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)

Fr. Joel’s Homily for June 28

Fr. Joel Homilies

Ord13 – How to Raise the Dead (6:24)
Ordinary Time, 13th Sunday. Jesus heals an elderly woman because she has faith in him. He raises a young girl from the dead because of her parents’ faith. We often meet people who act like they are dead — weighted down, worn out, hopeless. We might think we can do nothing to help them, but we are wrong. As Christians we can show them love, compassion and encouragement. Jesus will work through us to raise the dead. (28 Jun 2009)

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This is my last homily at my current parish before I start at a new place. It was a sad moment not only for me, but also for the whole parish. While I make some allusions to the transition, I determined just to preach the homily that had come to mind instead of reflecting back on my time in the parish. I’m not sure where the hum came from; maybe it was the Holy Spirit.

Fr. Joel’s Homily for June 21

Fr. Joel Homilies

Ord12 – Fathers Day (9:20)
Ordinary Time, 12th Sunday. God has put order to the universe, creating a reliable, dependable environment for his children to play in. Fathers are called to do the same. It is like building a cathedral — the family is a lasting witness filled with mystery where God is worshiped. Many families have had the experience of setting out with good intentions but finding themselves trapped by a storm in the middle of a lake. Only God’s help can gives us what we need to build good families in God’s image. (21 Jun 2009)

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Fr. Joel’s Homily for June 14

Fr. Joel Homilies

Corpus Christ – Communion through Sacrifice (7:22)
Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ. Jesus loved to sit down to a good meal. Eating with him, sinners become friends, friends become disciples, and disciples become saints. But we cannot forget that in a world gone wrong, there is no Communion without Sacrifice. Christ sacrificed so that we could have communion with him. We too must sacrifice to make this communion a reality for us. (14 Jun 2009)

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Here is an excerpt from Pope Benedict’s Homily at St. John Lateran today:
“Becoming the Eucharist: let this be our constant desire and commitment! So that the offer of the Body and Blood of the Lord we make upon the altar may be accompanied by the sacrifice of our own lives. Every day we draw from the Body and Blood of the Lord the free and pure love that makes us worthy ministers of Christ and witnesses to His joy. What the faithful expect from a priest is the example of authentic devotion to the Eucharist. They like to see him spend long periods of silence and adoration before Jesus, as did the saintly ‘Cure of Ars’ whom we will especially recall during the imminent Year for Priests”.

“Aware that, because of sin, we are inadequate, yet needing to nourish ourselves from the love the Lord offers us in the Eucharistic Sacrament, this evening we renew our faith in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Such faith must not be taken for granted!”

Fr. Joel’s Homily for June 7

Fr. Joel Homilies

Trinity – The Community of God (8:21)
Trinity Sunday. We believe in One God. We believe in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Which of those three is God? The ancient Athanasian Creed proclaims that the Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God, yet there are not three gods, but one God. This is the mystery of the Trinity, a God who is in his nature a community of persons. We are called to be like him. (7 Jun. 2009)

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Fr. Joel’s Homily for May 31

Fr. Joel Homilies

Pentecost – Our Friend the Spirit (3:13)
Easter, the Feast of Pentecost. We have all experienced the power of good friends to help and encourage us. The Holy Spirit is like a good friend: he accompanies us, encourage us, and talks to us about the Son as we walk and sing on our pilgrimage to Heaven. (31 May 2009)

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The parish had lots of extra things going on to highlight Pentecost. We had candles process in as symbols of the gifts of the Spirit and some intercessions in Spanish. So it was important that my homily be short. No one ever complains about a short homily.

Fr. Joel’s Homily for May 24

Fr. Joel Homilies

Easter7 – God never Abandons his People
Easter, Ascension of Our Lord. Jesus appears to abandon his disciples when he leaves them to return to heaven. But God never abandons his people; Jesus continues to be present and active through the power of the Spirit. In the same way, some might say that God has abandoned his Church today. But God continues to be powerfully present in his Church to those who desire to see him. Come Holy Spirit! (24 May 2009)

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Holy Pilgrimage!

Fr. Joel Being Catholic

I’m out of the office this week, I tell people.
“On vacation?”, they ask.
“No, I’ll be on pilgrimage.”
“All week?”
“Yes. I’m walking from Oshkosh to Holy Hill. It’s a distance of 65 miles.”
“What?????? You’re walking???”
Yes, I am. The tradition of the pilgrimage is one of the oldest in our faith. Here is some explanation:

The Israelites were fond of pilgrimages. Their annual religious feasts often required a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Jesus, Mary and Joseph obediently and religiously participated in the yearly pilgrimage to Jerusalem to observe the Feast of Passover (Lk 2:41-42). In much the same way, Christians would journeyed from all corners of the glove to the sacred site of the Holy Land to grow in love for God’s Son. By the Middles Ages, the pilgrimages to holy places and shrines were a central part of popular religion. Setting out on a pilgrimage has become a metaphor for life itself. We are all on a journey towards Heaven and we have to continue faithfully on that journey. A pilgrimage always points us back to the miracle of Christ, who by his Incarnation hallowed time and space. To go on pilgrimage is to enter deeply into this mystery and to experience Christ not only as Lord, but also as our companion on the journey.

Holy Hill
Holy Hill sits on the highest peak of the Kettle Moraine (which is a chain of hills and pot-shaped valleys that begins in the Whitewater area and extends northeast to Door County). Early Irish and German settlers revered the hill. There is even a legend that a French hermit used to live there. The settlers erected a white oak cross at its peak. This was later replaced with a small wooden shrine. Today the shrine is a minor basilica and visited annually by half a million people. It is under the care of the Discalced Carmelite Friars, a religious order noted for its prayer and simplicity. You can find more about this beautiful shrine by visiting

Our Plan
On Tuesday, May 26th., twenty people will set out to walk to Holy Hill. We have broken the journey into five days of walking. You can see our route on the Google maps. We are carrying with us as little as possible, just sleeping bags and a change of clothes. In true pilgrim spirit we depend on the hospitality of others for lodging. We will be sleeping in church basements or rec halls along the way. God willing, we will arrive at Holy Hill on Saturday, May 30th. We have a Mass scheduled for 3:00pm in the Shrine Chapel. Please pray for our pilgrimage, and especially for good weather!

Fr. Joel’s Homily for May 17

Fr. Joel Homilies

Easter, 6th Sunday. Jesus asks the impossible: Love your enemies… Do good to those who hate you… How could we be expected to do that? With the gift of love that comes from God. The Father loves the Son, the Son loves his Disciples, and so the disciples are called to love one another. We can love because we have been loved by God. This love has motivated missionaries to die for Jesus just as He died for them.

(17 May 2009)Read More