Integrity of Being and Action

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

Ontology is the study of Being. It is derived from the Greek word ontos; it points to reality and its truth, as opposed to what is false or the result of conjecture and false reasoning. Ontology is the backbone of philosophy; and philosophy is the foundation and handmaiden of theology. In other words, why we believe what we believe.

Our beliefs, while driven by faith, are predicated upon the sound and firm foundation of our Being; who we are, what we are, that we are. Our immortal souls are that place where our Being and the Truth of God are joined. This is where the Eucharist feeds us, our sins are forgiven and grace operates.

Our Being precedes our doing….hopefully. We are not defined by what we do; we are defined by who we are. This is the reasoning behind the theological adage ‘action follows Being’. When there is a disconnect between the two, trouble begins. We expose ourselves to the scourge of temptation and sin because human nature and its woundedness begin to drive everything from thought to word to action.

Integrity is not an action, it is a quality. When we speak of integrity in this sense, we are speaking of actions that flow from our Being into action. A truly integrated human is one who seeks perfection of the heart that expresses itself in action. Whether we call it our soul, conscience, heart-of-hearts or something else, we have a refuge from frustration, a wonder-counselor and friend in this place where God is always with us.

In today’s Gospel we encounter Christ beginning the ‘doing’ phase of His incarnate mission. As we continue to press on in Ordinary Time, He exemplifies how a well-ordered spiritual life can bear fruit. Our Lord was active in pursuit of expressing His being through doing, and this lesson is crucial for our lives as well.

Holiness is not passivity, nor is it a bull in a china shop. It is the integration of our souls in action, properly ordered. Penance and Eucharist, prayer and the exercise of virtue are the tools to the integrity of Being and action. Our salvation is won through Christ and is played out in the concrete, ordinary circumstances of our daily lives. When we live in this manner, time isn’t as excruciating, nor does our neighbor harm us as much as we think; this is because our hearts are with Christ, our actions are buoyed in the Spirit and our
eyes are on the prize of heaven.


The Virtue of Holy Cunning

Posted by Fr. Andrew Young, St. Joseph Cathedral

As we come into the Cathedral today we will see that the Nativity Scene has been taken down, the trees have been placed in the recycling, the bows are boxed up – the Christmas Season has officially ended. Not only has Christmas ended, but the final college football game has been played – my alma mater Navy won their bowl game – and the Minnesota Vikings are sidelined for yet another year. So does that mean we cheer for the Packers and Bears? Nope, they are out too! Winter is setting in and there is a long way until March madness kicks off for college basketball. Sometimes the journey forward can look bleak, but let us not forget what we have received – the Light of Christ!

For the past few weeks we have had many celebrations, solemnities and feasts in the Church. We celebrated Christmas, the gift of the Holy Family, the presence of the Mother of God – Mary, and just last weekend Epiphany where the three Magi come to adore the Lord in Bethlehem and then set out on journey after encountering Christ. After leaving Bethlehem, the journey of the Magi looked dangerous with many obstacles but having seen the Light of Christ, they trusted that He would brighten and guide their way.

Our journey through this life at times can also have obstacles, sufferings and hurdles, which need to be confronted. Our faith and trust in God can be tested. Sometimes, like the wise men, we may lose track of that star and feel the darkness closing in upon us. Does the light of Christ we encounter in the manger of Bethlehem on Christmas guide and lead us in our journey today and tomorrow or do we simply fall back into the mundane and darkness of the world?

At the Epiphany Holy Mass, Pope Francis encouraged the faithful to be like the Magi and to go out on this journey of faith with the virtue of “holy cunning.” He explains that holy cunning is a “spiritual shrewdness, which enables us to recognize danger and avoid it.” The Magi used this virtue by recognizing that King Herod had no desire to go and give worship to Jesus in Bethlehem and would be waiting for their return to do them harm. Through their holy cunning, they decided to take another path to their homes. “These wise men from the East teach us how not to fall into the snares of darkness…but to guard the faith, guard it from darkness.”

As we enter into the new liturgical season of Ordinary Time, don’t let the light that we have just encountered these past few weeks simply fade away or get obscured in the darkness of the world! Let the Light, let Christ, guide your path and accompany you along the journey of faith. Grow in the virtue of holy cunning to recognize the good, the true and the beautiful and to avoid that which tries to obscure it!


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.


The Precious Role of the Elderly

Posted by Fr. Andrew Young, St. Joseph Cathedral

Advent is a time of preparation for the coming of Christ at Christmas, but also a waiting for Him to truly come again at the second coming. We are all waiting, waiting for Christ to come. As I try to picture how we as a people should be waiting and not being so busy and going all the time, I think to the many parishioners and family members who currently rest in retirement and nursing homes waiting…really waiting for anyone to come through
their door to visit them. As priests, we have a responsibility and obligation to visit our homebound and those living in nursing homes. This is also a responsibility each of us have, to be Christ to the homebound, many who are elderly and even our own family members, to visit them and care for them in this their time of need.

Last week Pope Francis gave a very challenging daily homily reflecting on the Book of Maccabees where he recounts the story of Eleazar, who was a 90 year old man who was provoked by the authorities to eat pork which was against the Jewish Law. He refused this order and preferred to suffer and die than to go against the Law of God. Eleazar wanted to hand on and show to the future generations his faithfulness and trust in God, even
at the cost of his own life. He wanted to leave behind a noble and true inheritance to the next generations. Pope Francis used this witness of Eleazar, an elderly man, to point out the important and invaluable role that our elderly have played in the life of the Church and society. Unfortunately, these contributions and sacrifices are often overlooked and forgotten. He stated, “We live in a time when the elderly don’t count. It’s unpleasant to say it, but they are set aside because they are considered a nuisance” yet “the elderly pass on history, doctrine, faith and they leave them to us as an inheritance.”
We owe a great debt of gratitude to our elderly, many of whom belong to the Greatest Generation.
Pope Francis stated that we should exalt the precious role of the elderly in the Church and in society. They should not be forgotten or sidelined or left in nursing homes often abandoned. This Advent, let us remember to visit our loved ones, our parishioners or even a stranger who is homebound or living in a nursing home. When we visit them we recognize and remember their contributions of how they handed on to us the faith, how they sacrificed for freedom and how they upheld the moral fabric. To not do this would truly be an injustice. Pope Francis pointed out that, “A people that does not care for its grandparents, that does not respect its grandparents, has no future.”

“We should do well to think about the many elderly men and women, about those who are in rest homes and also those…who have been abandoned by their loved ones. Let us pray for them that they may be consistent to the very end. This is the role of the elderly, this is the treasure. Let us pray for our grandfathers and grandmothers who often played a heroic role in handing on the faith in times of persecution. Especially in times past, when father
and mothers often were not at home…grandmothers were the ones who handed on the faith.”


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!


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.


The Season to Reflect on the Last Things

Posted by Fr. Thomas Fitzpatrick, St. Joseph Cathedral

The Cathedral choir gave us a special evening of remembrance Saturday night by their beautiful rendition of the Faure’ Requiem. As we reverently prayed for our parishioners, family and friends who died this past year, they also helped to set the tone for this month and our contemplation of the four “Last Things”; particularly Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell.

  November is the time of year we turn our attention more intently to these last things. This is not necessarily morbid because it is an acknowledgement of the reality of our biological life. In the spiritual sense, we place the inevitability of our earthly death in terms of the purpose of our existence; to know God, to love Him and live according to His ways for the sake of eternal life. We are at the end of the liturgical year, of which Advent will mark the beginning of a new one. We celebrated the Solemnity of All Saints on Friday, followed by the Commemoration of All Souls on Saturday. Their placement at the beginning of November aims to put us in a frame of mind that exhorts the faithful to focus on our biological mortality, while never forgetting the immortality offered through Christ. So November and the Last Things are really about life and the Gospel path to its promise.

  We profess our belief in the resurrection of the body after the homily each Sunday. Are we professing the Creed by rote and repetition, or do we pray it? Prayer leads to belief through faith. Merely saying the words leads to something less.

  Christ points the way for us in all He says and does. The resurrection of His own mortal body reassures us that the power of God wills that we all be reunited body and soul in Heaven before Him one day. The Profession of Faith is a great prayer for outside of Mass as well. It is a prayer of affirmation in times of doubt, difficulty or despair. Through it we confess the great mysteries of our faith. Our Creed can console us to continue in fighting the good fight because it helps us focus on why we endure the crosses and difficulties of life and keep our eyes on the prize of Heaven.

  These next weeks are a time of sober reflection on the state of our souls as we pray for our dearly departed family members and friends. Use this time wisely and fruitfully. It’s an excellent way to prepare for Advent.


Allow the Eucharist to Bear Fruit in Our Hearts

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

When you have received Him, stir up your heart to do Him homage; speak to Him about your spiritual life, gazing upon Him in your soul where he is present for your happiness; welcome Him as warmly as possible, and behave outwardly in such a way that your actions give proof to His presence.
 –  St. Francis De Sales

  Truth is, I worry that we fritter away the most holy and intimate time we have with Christ in the moments immediately following our reception of the Body and Blood of Christ. It is hard for priests sometimes to distribute Holy Communion into hands of disinterest then see the communicant return to their pew and do nothing but wait for the Mass to end. Priests don’t watch and check, but we do see; and for all the time that we do not have (or give) during the week to pray, these precious minutes are more valuable than any of our other activities we have in our lives.

 When my brothers and sisters were little, we thought our mother used the Eucharist as a convenient method to keep us from arguing or fighting in the car on the way home from Church. (Joan invariably would accuse me of some dastardly deed during Mass.) But her insistence on prayer and posture immediately after communion in the pew and on the way home was part of the reverence that the Eucharist demands of us, not one of control.

 Christ’s victory over death is ours if we choose to accept it. This acceptance is received, not taken. In order for it to bear fruit in our hearts and lives we must digest this spiritual food in precisely the same manner that St. Francis DeSales suggests. The Eucharist is unlike any other meal of sustenance during the week that is eaten, then forgotten. Its power ranges far beyond feeling or taste because as the Bread of Life it is perceived by faith, and then experienced through our cooperation with the grace it provides.

 Our persistence in prayer is vital to our life in the Eucharist. The combination of the two will help to mold and shape us in the manner we ultimately desire. Resistance to prayer in the form of all our excuses, reasons and omissions prevents us from learning or uncovering these desires, because it is through our prayer that these desires become known to us.

 We all want to go to Heaven, right? Heaven is complete union with God, a sublime reality far beyond human measure, yet realized faintly and persistently throughout our lives. The Body and Blood of Christ coupled with our prayer lives are forms of that union with God we ultimately hope to experience perfectly. In ways perceptible to our senses, this precious Sacrament is received in a human manner to be enlightened by our faith and emboldened by the power of God. This gift of God is exactly what Christ proclaimed it to be: “This is my Body…This is my Blood”. It deserves our utmost respect and reverence as well as our persistent efforts to understand its importance to the world and our eternal life.


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.


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?