Monday, October 17, 2016


By Jerry Franzen                 Cathedral                     10/16/16
Exodus 17:8-13           2 Timothy 3:14-4:2            Luke 18:1-8

*A lone man survived a shipwreck in a life boat
and managed to make it to a deserted island.
From the lifeboat, he built a rudimentary hut in which he slept
and in which he kept some possessions
that he managed to take with him in the lifeboat.
Every day he prayed to God
that he would be delivered from this ordeal,
that he would be rescued.
Every day he searched the horizon to hail a ship that might pass by.
One day he was horrified to find his hut in flames.
All that he had saved from the shipwreck was gone;
as was his shelter.
To the man’s limited vision, it was the worst that could happen.
He cursed God for not answering his prayers for a rescue.
The very next day a ship anchored off the island and rescued him.
The captain told him, “We saw your smoke signal.”


Three years ago I began my homily
for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time with that story.
I said that the readings then spoke to me about perseverence,
and they still do speak to me about perseverance,
specifically perseverance in prayer.
We are in the midst of the month of October,
the month in which we are encouraged to promote
a change of heart in those
who have embraced the culture of death.

On more than one occasion, I have heard Bishop Foys
describe the scene of a person on his or her deathbed.
People are gathered around and someone says,
“We’ve done everything we can do medically;
the only thing left is to pray.”
Bishop Foys would then go on to remind his listeners
that prayer should not be considered the “last resort,”
but is should be the most important thing to do.
The same is true in the ProLife movement.

We can march, we can include our names in the newspaper add,
we can work to elect to office those who support
the ProLife movement,
we can put ProLife messages on our cars.
We can support centers that minister to women
with untimely pregnancies;
we can protest the death penalty.
All of those actions are good for the cause.
We can do many things, but we sometimes forget
that the primary thing we should be doing is praying
for an end to the violence that takes an innocent life.
We have been at prayer for this cause for a long time,
more than 40 years,
and throughout that time some 55 million lives have been lost.
That could be discouraging, yet we must persevere in that prayer,
just as Moses prayed unceasingly
that God would give the Israelites the victory.
We, too, must persevere in our prayer.

We have so many directions that our prayer can take:
Pray for the women seeking an abortion,
that they have a change of heart.
Pray for those performing abortions,
that they recognize that abortion is
the taking of an innocent human life, murder.
Pray for those who have had an abortion,
that they seek help in counseling and realize God’s mercy.
Pray for the promotion of adoption
as an alternative to abortion.
Pray for those who work
and volunteer in pregnancy care centers.
Pray for an end of the death penalty.
Pray for an end of assisted suicide
and other forms of euthanasia.

There are many other directions for our prayer to take,
certainly there are enough to go around.
Each of us is not alone; we are united as the Body of Christ.
We have the support of each other
just as Moses had support from Aaron and Hur.
Yes, we must persevere in our prayer.
Moses had an advantage that we do not have;
he could see the immediate results of his prayer:
Hands up Israelites gaining; hands down Israelites loosing.
Prayer is not often answered in that way;
we must persist and have faith
that God will eventually accomplish the victory.


In today’s Gospel, Jesus said that the parable was
“about the necessity for the (disciples) to pray always
without becoming weary.”
I see the dishonest judge in the parable
as the moral climate of today.
Secular humanism and relativism have led many people
to deny that there is a God, the author of truth
that demands the designation of “right” and “wrong.”
Many have the “if it feels good, do it” attitude,
without regard to how others might be affected,
much less themselves.

The judge in the parable
“neither feared God nor respected any human being.”
We, who support the sanctity of life, may feel like the widow,
who was alone without any one to support her.
She was fighting an uphill battle
as we are struggling against the prevailing moral climate.   
“For a long time the judge was unwilling”
to render a just decision in favor of the widow.”
For almost 44 years we have been working
to reverse the culture of death.
But neither Moses nor the widow gave up; they persevered,
and that is what we are to do as faithful followers of Christ.


Praying with perseverence.  Why must we persevere?
Why can’t we just pray once and let that be it?
Maybe God wants to hear from us more often,
so that we do not forget about Him,
forget that he is our Father, our Abba, our “Daddy.”
He knows that, if we continually turn to Him with our needs,
our faith in Him will be increased.
Our prayers don’t change God, but they should change us.
I have quoted to you before the following definition of faith:
“Faith is our response to a God
who is ever inviting us into a deeper relationship with Him.”
Our responses to Him, our prayers, should increase our faith.
We will not change God with our repeated petitions,
but WE will be changed for the better
in our relationship with God.
I feel that I have been the beneficiary
of so many of God’s gifts,
such that my prayer is
that I can be faithful enough to God to cooperate with the grace,
He provides with every element
that is part of God’s plan for me.

That can be a good way of forming our prayer intention related to
the ProLife cause –
 “that those who do not recognize the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death would cooperate with God’s grace to have a change of heart and recognize that sanctity.” 

AND, if you are looking for a particular prayer form,
remember October is also the month in which
we promote the rosary as a form of prayer.
At the “Priests for Life” web site you can find
special ProLife meditations for the mysteries of the rosary.

Today’s parable is unusual in that God is often represented
by one of the characters in the parable.
In other parables God is the Sower of seed, the Good Shepherd,
the Father of the prodigal son, etc.
The corrupt judge is rather like the opposite of God.
However, the judge and God do have one thing in common:
They each can hear the voice of those petitioning them.
The widow at least had the opportunity to plead her case.
She, like us, had a voice
with which to repeat her request for justice.
That is not true for the well over 55 million persons
killed in abortions since the decision
in the case of Roe vs Wade.
They had no chance to make their plea for justice.
We must be their voice and pray always without becoming weary.
May we continue to pray that abortion be declared murder,
that the killing be stopped,
and that when the Son of Man comes,
He will truly find faith on earth.

*Taken from “1001 More Humorous Illustrations for Public Speaking” Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI 1998 p 254 #720.  

Tuesday, September 13, 2016


Deacon Jerry Franzen        Cathedral 9/11/16
Ex 3:27-11, 13-14       1 Timothy1:12-17     Luke 15: 1-32

Praised Be Jesus Christ.  Good Morning.

This past Thursday I attended the funeral Mass for Drew Banks,
a 48 year-old husband and father of three.
When I was teaching at Thomas More College,
I was introduced to a student named Andrew Banks.
He promptly told me that it was just “Drew.”
I remember very distinctly my first meeting Drew,
and had reconnected with him several times over the years.
I had learned that his mother was a college classmate of mine.
I consider him “my favorite student at TMC whom I never taught,”
for he was never in any of my classes.
In my college teaching, there were few opportunities
for me to get to know students who were not in my classes.
I also have a “favorite student that I never taught”
at the high school level from my days
at Newport Central Catholic High School.

At the funeral, Fr. Daniel Vogelpohl,
the pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish, delivered the homily.
He spoke about the meaning of life, about how in this life,
we are preparing for the next life
which requires that we be connected to God and others
in this life.
Bishop Foys was also present and, in his remarks
at the final commendation, he reiterated
the importance of the meaning of this life.

Today’s readings are all about God’s mercy and
they provide for us a kaleidoscope of avenues
for the development in a homily on that topic.
By now you should have heard a number of homilies
on God’s mercy.
But , I choose to take the approach of how today’s Gospel
helps us to understand the meaning of our lives.


Christ's parables always teach us something about God,
but they also teach us something about ourselves.
They also give us an answer
to the most difficult and urgent question
that the human family has had to face
in every generation: What is the meaning of our lives?
What gives meaning to our lives?
First, the parable of the lost sheep:
When a sheep is lost and separated from the flock,
it is helpless and vulnerable.
It needs the flock and the shepherd to protect and guide it.
So also, every human person is created
to find meaning and fulfillment in communion with God,
the Shepherd, and with others in the flock
- thus the two great commandments
of loving God and loving our neighbor.
We were not created to be isolated, self-sufficient islands;
we are meant to depend on God and others
as we pursue happiness.

Second, the parable of the lost coin:
The lost coin is completely without value
unless it is possessed by its owner,
unless it is part of the household's economy.
Even if it had been a gold piece worth 1000 day's wages,
it would be completely worthless if it stayed buried
in the dust under the sofa;
there it would be of absolutely no use to anyone.
Likewise, our actions and efforts in life only have real value
when they are connected to the mission of the Church,
the mission of building up Christ's Kingdom.
Outside of the Kingdom we can do things
and have adventures that appear exciting, 
but they lack the eternal value
that they are meant to have,
just like the coin that was lost.
Both parables reiterate the same lesson:
our lives can only find meaning and fulfillment
through Christ, with Christ, and in Christ.


AND, if we are to find fulfillment in our lives through Christ,
with Christ and in Christ, we must know Christ.
In July, 2007 a group of Christian sociologists
published the results of a study that they had been conducting
over a five-year period called,
"The Obstacles to Growth Survey."
It was conducted on 20,009 Christians
with ages ranging from 15 to 88
- the majority of whom came from the United States.
The survey found that on average,
more than 4 in 10 Christians around the world
say they "often" or "always" rush from task to task.
About 6 in 10 Christians say that it's "often" or "always" true
that "the busy-ness of life gets in their way
of developing a relationship with God."
The authors of the study concluded that the accelerated pace
and activity level of the modern day is distracting us from God.
Here was their line of reasoning:
Christians are assimilating to a culture of
busyness, hurry and overload;
God is being pushed aside in Christians' lives.
And the better we become  at adapting to this busyness
the greater is the deterioration of our relationship with God.
Thus we become more vulnerable to adopting secular assumptions
about living life just for ourselves, not God, not others.

It is possible to ascribe too much weight to sociological studies,
but this one certainly harmonizes with
the experience of the two sons in the final parable.
Something made them so self-centered and distracted
that they were never able to get to know their father.
Certainly the younger son was too busy
being concerned about his future wealth,
about how he would fund his wasteful lifestyle.
Maybe the older son was too busy trying to build up his image
of what he thought would be the ideal son.
At least, the survey can give us food for thought.


If the meaning of our lives is through, with and in Christ,
AND, if in order to make that true,
we must get to know Christ better,
then we must set our priorities for the week.
What enables us to mature as human beings and as Christians
is staying close to the Shepherd.
That means having a healthy prayer life
and being true to the voice of conscience,
which is one of our Shepherd's favorite ways to guide us.

Maybe some of us have been slacking off in our prayer life
or ignoring our conscience.
Today, let's ask our Lord's forgiveness and make a fresh start.
One very good way of praying AND growing closer to the God
is through praying with Sacred Scripture.
Here is a procedure you can easily follow:
Try every day to open your Bible and read a passage.
Ask yourself what verse or phrase struck you in that passage.
Read the passage again to confirm your choice of verse or phrase.
Meditate on that verse or phrase,
and ask yourself “How does this apply to me.”
Finish by determining just how that phrase or verse
should cause you to take some action for yourself
or for those around you.

This last part  is where the conscience comes in.
What decision does my conscience prompt me to make?
This is how we find greater meaning in our lives.
To better enable us to fulfill our mission in life
we must stay plugged into the Church's mission.
All of this means we must know what the Church teaches,
and appreciate what the Church offers her children.
Sacred Scripture certainly contains the essence
of the Chruch’s mission.
Maybe we should look into the many writings of Pope Francis.
I especially liked the book entitled “The Name of God is Mercy.”
Maybe we should take time to look through the Catechism
for a  clearer view of some of the elements of our faith.
The sacraments might be a good place to start.
It is our responsibility to not let ourselves get lost under the sofa
or to wander far afield,
now that God has sent his Son, the Good Shepherd,                                   to search us out.

After we pray the Prayers of the Faithful in just a few minutes,
we make our offerings to God,
Let's put in the collection basket more than just dollars and cents.
Let's also put in that basket a promise to renew our effort
to live life the way Christ wants us to live it.
If we make that decision, Christ himself will help us
to follow through with it.
After all, that's what a Good Shepherds does.

This homily was constructed using elements found at:

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

HOMILY – 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year C

By Deacon Jerry Franzen – Cathedral  8/21/16
Isaiah 66:18-21           Hebrews12:5-7, 11-13         Luke 13:22-30

Praised Be Jesus Christ!   Good Morning!
In today’s Gospel,
Jesus spoke about the difficult path to salvation.
The entrance to salvation seems to be a narrow,
difficult passage that will require strength.
When asked for further details
Jesus said that there would be some
who would come to that door to salvation
and be told that  they could not enter,
because they were not known,
they were strangers.
Even though they had eaten and drunk with him
and heard his teachings,
some would still be like strangers.
Listening while you are eating and drinking is pretty easy,
nothing difficult about that, nothing requiring strength.
It would be like watching TV with a soft drink and some chips
or attending a movie with a drink
and a barrel of popcorn.
That would make for an easy path to salvation.
But Jesus spoke of a narrow gate to salvation,
one requiring more than table fellowship and listening.


One of the more famous attractions in Wisconsin
is an area known as the Wisconsin Dells,
an area along the Wisconsin River.
In this area, rock formations rise steeply
along the banks of the river.
In some places the formations rise up
right in the middle of the river.
These formations resulted from layers of sediment
that were deposited by the glaciers
that once traversed this area.
The differently colored layers of rock can be clearly seen
as the formations extend above the waterline.
I understand that the word “Dells” comes from a French word     “dalles” which means layers.
On a boat trip along the river one can see the rock up close.
At some places on the trip,
the boat will pull into a cove in the rock,
and people can disembark and literally walk back
into the rock formation along a narrow                                                       pathway in a vertical crevice.
The crevice is only 2-3 feet wide at some points on the path;
the rock walls along the crevice rise 30 to 50 feet high.
Of course, there is gift shop at the end of the path.
For me walking this path brought into clear focus
Jesus’ command to
             “Strive to enter through the narrow gate.”


In the 11th, 12th and, this, the 13th chapter of Luke’s Gospel,
people bring questions to Jesus
as he is on his journey to Jerusalem.
In response to these questions, Jesus taught the people about
what was necessary
to enter into the kingdom of heaven.
He taught them how to pray.
He taught them about true blessedness –
hearing God’s word and acting upon it.
He taught them to beware
of the leaven of the hypocrisy of the Pharisees.
He taught them how to be faithful and prudent stewards.
He taught them about the dangers of storing up riches.
He taught about repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation.
He used parables to teach about the kingdom of God,
All in the course of three chapters.
And now in today’s reading in Chapter 13 Jesus is asked,
          “Lord, will only a few people be saved?”
          “With all of these instructions you have given us,
           how can we do it; how can we enter into the kingdom?”

And Jesus’ response is that the gate is truly narrow;
Yes, he said that many will not be able to enter.
And the people’s response was:
          “Why won’t God let us in?
           We have been taught by you, the Messiah;
           we have eaten meals with you, the very Son of God.”
And Jesus replied that the master will say
 that he doesn’t know where some of them came from.

Twice we heard: “I do not know where you are from.”
Not that he didn’t know them,
but that he did not know where they came from.
Those words about where I came from have haunted me.
How do I make it so that God knows where I am from?
What does this mean?

The gate to salvation is narrow.
The path of a follower of Jesus is long and very restricting.
A narrow passage indicates a passage that would restrict
what the person is carrying.
A narrow gate can’t accommodate a person
who carries a lot of baggage.
If I had tried to carry a large backpack and a big suitcase
through that crevice in the rock at the Dells,
I would not have made it.
I would have been stuck at the narrowest points.
Imagine attempting to follow the path of Jesus
and carrying along a lot of worldly baggage like:
         Greed: How can I get more and more money;
         more pleasure?
Are there no limits to my need for gratification.
         Excess baggage like hunger for power.
How can I lord it over as many people as I can?
         And what about vengeance?
When will I get revenge for being wronged;
         And hate.
Greed, hunger for power,
seeking vengeance and hate are some elements
of worldly baggage
that will impede us in our journey to salvation.
If we have become so inflated with our own self image,
so taken by ourselves at the expense of our neighbor,
we won’t fit through that narrow gate.
But Jesus says that we must strive to enter.
Jesus was implying that we can do it,
if we have the strength.
This reminded me of the Romanian Gymnastic coach
and what he said to Mary Lou Retten in the Olympics of the past:
"You can do it!  You can do it! 

Maybe I could have been strong enough
to lift my hypothetical suitcase or backpack over my head
and to somehow squeeze through the rocks.
But Jesus is not talking about physical strength,
he is talking about spiritual strength,
the strength of will to make the commitment
to untie that worldly baggage,
to let loose of it and leave it behind.
It’s the strength by which we know
that we can make it in this life, and into eternal life.                 

In a sense, it’s the strength by which we seek to become weak.
Jesus has said:
                “Unless you become like little children, …”
Little children can get through the narrow gate easily;
they haven’t developed the baggage.
Just being taught by Jesus
and eating with him were not enough.
God has to know where you are from.
Just coming here today and being taught by the Word
and being nourished with the Eucharist at the table
are not enough for our salvation.
When we come to the final accounting,
it will be a matter
of whether God knows where we came from.
It’s a matter of knowing as humans know.
We really get to know someone by how they act,
by what they do on a regular basis,
and by what they do in special situations.
How one acts is based on one’s mindset,
one’s principles and values and one’s upbringing.
We say, “I know where you are coming from.”
It’s not the number of classes, workshops, retreats
or Bible studies we have attended,
not the number of festivals, committee meetings
or celebrations one has attended.
It’s how we have shed the baggage of ourselves and our sin,
how we have trimmed away
those things we think we need
so that we have the strength to walk the narrow path
that leads to that narrow gate.
God will know us by how we have walked that path,
about where we are from,
by the path we have taken.

We are taught by the Word and fed at his table each Sunday.
May we all today resolve to begin again that journey,
to leave here today on this week’s segment of the path,
resolved to trim our worldly baggage
to act in such a way that God will say:
“I know you,

your actions show that you are one of my disciples.”

Tuesday, July 12, 2016


By Deacon Jerry Franzen,  Cathedral     July 10, 2016
Deuteronomy 30: 10-14    Colossians1: 15-20    Luke 10:25-37

Praised Be Jesus Christ.    Good Morning.

Let me place today’s Gospel in the context
of what has gone before in Luke’s 10th Chapter.
Last week we heard of the sending of the 72 on their mission
to spread the Gospel.
What we have not heard in between the Gospel reading
of last week and today is that the 72 on their return
expressed their surprise at the success of their mission.
Jesus affirmed their successes
and offered a prayer of praise to the Father.
In it he says:
“I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
for although you have hidden these things from the wise
and the learned
you have revealed them to the childlike.”

Apparently those who took to heart the message of the 72
received it as children would.
And now today we have the scholar of the law,
one of the learned, certainly not “childlike”, questioning Jesus.
Notice Jesus does not give a direct answer to the question:
“Who is my neighbor?”
Jesus seldom gave a direct answer
to those who questioned Him.
He doesn’t tell the scholar who his neighbor is.
His answer is not a further explanation of the law.
His answer is the story of the Good Samaritan.
A child would not stop and try to figure out
just what the words of the law meant in this case.   
A child would better respond to a story for help.
A child would not stop and try to figure out
whether a priest or levite would be declared “unclean”
by touching the blood of an injured person,
or whether helping an Israelite,
the Samaritan’s enemy, was proper.
Samaritans and Jews did not like each other.

A child would see an injured person and want to help.
The story is a powerful illustration of the compassion
God expects of us toward others.
This encounter with one of the learned gives us a glimpse
of what Jesus meant when he praised God for
what had been revealed to “the childlike.”


The scholar knew the letter of the law.
He quoted it to Jesus, and Jesus agreed.
Religious scholars of Jesus’ time had to know the law,
probably had to memorize the words of this law
so they could quote it when needed.
In Mosaic Law, “neighbor” was probably interpreted
as “fellow Israelite.”
Maybe the scholar wanted to use this label “neighbor” to                         justify his resistance to loving those
outside the Israelite nation.
It would certainly make life easier for him.
Israelite? OK.  I can love you.
Not an Israelite?  I don’t have to love you.
Apparently the enemy from the land of Samaria actually
considered the Israelite his “neighbor.”

The ancestors of the people of Samaria were Israelites
who were captured by pagans, then taken to Samaria
and subsequently intermarried with
and worshiped with the pagans.
So they were considered to be like traitors by the Isrealites.
For Jesus, a neighbor is not one labeled by locality
or relationship,  but a neighbor can be identified
by what he or she does.
The scholar wanted to focus on the labels placed on people;
children identify persons by what they see them do.
It’s the letter of the old Law vs Jesus’ spirit of the law.
It is something about which we must be reminded
on a regular basis.


There are many examples of laws
that are part of Christianity and Catholicism.
Do we approach them as the scholar or as children?
Not, “What does the letter of the law say?”; but,
“What does the spirit of the law demand that we do?”
The following may illustrate this:
One might ask”
“Is it really a serious, i.e. mortal, sin to miss Mass on Sunday?”
Many Catholics don’t bother to get to Mass every Sunday.
They obviously do not think that it is a serious matter.
What does the Law say?
The Canon Law of the Church says,
“Yes, it is a serious sin to deliberately miss Mass on Sunday
or the vigil Mass on Saturday.”
So, If I were on cruise ship on a Sunday
and no Mass was available so I couldn’t go to Mass,
is that still a mortal sin?  Of course not.
One must deliberately ignore a reasonable opportunity
to get to Mass
If I went to a wedding Mass late Saturday afternoon,
Do I still have to go on Sunday?

It is easy to play the part of the probing, testing scholar,
to see how the law can be interpreted to our advantage.
Must I be present at the very beginning;
how late can I come and still have it “count?”
How early can I leave and still have it “count?”
We can even go further:
“Is it sufficient that I just attend or ‘hear’ Mass
from beginning to end?”
“Do I have to sing, say the responses, profess the creed?”
“Do I have to be attentive to the Sacred Scriptures
and the homily?”
“Do I have to receive communion?”

The real answers are not found in simple statements.
The Mass is the most important weekly chance we have
to gather with others in our faith community
to grow closer to God.
The Mass - Word and Eucharist,
is the most important means to our salvation.
We might very well ask the same question,
          “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
The answer is found in comparing our actions
to the spirit of the law.
Jesus ended his answer with a question for the scholar.
Let me pose a few questions here for our consideration.


“Can we profess to love the Lord, our God,
with all our heart
and then give it the half-hearted approach
of not leaving home in time to be here
at the beginning and not caring enough
to stay till the very end?” 

“Can we profess to love the Lord, our God, with all our being
and miss the most important thing we do as Church,
this weekly nurturing of our relationship with God,
the joining of our being with our Savior
in Word and Communion?” 

“Can we profess to love the Lord, our God,
with all our strength and not make the effort
to sing or speak?”

“Can we profess to love the Lord, our God, with all our mind
and not pay attention to the Word of God?” 

We are here for ourselves, for our salvation, for eternal life.
What we do is so much more important
          than the letter of the law.

And, let us not forget the last part of the law quoted:
How must I love my neighbor in all of this?
The Law said: As myself.
Everything I do for myself, I must do for my neighbor.
We are here today to fulfill an obligation,
an obligation for ourselves AND for our neighbor.
We must care enough about those around us
to be here to make them feel welcome at the beginning,
to extend the peace of Christ to them
and to not skip out on them early.
We must affirm and support one another
in our attention to Word and prayer,
in our singing, in our responses
and in our profession of faith.
We must remember that we become
the collective Body of Christ with those “others”
as we receive the Body of Christ.

Would it be a mortal sin to turn our back on these
opportunities that God has granted for our salvation?
Yes, that’s serious.
Would it then also be a mortal sin to not be here
to do the best we can to aid
in the salvation of our neighbor? I think so.

The answer to how we must follow the greatest commandment
is not far removed from us far up in the shy,
not removed from us way across the sea.
It cannot be found in fine-tuned dissertations for the learned.
It is already in our mouths and in our hearts.
We must seek the answers as children; we, like children,
must look to the appropriate actions and carry them out.