May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace!
Your friend in Christ, Father Martin
Praised be Jesus Christ! The following comes from an article written by Monsignor Charles Pope that was passed along to me by a friend: “Over 29 years ago, as I was finishing seminary and about to be ordained, my spiritual director at the time gave me some advice on seeking a new one in my diocese. ‘Look for someone who has suffered,’ he said. At the time I wondered about this but have come to find that it was good advice.” The title of the article is “On the Relationship of Suffering and Wisdom,” which is provocative in and of itself. Years ago a wise old priest remarked on how we learn more from our failures than from our successes... what do you think about that? Old timers always talk about the “school of hard knocks” and though we fancy ourselves an evolving race, some elements never seem to change. Each person who lives long enough in this world to become self-conscious learns many things. We marvel as we watch children experience things for the first time – their awe and wonder are a gift to us and remind us of the miracle of life and the ability to experience it in a deeply spiritual way. Unlike other creatures, we’re able to think about what we experience and decide whether we should seek such experiences again. For example, John F. Kennedy believed it was the safety and warmth of our mother’s womb that draws so many of us to the ocean and its rhythmic waves. Yes, it’s fairly safe to claim that we are drawn to beauty and goodness and truth. But the path that leads us to these transcendent realities almost inevitably weaves through the hurts and sorrows that we would otherwise choose to avoid. Every human being suffers in this life – God told us that original sin had won for us a valley of tears and that life would be much harder now than if we had only trusted Him enough to obey Him. And yet, as God is wont to do, He said He could draw good from such sorrow and that suffering, for those who accept it with deep faith, could impart a wisdom that is not of this world. Think for a moment of the wisest person you know – take some time here to really think – have you come up with someone? What sets that person apart? What is the source of their wisdom? Have they suffered? When I was pondering these things a number of people came to mind and I could see behind their many years and wrinkles a gentleness that can only come from a person who has learned to accept life as a gift – and that means to accept the suffering too. For those who believe in a God who suffers, the life we live in this world is transformed from the rat race to accumulate the most stuff (i.e. fame and fortune) to a slow but sure process that makes us truly kind and holy. Did I mention that it’s a slow process? As a rock thrown into the ocean and retrieved after a week shows little change, so too our day to day living the Catholic faith seems to change us hardly at all. But leave that rock in the ocean for 10 or 20 or 50 years and you’ll see a wonderful transformation as it becomes smooth with all the rough edges worn away by sand and salt. So too our faith and its acceptance of suffering; we naturally rebel when it comes, but with God’s help we begin to realize that Our Lord only allows this to help us become what He knows we can be. As Jesus revealed to Saint Rose of Lima some centuries ago, “Let all men know that grace comes after tribulation. Let them know that without the burdens of afflictions it is impossible to reach the height of grace. Let them know that the gifts of grace increase as the struggles increase. Let men take care not to stray and be deceived. This is the only true staircase to paradise, and without the cross they can find no road to climb.” Yes, the cross is our means of salvation, even if we sometimes try to avoid it. As we pray this month for the holy souls that have gone before us, we remember that they now know the indispensable role of suffering in preparing us to live with God. May they rest in peace and may their prayers help us to trust in the Lord, who suffered and died that we might live.
May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace!
Your friend in Christ, Father Martin
Praised be Jesus Christ! Do you know who Don Shula is? Don’t feel bad if you don’t, but not that long ago he was one of the most recognizable and successful coaches in the NFL. A friend told me a story Shula shares about his life that happened when he was still coaching. He and his wife went on a vacation and because the goal was to get completely out of the spotlight, they went to a small town in northern Wisconsin (I’ve also heard that it took place in Maine). One evening they decided to go to a movie and no sooner than they entered the whole place erupted in applause. Don turned to his wife and groaned, “Oh no, they know me here too!” As the applause died down a man sitting just in front of them turned around and explained, “We’re cheering because the manager said he would only run the movie if two more people showed up.” The way Shula tells the story, everyone laughs as they realize how quick we can be to make false assumptions. But I share the story to segue into the fact that we sometimes give too much attention to some people and far too little to others. For example, a friend of mine is a priest in California and for a while he was the pastor at one of the Catholic parishes in Chico. Now for those of you not sure of Chico’s significance, it is the home town of one Aaron Rodgers (and if you don’t know who he is, please don’t tell anyone). Maybe it was in the summer of 2011, I cannot remember, but my friend told me that Aaron and his brother showed up one day and asked to be let into the gym so as to shoot some hoops. They were having a great time until a kid peeked in, saw who it was, and then took a picture and posted it on social media. In 10 minutes the place was mobbed with fans seeking autographs. Aaron and his brother snuck out the side door and thus ended their fraternal fun. It might be fun to be famous for a day or two, but imagine how burdensome it would be if you were always recognized and thus always in the limelight of what tends to be a rather critical world. Too much attention is certainly given to some people living on our planet (professional athletes, famous musicians and Hollywood stars would rank high on this list). On the flipside of the coin, some people are sadly ignored or denied their proper respect. As we celebrate Veterans’ Day, we might reach out to some of the men and women who served our country with valor and generosity and simply thank them. Some of them know they are loved and respected for doing their duty to defend freedom and root out evil. Others have been haunted by the suspicion that for all that it cost them to serve in the military, they have been made to feel that their sacrifices were not all that valuable, or worse, that they were a part of the problem and only made things worse. A parishioner recently shared some of his wounds by writing a poem that he shared with me. Given that it’s a perspective I don’t often consider, it has given this day a greater significance as it reminds me to pray for those who have carried not only the memories of the terrible nature of war, but also the loneliness of never having received the love and respect their service deserved. Because the aforementioned poem gives a unique insight and the author has kindly consented to let me share it: Titled “The Ones that Came Back,” without further ado here it is: “Why can’t we forget about that Vietnam war. Why do these memories keep knocking at our door. For many a year we kept our lips sealed. Hoping for the day our hearts would be healed. For many of us the pain will not mend. Until we’re all back together again. We’re the ones that came back from that Vietnam War. Only to see people that spit on us and swore. So we built great memorials for our comrades in arms. To honor the Warriors from ghettos and farms. People look at memorials staring at names. Some understand, some are insane. We love our Brothers who died over there. Why couldn’t it been us – then some would care. Why keep building Memorials to honor our dead. When it’s us that’s dying from letting this spin in our heads.”
May Christ, the Prince of Peace, give His immortal gift to all who have served Him in word and in deed!
Your friend in Christ, Father Martin
Praised be Jesus Christ! “A couple of nuns who were nursing Sisters had gone out to the country to minister to an outpatient. On the way back they were a few miles from home when they ran out of gas. They were standing beside the car on the shoulder when a truck approached. Seeing ladies of the cloth in distress, the driver stopped to offer his help. The nuns explained they needed some gas. The driver of the truck said he would gladly drain some from his tank, but he didn’t have a bucket or can. One of the nuns dug out a clean bedpan and asked the driver if he could use it. He said yes and proceeded to drain a couple of quarts of gas into the pan. He waved good- bye to the nuns and left. The nuns were carefully pouring the precious fluid into their gas tank when a highway patrol came by. The trooper stopped and watched for a minute, then he said, “Sisters, I don’t think it will work, but I sure do admire your faith!” I suspect just about everyone reading this has heard this joke in one form or another. What it introduces for us today is the idea of faith – a conviction about things that appear to be somewhat improbable but are compelling nevertheless. Abraham had faith that God would keep His word, even though this future “Father of nations” was old and he and his wife had never conceived. Mary had faith as she stood at the foot of the Cross while her only Son spent His last moments forgiving what was seemingly unforgivable. We’re living in a time that requires deep faith. So many things in this world can dampen our faith: whether it’s a sinful addiction or an old wound from that past, it’s not a sure thing that any of us will have faith as we come to the end of our life. It’s no wonder Jesus once asked, “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8). I’ve become aware that many in our community are hurting because of the terrible scandals that happened in the Church over the years. Some have even left the parish and that makes me very sad. It’s time to pray and fast more so that the faith that is such a precious gift in our world will not go quietly into the night. Yes, it’s a challenging time for a person to believe in a supremely good God when His ministers have done such despicable things. But the good news is that God can heal even the deepest wound. Whether it be the abuse by a trusted priest or the abandonment we experienced as our parents went through a terrible divorce, God is an expert in healing broken hearts. As we’ve done in the past, we are once again hosting a healing Mass at Our Lady of Peace on Friday, November 9th at 5:30 p.m. This is an incredible opportunity to allow the Holy Spirit to do what He alone can do, namely console us in our sorrows and embolden us for the battles ahead. And while I was once rather skeptical of spiritual healing, that is no longer the case: the fruit I’ve seen in the lives of some very discouraged and hurting people has convinced me that this is a way out of the darkness. What happens is after the Mass many prayers are recited for deliverance from evil spirits. Sacramentals such as Holy Water and Blessed Salt are used, and then people are welcome to come forward and be prayed over. After the service there is additional time with the prayer team for the healing to go deeper for those interested. Faith is damaged by sin – ours and others’ – but it can be restored to health by the Holy Spirit. Please consider coming and inviting people you know who are hurting. For those who have participated in the past, please share the peace and joy you received in opening your hearts to God.
May God heal the brokenhearted and restore to health the wounded faith of our families and friends!
Your friend in Christ, Father Martin
Praised be Jesus Christ! The following is reprinted with permission of the author: “Marriage is an extremely important sacrament in the Catholic Church. We support families and their spiritual growth from baptism, first communion, and confirmation to marriage preparation and beyond. What follows is some information from our diocesan website about divorce, annulment, and the healing ministry our Church can provide. Please take a closer look, as there are many misconceptions about this topic. Divorce is unique among life experiences. There is no precedent that can prepare an individual for it. Divorce is a process, not an event. Legal divorce can be pinpointed to a moment in time, to the signing of a court decision, but not so the experience of divorce. The experience of divorce is the result of a series of incidents that eventually erode a relationship between a husband and wife. The ending of any marriage that has endured long enough for the two partners to invest portions of their lives, money, emotions, and dreams is often a devastating experience. Persons who have experienced the heartbreak of divorce are in need of much healing. One of the healing ministries of the Church open to the divorced is the annulment process. It is a unique way of bringing closure to a sad chapter in life. The annulment process may very well reveal that although two people struggled mightily to sustain a relationship, something essential to marital consent was lacking from the beginning, and therefore, the union could not be sustained. The annulment process is a procedure that cleans up some of the spiritual damage left over from a divorce. One aspect of that damage is the inability of the divorced person to enter another sacramental marriage at any time in any place. The nullity declaration, if that is the outcome of the investigation, is a declaration that a person’s marriage really wasn’t a true sacramental marriage, and therefore, the divorced person is able to marry in the Church as though for the first time. Now for some myths surrounding this topic: MYTH: An annulment renders the children of a marriage illegitimate. TRUTH: An annulment does not change the status of children in any way. MYTH: Annulments cost thousands of dollars. TRUTH: The Diocese of La Crosse requests a $400 contribution for a process that costs more than twice that to complete. In situations of great financial hardship, the amount requested is either reduced or waived entirely. [Moreover, as a parish we help cover this cost on a regular basis.] MYTH: It takes years to receive an annulment. TRUTH: Most cases in the Diocese of La Crosse are completed in less than eight months [My experience is that it’s closer to 6 months or less.] MYTH: An annulment means a marriage never existed. TRUTH: An annulment does not deny the reality that a civil marriage occurred. When an annulment is granted, it is a declaration that a union was entered with improper consent on the part of one or both parties and, as a result of that defective consent, the parties involved should be no longer held to their vows.” I picked this brochure up while at our annual Fall Clergy Conference in La Crosse and thought it was very well done. I’ve helped dozens of people work through the healing process of seeking an annulment and am very happy to assist you or someone you know who would benefit from this. For Catholics who remarried without an annulment, receiving Communion is prohibited. That’s hard news to bear. But the silver lining is what you just read. Call me if you would like help – God is magnificent in His ability to draw straight with crooked lines.
May God grant healing to His children, especially those suffering the wounds of divorce and division!
Your friend in Christ, Father Martin
Praised be Jesus Christ! One of the advantages of writing these columns is that I can pan the audience for things that I need. Now before you accuse me of being manipulative, I want to share the true story of Archbishop Fulton Sheen: once on a live show he mentioned how he loved homemade chocolate chip cookies. When he came to work the following Monday morning he was greeted by several tons of chocolate chip cookies that had been mailed in from every part of the United States and beyond. On the same note, Father Burish used to shake his head in disbelief at all the food that came in to our rectory... I told him that he couldn’t possibly be surprised by this, as he was constantly whining about how cold the rectory always was and how little there was to eat (and his appearance certainly worked in his favor)! So, what is it that I need? Well, how about your recommendations for great books and inspiring movies.. I periodically share my favorites with you but must admit that many of these were suggested by others who discovered them first. For example, close friends sent me the musical “The Greatest Showman” and I absolutely loved watching it. Based on the life of P.T. Barnum, the music is stirring and the focus on our inherent dignity as children of God is a theme that stays with you long after the credits have run. Other movies that I’ve enjoyed this past year were “Dunkirk” (a true story about World War II that for some reason I knew practically nothing about) and “The Darkest Hour” (set at almost the exact same time as Dunkirk, it movingly portrays the significant role played by Winston Churchill). And for those who enjoy kids’ movies, I watched “Ferdinand” on the way back from our pilgrimage last April – my favorite scene by far was the dance off between the bulls and the German horses. Friends shared with me a new movie about Saint Maria Goretti (fantastic – the Italians, hands down, make the best saint movies!) and a much older movie about Saint Thomas Beckett (“Beckett,” 1964, Peter O’Toole and Richard Burton), which does an amazing job of portraying the unique path of a saint who, but for the grace of God, could have ended up becoming someone much different. Now on to the best books of recent memory: I will start with my favorite from the past year, namely The Time Before You Die, by Lucy Beckett. This author has written the best book I’ve ever read about the Reformation in England and it has caused me to see that event very differently. Beckett has a beautiful way of getting inside the heart and mind of her characters and in the case of her main character, Robert Fletcher, I couldn’t help but love him and sympathize with the struggles of his life. Another favorite of this past year was Mark Sullivan’s Beneath a Scarlet Sky. This true tale of the harrowing heroism of Pino Lello and his family will keep you at the edge of your seat from start to finish. On a more contemplative note, I’ve now read two books by Robert Cardinal Sarah and would especially recommend The Power of Silence. The parts I found to be most compelling were the insights shared by a Carthusian monk who is interviewed extensively by the author. For those of you who are ready to take the next step in your spiritual life, this would make an excellent choice and could make a great companion for your regular visits to the Adoration Chapel. To round out the reading recommendations, friends bought me the book Loosing the Lion by Huizenga and it’s one of the best books I’ve read about Scripture (in this case, the Gospel of Saint Mark). And for those who appreciate biography, The Abbess of Andalusia is hands down the best book I’ve ever read about Flannery O’Connor. In closing, this column is intended to be a quid pro quo – i.e. I’ve offered you my suggestions and now I’m hoping some of you will share with me some of yours. But please just share titles – I’d rather not have an Amazon semi-trailer sitting in front of the rectory next week!
May God lead us to awe and wonder in what we read and watch, so that our souls might better magnify Him!
Your friend in Christ, Father Martin
Praised be Jesus Christ! Do you remember the Swedish Chef from the Muppets? One of my favorite videos is watching him prepare popcorn shrimp. Whenever I’m having a long day and need something to put me in a better mood, this video is an infallible source of mirth (you can easily find it on the Internet – it’s been viewed nearly 40 million times). I mention this because of the recurrent theme of Jesus encouraging us to become more like children so as to be able to one day enter His Kingdom in Heaven. While there is some latitude in understanding Jesus’ teaching, it’s clear He would never condone the adage about “young once, immature forever.” Just the same, Jesus is intentional in setting children before us as role models for how we best approach Him and His Father. This brings me to one of the best parts of a new school year: celebrating Mass with our youngsters. Catholic school kids have it made, as they get to go to Mass every week. Our CCD students have Mass too and even if it’s not as regularly scheduled, it’s still a source of hope and peace. I never cease to be amazed at how open children are to the reality of God and His plan for them. Sadly, this time in our life passes and then it becomes more challenging to believe that we were made by a supremely good God who loves us and always cares for us. As a parish we should always do our best to invite young families to bring their children to Mass on a regular basis, as this is most formative experience the Church offers. As one wise adage put it, the faith is more caught than taught – the witness of others who believe and practice their faith is crucial if we hope that our children and grandchildren will believe in the good God. All of us know family and friends who do not practice and this is typically a source of sadness and discouragement. Our best response is to harness the power of intercessory prayer and ceaselessly pray for them to return to their spiritual home. This often feels futile but we must remember that God hears and answers our prayers, even if His timing is decidedly slower than we’d prefer. The Adoration chapel is second only to daily Mass in its power to win grace for our loved ones. For those who adore Jesus one hour a week, a gentle peace comes that staves off the devil’s accusations of this all being for naught, that we’re wasting our time, and that prayer is just mental gymnastics after all. For those who do not pray, it’s easy to succumb to these voices (a.k.a. “stinking thinking”). And that’s precisely what the evil one wants – give up, your efforts are in vain. But for those who trust in the Lord, they become instruments of hope and joy, and because these things are so good for us, such friends of God have a more youthful spirit. When a small group of us American seminarians met Mother Teresa in 1995 we were impressed by her infectious sense of humor and the inner glow of a peace that did not originate in this world. Looking back, we now know how much Mother Teresa suffered from the spiritual pain of darkness and loneliness. And yet, her fidelity to prayer transformed that suffering into one of the most beautiful lights our world has ever seen. Mother Teresa continues to attract souls to God because she became more childlike as the years passed. And this can happen to you and me if we but imitate Mother Teresa’s love of Jesus in the Eucharist. If you feel your heart hardening at times because of the many struggles of this world, the Lord invites you to come to Him and find rest. Maybe you know an older person who is authentically kind and at peace, the kind of person who is a joy to spend time with... the secret is always Jesus. He will keep us young in our heart if we simply spend time with Him and trust in Him. So many people will never discover this truth – we see this every day and it can make us sad or discouraged. Mother Teresa decided to bring these people to Jesus when she prayed and that changed her in all the best ways. And so, while a video about a Swedish Chef and popcorn shrimp is cathartic at times, only time with the Lord brings true and lasting peace.
May God bless our children and help them to find His path for them! Your friend in Christ, Father Martin
Praised be Jesus Christ! October 7th is the feast of the Holy Rosary but it was once more widely known as “Our Lady Queen of Victory.” That’s because on this day in 1571 the Christian fleet not only held its own against the Turks, but even pulled out a most unexpected victory. Until that time the Turks had never been defeated by anyone in their many battles at sea. What hung in the balance was whether Jesus Christ would be worshipped or replaced by the Muslim god of Allah. Pope Saint Pius V was one of the few in Europe at the time who understood the ramifications of this battle and he called on all Christians to invoke the maternal intercession of Jesus’ mother by praying the Rosary for victory. Because we live in a time when our faith has rarely been seriously threatened by a power that would brook no compromise, we fail to get all that excited about how miraculous it is that we are Christians at all. Many times down through the centuries our faith was preserved by events that on a natural level are hard to explain without recourse to some divine power. On that fateful autumn day, Pope Pius V was in Rome and got up from a meeting at a certain point and walked to the window facing east. He felt in his soul that the Blessed Virgin Mary had interceded with clemency and had helped the servants of Her Son turn back the Turks. Recently a priest wrote about the events of that day: Centuries ago, the Venetian Senate wrote to the other states which had taken part in the Crusade: “It was not generals nor battalions nor arms that brought us victory; but it was Our Lady of the Rosary.” Holy Mary, Mother of God, and Our Victorious Lady of the Rosary, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.” Do you pray the Rosary? As a family my parents asked that we pray the Rosary more regularly during the months of October and May. While we were not always very happy about it, someday in Heaven we’ll see how much good it did. Do you pray the Rosary? It’s one of the simplest ways to get to know Jesus better. Meditating on the birth, life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus brings much grace into our lives – Our Lady of Fatima told the world in 1917 that another war, worse than the first, would follow unless people prayed the Rosary every day. Sadly, too few paid heed and countless millions died in a war that continues to shake the world’s hope for a peace that will last. Do you pray the Rosary? You’re welcome to join the Rosary Rally at Saint John’s this Sunday at 3:00 p.m. as the Rosary is prayed all across America and Europe at the exact same time. Again, you’re welcome to come to the “Christ Guide Us On Our Way” statue also this Sunday, October 7th at 3:00 p.m. with the Knights of Columbus and October 13th (the anniversary of the miracle of the sun at Fatima) at noon for the Rosary. Or how about October 27th at 9:00 a.m. at the Memorial for the Unborn in Gate of Heaven cemetery? Do you pray the Rosary? My Uncle Arnie died in 2004 on the Feast of the Holy Rosary and his pastor wrote the following on that occasion: “Marcia (Arnie’s wife, my aunt), after returning on Tuesday to give Arnie our Savior in Holy Communion, my last memory of your husband is of him making a great effort of will to say ‘thank you’ with as much sincerity in his voice as strength of body would allow. For a priest, it is the most beautiful and heartening thing in the whole world to encounter such desire and appreciation for the Eucharist as the two of you possess. Arnie gave thanks on Tuesday because in the Eucharist, with eyes of living faith, with hopeful eyes guided by our Lady (and also by you, his beloved helpmate), Arnie continued to look lovingly to the East to see the Risen Son, to see Victory Himself in the midst of apparent certain defeat. “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him on the last day” (Jn. 6:40).”
Our Lady, Queen of Victory, pray for us! Your friend in Christ,
Praised be Jesus Christ! By the time you read this we’ll have two new transitional deacons in our diocese: Ethan Hokamp and Brandon Guenther. They were ordained in Saint Peter’s Basilica on Thursday and are now in their last months of training before being ordained priests in La Crosse on June 22nd, 2019. I’ve known each of them for years because I taught in Ethan’s hometown of Wisconsin Rapids from 2000-2002 and Brandon was a high school seminarian at the House of Formation that I led from 2002-2011. Brandon came to us from Independence as a sophomore and was a good kid from the first moment I met him. He asked me to be the one who vested him during his diaconate ordination in Rome and I have to admit that it was just about the nicest gesture anyone has ever done for me. As any teacher knows, kindness from former students makes us feel like our years in the trenches were worth it after all! So for full disclosure, I was in Rome this past week with Father Sedlacek and Father Aaron Becker and even though you might not believe me, we had a wonderful time together. We stayed at the religious house run by the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother – this is Sister Rita and Sister Barbara’s order. They have a guest house that is only a 28 second walk from the Vatican (I timed it) and it has a chapel with Jesus in the Tabernacle. Father Becker and I arrived on Monday evening and Father Sedlacek came in on Tuesday morning. We spent Tuesday and Wednesday visiting churches and enjoying the city we called home for four years (five in my case – and don’t you dare think the extra year was for remedial studies). Thursday was the ordination and it was an emotional one, as I was ordained a deacon in the exact same place 20 years ago (October 8th, 1998). My heart swelled with gratitude as I couldn’t help but remember all the blessings of that day and of the subsequent years. So many people made countless sacrifices for me and now that I’m older I have come to realize how important it is that we pray for our priests. Without your prayers, I simply could not function as a priest. I hope you know how much it means to me every time one of you says “Father, we pray for you every day.” Only in Heaven will you see how much good that did. And so being with the new deacons was a blessing in that I was able to pray with and for them as they begin their years of service in the Lord’s vineyard. And while much has been written about the human side of the priesthood, I would like to share something a friend gave me recently that reminds us that there is another side too. Titled “The Beautiful Hands of a Priest,” this poem was passed down orally for many years in Ireland.
“We need them in life’s early morning, we need them again at its close;/ We feel their warm clasp of friendship, we seek them while tasting life’s woes. / When we come to this world we are sinful, the greatest as well as the least. / And the hands that make us pure as angels are the beautiful hands of a priest. / At the altar each day we behold them, and the hands of a king on his throne / Are not equal to them in their greatness, their dignity stands alone. / For there in the stillness of morning ere the sun has emerged from the east, / There God rests between the pure fingers of the beautiful hands of a priest. / When we are tempted and wander to pathways of shame and sin / ‘Tis the hand of a priest that will absolve us, not once but again and again. / And when we are taking life’s partner other hands may prepare us a feast, / But the hands that will bless and unite us are the beautiful hands of a priest. / God bless them and keep them all holy, for the Host which their fingers caress, / What can a poor sinner do better but to praise Thee who chose thee to bless. / When the death dews on our eyes are falling, may our courage and strength be increased / To see, raised above us in blessing, the beautiful hands of a priest.”
May God give us holy men and women to serve us with hearts made pure by His grace!
Your friend in Christ, Father Martin
Praised be Jesus Christ! If you’ve not yet read Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh, you’re missing one of the best books of the 20th century. Written in 1945, it tells the tale of the timeless truths about the transcendence of love and how humans must err often (or at least, so it seems) before discovering true love. From frivolous friendship to passionate romance, the book convincingly leads the reader to realize that love takes time to master. And there are oh so many obstacles along the way. At one point Charles (the main character) is confronted with the fact that he is “living in sin,” a phrase that as a non-Catholic he does not fully understand. And so his lover Julia, who is Catholic (albeit non-practicing) provides the following explanation: “Living in sin; not just doing wrong.. .doing wrong, knowing it is wrong, stopping doing it, forgetting . .. Living in sin, with sin, by sin, for sin, every hour, every day, year in, year out. Waking up with sin in the morning, seeing the curtains drawn on sin, bathing it, dressing it, clipping diamonds to it, feeding it, showing it round, giving it a good time, putting it to sleep at night with a tablet of Dial if it’s fretful.” From this point the book shifts profoundly and one is reminded that people can change... “To live is to change, to be perfect is to have changed often,” (John Henry Newman). And just as we change from infancy to adulthood in gradual and manifest ways, so too does the Church’s doctrine develop in ways that once might have been thought unlikely. Lest you wonder where this article is going, the goal is to convince you that the Catholic Church’s “new” teaching about the death penalty is one that is in continuity with all that has been taught in times past. Keeping in mind that the enemies of the Church want you to think that her teachings are arbitrary and can change at the drop of a hat, the truth is more along the lines of the fact that even though we change throughout our lives, we’re still the same person as we were when first held by our mamas in the hospital. Catholic doctrine is like that too, in that so much is unseen at first but as the centuries pass we begin to see more clearly and so come to a deeper understanding than we had at the beginning. When Pope Francis recently modified the Catechism of the Catholic Church to effectively ban the death penalty, he was following a trajectory that has been in place for a very long time. Both of his predecessors taught similar things and so Pope Francis’ conclusion is a sound one: namely, that given the circumstances (and the efficacy of incarceration), the death penalty is now inadmissible because we have more humane ways of dealing with people who are a threat to society. This is a valid development of doctrine that reminds the world that we’re still learning more about the mysterious ways of God from Scripture and Tradition. Keep in mind that Pope Francis is not saying that there could never be a set of circumstances that would allow one to use the death penalty as a just punishment (this would make the death penalty intrinsically disordered, thus claiming that it’s a sin every time it’s used). What he is claiming is that the circumstances that would require putting a criminal to death are not in effect at this time, therefore making it inadmissible to use the death penalty. This teaching reminds us quite forcefully that every human being has dignity, even the most abject and unrepentant sinner. Pope Francis’ recent teaching about the death penalty is therefore a development of doctrine, not a reverse course. Such a teaching gives the criminal time to change, to repent and to offer acts of reparation for his terrible sin. And as the quote above makes clear, rooting sin out of our lives takes time, effort, and a lot of grace. So please pray for all who are caught in the grip of sin, that they may find freedom in Jesus and His willingness to forgive and forget all of our sins.
May God bless with peace those who are sorry for their sins and a change of heart for the unrepentant.
Your friend in Christ, Father Martin
Praised be Jesus Christ! When Luis Martinez became the Archbishop of Mexico City in 1937 one of the first things he told his people was “I give you my life.” Martinez was wise in the ways of God and lived a heroically simple and sacrificial life – it’s no wonder that his cause is open and moving forward toward what one day will be his canonization as a saint. I “met” him the first time when I read his powerful book on the Holy Spirit titled The Sanctifier. This is hands down the best book I’ve ever read about the third Person of the Trinity! This weekend our confirmandi will be receiving the gifts of the Holy Spirit in a powerful way and we will be supporting them with our prayers as they become full members of the Catholic Church. As they receive these gifts it’s important for them to meditate on an insight that comes from Martinez’s book, namely “It’s better to know than love things that are inferior to us; it’s better to love than know things that are superior to us.” Many times we get this mixed up: how many people take the approach that because they cannot understand God, they therefore refuse to trust Him (in His defense, He told us repeatedly that His ways are not our ways and that we wouldn’t always see the wisdom in the way He runs the universe). And we also frequently err in loving things that are below us and cannot save us (e.g. inordinate attachment to money or possessions or fame or cigars). Worthy of prayer and meditation is Martinez’s insight: loving God leads to proper use of the things of this world; trying to figure out God or thinking we know better than Him leads to discouragement and a weakening of our faith. Receiving the Holy Spirit gives us the grace necessary to spend our life fruitfully loving God and His people – and wisdom comes from living this way. For this reason Jesus said that it was not to the wise and learned that He revealed Himself, but to the childlike. Worldly people are anything but childlike. They adopt an air of sophistication and haughty self-reliance. The childlike spirit of God is one of awe and wonder, not to mention acceptance of our limitations as crosses that bring us closer to God and His people. One of my classmates is a priest and has had a stutter for all of his life. He told me some years back that his stutter has inspired more people than anything else – he said countless people have thanked him for not allowing his weakness to define him or keep him from serving God. When our young people receive the Holy Spirit, it’s not to make them more powerful and self-sufficient. To the contrary, they are asked to accept their struggles in a spirit of faith: God only allows trials to help us grow and learn to love others who struggle too. In my life Psalm 119 has haunted and defined me all at the same time: “Before I was afflicted I strayed.” When things were going well for me as a newly liberated college student, I felt indomitable and lived as if I hadn’t a care in the world. But the struggles began and they really shook my self- confidence and lead to some pretty dark places. Somehow the prayers of others must have kept me from turning my back to God – it was in those struggles that I began to truly experience God’s love for me, even though I hardly deserved it. And wouldn’t you know, retrospectively I can see that His love for me began to free me from the compensatory behaviors I was engaging to find some peace in this world. Our Confirmation students will go through many tough times in their life. But receiving the Holy Spirit is a pledge by God to help them find wisdom at the foot of their crosses. Someday when these young people stand before their spouse or before the altar they will say words similar to Martinez’s all those years ago: “I give you my life.” And that will be proof that the Holy Spirit is alive and working in their hearts and souls.
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and enkindle in them the fire of Your love!
Your friend in Christ, Father Martin
Sunday: 8:00 & 10:00 AM
Saturday: 4:00 PM
Tuesday & Thursday: 8:30 AM
Monday, Wednesday & Friday: 8:30 AM
SACRAMENT OF PENANCE
Saturday: 3:15 - 3:45 PM
Monday - Wednesday: 9:00 AM – 3:00 PM
Thursday: 9:00 AM – 12:30 PM
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Welcome from Our Pastor
Welcome to Christ the King Catholic Church! Ever since 1938 this parish has been assisting souls in their quest for deeper union with God. Our mission statement is essentially found in the stained glass window above the main altar: “For Christ our King.” Insofar as God made us and we belong to Him, we have come to... Read More