17th Sunday in Ordinary Time
As disciples, we are called to be salt of the earth people. Not too salty (we've all had bad experiences of that), but also not non-salty...because that's just not being true to who we are as Christians. We're called to be healthily salty, normally salty. Disciples of Jesus Christ ought to be ordinary, fun, prayerful, genuine, striving, faithful, real people - normal human people. That is what I envision when I imagine a disciple of Jesus Christ: someone that others are slightly intrigued by, for whatever the reasons, someone that others want to spend a little time with!
15th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Our response during this Apostolic Time starts with something we already know very well: relationships. We have been rescued by Jesus and sent to bring others to relationship with Him so that He can rescue them, too! The whole reason the Catholic Church exists is to bring people to Jesus. "Bringing people to Jesus" doesn't mean shouting on the street corner or annoyingly and oppressively forcing the topic of faith into every conversation you have. "Bringing people to Jesus" means that there are 3-5 people in your life right now, people that you already know and have some sort of relationship with, whom Jesus is sending you to to simply start a conversation with. Witnessing to Jesus isn’t rocket science or deep theology, it’s simply relationship and natural conversation (and if you think it’s more complicated than that, then you’ve got the wrong idea).
13th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Part II: a taste of where we're headed in the upcoming weeks and months!
You ever wonder why you brought your kids up going to Church and educated them in Catholic schools…and yet most of them don’t go to Church anymore? You ever worry about why, even though you tell your kids and grandkids that they should go to church and pray, and even though you tell them that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist, they still don’t come and don’t believe? I mean, that’s how you were raised, and you’re here, right? So that’s how you raised your kids…so why aren’t they here?! Christendom times vs. Apostolic times - that's the reason! We have gone from Christendom times to Apostolic times, but we're still trying the tactics that used to work but don't anymore. The good news: the Catholic Church thrives in Apostolic times - we just need to remember anew how to live in them!
Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity
Last summer I challenged everyone to Meet 6, to meet six people from church. This summer I'm asking you to take the next step. Christian community isn't simply meeting or knowing people or getting together; that's a first step...but Christian community involves Jesus Christ! Christian community is about Christ-informed relationships, faith-filled friendships and interactions. The next step in the process, whether it's someone you know well or someone you don't know at all, is to ask a very simple, yet a very powerful, question once you've met them: “Is there something I can pray for you for?” “How can I pray for you?”
This summer, Ask 6! Step out of your comfort zone to ask six people, “Is there something I can pray for you for?” Then bring that intention to prayer before God on that person's behalf. We all know our world needs the light of Christ, and you, O Christian, have the power to bring that light into our world with an extremely simple and inviting question: “Is there something I can pray for you for?” “How can I pray for you?” Then pray!
Third Sunday of Easter
God wants to do great things in our lives and in our parishes! But we're also short on priests (and, in our diocese, short on American priests) which means that more and more is expected of our current priests. So how will God do great things in us and through us and around us if the priest doesn't have time to do it? It has to happen through you, O Christian! God wants to and will do great things in our world when individuals, when the lay faithful, step up and step into their baptismal calling to use the gifts and talents they've been given to build up God's kingdom here and now! God wants to do great things in our lives and in our parishes...through YOU!
4th Sunday of Lent
Do you ever get distracted in prayer? It’s normal, it’s human; sometimes focus is within our control, sometimes it is not. There are, however, better and worse ways to respond to distraction, better and worse ways to enter back into prayer and time with our God. Want to know what some are? Then listen to this weekend’s homily!
8th Sunday in Ordinary Time
This Lent I don't want you to give up chocolate, I don't want you to give up sweets (we'll focus on the topic of fasting next year). This Lent I want all of us, as the parish family of St. Joseph and St. Ann, to focus on prayer! I'd like us all to focus on growing in our relationship with Jesus Christ through daily prayer. One percent of our day is 14 minutes and 24 seconds - this Lent the challenge is to spend one more percent of your day, each day, in prayer. If you aren't praying every day yet, this is the time to start! If you are praying regularly, then it's time to add an extra 14 minutes and 24 seconds of intentional prayer with the Lord. Try any and all prayer resources available and find the ones that help you to row the most in your relationship with the Lord!
6th Sunday in Ordinary Time
As Christians we are proclaiming ourselves to be in a relationship with Jesus Christ, followers of Christ. Our Christian life is built on this relationship with the Lord out of which everything else flows. Daily talking with God is not an achievement in the Christian life, it's the foundation and the minimum, the beginning of the Christian life! Christians pray every day.
This Lent, our focus as parishioners of the cluster of St. Joseph and St. Ann parishes will be on prayer - on personally taking one step deeper in our relationship with Jesus Christ, no matter where we are currently at in our life and habits of prayer, taking one step deeper, together.
3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
We will be starting a journey as the parishes of St. Joseph and St. Ann beginning this Lent, starting a journey in the direction God is truly calling us as His disciples! Some things, like the Israelites in our first reading, we will discover to be different than we were originally told or taught, even by those in the Church. We are going to be hitting the "reset" button on what Jesus truly calls us to as Christians in this beautiful Catholic faith, which will involve detoxing from misunderstanding and false notions. Step One (and our focus during Lent this year) will be focusing on growing in prayer and our relationship with God. Step Two, which grows out of our relationship with God in prayer, is uncovering and living out our specific roles in the Body of Christ, which Paul describes in our second reading this weekend. I'm excited to lead us on down this path which may seem new to us, but is in fact old, very old - it's the way Jesus Christ Himself called us to live!
Feast of the Holy Family
Jesus not only came as a baby at Christmas, He also entered into a human family - with all the joys and frustrations that go with it. We are challenged in all relationships, but especially in the family, to put the wants and needs of others before our own, to stretch our hearts, to learn how to love more, to sacrifice for each other. Our readings today all challenge us to put others first, "Children, obey your parents in everything...Wives, be subordinate to your husbands...Husbands, love your wives." Jesus loved us, and so He subordinated Himself to our needs, even to the point of death. We can practice this kind of love every day, especially in the family!
What child is this, who, laid to rest,
On Mary's lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?
3rd Sunday of Advent
The story of Advent is that the Eternal Son of the Father, God Himself, became human to save us from our sin and show that He IS with us. God is always with me - every moment of the day. I’ll be honest, though: that’s really hard to see sometimes. But it’s the reality! When I go through my day not consciously experiencing the presence of God with me, that’s living in a fantasy, it’s living in a lie, it’s living with my eyes closed to reality. God is with me! The challenge this week: I dare you to try to live one hour of your normal, daily life conscious that Jesus IS with you!
1st Sunday of Advent
As we begin this new Church Year we are reminded by Paul “to be blameless in holiness”. What does holiness really mean? What does holiness really look like? Holiness is not something far out there or high up beyond our reach; I would argue that holiness is something close to us…too close…uncomfortably close. Holiness is doing all of the normal things we do with and for the Lord, living in God’s kingdom and spreading God’s kingdom in and through the daily situations and interactions of our lives. That’s our mission, that’s real holiness, and that can be attained by anyone — which is why it’s scary: because it means I no longer have an excuse!
“God has created me to do him some definite service; he has committed some work to me which he has not committed to another. I have my mission.” ~ St. John Henry Newman
30th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Rules are for children who don't yet fully understand; as we mature we begin to grasp the deeper reasons behind the rules, along with their nuances and qualifications. In the Gospel today Jesus heals Bartimaeus the blind man, who then follows Jesus on 'the way'; Bartimaeus isn't leaving to follow a set of rules and regulations, He's leaving to follow a person - Jesus Christ. An immature understanding of our faith sees Catholicism as a bunch of rules, while an adult understanding acknowledges that all of these rules are for the sake of living out a healthy, strong, mature relationship with a person - Jesus Christ!
Like Bartimaeus, God has done great things for each of us as well! Can we respond maturely and set out on 'the way' with Jesus, next to Bartimaeus, not simply following rules but actually growing in a relationship with a person - Jesus Christ?
28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Freedom is a word very often used in society today...but what does it actually mean? Are there different kinds of freedom? What kind of freedom leads to happiness and fulfillment? What kind of freedom does Jesus offer to us if we follow Him?
26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
First, I will share a story with you of an inheritance. Then, moving to our Gospel, Jesus speaks very forthrightly about a place of unquenchable fire called Gehenna and that sin is what leads us there. Do we believe Jesus' words? Do we believe in hell and that sin leads people to it? Or have we learned now, as opposed to that antiquated time that the Son of God walked this earth, that God loves everyone so much that nobody would ever go to hell? Have we learned that Jesus was wrong? And what does that have to do with an inheritance?
24th Sunday In Ordinary Time
Peter is often the first of the Apostles to step up and, while he is also very quick to fall, in today’s Gospel he confidently proclaims that Jesus is the Christ. I have been proud in these past months when, after a homily, you have responded by acting and living out the challenges — going out of your comfort zone to come to confession, meet new people at Church, or thank others for coming to Church (especially those that might be near the age of your own kids and grandkids that you wish would come back to Church). I want that to be a common experience: that you’re regularly talking about and celebrating how you’ve gone out of your comfort zone, stepped up by putting into practice what’s been said here, and what happened when you did! Then step up again...and repeat!
22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
This week we celebrated the Feast of St. Monica, patron of praying wives and mothers desiring the conversion of their husbands and children. The day after we celebrated the Feast of St. Augustine, Patron Saint of our Diocese of Superior...Monica's once wayward son become an incredibly influential figure in the history of the Church. So many Catholics these days have kids, grandkids, siblings that we wish would come to Church...but sadly they don't; and often it seems like they never will. So what do we do with that? What do we do with our deep desire to see them encounter God and experience true conversion, along with the heaviness and discouragement of seeing so many of our words and invites fall on deaf ears, closed minds and hard hearts? Well I have an answer, I have a dream - simple, practical, powerful and real - that would change hearts and lives...and it involves YOU!
Solemnity of the Assumption
In heaven, Scripture says, we shall be like God, for we shall see Him as He is (1 Jn 3:2). Today we celebrate the Assumption of Mary, that she was assumed/taken up soul and body into heaven by a singular grace of God. Mary, by God's grace and her free will, radically followed and trusted God - she already looked like God in this life! Our call as "Christians" is to be "followers of Christ", "other Christs" - to look like Christ; we start looking more like Christ when we start acting more like Christ.
This weekend is the kickoff for our annual diocesan Catholic Services Appeal (CSA). The CSA provides incredible opportunities to spread the faith of Jesus Christ in northwestern Wisconsin - for our seminarians, for our youth, for our schools, for our parishes - opportunities that I witness and see the fruits of firsthand! I'm challenging you this year to stretch yourself in prayerful generosity to all of your favorite organizations and non-profits. I challenge you particularly this week to think what you might be able to sacrifice monetarily to support the CSA for your parish this coming year. Jesus Christ practiced prayer and generosity to the point of death; let's act more like Christ in this life, so as to become more of who we are called to be in the next!
17th Sunday in Ordinary Time
We as Catholics have a set of beliefs that stem from a particular, fundamental platform out of which all of our beliefs make sense. Other Christian denominations and their beliefs stem from a particular, fundamental platform out of which their beliefs make sense. The problem is, we often use the same words or do the same actions and rituals, but we actually understand them quite differently...which leads to confusion because it looks and sounds like we're talking about the same things, but we're actually understanding them quite differently (examples being Communion, confession, and the intercession of the saints just to name a few).
In this homily I lay out the fundamental Catholic platform as well as a best attempt at a fundamental non-Catholic Christian platform (I say "best attempt" because there are so many denominations with various platforms that no one platform unites them all...otherwise it would be one denomination...but I believe the distinctions I make are a fair representative of the whole). These distinctions help explain a number of differences between Catholic and non-Catholic Christians, with a very important one being a much more complete understanding of the Sacrament of Reconciliation! Enjoy!
(If you would like to read the text of Deacon Brian's excellent and challenging homily from last week, it will be available shortly on this page of our website: https://stjoseph-hayward.org/recent-homilies)
15th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Part 1: The current practice of the Anointing of the Sick.
Part 2: In today's Gospel Jesus sends out his Apostles two by two to preach repentance and drive out demons. He doesn't send them out alone, not one by one, but two by two...together...because we're always stronger together, and we're made to walk this path of faith together with other believers, especially Catholic believers. Being an individual believer...alone...the demons love that! They have a heyday with our minds and fill us with every seemingly reasonable excuse to NOT take that next step in faith that we know God is calling us to. But together, we as fellow Catholics call out each other's mediocrity, we encourage each other in the faith, we support someone when they're falling and we are supported when our faith seems to fail, we rejoice with each other in spiritual growth and victories. Two by two is always better than one by one!
13th Sunday in Ordinary Time
The parting words of Jesus to his followers before He ascended into heaven (His 'final words', if you will) were: "Go and make disciples of all nations." Jesus called all of his followers to go on mission and bring others back to the Father. Too often, however, we have forgotten that mission, as a Church and as individuals, and we find ourselves simply going through the motions, stuck in a maintenance mode that is not the energetic, grace-filled, difficult yet joyous life that Jesus lived and called His followers to. We at St. Joseph and St. Ann will be embarking on a journey over the next number of years to reclaim the vibrant life that Jesus calls us to live in our parishes. Step #1: Christ-Centered Relationships. The first followers of Jesus lived in close relationship with each other centered on Christ; there was a true community grounded in deep faith and they encouraged and challenged each other on. If we want our parishes to have a vibrant life and faith, we need to reclaim first the importance of Christ-Centered relationships! Because if we can't confidently talk about and learn about our faith with each other, how on earth are we ever going to share it with someone who doesn't yet believe?!
11th Sunday in Ordinary Time
When we look at everything around us, we see that God has a way of taking something small and making it BIG! Whether the shoot from the tree in our first reading, or the mustard seed in our Gospel, God often takes small things and slowly grows them until they are BIG! He does that in our lives in so many ways, but I believe that the Lord is calling our parishes of St. Ann and St. Joseph here and now to start small in developing relationships with others who believe in and follow Jesus Christ, especially other Catholics, and especially our fellow parishioners. So the challenge for this summer - get to know 6 more people from Church by the end of summer! Invite them out for breakfast, lunch, dinner after Mass; invite them over for a beer on the deck or a pontoon ride; get to know them personally. And when we start with these small but powerful and meaningful efforts, God will grow us over time here at St. Ann and St. Joseph into something BIG!