Norbertines of Saint Norbert Abbey in De Pere, Wisconsin
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Homilies and Reflections

The following is a homily by Fr. Tim Shillcox, O. Praem., preached at Vespers of the Dead for Fr. Conrad Kratz, O. Praem.

 "To God, whose power now at work in us,
can do infinitely more than we ask or imagine,
to God be glory
 through Christ Jesus, and in the Church
for all generations, forever and ever! Amen!" – Ephesians 3:14-21

Wake of Fr. Conrad Kratz, O. Praem.When Conrad finally settled on a major – abandoning Philosophy after failing Logic (duh!), trying French, but quickly moving on to Accounting (what was he thinking?) for an even briefer stint – it seemed like Drama was a good fit for him – in the classroom and with his lively personality!

He would be kidded through the years, though, about having become a composite of various dramatic characters: Lucille Ball, pleading, "Welll…" after getting caught by Ricky in another ‘harebrained scheme' with Ethel Mertz; or the bosom-clutching Carol Burnett after yet another family crisis in "As the Stomach Turns" segment of her variety show; Jerry Turba spotted Conrad immediately in the histrionic, about-to-be-upstaged operatic diva, Carlotta in Phantom of the Opera!

But (maybe because of his Aunt, Rose Coppens) it was the 1957 title role Auntie Mame, played Rosalind Russell, that captured him best! He gave me her autobiography at Easter, 1979: Life is a Banquet is drawn from Auntie Mame's great line:

"Life is a banquet; and most poor suckers are starving to death!"

Like Mame, Conrad would cast folks as 'Little Patrick,' although it felt more like Agnes Gooch, the personal assistant and ‘sponge' at times!

Like Mame, Conrad would drive the Mr. Babcock's of his world, the Church or our Order ‘nuts' with such a joyful, outrageous, extravagant, mischievous, reckless style.

But Conrad knew – he trusted – at least, he wanted to trust – and, in the end, he ‘risked it all' – that such reckless abandon, such outrageous joy, such extravagant undeserved care and grace were not only the hallmarks of a fictitious drama queen, but also the hallmarks of God Almighty and His prodigal, reckless love for us in Jesus Christ, crucified and risen from the dead!

Conrad is in agreement with St. Paul, writing to the Ephesian Church, where Timothy was pastor. Paul extols the height and length and breadth and depth of God's love, able to do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine! Conrad sure tried…to imagine, to accept and to share such love. Three examples representative of how he succeeded(it's a wake, we gotta have stories!):

+ Teaching sophomore English at Prémontré, a student was failing the spring term. David asked to see Conrad; and as they visited in the priory garden he pleaded with him: "Can't you just give me a D-, Father Kratz, so I don't have to take Sophomore English as a Junior?" To his surprise Conrad told him: "David, I'm going to give you an A!" The stunned student admitted: "But Father, I don't deserve an A!" "I know." Conrad responded, "But you don't deserve a D- either. If I'm going to give you a gift, then it's going to be a generous one!"

"Sounds like God!" John Bostwick quipped when I shared the story on Saturday. It is! And David has returned to visit Conrad several times since his stroke! The more important lesson learned - and outrageously taught!

+ When our pastoral hero, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, died in 1996, Conrad, Jim Baraniak and I went down for the wake. A great night to be a Catholic priest in Chicago! "In town for the Cardinal, boys?" police officers asked! "You bet!" Even a two-hour snowy wait was well worth it.

But when they closed off the line just 6 people before we got in, we were crestfallen! Not Conrad though. He noticed an old lady, also just missing the cut; he befriended her, chided security and explained that she needed to use the restroom.

With her, he got into the Cathedral rectory to find a restroom and they ended up in the second row/center in the Cathedral for Vespers, while Jim and I drowned our frustrations with a couple pints at Harper's Irish Pub, watching the Packer/Viking game on Monday Night Football! Outrageously and with typical concern and style, he took care of her, and rode her coat tails in as well!

+ Thirdly, here at Our Lady of Lourdes, Conrad's trust in the outrageous power of God's love allowed him to envision a church united, where all are welcome…no exceptions! None!

He had seen it work in his own family – Jesus' hope "That all may be one!" (John 17) – as Milton and Kathryn Kratz did, in their love and respect for each other and their and faith in Jesus, what Martin Luther's 95 Theses or the Council of Trent couldn't do: Heal the Reformation rift between Christians! He believed such unity and harmony could happen here, too!

And so, built from two noble predecessor parishes, and any newcomers who wanted to be along, he trusted we could be more like Christ, more faithful, more joyful together, than what had been before! "Continuing conversion" Norbertines call it! He convinced you who were here then to dare to trust that all could be made welcome in this place, because all, all, all – no exceptions – are welcome in God's love and mercy and the reckless abandon and outrageous care and redemption with which God desires to bless us!

It rattles us, myself included, who are more timid, more straight-laced, who would prefer the scales of justice to be more balanced, more ‘fair,' predictable and conventional. But Conrad was outrageous enough to trust the vision…and here we are! Amazing, unfair, unexpected, against the odds, reckless, senseless…and yet, ‘of God'!

In the Order we say: "You can't give what you don't have." And a corollary: "That what you most desperately desire and need, you can get very good at giving to others."

I think Conrad's animated, outrageous, tenacious, even ridiculous efforts to convince us of the height and length, the breadth and depth of God's all-inclusive love were also what he needed to help convince himself!

Maybe at times, he was afraid that there were limits, boundaries, conditions, retribution and narrow justice which might scuttle the vision and exclude him? Maybe – as with us all – he was haunted with a nagging doubt or a temptation to define God in small, exclusive, legalistic, joyless terms? A temptation understandable enough, for us all at times, right?

But Jesus says that the one whose love is great has been forgiven much (Luke 7:47ff). Certainly, for our dear Conrad, his love has been great – for God, for his family, for God's Good People, for the Norbertine Community and particularly for this parish family, which he helped to convene and animate!

We pray fervently this night and dare to trust, that he now knows firsthand what we know better because of him: in the amazing love God has for us and the Eternal Banquet of Life which is waiting for those who risk to trust that this love is real!

Yes indeed!
To God, Who power now at work in us
(and wonderfully at work in Conrad)
can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine,
to God be glory through Christ Jesus
and in the Church – of Saint Norbert Abbey, of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish Family, in the Roman Catholic Communion and the Church Universal –
to God be glory, unto endless ages, forever and ever!
Amen!

We love you, Conrad; oh yes, we do!

 

 

 

Fr. Tim Shillcox, O. Praem.

 

Fr. Timothy Shillcox, O. Praem.

is a graduate of Lawrence University, Appleton, and served on the faculty of Prémontré High School, Green Bay, from 1982 to 1984. After his simple profession to the Norbertine Order, Fr. Tim attended the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago where he also served as deacon at St. Ailbe Parish. He was ordained in 1987 and returned as a faculty member to Prémontré High School. In 1990, Fr. Tim served at St. Agnes Parish, Green Bay, as an associate pastor, and in 1992 was named pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Bay Settlement until 2003. After serving as assistant formation director and house superior at the Holy Spirit House of Studies in Chicago, Fr. Tim returned to De Pere and Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, where he continues to serve as pastor.

 

 
 
Archived Homilies and Reflections
 
-Invocation at the National Railroad Museum in Green Bay with Vice President Joe Biden by Fr. Andy Cribben, O. Praem. (Archived October 18, 2013)
-The Good Shepherd's Psalm - Part 1 (Archived September 24,2012)
-Faith Perspectives: God's Time, Not Ours by Fr. Timothy Shillcox, O. Praem. (Archived August 27, 2012)
-Hello and Happy Fourth of July… by Fr. Timothy Shillcox, O. Praem. (Archived July 19, 2012)
-Happy Easter, olol... by Fr. Timothy Shillcox, O. Praem. (Archived June 29, 2012)
-Pastoral Letter from the March 25, 2012 (Archived April 7, 2012)
-FATHER MCBRIDE HOMILY REFLECTIONS Christmas Midnight Mass (Archived March 29, 2012)
-Advent Reflection by Fr. Jeremy Tobin, O. Praem. (Archived December 24, 2011)
-Father McBride Homily Reflections Fourth Sunday of Advent (Archived December 21, 2011)
-Use Your Soul Power, Or Lose Your Soul By Fr. Alfred McBride, O. Praem. (Archived December 16, 2011)
-Sharing the Grace of Conversion by Fr. Andy Cribben, O. Praem. (Archived November 14, 2011)
-Who Are You to Judge Another? By Fr. Tim Shillcox, O.Praem. (Archived September 27, 2011)
-Winning By Fr. Andy Cribben, O. Praem. (Archived September 13, 2011)
-Living on God's Grid By Fr. Andy Cribben, O. Praem. (Archived August 19, 2011)
-Sharing Our Abundance By Fr. Andy Cribben, O. Praem. (Archived August 10, 2011)
-The Sower By Fr. Andy Cribben, O. Praem.
-God Loves a Cheerful Giver By Fr. Andy Cribben, O. Praem. (Archived July 14, 2011)
-We Are Already Living Our Eternal Life By Fr. Andy Cribben, O. Praem.
-Jesus is Risen! Alleluia! Easter Vigil/Easter - April 23/24, 2011 by Fr. Andy Cribben O. Praem.
-Wednesday of Holy Week April 20, 2011 By Fr. Andy Cribben, O. Praem. (Archived April 26, 2011)
-Jesus Is Life By Fr. John Bostwick, O. Praem. (Archived April 21, 2011)
-The Blind May See By Fr. Andy Cribben, O. Praem. (Archived April 15, 2011)
-The Strategy For Converting People To Christ By Fr. Al McBride, O. Praem. (Archived April 4, 2011)
-Forgiveness By Fr. John Bostwick, O. Praem. (Archived March 22, 2011)
-Repent! The Kingdom of God is at Hand By Fr. Andy Cribben, O. Praem. (Archived February 26, 2011)
-"Peace that the world cannot give or take away" By Father Tim Shillcox, O. Praem. (Archived January 25, 2011)
-By Fr. John Bostwick, O. Praem. By Fr. John Bostwick, O. Praem. (Archived January 19, 2011)
-A Christmas Reflection, 2010 By Fr. John Bostwick, O. Praem. (Archived January 4, 2010)
-The Least Among Us By Fr. Andy Cribben, O. Praem. (Archived December 23, 2010)
-Go Boldly and Simply and Give Witness to His Message By Fr. Andy Cribben, O. Praem. (Archived December 17, 2010)
-It Is of a New Order By Fr. John Bostwick, O. Praem. (archived December 8, 2010)
-Bendict XVI and the Beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman By Rev. Alfred McBride, O.Praem. (Archived November 19, 2010)
-The Challenge of Facing Hardship While Remaining Steadfast in Faith By Fr. Andy Cribben, O. Praem. (Archived October 15, 2010)
-Go Boldly and Simply and Give Witness to His Message By Fr. Andy Cribben, O. Praem. (Archived October 12, 2010)
-You Can't Serve Two Masters Or Two Mothers Either By Fr. Al McBride, O. Praem. (Archived September 24, 2010)
-You Can't Take It with You by Fr. John Bostwick, O. Praem. (Archived September 13, 2010)
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-Who is Neighbor? By Fr. John Bostwick, O. Praem. (Archived July 21, 2010)
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-Corpus Christi: recognizing Christ in the Eucharist and our neighbor By Fr. John Bostwick, O. Praem. (Archived June 18, 2010)
-Ascension of the Lord By Fr. John Bostwick, O. Praem. (Archived June 7, 2010)
-God - source of anxiety or peace By Fr. John Bostwick, O. Praem. (Archived May 12, 2010)
-Kolbe: The Angel of Auschwitz By Fr. Alfred McBride, O. Praem. (Archived April 30, 2010)
-The Seven Last Words of Jesus Christ The 2nd word * Luke 23:39-43. Palm Sunday, March 28th 2010 * St. Norbert Abbey By Fr. Timothy Shillcox, O.Praem. (Archived April 14, 2010)
- Catholics Come Home: It is about Jesus by Fr. John Bostwick, O. Praem. (Archived March 29, 2010)
-The Transfiguration by By Fr. John Bostwick, O. Praem. (Archived March 22, 2010)
-The Feast of St Andrew - Apostle Diocesan Priests' Penance Service Reflection by Fr. Timothy Shillcox, O. Praem. (Archived March 2, 2010)
-And There is Haiti... by Fr. John Bostwick, O. Praem. (Archived February 11, 2010)
-Confidence by Fr. Andy Cribben O. Praem. (Archived January 26, 2010)
-The Sacred Vocation of Mother by Fr. John Bostwick, O. Praem. (Archived by January 14, 2010)
-A Christmas Reflection by Fr. John Bostwick, O. Praem. (Archived January 1, 2010)
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-Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me. Mark 9:37 by Fr. Andy Cribben, O. Praem. (Archived October 28, 2009)
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with commentary from Abbot Gary Neville (Archived September 10, 2008)
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-Letters Written in Good Faith Translated and edited by Dr. Walter Lagerwey Pt 2 (Archived August 6, 2008)
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-The Guest is Christy By Fr. Alfred McBride (Archived July 9, 2008)
-Letters Written in Good Faith Translated and edited by Dr. Walter Lagerwey (Archived June 25, 2008)
-Loved By a Duck By Mark D Falcone (Archived June 4, 2008)
-The Spirit Breathes Us In To Give Us Love By Alfred McBride (Archived 5-19-2008)
-Earth Week By Steve Herro (Archived 4-30-2008)
-Lazarus By Steve Rossey (Archived 4-16-2008)
 
Norbertines of Saint Norbert Abbey