“What counts in life is not what we acquire, but what we become.” – Fr. Peter Patrick’s Homily for July 30, 2017

In the past two weeks, we have heard the parables of the kingdom of God likened to a sower, and today we hear other examples. The kingdom of God is not an end by itself, but rather the process, or means. It’s how we live our every day. When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we say; “Thy kingdom come.” Meaning whatever is happening in heaven is to happen here on earth.

A priest had just celebrated Mass for the basketball team at a Chicago high school, before they participated in the state tournament. During the homily, the priest said that ten years from now the important thing about their basketball season will not be whether or not they became state champs. The important thing will be what they became in the process of trying to win the title.

Did they become better human beings? Did they become more loving? Did they become more loyal to one another? Did they become more committed? Did they grow as a team and as individuals?

After the Mass, the coach called the players and said he was so bothered by what the priest said: “I wonder what I have helped you become in the process of trying to put together a winning season.” He repeated all the questions the priest posed. He continued saying; “If you did, then regardless of what we do in the state tournament, we are a success. If you did not, then we have failed God, we have failed our school, and we have failed one another.”

Just as we have heard in today’s gospel of the parables of the treasure buried in the field, merchant, and net: Nothing in the world may take priority over God’s kingdom and our pursuit of it. The gospel tells us that what counts when we die is not what we have acquired in life, but what we have become.

As we reflect on that, let us ask ourselves these questions:  Have we learned to love one another? Have we learned to forgive one another? Have we learned to help the needy? Have we learned to encourage the fainthearted? Have we learned to walk an extra mile? Have we learned to turn the other cheek? And have we learned to become more committed and loyal to God and one another? Let our prayer be that of Solomon who asked for wisdom to discern what is right from wrong, and to understand our calling as Christians. Let the life we are living today, be a reflection of life to come.

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Fr. Peter Patrick

 

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WELCOME BACK, FATHER PETER PATRICK! (Part 2)

On June 21, 2017 Father Peter Patrick Kimani, a native of Nairobi, Kenya, returned as Shared Associate Pastor at St. Robert and Holy Family Parishes after serving as Associate Pastor at All Saints and St. Martin de Porres Parishes. This continues our reprint of an article that appeared in the Catholic Herald on June 22, 2017. We thought it would be a good re-introduction to Father! Thank you to Jerry Topczewski and the Catholic Herald staff!

Would soccer have been the sport back home in Kenya?

Yes, growing up, I played soccer. I played volleyball when I was in the seminary in Uganda, but mostly it is soccer.

What is the best advice that someone has given you about your priesthood?

I would say that the best advice is that you don’t get your joy or happiness in people or things or places, but it’s something which comes from you. Every time I am preaching, I tell people that happiness is an inside job. When I am preparing people for marriage, the question I ask couples is: “Do you think that you will be happy in the marriage?” Happiness is an inside job. If you are totally expecting your spouse to make you happy, then you are going to have a checklist, and if he or she doesn’t do this or that, you aren’t going to be happy. But, if you realize that happiness comes from inside, you are going to have a happy marriage.

My first two months in my assignment in the central city, it was tough to adjust, but I said, “Look here. I have been preaching to people to be happy, and that happiness is an inside job. I have to practice what I preach.” That is the best advice, and it has made me who I am, and what is behind my ministry.

Do you have a favorite prayer that you turn to, that you find that happiness deriving from?

My prayer is focused on the rosary. The day I am so busy that I haven’t prayed the rosary, I feel there is something I am missing. That is the time I pray for myself and my parents and all those people who have requested it. Of course, Mass itself. I celebrate Mass every day, and those are the moments that I pray for all of the people who have requested that I pray for them.

Do you have a saint that you consider a patron or that you have a devotion to?

St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower, and also, St. John Vianney, in his own humbleness and in his hearing of
confessions. It’s something I tell people. They are healed from their confession. Every time I hear confession, I want to be better and that will make me a saint. And that reminds me of John Vianney.

What’s something that people might not know about you?

I like to be quiet. People say I am so hyper, but on my day off , I like to be quiet. But people think that I am so
hyper. I like the quietness.

What about a favorite meal?

Rice and beans.

Is that a piece of home for you?

Yes, it is my favorite food, all the time. All the parishes I go to, people know that. Simple meal, but I like it.

(If you’d like to view or subscribe to the Catholic Herald, visit them on-line here: http://catholicherald.org/)

 

Meeting Jesus – Fr. Dennis’ Homily for July 9, 2017

Portrait of Father Dennis DirkxOne day a young man came up to me and said he wanted to become a saint.  At first I thought he was being a little presumptuous, but afterwards I said to myself, “Dennis, do you want to become a saint?”  It was an encounter that I have never forgotten.  How many of you have said to yourself, “I want to become a saint?”  The journey to sainthood is also becoming aware of one’s sinfulness.  Sometimes our own sense of sinfulness tells us that there is no way we could ever become a saint.  Msgr. Groessel, our spiritual director in the major seminary would tell us, “The difference between a sinner and a saint is that both are sinners, but the saint picks himself or herself up and keeps walking toward God.”  Looking at it from this perspective sainthood doesn’t sound impossible.

We always have to remember Jesus met the disciples where they were at, Matthew in his customs post; Peter and Andrew on the shore cleaning their nets; James and John who were in the boat with their father.  Jesus meets us where we are at.  If we are hurting, this is where He meets us.  If we are confused, this is where He meets us.  If we are struggling with an addiction, this is where He meets us.  Jesus always takes us where we are.  He told the Pharisees, “I did not come to call the righteous but sinners” (Matthew 9:13). Wherever we are Jesus invites us to come to Him and rest.  This is what is so powerful about the gospel today (Matthew 11:25-30).  There are no pre-conditions we have to meet before we come to Him.  He simply says, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

In the places He meets us, He invites us into a relationship with His Father.  Think about it.  It is an incredible journey from sinner to standing in the presence of the Father.  As St. Paul tells us in his letter to the Romans, “You are not in the flesh; on the contrary, you are in the spirit, if only the Spirit dwells in you” (Romans 8:9). Yes, the Spirit dwells with us because we have been baptized and sealed with the Spirit.  Jesus is not pushy.  He waits for us to open our hearts and souls to Him.  He is ready to shoulder our labors and lighten our burdens and reveal to us He who created us in His image and likeness, the Father.  The heaviest burden to turn over to Him is our idea that we have to do it by ourselves.  Our idea that we have to pull ourselves up by our boot straps may work in our daily lives, but it doesn’t work with saving our souls.  Salvation is a gift pure and simple.  We receive it like we receive Him in the Eucharist.  We put forth an open hand to receive the Body of Jesus.  The Eucharist is gift so we don’t take it, we receive it.  This is how it works with saving our souls.  A gift is given to the one who is willing to receive, but to a heart that is closed no gift can be given.

“O God, each day you reveal your love,
but sometimes I am too busy to notice
or occupied with my worries.
Oftentimes I forget
you stand beside me
waiting for me to open my heart.
Open my heart, I pray.
My son, my daughter,
all you have to do
is leave the door ajar
and that’s all the opening
I need.
I can slip through the tiniest spaces
so leave the door ajar
and I will come.
Amen.”

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Fr. Dennis

 

 

 

WELCOME BACK, FATHER PETER PATRICK! (Part 1)

On June 21, 2017 Father Peter Patrick Kimani, a native of Nairobi, Kenya, returned as Shared Associate Pastor at St. Robert and Holy Family Parishes after serving as Associate Pastor at All Saints and St. Martin de Porres Parishes. This article appeared in the Catholic Herald on June 22, 2017, and we thought it would be a good re-introduction to repeat it here. Thank you to Jerry Topczewski and the Catholic Herald staff!

What was life like growing up in Kenya for you?

I was born in Nairobi, which is the capitol city of Kenya. I come from a family of five, and I am “the forgotten child,” the middle child. Looking at my baptismal certificate, I can tell that my parents were devout Catholics because I was baptized exactly two months after I was born. My parents used to walk a long distance for Mass. They didn’t have a parish that was just nearby. We had a worshipping center and the priest came once a month for Mass.

Your travel to Milwaukee for the first time was not easy.

I missed my connection. The next flight was six hours later. I had no way of communicating. When I arrived, I was able to change some money and I took a taxi to the seminary. But it was summer, so no one was there. After a while, Fr. Bill Stanfield arrived. He was the Vice Rector at the time, and he let me in. My baggage took another week to arrive.

Where do you find the most joy in your priesthood?

My joy is the time I am with the people and when I am preaching. The time that I am visiting the people in the hospital and at home, and also helping at the schools, going into the classrooms and talking to the kids.

How is liturgy different here, versus liturgy that you were used to at home?

Back at home, everybody participated in liturgy and that’s what I see when I go to All Saints and Martin de Porres. Everybody participates. When I am singing and moving and dancing, that is my nature. It is what I grew up doing. I know that worshiping is using the energy of your body to praise God.

After your ordination Mass, you and a group of religious sisters from Africa, danced around the Cathedral.

Yes, that is how we do it. It is part of me, and when we have an ordination, it is a blessing to the family, to the Universal Church, and people are in a mode of celebration. When I went home for my Mass of Thanksgiving, the people lifted me up because of that joy of having a priest now within their own parish, and it is kind of, the way Africans do it. The way that we Kenyans do it.

What do you do when you have some free time?

I like watching movies. I also like running. This morning I ran 10 miles. Yesterday I joined St. Robert’s teachers for a volleyball league. (Later this week) I am joining a friend of mine for soccer.

 

(To be continued next week. Watch for a surprising answer to one of Jerry’s questions!)

 

Lose It Before You Find It – Fr. Dennis’ Homily for July 2, 2016

Portrait of Father Dennis DirkxWhen I was directing the seminary college program at Marquette University I would often on a nice day go and sit in the area near St. Joan of Arc Chapel.  It was a beautiful spot to be alone in prayer in the midst of a busy campus.  On one occasion a young man approached me and asked, “Have you accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior?”  I tried to explain to him that I had through the sacramental life of the Church.  Years later I realized he was asking me if I had a
personal relationship with Jesus.  I am sure if he would have asked me if I had a personal relationship with Jesus, he would have stopped me in my tracks.  Establishing a personal relationship with Jesus came later on in life.

This is what Jesus in the gospel today is addressing, (Matthew 10:37-42).  If father and mother are more important than He is, we don’t have a personal relationship with Him.  If our children and friends are more important than He is, we don’t have a personal relationship with Him.  These relationships of which Jesus is addressing are primary relationships.  They are relationships in which we invest a lot of our time, love, and effort.  The “first” or “primary” relationship for a disciple is Jesus.  The challenge is to put our family and friends in proper perspective as we enter into a personal relationship with Jesus.  If we are unwilling to carry the cross of discipleship, we don’t have a personal relationship with Him.  Jesus is up-front with us because discipleship involves sacrifice.

It is a difficult challenge Jesus puts before us this weekend.  “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it, (Matthew 10:39).  Putting Jesus first means an establishment of a personal relationship with him.  This means losing one’s life for Him and in the process we find Jesus, others and ourselves.  What we thought we were losing, namely our primary relationships, become the people who in receiving us, receive Jesus Christ and God who sent Him into the world.  “Jesus said, ‘Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come, (Mark 10: 29-30).’”  The key point of this particular gospel passage is in receiving the disciple; one is receiving Jesus and this is equal to  receiving God who sent Him.  What more can we ask for?  Our relationship with Jesus has to be hundred percent like our other significant relationships.  Our relationship with Jesus is always expressed in our relationships with others.  We bring Jesus to these relationships and in them we find Jesus and ourselves.

St. Ignatius Loyola expressed this in his famous prayer Suscipe:

 “Take, O Lord, and receive my entire liberty, my memory, my understanding and my whole will.  All that I am and all that I possess, you have given me: I surrender it all to you to be disposed of according to your will.  Give me only your love and your grace; with these I will be rich enough and will desire nothing more.
Amen.

Sincerely yours In Christ,
Fr. Dennis