I enjoy reading the Magnificat each month. One of the parts I enjoy reading are the brief commentaries on the psalms in the daily morning and evening prayers. Last month, one of these commentaries struck me. It said, “Pride sets subtle snares. Whenever we imagine that we are in control of life—our own or someone else’s—we have fallen prey to the ancient whisper in the Garden: ‘You shall be like gods.’ Mortality is the enduring reminder that we become like God not by our own power but by the power of the cross.”
Many of the sins that we fall into have at their root some form of pride: that it’s all about us and what we want—all that matters are our own desires, wants, pleasures, and needs. We subtly forget about both God and our neighbor. We can easily fall into this pride as easily as we step on a rock. We want to believe it takes stepping across the Grand Canyon but in reality, sin is much subtler. Temptation can be almost imperceptible when we aren’t paying attention.
Sometimes people ask me why they seem strong in resisting temptation after the Sacrament of Confession or a retreat or other spiritual exercise. They might be good for a while and then fall back into the old habits of temptation and sin. It is that old whisper in the Garden. We imagine that we are in control of our lives but, in reality, God is in control. He’s the one that we should rely on to guide us and tell us what to do. When we put ourselves in control we are bound to fail and fall back into our old ways. Therefore, we must pray at all times, both in temptation and outside of it. We can never become complacent in fighting against evil or in seeking God in all things.
As the Magnificat commentary states: “we become like God not by our power but by the power of the cross.” During this season of Lent, we have many opportunities to reflect on the cross, the instrument of our salvation. One of my favorite Latin sayings is “Ave, O Crux, Spes Unica!” — “Hail, O Cross, Our Only Hope!” We cannot save ourselves and we already have a savior, Jesus Christ, who won for us our salvation on the cross. By uniting ourselves closer and closer to Jesus and letting God have control, we become more the person we were created to be. In the end, I am reminded of the beginning of a prayer by St. Basil of Caesarea: Steer the ship of my life, Lord, to your quiet harbor, where I can be safe from the storms of sin and conflict.
sacrament of confession
Last year, when all the parishes in the diocese were instructed to have listening sessions for the upcoming Synod on Synodality in Rome, one of the things that came out of those listening sessions was a desire for more resources on the Sacrament of Confession. With that in mind, I have some news to share with you about the Sacrament of Confession here at Our Lady.
First, as I mentioned at the Masses last weekend, we are installing a new confessional in the former ushers’ closet in the southeast corner of the church. Our Lady Queen of Heaven Parish has been blessed over the years to have two priests assigned to it and yet we only have had one confessional. During the penitential seasons of Advent and Lent, when there are more frequent confessions, if both priests want to hear confessions, we need to “set up shop” in our office which is not the most convenient place for either the priest or penitent. Now, with an overflow confessional, we will be able to quickly have access when there are a number of confessions. This smaller confessional will be “behind the screen” only (due to space limitations). A chair will be provided as well as a hearing assistance telephone for the hard-of-hearing. I am excited to have this confessional available around the time of Lent. I want to thank Deacon Tom, Andy Kaminski, and the Mens’ Club for their help in building the new confessional.
Secondly, since the listening sessions requested more resources on confessions, I am planning on having one of the literature racks in the Gathering Space be entirely on the Sacrament of Confession. Various aids and pamphlets will be available to help you make a good and worthy confession. In addition, Father Weller and I will be giving at least one homily specifically devoted to confession this Lent. May it help you prepare and make a good confession.
Third and finally, on Ash Wednesday, February 22, 2023, the words of absolution used by the priest in confession are slightly changing. Just as the Roman Missal translation was updated over a decade ago, the Order of Penance has been retranslated as well. The changes are minimal and even if a priest forgets to use the new formula after April 16 (the last day the old version can be used), the absolution is still valid. There will be a bulletin insert next week explaining the changes in more detail. As always, if you have any questions, feel free to contact me.
A priest I knew growing up told me that you can always judge the health of a parish by how many people go to confession. Our parish seems to be in a healthy place considering we are needing to build a new confessional. If it’s been a while since you’ve gone, now is a great time. Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2).
CATHOLIC SCHOOLS WEEK
January 29 through February 4 was Catholic Schools Week, the annual national celebration of our Catholic schools. As a parish, we have always recognized the value of Catholic education and have supported our families and schools in educating our young people so they can reach their full potential. We acknowledge the vital role of parents and also the school faculty, staff, and volunteers in this effort. We also celebrate our students as they learn about their faith and the skills they need in the 21st century.
Our parish has always been linked to Catholic education in Wisconsin Rapids: It was in October of 1948 when Bishop John P. Treacy approved plans to construct St. Mary’s School. The school opened on September 19, 1949 with 155 students in attendance. In September 1951, Tri-City Catholic High School (later to be renamed Assumption High School) was established and began to use the second floor classrooms of St. Mary’s School for classes. Assumption used these classrooms for three years while the new school was constructed on Chestnut Street. In September 1954, the students moved to the current Assumption High School building.
This years’ theme for Catholic Schools Week — “Catholic Schools: Faith. Excellence. Service.” — focused on the core of Catholic education. Schools are not only communities themselves, they are also part of larger communities, including the parishes of the Wisconsin Rapids Deanery and our entire nation. As a parish, we support our Catholic schools through prayer, resources, and significant monetary subsidy. The schools, in turn, collaborate with families to develop our children into future model leaders and citizens. This year’s theme also highlighted key elements of Catholic education: academic excellence, leadership, and dedication to service. These elements are what set Catholic schools apart from other educational options.
Our Catholic schools are a part of our future as a Church and as a nation. May God bless them and all who contribute to the important work they do on behalf of the children of our deanery and parishes across the country.
ST. JOHN BOSCO'S RESOLUTIONS
Happy New Year! May 2023 be happy, holy, and healthy to you and your families. Since 1967, January 1st is observed as the “World Day of Peace” in the Catholic Church. In his 1967 encyclical on the development of people, Populorum Progressio, Saint Pope Paul VI notes that “peace is not simply the absence of warfare, based on a precarious balance of power; it is fashioned by efforts directed day after day toward the establishment of the ordered universe willed by God, with a more perfect form of justice among men.” As war continues to rage in Ukraine, Yemen, Ethiopia, and in other places, may we continue to pray for peace in our world and may 2023 be the year that these tragic wars come to an end.
Switching gears entirely, some of you may know about St. John Bosco, known affectionately as “Don Bosco” in Italian. He was an Italian priest, born in 1815, and died in 1888. He dedicated his life to the betterment and education of street children, juvenile delinquents, and other disadvantaged youth. He is the patron saint of schoolchildren. As we begin a new year, many of us will make New Year’s Resolutions. I found the following “Resolutions” written by St. John Bosco that are still applicable today and I share them with all of you as good New Year’s Resolutions for our participation in Mass:
1. Try to be early for Mass always. A few minutes spent in before Mass can open your soul to wonderful Graces.
2. When you enter or leave the church take Holy Water and sign yourself with the Sign of the Cross.
3. Always genuflect when you enter or leave your seat. This is an Act of Adoration to Almighty God, present in the tabernacle. So take time to genuflect reverently, facing the altar and saying “My Lord and My God” as your right knee touches the floor.
4. Don’t talk in church unless absolutely necessary. Talk only to Jesus—it is Him you have come to visit. Don’t talk as you leave either. Some people may still be praying.
5. Listen to the sermon. It is a message from God which could bear much fruit for you.
6. Don’t start to leave church until the priest has left the church. Stay to thank God for the Graces you received from Him in the Mass.
Finally, St John Bosco reminded us that every day we take a step closer to Heaven, that every act should be for the greater glory of God and that every morning we should renew our resolve to work for the Salvation of souls. May God bless you this year and always. Happy 2023!
THE COMMINGLING AT MASS
During Mass, at the Lamb of God, the priest breaks a piece of the consecrated host and places it in the chalice. During this action, he says a prayer quietly: “May this mingling of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ bring eternal life to us who receive it.” One meaning of this commingling of the Body and Blood of Jesus was expressed by the liturgical scholar Dom Prosper Guéranger (died 1875) when he wrote: “Its object is to show that, at the moment of Our Lord’s Resurrection, His Blood was reunited to his Body; by flowing again in his veins as before.”
Another meaning comes an early Church practice called fermentum. This practice involved bringing a particle from the consecrated host at the bishop’s Mass (called a fermentum, from the Latin word for leaven or yeast) to the parish church and mingled in the priest’s chalice as a sign of the unity of the priest’s Mass with the bishop’s. The fermentum was used brought from the bishop of one diocese to the bishop of another diocese. The receiving bishop would then consume the species at his next celebration of the Eucharist as a sign of the communion between the churches. The fermentum then is a sign of unity: between the bishop and the parish; between dioceses; and between Christ and his Church.
Now you might be asking why I am talking about this during the season of Advent and in our preparation of Christmas. St. Alphonsus Liguori gives an explanation about this commingling. He wrote: “This mingling of the holy species represents, too, the unity of divinity with humanity, which was at first effected in the womb of Mary through the incarnation of the Word, and which is renewed in the souls of the faithful when they receive him in the eucharistic Communion.”
At the preparation of the gifts (the offertory), the priest or deacon pours a little water into the chalice filled with wine and says quietly: “By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.” This prayer comes from an ancient Christmas prayer that we still use today as the Collect (opening prayer) for Christmas Mass on Christmas Day. As we prepare for Christmas this Advent, we recall the unity of the divinity and humanity of Jesus—a unity shown through the mixture of water and wine and the unity that is the Eucharist. Holy Communion is the sacrament of unity.
That Christmas Collect is a good preparation for us this Advent: “O God, who wonderfully created the dignity of human nature and still more wonderfully restored it, grant, we pray, that we may share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity. Amen.”
Sometimes people ask me about the different Eucharistic Prayers used at Mass and why one is used over another. I thought I’d answer these questions in this week’s bulletin column since the Eucharistic Prayer is the center and high point of the entire Mass.
There are four principal Eucharistic Prayers, numbered in Roman numerals, I through IV. Eucharistic Prayer I is also known as the Roman Canon. It is an ancient text, having existed by the beginning of the fifth century and by the beginning of the seventh it has remained practically unaltered. It was the only Eucharistic Prayer used at Mass in the West between 1570 and 1970. This Eucharistic Prayer may always be used at any Mass. It is especially suited to certain feast days that have special prayers assigned within it (Holy Thursday, Christmas, Easter, etc.). It is also especially suited for the feast days of the apostles and saints mentioned in the prayer itself. Along with Eucharistic Prayer III, it is especially suited for use on Sundays.
Eucharistic Prayer II is adapted from an ancient Eucharistic Prayer called the Anaphora of Hippolytus from the third or fourth centuries. Because of its conciseness and comparative simplicity, it is suited for use on weekdays and in Masses with children, young people, and small groups. It is also suited for use at Masses for the Dead. The Church also notes that because of its simplicity, it makes a good starting point for catechesis on the different elements of the Eucharistic Prayer.
Eucharistic Prayer III is a new composition composed after the Second Vatican Council. Its use should be preferred on Sundays and festive days. It may also be used in Masses for the Dead as it has a longer proper text for such Masses. The liturgical norms suggest alternating Eucharistic Prayer I and III on Sundays.
Eucharistic Prayer IV is also a new composition composed after Vatican II. It is based on Eastern Eucharistic Prayers. Because it comprises a rather detailed summary of the history of salvation and as such presupposes a somewhat superior knowledge of scripture, the Church recommends its use with groups having a better foundation in Scripture. It is suited for use on Sundays in Ordinary Time It cannot be used during Advent or Lent or on certain feast days.
Finally, there are several other Eucharistic Prayers used in special circumstances. I’ll write about these lesser-used prayers in a future column. God bless you.
Our Parish HVAC System
As the seasons change and so does the weather, I often receive a number of complaints: some say it’s too cold in the church and others tell me it’s too warm. I wanted to spend a moment to let you know a bit more about our parish’s HVAC system and what we try to do to keep it comfortable in the church.
You may not know it, but there are five different heating systems in our building. The boilers heat the church (nave and sanctuary), the school, and the rectory. There are separate forced air furnaces that heat the gathering space, the parish offices, the cafeteria, and the church basement. There are also electric baseboard heaters in the offices for “make up” heat. None of these systems ‘talk’ to one another so it can be common to have one area cold and the other warm, even when the thermostats are seemingly set to the same temperature.
We try to keep the church’s temperature between 68°F and 70°F. For some, this might seem cold; for others, this is warm. Everyone keeps their own dwelling at their preferred temperature. Why do we try to keep the church at this temperature? Most people in church have coats on in the fall and winter so if they are cold, they can keep them on; otherwise, they can take them off. Also, there are no air vents in the sanctuary and the priests can get very warm with vestments on. The temperature is usually 2–3 degrees warmer in the sanctuary and I do not think you want your priests passing out during Mass. Finally, the parish’s natural gas bill is about $10,000 a year (probably more this winter!)—and most of that is spent for heating in the winter.
Perhaps you’ve noticed I’ve said “try” a lot. While our boilers are relatively new, the control system is very hard to use. We have very little control over the temperature and when the system comes on—not to mention that the systems do not ‘talk’ to each other. We are looking into a new control system for the HVAC system and might use some campaign money for that since, as you might imagine, it’s not a small cost. However, it would give us much more control with the systems.
In the meantime, I encourage you to dress warmly if you’re cold or to dress in layers if you’re warm. One hint: the perimeter of the pews receives the least amount of air from the vents. If you sit in the middle of the pews, you’ll notice the air blowing more. We’ve tried to adjust where the air blows but there is little we can do. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions. Fire and heat, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever. Cold and chill, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever. (Daniel 3:66–67)
ALTAR CANDLES AT OLQH
You may have noticed that we have added more altar candles on the altar of sacrifice recently. With the refurbishment of our altars, the size of the top of the altar (called the mensa) was increased. This increase in size allowed us to purchase additional candles to put on the altar. When the mensa was smaller, the additional candles would not have fit well with the missal stand and the sacred vessels. Now that we have more room, it all fits nicely.
If you attend daily Mass, you might have noticed that the number of candles we have out each day changes. Some people have asked why the number changes (from two to four to six). There is a principle of “progressive solemnity” in the liturgy: that is, as the feast day gets “higher” we increase the solemnity of the Mass. One easy way to do this is by changing the number of candles on the altar.
The schema that we use here at OLQH followed the rules governing Mass: on weekdays on which there is no celebration of a saint (known as ferial days) and on optional memorials of saints, we use two candles. When there is an obligatory memorial of a saint, we use four candles. On a feast or solemnity, we use six candles. Since Sundays are always solemnities, we will always use six candles for Sunday Masses. As a matter of trivia, if the bishop would ever come to the parish to celebrate Mass, we would use an odd number of candles as the Church’s tradition is to always use an odd number of candles, usually seven, when a bishop celebrates Mass.
With the invention of electric light, some people ask why we still use candles at Mass since we no longer need them to see. Candles are symbols of the presence of Christ, the light of the world (John 8:12), and of baptism by which we share in his light (Colossians 1:12) and are also signs of reverence and festivity (think of lighting birthday candles to celebrate a birthday). Prior to the Second Vatican Council altar candles were to be composed primarily of pure beeswax, with the exact percentage determined by the diocesan bishop (often 51 or 65%), since the beeswax symbolized the pure flesh Christ received from his Virgin Mother, the wick symbolized his soul, and the flame his divinity. After Vatican II, there are no longer regulations concerning candles’ composition but most churches, including ours, still use 51% beeswax since it is cleaner and longer burning. It was often common (and still is in some places) to use unbleached candles for funerals and during Lent and Advent as a sign of mourning or penitence.
Faith. We often talk about faith and yet sometimes we question ourselves if we even have any faith. This weekend’s readings from Sacred Scripture offer us an opportunity to meditate more deeply on what it means to have faith and how it should shape our lives as Christians.
Perhaps we feel like Habakkuk from our First Reading. He prays to God saying, “How long, O Lord? I cry for help but you do not listen! I cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not intervene.” Perhaps in our own prayer, we make the same request as the apostles did to Jesus: “Increase our faith.” What are we supposed to do?
The answer lies in the Lord’s response to both Habakkuk and to the apostles. The Lord says to Habakkuk: For the vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint; if it delays, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late. In other words, God says wait. He says wait and have faith. We don’t always like this answer. God’s answer is to wait; that by delaying, our faith is developed. Faith then involves patience. Yes, God hears our cry but He also knows how to develop our faith through patient endurance.
The meaning of this weekend’s parable of the unprofitable servants is that because of our relationship with God, we are not owed anything; we have not earned anything. Rather, we were simply doing our duty as Christians and so should think of ourselves as unprofitable servants of the Master—that is, of God. Why does Jesus connect this parable with faith? It is because it warns the disciples against supposing that faith, and the obedient service of the Lord in which faith is expressed, establishes a claim for reward. When you have done all that is commanded you, say “We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.”
Be encouraged, therefore, by the words of St. Augustine: “We must believe, then, in order to pray; and we must ask God that the faith enabling us to pray may not fail. Faith gives rise to prayer, and this prayer obtains an increase of faith. Faith gives rise to prayer, and is in turn strengthened by prayer.”
PICNIC THANKSGIVING AND SCHOOL STARTING
I hope you all enjoyed the parish picnic several weeks ago. I enjoyed my “job” as popcorn maker. I think we will continue having popcorn available at the picnics. When I was pastor in Polonia, the pastor’s job was “chairperson of the weather committee.” The pastor, in fact, was the only member of the “committee” and his sole job was to pray for good weather. While we don’t have a weather committee here at OLQH, my prayers for good weather were answered as it was a beautiful day!
I want to thank Deacon Tom and Mary Anderson for serving as the chairpersons for the picnic this year as well as all the chairs of the various booths and areas. Everyone’s hard work is greatly appreciated. We sometimes forget that the picnic is our parish’s largest fundraiser of the year and, while it serves to bring the parish together and have some fun, we also hold it for fundraising. Once all of the receipts and invoices come in, we will be able to offer you a financial report of the picnic. This often takes some time so your patience is appreciated. If you were not able to help at or attend the picnic this year, consider doing so at next year’s.
Changing gears, we heard last week from Bishop Callahan about the beginning of the school year. On August 30th, we had our first school Mass at OLQH School. I am happy to report that the attendance at OLQH School (grades 5K–2) is at its highest in recent years. I am very happy to be able to often celebrate Mass for our students and also visit all the classrooms regularly. Our own parochial vicar, Father Weller, is chaplain at Assumption Middle and High Schools and he is now spending most of his week at AHS. Please keep him in your prayers for his effective ministry there.
We also have a great program of religious education, adult faith formation, and RCIA planned for this year. I am so thankful to have Rebecca Zalar as our Director of Religious Education. She is always available to speak about anything regarding religious formation. If you or someone you know is considering becoming Catholic, or getting confirmed as an adult, why not take the time to speak to Rebecca about the exciting RCIA program we have in our deanery this year.
As we get back to the autumn routine, it’s a good time to get back to the routine of regular Mass, prayer, and reception of the Sacrament of Confession. All of our times are listed on the front of the bulletin. We’re glad you’re a part of this parish—let us together walk in the light of the Lord!