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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Seek the Lord through Active Faith

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

My older brother John is correct. God has two answers to our prayers; the second one seems to be most elusive…it is either yes or no, because the first one always seems to be “WAIT”. In a world where the microwave dawdles and we complain about airport delays as we travel halfway around the world in a matter of hours, we must stay vigilant; keeping the Eternal Will of God and the tyranny of time in perspective and properly ordered.

Technology and the conveniences of our modern times in comparison to even 10 years ago have sped life up and compressed time. We are harried, activity-laden and assume that immediate resolution to questions and problems should be the standard. These worldly expectations can also leak over into our expectations for God. Rather than falling into the trap of being frustrated or forlorn at the perceived lack of action by God, we would do better to seek our answers through the eyes and actions of faith.

Passive faith is no faith at all. God bestows His gift of faith upon us so that we can act and do. Action is a requirement of faith that enables us to perceive the eternity of the Father’s abiding presence in the midst of our day to day affairs so that the trials and joys we experience can be overcome and used for the benefit of our holiness and peace. We are given faith so that we can exercise it. In the same way an athlete or artist practices constantly to get the most out of their potential, the same holds true for us.

The mustard seed is tiny, but it grows into a very large plant. Our faith has to be nurtured; we have to place it in fertile soil, water it and protect it well. If our faith is to grow, it requires action and hard work. When our faith is not cultivated and acted upon how can we discern the will of God at work in our lives? If we wait passively rather than actively move forward and seek where the Lord is leading us we may fall into the common trap of lamenting God’s impersonal absence.

People say “I have lost my faith”. Our souls are indelibly marked in Baptism by this gift of God. Maybe it could be said “I haven’t exercised my faith”. Through thick and thin, our action in faith carries us through the misfortunes and joys of life. True, the Lord does seem to make us wait, but as we are waiting for His answer, we are also journeying with Him. This is how we learn. This is how we come to trust the Lord to an even greater extent and continue our progress in holiness. Faith is not passive, it is active. The Gospel demands action and commands us to act. Christ exemplifies these characteristics and shows us that faith is the springboard to surmount our problems and put the Eternal Will of God and the difficulties of life into proper perspective.

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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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Search 2013 – Be one of God’s troopers

Ephesians 6:10-17

Battle against Evil.

10  Finally, draw your strength from the Lord and from his mighty power.

11  Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil.

12  For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens.

13  Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground.

14  So stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate,

15  and your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace.

16  In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all [the] flaming arrows of the evil one.

17  And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

To all you holy men and women out there – a journey of a man in search of something greater than himself:
I want to be a Saint

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.

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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!

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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.

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We Have a Pope!!

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you for granting us your servant, Pope Francis.  May you inspire in his heart the spirit of St. Francis, a spirit of humility, spiritual poverty, and tireless devotion to your love.  Grant him a sincere understanding of your will that he may rebuild your Church and offer her new strength.  Remain close to his heart that he may reflect to the world the love of your Son.

Amen

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Lenten Efforts Spring from the Heart

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

The Transfiguration of Christ gives great insight to the meaning of the adage ‘action follows Being’. It points to this theological reality and our desire as children of God; we want to be like Christ and we want to act like Him. Our actions either confirm or betray what is in our hearts and the way we respond to Christ. Our heart or soul is that immaterial part of us where our Being (who we are, what we are, that we are) and the Truth of God intersect. This combination and interaction is the life-force of God that creates and sustains us. The glorious Transfiguration not only tells us who Jesus is, but helps us understand what His mission really means for all of Creation. His actions follow upon Being; the great I AM who is life itself. Hence, as the Divine Redeemer, Christ gives life where death seeks to prevail, healing where sin abounds.

 Fasting, prayer and almsgiving is never a ‘hurts so good’ proposition that we engage in to appease God as if to hold back His vengeful hand. What we are seeking to do is purify our intellect so that we can see rightly the things of the world in relation to eternal life. At the same time, we seek to straighten and correct the willfulness that causes us to deviate from the will of God; we want our minds right, we desire to choose the Good. Our triumvirate of Lenten practices is about much more than human effort because grace abounds in the midst of our Being and actions…we are not alone in the barrenness of Lent, we are cooperating with God.

There is no scandal to the Cross, as if Christ’s road to Calvary and subsequent crucifixion was a failure…Christ’s death was permitted by the Father so the Son could conquer death and give us life eternal. As we progress through Lent, our increase in fasting, prayer and almsgiving are efforts that spring from the heart; a purity of intent for the sake of purity in action. We are making room for God in our hearts in order for our sinful nature to be eradicated, that we may act in accord with His will. The Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ. As we receive Him at this Mass, remember it is Christ who is part of us, feeding our soul in the most intimate manner so we may act upon His loving initiative and ‘Be’ His children in thought, word and deed.

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Lenten Sacrifices

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

As we begin this season of Lent, what really matters is where it leads us. We know by our place in the history of Salvation that Lent ends in Easter joy. We prepare by rending our hearts to the Lord in fasting, prayer and almsgiving; a Lenten journey that seeks to raise our spiritual aspirations above what we demand for our bodily needs. To borrow a phrase from our Declaration of Independence, we desire pretty basic things: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The methods we use to attain these goals and what we define these as can complicate our spiritual life and lead us away from the goal of heaven and the Gospel of Christ.

 Lent is more than giving something up for the sake of the season. At its core, Lent is a recalibration of the methodology we use to live our American values within the context of Gospel holiness. When we choose to ‘give something up’ or exercise a corporal or spiritual work of mercy each day, it is imperative that we place our sacrifices in terms of our own sinfulness and desire to be reconciled to God.

 Have we noticed the amount of noise in our lives? The television barks about the dire political and economic woes facing the world, our radios blare as we put on our socks or find ourselves stuck in traffic. We feel we have to be constantly engaged on the cell phone, on the computer and social expectations keep us on the run. “It’s life!” we say, but how important to our lives is the question. Even in the midst of our Lenten sacrifices, can’t we just slow down and disconnect a little more? If we could do this, we’d have more time to reflect and listen to the Lord instead of the constant jabbering of daily life.

 We seem to refute the possibility that time can indulge us in the pursuit of quiet prayer and reflection. If we are too filled and preoccupied with the things in life, where will we ever find the life that is Christ? One hour out of a week that has 168 isn’t going to leave us as filled as Christ promises or desires us to experience. Careful examination of time will lead us to surprising conclusions, foremost of which is the fact that we have more time for what is spiritual than we realize.

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