Are Our Excuses Lame?

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

The blame game never works. Retribution against an opponent on the playing field is the act the referee  always seems to notice, not the instigation. Trying to shift responsibility onto bosses or co-workers for less-than-optimal performance or results  never looks good and is a weak defense. As we see in the Gospel today, it doesn’t work with Jesus either.

When the servant was called to account for his fearful inaction he decided his best defense was not true honesty or self-examination, it was to accuse his Master for somehow forcing him to bury his talent. Was the Master as terribly demanding as  the servant accused him of being? We can reasonably assume by the manner in which he doled out his possessions that the Master was prudent with his treasure and just in dealing with his servants. All three accepted their Master’s generosity. Unfortunately for the third servant, he just didn’t get it…the Master wasn’t just giving him a task, he investing in the servant; and that servant took the easy way out. He did nothing and then blamed the Master for his deficiencies.

The blame game may be a popular strategy, but that doesn’t mean it works well. True intellectual and spiritual maturity allows us to see our own culpability and shortcomings so that we can honestly assess ourselves and dissect the chain of events like the one  we experience in today’s Gospel. The responsibility of this episode was not due solely to the fact that the Master was a demanding man as the servant tried to contend. His excuses were lame.

Are our excuses lame? It is like the time the man enters the Confessional to confess his sins to the old Monsignor. He begins, “Bless me Father, for I have sinned. My wife……”

As we continue through the month  of November praying for the souls in Purgatory, we also remain focused on the Four Last Things: Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell. A good prayer point for reflection is an assessment on how much and how often we employ the blame-game to exonerate our own actions or inaction in order to shift responsibility to others. Remember the words of St. Augustine. “The more we pay attention to the sins of others, the less attention we pay to our own.”  Our spiritual life and the custody of our souls is the most important ‘talent’ the Lord has entrusted to us. Careful reflection upon our actions and desires in the daily situations of our lives is key to our growth, maturity and holiness. We will serve God and ourselves if we use this time well.

[subscribe2]

The Steadfast and Just Way of Life

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

If you were to ask my brothers and sisters which of my father’s greatest quotes is most memorable we would all respond in unison…”Who said its gotta be fair?”. His pearl of truth led to more arm-flapping, wailing in consternation at injustices rendered and downright disbelief at the reality of the world than any other answer he ever gave us to our problems with people, places or things.  It was a masterstroke of his intellect. It is also an unfortunate reality.

Referees weren’t fair. Teachers weren’t fair. The taxman, tests, traffic laws, bosses, and not being allowed to go to every party was unfair. His response each time brought a howls of protest from his child and a wry grin of triumph to his face… and darnit, he was correct.

Fairness is a wonderful concept, yet rarely is it a complete reality. Someone always gets the short straw it seems..and boy do we get indignant when it happens to us.If we were as good at being fair in our day to day affairs as we are at keeping score about the times we were somehow shortchanged by being treated unjustly maybe life wouldn’t seem so unfair at times.

‘Steadfast and just’ is a description we hear many times attributed to St. Joseph. His adherence to this way of life was a cause for joy that we can experience as well. It is not the kind of joy that makes us hoot, holler and celebrate though; it’s the kind of joy that perpetuates itself by seeking the same thing over and over again because it resonates with and finds its roots in what is good, true, just and beautiful… and these are the hallmarks of God.

Our resolute mindset  in living the steadfast and just way of life is the only real protection against the disappointment and indignation  we experience when treated unfairly or unjustly.

The steadfast and just way of life is our safety net when we react poorly at first to these disappointments as well. It helps us shake off the anger and betrayal we may feel toward the perpetrator of the offense, even when we accuse the Lord for being the offender.

I can never blame the Lord for my woes. It always comes down to the way I use/misuse my freedom or the way in which my neighbor has. The steadfast and just way of living protects us in both instances and helps us to carry on for the sake of our true and ultimate purpose: to know God, live his ordinances and strive for virtue.

[subscribe2]

A Meeting Encounter with Christ in Confession

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

Jesus put a lot of leg work into his mission of mercy and redemption, didn’t he? He was all over the place preaching, healing and revealing the joys of the Kingdom. Great throngs gathered in His presence, and His simple, truthful message of love and justice revealed not just His power as God, but the will of His Father.

Seeking the Kingdom of God is not merely a spiritual exercise; it takes some leg-work as well, confirming our intention through action. We physically arrive at Mass, expend energy in our worship, drive to visit the sick, perform works of mercy for others, etc. This spirituality in action is an expression of our humanity, the synergy of body and soul that orients and impels us to heavenly pursuits.

Confession is a heavenly expenditure as well. It is a meeting encounter with Christ that avails us to his healing and grace, not to mention the joys of a clear conscience. Frequent confession is a valuable tool in our quest for holiness, since we are forgiven our sins, returned to a state of grace and aware of our personal weakness that led to sin in the first place. In other words, we are put on guard by the grace of the confessional. Frequent confession is not an admission of anything more than your good intention and desire for holiness.

At the same time, be wary of viewing the Sacrament of confession in the same light as a trip to the dentist office or getting the oil in your car changed. Confession is not a check-up or a clearing of the air with the Lord. It is a tool and a gift that keeps the bond of charity between us and God taut and strong. Mortal sin breaks that bond, and denies our proper reception of the Eucharist. In other words, we don’t receive Communion if we know we are in a state of mortal sin.

If our sins are venial in nature, the Sacrament of confession remains a valid and effective way to safeguard against more serious sin. The best remedy for sin is the Eucharist itself; so ensuring our proper reception of this grace-filled gift is paramount to our pilgrimage. Please turn to the confessional; it is a Sacrament of great grace. It clears the head, opens the heart and keeps our eye on the prize of heaven.

[subscribe2]

Weathering the Storms of Life

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

The weather has certainly given us something to talk about for the last week. It is funny how the warm summer days pass by with such ease and the wretched weather is remembered and lamented. Then again, last week the power was out, trees crashed to the ground and the ice was a monster. All that was followed by six inches of snow and the weather this week; so I guess it is fair to hold on to this latest round of winter discomfort a bit.

At the same time, we have experienced another example of the tyranny of the present. We want the good times to last and the frustrating ones to flee. The Lord calls us to be forward looking people of faith and gives us a way of living and being that is way easier said than done. The world is full of turmoil, violence and sin. God is ignored or used a means to justify sins of our day. We feel like we are up against the ropes being pummeled and all we really want to do is what is right and good.

During the Easter season, the Book of Revelation is a great salve for what pains us and a powerful reminder of what we are living for and how to attain it. This is a time of great distress, as it was in the times when John was writing. Our victory will never be found in our checkbooks, smooth faces or a perfect day well-spent; our victory is won through a long, hard slog of faith with Christ as our guide and support. Biological life is fleeting and changes like the day to day weather…our ultimate purpose is to join the great multitude in heaven and stand before the throne and before the Lamb where hunger and thirst are no longer worries like they are during this day we find ourselves in.

The pursuit of holiness is an experience of great effort, failings and growth. It is an aspiration of the soul for union with God that is forced to weather many storms. This beautiful aspiration also allows us to appreciate the good stretches of smooth sailing as well. In the midst of it all, our Easter season of joy allows us to be resolute and confident because our faith finds its truth in the Resurrection and the surety of Christ’s victory over sin and death. The gates of heaven have been opened and what awaits us makes the journey absolutely worthwhile.

[subscribe2]

Divine Mercy Sunday

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

Divine Mercy Sunday is an Easter gift from Christ to His Church that invites us to indulge and revel in His unfathomable mercy while we celebrate the Resurrection. It makes sense really, because the two go hand in hand. The God-made-man suffered and died for our sins, and through His singular intent to carry out the Father’s will, was raised from the dead to crown His victory over sin and death. Mercy and the power of God: this is our refuge as sinners, the means through which our intention and hope in life is fulfilled and brought to its true destination in heaven.

The message of Jesus’ Divine Mercy was given to Sister Faustina, a simple Polish nun, who
became one of the great saints of the twentieth century. Her simple diary described the incredible visions and revelations that Christ provided her for the singular sake of redeeming souls. She was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2000, and it was his wish that the entire message of Christ as spoken through St. Faustina be observed and applied on the Second Sunday of Easter.

Today’s readings speak of this mercy as they point to Christ’s invitation to trust in His benevolent mercy and desire to forgive our sins. It is a call to face the trials and tribulations of the present day and future with a steadfast participation in Christ’s mercy by performance of corporal works of mercy, prayer to His Divine Heart and meditation on the meaning of His great love and mercy. Divine Mercy is Christ’s Easter gift to His Church. We only need to gaze upon the blood and water flowing from His side to see that this blood of Golgotha speaks of His willingness to die for us as the water of Baptism recalls the forgiveness of sins at Baptism and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Christ’s singular attention was focused on completing His Father’s will. His sacrifice brought about our Redemption, which is mercy itself. Seek the meaning of this mercy in your prayer today, and the ways in which you apply it to your daily life.

[subscribe2]

This is our Easter Joy!

Posted by Fr. Andrew Young, St. Joseph Cathedral

Happy Easter! Today we celebrate the greatest day of the Church year – the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! Imagine yourself back in the time of Christ, putting all of your hope and trust in this man who seemed to be what you expected in a Messiah.They had been waiting for the Messiah to come. This man seemed like the one. He was a guy who healed, cared for, welcomed and loved everyone, not just those who thought or acted like Him. They must have thought, this is HIM – the person who all the Scriptures had foretold would come and save His people. Great news! But then, in the dark of night He is arrested, beaten, crucified and hung on a cross for death. The one they had placed all their hope and trust in was a fake! Now what?

If we ended the story here, there would have really been no point to the coming of Jesus into the world. Death would still happen, sin would still prevail and there would be no hope for the gates of Heaven to be opened. We would have no hope – life would be a cruel trick. Fortunately, this is not where the story ends, but Jesus Christ truly did rise from the dead, opening the gates to Heaven for each of us – so that we too might enjoy eternal paradise with God.

So where does the story end for you? Do we simply stop at the cross and never proceed or do we advance to the resurrection? Do we get stuck in the grind of the day or the sufferings of this world, or do we look to the hope of the future? This world we live in passes away as will we. Our hope is in the resurrected Christ. Our hope is our own entry into Heaven to share in the heavenly banquet of Christ. Getting simply caught up in the things of this world, we will be like the disciples today that simply “seek the living one among the dead.” If we want to seek life, eternal life, we must look beyond the cross, beyond the daily struggles, beyond life on earth – to the resurrection!

This is our Easter Joy! Christ came among us not simply to live and die – but to rise again! Live today with this Easter Joy! Live this year with this Easter Joy! Live with Easter Joy, all the days of your life! Jesus Christ Is Risen, Let Us Rejoice and Be Glad!

[subscribe2]

Build Unity in Holiness Under the Banner of Christ

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

Last Wednesday Bishop Swain celebrated the Mass of the Blessing of the Oil of Catechumens, the Oil of the Sick and the Consecration of the Sacred Chrism. As explained in the liturgical guide, “this Mass, which the Bishop concelebrates with his college of presbyters and at which he consecrates the holy Chrism and blesses the other oils, manifests the communion of the presbyters with their Bishop. Presbyters are brought together and concelebrate this Mass as witnesses and cooperators with their Bishop in the consecration of the Chrism because they share in the sacred office of the Bishop in building up, sanctifying and ruling the people of God. This Mass is therefore a clear expression of the unity of the priesthood and sacrifice of Christ, which continues to be present in the Church”.

Implicit in the theological explanation of this Mass is also the unity of the People of God with our Bishop and priests of the diocese. Founded upon the common priesthood of our Baptism, the unity of the Church with Christ is the first of the four marks of the Church; One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. This order is not arbitrary.

The rancor and fear that exists today in everything from politics to family life emanates from disunity; they are the byproducts of a deviation from God’s will and His Natural Law. The four marks of the Church are marching orders, it is what we should strive for and how we are called to live. This is Christ’s will for His Church.

At the same time, we have witnessed disunity in the Church that exists at its highest echelons. It exists in our diocese as well. This doesn’t mean the Church itself is less than holy, it means the humans who comprise it are in the same boat as all the sinful people Christ came to save. The Church is holy because of Christ, not its leaders or people. His Gospel, Sacraments and grace are what help us to be holy in His Church. We are all disappointed in the way the world is going, including the public sins of our beloved Church. That is why we will do well to heed the Gospel lesson Christ gives us today of the woman caught in adultery. Instead of throwing stones at each other or giving up on the Church because of the sins of others, wouldn’t we do well to concentrate on reforming our sinful ways and strive to build unity in holiness under the banner of Christ?

Lent is rapidly building to a crescendo to Palm Sunday, the start of Holy Week. Use the confessional in the days ahead to confess sins and strive to fully enter into this most holy time of the year through an increase of fasting, prayer and alms-giving. The Church exists for the sanctification of the world and the salvation of souls. Now is the time to avail ourselves to the mercy Christ exemplified in today’s Gospel…our pathway to living in peace through unity and holiness before the Lord.

[subscribe2]

For the Christian; resolutions a daily habit!

Posted by Joe Rutten, Director of Faith Formation – Cathedral of St. Joseph

Each New Year prompts our famous make-a-resolution moment. We pick one thing we’re going to change for the coming year, then spend a few days, weeks and if we’re lucky months, fighting to follow through with the resolution we made. We do this annual dance because we know we have the potential to become more than what we currently are. We know it is possible to live a richer, fuller experience of the life God has given us and if we change even one thing we will be healthier and happier in the New Year.

As we attempt to follow through on our New Year’s resolutions, remember that resolutions for us as Christians are a part of our everyday life, not a once a year occasion. The Church calls us to make resolutions to amend our lives and habits each day. Through a daily examination and frequent confessions, the Church provides us with many opportunities to resolve to become better versions of ourselves. At the end of each day, practice an examination by reviewing your thoughts and actions and ask if they were from God or not from God. Ask for the Lord’s forgiveness for the ways you failed to live up to your ideal and look to the next day, resolving to following Gods way anew.

 The Church also provides us with opportunities for resolution through confession. At each confession we make a firm purpose of amendment, aka a resolution, to not sin again. We go forth from the confessional seeking to live the ideal of who God has created and calls us to be. These two great practices of the Church provide us with ample opportunities for resolutions. The Christian seeks not to simply make a resolution to change a habit, but to make a habit of making resolutions.

Happy New Year and may God’s blessing be upon you and yours.

Finding True Hope and Joy in Christ

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

These last days before Christmas were absolute torture growing up. The expectation, coupled with the struggle to stay on Santa’s good list while trying to tame our excitement meant each minute passed with excruciating length. As we grow older, the shoe is on the other foot…nothing seems to be ready, time flies and the shopping isn’t finished! On top of that, we continue to seek and find meaning to the words ‘Merry Christmas’ and ‘joy to the world’. This final Sunday of Advent is the perfect time to intensify our prayer and search for the coming Christ amidst the promptings of decorations, shopping and cheer.

Our true joy springs from the hope given to us from God through the simple, humble birth of His Son. He has come to us, visible in His humanity; the reality of His Spirit manifest in His deeds, authority and power.

In earthly measure, we reckon that joy is experienced when we have arrived at a goal…there is a certain finality involved which sets off celebration and happiness. Our Christian joy lies in the fact that our salvation is at hand, a moment of truth we accept and practice because it leads to the bliss of heaven. The ‘already, but not yet’ of our pilgrimage is not a joy of finality, but promissory joy that springs from the hope of eternal life through the certitude we have in Christ and experience through His grace. This is why hope must be a part of our everyday life as pilgrims.

The virtue of hope is one of the theological virtues, one we receive by God’s good grace. It helps us to integrate our daily lives with the Gospel call of Christ and the promise of eternal life. Thus we are fortified and prepared to see the frustrations, difficulties and happiness of this life in terms of our final goal and destination, which is heaven. True hope and joy does not lay in earthly wealth, achievement or physical pleasures because we are engaged in a spiritual endeavor that necessitates a close identification with Christ and His Gospel. He experienced all the physical and emotional hardships we encounter, and remained steadfast and true. The joy of this season springs from the fact that our salvation is at hand, and it emboldens us to live as we ought because it is made possible through His love.

Enjoy your time with family and friends and celebrate well the birth of our Savior!

Fortnight for Freedom

Last night began our “Fortnight for Freedom” where Catholic Americans around the country united together to defend the rights guaranteed by our Founding Fathers and endowed by our Creator: the right to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. Believing that all people possess inherent dignity, our Founding Fathers listed numerous human rights that cannot be violated.  At question currently is the right to freedom of religion.  Oddly enough, the aspect of our religious freedom that is at the greatest risk is the duty to defend and care for the human person’s right to life.  This right is at the foundation of all other rights.  We are guaranteed human rights based upon the knowledge that every person possesses dignity regardless of age, ability, or circumstance.  Now the very nation which was founded to safeguard our freedom and protect our rights has asked us to violate our duty to protect life and subsequently to violate our consciences.

If we as Catholics and citizens of this country no longer value our duty to care for human life, we can no longer expect any other human right to be held sacred.  If we become passive, we may discover that our morality and beliefs, so long protected by this nation, may continue to be compromised in greater ways.

As this Fortnight for Freedom begins, we are called to stand up for the moral truths that enable us to witness to love, the love which unceasingly cares for every person, the love which profoundly expresses our own dignity: the love revealed in Jesus Christ.  While we cannot expect every person in this nation to profess the Christian faith, we can and must expect that this nation will allow us to practice our own faith.  We can and must love in the way that Jesus loves.  This means caring, in a holistic way, for every person, whether that may be a patient, employee, or stranger.  Our government asks for us to create within ourselves a false dichotomy where we believe in our minds but do not let that faith bear fruit in our actions.  What a limit to our freedom and an unfortunate expression of the state of our society.

During this Fortnight, let us exercise our freedom of religion through prayer, penance, and enriching our understanding of the issue at hand.  May God continue to bless America.  May he help us to develop a society that promotes true social justice where the rights of every person are protected and where we may work as a community to help every human life flourish.