Monthly Archives: June 2021

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!