Monthly Archives: November 2013


On the twenty-second of November we noted the fiftieth anniversary of the death of a famous Christian writer: Clive Staples Lewis. C.S. Lewis, as he is widely known, is favored by many Catholics for his works, such as Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters. Raised in the Church of Ireland but declaring himself an atheist by age 15, Lewis slowly re-embraced Christianity through the works of authors George MacDonald, J.R.R. Tolkien and G.K. Chesterton. Lewis eventually joined the Church of England, much to the disappointment of Tolkien who had hoped he would become a Catholic. Nevertheless, many Catholics have been moved and influenced by his works. One of the most famous and often quoted literary works from our earliest days of childhood is The Chronicles of Narnia. A famous epic which unfolds throughout seven novels describing the foundation and the destruction of a mythical kingdom called Narnia.

For our Advent reflection, let’s examine the major characters of the series. The four Pevensie children, Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy, represent humanity in the mythical land of Narnia. Aslan, the Great Lion, is the central character who appears throughout all seven books. Aslan is a talking lion who is wise, compassionate, and filled with magical and spiritual authority. He is the mysterious and benevolent guide to the human children and the savior and guardian of Narnia. C.S. Lewis described Aslan as a version of Jesus as He might have appeared in an alternative reality.

After their first adventure described in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the four children are once again transported to Narnia in Prince Caspian. While it had been only a year in their earthly lives, many more years had passed since their previous adventures in the mythical kingdom. They discover that everything has changed, and not all for the better. After a series of difficulties, Lucy, the youngest of the children, is finally reunited with Aslan in a forest clearing. She is full of affection for the lion and rushes to embrace him with her head fully lost in his ample mane and gazes up into his large face.

“Welcome child,” he said.

“Aslan,” said Lucy, “you’re bigger.”

“That’s because you’re older, little one,” he answered.

“Not because you are?”

“I’m not. But each year you grow, you’ll find me bigger.”

Advent encourages us to be like Lucy. We are called to approach Jesus and realize that as we grow spiritually we will find Jesus to be bigger. There will always be more Jesus than we can ever comprehend—more Jesus to know—more Jesus with whom we can form an even deeper relationship.

Advent is the season when we look deeply into the mystery of the Incarnation—the “how’s” and “why’s” of the coming of the Redeemer. We will always have questions about His coming; but we should never have doubts about His presence and His willingness to have us come to Him. Like the unending generosity of God, we can’t outgrow His presence. As we grow in the spiritual life He will always seem bigger, more interesting, more welcoming and friendlier.

This Advent, as we prepare for the celebration of Christmas, take some time to discover how deep is the mystery and presence of God in your life.

Candle one is lit this week. Blessed Advent and I’ll see you at Mass.


The Year of Faith will conclude this Sunday, the Solemnity of Christ the King, but our desire to seek the face of Jesus must continue. It may take time for us to see fully how the intended effects of the Year, evoked by Pope Benedict XVI, were achieved. Nevertheless, the Year of Faith has produced some fairly remarkable events around the Church and, specifically, around the Diocese of La Crosse.

We began the Year of Faith in October 2012, which coincided with the Fiftieth Anniversary of the beginning of Vatican Council II. The documents of the Council were called directly into focus with specific attention being given to the archetypical Constitutions: “Lumen Gentium” and “Gaudium et Spes.” These two documents in particular show “who the Church is” and “what the Church does” in the modern world. These two Council documents were mandatory reading during the Year of Faith—of course, if you missed them during the Year, they are still worth your time and effort.

Secondly, the Pope stressed the beauty of the teachings of our faith in the Catechism of the Catholic Church which celebrated its twentieth anniversary during the Year of Faith. No Catholic home should be without these two volumes: The Holy Bible (which should be read frequently, and, if possible, openly at family gatherings), and the Catechism. I have known many Catholics who put together games—such as “Catholic Trivia”—based on facts found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. This is still a unique way to teach about and discuss the basics of our Faith.

In our Diocese our focus was “Seeking the Face of Jesus.” The fundamental sense of knowing Jesus was based on us being aware that He is the human face of God and the deeper our union with Him, the greater our love; the greater our love for Him, the stronger our willingness to witness—to tell others about Him. This is basic “evangelization.” One of the tools we adopted for this work was the tool our Blessed Lord chose for Himself: the cross.

Simple wooden crosses made by a dear friend and benefactor of our Diocese, were distributed to each of our parishes and all of our apostolates. I am happy to say that those crosses made their way throughout homes and institutions all over the nineteen counties of western and north central Wisconsin—the Diocese of La Crosse.

So, now what? Well folks, we have spent time getting to know Jesus and His Church; maybe now it’s time for us to get up and get out and tell the Good News to others. You will be hearing more about the “mission” that Jesus has given to the Church—to us—over the coming months. The blueprint for our work will be found in Blessed John Paul’s 1990 encyclical: “Redemptoris Missio” or “The Mission of Christ the Redeemer.” Here the saintly pope speaks on the “permanent validity of the Church’s missionary mandate.” It is a fitting way for us to reflect on the lessons of the Year of Faith and implement the methods of what recent popes have called the ”new evangelization.” I think you will find this unfolding of faith in action a beautiful way of loving Christ in your heart and serving Him in the world around you.

Come to Mass this Sunday and proclaim Christ the King—then, let’s get to work about His mission and His Church!

Viva Cristo Rey!


Greetings, Everybody. I thought that it would be a good idea to get this statement out to you as soon as possible from our Bishops’ Conference meeting. There is still serious concern for the burning issues that assault our religious liberty and we all need to stay in prayerful vigil that Divine Light may shine in so many areas where darkness currently prevails. Thanks for your continued support and interest in this important task of defending our religious liberty. God be with you.


The bishops of this country have just concluded their traditional fall meeting in Baltimore and have spent time on issues important to them and their people: help to those suffering from Typhoon Haiyan; an update on the situation in Haiti; matters of worship and teaching; service to the poor; and comprehensive immigration reform. Among those priorities is the protection of religious freedom, especially as threatened by the HHS mandate.

Pope Francis has reminded us that “In the context of society, there is only one thing which the Church quite clearly demands: the freedom to proclaim the Gospel in its entirety, even when it runs counter to the world, even when it goes against the tide.”

We stand together as pastors charged with proclaiming the Gospel in its entirety. That Gospel calls us to feed the poor, heal the sick, and educate the young, and in so doing witness to our faith in its fullness. Our great ministries of service and our clergy, religious sisters and brothers, and lay faithful, especially those involved in Church apostolates, strive to answer this call every day, and the Constitution and the law protect our freedom to do so.

Yet with its coercive HHS mandate, the government is refusing to uphold its obligation to respect the rights of religious believers. Beginning in March 2012, in United for Religious Freedom, we identified three basic problems with the HHS mandate: it establishes a false architecture of religious liberty that excludes our ministries and so reduces freedom of religion to freedom of worship; it compels our ministries to participate in providing employees with abortifacient drugs and devices, sterilization, and contraception, which violates our deeply-held beliefs; and it compels our faithful people in business to act against our teachings, failing to provide them any exemption at all.

Despite our repeated efforts to work and dialogue toward a solution, those problems remain. Not only does the mandate undermine our ministries’ ability to witness to our faith, which is their core mission, but the penalties it imposes also lay a great burden on those ministries, threatening their very ability to survive and to serve the many who rely on their care.

The current impasse is all the more frustrating because the Catholic Church has long been a leading provider of, and advocate for, accessible, life-affirming health care. We would have preferred to spend these recent past years working toward this shared goal instead of resisting this intrusion into our religious liberty. We have been forced to devote time and resources to a conflict we did not start nor seek.

As the government’s implementation of the mandate against us approaches, we bishops stand united in our resolve to resist this heavy burden and protect our religious freedom. Even as each bishop struggles to address the mandate, together we are striving to develop alternate avenues of response to this difficult situation. We seek to answer the Gospel call to serve our neighbors, meet our obligation to provide our people with just health insurance, protect our religious freedom, and not be coerced to violate our consciences. We remain grateful for the unity we share in this endeavor with Americans of all other faiths, and even with those of no faith at all. It is our hope that our ministries and lay faithful will be able to continue providing insurance in a manner consistent with the faith of our Church. We will continue our efforts in Congress and especially with the promising initiatives in the courts to protect the religious freedom that ensures our ability to fulfill the Gospel by serving the common good.

This resolve is particularly providential on this feast of the patroness of immigrants, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini. She was a brave woman who brought the full vigor of her deep religious faith to the service of the sick, the poor, children, the elderly, and the immigrant. We count on her intercession, as united we obey the command of Jesus to serve the least of our brothers and sisters.


After not hearing from me in nearly a month, I send greetings from Baltimore and the annual Fall Meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. It seems as though we were just here, but now return with what seems like the same amount of material still requiring our attention and action for the good of the Church and for the protection of our religious liberty in our beloved country. The issues regarding the HHS mandate still loom over our heads and we are hopeful to be updated with some positive news. Your prayers are most welcome and certainly appreciated as we move through this week.

In early October I enjoyed the fellowship of our priests and deacons at the Annual Fall Clergy Conference, held at the Holy Cross Diocesan Center. We concentrated our efforts on parochial issues, the distribution of talent among our current band of clergy, and some new ideas for the future. This time of fellowship and study was well spent with many blessings received. Themes surfaced that may have a broader range of interest including our continued positive efforts in maintaining Catholic identity in healthcare, End of Life Issues, Durable Powers of Attorney for healthcare, and the like. These topics will provide us with future parish seminars and study groups. Another topic presented was our updated marriage preparation program. It is important that we ourselves become more clearly focused on the beauty and the gift of marriage given to us by God as the whole Church prepares for the Synod of Bishops convening next June to study and discuss Marriage and Family Life. I also took some time to share our work in this area with the Diocesan Pastoral Council at our meeting earlier this month. As you might think, there is great interest surrounding marriage these days.

The Diocesan Pastoral Council was also given an update on my meeting with the Wisconsin Catholic Conference held in Milwaukee at the end of October. Items discussed there included healthcare mandates and the preservation of conscience rights for medical professionals, the immigration reform efforts currently being considered in Congress, and some discussion of the Common Core in education curricula that may have some effect on Catholic schools.

This past month for me has been quite a whirlwind with meetings all over the country and Confirmations all over the Diocese!  All in all, I steadfastly maintain without a doubt, this is certainly an exciting time to be Catholic!

We’d certainly enjoy sharing the excitement with you at Sunday Mass.