Some of you have heard that I have been elected to the diocesan Presbyteral Council. This council is a group of priests which, representing all the priests in the diocese, is like a senate of the bishop and assists the bishop in the governance of the diocese to promote as much as possible the pastoral good of the people of God entrusted to him. At our first meeting, I was elected chairman of the council. Additionally, I was named to the diocesan College of Consultors. This group of priests is a consultative body that the bishop must consult primarily regarding matters of major financial importance. Moreover, if the diocese becomes vacant, it is the responsibility of the College of Consultors to elect a priest who will govern the diocese until a bishop is appointed. These appointments do not change my assignment here at Our Lady, other than more diocesan meetings that I must attend.
A few weeks ago, our Director of Religious Formation, Rebecca Zalar wrote about the question of when does Mass actually end. A similar question is often raised: how much of Mass must I attend to fulfill my obligation? I believe this is the wrong question but I’ll get to that in a moment. First, we have to see what the church asks of us. Canon 1247 of the Code of Canon Law is the relevant law, which states, “On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the faithful are obliged to participate in the Mass.” This is simple and straightforward: we must attend Mass on Sundays and other holy days of obligation. Nonetheless, what does “participate in the Mass” really mean?
Sometimes people bring up that they were taught that you had to be at Mass for the Gospel, or when the chalice veil was removed, or through Holy Communion for it to “count.” The fact is the church has never definitely said what “counts” as participating in Mass to fulfill one’s obligation. Moral theologians over the years have given their thoughts but the church has never officially stated anything. And this is why I stated I think people are asking the wrong question.
We shouldn’t be minimalists in our religious practice. We shouldn’t ask about “how much of the Mass fulfills my obligation” because we should earnestly try to be at the entire Mass on every Sunday (or Saturday evening) and holy day of obligation. A well-known priest, Fr. John Zuhlsdorf, writes, “if you are late for Mass through no fault of your own, and there is no other way to fulfill your Sunday or holy day obligation, you have nevertheless done your best. If you are late through your own fault, that is another matter.” This cuts to the heart: Missing the first part of Mass because your child got sick just as you were leaving the house is different than missing the first part of Mass because you left the house late because you were in the middle of a good TV show. Unexpected things come up with illness, weather, trains, etc. and you should try to do your best. If you’re late to Mass through your own fault, that’s a different story.
I should also mention that reception of Holy Communion is not a required part of attending Mass. I think people do not always understand this. Fr. Zuhlsdorf writes, “Reception of Communion is not the mark of having fulfilled your Mass obligation. You are still obliged to go to Sunday Mass even if you know you cannot receive Communion. Communion is not the same as getting your parking ticket validated at the restaurant.” The law states we must attend Mass, not that we must receive Holy Communion. There is law that states we must receive Holy Communion once a year, but that’s a topic for a different day.
In the end, I ask that you adjust your way of thinking if you’re questioning “how late can I be to Mass for it to still count.” Rather, ask “why am I am late to Mass (or why I am leaving early): can it be helped? Is it through no fault of my own or is it through my fault?” This will help answer the question. Sure, it would be easier if the church said you need to be at Mass from such-and-such a point onward, but that can make us minimalists and we don’t want to be minimalists in our worship. God deserves more than that.
Some of you have heard that on November 20, 2023, Bishop William Callahan appointed me Adjunct Judicial Vicar for the Diocese of La Crosse. Some of you have wondered if this means I will be leaving the parish. No, I won’t be leaving the parish. This assignment is in addition to my pastorate here. The Adjunct Judicial Vicar is an assistant to the Judicial Vicar of the diocese who works in the Tribunal, usually handling marriage annulment cases. Since I am a canon lawyer, Bishop Callahan has asked me to use my skills in the Tribunal. I might have to be in La Crosse a bit more but I’ll be staying put for the time being.
In my last column I wrote about general grants of indulgences. Today I want to comment on indulgenced prayers or works, which are most probably what people mean when they refer to ‘indulgences.’ Such indulgences are listed as “partial” or “plenary” meaning it removes some of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven (partial indulgences) or all of the temporal punishment (plenary indulgences). The church does not define how much “partial” is other than it is not all the punishment (it could be 99%!).
To obtain a plenary indulgence, one must say the prayer or do the work (such as spending a half-hour in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament), and fulfill the following conditions (known as the “usual conditions”): (1) Be free from all attachment to sin, even venial sin; (2) receive sacramental confession (within about 20 days); (3) receive Holy Communion; and (4) say a prayer for the intentions of the Holy Father (e.g., an Our Father and a Hail Mary). The conditions may be carried out several days preceding or following, although it is appropriate to receive Holy Communion on the day the prayer or work is performed. If a person is not fully disposed or if the conditions are not fulfilled, the indulgence is partial. A plenary indulgence may be gained only once on any day. It can be applied to oneself or to the dead (but not to another living person).
So what are some of these prayers or works? Many prayers have a partial indulgence attached to them, such as the Acts of Faith, Hope, Love, and Contrition, as well as the Angelus, the Anima Christi, the Memorare, and the Apostles or Nicene Creed. The Rosary has a plenary indulgence attached to it when the rosary is recited in a church or when recited in a family (partial otherwise). Even the sign of the cross, while saying the customary words, has a partial indulgence attached to it.
Some of the indulgenced works are spending time in adoration the Blessed Sacrament (partial or, if a half-hour or more, plenary), visiting a cemetery and praying there for the dead (applicable to the dead only; partial but plenary from November 1-8), reading Sacred Scripture (partial or, if a half-hour or more, plenary), or attending the First Mass of a newly ordained priest (plenary).
Indulgences are a special gift to us from the treasury of the Church. We do not often think about the temporal punishment due to sin but we should. We should try often to keep ourselves out of purgatory by doing good here on earth and assisting those who have already died by Masses said for their souls and applying indulgences to them.
Earlier this year I wrote a bulletin column about praying for the deceased members of our families and friends. In that column I used the term “indulgence” and I had a number of people ask to write more about indulgences and the Church’s teaching on them.
We first have to be reminded that sin has a double consequence. The first consequence is called “eternal punishment” which is the deprivation of communion with God. This is usually what we think about when we talk about the punishment of sin. Nonetheless, every sin, even venial sin, entails an unhealthy attachment to creatures. This punishment is called “temporal punishment” and can be purified either here on earth or after death in Purgatory. The Catechism notes that these two punishments must not be conceived as a kind of vengeance inflicted by God but as following from the very nature of sin.
When a person goes to confession and his/her sins are forgiven, the absolution entails the remission of the eternal punishment. The vestiges of sin, the temporal punishment, remains. To remove the temporal punishment, here on this earth, the Church offers us indulgences. An indulgence is the remission before God of the temporal punishment due sins already forgiven as far as their guilt is concerned. The Church is able to offer this since she is the minister of the Redemption, and authoritatively dispenses and applies the treasury of the satisfaction won by Christ and the saints. An indulgence can be applied to oneself or applied to the dead as suffrages.
There are three general types of indulgences. The first is granted to the Christian faithful who, while performing their duties and enduring the difficulties of life, raise their minds in humble trust to God and make, at least mentally, some pious invocation. This ‘pious invocation’ might be “Lord, have mercy” or “Jesus, help me” or “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph” or something similar. The second type is granted to the Christian faithful who, prompted by a spirit of faith, devote themselves or their goods in compassionate service to their brothers and sisters in need.” This grant concerns charity provided to those who, for example, are in need of food, clothing, instruction, or comfort. The third type is granted to the Christian faithful who, in a spirit of penitence, voluntarily abstain from something which is licit for and pleasing to them. This concerns fasting and abstinence when not required by the Church to do so.
To obtain these general grants of indulgence, a person must have at least the general intention of doing so and must be in a proper disposition (that is, not in a state of grave sin). There are other types of indulgences, which is what most people think about when speaking about indulgences. Certain prayers (such as the rosary) and pious works (such as reading scripture) also have indulgences attached to them. These usually consist of several conditions. I will write about them in my next column. As always, feel free to ask me if you have further questions.
One of my favorite hymns is Jerusalem, My Happy Home. While the author of the text is unclear, some sources attribute St. Augustine as its author. The most familiar tune it is sung to is “Land of Rest” which is an American/Appalachian folk tune with roots in the ballads of northern England and Scotland. With a focus on the heavenly Jerusalem, the song is often sung at funerals, on All Souls Day, and throughout the month of November.
I was looking at various printings of Jerusalem, My Happy Home and one from 1938 caught my attention. The tempo marking on the music stated: With unhurried simplicity. Those three words caught my eye. I was immediately struck by them. With unhurried simplicity. What a motto for our lives! What great guidance for our life’s work! Should we not each day try to live our lives with unhurried simplicity?
We live in such a fast-paced, connected world that we are often hurrying from one thing to the next and yet we are called to live in an unhurried way, in order to focus on what really matters: first and foremost, our Lord and God. If we could just slow down a bit and take the time to focus on God, family, the beauty around us, and our eternal salvation, perhaps our lives would be a bit better. In this month of November, as we remember all the dead, we remember that our lives too will end and our hurriedness will eventually end. Why not take some time to be unhurried now?
Yet it is not only unhurriedness that we are called to but simplicity as well. With unhurried simplicity. We are all called to live simple lives, again focusing on the things that really matter. Our lives can become so complicated—we can become so caught up in the events of the world that we forget about the things that really matter: faith, family, friendship. If only we could live a little more unhurried, a little more simply, I think we would all be quite a bit happier in life and more guaranteed of our eternal salvation.
As I read those words on that 1938 printing of the hymn, I was struck. I still am. I fail daily at trying to live with unhurried simplicity. I was reminded of a prayer that is prayed during Midafternoon Prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours: Lord, make the peace we pray for a reality: may we live our days in quiet joy and, with the help of the Virgin Mary’s prayers, safely reach your kingdom. May we all, through the Virgin Mary’s prayers, live our lives in quiet joy and with unhurried simplicity.
Praised be Jesus Christ! During this month of November, we especially remember the Poor Souls in Purgatory. In a special way, we remember our deceased family members, friends, relatives, and benefactors. On November 2nd—All Souls Day—the Church prays for all who, in the purifying suffering of Purgatory, await the day they will join in heavenly glory. The Mass has always been the principal means by which the Church fulfills the great responsibility of charity toward the dead. Death cannot break the bonds of the Body of Christ.
During this month of November, I encourage everyone to pray for their deceased family members, friends, relatives, and benefactors. In a special way, I encourage everyone to visit a cemetery and offer prayers. During the time of November 1st through November 8th, the Christian faithful who devoutly visit a cemetery and pray, if only mentally, for the dead can obtain a plenary indulgence applicable for the dead only under the usual conditions. Outside of this period, the indulgence is partial.
We should also pray the prayer Requiem aeternam often, especially during the month of November. A partial indulgence, applicable only to the souls in purgatory, is attached to this prayer. The prayer is simply: Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen. There is also the prayer Retribuere dignare for benefactors that has a partial indulgence attached to it: Reward those who have been good to us for the sake of your name, O Lord, and give them eternal life. Amen.
As I mentioned, the Mass has always been the principal means by which the Church fulfills the great responsibility of charity toward the dead. I know many of you schedule Masses to be said for the repose of the souls of your deceased family members and friends. What a wonderful way to pray for the dead. In our prayers, rosaries, and remembrances, let us always pray for those who have gone before us: may they rest in peace!
Keen-eyed Mass-goers will have noticed that we have started using a chalice veil and burse at Masses at Our Lady Queen of Heaven Parish. A chalice veil is a white or colored cloth that is draped over the chalice at the beginning of Mass and removed at the altar at the time of the presentation of the gifts (the offertory). A burse is a white or colored case for the corporal cloth that the chalice and paten rest on upon the altar. The instructions for the celebration of Mass note that “it is a praiseworthy practice for the chalice to be covered with a veil, which may be either of the color of the day or white.”
So why do we use a chalice veil at Mass? There are numerous reasons, the first being practical: to keep dust and flying insects away from the bread and wine. The more important reasons are symbolic. The changing color alerts the congregation to the change in feast or celebration of a saint (our altar cloth does this too). In the Old Testament, a veil or curtain separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the Temple: the chalice veil reminds us of the curtain setting apart the Holy of Holies, and prompts us to approach the altar aware of our unworthiness to enter into union with God. The removal of the chalice veil is one of the first liturgical actions at the offertory. This action is an echo from scripture as well: the torn curtain at the death of Jesus, which signifies the transition from the Old Covenant to the consummation of the New Covenant promised by Jesus at the Last Supper.
The burse is a case for the corporal, the sacred linen upon which rests the chalice and paten (the plate on which the host rests). It is used for reasons of convenience and reverence. Convenience so that the corporal has a place to go and doesn’t fall off the chalice and reverence in case any particles of the eucharist remain in the corporal. While the corporal is always white, the burse usually matches the color of the chalice veil and the priest’s vestments.
The burse is placed on top of the veil which covers the chalice. When the chalice and paten are completely prepared for the liturgy with chalice veil and burse, they may be referred to collectively as a “vested chalice.” While these lesser known and seen “vestments” might seem inconsequential or unimportant, we should always show the utmost reverence for the eucharist and the sacred vessels and linens used around the eucharist. Such items have both practical and sacred or symbolic purposes. It’s always a good idea to learn more about them.
Last month, I had the chance to get away for a few days and attend a 10-year reunion of the seminary Class of 2013 from the Pontifical North American College in Rome, my alma mater. It was a great time to see so many of my classmates, many of whom I had not seen since we were in Rome together, a decade ago.
We met in Ocean Grove, New Jersey, on the Jersey Shore. Ocean Grove, known as “God’s square mile on the Jersey Shore,” is a fascinating place. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Ocean Grove is noted for its abundant examples of Victorian architecture. It was founded in 1869 as an outgrowth of the camp meeting movement in the United States, when a group of Methodist clergymen formed the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association to develop and operate a summer camp meeting site on the Jersey Shore. By the early 20th century, the popular Christian meeting ground became known as the “Queen of Religious Resorts.”
While out East, a classmate and I had a chance to drive to Philadelphia and visit the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul. There we were able to venerate the tomb of St. Katharine Drexel, the second American-born saint and patron saint of racial justice and of philanthropists. We also visited the newest basilica in the United States, the Basilica Shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, located in the East Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia, which was named a basilica just earlier this year. Within the church is the shrine to Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, a title of the Virgin Mary originating with her apparitions to St. Catherine Labouré in Paris in 1830. While at the Shrine, I prayed specifically for all members of OQLH Parish. While in Philadelphia, I would be remiss to not stop and get a Philly Cheesesteak. Having to decide between the famous rivals, Geno’s Steaks or Pat’s Steaks, we settled on Pat’s. It was a great lunch!
Back in Ocean Grove, as we sat on the beach one evening reminiscing about out time in Rome and the joys and struggles of the past decade of priesthood, I thought of an inscription over the North American College in Rome that says, “Young men who have come to this place from the distant shores of America, keep their gaze upon the Vatican hill, strengthen their faith and their love for the Roman Pontiff.” Here we were, sitting quite literally on the now not-so-distant shores of America, together after 10 years: it was a great moment. In your kindness, pray for the Class of 2013, and pray for all priests and deacons in our Church. God bless you.
I want to take this opportunity in the bulletin to update you on the Inspired by the Spirit campaign and some of the capital projects that we are working on in the parish. Like last year, we will have the parish annual report published around October but I wanted to take a moment to speak more on the capital improvements.
Campaign: The Inspired by the Spirit campaign is wrapping up throughout the Diocese of La Crosse. Not only was it a success in our parish but it was a resounding success throughout the diocese. Our parish met and exceeded our goal of $785,000 in pledges. The diocese as a whole exceeded its $40 million goal and raised $55 million in pledges, of which approximately $36 million will return to the parishes. Currently at OLQH, we have received $250,654 of the $510,250 parish share. Thank you to all who have and continue to participate!
HVAC Temperature Controls: The diocese has approved the project to upgrade our HVAC temperature control system. This is a major expense that was not a part of the campaign. This project will allow the parish and school to more easily monitor and adjust the temperature in the various parts of our building. The materials have been ordered and hopefully the installation will begin in late summer/early fall. Assumption Catholic Schools is assisting in the cost of this project.
Church AC Units: As you might remember, we have been having issues with the church AC units. While the temperature control project described above will fix some of the problems, we had a fan motor die earlier this summer and just two weeks ago had a compressor fail. The necessary parts to fix these units have been ordered. The mandated changes in refrigerants have made the fix a bit more complicated and expensive but it’s still less expensive than installing all new units. OLQH has had these units since 1982 so we have gotten our money’s worth on them.
Rectory Bathrooms: We have selected Altmann Construction to refurbish the rectory bathrooms, as part of the campaign. We are currently waiting on the final bid from Altmann and then, once we receive diocesan approval, we can move forward with this project, probably beginning in the winter of this year.
School Windows: We are hoping to begin the campaign project to replace the school windows and install a drop ceiling and new LED lighting in the school in the summer of 2024. We are currently in the bidding process. This project can really only be done during the summer so as to not interrupt classroom instruction. Assumption Catholic Schools is assisting in the cost of this project.
That’s the update for the now. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or would like further clarification on any ongoing project. God bless you.