REASON AND STRENGTH

Every year, at the beginning of Catholic Schools’ Week, the annual Brains and Brawn event is held in La Crosse. It’s a fun event for kids representing our wonderful Catholic schools from all over our beloved Diocese. The event features a basketball tournament and a knowledge competition. The students “strut their stuff” in some really inspiring ways giving evidence of the work being accomplished by parents, faculties, and administrators—oh, yes, and the children themselves—in our Catholic schools.

As I reflect on the beginning of Catholic Schools’ Week for this year, I am reminded of some of the great theological principles of the Patron Saint of Catholic Education, St. Thomas Aquinas. St. Thomas focused attention and energy in his estimation of the human person, on the beautiful mixture of faith and reason that truly makes human beings human.

A favorite gift I received this past Christmas is the book by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI: Last Testament. Pope Benedict, in this book, offers a summary in philosophy, theology, and plain beautiful common sense, of his magnificent and prolific life as one of the most significant pontiffs in the history of the Church. Presented in an interview format, the Pope responds to various questions, many of which are certainly pertinent to the condition of Catholic thought and Catholic response to the problems of our increasingly secularistic world.

A question posed to the Pontiff early on in the book concerns dealing with problems of faith in the world. Benedict responds that, “the difficulty so often with God is the question of why there’s so much evil and so forth; how something can be reconciled with His almighty power, with His goodness, that certainly assails faith in different situations time and again.” The Pope goes on in a follow-up question responding that, “primarily by the fact that I do not let go of the foundational certainty of faith, because I stand in it, so to speak, but also because I do not understand something, that doesn’t mean that it is wrong, but that I am too small for it.”

I have added the emphasis for the certainty of faith above.

Faith and reason become the basis of Catholic life in the world. To maintain the certainty of faith in a world that continually denies the foundation of that faith namely: God creates a variety of stress in the believer who is actually trying to live a genuine faith-filled life.

Brains and brawn—reason and strength—are definitely building blocks in the life of the faithful Catholic who will try to maintain faith in day-to-day life. From St. Thomas Aquinas even up to Pope Benedict, it certainly seems that the importance of Catholic education—Catholic thinking—must be guaranteed by the strength of Catholic Schools.

Brains and Brawn is an annual event at which our children compete and have fun doing it. It offers opportunities for all students to share their gifts and talents in a positive and challenging manner. The underlying strength of having such an event reminds all of us in the Catholic community of the importance of brains and brawn—reason and strength—in our everyday life. Every day, we must, as both St. Thomas and Pope Benedict have urged, stand on the certainty of faith. To do that we must have strength and courage and knowledge—brains and brawn—reason and strength. Our minds must be filled with knowledge of the truth, the truth that comes from God. We must be able to defend that truth—not merely with brute strength, but with interior strength—positive reason, virtue, and the Gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Celebrating Catholic Schools’ Week promotes these values and virtues. The celebration moves us beyond a simple awareness of Catholic schools existing to be an alternative to public schools. We exist to promote our faith—to teach value and virtue to our young. I support Catholic schools as my positive investment in the future. Catholic education matters; and Catholic schools make the difference. Support our schools and witness the difference our students are making—live the faith with your reason and strength.

THE POSSIBILITY OF LIFE

In 1968 I graduated from high school and planned my continuing studies in advancement to the priesthood of Jesus Christ. In that same year, His Holiness Pope Paul VI issued a landmark encyclical titled Humanae Vitae (Human Life). The world, without exaggeration, went crazy in its complete disregard, disobedience and disrespect for every last comma in that encyclical—this included many priests and religious who publicly challenged the Holy Father’s moral authority in presenting such a document. The Church was forever changed by these actions.

Five years later, in 1973, the Supreme Court of the United States stepped into the void that was created by public and Catholic indifference to God’s law and ruled on the controversy of abortion, deciding that as a matter of privacy, a woman could legally murder her unborn child and suffer no penalty in civil law. In 1992, the Court determined that women had a constitutional right to an abortion by virtue of the 14th amendment of the Constitution. Moral and religious grounds in the matter of abortion on demand have become even more slim as the “culture of death” slips more deeply into a society that is becoming more and more politically complex and secular.

I was ordained a priest in 1977 and for the past forty years I have witnessed the complexities of political intrigues and nefarious public associations, not to mention a sad descent and unfortunate acceptance of hedonistic moral turpitude; in short, we live in “interesting times.”

Our society itself has made the acceptance of abortion part of what may be considered “the new normal.” With the rise of the sexual revolution and the disregard of the moral authority of the Church—most explicitly in the person of the Pope himself—it has become almost impossible to reestablish a positive moral compass for the society in which we find ourselves today.

While we mark the 44th anniversary of the Day of Shame and another March for Life in Washington, D.C., we must acknowledge that progress is being made—slowly, but surely. A new generation of young people does seem to value the gift of life and is starting to show it publicly.

While this is a positive step forward, we must recognize the fragile setting of the moral compass as a whole. We may be starting to recognize the value of life, but there is so much more of the moral dimension of life that we do not understand, value or accept to be true. Love has been reduced to mere sentiment or sexual pleasure. Marriage is no longer regarded with a foundation of commitment or permanence. Children are no longer considered gifts received by parents whose procreative and generous love for each other has brought them into being and whose commitment to each other will provide for them selflessly.

Time has passed and much has changed in 44 years. I often think that there is so much to do to restore balance and order in the world. There is, however, much to be hopeful for. The Gospel is still being effectively preached; and, it seems that while it may appear that fewer are actually listening, God’s generous heart still beats with love for His own. Grace abounds and God’s message of love for His people will not be silenced! Praise God.

Christmas Greeting

Let us all rejoice in the Lord, for our Savior has been born in the world. Today true peace has come down to us from heaven.

Hi Everybody! Bishop Callahan here to wish you a Merry Christmas!

Christmas is that special time of year when we go “outside ourselves” and attempt to do for others what God did for us so many years ago when He sent his only son to be with us. When Jesus was born on Christmas morn, our world was forever changed.

The irony of his birth – in a stable among the animals – gave cause, and still gives cause for many to doubt that He was really God’s son. From the ancient times the Israelites waited for the Messiah; Isaiah’s prophecy spoke of a baby, born in Bethlehem; born of a virgin; a son given to us, upon his shoulder dominion rests. He will be called Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace. But how can it be possible that He would be born in such a way?

This year, take time to visit the nativity scene at your parish. Go “out of yourself” and ponder the miracle of Christmas. How do you relate to what you see?

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was born so that we could know God, and forever be renewed by that knowledge. Christmas allows us the time to be reminded of His great love for us, and inspires us to imitate His love in our own lives.

Blessed Christmas to you, may you share the love of Jesus in the coming year!

Advent Message from Bishop William Patrick Callahan 2016

Pour forth, we beseech you, O Lord, your grace into our hearts, that we, to whom the Incarnation of Christ your Son was made known by the message of an Angel, may by his Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of his Resurrection. Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Hi Everybody, Bishop Callahan here, to encourage you to Share the Promise of Mercy in this season of Advent. I hope you have had a chance to experience God’s boundless mercy firsthand. This past Year has been a time of personal challenge for me, but it has also been a source of great joy. When I reflect on the difficulties I’ve been given I can’t help but to reflect on the presence of His Mercy, especially in those times when I needed it most.

The Church has given us the season of Advent as a time of expectant waiting, preparation, and anticipation. We wait for the “Messiah” as was promised by the Prophet Isaiah. “On that day, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse.”

We prepare for the birth of Jesus as Saint Paul teaches: “Brothers and sisters: You know the time; it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep and put on the Lord Jesus Christ.”

And we anticipate the coming of Christ, the Source of Mercy and the one of whom it was written: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son; and his name will be called Emmanuel.”

This Advent, renew your sense of tradition, or perhaps start a new way to mark this time in the Church Year as we await the Savior’s birth. Take advantage of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, attend Mass more frequently, and make time to pray. Prayer is our connection with our Heavenly Father who grants us everything that is good.

Remember that we can hope in the glory of heaven promised by God to those who love him and do his will. In every situation, each one of us should hope, with the grace of God, to persevere “to the end” and obtain the joy of heaven, as god’s eternal reward for the good works accomplished with the grace of Christ.

Blessed Advent to you; let us wait together in joyful hope.

Hope in the Midst of Sadness

A few years ago, my sister Bobbie and I took a trip down to Orlando, Florida. This was a trip to Disney World for two kids in adult bodies. It was planned to a tee; our visit to the “happiest place on earth” (as Disney claims such trademark!). It was a great experience for the two of us—who enjoyed being kids with a bunch of other “pretenders.”

Sunday morning the news from Orlando was horrifying and anything but happy. Again the ugliness of terrorism has reared its head and we all shiver in our frozen humanity as evil lays claim to the destruction of happiness and attempts to darken our vision. Evil is a powerful force in our world. Even though we people of faith know that ultimate evil has been destroyed by the ultimate sacrifice of love on the Cross on Golgotha Hill, the Prince of Darkness continues to defy Goodness by seducing humanity with bankrupt promises, devoid of any hope or dignity.

The brutal murder of innocent human beings fills us with sadness and disappointment with ourselves. We miss the point of making connections with others of our species in failing to remember that we are all quite fragile and complex creatures with different ideas and sets of traditions. The tragedy of deaths and numerous casualties is amplified by attempts to answer the basic question of “why?” I believe there is no simple answer to that question; nevertheless, politicians and social commentators all have their points of view and are hardly reticent in offering opinions and definitive reasons why such calamities occur.

All of us whose lives, at one time or another, have been affected by such overwhelming events must remember that evil is still present in the world. For reasons unknown to most of us—perhaps even to the perpetrators—people will still do horrible things. People of faith are once again called to offer prayers for those who have been killed or injured and for their families who must face the emptiness of death and pain. It is further necessary for us to offer prayers for one another as a support and a blessing, to remember that we still do believe in a God who loves us and does not will evil for anyone.

Ultimately, it is God who will settle our minds and hearts in the eternal embrace of His love and the unconditional security of heaven. For now, please pray for those who have been affected by actions of violence and death. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon them. Amen.

In Thanks for Catholic Education

Catholic schools do not simply offer an alternative education inasmuch as they stress discipline and good order. Catholic schools exist to extend the work of the Catholic family to promote and teach the Faith and sharing the Mission of Jesus.

Among the great traditions somehow being lost in our more political and secular academic world is the use of time honored songs and hymns that somehow pay tribute to the very idea of education and its unique connection to maturation, intellectual development, and the significance of virtue in day-to-day living.

Sadly, the ideals of education have lost so much of their possibility for enhancing the quality of life and the visions for the standards by which one would live.

With a certain level of joy and a source of satisfaction, the Catholic Church has always maintained high standards for the operation of our schools and, in particular, high estimation of the work of Catholic education. In our secularized and politically charged environment, education of all sorts seems to have taken its share of pummeling in contemporary society.

Pope Francis himself has addressed this situation and promotes and defends Catholic schools as a solution to rampant secularization. In Evangelii Gaudium, his first apostolic exhortation, he writes:

The process of secularization tends to reduce the faith and the Church to the sphere of the private and personal. Furthermore, by completely rejecting the transcendent, it has produced a growing deterioration of ethics, a weakening of the sense of personal and collective sin, and a steady increase in relativism. These have led to a general sense of disorientation, especially in the periods of adolescence and young adulthood which are so vulnerable to change. …We are living in an information-driven society which bombards us indiscriminately with data—all treated as being of equal importance—and which leads to remarkable superficiality in the area of moral discernment. In response, we need to provide an education which teaches critical thinking and encourages the development of mature moral values. (64)

As we come to the end of another academic year, I find that we are still faced with the ever significant and pertinent issues that affect our Catholic schools and indeed, the ideal and value of Catholic Education.

As always I salute the work of so many dedicated teachers, administrators, and staff members, who work and minister in our Catholic schools. I thank all of you parents who trust that our work with your children will advance their knowledge and engagement in the Faith and encourage them to find their way in difficult times with the secure knowledge of the Truth and the positive direction and guidance of the Holy Spirit. Enjoy the summer and spend quality time with your children. Yes, I certainly hope to see you at Sunday Mass.

10 Years Ago Today – Remembering Father Joe

Believe it or not, today, 11 April, is the tenth anniversary of the death of Father Joseph Walijewski!  Some of us were fortunate enough to know him as a man and as a priest. For others of us, myself included, we came to know him by his works and by his reputation. In so many ways, Fr. Joe’s life was filled with an energy and enthusiasm for life and the work of God. He spent his time doing good—seeking and giving peace. Father Joe began Holy Week in 2006 with the Solemn Recollection and Celebration of Palm Sunday with his beloved children and parishioners of Casa Hogar Juan Pablo Segundo. On that day, he became gravely ill and was admitted to hospital in Lima. He died just 2 days later on 11 April 2006—Tuesday of Holy Week.

The passage of time is something we all note in one way or another. For me, one of the most extraordinary things was when Pope Benedict XVI named me a bishop! For some, time passes with drudgery, long, slow and hard; for others, there is never enough time to accomplish all of the tasks that we have set for ourselves or that others have set for us. One of the first things I did during these past 6 years as the Bishop of La Crosse, was to open the Cause for the Canonization of one of our own diocesan priests, Fr. Joe!

It is necessary for us to consider that time is truly a gift—a gift God gives to us in order to accomplish His tasks for our lives, namely: to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him. We are blessed that we may know people in our lives who are witnesses of God’s action and wisdom for us. Some of those people may be very close to us—like our parents, our grandparents, our spouses—or they may be people whom we have not known personally but may have only heard or read about. Fr. Joe certainly has become one of those influential people in our lives who showed us a way to know God intimately and lovingly. He truly served the poor, taking care of families and children who no one else would care about – whether they lived or they died. Fr. Joe cared, and he established Casa Hogar, parishes, and missions so that the real love and care of Jesus would be a part of their lives through him.

Now, ten years after his death, we pray for him. We pray that he will be proclaimed a saint by the Church so that we may publicly tell others of his good work as a part of our love for the poor and those who are in need. We want to see in Fr. Joe the way in which the Gospel is lived today, not only in Bolivia and Peru where Fr. Joe worked, but here in Western and Central Wisconsin.

We are working hard to complete the necessary testimonial paperwork so we can move the process of Canonization to the next level. We still have a long way to go and we need to start asking for miracles through the intercession of Fr. Joe. On this, the tenth anniversary of his death, it is so good for us to know that we can now pray for our priest to become a saint and that his work will be one with the Church throughout all of time and eternity. Please join in spreading the word about Fr. Joe and asking others to pray for miracles through his intercession.

Pray for miracles through his intercession using the following prayer:

Prayer for the Beatification and Canonization of Father Joseph Walijewski (1924-2006)

Holy and Good God, your servant and priest, Father Joseph Walijewski, through priestly zeal and heroic holiness, defended innocence against the sadness of evil, especially to broken families and helpless children.

Imaging the Compassionate Christ, he led others to the font of sacramental life and the knowledge of Jesus Christ as their True and Only Savior.

Heavenly Father, we humbly pray You to raise up Your servant, Father Joseph Walijewski, whose joyful priestly heart was resolute in the Heart of Christ Jesus, to the courts of heaven; and, through Your Holy Spirit, who guides and leads the Church, give him to us as a saint and hero of this generation.

Through his example may there be a new urgency of souls for Christ. Through his intercession, I humbly ask (make your intention here) through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Bishop William Patrick Callahan, OFM Conv.
Diocese of La Crosse, Wis.

Please follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/FrJoesGuild/ to stay current on the process as we move toward Canonization for Fr. Joe.

Vist the www.frjoesguild.org for more information.

Easter Greeting

“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!

Hi everybody, Bishop Callahan here to proclaim that Jesus Christ has indeed risen from the dead! As we just listened to a passage from the Easter Sequence, we can feel Mary’s excitement and joy as she exclaims “Christ my hope is arisen.” She proclaimed this just three days after watching her only begotten son endure such cruelty and torture ending in his most gruesome death . Now that she has seen Him alive, what joy she felt and what joy we can also experience as we recount this most stupendous act of Love, given to us for all time.

Easter is a time for us to explore the truth about Jesus. The readings at Mass recount the events that surround one of the principal truths of our faith – Jesus died, He rose from the dead, and one day He will come again in glory.

Easter is also a time for us to prepare ourselves to receive Him more fully, especially to receive His boundless Mercy. The Psalmist writes, Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his mercy endures forever. Let the house of Israel say, “His mercy endures forever.”

Pope Saint John Paul the Great instituted the feast of Divine Mercy on April 30, 2000 – the second Sunday of Easter in that jubilee year. In this extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, Divine Mercy Sunday is celebrated on April 3. Just imagine what it must be like now for Saint Faustina and Pope Saint John Paul the Great to see how this great gift is such a part of our Easter season and our year of mercy.

This Easter Season, take time to consider how God is calling us and challenging us in Jesus Christ. Seek Jesus in your life; listen to Jesus who is calling you out of the ordinary and into the extraordinary. Put out into the deep; listen to the longing in your heart; feel the spirit of God that is calling you more deeply into something new, exciting, and totally united to Him!

My prayer for you this Easter Season is that you may experience the Mercy of Jesus Christ in a new and profound way. And having received His Mercy, be committed to share that gift with those around you!

Blessed Easter

And I’ll see you at Sunday Mass!

Does God Say “I Told You So?”

There may be times in our lives where we become involved in matters where we think we know more than we do. Nevertheless, in those moments we may find ourselves foolishly and helplessly involved in some of the biggest mistakes of our lives! The easiest thing to do when confronted with such things is get out of the mess as quickly and quietly as we are able. We try to save face because we are embarrassed, try to apologize because we may have been wrong, we simply try to put the whole event behind us and move on with our lives. Just when we think we are on the road to recovery of dignity and self-confidence, along comes an acquaintance or, worst yet, a friend, who knows what we’re going through, simply takes the moment to say: “You know, I hate to say ‘I told you so;’ BUT, I told you so.” There you are feeling doubly bad and even more sorry for yourself.

So, does God ever say: “I told you so?” You bet; the Scriptures are full of admonitions and chastisements, recommendations, and warnings that God issues on His own or through the mouths of the Prophets, or, better still, from the mouth of our Lord and Savior, Himself. Is God trying to be mean and hurtful to us? When God says: “I told you so” to Adam and Eve after they deliberately disobeyed and lost Paradise, was that simply a rebuke and a final judgment on the matter? Of course not. Every admonition from God in the Scriptures—coming from the mouth of whomever—is meant to encourage and lift us up. We need to remember one of the first examples of the whole experience in the Garden of Eden: God is God; we are His creatures. Pride is what caused so much difficulty in the first place and pride is still the chart-topper of the Seven Deadly Sins!

Think about it: when someone says “I told you so,” aren’t our feelings hurt because our pride is wounded? Don’t we hear “I told you so” with a bit more arrogance or sarcasm because it hurts our pride to know that we could make a mess of our lives? As Christians, we know that feeling as “sin.” You’re right, not every stupid human action is a sin—but a good number of our stupid,  human actions do come from our own pride and the lack of thinking about how we can act better with the principles of our faith or the teachings of Jesus informing our actions.

We are currently celebrating a Jubilee Year of Mercy in the Catholic Church that is meant to help us understand, as Pope Francis has clearly proclaimed, “without God’s mercy, we would not exist.”  Mercy is that incredible and gratuitous gift of God that restores our ability to live as His children with full faith and confidence that in His love we are held in His embrace.

Every Divine admonition or word of caution in the Scriptures is a loving reminder from our Heavenly Father. Believe it or not, God does not want to punish us as much as He wants to love us; but love, as we know, typically involves receiving and giving. The Year of Mercy helps us to receive God’s mercy through a change of heart and action. We call this conversion. Conversion is an ongoing process in our lives. The more active we are about examining our lives and adjusting our behavior the more we have the opportunity to experience being loved by God. Yes, we will still hear an occasional “I told you so” both from God and maybe even from our friends (and maybe even from our non-friends); but, relax, that is a sign of our humanity, which God loves so much that He took it on Himself in Jesus, and clearly that we’re not in heaven yet.

Commit your life to Christ—and I’ll see you at Sunday Mass!

A Date and a Time in Our Lives

Today is the 3rd day of March—yes, this year IS moving rapidly, I’ve noticed that the older I get, the faster time flies. True enough, but that’s not my point today.

March 3rd is significant for us; it’s our birthday! March 3, 1868, the Diocese of La Crosse was born and in two years, 2018, we will be celebrating our 150th birthday, or our Sesquicentennial.

Now, 1868 was a banner year for all sorts of things: the first refrigerator car was invented in Detroit; the first US parade with floats was the Mardi-Gras in Mobile, Alabama; the stapler was patented in England; the “Type-writer” was patented; and so special and apropos, the song “Happy Birthday to You” was written (and still receives royalties for its copyright).

I just did a bit of date checking on Google and I found all sorts of interesting little facts that might be fun for a Diocese of La Crosse game of Trivial Pursuit; but I would imagine that so many of you would be able to rummage through your attics and basements and find all sorts of major facts, photos, and fun trivia that you can associate with your life in the Diocese of La Crosse. Now, we’re not looking for memorabilia from 1868 (only). What we are particularly interested in is your more recent memory items, especially things that have happened in the last twenty-five years. That, brothers and sisters, makes you a historian and a story-teller. You possess knowledge that we need to secure and pass on to the next generation of Catholics, Wisconsinites, and Americans throughout our nineteen counties and among the thousands of people in western and north central Wisconsin. We Build on a Tradition of Faith!

Get out your photo albums, your “baby-books,” your parish albums and school yearbooks. You’ll be amazed at how much history you possess and how much fun it will be to start talking about and sharing your experiences as members of our beloved Diocese. God has blessed us. One great way to praise and thank God will be to share His graces and tell His story through our lives—the lives of our families—and the life of our family of Faith.

March 3, 1868 to March 3, 2018—a Sesquicentennial of Faith in action! I hope you’ll share as much as you can as we prepare for local and diocesan celebrations marking this landmark in our history. Watch for commemorative books and events that capture and share our past and set us free to move into our future. While looking back, we’re plugging in to the many electronic and interactive ways to discover the many treasures that make up the Diocese of La Crosse.

Thanks be to God for the time He has given us and the ways He has allowed us to use His gifts, celebrate amazing talents, and Build on a Tradition of Faith!