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Ask Father Mike: When we feel like hypocrites and phonies

I sometimes feel like a hypocrite when I say that I believe in God and am Catholic, but then I don’t always live the way I should live as a disciple of Jesus. I try to follow God, but I keep failing, and I feel like a phony. 

Father Michael Schmitz
Ask Father Mike

I really appreciate your asking about this. If we go back to the Gospels, we see that Jesus has his harshest words for those whom He calls “hypocrites.” He has incredibly strong words of condemnation for those who claim religious uprightness but who are not living that out. We hear these words at the beginning of each Lent in the Sermon on the Mount. 

Jesus says: “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father …. When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them….When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward …” (Matthew 6:1,5,16). 

To each of these behaviors, Jesus reveals the emptiness and futility of “posturing.” He goes even further to let us know that we continue these behaviors at our peril. 

But what kinds of behaviors is Jesus actually talking about? Is he saying that praying, fasting, and almsgiving are bad? He most definitely is not, since he goes on to say, “When you pray … when you fast … when you give alms ….” 

Is he say that a Christian is a failure if someone else notices and knows that you are praying, or fasting, or giving alms? Did Jesus say that you have to keep all of your good works secret? Absolutely not. While Jesus does tell us to “not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing” whilst giving alms, and to “pray to your Father in secret,” he also makes it clear that “your light must shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16). Our good works must become known at some point so that God may be glorified. 

And this is the key. 

When Jesus condemns hypocrisy, we need to know what “hypocrisy” actually is. It is not striving to do God’s will and failing. Hypocrisy is “pretending” to be other than we actually are. The very term “hypocrite” comes from the Greek word for “actor,” a person who is pretending to be someone other than who they truly are. The fact that Jesus is focusing on this aspect of behavior is even more clear when we examine how He describes these actions. He outlines these actions by highlighting their motive: they “perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them.” They “love to stand and pray … so that others may see them.” “They neglect their appearance … so that they may appear to others to be fasting.” 

The goal is entirely “impression management.” They want to have the appearance of virtue without the presence of virtue. The goal is, “I want you to think that I have that which I am not willing to choose.” “I want you to think I am who I am not willing to become.” 

This is, essentially, acting — pretending. This is hypocrisy. 

So let’s get back to you. You said that you feel like a hypocrite. It sounds like you are striving to follow Jesus and still find yourself failing to live the way Christ is calling you to live. That is not hypocrisy. That is called being a fallen human being who is striving to live by God’s grace. This is good news! You are not necessarily a hypocrite, you are just broken — like the rest of us. 

Now, all of this comes with a note of caution. We do live in a day and age where hypocrisy has some clout, not when it comes to prayer, fasting, and almsgiving but when it comes to the temptation toward a relatively new way of describing an old phenomenon. I mean the term “virtue signaling.” 

Virtue signaling is the most modern form of hypocrisy. It is pretending to the extreme. It is the antithesis to actual virtue. Where true virtue often comes at great cost, virtue signaling costs nothing. Where real virtue demands that I may have to take an unpopular stand for my deepest convictions, virtue signaling almost always agrees with whichever opinion is most popular in a given culture. 

Now, of course I can do something simply because I have been asked to do it (provided that it doesn’t violate God’s law or my conscience). We all do this to some degree, and this is not necessarily hypocritical. I pay taxes although I do not like paying them. I will go where my bishop asks me to go solely because he has asked me to go there. When I was younger, I went to school and church because my parents told me to. I didn’t do my homework because I always had a great love of learning but because the people who had authority over me told me to. 

One way to know if you or I have fallen into modern-day hypocrisy and virtue signaling is to ask the questions: “Have I found myself ever saying something simply because it was expected of me … even if I didn’t believe it?” Or to ask: “Have I ever found myself not saying something that I believed simply because it was unpopular?” 

Have I found myself only doing or saying a thing simply so that others would notice? If I have, then I need to take another look at my heart and my motivations to make sure I am not merely pretending, to make sure that I am not a hypocrite. 

Father Michael Schmitz is director of youth and young adult ministry for the Diocese of Duluth and chaplain of the Newman Center at the University of Minnesota Duluth. 

Fr. Toma is the newest priest for the Duluth Diocese 

By Deacon Kyle Eller 
The Northern Cross 

Father Jacob Toma’s vocation story begins young, when he was four or five years old and was “really into, like, knights in shining armor.” Going to Mass with his grandmother one day, he saw “guys with funny hats and swords” and learned that they were the Knights of Columbus, and he also saw a St. Michael statue, with the great angel battling Satan.

Bishop Daniel Felton anoints the hands of Father Jacob Toma with oil during his ordination Mass June 23 at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary. (Deacon Kyle Eller / The Northern Cross)

His grandmother told him something he says he’ll never forget: “Jacob, when you grow up, you can be a knight for God and serve him.” 

Bishop Daniel Felton ordained the now-grown “knight for God” to the priesthood for the Diocese of Duluth June 23, at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary. 

Father Toma said that call to serve in his grandmother’s words has stayed with him all these years, including serving his two sisters with special needs, and as he grew up into high school, he began to discern more seriously a call to the priesthood with his pastor at the time, Father Gabriel Waweru, as well as through diocesan youth camps and vocations camp. 

“I eventually discerned that God was calling me to seminary,” he said, where the Lord affirmed for him that it’s the life he wanted him to live. 

For instance, on an eight-day silent retreat in seminary, he was praying with a passage from the Prophet Isaiah and felt the Lord call, but it was not the “dinosaurs,” “lightning,” and “thunder” he might have expected, just a feeling of peace. 

“Just that deep feeling of peace was something that resided in that call and remained after that call,” he said. 

Another key moment happened studying in Rome for a semester, where he got to go to Midnight Mass for Christmas Eve with Pope Francis and distribute Holy Communion to the people gathered outside St. Peter’s Basilica. Father Toma said he was moved seeing how many people were there, wondering if he had enough hosts, knowing there was a great need and desire for the Lord in the Eucharist, but seeing how beautiful it was that he was able to do something for Jesus to “feed my sheep.” 

Ordination Mass

Father Jacob Toma prostrates himself before the altar during his ordination Mass. (Photo by Susan Dunkerley Maguire)

The ordination Mass took place on the Solemnity of St. John the Baptist, a fact Bishop Felton noted was particularly fitting with its “cast of holy characters,” including the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Elizabeth, Zechariah, and St. John the Baptist himself, each of whom offered examples of the kind of priest Father Toma should aspire to be. 

Like Mary, the bishop said, Father Toma had been called from the beginning of time for his vocation, and his response should be “one of humbleness and obedience.” 

In Elizabeth’s cry, “who am I that the mother of my Lord should come to me,” he said Father Toma should also find inspiration. 

“Jacob, in your years of priesthood, like Elizabeth, there will be so many times when you humbly cry out, ‘Who am I?,’” he said. “Who am I, Lord, that you should come to me to bring your hope to those who are downtrodden and your assurance to those who are lost? Who am I, that you should come to me as a confessor and through me offer your mercy and forgiveness to those seeking to be reconciled to you? Who am I, Lord, that you would come to me so that through me you might offer your holy anointing of healing to those who are sick? And who am I, Lord, that you should come to me, that I should become the very person of Christ as you offer the sacrifice of the Mass in and through me? Who am I, Lord?” 

Like John the Baptist, the bishop said, Father Toma should remember that when he preaches and prepares the way of the Lord, he should remember he is “preaching one who is mightier than you, and that you are not even worthy to loosen the straps of his sandals.” 

And as Zechariah said of his newborn son, Father Toma would be acting as a prophet of the Most High to give people knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins.

Father Gabriel Waweru assists newly ordained Father Jacob Toma in vesting as part of the ordination Mass June 23 at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary. (Deacon Kyle Eller / The Northern Cross) 

Bishop Felton also noted that Father Toma was, by his count, the 11th priest to be ordained from Blessed Sacrament parish in Hibbing, a joy celebrated by a busload of parishioners in attendance, and that he was the fifth priest of the diocese whose father is a permanent deacon. Father Toma’s father, Deacon Grant Toma, assisted at the Mass. 

Father Gabriel Waweru, who now serves St. Andrew in Brainerd and St. Mathias in Fort Ripley, assisted Father Toma with vesting during the ordination.

“Growing up and everything, he’s my priest hero,” Father Toma said, “the one who really inspired me to live a life not only of holiness but find a life that’s actually joyful in the priesthood, that it could be joyful.” 

Father Toma said he is also looking forward to his first assignment as a priest, the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary and St. Mary Star of the Sea in Duluth, where he had already being serving as a transitional deacon, where he will be serving with Father Seth Gogolin, another priest he admires. 


50 years 

Father William Fournier

Father William Fournier

Father William Fournier was ordained to the priesthood June 9, 1973, by Bishop Paul F. Anderson for the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. He attended high school in Illinois. He attended college at Our Lady of Ozarks, Carthage, Mo.; studied philosophy at Creighton University, Omaha, Neb.; and theology at Gregorian University, Rome.

Ater ordination, Father Fournier served the West End Catholic Parishes before leaving the diocese in 1977. He returned to the Diocese of Duluth in 1992 and was incardinated to the diocese in 1994. He served at St. Mary Star of the Sea, Duluth; St. Lawrence, Duluth; St. Joseph, Duluth; St. John, Duluth; and St. Joseph, Gnesen. He left the Diocese of Duluth to serve in the Archdiocese of Anchorage. 

While in the Diocese of Duluth, Father Fournier also served as chaplain at the University of Minnesota Duluth, as director of communications, as auditor for the tribunal, and as a board member at St. Ann’s Residence. 

Father Fournier is retired. 

40 years 

Father John Petrich

Father John Petrich

Father John Petrich was ordained to the priesthood on September 10, 1983, by Bishop Robert H. Brom at St. Anthony in Ely. Father Petrich attended high school at Memorial Senior High in Ely and attended college at St. Thomas in St. Paul, studied philosophy at St. John Vianney Seminary in St. Paul, and theology at St. John’s University in Collegeville. Father Petrich received degrees in advanced studies in clinical pastoral education at St. Luke’s Hospital and St. Mary’s Medical Center, both in Duluth. 

Father Petrich served at Cathedral of our Lady of the Rosary, Duluth; Blessed Sacrament, Hibbing; St. Charles, Cass Lake; St. Anne, Bena; Sts. Mary and Joseph, Sawyer; St. Elizabeth, Duluth; St. Margaret Mary, Duluth; St. Mary Star of the Sea, Duluth; St. Peter, Duluth; and Our Lady of Mercy, Duluth. He currently serves as pastor of St. Joseph, Duluth, and chaplain for St. Luke’s Hospital, St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office, and Duluth Police Department. Father Petrich also serves as chaplain for the Serra Club of Duluth. 

Father Petrich was recently recertified by the National Association of Catholic Chaplains, granting permission of the national bishops to function as a Catholic hospital chaplain. His first certification was more than 30 years ago. 

25 years 

Father Richard Kunst

Father Richard Kunst

Father Richard Kunst was ordained to the priesthood on May 29, 1998, by Bishop Roger Schwietz, OMI, at the Cathedral of our Lady of the Rosary in Duluth. Father Kunst attended East High School, Crosier Seminary, and Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary. He also studied at St. John’s Seminary in Collegeville. 

Father Kunst has served at St. Francis, Brainerd; St. Thomas of the Pines, Brainerd; St. Louis, Floodwood; St. Mary, Meadowlands; Immaculate Conception, Cromwell-Wright; St. Benedict, Duluth; St. John, Duluth; St. Joseph, Gnesen; and St. Michael, Duluth. He is currently pastor at St. James and St. Elizabeth in Duluth. 

In addition, Father Kunst has served as assistant vocation director, on vocation team, auditor for the tribunal, chair of the advisory committee, and columnist for The Northern Cross. He is also a well-known collector of papal artifacts. 

10 years 

Father Michael Garry

Father Michael Garry

Father Michael Garry was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Paul D. Sirba at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary in Duluth on June 21, 2013. Father Garry studied at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. 

Father Garry has served at Holy Spirit, Virginia; Sacred Heart, Virginia; Sacred Heart, Mountain Iron; St. James, Duluth; St. Elizabeth, Duluth; St. Margaret Mary, Duluth; Resurrection, Eveleth; St. Joseph, Gilbert; St. Thomas, International Falls; and St. Columban, Littlefork. He currently serves as pastor of St. Francis, Brainerd; All Saints, Baxter; and St. Thomas of the Pines, Brainerd. He is also administrator of Our Lady of the Lakes Parish, Pequot Lakes. 

He also serves on the Presbyteral Council, as a consultor, and as dean of the Brainerd Deanery. 

Father Elias Gieske

Father Elias Gieske

Father Elias Gieske was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Paul D. Sirba at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary in Duluth on June 21, 2013. Father Gieske studied at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. 

Father Gieske has served at Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary, Duluth; St. Mary Star of the Sea, Duluth; Our Lady of Mercy, Duluth; St. Joseph, Deerwood; St. Lawrence, Duluth; Holy Family, Duluth; and St. Joseph, Duluth. He is currently pastor at St. Joseph, Crosby; Our Lady of Fatima, Garrison; and Holy Family, Hillman. 

Father Nicholas Nelson

Father Nicholas Nelson

Father Nicholas Nelson was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Paul D. Sirba at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary in Duluth on June 21, 2013. Father Nelson studied at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. 

Father Nelson has served at Immaculate Heart, Crosslake; St. Emily, Emily; Blessed Sacrament, Hibbing; St. Martin, Tower; St. Mary, Cook; and Holy Cross, Orr. He currently serves as pastor at Queen of Peace, Cloquet; and Holy Family; Cloquet. He also serves as vocations director and is a columnist for The Northern Cross. 

Diocesan plans for Eucharistic Revival events take shape

By Deacon Kyle Eller 
The Northern Cross 

Plans are taking shape for how the Diocese of Duluth will be carrying out the remaining phases of the three-year Eucharistic Revival begun by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2022. 

Father Seth Gogolin, the diocesan vicar general, who is helping to organize Eucharistic Revival efforts here, said this year’s parish phase of the effort is being kicked off on Corpus Christi. Bishop Daniel Felton has asked each mission field formed in light of his pastoral letter to have a Eucharistic Procession, big or small, on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi), which this year is celebrated June 11, or to join in such a procession in a nearby mission field. 

Father Gogolin said these processions could be as small as processing near the church grounds to, ideally, as large as a procession from one church to another. For instance, in Brainerd there will be a procession from St. Francis to St. Andrew, and in Duluth, there will be a procession from St. Benedict to the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary. 

Father Gogolin said these processions tie in to the bishop’s pastoral letter and our call to mission, bringing abundant healing, hope, and joy in Jesus to our communities, especially bringing “hope where we have darkness in the world.” 

“In doing things like Eucharistic Processions, we bring Jesus out to our mission fields, … we bring Jesus where there is trouble, where there is need of healing,” he said. 

Plans are also forming as the Eucharistic Revival moves into its final stage, leading up to a national Eucharistic Congress held July 17-21, 2024, in Indianapolis. 

Just prior to that, the Diocese of Duluth and the neighboring Diocese of Crookston will hold a joint Eucharistic Congress in Bemidji on May 18, 2024, which will include talks and catechesis, as well as Eucharistic Adoration. 

Father Gogolin said he wanted “to invite all the faithful of the Diocese of Duluth to this event” and added that it will be the beginning of a Eucharistic Procession that will go all the way to Indianapolis, making two stops in the Diocese of Duluth, at Grand Rapids on May 20 and in Duluth on May 21. 

While the procession is in Duluth, it will include Mass and a mile-long solemn procession the next day, May 22, which is a joint event with the Diocese of Superior, Wisconsin. 

Father Gogolin said that there would also be a group going from the diocese to Indianapolis, and perhaps from individual parishes, as well. 

The diocese’s Eucharistic Revival efforts are supported in part by a $10,000 grant from Catholic Home Missions. 

Editorial: Responding peacefully and lovingly in the month of June 

As the month of June arrives, we know what we’re in for — what color schemes, let’s say, will dominate the corporate advertising and media that bombard us. 

As this particular June approached, it became obvious by the headlines that social tensions are escalating over issues like homosexuality and gender ideology and especially how those topics should be approached with children. 

In addition to states, including our own, passing major legislation for good or ill on these matters, we have seen companies that aggressively push a particular viewpoint on them, often driven in part by activists, have discovered that the pressure sometimes flows the other direction too, and customers don’t always appreciate the activism. Anheuser-Busch has reportedly lost billions of dollars as a result of a boycott of Bud Light beer after an ill-advised marketing decision. Target is similarly facing a massive backlash for products it had put out on its shelves. And the Los Angeles Dodgers found itself in the lowlight reels in choosing first to honor, then to disinvite, and then to reinvite an activist group that blasphemously mocks elements of the Catholic faith for its “pride night,” in the process alienating many of its own fans and drawing rebukes from Catholics and other Christians across the country, as well as some of its own players. 

Times of rising social tension should always cause us to stop and reflect and pray and guard against allowing ourselves to be swept away by the passions of the moment. 

When people use their power to advance policies and beliefs that we don’t believe serve the common good or that we believe may even cause harm, and especially when they mock and attack our faith, it can be frustrating and hurtful. But even in the midst of that, we have to respond as Christians, bearing witness to the truth while also remaining a voice of reason, of good will, of patience, of love, and of mercy. 

In Catholic piety, June is considered the month of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, who allowed his heart to be pierced with a lance on the cross out of his most profound love for us sinners. It’s fitting to pray, then: Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us!

Inside the Capitol: Your work in the vineyard must continue! 

In the face of adversity, all of us in the church must keep tilling the soil so that good things will grow and be ready to harvest from our Capitol. 

Good seeds are growing 

Great growth is happening to support the poor and vulnerable in Minnesota due in part to your advocacy. Because Catholics across Minnesota helped create fertile soil by urging legislators to put families first, many of our poorest families across the state will now benefit from a nation-leading Child Tax Credit. More work is needed to make more families eligible, but this per-child refundable tax credit is expected to reduce childhood poverty in Minnesota by 20 to 30 percent. 

Minnesotans who fall on hard times are also now better protected from debt traps by a 36 percent interest rate cap on payday loans. Additionally, families and individuals, especially those working in low-wage jobs, now have access to earned sick and safe time, thus enabling them to receive one hour of paid time off for every 30 hours worked to care for a sick family member or themselves. 

Finally, after a decade of advocating for immigrant families, this fall they can apply for a driver’s license and no longer need to fear separation through deportation for simply driving their kids to school, the grocery store, the doctor, or Mass. Our migrant brothers and sisters can also now buy into Minnesota Care, allowing them access to health insurance instead of avoiding necessary care or only making use of costly emergency rooms. 

Although there continues to be much work to be done to defend life, dignity, and the common good, the victories won this session have come from many years of ensuring good seeds have healthy soil in which to grow. 

Weeds cannot grow in tilled soil 

Despite great adversity, pro-lifers should remain undeterred by the legislature and a swipe of a governor’s pen. Hundreds of advocates showed up for the first-ever United for Life pro-life advocacy day, met with legislators, testified in committee hearings, offered innumerable prayers during First Friday Adoration, and sent 7,361 messages, phone calls, tweets, and videos through our Catholic Advocacy Network, along with hundreds of postcards urging legislators to protect women and their unborn children. 

The legislature has left in place the parental notification requirements for minors seeking an abortion, though the statute is currently struck down through a Ramsey County court case. Fortunately, a group called Mothers Offering Maternal Support (MOMS), is working to challenge that decision. 

But there is much more tilling to do, because the legislature has gone forward with repealing the remaining commonsense health and safety requirements around abortion, left minimal care requirements for infants who survive an abortion, defunded and repealed the Positive Alternatives to Abortion Grant Program that helps pregnancy resource centers care for women in need, and, among other things, expanded taxpayer funding to include elective abortions. 

We must also continue sowing truth about the integrity of the human person as created male or female. This need is most evident with the disturbing passage of bills that promote a false reality of the human person, remove access to the psychological sciences, and impose gender ideology upon vulnerable children, even taking them away from parents who would otherwise protect them from the lasting harms of unnatural hormones and mutilative procedures. 

When it comes to industries preying on people, we must till the soil to make it even harder for the recreational marijuana industry to grow despite its now legal status. To keep the most dangerous weeds at bay, we must continue our advocacy for safeguards, such as potency caps, childproof packaging, and more, to the newly forming Cannabis Advisory Council and the Office of Cannabis Management. 

With much good accomplished, and so much light needed to dispel the darkness, it is our job as faithful citizens to keep tilling through your prayers and building relationships with your legislators. So, this summer, set up a coffee meeting with your legislators. Invite others to join you and to join the Catholic Advocacy Network (MNCatholic.org/join), because if we truly want to reap a bountiful harvest, we need more laborers. 

Toma to be ordained diocese’s newest priest 

The Northern Cross 

Deacon Jacob Toma will be ordained to the priesthood at 4 p.m. Friday, June 23, in a liturgy at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary.

Deacon Jacob Toma, with Bishop Daniel Felton, was ordained a transitional deacon on Oct. 7, 2022, at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary. After his ordination to the priesthood June 23, he will be assigned to the Cathedral and to St. Mary Star of the Sea. (File photo)

Deacon Toma, the son of Deacon Grant and Deborah Toma, is from Hibbing and was ordained a deacon last year, on Oct. 7, with his father, a permanent deacon for the diocese, assisting. Deacon Toma also has a brother and two sisters. Deacon Jacob has been serving at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary and St. Mary Star of the Sea as a deacon, and effective July 1, that is where he will have his first assignment as a priest, as parochial vicar of those parishes. 

The ordination Mass is open to the public. 

Stone ordained a deacon for the Duluth Diocese 

By Deacon Kyle Eller 
The Northern Cross 

Bishop Daniel Felton ordained Anthony Stone the newest permanent deacon for the Diocese of Duluth in an ordination Mass May 5 at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary in Duluth, before a large crowd, including a bus from St. Thomas Aquinas in International Falls, where Deacon Stone and his wife Teresa are members. 

Deacon Stone, a physician, is the fifth of eight children and was born and raised in northern California, served in the U.S. Air Force, and settled in International Falls in 2004. 

Bishop Felton, in his homily, noted that the ordination and its sacrament of Holy Orders was part of the Easter season and its outpouring of sacramental graces, in baptisms, confirmations, marriages, and the Eucharist.

Bishop Daniel Felton prays over Anthony Stone as part of his ordination as a permanent deacon for the diocese in a liturgy May 5. (Photo by Susan Dunkerley Maguire)

“I’m telling you, the coronation of King Charles III this weekend pales by comparison to the ancient ritual of ordination that we are about to celebrate,” the bishop said. 

Highlighting the nature of a vocation to the diaconate, with its call to proclaim the Gospel, assist at the altar, lead public prayer, and perform works on mercy in the name of his bishop and his pastor, he said that’s the call Deacon Stone has received. 

“With the help of God, he is to live out all these duties in such a way that you will recognize in him a disciple of Jesus, who came not to be served but to serve,” he said. 

But, citing Deacon Stone’s service in the military, as a physician, and in ministries within his parish, he noted that the call to serve was not entirely new to him, “only the vocational manner in which you will celebrate it, embrace it, embody it, and express it now as a deacon.” 

“So, diaconia is not new to you. Or is it?” he added. “Today, as you advance to the order of deacon, it is not about a something that you are now going to do in life as much as it is about a someone that you want to be like in life. That someone is Jesus Christ, who came into this world not to be served but to serve.” 

Joining in the liturgy were two pastors the bishop said had served as “bookends” of Deacon Stone’s discernment and formation as a deacon: Father Ben Hadrich, who first suggested he consider the vocation, and Father Thomas Galarneault, his current pastor, who vested Deacon Stone with stole and dalmatic as part of the liturgy. 

Deacon Stone is assigned to serve at St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Columban in Littlefork. 

Bishop Felton celebrates Blue Mass 

By Deacon Kyle Eller 
The Northern Cross 

Local police officers, firefighters, EMTs, first responders, and their support staff gathered at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary May 17 for a Blue Mass celebrated by Bishop Daniel Felton and sponsored by Stella Maris Academy. 

The event, which also brought together students from all the school’s campuses for a celebration at the end of the year, included a special blessing on emergency workers and a blessing of their vehicles, which lined the cathedral’s parking lot.

Law enforcement officers process out with servers at the Blue Mass May 17 at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary, which was hosted by Stella Maris Academy and celebrated by Bishop Daniel Felton. The Mass also brought together all of the Stella Maris students near the end of the school year. (Deacon Kyle Eller / The Northern Cross) 

In his homily, Bishop Felton cited the example of Jesus washing his feet at the Last Supper and his words that he came to serve, not to be served, commanding his disciples to do likewise. 

“Today, we lift up in a very special way our police officers and the civilian support staff that is with them and around them,” the bishop said. “And as we lift them up today, we see in them that they are living the command of Jesus, ‘As I have done, so you must do.’” 

He noted that their lives of service were an inspiration, and when he asked the assembled students how many of them wanted to grow up to be police officers, about 100 hands went up. 

Bishop Felton said that as the church celebrated emergency workers, it also thanked them for their service. 

“We offer our hearts of gratitude to you, hearts of thanksgiving, thanking you for the great sacrifices that you make, thanking you for being there when we need you, thanking you for coming to our aid when there are emergencies,” he said. “Thank you for sharing your lives in service to all those who are in need. From our hearts today we have this opportunity in a very special way to say ‘thank you.’” 

In addition to expressing gratitude and admiration, the bishop promised the emergency workers present that the church was praying for them, too, for their protection and that “no harm would ever come to you in any way.” 

Father Nicholas Nelson: The little known seven gifts of the Holy Spirit 

We recently finished celebrating the Easter season with the Solemnity of Pentecost. This period of the liturgical year is the time we find ourselves historically in today, in the year of 2023. Jesus has been born, he lived, he suffered and died, he rose from the dead, he has spent 40 days risen and appearing at different times and places, he has ascended to the Father, and he has sent the Holy Spirit. This is us today in 2023. 

Father Nick Nelson
Handing on the Faith

The only thing left is for Jesus to return at the end of time. In our liturgical calendar today, we call this Ordinary Time, which doesn’t mean it’s “ordinary,” as in nothing special, but rather “ordinal,” that the weeks are numbered. However, in the old calendar before the liturgical reforms of the 1960s, this time was called “Time after Pentecost.” For example, instead of Sunday, July 2, being the 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time, it would be called the 5th Sunday after Pentecost. 

What was important about identifying the weeks this way was that it referenced Pentecost. Pentecost was the day the Catholic Church received the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. It was from that day on that the Apostles and disciples took off to the ends of the world to proclaim the Gospel. It was when the mission of the church really began. 

This is important for us to remember. Pentecost has come and gone. Now we have to live it and get to mission! You and I have received the Holy Spirit. We are also sent on mission to the world. 

One particular dynamic of Pentecost and the Holy Spirit is the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. These gifts are essential to the life of a Christian, especially a Christian on mission. Let’s get a better understanding of these gifts. 

The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are derived first and foremost from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. We hear this passage multiple times, especially during Advent: “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord (piety). And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord” (11:1-3). 

To understand the gifts, we need to see how they differ from the virtues. Virtues are stable dispositions to do the good. For example, if you are a religious person, you can discern when to make a religious act. It is your reason that decides to do it. 

The gifts are different. It isn’t you that reasons and decides that you should do it. Rather, regarding a religious act, it is the Gift of Piety that allows us to be prompted and moved by the Holy Spirit to do the religious act. 

A person receives the gifts of the Holy Spirit initially at baptism. A person receives an increase in the gifts at their confirmation. A person has the gifts as long as he is in a state of grace. 

If we are in a boat, and we want to get to the other side of the lake, we can paddle. However, that takes a lot of time and effort on our part. This is what it is like for us to rely solely on the virtues. On the other hand, we can put up sails and allow the wind to take us across the lake. The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are like the sails. They allow the soul to be moved by God and carried towards him. 

Every soul in sanctifying grace has the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, every soul is ready to receive the promptings of God. Like the sails in the boat, they can’t control when the wind blows, but when the wind does blow, they are ready to move the boat. Similarly, we can’t control when the Holy Spirit will inspire us. “For the Spirit blows where it wishes” (John 3:8). But we can be ready for him. 

Another image will be helpful, that of an extraordinary ballerina or figure skater. If you watch them, they move so gracefully and smoothly. It’s as if they aren’t even thinking. And I would argue that they aren’t really thinking. If they were to think, their performance would not be so graceful. Even if someone has some of the requisite skill, she may be able to complete some of the moves, but it would just look clunky as she has to think and focus on every move and what comes next. So it is with the saints and us when we are in a state of grace and living a recollected life and seeking holiness. It is then that we freely go about our day, doing good and avoiding evil. That while there are challenges and difficulties, I am being prompted by the Holy Spirit and able to fulfill my duties and smoothly move through the day. 

St. Thomas Aquinas says the Gifts of the Holy Spirit are essential to salvation because they allow us to transcend mere human reason and to participate in the very life of God. They really do a lot for us. Take time to get to know them individually! 

Father Nick Nelson is pastor of Queen of Peace and Holy Family parishes in Cloquet and vocations director for the Diocese of Duluth. He studied at The Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Rome. Reach him at [email protected]