Monthly Archives: January 2017


Every year, at the beginning of Catholic Schools’ Week, the annual Brains and Brawn event is held in La Crosse. It’s a fun event for kids representing our wonderful Catholic schools from all over our beloved Diocese. The event features a basketball tournament and a knowledge competition. The students “strut their stuff” in some really inspiring ways giving evidence of the work being accomplished by parents, faculties, and administrators—oh, yes, and the children themselves—in our Catholic schools.

As I reflect on the beginning of Catholic Schools’ Week for this year, I am reminded of some of the great theological principles of the Patron Saint of Catholic Education, St. Thomas Aquinas. St. Thomas focused attention and energy in his estimation of the human person, on the beautiful mixture of faith and reason that truly makes human beings human.

A favorite gift I received this past Christmas is the book by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI: Last Testament. Pope Benedict, in this book, offers a summary in philosophy, theology, and plain beautiful common sense, of his magnificent and prolific life as one of the most significant pontiffs in the history of the Church. Presented in an interview format, the Pope responds to various questions, many of which are certainly pertinent to the condition of Catholic thought and Catholic response to the problems of our increasingly secularistic world.

A question posed to the Pontiff early on in the book concerns dealing with problems of faith in the world. Benedict responds that, “the difficulty so often with God is the question of why there’s so much evil and so forth; how something can be reconciled with His almighty power, with His goodness, that certainly assails faith in different situations time and again.” The Pope goes on in a follow-up question responding that, “primarily by the fact that I do not let go of the foundational certainty of faith, because I stand in it, so to speak, but also because I do not understand something, that doesn’t mean that it is wrong, but that I am too small for it.”

I have added the emphasis for the certainty of faith above.

Faith and reason become the basis of Catholic life in the world. To maintain the certainty of faith in a world that continually denies the foundation of that faith namely: God creates a variety of stress in the believer who is actually trying to live a genuine faith-filled life.

Brains and brawn—reason and strength—are definitely building blocks in the life of the faithful Catholic who will try to maintain faith in day-to-day life. From St. Thomas Aquinas even up to Pope Benedict, it certainly seems that the importance of Catholic education—Catholic thinking—must be guaranteed by the strength of Catholic Schools.

Brains and Brawn is an annual event at which our children compete and have fun doing it. It offers opportunities for all students to share their gifts and talents in a positive and challenging manner. The underlying strength of having such an event reminds all of us in the Catholic community of the importance of brains and brawn—reason and strength—in our everyday life. Every day, we must, as both St. Thomas and Pope Benedict have urged, stand on the certainty of faith. To do that we must have strength and courage and knowledge—brains and brawn—reason and strength. Our minds must be filled with knowledge of the truth, the truth that comes from God. We must be able to defend that truth—not merely with brute strength, but with interior strength—positive reason, virtue, and the Gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Celebrating Catholic Schools’ Week promotes these values and virtues. The celebration moves us beyond a simple awareness of Catholic schools existing to be an alternative to public schools. We exist to promote our faith—to teach value and virtue to our young. I support Catholic schools as my positive investment in the future. Catholic education matters; and Catholic schools make the difference. Support our schools and witness the difference our students are making—live the faith with your reason and strength.


In 1968 I graduated from high school and planned my continuing studies in advancement to the priesthood of Jesus Christ. In that same year, His Holiness Pope Paul VI issued a landmark encyclical titled Humanae Vitae (Human Life). The world, without exaggeration, went crazy in its complete disregard, disobedience and disrespect for every last comma in that encyclical—this included many priests and religious who publicly challenged the Holy Father’s moral authority in presenting such a document. The Church was forever changed by these actions.

Five years later, in 1973, the Supreme Court of the United States stepped into the void that was created by public and Catholic indifference to God’s law and ruled on the controversy of abortion, deciding that as a matter of privacy, a woman could legally murder her unborn child and suffer no penalty in civil law. In 1992, the Court determined that women had a constitutional right to an abortion by virtue of the 14th amendment of the Constitution. Moral and religious grounds in the matter of abortion on demand have become even more slim as the “culture of death” slips more deeply into a society that is becoming more and more politically complex and secular.

I was ordained a priest in 1977 and for the past forty years I have witnessed the complexities of political intrigues and nefarious public associations, not to mention a sad descent and unfortunate acceptance of hedonistic moral turpitude; in short, we live in “interesting times.”

Our society itself has made the acceptance of abortion part of what may be considered “the new normal.” With the rise of the sexual revolution and the disregard of the moral authority of the Church—most explicitly in the person of the Pope himself—it has become almost impossible to reestablish a positive moral compass for the society in which we find ourselves today.

While we mark the 44th anniversary of the Day of Shame and another March for Life in Washington, D.C., we must acknowledge that progress is being made—slowly, but surely. A new generation of young people does seem to value the gift of life and is starting to show it publicly.

While this is a positive step forward, we must recognize the fragile setting of the moral compass as a whole. We may be starting to recognize the value of life, but there is so much more of the moral dimension of life that we do not understand, value or accept to be true. Love has been reduced to mere sentiment or sexual pleasure. Marriage is no longer regarded with a foundation of commitment or permanence. Children are no longer considered gifts received by parents whose procreative and generous love for each other has brought them into being and whose commitment to each other will provide for them selflessly.

Time has passed and much has changed in 44 years. I often think that there is so much to do to restore balance and order in the world. There is, however, much to be hopeful for. The Gospel is still being effectively preached; and, it seems that while it may appear that fewer are actually listening, God’s generous heart still beats with love for His own. Grace abounds and God’s message of love for His people will not be silenced! Praise God.