Today is October 31st and we all know what that is, right? Halloween! A day of trick-or-treating, an evening (or two or more…) of adult parties, and costumes. A month just completed of many horror films on television if you have the stomach for it.
But what does the word, Halloween actually mean? It means all hallows (holy) eve. It is the eve of All Saints Day, when we celebrate not only those who have been canonized by the Church as saints, but anyone who is in Heaven. I’m not going to comment on history or the evolution of Halloween; I’m sure you can find enough information on the internet!
November is the month we remember all the loved souls who have gone to their eternal rest. Very few of us, if any, have not been touched by death in some way. Our mortal bodies are just that: mortal. Thus, we all will face death someday. But because of our faith in the Risen Jesus, the death of our bodies is not the death of us. It is simply a change in our life, but the change is up to us. Our faith and hope in Jesus give great promise to a new and glorious life in Heaven with our loved ones and even some who may have been our enemies during our time here on Earth.
Then there is this word, Purgatory; what exactly is that? I wrote over 40 pages on this topic in my theology graduate studies, but I won’t go into great detail here. Purgatory is not a place; it is simply a state of purification of the soul to make it perfect. Heaven IS perfect; if it’s not, it would be no different than our lives here! The Catechism of the Catholic Church has this to say: “The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect (those bound for Heaven), which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned.” (CCC, 1031). Purgatory is not scary; not even in the least! It makes our souls already burning with love for Jesus ready to see him face to face!
May we pray for our loved ones who have gone before us this month - and always, and may we pray for ourselves that one day we will be united with Jesus and all the saints!
- Deacon Jeff
Have you ever had someone say to you, “I’m spiritual, but I’m just not religious.”? There are times I have reflected on what that actually means, so here are a few thoughts.
The word “spiritual” refers to the deepest part of our being where we experience God. Spirit is the dimension of each of us whereby we are always aspiring to be in union with God. Can such moments occur outside of a church? Certainly they can happen – in the woods, on a lake, or wherever you feel God’s presence. But true spirituality needs to be nourished so that it may grow. To be truly spiritual, we must continue to grow closer and closer to Jesus, sometimes in ways we may never imagine. Stagnant spirituality is equivalent to being a lukewarm Christian. Jesus warns us of that danger over and over in the Gospels.
Then what is “religious”? It is simply the practice of someone’s thought about or worship of a divine being. The key word here is “practice”. When we are religious, we practice our spirituality; we put it into action. When we are here together at the Mass, praying, singing, meditating, we are in reality practicing our spirituality.
It would seem to me (realizing this can be argued) that we need to be religious to get closer to Jesus. Experiencing him in nature is great, but to get closer to the one who created us, we have a necessity to be religious. And our Catholic faith (religion) offers us the absolute, most intimate humanly possible way to get closer to Jesus: It is called the Eucharist, and it is truly the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ. If you want to experience the ultimate in spirituality, to feel God’s presence deep inside of you, I beg you to experience this wonderful Sacrament as much as possible! If you do, I guarantee you will get closer and closer to Jesus every time and he will continue to change your life in ways you may never realize!
- Deacon Jeff
A week ago, Fr. Ryan and I spent three days at the annual Clergy Congress for pastors, administrators, and pastoral leaders. The focus of this event was largely on vocations to the priesthood. The speaker was superb. Following a little reflection on those days, I am stirred to share some of my feelings.
First, the goal of Bishop Ricken and our Diocese of Green Bay is to have 30 young men in priestly formation (seminarians) every year by 2025. Currently, we have ten men in seminaries and another seven who are in what is called the Kairos year – a year of discernment to determine if God is indeed calling them to the seminary. I have brought back from the meeting new prayer cards, listing the men in formation/discernment and I ask you if you are willing, to take one and pray each day for the intention of that day of the month. This is a very simple task and will take you a minute or so each day to fulfill.
Second, I am convinced there are young men here at Prince of Peace being called to the priesthood, and furthermore, young women being called to the religious life. Here is where each of us – especially me – can help! We all need to see the traits in a young person that may be leading them to the priesthood or religious life. If so, we need to necessarily tell them! This is a difficult task, but the more they hear that message, the more God will work on them IF this is their vocation.
Finally, I say this. As a parent of two boys (now men), I realize it can be difficult to actually pray for them to be priests someday. After all, that would mean less or no grandchildren, and most of us would love to have grand-children. I love them! But when you had your child(ren) baptized, the first goal for you as a parent from that day forward is to get them to Heaven. If they accomplish great worldly things but do not get to Heaven, as parents, we have failed them – and God.
Please consider praying for vocations daily by taking one of the cards. And please pray God calls young people from this parish - maybe even your son or daughter to the priesthood or religious life!
- Deacon Jeff
The month of October is known as the month of the Rosary. We actually celebrated the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary on October 7. This celebration has gone on for over 450 years. The Rosary was prayed by many in earnest, led by St. Pius V, to bring a successful end to a war at that time. By the way – it worked!
Today, we can use the prayer of the Rosary for so many different reasons: In thanksgiving for prayers granted, in petitioning for healing of someone, for our country, our state, our parish...I could go on and on. There are countless reasons to pray the Rosary, yet many of us do not take advantage of this wonderful prayer. Why? For many, my guess is that it is too long (not enough time), too repetitive (boring) and that we are not able to focus enough to really be “praying”.
If you don’t have enough time, pray just one decade (10 Hail Marys), which would take at most 2-3 minutes. If you do not have enough time to do that, you obviously don’t want to pray. If you think it’s repetitive, you are correct! But this gives you a chance to reflect on the mystery of the Rosary you are praying or the petition you are praying for. And if you think you are not really “praying” because your mind is wandering during the Rosary, that’s perfectly fine! Jesus and his mother are so pleased you are coming to them, even if your mind is not totally there; just the fact you decided to say these prayers is great!
The Rosary is a very powerful weapon that Satan hates almost more than anything or anyone! He even hates people who carry the Rosary around in their pockets! So, if the Rosary is in your car, your home, your purse, your pocket, you already have a powerful defense against Satan. There’s only one other thing to do – pray the Rosary as often as you can!
- Deacon Jeff
When you walk into the church here at Prince of Peace and look above the sanctuary at the round stained-glass window, you will see a beautiful chalice and host. This is a representation of the second person of the Trinity: God the Son, or Jesus. How many of us can look at that window and actually see an image of Jesus?
When Father holds up the chalice and host before Communion and says, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world…” do we see Jesus? Do we see the Lamb of God who does take away the sins of the entire world through his sacrifice on the Cross?
The Mass holds so many beautiful moments within it; moments that we easily take for granted. Although what we physically see is a gold cup and a piece of bread, that IS the Creator and Savior of the world! How can it be? Because Jesus told his apostles so! But Jesus loves us so much that he wants us to see him through the eyes of our faith.
St. Ignatius of Loyola wrote this prayer of thanksgiving for himself (and us) to recite after receiving Jesus in the Eucharist:
“Receive, Lord, my entire freedom. Accept the whole of my memory, my intellect, and my will. Whatever I have or own, it was You who gave it to me; I restore it to You in full, and I surrender it completely to the guidance of Your will. Give me only love of You together with Your grace, and I am rich enough and ask for nothing more. Amen”
May this help bring the real presence of Jesus to you in an even more special way!
- Deacon Jeff