Hallelujah Is Our Song

Fr. Joel Church meets World

What hope we have, even in the longest night, for the light will overcome. We will not fear, for we know the sun will rise. Hallelujah is our song. Hallelujah! Hallelujah! He is risen over all. Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah is our song.

This past week my family was engaged in a thoughtful, scholarly debate on the next steps out of safer-at-home. There were some significant differences of opinion on the effectiveness of the current restrictions, the role of personal freedoms, the balance between opening businesses vs. preventing infection, how to protect medical personnel, and whether our leadership in Wisconsin has been doing the right thing. Since the discussion happened over text message, it provided a good forum for us to carefully listen to each other, clarify the various positions, and find some common ground together.

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fridays with father interview with spiritus ministries

I Wrote a Book! Oriens: A Pilgrimage Through Advent and Christmas Available This Summer

Fr. Joel God & Faith

I was featured on the second episode of Fridays with Father from Spiritus Ministries. I talk about my Advent meditation book coming out this summer. And I never actually mentioned it’s name! Rookie mistake. It’s called Oriens: A Pilgrimage Through Advent and Christmas and it will be available through OSV. Watch the video to learn more about the inspiration behind this book.

purple clam shell open

Where Do You Find Signs of New Life? | #1025

Fr. Joel Homilies

Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday (A) We think that we will find peace when things change. If only the kids would go back to school, the business reopen, the sickness go away. Jesus appears on Easter Sunday and nothing ‘out there’ has changed. Yet Jesus says three times, “Peace be with you.”

Peace comes from knowing the depth of God’s love for us. Thomas had the hardest time believing, but he doesn’t give up. In the end he believes more strongly than all the other disciples. Thomas shows us: Find Jesus, and you will find peace. You don’t have to go very far to find Jesus. Just hang in there and the Lord will find you. Jesus invites Thomas to put his finger in his wounds. But Jesus wants to heal Thomas’ wounds. Will you let Jesus put his finger in your wounds?

The Disciples were locked in the upper room. It wasn’t a jail; it was more like a chrysalis. After 50 days they emerge as the Church, full of life and full of the Holy Spirit. Could this time of ‘lockdown’ be for you a time of transformation? Believe in God’s love for you. Let Jesus heal you. Let him speak to your heart and say, “Peace be with you.”

(19 Apr 2020)

Going Deeper: Where are you seeing signs of new life? Share those with me and with your friends and family. Learn to sing the Easter Sequence for yourself.

Thank you Sally for your support.

Weight Gain During Quarantine? Simple Changes Yield Surprising Results

Fr. Joel Life on Planet Earth

Back in November, I made two changes to my daily routine. I had just gotten the results from my annual physical. My cholesterol numbers were poor, again. At first I planned to ignore them, again. I was not about to give up cheese and red meats. But then I went back and dug out past blood test results. As I compared them, I realized it was only in the last 3-4 years that my numbers had gotten consistently bad. I decided to make some changes.

First, I committed myself to walking 45 minutes each day. And I would start my day by walking 15 minutes on the treadmill. I hate morning exercise, and I hate treadmills. But the first few minutes of my day were given to sitting on the couch and looking at my messages and feeds on my phone. I figured I could do the same thing while walking on a treadmill. And it was easier to clock the full 45 minutes if I already had 15 minutes under my belt. I’ve always been an active guy but I had figured a couple days at the gym was better than a daily walk. I was wrong.

I also started doing some fasting. And by ‘some fasting’ I mean I would only have coffee, no breakfast, on Wednesdays. And on Fridays I would go without breakfast and lunch. Of course I still enjoyed a big Wisconsin fish fry dinner on Friday nights; you don’t want to go overboard. I was already eating pretty healthy, but Google ‘intermittent fasting’ and you’ll be surprised at all the health benefits. I figured it was worth a shot. And it beat giving up cheese or red meats.

At first I saw no results, other than feeling better. January rolled around and those extra Christmas pounds just melted right off me, without me really having to work for it.  I’m not a heavy guy (though I am ‘overweight’ by BMI). But I had watched my weight slowly climb every year. I would occasionally make attempts to diet a little and drop a few pounds, but I’d always lose less than I’d hoped. And as soon as I stopped the extra dieting, the weight would start climbing again.

Intermittent fasting makes a lot of sense when you think about it. You’re going to basically eat what you need to survive… plus a little bit more. And that ‘little bit more’ means you’ll inevitably gain weight. You need to balance the extras with some days of eating less. Do you want to enjoy a big meal on Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, a Birthday, a Baptism Party, a Friday with friends, your anniversary, etc.? Then you also have to fast, and not just for two days during Lent.

Book cover Eat, Fast, Feast by Jay Richards
Heal Your Body While Feeding Your Soul — A Christian Guide to Fasting

Enter the book Eat, Fast, Feast by Jay Richards. He’s spent a lot more time than I have on research and experimentation, and he’s come to the same conclusion. For reasons of both physical and spiritual health, fasting should be a regular part of our weekly and yearly schedules. He backs up his point with a lot of scientific research. He shows you how to fast in a way that won’t leave you feeling light-headed and lethargic. So if you’ve been struggling with the “Covid 19” (gaining 19 pounds since you’ve been quarantined), I suggest daily exercise and a little fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays. And if you have a more serious, long-term problem, get this book. The results might just surprise you.

Peace and Easter joy,
Fr. Joel

Lamb of God

The Easter Sequence

Fr. Joel Being Catholic

Easter Sunday, you might have noticed a pause before the priest read the Gospel. This pause was the Sequence, an ancient poem set to music. While it has been translated into English, the original is so much nicer. We can sing the Sequence for every day of the Octave of Easter. Take a little time to listen to it and to understand what each line means. With a little practice, maybe you could sing it too.

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jesus wounded hands

This Blood Donor Stopped a Pandemic | #1024

Fr. Joel Homilies

Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord

The book Rediscover Catholicism by Matthew Kelly begins with a story about a pandemic. Our existence is threatened by a pandemic, a pandemic of sin. It separates us from each other. It causes fear and hopelessness. It leads to death. And everyone’s infected. We all have a strain of selfishness and self-centeredness that runs through what we say and do. We might say, “I’m a good person. I’m not infected. Surely it is not I, Lord?”

In order to cure sin, we needed the blood of a spotless victim. God gave his only Son, Jesus Christ. He is the cure, he is the antidote. He offers a blood transfusion, a heart transplant, to make us whole again. And it cost him his life.

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The Long Lent of 2020 (Easter Message)

Fr. Joel Church meets World

Lent caught me by surprise this year. I didn’t have a chance to think up something new to give up, so I just resolved to keep up some good practices I had recently begun. Little did I know just how much we would all be giving up for Lent: going out to eat, barber shops, nail salons, dinner with friends and ‘play dates,’ watching sports, playing sports, hugs and handshakes, school, church, going to work, a family Easter meal, seeing your grandkids…. This has been, “The lentiest of Lents,” as Kristin Bird said. The word quarantine actually means “40 days”. It was a forty-day isolation imposed on ships when they sailed into port and were suspected of carrying disease. We have yet to see the light at the end of the quarantine tunnel. We are, in a sense, trying to celebrate Easter while still experiencing Lent.

Easter began as a celebration of spring time and new life, in particular the start of the lambing season. After the Exodus from Egypt, it became for the Jews a very particular celebration of life after slavery. God had sent them a hero to lead them into the Promised Land. In Christ, this season of new life becomes the ultimate victory over sin and death. “Christ is Risen” means something much deeper and more profound than, “Happy Easter.” Every Easter for many centuries, Chritians have sung this hymn:

Christians to the Paschal Victim offer your thankful praises! A Lamb the sheep redeems; Christ, who only is sinless, reconcilies sinners to the Father. Death and life have contended in that combat stupendous. The Prince of life, who died, reigns immortal. Speak, Mary, declaring, what you saw, wayfaring. “The tomb of Christ, who is living, the glory of Jesus’ resurrection; bright angels attesting, the shroud and napkin resting. Yes, Christ my hope is arisen; to Galilee he goes before you.” Christ indeed from death is risen, our new life obtaining. Have mercy, victor King, ever reigning! Amen. Alleluia.

Could this disease that has spread throughout the world be an invitation to us to turn from death to New Life in Christ?  There is something about the coronavirus that is very much like sin. It spreads invisibly from person to person, it forces us to separate ourselves from others, and if left untreated it can lead ultimately to death. Jesus is the “divine physician,” who wants to heal your soul. He took the disease upon himself and sacrificed his life for yours. He rose again from death, and his blood became the antidote, his life became the cure for death. Jesus wants you to experience new life in Him. Even though you cannot attend Mass on Easter Sunday, know that the Risen Jesus is with you right now. Turn to him and ask forgiveness for the ways you have contributed to the spread of sin in our world. Welcome him into your heart. Ask the Risen Jesus to fill you with his love, his peace, and his hope. You will find that the joy of Easter is something much deeper than a family meal, a trip to church, or a basket of candy. It is the joy of knowing that I am loved no matter what, that nothing can separate me from God’s love, and that an eternal Easter awaits me in Heaven. Even Easters on earth are like Lent compared to the true Easter of Heaven. Know that Jesus walks with us and has never left you. No matter how long Lent continues, it can be Easter in your soul!

Peace and Easter joy,
Fr. Joel

good friday adoration of the cross

I Thirst for You | #1023

Fr. Joel Homilies

Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion • Time and again the Jewish people were unfaithful to God. But God always remained faithful to them. Finally rejected by his people, abandoned and betrayed by his friends, Jesus hangs on the Cross. From his parched lips comes the cry, “I thirst.”

He thirsts for you! Like he was thirsty when he asked the woman at the well, “Give me a drink.” He thirsts for your faith, your love. He desires to satisfy you and to fill your life with meaning and hope. Though you have been unfaithful, God remains faithful. You cannot kill God and you cannot kill God’s love for you.

Why would the Lord allow us to be exiled from our parishes? Why would he let his people be deprived of the Bread of Life? Perhaps he wants us to thirst for him. We have barely tasted the depths of Jesus’ hunger and thirst for us. Isn’t it time you gave him a drink? There is no other well that will satisfy you. Come and receive living water from his open side.

(10 Apr 2020)

Going Deeper: Do you long for the Eucharist? How has this longing deepened your faith, love, and hope in Jesus?

priest pointing to empty tabernacle

O Sacraments That Are Not Most Holy | #1022

Fr. Joel Homilies

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

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.

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