Category Archives: Pastor message

Pastor’s Message February 10th, 2019

Because of its singular importance, and in view of the recent insidious activities of the governors of New York and Virginia, I offer my weekly letter space to this much needed statement from the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“The bishops of Florida join with Catholics and others of goodwill in reacting in horror and disgust to the recently passed law in New York State that legalizes abortion essentially for any reason through all nine months of pregnancy and removes any protection for children born alive after abortion. Sadly, similar bills were proposed in Virginia and elsewhere. As Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, Chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, stated, “This legislation is evil, pure and simple.”
Floridians can take some comfort in knowing that in regard to our state’s respect for children in the womb, Florida is not New York. Florida’s laws, as well as its present political realities, are substantially different than in the state of New York. With the current make-up of our legislature and leadership in the Florida House, Senate and governor’s office, a New York-type abortion bill stands no chance of passage in the Sunshine State in the near future.
Florida faces its own challenges in prohibiting or limiting abortion. Notwithstanding those challenges, numerous laws have been passed in Florida including:
*Requiring notification of a parent when a minor seeks an abortion (2005);
*Requiring the abortion provider to offer the mother the option to view an ultrasound image of her unborn child (2011);
*Requiring any infant born alive during an abortion to be transported to the nearest emergency medical facility for immediate treatment (2013);
*Prohibiting abortion if required testing determines the unborn child is viable outside the womb, with exceptions for life and irreversible physical impairment of the mother (2014);
*Allowing criminal prosecution if a person commits any crime that causes the death of, or bodily injury to, an unborn child (2014);
*Requiring abortionists to have admitting privileges or the facility to have a transfer agreement with a hospital within 30 minutes by emergency vehicle (2016);
*Securing state funding for pregnancy support services (2005 and ongoing) and including the Florida Pregnancy Care Network to Florida statutes (2018). 
 Since 1969, the bishops of Florida, through the Florida Catholic Conference, have been a consistent voice for human life and have actively engaged the Florida legislature to promote passage of these life-saving bills. The bishops will continue to be strong advocates for the passage of laws that protect and defend unborn babies and their mothers and fathers. Much work still needs to be done.
As noted above, Florida faces unique challenges in regulating and restricting abortion. As a result of an interpretation by the Florida Supreme Court, the privacy clause in our state constitution was found to provide a broader right to abortion than the U.S. Constitution. Consequently, unjust rulings have kept good laws from going into effect that seek to limit the harm of abortion. Laws blocked by our courts include requiring a 24-hour reflection period prior to abortion, which is still pending appeal, and parental consent prior to a minor’s abortion.
Even if the U.S. Supreme Court reverses Roe v. Wade, abortion could remain legal in our state due to the Florida Supreme Court’s broad interpretation of Florida’s privacy clause. “We advocate for the reconsideration of these decisions, and we remain hopeful that the courts will ultimately protect women in Florida from the predatory practices of the abortion industry,” said the bishops in their Statement on the 46th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade, January 22, 2019.
Please reach out to your lawmakers. They need to know where their constituents stand on this critical issue. Please send a message urging both your state and federal lawmakers against ever enacting legislation similar to the immoral New York State law. 
Pray for an end to abortion. Please pray for our elected and appointed leaders. Pray especially for those that support and celebrate abortion, that their eyes will be opened to the atrocity of killing an innocent human life in a mother’s womb. Pray that those who are pro-life and oppose abortion are reassured and strengthened in their convictions. Pray that all may recognize that devaluing the most innocent and vulnerable life leads to a coarseness and callousness towards one another and all life. And, pray that we have the strength to continue to fight until the scourge of abortion is brought to an end.”

Pastor’s Message February 3rd, 2019

We have witnessed in recent years a troubling distortion of the reality of love that has taken a deep hold in Western society, not only in the general culture of the day but also in the thoughts of many individual people. This distortion of the truth, and even the purpose of love, has been raised to new heights because of the legal attempts to redefine traditional marriage to include the so-called unions of two men or of two women. Sadly, such a redefinition of traditional marriage unfortunately was made law by our U.S. Supreme Court.  
Those who insist on this redefinition of marriage claim to do so “out of love.” They ask, “Should anyone be denied the right to love another person?” The answer, of course, is no, provided that we have a true definition of love, such as is given us by St. Paul in this Sunday’s 2nd Reading at Mass. This passage is frequently proclaimed at wedding ceremonies: that when a man is joined to his wife, the two become one flesh, because at the heart of marriage, as at the heart of every Christian life, is love (Gen. 2:24). At the beginning of this passage, Paul tells us to “strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts” (I Cor. 12:31); and at its conclusion, he tells us what the greatest spiritual gift is: “the greatest of these is love” (I Cor. 13:13).  
Consider this key and fundamental question: What is love? We may say that love is a feeling that we experience, an emotion; but it is also much more than a sentiment. Emotions come and go, like so many “friendships” in life, and sometimes they deceive us. It sometimes happens that we perceive to have been slighted by someone when no slight was intended or even done to us. We then become angry with friends, or even family members; but while we feel anger towards them and not necessarily affection, it doesn’t mean that our love for them has ceased.  
Rather than being an emotion, love is a choice. Love is a choice for the good of another person. Love is also the desire to act so as to obtain the good for another person. Love, then, is not so much an emotion as it is an act of the will; it is a decision to act in a certain way, not simply a feeling over which we have no control.  
We understand that what is good is not sinful and what is sinful is not good. Authentic love, then, never encourages sin or leads a person further into sin. Instead, it seeks to help another live a holy life. Love seeks to lead a person further away from sin and closer to the truth. And we know that truth is not just a thing, but a person, Jesus, who tells us, “I am the way and the truth and the life” (Jn 14:6). So one who truly loves seeks to lead the beloved always closer to Jesus, to Him who is not only the Good Shepherd but is, as St. Thomas Aquinas teaches us, Goodness itself (Jn 10:11).
St. Paul says, “love both elicits virtue and expels vice, not permitting it to spring up at all.” If vice is not expelled, but instead encouraged and fostered, then a person lives more in sin than in love, and their salvation is at risk. This is why St. John Chrysostom declared, “In other words, says Paul, if I have no love, I am not just useless but a positive nuisance.”  
Love doesn’t tolerate sinful desires and activities but seeks to root them out because “it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices in the truth” (I Cor 13:6). The Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen put it this way: “Christian love bears evil, but it does not tolerate it. It does penance for the sins of others, but it is not broadminded about sin.” Love forgives the sinner, and it hates the sin. It will always take back the sinner into the bosom of the Mystical Body, but it is unmerciful to the error in his mind.  
Real love also involves real hatred, for whoever has lost the power of moral indignation – like Jesus driving the buyers and sellers from the temple – has also lost a living, fervent love of Truth.
So, charity is not a mild philosophy of “live and let live;” it is not a species of sloppy sentiment. Charity is the infusion of God’s Spirit, which makes us love the beautiful and hate the morally ugly. When the Church teaches and proclaims what is moral and what is immoral, what is holy and what is sinful, what is right and what is wrong, what is just and what is unjust, she is met with opposition; evil never likes to be called out for what is. Yet, in the face of such opposition, the Church continues to speak the truth because “love endures all things” because she does not teach her mere opinion, but the truth she has received from Jesus Christ (I Cor 13:7).  
I am thinking of the recent chilling events about the abortion legislation just passed in the Empire State. With righteous indignation, we ask, “How can a “Catholic” governor not only allow, but also promote and rejoice in such laws? I hope and pray they will be challenged and defeated in civil courts. I also hope that bishops will be able to successfully challenge, in a truly charitable way, the “Catholics” who allowed such an abomination to reach this point.  
There will be some – as there have always been – who will seek to hurl those who speak the truth over a cliff, as they attempted with the Lord, but the truth must still be spoken because the message of salvation in Christ must always be proclaimed (Lk 4:29). As we seek to love in truth we must remember the word of the Lord: “They will fight against you but will not prevail over you, for I am with you to deliver you” (Jeremiah 1:19).
Pope Emeritus Benedict, in his Apostolic Letter “Porta Fidei,” pointed out that “the renewal of the Church is also achieved through the witness offered by lives of believers: by their very existence in the world, Christians are called to radiate the word of truth that the Lord Jesus has left us.” If you and I strive for the greatest spiritual gift, the gift of love, and seek to share that love in everything we do by acting for the good of others, not only will the Church be renewed, but the world also will be.

Pastor’s Message January 27th, 2019

   In his visit to America a few short years ago, one of the aims set forth by Pope Francis was to “to look to the past with gratitude.” When we consider the history of the Church in our country, we’ve seen how the Lord has blessed us in a special way, providing for our needs, particularly through the great work of the many religious who have been a part of shaping our identity. In a particular way, we recall with gratitude the profound impact that religious have had on the history of Catholic education in our country and our diocese. CATHOLIC SCHOOLS WEEK that we now observe, gives us a chance to focus on that legacy and the continued efforts to develop morally upright citizens and vibrant Christians through the means of Catholic education.  
In the past, we’ve remarked how numerous Catholic schools abounded and made great learning available at a reasonable cost through the sacrificial efforts of countless religious priests, brothers and sisters who had served the parish schools well. The remaining ones continue to be a source of great blessing to the life of the Church. Although the numbers of religious serving in schools are not what they once were, we must acknowledge that we would not be where we are without their many years of faithful service, and for that, we give thanks to God for the foundation they helped to build, a foundation from which we all benefit in more ways than we could ever fully appreciate. Today, that same legacy continues through the efforts of equally dedicated lay men and women who also make great sacrifices in order to keep our schools open.  
One of the many figures who contributed to this foundation of Catholic education in our country is St. Katharine Drexel. She was born into one of the wealthiest families in the country. She and her sisters were raised with a solid Catholic formation, which included many opportunities for serving the poor and underprivileged with the wealth that had been bestowed upon their family.  
Pope Francis, during his visit to Philadelphia, reflected on the life and example of St. Katharine who had been born in that city. He recounted an incident that changed the direction of her life forever. While on a trip to Europe, she had the opportunity to be in Rome and was granted an audience with Pope Leo XIII. She pleaded with the pope to send more priests to serve the needs of the American Indians. Pope Francis recounted the response of Pope Leo in the following way: “The Pope – he was a very wise Pope! – asked her pointedly: ‘What about you? What are you going to do’?” Those words changed Katharine’s life, because they reminded her that, in the end, every Christian man and woman, by virtue of baptism, has received a mission. Each one of us has to respond, as best we can, to the Lord’s call to build up his Body, the Church. Katharine went home and decided to dedicate her life to the service of the underprivileged as a religious sister. Though she inherited a large sum of money following the death of her father, people were astonished at her decision to become a religious sister. One newspaper even printed the headline: “Miss Drexel Enters a Catholic Convent—Gives Up Seven Million,” though not quite accurate.  
An important part of the work to which Katharine dedicated herself was education. She wanted to ensure that those who were unable to receive a Catholic education, either due to a lack of resources or unjust discrimination, would have the opportunity to do so. All of this happened because she was challenged to focus not just on what others could do to make a difference, but what she could do in order to respond to the needs of her time.
In reflecting on this challenge by Pope Leo XIII to St. Katherine, Pope Francis called attention to the significance that this invitation was given to “a young person, a young woman with high ideals.” He then said the following: “How many young people in our parishes and schools have the same high ideals, generosity of spirit, and love for Christ and the Church! I ask you: Do we challenge them? Do we make space for them and help them to do their part, to find ways of sharing their enthusiasm and gifts with our communities, above all in works of mercy and concern for others? Do we share our own joy and enthusiasm in serving the Lord?”
Unfortunately, the message of our Catholic faith and the guidance on ways in which we live it out in our daily lives is not the only message to which we are exposed. In the culture in which we live, we’re challenged with other questions which are often at odds with our Catholic faith. Instead of asking, “What am I going to do?” our culture says, “What am I going to get from it?” We get too wrapped up in ourselves, and we miss the chance to act like Christ to others. 
Our young people have high ideals placed in their hearts. This can be observed simply by asking children what they want to do when they grow up. It’s not uncommon to hear answers such as being a doctor, a firefighter, a police officer, a teacher, or a military officer. What is common among these professions? They all have to do with service to other people. Later on, others may choose similar professions, just because they promise a lot of money, or something personally exciting. Our Catholic faith constantly places before us those ideals of being of service to others. In our diocese and in our parish, we are always emphasizing God’s call to live stewardship and discipleship as a way of life. We are all stewards of God’s creation, entrusted to use the gifts He has given to us for the benefit of others. God also calls us to be His disciples, i.e., people who intentionally decide to follow Jesus.  
This is where we see the great value of our Catholic schools, because they are a special place where young people are challenged to live up to those high ideals that are so common in youthful hearts. It is here that they are given a space in which to learn not just what we believe, but how to put it into practice by being of service to others. That’s why we’re proud of our growing school.
Our Catholic schools are places where we should be able to live in the way that Christ calls us to live. It is here, especially in our daily interactions with one another, where we are challenged with that question: “What are you going to do?” Will we choose to act as Christians, or will we just choose to act as the culture pushes us, by looking the other way, focusing just on what concerns us, leaving the care of others to someone else?

Pastor’s Message January 20th, 2019

This week, our hearts and minds turn to the 46th  anniversary of the tragic Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade, which legalized the killing of unborn children through the terrible evil known as abortion. Since that dreadful day on January 22, 1973, more than 60 million unborn babies have been killed in this nation, founded on the very principle that every person is given by their Creator the inalienable right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
To put that number in some perspective, some 1.5 million Americans have been killed in every war in which this country has fought since 1775. Put another way, the number of children killed by abortion in this country so far is greater than the present populations of the States of California and Florida combined. To put it even more starkly, in the same span of time in which more than 60,000,000 children were aborted in our land, just 138,115,440 were born. The number is staggering, and terribly sad, and it continues due to ignorance on the part of many who could have a hand in stopping it but refuse to hear the truth. 
The Bishops in the United States have launched a major pastoral initiative calling for prayer and penance to promote and build a culture of life, marriage and religious liberty. This initiative includes “Nine Days of Prayer, Penance and Pilgrimage,” which began January 14th and continues to January 22nd (2019). It includes daily prayer intentions for the healing and conversion of our nation, for elected officials who support abortion, especially the so-called “Catholic” ones, and for all people whose lives have forever been changed by an abortion.  
Pope Francis has reminded us that “faith, precisely because it is a free act, also demands social responsibility for what one believes.” Everyone who speaks out against the horror of abortion and seeks to give aid to women in crisis pregnancies is living out their faith. Because we believe in the dignity of every human life from the moment conception to the moment of natural death, we must speak out and call for a greater respect for life in society in general and in our nation’s laws in particular.  
Whenever the Church teaches about the dignity of all human life, she does not teach merely her opinion, but the truth she has received from Jesus. Because it comes from the Lord, it cannot simply be laid aside. To have faith in Jesus Christ means “choosing to stand with the Lord so as to live with Him.” Few have stood so closely with the Lord, after a conversion to the truth, as Saint Augustine of Hippo. He realized a certain psalm was one sung at the dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem. He further noted that the new and ever-lasting temple of the Lord is being built of the sons and daughters of the Church.  
We, too, desire to sing a new song to the Lord because of the wonders he has done for us; because He has revealed himself through these deeds, we believe in Him. Our belief in Him gives us hope, even when we are surrounded by darkness. The light of his presence fills our hearts with his love and compels us to share that love with others. Whenever we share the love of the Lord, we offer hope to others. This hope can lead them, also, to faith in Jesus, faith in the one Savior of all. It  will, we pray, lead them one day into the fold of his Church.
So, as we turn to the Lord and implore Him: “Mercifully hear the pleading of your people and bestow your peace on our times,” I hope that all who claim the name of Christian and every person of good will, will pray, especially at this time, for the conversion of hearts and minds, praying that this Culture of Death will give way to the Culture of Life, so that every person who is conceived will be able to “sing to the Lord a new song” and “bless his name.”

In this coming week, the sad anniversary of the infamous Roe v. Wade decision, I invite you to join in prayer with many Catholic and others who respect life from the womb to the tomb, to pray that laws and hearts may be changed. Please join Bishop Barbarito and me this coming Tuesday, January 22nd, at 11:00 a.m., for an hour of prayer across from the Palm Beach County Court House on Dixie Highway in West Palm Beach. There we will implore Our Lord to help us save the unborn whose lives are threatened by abortion.  

Pastor’s Message January Pastor’s Message January 13th, 2019

We welcome Bishop Herbert Bevard of the Diocese of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands back to our parish once again, as he continues his missionary appeal to help the people of that twice hurricane-ravaged territory. Although our registered parishioners received in our mailed packets the envelope for this appeal earmarked for this weekend, we still can give a gift in next regular week’s collection by using the yellow envelopes that Bishop Bevard has provided. By whatever means and whatever amount you can give, you can be sure that your gift will be well-used and well appreciated by the bishop and people of that struggling diocese. It seems that many members of the Catholic community there have gone unemployed since the decimation of the three-island diocese by the double-whammy storms. Businesses were totally wiped out and others so severely damaged that they have yet to be repaired or restored. The major hotels of the island, which employ many local parishioners, have not returned to their former glory.

So, it’s hard to take care of teachers’ salaries and those of other employees of the diocese when there is little or almost no revenue available. Repairs are moving along at a snail’s pace, as materials have to be flown or shipped in from the mainland. So, Bishop Bevard is once again appealing to our kindness, generosity and good will to help him restore a sense of decency and dignity to the Catholic community, encouraging them to rebuild where churches and schools once stood.
HOORAY! THANK YOU! We did it! We made our designated goal for the annual DSA – the Diocesan Services

Appeal. Although the final results will come in when the diocese has calculated their share of the mailed-in pledges for our parish, we know that because of the generosity of so many of you throughout the year and in the last hours of the appeal in our parish, you helped us reach our goal of $252,000. The last-minute “call to heart” certainly drew a nice response. Now we await the “kick-off” for the 2019 campaign, which will begin in February. Although the appeal usually has become a long-term / dragged-out full yearlong effort, it can close quickly for us if everyone pitches in from the very beginning by everyone making an early pledge and then fulfilling it. YES, WE CAN!!!!

Today the universal Church celebrates the Feast of Jesus’ Baptism, and the official closing of the Christmas season. While the secular world more or less concluded its celebration on the 26th of December, the actual Christian observance of Christmas extends well beyond the opening days of the New Year, to include the great Feast of the Epiphany (Three Kings), as well as the celebration of Christ’s adult baptism. In this way, the brief days of the usual observance of Christmas are actually extended so that we can carry forth the message of hope and peace well into the next year. It was the hope of the ancient Fathers and writers of the early Church to help us retain that spirit throughout the year. So, while the sounds, sights, fragrances and other material essences of Christmas fade from our senses, the true meaning of the Savior’s birth can be renewed each day as we deepen our efforts to carry the spirit of Christmas on our lips and in our hearts – if we allow it to do so.

Last Sunday morning in Orlando, I had the privilege of celebrating Mass for nearly 300 Knights of Columbus Insurance Field Agents and their wives. Following Mass, I was invited to brunch with Supreme Knight Carl Anderson and his wife, and to engage in a conversation about the revival of anti-Catholic sentiment that is arising at a hurried pace, in view of several nominations of Catholic men to serve as judges in various federal courts. The discussion was prompted by the Supreme Knight’s recent message to all member knights about how Catholics can be good U.S. citizens and honest public servants. In it he wrote, “There have been times in our country’s past when uninformed or prejudiced people questions whether Catholics could be good citizens or honest public servants. Sadly, it seems that in some quarters, this prejudice remains. Such attacks on the basis of our Catholic faith are hardly new. From the founding of the Knights of Columbus until the presidential election of John F. Kennedy, many still held that Catholics were unfit for public office. The Knights of Columbus has always adhered to Catholic teaching and our primary motivation is Christ’s commandment that we love God completely and our neighbor as ourselves. It is this commandment of love that compels the Knights’ charitable work. This love also motivates us to stand with the Church on the important issues of life and marriage, precisely because the Church’s teaching reflects and is based on that love. We stand with our Church because we believe that what our faith teaches is consistent with reason, is timeless and transcends the changing sentiments of any particular time or place.”

Anderson then pointed out the “no religious test clause” of Article VI of the US Constitution, and the free exercise clause of the Constitution’s First Amendment, saying, “any suggestion that the Order’s adherence to the beliefs of the Catholic Church makes a Brother Knight unfit for public office blatantly violates those constitutional guarantees.” “Let us continue to express our love of God and neighbor by helping those in need and by standing with our Church, regardless of the popularity of doing so,” Anderson exhorted. “Let us also remember that, from our founding, we have embodied the truth that a good Catholic is a good citizen who shows civility and dignity even in the face of prejudice.”

The Knights of Columbus consists of 2 million members who, in 2017, carried out more than 75 million hours of volunteer work and raised more than $185 million for charitable purposes. I invite Catholic gentlemen at least 18 years of age, to consider becoming a Knight of Columbus.

Pastor’s Message January 6th, 2019

Today the Catholic Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Epiphany, the true highlight of the Christmas season – sometimes referred to as the Feast of the Three Kings. On the east wall of the chapel of King’s College at Cambridge in England, behind the altar, hangs a great painting by Peter Paul Rubens. It is The Adoration of the Magi. Three travelers from the east have journeyed far to look for the “infant king of the Jews.” The Christmas story, as told by St. Matthew, leads us to this great feast that we celebrate today – the Epiphany — that is, the revealing of Christ to the rest of the peoples of the whole world.  
In this Gospel story, we meet the powerful political figure of King Herod. He displays all the force and fallibility of any human leader. Once in power, his main objective seems to be to stay in power. With such an outlook, any power that could be used to help humankind can easily become corrupted into a force for destroying humanity. Herod’s wrongdoings have certainly made him so self-obsessed that he even fears the birth of an unknown child as some kind of threat to his own throne.  
His advisors, the religious and political elite, gather to discuss the political situation. It’s not too much unlike the world order today. These people are experts on how to manage things, so as not to rock the boat. They seem to know what they are talking about. They know where the Messiah will be born. But they don’t seem to be very interested in when, as long as it does not upset their routines of control. These people enjoy their position and their power, but they are not interested in the wider world.  
The travelers, however, are very interested in the wider world. They are seekers after wisdom; they look for the meaning of things. They don’t settle down in the comfort of the here and now. Their life is a journey, and they seek answers to life’s great questions. When they find a “lowly cattle shed,” they fall on their knees in homage to a child. All their searching and all their studying has brought them to this place, and to this newborn king.   
Today’s feast invites us to join the Magi, and to become wise travelers as we wander our way through this world. There is a great temptation in our lives to become like Herod, ruling our lives according to our own desires. We even are tempted to become political and religious experts, like Herod’s advisors, viewing the world according to our own theories of what’s right and what’s wrong, and never getting beyond argument.  
Alternatively, we can go on the journey, like the Wise Men of old, and look for the child, and adore Him when we find Him. When we accept this challenge, then, for as long as we are on this earth, we are on the journey. There is always so much to discover. Even St. Peter, who spent many a day in the company of Jesus, was never finished with learning. On one famous occasion he said, “The truth I have now come to realize is that God does not have favorites, but that anybody who fears God and does what is right is acceptable to Him.”  
In a sermon for the Epiphany in 1839, another great follower of Jesus, Blessed John Henry Newman, (an English convert and cardinal) said, “When men understand what each other mean, they see, for the most part, that controversy is either superfluous or hopeless.” This is the challenge for us on today’s feast – that we go out and embrace the world.  
In his book, Open Mind, Faithful Heart: Reflections on Following Jesus, Pope Francis speaks about the Epiphany as both a historical event and a part of each of our lives. He says that we ourselves ought to become epiphanies — manifestations of Jesus in our daily lives. We are to manifest Jesus in our thoughts, words and actions. Pope Francis challenges us to share the joy of the Gospel with people we meet.  Maybe we can help a friend to find new meaning in life. Perhaps we may have a new desire to speak of our faith in Jesus Christ. Maybe we can even make ourselves more prepared to love in a difficult situation.  
The Epiphany message calls us to be more open to people who are fragile and vulnerable, weak and poor, and in this way share our hope and joy with others. It invites us to find a new path and a new route as we begin this new year. It invites us to come with real intent to Mass, where we can experience Jesus as the light for our hearts and the one who lifts the burdens of our sins from our shoulders. As we approach Christ in Holy Communion at every Mass, you and I can truly say that we who walked in darkness have seen a great light. May our Epiphany celebration fill us with an awareness of the grace and peace that comes to us from God our Father through the Lord Jesus Christ, especially when we come to church to worthily receive the Holy Eucharist. Have a blessed Little Christmas!
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Blessed chalk and incense packets are available at the manger scene near the altar today. When you arrive home, use the blessed chalk to inscribe the initials of the Three Kings over the doorways of your home in this manner: 20 + C + M + B + 19. The incense you may burn in a safe receptacle as you wish. The fragrance symbolizes the essence of God in your home.

Pastor’s Message December 30th, 2018

It’s good that we have come to the end of 2018, to celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. This is a good time to take stock of the preceding twelve months, to ask forgiveness for those times when we fell short of what God expects of us as His children, and to give thanks for the many bountiful gifts that we have received from our Creator. It’s also a time to look ahead with a firm resolve to make improvements in our lives with the help of His grace.  
   In May of 1953, a textbook salesman asked the famous author, Flannery O’Connor, about her very fierce devotion to her Catholic faith. He admitted he wasn’t much of a believer, but that he had briefly encountered the Faith twice during his time in New York City. He had studied and even taught at Fordham, a Jesuit school, and he had met Dorothy Day. He had become fascinated by Day’s Catholic Worker House, but said he couldn’t see, in his words, why Dorothy Day “fed endless lines of endless bums for whom there was no hope. She’d never see any results from that.” After spending time discussing the point, O’Connor admits that the only conclusion they could agree on was that “Charity wasn’t understandable” — ending her story with the almost question, “Strange people turn up, don’t they.”
That was probably what Joseph and Mary were thinking when they took the infant Jesus to the temple and were met by a just and pious man named Simeon and the prophetess Anna, who abruptly and unexpectedly inserted themselves among the Holy Family, praising God and speaking of the child Jesus (whom they had only just laid eyes on). Unlike the traveling salesman, Simeon and Anna understood hope, for the Holy Spirit had revealed to Simeon that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah. The moment he sees the child Jesus, Simeon recognizes that he has met the salvation of the world, and utters the prayer “Now you may dismiss your servant, Master, to go in peace, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people, Israel!” What a precious moment in the life of this young family! Further witness to the identity of Jesus was given by the prophetess, Anna, who spent day and night in the Temple court, praying, fasting, worshiping and waiting for God, who would again rescue Israel from its current untenable situation. She recalled how He done so in the past. She confirms the testimony of Simeon. On seeing the child, she somehow knows her many years of vigil are over; that in this child, hope and memory are wed in such a way as to be fulfilled. God had once again kept His promise of salvation and sent the Messiah to deliver them from their captivity — not just this time, but for all time. And here He is!  
Anna had made Israel’s memory her own; she has made the story of the scriptures the story of her own life. Accordingly, she, like any prophet, cannot help but to tell others that their hope is not in vain, that God has kept His promises to them and continues to do so.  
When we experience hope fulfilled, it seems we cannot help but tell of it. Whenever God’s fidelity is manifested before the eyes of the faithful, it elicits a response from them: they speak of faith to those in search of it.  
   Our mission as members of the Church and of this parish, is to build a fervent community of intentional and dedicated missionary disciples of the Lord, and steadfast stewards of God’s creation, who seek to become saints. The community of Catholic faithful in our parish is committed to the discipleship and stewardship way of life as commanded by Christ Our Savior and as revealed by Sacred Scripture and Tradition. We are committed to living out the four pillars of Discipleship and Stewardship, namely, hospitality, prayer, formation and service. We actively invite people to join us in prayer and worship, especially at Sunday Mass; we strive to provide well-prepared celebrations of the sacraments and other occasions for prayer as signs of hope and paths of grace to heaven; we study the Bible and learn more about Jesus and our Catholic faith; and we serve each other, especially those in need, by practicing charity and justice. These should be our parish New Year’s resolutions!
As we contemplate our personal resolutions, I invite you to seriously consider how you can advance on your own individual path of holiness by growing in faith, hope and charity as missionary disciples of Jesus, for “strange people” (strangers) do turn up at our door. Sometimes they insert themselves into our lives in such a way as to remind us that Christ has come, and there’s reason to hope in God’s fulfilled promises. Sometimes they show up at the door to issue a challenge to our style of charity, even though, ultimately, we can’t explain our charity or its results – or lack thereof – for that’s God’s business. Yet, there will always be endless lines of endless “bums.” There will also always be those who hear, as in Luke’s Gospel, God’s call to faith, hope, and charity. May we be among that number. There will always be those prophets who share their encounters with Christ with those still in search of Him. May we be among that number. May we also be among the number who tell others of the Good News which God has spoken to us, clothing the message of His fidelity in charity, and so fascinate the world into conversion.  
   I sincerely thank you for your kindness and generosity to our parish and to me during the past year, and I pray that God will bless you and your family in the New Year! May your New Year be blessed!

Pastor’s Message December 23rd, 2018

Our upcoming celebration of Christmas can be summed up in a verse from a Christmas carol called, O Little Town of Bethlehem, that says, “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in you tonight.” That carol was first sung in a church in Philadelphia – Holy Trinity on Rittenhouse Square. It’s a favorite of mine, not just because it originated in my hometown, but because, as a child, it seemed as if we waited all year for Christmas Day to come. There really was something special about this day, captured in the words of the song, that gave us reason to look forward to more than presents under the Christmas tree. Whatever our hopes and fears may have been during the past year, on Christmas our hope should be strengthened and our fears lessened, because that is the very purpose of Christ’s coming into the world: so that our hope in God would be fulfilled and our fear be transformed into hope.   
    Then, there’s the town of Bethlehem, which in Hebrew literally means “house of bread.” We’re reminded that the Word becomes flesh in a very real and powerful way each time we celebrate the Eucharist, for He comes to us in His Body and His blood. By our partaking of this great gift of His love, we welcome His light into the dark places of our hearts, pointing out the way for us to follow Him. In this Bread of Life for our life, we’re nourished and strengthened for the journey that lies ahead, and with that strength from on high, we have great confidence that no matter how challenging the circumstances may be or how dark the future may seem, “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it,” and the darkness will not overcome it.  
   So, one of the main messages of this Advent season of preparation for Christmas is that God had not forgotten his people. Like the people of the Old Testament, we may often be tempted to imagine that God has abandoned us. But the prophet Isaiah tells the people that no longer shall they be “forsaken,” no longer shall they be forgotten, no longer will their land be “desolate.” Rather, God will call his people his “delight” and will rejoice in them. These are the words that God speaks to us and wants us to hear sincerely.  
    If ever we have felt forsaken, if we have felt forgotten, God tells us that we are not forsaken; He tells us that He has never forgotten us. Not only does He tell us this, but He shows us that we are not forgotten. He has proven this by sending us a Savior to live among us and to show us the way to salvation by saving us from our sins. Saint Paul is constantly reminding us, especially in his Letter to the Romans, that Jesus is proclaimed to all nations, including the pagans. We are part of the new inheritance, invited to be brothers and sisters of Jesus and therefore heirs to the kingdom of God.  
    At the Annunciation of the upcoming birth of Christ, the message given to Mary is that we are called to the obedience of faith, saying “yes” to God as Mary did in response to the message of the angel. When those words were spoken to Mary, and later to Joseph, their fears were transformed into hope.
  We can see this transformation in the person of St. Joseph, who faced an uncertain future when it was discovered that Mary was with child before they lived together. His fears for the future even led him to consider ending his engagement to Mary. Yet, in the midst of his fears, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph and told him four words that would change everything, the same four words that were spoken to Mary when the angel Gabriel announced that she would give birth to Jesus: “DO NOT BE AFRAID!” It became clear to Joseph that God had not forgotten him. A further sign would be given to him by the birth of a child by the Virgin Mary, and he was told that the name given to this child would be Jesus, because He would save His people from their sins. That is the meaning of the name Jesus: in Hebrew it means, “God saves.”  
   That is why our fears are transformed into hope, for in Advent just before celebrating Christmas, the very same words that Joseph and Mary heard from the angel are the very same words that are spoken to us today, “DO NOT BE AFRAID!” Allow the Lord to transform your fears into hope. Those who hope in the Lord will not be disappointed. Christmas reminds us that God, in Jesus, is present in our midst. This, then, is the hope that belongs to Jesus’ call: to be with him forever in his kingdom!

Pastor’s Message December 16th, 2018

   Remember the seasonal song, “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas”? Well, in many places that began right after Halloween (or at least around Thanksgiving), as we saw many reminders to “beat the last minute rush” and “shop, shop, shop….”  “on line,” “cyber Monday,” and “Black Friday.” What a poor preparation for the joyous feast that celebrates our hoped-for salvation! What ever happened to “Advent,” “O Come O Come Emmanuel” and “Gaudete” (Latin for ‘rejoice’ and the title of this Sunday’s observance)? Well, we have some alternatives!*  
 It was a true pleasure last Sunday afternoon to present the very successful Advent/Christmas themed “Amahl and the Night Visitors” in our church under the direction of our gifted church and school Music Director and Conductor, Eric Keiper. His tireless hours in preparation over these past few months truly “paid off,” as the audience of well over two hundred-fifty people enjoyed the barely hour-long musical drama, based on church-held medieval mystery plays.

Among the lead cast were Aubrey Laudano, Jessika Roy,Jorge Toro, Dylan Evans, Joseph RugareLiliana Sage (our 8th grade dancer), and pianists David Hogue and Elaine Reinhardt. There were many support cast members who played the roles of shepherds and villagers, and this included youngsters from our parish school, who volunteered to be in the program. They worked countless hours over weeks to make this possible for parish members and beyond.   

We hope to continue to make this an annual event so that at this time of year people may come to our church and use this opportunity to make their Advent and Christmas more fruitful.

  This Monday evening,December 17th, the children of our school and several supporting parish staff members and adult parishioners will perform our annual pre-Christmas program in the church at 6:30pm (please note the time). It is a program of Lessons and Carols that will tie in the remaining days of Advent and lead us on to Christmas. All of our parishioners are welcome.It’s one more way of setting the tone for our seasonal observance of the Lord’s coming and one more moment when we can take time away from the crass commercialization of Christmas and spend some time reflecting on the original spiritual dimensions of the “reason for the season.”

   This coming Wednesday evening, December 19th, we will hold our Advent Penance Service in our church at 7:00 pm. This will be an excellent opportunity to confess our sins in preparation for Christmas, and a chance to remove all serious sins (e.g., missing obligatory Mass onSundays and Holy Days) and participate worthily in the Eucharist. There will beat least seven priests available to hear our confessions.

   If you can make the time this Monday morning after the 8:30 a.m. Mass, I welcome you to come join us in decorating the church for Christmas.Lunch will be served at the conclusion of the major part of the decorating. It’s a service of love that brings joy to so many parishioners and guests who come to our church at this time of the year. It also gladdens our volunteers.

   Congratulations to Mrs. M. Vikki Delgado, our school principal, and parishioner Tim Hanley, of the faculty of St. John Paul II Academy in Boca Raton, who were properly honored at the 30th anniversary Lumen Christi Scholarship Gala in the Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach for their excellence and leadership inCatholic education! Last year’s honorees were Rabih and Shannon Boueri. The gala raises tons of funds for student scholarships in Catholic schools in the Diocese of Palm Beach, benefitting a good number of deserving students, including many of our SVF students over the years.

   Congratulations to the girls of our school who recently became this year’s  basketball champs of thePalm Beach Diocese, regaining their title after a 14-year wait! They made us feel so proud! Our boys also played their hearts out and should have been regional champions in soccer but through a “fluke” were squeaked out by the same team we beat last year for the championship. We are proud of all our students for their efforts in giving their best to achieve victories both in and out of the classroom. May that spirit continue to grow within them.

   My apologies to all the parents and children who did not get to see St. Nick at the proposed Coffee‘n’ Donuts on Sunday, December 2nd. This was due to a miscommunication within our Knights of Columbus, so much so, that even we priests were sending families and children to Kellaghan Hall that day, not knowing that the event was cancelled. However, the Knights are making good on their promise to give the kids the opportunity to visit with St. Nick this Sunday morning after the 7:00, 8:30 and 10:00 am Masses. Coffee and donuts will be served. Bring the kids and get a chance to catch up in a pre-Christmas conversation with your fellow parishioners.

Pastor’s Message December 9th, 2018

This past Friday evening and Saturday morning, we celebrated the solemn feast of Mary, under the title of her Immaculate Conception. Not only is our country dedicated to her, but also the largest church in North America, and many other cathedrals and churches throughout the world. It is no understatement, then, to say that this truly was a great day of rejoicing for us as we gathered for this Mass on this Solemnity. Hopefully, everyone made it to Mass for this feast. If not, the Confession lines are open next Saturday!
For being such an important element of our Catholic faith, the dogma of the Immaculate Conception is not the easiest teaching to understand. Some people confuse the Immaculate Conception with the Virgin Birth, erroneously thinking that it refers to Jesus being conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit rather than the actual teaching that the Immaculate Conception refers to Mary being conceived without Original sin. For such reasons, during the times in our society when literacy rates were relatively low, catechesis on various aspects of our Catholic faith was communicated through the medium of artwork. Paintings, sculptures, mosaics, and stained glass windows all served to tell the story of different aspects of our faith. When it comes to the Immaculate Conception, artists were faced with a tough situation.
Mary’s being conceived without original sin is a rather abstract idea. The soul is invisible and, therefore, impossible to accurately depict through visible means. Several attempts at it have been made, many of which are quite beautiful. Yet, it’s easy to confuse it with the Mary’s Assumption into Heaven. The image of Mary standing on the crescent moon, a symbol that is often associated with the Immaculate Conception, is what really identifies that image accurately.
Many critics point to the absence of any explicit reference to the Immaculate Conception in the Bible as a challenge to understanding this dogma. This is not new to our Catholic faith, as there are other concepts and terms which we use that, while not explicit in the Scriptures, are well-grounded in Divine Revelation. For example, the Trinity or Purgatory, are words which never occur in the Bible, but are supported when seen in the “unity of the whole of Scripture” and the “living tradition of the whole Church.”
The readings given to us on December 8th provide us with a solid scriptural foundation for the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. It begins with the story of the creation of human life in the Garden of Eden. Our first parents abused the freedom that had been given to them as they chose to disobey the command of the Lord. At that point, God certainly could have given up on humanity, but He did not! instead, He put into motion a plan that would restore humanity’s relationship to God. We get a hint of what this plan will involve when we hear the Lord say to Satan: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel” (Gen. 3:16). This passage is telling us already that God’s plan for restoration will involve humanity in some way.
Then, in the Gospel, we see how those words spoken by the Lord so long ago would come about through the Incarnation, through which the humanity of Jesus would reconcile us back to that relationship with God that had been lost through Original sin. God chose to become man, to be like us in all things, except sin. That includes being born through the womb of a woman, Mary. Because His coming into the world was so unique, it shouldn’t surprise us that God would choose a unique way in which He would come into the world, while still respecting the normal biological means of giving birth. So, He preserved this woman from any stain of Original sin from the moment of her conception in the womb of her mother. This is the Immaculate Conception. It is this mystery foretold in the verse from the Song of Songs: “there is no blemish in you,” that is, “there is no stain of sin in you.”
In the final analysis, even though we give special honor to the Blessed Mother on that day, the reason for this feast day, and all Marian feast days for that matter, is Christ. Mary’s being conceived immaculately was in preparation for that moment when the angel announced to her that she would become the mother of the Savior who would “save his people from their sins” (Mt. 1:21). Pope St. John Paul II called the Immaculate Conception “the turning point in history of man’s salvation,” for it was the first physical event in the execution of the plan formed long ago for our restoration to God. When faced with the gravity of sin, God responds with the fullness of mercy. Mercy will always be greater than any sin, and no one can place limits on the love of God who is ever ready to forgive, so that we can move closer to our ideal of being “holy and without blemish before him” (Eph. 1:4).
May we turn to Mary and grasp her hand, asking her to lead us to a deeper experience of Her Son’s mercy in our lives. Having experienced that profound gift, let us imitate her, that just as she went in haste to carry the merciful love of God to her cousin Elizabeth we, too, may set out to be witnesses of this mercy to the world around us, advancing the Lord’s plan to bring all of humanity into His Kingdom where there will be no end.