Living Well – True Joy

Fr. Joel The Loving Life

At his weekly Angelus this weekend, Pope Benedict blessed the Baby Jesus for nativity scenes. His little address is very interesting. If what he says is true (I’ll let the reader judge that), it contains the key to true joy:

“It is a source of joy for me”, said the Holy Father, “to know that your families still conserve the custom of making nativity scenes. Yet it is not enough to repeat the traditional gesture, however important it may be. We must seek to live what the nativity scene represents in the reality of our everyday lives: that is, the love of Christ, His humility and His poverty”.

“The blessing of the ‘Bambinelli’ – as they are called in Rome – reminds us that the nativity scene is a school of life where we can learn the secret of true joy. This does not consist in possessing many things but in feeling ourselves to be loved by the Lord, in making ourselves a gift for others, and in loving one another

Let us consider the nativity scene: the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph do not appear to be a very privileged family, they had their first child amidst great hardship, yet they are full of intimate joy because they love one another, they help one another and, above all, they are certain that God is at work in their story”.

“And the shepherds”, the Pope asked, “what reason do they have to be happy? That newborn infant will certainly not alter their poverty and marginalisation. Yet faith helps them to recognise in the ‘child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger’, the ‘sign’ of the fulfilment of God’s promises for all the men and women ‘whom He favours’, even for them!”

For this reason, Benedict XVI explained, true joy consists in “feeling that our individual and community lives are touched by and filled with a great mystery, the mystery of the love of God. In order to be joyful we need … love and truth, we need a God Who is near, Who warms our hearts and responds to our most profound expectations.”

Benedict XVI, Angelus, 13 Dec 2009

Fr. Joel’s homily for Dec 13

Fr. Joel Homilies

Adv3 – Rejoice, the Lord is Near (7:50)

Advent, 3rd Sunday. Rejoice in the Lord always, the Lord is near! John the Baptist calls his listeners to their deepest desires – Peace, Joy, and Unconditional Love. These desires can only be filled by God. Advent is the season of realizing our need for God and of refusing all the things that fail to satisfy. Just as we rejoice in the Lord, so also God rejoices in us. (13 Dec 2009)

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Soft sole moccasins

Benjamin Free Range

– Fr. Benjamin

My little brother’s slippers had holes in them. He likes to take his shoes off at the door and wear moccasins all day long, and he had worn through his $17 slippers. “We could make you some moccasins,” I told him. He was excited at the idea of a project. Before going home for Thanksgiving break, I had to locate some leather, needles, thread, an awl, and patterns. I write this post mainly because I relied on online sources, and trying to live the gratitude that Fr. Joel suggests I feel I should contribute to the online knowledge.

We decided on plains Indian style moccasin. A single piece of leather goes under the sole, and is folded over the top of the foot and sewn on one side. Following some directions, I took a tracing of the foot and then added 3/4 inch behind the heel and 1/4 inch around the toes. From the widest part of the foot, the pattern goes straight back to the heel. The upper was a mirror image of this.

The problem was, this pattern DID NOT FIT. It was too small. After thinking about the problem, I measured the CIRCUMFERENCE of the foot and added to the upper until it equaled the total circumference (in the picture the addition is marked with the pen). Pictures of these moccasins suggested that the upper was, in fact, a little larger than the sole.

After figuring out the pattern, the project went quickly. I punched holes with the awl and my brother did the whip stitch. We had to adjust the stitching to take up the difference in size between the upper and the sole. Then we cut a hole in the top (marked by the upside-down T in the pattern), cut a little flap at the base of the heel, and sewed up the back of the moccasin. The stitching was done with the moccasin inside out so the seams wind up inside.

These moccasins are made of cow hide suede, which is flexible but durable. It seems to have less give to it than dear skin. We finished the moccasins by sewing a small tongue into the opening in the upper, and threading laces to hold them on.

It was a fun project and it was good to accomplish something with and for my brother. I made a larger pair for myself, and have been enjoying them around the house. I always wear them with socks, since the seams are on the inside and they irritate my foot if I don’t. Now, my mother is talking about slippers for Christmas; looks like I might have one gift figured out.

Living Well – Gratitude

Fr. Joel The Loving Life

"We must change from looking at the lack in our lives to looking at the abundance in our lives and being grateful." – LaVon Rader

This little quote was part of a presentation on living a simple abundant life at the Diocese of Green Bay’s convocation for 2009. When I heard it, I realized that I had personally been looking at the lack in my life and it was making me unhappy. Now I finish my journal entries with one thing I am grateful for that day. Slowly I am discovering that the good things I have far outweigh the things I lack. So during this "season of giving", we might be asked to make a list of all the things we want. Maybe it would be smarter to make a list of the things we are grateful for and spend time enjoying them rather than asking for more.

Thanksgiving in Wisconsin

We woke up Thanksgiving Day to a thick blanket of snow, our first for the year. Now I could look at the "lack" of warm weather, but instead I’ll be grateful for the abundance of snow. And I am also grateful for the sun, which by early afternoon had melted all the snow.

thanksgiving (2)

thanksgiving (5)

Living Well – A New Series

Fr. Joel The Loving Life

Priests see people at their worst. It would be odd if I went through a whole week without someone breaking down and crying in front of me. “Father, can I meet with you?,” people always ask. Chances are slim that they go on to say, “I’ve had a great week and I just want to tell you about the wonderful things God is doing.” No, instead it seems to always be, “My life is a mess and I need your help.” So a priest hears every different way that life can go badly. Sometimes life is a mess because of circumstances beyond a person’s control. But more often than not, the life we lead is a result of the choices we have made. So what kind of choices do we have to make in order to live well?
If you say that someone “lives well”, most people think you mean they are living a rich life. In the same way, if I say, “I ate well every night this week,” you will think  I have been going out to eat, having lots of fancy foods and coming home stuffed. But “eating well” really means not “eating badly” – good, healthy foods in good quantities. In the same way, when I say “living well”, I mean living a healthy life full of purpose and meaning. It seems to me that healthy living includes being healthy physically, spiritually, emotionally and mentally. In other words, a good life.

But what does it take to lead a good life? What does it mean to be living well? Cultures have generally collected tips about living well in the form of reflections, stories and insights that provide guidelines to the next generation. The knowledge and art of living well is called Wisdom. Previous generations had the habit of passing on this wisdom from generation to generation. Our culture has lost this habit. Our elders don’t take the time to collect wisdom and our youth don’t take the time to listen to it. We expect to learn what we need to know from school or the internet and we rarely take the time to look back and reflect on whether it is working. So this is the reason for this new series. I hope to collect tips and insights from personal experiences and from others, and pass them on. Please leave comments on this or other posts and I will be happy to include your wisdom as well. Maybe together we can learn to live well and help others to do the same.

Fr. Joel’s homily for Nov 8

Fr. Joel Homilies

Ord32 – How to buy Heaven for Two Pennies (9:11)

Ordinary Time, 32nd Sunday. What do we do when even our best isn’t good enough? Today we see two widows who do not have enough. One gives here little to Elijah and God rewards her generously. Another gives her little to the temple and wins the admiration of Jesus. What do we do when however much we have, it still isn’t enough? We give it to God. And it will be more than enough. (8 Nov 2009)

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Year of the Priest – Some Sage Advice

Fr. Joel Priesthood

The US conference of Catholic Bishops has been using this beautiful icon to promote the year of the priest. This is not a year for us to be honored but rather a year to remind us of the sacred duty we have to live the priesthood to the full. Here is some excellent advice from St. Charles Borromeo. He was made the Archbishop of Milan at the age of 25 because his uncle was Pope Paul IV (it’s called nepotism). But he turned out to be an excellent choice, working very hard to reform a diocese where the priests were lax and the religious orders were houses of vice. He was shot at more than once and one time miraculously survived an attack by a hired assassin. Here’s what he has to say about priesthood:

On Doing Your Job

“If teaching and preaching is your job, then study diligently and apply yourself to whatever is necessary for doing the job well. Be sure that you first preach by the way you live. If you do not, people will notice that you say one thing, but live otherwise, and your words will bring only cynical laughter and a derisive shake of the head.

“Are you in charge of a parish? If so, do not neglect the parish of your own soul, do not give yourself to others so completely that you have nothing left for yourself. You have to be mindful of your people without becoming forgetful of yourself.”

On Meditation

“My brothers, you must realize that for us churchmen nothing is more necessary than meditation. We must meditate before, during and after everything we do. The prophet says: I will pray, and then I will understand. When you administer the sacraments, meditate on what you are doing. When you celebrate Mass, reflect on the sacrifice you are offering. When you pray the office, think about the words you are saying and the Lord to whom you are speaking. When you take care of your people, meditate on the Lord’s blood that has washed them clean. In this way, all that you do becomes a work of love.

“This is the way we can easily overcome the countless difficulties we have to face day after day, which, after all, are part of our work: in meditation we find the strength to bring Christ to birth in ourselves and in other men.”

From the Breviary Volume III,
Proper of Saints for Nov. 4th

Fr. Joel’s Homily for Nov 1

Fr. Joel Homilies

Nov1 – The Joy of Innocence (7:56)

Solemnity of All Saints. God has adopted us as his children. "See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we might be called Children of God. Yet so we are." Children are innocent; they enjoy things simply because they are good. Children love to sing for the fun of it, while adults only sing if they think they are good at it and that people will notice. What does being a child of God look like? Here and now it looks like the Beatitudes. In the next life it looks like a multitude which no one can count, wearing white robes and praising God. (1 Nov 2009)

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Zombies vs. Vampires

Fr. Joel Society Today

Halloween is the perfect time to reflect on the strange new popularity of zombies and vampires. The early vampire movies depicted creepy old men sucking the blood of young women while they slept. They were a form of undead that had to sleep during the day to avoid the killing power of sunlight. But the new vampires are young and hip. Buffy used to slay them; Angel was one. In Underworld and now Twilight, vampires have become heroes. They walk among us in broad daylight, dressed in the latest fashions and wooing the hearts of women. Quite a makeover. What’s next, Vampire Eye for the Human Guy – where vampires show ordinary guys how to catch their style?


Then there’s the Zombie. Partly rotten, dripping blood, and stumbling slowly through a city street seems to do little for their public image. How much more can you do with a zombie? Yet they are now popping up everywhere. The Zombie Reporting Center listed 24 new zombie movies in 2007 and the trend has continued strong. Now there are zombie angels, zombie strippers, Zombie Diaries, and no shortage of zombie comedies. What’s next, a zombie family show? The cartoon Zits recently ran a series called "6 Reasons why Zombies would make cool Parents."


Why are such strange things suddenly so popular? This author speculates that zombies are how we see our world, and vampires are how we see ourselves. Let me elaborate and see if it makes sense to you.

American Zombieland

Zombies – they trail blood as they stumble around, but if they get their hands on you, they will eat you. Very many of our neighbors and fellow citizens stumble through life like zombies. They wander from thing to thing doing one thing after another without a lot of thought or concern. They rarely sing, often groan, and never take time to sit and think about what they are doing. How often do we engage in real conversation with the people around us? And when we do, we are always afraid that the person in front of us might take advantage of us, monopolize our time, or worse. I think the new self-checkout kiosks are so that we can avoid even the minimum of contact with others because it is so painful. coffee-zombie We thoughtlessly consume food, drink, and whatever else is put in front of us, regardless of its quality. Watch kids walking through the hallway in a high school, then watch a zombie film. The similarities are remarkable. Perhaps the popularity of zombie films finds its roots in a simple fear: we are afraid that the strangers all around us who have to chug coffee and energy drinks just to put on the appearance of being alive, will soon look up, notice us, and come after us.

My Secret Vampire Life

So how about the vampires? They look like ordinary people, but deep down they are different. As long as they can control their desire to drink blood, they can live ordinary, productive, almost-human lives. This is how we see ourselves. Each of us believes we are different from the others and special. Our "real self" is something that we hide when we put on masks at work and at home. So often the people around us are completely uninterested in us, and they go about their daily life oblivious to the fact that we are someone special. We are afraid that if we show who we really are, those around us will be repulsed by it. At the same time we secretly dream that we can find someone who will discover who we really are and love us for it. Until then, we keep our sunglasses on.

Edward Cullen from

Humanity Reborn

So life is a struggle between zombies and vampires. Not a pleasant place to live. Fortunately, the answer to this dilemma is closer than we realize. It consists very simply in recognizing our own humanity, and doing the same for others. Being human is more than just producing and consuming. Imagine if the time spent beating levels in guitar hero were actually spent learning to play the guitar? Our own lives and those of our friends would be so much more enriched. But you can’t quantify that, so unless it can be packaged and marketed, we aren’t interested. We have a yearning for love, beauty, goodness, community, and authentic interactions. Yet while we feed our bodies (and how!), we starve our souls. We rarely touch people, afraid of spreading germs or being accused of something. We spend little time and money on music, art, or dance. We fail to appreciate what we are eating and we miss most of the sunsets and the goodness of people all around us. Slowly we become zombies. Fight the undead! Take time out to pray and meditate. Think about what you are doing and what it means. Are you learning to appreciate your own humanity? Are you taking time to recognize the humanity of others and rejoice it in? A good reminder every week is to take time to come to church. It reminds us of all the important things that can’t be quantified, like friendships, love, beauty, joy, and flowers. Most of all, time "wasted" being human is time spent the best way possible.

Have you hugged your zombie parents today?