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The True Heart of Christmas

As we make our way through the festivities associated with Christmas, try to take time to ponder the very action that we are celebrating; God became man. Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World, came into the world as a baby born of the Virgin Mary and was cared for by St. Joseph. We remind ourselves each year at Christmas of how much God loves us, what He has done for us and how much He wants us to be happy with him in Heaven. Find some quiet time this season and think about the very action of our salvation, how it came about and how it’s meant to be lived out.

There are so many external distractions, especially at Christmastime, vying for our attention: glitter and glamour, goodies and gadgets; it’s so easy to get carried away. This year, I’m asking you to look inside your heart, consider how much God loves you and what you’re worth in the eyes of God. Ponder these words from Psalm 8 “God made man a little less than the angels, crowning him with glory and honor.” When God created humanity, he knew what he was going to enter into humanity through the Incarnation, He knew Jesus would come to lead us to the Father and He knew we would need to be reminded of His love so many times.

My dear sisters and brothers, God loves you! He shows His love at Christmastime and, He shows His love every other day of the year too. Help me to bring the love of Christ into the world not only at Christmas, but every day of this coming year.

My prayer for you during this Christmas Season is that you will experience the love of God in a new and profound way.

Blessed Christmas to you – May the love of Christ reign in your hearts all year long!

Waiting with St. Joseph

Hear the word of the Lord, O nations; declare it to the distant lands: Behold, our Savior will come; you need no longer fear.

Hi Everybody, Bishop Callahan here with a few words as we enter into the season of Advent.

Advent is a time when we pay particular attention to the way in which the first coming of the Son of God occurred. The readings leading up to the birth of the Christ Child contain many prophetic details, and give us so many reasons to believe that God really did become man.

Jesus was born into a human family; Mary is His mother and St. Joseph, the father given to Him here on earth. This year we have been studying St. Joseph, and his role in Salvation History. St. Joseph bears many titles, most notably “Pillar of Families.” It was St. Joseph who provided for Mary, well before Jesus was born. It was St. Joseph who trusted the message of the angel, despite the uncertainties involved. And it was St. Joseph who protected Jesus and Mary, nurturing and caring for Jesus and watching over Him as he grew.

It is fitting for us to conclude this year, dedicated to St. Joseph, on December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Joseph loves Mary and together their love surrounded Jesus throughout this time here on earth. Joseph is a model for all men, he is a model for all husbands and he is a model for all fathers. His examples and mighty deeds, his justice and integrity lead us to become better followers of God and better believers in Jesus.

This Advent, take time to ponder what it must have been like for St. Joseph as he waited for the birth of Jesus.

Keep close to St. Joseph despite the many tempting reasons to doubt; pray through his intercession for the gift of fortitude to stay firm in your Faith. Make this Advent a time of preparation and be ready, as St. Joseph was, to welcome Jesus into your heart and home in a new and powerful way. And may this Advent season fill you with a sense of wonder and stir up your desire for Heavenly Joy.

Blessed Advent to you; St. Joseph fill our hearts with your love of Jesus.

Ordination to the Priesthood

It is my hope and prayer that each of you has seen by now my announcement that the general dispensation from attending Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation will end with the weekend of June 26-27. There remain, of course, some among the faithful for whom particular circumstances—illness, advanced age, or other serious reasons—may continue to excuse them from Sunday Mass. But for the majority of Catholics in the Diocese of La Crosse, the time has come to return in earnest to the gift of the sacred liturgy, our birthright as Catholics and the purpose for which we were born: the work of glorifying God and redeeming our corner of the world to God in Christ.

Christians are the soul of the world—not because of anything we’ve done through our own power or position in the world, but because we have been chosen by the Father, redeemed by the Son, and animated by the Spirit to restore all things in Christ (Ephesians 1:10). It is an awesome calling, one which brings both great graces and serious obligations.

The sacraments empower us for this life-saving mission. As I’ve written to you in recent blogs, the Sacrament of the Lord’s Body and Blood transforms worthy recipients into the Body of Jesus—Corpus Christi. The Holy Oils used in the Church’s various sacraments and sacramentals continue to conform us to Jesus, whom the Holy Spirit anointed with power. The sacrament of Holy Orders represents another of Jesus’ seven-fold gifts. And the ordination of priests—which the Diocese will celebrate on Saturday, June 26—is an especially great grace as we emerge out of darkness and into the light.

The ordination of three men—Deacons Arturo Vigueras, Timothy Reither, and Eric Mashak—on the morning of June 26 coincides with the lifting of the dispensation from Mass beginning with Saturday evening Mass on that same day. Moreover, the ordination of these three men stands as a true bridge into a new life for all Catholics of the Diocese. For a priest is a bridge, one who mediates our relationship with the Father and allows passage from a fallen and wounded world to a place of joy, peace, and communion with God. Please pray with me that the ordination of these men to the presbyterate of the Diocese will usher in a new period of post-pandemic faith among us.

Even though ordained priests stand in the place of Christ the High Priest, they cannot do their work alone. The Church expects the laity to assist them. Indeed, it’s Christ’s will that all of the baptized do so. You, the laity, are, in the words of Pope Pius XII, “on the front lines of Church life.” You live and work in the world’s households, schools, businesses, government, and industries in a way that priests do not. And you, the baptized, are especially equipped to redeem these arenas for Christ: by proclaiming the truths of faith, by serving in Christ’s name those he loves, and—as sharers in the priesthood of Jesus by your baptism—reconciling and restoring all things in Christ by prayer and sacrifice. Servant of God, Sister Thea Bowman, FSPA, who grew rich in her faith during her time here in the Diocese of La Crosse, put it nicely when she expressed the relationship between the ordained priest and the laity: “The work of the ordained minister, of the professional minister, is to enable the people of God to do the work of the Church.”

We are a priestly people, whether we share Jesus’ priestly mission through our common baptism in Christ or, as the three men to be ordained later this month will experience, by the laying on of hands at sacred ordination. In either case, we are called to animate God’s world—now more than ever! As we return to Mass, let us live by the Eucharist, receive the Holy Spirit with open hearts, and work with our pastors to bring all in our influence to God the Father. It’s what we were born—and re-born—to do.

I’ll see you at Sunday Mass!


Welcome Back to Mass

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

May the Lord give you peace.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon us!  As we recall Jesus’ words in Holy Scripture, “Behold, I make all things new,” I am pleased to announce the lifting of the general dispensation from Sunday Mass and Holy Days of Obligation, and I welcome all of you back to your faithful Catholic family beginning the weekend of June 26-27, 2021.  Only those who have reasonable cause for a continued absence from Sunday Mass and Holy Days of Obligation shall continue to be dispensed.

The Mass is our intimate encounter with Jesus.  We offer our lives together with Jesus to God the Father.  We receive the fruits of the sacrifice.  And we hear and obey His command to “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.”

There is a necessary connection, then, between the reception of the sacraments and our call and obligation to be Christ’s agents for good in the world.  All of us have learned this painful lesson during the past 18 months.   With the onset of the COVID pandemic, the limitations of the public celebration and participation in the Mass, and the slow return of the faithful to the regular reception of the sacraments, the world has felt the loss of its soul—of Christians alive for God. Our families testify to anxiety and fear; our communities bear the marks of sickness; and the daily news of our nation reports a life and culture far from God.  So that we might begin again to live more fully as the soul of our wounded world, it is necessary that we return to a regular reception of the sacraments, especially the Sunday Mass, the foundation of our lives as faithful and vibrant Catholics.

It is with open arms and a grateful heart that you are welcomed back to your Catholic family! 

God always wins!  We are saved!  It will be good to have you back!

In the heart of Jesus and Mary, I am,

+Bishop William Patrick Callahan

Bishop of La Crosse

Chrism Mass

The Chrism Mass celebrated annually by the Church typically takes place on Holy Thursday, or at least on one of the days leading up to it. This year I decided to move the Chrism Mass to the early summer—June 24, to be exact—so that more priests of the diocese may be able to attend amidst ongoing COVID precautions.

As we prepare for this yearly celebration, it is important to keep in mind that whether the Chrism Mass is held on Thursday of Holy Week, the last Thursday in June, or any other day of the year, its life-giving mysteries remain real.

First, the Chrism Mass is the occasion to bless the Oil of the Sick and the Oil of the Catechumens and to consecrate the Sacred Chrism. The Oil of the Sick, of course, is used by priests when anointing those who are in danger of death from sickness or advanced age. The Oil of Catechumens strengthens both infants and adults before their baptism. As a sign of strength, this blessed oil will enable those to be baptized to grapple with the devil, escape his grasp, and emerge victorious from the font. Lastly, the Sacred Chrism—which, unlike the previous oils, has a fragrant balsam added to it—signifies Christ in an especially beautiful way. Those things anointed with Sacred Chrism—such as altars and churches, and especially the newly baptized, the confirmed, and the ordained—bear a special resemblance and relationship to Jesus, whose Spirit anointed him and anoints us.

These supernatural truths of the Holy Oils appear particularly meaningful this year as we continue to emerge from pandemic conditions and prepare ourselves for a return to some semblance of sacramental normalcy. In Psalm 92, recited during Morning Prayer on Saturdays, the psalmist praises God because “The just will flourish like the palm-tree and grow like a Lebanon cedar. Planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God, still bearing fruit when they are old, still full of sap, still green, to proclaim that the Lord is just.” Despite the hardships of the past 14 months, we are called to “flourish” and to “bear fruit” in the Church and in the world. In some mysterious way, the sacred oils of the Chrism Mass are the “sap” that gives us true life in Jesus’ Mystical Body.

A second life-giving remedy also shows itself in the very celebration of the Chrism Mass. Recall that usually the Chrism Mass is celebrated on the doorstep of the Easter Triduum, which begins with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. These Easter feasts commemorate the great priestly work of Jesus: his suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension. And to prepare priests—and, with them, the entire priestly people—the Chrism Mass invites my brother priests to concelebrate the Mass with me, their Bishop.

Along with the Holy Oils, the office which will be administering these precious ointments over the course of the coming year—the priesthood—is a central theme of the Chrism Mass. The entrance antiphon of the Mass invokes the Book of Revelation: “Jesus Christ has made us into a kingdom, priests for his God and Father” (1:6). All priests in attendance renew their priestly promises on this, the “anniversary of that day when Christ our Lord conferred his priesthood on his Apostles and on us.” Following this renewal, I ask the faithful to pray for their priests—who nourish, forgive, comfort, and lead God’s people—even as I offer my own prayer that “the Lord keep us all in his charity and lead all of us, shepherds and flock, to eternal life.”

As we in the Diocese of La Crosse prepare to return to the full celebration of the Mass and the sacraments, let us call to mind the great mysteries of faith that God shows us in the Chrism Mass! May the anointing of the Holy Spirit conform us ever more closely to Jesus. And may our beloved priests always radiate the love of Jesus to those in their care.

I’ll see you at Sunday Mass!

Corpus Christi

Over this past year, many of us have not reaped the potential rewards offered us by receiving Jesus in Holy Communion. Many pandemic-inspired protocols have changed our customary ways of going to Communion. Some of the faithful, out of concern for safety, have viewed the Mass from home and made only a spiritual communion. Sadly, even as COVID has caused much physical illness and death, our celebration of the Mass—like so many other aspects of regular life—has also suffered in its own way from the effects of the disease….

But the time is coming—it is here already—when we must begin again to receive the Eucharistic Jesus more fruitfully!

Sunday, June 6, celebrates the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Jesus—Corpus Christi. The Church gives us this annual celebration so that we might focus—or, as it were, re-focus—on this great mystery of our faith.

I’d like you to notice something in particular when you attend Mass in person or watch the Televised Mass this Sunday. The Opening Prayer gives a remarkable insight into the reality of the Eucharist. Most of the time when the priest prays the Opening Prayer, he addresses God the Father, concluding, “Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit.” But on this day, Corpus Christi, the day set aside to redirect our attention to the Body of Christ, the priest speaks to Jesus himself. He prays to Jesus that, as we “revere the sacred mysteries of your Body and Blood…, we may always experience in ourselves the fruits of your redemption.” The sacred liturgy of the Church is asking each of us to keep our eyes and ears fixed on the Eucharistic Jesus this day!

But the Church doesn’t only address Christ at this Opening Prayer—Jesus also speaks to us, even as we receive him. St. Augustine imagined the Eucharistic Jesus saying to him from the Sacred Host that, in holy communion, Jesus is not so much changed into us as we are changed into him! Unlike earthly food that becomes a part of our physical body when we eat it, the body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus transforms us into himself, his own Mystical Body, and lets us share in his saving grace, victory, and joy.

The Eucharist—whether offered at Mass, received worthily in Communion, or adored in the tabernacle—is a true medicine of immortality and a real foretaste of heaven. At this stage of our lives and of our history, it is important that we desire this great grace and hunger for him.

May the Solemnity of Corpus Christi be a source of new life for us all!

I’ll see you at Sunday Mass!

He who believes in Christ becomes a child of God! – Easter Greeting 2021

Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!

I like to use the Paschal Greeting because it also proclaims who we are as believers and how we are to live as His disciples. The Kingdom of God is a reality that begins here on earth. We believe Christ rose from the dead and we believe His Church is the everlasting way His work is to continue. From the first Apostles and continuing to us today, The Kingdom of God is to be extended by all Christians until it has been brought into perfection by Christ at the end of time.

We are an Easter people. We are called to holiness because of Christ’s resurrection and his everlasting gift of love and we give witness to His love by our very lives. All are called to holiness as is written in the 5th chapter of Matthew’s Gospel “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

This Easter Season, pay particular attention in the Gospel accounts of the actions of the first Apostles. Their witness gives us strength to overcome any darkness and doubt we may be tempted to hold on to. Pray for a share of their excitement and joy and believe that you can help bring the Kingdom of God to everyone you meet.

Brothers and sisters, Christ is Risen and He is with us today! May you fully come to know His presence and experience His joy!

Blessed Easter to you – let us walk together as His disciples.

Lenten Greeting

This year I’d like you to focus on the universal call to holiness in the Church. Jesus gave us the Church as a lasting and uniquely holy means for achieving our eternal salvation. By his suffering, death and resurrection, he opened for us the way to heaven.

Take a moment now and think about what that means. How close are we to God and to “Godly” things, and what is our relationship with the Church?

We are all made in the image and likeness of God. We are able to radiate His likeness by how we live our lives and give witness in this world.

As you listen to the scriptures this Lent, consider these themes: resistance to temptation, consolation through prayer and the life giving sacraments of the Church.

The first week we hear in Marks’s Gospel how Jesus was tempted by Satan in the desert. We experience many temptations and are often deceived into believing they are the truth. Pray to the Holy Spirit for guidance and clarity of thought when you are “in the desert” of doubt or confusion.

The second week is the account of the Transfiguration. Peter, James and John were taken up on the mountain by Jesus. It is there that Jesus’ was transfigured, giving consolation and courage to these first Apostles. We too can draw courage and hope by remembering how Jesus overcame sin and death for each of us!

As the weeks continue, you will hear how the Son of Man came to fulfill the prophecies and establish the Church as a means for us to obtain our everlasting salvation. He will rebuild the temple, He is the source of all grace and when He is lifted up from the earth, He will draw everyone to Himself.

There are many ways to reignite your sense of holiness this Lenten season. May you make one small resolution to discover the depth and breadth of our eternal Church.

Blessed Lent to you. By your fasting, almsgiving and prayer, may you experience His love in a new and lasting way.

Catholic Schools Week

It’s good for us to spend some time thinking about Catholic Schools and the difference they make in our lives, in the lives of our families and the lives of the people who live in our communities. I’m committed to our Catholic Schools and brag about them every chance I get. I’m also very thankful for your teachers and others who work so hard to make sure you are getting the best education possible. Every day I pray for you and I pray for the success of our Catholic Schools.

Many of your mothers and fathers went to Catholic Schools and are now giving the gift to you. Some of your teachers are graduates of a Catholic School and are now sharing their love of Catholic Education. I graduated from a Catholic School many years ago. Many others who make our Catholic Schools possible have themselves benefited from Catholic Education.

Every year, our Catholic Schools make a big difference in people’s lives. Not only do you learn how to do many things, you learn how to become a disciple of Jesus. A disciple is someone who follows Jesus. In the Bible, you hear about the disciples who followed Jesus and learned from His teachings. Today, there are many disciples who learn about Jesus and want to live and act in a way pleasing to Him. I hope you want to live as a disciple of Jesus.

One disciple of Jesus is St. Joseph. St. Joseph took Mary as his wife and became the Foster Father of Jesus. This year we are remembering St. Joseph in a particular way to celebrate the 150th anniversary of his being declared patron of the universal church. Many of you know he is the patron of our diocese and our Cathedral is named in his honor; the Cathedral of St. Joseph the Workman. This year I’ve asked everyone in our diocese to pay particular attention to St. Joseph and there are many ways you can learn more about him and pray to him for his help in your life. One prayer is the Memorare to St. Joseph.

This week is a great time for us to celebrate our Catholic Schools and to celebrate our Faith. God has made each one of us, and every day you are learning about His love. Let us ask St. Joseph to watch over us with his fatherly care by praying the Memorare to him:

Remember, O most pure Spouse of the Virgin Mary, my noble protector St. Joseph, that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help, or sought your intercession was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence, I come to you, my spiritual father, and fervently commend myself to you. Despise not my petition, O Guardian of the Redeemer, but in your goodness hear and answer me. Amen.

The Peace in Christmas

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

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

This year, I invite you to take some time to enter into Christmas through the eyes of St. Joseph as we consider his role in the Incarnation and his unfailing trust in God’s plan for our salvation. Despite the many obstacles and circumstances with which he was presented, the Church celebrates his heroic virtues and has given him many titles. At Christmas, I invite you to consider these three specifically: The Spouse of Mary, The Foster Father of Jesus and The Pillar of Families.

St. Joseph, in a very humble and obedient fashion, took Mary as his wife, despite learning she was with child. St. Joseph was given peace when the angel explained to him the message of the Incarnation and Mary’s role in salvation history. St. Joseph rightly bears the title Spouse of Mary and we can look to him for inspiration when we are faced with difficult situations.

St. Joseph is also heralded in the Church as the Foster Father of Jesus. As a Jewish man and well aware of the Messianic Prophecy, Joseph took on the role as the protector of both Mary and Jesus. God chose to have his Son come into the world into a family. St. Joseph was there to provide for His earthly needs and to name Him “Son of David.” Together with Mary, they cared for and nurtured the Son of God from the moment of His Divine Conception.

We look to St. Joseph as a pillar of families. It was Joseph, who by his constant care, gave us a perfect example and model of Family Life. We “Go to Joseph” in times of trial and also in times of joy. Entrust your families to the protection of St. Joseph and pray for his intercession.

As you gaze on the Nativity scene this year, pay particular attention to St. Joseph. Remember how he cared for Jesus and Mary so many years ago. Be inspired by his presence and strive to be more like him whenever possible.

Blessed Christmas to you – May you find the peace in Christmas!