The Church’s Wisdom is Imperative for our Time

Posted by Fr. Thomas Fitzpatrick, Rector of St. Joseph Cathedral

“For Zion’s sake I will not be silent, For Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet. Until her vindication shines forth like the dawn And her victory like a burning torch.”

With the specter of so many worries hanging over the world today we must be vigilant and deliberate about which way we turn for consolation. The news in our city, state, nation and world is rife with bad news complete with all the sordid details. Open rejection of God and His Eternal Law is applauded with glee or met with a shrug of the shoulder. Saints and sinners alike are victimized by the way the world is going, which contributes to a sense of malaise that is increasingly difficult to avoid.

These days, it seems that any answer the Church gives is met with howls of derision and protest. There is an attractive convenience in the avoidance of truthful self-examination and spirituality based upon the Commandments of the Father and the Gospel of His Son; instead it is traded for a ‘don’t tread on me’ conception of freedom that demands liberty from any constraint or moral absolute. The Catholic Church teaches freedom for the truth … our culture continues down the path of freedom from the truth and we are experiencing the fruit of this philosophy now.

Pornography, perversion and anatomy is subject matter for cheap laughs on primetime television. Abortion providers are trumpeting the freedoms they have ensured for society and children think sexting is a grown-up way of acting. Lack of civility is rampant and the discord we all experience demands that God not be mentioned anywhere in the public arena. The United States Army this week was cowed into removing ‘For God and Country’ from their recruitment advertising. What are we so afraid of? Ordinary Time has returned to our Church calendar. Can we spend time studying and researching the vast treasure of wisdom as taught to us by centuries of theological thought emanating from Christ and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit? Culture brands the Church as irrelevant for the modern world, as if the arrogance of progress and technology somehow trumps the same human nature that has existed since the fall of Adam and Eve. If we don’t recognize this lie, the price we pay will be high. The issues that the Church takes a stand on are not going away, nor will they be solved through legislation, popular opinion or keeping our heads in the sand. There is no doubt we are paying a price now. The bill already due is all over the news and all over the world. One ready example was provided by Pope Paul VI when he prayerfully predicted the fallout from widespread use of contraceptives over forty years ago:

· The general lowering of moral standards throughout society
· A rise in marital infidelity & divorce
· The dramatic lessening of respect for women by men
· The coercive use of reproductive technology on women

Vigilant and deliberate about where we turn for consolation means we are going to have to do more than complain about these problems or complain about those with these problems. The first thing we can do is eradicate any filth from our lives now. We must learn what our faith teaches and why. We ought to fast and pray for our nation and the world. Life is short and our judgment will be thorough, and while we do not discount the compassion of a merciful God, if we are careless enough to think His mercy is summoned like a car insurance commercial, we are in big trouble. Presumption is a sin and an effective weapon of Satan. Instead of trying to outthink God and the Church, it is imperative that we learn what She teaches and why … then live in the freedom Christ extends to us through Her. This freedom will enable us to live in the world and be untainted by it.

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The Synod of Bishops

Posted by Fr. Andrew Young, St. Joseph Cathedral

Over the past two weeks the headlines on most television networks, newspapers and magazines has been about what is going on in Vatican City with the Synod of Bishops. All the headlines seem to say that “change is in the air” but of course, most of that is simply speculation from the media. This Synod of Bishops does give us an opportunity to  understand the workings of the Church in a more profound way. How the Holy Father, Pope Francis, works in conjunction with the College of Bishops to  tackle difficult questions and challenges within our society and Church. Our world today is not the same place as it was 200 years ago,  we all know that fact. How the Church responds to modern problems, especially those that affect the modern family, are essential and need a clear teaching.

Shortly after the  Second Vatican Council in 1965, to continue the spirit of collegiality and communion among all the Bishops of the world, Pope Paul VI established the permanent institution in the Catholic Church called the Synod of Bishops. It is an assembly of Bishops from around the world who assist the Pope on important issues facing the Church. The Synod of Bishops can meet as a General Assembly in two different kinds of sessions – Ordinary or Extraordinary. The Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops are convened to deal with matters “which require a speedy solution” and which demand “immediate attention for the good of the entire Church.” The Synod that we have been hearing so much about for the past two weeks is an Extraordinary General Assembly, only the third ever held since the creation of the institution in 1965.

This year’s Synod  was convened on October 5th and finished on Ocotber 19th in Vatican City. It assembled Bishops of many ethnic backgrounds and cultures from around the world along side Pope Francis. The Synod looked at topics that relate to the family and evangelization – The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization. A vast array of discussion items fell under this umbrella, a few of which have been highlighted by the news – Church teaching on the indissolvability of marriage, divorce, remarriage, same-sex attraction, openness to life, and contraception. The hope was that the “synod of fathers would thoroughly examine and analyze the information, testimonies and recommendations received from the particular Churches in order to respond to the new challenges of the family.” In 2015, an Ordinary General Assembly of Bishops, representing a greater number of Bishops from around the world, will continue the work of the just completed Synod and reflect further on the points discussed and distribute guidelines for the faithful and pastors to implement.

n the opening homily of the Synod on October 5th, Pope Francis laid the groundwork for the Bishops so that free, open and frank discussions could be held for the greater good of the faithful and Christ’s Church. He said, “Synod Assemblies are not meant to discuss beautiful and clever ideas, or to see who is more intelligent. They are meant to better nurture and  tend the Lord’s vineyard, to help realize his dream, his loving plan for his people. In this case the Lord is asking us to care for the family, which has been from the beginning an integral part of his loving plan for humanity.” May the work that our Bishop’s completed in this Synod continue to bear fruit in all our
families and in the family of the Church.

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Evolution

Confession from the administrator of BeopentoGod.com

Since I was a youth, I have always struggled with the idea of creation and wrote it off as a “man made” idea. As a youth growing into adulthood, I came to learn about evolution as a possible beginning that was explained through science. The following text summarizes a possible end to this mystery.

 

What difference does evolution make?

We must distinguish three meanings that evolution can have.

First: it can mean simply a theory about what happened – more complex species appeared on earth – and when, as shown by the fossil record.

Second: it can mean a theory about how this happened: by “natural selection,” “the survival of the fittest.”

Third: it can mean the absence of a divine design, as distinct from God using natural selection.

This third sense is not scientific at all, but philosophical and theological. One can accept evolution in sense 1 but not 2, or 1 and 2 but not 3. There is certainly a contradiction between the Bible and evolution in sense 3. But evolution in sense 3 is not a scientific theory at all.

If we evolved simply by blind chance, not divine design, then our lives have no overarching meaning, no preset divine plan, no script. The only meaning, purpose or values that exist are the ones we invent for ourselves. These can never be right or wrong, justified or not justified by a higher standard than our own desires, which created them. Thus there is no real reason to prefer Christian ethics to Stalinist ethics, for instance, except one’s own desires themselves. Desire (volitional faith) becomes its own reason, its own justification.

There is no logical contradiction between the Bible’s claim that “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen 1:1 NIV) and the claim that once the earth was here, species evolved by natural selection. Science is like the study of the inner ecology of a fishbowl; the Bible is like a letter from the person who set up the fishbowl. Far from being logically exclusive, the two ideas of creation and evolution easily include each other or suggest each other. On the one hand, the Bible does not say that God “created” each species by a separate act, but that he said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures” (Gen 1:24). On the other hand, a theory of evolution that confines itself to empirical science does not claim to know whether or not there is a divine Designer behind these natural forces. But surely such an elegant and ordered design strongly suggests a cosmic Designer.

There is also no logical contradiction between the Bible’s claim that the human soul (the “image of God”) is “breathed” (“spirited”) into us from God, and evolution’s claim that our body evolved from lower forms. Genesis 2:7 even suggests just such a double origin.

— Kreeft, P., & Tacelli, R. (2003). Pocket handbook of Christian apologetics. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.

 

Recently I was asked “if you could describe yourself in one word, what word would you choose?” My reply was that I am “developing.” So are our scientific discoveries, developing, in hopes that we may know someday. Believing that God is Creator, we still seek to understand how he creates. The relationship between faith and reason give us the freedom to explore this fullness of creation.

Faith and reason.

 

The Value of the Mass

Posted by Fr. Andrew Young, St. Joseph Cathedral

Often times people ask us at the parish, “What does it mean to have a Mass ‘said’ for someone?” We respond that having a Mass “said” or “prayed” for someone means that the intention for that Mass is for a specific person or in some cases a group of people.  This is a beautiful practice and tradition of the Church. The Church considers the mass the greatest possible prayer of intercession since during the Mass we not only remember the sacrifice of Christ on the cross out of love for us, but we make that sacrifice truly present upon the altar – Christ giving us his body and blood.

You may be asking, what are the different intentions that might be offered? Many times in the Church we have Masses prayed for deceased family members where we pray for their departed soul that it would be welcomed into the Kingdom of Heaven, which we heard in last weeks’ readings, is our greatest treasure! Theses Masses can be prayed anytime but more often than not they are prayed on the anniversary of their death or even on the day they were given the gift of life – their birthday. Parishioners have Masses said on other special days as well such as: wedding anniversaries, baptismal anniversaries, for a friend, in thanksgiving for a blessing received, family member who is ill and a variety of other reasons. On my birthday, I always like to have a Mass said for my parents “Dad and Mom” for choosing to give me the gift of life, something that is truly precious, and to thank them for their sacrifices in giving me life.

One question that often comes up is, “What does a Mass cost?” We accept an offering for Masses that are said for a given intention. Diocesan policy simply suggests a $10 offering. Masses do not cost anything; you can’t buy a Mass. This offering, called a stipend, is given to the parish and is a way in which the person making the request for a Mass to be prayed offers part of themself, making their own sacrifice for the specific intention. By making this offering, the person parts with something of their own and associates themself more intimately with Christ’s offering on the cross. The parish accepts this offering and the celebrant for that Mass commits himself to fulfilling that intention, which he is bound to in justice.

No value can be placed on the graces, which flow from the Mass and for the intention that is offered by the priest acting in the person of Christ. What an opportunity we have to give something beautiful to our friends and loved ones.If you have never read the children’s book, The Weight of a Mass, I suggest you do so. Set in a fairy tale background, but based on a true story, a poor widow begs the local baker for just a few pieces of old, stale bread. The only offering she can make is a Mass to be said which she wrote on a piece of scratch paper. Scoffing at the precious gift, the baker decides to determine how much this Mass would be worth when placed on a scale, surely no bread would be given to the woman. But to the amazement of the baker and the towns people, nothing in the entire store, not even the gigantic wedding cake made for the king, outweighs the simple piece of paper representing the true worth of the Mass.

What are some of the intentions you have that you would like the Church to pray for given the weight and value of a Mass? Call or stop by the parish office and give a gift to someone, which truly is priceless!

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Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul

Posted by Fr. Thomas Fitzpatrick, Rector of St. Joseph Cathedral

The main steps to the entrance of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome are flanked by two huge statues: one of St. Peter holding the keys of the kingdom, the other is St. Paul holding his epistles and a sword. In these two great saints of our Church we commemorate not just the example of their lives in Christ, but the Church itself as well; One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic.

These four marks of the Church are attributes really, “inseparably linked with each other,
indicating essential features of the Church and her mission” (CCC #811). This paragraph in our Catechism goes on to explain that “the Church does not possess them of herself; it is Christ who, through the power of the Holy Spirit makes His Church One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic, and it is He who calls her to realize these qualities”.

That’s right; we are called to realize these qualities….to make them happen. From teaching our children the faith to avoiding the sins our culture readily encourages us to partake in, our unity as the People of God is the reflection of our union with Christ. The source for our Church is Christ Himself, and the mysteries that surround her cannot be reduced to what we think or want them to be. We must be careful to avoid forming Christ in our own image, but to be formed in the image and likeness of Christ. The dissension, conflict and selfishness we see at work in the world today are directly attributable to the fact that God is being ignored. Luckily, these two great saints we remember today did not ignore Christ. Sure they made mistakes and struggled mightily to live in holiness, they readily admitted their weakness; but they stayed in the game, a living testimony to the faith that remains today as proof that the Church is alive despite the frailty of members. Christ is alive; hence the Church lives as well.

Every time we enter the Cathedral through the main doors we pass under the gaze of St. Peter and St. Paul who flank the depiction of Christ the King. Each year we commemorate these great saints while at the same time proclaiming yet again “Christ yesterday, today and forever”. Our unity as Church means we never forget the treasures the past has provided for us in the present as we continue to proclaim and teach the faith for the sake of future generations. This is our unbreakable bond with Saints Peter and Paul because it is our bond with Christ Himself. It is our treasure, blessed assurance and joy. Happy Feast Day!

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Advent: Preparation for the Coming of Christ

Posted by Fr. Thomas Fitzpatrick, Rector of St. Joseph Cathedral

Do we live our life of faith between a rock and a hard place? We know that Jesus came to us about two thousand years ago, and we look for His coming again in glory as He promised; a future return that requires vigilance and preparedness. The first coming was marked with humility, poverty and a self-emptying that exposed His message of love and eternal life to the mockery and scorn of hard-hearted disbelief. We know that His future
return will be in glory, His majesty enrobed with the light of Truth that will not render itself to judgment, but “to judge the living and the dead”. In the meantime, we must be open and receptive to the coming of Christ which is not visible to the senses as much as it is perceived in the heart and confirmed by our actions.

So here we are, in the midst of our Advent preparation for the third coming of Christ….silent and unseen, yet in the spirit; its power rendered in the Sacraments and emboldened through prayer. It is fitting that Advent coincides with the beginning of the new liturgical year because it marks the dawn of our own Redemption. We can
always begin again!

As Advent presses forward, the shopping and cheer intensifies; do not lose sight of what is really going on. We are preparing for the advent of our deliverance from death by means of the miraculous love of God for His children. Ensure your joy lies in this by preparing your hearts and minds for the reception of this true and pure gift….everything else is the dressing that surrounds the prize.

The onslaught of continuous Christmas music comes earlier every year. Christmas advertising began weeks ago. The risks of being unprepared for the season are constantly thrown at us, masking the true reason for this holy day. As a counter-balance, remember that recollection is the key. Recollection leads to fuller preparation in the spiritual sense for the dawn of our Redemption. This is a great time of year, full of cheer and exuberance that can even make crowded checkout lines less burdensome. Recollection-Preparation-Celebration….the keys to a wonderful Christmas and a holy Advent!

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Pride and Lukewarmness vs. Gratitude and Love

Posted by Fr. Thomas Fitzpatrick, Rector of St. Joseph Cathedral

It is not convenient or pleasurable to think or talk about the Last Things: Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell. We like to sweep these questions underneath the rug and manifest the ability to overlook the contradictions in our life and actions with that of Christ’s Gospel. Part of this is human nature of course, but at the same time it is
symptomatic of a dangerous combination that hampers spiritual growth and maturity: pride and lukewarm faith.

Pride…everyone has it, some more than others. Now, if we didn’t have SOME pride, what would we ever amount to? We can be proud of the home team, our garden, even our accomplishments. Pride becomes a bad word when it governs our conscience and leads us to believe we are somehow above or exempt from the high bar our Lord has set. We know pride to be a Capital sin, because it engenders so many others.

Pride and narcissism affect our conscience because when the world revolves around us, the knowledge and practice of the interior law that our conscience should defend is instead preoccupied with ensuring our that actions obtain our whims. We choose in accord with our conscience, and when the conscience is me-centered, charity never prevails. We can’t serve two masters, and when our goal is heaven only one master can prevail.

In a world where putting words in Christ’s mouth is nearly as common as outright defiance of God and His Natural Law, we should carefully heed Christ’s teachings and actions in this month’s Gospels. There will be a judgment, and the way to prepare is to recognize His Cross while discarding our idols; starting with the way we all sometimes idolize ourselves.

Pride and lukewarmness are huge obstacles to prayer and a life of gratitude and love. Frequent sacramental Confession and reception of the Eucharist are great weapons in the battle against these sins. We have at our disposal in the confessional what is no less than a meeting-encounter with the mercy and grace of our Lord, and the Eucharist is His food for nourishment on our pilgrim way.

The way to conquer what ails us is found in going beyond taking and learning to receive and give. We receive what is good and true from the Lord and share it with others. It’s the way to live in competence and confidence as the children of God.

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Pope Francis Doesn’t Cease to Surprise Us!

Posted by Fr. Andrew Young, St. Joseph Cathedral

We can read all throughout Scripture where our Lord surprises, amazes and astounds the crowds as well as His own disciples. Whether it be through His miraculous healings, seemingly contradictory practices or His simplicity and humility, He surprises.

Pope Francis in many ways carries out some of these same characteristics in how he has served as our Holy Father whether it be in his actions, writings or decisions. He doesn’t cease to surprise us!

Actions: Just last week he decided to go to Lampedusa, a small island off the coast of Italy, to show his support for immigrants. Weeks ago, a group of immigrants were trying to make it to the island from Tunisia, but the small boat ended up sinking causing the death of many. Pope Francis went to this small island to show his support and love for the marginalized, particularly the many immigrants that have died while trying to make the dangerous journey from Africa to Italy. Not something I would have expected of the Holy Father, especially without at least six months of planning or organizing!

Writings: Additionally, Pope Francis released his first encyclical, Lumen Fidei, the Light of Faith, which was not only written by him, but also Pope Benedict XVI – four hands, not two! Not something that has been done or at least publically acknowledged in the past. I encourage you to pick up this encyclical either at the Vatican website or eventually at one of our local bookstores. As we read this document, the hope is that it will surprise us at the gift of faith that is in our life. So often we just take our faith for granted – something we just have or do. We forget that our faith helps lead us to a true encounter with Jesus Christ and if we don’t nurture it, our faith begins to fade. In the encyclical, Pope Francis says,

“There is an urgent need, then, to see once again that faith is a light, for once the flame of faith dies out, other lights begin to dim….faith, received from God as a supernatural gift, becomes a light for our way, guiding our journey through time.”

Decisions: Not only that, but Pope Francis also announced the approval for canonization of two of our most recent Popes – Blessed John Paul II and Blessed John XXIII. This is cause for surprise as well, since Blessed John XXIII only has one recorded miracle and not the required two miracles for canonization – but he is the Pope!

 One thing is for certain, Pope Francis does not cease to amaze us in his role as the Holy Father. TIME Magazine agrees when it reported that religion is “IN”. Why? Because of the example – and might I say surprises – of Pope Francis. Let us pray that we too can draw people to believe in Jesus Christ through our own actions, words and decisions – our own little surprises. The Good Samaritan in our Gospel today, surprised the man who was injured along the side of the road. Who are you willing to surprise today?

Virtue Matters

Posted by Fr. Thomas Fitzpatrick, Rector of St. Joseph Cathedral

We are lucky to live in America. Hopefully, when we approach the Lord in gratitude for His many abundant gifts, we place the land we live in near the top of our list. From our abundant resources and natural beauty to the freedoms we enjoy, our nation provides more than enough to live fruitful, productive and holy lives. At the same time, we all know our country is far from perfect. War and scandal has disheartened us all, and the worries and concerns about the future we are handing to our young compound the disquiet in our hearts and minds. We ask ourselves if the freedom we enjoy is really our Achilles heel; will the self-interest and greed of individuals lead us to ruin?

The Founding Fathers of our nation called it ‘the great experiment’. A people to be governed by the people; a system of government bound by checks and balances in the distribution of power that ultimately refers back to the life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness of its individual citizens. It is a great plan on paper, but one that is
absolutely dependent on the virtue of its people. Without virtue, the great experiment will not succeed. It will unravel, and chaos will ensue.

There is a bumper sticker still seen on many cars driving around Sioux Falls that came out years ago concerning the environment that reads “Think Globally, Act Locally”. The same can be said for our life of virtue. If we want to change the course of our nation and world, we have to start with ourselves.

There is a cosmic dimension to individual sin. Each individual sin has a ripple effect not only in our own lives, but in the lives of others and society as well. Pornography causes estrangement in interpersonal relationships, and promotes sin. Unchecked corporate greed preys on the unsuspecting, destroys wealth and ruins retirements. Meanspirited and jealous gossip wrecks reputations; not to mention the integrity of the gossiper. Not following traffic laws causes death. These examples are not far-fetched; they are real and happening right now.

Virtue matters. It’s not old fashioned, it is timeless. We are called to live in virtue for the sake of our individual souls and the building up of the Kingdom of God. It’s crucial for the well-being and progress of our nation and her citizens as well. Freedom does not mean we get to do whatever we want, or to do whatever it takes to get ahead. True freedom consists in being unhindered to live for and in truth as we know it through the Natural Law written on our hearts by God.

Success is not a virtue. If this is what society succeeds in teaching us, where will Christ be? Success can be a byproduct of virtue, but in terms of Christ’s purpose and teaching, true success means goodness in this life and the attainment of heaven. Popular culture exalts sin and says it really doesn’t matter. When we place this point of view next to Christ and His teachings, hopefully we will see quite clearly that the virtue of American citizens is what will keep us united in freedom, one nation under God.
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The Blessing of Being a Priest

Posted by Fr. Andrew Young, St. Joseph Cathedral

Believe it or not, this weekend marks my one-year anniversary of being a priest – June, 29th. This year has truly been a blessing for me and sure has gone fast. After initially hearing the call to become a priest when I was younger, it took me some time to finally take that leap of faith and trust in God’s providence. I am sure glad that I finally did! This year has been a lot of firsts – saying my first Mass, funerals, anointing the sick and dying and so many more. Now as I transition into year two, I will not be able to rely or blame my missteps on being a “baby” priest! I guess I am a veteran – well not really.

I do want to thank the parishioners of the Cathedral of Saint Joseph for being so kind to me over this past year of priesthood. With any new priest, it takes time to get to know them and to see the little things that they may do different than other priests. The real gift though is that each of us as priests are different and unique –bringing our own gifts as well as our own weaknesses into the parish. You have been extremely supportive and welcoming towards me throughout this journey and I look forward to another year celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and all the Sacraments with each of you.

In my own reflection on this year, I would like to share some words of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. I pray that I will be able to fulfill his vision of the mission of a priest as he sees it in the world, especially here at the Cathedral and in my other ministries as Chaplain of O’Gorman Junior High School and the Military Archdiocese.

“As an act of infinite mercy, he (Christ) calls some ‘to be’ with him and to become, through the Sacrament of Orders, despite their human poverty, sharers in his own priesthood, ministers of this sanctification, stewards of his mysteries, ‘bridges’ to the encounter with him and of his mediation between God and man and between man and God.” Please pray for me as I pray for you that I may be a suitable bridge – not a bridge to nowhere – but a bridge that will lead each of us to a closer relationship with Jesus Christ.

Saint Peter and Saint Paul, the Apostles whose feast I was ordained…Pray for us.

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