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.


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.



Finding True Hope and Joy in Christ

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saint Pio

Posted by Monsignor Charles M. Mangan + J.M.J.

 Saint Pio of Pietrelcina (1887-1968), known as Padre Pio, was to the middle part of the twentieth century what Blessed Mary Teresa of Calcutta (1910-1997), known as Mother Teresa, was to the latter: a spiritual giant who captured the interest of the world.

 Like Mother Teresa, Padre Pio was the real thing. There was nothing pretentious or false about the Franciscan Conventual priest who bore the Stigmata in imitation of the Holy Wounds of Jesus. Using modern parlance, Padre Pio “walked the talk.” The same exemplary Christian life he encouraged others to embrace he himself lived.

 As the Universal Church commemorates his obligatory liturgical Memorial on September 23, she gladly praises the Lord Who gives the stirring example and lasting legacy of Padre Pio to His sons and daughters.

 The quotations of Saint Pio are legion and edifying. Each in itself is matter for reflection and impetus for growth in closer conformity to the Risen Lord Jesus. Here is only a taste of the vast array of “Pioisms.”

“You must speak to Jesus also with the heart, besides the lips; indeed, in certain cases you must speak to Him only with the heart.”

“Suffering is a gift of God. Blessed is he who knows how to take advantage of it.”

“When the Lord will call me, I will say to Him: ‘Lord, I will remain at the Gate of Paradise. I will enter there when I see the last of my spiritual children enter.’”

“With what care she (Mary) accompanied me to the Altar this morning! It seemed to me as though she had nothing to think about other than me, filling my heart completely with saintly affections.”

“May your soul always be the Temple of the Holy Spirit.”

“I would desire to ask you in the Lord to lay down, as much as possible, every fear and to have confidence, faith, love.”

“I should like to have a voice strong enough to invite the sinners of the whole world to love Our Lady!”

“I exhort you, through the meekness of Jesus, to have your eyes fixed on Him Who guides you, and on your heavenly homeland, to which He will lead you.”

“The world would be better off without the sun than without the Holy Mass.”

“The Heart of our Divine Master has no more amiable law than that of sweetness, humility, charity. Often place your confidence in Divine Providence and be assured that sooner Heaven and earth shall pass away than that the Lord neglect to protect you.”

“Love the Madonna and pray the Rosary, for her Rosary is the weapon against the evils of the world today.”

“Do not worry over things that generate preoccupation, derangement and anxiety. One thing only is necessary: to lift up your spirit and love God.”

“My past, O Lord, to Your Mercy; my present, to Your Love; my future, to Your Providence.”

“Crosses are the necklaces of the Spouse and I am jealous of them. My sufferings are pleasant. I only suffer when I don’t suffer.”

“Remember that it is not a feeling of guilt that constitutes sin but the consent to sin.”

“Temptations, discouragement and unrest are the wares offered by the enemy. Remember this: if the Devil makes noise it is a sign that he is still outside and not yet within. That which must terrify us is his peace and concord with the human soul.”

“To doubt is the greatest insult to Divinity.”

“Let us always think of Heaven.”

Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, pray for us!


The Marvel of God’s Love

Posted by Kelly Deutsch, in formation with the Apostles of the Interior Life:

September brought something unexpected. On the plane ride back (always a prime place for good conversations: your seat-mate has no where to run) I had an intriguing conversation with a professional comedian-juggler-sword-swallower. Bill, proclaiming himself an “atheist with deistic tendencies bar one undeniable miracle that would make him a theist”, struck up one of those conversations that you can only have with your best friend or a complete stranger. I mean one of those meaning-of-life, what-are-we-here-for types. A very intelligent fellow, Bill had been a strong fundamentalist Protestant who essentially studied himself out of the faith. Once realizing that his strongly-held beliefs in the literalness of Scripture couldn’t mesh with science, he abandoned his faith in what he deemed to be “fairy tales” and set off to search for the Truth.

 Enter Kelly.

 Or better, enter Holy Spirit.

 What is the purpose of religion? Can reason prove God? Do you believe in the literalness of Scripture, like the world being created in seven 24-hour days? The conversation that started on that airplane continued in emails for weeks into September. How can you be sure religion isn’t just an invention of man? How can you believe in something that you cannot see, or prove with the scientific method? And, at the very base of it all, what is Truth?

 I was struck to find someone who was so passionate on his search for the truth and who refused to settle for anything less. “Something like Santa Clause might make you happy and good, but if it’s not true, how can you believe it? Even if it seems to give you direction, I cannot base my life upon a lie.” His questions pushed me to formulate explanations that I haven’t had to give since Philosophy of Religion class, or Christian Moral Principles or Metaphysics or even that incomprehensible Philosophy of Nature and Science that I took last year at the Lateran. Many things that I took for granted had very high personal stakes for Bill. And seeking to explain them to a person whose meaning in life was on the line threw a new light on them for me–shouldn’t these be profoundly personal for me, too? I can’t just take for granted the fact that God exists, nor the joy and meaningfulness with which my life is full. But there was more; as “intellectually beefy” as our Catholic faith is, it is nothing if not an encounter with the God who is love. How to explain to a disillusioned atheist—whose buoyancy and smile rivaled that of many Christians—the miracle of a life transformed? The miracle of divine providence in my daily life? The way the Lord speaks and moves and delights me? Miracles abound in my life, but you’d have a hard time putting them to a scientific test. “Coincidence.” “Uncanny intuition.” – or are they?

The problem with rationalism is that it usually denies non-material realities. It may be able to prove incredible things in the field of science. But it cannot make sense of love, truth, goodness, beauty, nor even human thought. It doesn’t account for enough of existence.

 Or of my experience.

 It is precisely our experience of the person of Christ that changes everything. Reasoning is convincing to a certain extent, but when something engages both your head and your heart is when you know you’ve found the deepest Truth. “This makes sense objectively and subjectively. Reality and my personal experience speak to this truth. I would stake my life upon it.” For us, Truth is a Person, and this Person is Love.

How to make sense of my experience? The crux of my experience lately has been an awe at the love and desire the Lord of all has for me. Most of us are numbed to the platitudes of God’s love and the Father giving the Son for us. “Yes, that’s nice,” we say, and then go on eating our bountiful fried zucchini (or so it would happen in the Deutsch household in September). Yet do we realize the gravity of such a love? A love that is both agape and eros, that is both self-giving and desirous of the other—of you?

 He belongs to you, as the head belongs to the body. …He belongs to you, but more than that, He longs to be in you…” (– St John Eudes)

He desires you; He desires to be in you. He is obsessed with your happiness and those Dove chocolates you can’t get enough of and the way you smirk at your quirky neighbor who waters the garden in their underwear. (I can’t tell you how many things He places in my path just to make me smile.) And what’s more: He longs for you to long for Him. Just as we long (dare we hope?) that He longs for us—urgently, specifically—me.

 Yet what to do when we come up short? Maybe we’ve experienced the boundless love of the Bridegroom. He continues to lavish gifts on us even when we’re not paying attention to Him (I think of all the little delights I so easily pass over: beds! What a marvel a bed is after a long day! The smell after the rain. He doesn’t just give necessary moisture, He just adds a little “icing to the cake” and makes it smell good. Really? He didn’t have to add scent to sound and touch and taste of water…). When I do actually pay attention, when He’s given me the eyes to see, I take a stroll with Him and receive waving trees as a gift from Him, and the smiling eyes of a child as something He specifically intended for me to see. He knows what makes my heart smile.

So how to love Him back? When we encounter a love so generous, so personal, so abundant we want to somehow return it. How can I express my love to You? I’ve got nothing. I mean, I’ve got my itty bitty heart with all its good intentions and usually poor executions… and I know I’ve got some twisted intentions with even worse executions in there too. That doesn’t seem like such a pretty gift. But nothing is lacking where everything is given. Lord, I give you all of my mixed intentions, my selfishness, my desires to love You and do great things: receive them all as my gift. My finger-painting that sure is no Mona Lisa, but that is my everything. And for that very reason, Jesus smiles wide, kisses it, and says, “this is the best possible gift you could have given me.”

 I am inclined to think that anything is forgivable when placed within such a loving context. My finger-painted horse doesn’t even look recognizable, let alone like that wild stallion I had in mind. This horse’s hair is purple and his tail looks more like a fifth leg. Praise the Lord He doesn’t judge us according to our perfect form but our love. Maybe in the end it’s supposed to look more like a kaleidoscope: a beautiful array of colors given so as to delight. Spin your life a different way: what gifts and designs are there that you never noticed before? Give it back to the Lord as a gift; I bet you He’ll just smile real wide and say “This is just beautiful. Thank you for giving everything.”

 “Clearly, lover and Love, soul and Word, bride and Bridegroom, creature and Creator do not flow with the same volume; one might as well equate a thirsty man with the fountain.  What then of the bride’s hope, her aching desire, her passionate love, her confident assurance? Is this all to wilt just because she cannot match stride for stride with her giant, any more than she can vie with honey for sweetness, …burn bright as the sun, be equal in love with him who is Love? No. It is true that the creature loves less because she is less. But if she loves with her whole being, nothing is lacking where everything is given. To love so ardently is to share the marriage bond.” (-St. Bernard)

Gratitude for Monastic Vocations

Posted by Dr. Martin Albl

I’m reflecting on the closing of Blue Cloud Abbey here in northeastern South Dakota. For many people in our diocese, the abbey was an oasis of spiritual rest in the midst of our overly busy world. In the Benedictine tradition, the monks welcomed guests from all walks of life for group and individual retreats.

 In some research I’ve been doing, I’ve been reading about early Egyptian monasticism, especially that developed around St. Pachomius, who is often called the father of communal monasticism. In the early years of this movement, thousands of monks flocked to the monasteries; monastic houses for women were also quickly established.

 So what is the difference? In 4th century Egypt, thousands of people joining the monastic movement, and here in NE South Dakota, an abbey closing for lack of new vocations.

 Perhaps, though, it’s best not to think about numbers, but rather about faithfulness. The fourteen remaining monks at Blue Cloud faithfully continued their prayer and their work until the end, and through that have brought spiritual blessing to many. St. Pachomius and his followers also followed God’s calling as they understood it in their own lives. So perhaps we just need to be faithful and listen to God’s calling, and be open to finding new ways to live out that calling in our changing circumstances.

Steps for Meditative Prayer

An excerpt from a talk by Fr. Jeff Norfolk

True meditative prayer requires speaking and listening.  Here are a few steps to follow when praying in order to receive from Our Lord and respond to his personal call in your life.

Acknowledge – the anger, frustration, anxiety, etc. that you are feeling. Acknowledge it is real.

Relate – Tell the Lord all about whatever is bothering you. This step of relating gets it off your chest and places it in the Hands of the Lord.

Receive – Ask Him for His grace, His guidance as to what to do with the struggle you are having, what direction to go to find freedom, how to let go.

Respond – Only once you have received the grace or the direction the Lord wants you to go can you respond and take the necessary steps forward to freedom.

Fortnight for Freedom

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

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

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

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

Discernment and Interior Freedom

Posted by Fr. James Mason:

Look at some of the practical steps in discerning.  First the facts, what am I discerning? Second, prayer, have I prayed on this?  Simple question but often overlooked, may be it is only a suggestion from another who is influential in my life and I have let that be enough and not given it back to God.  Even if it is the bishop you still must discern and pray on your own.  It is your decision.  As with all true decisions there must be freedom.  Am I free to say yes or no?  I could never be a priest because…  What is God’s will and have I given over my likes and dislikes to him and allowed him to mold me into the man he created me to be?  Once again am I being unduly pressured, is this my decision, and am I free to make it.   “When God Asks for an Undivided Heart” by Fr. Andrew Apostolici is a great book in this area.  What happens when I pray, can I share these experiences with someone trained in this area, a spiritual director?  As we grow in pray we should begin to see more and more with God’s eyes and not our own, this is true freedom, interior freedom.  Which dream or vocation when I pray and think about giving everything to God brings me more peace in the long run?  A consistent inner peace, recognizing that there will be struggle, the cross, but a good struggle for the perfection God has called us to.  It is becoming aware of God’s call slowly in your life and then having the courage to pursue it whatever it may be.  The initiative lies with God and it must always be left to God.  We must allow God to work.  The perfect examples, Jesus at Gesthamane “Lord, not my will, but your will be done,” and Mary “Be it done unto me according to your Word.”

St. Joseph Novena

NOVENA PRAYER – “a devotion of prayer on nine consecutive days”

Oh, Saint Joseph, whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the throne of God, I place in you all my interests and desires. Oh, Saint Joseph, do assist me by your powerful intercession, and obtain for me from your Divine Son all spiritual blessings, through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. So that, having engaged here below your heavenly power, I may offer my thanksgiving and homage to the most loving of Fathers. Oh, Saint Joseph, I never weary of contemplating you, and Jesus asleep in your arms; I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart. Press Him in my name and kiss His fine Head for me and ask Him to return the Kiss when I draw my dying breath. Saint Joseph, Patron of departing souls – pray for me. Amen.

– Saint Francis de Sales

(This prayer was found in the fiftieth year of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In 1505, it was sent from the Pope to Emperor Charles when he was going into battle. Whoever shall read this prayer or hear it or keep it about themselves, shall never die a sudden death, or be drowned, nor shall poison take effect on them; neither shall they fall into the hands of the enemy, or be burned in any fire or be overpowered in battle. Say for nine days for anything you may desire. It has never been known to fail, so be sure you really want what you ask.)

This novena may be offered to all categories.