Category Archives: Pastor message

Pastor’s Message October 22nd, 2017

American Catholics mark October each year as “Respect Life Month.” Reverence for the sanctity of the human person rightly starts with a defense of the unborn child, for if it didn’t, then all the other pro-life arguments would have no real foundation and would be severely weakened. The right to life is foundational; without it, all other rights and all other discussions of justice and human dignity would be built on sand. No other issue or combination of issues can eclipse the priority of the fundamental right to life from conception to natural death. But, we must recall the teachings of the three last popes about being truly “prolife.” It involves a great deal more than just working to end obvious evils like abortion and euthanasia. The poor, the infirm, the disabled and the strangers among us also have a claim on our Christian discipleship.

In the United States we live at a time of intense confusion and debate about many human issues. High among these is the polarizing issue of immigration. As one of many pressing national issues, this one too often gets stalled in controversial arguments. This can obscure the personal suffering of otherwise innocent deportees with no criminal record.

Also, millions of persons have been dislocated in recent years by war and poverty, and they’re on the move globally. Though wealthy nations have a definite right to secure their borders and protect their citizens and societies, do they not also have a grave duty to help and to welcome immigrants as generously as possible? That was the scenario that originally helped make our nation #1.

Calling on all Christians to live out the full scope of the Gospel message, Pope Francis has asked us to be sensitive people of good will regarding today’s migrant crisis. As individuals, as parishes, as dioceses with our charitable organizations, and as strong nations, he begs us to reach out to assist immigrants and refugees in their need. More than a century ago, many numerous charitable organizations were called upon to welcome the immigrant from Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, France, Poland and other European countries that flooded Ellis Island and more ports of call. Some of them answered swiftly, while others soft-pedaled the crisis of that era and ignored the teeming masses waiting to be free from all kinds of oppression, whether it was economic, political, or religious.

This was vital work, and it’s going on right now despite the equally serious needs that have beset our land due to fires, floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, and the like. But the effort is just beginning, and a good, simple place to start in understanding the Church’s approach to the migrant crisis is “Welcoming the Refugee and Migrant,” an excellent pamphlet, nicely produced by Catholic News Service and available from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops at www.usccb.org.

Additionally, we need to become more aware of several subtle attacks that threaten our ability to live out our Faith as guaranteed in our nation’s Constitution. This has happened in the last eight years under the Obama administration, and shows just how ugly the situation can become, especially when one of the communities that best embody the full, Catholic approach to the “respect life” cause was challenged. The Little Sisters of the Poor are extraordinary religious women who dedicate their lives, not surprisingly, to serving the aged and the poor. They’re a blessing to all and a threat to no one – unless you’re a federal agency determined to impose an unneeded and vindictive contraceptive coverage mandate on nearly all U.S. businesses and non-profits as part of the nation’s health plans. A sassy Wall Street Journal editorial of support for the nuns, titled “Little Sisters of the Government,” helped bring the fight to light. The battle over the federal mandate, with resistance led, in part, by the Little Sisters of the Poor, consumed massive amounts of time and resources for the past several years. Fortunately, there’s been a welcome change in attitude now, for recently (on October 6th, to be precise), the Department of Health and Human Services, at the White House’s direction, issued interim rules that will finally allow the moral and religious exemptions to the contraceptive mandate that the nuns have fought all along on the grounds of their Catholic beliefs. While this is good news, the struggle isn’t over, for the matter is still in the court system; and abortion-friendly (so-called) “progressive” groups have already filed lawsuits to challenge any easing of the mandate.

As the Wall Street Journal noted in yet another editorial (this one on October 9th)“A Nun’s Right to Choose”: “That so many resources in government and so much litigation are necessary to allow nuns to practice their faith is a testament to the toxic identity politics that corrodes American life.”

The moral of the story: Respect for human life comes in all forms of witness and all kinds of challenges that motivate us to respond as Catholics, following true Catholic teaching. That’s one of the glories of living and loving our Catholic faith!

Pastor’s Message October 15th, 2017

Congratulations to those members of our parish who have supported our Capital Campaign, thus far, and are now beginning to see their gifts put to good use. We finally “broke ground,” which signals the start of the construction of the first two of three phases of our building campaign. The long-awaited renovation and expansion of our existing school will soon enable us to consolidate our student activities and learning areas from 5 buildings into 2 (counting the gymnasium in the Family Life Center). Through the kind generosity of numerous parishioners and friends, we will be better able to provide a safe, updated and modern facility, for our children to learn and grow in faith and service to our parish and the wider community. We are grateful to Bishop Barbarito for granting us the permission to go on with the construction, as well as coming to preside at this past Friday morning’s liturgy and subsequent groundbreaking ceremonies. With many parents, students and friends who were in attendance, we marked another milestone in our parish history. I especially thank Julie Ott, our Parish Director of Stewardship & Development, and her leadership team that spearheaded the fundraising part of the campaign, thus far. She and we have more work that lies ahead of us before we can complete the work that we’ve started. Now we also look for continued prayer and funding support for the successful conclusion of our project. Our theme is: “Living Our Faith; Building Our Future.” If you haven’t yet made a pledge to our Capital Campaign, there is still time for you to do so. Simply call the parish office at (561) 276-6892, and ask to speak with Julie Ott. She will be glad to provide you with the necessary information. Know that our school children will be praying for you and your intention. May God, who has begun this work, bring it to a successful conclusion!

Congratulations to our parish cantor, Dylan Evans, for recently being awarded the Randolph A. Frank Prize of $2,000, as a gift for emerging performing artists. You’ll certainly recognize Dylan’s talented tenor-baritone voice at our weekend Masses. He has been a parish staple for the past two plus years. Besides lending his talents to enhance our liturgies, Dylan performs with the Palm Beach Opera and the Delray Beach Chorale. He also serves on the board of that chorale and teaches voice lessons privately. We look forward to seeing his future accomplishments as he uses his God-given talents for the glory of God and the good of His people.

St. Vincent Ferrer Parish is also proud of parishioner Jeanne Chwalik, director of the South Florida Dynamics baton twirling team. She has led several young ladies in numerous national championships since 2003. Among their many achievements are numerous awards from local, state, national and even international competitions. Some of the competitions were in Australia (gold medal), the Netherlands (2 bronze medals), British Columbia (bronze medal) and Croatia (silver medal). Eight of her team members are currently students at SVF School or parishioners in other schools. All her staff members are graduates of her program and are Catholic (although being such is not one of the requirements). Congratulations to Jeanne and her team! We are always delighted to recognize members of our SVF parish family who use God’s gifts to better their life and the lives of others in our community.

Thank you to our Life Team members, under the dynamic leadership of their director, Cheryl Deneen, for sponsoring their annual dinner this Sunday evening in honor of our priests, deacons and sisters (though not clergy, Sisters are appreciated for their related service, too). Among other observances this month, October is set aside as Clergy Appreciation Month. If you want to show your appreciation to your clergy, pray for them that they may be faithful servants, not like the hirelings mentioned in the Gospel, who flee when the wolves come to snatch the sheep. Let’s also remember to pray often that the Lord of the harvest will send more laborers into His harvest.  Msgr. Tom

Pastor’s Message October 8th, 2017

Like many Americans, who awoke last Monday morning to learn of the horrific acts of violence that took place early that morning (in our time zone) in Las Vegas, we mourn the many precious and innocent lives that were senselessly lost in an evil manner. The terror that filled Las Vegas that night and its aftermath serve as a stark reminder of the fragility of life and the very real presence of evil in our world. It fills us all with a tremendous unspeakable sadness. During this October, dedicated as Respect Life month and the month of the Holy Rosary, let’s take the time to pray and to resolve each day to treat our brothers and sisters with dignity, charity, and respect.  Let us pray the Rosary, asking that God will receive the souls of those who have been lost through senseless killings, that He will heal the injured, and that He will pour out His comforting grace upon all those bearing the heavy burdens of suffering and grief. May we all embrace that which is good, so that the light of Christ will prevail in the darkness that our world seems to prefer.

I’m grateful to the 20 + “prayer-warriors” who opened Respect Life Month by going to pray silently for an hour last Sunday afternoon at the intersection of Federal Highway and Linton Blvd. Though the weather was threatening when we arrived, shortly after our opening prayer the clouds passed and we enjoyed both sunny and partly cloudy skies. Most noticeable was that the number of negative reactions seems to be decreasing each year, and the positive signs from the travelers are increasing, as well, as very encouraging. Thank you Deacons, Sisters and laity for your respect life witness, that ALL life is precious in God’s eyes, whether in Las Vegas, Delray Beach or anywhere else on God’s earth!

This coming Friday, October 13th, is a BIG day for us. We will be hosting Bishop Barbarito, who comes to help us celebrate the blessing and preparation of the ground for the construction of our new school addition. These past few years, we have been preparing for this occasion and are still anxiously awaiting the permit from the city to begin the actual construction process. We also will be observing the 100th anniversary of the last apparition of Our Lady to the three children at Fatima (Portugal) in 1917. Our celebration begins at 9:15 a.m., with a procession around the parish grounds while praying the Rosary and the Divine Mercy chaplet. Then, Bishop Barbarito will celebrate a special Mass at 10 a.m., followed by the pre-groundbreaking blessing of the designated land for the school addition. I invite all of you, if possible, to join us for these festivities.

I was delighted one week ago, to welcome into the fullness of the Catholic Faith, Jeffrey Stoops, who made his profession of Faith and then received the Sacraments of Confirmation and Holy Communion in our church. I am grateful to his wife and to our Deacon Rusty Skinner for guiding him in his journey along this path to full communion with us.

If you know of any member of your family or a friend in our area who would be interested in becoming Catholic or in just learning more about our Faith, please contact Deacon Rusty or one of our parish priests or deacons, to help them learn more about Catholicism. Have a great day!

Pastor’s Message October 1st, 2017

Across the dioceses of Florida last month, Catholic schools were welcoming students back to class. Hardly had a full two weeks of classes begun when hurricane Irma came crashing into our state with a fury that forced all of the schools in south Florida to shutter themselves against its damaging elements. Thanks to the protection of Our Blessed Mother, we were spared the ravages of Irma that decimated much of the Florida Keys and adjacent areas. Soon enough, we were back to the “busy-ness” of education – Catholic education — of which I am a proud product of one of the best systems in the United States: Philadelphia Archdiocesan schools. With thousands of dedicated administrators, teachers and staff, and through the sacrifices of good parents, a common bond was forged that truly made possible the great Catholic schools there that remain today among the nation’s very best.

But what does that word “best” really mean in a Christian context?  Most Catholics know that our schools do a great job of providing an excellent academic education in a safe environment; and they do it with very limited resources. This can have deeply positive results, especially for students from fractured homes or from impoverished and crime-laden neighborhoods. But the why behind Catholic education – the reason it exists – can sometimes be overlooked.

Catholic schools and catechetical programs, like PREP, aren’t ultimately about teaching young people to work hard, contribute to society, and be honest and kind to others. Clearly those virtues are important. But they’re not ends in themselves. They flow from the larger mission of our schools and programs. The goal of all Catholic education is to form young people in a strong Catholic faith, a faith rooted in the truth about God and humanity, a faith that can guide them to a fruitful life in this world, and home to the joys of eternal life with their Creator.

All Catholic education starts with a simple principle: Facts and achievements are empty – or worse, unless they’re embedded in a pattern of meaning. The deepest hunger of the human heart isn’t for knowledge but for purpose. That’s why Jesus’ words in the Gospel of John have always had such power: “You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (8:32)

Truth organizes reality. It gives meaning and direction to life. In doing so, it sustains hope. So, it’s no surprise that in cultures that refuse to accept the existence of permanent, objective truths, or a commonly shared higher purpose to life, suicide rates rise along with a general callousness expressed in barbarisms like abortion and euthanasia. Differing cultures can account for the differing attitudes toward suicide in some countries. But even adjusting for that, the data are striking. Of the 25 nations with the highest suicide rates in the world, eight of them are in Europe. Wealth offers no immunity: South Korea and Japan also rank high on the list, despite their advanced economies. The exponentially high suicide rate in nations like North Korea probably needs no explanation.

But, here’s the point. The belief that truth exists, is permanent and knowable (and is worth pursuing and fighting for because it makes us free) is the affirmation of the goodness and the real meaning of life, and is found only in and through the world’s loving Creator. He has made all life possible; He is the Alpha and the Omega. He alone gives real meaning to existence,

This enduring passion for truth is the fire at the heart of all Catholic education, from the first day of First Grade forward throughout life.  So as another school year has begun, it’s a good time to remember what we need to be teaching, learning and doing in our classrooms — and even more importantly, why. That’s why we want to continue to expand the role of Catholic education in our parish – to give real meaning to our life.

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Many thanks to all those good people who made the annual Blue Mass celebration for our men and women in public safety service such a success last Monday night. Attendance was far greater than before and the reception was delightful. Many thanks to Mary Somerville, our new Director of the Parish Family Life Ministry, and to the Columbiettes for the lovely reception afterwards. Our own school children made beautiful, personal notes and letters to be given to all the men and women “in blue” who serve our area so dutifully and faithfully.

Please join Fr. Danis, our Sisters and many pro-life advocates from our parish this Sunday afternoon, October 1st, between 2 and 3 p.m., for our eleventh annual Respect Life Rosary, at the intersection of Federal Highway and Linton Blvd. All you need is a willingness to be there (and some sunscreen and a bottle of water!). God will be there and take care of the rest.

Pastor’s Message September 24th, 2017

Every so often, I am approached by some individual who is unfamiliar with the teaching of the Catholic Church regarding the worthy reception of Holy Communion.

They may have a puzzling look when I announce at a Funeral Mass or a Nuptial Mass that “only Catholics in good standing and properly disposed” may come forward to receive Holy Communion. They eventually seek me out to get a response for the following question: Can a non-Catholic receive Holy Communion at a Catholic Mass? Though the teaching on this matter is found on a cover page of the weekly missalettes, some don’t take the time to read them carefully; others may think those instructions are either obsolete or subject to their own personal interpretations. I hope that this article will serve as a definitive teaching for all to follow.

Although it occasionally has happened, it really makes no real sense for non-Catholics to approach the altar to receive Holy Communion in a Catholic church. Here’s a not-so-unique story with some reasons why.

Recently, British Catholics were disturbed when a member of their Parliament and the leader of Britain’s Labor Party, caused a stir “across the Pond” by allegedly receiving Holy Communion at a funeral in a Catholic church, even though he isn’t a Catholic. Critics accuse him of “disrespecting the Catholic faith quite considerably” and causing offense to faithful Catholics. Many non-Catholics were also confused: “What’s the big deal? Why does the Catholic Church have to exclude people? Shouldn’t it be more welcoming?” The truth is, there are several very good reasons why non-Catholics should not receive Communion. Here are some of the major ones:

  1. Communion is a statement of faith.

The Church has always been clear that at Mass the bread and wine literally become the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ. They may still have the appearance and taste of bread and wine, but they have truly and substantially changed. When Our Lord says at the Last Supper “This is my body…” we take Him at His word. So, if someone doesn’t believe Christ is truly present in the Eucharist, or is in a state of gave sin, it would be disrespectful (to put it mildly) to receive His Body and Blood.

  1. Communion shows you are part of the Church.

When a Catholic receives Communion, they show they are a member of the wider Catholic community – literally “in communion” with the Church. It would therefore make no sense for a non-Catholic to take Communion.

As the bishops in the territory of England and Wales say: “Normally, when people receive Holy Communion at a Catholic celebration of Mass, they should be saying: ‘We are in full communion with the Catholic Church, united with the bishop of this local community and with the Pope’.”

  1. Receiving Communion unworthily is dangerous to your spiritual welfare.

Another reason that non-Catholics cannot receive Communion is for their own good. Scripture warns what happens when people who are not worthy to receive the Body and Blood of Christ try to do so. “For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.” (1 Cor 11:29–30) Therefore, a non-Catholic who attempts to receive Holy Communion endangers his own spiritual health.

N.B. There may be limited exceptional circumstances.

There are very rare instances where non-Catholics may receive Holy Communion, but they only apply to baptized Christians in emergency situations who show they truly believe the Catholic Church teaching. It is unlikely these conditions applied in the British case. No doubt, the recipient was well intentioned if he did receive Holy Communion, and did so out of naivety rather than malice. Hopefully, he will learn something about Church teaching and Catholic belief from the reaction. In the meantime, if he does want to receive Holy Communion again in the Catholic Church, there’s only one thing he can do – become a Catholic!

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Hurricane Relief: Thank you kindly for your Six Thousand plus dollar contribution to give relief to victims of hurricane Harvey that recently hit Texas and Louisiana very hard. Undoubtedly, soon we will be faced with helping more victims, especially in the U.S. Virgin Islands (hit hard twice) and Puerto Rico. It reminds us of the words of Jesus concerning the availability of doing various works of charity for those in need: “The poor you will always have with you….”  God bless You!

Pastor’s Message September 17th, 2017

It’s been a very strange week for all of us in south Florida but, thanks be to God, most of us have managed to survive the onslaught of another hurricane. The airwaves and media were filled with stories of the storm bringing out the good side of so many people. They are the real-life action heroes: the police, fire fighters and paramedics, many doctors and other medical professionals, the active military and the National Guard. We wanted to honor so many of them in our annual Blue Mass, but hurricane Irma made us postpone everything until Monday, September 25th. Many parish events were cancelled or postponed, but that doesn’t stop us from working during adversity to spread the Good News of Jesus. The preparations made by the Maintenance Staff under the direction of Jay Flood were outstanding. They worked many hours day and night to secure our facilities as best as possible. During that time we lost no electric power on campus. Thank You, Jesus and Mary!

Due to the ferocity of Irma, we heeded the advice of the authorities and closed down our church, school and office facilities as directed. But because there was no severe wind on Saturday, we were able to offer the Saturday 4:00 and 5:30 p.m. Masses and satisfy the intentions offered for those two Masses (Some of our parishioners were able to attend those Masses by coming through the sacristy door past the priests’ vestry). Since our bishop dispensed us from the obligation of attending Sunday Mass last weekend (and LAST weekend ONLY), we missed out on the scheduled 2nd collection to help bring relief to the victims of hurricane Harvey. Last weekend’s scheduled collection for relief from hurricane Harvey will be taken up this weekend, but if you weren’t ready to do so this week, whenever you want to bring your special offering for that need, you may simply drop it in the collection basket along with your regular weekly offering. We also missed the regular Sunday collection for the upkeep of the parish, so you may also put that envelope in the basket with any others. We appreciate it, for it’s necessary to maintain the parish facilities. A missed Sunday collection is often seen as a pastor’s worst nightmare (“How will I pay the bills or make ends meet this coming week?”).

Our Pastoral Associate, Bob Laquerre, was ordained a Permanent Deacon on September 7th, two days earlier than anticipated, because of the unpredictability of the storm and the inability to say just when Bishop Barbarito would have another chance to ordain him and three other men of our diocese. Originally that night of Ordination was scheduled to be the dress rehearsal; but, as it turned out, it was turned into the actual ceremony, held in the Cathedral Chapel of St. Ignatius Loyola in Palm Beach Gardens (not St. Patrick’s Church, as originally scheduled). It was a smaller, more intimate ceremony than was scheduled, but was beautiful and most dignified, nonetheless (Saturday would have been a bit more unpredictable, weather-wise). It was my honor and privilege to help his wife vest him as part of the ceremony. Now he’s a fully-ordained minister of the Church, ready to serve the People of God through his preaching, ministering the Holy Eucharist, baptizing and witnessing Catholic marriages. May God bless Deacon Bob!

People have asked me, “What did you do when the parish closed down for the “Big One?” Well, we prayed much more than usual and asked for divine protection. Though needed emergency calls are responded to as much and as long as humanly possible, we also try not to tempt fate. Though we didn’t lose electricity, we were limited in our wi-fi and internet capabilities, and our regular phone lines were down. Though our church was “officially closed,” we made our way to the church to offer scheduled Masses when possible. Interestingly enough, last Friday was the Feast of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary, and we were able to offer the first two morning Masses in her honor. We were blessed by Almighty God and protected by the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, under whom we were consecrated last May 13th, as our parish buildings and grounds suffered only minimal damage. Having placed a statue of the Blessed Virgin in our rectory window ahead of the storm’s arrival, and praying the Rosary, we left our “fate” in the hands of our heavenly protectors. What was interesting and, I believe, miraculous, was that none of the outdoor holy images of Our Lord, Mary or the angels and saints was destroyed or even damaged, despite the widespread fallen branches and tree limbs all around us. An accompanying picture will show you how an old wooden fence on the convent property came crashing down on the statue of Mary but didn’t harm the statue. The fence probably weighed several hundred pounds! I believe this is not just a coincidence. Our Lady has been working her wonders for our parishioners in many ways these past years, and this was just one more instance to show her maternal care for us and how powerfully she works. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now, and at the hour of our death!

Pastor’s Message September 10th, 2017

Nearly two years ago, I wrote about Catholics and the Masons. Many readers were interested in a follow-up so, may this edited article from Ed Condon serve as such. 

The principles of Freemasonry are fundamentally incompatible with Catholic teaching. The mutual antagonism of the Catholic Church and Freemasonry is well established and longstanding. For most of the past 300 years they have been implacably opposed to one another. In recent decades, the animosity between the two seems to have faded somewhat, but as Freemasonry turns 300 years old, it is worth revisiting what was at the core of the Church’s absolute opposition to it. Freemasonry can appear to be little more than an esoteric men’s club, but it was and remains a highly influential philosophical movement that has made a dramatic, if little-noticed, impact on modern Western society and politics.

The history of Freemasonry itself is long and interesting. Its gradual transformation from the medieval workers’ guilds of stonemasons into a network of secret societies with their own heretical philosophy and rituals is a fascinating tale in itself. It began with the formation of the Grand Lodge of England in 1717. In those days, before the Church made any formal pronouncement on the subject, many Catholics were members and were even crucial to the spreading of Freemasonry to continental Europe.  However, the Church became the greatest foe of the Masonic lodges. Between 1738 and the promulgation of the first Code of Canon Law in 1917, a total of eight popes wrote explicit condemnations of Freemasonry. All provided the strictest penalty for membership: automatic excommunication reserved to the Holy See. But what are its qualities that are so worthy of condemnation?

It is sometimes said that the Church opposed Freemasonry because of the lodges’ supposedly revolutionary or seditious character. There is a widespread feeling that Masonic lodges were essentially political cells for rebels and other reformers, and that’s why the Church opposed them. But, while political sedition would eventually come to the forefront of the Church’s opposition to Masonic membership, this was by no means the initial reason the Church opposed the Masons. What Clement XII described in his original denunciation was not a revolutionary republican society, but a group spreading and enforcing religious indifferentism: the belief that all religions are of equal worth and that, in Masonry, all are united in service to a higher, unifying understanding of virtue. Catholics, as members, would be asked to put their membership in the lodge above their membership in the Church. The strict prohibition, in other words, was not for political purposes but for the care of souls. From the outset, the primary concern of the Church has been that Masonry places a Catholic’s faith beneath that of the lodge, obliging them to place a fundamental secularist fraternity above communion with the Church.

The Church sees Freemasonry as a form of heresy, and Masonic rites themselves contain considerable material which can be called heretical, and is, in some ways, explicitly anti-Catholic. The Church has always been far more concerned with the overarching philosophical content of Freemasonry rather than its ritual pageantry. The anti-clerical and anti-Catholic horrors of the French Revolution can be traced back to the secularist mentality described in the various papal condemnations of Masonic lodges. These were condemned not because they set out to threaten civil or Church authorities but because such a threat was the inevitable consequence of their existence and growth. Revolution was the symptom, not the disease.

The alignment of Church and state interests, and their assault by seditious and revolutionary secret societies, were clearest where the Church and state were one: in the Papal States of the Italian peninsula. In the early 19th century, a hidden item of Freemasonry became evident in its revolutionary character and its opposition to the Church. It used both assassination and armed insurrection against the various governments of the peninsula in a campaign for a secular government, and was seen as a violent threat to the faith, the Papal States and the person of the pope. It became clear that the gravest threat posed even by these revolutionary cells was their philosophy of secularism.

In the various papal condemnations of Freemasonry, what was always the first objection of the Church to the Lodge was its threat to the faith of Catholics and the freedom of the Church to act in society. The undermining of the Church’s teachings by the lodges, and the opposing of the Church on matters of faith and morals, were described repeatedly as a plot against the faith, both in individuals and in society. Pope Leo XIII outlined, in detail, what the Church considered to be the “Masonic agenda;” and, if we read it with contemporary eyes, it is still shockingly relevant. He specifically referred to its aim of secularizing the state and society. He referenced, in particular, the exclusion of religious education from state schools and the concept of “the State, which [Masonry believes] ought to be absolutely atheistic, having the inalienable right and duty to form the heart and the spirit of its citizens.” He decried the Masonic desire to remove the Church from any control in, or influence over, schools, hospitals, public charities, universities and other bodies serving the public good. He highlighted the Masonic push for the reimagining of marriage as a merely civil contract, the promotion of divorce, and support for the legalization of abortion. It is almost impossible to read this agenda and not recognize it as the underpinning of almost all of our contemporary political discourse. The concept of a secular state and its consequences on society, including the divorce culture, and a near universal availability of abortion, is a victory of the Masonic agenda. This raises very real questions about any Catholic participation in the modern secular political process. Throughout the years of papal condemnations of Freemasonry, it was normal for each pope to include the names of societies that shared the Masonic philosophy and agenda and which should be understood to come under the heading of “Masonic” in terms of Church law. By the 20th century, this had come to include political parties and movements such as communism.

When the Code of Canon Law was reformed, following Vatican II, the law specifically prohibiting Catholics from joining “Masonic societies” was revised. Canon #1374 referred only to societies that “plot against the Church.” Many took this change to indicate that Freemasonry was no longer always bad in the eyes of the Church. But, in fact, the reforming committee made it clear that they meant not just Freemasons, but many other organizations. The “plot” of its secularist agenda had spread so far and wide, that to keep using the umbrella term “Masonic” would be confusing. So, Cardinal Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI) issued an authoritative clarification of the new law in 1983, in which he made it clear that the new canon was phrased to encourage broader interpretation and application.

Given the crystal-clear understanding in Church teaching regarding what the Masonic plot or agenda against the Church includes, it seems possible to ask: how many of the major political parties in the West can now be said to fall under the prohibition of Canon 1374? The answer may well be rather uncomfortable for those who want to see an end to the so-called culture wars in the Church. Recently, Pope Francis has repeatedly spoken of his grave concern for Masonic infiltration of the Church and other Catholic organizations. Masonic infiltration of the hierarchy and Curia has long been treated as a kind of Catholic version of monsters under the bed, or a paranoia about commie infiltrators. But, 300 years after the founding of the first Grand Lodge, the conflict between the Church and Freemasonry is very much alive.

 

Pastor’s Message September 3rd, 2017

This past week has been a difficult moment in American history. As you are well aware, hurricane “Harvey” has wreaked great havoc on southeast Texas, Louisiana, and other areas of our southern states, causing extensive damage through terrible winds and a huge volume of water. Watching various news reports on the situation there, it was almost unbelievable to see the massive amount of destruction wrought by nature. Virtually every family and every institution in its path suffered greatly from the destruction brought on by this catastrophe, including some old and some newer Catholic churches and schools. Thank God that so many service personnel and volunteers were ready to help the afflicted in this situation. It’s not over yet, as floodwaters are still to come. It will take a great number of years to restore that region to some semblance of normalcy. Very shortly, we will be called upon, once again, to help our brothers and sisters who have suffered so much loss, both in material and other ways. That collection will be taken upon the weekend of September 9th and 10th, and I ask that you be especially generous, for I know that these same people would respond in like manner if we were the victims. Let’s pray that God will send comfort and solace to those who have lost so much in so short a period of time.

Irene Hey, our parish Director of Family Life Ministry, is leaving that post to serve in the dual capacity of Parish Manager and Director of Family Life Ministry at another parish. She has done superb work since taking over the position of ministry director, and has brought about a renaissance in the formation of so many programs that help keep our families together and working on the goal of building up the Body of Christ in our midst. We will miss her service here and wish her much success and happiness in her new positions. She and her family will still remain active members of our parish.

Our new Director of Family Life Ministry is Mary Somerville. Not a stranger to St. Vincent Ferrer, she has three sons who also worked in our parish at different times as employees in our Maintenance Staff. We know that she is well-qualified to fill in the shoes of her predecessor, and we extend her a warm welcome and the promise of our full cooperation in her new role.

Fr. Peter Szydlowski has returned to Poland, after four weeks here, to finish up his work on his doctoral program in Psychology. We thank him for his kind service to our parish during his stay and hope that when the time comes to defend his dissertation, he’ll be able to do so with flying colors!

I recently managed to squeeze in a quick three-day hop to Burlington, Vermont, for the celebration of Father Jay Haskin’s 50th anniversary of priesthood in his former pastorate. Quite a few priests came as did many well-wishers and family members who know him from his many years of fine priestly service in Vermont. Fr. Jay will return to us at the end of next month, and, as always, we look forward to his return.

Beginning this weekend, we welcome Deacon Matthew Hawkins (no relation to our Father Charles Hawkins!) to our parish for the rest of the academic year (as we have other deacons from the nearby St. Vincent de Paul Seminary in Boynton Beach) prior to his priestly ordination for the Orlando diocese next May. He will, as with the other deacons in the past, assist us on weekends with preaching, baptizing, working with our teens on Sunday evenings in the Life Teen program, and in visiting the sick. I know that you’ll make him feel welcome.

Our biggest news for the week is the upcoming ordination to the permanent diaconate of our Pastoral Associate, Robert Laquerre. Bob has served as a valuable assistant in our parish and as a liaison for me in numerous circumstances. He has been fervently preparing for his ordination these past five years, and will give particular service to his home parish of Our Lady, Queen of the Apostles (my previous pastorate) in Royal Palm Beach. He has taken all the various prerequisite courses at St. Vincent de Paul Seminary in Boynton Beach, and has excelled in them (graduating summa cum laude this year). Now comes his big day! Henceforth, Bob will be known as “Deacon Bob,” here and throughout the diocese, as he assumes an even greater role of service to the People of God. We congratulate him and wish him all the blessings needed for his continued work in our parish and his weekend assignment in his home parish. You can read more about many more of his accomplishments in the latest edition of The Florida Catholic.

Pastor’s Message August 27th, 2017

On any given Sunday, it’s a joy for me to see a whole family come to Mass and sit together in a pew. On one Sunday a while back, a family of six filled the church pew not far from the altar while I was celebrating Mass. Whether it was intended or not, that family quickly grabbed my attention. The pew was much larger than needed to accommodate a regular group of six. This family, in addition to the two parents, included four young children – two boys and two girls – all quite energetic and even rambunctious. Needless to say, the parents were kept busy throughout that Mass.

The kids took turns standing on the kneeler, sprawling out on the pew, playing with toys, and pawing at Mom and Dad. At one point, when two of the kids were occupying the parents’ attention, the youngest of the clan escaped — he dashed out of the pew and down the aisle to the altar. Dad chased him down (I smiled and even laughed to myself; it reminded me of the time I did the same thing). Some of the people nearby looked at the family in an annoying way and were exasperated; but I didn’t mind. I love seeing young families with their little children, attending Mass together. Frankly, I wish I saw more of them.

That’s one of the things that concern me about a lot of our churches in our part of Florida: not enough young families at Mass. Where are they? Some might be “church shopping” and may have found places they feel are more “with it”, more “modern,” more “welcoming” and less theologically demanding. They might be going there for the music or for other entertainment value. Some might have lost their faith, or deemed it not important in their lives. Some might be downright lazy or indifferent to the serious obligation to worship God. Some might not feel welcome. Some might feel embarrassed that they can’t “control” their children’s behavior at Mass. Some may not want the stares from “judgmental” churchgoers, who would prefer that life should fit into their own personal mold. Whatever the reason for their absence, the children and their young parents are really left out of the Church community when parents don’t come and teach their children the value of celebrating the Eucharist together – as a family.

While some children get their religious education by attending a parochial school, others get it by attending the parish Sunday program of Religious Education. Of that group, however, only a minor percentage actually attends Sunday Mass. Then there are countless other kids who were baptized but never came again to see the inside of a church, such as for First Holy Communion and Confirmation. The parents rationalize the situation by saying, “That’s alright; God will understand;” or “I won’t force them to go now; let them make that choice later in life;” or “I’ve got more important things to do.” Try telling that to God.

So, when children are missing from Sunday Mass — and their parents as well — part of our community is missing. We aren’t complete; we aren’t whole. All this as I remember something that “Harry Potter” author, J.K. Rowling, wrote: “Youth cannot know how age thinks and feels. But old men are guilty if they forget what it was to be young.”

I remember when my Dad and Mom brought us four young children to Mass every Sunday – the first three of us a year and a half apart. Their faith was strong, and their desire to expose their children to that faith was strong. So, we attended Mass regularly – no excuses other than illness allowed. Not only that, we sat in one of the church’s front pews, even when one of us would fall asleep on our Dad’s shoulder or Mom’s lap, or was wanting to be held, then wanting down, then wanting to be held again. Sometimes we spoke louder than our parents wished. Sometimes we crawled around on the floor. But, we were there, and they were there with us. They knew that Mass was the most important place to be on a Sunday morning, and they also knew the reasons why. They patiently taught us the right values, even when we stubbornly tried to resist.

In time, we learned how to behave  – not just at Mass, but any public place. We learned to be reverent. We got to know the priests and the people who usually sat around us. We came to know these people as members of our parish family – our parish community.

Would we prefer that all children were perfectly behaved at Mass? Sure! It’s a special time for us — a time of prayer and to offer God worship; and I would prefer not to have my eyes and mind distracted — but never at the expense of losing some important members of our parish community – little children – who are still in the learning process.

I often think about Jesus teaching the people on one particular occasion. The little children came to Him for a blessing, but some of his disciples wanted to shoo those kids away. Jesus was adamant: “Let the children come to me. It is to such as these that the Kingdom of God belongs!” I like to think that some of those children in Jesus’ time eventually grew up to be some of the first Christians.

Having kids at Mass won’t absolutely guarantee they’ll be devoted churchgoers when they grow up. But what chances do they have if they don’t go to church regularly? And how much poorer are we, both now and in the future, if we condone their absence?

Yes, Jesus knows our feeble excuses for not bringing children to Him at church each week; but that doesn’t mean He overlooks them. Commandment #3 is “Keep holy the Lord’s Day!” Do we believe that’s just a suggestion?

Pastor’s Message August 20th, 2017

I was pleasantly surprised by the positive reception I received from several of our parishioners on the recent letter I wrote defending Blessed Pope Paul VI’s very controversial encyclical, “Humanae Vitae.” It seems as though we have had a few years under our belt to do a deep analysis of that teaching of the Church, more people are seeing the wisdom in the perceptive writing of that learned pope. So, today, I would like to continue developing some of those themes first proclaimed nearly half a century ago.

One of the most difficult teachings for people (Catholics and non-Catholics alike) to understand is the Catholic Church’s position on contraception. In all its many forms, contraception has been promoted by our culture as the cure for a vast array of human problems: divorce, child abuse, unwanted children, overpopulation, STDs (sexually transmitted diseases), abortion pregnancy and many others. Unfortunately, when contraception is applied to these problems, just about all of them (with the possible exception of overpopulation) get worse! What’s going on?

Contraceptive use attacks married and unmarried relationships at their core. Using contraceptives in a relationship outside of marriage promotes the idea that people can have sex without consequences. Reality enters in the form of STDs, undesired pregnancy, broken dreams, and years of dead-end relationships. Using contraceptives within a marriage fosters the idea that sex is a “plaything.”

Actually, sex is one of the strongest tools a couple can use to strengthen their relationship. Any married couple will testify that eventually they need all the relationship strength they can get. Treating sex like a toy leaves both partners feeling used because they are being used! After years of this, many couples divorce. These devastated relationships and broken marriages lead to millions of children being reared by one parent or none. Damaged families rear troubled children – the children whose problems we read about in the news every day.

The social consequences of contraception are millions of badly traumatized adults and millions of children being reared under difficult, and sometimes very harmful conditions. In this very harsh environment, killing becomes an easy solution for human problems – killing unwanted children, killing the useless elderly, killing anyone who is a “problem.” This is the culture of death that was promoted by Hitler  – that did not die when he did – the very culture in which we now live.

The Church is convinced that love within families is the basis of civilization. Strong and loving marriages, open to life, develop the relationships that bind society together. They also form, one by one, the new members who will build a society up instead of tearing it down. Conversely, the breakdown of family love leads to every sort of barbarism. The love of God moves us, therefore, to build up a Culture of Life as best we can, and to weaken the Culture of Death by any means available.

Are there any other types of harm done by contraception? Certainly! Absolutely! The Pill kills around 10,000 women in the U.S. each year through breast cancer, and many thousands of others through other forms of cancer and different diseases. The cultural norm of promiscuity (based on contraception) kills hundreds of people every year and maims countless others by means of STD (sexually transmitted diseases), domestic violence and in many other ways. The horror of abortion marches on, driven by the contraceptive mentality that thinks of children as a curse, and abortion as “backup contraception.”

These evils, however, are just the surface problem. The deeper reality is the destruction of people’s hearts and lives as marriages and families are torn apart, and single people are devastated by promiscuity. We need to teach people to live in love – real love – to be fully alive in the Culture of Love. We need to inform people about the harm of contraception (and sterilization), while directing them to NFP (Natural Family Planning) techniques that meet with the moral standards of our faith and the Church’s teaching. Single people have to be convinced of the necessity to live chaste lives with God’s help, for today’s society seems to be revealing the sadly tragic consequences of a “devil-may-care” attitude regarding matters of human sexuality.

All of this can help promote the Culture of Life and eventually do away with the Culture of Death. Above all, we need to listen to the 2,000 year-old wisdom of our Mother, the Church. Believe it or not, Mother does know best!