Bulletin Article for the Twenty-fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time (September 13, 2020)

Dear People of God,

The students at the Newman Center live short term lives. By this I mean, they don’t necessarily know where they are going to be in a couple of years. They don’t know where they are going to work in a couple of years. They may not be dating anyone and wondering who God wants them to marry, if at all. They live with the unknowing. I feel with COVID, we too live with this constant unknowing. We don’t know when things will get back to normal. We know that the fall sports are being handled differently, from being cancelled, to being postponed. We don’t know how the winter activities will look like. Then there is the election. There is just so much uncertainty during this time. And yet we know that God is in control. We know and trust that God will not necessarily make everything right, but He will give us the strength and courage to make it through.

We can’t always control what happens to us. However, we can control how we react to things. Today Jesus teaches His disciples about forgiveness. To make a long story short, God is exceedingly merciful and forgiving. Any complaint we might have about God’s mercy and forgiveness is silenced by the Cross. If every little sin is an offense to God, then the Cross is the opposite of what we deserve. And yet, that is what God extends to us, forgiveness and mercy. Do we accept? Do we accept God’s mercy and forgiveness? 

If God, who is perfect, can be forgiving and merciful despite our sins, our offenses against His perfection, surely we, who are imperfect, can forgive each other’s imperfections. We, especially myself, need to be more forgiving and merciful to those around us. The Lord asked St. Faustina to not defend herself when she was wrongly accused of something by one of the other sisters in her convent. Maybe the Lord isn’t asking you to completely give up defending your honor when someone accuses you of something, but maybe we could be a little less defensive and a bit more humble. 

May God bless and keep you,

Father Vogel 

Bulletin Article for the Twenty-third Sunday of Ordinary Time (September 6, 2020)

Hello,

Things are starting back up…but for how long, only time will tell. The school year has begun. It is crazy listening to the youth talk about their school days. I can’t imagine doing school online. I would flunk every class. Then the days they are there, they are wearing masks all day long except for meals. Our religious education is starting back up this week. We are doing so while keeping in mind the social distancing protocols from the state and diocese. So please pray that we can continue to learn about God and stay healthy, physically, mentally, and spiritually.

There a lot of opinions out there. Some are truly opinions. There is no right or wrong answer to what the best pizza is. It is my opinion that pineapple does NOT belong on pizza. There is no right or wrong answer to which way the toilet paper goes, although it is my strong opinion that it should roll out from the top. However, what 3+5 equals is not up to opinion. Three plus five equals eight no matter what your opinion is. This is a fact.

Sin is also a fact. When we sin against our neighbor, it is not a matter of opinion, but fact. We need to take time to rectify the wrong we have done and make a firm resolve not to repeat the sin. Jesus says in the Gospel today that when someone sins against us, to go address the incident with the person themselves. Only if they don’t listen do we need to involve others. This is not always easy; to confront people to their face in a loving manner about the wrong they have done to us. So gossip is also not a part of what Jesus is saying. But if a person doesn’t listen to our loving correction, then we can involve others. But first, Jesus is saying to address wrongs one on one. No social media, no gossip, nothing else. Just a one on one.

In our social media saturated world, this is so counter cultural. Let’s be followers of Jesus, not followers of the world. Let’s handle wrongs in a Christian way.

Peace of Christ,

Father Vogel

Bulletin Article for the Twenty-second Sunday of Ordinary Time (August 30, 2020)

Dear People of God,

I know I spoke to this the other week, but please reach out to one another. We are the Body of Christ. There are members of this Body that are lonely and isolated. I keep reading article after article about the mental toil this pandemic is having on people. Parents are going back to work, but the kids are now going to go to school only part of the week. Sometimes, for lower income families, the school meal was the only full meal the child received in a day. I also keep hearing how suicide rates are up. So please take care of yourself and others, mentally, spiritually, and physically. There is no shame is reaching out. I believe America is great, but one thing sometimes our society does lie to us about is that we have to be independent. Being a Christian is all about realizing we are a dependent species; dependent on God, dependent on one another. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, failure, or inadequacy. Asking for help is a sign of humility and recognition of our connectedness as a Body of Christ, as a human family. 

We probably didn’t communicate it very well, but now that Minnesota State University classes have started, we are back on our normal Mass schedule. So this means 5 PM on Saturday at St. Joe’s or St. Matthew’s. Then 9 AM on Sunday morning at St. Teresa’s. 

In today’s Gospel Jesus says, “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” It is when we give of ourselves that we are most fully human. Our world tells us that we need to get stuff. That when we get this thing or that thing, we will finally be happy, or at least, happier. Jesus teaches us that the opposite is true. When we give of ourselves, it is then that we are truly happy. “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” Yes, we need to take up our crosses, but we don’t need to carry them alone. We can allow Christ and others to help carry our crosses. There is no shame in this. St. Paul says what made the first Christians stand out is how the treated one another, how they sacrificed for one another. May this be true of us.

Peace of Christ,

Father Vogel 

Bulletin Article for the Twenty-first Sunday of Ordinary Time (August 23, 2020)

Dear People,

The weirdness has started to really hit me. Today (Thursday) would traditionally be the day the freshman would start moving into the dorms. We usually have crews of older students ready to help them and to invite them to the Newman Center events to kick-off the school year. However, campus is like a ghost town. There are a few people around, but nothing like normal. This just emphasizes for me how isolated we have become. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I continue to read article after article about the devastating effects these social distancing practices have had on low income children whose one square meal was the one they get a school, about abused spouses who are now stuck with that abusive spouse 24/7, about the mental health of those who are stuck by themselves. If you have thought about reaching out to someone, don’t just think about it. Do it. We must use every means at our disposal, every technology we can, to reach out to each other. We can no longer assume that others are okay. 

Leon Axtman joined our staff earlier this spring as our new administrator. Unfortunately, he has found a job closer to home. Leon’s last day will be this coming Friday. If you see him, thank him for all he has done for our tri-parish. If you know of anyone who would make a good parish administrator, please encourage them to apply.

This Sunday we hear Jesus assigning Peter as the first pope. So much could be said, but I’ll save most of it for my homily. However, these are dark days for our world and for our church. But Jesus promised that the Church would remain until He comes back again. Even if our leaders become corrupt or teach false teachings, we know from today’s Gospel that Jesus promises that the Church will never officially teach error. Please pray for our Church and for our society. Pray that Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth, and the Life prevail in our time.

Peace of Christ,

Father Vogel

Bulletin Article for the Twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time (August 16, 2020)

Hello,

How has your summer been? Did you get out to the lake? Did you get some hiking in or some biking? The school year is just starting to take shape here at Maple River and at the Newman Center. It sounds like some of the fall sports are going to be moved to spring. Some colleges are doing something similar. At first I thought about missing sports, but then someone suggested that maybe more families will continue to spend more time together. I know when this first started I was overjoyed had how many families I saw biking together. Or the fact that frisbee golf discs were sold out at Scheels in Mankato. I know family is not always easy, but let’s continue to spend time together. It’s okay to slow down and just enjoy being in each other’s company. The first reading mentions the Sabbath. We are not created to go, go, go 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year. The Lord rested on the seventh day of creation as a paradigm for us. Keeping the Sabbath isn’t just about going to Church on Sunday. It’s about taking time to reflect on who we are and who we are becoming. Again, we are human beings, not human doings. What we do shapes who we are, but our actions are external implementations of our souls. Are we striving to become saints? Better sons and daughters of God?

In the Gospel, a woman just wants her daughter cured of a demon. Jesus tests the woman’s faith by seemingly insulting her. The woman passes with flying colors. She knows that just the scarps of Jesus’ grace and love is enough to cure her daughter. Do we believe that Jesus can heal us? Do we believe that Jesus can heal others? Do we believe that Jesus can heal our nation, our society? “In that little Host is the solution to all the problems of the world.” – Saint Pope John Paul II. Do we believe that Jesus is the answer? When we receive the Eucharist, we receive God Himself into our bodies, into our souls. In Christ, we are powerful beyond our imagination. You have been baptized and received the Eucharist so that you can powerfully and radically change the world for the Kingdom of God. We know Jesus wins the war. The question is, is He going to win the battle for your soul and the souls of those around you?

May God bless and keep you,

Father Vogel

Bulletin Article for the Nineteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (August 9, 2020)

My People,

Things are crazy right now!! Amen?! Amen!! Wednesday evening I met with Merissa Roth (our new Faith Formation Director – if you haven’t met her, you should – she’s awesome) and her Faith Formation Board. I think we have come up with the best strategy we can under the circumstances. Details will be coming. I know we can’t please everyone. Please do what you need to do to feel safe. 

Two thousand years ago, Christ started a perfect hierarchical Church full of imperfect, sinners, including the hierarchy. Thankfully the bishop helps us with our Sacraments, with annulments, with youth ministry, raising up the next priests in our seminarians, supporting our families, dialoguing with our civic leaders about current issues, and many other things. Every year we are given an opportunity to support our bishop and our diocese. Every year the diocese gives us a goal. If we don’t meet that goal, the difference has to come out of our general fund. The more we give to the diocese, the more we have for our local parishes. So please consider giving to the Annual Diocesan Appeal.

This week we get the classical story of Jesus walking on water. Now in Minnesota this is not a big deal. People do this all the time in the winter here. In fact the not only walk on water, but they put luxurious “houses” on the water, drill holes, and fish. I say houses because I always thought it was like “Grumpy Old Men;” little shacks. But I’m told that some ice fishing houses even have TV’s and other amenities. 

Anyways, I think a lot of us can relate to Peter and Apostles these days. We watch the news, listen to our leaders, and there is plenty of reasons to be terrified. Peter, James, and John were hardened fisherman. They had seen many rough seas…but this storm was different. However, no matter how rough it gets, how bad our world becomes, we have reason to hope. We know Jesus wins, triumphs over evil, in the end. We know that eventually Jesus will calm the storms in our world. However, the question right now is, is Jesus calling you out of the comfort of the boat, is Jesus calling you do something extraordinary during this stormy time in our world?

Peter’s mistake is that he took his eyes off of Jesus. Instead he started to focus on the strength of the winds. He thus became frightened and began to sink. I have read many articles that have talked about how depression and other mental illnesses are on the rise during this time. Those who need to seek professional should seek it out. There is no shame is saying we can’t do it alone. The fact is none of us can do it alone. That is why we all need to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus during these stormy times. With Jesus in our lives, and relying on each other, we’ve got this. Honestly, feel free to call me at any time if you need someone to chat with.

May God’s love and mercy be with you,

Father Vogel