It may be hard to believe, but once again I come to the end of another confirmation season … my 31st to be exact. According to my records, thus far this year I was privileged to preside over the confirmation of 1,411 young men and women in 26 ceremonies across the archdiocese (slightly fewer than […]
A few weeks ago I had the good fortune to participate in an international interreligious conference at Boston College. The question posed for the scholars was, “Is this the golden age for Jewish/Catholic relations?” I concluded my talk with a tentative suggestion, namely “Early Bronze age!” They all smiled. I wanted to retain a metallic label, but also playfully allude to the primitive period in human culture as illuminating our own contemporary era of interreligious relations. We are once again still at the beginning of things, and history could go both ways, depending on our honesty, mutual respect and determination.
One of the Jewish speakers, curiously enough, teaches a course on Catholic sacraments at the University of Tel Aviv. He told me that once a person makes a leap of faith, the Catholic sacramental system is completely reasonable, logical, integrated and cohesive. It was a good reminder of the profound blessing which our faith can bring to the lives of people who understand its inner power.
That in turn led me to think about all the confirmation letters which we bishops here in southeastern Wisconsin receive this time of the year, and how often the young people admit that they haven’t been very faithful to regular Sunday participation in the Eucharist. Usually the confirmation programs rekindle a spark of new interest and understanding; the retreat experiences often produce a resolution to change the pattern. Sometimes the young people become the ones who get their parents up for Mass on Sunday morning!
Weekly participation in the Sunday Eucharist is far more than a mere duty to be gotten through like a dentist appointment or a cold shower. It is far more than a boring interlude in an otherwise interesting life. Included in every Eucharist is a crash course in all the fundamentals of Christian spirituality. Everything is there! For that reason we need to come back, week after week, to recapture the full reality of our life in Christ.
A few weeks ago I had the good fortune to participate in an international interreligious conference at Boston College. The question posed for the scholars was, “Is this the golden age for Jewish/Catholic relations?” I concluded my talk with a tentative suggestion, namely “Early Bronze age!” They all smiled. I wanted to retain a metallic […]
If truth be told, I have attempted to write this column in at least a dozen different ways over the past three weeks since returning from my retreat at the archbishop’s tomb in the Cathedral of San Salvador. Each time the topic has seemed too vast and my words so inadequate that I simply gave […]
About this time every Lent, it becomes clear that our first fervor of Ash Wednesday has dimmed, if not worn off completely. The resolutions have wavered, and it is helpful to take a second look, perhaps even refocus and look for a recharge. The issue of fasting might be a good place to start. The […]
Last month I had the privilege of traveling with priests from around the country who had been part of my ordination class some 50 years earlier. We gathered in the city of Rome where we had received that sacramental commission and shared our experiences from all those decades of ministry. Steeped in a healthy nostalgia […]
Looking back over the past half century, it hardly seems possible that I have been privileged to serve for 50 years as a priest of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee! Undoubtedly, like couples who celebrate five decades of marriage or individuals who have been employed for great periods of time at the same company, we are amazed and wonder where the time has gone? Good days and more challenging ones … where have they gone?
In December of 1959 it was a very different world from what we now know and take for granted. The Cold War sharply separated the democratic West from the communists of the Eastern European Bloc, each regarding the other with profound suspicion and mutual distrust. Europe was being rebuilt after the Second World War, and air travel was just beginning to become common. Space travel was a dream mostly relegated to comic books and science fiction.
Because so many of the Christmas readings from Scripture speak of the imminent arrival of a great Light, the season of Advent has assumed a kind of darkness, perhaps similar to the dark void before creation. That distinctive notion of darkness might also be experienced at night before the dawn or in the thunderous heart of a severe storm before the breaking out of the sun. The angelic chorus of Bethlehem seems to assume that the birth of the Christ occurred at night and our Midnight Masses reinforce that bit of Catholic piety. Christmas carols invariably describe the “O Holy Night,” and their carolers usually go forth after sunset.
In the weeks of Advent prior to Christmas we are encouraged to watch and wait. The prescribed color of vestments is a certain hue of serum purple, dark yet not harshly penitential (broken only on the third Sunday of Advent by that awful color of off-rose which always makes me feel like a bottle of Pepto-Bismol).
According to the recent 2009 edition of the Official Catholic Directory there are some 1,484 sisters living and working in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. Just a few years ago the number was closer to 2,500. They come from various ancient and proven traditions of Catholic spirituality: Franciscan, Dominican, Carmelite and a wonderful variety of evangelical traditions of solid Christian existence. Over the centuries there have been countless forms of religious life and each has brought its own blessing to the life of the church. Each has given its own distinctive witness to the larger world.
We know from history that these women have devoted their lives to a great variety of ministries on behalf of the needy. As teachers they staffed schools and religious education programs beyond count. As nurses and health care specialists they provided care for the sick and infirm at all levels of need. These sisters have been involved in works of justice and peace in virtually all areas of Christian service.
By definition, religious life begins with God’s grace encountering deep human needs and hopes. Whether through lives of contemplative prayer or apostolic ministry these heroic women have embodied the Gospel of Christ and reached out in service. Again and again they generously rolled up their sleeves, stepped into the trenches and poured out their lives in the name of Christ. Seldom if ever justly recompensed over the years, these women of the church have been faithful pillars of strength and courage.
For many years I have initiated the ritual of installing a new pastor by noting that “the new arrival of anyone is a new beginning for everyone!” Again and again I went on to explain that each new arrival in life, whether into a family or a classroom or a working environment or a neighborhood, […]