Rest and Re-creation on Sunday

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

As summer gets into full swing, this ‘oldie but goodie’ may help us to refine and perfect a particular virtue that can be a joy to undertake; the little-known virtue of Eutrapelia. St. Thomas Aquinas describes eutrapelia as the ‘habit of a pleasant and cheerful turn of mind’. While at one level eutrapelia is the habit of solid and good recreation for the sake of our sanity, it is really an expression of our inner righteousness that is manifested in outer decorum.

We all recognize the human need to relax and play; a turning away from the pressure and drudgery of work to recharge our batteries. Paying attention to our rest is vital to our health, but part of this equation is relaxation through exercise, games or a lazy day with a good book. 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; don’t let leisure become an occasion of sin! Another big factor is timing. Missing Mass for the sake of games or through a self-imposed dispensation from Sunday Mass because we are ‘on vacation’ is just plain sinful and a needless omission of our spiritual duties. Blowing off Mass cannot be justified, especially in light of the number of Masses available in our area and around our state on the weekends. Hopefully we put more effort in fulfilling our weekly Mass responsibility than we do in pursuit of games and vacations. Some of us know the feeling of dread when trying to find Mass in a strange place or what it is like when the Mass times listed in the motel directory are incorrect and we are stuck; when this happens, the Church in Her compassion provides for these situations. The question then becomes whether we planned for this possibility as well as we planned for the vacation in the first place.

The commandment reads “keep holy the Lord’s day”. Lately that seems to mean a free day to do as we please; for example, yard work that absolutely must be finished ‘today’. God has given us a built-in free day in our busy life. Don’t fill it up with more of the daily grind, relax well and refer it to God. Recreation means re-creation; it’s the Lord’s Day in which we partake, sharing and experiencing in the joy and beauty of Creation. If this day is purely self-referred and we think it means we can do whatever we want, we miss out on God and His glory.

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, 1-800-MASSTIMES will help you find where you need to go. Develop the virtue of Eutrepelia. Play hard, play well and go to Mass on Sunday. Summer is fun, but it is short, so make the most of it in a well-rounded, spiritual way. Happy Father’s Day!!!!

A Mother’s Love

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

Happy Mother’s Day! It is a perfect day to honor our mothers; we are in the sixth week of Easter and in the month of our Blessed Mother. We all have a special place reserved in our hearts for their sacrifice and love, because there is nothing better than a mother’s love.

Ah yes … a mother’s love. The last time I was home, my mother got after me at the way I was holding my pencil … a mother’s love. If any of her children were unmannerly at the dinner table and needed to be corrected? … a mother’s love. A washcloth to our fevered brow? … a mother’s love. Constant training in the faith and not letting us get away with anything? … a mother’s love.

Mothers are not called to be our best friends because they are called to something greater that transcends friendship. If you ask people who their best friend is, usually their mother isn’t mentioned because they are in a totally different and more esteemed class. While no mother would say they are perfect, at the very least any mistakes they may have made were borne of love.

As we joyfully continue to celebrate this season of Christ’s resurrection we have a perfect opportunity to live in gratitude. The deliverance through Christ from the power of sin and death gives us life. He bore our trials and through His sacrifice has redeemed us. For all of us who love our mother because of their sacrifice, perseverance and love, we are able to gain insight into why we can love our Lord; he saves us from the one thing our mother’s cannot.

The promise and fulfillment we receive from our Lord in today’s Gospel is an invitation to a life of true freedom; we remain in His love by following the Commandments and the Gospel which enable us to live through our capacities for what is good, just and true. It’s the way of life we aspire to naturally but can never be fulfilled by advertised products or an identity assumed by what we see and read. Purity of heart and confidence flows from our attachment to Christ the vine.

Christ rushes to rescue us through forgiveness and grace quicker and with less hesitation than a mother entering a burning building to save her child. Our Blessed Mother loves us with a tenderness and care that could make our biological mothers blush with envy. All these gifts have been laid at our feet by our loving Father. This is how and why we live in joy this season and in thanksgiving for our mothers. We face the trials and toils of life, but we have our mothers and the graces flowing from heaven to see us through to the reward of eternal glory. So it’s a party day! … thankful for our mothers, and joyful in our redemption through Christ.

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 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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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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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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Happy Mother’s Day!!

Posted by Fr. Thomas Fitzpatrick, St. Joseph Cathedral

Happy Mother’s Day!! It is a perfect day to honor our mothers; we are in the fourth week of Easter and in the month of our Blessed Mother. We all have a special place reserved in our hearts for their sacrifice and love, because there is nothing better than a mother’s love.

Ah yes…a mother’s love. The last time I was home, my mother got after me at the way I was holding my pencil…a mother’s love. If any of her children were unmannerly at the dinner table and needed to be corrected? …a mother’s love. A washcloth to our fevered brow?…a mother’s love. Constant training in the faith and not letting us get away with anything?…a mother’s love.

Mothers are not called to be our best friends because they are called to something greater that transcends friendship. If you ask people who their best friend is, usually their mother isn’t mentioned because they are in a totally different and more esteemed class. While no mother would say they are perfect, at the very least any mistakes they may have made was borne of love.

As we joyfully continue to celebrate this season of Christ’s resurrection we have a perfect
opportunity to live in gratitude. The deliverance through Christ from the power of sin and death gives us life. He bore our trials and through His sacrifice has redeemed us. For all of us who love our mother because of their sacrifice, perseverance and love, we are able to gain insight into why we can love our Lord; he saves us from the one thing our mother’s cannot.

Christ rushes to rescue us through forgiveness and grace quicker and with less hesitation than a mother entering a burning building to save her child. Our Blessed Mother loves us with a tenderness and care that could make our biological mothers blush with envy. All these gifts have been laid at our feet by our loving Father. This is how and why we live in joy this season and in thanksgiving for our mothers. We face the trials and toils of life, but we have our mothers and the graces flowing from heaven to see us through to the reward of eternal glory. So it’s a party day!!…thankful for our mothers, and joyful in our redemption through Christ.
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