Monthly Archives: January 2013


Here I am in 99 degree-heat greeting you, dear brothers and sisters, from the heart of Bolivia. We landed safely in Santa Cruz – after a long, unscheduled, delay in La Paz at 13,500 ft. above sea level, where the air is very thin. It was quite difficult to breathe and many of the passengers needed oxygen – I came very close to calling for it.

Today the weather is glorious – hot and a little overcast. Bishop-elect Flock’s family and many priest friends, including many from our diocese, are here to celebrate his episcopal ordination and consecration tomorrow (Thursday) at the Cathedral of St. Sebastian in Cochabamba about 311 miles away from Santa Cruz.

Monsignor Joseph Hirsch seems to be gearing up for his new job as Pastor of Holy Cross Parish at Santa Cruz. He has been well received. I joined him in a staff meeting at the parish this morning after breakfast. I tried to explain our dilemma about future priests coming to Santa Cruz. Decisions will have to be made in the future.

Father John Swing, a former Pastor of Holy Cross Parish, certainly is enjoying some “old time” catching up along with Father Bill Menzel, the Bishop-elect’s former Latin teacher. Msgrs. Gorman, Scheckel, and McGarty have also been holding up well. Stan Gould is recording the events in pictures and sound for a future headline story in The Catholic Times.

It seems as though all of us who gave Bishop-elect Flock miters as gifts, gave him ones that were at least a size or two too big. It has been enjoyable to see them fall over his ears. Some modifications will be made locally. Fortunately, the one he ordered for himself arrived, and it fits “just right.”

Tomorrow morning we will make our way to Cochabamba by plane and participate in the grand ceremony in the evening that will elevate another of the priests of the Diocese of La Crosse to rank of Successor to the Apostles!

You are all here celebrating the beauty of the Church with us!

Let’s share our joy at Sunday Mass – see you there!


One of the events I treasure most from my Franciscan upbringing is the solemnity of the Epiphany, or Little Christmas. Sadly for us in the Latin Church, it is not a feast that is kept with the same reverence and true solemnity with which its uniqueness was once marked. Even when I was a little kid I remember the Franciscan Sisters of Saint Joseph (our own Stevens Point Community) teaching us special songs and stories concerning the Three Kings, the Star of Bethlehem, and their significance in our lives.

In this great feast we ponder the manifestation of Christ to the nations. The “wise men” symbolize the Gentiles, the non-Jews, to whom this manifestation was made. Through them we have come to know and to ponder the significance of the Incarnation.

Pope Benedict XVI calls us to consider further that in the Three Kings we also see all of humanity journeying to Christ. They represent the inner aspiration of the human spirit, the dynamism of religions and human reason toward Christ. If the Wise Men were led by a star to find the newborn king of the Jews, who is in truth the universal savior, the Holy Father tells us, “this implies that the entire cosmos speaks of Christ, even though its language is not yet fully intelligible to man in his present state.” The “language of creation” points us toward the truth about the Creator, namely: God who creates is also God who redeems.

I would further call your attention to the star as it pertains to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The New Year begins as we honor her particular prerogative, namely: she is the Mother of God. Throughout the ages, Mary has been revered as the “Morning Star” or “The Star of the Sea.” The Three Kings noted that they had seen the star in the East; but truly, they saw its Light reflected in the eyes of Mary.

Mary is the Morning Star that leads us to Christ. She is always the full reflection of His brilliance in the world and returns the light in the lives of the faithful who seek Him today. Saint Bonaventure, the great Franciscan theologian and Doctor of the Church, compares life to a tempestuous sea into which sinners have fallen from the ship of Divine Grace. “O poor lost sinners,” he has Our Lady say, “despair not; raise up your eyes and cast them on this beautiful star; breathe again with confidence, for it will save you from this tempest and will guide you into the port of salvation.” Perhaps, in imitation of that prayer, the Irish have a great expression: “O Mary, meet me at the port.”

As we begin this new year of Faith, may we follow the journey of the “wise men” and be led, in our time, by the radiant Star, the Holy Virgin Mother of God!

Blessed Little Christmas – I’ll see you at the Mass!