion for this same intention. And please, continue to pray for us, your priests. We have been given the grace of ordination, but we are still men subject to temptation and sin. We truly do need your prayers, especially in times like these.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Hello & Welcome!

Well, here it is then. I've been thinking about this for a long time. How to communicate more widely on the issues that come up in my everyday ministry and my own, more personal, pilgrimage of faith? I am very much looking forward to sharing with all of you and also hearing your reactions. Feel free also to ask your own questions of me. Who knows, it might become the subject of a blog entry that will be of great help to others!
I publish a weekly letter in my own bulletin (accessible on my parish web-site) and that will be readily accessible from this blog as I figure things out. I will also add links to other good, helpful, and trustworthy sites.
With my pastoral responsibilities I don't plan on posting everyday necessarily. I will commit however to posting at least weekly. Of course, when things heat up and I feel the need to comment (or vent!), or when I'm throwing things out there and looking for feedback the posts will come more frequently.
May the good and merciful Lord be with all of us as we take this opportunity to join one another to walk in faith, hope, and love.