Happy Easter!

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

All of the sudden Lent has passed, Spring is nigh and the Lord is risen. Death has been destroyed and winter overcome. The Lord certainly provides; not only for our earthly well-being, but our Redemption as well.

In our second reading of Easter from Paul’s letter to the Colossians, he exhorts us to seek what is above, not what is on Earth. What a great theme for the Easter season…a perfect way to complement our Lenten sacrifices and preparation to meet the Risen Jesus. Our Lord has given us more than great hope; He has given us a reason to live; and a new prescription for our eyes with which to see the world. The earthly gospel of self-love, immediate gratification, beauty and power as the determinants for valuing life has been refuted by Christ’s Gospel of Truth, Unity, Goodness and Beauty. Good has triumphed over evil, and the fruits of Christ’s love are ours for the taking.

Easter season is the time to claim the graces we seek for the sake of our heavenly aspirations. The rigor of Lent has led us to the joy of the Resurrection. This is a perfect time to receive what Christ has to offer. As this time of grace and favor unfolds, remember that He offers us life; not an interminable existence of toil and fleeting happiness, but inconceivable, everlasting joy before our Creator.

If Lent is like winter, then the Easter season is just like spring. The blossoms of grace have appeared and our squinting eyes have welcome back the bright light of earthly and heavenly glory. We have begun again anew, and earthly anxieties have been put in their proper perspective.

Live in joy and praise, knowing that Christ has ransomed us all from the certainty of death. We are made for union with God. While the promise and effect of Christ’s Resurrection gives us a foretaste of this union in our Christian lives lived well, it is the supreme happiness of heaven to which we aspire. Christ has ensured this happiness to those who know Him and follow the will of the Father. This is how we can suffer for the sake of Christ, endure any hardship and bear any foe. The will of the Father has brought us this far, and it will help us all the way home.

Recalibrate this Lent

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 can complicate our spiritual life and lead us away from the Gospel of Christ and our goal of heaven.

Lent is more than giving something up for the sake of the season. At its core, Lent is a recalibration of our desires, habits and actions 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.

One thing that seems inescapable is 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 are putting on our socks or stuck in traffic and so on. 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.

So even if we are giving up watermelon or something more substantive, try a little sacrifice of worldly television, radio, cell phone or computer this Lent for the sake of simple quiet. Read a holy book, sit in silence, pray the rosary or just pray….it doesn’t have to be to the exclusion of our responsibilities or for hours on end,; just enough to hear God and state your case for desired holiness.

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.

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Prayer of Abandonment

Father,
I abandon myself into your hands; do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you:
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only your will be done in me, and in all your creatures.
I wish no more than this, O Lord.

Into your hands I commend my soul;
I offer it to you
with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord,
and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands,
without reserve,
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father.

Charles de Foucald

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The Feast of the Holy Family

Posted by Fr. Andrew Young, St. Joseph Cathedral

Today as Church we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family – Jesus, Mary and Joseph! Jesus came to us in the manger as a baby, who like any infant, needed a family that would care for Him, nurture and protect Him. God had chosen Mary and Joseph to provide that for Him so He could grow and eventually fulfill the mission He came to accomplish through His cross and resurrection. Mary held and nursed Jesus to good health, while Joseph was the protector of the family against those that wanted to do them harm. Mary and Joseph are the examples for all moms and dads who desire to provide a home, not simply a house, for their children to grow up in. Our opening prayer at Mass today thanks God for giving us “the shining example of the Holy Family” and asks God to helps us “imitate them in practicing the virtues of family life.” We give thanks today for the “yes” of Mary and commitment of Joseph to welcome the newborn Savior into their home, to raise Him and protect Him.

Mary and Joseph though are not too unlike many of our parents. God has given children to parents as a gift. This gift is to be nurtured and loved. We as children are to give thanks to our parents for the gift that they have given to us – the gift of life! Too often, I think, we take our families for granted. Often times we are the hardest and even the meanest to the ones that love us the most, to the ones we owe the greatest debt of gratitude.

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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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Saint Day Celebrations

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

This past Thursday, the Church celebrated his martyrdom with simplicity at our daily Masses. Not so in New York’s ‘Little Italy’ though! St. Januarius was martyred in 305 AD by the emperor Diocletian who had him thrown to bears in Pozzuoli, Italy. When Father Young, his sister Amy, my nephew Luke and I happened upon the famous ten-block Italian-American enclave in the heart of Manhattan, the yearly festival was in full swing. It was a scene to behold; an endless array of food vendors, Italian restaurants, merchants hawking their wares and lively arguments in Italian every time you turned around. The 11 day festival is alive with energy, fun and food, but the people there make no apologies that it is a religious celebration. At the center of it all is the Most Precious Blood Church; a simple little Italian parish church that is the national shrine of St. Januarius or ‘San Gennaro’. Set back from the narrow street, you entered a courtyard where a sad, large wall commemorates the parish’s war dead since the First World War. We were struck by the number of last names that were the same throughout all these wars our nation fought. Brothers and cousins…and heartbroken families who paid the ultimate price for pursuing what they knew to be the right thing to do.

 The Church of the Most Precious Blood is not an architectural gem, nor does its beauty take your breath away. When we walked in for our visit, it was like walking into a well-worn home of a large family. Simple faith oozed from every nook and cranny. The statues were old, but were adorned with a fresh coat of paint and dollar bills pinned to the ribbons streaming aprons affixed to them. Most telling of all was the number of people of all ethnicities and ages praying there in simplicity and solitude.

 The miracle of the liquefaction of his blood occurs three times a year; September 19th (Feast Day), December 16th(Patronal Feast Day of Naples) and the Saturday before the first Sunday in May. While it has never been explained by science, the people know how to explain it. They don’t seek to explain their faith through science because they live it through experience.

 Our Gospel today reminds us that we cannot serve both God and mammon. In our lives and dealings, when our simple faith guides our actions and outlooks we are able to constantly place the allurements of the world into proper perspective. We leave this world with same things we entered it with. Christ’s main concern is our souls. The Church exists to guide and guard us through the dangers that exist to our souls and to help us on our pilgrimage of faith. The Feast of San Gennaro is an example of simple faith in action. The money they raise goes to the poor and disadvantaged people throughout New York City…It has never been used to fill parish coffers. The losses their parish endured due to war impelled them to care for the other orphans of war throughout their city. This simple example of faith in action has endured mafia interference, get rich marketing and a whole host of other distractions. The festival has stayed true to its intent. When we stick closely to our intent, we are well on our way to the true and lasting riches of heaven.

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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?

The Virtue of Eutrapelia

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

Is there such a thing as too much play? Now that’s a question my Dad and I went round and round about when I was younger, and of course he was right pretty much every time. A lot of times my study of theology in the seminary was punctuated by remorse over how untrusting I was of his wisdom…I’m definitely not as smart as I thought I was.

 There is however a little known virtue called Eutrapelia, which is the ‘habit of a pleasant and cheerful turn of mind’. It’s a habit of solid and good recreation, the human need to relax and play; to turn away from the pressure and drudgery of work and recharge our batteries. We all must pay attention to our rest, but part of this equation is relaxation through games, especially to relieve tension. We all recognize this need, and luckily, so does God.

The question is how and when we play. Balance is the key, because we don’t want to be addicted to our pastimes, and they must never be indecent or cause injury through carelessness or malice. A big factor, and one my Dad was always careful to monitor is the question of timing. Missing Mass for the sake of games is just plain sinful, and a needless omission of our spiritual duties. Blowing Mass off cannot be justified, especially in light of the number of Masses available in our area and around the state on Saturday and Sunday. Hopefully we put more effort in fulfilling our weekly Mass responsibility than we do in pursuit of games and vacations. We all have our experiences of dread when trying to find Mass in a strange place, or if the Mass times were listed incorrectly and we are stuck, and when this happens the Church provides for these situations. The question then becomes whether we planned for this possibility as well as we planned for our vacation or pastime in the first place.

When we render the praise that God is due, wherever we are, we are content and avoid sin…needless sin at that. If you are away from home, there are many ways to find Masses near your location. I googled “Mass timesUSA” and found numerous websites and telephone services that can help us to find Mass anywhere. There is no vacation from the 10 Commandments, and our steadfast observance of them in all situations provides the proper example for children and loved ones alike. Develop the virtue of Eutrapelia. Play hard, play well and go to Church.  Summer is fun, but it is short, so make the most of it in a well-rounded, spiritual way.

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Love Mary with Joy

“This evening we are celebrating together the close of the Marian month. But the month of May cannot end; it must continue in our lives, because veneration, love, devotion to Our Lady cannot disappear from our hearts, on the contrary they must grow and be expressed in a testimony of Christian life, modelled on the example of Mary” –  Blessed John Paul II

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