Life on the Edge, Day 4

Fr. Joel Church meets World

So you expected me to post day 3 next, didn’t you? HA!! Day 3 we went white-water rafting down the Cache la Poudre river (the name means Cache of Powder, dating from the voyageur days). But I didn’t get any pictures that day and we all know how boring it is to read a post without pictures.

This charming picture of one of our leaders was taken at our 7am breakfast stop. At that time we had been on the trail for almost 3 hours and had traveled about half the distance to our destination, Flattop Mountain. We were also just below the treeline.

Here we are now above the treeline (about 11,000 ft.). Bathroom facilities become more and more scarce the higher you climb.

We were hiking in two “Platoons”, one from Wisconsin and one from Iowa. Here is the Wisconsin Platoon pausing at a scenic overlook. You could see California and parts of mainland China from this particular spot, that’s how high we were.

This is the barren wasteland above the treeline. Scoured by winds and freezing temperatures, it was teeming with life. Marmots, pikas, ptarmigans and spiders were everywhere.

Here’s a great view looking down Flattop Mountain into the valley. Somewhere in the distance is Estes Park.

Here is a picture from Flattop Mountain looking up to Hallet’s Peak which rises 400 feet higher.

Here we are milling about taking pictures from the top of the mountain and scaring one another because we all look so close to death. Really the mountain slopes slowly down, so people only look close to death. But 12,713 feet high makes dizzy just thinking about it. Of course, it took us most of the afternoon to get down again but we were all tired and happy and proud of one another.

Praised be Jesus Christ…
now and Forever!

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Life on the Edge, Day 2

Fr. Joel Church meets World

Our second day we hit the trails once again in the Rocky Mountain National Park and started at the same trailhead. A mile or so up the trail, we took a turn and headed up steeper trails.

After a long series of switchbacks we saw our first glacier (it was really just a pile of snow, but hey, this is the beginning of August). What do you do with a big pile of snow? Well, you sit and wait for the next squad and then pelt them with snowballs!

Pink Squad, my hiking group for the day.

This is Timberline Falls. We reached it after a long climb up steep trails. Our destination was Glass Lake that sits above the falls. We had to crawl vertically up wet rocks to arrive at the lake, and the waterfall is much higher than it appears in the picture (the trees give you a clue).

Because my squad arrived first, we were told we had to climb back down the waterfall, take the packs from the slowest group, and carry them up the waterfall. I was exhausted at the end.
As we hiked back down the trail, we could see how high we had climbed.

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Life on the Edge, Day 1

Fr. Joel Church meets World

I just spent the last week of my life in Colorado. It was a trip of about 50 people, half from Wisconsin and half from Iowa. We had squads with 6-8 teens in a squad and a couple of adult leaders per squad. The Oshkosh squads were known as Pink Squad and Green Squad. This trip is an opportunity for kids to encounter Christ through the beauty of His World and the beauty of Christ’s Catholic Church.

We slept in cabins at a place owned by the Salvation Army and hiked in the Rocky Mountain National Park.

Our first day was meant to acclimatize us to the altitude. Here we are hiking along a 2.5 mile route.

Alberta Falls:

We arrived here at Mills Lake and I celebrated Sunday Mass on a rock in the lake. It was a fantastic experience. The wind was gusting to 25 mph so I made some people stand behind me like a wind screen.

You can see in the picture above where the tree-line ends. Think of how much work God must have put into this part of the world, just so the elk could enjoy it.
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Fr. Joel’s Homily for Aug 9

Fr. Joel Homilies

Ord19 – Seminarian Appeal (8:13)
Ordinary Time, 19th Sunday. The prophet Elijah is exhausted and prays for death, but God feeds and sustains him. Our Church is tired too and sometimes seems to have little hope. But we have good news — God continues to work with, call and inspire young people. Our Diocese now has 22 seminarians and 10 of those are new this year. We are doing our yearly Seminarian Appeal and I ask you to please be generous. Pray, Encourage, and Support young men and women as they seek their vocation. I hope that they can discover the same happiness I have found. (9 Aug 2009)

More information on the seminarian appeal.

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Fatherly priesthood

Benjamin Priesthood

Thanks to everyone who sent, “We’re glad you’re a priest,” greetings for the feast of St. John Marie Vianney. He poured everything he had into his priesthood, and God added a little more and made it special!
Some people commented that they wanted to let me know I was doing a great job because they knew it was hard. I had bought my brother a coffee mug which said “Fatherhood, the toughest job you’ll ever love.” Although priesthood is not easy, I would not trade it for the whole world and everything in it. If you live the priesthood like fatherhood, it is the best life you could ever give away.

One Boy’s Generosity (17th Sunday, July 26)

Fr. Joel Homilies

Ordinary Time, 17th Sunday. The first reading shows how Elisha the prophet feeds 100 people with the generosity of one man, who gave his first-fruits to God. In the same way in the Gospel, the 5,000 are fed because one boy was willing to give all he had to Jesus. We are invited to do the same. Will you keep everything back, or give a little, or will you too give everything to Jesus? (26 Jul 2009)

Evil proves God exists

Benjamin God & Faith

– Fr Benjamin

Atheists will argue strongly that God does not exist, but evidence for the non-existence of God is a little hard to come by. They generally point to all the evil in the world as proof that God does not exist. If a good God really made the world, why would we have wars, racism, violence, exploitation, hunger and famine? Therefore, the argument concludes, a good God does not exist.

However, most atheists deny the existence of any evil spirit like the devil. What proves the devil does not exist? Could they point to all the good in the world as proof that the devil does not exist?

Just as atheists have to account for all the good in the world without pointing to God, they need to account for all the evil in the world without pointing to the devil. So they are forced to attribute all the wars, violence and exploitation to human beings. The problem is that most of the people we meet are good people who just want to live in peace. If most people just want to live in peace, why isn’t there peace? Atheism’s favorite target is to blame religion for the crusades, terrorism, unrest and violence worldwide. The problem is, a huge amount of violence is not religiously motivated at all. Most murders, robberies and wars have nothing to do with religion. The holocaust and Stalin’s purges were atheist horrors of violence far worse than all the religious crusades put together.

Instead of blaming religion, many will blame ignorance or lack of economic development. As countries become more educated and developed they no longer want to engage in wars. This is only partially true, since the United States has low literacy and is technologically highly developed but still engaged in war.

I firmly believe that no natural explanation can justify all the violence we see in the world. If most of the people in the world want peace, there should be peace. Why can the United States put a man on the moon, but putting wells in poor countries is too difficult and expensive? Why can we develop a GPS system, but it is too hard to develop a world trade system that helps the poor? It seems that despite our good intentions, we are thwarted in tasks that are not logistically very hard. Peace treaties fall apart, however, war is declared, and more lives are lost. Our best intentions are thwarted…by evil!

Those who promote pro-life causes or fair trade, who champion environmentalism, or are opposed to the exploitation of animals all have a similar experience. They see people who are intelligent, reasonable, and kind, suddenly become abusive when the conversation drifts into territory that challenges behaviors. Why can people be reasonable and logical in every other topic but not in this one?

Far from proving that God does not exist, the evil in the world proves that there are evil forces active beyond human reckoning or human control. Humans are generally good people, but evil sometimes gets a hold of them and moves them in terrible directions. This is the only explanation why a generally decent man can murder his brother, or a decent, peaceful country can declare war on another decent, peaceful country. This is the best explanation why intelligent people who are curious about everything do not want to know where their meat comes from.

Evil, however, always has a limit. The Spanish say “No hay un mal que cien años dure,” there is no evil which lasts a hundred years. Today, we can go to the Nazi gas chambers as a museum, not as prisoners. Totalitarian communism, which threatened to trap the whole world behind an iron curtain, has already collapsed. Many would say, “It collapsed because it didn’t respect human freedom.” But we should ask, “Who wrote the law that says human freedom must be respected?” Yes, evil exists, but it does not endure. Good might struggle, but it survives. This, for me, is the strongest argument that the world was made by someone who loves what is good.

Fr. Joel’s Homily for July 12

Fr. Joel Homilies

Ord15 – God with Us (9:04)
Ordinary Time, 15th Sunday. As a new priest in an unfamiliar place I find myself welcomed by others but not able to answer any questions. In the course of my priestly studies and my time as a new priest, I discovered that God works through me anyway despite my lack of skill and knowledge. God will work through you as well. (12 Jul 2009)

Death be not Proud

Fr. Joel Church meets World, Society Today


Michael Jackson is still dead.
As though afraid that Americans would forget, the media could talk of nothing else. Listeners, viewers and readers were treated to special reports and tributes, pictures and interviews, and talk, talk talk. The “King of Pop” had passed.

He was not famous for his humanity, his wisdom, his courage our his kindness. He was famous for one thing: Entertaining. In sad but fitting tribute, his memorial was entertainment. Famous singers and sports stars, songs, a little silence, some multi-media special effects. For those who consume entertainment, it looked like a church service. For someone like me, intimately acquainted with services, it looked like entertainment. They told stories, they sang songs, they talked of his virtues, they said we would never forget. It was as though the world of entertaining could only mourn by giving us more entertainment. Perhaps as long as the band played on, we might forget why we had gathered. But we couldn’t help but notice: Dressed with flowers and bathed in light, it looked more like a centerpiece than a concession to death, but it was still a cold, hard coffin.
Michael Jackson is still dead.

Wisconsin was in mourning too, but not for him.
Flags flew at half mast. Newspapers told us of the plans. The city of Peshtigo cried. One of its sons, the young and handsome Steven Drees, had joined the Army. He left for Afghanistan on his on 19th birthday, and five weeks later he came back in a coffin. His Army unit was ambushed by insurgents and Steven fought back, defending his brothers bravely until a piece of sharpnel pierced his brain. They flew his body home where it was met by the Patriot Guard Riders, veterans on hogs who provide a very solemn and very Wisconsin escort to deceased military. Engines throbbing and flags flying, they wound their way to his old school.

Steven’s body was laid out in the gym where he had played basketball. More than a thousand sobbing friends and family gathered to wish him farewell. His coach told us what a great teammate he had been, and how from now on he will award someone “Teammate of the Year” in honor of Steven Drees. A general said he was well-liked, a good soldier. The priest said that God is love. And still, his star-spangled coffin lay cold and mute, a testimony to human powerlessness. His former teammates could do nothing for him but sob quietly. The American Army, arguably the greatest in the world, was powerless. We could have sent men to conquer the moon if we wanted, but we couldn’t help Steven. Our human skill at taking life bested our skill at saving it.

Steven entered the afterlife unarmed and alone. The freedoms he fought for no longer apply to him. Democracy cannot help him, and injustice cannot hurt him. Though the flag drapes his coffin, it cannot save him. The general presented his parents with two posthumous medals but they hardly seemed to comfort his family. The casket was walked out by 6 strong men, each as young as he was. His twin brother, widowed girlfriend, family and friends marched out. Steven Drees, young, likeable, full of promise, was dead.

As dead as Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, Robert MacNamara, Oscar Mayer.
It shouldn’t end this way.

And it doesn’t. Someone has conquered the afterlife. One of our own made it to the other side and came back again. Like an infiltrator behind enemy lines, he fought and defeated the last and greatest enemy we face: Death itself.

I do not know whether Steven was ready to go or not. I do not know the state of his soul. Nor do I know in the afterlife whether Michael Jackson will be white or black. But I do know one thing: Michael Jackson is dead. And Steven Drees is dead. But Jesus Christ is not dead. And therein lies our hope.

I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” — Jesus Christ (John 11:25-6)

If we beleive that Jesus died and rose, God will bring forth with him from the dead those also who have fallen asleep believing in him.” — St. Paul (1 Thes. 4:14)