Monthly Archives: March 2013


I just wrote a piece for The Catholic Times calling attention to the marks of the Church that we profess in the Creed each Sunday. Namely: the Church is one, holy, catholic and apostolic. These marks of the Church are characteristic and unmistakable; the quintessential elements that define the Bride of Christ. “The Church is held, as a matter of faith, to be unfailingly holy. This is because Christ, the Son of God, who with the Father and the Spirit is hailed as ‘alone holy,’ loved the Church as His Bride, giving Himself up for her so as to sanctify her; He joined her to Himself as His body and endowed her with the gift of the Holy Spirit for the glory of God.” (Lumen Gentium 39) The Church is the “holy People of God” and her members are called “saints.” (CCC 823)

The Church calls her members to holiness according to the teaching of Jesus to “be holy as your Father in heaven is holy.” (Mt. 5:48) The Catechism teaches that charity is the soul of holiness to which all are called: “it governs, shapes, and perfects all the means of sanctification.” (Lumen Gentium 42)

The Diocese of La Crosse is embarking on one of the greatest spiritual experiences of our history in inaugurating the Cause for the Beatification and Canonization of Fr. Joe Walijewski. Fr. Joe is well known to many people in and out of our Diocese for his priestly zeal for souls and personal care and concern for poor and unwanted children.

In citing the points from the Catechism of the Catholic Church and from the documents of Vatican II, it becomes clearer to see the sense of what drove Fr. Joe to his kind of holiness: it is the imitation of Jesus Christ.

By canonizing some of the faithful, that is, by solemnly proclaiming that they practiced heroic virtue and lived in fidelity to God’s grace, the Church recognizes the power of the Spirit of holiness within her and sustains the hope of believers by proposing the saints to them as models and intercessors. Saints have always been the source and origin of renewal in the most difficult moments in the Church’s history. Indeed, holiness is the hidden source and infallible measure of her apostolic activity and missionary zeal. (CCC 828)

In these ways, we look to see Fr. Joe become a hero for this generation and a source for good in the ongoing ministry of clergy, the financial support of the missions he established, and a blessing from God upon the work of this Diocese as we all seek to follow Christ and His glory.

Let us pray together at Sunday Mass.


Now begins the Papacy of Pope Francis I. There are, of course, so many different kinds of accolades being offered that one can hardly begin to speak about him without an exclamation point!

I was touched deeply as Pope Francis was introduced to the Church and the world and simply said with a smile: “Buona sera”- “Good Evening”—a heart-felt greeting of love to his people (almost a quarter million who had been standing in the cold and rain for hours). It was fatherly and it was magnificently sincere. He spoke to the people of the Diocese of Rome as their new bishop and led them (and us) in prayer for their bishop-emeritus, Benedict XVI. He encouraged the people of the Diocese of Rome about taking up a journey: Bishop and people.

I was moved that the Holy Father first spoke to the people of “his Diocese” before he spoke to the people of “the world.” Certainly the heart of the bishop was apparent as he spoke his first words to the City and to the World—Urbi et Orbi. Every bishop knows the deep feeling he has for the Diocese over which he is called as pastor and shepherd. His words to the Diocese of Rome, “which presides in charity over all the Churches,” was spoken from the heart of a pastor and father.

In humility, he asked the people to pray for him and his ministry—not just “tonight before you go to bed,” or “the next time you go to church”—pray now. He bowed in the silence that was heard around the world as we prayed for our new shepherd and leader. It showed a humble man, yes; but, definitely, a man ready to act in the moment.

Finally, the picture above is the first action of the new Pope as he went to the Basilica of Saint Mary Major. The photo shows him praying before the image of Our Lady—Salus Populi Romani—the Protector [Health] of the People of Rome—where he laid a simple bouquet of flowers in Her honor. This is a revered custom of Popes and once again gives evidence of his love for his people locally. It further communicates, however, one of my favorite mantras to the entire Church: “the greatest gift a father can give his children, is to love their mother.” This shows the stature of the Pope named Francis.

Finally, on this first day, we come to what I consider to be one of the clearest clues as to why this Pope chose the name Francis. This is the ending of his homily to the College of Cardinals gathered for the first Papal Mass of his reign in the Sistine Chapel.

When we walk without the Cross, when we build without the Cross, and when we profess Christ without the Cross, we are not disciples of the Lord. We are worldly, we are bishops, priests, cardinals, Popes, but not disciples of the Lord.

I would like that all of us, after these days of grace, might have the courage – the courage – to walk in the presence of the Lord, with the Cross of the Lord: to build the Church on the Blood of the Lord, which is shed on the Cross, and to profess the one glory, Christ Crucified. In this way, the Church will go forward.

My hope for all of us is that the Holy Spirit, that the prayer of Our Lady, our Mother, might grant us this grace: to walk, to build, to profess Jesus Christ Crucified. So be it.

Long live the Pope!


“The Cardinal Fathers, gathered at the Vatican for the General Congregations in view of the next Conclave, send you their devoted greetings and express their renewed gratitude for all your brilliant petrine ministry and for your example of generous pastoral care for the good of the Church and of the world.”

Thus, the Cardinals gathered in Rome, greeted the Pope-Emeritus, His Holiness Benedict XVI, in a telegram sent to him earlier this week. The message concluded:

“With their gratitude [the Cardinals] hope to represent the recognition of the entire Church for your tireless work in the vineyard of the Lord.”

The sentiments of the Christian world, in particular, certainly resonate with the message of the Cardinals to the Pope-Emeritus. Nevertheless, speculation continues to run rampant among us as to who might emerge from the white smoke.

While the whole world waits, I thought I might present some of the points of interest that connect those of us who live in Wisconsin with the activity in Rome in a personal way.

Of the eleven voting cardinals from the United States, six of them are from the Midwestern part of the country! Cardinals Di Nardo and O’Malley make the cut by being born in Ohio—rural Ohio. Cardinal Francis George, our eminent neighbor from “south of the border” was born in Chicago.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, born in St. Louis, allows us to enter into the specific Wisconsin vision of cardinal red. Cardinal Dolan was also the Archbishop of Milwaukee (where he ordained me as the first bishop he ever ordained in his episcopacy). Next we have Cardinal James Harvey, born in Milwaukee and now the Archpriest of the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome. Basically, Cardinal Harvey has spent his entire priesthood in Rome in one job or another. He is the last Cardinal named by Pope Benedict XVI last November.

The main event for the Cardinals of Wisconsin is Cardinal Raymond Burke, a native son of our beloved Diocese, born in Richland Center and a former Bishop of this Diocese. He now serves in Rome as the Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, or the “Supreme Court” of the Church.

So, it looks like there is sure a good turn-out of Cardinals in characteristic Wisconsin red and any one of them could certainly rise to the Petrine Ministry with distinction and humility. It is a wondrous thing for us to ponder as we think of these men entering the Sistine Chapel: we know some of these men personally. This election for the papacy is as personal as it gets in some ways—not only for us Americans, but for so many other people around the world who can lay claim and pride to knowing those who enter that Chapel filled with awe at the responsibility given to them by the grace of office and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Let us pray for God’s continued guidance of the Church founded by Jesus Christ and may we celebrate the mysteries of our faith in the knowledge of the Truth and the consolation of Our Lady’s touch.

O, yes, let’s join together at Sunday Mass!