Letters From a Pastor to His People

  • 05 July 2020 | By

    Letters from a Pastor to His People- July 5, 2020


    Dear Parishioners,

    If you missed my bulletin letter from last week, I explained how I am away currently and will be for the entire month of July making a 30-Day Retreat.  Just a reminder, I will not respond to any messages, so if there is an emergency, please contact the parish office or Father Emanuel. I wrote this week’s letter, and the upcoming letters, ahead of time, just to offer a little spiritual reflection on the readings.  I would also, however, like to provide some wisdom from St. Ignatius of Loyola.  Perhaps you could do a little "30-Day Retreat" with me.

30 Jun

God is Our Inheritance

Father James baptized the children of some recent SJS alumni. Congratulations!

Letters from a Pastor to His People- June 30, 2019

Dear Parishioners,

In the Old Testament, each of the Twelve Tribes of Israel were given parcels of land throughout Israel, following the Exodus and return to the Holy Land.   That is, all of the tribes except the tribe of Levi.  The Levites were set apart as priests for Israel.  This was determined by Moses when he came down from Mount Sinai with the Law.  The Levites would not farm, goat and sheep herd.  They would not have to worry about land disputes.  Their whole task was to care for the Temple in Jerusalem.  How would they be sustained?  From where would their livelihood come?  One word answer: God.

30 Jun

Two Hearts United

Sacred Heart of Jesus - Jesuit Retreat House on Lake Winnebago in Oshkosh, Wisconsin

One of the more unique depictions of the Sacred Heart of Jesus can be found at the Jesuit Retreat House on Lake Winnebago in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.  The statue is of Jesus sitting down with his arm wrapped around a small boy.  The boy, clearly in distress, rests his head on our Lord's shoulder.  Jesus' entire attention is on the child.  He is not thinking about anything else.  He is like a good parent completely present to his child who is upset about something.  The child finds comfort in being able to simply be with someone who offers unconditional love.  Jesus does not need to say or do anything.  The boy is not asking for anything.  The two hearts—one taking in, the other offering out--are united.

Jesus desires us to be like children (see Matthew 18:3). He tells the apostles to let the children come unto him (see Matthew 19:14).  Children are completely dependent and vulnerable and authentic.  When we acknowledge our pain and open ourselves to God, the Sacred Heart begins to beat.  Christ pours his love and comfort out upon us.  Our heart communes with his--this is the essence of mystery of the Sacred Heart.

We are called to take our sorrow and nothingness to the Lord and sit with him, surrounded by his love.  We can trust that Jesus will be attuned to us. Whatever wound we bear will be silently healed.

There is a second part, then, to this Sacred Heart image. We are called to be like Christ and offer that love and comfort to another.  Whether we are parents or not, the challenge is for us to focus our complete attention, in love and desire, upon those before us.  We can be an alter Christus.


30 Jun

Gospel June 30 2019

In the First Reading, from the First Book of Kings, Elijah is told by God to transfer his authority to Elisha. He is very willing to respond to his call, but first asks if he can bid farewell to his parents. Elijah’s harsh remark is no harsher than Jesus’ in today’s Gospel. This is a story of prophetic succession. It is done not only by spoken word, but also by symbolic action, i.e., passing of the mantle which represents the handing down of prophetic authority from Elijah to Elisha. 

The Second Reading is taken from Paul’s Letter to the Galatians. Paul speaks about Christian freedom. Christian freedom is not a license to do what we want especially not a license to follow every urging of the flesh. Rather, Christian freedom calls us to be free to serve others in love. The Spirit, on the other hand, is that part of us that seeks to follow God’s promptings. If we submit to the Holy Spirit, he will help us to resist the inclinations of the flesh and embrace the ways of Jesus. 

The Gospel Reading is from the Gospel of Luke. Several disciples claim to be His followers, but first they have to fulfill other obligations. The point here is that following Jesus is not a question or action of getting up and walking in His footsteps. Rather, it is a change of heart and focus of those actions that relate to our commitment to follow Jesus whenever or wherever He leads us.

30 Jun

Evangelical Counsels


Returning to our topic of pairing theological virtues with the three evangelical counsels, I want to first say more about the term "evangelical counsels.”

These counsels of obedience, poverty, and chastity are guides to imitating Christ and are described as being evangelical. The use of this term is not to be confused with the Evangelical church. The original meaning has always been connected with the work of evangelization, coming from the Greek word, euangelizesthai, which means to bring the good news. During the time of the Roman Empire, this term carried the connotation that whatever the good news was it meant that Rome was being strengthened and had achieved something.

The pairing of poverty with hope should direct our minds to recognize our own poverty compared to God. We are always in need of such things like, material necessities, peace, rest, happiness, forgiveness, help, guidance, etc. There is an inclination in our material oriented society to label "being in need" as always a negative. It is better to be independent, and this is the guarantee for reaching fulfillment. But if this is the case, then there is no point in having a relationship with God. Now here is the hope, we have a loving heavenly Father who so desires to provide for us. Consider chapter six in the book of Matthew, Jesus outright says it is the Father's desire to care for our every need.

In our relationship with God, it is good to share with Him what we are in need of. Let Him know what is lacking in your life. We can pray for these things, but there is also a deeper trust when we simply place our needs before God, and like a trusting child, we rest in the hope that God will provide according to what is best for our sanctification.

This aspect of our faith is counter-cultural, because with the gift of Hope we do not have to worry when we are in need. Hope bears witness to Our Lord's Resurrection and Ascension, that He reigns in heaven with all authority, seated at the right hand of God the Father interceding for us. Thus, poverty coupled with hope is evangelical; it shares the good news. And this is the good news, our souls and minds are being strengthened by Christ, who, by His grace, is sanctifying us.


23 Jun

Feast of Corpus Christi


The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, historically known by its Latin name, Corpus Christi, celebrates the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist—Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. It is traditionally celebrated on the Thursday following the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity. The feast dates to the Middle Ages and originated with a visionary nun and a Eucharistic miracle.


In 1263 a German priest, Fr. Peter of Prague, made a pilgrimage to Rome. He stopped in Bolsena, Italy, to celebrate Mass at the Church of St. Christina. At the time he was having doubts about Jesus being truly present in the Blessed Sacrament. He was affected by the growing debate among certain theologians who, for the first time in the history of the Church, began introducing doubts about the Body and Blood of Christ being actually present in the consecrated bread and wine. In response to his doubt, when he recited the prayer of consecration as he celebrated the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, blood started seeping from the consecrated host and onto the altar and corporal.

Fr. Peter reported this miracle to Pope Urban IV, who at the time was nearby in Orvieto. The pope sent delegates to investigate and ordered that host and blood-stained corporal be brought to Orvieto. The relics were then placed in the Cathedral of Orvieto, where they remain today (see photo below).

This Eucharistic Miracle confirmed the visions given to St. Juliana of Mont Cornillon in Belgium (1193-1258). St. Juliana was a nun and mystic who had a series of visions in which she was instructed by Our Lord to work to establish a liturgical feast for the Holy Eucharist, to which she had a great devotion.

After many years of trying, she finally convinced the bishop, the future Pope Urban IV, to create this special feast in honor of the Blessed Sacrament, where none had existed before. Soon after her death, Pope Urban instituted Corpus Christi for the Universal Church and celebrated it for the first time in Orvieto in 1264, a year after the Eucharistic Miracle in Bolsena.

23 Jun

The Feast of Corpus Christi

Father James with a recent SJS graduate

Dear Parishioners,

We celebrate Corpus Christi today.  The Eucharist is the real body and blood of Christ our Savior, which means the Eucharist is powerful.  It has a real effect on us.  There are three things the Eucharist does, each corresponding with one of the readings. 

1) The Eucharist gives us strength to perform our duties and obligations in life.  Abram had just defeated several tribes in the Palestine region to establish his position.  Soon after, a priest named Melchizedek brings an offering of bread and wine (cf. Gen 14:18-20).  In turn, Abram gives the priest a tenth of his spoils.  The bread and wine offered by this priest Melchizedek is a foreshadowing of the Eucharist.  It not only celebrated Abram's success, it gave Abram strength to be both King and father of the Israelite people.  When we go to Mass or pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament, we are given strength to be the best spouse, parent, sibling, student, worker, priest that we are called to be.

23 Jun

JRR Tolkien

JRR Tolkien was a devout Catholic. He said on one occasion the Lord of the Rings is "a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision." Lord of the Rings, while not an allegory, like C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia (Tolkien was instrumental in Lewis' conversion from atheism to Christianity, by the way) is simply meant to make us feel Catholic.

The hobbits are innocent.  Only Frodo, who is celibate, can carry the ring. He is assisted by the Lady Galadriel and other strong women who are inspired, in Tolkien's mind, by the Blessed Mother.  (Tolkien had a great devotion to the Virgin Mary—he had part of the Litany of Loreto memorized and even translated it into his created language.) And Frodo is fed on his journey by lembas, the special elven bread that does not have much taste but is sustaining.  Yes, the Eucharist!   

Tolkien had a great love for the Eucharist.  A priest, Fr. Francis Morgan, took care of JRR and his brother after they orphaned at an early age.  JRR served Mass and participated in the 40 Hours Devotion, which involves adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.  And, towards the end of his life, Tolkien wrote this to his son Christopher:

Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated, I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament ... There you will find romance, glory, honour, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves upon earth ... which every man's heart desires.

Not just Christopher, but Tolkien's oldest son, John, took to himself his father's love of the Eucharist.  John became a Catholic priest and celebrated daily that which directed JRR's life and was the guiding light for middle earth.

23 Jun

Gospel June 23, 2019

In the First Reading, from the Book of Genesis, we have a story about Melchizedek, King of Salem (early name for Jerusalem) who comes to greet Abram by returning from a victorious battle. Melchizedek, who is also a priest, blesses Abram with bread and wine. The bread and wine are taken to prefigure the bread and wine of the Eucharistic sacrifice that celebrate Jesus’ victory over death, evil and sin, and enable us to remember our union with Jesus.

The Second Reading is taken from St. Paul's First letter to the Corinthians. This is the most ancient text we have on the origin of the Eucharistic sacrifice of Christ. Since Paul was not present at the Last Supper, he is passing on what he himself received. Jesus gave us the Eucharist and the command to continue the practice of participating in the Eucharist to nourish our souls and spirit, but also to give our bodies in loving service and example just as Jesus did. This is what "Do this in remembrance of me" means.

The Gospel Reading is from the Gospel of St. Luke. This is the only miracle story recorded in all four Gospels. Jesus is out in the desert with a large crowd of people, teaching them about the reign of God and healing their sick. Jesus is feeding the multitude with a few loaves of bread and a few fish with more than enough for everyone and much left over. It is a prelude to His institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper. “All are satisfied” and there are 12 baskets left over. “Give them something to eat yourselves” is a challenge to the Church to feed the physical and soul-hungers of people.

23 Jun

Whoever sees me has seen the Father

In a previous issue I talked about a spiritual relationship between obedience, poverty, and chastity, and faith, hope, and love.  

In this issue I want to say more on this pairing, to provide food for fruitful meditation throughout the week. This might sound like a broken record, but actually it's the heart of the matter; it's the firm foundation, Jesus Christ revealed to us what it means to be human, and that is to love. Our Blessed Lord taught the teaching of Torah, treat one another as you want to be treated. The greatest way we can treat people and ourselves is with love. Good, but what about our relationship with God?  

16 Jun

Feast of the Holy Trinity

Human intelligence needs God's help to apprehend the inner reality of God.  Certainly, human reason can employ natural analysis to some extent to describe God in terms of causality and motion and goodness.  Saint Anselm, who models the universality of Christendom by being both an Italian and an Archbishop of Canterbury, said that "God is that, than which nothing greater can be conceived."

A house is a house because it houses.  But what is in the house is known only by entering it.  Since creatures cannot enter the Creator, he makes himself known by coming into his creation.  "No one has seen God at any time.  The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him" (John 1:18).

Had we invented the Trinitarian formula, it would be only a notion instead of a fact.  There are just three choices: to acknowledge what God himself has declared, to deny it completely, or to change it to what makes sense without God's help.  That is why most heresies are rooted in mistakes about the Three in One and One in Three.

Unitarianism, for example, is based on a Socinian heresy.  Mormonism is an exotic version of the Arian heresy.  Islam has its roots in the Nestorian heresy.  All three reject the Incarnation and the Trinity but selectively adopt other elements of Christianity.  Like Hilaire Belloc in modern times, Dante portrayed Mohammed not as a founder of a religion but simply as a hugely persuasive heretic, albeit persuading most of the time with a sword rather than dialectic.  These religions, however, are not categorically Christian heresies since "Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith . . ."  (Catechism, 2089).  Only someone who has been baptized can be an actual heretic.

Cultures are shaped by cult: that is, the way people live depends on what they worship or refuse to worship.  A culture that is hostile to the Holy Trinity spins out of control.  In 1919, William Butler Yeats looked on the mess of his world after the Great War:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world . . .

That is the chaotic decay of human creatures ignorant of their Triune God.  "The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity."  But to worship the "Holy, Holy, Holy" God as the center and source of reality is to confound anarchy: "For in Him all things were created, things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible . . . He is before all things, and in him all things hold together" (Colossians 1:16-17).