Yes – Father Dennis’ Homily for September 28

SR Letterhead LogoI remember as a child that in order to get a “yes” to what one wanted to do meant approaching the right parent. If my sisters and I wanted to go swimming at Red Pete’s Lake, we would never ask my Mom because we would get a clear and firm “no.” If we wanted to go swimming, we always approached our Dad because he would say “yes.” If we wanted to watch a certain TV program, we always asked my Mom because she would say “yes.” Then there were times when one got the “yes-but-go-and-ask-your-Mom-or-Dad” approach. This always implied careful negotiation. It is a skill every child has to learn very early in life.

In today’s gospel (Matthew 21: 28-32) it is the father who approaches his two sons about going out to work in the vineyard. The first son says “no,” but afterwards changed his mind and went. The second son says “yes,” but never goes to work in the vineyard. The response of each son reveals their intent. The first son who said “no” was honest, but after some consideration he changed his intent and did what his father wanted. The second son who said “yes” was dishonest because his intent from the beginning was that he would not go to the vineyard to work.

When it comes to God approaching us about going into the vineyard that is the world, our “yes” has to mean “yes” and not a “no” because our entering into the Kingdom of Heaven depends upon it. The priests and the elders appeared to be saying “yes,” but in reality they were not, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes were responding to John the Baptist’s invitation. They were the ones who changed their intent—their way of acting.

At the end of Mass we are sent by Jesus to go into the vineyard the world we are a part of and announce the Gospel of the Lord. We by our presence here are saying “yes” to our Lord who is asking us to go into the vineyard to announce the good news. In the Eucharistic Prayer that will be used at this Mass we will ask God the Father the following: “Grant that all the faithful of the Church, looking into the signs of the times by the light of faith may constantly devote themselves to the service of the Gospel. Keep us attentive to the needs of all, that sharing their grief and pain, their joy and hope, we may faithfully bring them the good news of salvation and go forward with them along the way of your kingdom.” When we say “Amen” at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer, we are saying “yes” to the Lord.

The question is, “What is our intent?” Are we going to do it or not? What son in the gospel are we going to be this week—the first who said “no,” but afterwards changed his mind; or like the second son who said “yes,” but never went? St. James in his letter boldly states, “Be doers of the word and not hearers only (James 1:22).” Being an intentional disciple of Jesus is more than a name, but a doer. Back to the basics is all about being doers of the Word. This is our challenge for the week.

Sincerely Yours in Christ,

Fr. Dennis

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Conversion Is A Process – Father Peter Patrick’s Homily for September 28

SR Letterhead LogoAll of us gathered here we have our own story of conversion. It might be dramatic or silent. I would like to give an example of a person we all know, Thomas Merton. He was orphaned at 16. Became a Communist at 20. He found Christ at 23. In his book The Seven Storey Mountain, Thomas Merton describes the first step in his conversion process.

He lived a fleshly existence. One night, in his room, he was struck with an awareness of his sinfulness. He writes: “The whole thing passed in a flash.. I was overwhelmed with a sudden and profound insight into the misery and corruption of my own soul. I was filled with horror at what I saw… and my soul desired escape..from all this with an intensity and an urgency unlike anything I had ever known before.”

Merton goes on to say that for the first time in his life he really prayed. He prayed to the God he had never known to reach down from heaven and free him from evil power that held his body and soul in slavery.

The story of Thomas Merton illustrates the kind of change of heart the younger son had in today’s Gospel story. It also illustrates the kind of conversion Ezekiel refers to in today’s first reading.

What causes a person to undergo a change of heart, as the younger son did in the gospel and as Thomas Merton did in our story? We consider changes only when we are extremely discontented with our present situation. The first step in the conversion process is to be dissatisfied with our personal life. It is to have a heavy, restless heart.  Just like St. Augustine said, “My heart is restless until it rests in you.” It is to have a deeper desire to be better.

The second step is what we might call a “trigger event.” It is the spark that lights the fire under us to do something about our situation. The trigger event in Thomas Merton’s life was his experience in the room. In theology it’s called a moment of grace from God. And the third step is making the first concrete move in the direction of a new life.

We need to keep in mind that all of us are still journeying toward full conversion, because conversion is a journey that will end only when we die. Danish theologian Soren Kierkegaard said:  “There is no such thing as being a Christian; there is only becoming a Christian.” Which I would say, we need to renew every day of life. We should not stop at our baptism.

Today’s readings invite us to take inventory of our lives. Are we dissatisfied with our present relationship with God? Do we desire a deeper, personal relationship with Jesus? Do we want to love our family and our neighbor more as Jesus loves them? If the answer is “Yes!” today’s reading could be the “trigger event” or spark we need to do something about these things.

Maybe the all-important first move in the direction of a new life is to present ourselves for healing in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, or rather, confession. Maybe to begin to spend more time in prayers, or to be more charitable in our homes, work place, name them. This is the faith invitation God is making to each one of us here through today’s readings. Remember conversion is a process. It is an ongoing journey that will end only at death. It’s never too late to convert.

Exaltation of the Cross

SR Letterhead LogoWe have grown accustomed to viewing the cross. We wear it as a piece of jewelry; or it’s a part of the décor of our homes and churches. It is no longer seen as the cruel and painful instrument of death it once was. It was the worst punishment the Romans devised—oftentimes to warn others not to follow down the same road as the one who was crucified. What made the cross cruel and painful was that death took hours and sometimes days, and usually the person was scourged before being crucified. Sometimes to hasten death the legs of the victim were broken. We can only begin to image what Jesus’ suffering on the cross was like.

He offered His life on the cross that we may have life and continues to do so in the Sacrifice of the Mass. The cross is a place of life, not death. The living God knows neither death nor violence, but only life and peace. Jesus emptied himself so that He could become one of us—human in all things but sin—a sinlessness in which we do not share. The cross reveals the depth of God’s love for us and we stand in awe of this love. How can we use words to describe the depth of this love; or find words that would capture the profoundness of His love? We can’t. We can only begin to understand it when we gaze upon the cross and contemplate what God has done for us in offering His only begotten Son on the cross.

The cross is also a witness of our own discipleship. As Patricia Sanchez stated in her reflection of this feast, “The cross witnesses to and demands of us a faithful following of Jesus that will, if our discipleship is authentic, put us at odds with a culture that negates Gospel values.” It is a place where we stand in opposition to this culture. It means for us being obedient to what God wants of us, self-emptying of what keeps us from Jesus and being faithful to following Him even when it is inconvenient, challenging or uncertain.

St. Paul in his letter to the Philippians quotes a hymn as a source of encouragement so they may persevere in living their discipleship that others might become His disciples. Discipleship is what we do to know, love, and follow God and reveal him to others. This is not an easy path to follow and this is what the Philippians discovered. St. Paul offers this hymn for our encouragement. Discipleship is a journey we make together. It is not a road one travels alone. In making this journey together the power of the Holy Spirit comes alive and we experience the life that comes from Jesus being lifted up on the cross.

At the end of this month we are going to begin a new ministry—small faith sharing groups. It is where the journey of discipleship begins. We sit upon a gold mine and we have yet to discover its richness. This gold mine is our faith. In small faith sharing groups people’s lives have been changed, prayer has been deepened, life is celebrated, service has been healing, giving has become a joy, and witnessing has created disciples for Jesus. This is the powerful experience of small faith sharing groups. I personally invite you to become involved in a small faith sharing group. This is precisely the encouragement St. Paul gave the Philippians and now to us in the proclamation of the Word. Let us begin the journey and let us not delay, for we are given this moment of grace—of life.

Sincerely Yours in Christ,

Fr. Dennis

The 11th Hour – Homily for September 21

SR Letterhead LogoI grew up in the rural community of Harrison, Wisconsin. It was one of those communities where most people were related to one another and one business was everyone’s business. In our community lived a woman by the name of Mrs. Magnus. She was a Catholic, but never went to church. As she grew older and weaker she sent for the pastor of our parish. No one knew that she had reconciled with the church and with God. A few days later she died. We were all horrified that the pastor allowed her funeral to be held in church. He confronted us about our narrow-mindedness and our judgmental attitude. Instead of rejoicing with Mrs. Magnus, we were acting like workers who bore the day’s burden and the heat grumbling over the generosity of the landowner who paid those last hour workers a full day’s wage.

The focus of the parable is upon doing the work of the Lord, the landowner, and not what we will get out of it. This parable offers us a paradigm shift in our understanding of being Church. This paradigm shift is at the heart of Pope Francis’ understanding of Church. In a speech to the cardinals before he was elected Pope he said, “The only purpose of the Church is to go out to tell the world the good news about Jesus Christ.” This is a Church that is focused upon the work of the Lord. How many of us have come today acting like consumers—what am I going to get out of it? Granted this is valid, but it is not the primary purpose of why we have come together today. We have come to pray and celebrate in order that we may focus upon the One who will send us forth to do His work—the mission of making disciples and teaching them all that has been handed on to us.

Our focus ought not to be upon ourselves, but upon the lost, the ones who are not here—the ones with whom we share the same baptism—the Mrs. Magnuses of our greater community. We know many of them by name because they are our family members, our friends and neighbors. The question is, “How do we create an experience that invites the lost to come and find a spiritual home here at St. Robert of Newminster Parish?” You noticed I used the word “we” because we have to do it together—we are the team that is going to pull this off. The team are the regulars who walk into church with a visitor welcoming them, to the ushers, to the regulars who sit next to the visitor who slips into your pew, to those who proclaim the Word, to those who helps us lift our voices in song, to those who assist at the altar, to those who are Eucharistic ministers, to those who set up for Mass, to those who offer us hospitality, to the presider, we are the team at the heart of being a welcoming community. In becoming a welcoming community that invites others to come along on the journey, we become the Church Jesus Christ wants.

“Back to the Basics” is about focusing upon fulfilling the mission Jesus Christ gave to the Church. When we are faithful to His work, we already have received the recompense of a closer relationship with Him and with our brothers and sisters. It is not important where we are at in our spiritual journey; we can be the ones who have been at His work from the beginning of the day or we can be the ones who come at the last hour. The important point is that we have to be faithful to carry out His work.

Mrs. Magnus taught us one thing and it is only now that I have understood it. She may not have been there in church every Sunday, but her message in the end was Jesus is important. It is only when one steps back from grumbling and being judgmental that one can hear the message clearly—Jesus is important and don’t leave life without Him.

Sincerely Yours in Christ,

Fr. Dennis

Becoming Catholic – The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults

SR Letterhead Logo“Baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Teach them to carry out everything I have commanded you. And know that I am with you always, until the end of the world.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) is the Church’s official process for initiating unbaptized adults into our Catholic community, and for welcoming members of other Christian faith traditions into full communion with the Catholic faith. If you are seeking a deeper relationship with God, a sense of belonging to a faith community, or a greater fulfillment of your purpose in life, we invite you to join the RCIA journey of faith.

RCIA is for:

  • Unbaptized adults
  • Already baptized Christians of other faith traditions who want to know more about the Catholic Church
  • Those who were baptized Catholic but received little of no religious training and seek Eucharist or Confirmation.

The RCIA is a journey of faith with four elements: faith instruction, conversion, liturgy and community. As the phrase “journey of faith” signifies, RCIA is much more than a series of classes. It is a process of conversion that can begin whenever an individual feels called to inquire about living out his or her faith with members of the Church.

St. Robert holds its regular RCIA sessions on Tuesday evenings. This year the weekly sessions will begin on October 7.

If you, a friend, or a family member might be interested in the RCIA journey, please contact Donna Shriner, (414) 332-1164 ext. 3045, or dshriner@strobert.org. We welcome you to join us.

Back to Basics – Homily for September 7

SR Letterhead LogoSeptember is like a “new year” in our society. There is a return to regular schedules, the school year has begun, the NFL season is on its way, and all the sports programs for children have started up. We settle in to a year that is blessed by fall colors, chilled by winter’s cold, and witnessing of new life in spring. It is a good time to ask the fundamental question of our relationship with God. How have you and God been during the summer? As you are reviewing your summer has there been a rift in your relationship with Jesus? September is a spiritual time to get back to the basics. Our readings for this Sunday (Matt. 18: 15-20, Ezek. 33:7-9, Psalm 95: 1-2, 6-7, 8-9, and Roman 13: 8-10) offer us a way “back to the basics.”

The Gospel opens with a process of reconciling with an offender that is based upon the love for the one who offends us. It begins with a one on one intervention of letting the offender know that he has hurt us instead of stewing about it. It only proceeds to the church after there has been a small group intervention. Rifts in our relationships have a serious impact upon a faith community because they are actual rifts in the relationship with Jesus himself. We are the Body of Christ; therefore, our divisions are dividing the Body of Christ. It becomes important to heal our personal rifts because the very life of the faith community rests in this healing. The healing of our personal rifts strengthens the Body of Christ. The community is responsible for seeking out and reconciling with the lost. This gospel follows immediately after the parable of the lost sheep; thus Matthew is stressing the importance the community has in bringing about reconciliation. This is at the heart of our discipleship—revealing Jesus to others. This is the first way of getting back to the basics.

The second way of getting back to the basics is prayer: not only individual prayer, but prayer in small groups and offering the greatest prayer, the Sacrifice of the Mass. At the end of this month we will begin small faith sharing groups based on deepening our relationship with Jesus Christ. In these small faith sharing groups we come to know, love and follow God on a deeper level. This too is at the heart of our discipleship. The small faith sharing groups are where the vision of our parish begins to take form. Our vision is a simple one—“Every parishioner will make an intentional commitment to be a disciple of Jesus Christ rooted in a personal relationship with Him and committed to sharing his/her story.” I personally invite you to become involved in a small faith sharing group and experience the presence of Jesus. “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them (Matt. 18:20).”

A third way of getting back to the basics comes from our Psalm response; “If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts.” If we are feeling sin weighing us down, Jesus is waiting to show us mercy in the sacrament of reconciliation. The power of this sacrament is the healing of our woundedness. Jesus healed a lot of people in his earthly ministry and He continues to heal countless more in the sacrament of reconciliation. I have seen this healing up front. It is powerful!

The fourth way of getting back to the basics comes from our second reading, Paul’s letter to the Romans: “Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law (Romans 13:10).” What is more basic in the life of disciple but love? It began with God the Father approaching us with unconditional love and offering His Son on the cross that we might be reconciled to Him through the Holy Spirit. The “love” St. Paul described in his letter to the Romans is a reconciling love that heals and brings about unity through the Holy Spirit.

Getting back to the basics is like coming home—home to what really matters in life: God and people especially the ones we know. Yes, it is like a “new year,” with many things starting up and for us a time to embrace our discipleship that is what we do to know, love and follow God and reveal Him to others.

Sincerely Yours in Christ,

Fr. Dennis

St. Robert Begins Small Group Ministry Program

Connection to Christ Logo“Small group ministries played a key role in my love for Christ and the Catholic Church. As a high school junior, I faced a crisis in faith with the divorce of my parents. I was a cradle Catholic, but did not really understand how Christ calls us to have a relationship with Him, or what it looks like. I was fortunate to experience two small groups that changed my life. I was blessed to go on a retreat, similar to Kairos, that awoke me to our faith. I then participated in two small groups that opened me up to prayer, scripture, and evangelization. Learning that it was okay to talk about my faith with other students was incredibly powerful — to be able to share my passions, my dreams, my doubts, my fears. And to talk with Christ about the same things! My friendship with Christ became personal through these small groups (Bob Weinschrott, Small Group Facilitator).”

On September 21, St. Robert and Holy Family Parishes will begin a new, dynamic ministry to foster intentional disciples. Referred to as Small Group Discussions, these groups of six to ten people will meet once per week for 90 minutes, for seven weeks. The groups will discuss topics such as Friendship with Christ, Prayer, Scripture, Eucharist, and Community. The discussions will be facilitated by parishioners who have themselves participated in small groups. Some groups will gather in the facilitator’s home, and others will gather at the Parish. All will provide a great opportunity to talk about issues of faith and discipleship in a personal setting that provides for a sincere exchange of views in an environment where each individual has opportunities to contribute and to learn.

These Small Group Discussions supplement the two Small Faith Communities that currently meet in the Parish. The Small Faith Communities gather monthly to discuss the next Sunday’s Scripture readings, and the issues they raise in members’ lives. The new small groups will take a more topical approach, not as closely linked to the week’s readings (but with regular reference to Scripture), and have what might be characterized as a more structured progression through faith issue. The two formats are not exclusive or competitive, but provide Parish members a variety of ways to encounter Christ and develop their relationship with Him, as well as friendships with fellow parishioners.

Start dates and times for the small groups are:

Sundays:  Start Sept. 21 – 7:00 p.m. (during teen nights; no Packer nights)
Mondays:  Start Oct. 6 – 6:30 p.m. (near St. Robert)
Mondays:  Start Sept. 22 – 6:30 p.m. (near Holy Family)
Wednesdays:  Start Sept. 24 – 1:00 p.m.
Thursdays:  Start Sept. 25 – 9:15 a.m.
Fridays:  Start Oct. 3 – 6:00 a.m.
Fridays:  Start Sept. 26 – 9:15 a.m.

Flyers with more information will be distributed in the pews at the September 6 and 13th Masses. St. Robert parishioners who would like more information are encouraged to contact Merridith Frediani, 962-1289 or mhfrediani@gmail.com. Holy Family parishioners should contact Greg Kelsch, 332-9220 or KelschG@hfparish.org.

Small Group Discussion Facilitators

Small Group Discussion Facilitators

Back row; L-R: John Hubbard, Katy Lukazewski, Ann Hains, Bob Weinschrott, Sue Wustrack, Sarah Kelsch, Greg Kelsch.  On chair: Mike Dunn, Merridith Frediani