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.

White and Drifting Snow

Fr. Joel Life on Planet Earth

Fr. Joel

Last winter was, well, very wintery. Having recently spent time in Italy, I would often walk outside in only a sweater or vest, only to have to turn around and put on a heavy coat. I decided this winter, I would be prepared. The first thing I had to deal with was tires that were nearly bald. I shopped around a bit once the cold weather came, but then with time running out I finally got the job done at the beginning of November, just before the first large snowfall. I spent extra for tires that were rated well in snow. At Thanksgiving, I figured it was one of the last nice days so I finally washed and waxed my car so the salt and grime wouldn’t affect it so much. Good thinking, considering the ice storm we got one Sunday morning in January.

Most people might consider this to be prepared, but I wasn’t done yet. Not by a long shot. I love hats and I can never understand people that go out without one. However, with hats you usually have to choose between two options. On the one hand, there are nice baseball caps that keep your face protected, but sacrifice your ears. On the other hand there are stocking caps that keep the ears toasty but let snow and sleet attach your face. Enter the Stormy Kromer, a perfect winter hat made in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. If you don’t mind the “Civil War Soldier” look, your face and ears are well-protected.
Ever notice how important are warm feet? The rest of you can be toasty warm but if your feet get cold you will be miserable. I frequently need to wear dress shoes, such as when celebrating Mass. Dress shoes do not protect you from the cold, nor prevent your sliding around on the snow. I looked at some boots and finally settled for an old-fashioned solution: overshoes. They make this nifty versions now that cover your shin. You can walk through blizzards, step inside, and have perfectly warm and dry feet. Even better, your shoes don’t squeak because they are not wet. Our grandparents were geniuses.

Some people might have accused me of being over-prepared. Those people do not live in Wisconsin, or if they do, they are currently recovering from pneumonia. We got record snow fall in December. When we wake up to sunny days, it is because the weather is freezing cold. Like today, -17 this morning. Actual temperature; windchill was -35.

I may look pretty goofy all dressed up but at least I’m warm. Yes, its been a wonderful Wisconsin winter for all those with a steady supply of hot chocolate and home-made marshmallows.

Quality of Life

Fr. Joel The Loving Life

Fr. Joel

I recently became aware of a medical condition known as Trisomy-18 or Edwards Syndrome. It is somewhat similar to Down Syndrome in that it is caused by an additional chromosome. A normal human being has a total of 46 chromosomes arranged in 23 pairs. Each pair consists of one chromosome from the Father and one from the Mother. If a child has an extra copy of the 18th chromosome, this is called Trisomy-18. Incidentally, Down Syndrome is also called Trisomy-21 and is caused by an extra copy of the 21st chromosome.
The result of this disease is a child that does not develop correctly, including underdeveloped heart, kidney problems and motor skills problems. The majority of children with this disease die in utero or shortly after. Here is a beautiful video about a child with this disease. It makes me wonder which is more important:
How long a child lives?
How much a child is loved?


Fr. Joel Life on Planet Earth

I just came back from an early showing of the spectacular new PIXAR film “WALL-E”. I have to confess that I am a big fan of Pixar films. They have a genius for attention to detail and for creating compelling characters with real personality. Wall-E is no exception. It opens on the planet Earth in approximately the year 2800. The huge corporate conglomerate B-n-L (Buy n Large) is cleaning up mountains of trash left on planet Earth. At least, they began the clean-up, but now only one little robot is left working. Meanwhile, as we have made the planet uninhabitable, the last remaining humans are out in space. They float around on flying chairs with screens in front of them, imprisoned by their own sedentariness. The world unfolds slowly following a day in the life of Wall-E. He has developed a creative curiosity that begins to affect everyone he meets.

People who have studied Theology of the Body will be amazed by the unfolding plot. In the midst of his solitude, Wall-E is suddenly confronted with a new being, a dangerous but fascinating robot on some kind of special mission. The plot hinges on the ‘gift of life’ which must be guarded and protected. In the midst of a depressing future, life brings not only hope but also a new creation.

Our particular showing was interrupted mid-way by technical difficulties. At first I thought it was intentional — in the film, the humans discover themselves only when their ever-present entertainment screen is interrupted. Our audience experienced the same thing and were frustrated by it. The boy in front of me whipped out his cell phone and started playing games. Perhaps modern man cannot live without a screen in front of him. As a final kind of irony, movie goers were offered a free Chinese-made Wall-E watch (pictured above), with advertisements for an upcoming Disney movie. You might think that promoters would avoid giving out junk when the movie is about the build-up of trash. Ultimately, the bleak backdrop of a trashed world is overcome by a love that is willing to welcome life. I highly recommend this movie. WALL-E is all about what it means to be human.