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!

Mass – Our common prayer

O God, who have shown forth your salvation to all the ends of the earth, grant, we pray, that we may look forward in joy to the glorious Nativity of Christ.

Advent inspires us to “look anew” at our lives and prepare our hearts to welcome the Christ Child at Christmas.

As you start your Advent preparations, make time to pray with the scriptures. Whether you are able to attend Mass at your parish, are watching Mass at home or simply praying with the daily readings, listen to how the many prophecies of the Old Testament are fulfilled. We hear how the prophets foretold, how the shepherds responded and how Mary and Joseph welcomed the Christ child in Bethlehem.

This Advent, consider stepping into the season through the context of the Mass. On the first Sunday you will hear, “You, Lord, are our father, our redeemer you are named forever.” This prophecy, written several hundred years before the Resurrection of Jesus, identifies our Lord as father and redeemer. Facts we know today; but, for the people living before the birth of Christ, were kept as hope filled promises.

The second Sunday is about baptism. John the Baptist is heard saying “One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” Consider your own baptism, the entry point into your Catholic Faith. Your baptism is a divine call to live out your life in the way God intended it. Through your baptism, you are called to give witness to the Resurrection.

For the third week, consider the role of the Holy Spirit in your life. The readings focus on the Spirit and the joy that follows when we conform our will to the will of God. At Mass, you will notice the priest’s vestments will be rose, to express our joy in the coming of Jesus our Savior. The responsorial psalm is taken from Mary’s Magnificat, in which she exclaims: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord: my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” As you ponder how your life is guided by the Holy Spirit, let the joy of
your own witness radiate to those around you.

Mary’s, “May it be done to me according to your word,” allows the world to receive the Savior and brings to completion our Advent journey. Use the forth Sunday of Advent to recommit yourself to doing the will of God. Whether in large or small matters, listening to God’s word and being docile to His promptings will bring lasting joy to you and those around you.

Join me as we start this new Church year, recommitting ourselves to listening to the Word of God and going out to tell the Good News. Pray for the vision and courage to use your gifts to build up the kingdom of God.

We wait with expectant hope for the coming of Christ. We are created to know, love, and serve God and to be happy with him in heaven. May this Advent season fill you with hope and awaken your desire for Heavenly Joy.

Defending Life — Living Hope

Once again, we find ourselves in the spectacular month of October—crisp, clean, air, and the hints of Autumn color. My earliest remembrances of October focus on Saint Francis of Assisi. From 1964, when I began my seminary education with the Franciscans at our minor seminary in Crystal Lake, Illinois, October 3-4 were clearly marked out as “high holy days” for me since they were so spiritually and emotionally charged with the celebration of the life and death of Francis. It has stayed that way ever since. October took on some special significance as I started to gather up devotion to beloved Saint Therese of Lisieux (whose hometown and shrine I visited on pilgrimage with many other Wisconsinites last year). Her feast day is October 1 and she is patron saint of the Little Way—the patron saint of Love of God. Another great saint of October is Saint Teresa of Avila—a fiery Carmelite Nun who reformed the Order and wrote seriously about the interior and mystical life. Her feast of October 15 was made even more significant for me because it was the day, in 2007, while living in Rome, that I received notification of Pope Benedict’s call for me to become a bishop. Of course, October 22, is the feast of Pope Saint John Paul the Great, and there is so much of interest and note about him that has had great impact on my life!

In October, however, the Church takes special time to direct our attention to the sanctity and respect of human life. The cause of respect for human life has, of course, taken on enormous proportion over the years since the encyclical, Humanae Vitae of Pope Saint Paul VI, 25 July 1968. The encyclical was the epicenter of the sexual revolution of the sixties and the stillpoint of the disobedience in the Church regarding contraception and the growth of the misunderstanding of abortion as “just another form of birth-control.” The objectification and abuse of women and the ignorance and brutality of men toward them continues to this very day. All of this was, of course, foretold by our prophetic Pope Paul VI and expounded upon by every pope since. The wisdom and spiritual direction of the church has been silenced over the years since 1968 unto our day as men and women battle for “equality.” In 1973, the ultimate ignorance was served in announcing that abortion was legal and was sanctioned by the United States Constitution. Over the years, the “legal” murder of children has continued into the millions. Women’s “reproductive rights” and the “control over their own bodies” have become political platforms and slogans defined by political parties of every stripe. Very few people—religious and non-religious—seem to offer pro-life opinions for the children. It seems as though they are the true remnant of the struggle and the true victims whose “rights” are being trampled! I still find myself reminding people of a bumper sticker I once saw years ago: “It’s easy to be ‘pro-choice’–after you’ve been born.” 

I have been a priest for forty-two years, and I have been Catholic—that is pro-life—every one of those years. I’ve had talks with folks who have had abortions and those who promote them for others. It’s never an easy discussion and it often makes us uncomfortable—people get a little upset with my pro-life belief. Nevertheless, I try to avoid getting entrapped in the politics and sides of the issue. I try to stay clearly on the spiritual side. Too many people have reduced the life issue to a division of political parties and then once they’ve decided if you’re pro-life or not then they determine the political party with which you may be affiliated. God does not belong to a political party.

Abortion, in our society is terrible evil. Our family structures have been incredibly violated and all of society is being damaged. This is a sad reflection on our ability to form authentic and loving relationships as men and women in the sacrament of marriage. Children are gifts from God who are to be born into loving families with fathers and mothers who are committed to each other in genuine and lifelong relationships. The highest honor and privilege of being a woman is the joy of motherhood. Thus, being “reproductive machines” with rights over their own bodies must yield to the consideration of the rights of motherhood and the lives of the children only they can bear. Children must be seen as part of loving unions of husbands and wives—not simply the by-products of indiscriminate sexual romps. Abortions kill children—millions of children since the Court has given permission for such vile and destructive behavior.

October is Pro-Life Month. Pray for pregnant mothers. Pray for fathers. Pray for babies. Pray that babies may be born and live in a world of genuine love and care.

Who is that Masked Man??

For those of you who are old enough to remember that “tag line” from the Lone Ranger TV show—God bless you, you might be as old as I am. If you are approaching your seventies, please continue to take care of yourself. My sister Joann was the one who got on my case for not wearing a mask in these “COVIDly” unsettling times. My assistant Debbie created the Walmartly fashionable creation I am sporting above.

In all seriousness my dear brothers and sisters, I am hoping and praying that you are all taking good care of yourselves, washing your hands, covering your mouths, and all the things we are told to do to stay alive—and healthy.

The priests of our Diocese—your pastors—are maintaining contact with the Diocesan Central Offices in order to speak about questions and concerns coming from you to them and on to us for advice and answers. These are challenging times for all of us and we do need to move slowly, patiently, and prudently. Please keep that in mind when you are addressing your pastors—and even me. Thank you. We, your priests and bishops, are trying to do our best to stay in contact with the state leadership; encouraging everyone at that level to understand how important our faith is to us and, especially during the Easter season, for us to attend Mass and receive the sacraments. Let us continue to pray that God will send a remedy for us in this time of distress.

The Year of Saint Joseph will be a big help for us. St. Joseph is a principal patron of our Diocese and, of course, our Cathedral. On Friday, 1 May, I will celebrate with you, via livestream media, the Holy Mass at 12:00 noon, in order to launch this year of prayer and good works. Please check the website diolc.org for further information and ideas—beyond the time of pandemic. (It will come to an end, we trust.)

In all other areas, please remember to call one another on the phone or send notes via email or snail mail. Remain close to one another in His Love and ask for God’s blessings as we make our way together.

Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!

Our Lenten journey this year has been most striking. We read of the ancients going through the desert, separating themselves and being alone with God. We too have joined in their practice, not by our choice but for our safety.

Despite our separation and inability to celebrate Easter together in church, we must continue to proclaim and believe the most astonishing fact about our Lord and Savior. He suffered, He died and He rose from the dead on that first Easter morning. The first witnesses were filled with many deep emotions and their hearts were moved to greatness. To this day, we too are comforted by the Resurrection and His promises.

We are an Easter people! Easter Sunday begins the Octave of Easter; eight days to continue the celebration of Easter. Eight days to hear accounts of Jesus’ post-Resurrection appearances. The final day of the Octave, the Second Sunday of Easter, is also known as Divine Mercy Sunday. We hear the words of our Lord, recounted in the Gospel, when he tells Thomas and he tells us, “Blessed are they who have not seen me, but still believe.” (John 20:29)

Easter is known as the ‘Feast of Feasts’ – the solemnity of solemnities. The celebration of Easter extends to Pentecost Sunday. Forty days after Easter we celebrate the Lord’s Ascension. The Church then remains in prayer as we await the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Fiftieth day of Easter, concluding the Easter Season.

So let us keep the Easter spirit alive in our hearts and proclaim it to everyone we meet.

We are an Easter people!

Blessed Easter to you – and I’ll see you at Sunday Mass!

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!