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!!!!

The Value of Confession

Posted by Fr. Andrew Young

“For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed.” Light exposes all kinds of things – makes things clear. Often when I grill steaks, especially in the wintertime, it is necessary and essential to use my headlamp so when I cut into the juicy steak the inside is made visible – is it still too rare or just right! Light exposes what is inside – not in just a piece of beef but also our souls! Lent is a time the Church asks us to expose what is inside, expose those wicked things – sin – to not a flashlight, but to Christ, the light, through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. If these sins are not exposed, they remain and fester. Only when they are truly exposed – confessed – to the light of Christ through the encounter with Him in a Confessional are we set free. In the next couple of weeks there are all kinds of opportunities around the Sioux Falls area to go to Confession (dates will be printed in next week’s bulletin), so we can expose those sins and truly receive the light of Christ in our souls. Don’t miss the opportunity to be in the presence of God.

Dr. Scott Hahn said in his book on confession, “Confession keeps us from living and laboring under delusions about the world, about our place in it, and about the story of our lives (living in blindness). It brings the dark corners of our soul into the clear morning light of eternal day, for ourselves to see in the sight of God. That can be difficult, and it can sometimes be painful, but in the end it heals with the all-powerful touch of Jesus Christ.”

Pope Francis has often commented upon Confession and the healing and freeing power behind the Sacrament. He not only preaches and encourages us to go, but he too uses the Sacrament. Just last year, after giving an address on forgiveness in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, he walked over to a confessional and before all present, including the media, confessed his sins to a simple priest.

“Do not be afraid of Confession! When one is in line to go to Confession, one feels all these things, even shame, but then when one finishes Confession one leaves free, grand, beautiful, forgiven, candid, happy. This is the beauty of Confession! I would like to ask you…when was the last time you made your confession?…Two days, two weeks, two years, twenty years, forty years? Everyone count, everyone say ‘when was the last time I went to confession?’ And if much time has passed, do not lose another day. Go, the priest will be good. Jesus is there…Jesus receives you, he receives you with so much love. Be courageous and go to Confession!” – Pope Francis


A Meeting Encounter with Christ in Confession

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

Jesus put a lot of leg work into his mission of mercy and redemption, didn’t he? He was all over the place preaching, healing and revealing the joys of the Kingdom. Great throngs gathered in His presence, and His simple, truthful message of love and justice revealed not just His power as God, but the will of His Father.

Seeking the Kingdom of God is not merely a spiritual exercise; it takes some leg-work as well, confirming our intention through action. We physically arrive at Mass, expend energy in our worship, drive to visit the sick, perform works of mercy for others, etc. This spirituality in action is an expression of our humanity, the synergy of body and soul that orients and impels us to heavenly pursuits.

Confession is a heavenly expenditure as well. It is a meeting encounter with Christ that avails us to his healing and grace, not to mention the joys of a clear conscience. Frequent confession is a valuable tool in our quest for holiness, since we are forgiven our sins, returned to a state of grace and aware of our personal weakness that led to sin in the first place. In other words, we are put on guard by the grace of the confessional. Frequent confession is not an admission of anything more than your good intention and desire for holiness.

At the same time, be wary of viewing the Sacrament of confession in the same light as a trip to the dentist office or getting the oil in your car changed. Confession is not a check-up or a clearing of the air with the Lord. It is a tool and a gift that keeps the bond of charity between us and God taut and strong. Mortal sin breaks that bond, and denies our proper reception of the Eucharist. In other words, we don’t receive Communion if we know we are in a state of mortal sin.

If our sins are venial in nature, the Sacrament of confession remains a valid and effective way to safeguard against more serious sin. The best remedy for sin is the Eucharist itself; so ensuring our proper reception of this grace-filled gift is paramount to our pilgrimage. Please turn to the confessional; it is a Sacrament of great grace. It clears the head, opens the heart and keeps our eye on the prize of heaven.


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.


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.


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.


Lenten Efforts Spring from the Heart

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

The Transfiguration of Christ gives great insight to the meaning of the adage ‘action follows Being’. It points to this theological reality and our desire as children of God; we want to be like Christ and we want to act like Him. Our actions either confirm or betray what is in our hearts and the way we respond to Christ. Our heart or soul is that immaterial part of us where our Being (who we are, what we are, that we are) and the Truth of God intersect. This combination and interaction is the life-force of God that creates and sustains us. The glorious Transfiguration not only tells us who Jesus is, but helps us understand what His mission really means for all of Creation. His actions follow upon Being; the great I AM who is life itself. Hence, as the Divine Redeemer, Christ gives life where death seeks to prevail, healing where sin abounds.

 Fasting, prayer and almsgiving is never a ‘hurts so good’ proposition that we engage in to appease God as if to hold back His vengeful hand. What we are seeking to do is purify our intellect so that we can see rightly the things of the world in relation to eternal life. At the same time, we seek to straighten and correct the willfulness that causes us to deviate from the will of God; we want our minds right, we desire to choose the Good. Our triumvirate of Lenten practices is about much more than human effort because grace abounds in the midst of our Being and actions…we are not alone in the barrenness of Lent, we are cooperating with God.

There is no scandal to the Cross, as if Christ’s road to Calvary and subsequent crucifixion was a failure…Christ’s death was permitted by the Father so the Son could conquer death and give us life eternal. As we progress through Lent, our increase in fasting, prayer and almsgiving are efforts that spring from the heart; a purity of intent for the sake of purity in action. We are making room for God in our hearts in order for our sinful nature to be eradicated, that we may act in accord with His will. The Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ. As we receive Him at this Mass, remember it is Christ who is part of us, feeding our soul in the most intimate manner so we may act upon His loving initiative and ‘Be’ His children in thought, word and deed.


Taking a Stand for the Truth

Post 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, and contributes to a sense of malaise that is increasingly difficult to avoid.

These days, any answers 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. Your priests are cursed and reviled because we dare to ask couples who are seeking marriage to cease living together. These are just a few of this week’s examples….

Ordinary Time has returned to our Church calendar. The Year of Faith beckons us to study 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 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, we are going to pay a price. 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 price 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
The lessening respect of women by men
The coercive use of reproductive technology by government

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 need to do is eradicate any filth from our lives now. We have to 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 out think God and the Church, it is imperative that we learn what She teaches and why…then live in the freedom Christ extends to us. It is the freedom which will enable us to live in the world and be untainted by it. Happiness and confidence are sure to ensue.

For the Christian; resolutions a daily habit!

Posted by Joe Rutten, Director of Faith Formation – Cathedral of St. Joseph

Each New Year prompts our famous make-a-resolution moment. We pick one thing we’re going to change for the coming year, then spend a few days, weeks and if we’re lucky months, fighting to follow through with the resolution we made. We do this annual dance because we know we have the potential to become more than what we currently are. We know it is possible to live a richer, fuller experience of the life God has given us and if we change even one thing we will be healthier and happier in the New Year.

As we attempt to follow through on our New Year’s resolutions, remember that resolutions for us as Christians are a part of our everyday life, not a once a year occasion. The Church calls us to make resolutions to amend our lives and habits each day. Through a daily examination and frequent confessions, the Church provides us with many opportunities to resolve to become better versions of ourselves. At the end of each day, practice an examination by reviewing your thoughts and actions and ask if they were from God or not from God. Ask for the Lord’s forgiveness for the ways you failed to live up to your ideal and look to the next day, resolving to following Gods way anew.

 The Church also provides us with opportunities for resolution through confession. At each confession we make a firm purpose of amendment, aka a resolution, to not sin again. We go forth from the confessional seeking to live the ideal of who God has created and calls us to be. These two great practices of the Church provide us with ample opportunities for resolutions. The Christian seeks not to simply make a resolution to change a habit, but to make a habit of making resolutions.

Happy New Year and may God’s blessing be upon you and yours.

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!