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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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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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!

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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.

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Search 2013 – Be one of God’s troopers

Ephesians 6:10-17

Battle against Evil.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Weathering the Storms of Life

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

The weather has certainly given us something to talk about for the last week. It is funny how the warm summer days pass by with such ease and the wretched weather is remembered and lamented. Then again, last week the power was out, trees crashed to the ground and the ice was a monster. All that was followed by six inches of snow and the weather this week; so I guess it is fair to hold on to this latest round of winter discomfort a bit.

At the same time, we have experienced another example of the tyranny of the present. We want the good times to last and the frustrating ones to flee. The Lord calls us to be forward looking people of faith and gives us a way of living and being that is way easier said than done. The world is full of turmoil, violence and sin. God is ignored or used a means to justify sins of our day. We feel like we are up against the ropes being pummeled and all we really want to do is what is right and good.

During the Easter season, the Book of Revelation is a great salve for what pains us and a powerful reminder of what we are living for and how to attain it. This is a time of great distress, as it was in the times when John was writing. Our victory will never be found in our checkbooks, smooth faces or a perfect day well-spent; our victory is won through a long, hard slog of faith with Christ as our guide and support. Biological life is fleeting and changes like the day to day weather…our ultimate purpose is to join the great multitude in heaven and stand before the throne and before the Lamb where hunger and thirst are no longer worries like they are during this day we find ourselves in.

The pursuit of holiness is an experience of great effort, failings and growth. It is an aspiration of the soul for union with God that is forced to weather many storms. This beautiful aspiration also allows us to appreciate the good stretches of smooth sailing as well. In the midst of it all, our Easter season of joy allows us to be resolute and confident because our faith finds its truth in the Resurrection and the surety of Christ’s victory over sin and death. The gates of heaven have been opened and what awaits us makes the journey absolutely worthwhile.

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Divine Mercy Sunday

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

Divine Mercy Sunday is an Easter gift from Christ to His Church that invites us to indulge and revel in His unfathomable mercy while we celebrate the Resurrection. It makes sense really, because the two go hand in hand. The God-made-man suffered and died for our sins, and through His singular intent to carry out the Father’s will, was raised from the dead to crown His victory over sin and death. Mercy and the power of God: this is our refuge as sinners, the means through which our intention and hope in life is fulfilled and brought to its true destination in heaven.

The message of Jesus’ Divine Mercy was given to Sister Faustina, a simple Polish nun, who
became one of the great saints of the twentieth century. Her simple diary described the incredible visions and revelations that Christ provided her for the singular sake of redeeming souls. She was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2000, and it was his wish that the entire message of Christ as spoken through St. Faustina be observed and applied on the Second Sunday of Easter.

Today’s readings speak of this mercy as they point to Christ’s invitation to trust in His benevolent mercy and desire to forgive our sins. It is a call to face the trials and tribulations of the present day and future with a steadfast participation in Christ’s mercy by performance of corporal works of mercy, prayer to His Divine Heart and meditation on the meaning of His great love and mercy. Divine Mercy is Christ’s Easter gift to His Church. We only need to gaze upon the blood and water flowing from His side to see that this blood of Golgotha speaks of His willingness to die for us as the water of Baptism recalls the forgiveness of sins at Baptism and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Christ’s singular attention was focused on completing His Father’s will. His sacrifice brought about our Redemption, which is mercy itself. Seek the meaning of this mercy in your prayer today, and the ways in which you apply it to your daily life.

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This is our Easter Joy!

Posted by Fr. Andrew Young, St. Joseph Cathedral

Happy Easter! Today we celebrate the greatest day of the Church year – the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! Imagine yourself back in the time of Christ, putting all of your hope and trust in this man who seemed to be what you expected in a Messiah.They had been waiting for the Messiah to come. This man seemed like the one. He was a guy who healed, cared for, welcomed and loved everyone, not just those who thought or acted like Him. They must have thought, this is HIM – the person who all the Scriptures had foretold would come and save His people. Great news! But then, in the dark of night He is arrested, beaten, crucified and hung on a cross for death. The one they had placed all their hope and trust in was a fake! Now what?

If we ended the story here, there would have really been no point to the coming of Jesus into the world. Death would still happen, sin would still prevail and there would be no hope for the gates of Heaven to be opened. We would have no hope – life would be a cruel trick. Fortunately, this is not where the story ends, but Jesus Christ truly did rise from the dead, opening the gates to Heaven for each of us – so that we too might enjoy eternal paradise with God.

So where does the story end for you? Do we simply stop at the cross and never proceed or do we advance to the resurrection? Do we get stuck in the grind of the day or the sufferings of this world, or do we look to the hope of the future? This world we live in passes away as will we. Our hope is in the resurrected Christ. Our hope is our own entry into Heaven to share in the heavenly banquet of Christ. Getting simply caught up in the things of this world, we will be like the disciples today that simply “seek the living one among the dead.” If we want to seek life, eternal life, we must look beyond the cross, beyond the daily struggles, beyond life on earth – to the resurrection!

This is our Easter Joy! Christ came among us not simply to live and die – but to rise again! Live today with this Easter Joy! Live this year with this Easter Joy! Live with Easter Joy, all the days of your life! Jesus Christ Is Risen, Let Us Rejoice and Be Glad!

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Build Unity in Holiness Under the Banner of Christ

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

Last Wednesday Bishop Swain celebrated the Mass of the Blessing of the Oil of Catechumens, the Oil of the Sick and the Consecration of the Sacred Chrism. As explained in the liturgical guide, “this Mass, which the Bishop concelebrates with his college of presbyters and at which he consecrates the holy Chrism and blesses the other oils, manifests the communion of the presbyters with their Bishop. Presbyters are brought together and concelebrate this Mass as witnesses and cooperators with their Bishop in the consecration of the Chrism because they share in the sacred office of the Bishop in building up, sanctifying and ruling the people of God. This Mass is therefore a clear expression of the unity of the priesthood and sacrifice of Christ, which continues to be present in the Church”.

Implicit in the theological explanation of this Mass is also the unity of the People of God with our Bishop and priests of the diocese. Founded upon the common priesthood of our Baptism, the unity of the Church with Christ is the first of the four marks of the Church; One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. This order is not arbitrary.

The rancor and fear that exists today in everything from politics to family life emanates from disunity; they are the byproducts of a deviation from God’s will and His Natural Law. The four marks of the Church are marching orders, it is what we should strive for and how we are called to live. This is Christ’s will for His Church.

At the same time, we have witnessed disunity in the Church that exists at its highest echelons. It exists in our diocese as well. This doesn’t mean the Church itself is less than holy, it means the humans who comprise it are in the same boat as all the sinful people Christ came to save. The Church is holy because of Christ, not its leaders or people. His Gospel, Sacraments and grace are what help us to be holy in His Church. We are all disappointed in the way the world is going, including the public sins of our beloved Church. That is why we will do well to heed the Gospel lesson Christ gives us today of the woman caught in adultery. Instead of throwing stones at each other or giving up on the Church because of the sins of others, wouldn’t we do well to concentrate on reforming our sinful ways and strive to build unity in holiness under the banner of Christ?

Lent is rapidly building to a crescendo to Palm Sunday, the start of Holy Week. Use the confessional in the days ahead to confess sins and strive to fully enter into this most holy time of the year through an increase of fasting, prayer and alms-giving. The Church exists for the sanctification of the world and the salvation of souls. Now is the time to avail ourselves to the mercy Christ exemplified in today’s Gospel…our pathway to living in peace through unity and holiness before the Lord.

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