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August 17, 2015 | Volume 90 Number 21

COLUMNS

Believe as you Pray »

In Light of Faith »

photo: msgr. timothy keeney

believe as you pray

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

Joshua 24: 1-2a, 15-17, 18b
Psalm 34: 2-3, 16-17, 18-19, 20-21
Ephesians 5: 21-32
John 6: 60-69

We have come to the last week of our reflection on John 6, and the question is, “Now what?” Not just why have we been on this little excursus with John’s Gospel, but why does the Church ask us to spend so much time on this one chapter of a single Gospel.

And the answer is that it is time for us to make a decision. Do we accept Jesus’ teaching on the Eucharist, and what effect does it have on our life?

The danger is that we will confuse this decision with other kinds of inconsequential decisions we make every day. Do I want to wear jeans or khakis today? Do I want to join the Knights of Columbus or not? Do I want to go to Harvard or William & Mary (Sorry UVA but I am a pastor in Williamsburg)?

Some may think that each of these questions is an important one, but in none of them is our eternal future on the line. Not so when confronted with Jesus’ question to the disciples and to us, “Do you also want to leave?” Jesus will never force our hand. His calls are always invitations, but our responses to his invitation have consequences.

The good news is that Jesus never tires of issuing the invitation to us. The reality check is that, like a wedding proposal where the intended asks the other to “wait” for a while, eventually “please wait” becomes no.

Joshua puts it starkly before the people. The time for a decision for the Lord is now. He is ready to make the commitment even if they are not. “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

Jesus has the same sort of urgency in the Gospel. The time for decision is now. He doesn’t call out to those who have left to spend some more time pondering the message. Rather he ups the ante by asking those who were still there if they also would leave.

We might be afraid of making commitments. We might not be intellectually convinced of all of the teachings of the Gospel. We might be concerned that we are limiting our options for the future. It is easy to understand all of those objections. Yet that does not make any less the urgency of making a decision now about Jesus’ invitation, and there is only one reason to make such a radical decision.

That reason is given voice by Simon Peter, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

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in light of faith

Did You Know?

All I have to do is mention that I’m from Wisconsin and comments about the Green Bay Packers, Badgers basketball team, or cheese hats inevitably make their way into the conversation.

For the more politically minded, names like Paul Ryan or Scott Walker are likely to surface as well.

Fair enough, since the Midwest is not exactly known for its many areas of interest. However, did you know that Wisconsin is host to the only approved Marian apparition site in the United States?

It gained official approval on December 8, 2010 when the Most Reverend David Ricken, Bishop of the Diocese of Green Bay, released a statement declaring with moral certainty, the apparitions and locutions received by Adele Brise were worthy of belief, although not obligatory among the Christian faithful.

Bishop Ricken noted that the apparitions had been regarded as authentic almost from the beginning. Early on a chapel was built on the site, and Mass has been celebrated there for decades by both priests and bishops, giving credence to the many miracles that pilgrims have attributed to Mary’s intercession while praying at the Shrine.

As a teenager, I recall attending Mass at the site with my mother and grandmother on August 15, the Feast of the Assumption of Mary.

The Mass was held outdoors in a field because the crowd was too large for the chapel, but I recall seeing dozens of crutches and canes surrounding the altar in the chapel where we later prayed. We were told they had been left by pilgrims who had been cured while praying at the site.

The apparitions date back to 1859 when Mary is reported to have appeared on three separate occasions to Adele Brise in a rural area located about 16 miles from Green Bay. Adele, a young Belgian immigrant who was 28, reported having seen a beautiful lady, surrounded by light.

The woman who was dressed in a brilliant white garment with a yellow sash around her waist was standing in midair between two trees. During the first apparition, Adele was alone, but the next time she was with two companions.

Only Adele was able to see the woman, who did not speak during the apparitions. When Adele confided what she had seen to her parish priest, he told her that if she sees the woman again, she should ask her name and what she wanted.

On October 9 the woman appeared once again and when Adele asked her name, the woman replied, “I am the Queen of Heaven, Our Lady of Good Hope.”

She told Adele she wanted her to pray for the conversion of sinners and that she was to gather the children to teach them about God.

Initially, Adele went from house to house teaching children, but eventually, she opened a small school to instruct them in the faith. Adele’s father built a small wooden chapel at the site of the apparition and a five-acre plot of land surrounding the site was donated to accommodate those who came on pilgrimage.

Soon other women joined her and they lived according to the rule of the Third Order of Franciscans. Adele never became a religious sister, though she spent the rest of her life praying and instructing children in the faith.

On the night of October 8, 1871, a fire broke out in Peshtigo, Wisconsin, which consumed woods, towns and everything in it’s path, killing almost 2,000 people and consuming almost 1,200,000 acres of land.

When the chapel was threatened by fire, Adele refused to leave. Instead, she organized a procession in honor of the Virgin Mary, begging for her protection.

When the fire was over, all the surrounding land was burned, but the chapel and its grounds, together with all the people who had taken refuge there, survived unharmed.

In 1880 a larger chapel was built and dedicated by Bishop Francis Xavier Krautbauer, and a few years later, a school and convent were added. In 1942, a new building was constructed and dedicated and the Shrine remains a place of pilgrimage that continues to draw large crowds, most notably for the outdoor Mass celebrated in Mary’s honor on August 15, the Feast of the Assumption.

Although the site has not received the renown that Fatima or Lourdes enjoy, the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Hope remains a timely shrine for pilgrims. Today, when so many people seem to have lost hope, and the rate of suicides is at an all-time high, Mary reminds us that she is a beacon of Hope.

In 1859 Mary came to a humble rural area in Wisconsin with the plea to pray for the conversion of sinners, a plea that is characteristic of all her visits.

Our Heavenly Mother’s message about catechesis is also timely. With the renewed emphasis on evangelization, Mary’s request to teach children is one we can all take to heart.

Regardless of our age, we are all her children, and we need to be evangelized so that we can become evangelizers. We are never done learning about the love and mercy of God, and the more we reflect on those mysteries, the more we will feel compelled to share that love and mercy with others.

May Our Lady of Good Hope continue to intercede for us!

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