Category Archives: Pastor message

Pastor’s Message June 18th, 2017

This Sunday, we celebrate Father’s Day as well as the Solemn Feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. Then on Friday, we honor the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. Although not a Holy Day of Obligation in our country, it is a solemn feast of the universal Church – and a beautiful occasion to honor and thank Our Lord for the love and compassion that He pours forth upon those who love Him in return and seek the mercy that He alone can provide. How well these three occasions tie in so closely to one another.

Though a secular observance to honor our earthly father, Father’s Day also reminds us of our heavenly Father and that love He has for His children. He is the example ‘par excellence’ of true fatherhood, faithful to His promises. He has sent us His Son, and promised us the wonderful gift of eternal life and how to attain it if we would just listen to the message His Son spoke. He wants all His children to be truly happy with Him (one day in heaven) and has offered all of them a blueprint for us to get there. Unfortunately, some of those children become ungrateful, and because they, like rebellious teens, think they know so much more about how to become ‘happy,’ they abandon the course of action Jesus prescribes.

Jesus is our model – but the WHOLE Jesus – as He is presented to us in the four Gospels, without selecting just those characteristics that appeal to us. With those who admitted they were sinners, He always showed compassion. But, with others, He could – and did – shoot ‘straight from the hip.’ He was not a namby-pamby wimp, nor a glad-handing politician. With sinners, for whom He performed miracles, He admonished them to go and “sin no more,” lest something worse happen to them. Yet, He was always the same Jesus – meek and humble of heart. All that He did flowed from His Sacred Heart, filled with more love than any of our hearts can be.

Blessed John Cardinal Newman warns us that it is possible to exhibit many of the aspects of love – consideration, delicacy, courtesy, generosity and others – for the wrong reasons. It is not Christian love. He calls this “mere benevolence,” because this is what our culture expects from us, and it only promotes a self-image that we project in order to gain some end that we want. He also says: “one who cultivates only one precept of the Gospel to the exclusion of the rest, in reality, attends to no part at all.” A religion that is pleasant and easy, with everything bright and cheerful, may have benevolence as the chief virtue, and intolerance, bigotry and excessive zeal become the first sins.

If you want to know what love really is, you must look at the totality of what Jesus said and did. Love is sacrificial. Love is obedient. Love does not try to control everything and everybody; rather it serves. It does not seek affirmation or approval from anyone. Love adheres to the truth. Jesus Himself said, “ I am the way, the truth and the life.” Let me share a true story with you exemplifying this kind of love.

There was an American-born nun who served as secretary to the Maryknoll Bishop Francis X. Ford in China, in the early 1950s. Although she was being held prisoner in the mission compound taken over by Chinese communists, each day she would take Holy Communion to the other prisoners, concealed in the one loaf of bread she was allowed to share with them. Fortunately, the bishop was given wine in prison as part of his diet, and he would take some of the bread and his wine and consecrate them in a secret Mass where he had memorized the text. Sister would then distribute the Holy Communion within the day’s rations to the other Catholic prisoners who had been kept apart from the bishop so that he couldn’t console them in their suffering.

On a particular day, the colonel, who now took over the mission compound as his headquarters, and who once had been a student of the sister (even studying the elements of the Faith, but never entering into it), made the passing nun open the door for him as she was carrying the loaf of bread. In order to do so, she had to put down the loaf on the steps in the dirty entrance. The colonel probably thought the loaf was only the daily rations and didn’t know that concealed inside it was the Body and Blood of Jesus. Quietly, the nun picked up the loaf and continued to distribute it for what would become the last time. In less than an hour later, the prisoners were led on a march, with the bishop at the head –a type of Corpus Christi procession, with the members carrying the body and Blood of Jesus in themselves. The colonel a sadistic young man, tried to tie a sack of rice weighing about twenty pounds around the neck of the bishop, who now weighed only about 95 pounds. The sister said to the colonel, “Don’t do that! Look at the man!” – almost reminiscent of the words of Pilate to the crowds jeering at Jesus as He was about to begin his own death march to Calvary. The colonel either was so moved – or so afraid of his former teacher – took the sack off the neck of the bishop and carried the supply by himself.

The bishop died in the march; the colonel died in prison; the sister was later set free and came home to relate this story. Why do you suppose the colonel took it off the bishop’s neck? I think it was because he once carried the Blessed Sacrament. We are really enacting all this in the Mass. If we give ourselves to Christ, we are enriched.

Pastor’s Message June 11th, 2017

Eight years ago, a former Polish Communist and well-known Marxist philosopher, Leszek Kolakowski, passed from this world to the next. Originally a virulently anti-Catholic, this unusual man of letters began to ask too many awkward questions about Soviet life under Stalin and got exiled to the West. Thanks to the influence of another learned Polish philosopher-theologian, St. John Paul II, he soon radically altered his philosophical leanings

Thirty years ago, Kolakowski gave a lecture at Harvard entitled “The Devil in History.” From early in the talk, the mood in the room became restless. He actually was talking about the real existence of the devil (at which some listeners were astonished, given his early Marxist leanings).

It became a moment when the little bigotries of the intellectual class were laid bare. Many in the audience were baffled that such an urbane public intellectual, fluent in five languages, could really believe in “religious nonsense” like the devil and original sin. But that’s precisely how and what Kolakowski did believe. He said so again and again in his various later works.

He stated that the devil is part of our everyday experience and that his works of evil are continuous throughout human experience. His point was not how to make one immune to it, but under what conditions one may identify and restrain the devil. Kolakowski saw that we can’t fully understand our culture unless we take the devil seriously. The devil and evil are constants at work in human history and in the struggles of every human soul. Kolakowski (unlike certain of our own Catholic leaders who should know better) was not using the word “devil” as a symbol of the darkness in our own hearts, or a metaphor for the bad things that happen in the world; he was talking about the spiritual being that Jesus called “the evil one” and “the father of lies” — the fallen angel who works tirelessly to thwart God’s mission and Christ’s work of salvation.

Kolakowski also stated: “When a culture loses its sense of the sacred, it loses all sense.” This is why the evangelization of culture is always, in some sense, a call to spiritual warfare. We’re in a struggle for souls.  Our adversary is the devil.

While Satan is not God’s equal, and is doomed to final defeat, he can do bitter harm in human affairs. The first Christians knew this. We find their awareness written on nearly every page of the New Testament.

But, the modern world makes it hard to believe in the devil; and it treats Jesus Christ the same way. That’s the point! Medieval theologians understood this quite well. They had an expression in Latin: “Nullus diabolus, nullus redemptor” (No devil, no Redeemer). Without the devil, it’s very hard to explain why Jesus needed to come into the world to suffer and die for us. So, what exactly did Jesus redeem us from? The devil, more than anyone, appreciates this irony, i.e., that we can’t fully understand the mission of Jesus without him. He exploits this to his full advantage. He knows that consigning him to myth inevitably sets in motion our same treatment of God.

There is a remarkable four-volume history dealing with the devil that concerns a character named Faust, who, after the characters of Jesus, Mary and the devil himself, is the most popular subject in Western paintings, poems, novels, operas, cantatas and films. Who is this Faust? He’s a man of letters who sells his soul to the devil on the promise that the devil will show him the secrets of the universe (Can you recall the 3 temptations of Jesus in the desert?). He is the “archetype” of a certain species of modern man — a certain kind of artist, scientist and philosopher. Faust doesn’t come to God’s creation as a seeker after truth, beauty, and meaning. He comes impatient to know, the better to control and dominate, a delusion brought on by his own sense of “entitlement,” as if such knowledge should be his birthright. He becomes a prisoner of his own vanity. Faust would rather barter away his soul than humble himself before God.

There’s a lesson in this Faust character for our lives and for our culture. Without faith there can be no understanding, no knowledge, no wisdom. We need both faith and reason to penetrate the mysteries of creation and the mysteries of our own lives. This is true for individuals, and it’s true for nations. A culture that has a command of reason and the byproducts of reason — science and technology — but lacks faith, has made a Faust-like bargain with the (very real) devil that can only lead to despair and self-destruction. Such a culture may have gained the world with its wealth, power and material success, but it has forfeited its own soul. Recall the words of Jesus, “What good does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but suffers the loss of his own soul?” (Mark 8:36)

 

Pastor’s Message June 4th, 2017

As we celebrate the great and solemn Feast of Pentecost (the birthday of the Church), it’s good to consider the gifts of the Holy Spirit, given to us in Confirmation, much the same way the Apostles were confirmed in faith on that first Pentecost Sunday.  They were strengthened to go out to a belligerent crowd and convert them. It was necessary for them to receive the Holy Spirit in order to be able to heed Jesus’ command: “Go out to all the world, and tell the Good News!” (Mk 16:15)

This is the mission entrusted to all Christians by Jesus Christ. These words from the Gospel of Saint Mark summarize what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. This word – disciple – is the subject of much interest today, with books and articles being written about how to form disciples through the Church’s evangelizing and catechetical work. But just what is a disciple?

I think I can suggest an answer to that question by recalling a pop song, written and recorded by the Bee Gees in 1977: “How Deep Is Your Love?” It was used as part of the soundtrack to the film Saturday Night Fever, among music’s top five best selling soundtrack albums. So, what does this song from the disco era of the 1970’s have to do with discipleship? The lyrics suggest some answers if we consider the song as part of a conversation, with God asking us the question, “How deep is your love?” Our answer is in the lines, “I believe in you … You know the door to my very soul … You’re the light in my deepest darkest hour … You’re my savior when I fall … And you may not think … That I care for you … When you know down inside … That I really do.” Discipleship is our answer to the question that God asks us, “How deep is your love for Me?”

The song also suggests another answer that comes from the word disco. The word “disciple,” that has its roots in the word disco (not a genre of music from the 70’s, but Latin for “I learn.”) The disciple is one who learns from the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. This learning is not from dusty tomes or ancient manuscripts, but from the very person of Jesus Christ, risen and alive today, through an immediate and personal relationship with him and his Church. This relationship does not – indeed, cannot – leave a person as he or she was before. The true disciple, then, is the one who becomes such a student of the Master that his very life conforms to Christ’s life.You may have seen the YouTube video, “Why I hate religion but love Jesus.” That message has a certain popular appeal, but it is not what Jesus taught. Jesus founded the Catholic Church. He loves the Church. If you hate the Church, then you hate what Jesus loves and you reject the gift that He gave us. You cannot love Jesus without loving the Church along with the sacraments that He gave us as the path to His Father’s heavenly Kingdom.

You have also heard the statistic that the second-largest religious group in the United States is non-practicing Catholics. So the choice here is stark: will you choose to be a disciple, to love Jesus and His Church, or will you join those who, (like Judas) once confirmed, walk out the door never to come back? How deep is your love? If your love is deep enough to make a commitment to be a disciple, a committed follower Jesus Christ, He will send the Holy Spirit to strengthen you, too, in that commitment. By sending forth His Spirit to us, Jesus is asking us to commit ourselves to a personal relationship with God. What does that mean? When we have a personal relationship with someone, there is mutual communication and reciprocal giving of oneself to the other. If I ask you a question, most likely you would respond in some way. If I give you a gift, you would at least say ‘thank you,’ and you might give me a gift in return.

That is what it means to be a Christian. That is what happens when we go to celebrate Mass and receive Jesus each weekend. God speaks to us in the words of the Bible and the preaching of the priest or deacon that we hear during the first part of Mass. But, then it is our turn to respond. Our response is the Creed (or the renewal of baptismal promises) when we say that we believe what God has spoken to us. Then, Jesus gives us the gift of His love and His real Presence in Holy Communion. We are called to say ‘thank you,’ to reciprocate that love, and to put it effect in our lives when we are blessed at the end of Mass and sent forth to manifest God’s love in the world through our words and actions. It is only after we have intentionally dedicated ourselves as disciples – when the process of conversion has begun in our own hearts and we have taken up his cross – that we can, in turn, introduce Christ to others. Ultimately this leads to a complete transformation of a society that has embraced death, neglected the poor, and turned its back on the very source of our existence.

And so, I ask: “How deep is your love?”

Pastor’s Message May 28th, 2017

Please remember in your prayers the soul of our founding Bishop of the Palm Beach Diocese, the Most Rev. Thomas Vose Daily, lately, the retired Bishop of Brooklyn, who died on May 15th. He was appointed bishop of this newly created diocese in 1984, and served here until 1990, when he was transferred to Brooklyn.

We live in a time of amazing ironies. Here’s a big one. For the ancient Greeks, one of the worst “sins” possible, and a constant theme in their plays and dramas, was hubris – the sin of overweening pride. They understood that pride creates a peculiar form of mental illness. People who denied the gods, or ignored the gods, or imagined themselves equal to the gods, cut themselves off from reality. In the process, no matter how great their intellect or strength, they made themselves blind to the world as it really is — the real world of underlying natural laws and moral truths.

The results of hubris were always ugly – which is why the Greek playwright, Euripides, wrote that when the gods wish to destroy a man, they first make him “mad” with the unique madness that comes from pride. William Shakespeare’s plays are filled with this same wisdom: “Pride makes fools of the brilliant and powerful; humility is the beginning of sanity.”

Anyone searching for examples today of what the Greeks found so fatal about hubris needn’t look far. In an article in the May 9th edition of the Wall Street Journal (which an observant parishioner handed me), titled, “A Philosopher Gets Pilloried,” Prof. Rebecca Tuvel, raised (seemingly unwise) in a feminist philosophy journal, an obvious question. As the WSJ article recounts, she asked “why society is increasingly willing to embrace people who identify as ‘transgender’, even as it rejects those who identify as ‘transracial’. In Tuvel’s own words, “Considerations that support transgenderism seem to apply equally to transracialism.” Therefore, logically, society “should also accept transracial individuals’ decisions to change races.” She went on to touch briefly on the same apparent anomalies in how we talk about “otherkins” – persons who feel their true self is really a non-human animal – and “transabled” people – who have no physical abnormality, but feel that one of their limbs violates their identity.

What was her reward for raising these issues? Fierce criticism- in a letter from 500 of her academic peers for writing a paper that “painfully reflects a lack of engagement beyond white and cisgender* privilege.” It turns out that the “culturally enlightened” have their own unpleasant methods of enforcing orthodoxy.

The lesson here is that it’s bad form and bad news for one’s academic career to notice the incoherence of a prevailing intellectual vanity. If we reject the grounding in nature of what it means to be male, female and even human, then why not self-identify as an otherkin? The trouble is that this kind of arrogant rejection of nature and real life is a sign of the peculiar kind of mental illness that comes with hubris. People struggling with confusion about their identity need genuine help, not some type of intellectual quackery.

Exactly 100 years ago this past May 13, three young children in Fatima, Portugal, had the first of six apparitions of Mary, the Mother of Jesus. But the Church is very wary of claimed apparitions for good reason: many turn out to be natural phenomena, or innocent imaginings, or even outright frauds. So, the Church investigates and reflects carefully on claimed apparitions for years before acknowledging the authenticity of events like Lourdes or Fatima or Medjugore (although Pope Francis is skeptical of this last site of alleged apparitions). But, there’s no doubt today that Mary’s presence at Fatima, and her predictions about the crises and sufferings of the 20th century, were real. St. John Paul II, who had a lifelong devotion to Mary, survived a brutal assassination attempt on May 13, 1981, and he attributed his recovery to the intervention of Our Lady of Fatima. What links Lourdes and Fatima is this: In both places, Mary appeared not to Church leaders, or intellectuals, or celebrities, or the wealthy, or the socially connected, or the politically skilled, but to the lowly; — children who were poor and humble.  Their simplicity made them sane enough to see and believe the miracle before them and hear the messages that Mary brought – messages ultimately about our need for conversion and trust in God, even in the face of crushing trials.

If we now live in an era of towering ironies, this is the greatest and most beautiful irony of them all: the love that the Creator of all things, God himself, bears for the very least among us.

Earlier this month, in honor of the Fatima centenary, we consecrated our parish to the protection of the Blessed Mother. On the 13th of each of the next five months ahead, we will continue to renew our pledge and turn our prayers to Mary, asking her intercession for the protection of the worldwide Catholic Church, the Holy Father, and all our members of St. Vincent Ferrer Parish. As the mother of all of us, I assure you that she will never refuse the requests of a faithful heart.

* “cisgender – used to describe someone who feels that they are the same gender as the physical body they were born with (basically, the opposite of transgender).

Pastor’s Message May 21st, 2017

“Hats off” to Julie Ott, Parish Director for Stewardship and Development, who spearheaded last Saturday’s all-parish consecration in observance of the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima. She headed a superb team of many volunteers who made the occasion so memorable. Starting with the Mass and Act of Consecration, through to the procession around campus with the recitation of the Rosary, the Litany to the Blessed Virgin of Fatima and the Divine Mercy Chaplet, over 600 people attended the Mass. Half that number stayed for the entire event to mark the jubilee. Following the services, there was a simple, yet delightful dinner in the parish hall prepared and served by the Knights of Columbus and Columbiettes.

Our Knights of Columbus carried the Fatima statue in procession on a pallet built by Jay Flood and our maintenance crew. They also carried the icon of the Virgin Mary blessed by Pope Francis that was presented to me by the Florida state officers of the Knights of Columbus. I, in turn, have donated the icon and placed the image by the confessional on the east corridor wall. It’s an exact copy of the old painting of the Immaculate Conception found behind the main altar in the Cathedral-Basilica of Quebec City in Canada. Our Music Director, Eric Keiper, led our combined parish choirs in providing for the music in and around the church. How blessed we have been with fine weather and with many favors that will come forth from the intercession of Our Lady. At the end of May, we will place the statue of Our Lady of Fatima in the sanctuary, close to the sacristy, and transfer the current image of Our Lady to the west side of the church (where the Fatima Virgin statue once rested). Thank you to all who helped prepare the festivities and to those who came to honor the Mother of God! You could have done something else, but instead gave special honor to our Mother on Mother’s Day!

Our 32 eighth-grade graduates are being honored at the 11:30 a.m. Mass this Sunday. I thank their Principal, Home-Room Moderator, teachers, parents and all others who have helped them come to the end of their school journey with us. Not only do I wish them the best in high school and beyond, but hope that their spiritual values that we tried to cultivate in them via our Catholic school setting will stay with them and continue to flourish. It’s always difficult for me to see our graduates leave our school, and then simultaneously witness their departure from attendance at weekly Mass, ignoring the 3rd Command from God to “Keep Holy The Lord’s Day.” It’s almost like pouring money down the drain and a thumbing the nose at all of the time and effort spent to lead these children closer to the Lord. The temptation is to manipulate the Lord by regularly ignoring Him, only calling upon Him in the most desperate situations we encounter in life. If parents don’t reinforce the good values that have been prioritized and presented these past eight to ten years in our school, then they are complicit in contributing to the loosening of the bonds that should bind God to His people. Planting the seed but failing to water and to nourish it is not only wasting time, effort and money on a tree that will not bear good fruit, but is also counter-productive to focusing their minds on the life-long pilgrimage to see God.

I invite our teens to join our young people’s Life Teen Youth Group, which helps keep the teens in contact with their Catholic peers who want to help develop their spiritual, social and educational skills in a casual environment, as well as share with their peers the ups and downs of maturing throughout their high school years. They usually meet on Sunday nights, and open up our young people to a Bible-based youth program, with games, talks, event-planning, social outreach projects, plain old fun opportunities and partaking in special liturgies – all things that allow the teens to greater participation in the life of their parish – within their level of competency.

Congratulations, to our Pastoral Associate, Bob Laquerre, who recently finished his Master of Arts degree program in Theological Studies at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary. Bob graduated at the top of his class “Summa cum Laude” (“with Highest Praise”) and was the Valedictorian of his class. Bob is hoping to be ordained a Permanent Deacon this coming September, and awaits the “call” from our Bishop.

Congratulations to all of our graduates from elementary, high school and college! May God draw them closer to Himself. May they use their true wisdom and acquired knowledge to get closer to God!

Pastor’s Message May 14th, 2017

We’re coming down to the “home stretch” with our 8th Grade students in getting ready to finish their schooling in our parish school. They’re excited about “moving on” and entering into the world of high school. They will soon miss these formative years, as they prepare to step into a new world of the “unknown.” There will be tears, no doubt, as the security blanket that has enveloped them these eight-plus years is taken from them. But the next four years will seem to go twice as fast for them as they prepare for college – another launching pad for them. Hopefully, they will not lose sight of their religious preparation into life, because they need to cling to it when they enter the “ivy halls” of college in four short years. Their next four years of academia are important – but no more than those to follow, especially in this day and age when colleges have become so different and so diverse than when most of us attended. In fact, we’ve witnessed a lot of disturbing news lately about the strange and even chaotic scenes now occurring on many college campuses.

College education today often fails to prepare students for the difficult moral issues of the day and doesn’t teach them how to integrate their morality into their lives. Their formal education had not provided a framework for consciously asking much less answering the fundamental questions that pervade human life: “Who am I? Where have I come from and where am I going? How am I going to get there? Why is there evil? What is there after this life?” These are precisely the questions to which the typical American university “as university” cannot offer an answer, so the questions go unasked. Sad to say, most American universities, including many “Catholic” ones, operate from this perspective of “practical atheism,” and each academic discipline is viewed as completely separate and autonomous.

As proof positive of this trend to sidestep the understanding of what should be the real composition of any university – especially Catholic universities – this spring’s commencement honorees at nine “Catholic” colleges include a dissenting priest, pro-abortion politicians and advocates for same-sex marriage, according to an annual review of commencement speakers and honorary degree recipients at more than 200 Catholic colleges in the United States. By holding up those who publicly oppose Catholic teaching as role models for students, administrators at these Catholic colleges violate the mission of Catholic education.

In 2004, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) released a document requiring Catholic institutions to withhold honors and platforms from public opponents of Church teaching. “Catholics in Political Life” stipulates: “The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms that would suggest support for their actions.”

It’s sad to note that these colleges are going in the opposite direction of Catholic education generally, even though Catholic identity otherwise continues to improve nationwide. Yet, these colleges seem intent on perpetuating the public scandals that we have seen on Catholic campuses for many years. It’s an affront to faithful Catholics, if not an outright scandal, when a Catholic college honors politicians or other vocal supporters of laws or principles that go against Catholic moral teaching.

In reality, the contemporary American university, precisely because it lacks a thick understanding of what it means to be human, lacks the resources necessary to equip its students with the tools for critically analyzing the deep moral questions of the day or a framework for living an integrated life.

Fortunately, there are a few universities in our own state of Florida that permit the operation on their campuses of Catholic organizations and facilities that strengthen the Catholic identity of their students and that allow extra-curricular activities to enhance their educational growth by promoting many programs to serve these students in true university fashion. Among the most noteworthy are the University of Florida and Florida State University. In some ways, I feel these kinds of centers afford the needed opportunities that will allow our Catholic students to further their growth in real knowledge than many so-called “Catholic” institutions of higher learning. Would that the other colleges could take a cue from these schools and begin to offer more inclusive programs that both promote intellectual development and enable the students to have the opportunities that will prepare them for life.

 

Pastor’s Message May 7th, 2017

A priest-friend sent the following to me, and I thought that I would share it with you for this week’s message:

In the first week of January 1996, more than 4,000 baseball coaches descended upon Nashville, Tennessee, for the annual ABCA’s convention. While waiting in line to register with the hotel staff, many veteran coaches were chatting about the lineup of speakers scheduled to present during the weekend. One name, in particular, kept resurfacing, always with the same sentiment. “John Scolinos is here? Wow! It’s worth every penny of my airfare.”

Who was John Scolinos? At that time he was 78 years old and five years retired from a college-coaching career that began in 1948. He shuffled onto the stage to an impressive standing ovation, wearing dark polyester pants, a light blue shirt, and a string around his neck from which home plate hung — a full-sized, stark-white home plate.

Some wondered, “Who was this guy?” After speaking for twenty-five minutes, not once mentioning the prop hanging around his neck, Coach Scolinos appeared to notice the snickering among some of the coaches. Even those who knew him had to wonder exactly where he was going with this, or if he had simply forgotten about home plate since he’d gotten on stage.

“You’re probably all wondering why I’m wearing home plate around my neck,” he said, his voice growing irascible. “I may be old, but I’m not crazy. The reason I stand before you today is to share with you baseball people what I’ve learned in my life, what I’ve learned about home plate in my 78 years.”

When Scolinos asked how many Little League coaches were in the room, several hands went up.  “Do you know how wide home plate is in Little League?” After a pause, someone offered, “Seventeen inches?” more of a question than answer. “That’s right,” he said.  “How about in Babe Ruth’s day?  Any Babe Ruth coaches in the house?” (-another long pause) “Seventeen inches?” a guess from another reluctant coach. “That’s right!” he said. “Now, how many high school coaches do we have in the room?” Hundreds of hands shot up, as the pattern began to appear. “How wide is home plate in high school baseball?” “Seventeen inches,” they said, sounding more confident. “You’re right!” Scolinos barked. “And you college coaches, how wide is home plate in college?” “Seventeen inches!” was said, in unison. “Any Minor League coaches here?  How wide is home plate in pro ball?” “Seventeen inches!” “RIGHT! And in the Major Leagues, how wide home plate is in the Major Leagues? “Seventeen inches!”

SEV-EN-TEEN INCHES!” he confirmed, his voice bellowing off the walls.  “And what do they do with a Big League pitcher who can’t throw the ball over seventeen inches?” (-pause) “They send him to Pocatello!” he hollered, drawing loud laughter. “What they don’t do is this: they don’t say, ‘Ah, that’s okay, Jimmy.  If you can’t hit a seventeen-inch target, we’ll make it eighteen inches or nineteen inches. We’ll make it twenty inches, so that you have a better chance of hitting it. If you can’t hit that, let us know, so we can make it wider still — say, twenty-five inches’.”  (-pause) “Coaches, what do we do when your best player shows up late to practice; or when our team rules forbid facial hair and a guy shows up unshaven? What if he gets caught drinking? Do we hold him accountable? Or, do we change the rules to fit him?  Do we widen home plate?”

The chuckles gradually faded as four thousand coaches grew quiet, the fog lifting as the old coach’s message began to unfold.  He turned the plate toward himself and, using a Sharpie, began to draw something. When he turned it toward the crowd, point up, a house was revealed, complete with a freshly drawn door and two windows.  “This is the problem in our homes today — with our marriages, with the way we parent our kids, with our discipline. We don’t teach accountability to our kids, and there is no consequence for failing to meet standards. We just widen the plate!” (-pause)

Then, to the point at the top of the house he added a small American flag. “This is the problem in our schools today. The quality of our education is going downhill fast and teachers have been stripped of the tools they need to be successful, and to educate and discipline our young people.  We are allowing others to widen home plate! Where is that getting us?” (-silence)

“And the same is true with our government. Our so-called representatives make rules for us that don’t apply to them. They take bribes from lobbyists and foreign countries. They no longer serve us. And we allow them to widen home plate! We see our country falling into a dark abyss while we just watch.”

“If I am lucky,” Coach Scolinos concluded, “you will remember one thing from this old coach today. It is this: “If we fail to hold ourselves to a higher standard — a standard of what we know to be right — if we fail to hold our spouses and our children to the same standards; if we are unwilling or unable to provide a consequence when they do not meet the standard; and, if our schools and churches and our government fail to hold themselves accountable to those they serve, there is but one thing to look forward to….” With that, he held home plate in front of his chest, turned it around, and revealed its dark backside – “We have dark days ahead!”

His message was clear: “Coaches, keep your players—no matter how good they are—your own children, your churches, your government and, most of all, keep yourself at seventeen inches. Don’t widen the plate!!”

Pastor’s Message April 30th, 2017

This weekend, we are taking up one special second collection, whose purpose is to consolidate some of the many special requests requiring a second collection that we are required to take up throughout the year. In order to support a variety of appeals that are made through the Diocese of Palm Beach, these collections are a necessary means to support the great charitable work of the Catholic Church, not only in the United States but throughout the world. Though today’s collection will not cover all the appeals, it will cover a sufficient number of the appeals, and will be apportioned to several of them according to a fixed formula based on the last 3 years’ offerings.

I’m delighted to tell you that a good number of our children made their First Holy Communion this past Saturday morning. They looked so happy (and holy!), well-groomed and dressed in their special outfits that befitted the importance of this holy occasion. I hope that they and their families come each and every weekend so that they may participate in the Mass and receive the Body and Blood of Jesus frequently. What a wonderful example of practicing one of the most important aspects of our Faith this would be. So many people throughout the world are denied the Mass and Holy Eucharist because of persecution in their land, and we still have the freedom to practice our religion. Let’s not take lightly the serious obligation we have of receiving Jesus in the Holy Eucharist worthily, and thanking God for the freedom of religion that we enjoy that is denied to so many Catholics throughout the world.

Lately, you may have noticed the bulletin articles and fliers that have been printed to promote the upcoming celebrations marking the 100th anniversary of first appearance of Our Lady to the three children of Fatima. On Saturday, May 13th, the actual anniversary of the first appearance of Our Lady at Fatima, we will have a candlelight Marian Rosary procession following the 5:30 p.m. Mass. My hope and wish is that each family of our parish will be represented by at least one member that evening, and that abundant spiritual benefits that flow from this event will abound for you. During this time, we will consecrate our entire parish to Our Lady, renewing our faithfulness to the Mother Of God and her Son.

I thank the members of our parish staff, Knights of Columbus, Columbiettes, our wonderful Parish Choir and musicians, and a litany of other unsung heroes for making the celebration marking the golden jubilee of three of our revered religious, Father Danis Ridore, Father Jay Haskin and Sister Maria Liber, such a splendid event. It is a rare occasion that any parish has that many religious marking their golden jubilees at one time. We have truly been blessed by these terrific examples of faith and faithfulness. May God grant them the health to serve for many more years to come.

Please remember to pray for the two young men who will be ordained priests at our Cathedral of St. Ignatius Loyola in Palm Beach Gardens next Saturday morning, May 6th: Father Martin Dunne III, and Father Wisman Simeon. They are being ordained for service to the Diocese of Palm Beach. We are truly grateful to Almighty God for the gift of calling these men to serve Him and His people, and for their positive response to God’s call. Please pray, too, that Our Lord will find good men from among our parishioners and call them to serve as His priests. Maybe they are members of your family, or a neighbor, or a friend.

We are still basking in the joy of Easter as St. Luke reminds us of David’s promise, and the Lord’s promise, that someone (Jesus) would be raised and “exalted at the right hand of God.”  Glory.  We are equally reminded in the psalm that “you will show me the path to life.” We need to remember that Easter hope lasts all year long.  When we imagine the Apostle’s confusion in the upper room at the institution of the Lord’s Supper, we can compare it to the confusing times we are living in.  As the Apostles couldn’t believe what was getting ready to happen, we can’t believe the daily changes going on in our society, government, financial institutions and more. The Lord had just said (what he had been saying for some time) that he was to be crucified, and there it was actually happening right in front of them. We, too, are in disbelief with the way people behave in public — questionable ethics and morality permeate our society and government, and we’re speechless when we can actually watch it happen. But hope abounds.  The joy of Easter Sunday still is with us.  The disciples, while frantic for answers came to know that Christ had indeed risen from the dead (He is Risen, Indeed!!).  Our hope lives with the Easter story all year round

Pastor’s Message April 23rd, 2017

This Sunday is Divine Mercy Sunday, the day that is the high point of our week-long Easter celebration. On this day, in particular, we focus our attention on the celebration of each Mass. Each Sacrifice of the Mass is the greatest act of filial love and devotion that we can offer our God, in particular, to give thanks for His boundless mercy that comes through the redemptive act by Jesus. We have this day to set apart as an opportunity to seek the grace and mercy that only God can bestow on those who are in great need of it and are truly repentant of their past sins. This feast is the result of the efforts of a Polish nun, Sister Faustina Kowalska, who, during several opportunities of fervent prayer, received the vision of Jesus who asked her to spread the knowledge of God’s mercy for His people.

Special Golden Jubilee congratulations to Father Danis Ridore, Sister Maria Liber and Father Jay Haskin, who, this Sunday, are marking 50 years in religious life and service to Almighty God and His people. This is a remarkable occasion in the life of our parish. Sunday’s joint celebration begins with Mass at 11:30 a.m., followed by an open reception in the parish hall (Family Life Center) for all three of them. I hope that you’re planning to greet and honor them at this wonderful event in the history of our parish.

I am very grateful for the splendid performances by our Parish Choir, under the capable leadership of its conductor, Eric Keiper, that lifted our spirits high and gave a beautiful gift to God and to us through the liturgies of Holy Week and Easter. A good number of our long-time parishioners commented that they don’t ever recall the music in our church to be so inspiring. I also appreciate the many hours spent by our staff and a handful of volunteers in decorating our church sanctuary and parish hall for Easter. They really made a difference in the way that those venues were so well-suited to conduct Easter services. I also thank the many generous parishioners and guests who contributed to the Easter collections, in particular, the support of the Capital Campaign to expand our school and church buildings. May God bless them all!

This past Thursday, our church was the setting for my seminary class reunion. The chief shepherd for all Catholics in West Virginia, Bishop Michael J. Bransfield, was the main celebrant for the eight of us who partook of the festivities marking 46 years of priestly service. Just about every other year, it seems, God is calling back to Himself more of my priest-classmates, so that we are now about one-third the size we were when we finished our seminary training. Please pray that God will send more good priests to replace those who have “run the good race” (as St. Paul says it) and have earned their heavenly reward. It’s only right and just that we ask the Lord to send more laborers into His harvest. If we don’t encourage young men to think about the possibilities that God may be calling them to serve His people, then from where will we expect to get the priests needed to nourish God’s flock?

Our youngsters made their first Confession this past Saturday and anxiously await the great day of their First Holy Communion next Saturday, For many Catholics, First Holy Communion Day is considered the biggest day of their life because they actually could receive the Body and Blood of Jesus for the first time. There is much truth to that belief because of our Catholic teaching that Jesus is truly present in the consecrated bread and wine that have become His Body and Blood.

Thank you for your generous support of our Capital Campaign through last week’s second collection. Although several parishioners have yet to respond to our two-year long campaign to help build the planned additions to our school and church, I’m hopeful that they’ll finally pitch in with a thoughtful pledge and make their commitment. Because of our “growing pains,” we need to expand our facilities and services. I pray that your generous heart will be open to the needs of our children and other parishioners who, like us, are the beneficiaries of God’s love for us.

This weekend, we will take up the special 2nd collection to cover several of the monthly collections that our diocese requires of us to meet the needs of quite a few charitable requests from “outside-the-diocese.” The money will be given to each of those charities according to the percentage proportions of the last three years. May this somewhat ease the burden of repeated requests from those various charities.

 

Pastor’s Message April 16th, 2017

In the dark hours after Jesus was crucified, the disciples were on the verge of despair. Jesus had been put to death; he was gone, laid in a tomb. Was this the end? Did anything have meaning anymore? They still wanted to believe in him, yet they were struggling to open their minds and hearts to all that He had taught them of his pending death – and the resurrection.

There is a quiet contrast between those dark hours and the early morning that heralded the dawn of the first Easter Day. It was then that Mary Magdalene and the other women disciples went to the tomb and found that it was empty. Mary believed that the body of Jesus had been taken away. When she ran to tell Peter and John what she believed had happened, she sought the help of men whose individual behavior had been very different at the time of Jesus’ trial and crucifixion. Peter had denied three times that he even knew Jesus, but John had stayed close to the cross and remained with Jesus to the end, as had Mary, the mother of Jesus, and her sister Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene herself. But now, united in grief, Peter and John run to the tomb, see the burial clothes and believe what, until then, they had failed to understand: “that He must rise from the dead.”

For all of these disciples, the truth of the resurrection dawns upon them slowly. According to John, it comes to Mary Magdalene in a uniquely personal way when, according to the Gospel, she remains at the tomb, weeping, and sees a man, whom she thinks is the gardener. Only when He speaks her name does she realize that He is Jesus.

Not one of Jesus’ band of followers witnessed the resurrection itself; but Christ, in His love, sought out the disciples, opened their hearts and reawakened their faith by appearing to them now, risen from the dead. The change that then came about in his followers was a new beginning, inexplicable in human terms, for it was a glimpse of the world to come when we shall see God “face to face.” In the words of St. Bede: “Christ is the morning star who when the night of this world is past reveals to his saints the eternal light of life”

Do you remember in that Gospel passage that three of the people mentioned in the story ran in the aftermath of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead? Mary Magdalene ran to tell Peter and John that the tomb was empty where the body of Jesus had been laid. Peter and John then run to the empty tomb to see for themselves.

Running excitedly but with a purpose is indeed a fitting response to the experience of Christ’s resurrection. If we truly believe that the empty tomb is not some trick, that the body of Jesus had not been stolen or hidden, but that Jesus indeed had risen from the dead, then we cannot just sit back complacently or amble along indifferently as if nothing unusual had happened. The resurrection of Jesus changes the lives of us who are believers, spurring us on to run the course of our lives with the excitement of knowing that something miraculous has happened, so extraordinary that we are compelled to follow the way that the Lord has shown us and invite others to join us on this spiritual journey to a most remarkable destination that is the fulfillment of our fondest dreams.

The risen Lord appears to those who have received the gift of faith, that gift of the Holy Spirit, which brings us into a relationship with Jesus. It enables us to see beyond what is immediately obvious into the world of God, where we can experience a whole new life. St. Paul expresses this experience of faith in terms of death and rebirth. When we believe in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, we are enabled to die to the things of this world and come alive to the things of God. All that used to be important to us is no longer so. Our whole sense of values changes. We begin to see with the eyes of Christ so that we can know His Father as our Father and love others as He loves us. Like the disciples, however, we have to grow in our faith. Like them, we have to follow the call of Jesus, to listen to His word, to allow a relationship with Him to develop. Without Jesus, our world is an empty tomb. So, let us open our hearts to the gift of the Spirit who will enable us to see what is not visible to the eyes of our body, and to believe that the Lord is truly risen. May you have a blessed Easter!!