Category Archives: Pastor message

Pastor’s Message June 24th, 2018

Today’s message is excerpted from a letter on Corpus Christi Sunday by the Archbishop of Edinburgh and St. Andrews in Scotland to his flock. I invite you to read it and reflect upon it.

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I thought it would be helpful to write to you, especially on this day, to recall the central importance of the Sunday Eucharist as the very summit of the life of the local church.

It is true that many people think of Sunday as just part of the weekend, a welcome break from the usual routine, and perhaps a day for family, or sporting activities and so on. Naturally, it’s good to relax and make time for these things; but our culture has largely forgotten that Sunday is a weekly holiday because of its meaning as the Christian holy day.

God commanded his Chosen People to refrain from ordinary work for one day at the end the week. That “Sabbath,” now our Saturday, reminded them that life has a higher goal than physical survival or financial gain. True fulfilment lies in relationship with our Creator, and our hearts will always be restless until they rest in Him. So, the working week ended with everyone gathering in God’s presence to offer sacrifices from the fruits of their labors and to receive renewed blessings through the hands of his priests. That weekly day of rest was an earthly reflection of God’s own eternal restfulness. It was a constant commemoration of the Covenant between God and his people, and also looked forward to a time when they would enter into his heavenly peace through the coming of the Messiah.

As Christians we believe that we have found the Messiah. God has visited His people in the person of Jesus Christ, for He is God made flesh and blood. He is the at the center of everything and everything finds its true meaning and purpose in Him. That eternal Day of peace and glory— the triumph of all that is good and just and holy, which the prophets all longed for—has already begun. It began on the first Easter Sunday when Jesus rose from the dead after offering his life in atonement for our sins on the cross. This is why Sunday, which is actually the first day of week, is now our Christian Sabbath, more properly called “The Lord’s Day.”

St. John Paul II wrote a wonderful letter to the whole Church on the importance of this day, in which he said that every Sunday “is Easter which returns week by week, celebrating Christ’s victory over sin and death … It is the day which recalls in grateful adoration the world’s first day and looks forward in active hope to the last day, when Christ will come in glory and all things will be made new.” (Dies Domini, 1) And so, every seven days the Church celebrates the Easter mystery. This is a tradition going back to the Apostles, taking its origin from the actual day of Christ’s Resurrection – a day thus appropriately designated ‘the Lord’s Day’.

When we gather for Mass on Sunday it is a foretaste of heaven. Because Jesus is truly present on our altar, all the angels and saints gather with us for the feast, too). Every Mass is actually that one same sacrifice offered throughout time and space. It is only this great Sacrifice that enables us to live authentically holy lives. It is only this Blessed Sacrament of his Body and Blood that empowers us to do real and lasting good in the world. Jesus Himself said that it is only if we are joined to Him in the Eucharist that we can hope to be saved for eternal life (cf. John 6:53).

We belong to the Church because we belong to Jesus, and we can only belong fully to Jesus by being members of His Church. We are only fully members of Christ and his Church when we faithfully join ourselves to the offering of his Sacrifice in the Mass every Sunday. It is this and this alone that makes us a community and binds us together as one family in the Church.

If we cut ourselves off from this mystery of grace, we not only cut ourselves off from Him but from one another, too. The community of God’s people is impoverished by your absence. Of course, there can be unavoidable circumstances that prevent our coming to Mass; illness or caring for a sick child, for example; travelling abroad, too, although in these days of the internet we ought to be able to plan ahead. But under normal circumstances, attending Mass on Sunday is a solemn and binding obligation. If we deliberately fail in this matter, it is a grave sin and we must go to Confession before receiving Communion again (CCC # 2181).

So, I would like you to ask yourself today: “Is Jesus Christ, in the Sacrifice of the Mass, my priority every Sunday, or do other commitments take precedence sometimes?” Coming to Mass only every other week, or occasionally, is not the same as being faithful to his New Covenant. We cannot treat our Savior as one option among others for us to shuffle at our convenience.  Dear parents, you naturally want your children to achieve their full potential and find lasting happiness. There’s no better thing you can do for them than to bring them to meet the living Lord Jesus at Mass every week. If you teach them like this to seek the Kingdom of God first, you can be sure He will bless them in all the other ways that you hope for (cf. Matt. 6:33). I know it isn’t always easy in our secularized world. It may mean making sacrifices and standing up for your faith among friends or within families. But remember, Jesus already sacrificed everything for us, because He did not want anyone to be lost. At many times in the past, people have died for the Mass and, even today, in some parts of the world our fellow Catholics risk their lives in order to get to Mass, because they believe that True Life depends on it. And they are right! Christ is our life and the Mass is our lifeline. I therefore urge you to make the choice to attend Sunday Mass, to make it a priority, and to bring others with you.

Yours sincerely in Christ,

+Leo Cushley
Archbishop of St Andrews & Edinburgh

 

Pastor’s Message June 17th, 2018

During the month of June, we celebrate two special occasions which expound upon the real love that a Father has for his children. One, logically, is Father’s Day, celebrated on the 3rd Sunday of June. It’s a day set aside whereby we show expressions of filial love for our Dads, whether living or deceased. It may not seem as important as Mother’s Day, but it ranks up in the top tiers of the most important days of our lives. It’s the day when we try to express a manly sentimentality that is not sugar-coated or dripping with a type of sweetness reserved for Mom.   The other is the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which expresses THE FATHER’s love for mankind. That love, which God has for the human race, is not symbolic; it’s actual — real. It’s made known to us through the humanity of Jesus of Nazareth, and that humanity is rendered accessible in images of his Sacred Heart.

Metaphorically, the heart is the seat of our human emotions; tenderness, devotion, affection, commitment, attachment, love. In reference to Christ’s Heart these words are an attempt to convey what in his humanity He personally feels for mankind. The human feelings of the Sacred Heart of Jesus are the truest reflection that we have of what “feelings” the Godhead has for his human creation. The love radiating from Christ’s Heart is not merely a generic love for the race in aggregate. It is a personal love for individual persons. Our Lord never stops taking any of us seriously. Again and again He takes us back and renews His passionate commitment to us. Time and again when we stumble He helps us get back on our feet, so that we can keep trudging along our pilgrim way to the City of God.

Devotion to the Sacred Heart flowered in the 17th century. Both St Francis de Sales and St John Eudes were drawn to it; and from 1673 to 1675 at Paray-le-Monial in France, a Visitation nun, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, experienced visions of the Sacred Heart. In her visions, St. Margaret Mary understood that Christ promised rich blessings to those who persevered in devotion to His Heart. The Lord, she said, promises them the following: He will give them all the graces necessary for their state; He will grant peace to their family; He will console them in all their troubles; He will be their certain refuge throughout their life and above all at the time of their death; He will bestow abundant blessing on all their enterprises; in His Heart sinners will find an infinite ocean of mercy; lukewarm souls will become fervent; fervent souls will be raised up to a level of great perfection; He will bless those homes where the image of His Sacred Heart shall be displayed and honored; He will give to priests the gift of touching even the most hardened of hearts; those who propagate this devotion will have their name written on his Heart, from which it shall never be erased; to those who receive Holy Communion on the first Friday of the month, 9 times consecutively, He will grant the grace of final repentance, so that they will not die in His disfavor nor without receiving the sacraments; and that in their final moment (in their last breath) His divine Heart will be their certain refuge.

We should be slow to dismiss such assertions of God’s love on the grounds of it being simply private revelation. It is that, of course, but a private revelation which is in harmony with the general public revelation given to us through the Scriptures and the Church’s living tradition.

In 1765, the Church authorized the liturgical observance of the feast of the Sacred Heart. This was extended by popes Pius IX, Leo XIII and Pius XI. In 1899, in response to the visions of Sister Maria Droste zu Vischering, Pope Leo XIII consecrated the whole world to the Sacred Heart. Sister Maria Droste died on the feast of the Sacred Heart that year and was beatified by Paul VI in 1975.

In one’s spiritual life particular words and phrases can acquire a rich and allusive power to lift our flagging spirits. “The Sacred Heart of Jesus” is one of those phrases which never fails to warm and encourage. It is an extraordinary component of our faith that God does actually still love what He made. In spite of our rebelling fallen nature, in spite of the ocean of sin with which we pollute our moral and spiritual lives, in spite of our apparently unshakeable attachment to material things, nevertheless our Maker still takes us seriously, still thinks we are worth bothering with. The Heart of Christ is an ever-open portal, a stargate which never shuts, through which the Creator’s infinite patience flows down to us.

On many a first Friday the beautiful texts of the votive Mass of the Sacred Heart from my Latin-English Missal were imprinted on my mind, for which I can never be sufficiently grateful. It helped me to believe (subsequently) that the promises made by our Lord to St Margaret Mary are true. “The thoughts of His Heart are from generation to generation; to feed them when they hunger, to save them when they die.” May the Sacred Heart of Jesus always be praised, adored and loved with grateful affection, in every moment unto the end of time!

Pastor’s Message June 3rd, 2018

In many places, this Sunday features the (moved) Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. On this solemn feast we are called above all to have faith in the fact (as revealed by the Lord Himself) that the Eucharist, the Holy Communion of which we partake, is in fact a reception of the very Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ, whole and entire, in His glorified state. We do not partake of a symbol, as some Protestant sects teach. The Eucharist is not a metaphor; it is truly the Lord. Neither is it a “piece” of His flesh; it is Christ, whole and entire. Scripture attests to this, many times. I give you only 2 of these: 1 Cor 1:29. “For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.” John 6:51 “I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.” This last quote is a profound theology of the Eucharist from Jesus Himself. He makes it clear that we are not to think of the Eucharist as symbolic or metaphorical.

As Jesus spoke the words saying that the bread was His flesh, many of the Jews, including some of his disciples, grumbled in protest. But Jesus did not seek to reassure them or to say that He was speaking only symbolically when saying that they must eat His flesh. Rather, He became even more adamant. So insistent was He that they grasp this, that He permitted most of them to leave, no longer following in His company due to this teaching.

Today, He continues to ask us, “Do you also want to leave me?” (Jn 6:67) Would that people have grasped that the Lord Himself is truly present in our Churches! Were that so, one would never be able to empty our parishes of those seeking to pray with the Lord. As it is, though, only 25% of Catholics attend Mass regularly. This is more evidence of the “narrow road” and of how few there are who find it. Jesus experienced that most left him 2000 years ago, and many today continue to leave Him (or stand far away), either through indifference or false notions. Today, we must supply our answer each time we approach the altar and hear the words, “The Body of Christ.” It is at this time that we answer the Lord, “Amen,” as if to say, Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life!” (Jn 6:68)

One of the mistaken notions about the Eucharist is confusing this sacred meal with the table fellowship Jesus had with sinners. The confusion by many today about the difference between the sacred meal of the Eucharist and common table fellowship leads many to misconstrue the Eucharist; it also helps to explain the Church’s stance. Jesus was known to “welcome sinners and eat with them.” But Holy Mass is not one of those sorts of meals. This was an intimate meal celebrated in the context of faith, however weak or strong, but a faith that was presupposed. Jesus said to them, “You are the men who have stood by me in my trials” (Lk 22:28). The Last Supper, wherein the essential reality of the Mass was first set forth, was held in the context of the Passover, the annual sacred meal shared within the family. Such meals presupposed that the people gathered together were family. Jesus celebrated that Last Supper with his family, the twelve Apostles. Those who think of the Mass as the mere table fellowship Jesus had with sinners, think of the Eucharist as a “Come one, come all” sort of meal. Many also add, “Come as you are.” In their view, there are no requirements; what matters is what Jesus is offering. “Don’t worry,” they say, “about ‘membership’ or the need to be reconciled from sin. After all, Jesus ate with sinners and didn’t worry about that stuff.” They also may have missed the Gospel account of the wedding invitation and the proper garment (disposition). This is one reason that the Church has always limited the Eucharist to those who are initiated, who are “members of Christ’s Body” through faith, and who keep communion with His Body the Church through assent to her teachings, remaining members of His Body by being in a state of grace. It further explains the need to receive the Eucharist worthily by first confessing our serious sins through the Sacrament of Confession. St Paul teaches: “Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died (1 Cor 11:28-30).

So, we see that the Mass is not akin to the table fellowship that Jesus, at times, kept with sinners. Rather, it is a sacred meal that presupposes membership in Christ’s Body through faith and the forgiveness of all serious sins that might have severed that communion. It is meant to strengthen a communion that already exists. Our reverence for Holy Communion requires us to receive worthily, in a state of grace that has preserved the communion we celebrate. Further, to receive worthily also requires that we have the faith of the Church, the Body of Christ, and keep communion by a belief in conformity and communion with it.

On this Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ we are summoned to deepen our faith in the Lord who is present in the Eucharist and acting through his Sacraments. Routine may have somewhat of a dulling effect, but it cannot be so much so that we receive the Lord of glory in any way that could be called mindless or lacking in the reverence we ought to have for Him.  Ask the Lord to anoint your mind so that you never forget your need for the Eucharist. Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood, you have no life in you (Jn 6:53). But receive this great gift worthily and with a communion that befits the Holy Communion to which we are summoned.

 

Pastor’s Message May 27th, 2018

Several of our young St. Vincent Ferrer parishioners, were among this year’s Catholic high school graduates, and most of them have received special recognition and were awarded numerous scholarships for their academic achievements. These include: Shane Barta, Pablo Falcon-Gutierrez, Michael Kennedy, Kaleigh Krolikowski, Alessandro Liguori, Luis Marull, Brea McNamara, Francesco Olortegui, Brooke Salvato, Timothy Silk, Tyhessha Thomas, Francesca and Sarah Vilcnik. We are so very proud of them, and proud of their parents, too, for having sacrificed so much to see to it that their children continue their Catholic education. God bless them, and all our graduates, especially those who received scholarships and high honors.
Reflecting on the accomplishments of all our graduates, I recall one of my favorite movies, a most inspiring sports film, that came on the scene 37 years ago: “Chariots of Fire.” It tells the story of Eric Liddell, who was known as the “Flying Scotsman.” He was the projected winner of the men’s 100 meters race at the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris. But, when he discovered that the trial runs were scheduled for Sunday morning, he bowed out of the race. Even the Prince of Wales couldn’t persuade him to honor his country by running on the Sabbath. Eric explained his decision, saying, “God, my King, is greater than the kings of England, Wales and Scotland. To honor my God is more important than to honor the king of England.”
Born in China to Scottish missionary parents, Liddell later returned to the land of his birth to spend his life as a missionary because he felt driven to share the joy of honoring God. He lived and worked there for twenty years, devoting his life to spreading the love of God everywhere he went. He described his own life as a “complete surrender” to God, –a key for helping us to understand what love means and what love asks of us. The story of Eric Liddell, offers some helpful points of reflection for those who are making the transition from high school. Take, for example, the courage with which he decided to stick to his Christian principles. Not only did he know right from wrong; he also knew that choosing what was right was not always going to be popular, and that it was not always going to be easy. But he was convinced that sticking to those principles – not compromising on them in the least – was the very best course that he could take, and that God would bless him for that fidelity. This was made clear to him in a very powerful way at those same Olympics. Since he chose not to run in the 100 meters race, he decided to enter the 400 meters race. The odds were definitely not in his favor, but he did it anyway. The story goes that when it was time to run the race, he was assigned to the worst lane. But he was encouraged by a note that the team trainer had given to him that morning which he kept in his pocket: “He will honor those who honor Him” (1 Sam. 2:30). Eric went on to win the gold medal in the men’s 400 meters. While we can’t all be fast runners like Liddell, we can learn the love of God, as he did, as a great gift from God.
Our children’s time in a Catholic school has afforded them a wonderful gift in their Catholic faith. They have learned about what is right and what is wrong. But that is the easy part. Living it is where it gets hard. Like Eric Liddell, they are encouraged to see that by honoring God, doing what is right and avoiding what is wrong, God will in turn bless them for their fidelity to His will for them. This may be difficult for some to accept, and one that is often quickly dismissed as mere pious talk, especially among young people. We hear these words of direction, but we often question how true they are. After all, we see many people who choose not to follow those principles of the Catholic faith, and they seem to be doing just fine, and in many cases, they seem to be prospering and enjoying life to the fullest. We also see those who have made the decision to stick to their faith; yet, things do not always seem to go their way. So, the question arises whether it’s worth the risk of missing out on so much in life by letting ourselves seemingly be constrained by rules and regulations that our Catholic Faith imposes on us. To respond to this, I’d like to draw attention to the mystery of the Holy Trinity, which we celebrate this weekend. Tackling the Trinity mystery can be intimidating, because it is such a complex mystery, one that is impossible truly to understand. But there’s a story about St. Augustine, one of the greatest theologians the Church has ever known. He was walking along the seashore when he noticed a little boy bringing seashells filled with water from the ocean to a little hole that he had dug. St. Augustine asked the boy what he was doing, to which the boy responded that he was going to pour the entire sea into the hole. St. Augustine told the boy that such a task was impossible. The boy then looked at him and said: “It is no more impossible than what you are trying to do – comprehend the immensity of the mystery of the Holy Trinity with your small intelligence.”
While we will never come close to understanding the Trinity, that’s not what’s important. There is only one thing that we really need to know about the Trinity, and we get that from St. John the Apostle. He explains very clearly, that “God is love” (1 Jn. 4:8). God, as a Trinity, is a perfect relationship of love. Father and Son are perfectly united with one another in the bond of love that is expressed in the Holy Spirit. You might wonder how speaking of this intimate relationship between the three persons of the Trinity has anything to do with answering the question as to why we should take the living of our Catholic faith seriously. To put it more bluntly, how does this idea of the Trinity answer the question, “what’s in it for me?” The answer is: while God has everything that He needs in Himself through that bond of love, He has a desire to share with us what He Himself has, that infinite gift of love. Before He heads off to suffer His Passion and death on the Cross, Jesus offered a message about real love to His disciples. Then, He reminds them that the “Spirit of truth” (John 16:13) would come back to them after His departure. That gift of the Holy Spirit, which we just celebrated last Sunday on the Solemnity of Pentecost, is the gift that draws us into a participation in that love of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is a gift that we don’t have to wait for Heaven to enjoy; we can already experience the peace, joy, and fulfillment of that love in our lives while here on earth.
As with our first parents, God won’t force this love upon us. It’s something that we have the freedom to choose or reject. To choose to accept this love is to choose to keep His commands, for as Jesus Himself says: “Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me” (Jn. 14:21), and “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him” (Jn. 14:23). We have to be convinced, just as Eric Liddell was, that to keep the commandments, to live according to our Catholic faith, will keep us in His love and that there is absolutely nothing more important or more treasured than that. This is what the saints in Heaven banked on while they were here on earth; and now they enjoy a happiness and peace in Heaven that is so far beyond our imagining. This is what each of us is being invited to stake our life on as we take any important step in our life. Never forget that the most important gift that we have is our faith. God has made us in order to use that gift every day of our life. If make the commitment to live that gift, no matter what we do, we will be filled with an immense sense of hope that the Lord will indeed bless our faithfulness. As St. Paul reminds us, this “hope does not leave us disappointed, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Romans 5:5).

 

Pastor’s Message May 20th

Today we celebrate the great Feast of Pentecost -one of the three most important feasts in the Church calendar- when the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles and breathed into them the power of Jesus. Also called the “Birthday of the Church,” this day marks the beginning of the missionary efforts of the Apostles as well as the roots of ‘Apostolic Tradition.’ The 12 Apostles, assisted by 72 disciples, went out to the world, no longer paralyzed by fear or worried about what the crowds would say or do to them. They were the first graduating class in the history of the Church, and their mission was a success because they really loved Jesus and allowed his Spirit to lead them.

Regarding more recent graduations, in our parish 40 Graduates from our middle school will receive their diplomas this Sunday at the conclusion of the 11:30 a.m. Mass.  Many of them are graduating with honors, and lots of scholarship money has been awarded to a good number of them (you can read about the particulars in greater detail in the Principal’s weekly newsletter). What will become of them in the future, only God knows, for sure. But if they stay faithful to Him and his teaching, observing the commandments and the message of the Gospel to “Go out to all the world and spread the Good News….”, then they will become the success story that we as Catholics hope and pray that they would be. If they forget about or ignore God in these next years of their life, they may find the road ahead fraught with difficulties, and find themselves subjected to influences that are far more powerful than they can imagine or handle alone. I will pray that the good example of faithful parents and sincere teachers will help them through the pitfalls and dangers that lie ahead of them. May they invoke the power of the Holy Spirit often to guide them.

We also congratulate the many parishioners graduating at other levels. Among them are our seminarian Marc Gustinelli, who recently received his Bachelor of Philosophy degree – “summa cum laude” (“with highest honors”), from St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami; and the Deacon Matthew Hawkins, who worked in our parish on weekends this past year. He received his Master of Divinity degree, (also “summa cum laude”) in ceremonies at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary the following day. I will attend his Ordination to the Priesthood in St. James Cathedral in Orlando next weekend and concelebrate his First Mass of Thanksgiving in his parish church. Father Matthew has just received his first priestly assignment and will report to St. James as Parochial Vicar shortly after finishing his pertinent celebrations. Keep them all in your prayers.

Our closing of the school year will take place in about two more weeks. I keep wondering, “where did the time go?” It seemed like only yesterday that we began our academic year and were anticipating the upcoming renovations and addition to our school. As you drive to church, you can see that the progress on the construction projects seems to be pretty much in keeping with the projected time-line of completion. So many of our generous parishioners are trying to make our dream come true. But, I also noticed that quite a few parishioners haven’t committed themselves by getting involved in this most important role of “pitching in” to make the load-carrying easier for all. They have not made a pledge for the capital campaign; or, if they did, they have not yet honored their commitment. I wonder why they hold back on such an important a project, depriving us of funds that are badly needed for completion of our building. Our children deserve the chance to obtain the best Catholic education possible, and we should all help each other to achieve that goal.

Coming up soon, there are a few priestly anniversaries involving priests who serve our parish. Monsignor Stephen Bosso (40th), Father Hawkins (40th) and Father Danis (51st) will celebrate their anniversaries in the Priesthood of Jesus Christ in June. I celebrated my 47th this past week. Father Jay will celebrate his 51st in December. Please pray for us to have the strength and zeal to continue doing God’s work. Pray, too, for our new priests and for more men and women to answer the call to serve as God’s ministers. Currently, one young man has been discerning the possibility of entering the seminary in the near future. May we be blessed with more vocations coming forth from our parish.

Pastor’s Message May 13th, 2018

In place of my usual weekly article, the following excerpts are from an essay by Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB, CEO and President of Canada’s Salt and Light Media Foundation:

Being Pro-life is one of the deepest expressions of our baptism: we stand up as sons and daughters of the light, clothed in humility and charity, filled with conviction, speaking the truth to power with firmness, conviction and determination, and never losing joy and hope. Being Pro-Life is not an activity for a political party or a particular side of the spectrum. It is an obligation for everyone: left, right and center! If we are Pro-Life, we must engage the culture around us, and not curse it. We must see others as Jesus does, and we must love them to life, even those who are opposed to us. To March for Life in Washington and in many other cities of the world means that we stand up for all human life, and we do not have a myopic view of the cause of life. Being pro-life in this day and age is truly prophetic, and it will bring about authentic development and enduring peace in our world.

The burning issues of the promotion of human life, from conception to natural death, must be high on the agenda of every human being on every side of the political spectrum. They are not only the concern of the far right of the political spectrum. Many people, blinded by their own zeal and goodness, have ended up defeating the very cause for which we must all defend with every ounce of energy in our flesh and bones. What is wrong with abortion, euthanasia, embryo selection, and embryonic research is not the motives of those who carry them out. So often, those motives are, on the surface, compassionate: to protect a child from being unwanted, to end pain and suffering, to help a child with a life-threatening disease. But in all these cases, the terrible truth is that it is the strong who decide the fate of the weak; human beings therefore become instruments in the hands of other human beings.

Today we live in the midst of a culture that denies human solidarity and takes the form of a veritable “culture of death.” This culture is actively fostered by powerful cultural, economic and political currents that encourage an idea of society exclusively concerned with efficiency. It is a war of the powerful against the weak. There is no room in the world for anyone who, like the unborn or the dying, is a weak element in the social structure, or anyone who appears completely at the mercy of others and radically dependent on them and can only communicate through the silent language of profound sharing of affection. Human life has a sacred and religious value, but in no way is that value a concern only of believers. There is no question that abortion is the most serious wound inflicted not only on individuals and their families who should provide the sanctuary for life, but inflicted as well on society and its culture, by the very people who ought to be society’s promoters and defenders.

In Pope Francis’ recent Apostolic Exhortation “Gaudete et Exsultate” (On the Call to Holiness), he challenges each of us who consider ourselves to be “Pro-Life.”

“Our defense of the innocent unborn, for example, needs to be clear, firm and passionate, for at stake is the dignity of a human life, which is always sacred and demands love for each person, regardless of his or her stage of development. Equally sacred, however, are the lives of the poor, those already born, the destitute, the abandoned and the underprivileged, the vulnerable infirm and elderly exposed to covert euthanasia, the victims of human trafficking, new forms of slavery, and every form of rejection. We cannot uphold an ideal of holiness that would ignore injustice in a world where some revel, spend with abandon and live only for the latest consumer goods, even as others look on from afar, living their entire lives in abject poverty.”

Let us never forget to reflect upon what we do as individuals and as a community as we stand up for life – ALL human life. Building a culture of life and ending abortion is the duty and obligation each and every person. But (t)he litmus test for being pro-life is not only attending rallies or marches during the year in major cities of the world. The real test is what we do for life the remaining 364 days of the year, and what efforts, great and small, do we embrace to consistently and systematically oppose any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia or willful self-destruction, violations of human dignity, and coercions of the will. All of these things and more poison human society. We must strive for a strong, consistent ethic for life.

Our common home has become a place of violent conflict, hatred and brutal atrocities, committed even in the name of God and of religion.

May these powerful words of Pope Francis be a guiding light and source of instruction, inspiration, consolation and hope to the people of our country as we march for life and defend human life – from conception to natural death – from womb to tomb. May the beatitudes compel us to move forward with boldness and courage, as we welcome, love and protect the poorest, weakest and most vulnerable among us.

 

Pastor’s Message May 6th, 2018

In the Bible, Psalm 1 describes two paths or ways from which to choose in life. Serving as a preface to the whole Book of Psalms, Psalm 1 uses striking similes to contrast the destiny of the good and the wicked. The psalm views life as activity, as choosing either the good or the bad. Each “way” brings its inevitable consequences. The wise through their good actions will experience rootedness and life, and the wicked, rootlessness and death. This choice for good or evil is inherent in God’s plan since the beginning of creation. The spiritual battle between angels and demons, led by Saint Michael against the forces of Satan, and the earthly struggle of right versus wrong that has confronted humanity since the time of Adam and Eve. It is the same challenge that we all face day in and day out.

In his best-selling book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey wrote of the importance of what he called the Character Ethic, which “is based on the fundamental idea that there are principles that govern human effectiveness—natural laws in the human dimension that are just as real, just as ‘unchanging’ ….as laws such as gravity are in the physical dimension.” To illustrate this point, he re-told a story published by Frank Koch in the magazine of the Naval Institute, Proceedings.

“Two battleships assigned to the training squadron had been at sea on maneuvers in heavy weather for several days. I was serving on the lead battleship and was on watch on the bridge as night fell. The visibility was poor with patchy fog, so the captain remained on the bridge keeping an eye on all activities. Shortly after dark, the lookout on the wing of the bridge reported, ‘Light, bearing on the starboard bow.’ ‘Is it steady or moving astern?’ the captain called out. Lookout replied, ‘Steady, captain,’ which meant we were on a dangerous collision course with that ship. The captain then called to the signalman, ‘Signal that ship: We are on a collision course, advise you change course 20 degrees.’ Back came a signal, ‘Advisable for you to change course 20 degrees.’ The captain said, ‘Send, I’m a captain. Change course 20 degrees’. ‘I’m a seaman second class,’ came the reply.’ ‘You had better change course 20 degrees.’ By that time, the captain was furious. He spat out, ‘Send, I’m a battleship. Change course 20 degrees.’ Back came the flashing light, ‘I’m a lighthouse….’ We changed course!”

In the course of our lives we will encounter many people who will throw their titles, power, prestige, influence and wealth at us demanding that we change course to suit their whims. There will be many who will oppose us, some in small ways and others with great force, but they are not to be feared; they are to be pitied, at least, and loved, at best. In the face of such opposition, we pray with St. Thomas More: “…Teach us to bear patiently and gently all injuries and snares treacherously set for us; not to smolder with anger, not to seek revenge, not to give vent to our feelings by hurling back insults, not to find an empty pleasure in tripping up an enemy through some clever trick, but rather to set good…ourselves against deceitful injury with genuine courage, to conquer evil with good.”

In the mid-5th century, Pope St. Leo I was called “the Great” because in 452, he peacefully persuaded Attila the Hun to turn back from his invasion of Rome. St. Leo the Great was also known for his powerfully persuasive writing and preaching. In one of his most eloquent sermons, he said, “Such is the power of great minds, such is the light of truly believing souls, that they put unhesitating faith in what is not seen with the bodily eye; they fix their desires on what is beyond sight. Such fidelity could never be born in our hearts, nor could anyone be justified by faith, if our salvation lay only in what was visible.”

A person of principle is a lighthouse that cannot change course from the path set out for us by the Lord. Remember that Jesus said, “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14), and that this light is entrusted to the baptized to be kept burning brightly. Jesus also taught us to go and proclaim the truth to all and preach repentance for the forgiveness of sins. If we are patient in trials, watchful in prayer, strenuous in work, moderate in speech, reserved in manner and grateful for His favors, an eternal kingdom is being prepared for us. If we stay true to our principles in this way, the Lord will see fit to grant us peace and all good. If we follow the beacon of Christ’s light, that will lead us to His kingdom.

Pastor’s Message April 29th, 2018

It’s with great joy and a tinge of sadness that we bid Deacon Matthew Hawkins a very fond ‘farewell” this weekend. His assignment at our parish for most of this year has ended, and he has come to that long-awaited and wonderful stage of his life’s journey: his priestly ordination for service in the Diocese of Orlando on May 26th. We’ll really miss him here – his kindness, his inspiring homilies, his concern for our people – especially the infants at Baptism and the sick to whom he ministered. Our teens, too, will miss his welcome presence at so many of their Sunday night events. Though his ministry here was even more extensive than I’ve mentioned, I believe he’ll be as deeply involved in his new assignment as he was here. We don’t know that assignment, yet, but when he learns of it, he’ll share it with me. I hope it leaves him some time to come back for a visit when he can offer a Mass of Thanksgiving here, perhaps on a weekend.

This past Saturday morning, April 28th, 64 children of our parish school and our parish PREP (Parish Religious Education Program) celebrated their First Holy Communion. With souls as pure white as the little girls’ First Communion dresses, they took Jesus into their hearts and were filled with His love for them. My prayer and hope for them is that their parents will see to the promises that they made at their children’s Baptism to raise their children in the Catholic faith and lead them onward to God by the constant practice of their faith and by honoring all their faith commitments.

Our middle-school students put on a wonderful show last weekend – Disney’s junior version of “Beauty and the Beast.” What talent was displayed!! The singing, acting and the overall behind-the-scenes work crew made this an outstanding production. Under the musical supervision of Music Director Eric Keiper and Drama Director Jennifer Gresh, the presentation was a “class act,” and it was obvious that the students had a lot of fun participating in it. The quality of the show was on at least a high school level – maybe even more. Thank you to all who made this possible, including some very supportive parents.

Our Boys’ school teams produced 5 Championships this year – a record!!! Our Girls’ teams also did remarkably well, with several championships of their own. Congratulations to them all, and to their head coaches. Unfortunately, our head coaches for both the girls’ teams and the boys’ teams will be leaving us at the end of this year – one because of retirement and the other because of a promotion to a high school Assistant A.D. We will truly miss Coach Beth Debrecht and Coach Chris Barulic, and I wish them every good turn for the future.

Our school also received the Green Ribbon Award again this year, which demonstrates a keen ability to understand and to address the ecological challenges affecting our planet and to deal with the problems we must face in using the earth’s natural resources wisely.

Next week, our children will crown the statue of the Blessed Virgin at the Friday 8:30 am Mass (May 4th). I invite you to join them as they salute the Blessed Virgin Mary during the month dedicated to her.

So, with all the excitement about the activities going on in our parish school these days, and with the noticeable progress in the construction of the new wings of our school building, I’m hoping that all those who have not yet pledged their support to our parish in its Capital Campaign will now reconsider their status and offer a helping hand so that we may reach our desired goal. Don’t you think that our children are worth it??!!

Pastor’s Message April 22nd, 2018

(Letter from Deacon “Rusty” Keith Skinner)

To My Parish Family and Friends,

I cannot begin to tell you all how much your love, support and prayers have meant to me and my girls, both over this past year as well as the nineteen years we have been a part of this loving community. You have made the unbearable possible to live through. Over the past year I have learned so very much about the generosity and selfless love friends can show you. I have also learned a lot about myself. Having fallen in love at first sight (yes, it does happen) and been married to Wanda since she was twenty and I twenty-two, we shared a great love, life and everything together. We were rarely apart throughout our thirty-six years of marriage. It is that presence, someone to talk to and share the small moments of a day with, that I miss so terribly much. This brings me to the reason for this letter.

When I became a Permanent Deacon, there were conditions that I was fully aware of and agreed to before I was ordained. One of the conditions was that if my wife pre-deceased me I would not remarry and would live a celibate life. It was one of things that I agreed to which, at the time, was easy because either I was supposed to die before her (because that’s what men are supposed to do), or I would be ninety when she died. As we know, neither of these happened.

After much prayer and reflection, I have come to the realization that living alone is a life I cannot live. I am removing myself from public ministry and have begun the process to be released from my Diaconal promises, with the hope of not being alone any longer. With that, there are conditions [given by our Bishop], the hardest of which is that I must leave all of you and go to a parish other than St. Vincent’s. I will miss all of you terribly, but be assured that my faith, our faith and the Church that has sustained me, will continue to do so. God has set a new path before me and I do not know where it will lead, but He always has something for me to do, and time will tell. I ask that you continue to pray for Wendy, Amy, Cindy and myself as I move forward in this new life. You have been, are now, and will always be in my heart and in my prayers.

Love,

Deacon Rusty Skinner

(Commentary from Monsignor Tom)

It’s not easy to see and say “good-byes” to and from Deacon Rusty Skinner. In the Gospel story of the Good Shepherd, what is significant is the good shepherd’s attitude toward the sheep. What is showcased is the other-centeredness of the good shepherd, who seeks what is good for the sheep, in contrast to the self-centeredness of the intruder, who seeks to profit from the flock. It is important for us to take note of these opposed attitudes, because, just as each one of us is our “brother’s keeper,” so we, too, are our brothers’ and sisters’ shepherds, whether we seek or like to be that or not. In our daily interactions with others we “lead” them by what we say and do, and, most of all, by what we are. Because of this, it’s essential to foster in our hearts the other-centeredness characteristic of a good shepherd. We need to enter our interactions with others not with the question, “What’s in it for me?”, but rather with the question, “What’s in me for it?”. This is other-centeredness at work. This is the work that Deacon Rusty has been doing with and for us over these past years of his ministry.

I shall miss his presence assisting me in the life and ministry of our parish. He has reached out so well in so many ways to so many people, drawing them to Christ and teaching them what it is to be of service to God’s people. His role in the RCIA, his leadership in the Pastoral Council, his service to our Stewardship Council, his assistance on the altar, his thoughtful homilies and his generous contributions to the overall welfare and good of our parish have made a very marked difference at SVF. Not born into the Catholic faith, he made the journey toward it some years ago with the help and encouragement of his devoted wife, Wanda, who assisted him in his work and was always a mirror and reflection of God’s love for her. She passed her gifts on to her husband and family, and they’ve received it with love and much enthusiasm.

I pray that he will be happy in his new choices: of parish life and involvement, of upcoming new friendships and any future companionship. “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord!” (Job1: 21b)

Pastor’s Message April 15th, 2018

The Gospel this weekend probably is in reverse order in time to that of the story of last week, where the other Apostles told Thomas that “they had, indeed, seen the Lord.” In this week’s story, the ten other Apostles, though they had heard stories of the appearance of the risen Jesus, were just as incredulous when Jesus walked among them as Thomas would be in last week’s version. Jesus invited them to “touch Me and see,” and “He showed them his hands and his feet.” Still, they remained skeptical, thinking they were seeing a ghost, until Jesus took a piece of baked fish He asked for and ate it in front of them. Then they were overjoyed and became true believers. Later, Jesus would say to all of them (including Thomas), “Blessed are they who do not see, but believe!”

For us, who have not seen the Jesus of history but still have Him present in the Holy Eucharist, that question of belief again comes into play. What about those who have received Him early in life but have drifted away from Him now, not receiving Him each week, or seriously offending Him by not even coming to Mass? Do you think that they ever really believed in the first place? Do you think that they believe He could change simple bread into His Body, and wine into His blood? I don’t think so, for if they had, they would be making every effort to be with Him in that special way each week, worshipping Him with all the other sinners, rather than making feeble excuses for skipping Mass and failing to receive the Holy Eucharist. “Blessed are they who do not see, but believe!”

Nearly two thousand years ago, Jesus gathered the disciples whom He loved to share one last meal. It was not just any meal but a meal that celebrated the Passover of the Lord and the freedom of the Israelite people from their slavery in Egypt. Rather than just commemorating this freedom from physical slavery, Our Lord, knowing that the following day He would be the spotless Passover Lamb when He offered His life on the altar of the Cross, changed the script from something that would be familiar to any observant Jew into something altogether different. For He had not come to free us from a physical slavery, but rather to free us from our slavery to sin and death. Therefore, to fortify us with His grace, during the course of that meal Jesus gave those gathered with Him one of His greatest gifts: the gift of His Most Holy Body and Most Precious Blood in the Eucharist.

The late Saint John Paul truly understood this importance of the Eucharist as our point of connection to God. God comes to meet and strengthen us for our lives of faith. Not only was the Eucharist the foundation for Saint John Paul’s life and service to the Church, but he spent a substantive portion of his ministry teaching us about the importance of the Eucharist in our lives. Time and time again, in his writings and teachings, he conveyed that “Only through the Eucharist is it possible to live the heroic virtues of Christianity” and that we “must always be Eucharistic souls in order to be Christians.” May we strive to follow Saint John Paul’s example.

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I thank the many volunteers of ministry and service to our parish who joined me in a delicious meal last Tuesday evening honoring their service. During the dinner, we also honored Al and Mignon Attard as this year’s awardees of the “Patron of the Parish,” an award that’s well-deserved for their many ways of serving. I also thank those volunteers who could not be present. May God’s bounteous rewards fall abundantly on them, too.

Thank you, Knights of Columbus, along with the support of our Columbiettes, that put on a successful Pancake Breakfast last week for the benefit of Maryann Passanisi. She is one of the little members of our SVF School family and is courageously battling cancer. The fund-raiser and gifts netted over $4,500 dollars to help her family meet unforeseen and non-covered expenses. Thank you! Please continue to pray for little Maryann. Thanks.

Congratulations to our dear parishioner, Catherine “Sis” Murphy, who celebrated her 100th birthday this past week. May God continue to pour out His blessings on this lovely lady, whose kindness and generosity to our parish knows no bounds!