Sermon Notes – November 26, 2023 – “I Believe in Good Health but I Really Love Bacon“

“I Believe in Good Health but I Really Love Bacon“

Father Peter Fitzgibbons

November 25 – 26, 2023

Gospel:  Matthew 25:31-46

Jesus said to His disciples: “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, He will sit upon His glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before Him. And He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on His right and the goats on His left.  Then the king will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, a stranger and you welcomed Me, naked and you clothed Me, ill and you cared for Me, in prison and you visited Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and welcome You, or naked and clothe You? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit You?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’ Then He will say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave Me no food, I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink, a stranger and you gave Me no welcome, naked and you gave Me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for Me.’ Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to Your needs?’ He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for Me.’ And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

This week I barged in on a family’s Thanksgiving dinner, and I had a thought while I was there.  Why don’t they make turkey parmesan?  Turkey and chicken are both poultry.  So, why not?  I’m just thinking outside the coop.  I mentioned this to the Godmother . . . she was not amused, so I won’t be asking that question again. 

I was good friends with a chaplain I served with several times while in the military.  You never say “goodbye” to your friends in the military; you say, “I’ll see you at the next assignment.”  If you stick around long enough, eventually you will see everybody again.  She was a wonderful chaplain, but she said, “I don’t understand you Catholics.”  Why not?  “Well, you believe in this works righteousness thing.”  Now I’m probably not the most attentive student – look squirrel – but I think I would have heard of that before.  We would have gone over it once or twice in seminary and tested on it.  I never learned that because there is no such thing.  All the good works we do flow from Whom?  From God.  What is God’s essence?  His essence is love.  He is love itself.  Why did He make us?  Remember your Catechism.  He made us because He loves us.  Love is always generative, and it produces fruit outside of itself.  When we produce fruit outside of ourselves, we have proof of God’s love.  Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.”  That love now becomes external.  Keeping His commandments is fruit outside of ourselves.   Our Lord wants more than just lip service.  If you want to be like Christ, you must do what He did.  Doing the proper works of mercy as described in the Gospel are works outside of ourselves.  They are works just like God’s.  They are external signs of an internal reality of possessing and being possessed by our good Lord.   We produce fruits as God does. 

God gives His gifts to both the good and the bad.  When emergency vehicles come screaming down the highway after you call 911, do they ask if you have been naughty or nice?  Do they ask if you are worthy of them risking their lives to come save you?  No.  Regardless, they come flying down the highway to save us.  That’s how God’s love is.  We produce fruit for both the good and bad.  Sometimes that isn’t easy because we tend to be highly sensitive people.  When somebody doesn’t thank us, we get a little upset.  Sometimes people are just not nice, and it’s unpleasant to be around them.  But we do these works of love because we love God, and it is He who gives us the strength to do them.  Working with the sick can also be unpleasant.  I walked into hospice the other day, and someone was having a procedure done.  Whoa!  There’s not enough Lysol in the world to cover up that smell.   But we still must do our job.  It’s not about us.  Love is always generative.  Even if there is work involved, the work itself is love as Saint Augustine reminds us. 

I’m ticked off at my cousins.  They called to torment me by telling me about all the delicious food they had for Thanksgiving Dinner.  They had mashed turnips and carrots, which I love.  It’s a New England thing.  They also had stuffing like my mother made.  Oh my gosh!  Turkey always tastes better cold, so I always go for the fixings.  The little things like the way the table is set up, the presentation, and all the other things that go into preparing Thanksgiving dinner are all fruits of love.  It’s not just filling the trough as my mother would say.  They are all signs of love scattered about which come from what’s in the soul.  This is how God knows that we love Him because He knows us by our fruit.  Some people say, “I believe in God, but I don’t go to church.”  Well, I believe in good health, but I really love bacon.  Others say, “Well, I love God.  I go to church, and I participate in the Sacraments.  God knows that I love Him.”  No, He doesn’t.  Well, actually He does because He’s God.  But you’re kinda rewriting scripture.  If you love Him, then do something about it.  Love makes itself external, and this is how He knows we love Him.  If you say you love someone, but you never want to be with them, do you really love them?  All these good things we do, we do because we are loved by God, and we love Him.  These are external acts of an internal reality, and we cannot help but do them.  You can tell how much the Just in the Gospel were in love with Him because of all the things they did.  They weren’t doing it for something in return.  They did it because it was the right thing, and they didn’t even think about it.  It was a natural kind of spiritual muscle memory because of Who they possessed and Who possessed them.

How will you apply this message to your life?  ________________________________________

You can read all of Father Fitzgibbons’ sermons by going to and clicking on “Blog” then “Categories” then “Sermon Notes.”  On a cell phone: click on “Blog” and then “Menu.”  Scroll to the bottom and click on “Categories.”  Sermon Notes are also available on the Church’s Facebook page at  Click on “Groups” and then “Sermon Notes.”

Sermon Notes – November 19, 2023 – “Mom Always Liked My Evil Twin Brother Best!”

“Mom Always Liked My Evil Twin Brother Best!”

Father Peter Fitzgibbons

November 18 – 19, 2023

Gospel:  Matthew 25:14-30

In your charity, please pray for the repose of the soul of Reverend Father Brian Cook.  Father Cook was a retired priest in our diocese, and he passed away this morning.  In the past two weeks, we have had two retired priests die which tells me I shouldn’t retire.   This retirement thing can get really dangerous!

The weather was nice the other day, so I took a walk and actually found my way back. . . shocking!  I went by Will’s Place, and they were having their grand opening that night.  Before the renovation, the building was in such rough shape that it needed a match.  It was a horrible place.  But they did a wonderful job with the renovation, and now it is a beautiful, beautiful place.  There is a treatment area for substance abuse including alcohol and drugs.  It is a place where those who suffer and carry that cross can get help carrying it.   I was given a tour, and they even have a puppy there. 

I was thinking about the Knights of Columbus and the help they provide to the Pregnancy Resource Center.  That’s what I like about our parish.  I won’t tell you how to spend your money whether it’s on Catholic Social Services or the Campaign for Human Development and all that stuff.  Because when your money leaves the parish, everybody takes a cut here and a cut there for shipping and handling, know what I mean?  Buy this product for just $20.95 plus $35.00 shipping and handling.  Yeah right!  The good news is you get a lot of packing material in a box from Amazon.  Everything we do here goes to our friends, families, and neighbors.  There are so many organizations in Stanly County that help people in need.  The Stanly Foundation at the hospital provides free mammograms to those who cannot afford them.  Stanly County Christian Ministries has a Clothing Closet, a Food Pantry, and a Community Table that the Knights of Columbus help.   There is also the Pregnancy Resource Center and Will’s Place.  There are all sorts of wonderful organizations to help people.  We take care of our own, and that’s what is so wonderful.  We take care of our poor and sick.  So, I want to thank you all for that. 

My undergraduate degree is in Philosophy.  One of the best courses I ever took was Philosophy 101.  I even loved the final exam although it took me three hours to complete it.  But it was a fun course because it taught us how to argue, create positions, and defend them properly.   We learned how to pick out words and throw the “BS” flag.  One idea that has crept into theology, which should never have happened, is “We have to be inclusive.”   You hear that in the synod of synodality which is an oxymoron term.  One thing about the synod of synodality is that people have positions, and they speak using big fancy words.  “Wow! You are really educated.”  No, because the words they are using don’t make sense.  “The Church needs to be more inclusive.”  That sounds like a really great bumper sticker.  The trouble with that statement is that on its face, it is blasphemy, and if you really believe the statement is true, it is heresy.  “The Church must do this.”  Well, what is the Church?  Good answer.  You’ve learned well.  The Church is not a “what;” it’s a “Who.”  What does Paul say in the Book of Acts?  The Church is the body of Christ.  Our Lord said, “Paul, Paul, why do you persecute Me?” (Acts 9:4).   So, if the Church is Christ, are you telling me that Christ is not inclusive?  Does He have conditions?  Yes, He has conditions.  So, you are trying to tell Christ what He should be.  Good luck with that.  Some people are educated way beyond their abilities, and our Lord talks about them in the Parable of the Talents.

Christ called everyone.  “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).   However, He did set some ground rules: “Take up your Cross and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24).  Turn your back on your mother and father (Genesis 2:24-25).  Sell your possessions, theologically speaking (Matthew 19:21).  Eat My flesh and drink My blood (John 6:54).  One man and one wife, male and female . . . He made us, so He knows what He is talking about (Matthew 19:9).  Anybody who says, “The Church must be more inclusive” is trying to change the Deposit of Faith, a gift from God Himself and our means of salvation.

I was supposed to go to the Bishop’s Advent dinner, but I had other plans that precluded my going to Charlotte for the dinner.  It’s distressing for me personally to see all these priests who are so talented, and I think, “My God, how talented they are!  I’m not.”  One priest, who is about to retire, speaks five languages and has two Ph.D.’s.  Show-off!  I speak five languages at the Spanish Mass.  I can’t tell you which ones they are because they are all mixed into one language.  Another priest has built two churches, one was a missionary, and another was a professor at seminary.  I don’t visit other priests very often because I hate Charlotte almost as much as I hate fish.  When I go there for my dental appointments, I wish I had a few of my friends in the back seat locked and loaded.  Albemarle Road is terrible.  We left pieces of Iraq in better shape after we bombed the you-know-what out of it.                 

My mother loved seafood, but it was difficult to persuade her to go all the way to Newport for dinner.  Rhode Island has only 1045 miles of land mass, and if you take away the islands, it has even less.  Going to Newport is like going to Charlotte, so it’s not a big deal.  “Mom, do we need to pack a lunch?”  That is small New England village mentality.  We wanted to get some lobster for my mom, so my evil twin brother, who was a scuba diver, went diving in the bay and brought her fresh-from-the-sea lobster.  You can’t get fresher than that, especially for the price.  He also had two Ph.D.’s.  Show off!   Mom always liked him best anyway.  Although I dislike administrative work intensely, the one talent I have is that I can do hospital work very well.  When I go to the hospital with some of my fellow priests and they see and smell the sights and sounds of a trauma center, they gag.  Want to grab lunch later?  “No!”  What’s wrong?  I’m buying.  Wanna play ball scarecrow?  It’s hilarious.

There is no need to be jealous of the talents and abilities other people have which is something I keep telling myself, and I hope to do better.  All those talents and abilities are meant to be used for one thing . . . to share with others.  The one talent we all share, and the most important one, is the gift of faith.  You all have it because you are here.  Faith is the most important talent and the one in which our Lord will judge us.  How do we bring that gift of faith to others?  By our words and example.  How do we keep it alive?  By the Sacraments and penance.  How do we bring it to others?  By word and deed or corporal and spiritual works of mercy.  All of our other talents are based on that.  Otherwise, they will never develop the way they should and be used for their proper purpose which is for the glory of God and the salvation of souls.  Every talent is given to us for the glory of God and the salvation of souls.  The people in our parish, I will say with all humility, are blessed with an abundance of talents and abilities.  We are better than any other parish in the diocese regarding the talents and abilities we have here.  But the most important talent or ability, and the one that provides focus on them all, giving them meaning, purpose, a goal, and a reason to exist is the gift of faith.

So, use your talents.  As I grow older, getting up from a chair can be difficult.  My mind writes checks my body can’t cash.  That’s a talent, you know why?  Because I can offer up my suffering for the salvation of souls, the glory of God, an act of penance for myself, and an act of humility which I really need.   We all have talents, but the best talent of all is the gift of faith.  He won’t ask me if I built churches or if I can speak five languages.  I can barely speak English.   However, He does ask me to be a conduit of His love to other people.  That’s how God will judge us . . . how we brought His gift to others.

How will you apply this message to your life?  _______________________________________

You can read all of Father Fitzgibbons’ sermons by going to and clicking on “Blog” then “Categories” then “Sermon Notes.”  On a cell phone: click on “Blog” and then “Menu.”  Scroll to the bottom and click on “Categories.”  Sermon Notes are also available on the Church’s Facebook page at  Click on “Groups” and then “Sermon Notes.”

Sermon Notes – November 12, 2023 – “Love Banishes Fear”

“Love Banishes Fear”

Father Peter Fitzgibbons

November 11 – 12, 2023

Gospel:  Matthew 25:1-13

Jesus told His disciples this parable: “The kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones, when taking their lamps, brought no oil with them, but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps. Since the bridegroom was long delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight, there was a cry, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise ones replied, ‘No, for there may not be enough for us and you. Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.’ While they went off to buy it, the bridegroom came and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him. Then the door was locked. Afterwards, the other virgins came and said, ‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us!’ But He said in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

In the Gospel, it sounds as if they were having a midnight wedding.  People don’t have weddings during the day in the Middle East.  Know why?  Because it’s hot!  You don’t want to look like a sweat hog coming down the aisle, do you?  No! 

Now, I’m willing to bet, without taking a poll, that you all want to go to Heaven.  I’m also willing to bet that none of us are looking forward to the trip.  According to my research and experience, you have to die first.  A while ago I was making my rounds at the VA’s emergency room, and I recognized a couple whom I had met previously.  I asked them why they were back.  Were they back for lunch?  Did they miss us?  The man said, “No, I just came in for pain management.”  We talked for a bit, and the man said, “Chaplain, may I ask you a question?”  Sure.  He said, “I want to stop the chemo.  Is that okay?”  I looked at his wife and asked her, “Are you okay with that?”  And she said ‘yes.’  So, I looked at the man and said, “It’s okay to stop the chemo.”  He’s only in his early 40s, but it was time.  He’d had enough. 

We all know we are going on a trip, but we know not the day or hour.  During the years that we are blessed with life, know that they are growing shorter.   We are not looking forward to the trip because of fear.  We were never meant to die.  The sin of our first parents caused that.  Our sins after baptism and the sins committed against us increase that fear.  But love casts away fear.   The more we grow in holiness, the more and more that fear subsides.  We can look forward to being with the Person we have loved all our lives and never to be separated again by sin.  We don’t know what is on the side.   However, it’s not a ‘what’ that is on the other side.  That’s a blasphemous statement because on the other side is a ‘Who.’  That ‘Who’ is always with us as we make our journey to Heaven.   So, we are not alone.  Now, there is a little doodoo fairy that sits on our shoulders and is always telling us that God is not with us otherwise we wouldn’t be afraid and that we would be perfect, etc.  “Oh, God doesn’t love you.”  Just like everything else he fills our heads with, that is a lie.  God is always with us.  We tend to forget that our guardian angel is always with us too. 

Will we always have some fear?  Yes.  But our fear of death will decrease as we grow in holiness, and we will look forward to going to our Savior.  That doesn’t mean we want to leave our loved ones in this life.  But we will be going home to our Almighty God.  Now when we get to Heaven, we won’t be just sitting around.   It won’t be snooze time.  As Saint Therese of Lisieux said, “I will spend my eternity in Heaven doing good on Earth.”   That’s what we will be doing in the presence of our Lord, God.  We will have God’s ear and will be able to pray more effectively than ever before for all the loved ones we left behind.  So, our dying is not exactly the worst thing that could happen to us.  But dying and being separated from God is.   

I was doing Mass over at the women’s maximum-security prison in Troy.  That’s always fun.  I’m ready for Mass, and we played “Stump the Priest.”   One of the women said, “Father, when I get out, I’m going to visit you.”  Well, I’m looking forward to that day!  She said she was very upset, and I asked her why.  She said, “I read in the paper that everybody dies, and they all go to see Jesus.”  I said, “That’s true.”  She didn’t like that answer, so I said, “When we die, we all will see God.  Some stay for only a cup of coffee while others get to stay longer.”   How long we stay depends on how we live.  In the Gospels, from the Book of Matthew to Revelation, are the final exam questions.  We don’t know when our good Lord will come for us.  Looking at myself in the mirror, combing my hair doesn’t take that long anymore.   That’s just age.  So, my meeting with our Lord is approaching sooner and sooner. 

I went to Ms. Dottie’s 99th birthday party.  When I knocked, she came to the door holding a big glass of wine.   Cool!  Dottie is now 101.  My aunt was 98 when she pulled the plug on herself.  Time to go!  Another aunt passed at 93.  My mother was an underachiever and died at the age of 77.   I may not make it to 77, but it doesn’t matter.   It’s not about age but rather our state of love and living a perfect life until our good Lord comes for us.  I tell patients in hospice who have made their peace with God, that soon, and I don’t know when, but soon, they will see the good Lord coming for them.  He will have a smile on His face with His arms open.  Put a smile on your face, open your arms, and run toward Him.  Have that embrace which is Heaven.  You will be one with your Maker.   

Before you go to bed at night, always pray the Prayer for a Happy Death.  With that Sacrament, we will be assured, in the same way Christ assured the Good Thief on the Cross, “Today you will be with Me in paradise.”

Prayer for a Happy Death (Ven. John Henry Cardinal Newman)

O my Lord and Savior, support me in my last hour in the strong arms of Thy Sacraments and by the fresh fragrance of Thy consolations. Let the absolving words be said over me, and the holy oil sign and seal me; and let Thine own Body be my food, and Thy Blood my sprinkling; and let my sweet Mother, Mary, breathe on me, and my Angel whisper peace to me, and my glorious saints and my own dear patrons smile upon me, that, in them all and through them all, I may receive the gift of perseverance, and die as I desire to live, in Thy faith, in Thy Church, in Thy service, and in Thy love. Amen.

How will you apply this message to your life?  ________________________________________

You can read all of Father Fitzgibbons’ sermons by going to and clicking on “Blog” then “Categories” then “Sermon Notes.”  On a cell phone: click on “Blog” and then “Menu.”  Scroll to the bottom and click on “Categories.”  Sermon Notes are also available on the Church’s Facebook page at  Click on “Groups” and then “Sermon Notes.”

Sermon Notes – November 5, 2023 – “Love Is an Action, Not an Emotion”

“Love Is an Action, Not an Emotion”

Father Peter Fitzgibbons

November 4 – 5, 2023

Gospel:  Matthew 23:1-12

In the Gospel last Sunday, the Pharisees asked our Lord, “What is the greatest Commandment?”  Jesus answered, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart” (Mark 12:30).  The second greatest Commandment is, “You must love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:34-40).   Our Lord knows that most people, when left to their own imaginations, will screw it up.  So, in the Gospel, He tells us exactly what love is and how to manifest it.  “If you love Me, take up your cross every day and follow Me” (Luke 9:23).   “If you love Me keep My commandments” (John 14:15).   By the way, there are many others. 

Love is an action and not an emotion.  It is an act of the will and not a feeling.  Sometimes acts of love are very easy to do and enjoyable like giving your spouse a gift or making your children and grandchildren smile and laugh.  Those are great gifts of love.  But loving God can be difficult because He is not us.  Often, I think I love myself more than God does.  Some gifts of love are a little harder like taking up our daily crosses.  Most people do not like their crosses.  Do you think I enjoy walking around like a question mark?  No.  Do you think I enjoy eating fish twice a week?  Heck no!  Thank God for French dressing!   Sometimes I do not like getting up in the morning.  I’ve put a lot of mileage on this body, and getting up can be a very painful experience.  But these are minor ways to love.   Look at the Good Samaritan.  He was on a trip when he came upon a man who had been beaten and robbed.  The man was not lying on his side of the road so, legally, it was not his business, and he was not morally bound to help the man.  But love is outside of oneself.   So, even though it delayed his trip and traveling at night was very dangerous, the Good Samaritan went outside of himself to care for the man who had been beaten and robbed.   

Sometimes we don’t like what God asks us to do.  When someone is hurt or sick and needs our help, we think, “Nope.  I’m not cut out for this.”  That doesn’t matter.  It’s not about you; it’s about that person.  Acts of love may be very inconvenient.  But we are called to not only show our love but also to grow in love.  An act of love can be as small and mindless as eating fish.  Some crosses are pretty easy like mine and others are much more difficult.  Taking up our cross is not always pleasant to the senses.  Changing diapers is not bad until the smell reaches you.  That’s when you rise to a whole different occasion to love.  This is what God calls us to do if we love Him.  What do all these acts of love do?  They take us away from ourselves. 

When you work in medicine, you encounter things that are not pleasant, and the gag reflex kicks in.  Sometimes acts of love can be rather repulsive.  When a helicopter crashed, I showed Bubba, my staff assistant, how to bring patients in on gurneys just like on Mash.  Bubba, who was on the verge of being sick, said, “Sir, [Bleurgh] what do you want me to do, Sir [Bleurgh]?”   I said, “First, turn your head.  Step outside, get some fresh air, and come back.”   Bubba was doing acts of love while his organs were trying to leave his body in no particular order.  The sounds and smells were traumatizing.  Bubba was 19 years old and had never been exposed to anything like that.  But he did what needed to be done, and that was an act of love.  Bearing our crosses and those of other people including our family and friends is difficult, but they are crosses of love.  People say, “I don’t feel comfortable doing that.”  Ahh . . . I don’t care.  I don’t like going to prisons even though they allow me to leave.  As long as they don’t make me eat fish, I’m good.  “I don’t feel comfortable with that.”  Good!  Our Lord never said anything about being comfortable.  “I don’t get anything out of it.”  Great!   I’m not the world’s greatest spiritual director.  I’m like to the right of Genghis Khan. “I don’t get anything out of it.”   Don’t care.  You aren’t supposed to.  Spiritual direction is not about you.  I don’t care how you feel.  Not one bit.  We are given the grace of comfort more often than we think, but not as much as we would like.  It is not about us.  Love is a gift to the other.  When Jesus gives us these directions about how to love, it trains us to love like Him. 

When you give gifts of love, you are dying to self so that you can feel what our good Lord felt.   You are imitating what happened to our Lord on the Cross.  People say, “But no one says thank you.”   Many people in my priestly ministry don’t say thank you, and I’ve been doing this for a long time.   Believe it or not, I have been cursed out, and not just by my family.   In the Book of Acts, the apostles rejoiced because “they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the Name” (Acts 5:41).   We get the strength to do that by prayer and through the Sacraments.  When we fail in our acts of love, as we all do, we have the Sacrament of Penance to not only heal the wounds of our failures but also to heal the wounds that other people have inflicted upon us.  This strengthens our resolve to pick up our cross and follow Him. 

In the spiritual life, love is not an emotion; it’s an action.  We have to love.  In the various stages of life, love takes on different forms.  Sometimes when people will soon meet their Maker, and I’m preparing them for their passing, I’ll say, “On this bed is your cross imitating Christ.  You are at the right hand of Christ like the Good Thief.”   So, offer your sufferings up.  You have much to offer through all the suffering you endure although we suffer much less than our grandparents because we have much better medicine now.  Still, when you are going through it, it seems like a lot.  I had a man who just passed away from idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.  He couldn’t breathe.  When you can’t breathe, you tend to panic, so he was on a lot of antianxiety medicines.  In that patient’s bed, you could see the suffering of Christ.  By your suffering, you are imitating Christ’s sacrifice.

When I was a seminarian, I learned an important lesson.  I was assigned to Saint John’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts.  As I was making rounds with a good Jesuit priest, all of a sudden, the door to a patient’s room opened.  The smell was so, so bad.  I went out into the stairwell retching while I tried to hold my stomach down where it should be.  I did not go to medical school, but I knew my stomach should not be up in my throat.  I told my father about it, and he said, “That’s good, son.”  So basically, he didn’t care either.  He was an Army medic before he became an officer.  My father said, “You know, it’s not about you.  You leave that room, get sick, and then go back in.  It’s not about you.”  That was one of the best spiritual directions I ever received.  Just remember that there will be occasions when our gifts of love will make us feel bad.  But there are two things we are learning:  1) It is not about us; and 2) When it’s really hard, when people are repulsive, abusive, and ungrateful, that’s when we grow in love.  It is then that you have some conception, in a very minor way, of what Christ endured.  His greatest act of love was on the Cross.  What did His own chosen people do at the foot of the Cross?  They jeered Him.

How will you apply this message to your life?  _______________________________________

You can read all of Father Fitzgibbons’ sermons by going to and clicking on “Blog” then “Categories” then “Sermon Notes.”  On a cell phone: click on “Blog” and then “Menu.”  Scroll to the bottom and click on “Categories.”  Sermon Notes are also available on the Church’s Facebook page at  Click on “Groups” and then “Sermon Notes.”

Sermon Notes – October 29, 2023 – “A Change Would Do You Good”

“A Change Would Do You Good”

Father Peter Fitzgibbons

October 28 – 29, 2023

Gospel:  Matthew 22:34-40

I don’t know if today’s sermon will be as good as last week’s, but I’m going to give it a shot.  What is the key element needed to grow in the spiritual life?  It begins with a “C.”   Change.  We have to change.  We are always changing.  I can no longer bend steel with my bare hands, leap tall buildings, or run faster than a locomotive.  Those days are over if they ever were.  I can no longer do those things.  My mind says, “Sure! You can keep up with that 18-year-old.”   Yeah, like that’s going to happen.  I made that mistake once while I was in the military.  One of the officers said, “Father, let them do it.  You are the senior officer present.”   I said, “I am not going to let those twerps, those young soldiers, outwork me.”  It’s a guy thing.  When I went back to the hooch at the end of the day, I was in a world of hurt even after a hot shower and taking Motrin.  But I wasn’t about to let someone outwork me – that wasn’t going to happen. 

The key word is “change.”   But the trouble with change is that we always try to change the wrong things.  I’ve been a priest for over 30 years, and I have people come to me with addiction problems.  Nobody gets to choose their crosses.  “So, what can I do about it?”  Well, you’ve got to change.  “Well, I think if I move to Florida, Alaska, Rhode Island, or Oakboro, I would be better.  Or maybe if I had a different spouse or a better job, things would be okay.”  That’s plausible.  But, in all that, there is one glaring fault.  “What’s that?”  Well, in all those scenarios, you are bringing you.  You aren’t changing.  You’re just taking the mess somewhere else. 

We have to change.  This is what our Lord said: “Leave all things behind and come follow Me.”    He doesn’t mean physical things.  He is referring to our attachment to self . . . our whole will.   Unless you become like little children, you cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 18:3).   A child is dependent on their parents who are the source of life.  We are called to change, but we always seek to change the wrong things even in the Church.  People say to me, “Father, I sit in the back of the church, and I cannot hear you.”  Well, move up to the front row.  There’s plenty of room there.  “Father, I do not like Latin or Latin hymns.”  Well, I don’t hear you singing the English hymns either.   “If we had reconciliation rooms where you could go in and talk to the priest like in a therapy session, it would be better.”   So, thousands of dollars was spent on reconciliation rooms, and confessions continued to take a nosedive like a Kamikaze pilot.  Then the Roman Rota, the highest court in the Church, said, “You know, that’s illegal because the priest and penitent must be separated by an immovable barrier.”   Oops! 

I was in a brand new church, a beautiful church, and I was talking to the pastor.  I asked him if he had thought about installing an altar rail.  He said, “Yes, I really wanted one, but I ran out of money.”   Okay, I understand that.  One of his parishioners, a staff member, said, “Oh I hate altar rails.  It’s so old-school.”  So, you are offended by an inanimate object?  It’s not like you have to have one in your house.  We change all the wrong things.  During your lifetime, we have had Mass in every conceivable language.  If you want to hear every language spoken on the planet, come to the 12:15 Mass.  I speak Spanish with a French accent, and sometimes I break into Latin just for grips and grins.  “We should have Mass in all these languages so that people will come.”  They still don’t come!  “Well, if we have the Vigil Mass at 5:00 on Saturday and Mass on Sunday night, people will come.”  Mass attendance is still down. 

My grandfather was a police officer for 38 years in the city of Taunton, MA.  Family history has it that he never drew his side-arm.  I also have it from someone who had a close encounter with my grandfather that he did use his foot.  Those are the old days when you could provide guidance without the cameras rolling.  This guy said, “You know something?  I deserved it.”  He never did that again.  My grandfather never missed a Mass.  “Oh, we can’t have the dreaded Latin Mass.”  Oh, my goodness!  It would make it so easy for me.  I would only need to have one Mass for the entire United Nations in this church. 

I have a book in my office entitled “Chaplains of WWII.”  In the book, there are stories about two priests one of which was an Army chaplain.  He followed the same Mass during the Battle of the Bulge, in the snow, with the soldiers kneeling.  “That was in the war?”  Yes, a big one.  The Germans and Americans were negotiating real estate.  It was pretty brutal, but they held Mass, and the soldiers were all on their knees.  Another story from the book that I thought was moving happened in Iwo Jima.  A Navy priest was saying Mass with the Marines, and the Marines held up ponchos so that the wind wouldn’t blow everything over.  You know what?  They were all kneeling during the Mass.  The average age of a Marine there was 19 years old.  We don’t send old men to fight wars.  Jim Dawson was 19 years old and disarmed bombs in Vietnam which is a zero-defect kind of job. 

We need to change ourselves.  That’s what Jesus said, “Leave everything behind you, and come follow Me.”  Come to Him like a little child.  Change is not always pleasant.  The day I had to stop eating bacon and start eating Moby Dick was very traumatic.  I still whine and moan about it.  That’s alright because it extends my warranty a little.  We must change if we want peace in our souls and all the joy possible in this life.  Do not try to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic.  Do not work on the peripheral stuff; instead, work on the hole in the soul.  

How will you apply this message to your life?  _______________________________________

You can read all of Father Fitzgibbons’ sermons by going to and clicking on “Blog” then “Categories” then “Sermon Notes.”  On a cell phone: click on “Blog” and then “Menu.”  Scroll to the bottom and click on “Categories.”  Sermon Notes are also available on the Church’s Facebook page at  Click on “Groups” and then “Sermon Notes.”

Sermon Notes – October 15, 2023 – “Evil Must be Converted or Destroyed”

“Evil Must be Converted or Destroyed”

 Father Peter Fitzgibbons

 October 14 – 15, 2023

Gospel:  Matthew 22:1-14

I’ve been here with you for many years, so you know that I know a guy.  Actually, I know a couple of guys, and those guys know a couple of other guys.  So, I have sources of information that you may or may not have.  As the song goes, I have friends in low places. I know people on the dark side.  Over the years, I have queried my sources on several topics, and they have been most helpful.  There is one query in particular that all my sources gave me the same answer.  So, I have it on good authority that Mother Teresa was never a member of Hells Angels.  You can take that to the bank.  I heard she liked to ride, so why was Mother Teresa never a member of Hells Angels?  Because she didn’t want to be.  Why not?  She had the greatest of all things in her heart which is Jesus Christ.   Over the years, through many trials, tribulations, and great suffering, she survived with joy because she always kept Christ in her heart. No matter how great her difficulties were, she found peace in the person of Jesus.  The world will only find peace when they have Jesus in their hearts. 

Just this week, I received a phone call from the diocese.  They told me that I have to migrate my emails to another location.  Yeah, what are the odds of that happening.  I’ll give you a clue as to where they can migrate them.   Many years ago, the diocese called my former secretary and said, “Father’s email account is full.  He’d better delete some of them or we are going to close the account.”   My secretary said, “Father has been in Iraq for the last eight months.”   I tend to ignore these requests.  Let me put it this way; we built Catholic hospitals, Catholic orphanages, and Catholic universities.  We Christianized the world by bringing God’s love to it and all without computers or the internet.  When I was in seminary, I used an old-fashioned manual typewriter.  People actually wrote books using those things.

There are evil people in the world.  A small percentage are evil because they are mentally ill.   Some of them are over at FU (Felon University; i.e., the prison).   Most people are evil because they have satan in their hearts.  They are not evil because they don’t have fresh plumbing or a smartphone.  Do you realize that we have saints who didn’t have flush plumbing?  “Oh, people are bad because they don’t have stuff.  If they just had flush plumbing, a smartphone, or more bandwidth, they would be okay.”   It has been proven over the years that giving people stuff does not work.  My parents grew up poor, and they weren’t sociopaths.  My uncle did go to prison, but he was a correctional officer and got to go home at night.   It’s not the lack of stuff that makes people evil.  It’s what is lacking in the heart.  I’ve been with men all over the world, and we didn’t have stuff other than what we could carry.  None of us were sociopaths.  They would die for me, and I would die for them.  Sociopaths may not have had stuff, but they certainly didn’t have Christ in their hearts and so they are evil. 

There is no negotiating with evil.  It would be like negotiating with cancer.  “Hey, Cancer, we’ll let you have the gall bladder, but you cannot go anywhere else.”  “Okay, you can have the appendix, but don’t touch any of the survivors.”  No!  You have to eradicate cancer by putting pharmacies into people to kill every cancer cell in the body to make sure it doesn’t come back.  Would you be happy if your doctor told you that they got most of the cancer?  Would you be happy with that?   No, you wouldn’t.  Cancer is evil in the body.  Sin is evil in the soul.  You cannot make friends with evil, and you cannot negotiate with it.  It must be converted or destroyed.   

In the synod on synodality, they are promoting openness while people are being butchered and babies are being decapitated in the Holy Land.  They have no conception of reality.  “Well, we all believe in the same god.”  No, we don’t.  “But we are all Christians, so we believe in the same god.”  No, no, no!  I’m throwing the BS flag on that one too.  All religions are not equal.  So, you cannot say that we are all Christian.   My Christian God doesn’t think that killing babies in the womb is a really good idea.  Decapitating babies or making excuses for those who do is pure evil and satanic.  My Christian God also doesn’t think that washing our hands of mom and dad when they get a little too old to care for is a good idea.  “Sorry, Mom and Dad.  We need the bed.  Bye-bye!”  No!  Our God does not do that.  But the Nazis did.  Life unworthy of life was a Nazi designation for segments of the population which, according to the Nazi regime, had no right to live.  Know what happened after the war?  We tracked every one of them down and we hung them.   A little neck stretching exercise courtesy of the U.S. Army. 

We don’t negotiate with evil.  It is either converted or it must be destroyed.   You cannot negotiate with evil.  Jesus said, “Let your Yes mean Yes and your No mean No.  Anything else is from the Evil One.” (Matthew 5:37).   He didn’t say to negotiate.  The danger for us is that they use all these fancy words that actually mean nothing.  I have a degree in philosophy.  I hear all these fancy words, and it’s academic bravo sierra.   We would use all those big words to fill up a term paper, so it looked like we’d actually done some work.  It’s a game.  Congress said, “We’ve come to an agreement.”   Nah.  The only way to have peace in the world is to have Jesus constantly in our souls.  Evil is in the world because satan, and not Jesus, is in our hearts.

 How will you apply this message to your life?  ________________________________

You can read all of Father Fitzgibbons’ sermons by going to and clicking on “Blog” then “Categories” then “Sermon Notes.”  On a cell phone: click on “Blog” and then “Menu.”  Scroll to the bottom and click on “Categories.”  Sermon Notes are also available on the Church’s Facebook page at  Click on “Groups” and then “Sermon Notes.”

Sermon Notes – October 8, 2023 – “We Do Not Know”

“We Do Not Know”

Father Peter Fitzgibbons

 October 7 – 8, 2023

Gospel:  Matthew 21:33:43

While I was proclaiming the gospel, I thought about the servants the master dispatched.  They were cursed at and thrown out.   I can empathize with that.  I’m glad you are sitting down because I’m sure you will be stunned when I tell you that sometimes I have not been treated very well by people. Shocking, isn’t it?  Blanch and John’s little boy has been mistreated.  I’ve been cursed at and thrown out of patients’ rooms.   My cousin yelled at me one time while I was attending my aunt’s funeral.  She said, “You still believe in this stuff?” to which I replied, “Yeah, what happened to you?”   Our Lord created us out of love, sustains us in His love, and wants us to respond to His love so that we can be with Him for all eternity.   That’s why He not only sent prophets, but He also sent His Son to remind of us His great love.  People treated them not so well.   He begs us to respond to His gifts.  He begs us not to grow weary or to become jaded.   He begs us to continue the walk to salvation.  He tells us in the Gospels, point blank with no grey area or ambiguity, what we should do and not do.   And if we happen to stumble, He gives us the means by which to pick up our cross and follow Him.  He continues to show His everlasting love because He doesn’t want anyone to be separated from Him for all eternity.  That’s not His plan.  That’s our plan, not His. 

We are called to judge people for we will know them by their fruits.   I do not want to eat a sandwich made by someone who just came from the bathroom without washing their hands.  Call me fussy, but I do not like that, and I’ve been to some pretty disgusting places.  So, you will know them by their fruits, but you can never judge them for eternal salvation.  You can never judge people beyond God’s mercy.  About eight years ago, I was making my rounds in Hospice and a nurse came up to me and said, “Father, the patient in Room 3 has a statue of Buddha in his room.”  So, I went into the patient’s room, and we talked for a while.  He was a Marine during World War II.  He had three island landings, and the second one hit him badly.  It took him out of the game, but they fixed him up and sent him back in.  The third one hit him so badly that he could no longer be a Marine.  So, we were sitting there talking and he said, “I’m Buddhist.”  Now it was time to talk about the elephant or the Buddha in the room.  We take people where they are.  The patient asked me if I knew anything about Buddha, and I said not much.  I mean I know if you rub the fat guy’s belly it’s supposed to bring you wealth.  But that’s about it.  What did Buddha say to the hot dog vendor?  Make me one with everything.  The patient loaned me a book about Buddhism, and I took it home and read it.  The next time I saw the patient, I told him that I had read the book and that it was very interesting.  Then he told me why he became a Buddhist.  After his tours of duty during World War II, he was sitting on an island, and he looked down at his left arm where he was wearing a silver ID bracelet.  There were 28-29 notches on the bracelet which meant he had personally put the whack on 28-29 Japanese soldiers.  Marines get up close and personal.  When he came home from the war, he tried to be a good husband and father.  He talked to the clergy to find help for what was going on inside him.  But he could not find the answer for the damage the war had done to him, so he found peace in Buddhism.  I can live with that.  I came out of the room and told the nurses not to worry about the Buddha.  The Buddha is fine.  The upside of the story is that this patient got better and left Hospice although not in the usual way.  He actually walked out of Hospice and moved to Florida to live with his daughter. 

We had this woman come into hospice at the VA.  She was acting very ugly and was throwing staff members out of her room.  If she was in a good mood, she would let one nurse and one doctor enter her room.  Finally, one of the chaplains went in and talked to her.  Know why she was in Hospice even though she was only in her early thirties?   She put herself there by living a very bad life.   She was self-medicating because of the severe abuse she experienced as a child.  Some might say, “She doesn’t know Jesus, so she’s not going to Heaven.”  You know, I wouldn’t be so sure about that considering the crosses she has had to carry.  That’s why we don’t judge other people. 

We don’t judge people because we don’t know the crosses they carry.  We don’t know what the heck has happened to them or to those they love.  God judges that.  The Gospel says, “And other sheep I have which are not of this fold” (John 10:16).  We don’t know, so we pray for them, and we implore the merciful judgment of God’s mercy upon them.  In the future, I will probably be thrown out of more rooms.  Will it hurt my feelings?  Maybe.  But that’s what I’m supposed to do.  Before HIPAA rules, which every hospital and nursing home has, the staff would let me know when someone was dying, and I would go in and say the Prayer for the Departing Soul.   I’ve told the funeral directors here that if someone doesn’t have anyone to pray for them at their graveside, call me and I will come and say the Prayer of the Dead.   Because we are all children of God created in His image and likeness.  We all deserve that.  We don’t wish for God’s judgment on anyone.  If we do, we are wishing it for ourselves.   We don’t know the agony other people have endured, so we implore God’s mercy on them. 

How will you apply this message to your life?  ________________________________________

You can read all of Father Fitzgibbons’ sermons by going to and clicking on “Blog” then “Categories” then “Sermon Notes.”  On a cell phone: click on “Blog” and then “Menu.”  Scroll to the bottom and click on “Categories.”  Sermon Notes are also available on the Church’s Facebook page at  Click on “Groups” and then “Sermon Notes.”

Sermon Notes – October 1, 2023 – “Love is an Action Not an Attendance Record”

“Love is an Action Not an Attendance Record”

Father Peter Fitzgibbons

September 30 – October 1, 2023

Gospel: Matthew 21:28-32

28“What is your opinion? A man had two sons. He came to the first and said, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 He said in reply, ‘I will not,’ but afterwards he changed his mind and went. 30 The man came to the other son and gave the same order. He said in reply, ‘Yes, sir,’ but did not go. 31 Which of the two did his father’s will?” They answered, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you. 32 When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe him; but tax collectors and prostitutes did. Yet even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe him.

I heard you had a rather long and interesting sermon last week. Mine may not be as long, but I’ll give it a shot.

Love is an action. It is not an emotion. Our good Lord calls us to respond to His love by living a life of charity and self-sacrifice. Some will say, “Father, I went to Catholic school, and I’ve always gone to church.” Now, the lawyer in me says, “I don’t care that you have been to church. But did you go into the church?” There’s a difference. I’ve been to the hospital, but that doesn’t make me a doctor. “But, Father, I’ve been to church all my life.” That’s great. I’ve been going to the bathroom all my life, but that doesn’t make me a toilet!

How have you responded to the love God offered you, all the classes you took, all the Masses you participated in and the Sacraments you received? How did you put all of that into action? That is what our good Lord will ask us. “You have My love. What did you do with it?” If you read further along in the Gospel of Saint Matthew, Jesus gives us the final exam questions. Go read it. They are all about how we responded to His love. “Lord, You know I love You.” That’s fine, but Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (Matthew 14:15). That is an action. It’s an act of both positivity and negativity. Avoid sin and do good works. I’ll give you one of the 25 exam questions from the Gospel of Matthew. The others you can study on your own: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me” (Matthew 25:35-36). Those are the final exam questions, and they are all actions.

So, love is an action. It is not an attendance record. Yes, it’s the part of love that has nothing to do with attendance. It’s a little more than that considering the amount of love God offers us as well as to prostitutes and tax collectors. We are all sinners, and all our sins are vile. Now a Canon lawyer might say, “There’s a difference between mortal and venial sin.” No, no, no. You can play a lot of theological games with that. Basically, when you say “no” to God it is “no” to God. Period. Finito. That’s like comparing the difference between slapping a guy and slapping a baby. Why is slapping a baby worse? Because the baby is pure innocence. The guy may have deserved it…the baby did not. However, it is still a slap.

Love is an action and that is what our Lord asks of us. “I’ve given you My love. Are you giving your love back to Me?” We come here for the Sacraments and for prayer. We need God’s grace so that we have the energy, will, and ability to give those acts of love. His great act of love sustains us. Now He wants our acts of love in return.

[Father, looking at his watch] . . . Well, that was less than 30 minutes.

Father’s Reflections. . .

People ask me, “Father, did you have a good vacation?” Well, I’m still working on the after-action report. Now, I don’t know if this is an up or a down, but I had to let my belt out a notch because I ate like a pig. The food was wonderful. I was having lunch with a friend, a nurse, who I’ve known for 30 years. The restaurant is on the water and is a really nice place. I had seasoned blackened salmon, and I was going to order some fruit for dessert, but I got ice cream instead. My friend said, “You’re a cardiac patient,” which prompted my inner Italian to almost show itself. The next day, she had a birthday party with a huge pumpkin spice cake made with four eggs and butter that I shouldn’t eat. Thanks a lot! I’ll tell you one other story about my trip. I was sitting in the diner [see a pattern here?] where food was being served with a huge side of sarcasm which is always available. I had seen these men in the diner before, and they were talking about this woman whose husband would beat her. So, the woman’s three brothers visited her husband and made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. Afterward, he moved to Virginia. Rhode Island has a huge bay, and everybody has a boat.

How will you apply this message to your life? _________________________________________

You can read all of Father Fitzgibbons’ sermons by going to and clicking on “Blog” then “Categories” then “Sermon Notes.” On a cell phone: click on “Blog” and then “Menu.” Scroll to the bottom and click on “Categories.” Sermon Notes are also available on the Church’s Facebook page at Click on “Groups” and then “Sermon Notes.”

Sermon Notes – July 23, 2023 – Love is an Action

Love is an Action

Father Peter Fitzgibbons

July 22 – 23, 2023

Gospel:  Matthew 13:24-43

One of the things I like reading in my hometown newspaper is the obituaries.  Up north, where I grew up, we call it the “Irish sports page.”  Hey, you gotta have fun!  I like reading about what people have done in their lives.  Some people have done amazing things.  At the end of the obituaries, the religious services for the deceased are announced.  I find some of them incomprehensible.  “A celebration of life will be held at a restaurant” or wherever.  Really?  You should have had that a week ago when the person was warmer and could have appreciated it.  He’s dead!   Unfortunately, the same is done for Catholics: “A celebration of life will be held to celebrate their life.”   What the newspapers are printing is heresy and blasphemous.   It denies what the Mass is.  The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is not a celebration of someone’s life.  The Mass is not an “it.”  It’s a “Who.”  It is Christ offering Himself to the Father on our behalf for the forgiveness of our sins.  And we all need that.  Even my sainted mother, who suffered purgatory on Earth because she raised me, needed a savior.   We had a Mass of Christian Burial for her, and I performed it. 

Christ prays for us in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass because, unfortunately, we must leave this world through death.  We all contemplate the end of life.  I seem to be hurrying toward it a little quicker than I expected.  In fact, I’ve been scoping out the best rooms in Hospice.  We were never meant to die, and that’s why we fear death.  Original sin and the sins we have committed since Baptism have that effect.   In the Gospel, Christ said that after death comes judgment.   People don’t like that word.  Know why they don’t like it?  Because they’ve done something wrong.  Do you get nervous when you’re driving up Highway 52 to Salisbury and see a State Trooper or the Sheriff?  People tend to hit their breaks.  But if you’re not speeding, you have nothing to worry about.  I just give the officers a blessing and move on.  I’m grateful they are there like angels watching over us in case somebody gets hurt. 

Sometimes obituaries will say that the deceased person has “gone to see Jesus.”  And that’s true.   When we leave this world, God, Himself, will look at us and ask, “Did you love Me?”  “Did you keep My Commandments?”  That is the standard because that is what He said.  For some, it is not a pleasant meeting.  They only stay for a cup of coffee and then go elsewhere.  Others get to stay in Heaven forever.   How long we stay depends on how we have lived.  According to the Gospel of Matthew, we will be judged according to how we loved and responded to His love. 

There is a course we take in seminary called Eschatology, a study of the last days.  Within that course is a sub-course about the Four Last Things:  Death, Judgement, Heaven, and Hell.  Traditionally, we preach about the Four Last Things during Lent.  When we leave this world, all of us will see Jesus.  How that meeting goes is entirely up to us.  The key thing to note is that God tells us exactly what to do.  “If you love Me, keep My Commandments.”  And He gives us the final exam questions further along in the Gospel of Matthew.   So, you already know what He will ask when you stand before Him.  “Did you love Me?”   “Yes, Lord.  You know I love You.”   He’s not going to accept the same excuse that you give police officers: “Oh, I didn’t see the speed limit sign, Officer.”  No!  He knows what we’ve done because love is an action.   

When I work with people who are passing, I ask them if they have made their peace with God.  God always wants to save us even at the point of our death.  Heaven was stolen once by the Good Thief on the Cross, and it can be stolen again.   Many in my hospital work have been able to steal Heaven at the last minute.  I have baptized several people while they were on their deathbeds, and one wasn’t even Catholic, but he wanted to be baptized.  They realize that they want peace.   I never mention the “D” word.  The Hospice staff don’t understand how I do that.  I just never bring it up.  I let them bring it up because they have to accept it.  You don’t take away someone’s crutch without giving them another one.   If they are Catholic, I ask them if they would like to be anointed with the Last Rites “just in case.”   I tell those who have made their peace with God, that at some point our good Lord will come for them.  And they will see Him coming with a smile on His face and arms wide open to embrace them.  So, open your arms and run to Him and know that there will never again be a risk of losing Him by sin.   

The good news and bad news for us is the same . . .  We are going to die.  If I go to hospice care, I’m having bacon at every meal.  What’s the worst that can happen, right?  We are all going to die.  But the good news for those who love God is that it is not bad news.  We will be with the One who has loved us all our lives beyond all our imaginations and Who will forgive anything if we say we are sorry.  That’s the good news.  We will have joy and peace forever. We will be far more able to help those we love to come to the same place we are.  Never be discouraged.  The fear of death is normal.  We were not supposed to die.  But the more we love God, the more that fear recedes from us.

Father’s Afterthoughts . . .
I want to thank everyone for my birthday party last week.  I must be losing my situational awareness with age because I had no idea.  Even though the party took four months of planning, it was a complete surprise.   Now, at the Spanish Mass today, I’m going to yell at them.  They know that I don’t understand a lot of Spanish, and so they talked about plans for the party right in front of me!  But I want to thank you for your kindness.  It was overwhelming, humbling, and a bit embarrassing. 

Mary Connor, a shut-in from our parish, passed away on Saturday.  She had all the Sacraments of the Church, and now she is at rest.  When I saw her on Thursday, I asked her how she was feeling, to which she replied, “I feel like bleep!”  I almost said, “Well, you look it.”  But I didn’t.  So, please pray for her soul. 

How will you apply this message to your life?  _______________________________________

You can read all of Father Fitzgibbons’ sermons by going to and clicking on “Blog” then “Categories” then “Sermon Notes.”  On a cell phone: click on “Blog” and then “Menu.”  Scroll to the bottom and click on “Categories.”  Sermon Notes are also available on the Church’s Facebook page at  Click on “Groups” and then “Sermon Notes.”

Sermon Notes – September 17, 2023 – “We Cannot Give What We Do Not Have”

“We Cannot Give What We Do Not Have”

 Father Peter Fitzgibbons

 September 16 – 17, 2023

Gospel:  Matthew 18:21-35

This sermon has been felon-approved by the folks at FU (Felon University; i.e., the prison).  Remember, I have often told you that to study scripture you have to study it in the language and culture in which events occurred.  Otherwise, you won’t understand the extreme significance of our Lord’s words.  For example, consider the question, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?”   Now, if you have a family like mine, before their number was reduced considerably, sometimes they can really tick you off.  When my brother would make me mad, I’d wonder if it was the sixth or seventh time and if I should forgive him.  But our Lord said, ‘”I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.”  Catholic school math tells me that is 490 times that I must forgive.  I could reach that number at a family reunion! 

In Aramaic, seven is a perfect number – it is zero, a perfect circle, and so it is infinite.  Our Lord said, “seventy times seven” or beyond infinity.  Why did He use that language?  Because while most modern languages today have comparative and superlative tenses, Aramaic and Hebrew did not at the time.  Remember when spies were sent to the Promised Land?  When they came back, they said that the people there were as numerous as grasshoppers and as tall as giants.   No, they weren’t.   There were just so many people that the spies couldn’t count them all, and the people were huge.  When Jesus fed the 5,000, not counting women and children, do you think the apostles were doing a head count?  1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. . .   No.   It’s like when the diocese asks how many people were at church.  Well, the church was full, so there were 300.   The numbers are hyperbole. . . a number beyond counting.   

Our Lord used that hyperbolic phrase, “seventy times seventy” because that is how great God’s mercy is.  God’s nature is mercy and love.  So to deny everlasting mercy would be to deny Himself.   No matter how badly you think you’ve sinned, He absolutely forgives and forgets.  The only thing God cannot forgive is our not asking for forgiveness because He will not violate our free will.  We can keep things to ourselves although He already knows.  So, don’t think you are keeping anything from Him.  It is our choice to love Him or not.  Receiving His mercy is one of the greatest experiences of God’s love.  And that experience of God’s love enables us, as Saint John Paul II said, to go from the Sacrament of Penance which is the Sacrament of His mercy and love to the Sacrament of Holy Communion and Mass.  We can have a deeper appreciation, bond, and love for the Sacrament of Penance which leads to other Sacraments.  When someone says, “Father, I don’t need to go to confession,” I tell them that they also don’t need Holy Communion.  “What do you mean, Father?”   Did I stutter?  (My new favorite phrase.)  Then I ask a series of questions.  Who do you see in Holy Communion?  “Jesus Christ.”  Very good.  Who is Jesus Christ?  “The Savior.”   What does He save you from?  “Sin.”  And if you have no sins, you don’t need Mass and you don’t need to receive Holy Communion.   We all need a Savior. 

We cannot give what we do not have.  Likewise, we cannot forgive others if we have not experienced forgiveness.  Because of our diminished intellect and fallen nature, we tend to judge our spiritual nature by our feelings.  When we are called to forgive others, we might say, “I don’t feel like forgiving that person.”   However, Jesus used a declarative sentence when He said, “Forgive.”  Nowhere in the Gospels did He ever ask, “How do you feel about that?”   Our Lord doesn’t care how you feel.  Forgiveness is an act of the will.  Our feelings are diminished and don’t always lead us in the right direction.  The right thing to do goes beyond our feelings and inclinations.   When I eat fish – Eugh! –  I do not feel like eating fish!  I hate fish!!  Damn doctors!   But I have to eat it.  Did the doctor ask if I like fish?  No!   Did he tell me to eat it?  Yes.  Quack!   For many years, I thought bacon was a health food.  God really has a way of laughing at us.  But eating fish is the right thing to do, so I reluctantly choke it down. 

Our Lord gave us a way to deal with all those feelings and resentments we have for others.  He said, “Pray for them.”  Pray for those who hate and persecute you.  One, they may be wrong; and two, they may be right, and we really are jerks.   Who knows.  But we pray for them, and we pray for ourselves so that we can get our distorted feelings and emotions back in check.  People say, “Father, you must hear lots of juicy things during confessions.”  Not really.  After the first week of hearing confessions, it’s like being stoned to death with popcorn.  If you have a sin I’ve never heard, I’ll name it after you.  Some people come to confession very upset, and I ask them what they have done.  “Well, I did this.”  Sometimes the hardest thing about hearing confessions is not laughing.   Really?  You are definitely pole-vaulting over mouse droppings here.   But what I hear while being stoned to death with popcorn is their great love.  I hear what people say and what they don’t say.  They realize they have sinned and have cut themselves off from God’s love.  They love God and want to come back and open their souls up to receive God’s love.  That’s what I hear, and I really do listen.  You aren’t going to sneak one in on me.  “Father, I talk cruelly to my dog and my cat.  I did some speeding.  I killed two people and umm…”  Whoa!  That’s called an Oreo confession.  But besides that, I hear the love for God.  And that’s what priests are listening for.

Father’s Reflections . . .

On Friday, I was doing my ACLS or CPR recertification, and I was working on a very expensive and sophisticated mannequin that would tell me if I needed to go deeper, faster, slower, or move my hands.  And all of a sudden, the mannequin went “de-de-de Woo-Bunk” and completely shut down.     So, I did the only thing I could . . . I pulled the sheet up over the mannequin, turned out the light, and closed the door as I left.  I’m a hospital chaplain; I’ve done this before.

How will you apply this message to your life?  ________________________________________

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