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Triduum in the Domestic Church

Holy Week is the culmination of our 40-day Lenten practices. It is the most solemn period of the Church year. We typically gather to remind ourselves of the solemn mysteries of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection. With many signs and rituals, we become deeply engaged in the action of the resurrection and by offering our own participation and prayers, attempt to enter into this very central mystery of our Faith. This year, however, will be quite different. The priests of our diocese will celebrate the Mass without their congregations, and the faithful will be praying in their homes.

In his Feb. 7, 2007, general audience remarks, Pope Benedict XVI said that “Every home is called to become a ‘domestic church’ in which family life is completely centered on the lordship of Christ and the love of husband and wife mirrors the mystery of Christ’s love for the Church, his bride.”

This year, I invite you to join me in the Liturgies of the Sacred Triduum live-streamed from our cathedral. Holy Week begins with Passion (Palm) Sunday (9:30 a.m.). The Sacred Triduum begins with Holy Thursday: The Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper (5:00 p.m.); Good Friday: Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion (12:00 Noon), Easter Vigil Mass (7:00 p.m.) and Easter Sunday (9:30 a.m.) from the Cathedral. The modifications in the liturgical celebrations decreed by the Vatican will be observed. Many of your pastors will also be live streaming Holy Week liturgies so you can join with them spiritually in your own homes.

I also encourage you to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet. Pray with Monsignor Hirsch and the children of Casa Hogar as they offer their prayers for you and your intentions.

I am so grateful. It is by your most generous gifts to our Diocesan Annual Appeal and the efforts of our Diocesan Communication Staff that we are able to provide these live-streamed moments of shared prayer and liturgical celebrations. This is life-giving and Faith-building in action.

I trust that as you have the talents and abilities to serve the Lord and His Church, you will each find ways of drawing strength and courage in these challenging times. I pray for you, your families, and those particularly touched by this dreadful pandemic. As we navigate these uncharted waters, remain healthy and pray mightily!

Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed!

Call to Prayer | Friday, March 27

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

May the Lord give you peace.

The unprecedented actions of the past weeks, though challenging for each of us, highlight our need for spiritual sustenance. Let us use this time by placing Our Lord at the center of our lives. Our Diocesan website, diolc.org, offers links and resources as we pray for help, protection, and healing. I heartily encourage you to check it out.

In addition, I urge you to participate in the special prayer of Pope Francis taking place in Saint Peter’s Square this Friday, March 27. This event will be broadcast and streamed on the website of the Vatican News, www.VATICANNEWS.VA, at 12:00 p.m. (noon) Central Daylight Time. The Holy Father will grant to all participants a Plenary Indulgence before imparting the Urbi et Orbi Blessing, the special blessing to the City of Rome (Urbi) and the World (Orbi).

The Holy See’s March 20 Decree explains that the current Plenary indulgence at this time of pandemic is “granted to the faithful suffering from Coronavirus, who are subject to quarantine by order of the health authority in hospitals or in their own homes if, with a spirit detached from any sin, they unite spiritually through the media to the celebration of Holy Mass, the recitation of the Holy Rosary, the pious practice of the Way of the Cross or other forms of devotion; or, they may simply recite the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer and a pious invocation to the Blessed Virgin Mary, offering this trial in a spirit of faith in God and charity towards their brothers and sisters, with the will to fulfil the usual conditions (sacramental confession, Eucharistic communion and prayer according to the Holy Father’s intentions), as soon as possible.”

An indulgence, Pope St. John Paul II explained, is “the expression of the Church’s full confidence of being heard by the Father when—in view of Christ’s merits and, by his gift, those of Our Lady and the saints—she asks him to mitigate or cancel the painful aspect of punishment by fostering its medicinal aspect through other channels of grace” (General Audience, September 29, 1999).

I pray for each of you during this crisis, that you and your loved ones are safe and healthy through the intercession of our Mother Mary and our patrons, St. Joseph and St. Francis of Assisi. Imploring God’s blessings on you in this time of need, I am

+William Patrick Callahan, OFM Conv.

Bishop of La Crosse

Join me for Mass this Sunday at diolc.org/live

Given our present state of affairs, I’ll be celebrating Mass privately this Sunday at 9:30 a.m. at the Cathedral of St. Joseph the Workman. I hope you will join me at diolc.org/live. If you can’t make 9:30, the Mass may be viewed on demand at the same link throughout the day. It grieves me to be physically separated from you during this prudent effort to stop the spread of the virus by temporally limiting gatherings. I’m fervently praying for a resolution to this spread, and begging God to bring us back together once again.

Several days ago, I had the opportunity to speak with a friend concerning “private Masses” and the Catholic notion of “Spiritual Communion.” She is younger than I and like most Catholics younger than I, missed out on some of the elements of Catholic doctrine that many folks my age take for granted and learned early on—thankfully—in our wonderful Catholic elementary schools at the hands of the good sisters who ran our education system in those days.

Nevertheless, as we talked about “private Masses” I took the opportunity to remind my friend about the fact that through the Catholic practice of Spiritual Communion, many of our brothers and sisters who were unable to receive sacramentally (for one reason or another) had a moment of deep and sincere communion with our Blessed Lord spiritually.

In his encyclical, “Ecclesia de Eucharistia” (“A Eucharistic Church”), in April 2003, Pope Saint John Paul the Great encouraged the practice of Spiritual Communion, “which has been a wonderful part of Catholic life for centuries and recommended by saints who were masters of the spiritual life.” St. Thomas Aquinas described it as “an ardent desire to receive Jesus in the most holy sacrament and lovingly embrace him” at a time or in circumstances when we cannot receive him in sacramental Communion. These days of the dreadful coronavirus pandemic, when our priests are limited to the private celebration of the holy Mass, demonstrate the wisdom of the Church as She shares this great spiritual gift for us in these extraordinary and difficult times.

The Catechism of the Council of Trent devoted a special section to Spiritual Communion in its program of renewal in the late 16th century. In the past, instruction manuals gave as a most familiar example, a mother’s need to stay home from Sunday Mass to care for a sick child, thereby missing the opportunity for Communion. In such cases, the mother could make an act of Spiritual Communion, uniting herself with the Mass in her parish church and receive the spiritual benefit of Holy Communion. The opportunities for receiving Spiritual Communion are limitless, but the particular circumstances make it appealing and pertinent for our time. Today, there are many Catholics who may not be able to receive Communion because of a marriage not recognized by the Church. They are often in a process of getting their marital status rectified through the Church Tribunal, but until that is done, they cannot participate.

It is important for us to keep in mind that the current situation regarding “health warnings” and “social distancing” are not being forced on society—and especially upon the Church—in some sort of atheistic or secular closure of the Church. This current health crisis and its governmental intervention is a temporary difficulty and sadness that for us, as Catholics in particular, affects our spiritual lives.

We will recover from this pandemic and its dreadful effects with the help of God. In the meantime, the Church in Her ever inspired and wonderful love of Almighty God for His children provides us with abundant grace and proximate care for us to be with Him and receive Him spiritually in our hearts and souls until such time as we are able, once again to receive sacramental absolution as necessary and to attend holy Mass and receive our Blessed Lord in the Source and Summit of our lives in the Most Blessed Sacrament.

O, Sacrament most Holy, O, Sacrament Divine, All praise and all thanksgiving, be every moment Thine!

Lent Greeting

The Church has given us Lent as a time to awaken our God given Gift of Faith. Faith is a gift that only God can give. Faith is a precious gift and needs to be cared for each day. We ask God to strengthen our Faith – especially during Lent – through prayer, fasting and alms giving. These pious practices are done to open ourselves up to a heightened awareness of God’s presence in our lives.

When we pray, we come to Jesus “as we are” and lay before him all our thoughts, our desires and our failings. We come in humility, begging for the King of Kings to enter more fully into our hearts with His boundless Love and Mercy. It is through prayer that we come to a deeper understanding and awareness of how, through our Baptism, we are called to carry out the Will of God here on earth.

Lent is also a time to make a good confession. Make time to examine your life. Be honest about your failings and shortcomings. Approach the Sacrament of Reconciliation with a repentant heart and willingly receive the peace and joy of his merciful love. God will not spur a contrite heart.

Take advantage of the many spiritual practices that are talked about during lent. Strive to incorporate just one practice into your daily routine. You, and those around you, will notice the difference!

Blessed Lent to you. Let us pray together as we journey to Easter.

In Christ Alone

Merry Christmas everybody! This greeting of Joy and good wishes has so much meaning for us this time of year. It reminds us that Christ was born and in Christ alone is our true and lasting happiness. It gives us hope for the coming year and offers us consolation that Christ is reigning in our heart!

The mystery of Christmas depends on God. We believe that God became truly man while remaining truly God. Every time we pray the Nicene Creed, we proclaim that Jesus Christ is true God and became man! He came as a baby and we look with new reverence and amazement each and every time we see a manger scene. Our Christian perspective understands that His coming opened up for us the possibility of eternal happiness, and that we are now children of God.

In the readings this Christmas we hear from the letter to the Hebrews; “In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, he has spoken to us through the Son.” My brothers and sisters, take this passage to heart, pray about what this means and believe that in Christ alone we will find direction for our lives through the Church, where we will find lasting happiness in the life of grace.

Believe, belong, and be ready to proclaim with great joy Merry Christmas!

May you live in joyful hope!

Brother James Miller

Brother James Miller—born and raised in central Wisconsin, martyred in Guatemala, and living today in the Heavenly Jerusalem—will be declared “blessed” this Saturday, December 7, in Huehuetenango Guatemala.

Like all others who have been declared “blessed” by the Church, Brother James was remarkable—indeed, heroic—in sanctity. He lived, served, loved, taught, and died after the example of Jesus. Through Brother James’s own flesh and blood, Jesus became incarnate to those whom Brother James served.

Yet, even in his holy heroism, James Miller was one like us. He was born in Stevens Point, raised on an Ellis dairy farm, and graduated from Pacelli High School. In these and many other respects, Brother James was no different from you or me.

Brother James entered the novitiate for the Christian Brothers in 1962, and eventually taught at Cretin High School in Saint Paul. In addition to teaching religion, Brother James taught English and Spanish, coached football, and worked in the maintenance of the school building. “Brother Fix-it,” in fact, became his nickname from his ability and desire to work with his hands. He is often depicted today with wrench in hand!

Brother Miller would go on to take final vows as a Christian Brother in 1969. He would serve as teacher, director, and even builder of schools, both in Nicaragua and in Guatemala, serving the poor in need of his—and Christ’s—care.

On February 13, 1982, Brother James Miller was shot multiple times and killed by three unknown gunmen. He was doing what God had made him to do. Standing on a ladder, attending to his school’s building, Brother Fix-it was restoring God’s kingdom—ordered, beautiful, and at the service of those in need—out of the rubble of a fallen, sad, and sinful world.

The ordinary ladder upon which he died, a tool of work in a mundane world, is, by God’s design, an extraordinary image of his own elevated path to heaven. In some ways, this ladder, like the wrench in his hand, signifies his own life: an ordinary boy with Wisconsin roots rises to an extraordinary man of faith in Guatemala and radiates a blessed image of Jesus from heaven.

A “beatification,” such as James Miller will receive on Saturday, is not simply another step along the road to an official declaration of “Saint.” To be declared “blessed”—which is what the ceremony of “beatification” does—is to be declared joyful, blissful, and happy. Being like Jesus makes us happy, and Brother James, in the service of Jesus to his people, was a happy, blessed man. Such is the lesson worth pondering in James Miller. Do the seemingly small things well—coach football, fix the fence, teach the children—and Jesus can radiate through you. And make you joyful.

Because Blessed James Miller was one like us, we can aspire to become one like him. In light of his beatification, reflect upon your own life: Where were you born? What are you doing today to further God’s kingdom in the ordinary life around you? How are you working for heaven? From Wisconsin to the Heavenly Jerusalem, let us live our ordinary lives in an extraordinary way.

Blessed James Miller, pray for us!

Celebrating our Blessed Brother James Miller, FSC

Loving and gracious God,
we thank you for the gift of our
Blessed Brother James Miller.
By his example and intercession,
grant that we may follow his example
of selfless service to those entrusted to our care.
May we also carry on his work
of educating the poor and alleviating their oppression.
We ask this through
Christ Our Lord. Amen.
Saint John Baptist de La Salle—Pray for us!
Blessed Brother James Miller—Pray for us!
Live Jesus in our Hearts—Forever!

—Prayer provided by the Christian Brothers of the Midwest

Expectant Hope

Advent greetings everybody. I don’t think I have to remind you that Advent is my favorite liturgical season. It is, of course, the great season of expectation and anticipation. It is a time of wonder and a deep and abiding sense of the fulfillment of promise and the opening of a new age.

I think I have used these themes with you in different times over the years I have served as your Bishop, but I think the message, like Advent itself, bears repeating and these themes make it easy for us to think about this great season. There are three ways of considering Advent and the coming of Christ: first, in History; second, in Mystery; and third, in Majesty.

We remember Christ coming as the Babe of Bethlehem and the entire wondrous miracle of the Christmas story. All of this allows us to consider the Incarnation— the manifestation of God in human flesh in our human history.

The second coming of Christ is in the Mystery of the Eucharist—the living and Real Presence of the same Jesus—Son of God and Son of Mary—made manifest for us in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

 The Mysterious and Sacred Presence of Jesus until the end of time. Then, finally, the appearance of Christ in Majesty at the end of time. The liturgical season of Advent calls our attention to each of these three “comings” of Christ and opens our minds, and hearts, and souls to the promises of God and the manifestations of Christ as the fulfillment of God’s promises.

Prayer is a joyful method of keeping us aware of the promises of future and realized glory as we make our way through the weeks of Advent. Keep alert, maintain your vision in Christ. He will keep His promise, He is with us, and He will come again. Come, Lord Jesus!

Blessed Advent to you all!

Consider your surroundings and give thanks

As we make our way into the season of “counting our blessings” and giving thanks, it is appropriate that we are sincere about remembering where all those blessings come from. I notice more and more, in our very busy society, that many people are assuming more of the credit for things that go right in their lives and less of the blame for things that often “go up in smoke” due to their failure to plan or think things through with good reasoning and logic. In those latter cases the “blame” goes to God as a sign that He just doesn’t care.

In the movie White Christmas, one of the great scenes between Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney takes place when they both head to the dining room of the inn at which they are staying for Christmas. Bing describes to Rosemary the kind of sandwiches the innkeeper has left for them. Choosing a particular kind of sandwich, says he, will determine the quality of the dreams you’ll have during the night. The basic idea, explains Mr. Crosby, is that if you want pleasant dreams, count your blessings—the best way to fall asleep. I often tell people to pray the Rosary at bedtime. If you fall asleep during your prayers, the angels will finish them. This goes deeper than just counting your blessings—it’s reassuring for the One who guarantees all our dreams in the first place.

In addition, Jesus gives us a special banquet at which we can be truly thankful for all those gifts—all those blessings. It’s so special that we speak about it as a special Thanksgiving Meal—the Eucharist. Eucharist means thanksgiving and we would do well to remember that every time we come to Mass. Be thankful that the Son of God has come among us. He shared our joys and our sorrows, our highs and our lows. He has freed us from the tyranny of the devil and given us the true liberty of the children of God. “If the Son has set us free, then we are free indeed.” (Jn. 8:36) What an incredibly marvelous thought for us to ponder as we give thanks!

Saint Teresa of Avila helps us to consider the glory and awesomeness of God in all things. She teaches: “In all created things discern the Providence and Wisdom of God, and in all things give Him thanks.” This is a “starter” that may serve as a good place to begin the conversation at the Thanksgiving Table this year … maybe a little better than politics and such.

Happy and blessed Thanksgiving!

In the Autumn of the Year

Fall is a beautiful time of year, especially in Wisconsin. The turning leaves, the frost on the pumpkins, the harvests of apples, crops, and gardens seem to satisfy many souls. Yet the joy of the season brings with it a sense of winter’s approach, the descent of darkness, and the icy-cold dormancy of the outdoors. Autumn is a bittersweet time!

Nature’s decline and fall also brings to mind our own “autumn of the year,” as Frank Sinatra once put it. But, whether by design or not, the Church gives us two great celebrations to offer perspective—and hope—during this time.

On November 1st (Friday this year), we gather to honor All Saints, those officially canonized and recognized by the Church, as well as those less well known here below, even as they sit enthroned with God above. On November 2nd, the Church remembers the souls of All the Faithful Departed. These “poor souls” need our prayerful assistance today, much as they needed us—and we needed them—while they were alive on earth.

These celebrations are fitting in the fall, for they remind us of our own eternal destiny, not in death, but in God. A lovely analogy presents itself to us in the kernel of wheat sown and harvested by the Chosen People. The seed was planted in the fall, only to germinate and grow, before falling dormant over the cold winter. When the springtime of the year dawned, the plant came back to life, ripened, and reached its fullness. So, too, we are not destined to decay within the earth, but to reemerge and “produce much fruit” (John 12:24).

Purgatory’s poor souls and heaven’s radiant saints testify to the abundance of eternal life in Christ. For these, a line from the funeral Mass says, “life is changed, not ended.” This November, as we remember those who have gone before us, let us continue to rely upon each other. Let us see in these heroic souls not only the fall but the Springtime Resurrection God desires for us all.

Becoming a priest

The recruitment, formation and education of every future generation of priests is squarely placed on the shoulders of the present generation. We must safeguard and secure the solid and positive delivery of what Jesus taught and died for with His first band of priests, the Apostles. The message—the Truth—doesn’t change. The Church is built on the Rock of Faith. The ages of humanity—civilization—change. So with this change the delivery of the Truth needs to be relatable to everyone in every age in which the Gospel is preached and expected to be lived. In our time, this unbroken line of communicating the true faith has been passed on through the bishops and the priests.

The education and formation of future priests is an essential and important part of the Church’s growth and life in this world. We are taking the lead offered by the Church to create two new programs for the education and formation of the men whom God has given us to study for the priesthood. The first program is truly new and will impact the future of all men coming to the seminary (at whatever level) to study for the priesthood. Men, while not yet seminarians, enter into their first year of formation by way of a program called Journey. We see this year as an initiation into a measured and planned lifestyle, opening the man to the idea of the seminary and the disciplined and ordered life of priestly service.

The second program called Regency is open to seminarians, typically at college level or those in their later years as they are preparing for entry into sacred theology. Regency is a year set aside to work on human formation. The seminarian will have a chance to deepen his prayer life, experience fraternal life in community, work for a local business, study at Viterbo University and receive counseling with an in-house mentor. After his Regency experience, the seminarian is ready to complete his formal time of study in preparation for his ordination.

I would doubt very much that given today’s social needs and concerns, very few of us would want more doctors faster; speeding up their time in med school. Few of us would want a lawyer who took a quick trip through law school. These ideas could go on and on in various professions—except the priesthood. The need for priests is great; we cannot rush a man’s priestly formation. We cannot have the Church without priests; we cannot have the Eucharist (the living presence of Jesus Christ) without priests; yet, many seem to believe that we “invent” the Church on our own. It cannot be done and we need to start to understand that we cannot do so. We need properly and completely educated priests. The Church knows this to be true and She is serious about addressing the issue in our time.

There are many new ways of focusing our efforts in our beloved diocese. These new programs for priestly formation are centered on God’s blessings and His gifts of vocations to the priesthood are being fostered and cared for into the future. Pray for priests.

Prayer For Vocations

Heavenly Father, Bless your Church with an abundance of holy and zealous priests, deacons, brothers, and sisters. Give those you have called to the married state and those you have chosen to live as single persons in the world, the special graces that their lives require. Form us all in the likeness of Your Son, so that in Him, with Him, and through Him, we may love you more deeply and serve you more faithfully, always and everywhere. With Mary we ask this through Christ our Lord.

Amen.