Holy Pilgrimage!

Fr. Joel Being Catholic

I’m out of the office this week, I tell people.
“On vacation?”, they ask.
“No, I’ll be on pilgrimage.”
“All week?”
“Yes. I’m walking from Oshkosh to Holy Hill. It’s a distance of 65 miles.”
“What?????? You’re walking???”
Yes, I am. The tradition of the pilgrimage is one of the oldest in our faith. Here is some explanation:

The Israelites were fond of pilgrimages. Their annual religious feasts often required a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Jesus, Mary and Joseph obediently and religiously participated in the yearly pilgrimage to Jerusalem to observe the Feast of Passover (Lk 2:41-42). In much the same way, Christians would journeyed from all corners of the glove to the sacred site of the Holy Land to grow in love for God’s Son. By the Middles Ages, the pilgrimages to holy places and shrines were a central part of popular religion. Setting out on a pilgrimage has become a metaphor for life itself. We are all on a journey towards Heaven and we have to continue faithfully on that journey. A pilgrimage always points us back to the miracle of Christ, who by his Incarnation hallowed time and space. To go on pilgrimage is to enter deeply into this mystery and to experience Christ not only as Lord, but also as our companion on the journey.

Holy Hill
Holy Hill sits on the highest peak of the Kettle Moraine (which is a chain of hills and pot-shaped valleys that begins in the Whitewater area and extends northeast to Door County). Early Irish and German settlers revered the hill. There is even a legend that a French hermit used to live there. The settlers erected a white oak cross at its peak. This was later replaced with a small wooden shrine. Today the shrine is a minor basilica and visited annually by half a million people. It is under the care of the Discalced Carmelite Friars, a religious order noted for its prayer and simplicity. You can find more about this beautiful shrine by visiting www.holyhill.com

Our Plan
On Tuesday, May 26th., twenty people will set out to walk to Holy Hill. We have broken the journey into five days of walking. You can see our route on the Google maps. We are carrying with us as little as possible, just sleeping bags and a change of clothes. In true pilgrim spirit we depend on the hospitality of others for lodging. We will be sleeping in church basements or rec halls along the way. God willing, we will arrive at Holy Hill on Saturday, May 30th. We have a Mass scheduled for 3:00pm in the Shrine Chapel. Please pray for our pilgrimage, and especially for good weather!

Fr. Joel’s Homily for May 17

Fr. Joel Homilies

Easter6 – Love is from God
Easter, 6th Sunday. Jesus asks the impossible: Love your enemies… Do good to those who hate you… How could we be expected to do that? With the gift of love that comes from God. The Father loves the Son, the Son loves his Disciples, and so the disciples are called to love one another. We can love because we have been loved by God. This love has motivated missionaries to die for Jesus just as He died for them. (17 May 2009)

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Fr. Joel’s Homily for May 10

Fr. Joel Homilies

Easter5 – The Vine, the branches and Motherhood (6:20)
Easter, 5th Sunday. Some explorers searched the New World for the Tree of Life which was supposed to give immortality to those who drank its sap. We have this tree among us — Jesus. He is the vine, we are the branches. Jesus gives his own divine life to his disciples. In the same way, mothers give of themselves to that their children might live. Thank you to all mothers. (10 May 2009)

This is my first recorded homily in two weeks. Apparently, taking a little time off seems to improve the content.

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Fr. Joel’s Homily for April 19

Fr. Joel Homilies

East2 – The tender Mercy of our God
Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday. Jesus appears to his scared, guilty Apostles and says, “Peace be with you.” He has mercy on them. And furthermore, he wants them to pass his mercy on to others: “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,” he says. The Apostles exercise this mercy by welcoming Thomas back into the community, and we see this mercy in the generosity of the first Christians. Where do you have guilt, anger or resentment? Bring it into the warmth of God’s mercy so that you can experience his Peace. (19 Apr. 2009)

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Fr. Joel’s Homily for Easter Sunday

Fr. Joel Homilies

Easter Day – Christ is Alive!
Easter Sunday. The Gospels do not record the scene of Jesus’ Resurrection. But Jesus appears again and again to his disciples; the ‘Tada moment’ happens in the life of every Christian. Christ is alive and active in this world. Pray, seek him, run to the tomb! Christ becomes visible to those chosen as his witnesses. Easter is a day to renew your baptismal commitment to bear his light in the world. (12 Apr. 2009)

Fr. Joel’s Homily for Easter Vigil

Fr. Joel Homilies

Easter Vigil – The Night of Nights
Easter Vigil. Tonight is the night that Christ broke the gates of death and led Adam and Eve into heaven. Tonight the Paschal Lamb’s blood saves the Israelites from the Angel of Death. By his wounds and blows, Christ re-shapes our human nature into the Image and Likeness of God. Tonight the Church emerges from the side of Christ, clean and fresh and new. Christ has been raised; he is not here. He has gone to prepare an Eternal Paradise for us. Take his wounded hand and rise with him. (12 Apr. 2009)

Fr. Joel’s Homily for April 5 (Palm Sunday 2009)

Fr. Joel Homilies

Lent6 – Steadfast Love
Lent, Palm (Passion) Sunday. Human love is often fickle and spineless. One Sunday the crowd acclaims Jesus, next Friday it condemns him. Peter and Judas do the same. In contrast Jesus shows steadfast love even if the face of suffering. Like the woman with the alabaster jar of oil, Jesus breaks the jar of his body and pours over our heads his priceless, perfumed, steadfast love. (5 Apr. 2009)

The Year of the Priest

Fr. Joel Priesthood

Fr. Joel
The Pope has decided to declare this upcoming year, “The Year of the Priest.” The new patron of priesthood will be St. John Vianney, the great parish priest of Ars, France. In his catechism lesson on priesthood, the famous cure’ said:

The priest is not a priest for himself; he does not give himself absolution; he does not administer the Sacraments to himself. He is not for himself, he is for you… When people wish to destroy religion, they begin by attacking the priest, because where there is no longer any priest there is no sacrifice, and where there is no longer any sacrifice there is no religion…
What joy did the Apostles feel after the Resurrection of Our Lord, at seeing the Master whom they had loved so much! The priest must feel the same joy at seeing Our Lord whom he holds in his hands. Great value is attached to objects which have been laid in the drinking cup of the Blessed Virgin and of the Child Jesus, at Loretto. But the fingers of the priest, that have touched the adorable Flesh of Jesus Christ, that have been plunged into the chalice which contained His Blood, into the pyx where His Body has lain, are they not still more precious? The priesthood is the love of the Heart of Jesus.

It seems, then, that the essence of priesthood is unconditional love. Is that even possible?

It was so Cold, my Oil Froze!

Fr. Joel Priesthood

Last week I was called out to the hospital to anoint a sick person. He had become suddenly ill at home and was rushed to the hospital. The family was shocked and upset when I met them in the ICU. “Father, can you anoint him please?” We went in together.
I have nifty kit I use for anointing of the sick. It consists of a glass bottle of oil, the ritual book that contains the prayers, and a small stole, all contained in a leather Bible case. I keep the kit in my car so I can always have it with me. When I took out the stole I observed that it was cold and stiff. This week the weather had been below 0 degrees for 52 hours and everything was cold. Even though my car sits in a garage the kit had still become very chilly. I said some of the introductory prayers and took out the oil to anoint him.
The oil was frozen.
I shook the bottle upside down and nothing would come out. As the family cried softly in the background, I commented to myself, “I guess my oil is frozen.” Awkward silence followed as I looked around for a quick solution. Maybe I could dig the oil out with my pocket knife. I opened the small blade, scooped out a dollop of oil and wiped it on my thumb. The I reached towards his forehead and said, “By this holy anointing…” and the oil slipped right off my thumb and fell on his shoulder. It was rapidly changing consistency from lotion to oil. I scooped it up again with my fingers and anointed his forehead. It left the usual light smear of olive oil, but one little stubborn bit sat up defiantly and refused to melt. Then I dug out another glop of oil with the pocketknife and, carefully balancing it on my thumb, I anointed his hands.
“Thank you so much, Father,” the family said through sobs.
I finished the prayers and discretely slipped the bottle in my pocket to warm it up.

Ministry is full of surprises.

PS: By popular request as a followup to a previous posting, here is a picture of me all dressed up and ready for cold weather.