Make a Life Changing Pilgrimage, Beginning This Advent

Fr. Joel God & Faith

While the world rushes, you’ll slow down. While others are distracted, you’ll find focus. When everything seems dark, you’ll see light.

Welcome to Oriens, a totally new kind of Advent meditation book. Other books provide you with prepared mediations; this book will teach you how to meditate for yourself.

Drawing on years of experience as a priest and spiritual director, Fr. Joel Sember opens the Bible to you in a whole new way. If you’ve never prayed with Scripture before, Oriens will teach you how. If you already know how to pray, you’ll learn to pray better. Make a life-changing pilgrimage, beginning this Advent.

Oriens: A Pilgrimage Through Advent and Christmas

Light Up Your World

Oriens: a Latin word meaning “rising” and “dawn.” Advent is all about light conquering the darkness. Father Joel’s guidance will illuminate the passages of Scripture. He will help you see the Christmas story with fresh eyes. You will kneel by the manger and marvel at the Word made flesh. Stand with lighted candle to receive the Christ Child as he is presented in the Temple. Watch the light of Christ conquer the darkness of your mind!

One Step at a Time

Every day, you’ll take a step closer to “the dawn from on high.” Father Joel Sember is your guide on an entirely new pilgrimage, one in which you will learn what God is revealing to you, uniquely, through Scripture and prayer. In Oriens: A Pilgrimage Through Advent and Christmas, you’ll learn how to pray, or to pray more deeply. Each day you’ll read a Scripture passage, receive Father Joel’s guidance on how to pray with that passage, and find questions for reflection and journaling.

Advent. And So Much More

Have you found yourself reaching Christmas only to wonder how you missed Advent? Other Advent books stop at Christmas, New Years, or the Baptism of the Lord. You get caught up in the season and miss your chance to pray more. Your Oriens journey begins on the first Sunday of Advent and continues until the Feast of the Presentation on February 2. That’s over nine weeks of prayer! If other Advent reflection books have left you wanting more, this is the Advent book you’ve been waiting for!

Oriens: A Pilgrimage Through Advent And Christmas
Click Here to Preview Oriens

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I Moved. And So Did My Podcast

Fr. Joel Homilies

Perhaps you’ve been a loyal subscriber to my podcast but in the last few weeks that I seem to have stopped releasing new episodes. It’s not you, it’s me. I moved to

And I updated all the podcast services that connect with it. Except for one: the unsung hero of the podcasting world, the humble workhouse that is the RSS feed. If you subscribed directly to the feed, you were temporarily forgotten. But it’s easy to fix, just copy and paste this link into your feed reader:

You’ll get to open several new episodes all at once:

When Life Feels Like a Cross | #1045

Want to Love All People? Then Start Here | #1046

Remember to Keep Holy the Sabbath Day | #1047

If Covid Doesn’t Kill You, Something Else Will | # 1048

While you’re there, Subscribe to the new podcast feed and Sign Up for my mailing list. You could win a free copy of my book new book, Oriens. Thanks, Dad, for finding this bug.

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Check Out Our Shiny New Site

master Free Range

Dear Loyal Customer,

For over 10 years I’ve been producing great blog content and audio podcasts. My personal website has lived on four different platforms under three different names. Now, after six months of work, I’m happy to introduce you to the latest and greatest version:

You’ll find all the same great content wrapped up in new packaging. It’s easier to find what you’re looking for. Old posts are still there but they’ve been decluttered and shined up. Podcasts are separated from blog posts and organized by year. I want to thank the great folks at Desert Lily Design Co for their hard work on this project.

From now on, new content will live on the new site. Click here to listen to my latest homily When Life Feels Like a Cross | #1045. If you had joined my mailing list, you’ll need to sign up again. Now you can use the Notify On drop-down to specify what kind of content you want to see in your inbox. And you can change it any time. Just enter your info below or click Sign Up at the bottom of the any article on the new site. Your feedback is welcome as we iron out a few bugs. Thanks for being part of the journey. Here’s to many more years together!

Peace and joy,
Fr. Joel

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statue peter with keys

Peter Has the Key to Being a Good Steward | #1044

Fr. Joel Homilies

Ordinary Time, 21st Sunday (A) My top ‘strengths’ are: Strategic, Woo, Connectedness, Developer, and Responsibility. Everyone has different gifts. No one has all the gifts. You are a masterpiece, made to glorify God. Only in God and through God will you discover who you really are. Shebna, master of the palace, has been using his gifts to build up himself. God will replace him with a steward who will build up the people.

Our true legacy is found, not in fancy tombs, but in the lives we touched. As a pastor, I am a steward of the gifts that my people have. I need to build you up so that you can build others up. You will be able to build others up if your life is built on the rock that is Jesus Christ.

(23 Aug 2020)

Going Deeper: What are your gifts? Let me know in the comments if you ever took the Clifton StrengthsFinder. Give God thanks for those gifts and then prayerfully discern how God is calling you to use them for the good of others.

Photo by Fr. Barry Braum on Unsplash

Comments have been disabled in this transition to a new website. Feel free to head over to this same post at and add your comments there.

woman praying wearing covid mask

When God Doesn’t Answer Your Prayer | #1043

Fr. Joel Homilies

Ordinary Time, 20th Sunday (A) What do we do when God doesn’t answer our prayers? We have all had the experience of not seeing prayers answered. Our Gospel shows us how to respond. The Canaanite woman wants Jesus to cure her tormented daughter. First Jesus doesn’t seem to be listening. Then Jesus doesn’t seem to care. The woman responds by drawing closer to Jesus with humor and humility.

God answers prayer one of two ways. Either he says Yes! or I have something better for you. When we don’t immediately see our prayers answered, it is because God wants to give us something even better than what we asked for. Jesus not only healed the daughter, but he also helped the mother grow in faith.

God is listening, and God does care. Hope for more than you are asking for. Draw near to God with humility and humor.

(16 Aug 2020)

Going Deeper: When God doesn’t seem to be listening, we have a tendency to pull away. How can you draw closer instead? Do you know someone who was able to grow and stretch because of unanswered prayers (besides Garth Brooks)?

Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

mosaic assumption of mary

Where Is She Going? | #1042

Fr. Joel Homilies

Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary • This feast answers the two great questions of life. First, Where are we going? Modern western society is based on ignoring that question. Instead, we try to make our time on earth as long and as comfortable as possible. But what is the point of a long or a short journey if it doesn’t have a happy ending? Mary teaches us that we have an eternal destiny. We need to be moving towards Heaven and not farther from it.

Second, How do we get there? Mary is the first among believers. She shows us what we have to do to get to Heaven. I notice four key virtues:

  1. Humility
  2. Obedience to the will of God
  3. Faithfulness even when God’s plans don’t make sense
  4. Self-giving Love

I am called to live these four virtues of Mary in my daily ministry as a priest. How can you live these virtues in your daily life? On the journey to eternity, Mary and Jesus walk with you. Where are you going?

(15 Aug 2020)

Going Deeper: Consider starting, or joining, a Seven Sisters Apostolate in your local Catholic parish.

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What the Still Small Voice Said | #1041

Fr. Joel Homilies

Ordinary Time, 19th Sunday (A) Today I get to introduce myself to my new parishes. It’s always hard to make a transition to a new assignment. It is particularly hard for me after 10 years in the same place. I know it’s a challenge for you to have your last pastor leave after just 2 years. On top of the normal challenges, the covid situation has made everything difficult and stressful and weird.

Covid caused us a cancel all kinds of activities. Perhaps in the midst of the slowdown, you heard that still small voice. It’s not so much a voice as a Presence. The great silence of the universe is the quiet presence of God. You knew that God was there with you and things would be OK.

I knew it was Jesus calling me to come to Antigo. I told him it would be hard to move and he said, “Come.” And lo and behold everything worked out — I had help to pack, move, unpack, and hang pictures (thanks Mom and Dad :-). I had sailed into a storm, and yet I had peace.

Then Monday I had a little meltdown and a bigger one Wednesday. By Wednesday afternoon I was feeling frustration. I was starting to sink into the waves. That’s when I remember the Surrender Novena. When you face the chaos of the world around you, enter into the peace and silence of God’s love for you. Perhaps you will hear that still small voice whispering to you: “Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid.”

(9 Aug 2020)

Going Deeper: Do you think I’m just crazy, or have you had a similar experience of God’s quite presence in your life? Tell me about it.

carousel horse

Riding the Merry-go-Round Without Getting Dizzy | #1040

Fr. Joel Homilies

Ordinary Time, 17th Sunday (A) Life can often feel like a merry-go-round. We go up and down and around and around; too much to do and not enough time. How do we keep from getting dizzy?

King Solomon turns to the Lord. He doesn’t ask God to change all the things around him. He asks God to change his heart. All my assignments have been too much for me to handle. After trying everything, and feeling overwhelmed and angry, I finally went on a silent retreat. I found the Lord waiting for me and offering me peace. A daily holy hour, and an annual retreat, became survival skills.

Focusing on God helped me to see people more clearly. I started realizing that my job was helping people and not ‘getting things done.’ You only get a thriving, vibrant parish by investing in people and taking care of people. And I started to realize that we are all in this together. I was helping others, and they were helping me.

I used to think I had to give people answers or solve their problems. I had been overwhelmed because I thought I was supposed to do it all. But now I direct them to Jesus and help them discover that He is the pearl of great price. I am willing to give everything for my relationship with Jesus. I love serving the people of southern Oconto County, but I love Jesus more.

Feeling dizzy? You don’t need God to change all the stuff around you. You need a change of heart. Go to Jesus. Discover that He is the pearl of great price. Focus on him and everything changes.

(26 Jul 2020)

Going Deeper: For many of us, Sunday Mass is the most important way we stay focused on God. What helps you on a monthly and yearly basis? How about on a daily basis?

Photo by Kira auf der Heide on Unsplash

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paddlers crossing green bay

Do This Before You Kick the Bucket | #1039

Fr. Joel Homilies

Ordinary Time, 16th Sunday (A) Last week’s Gospel was about the Word of God bearing good fruit. Now wheat and weeds are growing side-by-side. We might think God is paying no attention, but there will be a harvest. All who cause others to sin and all evildoers will be gathered up and burned like weeds, but the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. God is patiently waiting for the evildoers to repent and bear good fruit. Are you preparing for the harvest?

Friday I checked an item off my bucket list: paddling a kayak across Green Bay. Right in the middle of our journey, my partner started talking to me about his funeral plans. Not exactly what I wanted to think about when we were five or six miles from land. We did finally arrive safely in the promised land — Door County.

You shouldn’t just set out tomorrow on a 12.5 mile paddle trip. You need the proper equipment and you need proper training. In a similar way, your life on earth is a journey to Eternal Life. You’ve been equipped by the Church, the Sacraments, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. But don’t load your kayak down with bling. Don’t paddle in circles, allowing yourself to be blown by the waves and winds of current events. Let the Spirit guide you and know that Jesus paddles with you. Keep moving towards Eternal Life and you will be ready for the harvest.

So this summer, check some items off your bucket list. But first, take some time to plan your funeral.

(19 Jul 2020)

Going Deeper: How can your funeral reflect your belief in Jesus’ second coming, the Resurrection of the dead, and life everlasting?