Bulletin Article for Palm Sunday (April 14, 2019)

The end is near!…of Lent that is. Today we celebrate Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem. Jesus is treated like the King He is. People gather along the streets and lay palm branches and cloaks along the road. Luke records that the people shouted with great joy praising God saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.” They could not get enough of Jesus. They had seen all of the great miracles Jesus had done. He had won over the people even if the leaders still resisted Him. 

Today kicks off the holiest week of the year. Again, we kick the week off with Palm Sunday. We move through the Last Supper, the Crucifixion, and finally end with the Resurrection. Sometimes people ask me why crosses in the Catholic Church have a body on them. Most of our Protestant brothers and sisters do not have a body on their crosses. Jesus has risen so why do we bodies on our crosses? Yes, Jesus has risen, but rising was the easy part. It was the sweating of blood, the arrest, betrayal of friends, the scrounging, the humiliation of the crown of thorns, the weariness of carrying the cross, and finally the excruciating pain of dying on the cross that was the hard part. But Jesus did this because He has an eternal loving thirst for the salvation of each one of us. Not to be a party-pooper, but if we are honest about our lives, hopefully we have lots of times of joy, but even in the joy, most often life a struggle…a struggle to become better today than we were yesterday. A struggle to overcome the evil that drags us down. When we are struggling, we can join our sufferings to the sufferings of Christ and not rely on our own strength. Colossians 1:24 says, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church…” In some ways there is nothing lacking in Christ’s afflictions on the Cross. His sufferings and death on the Cross covers anyone’s sins who avail themselves to the forgiveness and mercy of God. However, our lives often contain suffering. We can join our sufferings to Christ’s on the Cross for the redemption of humanity. Jesus allows us to participate in the redemption of humanity through our own suffering. Suffering does not need to be wasted. It can be, when joined to Christ on the Cross, because the means of some of the most powerful prayer there is. If you are suffering, know that you are not alone. Look at a crucifix and know that you are not suffering alone. Christ is suffering with you and you with Christ on His Cross. Give Him your emptiness and loneliness. He is strong enough to bear it. He did so just for you on the Cross.

This is a glorious week. Good triumphs over evil. The victory is secured. Allow yourself to enter deeply into the mystery of each day of the Triduum. I hope to see you.

God bless,

Father Vogel 

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Bulletin Article for the Fifth Sunday of Lent (April 7, 2019)

Dear People of God,

I had a good retreat in Buffalo. The topic for the retreat was Confessions. We talked about the history of the Sacrament of Confessions. In the early Church it was something you only did once after Baptism. It was public and the penance could last years. If we went back to that, we would probably have even less people go than we do now. We also talked about whether people feel the need to go. Do people have less of a sense of sin than they did in the past? In a society where it is believed that there is no objective right or wrong, do people feel shame or remorse? One priest remarked that the attendance at Ash Wednesday would seem to indicate we do have a sense that we are sinful people. Do people feel like they can just pray to God and have their sins forgiven without a priest? The Church teaches that this is true of venial sin, but not for mortal sin. If one has committed a mortal sin and is not in a state of grace, one needs to go to Confession and receive absolution before receiving Communion. Even if one has not committed a mortal sin, the Sacrament of Reconciliation is also good for receiving the grace to resist sin in the future. If we are trying to become saints, if we are trying to become more holy, receiving the graces of the Sacrament of Reconciliation to resist sin is a great gift from God. The Sacrament of Reconciliation can be scary, but it does not need to be. Even if you have forgotten what to do, the priest can help you remember. And if the priest reveals anything you say in the confessional, then the priest is kicked out of the Church. People pay good money to tell people their problems (psychiatrists, psychologists); however, the Sacrament of Reconciliation is free.

Glancing at my calendar, I don’t see any big events coming up. Keep up the Lenten practices. Pray for fortitude and courage. The end is in sight. Easter (April 21) will be here before you know it. Hopefully you have family coming for this most important day in the life of a Christian. As of now, my parents are planning to come for Holy Week. So if you see a strange grey-haired couple wandering around, say hi to them.

God loves us! He created us for greatness. The penance, the suffering, is preparation for greatness, for heaven. Ask Mary’s intercession to receive the grace needed to become saints. Sainthood is not for other weird holy people. Sainthood is for all of us. Virtue and morality steeped in love, especially God’s love for us, is what will get us to our Baptismal goal, sainthood.

Peace of Christ,

Father Vogel

Bulletin Article for the Fourth Sunday of Lent (March 31, 2019)

Hello,

It is finally beginning to look like spring. Wednesday I was out riding my longboard (a type of skateboard) around the MSU campus. I’m assuming the farmers are starting to get a little antsy to get out into the fields. Hopefully the ground will dry out sooner rather than later.

This week I will be gone from Sunday afternoon until Wednesday afternoon. We have our every-other-year Lenten priest retreat up in Buffalo, MN. So please pray for us. Pray that we are renewed in our desire to bring the suffering and joy of Holy Week to the people of God. 

This week we have the amazing parable of the Prodigal Son. Being part of a family is not easy. It is often the people in our family that we take for granted, that we treat the worst. Sometimes we treat our family members worse than our enemies. And yet we are called to love our family members. Sometimes family members are not ready to be reconciled. We can’t force them. Sometimes all we can do is pray that they, like the prodigal son, see the error of their ways and come back to their family. We have to trust that God loves them even more than we do. God wants families to reconcile, but He also gives each of us free will. It is hard to see loved ones fall away. The father even says upon the prodigal son’s return, “…this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again…” We pray for all families and for unity.

Again, don’t give up on your Lenten penances. If you have fallen, start over, start again. Lenten penances are good for growing in virtue and morals.

I pray you are continuing to have a blessed Lenten season.

God bless,

Father Vogel 

Bulletin Article for the Third Sunday of Lent (March 24, 2019)

Hello,

Lent is going. Hopefully your Lenten practices are going well. If not, if you have failed, don’t give up. Change is hard; especially sudden changes. If you have failed, stop, resolve to do them from here on out, and begin again. 

Speaking of new beginnings…This coming Wednesday at 7 PM, we are having our Lenten Communal Reconciliation Service. (The religious education kids will begin in their regular classes at 6:30.) 

This weekend we have an initiative called Safe Haven Sunday. In this first annual Safe Haven Sunday, the theme is, “Equipping the Family, Safeguarding our Children.” I know in some people’s eyes, the Catholic Church does not have much of a leg to stand on. However, no matter what horrible things members of the Church have done, the Truth about morality remains the same.  The analogy I’ve been using is a math teacher. If the math teacher does something immoral, that doesn’t change the truth of what they taught. Five plus three still equals eight. The Catholic Church, especially the Diocese of Winona-Rochester, since the early 2000’s, has tried very hard to make life safe for our children and vulnerable adults. 

It is not the only cause, but pornography certainly doesn’t help the situation. I was reading the excerpts from a rape case. The man said he had a right to the woman’s body. They also found pornography on his computer. With the internet one does not have to secretly obtain a “dirty” magazine. Pornography can come to us where ever we have an internet connection. So it is easy to say that it doesn’t do any harm. It is just me. Some people even use pornography to learn how to bring more pleasure to their lives, even to their marriages. Pornography is also used in in-vitro-fertilization. Pornography also contributes to the forces and urges that push for sexual human trafficking. If there was no demand for sexual human trafficking, the supply would not exist. Most of us aren’t going to rape someone, let alone think we have a right to someone else’s body. However, repeated pornography changes the way we see and interact with each other. We start to treat people more and more as objects and less and less as persons. Pope John Paul II says in his book Love and Responsibility in the positive, a human person is a being who deserves to be treated with love. In the negative, a human person is a being who never deserves to be used as a means to an end. Pornography never considers the person as a being to love, but always as an object to be used for self pleasure. We need to do all we can to be people of virtue not just for our own sakes, but also for those around us, especially our families, especially our children.

Sorry to dump so much on you, but next weekend (March 30-31) the Catholic Church is have another initiative called “The Light is On.” (Most other churches did the Safe Haven Sunday several Sundays ago, but since I was gone in the Holy Land, we waited.) The Light is On initiative is about inviting people to Church, to a deeper relationship with Jesus. I have found that most people who quit going to Mass do so not because of some difference in doctrine, but because of something personal that happened. Sometimes it was a priest who said something insensitive. Sometimes it is because other priorities took precedent. Sometimes it is because we feel like we are beyond the hope of God. To the first group, I would say, “Sorry.” The Catholic Church, being close to the graces of the Sacraments is so much bigger than one lousy priest or bishop. To the second group, I would just say that Jesus loves you. So much so that He died the Cross so you could be with Him forever in Heaven. In the end, our greatest desire is to be loved unconditionally, to be loved for who we truly are, good and bad. God loves us this way more than we can imagine. To the third group, I would remind them that there is no sin too great that God can’t forgive you. Often, it is not that God can’t forgive us, but we have a hard time forgiving ourselves. I know it can be scary to come back, especially to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Now that I’m a priest, I have a different perspective on the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Yes, the Sacrament of Reconciliation is about our sins, but even more so it is about God’s mercy. I used to get caught up in the penance that the priest would give me. I would think why did the priest just give me three Hail Marys as my penance. Didn’t he hear what I did? I practically almost killed someone. (I didn’t, but that’s how I felt about my sins.) I felt like my penance should be climbing Mount Everest on my hands and knees until they bled or something like that. Certainly not three Hail Marys. But that’s just it. As a priest, you realize that the Sacrament of Reconciliation is so much more about God’s mercy than it is about our sins. So in light of inviting people to Mass, to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, to a greater relationship with Christ, we are offering extra times of Reconciliation. Again, we have the Communal Reconciliation service on Wednesday at 7 PM, but we also going to have Confessions from 3:30-4:50 at St. Jospeh’s on Saturday, March 30. On Sunday, March 31, we will have Confessions at St. Teresa’s from 8-8:50 AM and from 2-3 PM at St. Matthew’s. Jesus is the Light. He shines brightly for us. Let’s invite ourselves and others to the Light of Christ. 

May God bless and keep you,

Father Vogel 

Bulletin Article for the Second Sunday of Lent (March 17, 2019)

Hello,

I’m a bit more tan and a bit more jet lagged. As of Thursday morning I’m still getting up at 3  AM. I had an amazing trip traveling with 15 college students around the Holy Land, the very place Jesus, our Savior, lived when He was on earth. When I was in seminary in 2007, we got to spend three weeks in the Holy Land. So this trip was a little shorter. However, we still got to do some extraordinary things, even some things I didn’t do last time. It was especially mind-blowing to celebrate Mass as a priest at some of the holy sights. One of the many highlights was celebrating Mass at the altar next to Calvary in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.

The most fun we had was probably playing in the water and mud at the Dead Sea. 

It often beyond comprehension; to realize that you are walking in the very same places as our Savior walked. It is easy to just read the Bible, especially the Gospels and not really think too hard about the setting, the environment the events took place in. However, when you go to the Holy Land and see some of these places, the Bible takes on a whole new vividness. It is a great gift to have gone. Hopefully, the gift will bare fruit in homilies and other places.

It looks like the crazy weather might be over. There could be some freezing ice, but I think the snow for the most part is done. I see in 10 day forecast even has a day of over 50 degrees. It has been a wacky winter.

Next weekend we are going to celebrate Safe Haven Sunday. There is an insert that further explains what this is. Lent is a time to learn discipline so that we are in control of our desires instead of our desires being in control of us.

Monday, March 18, I am going to Winona for my annual visit with the Bishop, so please pray for me.

Thanks,

Father Vogel 

Bulletin Article for the Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time (March 3, 2019)

Hello.

Yes, I am gone again. I believe this will be the last time until May. As you read this, I am with the college students touring around the Holy Land. So please pray that are souls are transformed as walk the very steps that our Savior walked 2000 years ago. As of now, our plan is to have Ash Wednesday Mass in front of the tomb of Jesus; where Jesus was laid after the Crucifixion. What a great gift it will be if it happens!

So yeah. This coming Wednesday is Ash Wednesday. We have two services: 7 AM at St. Teresa’s in Mapleton and 7 PM at St. Matthew in Vernon Center. Father Bill Kulas will be praying the Masses.

So we are beginning the penitential season of Lent. Lent begins with Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday is one of the two days the Church asks us to fast. (The other being Good Friday.) Also on Ash Wednesday and on Fridays, we are asked to abstain from meat. These days, fasting and abstaining in the Catholic Church is spelled out as following: “For members of the Latin Catholic Church, the norms on fasting are obligatory from age 18 until age 59. When fasting, a person is permitted to eat one full meal, as well as two smaller meals that together are not equal to a full meal. The norms concerning abstinence from meat are binding upon members of the Latin Catholic Church from age 14 onwards.” So in other words, fasting means only three meals. No snacking. The two small meals together has to be less than the one full meal. However, you are dispensed from fasting if you have medical reasons. The rule on abstaining also leaves open the possibility that the child under 14 can have a steak while the parents have cauliflower and tofu.

We abstain from meat and fast to lessen our reliance on earthly things and focus more on our reliance on God. Also fasting and abstaining trains our wills, our souls, to be in control of our desires instead of our desires being in control of us. We fast and abstain in solidarity with those who do not have access to food every day. Jesus fasted for 40 days in the desert before He began His public ministry. 

During this Lent, may we focus again on the three ways the saints have laid out for us to grow in holiness: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. It doesn’t have to be just about food and money. Prayer. During this Lenten season, can you commit to more prayer each day; maybe just five more minutes? Fasting. Yes, what is something you can fast from? It doesn’t have to be food. It can be something like arguing with your co-worker. And almsgiving. What is something you are going to give to better the lives of others? Maybe volunteer at a food kitchen or second hand store. Maybe take time to write our government representatives to vote for policies that protect human life from conception to natural death.

Have a blessed beginning to Lent,

Father Vogel

Bulletin Article for the Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time (February 24, 2019)

What a week! What a winter!

The weather this past week was a little different than the weather in Belize. Belize was amazing! It was a good reminder that cultures are different. That what can be almost assumed in one culture is not even imagined in another culture. It seemed like we ate a lot of beans and rice. Some of us got a little sick of it, but I thought it was delicious. With a little habanero sauce, I could have eaten it for seven days straight. However, the human beings are human beings the world over. We all have a deep desire for love and joy. No matter where you are in the world, there are people who are givers and there are people who are takers. 

This weekend we have a long and in some ways, difficult, Gospel reading. St. Luke towards the end tells us to stop judging so that we are not judged. However, Jesus made many judgments about people’s behaviors, especially the Pharisees and the scribes. Yes, Jesus is God, but St. Paul and the other Christians made plenty of judgments about the lives of other Christians and pagans. So we can judge actions, but we can’t judge intention or the state of someone’s soul. Remember, three things are necessary for a sin to occur. One, the action has to be bad. Two, one has to know it is a bad action. And three, one has to freely choose to do it anyways. One, the action, is what is public and can be seen. However, two and three are interior to the person. Only God, and maybe the person, knows if they knew it was a bad action and if they freely chose to do it anyways. In other words, we can tell if someone did a bad action or not by observing their actions. However, we don’t know if they have committed a sin or not. We cannot judge whether or not we can condemn them. We don’t know the state of their soul. We don’t know if they are bound for heaven or hell. That is between them and God. However, we are called to judge people’s actions. We are called to help our brothers and sisters in Christ to grow in holiness and virtue. Granted we need correct people’s actions with gentleness and love. I think in today’s society, the harder part is receiving constructive criticism. Pray for the grace to desire holiness and virtue enough to listen to the suggestions of others.

Pax,

Father Vogel