priest pointing to empty tabernacle

O Sacraments That Are Not Most Holy | #1022

Fr. Joel Homilies Leave a Comment

Holy Thursday, Mass of the Lord’s Supper • Why is this night different from any other night? Instead of presenting the oils, renewing priestly promises, and washing feet, we are all celebrating at home. This gives me an opportunity to reflect on another symbol at Holy Thursday, that of the empty tabernacle. We start Mass with an empty tabernacle because it is like the Eucharist has not existed yet. You join Jesus at the Last Supper and, on this special night, he gives you his Body and Blood as food and drink. O Sacrament Most Holy!

Many Catholics have come to think of the Eucharist (with the other sacraments and the priesthood) as if it were the only presence of God in the world. This is not true, and it’s not Catholic at all! Catholics throughout the centuries have seen the whole world as a sacrament of the Creator. Living things reveal God’s creativity, order, and beauty. And above all human beings are a sacrament of God’s self-giving love. We were surrounded by God’s love and we live always in his Divine care.

Modern Catholics have lost this way of seeing the world. As science got better at looking at the stars and at seeing bacteria and viruses, we started to lose a sense of meaning and purpose to them. It was as though God’s presence had retreated to the edges of scientific inquiry, to meet us only when we die and in some unlikely miracle.

The Eucharist is the decoder. Seeing God in a piece of bread is the key to seeing God everywhere, all around you. The whole universe continues to sing God’s praises the whole world is filled with his careful craftsmanship. God has never left you. Jesus will truly be with you in your prayer corner today. Ask him to open your eyes to see the world as it truly is — full of God’s love for you.

(9 Apr 2020)

Going Deeper: Science can tell us what things are, but it can’t tell us what it means. How does the world look different when you see it as a sacrament? How does your present situation take on a different meaning when you know that God is with you?

sprouting plant face of jesus and crucifix

How to Celebrate Easter at Home

Fr. Joel Being Catholic Leave a Comment

Easter Sunday, many people in our community will realize for the first time that churches are closed. Instead of a church service and a big family party, people will have to settle for live-streamed services at home. Fear not! A little planning and Easter at home can be your most memorable Easter ever. And the planning begins, appropriately, with the Last Supper. We have assembled a great variety of items for you to consider. Go through the list and just pick a few that interest you.

The celebration of Easter is just the final act of three days of celebrations called Triduum. These days are the high point of the liturgical year. If we believe that the Risen Jesus is here with us, then we can find him also in our homes. Here are some suggestions for how you can walk these holy days as a family or individual and experience the Risen Jesus in a fresh and personal way. Much like a trilogy of movies, you can’t fully appreciate the final act if you haven’t participated in the first two. But scroll to the end of the post if you just want to see Easter ideas.

Read More

How to Stand Firm When the World is Shaken | #1021

Fr. Joel Homilies Leave a Comment

Lent, Palm Sunday (A) Jesus enters Jerusalem and the city is shaken. The earth will shake when he dies (Matthew 27:51). The guards will shake with fear when he rises again from the dead (Matthew 28:4).

Recently our world has been shaken by the coronavirus. Our economy is shaking, our health system is shaking, and our lives feel fragile. My schedule and plans have been so shaken that it feels like being a new pastor all over again. You might feel like a new parent, or like starting your job all over again. Five things help me stay grounded:

  • A good night’s sleep and a consistent bedtime.
  • Regular daily exercise, including time outside.
  • Good healthy meals.
  • Staying in touch with key family and friends.
  • Daily prayer.

Jesus turns to his Father in the garden and again on the cross. The Disciples don’t pray and their faith is shaken, but Jesus stands firm. Prayer isn’t just about saying things to God. It’s about being in communion of heart and mind with God. Have confidence that nothing can shake God’s love for you.

(5 Apr 2020)

Going Deeper: Set up your own personal prayer space or prayer corner in your home. Make quality time for God every day. Check out our suggestions for celebrating Holy Week at Home.

bucket of palms

How to Celebrate Palm Sunday at Home

Fr. Joel Being Catholic Leave a Comment

Scripture for the day: Matthew 21:1-11

Ways to celebrate the day:

  • Put a small statue of Jesus in the center of your dinner table
  • Use palm branches from church and have your own triumphal procession to the dinner table

Talk about it: Over dinner, talk about what it means that Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. What can we do to make Jesus the King of our lives? How does it make us feel to accept Jesus as the King?

Crafts: Look online to find out how to braid palms

Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of Holy Week

Read More
jesus raises lazarus icon

Spring Training: Bring Out Your Dead Dreams | #1020

Fr. Joel Homilies Leave a Comment

Lent, 5th Sunday (A) Jesus ignores his good friend’s pleas and then misses his funeral. He finally shows up 4 days later, and the dead man’s sisters say, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.” What died for you this past week, month, year? What hopes and dreams have died for you during your lifetime? Have you felt like God wasn’t listening and wasn’t there for you?

“Jesus wept,” even though he knew he was just about to raise Lazrus from the dead. God knows what you are going through, he cares, and he weeps with you and for you. But he also has something even better prepared for you. Trust your friend Jesus. Show him your dead dreams. And then look forward to his beautiful new plan already unfolding. “I cannot promise to make you happy in this life, only in the next.” Let us prepare ourselves for the moment when Jesus calls you by name: “Friend, come out!”

(29 Mar 2020)

Going Deeper: If you haven’t done so already, make a dedicated prayer space or prayer corner for yourself at home. Practice Relational Prayer each day as a way of experiencing God’s loving care for you.

I’ll be streaming Mass during quarantine on the Holy Trinity Oconto Facebook page. Join me!
Thank you Rachel for your support. [image source]

“Dream for You” by Casting Crowns
joseph dying in the arms of jesus and mary

Day 9 – Patron of a Happy Death

Fr. Joel Church meets World 1 Comment

Saint Joseph is famously the patron of a happy death. What is a happy death, you might ask, and how do we know Joseph had such a death?

Tradition holds that Joseph had died before Jesus began his public ministry. The Bible says nothing about the death of Joseph. The last time we actually see Joseph is when he and Mary find Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2:41-51). As Jesus is dying on the cross, he entrusts his mother to Saint John. This gesture makes perfect sense if Jesus is an only child and Joseph has died. Women in the first century needed a male to protect and provide for them; the death of Jesus would have left Mary destitute. As a loving son, Jesus is making sure his mother will be provided for after he has died. This gesture only makes sense if Joseph has died.

Pius artists have therefore depicted Joseph dying at home in the arms of Jesus and Mary. Can you think of a better way to pass into eternity than with the two greatest saints as your bedside companions? Christians have dreamed of just such a peaceful passage and invoked Joseph’s intercession for it.

The modern world tries hard to ignore death. We use every medical option possible to preserve life. When life is no longer an option, we advocate for assisted suicide so that I can control even my death. Then we turn the funeral into a “celebration of life” and scatter the ashes so I don’t have to visit dad at the cemetery.

Christians, on the other hand, not only accept death, but prepare for it. We are encouraged to walk in cemeteries, pray for the dead, bury our loved ones in consecrated ground, and look forward to the coming of Jesus. When I have a funeral for an elderly person who was pius and faithful all their lives, I will tell the congregation: “Jack spent his whole life preparing for this moment.” Can the same be said about you? Good St. Joseph, give us the grace of a happy death.

Read More

Day 8 – Patron of Fundraising

Fr. Joel Church meets World Leave a Comment

Did you know that St. Joseph was a patron of fundraising? I didn’t either. In December of 2016, I met with Bishop Ricken to review plans for a new church. The plans gave us a very nice building at a very reasonable cost. But I was afraid we wouldn’t be able to raise the money. The parish community had tried to build once before and had not raised enough money. I asked Bishop for advice. “Go to Joseph,” he said. He then told me a story from his time as Bishop of Cheyenne, Wyoming. He had prayed for vocations and God had answered by sending him more seminarians than the Diocese could pay for. By chance he was making a retreat at the Oratory of St. Joseph in Montreal. He entrusted his need to the hands of St. Joseph. On the way home, he felt inspired to ask his people for help. He put out a fundraising appeal and the people gave generously; so generously in fact that he had enough for not just one, but two years of seminary tuition.

The Oratory itself, a legacy of Brother Andre, was also a miracle of fundraising. I would most certainly have made a pilgrimage to Canada if that’s what was required of me. As it turns out, the National Shrine of St. Joseph, is conveniently located in De Pere, Wisconsin. I stopped and prayed at the shrine, lit a few candles, and added my fundraising needs to the prayer book. From that point on, things went very smoothly. Parishioners stepped up and pitched in to hold wonderful fundraising events. People gave what they could and we were able to hit the upper limit of our fundraising goal and move forward with construction.

During these uncertain times, business are closed and many are temporarily out of work. Go to Joseph! Quite literally visit the shrine if you are able (and it hasn’t been closed). Bishop has designated it a pilgrimage destination for the Year of St. Joseph and given a partial indulgence for a visit to the shrine. Entrust your business and your home finances to the intercession of St. Joseph. Do not be afraid for your financial well-being. “Go to Joseph” and he will help you.

Read More

Day 7 – St. Joseph, Patron of Families

Fr. Joel Church meets World Leave a Comment

Today is the Solemnity of the Annunciation. This feast is celebrated 9 months before Christmas, and for good reason. It was the moment when the Angel Gabriel appeared to the Blessed Virgin Mary and invited her to become the Mother of God. Mary said, “I am the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to your word.” At that moment the Word became flesh in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary and humanity was joined to Divinity.

If we were to imagine God entering His world in the flesh, we would probably picture a very different scene: perhaps the heavens torn open and an army of angels descending with God riding in a golden chariot, or the God striding forth from a lighting-ringed Temple, or a mystic portal, a primordial Stargate opening to connect Heaven and Earth. But God chose to enter the world through a woman’s womb, and to be caught by her husband Joseph. It was through female fertility and simple family that God entered the world. This gives us a tiny glimpse of how much God values the family. The family was made in the image of the Trinity — three in one. And it was through the family that God would enter human history.

Our modern world does not value the family. We have been busy promoting just about every alternative lifestyle but the family. And meanwhile, families are struggling. Children are born out of wedlock and raised without fathers. Divorce divides families and children bounce back between one broken home and another. Even intact families have almost no family life. Family meals are no longer a daily, or even weekly, feature of childhood. Family time is stolen by sports and screens. Kids grow up as individuals who happen to share a common roof. I see this moment of safer-at-home as a golden opportunity to value the family again. Suddenly, families are shocked by an abundance of family time. Treasure this time. Have meals together each day. Teach the kids to cook (and make them help clean up). Invest in each other. Make fun memories together. Fathers, lead your families in bedtime prayers each night. Learn to love the family as God loves your family. Pray for families today.

Read More

Day 6 – Patron of Unmarried Women

Fr. Joel Church meets World 1 Comment

Until I read Bishop’s material on the Year of St. Joseph, I didn’t realize that Joseph was a patron of unmarried women. It makes perfect sense. Joseph and Mary were betrothed but hadn’t started living together. He discovered that his wife was pregnant without his involvement. What was he to do? The Bible says, “Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly.” (Matthew 1:19) Adultery was not only a sin, but it was also a crime, punishable by stoning. Whether the town would have actually stoned her, or just shunned her, is a matter of debate. Either way he held her life in his hands. Joseph decides to divorce her but without denouncing her as an adulteress. The whole town would have assumed that Joseph was the father of the child and that he was a deadbeat dad unwilling to raise his own child. In other words, he would bear the shame himself. It’s an incredibly brave and selfless act, done to protect a woman that Joseph thinks has utterly betrayed his trust.

I just listened to a BBC report on countries in Africa experiencing epidemics of teenage pregnancy. The article treats pregnancy as a women’s problem that can be solved by access to contraceptives. No where did it bring up the involvement of men and their responsibility towards women and children. The “#MeToo Movement” would never have existed if the “Me First” culture of contraceptives and Playboy and porn hadn’t existed first. Joseph shows a man willing to stand up for women, to take responsibility even when it’s not his problem. Every woman should be loved, cherished, and respected, regardless of the circumstances of her life. A woman should feel safe around men, knowing that they will protect her dignity; she should not be afraid of being used and discarded. A strong man protects and cares for women and children both. Saint Joseph, pray for us.

Read More

Day 5 – St. Joseph, Model of Manhood

Fr. Joel Church meets World Leave a Comment

“What kind of man would you like to be?” I was at a conference once and the presenter asked us all that question. My mind began to focus on someone tough, powerful, and impossible to hurt — basically, Superman. Then we were asked, “What kind of man do you admire?” My thoughts shifted to a man who has been on the walking pilgrimage with me. He is tough and dependable, but he is also thoughtful, kind, patient, and understanding. He doesn’t compare himself to others, and he never makes others feel inadequate. He is there for you.

I hope all of us know a man like that. True manhood is not about being powerful or invincible. True manhood is using the power you have to serve and protect others. A good man is defined by his self-sacrifice. This is why a the perfection of manhood is found in fatherhood. A father is a man who uses his strength and gifts in the service of those who are weaker than himself. A man will only truly be a man when he learns to lay down his life for others. Pray for all men today that they might follow the example of St. Joseph.

Read More