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, […]
Last month the members of our national Lutheran/Catholic Dia-logue spent two days in intense conversation regarding the teaching of our respective churches about the existence of purgatory. As I have explained before, this was part of our current Round XI established five years ago to study the theme “Hope of Eternal Life.” We gathered, all […]
One of the great jewels of American church history is the Congregation of Saint Paul, founded in New York in 1858 by the Servant of God, Isaac Hecker. For more than 150 years the Paulists, as they have come to be called by members and fans alike, have been an active force as “missionaries to […]
On three occasions last month I was confronted by some very moving accounts of the needs of our elder relatives, friends and neighbors.
First, there was a special blessing for a new garden designed for elderly immigrants, many of them Asian, who still struggle with English after their children have grown and moved out on their own.
The recurring grief over the loss of their native land at a time of national turmoil and war, and the distance from their original Vietnamese culture and language has often increased a sense of isolation. They no longer have the respect and reverence given to elders in the country of their birth, and so they live in sadness. A garden was planned and planted especially for them by our Catholic Charities at the Elder Respite Care site at 60th and Lloyd streets in Milwaukee, and several of us were invited to be part of its blessing.