The Perfect Christmas

Fr. Joel Church meets World 1 Comment

It was almost Christmas and they were far from home. They had every intention of spending a quiet holiday season. But urgent business required him to travel, and she refused to stay home without him. Technically this was his hometown but family connections were distant, and plans to stay with family had fallen through. It seemed like nothing turned out the way he planned these days. They had always been faithful, prayerful people. Only recently, though, had God really started to be present in their lives. Following God, he thought, meant things would fall into place. Instead everything seemed to be falling apart. It’s never good to be out on the road on a cold December, but especially with a pregnant wife, and no room at the inn. When he tried to figure it out, the old fears would nibble at his mind. But as Joseph let go of his worries, his heart became filled with peace. God would take care of them, he was sure of it.

His wife Mary was immaculate, but her life was not, as Julianne Stanz shared in a recent Compass article. After the angel announced the birth of the child, she went with haste to the hill country. When Mary returned to Nazareth three months later, she was starting to show, and Joseph knew the baby wasn’t his. The film Mary of Nazareth depicts Joseph angrily tearing down part of the house he had been building for them. After the angel comes to Joseph, a later scene shows their wedding. Music is playing but only a few are dancing. Most of the guests look on with scornful judgement, perceiving Mary to be an adulteress. Why was God allowing such suffering?Read More

Maybe It Just Needs A Little Love (#804, Advent 3)

Fr. Joel Homilies Leave a Comment

Third Sunday of Advent (Year B) • There is no such thing as a perfect tree. Maybe it just needs a little love. Christmas is all about love: God who loves us and sends his Son to us, even though we aren’t perfect. We must be humble enough to receive what God wants to send us. Being loved by God fills us with joy. So practice Christmas carols and you’ll be ready to rejoice at the coming of Christ.Read More

How Not To Prepare For Christmas (#803, Advent 2)

Fr. Joel Homilies

Second Sunday of Advent (Year B) • We want to be prepared for Christmas so we put up decorations, send cards, buy gifts, and bake cookies. And then a little bell calls to us from the wilderness to remind us: Prepare Your Heart! Our heart is prepared when we focus on the things that really matter, and let go of the things that don’t matter.

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God’s Plans Are Worth Waiting For (#802, Immaculate Conception)

Fr. Joel Homilies

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception • Before you were conceived in your mother’s womb, God had a concept of you with him in Heaven for all eternity. Mary teaches us two things: 1) God’s plans are worth waiting for 2) All we have to do is say “Yes” to God, and God will do the rest.

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348 years ago…

Fr. Joel Being Catholic, Life on Planet Earth

…the first Mass in the Green Bay Diocese, the state of Wisconsin, and most of the Northwest Territory was celebrated in Oconto, WI. All over Wisconsin there are historical markers that detail the visits of explorers and the exploits of early settlers. In the city of Oconto we have the most amazing historical marker. It’s worth at trip to town just to see it. But I’ll save you the trip.

A Prayerful Heart is a Watchful Heart (#801, Advent 1)

Fr. Joel Homilies

First Sunday of Advent (Year B) • What are we watching for? Christians should be ready for the coming of Christ, not only at the end of the world but every day of our daily. Making time to pray every day will help you be more watchful. This Advent pray for a watchful heart. Read More

COCO: Un Poco Loco in the Best Possible Way (Movie Review)

Fr. Joel Church meets World

COCO is the crazy new animated movie from Disney/Pixar. It’s the story of a young boy named Miguel whose family doesn’t allow music. You are told right away that his great great grandfather left the family to go be a musician. He is never spoken of again and music is not allowed anymore. But Miguel secretly loves music and dreams of being a great musician. Things come to a head on the Day of the Dead (Dia de Muertos, Mexico’s cultural celebration of All Souls Day). Through a chain of events Miguel suddenly finds himself on the other side with all the dead people. He has to find a way to get home, and more importantly, discover the hidden secrets of his family history.

I was not expecting to like this film. While I love Pixar, many of their recent movies have been sequels (Monsters University, Finding Dory, Cars 3) or uninspiring originals (The Good Dinosaur, Brave). A movie about the dead was bound to have theological and cultural problems, and likely to not be a good story.

It would be hard for me to exaggerate how much I LOVED this movie. This movie hits it out of the park. Culturally this movie feels like Mexico. It’s so good, in fact, that it will be a challenge for white Americans to comprehend. It presents family and tradition and music in ways that are more Mexican than American. The whole Day of the Dead is completely foreign to American sensibilities. I can’t believe studio executives approved a movie like this. It’s strange, but in good ways that totally challenge American cultural assumptions.

This movie is accurately rated at PG. It includes some heavy themes about betrayal, holding grudges, murder, death, and the afterlife. It features lots of skeletons and some excellent plot twists. Kids need to be older, probably in the 7-9 range, to have enough maturity to follow this movie. It’s a good story and a fun ride. I doesn’t get too dark or heavy except when it needs to. And it carries some real emotional weight.

Theologically the movie doesn’t accurately present what happens to dead people. But it teaches some extremely important truths. It shows that the dead are real and really connected with us, and it’s important for us to stay connected to them. You see a dead person still trying to get home in order to tell someone special that he loves them. It talks about justice for the dead and reconciliation. It conveys how the old can teach the young and the young can teach the old. It talks about the effect of passing on blessings, and grudges, through generations. It talks about family and tradition and how music and ritual help us remember and stay connected. Don’t underestimate an animated movie. This is Pixar at it’s best. I laughed. I cried. It changed me. You’ll have to see it for yourself to appreciate just how good this movie is.

Become a Preaching Podcast Patron

Fr. Joel Church meets World

The Brother Priest Preaching Podcast is a labor of love. I love preaching and I love tinkering with computers. I tinkered enough and a podcast was born! I keep tinkering to find ways I can put out a top-quality product for bottom-basement cost. I love hearing from people who value what I do. I love it ever more when people pitch in to help make it happen. A few dollars for you goes a long way for everyone.

Whose Onion Is It? (#751, Christ the King)

Fr. Joel Homilies

The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe (Year A) • God made you. Why did God make you? To know Him, love Him, and serve Him in this life so as to be happy with Him in the next. Follow Jesus and He will lead you down the path of obedience, service, and generosity. Don’t wait until the last onion to let Him be the King of your heart.Read More

Giving Thanks for Broccoli and Brussels Sprouts (#750, Thanksgiving Day)

Fr. Joel Homilies

Thanksgiving Day (USA) • Name one thing you are thankful for…. each of these gifts point to the loving care of God for each of us, His children. We can always choose to be grateful. “Thank God in advance,” said Solanus Casey. St. Therese of Lisieux would thank God even for her faults and failings. Do you give thanks in all things?Read More