Archive for the ‘Reflection’ Category

Mary in History: The Immaculate Conception

December 8, 2018

December 8, 1854

On this date, to the delight of the Church in Heaven and earth, Pope Pius IX employed the gift of papal infallibility to dogmatically affirm our ancient belief in the sinlessness of the Mother of God: “We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful.

In her apparitions at Lourdes, France three years after, Mary affirmed, “I am the Immaculate Conception.” The Church celebrates Mary’s Immaculate Conception on December 8th and her birthday nine months later, on September 8th. Every one of us, from the greatest to the least, begins very, very small. But God loves to make great things of the small.

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Mary in History: The Miraculous Medal

November 29, 2018

November 27, 1830 – France

Our Lady appeared to St. Catherine Labouré, a 24-year-old novice (training to become a vowed religious sister,) in the Daughters of Charity’s convent chapel in Paris, France. In this, Mary’s second of three appearances to her, Catherine saw something like two living paintings, one fading into the other, in which the Blessed Virgin stood in a white silk dress upon a half-globe, her feet crushing a serpent. Mary held a small golden globe topped with a cross which she lifted up towards Heaven. Catherine heard a voice say, “This globe represents the entire world, including France, and every person.”

In the second image, beautiful rays of light streamed from Mary’s open hands, her fingers covered with jeweled rings. Catherine heard, “These rays are a symbol of the graces that I pour out on those who ask them of me. The gems from which rays do not fall are the graces for which souls forget to ask.” Then an oval formed around the apparition and Catherine saw in a semi-circle these words in gold letters: “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.”

Then a voice commanded Catherine, “Have a medal made according to this model. For those who wear it with confidence, there will be abundant graces.” The image turned and Catherine saw the reverse side of the medal: an “M” topped with a little cross and two hearts, one crowned with thorns and the other pierced by a sword. With approval by the Archbishop of Paris, the medal was minted and shared, leading to such gifts of grace that it came to be called “The Miraculous Medal.”

A Prayer Litany for the Souls in Purgatory

November 2, 2018

O Jesus, Thou suffered and died that all mankind might be saved and brought to eternal happiness. Hear our pleas for further mercy on the souls of:

My dear parents & grandparents,

     [Response: “My Jesus, Have Mercy”]

My brothers & sisters & other near relatives,

My godparents & sponsors of Confirmation,

My spiritual & temporal benefactors,

My friends & neighbors,

All for whom love or duty bids me pray,

Those who have suffered disadvantage or harm through me,

Those who have offended me,

Those whose release is near at hand,

Those who desire most to be united to Thee,

Those who endure the greatest sufferings,

Those whose release is most remote,

Those who are least remembered.

Those who are most deserving on account of their services to the Church,

The rich, who are now the most destitute,

The mighty, who are now powerless,

The once spiritually blind, who now see their folly,

The frivolous, who spent their time in idleness,

The poor who did not seek the treasures of heaven, The tepid who devoted little time to prayer,

The indolent who neglected to perform good works, Those of little faith, who neglected the frequent reception of the Sacraments,

The habitual sinners, who owe their salvation to a miracle of grace,

Parents who failed to watch over their children, Superiors who were not solicitous for the salvation of those entrusted to them,

Those who strove for worldly riches & pleasures, The worldly minded, who failed to use their wealth & talent for the service of God,

Those who witnessed the death of others, but would not think of their own,

Those who did not provide for the life hereafter,

Those whose sentence is severe because of the great things entrusted to them,

The popes, kings, & rulers,

The bishops & their counselors,

My teachers & spiritual advisors,

The priests & religious of the Catholic Church,

The defenders of the Holy Faith,

Those who died on the battlefield,

Those who fought for their country,

Those who were buried in the sea,

Those who died of strokes,

Those who died of heart attacks,

Those who suffered & died of cancer,

Those who died suddenly in accidents,

Those who died without the last rites of the Church,

Those who shall die within the next 24 hours,

My own poor soul when I shall have to appear before Thy judgment seat,

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them: For evermore with Thy Saints, because Thou art gracious. May the prayer of Thy suppliant people, we beseech Thee, O Lord, benefit the souls of Thy departed servants and handmaids: that Thou mayest both deliver them from all their sins, and make them to be partakers of Thy redemption. Amen. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord. And let perpetual light shine on them. Amen. May their souls & the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Faithful Citizenship

October 31, 2018

This Tuesday, November 6th, we can promote the good for our society by voting in the midterm elections. Not only is voting our great right as Americans, it is also our duty as Catholics. As the Catechism teaches, “co-responsibility for the common good make[s] it morally obligatory… to exercise the right to vote…” (CCC #2240)

Though the Catholic Church participates in the political process as a moral voice in the public square, she does not institutionally endorse candidates or political parties. Within the Church, clergy and laity have different but complementary roles. The calling of the clergy is to preach the Gospel message so that all may properly form their consciences. The mission of lay people is to transform politics and culture.

As Pope Benedict XVI once said, “The Church is not a political power, it’s not a party, but it’s a moral power. Since politics fundamentally should be a moral enterprise, the Church in this sense has something to say about politics.” In their recent document on “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” the U.S. bishops highlight these nine fundamental moral issues particularly pressing at this time:

■ The ongoing destruction of over one million innocent human lives each year by abortion.

■ Physician-assisted suicide.

■ The redefinition of marriage – the vital cell of society – by the courts, political bodies, and increasingly by American culture itself.

■ The excessive consumption of material goods and the destruction of natural resources, which harm both the environment and the poor.

■ The deadly attacks on fellow Christians and religious minorities throughout the world.

■ The narrowing redefinition of religious freedom, which threatens both individual conscience and the freedom of the Church to serve.

■ Economic policies that fail to prioritize the poor, at home and abroad.

■ A broken immigration system and a worldwide refugee crisis.

■ Wars, terror, and violence that threaten every aspect of human life and dignity.

As a mighty wave is made of many single drops, please cast a vote this week for the common good.

Reintroducing the St. Michael Prayer

October 22, 2018

Our Bishop William Callahan has asked that we begin regularly reciting the St. Michael Prayer at the end of our parish Masses. In last week’s pastoral letter he wrote that “this prayer, given to us by Pope Leo XIII, is a sure defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil. Now as much as ever we need the assistance of St. Michael to help rid us, the Church, of its current evils.” So, we will be praying this prayer together at each Sunday and weekday Mass following the final blessing (and preceding the closing hymn.)

Who is St. Michael? He is a mighty archangel, a leader among God’s angels. He has several appearances in the Bible, but most famously in the Book of Revelation. There he is beheld leading good angels in battle against the Devil (referred to here as the dragon): “Then war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels battled against the dragon. The dragon and its angels fought back, but they did not prevail and there was no longer any place for them in Heaven.” (Revelation 12:7-8) St. Michael’s name is Hebrew for the phrase “Who is like God?” Tradition says that this was Michael’s challenging battle cry against the proud, rebellious demons – for no creature is equal our all-glorious God.

The St. Michael Prayer was written by the long-reigning Pope Leo XIII. In 1886, he instituted that it be recited after the celebration of Masses. Though the inspiration for this prayer is uncertain, many historians accept accounts that it followed from Pope Leo experiencing a profound vision. A cardinal from that time explained, “Pope Leo XIII truly had a vision of demonic spirits, who were gathering on the Eternal City (i.e., Rome.) From that experience… comes the prayer which he wanted the whole Church to recite.

Since the St. Michael Prayer in English is a translation from the original Latin text, some versions of the prayer slightly differ from one another. (For instance, some translations ask St. Michael to “cast” Satan and all the evil spirits into Hell, while others use the word “thrust.”) To keep everyone on the same page, please refer to the prayer cards at the end of the pews or the version below. Together, let us pray for aid in our battle against the iniquitous spirits active within God’s Church and our world.

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle.
Be our defense against
the wickedness and snares of the devil.

May God rebuke him, we humbly pray;
and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly hosts,
by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan and all the evil spirits,
who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.
Amen.

Lessons from Disaster

September 7, 2018

On a Tuesday morning seventeen years ago I was sleeping-in at college. I had no classes that morning so I stayed in my dorm room bed as late as possible, peacefully unaware. I eventually descended from my loft and turned on the TV. The Catholic channel (EWTN) showed people praying in the chapel “for the bombing victims.” Then my roommate walked in and asked me if I’d heard. “Airplanes crashed into the World Trade Towers and the Sears Tower in Chicago. Another plane crashed into the Pentagon, a car bomb blew up at the State Department, and there’s a fire on the National Mall.” Standing there, I realized I would remember that moment for the rest of my life, just as others vividly remembered the attack on Pearl Harbor or the assassination of President Kennedy before me.

It’s striking how much confusion there was on September 11, 2001. Most of what my roommate had told me proved inaccurate. Terrible things had certainly occurred – the murder of thousands and the distressing of millions more – yet the news of that day was clouded with false rumors and inaccurate reports. Time would clarify the truth of what had actually happened.

Eager to help in the days after the towers fell, I went to give blood at a Red Cross drive. I waited perhaps an hour until my turn came to have my finger pricked for the pre-donation iron test. Being uncomfortable around blood, I became woozy, had to lay down, and left without contributing anything. Despite my failed effort, others across the country donated more than enough to meet blood supply needs for months.

The shocking evil of September 11th impressed upon me humanity’s brokenness. Even if these terror groups abroad were answered with overwhelming military force, I grasped that what was wrong with the world would remain unrepaired. When I considered what would be the greatest thing I could do to help change the world and myself for the better, I concluded it was to begin attending weekday Mass. My class schedule did not permit me to go every day, but daily Mass grew me and my love for Jesus in the Eucharist. It helped me to embrace my priestly vocation and did good beyond myself that I believe God will reveal to me someday.

These lessons from 9-11 are applicable today. It is heart-breaking to be confronted by these recent scandals in the Church, but remaining unaware of them (asleep to them with eyes closed) would not have made them any less real. It is better that things be clearly understood in purifying daylight. Great evils and crimes have obviously been perpetrated. Thousands have been hurt and millions have been distressed. Yet we must be cautious to weigh all early reports carefully, for their truth will only be fully known with time. We want to improve the situation in the Church but there may be little you and I can do within our immediate influence. We are not popes or bishops or journalists, but we have access to a power beyond our natural reach. I urge you, in this troubled time, to draw closer to Jesus in his sacraments and our daily prayer. This is the greatest thing we can do to help change the Church, the world, and ourselves for the better.

The Time St. Paul Corrected St. Peter

August 31, 2018

Jesus gave Simon the fisherman the keys to his kingdom and changed his name to “Rock” (that is, “Petros” in Greek, or Peter):

I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 16:18-19a)

The significance of these things is found in the Old Testament. God changed the names of Abram, Sarai, and Jacob to Abraham, Sarah, and Israel to declare what he would achieve through their lives. (Abraham, for example, means “father of a multitude.”) In the old Davidic dynasty, the king’s chief steward and master of the royal household would carry a key symbolizing his authority. Thus, for Jesus’ kingdom (the Church), Peter is given the great power and office of prime minister:

Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:19b)

Yet, despite his divine calling, St. Peter was not always perfect in his personal example. The New Testament records that on one occasion he had to be fraternally corrected by St. Paul.

In the early years of the Church, as belief in the Gospel began to spread from Jerusalem into pagan lands, the question arose of how much of what God commanded through Moses needed to be observed by the Gentile (that is, non-Jewish) converts. God gave not only the Ten Commandments in the Old Covenant but some 613 religious rules, touching on many areas of daily life, including food and clothing. These precepts were called the Mosaic law.

St. Peter’s vision at Joppa and his subsequent visit to Cornelius the centurion’s house in Caesarea (recounted in Acts 10) revealed to him God’s will that Gentile converts to Christianity need not be obliged to observe the full Mosaic law. But others were teaching, “Unless you are circumcised according to the Mosaic practice, you cannot be saved.” Around the year 50 A.D., the Apostles and other Church leaders gathered for the Council of Jerusalem to settle this question.

There, some from the party of the Pharisees who had become believers in Christ stood up and said to the assembly, “It is necessary to circumcise them and direct them to observe the Mosaic law.” But St. Peter replied, “[Why] are you now putting God to the test by placing on the shoulders of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? On the contrary, we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they.” (Acts 15:10-11) And the Council decreed that Gentile Christians were free from observing the bulk of Jewish religious rules and customs.

The Dispute at Antioch: Saints Peter & Paul by Jusepe de Ribera

But there was a later episode at Antioch where Peter’s personal example did not match his professed beliefs, and St. Paul was moved to correct him:

[W]hen Cephas (the Aramaic word for “Rock” or “Peter”) came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face because he clearly was wrong. For, until some people came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to draw back and separated himself, because he was afraid of the circumcised. And the rest of the Jews also acted hypocritically along with him, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not on the right road in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of all, “If you, though a Jew, are living like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?” (Galatians 2:11-14)

Apparently, the “people from James” were Jewish Christians who were disapproving of Peter eating non-kosher meals with the Gentile Christians, leading Peter to withdraw from table fellowship with those non-Jewish converts. St. Peter, the first Pope, was preserved by God from teaching error, but he was not immune to personal faults. Paul publicly corrected Peter because his failure in leadership was leading to scandal within the Church. Spirit-led fraternal correction is a spiritual work of mercy and a duty of Christian love.

The Catholic Church’s Code of Canon Law says:

[The Christian faithful] have the right, indeed at times the duty, in keeping with their knowledge, competence and position, to manifest to the sacred Pastors their views on matters which concern the good of the Church. They have the right also to make their views known to others of Christ’s faithful, but in doing so they must always respect the integrity of faith and morals, show due reverence to the Pastors and take into account both the common good and the dignity of individuals.” (Canon 212, Section 3)

In this present, painful season in the Church, let us remain faithful but not silent. Let us insist of our shepherds that these scandals may lead to cleansing through true leadership and effective reform.

Foreign Words of our Faith

July 12, 2018

Hebrew Words
Alleluia – “Praise the Lord” (literally, “Praise Yah[weh]”)
Amen – “Verily” / “Truly” / “So be it”

Greek Words
Kyrie eleison – “Lord have mercy”
Christe eleison – “Christ have mercy”

Latin Words
Agnus Dei – “Lamb of God”
Ave Maria – “Hail Mary”
Fiat – “Let it be done”
Gloria in excelsis Deo – “Glory to God in the highest”
INRI (Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum) – “Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews”

French Words
La Croix – “The Cross”
La Crosse – “The Crosier” (a bishop’s shepherd’s crook/staff)
Noel – “Christmas”
Notre Dame – “Our Lady”

Spanish Words
Los Angeles – “The Angels”
San Antonio – “St. Anthony (of Padua)”
San Francisco – “St. Francis (of Assisi)”
Santa Cruz – “Holy Cross”
Santa Fe – “Holy Faith”

St. Paul’s Vision Problems

July 11, 2018

 The oldest known depiction of St. Paul the Apostle, a fresco from the Catacomb of Saint Thekla in Rome dated to the 300’s A.D.

Paul’s encounter with the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus, accompanied by a great light from the sky which suddenly shone around him, left the great persecutor of the early Church blind. “Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing…” After three days, the Lord sent a Christian named Ananias to prayerfully lay hands upon Saul/Paul. “Immediately things like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight.” Yet problems with Paul’s vision seem to have lingered or later returned.

Writing to Christians in Galatia (central Turkey) more than a decade after his conversion, Paul recalls, “[Y]ou know that it was because of a physical illness that I originally preached the gospel to you…” While he does not directly identify the malady, he then observes, “Indeed, I can testify to you that, if it had been possible, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me.” And in his personal closing to the letter he adds, “See with what large letters I am writing to you in my own hand!” These clues suggest that swapping-out Paul’s eyeballs for another pair would have improved his poor and ailing sight.

Paul, previously blinded by hatred of Christians, saw the light and was converted. The Lord forgave all of his sins through baptism but forgiveness does not always remove all of our sins’ consequences. In restoring Paul’s sight the Lord may have permitted some physical encumbrance to remain. For what purpose? For Paul’s greater good: to serve as an enduring sign to him that what he experienced on the way to Damascus had been real and to remind him of how far he had come; to keep him humble amid the incredible graces, revelations, and miracles of his epic ministry; and to help him remain faithfully dependent upon our Lord Jesus, who once told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” May God grant that we would spiritually profit as much from our own divinely-permitted trials as St. Paul did through his.

Call No Man Father?

June 19, 2018

Was it unchristian for our country to celebrate Father’s Day last Sunday? That’s one implication of a common criticism raised against the Catholic Church. Sometimes Protestants chide us, “Jesus said, ‘Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in Heaven,’ so why do you Catholics call priests and popes ‘Father?’” Yet this charge could also be raised against St. Paul who writes in his Letter to the Romans of “our father Abraham” and “our father Issac.” What’s more, St. Paul is moved by the Holy Spirit in his First Letter to the Corinthians to assert himself as their spiritual father: “Even if you should have countless guides to Christ, yet you do not have many fathers, for I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”

So what is Jesus saying in his teaching on titles (father, master, rabbi/teacher) in Matthew 23? Judging from the whole of the New Testament, our Lord’s concern is not with labels or hierarchy in themselves (for “he called his disciples to himself, and from them he chose Twelve, whom he also named Apostles.”) Jesus is warning us against the fallen, human attitudes that we can attach to positions and titles of authority and honor. Jesus says, “You have one teacher… you have but one Father in Heaven… you have but one master, the Messiah.” We must not allow anyone (be they a noted thinker, politician, celebrity, employer, or parent) to displace or compromise God’s primacy in our lives. Embracing a teaching or custom against our Faith is to worship an idol instead of God. And Jesus says “you are all brothers…. The greatest among you must be your servant.” So whenever we are called into a position of influence (be it as a parent, pastor, politician, or what have you) we must remain humble and glorify God while serving him and our neighbors.

The Venerable Servant of God Bishop Fulton Sheen once observed, “There are not a hundred people in America who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions of people who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church — which is, of course, quite a different thing.” Our Faith has good answers to offer anyone who cares enough about the truth to simply look or listen. So do not fear religious conversations with your family, friends, or peers. You’ll both learn more along the way and you could very well help them into the fullness of Jesus’ Catholic Church.

Our Lady of Zeitoun

April 3, 2018

A Fascinating Marian Apparition from Egypt

Fifty years ago this week, on the evening of April 2, 1968, a group of Muslim mechanics and drivers working across the street from Virgin Mary’s Coptic Church in Zeitoun, Egypt, saw a woman atop a dome of the church. Two other men also noticed the white figure on the top of the church and the matter was reported to the police. A crowd gathered on the site and interpreted the sighting as an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary. After a few minutes, the event ended. According to tradition, Zeitoun is on the route that the Holy Family took when fleeing King Herod’s efforts to murder the infant Jesus.

Our Lady of Zeitoun

One week later, on April 9, 1968, the phenomenon reoccurred, again lasting for only a few minutes. After that time apparitions became more frequent, sometimes two or three times a week, for several years, ending in 1971. The woman spoke no words, but moved about the church’s mysteriously illuminated domes. She would also face the people in the streets below and gesture warmly with her head or hands. Sometimes she was accompanied by luminous, dove-shaped bodies which moved about at high speeds. Muslims hold Mary in very high regard even though they deem Jesus to be merely a prophet of Islam. She was seen to kneel down before a cross on the church roof; significant, since Muslims deny Jesus’ crucifixion.

Pope (or Patriarch) Kyrillos VI, the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, appointed a committee of high-ranking priests and bishops to investigate. On May 4, 1968, Kyrillos VI issued an official statement confirming and approving the apparition. These apparitions were witnessed by perhaps a million people, including President Gamal Abdel Nasser, and were documented by newspaper photographers and Egyptian television. Egyptian government officials concluded in 1968: “Official investigations have been carried out with the result that it has been considered an undeniable fact that the Blessed Virgin Mary has been appearing on Zeitoun Church in a clear and bright luminous body seen by all present in front of the church, whether Christians or Muslims.”

The Life & Works of Fr. Joe Walijewski

March 6, 2018

Five years ago this week, our own Bishop William Callahan announced the opening of the cause for the beatification and canonization of Father Joseph Walijewski, a priest of our diocese who lived from 1924 to 2006. On May 27th, a ceremony at our cathedral will mark the close of our diocese’s investigation into his life and the submission of his cause to the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

Father Joe was one of ten children born to poor Polish immigrant parents in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Growing up during the Great Depression, he pitched in to help the family survive by selling newspapers. He only spoke Polish at that time, but he knew he would have to learn English to be successful, and he did just that.

After finishing his Catholic schooling in Grand Rapids, he came to Wisconsin to attend seminary in Milwaukee. Like many young people, he struggled with his studies, but he set to his task of learning Latin, Greek, and his other courses. His superiors thought he lacked ability. In his own words, Fr. Joe recalled, “I was deficient in my studies but I remained determined.” The young seminarian promised the Lord to commit five years of his priesthood to working in the missions if he could pass his courses. La Crosse’s fourth bishop, Alexander McGavick, saw potential in the young man and welcomed him to join our diocese. On April 16, 1950, he was ordained in our cathedral in La Crosse by our fifth bishop, John Patrick Treacy.

As a young priest Fr. Joseph served in Mosinee, Thorp, and Stevens Point. He heard a talk by Bishop Luis Aníbal Rodríguez Pardo about the desperate needs of his people in Bolivia. When Fr. Joe asked Bishop Treacy if he could be a diocesan missionary there, the bishop told him to pray on it for a year and talk to him again. A year later, Fr. Joe was back. He departed for Santa Cruz in 1956.

Upon landing in Bolivia, Bishop Charles Brown literally handed Father Joe a machete. Together they hacked through the tropical grass beyond the outskirts of Santa Cruz. “Build a church here and the people will come and build their homes next to it,” the bishop said. Holy Cross Parish is today at the heart of a city of 1.2 million.

Always a humble servant of the Lord, Father Joe lived in a barn with the livestock as he built his first church. Lacking funds and skilled workers, the strength of the walls for that new church fell short. The walls came tumbling down—not once, but three times. Yet Father Joe did not lose heart. He told folks this was fitting for a church named Holy Cross fell, for Christ fell three times under the weight of His Cross. Fr. Al Wozniak – a priest with an engineering background – went to lend assistance and our diocese’s parish mission in Bolivia stands firmly today. After ten years in Bolivia, our sixth bishop, Fredrick Freking, recalled Fr. Joe back to Wisconsin in 1966. Father Joe then led parishes in Heffron, Almond, Buena Vista, and Thorp.

In 1970, an 7.9 magnitude earthquake shook Peru, triggering the world’s deadliest landslide. A wall of glacial ice and rock—more than a half-mile wide and a mile long—slid eleven miles at speeds topping 100 miles per hour. It completely buried two cities in its path, seriously damaged others, and killed more than 74,000 people. The avalanche wiped out electricity, communications, and roads making it difficult to provide relief and rebuild.

The archbishop of Lima, Peru appealed for Father Joe to help. Father went to Peru to pastor a new parish in a rapidly growing neighborhood on the outskirts of Lima. That community is Villa el Salvador, the “City of the Savior.” There were about 80,000 impoverished people there when Father Joe arrived. Peruvians flocked there hoping to find work, food, and to escape increasing terrorist violence. Father Joe built their first church and the population of this city grew to 900,000, keeping Father Joe busy. He directed the construction of eight additional chapels.

In the early chaos following the earthquake, terrorist groups wreaked havoc on the local people. They targeted those serving as religious and civic leaders for execution. Our Lord seemed to be watching over Father Joe. He spared his life once when Father Joe ran late for his regular visit to a village eight hours away. The delay saved him from being rounded up and executed with the mayor and two others in front of the frightened villagers. Another attack against Father Joe came when terrorists rigged his Massey Ferguson tractor with dynamite. After the charge failed to detonate, friends asked Father Joe about his physical safety. He replied, “I don’t worry about it, and tell God that, when it is time to go, just be sure to send someone else to keep this work going.”

St. John Paul the Great visited Lima in 1985. The Holy Father was already running behind on a very active schedule. Yet he broke away from his aides, looking at Father Joe, saying, “I want to talk to this priest.” Father Joe told him about the homeless children sleeping under newspapers in the streets. Before the pontiff left Peru, he gave the local cardinal a check for $50,000 to support the local ministry. From those seeds, in 1986, Father Joe opened an orphanage, Casa Hogar Juan Pablo II, the “House-home of John Paul II.” It has since welcomed hundreds of boys and girls needing security, family, and Christian love.

In 2000, Father Joe was granted senior-priest status, but he was not finished working. He opened a retirement home for the elderly and would drive deep into the rainforests to celebrate up to five Masses with the Ashiko Indians every Sunday. On April 11, 2006, after fifty-six years of ministry, Father Joseph Walijewski died in Lima, Peru at age 82. He is now buried in the Grotto of the Assumption of Our Lady, which he had built, on the hill overlooking his Casa Hogar orphanage.

Fr. Joe Walijewski meeting St. Pope John Paul II in 1986

 

Our Light Amid the Darkness

March 3, 2018

America, shaken and grieving unprecedented violence; divided by animosity and racial tensions; politicians seeking to remove the president through impeachment; these are descriptions of the United States 150 years ago.

While still reeling and mourning from the deaths of more than 600,000 Civil War combatants, there was fierce contention over how harshly the North should treat the vanquished South and what rights should be accorded to former slaves. The political polarization was so great that, this week in 1868, the president was impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives. (Pres. Andrew Johnson would go on to remain in office, being acquitted in the U.S. Senate by a single-vote margin.) They were dark, troubled times in our country. Meanwhile, a new source of light was being lit among us from across the ocean.

On March 3, 1868, a decree of Pope Pius IX established two dioceses within the twenty-year-old state of Wisconsin: La Crosse and Green Bay. For the fifteen decades since, under the stewardship of ten bishops, our diocese has been advancing the Kingdom of Christ. We established churches, schools, and institutions. We proclaimed the Gospel and celebrated our living Faith. Great good was done and many souls were saved.

We can easily get discouraged by the evil we see in current events. But even amid tragedy and trials our great, fruitful, saving work goes on — often quietly and unnoticed. It has always been so. “For behold, the Kingdom of God is among you.” (Luke 17:21)

The Diocese of La Crosse — Founded March 3, 1868

The Most Interesting Woman in the World

March 1, 2018

With a single word, she crushed a deadly serpent.

Pregnant just once, she has billions of children.

She ended the Soviet Union with her heart.

She is… The Most Interesting Woman in the World

For more than a decade, she held the title for
“The Best Thing to come from Nazareth.”

Her preexisting condition?
Sinlessness — The Lord ensured it.

She lost track of her 12-year-old for three days…
is still considered the world’s greatest mother.

She once redesigned a used garment
and it converted Mexico.

Her favorite nation?
Her coronation.
(But she loves your homeland, too.)

At over 2,000 years old,
she could still get carded buying wine,
though she never needs to.

I don’t always drink wine, but when I do, I prefer my Son’s.

Stay holy, my children.

 

 

Jesus is Asking you for a Date

February 1, 2018

Jesus is asking you for a date: it’s February 14th. This year, Ash Wednesday lands on St. Valentine’s Day. These two observances, seemingly opposite, are both in fact dedicated to love. Little is known with certainty about St. Valentine, the 3rd century martyr buried near Rome. According to The Catholic Encyclopedia, ‘the popular customs associated with Saint Valentine’s Day undoubtedly had their origin in a conventional belief generally received in England and France during the Middle Ages, that on February 14th (i.e., half way through the 2nd month of the year) the birds began to pair.’ Valentine’s Day is a celebration of eros, the romantic form of love that delights in loving the beloved. Ash Wednesday calls us to agape, the form of love that is willing to undergo sufferings for another’s good.

Jesus commands us to love: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. … You shall love your neighbor as yourself. … As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” We must give of ourselves to God and neighbor yet we can only give of what we possess; this means we must be able to say “no” to ourselves in order to give a fuller “yes” to others. Such self-mastery comes through asceticism. By disciplining our desires through mortification and penance we grow in our conversion and virtue. Internal and external acts of Christian self-denial are typically done privately, but Jesus Christ’s Church prescribes communal penances for the season of Lent.

All Catholics who are at least fourteen years old are to abstain from eating meat on Ash Wednesday, on Lent’s Fridays, and on Good Friday. Catholics at least eighteen years of age must also fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday until reaching their fifty-ninth birthday. What is “fasting?” Lenten fasting means eating just one full meal that day. Two additional smaller meals (less than one full meal when put together) are allowed if necessary, but snacking on solid foods between meals is not. Physically, mentally, or chronically ill persons, as well as pregnant or nursing mothers, are exempt from Lent’s fasting and meat abstinence rules. However, merely being in a dating relationship, engaged to someone, or married, does not.

There will be no fancy steak dinners for Catholics this Valentine’s Day. (Perhaps make romantic dinner reservations for February 13th or 15th instead – you’ll end up with an even better table.) Eros love and agape love can certainly complement each other. Jesus Christ delights in his Church as his beloved bride while also being prepared to greatly suffer and lay down his life for us. This Ash Wednesday, Valentine’s Day, let us perfect our love for our beloveds through ascetic self-denial and elated gifts of self.