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Advent Message from Bishop William Patrick Callahan 2017

Grant to us, O Lord, a new vigor in our time of Advent, that, as we prepare to celebrate in adoration the festivities of your Son’s Nativity, so may we possess in gladness his everlasting rewards.

Hi Everybody,

Bishop Callahan here, asking you to make some time this Advent season to reflect on the great mystery of the Annunciation. We hear the reading from St. Luke on the Forth Sunday of Advent, recounting the visit of the angel Gabriel. Mary, fully human, encountered Gabriel, a pure spirit, and our world was forever changed. Mary’s response “May it be done to me according to your word” brought salvation to humanity in that very instant as Mary became the Mother of God.

Our Blessed Mother’s example gives us the courage to say “Yes”. “Yes” to the will of God in our lives. How many times are we prompted to do good or called to help someone in need.  Are we able to acknowledge our shortcomings and make amends for our failures?

Mary’s Love for Christ began at the moment of her “Yes”. After Our Lord was conceived in her womb, Mary set out in haste to bring Our Savior to her cousin, Elizabeth, whom she learned was also expecting a child, expecting John the Baptist. Her journey, her visitation is a model for us to follow. When we have an encounter with Christ we should attempt to tell others of what we experienced, to share what we have received.

Sharing our faith gives Hope. And sustained by hope, we are preserved from selfishness and drawn to the happiness that flows from charity.

The Church has given us this time of Advent, a time of expectant waiting, a time of preparation, and a time to anticipate receiving the Christ Child on Christmas!

Blessed Advent to you; may you say “Yes” to our coming Savior.

What Happens in Vegas…

Yes, I think we’ve all seen the commercials about the advantages of vacations in Las Vegas—peace, quiet, and privacy. No one of us expects the horror of evil to be a part of our fun or our participation in an event such as a Country Music Festival.

Once again, however, we confront the problem of unexplainable evil in our society. Murder and mayhem have brought the bloodshed of war to our homeland. What sadness for us to have to associate these evils with the fun that comes from a valued vacation “get away.”

We mourn the deaths of our brothers and sisters who were gunned down by a very deranged man who ultimately took his own life—all this at the beginning of October, Respect Life Month. When will we learn?

Let us pray for our beloved dead and for those who were wounded in this latest affront to God’s gift of life. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord; and let perpetual light shine upon them! God grant peace to the deceased and to their families; and may Almighty God grant physical and emotional healing to all who have been so adversely affected by this cruelty.

Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, pray for us!

Dear brothers and sisters, I am so happy that we maintain a strong spiritual bond with our brothers and sisters at Casa Hogar in Peru. Not only is there the strong financial support we provide through the Fr. Joseph Walijewski Legacy Guild, but also there is our strong union through the Rosary promotion that is offered by the boys and girls who make the rosaries that I am happy to give away at our Confirmation ceremonies across the Diocese. As young people in our Diocese receive the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, they are drawn more deeply into the mystery of love shown to us in the consolation of our meditation on the life of Grace offered to us in the recitation of the Rosary.

I remind our young people (and all those who attend our Confirmation ceremonies) that the Rosary is not “junk jewelry,” nor is it an “accessory,” for dead bodies. Praying the Rosary unites us with the Biblical realities of our Blessed Lord’s life among us, and offers us the opportunities to meditate on those realities with our Blessed Mother. This is a strong part of the devotional life of the Church. Devotion helps us to energize our faith with a personal sense of attachment to Jesus and Mary, in this case; but devotion energizes us with strength to enter more deeply into personal relationship with each of the Members of the Blessed Trinity and with all the saints.

Disassembling our prayer through the mediations of the Rosary, we come to a deeper awareness of our relationship with Jesus and Mary and enter into the reality of their life and their genuine human experiences that lead us more predictably to their sharing of divine experiences with us as well.

Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Ignatius of Loyola were great champions of imaginative prayer, or the opening of the mind and heart to the contemplation of a Scriptural passage by placing oneself in its midst as a participant. In Francis’ case, one of the most stirring examples is the formation of the Christmas crib—or Francis’ “real life” version of his imaginative prayer about the Nativity of Our Blessed Lord. For Ignatius, we have the “Spiritual Exercises” used by countless men and women for retreats over the years; or the “Consciousness Examen,” trusted as a means of daily prayer and personal “self-correction” for one’s daily life. These forms of prayer bring us into the area of contemplation and meditation used by saints over the centuries of active and genuine faith.

October is traditionally held as the “Month of the Rosary,” particularly noting the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary on 7 October (established by His Holiness Pope Pius V after the victory of Christian forces in the Battle of Lepanto in 1571) as the epicenter of the devotion. I must further remind you once again, that the Church celebrates 2017 as the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Blessed Lady at Fatima. Both of these events are very significant for Christian and world civilizations for without the victory at Lepanto and the warnings given at Fatima—both done under active involvement of Our Blessed Lady, and both accomplished by the praying of the rosary by virtue of Her direct instruction—the world, as we know it, would be an extraordinarily different place!

Battles fought hundreds of years ago, apparitions of Mary, happening a hundred years ago, do not seem to phase us much these days; nevertheless, there is a strange nexus in the power of evil and the lives of all humanity, that seems to bubble and hiss in the cauldron of contemporary society threatening once again and with even greater ferocity to spill out, scalding and destroying our fragile lives.

I urge you, my dear brothers and sisters, pray the Rosary! Be active in your devotion to the Mother of God. She has been involved—over centuries—in the affairs of humanity and has warned us about so many aspects of our silliness and empty pursuits. She has been right—everytime!

Statement Regarding DACA Decision

Dear Brothers and Sisters–

The recent decision by the Administration to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, has created quite a stir among many people. This is a difficult moment in our beloved, yet morally and socially confused and conflicted country.

Nevertheless, we offer support to all those who are legitimately affected by this decision, and urge members of Congress to act immediately and decisively in defense of human rights for those affected and for all of us who support human dignity and liberty for all Americans.

I trust that our constant prayers in support of all human life will have some bearing on our government officials to protect human dignity and justice. Once again, we pledge to work with our legislators to establish a system that promotes and supports justice for all.

+William Patrick Callahan
Bishop of La Crosse

Easter Greetings

Christians, to the Paschal Victim   Offer your thankful praises!   A Lamb the sheep redeems; Christ, who only is sinless,   Reconciles sinners to the Father.  Death and life have contended   in that combat stupendous:  The Prince of Life, who died, reigns immortal.

Hi everybody, Bishop Callahan here to proclaim that Jesus Christ has indeed risen from the dead!

Take a moment to recount the historical events surrounding that first Easter … the trial of our Lord Jesus Christ – ending with the crowds calling for his crucifixion … His death on the cross – openly witnessed by many who saw first-hand that he did indeed die … and then his resurrection – The bodily rising of Jesus from the dead on the third day, after His death on the cross and His burial in the tomb – that time when He appeared to those who had previously walked with him and followed his teaching, revealing himself not theatrically but rather personally to those whom He chose. It’s His resurrection that demonstrates to us that there is a resurrection; a particular resurrection promised for each and every one of us. A very personal fact that many are unwilling to accept.

Death and life have contended and we are the beneficiaries of that stupendous combat. For without the battle between death and life, between the Devil and Jesus, there would be no resurrection or hope for our eternal future in heaven, where we are to be forever united with the Trinity and all the blessed.

Jesus is the one who takes on our mortal enemy – death –

It is Jesus who fights with Satan in Hell

It is Jesus who “un does” the bondage of slavery to sin

It is Jesus who gives us the promise of immortality.

My brothers and sisters – during this Easter Season, take time to thank God for the gift of Jesus Christ. For without His birth, without His death and without His triumphant resurrection that rescued us from the clutches of death, we would have no hope of everlasting life!

Blessed Easter to you – and I’ll see you at Sunday Mass!

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.

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.