Hollow Worship

The Altar (1)

If you have been following along, this past weekend we heard from Fr. Andrews for Week 2 of our Lenten Series – The Altar.  We encourage you to take some time this week to listen again, jotting down those comments or thoughts that you want to talk to God about or using the following Discussion Questions with a friend or family member.   Giving the best we have (time included) will help make worship more meaningful, not just for ourselves, but for our families as well.

All of our homilies are posted on our website here:  Homilies & Media Library

Week 2 – Hollow Worship

The temptation to experience worship as hollow or empty is universal.  God’s solution for our hearts is the invitation to offer Him our first-fruits.  Sacrifices that are intentional, consequential, and representational have the power to transform our hearts and fill up what might be hollow worship.


Discussion Questions

  1. What is the most thoughtful gift you have received? Tell us the story.
  2. Have you ever experienced “empty” or “hollow” worship in the Mass? Share what that experience has been like?  In the past, what might you have thought “caused” that?
  3. Are there any areas in your life where God has been calling you to give first-fruits and you know you are not consistent in that? What is one area of your life you would like to begin being consistent in giving the Lord your first-fruits?  Please share and discuss.
  4. In this area (where God is calling you to offer first-fruits), what is one way this sacrifice can be both intentional and consequential? Share and write down your answers.
  5. How is this offering connected to how you are called to live? Guarding against mere “substitutionary sacrifice” (I offer this instead of my heart), how is the offering of first-fruits going to impact your life (representative – I offer this on behalf of my heart)?  Discuss


God in Real Life

This week, how can you bring your first-fruits, your heart, and the people on your heart to God at the altar in the Mass?

His Word

The Lord God took Abram outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars, if you can.  Just so,” he added, “shall your descendants be.”

Abram put his faith in the Lord, who credited it to him as an act of righteousness.   ~ Genesis 15:5-6


Adapted from a message series and materials from UMD Newman


The Altar – Our Lenten Series

As we celebrate the First Sunday in our Lenten journey this year, we begin with a series titled – The Altar.  As we progress through the weeks toward Holy Week, we will dive deeper into a greater understanding of our Catholic worship, but even more than that, an opportunity to come closer to the Jesus through our own participation and gift of self.

Each Monday, we will post a discussion guide along with a link to the weekend’s message.   We encourage you to listen again and sometime throughout the week take some time to share your thoughts on the discussion questions with your family or a small group of friends.

Sacred Heart Parish Homilies

Week 1 – Where’s Your Altar?

The heart of religion is the worship of God.  And the heart of worship is always sacrifice; a gift that is poured out on the altar.  Where is your gift being poured out?   Where is your altar?

Discussion Questions

  1. If you could go to any concert or any sporting event in the world (past, present, or future), which would you choose? Why?
  2. What would you say is your primary motivation to go to Mass each Sunday? You are invited to be introspective and honest:  habit, love, you know it’s a good thing to do, you get something out of it, etc…  Share and Discuss.

( Disclaimer:  if you are going to Mass, no motivation is going to be “wrong”.  It is simply good to know one’s reasons.)

  1. The heart of worship is sacrifice. If this is the case, what is the sacrifice offered at Mass?  Is the critical moment of the Mass when we received something or when we give something?  What are those moments (of offering and receiving) and how easy is it to miss those moments?  Please share and discuss.
  2. In your experience, have you seen the altar at church more of an “altar of sacrifice” or a “dining table”? How might this change how you approach the Mass?  If you don’t see it as either, please share how you do see it.
  3. What is one thing that you believe might help you show up prepared to truly worship the next time you go to Mass? Please share and discuss.

God in Real Life

What is the lamb around your neck that you bring to the altar?

His Word

The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart—that is, the word of faith that we preach— for, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. ~ Romans 10:8-9

Jesus said to him in reply, “It is written:  You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve.”  ~ Luke 4: 8

*Adapted from a message series and materials from UMD Newman

Here I am, send me!

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” “Here I am,” I said; “send me!” ~ Isaiah 6:8

Nearly nine years ago I received word that my predecessor, Fr. Dave Belt, was leaving Sacred Heart Parish to become pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Fremont. I greatly admired Fr. Dave for going to another large parish with a K-12 school. Inspired by his generosity, I felt moved by the Holy Spirit to meet with Archbishop Lucas and let him know I’d be available to come here to Norfolk. The rest is history and it’s led to some of the most rewarding, and challenging, years of my life. I’m so grateful.

A couple of years ago all priests of the Archdiocese were given the opportunity to summarize the current state of their assignment and indicate any desired areas of future ministry. I expressed an interest in working with college age students should the opportunity arise. Honestly, I never thought I’d get the chance.

This past summer, Fr. Joe Taphorn was called to become the next rector of St. Paul Seminary in Minnesota. Fr. Taphorn oversaw the construction of the St. John Paul II Newman Center near the campus of UNO, and served as the first pastor. As of January 1st of this year, his post as JP II Newman was vacant.

Brothers and sisters, Archbishop Lucas has invited me to become the next pastor and director of our young Newman Center. I have accepted his invitation. This is a unique opportunity that comes along very rarely. We know from the number of FOCUS missionaries our parish has sent to work on college campuses, how life-changing a healthy spiritual life can be in these crucial years.

I’m humbled and grateful to be entrusted with this mission but it’s really a testament to all of you. I arrived here uncertain that I would be able to lead such a large parish with a long beautiful history. But YOU are the ones that helped me along. I’m a better person because of what you’ve done for me and now that love will carry me to build up another important part of God’s mission field.

My move will happen sometime in late June. Discussions will commence soon about who will succeed me as pastor. I know that you will be blessed with a good leader and will give him the support you have given me. Please start praying for whomever will be sent.

Meanwhile, we still have a lot of time together. Sacred Heart continues to lead in parish evangelization but there are more souls to reach. More than anything I’m grateful to see so many signs of disciples who love the   Lord, are eager to pray, and reach out in friendship to others. YOU are leaders in the New Evangelization. Never forget that.

I’m sorry that I could not be at all the Masses this weekend to speak with you personally, as I had plans to leave early Sunday to go skiing with a group of priests. However, we’ll have plenty of time to talk when I return. Pray for me as I pray for you, that ever more we will have seeking hearts for Jesus Christ.

God love you!

Fr. Dan

One more goal to set for 2019

Our Way of Life – Stewardship Renewal Wrap up January 26 and 27

Thank you for the gifts we have been receiving through our Way of Life Stewardship Renewal.   We realize that taking on stewardship renewal through personal and phone visits has been challenging, and regrettably we haven’t been able to meet with everyone.  Not just do we all have very full lives and schedules, but we often pull back from conversations about family, politics….and yes, Church!

Yet we continue to hear both our stewards and those receiving a visit comment that the conversations have been “very good”!   Talking with one another face to face has deepened relationships, opened up possibilities and interests that might have gone unnoticed, and offered us opportunities to pray for people’s deepest needs and desires.

This is so much more than just checking a box!!!    check mark

We want you to know that you are loved.  You are important.  Our parish is here to help each person come to know the Lord and to love and care for one another, as He did.  If you did not receive a phone call or visit and would like to sit down and have a conversation about our parish, parish school, prayer needs, or life questions; please let us know by noting that on your Stewardship response or calling Anne or myself at the parish office (371-2621).  We have stewards who are ready to meet you.

The secondary goal of our Stewardship Renewal is to help each person offer their response to the Lord for the gifts we’ve each been given in the form of a Stewardship’s response/commitment card.  We are all a part of God’s family, the Body of Christ, and all of our gifts are important and necessary to carry out His mission.  Ask Jesus how he wants to guide and help you this year grow as a disciple, talk with your family about how you might serve others this year, and take a few minutes to complete your Stewardship Card.   It’s vital to our parish that each of our families make a personal response and commitment as your final goal to set for 2019.

Whether you have received your card from one of our stewards making a personal visit or by mail, now is the time to make your response.     Drop your response in the mail to the parish or bring it to Mass on January 26/27 for our commitment weekend.  Help us wrap up our stewardship renewal and launch into 2019!

Our Lady

This year we have a very special opportunity to bring our parish together to celebrate the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe. She is the Patroness of all the Americas, given to us to pray for our protection and well-being. See the true story of Juan Diego below and how Our Lady’s intercession and vision aided the conversion of millions across North, South and Central America.

Fr. Scott Schilmoeller has gifted a life-size image of the Tilma of Our Lady of Guadalupe that he brought from his pilgrimage to Mexico City this past summer. It will be installed this week in the entrance of St. Mary’s Church; providing a place for everyone in our parish to honor Our Lady and pray for her intercession.

(original tilma in the Basillica of OLG in Mexico City)

Everyone is Invited to Join the Celebration!

  • On Wednesday, our parish school and community members are welcome to join us for Mass at 8:20 am in honor of Our Lady’s Feast day.

Then, on Sunday, December 16th we will have a community celebration for Our Lady of Guadalupe:

  • We begin the day with Mañanitas prayers at 5am in St. Mary’s Church. Our Spanish choirs will be leading with traditional Mexican music sung in honor of Mary.
  • Next, come together for 11:30 Bilingual Mass to celebrate as One People and enthrone the image of the Tilma for St. Mary’s Church
  • After Mass, the celebration continues in Burns Gym from 12:30pm to 3pm with great food, traditional music and dance, Hispanic hospitality and fellowship.


The rest of the true story…. Our Lady of Guadalupe.

In 1531 a “Lady from Heaven” appeared to a humble Native American named Juan Diego in what is now Mexico City, identifying herself as the ever Virgin Holy Mary, Mother of the True God. She made a request for a Church to be built on the site of her appearance. When Juan Diego communicated her wish to the local Bishop, he hesitated, and requested a sign. The Mother of God obeyed by sending Juan Diego to the top of a hill in mid-December to gather an assortment of roses for the Bishop. Juan Diego gathered these roses in his ‘Tilma’, the outer garment worn by men who work in fields. After carrying the roses and presenting them to the Bishop, there was an image of Mary miraculously imprinted on the Tilma.  This tilma, which should have deteriorated in 20 years, shows no sign of decay 476 years later and still defies all scientific explanations of its origin.

Today, the site of her appearance is marked with a Large church in Mexico City containing the original Tilma. An incredible list of miracles, cures and interventions have occurred by visiting and honoring this site. Yearly, an estimated 10 million visit her Basilica, making her Mexico City home the most popular Marian shrine in the world, and the most visited Catholic church in the world next to the Vatican.

Mary appeared to Juan Diego during a time of war and strife, and promised compassion, love and protection to the suffering people through her Son Jesus. Within 7 years of her appearance 6,000,000 Aztec Indians converted to Christianity.


She is the patroness of all of the Americas and we humbly ask for her intercession and protection for all in our parish.  Our Lady of Guadalupe. Pray for us.

Why Priesthood in 2018?

Above is a picture taken in June after the first Mass of Fr. Patrick Moser. Fr. Moser spent a summer as a transition deacon at Sacred Heart Parish. It was a joy for me and my brother priest to welcome him to the priesthood and celebrate with his family.

In this continuing time of confusion, error, neglect, and abuse within in the Church it’s fair to ask: why would a man say yes to this in 2018? The answer may appear difficult to find but in reality it’s not that complicated.

Jesus made certain promises:

    • That he would never leave His Church
    • That he would give shepherds through whom he would watch over and feed the flock
    • That he would give bread that would feed us on our journey to the Kingdom by transforming us bit by bit into his likeness

Any priest worth his salt will tell you he is not worthy of the vocation to which he has been called. That aside, he has a moral certainty that Jesus will not fail his Church and that the grace of the Sacrament of Holy Orders is more than powerful enough to make Jesus present wherever God chooses to send him.

These are excruciatingly painful times for the lay faithful and priests who strive to be faithful and sacrificial. Why do these horrible things continue to happen by men whose very job is to KNOW BETTER about good and evil?! We can try to apply a diagnosis but, in my opinion, it really comes down to men living authentically as men. There can be no more excuses. Priests accept Holy Orders and the celibacy FREELY, and though living it out is difficult, the grace of God makes it not only possible but JOYFUL!

This week Archbishop Lucas will be gathering with the bishops of the United States to discern a way ahead. He is asking for our prayers. This is a pivotal moment in the life of the Church not only in the United States but across the world. I pray that a prophet will rise up among the bishops to speak truth where all too often there has been bureaucratic double speak and empty promises. I pray that they make the decision as a group to become fathers instead of CEO’s. I’m begging the Holy Spirit to make them humble and BOLD in proclaiming the essential message of salvation instead of watering it down. I’m asking the Father to convict their hearts to be men rooted in truth, goodness, and love and that this would diffuse to all priests throughout the world.

The priesthood is beautiful and through it all, even in this dark time, I’m profoundly grateful to serve God in this way. Jesus is giving us all the opportunity to repent – turn away from our sins and receive his forgiveness. My need for this repentance puts me at the top of the list. Lord, turn our hearts to you! NOW IS THE TIME!

Why priesthood in 2018? Because God is faithful and he will never abandon his people. Jesus, bring healing to all victims. Jesus heal your Church. Jesus, heal the priesthood. Jesus, meek and humble of heart, gives us more shepherds with your heart.

Going Out – Festival 2018


In church world we talk a lot about “going out” for one reason: Jesus told us to (Matthew 28:20). The problem is that it’s so easy think that we’re doing this when we’re actually not.

As pastor, I’m in no way exempt. There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes to run a large church – meetings, homily prep, sacraments. All of these are well and good but too much of it happens in the office or behind a desk.

No, to “go out” we actually have to physically go out. Recently a few of us on staff have been making an effort to reverse this trend. Someone generously donated money to our festival raffle but they didn’t want the tickets. So, we went out to the community to give them away.

At first people think there is a catch: “What do I have to buy? What do you really want?” The answer this time was that we just wanted to bless them and invite them to come to our festival. I decided to stop by the fire station nearby to thank Norfolk’s finest for what they do and to offer them a small gift. It was a lot of fun and they appreciated it.

Small actions aren’t small but too often we’re so busy that we fill our time with other things. Imagine what our festival would be like if people sponsored the ticket purchase themselves and then went out, gave the tickets away, and invited people to come to our festival? Maybe they would receive an invitation to Discovering Christ. Who knows, they may come to know Jesus in a personal way.

I look forward to our Parish Festival tomorrow – Sunday, September 9th. We welcome any guests who plan to join us. Thank you for sharing life with us. God bless you.