Monday, May 27, 2013

The Ordination of Fr. Paul Schneider, OFM Conv.

The Basilica of St. Josephat  (for more photos visit this link)

Heaven came down to earth this past weekend, of that I am certain.  My friend, Fr. Paul Schneider, OFM Conv. was ordained to the priesthood at the Basilica of St. Josephat by Bishop William Callahan and it was one of the most perfect, magnificent, holy and beautiful experiences I have ever known.  There is nothing more beautiful than watching a man lay down his life for the Lord, but to witness an ordination in the grandeur of the Basilica, with a choir of what sounded like angels accompanied by trumpets and strings and drums, praying in the company of the sweetest, most wonderful and most joyful of all nuns-The Handmaids of the Precious Blood, whose purpose is to pray for priests, and watching the new priest, in beautiful Marian vestments shed tears of joy while celebrating his first Mass and presenting his mother with a long-awaited maniturgia (Fr. Paul is a late vocation),  all amounted to holy perfection, and I was so blessed to be a humble witness and participant of it all.  I smiled until I thought my face would break and cried until I thought my heart would melt-it was all so incredibly wondrous.

Fr. Paul and I met in the noon hour confessional line at the Church of the Gesu in downtown Milwaukee  in November of 2011.  I had recognized him from my visits to St. Francis de Sales Seminary where he had spent some time studying, and so I introduced myself.  He told me that he had less than two years left before ordination to the priesthood and he asked me to pray for him.  What he didn't know was that very night I was to be enrolled as a candidate for the Oblates of the Precious Blood and would be committing my life to praying for priests along with the Handmaids of the Precious Blood.  I took his request for prayer as a sign from God that what I was about to do was indeed His will for me.  The next month, in a Christmas letter from the Handmaids, I discovered Fr. Paul's picture and learned that he, too, was an Oblate of the Precious Blood!  Since then, Fr. Paul has been a wonderful friend, helping with events for Roses for Our Lady, an organization with which I am involved, and being a confidant and advisor in some of my personal faith issues as well.  Being invited to his ordination was a joy of the greatest magnitude.

Every single part of Fr. Paul's ordination-from the lovely image of Our Lady of Guadalupe on the invitation, the order of worship and his holy card, the quiet prayerfulness of the holy hour on the eve of ordination (see Fr. Alejandro Castro's fabulous priestly reflection with personal stories of Fr. Paul's life based on Luke 9 below), having the opportunity to sit next to and pray with the Handmaids of the Precious Blood,  who, although they are cloistered,  were given special permission to attend his ordination,  and the joyful smile and easy approachability of Bishop Callahan, who had formerly been the rector and pastor of the Basilica and who was the bishop who ordained Fr. Paul, to the choir resounding magnificent hymns of praise (a video follows-or visit this link- not of the actual choir but a perfect likeness in sound of the offertory song, Let All the World), to the sweet sight of Fr. Paul bringing flowers to the altar of Our Lady during the Ave Maria-every moment was a treasure I will never forget.

Fr. Paul with my husband and I from my Solemn Resolution of Love as an Oblate of the Precious Blood last October

I praise God for Fr. Paul Schneider, OFM Conv. and I pray that the love and joy that filled his heart on his ordination day and during his beautiful first Mass will remain with him forever as he journeys to his first assignment in Peoria, Illinois, and wherever the Lord may call him to serve in the years to come.


Enjoy this touching reflection on the priesthood based on Luke 9, graciously shared by Fr. Alejandro Lopez OFM Conv.:

Perhaps it was the preaching
of a particularly inspiring, Cuban priest.
            Or a documentary on Mother Teresa or St. Maximilian Kolbe.

Or a rerun on EWTN
of some mutton-chop, side-burned fellow
on fire for the Lord.

Or a pilgrimage or two, to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe…
            Whatever…the Lord uses the moment to kick-started your vocation.
Kick you in the rear.

And suddenly…all those reasons why you’re “not enough
            don’t seem to amount to a hill of beans.
And you think maybe he does want me!

Maybe he really does want me!
         As incredible as that may seem!
And off you go running…as if in love for the first time!

But then…there’s a stumble.
A trip up that comes…perhaps many years later.
When in the midst of your studies. Or as a deacon.
            After years of running well.

When the old, familiar doubts creep back in
like a homeless Gila monster.
 “I’m not smart enough.”
“I can’t sing well enough!”

“I’m certainly not holy enough.”
“I tried before and it didn’t work out.”
            “I’m too old, now.”

And you admit to Jesus in prayer,
            “Dismiss the crowds,
for it’s a deserted place here.”

What you’re saying is what you think you know:
            “I don’t have enough for so many!
            I barely have enough for myself!

But Jesus challenges,
“Give them some food, yourself.”
And this will be your vocation.
As a deacon, you already know this.
As a deacon you’ve already been “preparing meals.”
Not from some “five ingredient”
crockpot cookbook!
But in and through the Holy Spirit.
            At work in and through your life.

Helping you to break open the Word.
            And feed crowds at Mass!
To be an instrument of peace in your friary.

To open doors in the dark
and be a brother to a stranger
whose mind swims with his own alcohol-fed fears.

Tomorrow, and for the rest of your life,
            Jesus will encourage you to make him present to others:
“Give them some food yourself.”

And his command may haunt you!
            If you take your vocation seriously,
I think it must scare you at some time in your priesthood!

For you will fear
that God’s people will go hungry.
            Because you failed to find them some food!
“But five loaves and two fish are all I have!”

Thankfully, Jesus understands!
And he has a plan!
A plan that includes poor priests and their poverty!
That takes into account our pitiful and small humanity
and makes it part of the Feast!

He teaches us by example that life isn’t a solo act.
Insisting that his disciples help.
And in today’s Gospel, the Lord takes what they bring
and gives it right back…to themto us.

Tonight I’m thinking how he gives us, priests,
the Food that will nourish.
How our consecrated lives are part of the meal.

As our Lord takes us and blesses us.
And allows even our doubts and fears to break us open.
            And then gives our lives away.

All the while letting us have the places of honor!
            Letting us appear to be heroes!
Humbly letting folk imagine
we walk a tightrope gloriously without a net.
 (The secret is we don’t!)

For each, alone, is never enough to feed so many!
Yet neither were we, priests, meant to be the meal!
Not by ourselves.

We’re served, by the Grace of God,
            with his Body and Blood!
And we must never forget that!
            Father Paul, you must never forget that!

Each and every day of your life, as a priest,
the Lord will remind you
that you are not the main course!

At this altar…but also in the nursing home…
Or in a parishioner’s home…
Or in your office…or friary.
Or in the back of church after Mass.

As the People of God, the Body of Christ,
lift you up when you are down,
like a consecrated Host!
Helping make your priestly vocation holy!

And when you are proud,
whenever you imagine you can feed them by yourself,
the People of God, the Body of Christ,
will humble you, too.
Helping make your priestly vocation holy!

Paul, tonight we gather with the Lord,
            to pray for you.
Not because we know your musical skills.
            Or how old you are.
Or how much you like “Fiddle Faddle,”
or a trip to Leon’s every now and then.

We pray for you because we know you’re human.
            And we know you are called
to a special role in his Church!
We know that Christ plans to make of you
something new and wonderful…and holy.

And we pray for you because we know
God answers every prayer.
            And will help you…even in your fears.

Way back in the beginning of Genesis
            God beat back the first fear.
The Lord told Adam, wounded by sin,  
            “Who told you that you were naked?”
In other words, “Enough with ‘not enough!’”

And maybe that’s what he says to us.
As we gaze upon him.
            And adore him in the Eucharist.

Mysteriously appearing
in his Glorified, Risen Body and Blood
as something so lowly as a piece of bread.
Something that to our senses seems
not enough” to satisfy even one little child!

By his Grace…By the power of his Holy Spirit…
By His Glorified, Risen and Ascended Body and Blood
present in the Eucharist…
You, and every other priest called to follow him,
will be more than enough!

Tonight we gaze upon the Sacrament of the Mystery of God’s Love.
            In the silence we pray that it will transform you!
See what you are…become what you receive!
            Allow the Lord to consecrate you in your priesthood
as his Body and Blood for the salvation of all the World!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Beautiful Churches

A few months ago I wrote a blog post sharing images of what are, in my opinion, the Seven Most Beautiful Churches in Milwaukee.  Just this week I found these additional images of two of those seven churches (Old St. Mary and St. Anthony of Padua) and I knew that you, dear reader, would enjoy them.  The image below is from Friday, May 17th's Holy Hour for the four men who were ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee on May 18th, 2013.  I only wish I had a close-up of the monstrance to share with you as well, because truly, I have never seen it's equal anywhere.

Fr. Luke Strand at Old St. Mary Parish downtown Milwaukee (photo courtesy Arise Milwaukee)

Although the video below is from Christmas, it's so lovely I just have to share it now.  St. Anthony of Padua Parish on 9th and Mitchell Street boasts a magnificent choir led by Lee Erickson (also the director of the Milwaukee Symphony Choir) that sings every Sunday at 10 AM.  Of the Father's Love Begotten is one of my favorite songs, and the slideshow of the church interior just leaves me sighing with contentment.  Everyone should be able to enjoy such beauty when they offer worship to the Lord!  To view the video homepage, click here.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Magnificent Mass Marathon (Ordination Weekend)

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee is blessed to welcome four wonderful men to the priesthood.  And my family was deeply blessed to attend not only the ordination Mass, but also three of the four first Masses of Thanksgiving and festive celebrations as well.  It was a Magnificent Mass Marathon!

This year the lay faithful were given the opportunity to attend a special holy hour for the ordinandi at gorgeous Old St. Mary's Church on the eve of ordination.  The monstrance used for this holy hour was the most magnificent one I had ever seen, studded with jewels and perfectly suited for a resting place for our King of Kings.  Quiet violin and guitar music set the mood for the the periods of reflective silence punctuated by decades of the rosary led by several seminarians and our vocation director, Fr. Luke Strand.  With our ordinandi well prayed for in advance, the Mass of ordination was even more significant for those who had spent time in prayer the night before.

Every ordination Mass is extraordinarily beautiful and filled with ancient traditions such as the prostration of the ordinandi while the choir and congregation chant the Litany of the Saints, and the laying on of hands of hundreds of priests upon the heads of the newly ordained priests.  It is a wondrous joy to be able to welcome our new priests, Fr. John Paul Mitchell, Fr. Patrick Burns, Fr. Arul Ponnaiyan and Fr. Philip Schumaker, with prayer, applause and loving affection on this memorable occasion.

Fr. John Paul Mitchell, Fr. Patrick Burns, Fr. Arul Ponnaiyan, Fr. Philip Schumaker

Ordinations are such a beautifully emotional time that I always cry tears of joy mixed with sorrow.   I have learned that the best strategy is to arrive at the church an hour early to stake out the best seat in the back row where I can freely cry without anyone but my family noticing my tears.  I was greatly surprised when I met Fr. Philip's mother at his reception after the ordination and while holding my hands tightly within her own, she lovingly told me that she, too, prefers the back row where she can cry in semi-privacy.  We emotional mothers are blessed when we find kindred spirits who understand the true gift that the release of tears truly is.

At Fr. Patrick Burns' Mass of Thanksgiving, his brother, Fr. John Burns gave the homily.  He reminded his newly ordained brother that if he lives his life as a priest well, people will offer him gratitude for all of the good that he does, but he'll know that they are really thanking God through him, that he is meant to be simply an instrument of God's grace giving his life completely over to the service of God's people.  In effect, the priest will become invisible and all that people will see is God working within him.  His words were so powerful that I was choked up the entire time he was speaking.

At the end of the Mass, Fr. Patrick gifted his mother with his maniturgium, the towel that he wiped his hands upon after the Archbishop anointed them with oil.  The tradition is that when his mother dies, she will be buried with the towel in her own hands and will present it to Jesus as a way of saying "My son was a priest" and He will then offer her a higher place in heaven.  Well what mother wouldn't cry at this beautiful tradition?  And what mother wouldn't want her own son to become a priest so that she, too, could say that she had a part in nurturing her son's vocation and receive a special welcome into Paradise by our Lord?  I was so very glad that I was hidden away in the back pew where my tears could freely flow while Fr. Patrick offered this beautiful gift to his mother, along with the stole from his first confession as a gift for his father.

Fr. Arul, who is from India,  accented the gift of tongues at his Mass of Thankgiving on this Pentecost Sunday, and the Prayer of the Faithful as well as parts of the Consecration were spoken in various languages, including his native Tamil.  Although we were in the back row, I couldn't help but notice how Fr. Arul's hands shook as he lifted the host, the Body of our Lord, during the consecration.  I can't imagine how fearfully awesome it must be for a priest, at his first Mass, to transform a simple host into the very Body of our Lord within his human hands.  And I hope that the feeling of fear and awe remains at every single Mass a priest offers during his entire lifetime.  Afterward, the celebration dinner included authentic Indian foods and we were treated to a traditional Indian dance as well.  Our global Church is filled with wonders!

My strategy for sitting in the coveted back row didn't work quite right for Fr. Philip's first Mass.  We were running late and arrived at the church just as the priests were processing in.  We waited for the procession to fully enter the church and then we snuck around the side and found the only available pew which happened to be right in the front row!  There would be no hiding my tears this time!  Sitting in the front row definitely had its advantages, though, as I was able to notice how emotional Fr. Philip became while elevating the chalice, clearly moved by the fact that simple wine had now become the very Blood of Christ within his hands.  Musica Oremus, the choir, featuring solist and Apostleship of Prayer employee,  Grace Mazza Urbanski, was exceptional and when they began the Ave Maria, my son Jack, who was sitting next to me, nudged me, knowing that I would be delighted to hear my favorite musical selection so expertly performed.  At the end of Mass, during his thank you's, Fr. Philip asked his parents and siblings to stand up, and while he thanked them with a loving embrace it was clear that he was crying tears of joy and wonder.  And there was Jack again with a nudge to my side as he noticed the tears falling from my eyes as well, but what he didn't know was that during this touching moment, I was recalling a favorite passage of mine from my very favorite author, Caryll Houselander about a priest's first Mass, and was filled with gratitude for our four new priests who belong to all of us, their new family, the Church.  Please do continue to hold all of our newly ordained priests within your prayers as they prepare to begin their lives of ministry.

"A young priest was celebrating his first Mass. In the front of the church his mother and his young brothers knelt. It was easy to know them by their likeness to him-a family of dark, golden-skinned boys, and the mother like them.

When the Mass was ended, and the new priest came back into the sanctuary for the blessing and the kissing of the consecrated hands, the family hesitated shyly, almost paralyzed by wonder and love; and before they could go first (as they should have done) to the altar rails, the crowd had pushed past them, strangers had taken their place. The faithful were flocking around their new shepherd, and his mother and his brothers had become part of the crowd, waiting their turn until the end.

For one moment the young priest looked over the bowed heads into his mother's eyes, and his face shone.

"My mother and my brethren are they who hear the word of God and do it."

Because the priesthood had made him the Christ of the people, he belonged to them; he was their kith and kin, their son and brother, their Christ, their priest at the altar.

People often seem to think of our Lady aggrieved, slighted when this happened to her! I think she and her son looked across the heads of the crowds to one another with just that understanding and gratitude that shone on the faces of the young priest and his mother." 
~Caryll Houselander

Thursday, May 16, 2013

O Beautiful Mother

On this day, O Beautiful Mother! On this day we give thee our love; Near thee, Madonna, fondly we hover, trusting thy gentle care to prove.

Roses for Our Lady, an organization of lay faithful in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee which seeks to promote Eucharistic and Marian Devotion, celebrated our annual May Crowning and outdoor Eucharistic Rosary Procession on Sunday, May 12th, Mother's Day.  Although the weather was a bit chilly, the sun was shining, and  so many people who love the Blessed Mother came to honor her with their devotion.  We were blessed to have some coverage by the secular media in our area-both the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the local CBS news came to cover the event.  Enjoy the video clip and some photos below:

the crowning of Our Lady of Fatima
(photo credit Kurt Keidl)
our fine priests, seminarians and servers
(photo credit Mary Reindl)
Our Lady's vara follows the First Communicants
(photo credit Mary Reindl)

hundreds of faithful joined the procession
(photo credit Mary Reindl)

a beautiful day!
(photo credit Mary Reindl)

Fr. Enrique Hernandez, Deacon Paul Schneider, OFM Conv.,
Bishop Donald Hying and Fr. Tim Kitzke
(photo credit Stephen Pontus)

Our Lord in the hands of Fr. Matthew Widder
(photo credit Stephen Pontus)

Jesus protected by the Knights of Columbus
(photo credit Mary Reindl)
Kurt Keidl, Roses for Our Lady's vice president
(photo credit Stephen Pontus)

Bishop Hying, Roses for Our Lady's Spiritual Advisor
(photo credit Stephen Pontus)

Fr. Matthew Widder with the Lord at benediction
(photo credit Stephen Pontus)
Our Lady
(photo credit  Stephen Pontus)

 Visit the Roses for Our Lady website to view more pictures.  Click on the first photo to begin the slide show.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Glory to God For All Things

"Thou hast brought me into life as into an enchanted paradise. We have seen the sky like a chalice of deepest blue, where in the azure heights the birds are singing. We have listened to the soothing murmur of the forest and the melodious music of the streams. We have tasted fruit of fine flavour and the sweet-scented honey. We can live very well on Thine earth. It is a pleasure to be Thy guest." ~from Akathist Hymn of Thanksgiving:  Glory to God For All Things, Ikos 2

With the beginning of May I've passed the four year mark in my blogging career.  When I first began to blog I thought that, like many of my other hobbies such as scrapbooking, floral arranging and counted-cross-stitch, this would be a short-lived endeavor lasting maybe a year or two and it would fizzle out.  Except that blogging isn't really like any of my other hobbies.  I don't blog simply to pass the time or to learn a new craft. I blog to share my faith and hopefully glorify God in the process.  And, one of the joys of blogging is that over these past four years I have come across many kindred spirits, blogging buddies, you could say, that are quite gifted at sharing their own experience of faith and who inspire me with their words.  One such blogger is  Amanda Rose who writes at Little Steps Along the Way.

Amanda has recently written two amazing posts that have worked their way deeply into my soul and have made a profound impact upon my prayer life.  I tend to be a melancholic spirit and slip quite easily into depressive episodes, but Amanda has shown me an effective antidote for my moodiness.

In her post, My Portion is the Lord, which was featured on Dr. Anthony Lilles contemplative blog, Beginning to Pray, Amanda reminds us to sing hopefully when all seems dark:

"I hope when my mind says I shouldn’t. I hope while the tears run down my cheeks. I hope when I cannot hold back the sobs of disappointment, grief and exhaustion.  Even when I doubt, my souls sings “my portion is the Lord."  I cling to this truth."

I encourage you to read it all and to remain hopeful.  And on her own blog, Amanda shares a post that not only encourages the virtue of hope, but also the virtue of gratitude.  In Singing Alleluia Through Our Tears, Amanda introduces her readers to a magnificent Orthodox prayer, an Akathist Hymn of Thanksgiving, written in 1934 by an Orthodox Metropolitan while he was held in a Russian prison camp.  I am startled each time I consider a man held captive, enduring the horrors of a prison camp, who can conjure up a prayer to magnify the Lord with such glorious words of praise.  I have since printed out the Akathist Hymn, Glory to God for All Things, and have been praying with it every day.  I encourage you to pray with it yourself and see if you, too, aren't amazed by the beauty of this prayer and uplifted to give glory to God for all things, even in the darkest of times.

"Glory to Thee for the Feast Day of life
Glory to Thee for the perfume of lilies and roses
Glory to Thee for each different taste of berry and fruit
Glory to Thee for the sparkling silver of early morning dew
Glory to Thee for the joy of dawn's awakening
Glory to Thee for the new life each day brings
Glory to Thee, O God, from age to age"

~from Akathist Hymn of Thanksgiving:  Glory to God For All Things, Ikos 2

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Three Reasons I Love Catholicism Vol. 2

I think if I were ever to decide that I had enough of blogging and would be tempted to hang it up, I would still hold on to this sweet little meme.  Thinking of the reasons why I love Catholicism brings me so much joy!  Even when I get mad at the Church for her problems, I couldn't imagine being any religion other than Catholic because there is just an endless list of wonderful things about this faith.  So here I am linking up with Micaela at California to Korea  who offers this great meme at the beginning of each month, with a short list of Three Reasons I Love Catholicism...

1)  The Sacred Heart of Jesus

 When anxiety, fear, sorrow, and loneliness infringe upon my peace of mind and soul, I fly to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  I place everything that bothers me into His pierced side and He burns all my troubles into ash within the fire of His Holy Love.  Then He gently draws me into His Sacred Heart as well and warms my soul with peace.  Nothing can hold me back and I can conquer the challenges of this world knowing that I am always held within the love of His Most Sacred Heart.

2)  The Holy Mass

 I've gotten myself into the habit of attending Mass, not just on Sunday, but nearly every day of the week.  Joining with the community of Catholics at Mass, my prayer is strengthened and my soul is soothed.  Listening to the Word of God and holding on to a small part of it to ponder and pray with throughout the day, watching as a simple piece of bread and cup of wine is converted into the very Body and Blood of my Savior and then receiving Him into my own miserable body in a Kiss of Love, is powerful beyond belief.  I can't imagine life without the Mass, and I'm so grateful to have the opportunity to attend so often.

3)  The Morning Offering

Sometimes it can be difficult to keep the command to "pray without ceasing."  The Morning Offering is such a simple way to pray always even when I am preoccupied with the busy activities of the day.  Starting each morning with a few words of prayer and then calling to mind all of those people and situations that are close to my heart as well as remembering Pope Francis and all of his intentions, I give it all to God and my day is covered in prayer.  Simplicity!!!  I am so grateful to my friend, Fr. Jim Kubicki, SJ and the Apostleship of Prayer for promoting this easy way of life.  Visit this link to learn more.

Visit Micaela's blog for more reasons to love Catholicism and add your own reasons.