Sunday, December 21, 2014

Duc In Altum: Put Out Into The Deep Discernment Retreat With Bishop Donald Hying



This past weekend I went on a silent discernment retreat at Saint Francis de Sales Seminary. It had been quite a while since I had been on one. The retreat was called Duc In Altum, which literally means,  to "put out into the deep" and although I didn't realize that it was a silent retreat when I signed up to go, it was exactly what I needed at this moment in my life. The weekend was led by Bishop Donald Hying, a great man whom I also consider a wonderful friend and spiritual guide and is soon to be the next bishop of the Diocese of Gary, Indiana.



For myself personally, I have had a difficult time discerning what the next steps are that God is calling me to take regarding re-entering seminary. This retreat was extremely fruitful in a sense that it reminded me that I am not alone in my discernment, and reaffirmed my trust in God, that He would never leave my side, even when the life decisions that I make are not always comfortable or easy.

Each day of the retreat featured the Liturgy of Hours, Mass celebrated by Bishop Hying, and the rector of the seminary, Fr. John Hemsing, listening to a series of conferences by the Bishop and participating in a beautiful Eucharistic all night vigil.



In one of his talks Bishop Hying spoke about a common conversation that he has with young people.
Often he will ask a man or woman what they want to do with their life and being put on the spot, they are unable to think of their greatest dreams and desires. The common response that follows is that they want to go to a good school. When the Bishop asks them why this is important to them, they answer, "In order to get a good job so as to have a comfortable life." Finally the Bishop concludes the questioning, " Then what do you hope to do after that?" Usually there is hardly or no response at all.

As a young man discerning what I should do with my life, there are so many options that it can be very overwhelming. Often times I feel lost or confused about what I should do especially while living in a world that constantly encourages moving upwards in life, making a lot of money, gaining popularity, success, prestige and human admiration, while adding as much material possessions as I can to my life.

Christ on the other hand calls us to move downwards, to give all our money away, to die to self in order to put others first, to subtract the comfort from our lives so He can fill us with all that we truly need to grow in faith and love.

This retreat was such a beautiful reminder of the need to make myself open and available to the will of God whatever it is that I am being called to do. Going on this retreat also reminded me of what great friends and support that I have from the community of people I have come to know. I really recommend making a retreat at least once in your life. Not only is it a great way to grow in community with others who share your desire to do God's will, but in the world of great distractions and upward vision, it's a perfect opportunity to enter into silence and allow God to speak to your heart.


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Growing Up


"As we grow up, we realize that we have two hands; one for helping yourself and the other for helping others." - Audrey Hepburn

When I was growing up my parents worked hard to instill  the importance of hard work and education in my family. I believe they became fearful when we would rather play video games and sit on the computer instead of studying for our exams or filling out scholarships or applications for colleges.  They knew that life would be hard as we moved on into our young adult years and they wanted to make sure that we were well prepared to cope with the challenges that were sure to come our way.

This past year has been huge learning experience for me where I encountered many challenges and became truly grateful for all of the guidance my parents have given me.  Knowing that other young adults may also be struggling as they make the transition from dependent children to independent adults, I want to share some of the great lessons I learned. 

Make sure you have a back up plan when choosing a career path- If you run into obstacles and setbacks in your plans and something doesn't sit well with you, there is no shame in going in a different direction.

Choose to work for companies that share your values- During the summer I was struggling to find a job and jumped at the chance to work for Quad Graphics. It wasn't until after I was already hired and worked for the company for a few months that I learned that they print "Playboy" magazine in another one of their plants. Had I known that before applying to work there, I wouldn't have considered applying for that job.   Now I'm blessed to work for a great Catholic company.  I'm so grateful to work for a place that not only shares my Catholic values, but strives to instill them in all of our members and clients.

Always drive the speed limit- I used to have a lead foot, and although it got me to my destinations quicker, it really cost me a lot with speeding tickets, accidents and a higher rate of insurance.

Take the time to research how to find and secure a job- I spent the majority of my summer tirelessly looking for a job, applying everywhere and anywhere. I learned a lot about my strengths and weaknesses, honed my interview skills, learned how to take rejection and realized how unqualified I was for the positions I wanted. Most importantly I learned that by persevering in a job search, a quality job can be yours and that there are always good people who are willing to help you get where you want to be.

Everything costs money- As a young kid, I was not immune to want to spend all of my paychecks from my first jobs. Young people like me really learn on the fly  that just because you have money, doesn't mean you should blow it. You never know when a emergency situation will occur.  Saving for those emergencies is crucial.

There will always be girls- If your biggest worry is having a relationship, then you really need to settle down. There will always be girls, so don't make dating your top priority.  Instead, focus on those things that will help you to have a successful future.  If you are already in a relationship, don't settle for someone who is less than ideal for you. If you don't feel like they're the one for you or there is something that you can't overlook, don't stick around. God will surely lead you to the right person in His time.

Network- Everybody knows somebody else. You can really benefit from making connections with people.  I am blessed that my friends have my back and were willing and able to help me get up off my feet to where I am now. Having those friends who look out for you, love you and support you can really go a long way.  And at the same time, make sure you return the favor and give your friends a helping hand, too, if they should ever need it.

Listen to your parents- They've been there and back so respect them and thank them. You wouldn't even be where you are now without them. 

Work on your faith- When things seem to be on a downward turn, don't let go of your faith in God. It is your faith in God that will strengthen you and bring you out of the deepest holes.


There is a huge difference between book smarts and common sense. I learned that there are many things in the real world that school can't prepare you for. I also learned that just because you are smart in school, that doesn't mean that you are set for the real world. I've seen so many peers who were extremely educated in school, yet when it came to common sense, they got in the worst situations, chose the wrong friends, didn't reflecte on consequences before they acted, and now they don't have the knowledge to resolve their problems. 

This year, I was reminded that I can never stop learning, regardless of whether I'm in school or not.  I am never alone in my trials. You always have second chances to make up for your mistakes and people will never stop loving you no matter what. Never lose hope in yourself or in God. 

I hope that you have also had a year of great learning and have grown in self-knowledge as well as in knowledge and life-skills.  Have a wonderful last few weeks of the year and know of my prayers for a blessed and hope-filled Christmas and New Year.






Thursday, December 4, 2014

What Should You Desire


My Mom told me about about an interesting conversation she had with one of my younger brothers the other day. She had picked him up to take him to school and while they were on the way, my brother pulls out a prayer card of St. Joseph that I had given him. According to tradition, if you pray the prayer to St. Joseph for 9 consecutive days for anything you desire, your request will be granted.

While looking at the card on their drive, my brother spoke with a great deal of honesty, " I don't know what to desire, so I just pray that God will reveal what I should desire. " I couldn't think of a more honest answer from someone my age than that one and I think it is true for so many people today.

We don't know what we want...Or what it is that we should want.

Looking at my own life, I find myself confused about what I should and shouldn't desire. I believe both society and my own human weakness are to blame.

We strive to have holy relationships with women, but society tricks us into thinking that we need promiscuity with women. We want to grow in our relationships with God, but we are persuaded to believe that contact with God should be strictly designated for Sundays. We want to mature and become more independent, but we are taught that in order to do that, you need to move out, cut people out of your life and start all new habits with brand new people. Society can confuse you and your dreams and desires and it can be a very lonely place to be.

My brother had the most mature and well thought out solution that I've ever heard from anyone his age.

"I can't decide what I should be desiring. You decide God."

Who better to rely on than the one who created your entire being? Submit your will to the Father and let him lead you down the path he has chosen for you.


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Milwaukee-40 Days For Life Eucharistic Procession with Bishop Donald Hying, Pro-life Wisconsin and Roses For Our Lady


On Sunday November 16th, Pro-Life Wisconsin's State Director-Elect Dan Miller, Bishop Donald Hying of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and Roses For Our Lady President Anne Bender, led a Eucharistic Procession beginning in front of the Affiliated Medical Services building on Milwaukee's Eastside. The procession concluded with Benediction inside the Womens Care Center directly across the street.

The event was a fitting way to end the fall season of the Milwaukee 40 Days for Life campaign as we began by praying outside of a place of death and despair in the abortion mill, and finished inside a peaceful sanctuary of life and hope in the Womens Care Center.

 As we enter into these coming winter months, please keep all women in your prayers who are faced with the difficult situation of an unplanned pregnancy, that they may choose to give their children life and convince others to do the same. It is extremely encouraging to see so many people, young people included, supporting the pro-life cause and feeling compelled to share information with anyone who will listen. Your courage and strength is so inspiring! Keep up the great work!

 Please take a moment to watch this video, share it with your family and friends and continue to spread the Gospel of Life with all you come in contact with.



Brewing The Faith With Riverwest Food Pantry's Vincent Noth & Sam Vosters



There are so many new and exciting opportunities to grow in faith and in community in Milwaukee and this Thursday is no different! Please join me for this wonderful event that features two of my friends who give so much of their time to serve the needs of others. 

When: Thursday, November 20th at 7:00pm

Where: St Francis Brewery- 3825 South Kinnickinnic Avenue, St Francis, WI 

Via: Emily Burds

Come & join young adults in their 20's & 30's for an evening of prayer, fellowship & relevant discussion on how to live your faith in the 21st century! 

This month Sam Vosters and Vincent Noth of the Riverwest Food Pantry will be joining us to share their message entitled "Feed the Hungry and Proclaim the Gospel."

7:00pm II Fellowship (free beer)
7:30pm II Message & Discussion
8:30pm II Communal Prayer

Vincent Noth and Samantha Vosters run the Riverwest Food Pantry in Milwaukee's northside. 

Vincent has worked in urban service and the nonprofit sector since 1999. In 2013 Vincent was hired to launch the Riverwest Food Pantry as a non-profit.Vincent and his wife Jessica have lived in Riverwest since 2001.

Samantha began volunteering at the food pantry in the summer of 2013 and moved to the neighborhood shortly after. She recently started working for the food pantry full time.

Both enjoy living and working in their neighborhood and in their parish Our Lady of Divine Providence.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

You Were Made For So Much More: What Jury Duty in Milwaukee can teach you.

                                                 

This week I had a crazy and unique experience. It was called Jury Duty... And it was scary. Not only was it scary in the fact that I had to walk through metal detectors, sit in a small auditorium with complete strangers, follow huge tattooed sheriffs down grimy hallways, stand up and talk about myself before judges, counselors, defendants, galleries and media, and listen to gruesome crimes even though I wasn't picked for a case. It was also scary knowing that I am no longer a little kid and have, for a few years now, caught a glimpse of the real world. Scary, sometimes, isn't it?

                                               (Milwaukee County Courthouse- www.flickriver.com)

I was so saddened by what I saw on my half day of jury duty. I was a one of 40 potential jurors selected for one young man's trial. This young man, who was on trial for possessing 17 counts of pornography portraying a minor, was clean cut, well dressed and well versed. He looked to have so much potential in life. He really could have made something of himself, but he couldn't get past the bad decisions he made, and now having been found guilty, will need to pay the price.

Everything has a consequence. You really have to be on your game all the time with everything you do. There is always someone watching. The idea of jury duty had me thinking about my relationship with God, because I sometimes get caught in my own weakness and fail to do what He calls me to do.

This post is my prayer for the all the young adults in the city of Milwaukee. Choosing friends wisely is beneficial. Getting your education is essential. Setting goals for yourself gives you the opportunity to meet your life potential. Don't sell yourself short and waste the talents that God has given you and disappoint your parents who raised you.

Everything has consequences in this life and the next. Build each other up. Bring people closer together. Help them to understand God's love and mercy for their lives. Make it your goal to sit with our Father in Heaven. Don't underestimate the good that you can do with your life because you were made for so much more.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

1st Saturday Cooking Demos at the Riverwest Food Pantry with Chef Paul Bender



Helping the less fortunate can come in many different forms. Using your time and talents to offer others assistance and a sense of self-worth at the same time is very beautiful and generous. Chef Paul Bender, a local corporate chef hailing from West Allis, Wisconsin, who is also my Dad, does exactly that. Despite working two jobs, Chef Paul has been spending the first Saturday of every month for six months, donating his energy and passion for food by holding food demonstrations at the Riverwest Food Pantry at St. Casimir Church in Milwaukee, showcasing healthy and unique spins on many of the foods available at the pantry.



In past demonstrations, Chef Paul has displayed vegetarian chili, lettuce wraps, low calorie macaroni and cheese, cucumber radish salad, guacamole, and butternut and spaghetti squash, using ingredients that are available at the food pantry. The Riverwest Food Pantry has found that many clients refuse to take certain foods home because they don't know what to do with it. By demonstrating the wide variety of options with some of these foods, Chef Paul and the food pantry hope to assist clients not only by providing an abundance of tasty food ideas, but also to improve their health with nutritious recipes.

Chef Paul Bender is doing the good work that we are all called to do in the Gospel. We are called to give of ourselves for the benefit of others, using the talents that God has given us to help others and to bring about a deeper relationship with Him through our good example.

If you would like to volunteer your time, talent and your love of people please feel free to assist at the Riverwest Food Pantry located at Our Lady of Divine Providence Parish (St. Casimir Site) on the corner of Bremen and Clarke streets in Milwaukee.

Please feel free to contact Vincent Noth, Coordinator of the Riverwest Food Pantry at 262-518-2009
or visit http://riverwestfoodpantry.org/ for more information on how you can get involved.

Bishop Donald Hying Film Debut on December 8th at the Majestic Theater

Via Imprisoned In My Bones-



Ahava Productions presents it's film debut featuring Bishop Donald Hying, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, on Monday, December 8th, 2014 at the Marcus Majestic Theater in Brookfield, Wisconsin.  Yes, that's Bishop Hying on the BIG SCREEN!

The evening will begin with Mass celebrated by Bishop Hying for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception at 5:30 pm followed by the showing at 6:15 pm.  The $5.00 tickets are available for purchase now and will sell fast!  Order soon!  This is an event you won't want to miss!  A ticket is required to attend.

To order your ticket, please visit this link:  
http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/917661

These Ahava Productions Anima films are described as follows:  "...a series of films that help us break through the noise of our everyday life in order to hear the voice of truth and love. Each film in the series guides us on an inward journey of self-reflection and wonder. The short movies feature Auxiliary Bishop Donald Hying as he incorporates the word of God, original music, and the highest level of cinematography."

Following the film debut, these films will be available via download on the Ahava Productions website and should be ready to purchase following the December 8th debut.  The films have been picked up by the largest distributor of Catholic goods and will be on DVD and sold in every Catholic bookstore, Christian bookstore, Barnes and Noble, parishes, etc.


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Archbishop Listecki Entrusts Archdiocese of Milwaukee to Mary at Hearts United 2014




For three days, October 5th, 6th, and 7th, hundreds of Catholics from all over the Archdiocese attended Hearts United 2014 at Christ King parish in Wauwatosa hosted by the Rosary Evangelization Apostolate. The three day mission featured dynamic speakers in Bishop Donald Hying, Auxiliary Bishop of Milwaukee, Fr. Jim Kubicki the National Director of the Apostleship of Prayer, Fr. Peter Ryan, Executive Director of the Office of Doctrine for the USCCB and Janis Clarke, a Lay Evangelist.  Confession, Eucharistic Adoration and Benediction were part of the mission which concluded with a beautiful Entrustment of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee by Archbishop Listecki during Mass on the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.









As a young adult Catholic, I can honestly say that it was so inspiring to attend this powerful and spiritual event and see so many members of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee come together to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary. It was very encouraging to see so many evangelical groups such as Roses For Our Lady, Arise Milwaukee, Safe Teen Zone, Catholic Memorial High School and many large families lead the church in each decade of the Rosary, and St. Sebastian Parish Choir lead us in song. It is events like these that give the young people of the local church in Milwaukee hope, seeing the church so alive, faithfully placing our trust in the Blessed Virgin Mary. Our prayer,with Mary as our guide, is that we continue to do the work of the Lord with zeal and vigor, assisting others on their journey to Heaven.

Our Lady of the Rosary, pray for us!

For more information about the Rosary Evangelization Apostolate and the other awesome events that they host and plan, please visit www.rosaryea.org

(All photos courtesy of Terry Boldin)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Nothing Stops the Power of God's Love

                                                        (Photo Courtesy of kirkcameron.com)

I've been reading an excellent book lately by Ronald Rolheiser. Rolheiser is a priest of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, a specialist in spirituality and systematic theology, an accomplished author and frequent columnist for the Catholic Herald. In Forgotten Among The Lilies; Learning to Love Beyond Our Fears, Fr. Rolheiser explores some of the intense obsessions that dominate our lives and offers down-to-earth guidance for learning how to leave our fears and anxieties behind. In my opinion, this is easily his best book.

In the chapter God Overcomes Scrambled Eggs, he inspires the reader to trust in our Heavenly Father. Fr. Rolheiser commences the chapter by relaying a conversation he had with a young man. The young man confides in him that he had an affair with a young woman who then became pregnant. For a series of reasons, marriage was out of the question. The pregnancy would interrupt both of their lives, and also the child to be born. Sadly, the young man ends the conversation on a note of hopelessness and despair saying, "There is no way I'll ever live normally again, beyond this. Even God can't unscramble an egg."

Fr. Rolheiser goes how to say that he, "has gathered that everyone has some type of skeleton in the closet. Some people may be extremely scarred from a broken marriage, an abortion, a religious commitment that did not work out, a pregnancy outside of marriage, a betrayed trust, a broken relationship, an affair or another serious mistake, sometimes even without sin. Some of these things may cause some people to feel like they have put a mark on themselves like that of Cain. They may feel so horribly that they believe that even  God would not be able to forgive them."

Those who know me personally know that I was in college seminary for a semester. The past few years following my brief stay in the seminary have been challenging as I continue to sort out and discern God's plan for my life. I occasionally feel the guilt of not being strong enough to fully commit to seminary. It can be painful and sometimes disheartening not knowing or understanding what God's intentions are for my life.  It's because of this that I can relate with others who feel scarred from the difficulties of making decisions in their lives.

In times like these we should strive to remind ourselves of the old adage, "God closes one door, and opens another." We as a Christian community need to remember that God is not a hard-handed Ruler, but an extremely forgiving Creator, and He never wants us to feel that He is incapable of doing good with messy situations. It is through our dark experiences that God can do the most wondrous healing and miracle working.  God will continue to bless us with beautiful supporting families, great friends and continuous opportunities for growth in faith and in love despite the hardships that we may have faced. To put it in Fr. Rolheiser's words, "Let God's grace let you live happily and with renewed innocence far beyond any egg that we may have scrambled."

God will never abandon you. Take heart. God loves you and will never cease to stop.








Sunday, October 5, 2014

Real Friendship

                                                         (Photo Courtesy of alcfezbook.com)

"It's necessary that you get the energy-drainers out of your life; people who don't want anything, people who are not striving, people who are not challenging themselves, people who aren't growing and who have stopped dreaming. It is necessary that you align yourself with others who are hungry, are unstoppable and are unreasonable and refuse to leave life just as it is and who want more."
                                                                                                 - Les Brown, Motivational Speaker

It's a phrase used countless times today by people my age. "I need people in my life right now that are there for me no matter what.  I need people who have my back in any situation." It is a powerful feeling to have this overwhelming support, knowing that someone will always by right by your side, but its questionable whether or not we as a generation know what a real person in their corner looks like.

We don't like opposition. We love to be right and love to surround ourselves with people who tell us that we are solid in our decision making and that we have no faults whatsoever. In turn, we cut ourselves off from friends and family who tell us differently. We strive so much to please everybody that I think we lose sight of what it means to be a real friend.

A lot of us have friends who will always agree with us, coddling us into a feeling of self-righteousness. How can that do any good if you and I are actually wrong in handling a situation or terrible when it comes to common sense and decision making?

A good example of this may be taken from watching the show, American Idol Every season we watch as people with no musical talent whatsoever enter the competition with aspirations of being the next American Idol. After the judges tell the participant that he or she should stick to their day job and give up singing as a career move, the camera usually swings back outside to the waiting room where the parents and friends of the Idol-wannabe vehemently complain that their son or daughter has an exceptional voice and the judges criticism is not valid.

When people talk about having the right people in their lives, how can it be a good thing to be told that you are always right and that you are never wrong. A real friend will always be able to point you in the right direction instead of helping you to dig a deeper hole for yourself with  no consequences and giving you a false sense of security. Whether it stemmed from school decisions, to bad relationships, I've always been grateful for the people who never been afraid to be brutally honest with me.  If I am wrong, tell me that I'm wrong. Sugar-coating does no good at all.

I learned in my short life so far that a good friend genuinely cares about your soul and will stop at nothing to help you get to heaven, even if that means hurting our pride in the process.  Let us pray for our friends and for the grace to be a true friend to all those we come in contact with, that we bring them closer to our heavenly Father.








Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Why Do We Worship: A Catholic Response to Victoria Osteen By Jerry Krajewski

 It is refreshing to see many people my age who are on fire for the Catholic faith and who are willing to share their knowledge of and love for the faith on this blog. Jerry Krajewski, who recently graduated from Cardinal Stritch University with a Bachelor's degree in Religious Studies, and one of my best friends, defends the reasons why we worship. This is a response to Victoria Osteen's recent comments at a convention which was attended by thousands of people,  She stated that "we don't worship God for Him, but only for ourselves."

Thank you Jerry for writing this inspiring blog post, and for your deep love for God and your courage in standing up for the Catholic faith.

(Photo Courtesy of www.loveburds.com)

Why do we worship?

A Catholic response to Victoria Osteen

By: Jerry Krajewski

Sunday mornings can sometimes be a chore.  We get up early on a weekend, sometimes trudges through snow storms, and go to a giant, beautiful building all in the name of worshiping God.  But why do we do this? Is it simply because the Bible says so, or is there more to it?

Victoria Osteen, wife of televangelist Joel Osteen, gave her input on why we worship God:

I just want to encourage every one of us to realize when we obey God, we're not doing it for God—I mean, that's one way to look at it—we're doing it for ourselves, because God takes pleasure when we're happy. That's the thing that gives Him the greatest joy. So, I want you to know this morning: Just do good for your own self. Do good because God wants you to be happy. When you come to church, when you worship Him, you're not doing it for God really. You're doing it for yourself, because that's because that's what makes God happy

According to Ms. Osteen, we worship God for our own gain. This could not be farther from the truth. We worship God because we understand that we would be nothing without the Almighty. In this article, I will briefly explain the Catholic perspective on worship and put into perspective the serious issue of Christian hedonism.

As Catholic Christians, we have the ultimate form of worship in the Sacrament of the Eucharist.  The word Eucharist is derived for the Greek word eucharista which means thanksgiving.  When Catholics worship, we come to God in utter humility of heart and in joyful thanksgiving.  We would be nothing without the Almighty, so we come together as a community of faith to thank God for the life that he gives to us.  One of the amazing things that happens at Mass is that everyone in the community ends up on their knees; it doesn’t matter if you are old, young, rich, poor, male, female, black, or white.  Everyone has equal worth in the eyes of God; for this, and many other reasons, we come each week to worship the God who made us. 

Now, that we have a general understanding as to why we worship god, now we need to move to the topic at hand: Christian hedonism.  This modern take on Christianity has become more and more prevalent in Evangelical churches.  Christian hedonism is a theology in which the person is that God is whatever we find pleasure in.  This makes God into all of the things that make us feel good. This makes our pleasure the highest good and what we must put above all else. 

So, what is so bad about this? Doesn’t God want us to be happy? It is true that God always wants what is best for us and to be truly happy.  However, it becomes self-idolization to put our own happiness above all else.  If you watch televangelists, they always seem to have huge congregations.  Their churches, the size of some sports arenas, are always full.  The money seems to be flowing in and the evangelists, themselves, are always dressed to the nines.  Christian Hedonism allows these evangelists to justify their lavish lifestyles.  They make millions of dollars and say that they make all of this because God loves them and God will bless you with riches if you give money to their ministry.  So, yes, according to this way of thinking, worshiping God is only about making ourselves happy.  God is always secondary. 


This way of thinking is very appealing to a lot of people. However, Christian hedonism must not be followed.  Self-idolization is an evil that seems very appealing but it is not of God.  For when we idolize ourselves, we bind ourselves in the chains of sin and isolate ourselves from God.  But when we put God as the center of our worship, we become free from the bondage and the isolation of sin.  We come to God with reverence and care; we come to worship because God created the heavens and the earth and gives life to us each and every day.  

Sunday, September 14, 2014

O Lord You Have Probed Me and You Know Me: Arise Milwaukee's New Season

                                                      Photo Courtesy of Arise Milwaukee            

Last night was the first Eucharistic Adoration event of the season for Arise Milwaukee. The event was held at St. Dominic Parish in Brookfield and was wonderfully attended by nearly 1,000 people. I had the privilege of being one of the altar servers for the evening.

Fr. Luke Strand, Director of Vocations for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, and spiritual advisor for Arise, presided. In a completely darkened church, Fr. Luke processed in with a spotlight shining on the monstrance while the congregation sang O, Salutaris.  Placing our Lord upon the altar, he began this intimate encounter with Lectio Divina on Psalm 139.

LORD, you have probed me, you know me:

you know when I sit and stand;*a
you understand my thoughts from afar.

You sift through my travels and my rest;
with all my ways you are familiar.

Even before a word is on my tongue,
LORD, you know it all.

Behind and before you encircle me
and rest your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
far too lofty for me to reach.

Where can I go from your spirit?
From your presence, where can I flee?

If I ascend to the heavens, you are there;
if I lie down in Sheol, there you are.c

If I take the wings of dawn*
and dwell beyond the sea,*

Even there your hand guides me,
your right hand holds me fast.


These beautiful words from the opening chapters of the psalm remind us that God is always in our midst and desires to enter into our hearts if we allow him. We are often in dire need of affirmation of God's presence. We often fall into the trap of believing that God is closer to us when our lives are blessed with high points of prestige or high honors, and is distant from our lives when we face significant challenges and become discouraged. King David definitely shared some of these same thoughts as he penned out psalms of God's faithfulness and unending mercy.

At Arise tonight, one of the speakers recalled a story told to him about St. John Vianney. The story goes that St. John Vianney questioned a young peasant about why he seemed to have a saintly glow  after he had finished adoring Christ in the Holy Eucharist, to which the peasant replied, "I look at Jesus and He looks at me."



In a world that does not know, or chooses not to know Christ, we must always remind ourselves that God is always present and that he will never forsake us. He knows us through and through and desperately wants to envelop us in His great love more and more.

I encourage you to attend Arise Milwaukee Missions and Eucharistic Adoration throughout the Archdiocese of Milwaukee whenever you find an opportunity. It is most important to allow ourselves time with the Lord Jesus especially when we feel alone or discouraged. Allow the Lord to gaze upon you and fill you with his deep love and reaffirm your understanding that He has never left your side.

The next Arise Milwaukee Mission will be on December 13th at St. Jerome Parish in Oconomowoc from 7pm-9pm. For more information please visit www.arisemissions.org


  

Friday, September 12, 2014

A Blessed Week of Honoring Our Blessed Mother

                                                         Photo Copyright: John Paul Bender

We've had two days this week honoring the Blessed Virgin Mary-Monday, September 8th having been the Birth of Mary and today the Feast of Her Most Holy Name. What a beautiful week in which to honor the Mother of the human race and of our Lord Jesus Christ!

                                                           Photo Courtesy of Terry Boldin

On Monday night, Roses For Our Lady celebrated the Birth of Our Mother with a beautiful Mass and outdoor rosary procession at Divine Mercy Parish in South Milwaukee. Presiding at the liturgy was Bishop Donald Hying along with assisting priests: Fr. Bob Betz, Pastor at Divine Mercy, Fr. Tim Kitzke, Pastor of Three Holy Women and native son of the hosting parish, and Fr. Luke Strand, Vocation Director for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. 

                                                            Photo Courtesy of Terry Boldin

In his homily, Bishop Hying addressed the importance of having a relationship with our Blessed Mother, "Look to our Mother for strength and inspiration for how we are to live as disciples. Her initial courage and acceptance of God's plan to give birth to Jesus and her encouragement to the apostles to go and make disciples of all nations after His resurrection should be the model of how to be a perfect follower."

                                                             Photo Courtesy of Terry Boldin

Mary was definitely with us as 400 people processed with the Eucharist through the neighborhood praying the rosary by candlelight in the late evening. Getting looks of confusion from the neighbors peering through windows and trailing with cameras was intimidating but the message of courage that Our Blessed Mother evokes surely shone through in all who were present. With Mary as our inspiration we will never have to be afraid. Let us continue bringing a message of hope to a nation that is still struggling to know Her son.  

                                                               Photo By John Paul Bender

Please join Roses For Our Lady this Sunday, September 14th, for their monthly holy hour for vocations at 2pm at Holy Rosary Parish on Milwaukee's East Side led by Fr. Enrique Hernandez. 

Happy Feast Day!

                                                   Photo Courtesy of Terry Boldin

Monday, September 8, 2014

"Passion For The Gospel & Service To Others": Recap of A Morning Reflection on Charity & Justice With Bishop Donald Hying

                                                (Photo Courtesy of Fr. Paul Hartmann)

Recently I attended a wonderful morning reflection on the issues of charity and justice with Bishop Donald Hying. Over 200 people from around the Archdiocese of Milwaukee gathered at St. James Parish in Menomonee Falls for the second installment of workshops put together by the Social Justice Ministry of the Archdioceses and neighboring parishes.

Leading off the morning of formation, Bishop Hying made a point of emphasizing that as Catholics we must have a burning passion for the Gospel and answer the call to bring the Good News to others.  Quoting the 1971 Synod of Bishops, Bishop Hying recalled that, "working for peace and justice is constitutive (meaning that it is an integral part) of the Gospel." This should be the mission that everyone should work towards.

There were so many interesting workshops to attend during the morning that it was hard to decide which one I should sit in on especially since they were all going on at the same time.

         Workshop A: St. Vincent DePaul "Coming Together to Get Ahead"
         Workshop B: Recruiting Volunteers
         Workshop C: Starting a Human Concerns Committee
         Workshop D: Inspiring People in Your Parish With Catholic Social Teaching
         Workshop E: JustFaith- Helping Individuals Experience Conversion
         Workshop F: Moving From Charity to Justice
         Workshop G: Faithful Citizenship in Polarized Times
         Workshop H: Youth on/in Mission

One of the things I had been bring to prayer long before attending this event was having an interest in mission work or going on mission trips. Naturally I wanted to attend the Youth on/in Mission workshop hosted by Directors of Youth Ministry, Claire Hoffmeyer and Bryan Ramsey at St. James, St. John Vianney and Good Shepherd parishes.

Both directors were on fire for the faith and genuinely wanted to make a difference in young people's lives by giving them opportunities for building up communities, volunteering time and service and designing and developing mission trips for faith growth. Both Claire and Bryan explained some of the encouraging aspects of their work with youth as well as some of the challenges that come with it.
I ask that you please keep Claire, Bryan, all youth ministers and young adult coordinators in your prayers as they continue to work hard to further instill the faith in our young people.

The next Morning of Formation for Charity and Justice with Bishop Hying will be held in Fond du Lac with more details to follow on the finalized date to follow.

If you wish to contact Claire and/or Bryan with questions, information or a desire to help them in their mission please see below.

                                                                        Bryan Ramsey                                                                                Director of Youth Ministry: St James & Good Shepherd Parishes Menomonee Falls
                                                      ramseyb@archmil.org or 262-253-2238

                                                                      Claire Hoffmeyer
                                                         Associate Director of Youth Minstry
                                                         St. John Vianney Parish Brookfield, WI
                                                          262-796-3944 or claireh@stjohnv.org
                                                   
                       


Friday, September 5, 2014

Summer Lessons in Humility: Abandoning Ambitions To Christ



“Few souls understand what God would accomplish in them if they were to abandon themselves unreservedly to Him and if they were to allow His grace to mold them accordingly.” – St. Ignatius of Loyola
 
I’ve been attending daily Mass as much as possible this summer and I can honestly say that it has been the absolute best way that I can start each day. Sitting in the silence of Old St. Mary Church while the rest of the city is rising from sleep, hearing a few words of encouragement in the homily and receiving the Eucharist is the perfect “Big Three”.

One of the presiders at Mass once included this important fact in his homily: “As Catholics the most common topics discussed are prayer and sexual morality, but we almost never talk about the importance of honesty, generosity or humility.” Thinking back on this notion, I feel that this summer has really taught me a lesson in the need for humility.

As a young adult it can be scary getting ready to start off on your own. Discovering your calling in life can be a great challenge. Often times we get impatient with our current life situations and, feeling abandoned by God, try to take matters in our own hands.  We assume that God didn’t feel like answering our “needs”, so we think "I'll just take care of things by myself.” I discovered that I had been saying things of this sort myself and I know that I am not alone.

The temptation for young adults is to feel like we are in control of our own destiny.  When we encounter a difficult situation we think we can just pass it over or cut corners to get what we think we need. This is what society has told us, and unfortunately, I listened all too often.

As fall approaches I’ve learned that I can do nothing when I rely on my own power. I’ve come to understand that if I achieve anything at all, it is not because of my great determination or intense work ethic, but that God has shown such great mercy to me, a poor sinner, and allowed me to pursue and meet goals. I can do nothing without Him and that includes career moves and life decisions.

Humility does indeed need to be talked about more often. With a society that fills our heads with self-righteousness and pride we can turn to Christ for His strength and offer Him control of all of our ambitions. God knows what we need and when we need it and will never refuse anyone who gives everything over to His hands.

Pope Benedict XVI sums it up the best in this quote-

“If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful, and great. No! Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide. Only in this friendship is the great potential of human existence truly revealed.”

Thursday, August 28, 2014

A Morning Reflection on Charity and Justice with Bishop Donald J. Hying



For a while now I've had a desire to be a missionary.  It would be an awesome opportunity to travel the world and help people to have a deeper relationship with God. I think it would be equally awesome to do this considering that I've hardly been outside the Midwest. I know, sad right?

It is easy to think of being a champion for God, being the ultimate disciple or modeling myself after the saints with steadfast faith. Before I can even hope to help others know Jesus Christ though, I realize that I need to work on being a better follower of Him myself and live a more authentic life centered around the Gospel. The Archdiocese of Milwaukee has planned an event to help do just that.

On September 6th at St. James Parish in Menomonee Falls, Bishop Donald J. Hying will be presenting on the topic,  Living the Fundamental Vision of the Gospel. This event will be an enlightening morning of formation and reflection on the issues of charity and justice and will run from 8am until 12pm.

I am planning on attending and will be giving a recap of the entire event afterward. If you are feeling called to a deeper relationship with Christ and to serve the universal church, then please prayerfully consider attending. Registration can be done online at the Archdiocese of Milwaukee website. The deadline is September 2nd.

See you there!


Thursday, August 21, 2014

God's Presence In A Noisy World: My Weekend Trip to Chicago

This past weekend I took a much needed mini-vacation to Chicago-land. It was my first trip there in over a year. Not only do I enjoy the hustle and bustle that comes with being in a big city, but I also love the hundreds of beautiful churches that are held within the city walls. I like to look at it as God’s abounding presence in a world full of distractions. God is alive…even in a city full of Bears and Cubs fans…

My trip featured some of the finest churches and shrines that the Chicago-area had to offer.  The first landmark that I visited was Marytown-The National Shrine of St. Maximilian Kolbe in Libertyville, IL.  A ministry of the Conventual Franciscan Friars of St. Bonaventure Province, Marytown includes a Franciscan Friary, a contemporary Retreat and Conference Center, the Marytown Press- Catholic Books and Gifts, historic Chapels and numerous outdoor shrines and rosary gardens. It is definitely a place that you would want to visit for a highly uplifting spiritual experience.
Right down the road from Marytown is the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary. Since opening in the year 1921, it is one of the largest seminaries in the United States and has the most spectacular campus you will ever see.  I had a wonderful opportunity to go straight down from the university to the lake below. Secretly I had hoped to bump into the rector, Fr. Robert Barron, but alas, it was not meant to be.

After spending quite a few hours on campus, I made my way to the vigil Mass at Our Lady of Victory Parish which recently celebrated its 100th anniversary. The Mass celebration was extremely beautiful and was presided by the current pastor of four years, Fr. Robert Fedek. Fr. Fedek, a remarkable priest originally from Poland, was invited by Cardinal George to study at Mundelein Seminary for the Archdiocese of Chicago. Needless to say, I believe that Our Lady of Victory was handed a wonderful pastor, whose warm personality and love for the Eucharist is very evident. My only regret is that I didn’t get a picture with him.

Please enjoy some pictures from my weekend trip and let us keep in mind that no matter how busy or noisy our lives may be, God always blocks out the busyness and noise with constant beautiful reminders of His presence in our world.

                                    (Left: Marytown Chapel. Right:Mudelein Gazebo)

                                    (Beautiful worship space at Our Lady of Victory)





Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Keep Living Where God Is: Daily Encouragement From The Spiritual Writings of Henri Nouwen


I am a huge fan of the great spiritual writer Henri Nouwen. Both a Catholic priest and a university professor, Nouwen wrote many spiritual books such as Reaching Out, The Wounded Healer and the Return of The Prodigal Son, that have influenced so many over the years in their search for God and for meaning in their lives.

One of my favorite books by Nouwen, The Inner Voice of Love, was actually written in the form of journal during one of the hardest periods of his life. During this difficult period when he struggled with self-esteem and faith in God, Nouwen wrote short paragraphs of encouragement to himself.
In the journal entry, “Keep Living Where God Is,” Nouwen speaks of putting aside your own agenda, your very own hopes and dreams, and consistently finding God in each moment. I find this section of the book extremely relevant for today’s culture and specifically in my own life.

I am someone who loves attention, maybe we can even say I crave it. Everyone wants to be liked and have a vast amount of approval, right? Who doesn’t want to get noticed for doing something special? Sometimes when I write my blog, and I’m sure that other blog-writers can attest to this as well, I get caught up in selfish thoughts that distract me from my main goals as a writer.

This blog, which is intended to inspire young adults in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and wherever you may happen to be, is not the John Bender show. The initial goal of this blog is to bring people closer to God, whether that is through promoting public events or sharing personal stories. It is only human nature that we get caught up in our own selfish ways. 

We, as a society, need to remember that everything that we do in life should be to honor and glorify God, and if the things we take on aren’t doing precisely that, then we might be doing more harm than good.


Let us always pray that we put our selfish ambitions second in comparison to giving God deserved glory and that we may do the work of the kingdom in drawing people closer to him through many unique avenues.