Adding to his already impressive and varied resume of service in our Diocese of La Crosse Brother Michael Mandernach, CSPX, recently published a history of his religious community, the Brothers of Saint Pius X. This diocesan community of consecrated life was founded in 1951 by the Bishop of La Crosse, John Patrick Treacy. In his Forward to the book, Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, Cardinal Patron of the Knights of Malta writes: "It remains only to express my heartfelt esteem and gratitude to Brother Michael Mandernach for a work well done. Together as Brothers is a worthy record of the action of the Holy Spirit in the community of the Brothers of Saint Pius X. It is an account told with the truth and love of one who, from his youth and now for some 60 years, has cooperated faithfully and generously with the Holy Spirit in response to the call to the apostolic religious life as a Brother. As a native son of the Diocese of La Crosse, who was deeply honored to be a priest of the Diocese of La Crosse and to be its Bishop, I offer heartfelt gratitude to Brother Michael for the steadfastness with which he worked on the history of the Brothers of Saint Pius X, since that day in 1996 when I first asked him to provide for the Diocese and for the Church a written record of this important chapter of her history."
For more information regarding purchasing a copy of the history of the Brothers of Saint Pius X please contact the Central Office (715.778.5519 or firstname.lastname@example.org). Brother Michael is retired in residence at Spring Valley.
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This week our nation pauses to give thanks to God for His abundant blessings. In our parishes Masses are offered Monday at 8:00 AM in Elmwood, Tuesday at 6:30 PM in Spring Valley preceded by Confessions at 6:00 PM, and Wednesday at 8:00 AM at Elmwood. There are no Masses or Communion Services Thursday and Friday. All are welcome to join the Spring Valley Ecumenical Service at Saint John Lutheran Church at 7:00 PM on Thanksgiving Day. "Father all-powerful, your gifts of love are countless and your goodness infinite; as we come before you on Thanksgiving Day with gratitude for your kindness, open our hearts to have concern for every man, woman, and child, so that we may share your gifts in loving service” (Collect, Mass of Thanksgiving Day). Happy Thanksgiving to you and your loved ones!
The Season of Advent begins a new Church year. In the pagan world of the ancient Greeks and Romans, epiphaneia (the Greek word from which we get our English “epiphany”) or adventus (the Latin word from which we get our English “advent”) meant “coming.” These terms were used to refer to the annual coming of gods into their temples to visit their devotees. In the court of the Roman Emperors these words also signified the first official visit of the Emperor (or other important officeholder) to a city. Our ancestors in the faith – the first Christians – transformed the usage and meaning of these terms applying them to Jesus Christ. Thus, in a twofold sense they spoke of Christ’s epiphany or advent, namely: (1) His coming among us as a man sharing fully our human nature being born of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and (2) His coming and manifestation in glory – He who is Lord and Savior – as judge of the living and the dead at the end of time. The Preface of the Eucharistic Prayer for today’s Mass of the First Sunday of Advent reflects this ancient theology.
Developing from this double understanding of the coming of Christ, the word “advent” eventually came to be applied to the liturgical season of preparation at the head of the Church’s year. Thus, the Season of Advent is a time for our preparation (1) for the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord (Christmas), and (2) to meet the Lord upon His coming in glory.
Our Advent is the season of the coming of Christ. At the time of the Birth of Jesus of Nazareth and during the course of His earthly life, how many people saw Him with their eyes but did not see Him for who He is – truly God and truly man? And how many people were not even watching for the Savior and missed Him altogether? Christ will come again in glory at a time known only to the Father. Jesus Himself in today’s Gospel (Mark13:33-37) exhorts us: “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come!” In an extended sense, Christ already comes to us each and every day. Yet, like the people at the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry, we do not always perceive Him in the persons and events of the drama of our lives. And how many people in our day are not even looking for Him?
In this Season of Advent, let us beg the Lord to sharpen our sense of faith, our ability to perceive His coming in our midst, our preparedness for His glorious return. And let us ask Christ to remove any obstacles we may have erected in our lives and that may prevent us from perceiving His presence or make us unready for whenever He calls us to Himself. These may be accomplished this Advent (1) by our life of prayer allowing God to draw us closer to Himself, coming to know Him as one knows a friend and confidant; (2) by our frequent and worthy reception of the Sacraments, especially Penance (Confession) and the Holy Eucharist; (3) by living an upright life according to the Commandments as we beg the Lord for “the resolve to run forth to meet . . . Christ with righteous deeds at His coming” (Collect, First Sunday of Advent); and, finally, (4) by living faithfully our vocation – to the dedicated single life, the priesthood, the consecrated religious life, or the married life.
Our parishes observe the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception with a Vigil Mass on Sunday, December 7, at 8:00 PM at Elmwood and Masses on the day of the Solemnity itself, Monday, December 8, at 8:00 AM at Spring Valley and 6:00 PM at Boyceville.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church summarizes the rich meaning of this feast: “To become the mother of the Savior, Mary ‘was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role.’ The angel Gabriel at the moment of the Annunciation salutes her as ‘full of grace’ (Luke 1:28). In fact, in order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation, it was necessary that she be wholly borne by God's grace” (490).
“Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, ‘full of grace,’ through God, was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854: ‘The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin’” (491).
“The ‘splendor of an entirely unique holiness’ by which Mary is ‘enriched from the first instant of her conception’ comes wholly from Christ: she is ‘redeemed, in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son.’ The Father blessed Mary more than any other created person ‘in Christ with every spiritual blessings in the heavenly places’ and chose her ‘in Christ before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless before Him in love’” (492).
“The Fathers of the Eastern tradition call the Mother of God ‘the All-Holy’ (Panagia) and celebrate her as ‘free from any stain of sin, as though fashioned by the Holy Spirit and formed as a new creature.’ By the grace of God Mary remained free of every personal sin her whole life long” (493).
On this great feast day we pray: “O God, who by the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin prepared a worthy dwelling for your Son, grant, we pray, that, as you preserved her from every stain by virtue of the Death of your Son, which you foresaw, so, through her intercession, we, too, may be cleansed and admitted to your presence” (Roman Missal, Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception).
Our parishes celebrate the the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord with Vigil Masses on Wednesday, December 24, at 4:00 PM at Spring Valley and 8:00 PM at Elmwood as well as on Christmas Day itself, Thursday December 25, at 8:30 AM at Boyceville and 10:30 AM at Spring Valley.
The angel said to the shepherds: ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David, a Savior has been born for you who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger’” (Luke 2:10-12). Indeed, this Holy Infant, whose birth we celebrate at Christmas, fills us – and through us the whole world – with joy and hope. When faced with the horrors of our day – the slaughter of the most innocent ones in the womb and those weakened by old age, terrorism and war, material and spiritual poverty, to name just a few – we can be paralyzed by fear. With the birth of Jesus, however, the angel assures us that we need not be afraid! The good news is that “the Word of God, God the Son of God . . . has taken on our human nature to free us from eternal death” (Saint Leo the Great, Sermon 1.2.1). May we who have been given the gift of faith embrace more fully the hope that is ours at the birth of the Savior!
In this mystery of the Incarnation – the Eternal Son of the Father taking on our human nature being born of the Virgin Mary – we believe that Jesus Christ is “the human face of God and divine face of man” (Blessed John Paul II, The Church in America, 67). An encounter with this Jesus of Nazareth – the Incarnate Son of God – “brings about a profound transformation in all who do not close themselves off from Him. The first impulse coming from this transformation is to communicate to others the richness discovered in the experience of the encounter. This does not mean simply teaching what we have come to know but also, like the Samaritan woman, enabling others to encounter Jesus personally: ‘Come and see’ [John 4:29]. The result will be the same as that which took place in the heart of the Samaritans, who said to the woman: ‘It is no longer because of your words that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world’ [John 4:42]” (Blessed John Paul II, The Church in America, 68). If you find yourself having grown lukewarm after that original encounter with the Lord or having closed yourself off from Jesus of Nazareth – for whatever reason – I invite you: “Come and see!” Come to encounter Jesus Christ at Sacred Heart-Saint Luke Parishes! Come to meet the merciful Savior in the Sacrament of Penance! Come to meet the Incarnate Son of God who makes Himself present under the forms of bread and wine at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass! Come to meet Him who is the Truth in study of the Word of God handed on in Scripture and Tradition! Come to meet the Crucified Lord in the persons of the young, the needy, the suffering, and the sorrowing!
“Today Christ was born; today the Savior appeared; today the angels sing on earth, the archangels rejoice; today the just exult, saying: Glory to God in the highest, alleluia” (Christmas Day, Evening Prayer II, Magnificat Antiphon). May you and your loved ones have a joyful and blessed Christmas!
The contract was signed this week with Kulp's of Stratford (www.kulproof.com) to replace the leaking roof of Sacred Heart Church in Spring Valley. Work is anticipated to begin in November.