Examine the Virtue of Penance

O God, who desire not the death of sinners, but their conversion, mercifully hear our prayers during this observance of Lent, that we may gain pardon for our sins and a newness of life.

Hello everybody, Bishop Callahan here … reminding you that the essence of the virtue of penance is a conversion of heart toward God and away from sin.

The Church gives us this season of Lent as a time to focus on a certain part of our faith and make an effort to deepen our understanding through fasting, prayer and almsgiving. This year I’d like to invite you to examine the virtue of penance. … Are you ready to open yourself up to a deeper conversion of heart toward God and away from sin?

Jesus Christ came to earth to save us from sin and give us the means to forever live with him in the happiness of heaven. It is by His Grace that we are inspired to know, love, and serve Him here on earth. It is with great Hope that we attempt to amend our lives and to be open to receiving His Divine Mercy.

Take time to examine your conscience, and make time to go to confession. Let this Sacrament of Grace be a source of strength and a haven of peace. Experience His healing power and re-claim focus for your life.

Rend you hearts and not your garments!

Blessed Lent to you. Let us be ready to receive the Easter Joy together!

It’s Lent Again …

Allow me to remind you that Wednesday, February 14, is not only Valentine’s Day—but, more importantly, it is Ash Wednesday. “O, my goodness,” you may say and point to the boxes of Christmas decorations that you haven’t had chance to bring back to storage. Yeah, I realize that may be an exaggeration.

So many times we find ourselves unable to manage our time. We have bells, whistles, schedules, and all sorts of electronic gizmos and doodads to help us track days, weeks, hours, etc. I am reminded of this point each day as I put on my watch. It was gift from my mother in 1973, when I graduated from Loyola University. It’s a Seiko that displays the day and the date. I thought it was incredibly frivolous since—in my youth—I could not imagine how anyone could not know the day of the week. What a difference 48 years can make in one’s perceptions …

Nevertheless, since keeping track of time, or at least trying to be punctual, has become such a part of human obsessiveness, I’m concerned that we seem to have lost sight of the passing of time that concerns itself with the management of our spiritual lives. At one point in human history the management of all life was based on the Church calendar—the preparation for the major feasts of Christmas and Easter in particular. That concept seems lost on the current age.

Another problem presenting itself for us this Ash/Valentine Wednesday is the situation involving fast and abstinence and how we are expected to deal with this very important element of Lenten discipline. In the modern age, we have become accustomed to the fact that if St. Patrick Day occurs on a Friday in Lent, typically there will be a dispensation from the abstinence from meat—especially if the local Ordinary is of Irish descent. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent and sets the boundaries for the entire season that determines the great penitential and sacrificial time of the Church year.

Catholics have recognized Ash Wednesday as the start of Lent for over a thousand years. The last time Ash Wednesday fell on February 14 was in 1945, well before the secular celebration of Valentine’s Day became such a bacchanal. The next time this will happen will be in 2024, and then again in 2029.

So, I strongly urge that if you are planning a celebration of Valentine’s Day with your husband, wife, or special someone, please do so the day before. Centuries have given this time over to Mardi Gras, so there is no problem in choosing it as your time for a special night out.

Keep in mind that Catholics throughout the world recognize Ash Wednesday as the solemn beginning of prayerful reflection and penance as evidence by the large number of the Faithful who take advantage of coming to Mass and being signed with Ashes as a symbol of the brevity of life and the call to personal reformation.

Ash Wednesday is not a day of obligatory Mass attendance. Catholics who have celebrated their 14th birthday are to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday, all Fridays in Lent, and Good Friday. In addition to abstaining from meat, Catholics who have celebrated their 18th birthday, until they celebrate their 59th birthday, are to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. (Code of Canon Law C.1249-1253)

In any event, the idea is to be with the one you love for both Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day. Your day will be infinitely blessed by making these choices wisely.

Blessed Lent to all of you!

A New Year Reflection

A year is dead, a year is born:
Thus time flies by on silent wing:
Thou, Lord, alone canst guide our course
And safe to heaven Thy people bring.  (Lapsus est Annus)

Long ago, our ancestors greatly feared the passage of time. We experienced a bit of that years ago when we turned the page on the year 2000. Certainly, our fear was more sophisticated than that of our ancestors, largely due to our advanced technological wisdom. I don’t think it was, however, solely a fear of universal computer crashes that sent our heads reeling into a “what would happen if …” syndrome. I believe we remain concerned about our inability to control time—basically to control our destinies—to set our own futures and control our own lives. While there is nothing inherently wrong with those kinds of thoughts, without anchors of faith, hope, and the awareness of the reality of God in one’s life they become strange specters of emptiness and fear.

For people of faith, the arrival of the New Year musters a sense of confidence and vision for a future that one is reasonably capable of attaining—with personal diligence and God’s help. The absence of faith, so prevalent in our society today, creates a vacuum of hopelessness that is being filled with worldly aspirations that consistently fail to satisfy or endure. Hence, New Year resolutions made without God’s blessings tend to fail almost as quickly as they are dreamed up.

We have an opportunity, as 2018 comes into existence, to experience something unique. For us, in the Diocese of La Crosse, 2018 is an anniversary year—our Sesquicentennial Year. For one hundred and fifty years, people living in western and north central Wisconsin have worked hard to develop a sense of the Catholic faith. Their diligence allows each one of us to possess a sense of integrity and centeredness that opens us to a useable future filled with purpose and hope.

Our ancestors struggled with lives of drudgery and hard work, but they achieved success through an understanding that their work was not in vain. They were building the future for themselves and, well, for us too. Their integrity and personal awareness helped build confidence that they were passing on a society filled with values and accomplishments. Their true sense of ethics and altruism paved the way for future generations who, with faith and confidence in the power of God, would build upon the foundations they laid. They planned a future with a clear vision of the Kingdom of God on earth and in heaven as they were promised by God Himself.

As we embark on 2018, let us gather the good from our past and, with God’s providence, confidently move forward. May you have a happy and hope-filled New Year!

O Lord, our daily wants supply;
Protect from sickness and disease;
And deign to give, O God of love
The blessings of unbroken peace.  (Lapsus est Annus)             

Let your Christmas Joy Shine Forth

Grant, O Lord, we pray, that we may draw new vigor from celebrating the Nativity of your Only Begotten Son, by whose heavenly mystery we have received both food and drink.

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

Jesus Christ came to earth, He was born in a humble stable, and he grew up in a poor family. Simple shepherds were the first to witness this moment in our earth’s history. In this stupendous action, God becoming man, heaven’s glory was made manifest and we have been singing the glory of that night ever since.

It is important for us to remember and celebrate this point in our history, that very first Christmas, because when we discover history, we discover the truth. History reveals our very nature; what we are meant to be as human beings.

This time of year, let your senses awaken. There are so many ways to open up to the wonder of God’s providence as revealed to us in small but beautiful ways. The fragrance of cookies, the sounds of bells, the warmth of mittens gives us reasons to remember that God is watching over us and even the smallest of actions are part of his intention for our lives.

Take time to be. So often we are pulled through our lives, rushing from one thing to the next, trying to stay ahead of this deadline or that reminder. This year, treat yourself with a few moments of quiet. Enter into a silent dialogue with Jesus, being with Him and letting Him be with you. Spend a few extra moments in prayer, linger after Mass, or make a visit to adore Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. By taking a few small steps, you will find new energy and balance for your life.

Jesus Christ came to earth, He was born in a stable, and we have reason to celebrate! Let your Christmas Joy shine forth as you go out to all the world and tell the good news.

Blessed Christmas to you; may you share the Hope of Christ by your life.

Advent Message from Bishop William Patrick Callahan 2017

Grant to us, O Lord, a new vigor in our time of Advent, that, as we prepare to celebrate in adoration the festivities of your Son’s Nativity, so may we possess in gladness his everlasting rewards.

Hi Everybody,

Bishop Callahan here, asking you to make some time this Advent season to reflect on the great mystery of the Annunciation. We hear the reading from St. Luke on the Forth Sunday of Advent, recounting the visit of the angel Gabriel. Mary, fully human, encountered Gabriel, a pure spirit, and our world was forever changed. Mary’s response “May it be done to me according to your word” brought salvation to humanity in that very instant as Mary became the Mother of God.

Our Blessed Mother’s example gives us the courage to say “Yes”. “Yes” to the will of God in our lives. How many times are we prompted to do good or called to help someone in need.  Are we able to acknowledge our shortcomings and make amends for our failures?

Mary’s Love for Christ began at the moment of her “Yes”. After Our Lord was conceived in her womb, Mary set out in haste to bring Our Savior to her cousin, Elizabeth, whom she learned was also expecting a child, expecting John the Baptist. Her journey, her visitation is a model for us to follow. When we have an encounter with Christ we should attempt to tell others of what we experienced, to share what we have received.

Sharing our faith gives Hope. And sustained by hope, we are preserved from selfishness and drawn to the happiness that flows from charity.

The Church has given us this time of Advent, a time of expectant waiting, a time of preparation, and a time to anticipate receiving the Christ Child on Christmas!

Blessed Advent to you; may you say “Yes” to our coming Savior.

What Happens in Vegas…

Yes, I think we’ve all seen the commercials about the advantages of vacations in Las Vegas—peace, quiet, and privacy. No one of us expects the horror of evil to be a part of our fun or our participation in an event such as a Country Music Festival.

Once again, however, we confront the problem of unexplainable evil in our society. Murder and mayhem have brought the bloodshed of war to our homeland. What sadness for us to have to associate these evils with the fun that comes from a valued vacation “get away.”

We mourn the deaths of our brothers and sisters who were gunned down by a very deranged man who ultimately took his own life—all this at the beginning of October, Respect Life Month. When will we learn?

Let us pray for our beloved dead and for those who were wounded in this latest affront to God’s gift of life. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord; and let perpetual light shine upon them! God grant peace to the deceased and to their families; and may Almighty God grant physical and emotional healing to all who have been so adversely affected by this cruelty.

Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, pray for us!

Dear brothers and sisters, I am so happy that we maintain a strong spiritual bond with our brothers and sisters at Casa Hogar in Peru. Not only is there the strong financial support we provide through the Fr. Joseph Walijewski Legacy Guild, but also there is our strong union through the Rosary promotion that is offered by the boys and girls who make the rosaries that I am happy to give away at our Confirmation ceremonies across the Diocese. As young people in our Diocese receive the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, they are drawn more deeply into the mystery of love shown to us in the consolation of our meditation on the life of Grace offered to us in the recitation of the Rosary.

I remind our young people (and all those who attend our Confirmation ceremonies) that the Rosary is not “junk jewelry,” nor is it an “accessory,” for dead bodies. Praying the Rosary unites us with the Biblical realities of our Blessed Lord’s life among us, and offers us the opportunities to meditate on those realities with our Blessed Mother. This is a strong part of the devotional life of the Church. Devotion helps us to energize our faith with a personal sense of attachment to Jesus and Mary, in this case; but devotion energizes us with strength to enter more deeply into personal relationship with each of the Members of the Blessed Trinity and with all the saints.

Disassembling our prayer through the mediations of the Rosary, we come to a deeper awareness of our relationship with Jesus and Mary and enter into the reality of their life and their genuine human experiences that lead us more predictably to their sharing of divine experiences with us as well.

Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Ignatius of Loyola were great champions of imaginative prayer, or the opening of the mind and heart to the contemplation of a Scriptural passage by placing oneself in its midst as a participant. In Francis’ case, one of the most stirring examples is the formation of the Christmas crib—or Francis’ “real life” version of his imaginative prayer about the Nativity of Our Blessed Lord. For Ignatius, we have the “Spiritual Exercises” used by countless men and women for retreats over the years; or the “Consciousness Examen,” trusted as a means of daily prayer and personal “self-correction” for one’s daily life. These forms of prayer bring us into the area of contemplation and meditation used by saints over the centuries of active and genuine faith.

October is traditionally held as the “Month of the Rosary,” particularly noting the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary on 7 October (established by His Holiness Pope Pius V after the victory of Christian forces in the Battle of Lepanto in 1571) as the epicenter of the devotion. I must further remind you once again, that the Church celebrates 2017 as the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Blessed Lady at Fatima. Both of these events are very significant for Christian and world civilizations for without the victory at Lepanto and the warnings given at Fatima—both done under active involvement of Our Blessed Lady, and both accomplished by the praying of the rosary by virtue of Her direct instruction—the world, as we know it, would be an extraordinarily different place!

Battles fought hundreds of years ago, apparitions of Mary, happening a hundred years ago, do not seem to phase us much these days; nevertheless, there is a strange nexus in the power of evil and the lives of all humanity, that seems to bubble and hiss in the cauldron of contemporary society threatening once again and with even greater ferocity to spill out, scalding and destroying our fragile lives.

I urge you, my dear brothers and sisters, pray the Rosary! Be active in your devotion to the Mother of God. She has been involved—over centuries—in the affairs of humanity and has warned us about so many aspects of our silliness and empty pursuits. She has been right—everytime!

Statement Regarding DACA Decision

Dear Brothers and Sisters–

The recent decision by the Administration to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, has created quite a stir among many people. This is a difficult moment in our beloved, yet morally and socially confused and conflicted country.

Nevertheless, we offer support to all those who are legitimately affected by this decision, and urge members of Congress to act immediately and decisively in defense of human rights for those affected and for all of us who support human dignity and liberty for all Americans.

I trust that our constant prayers in support of all human life will have some bearing on our government officials to protect human dignity and justice. Once again, we pledge to work with our legislators to establish a system that promotes and supports justice for all.

+William Patrick Callahan
Bishop of La Crosse

Easter Greetings

Christians, to the Paschal Victim   Offer your thankful praises!   A Lamb the sheep redeems; Christ, who only is sinless,   Reconciles sinners to the Father.  Death and life have contended   in that combat stupendous:  The Prince of Life, who died, reigns immortal.

Hi everybody, Bishop Callahan here to proclaim that Jesus Christ has indeed risen from the dead!

Take a moment to recount the historical events surrounding that first Easter … the trial of our Lord Jesus Christ – ending with the crowds calling for his crucifixion … His death on the cross – openly witnessed by many who saw first-hand that he did indeed die … and then his resurrection – The bodily rising of Jesus from the dead on the third day, after His death on the cross and His burial in the tomb – that time when He appeared to those who had previously walked with him and followed his teaching, revealing himself not theatrically but rather personally to those whom He chose. It’s His resurrection that demonstrates to us that there is a resurrection; a particular resurrection promised for each and every one of us. A very personal fact that many are unwilling to accept.

Death and life have contended and we are the beneficiaries of that stupendous combat. For without the battle between death and life, between the Devil and Jesus, there would be no resurrection or hope for our eternal future in heaven, where we are to be forever united with the Trinity and all the blessed.

Jesus is the one who takes on our mortal enemy – death –

It is Jesus who fights with Satan in Hell

It is Jesus who “un does” the bondage of slavery to sin

It is Jesus who gives us the promise of immortality.

My brothers and sisters – during this Easter Season, take time to thank God for the gift of Jesus Christ. For without His birth, without His death and without His triumphant resurrection that rescued us from the clutches of death, we would have no hope of everlasting life!

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


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.