Category Archives: Pastor message

Pastor’s Message April 23rd, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Pastor’s Message April 16th, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor’s Message April 9th, 2017

Everyone loves a hero. We love to celebrate their triumphs. Our sporting heroes receive public recognition, parades and awards, and we bask in the reflected glory that shines on us as their fans. Such glory, however, is short-lived. An athlete reaches his or her peak and enjoys the top spot for a short time. Other heroes in public life soon lose their popularity as their ratings drop. People are very quick to drop their allegiance to a loser; they always want to be on the winning side.

Jesus was very careful not to present himself as a popular hero. At the beginning of His public ministry, part of the devil’s temptations had been precisely this – to be the Messiah of the people’s expectations, a wonderworker, a political revolutionary. The mission of Jesus, however, was to do the will of his Father. It was fidelity to the will of God that led Jesus to the events that we celebrate during this Holy Week.

With our celebration today of Palm Sunday, we cross through the threshold that leads into this most important week of the Church year, for it is the week of our salvation. From the moment that our first parents disobeyed God, He had been at work preparing for that moment when He would restore humanity’s broken relationship with Him, a restoration that would come about in the most unlikely of ways. It’s the culmination of that plan that we re-live each year during our observance of Holy Week.

Our entrance into Holy Week begins with a joyful note as we gathered together to commemorate the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, an entry that was marked by elated acclamations of Him as the long-awaited Messiah as the people cried out: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord…Hosanna in the highest!” (Mt 11:9-10). Listening to these words, we became participants in that very scene, processing into the church, joyfully following Christ our King in His triumphal march. As the liturgy moves on, the tone begins to change to one of sorrow. We’re led into reflecting on the Passion that Our Lord underwent after having arrived in Jerusalem. Many of the voices that, upon His entry into the city, had shouted triumphantly: “Hosanna,” would now cry out with contempt: “Crucify him…Crucify him!”(Mk 15:13,14).

In 2012, during his Palm Sunday homily, Pope Benedict XVI reflected on the fact that the people’s reaction to Jesus was due in part to the fact that He didn’t live up to their expectations of what they thought the Messiah should be. The Pope said that “The majority, in fact, was disappointed by the way Jesus chose to present himself as Messiah and King of Israel… who chooses the Cross as his throne.”

Today, we are each invited to enter into the crowd on the day of His entry into the city and to reflect on the King whom we are being invited to follow not just today, but every day of our lives. He desires that we accept His reign into our hearts. Yet, to do so requires that we let Him reign not according to our expectations and our terms, but according to His. This means that we have to look at our lives and identify those areas of selfishness that we are still holding on to, hesitant or even fearful to let go of them, in submitting ourselves to His will. Letting go of those things, whether it be a habitual sin, a fear of confronting a difficult situation, or accepting the sufferings that are ours to bear – all of these can be extremely difficult. We are confronted with the reality that to be a true follower of Christ demands a daily struggle. Such a path is far from attractive in the eyes of the world, and as a result of this, many choose the path of less resistance: to follow Christ only from a distance, where the expectations are far less demanding and little is expected from us with regards to letting go of our worldly attachments.

Reflecting on the Passion of Christ, seeing how He did not flee from the suffering that He was to face, we are reminded that the only true path that leads to victory is by way of the Cross. He has trodden that path successfully, and in His victory, He promises to give us the strength that we likewise need to struggle in following Him in order to share in the victory that is guaranteed to those who persevere in remaining faithful in that journey. He never wavered on His path because He knew of His Father’s protection for Him and the prize that lay ahead for Him beyond the Cross. Although the life of a disciple who follows Christ on the Way of the Cross may indeed be difficult, we must not be overwhelmed by the shadow of the Cross. We must constantly be reminded of the loving care that our Heavenly Father has for us at all times and believe with great faith that “the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us” (Rom 8:18).

So, let us renew our commitment to remain close to Christ and to let Him reign in an ever-greater way in our lives, letting go of what holds us back from letting Him be the “king and center of our hearts.” We can be confident that if we heed His call to die to ourselves in this life, we have the sure and certain hope that we will live with Him where He reigns victorious in the glory of Heaven.

This weekend’s 2nd Collection will be taken up for the support of our parish mission in Guatemala. As Steve Dudenhoefer told us last week, “we are the hope of so many children yearning for the opportunity to receive a good education and better their life and that of their country.” Your kind response to his appeal will make it happen!

Pastor’s Message April 2nd, 2017

This weekend’s 2nd collection is for the Ferrer Fund of our parish. Many of you saw the video last week featuring our school children and the many wonderful hours of service they spend in order to build up the Body of Christ in our midst. They stand head-and-shoulders over the students from other schools in their preparation for entering a darkened world that has need of little bright lights. Such an outstanding Catholic education that they receive in our school wouldn’t be possible without your continued generosity to our annual Ferrer Fund. Among other projects, it assists us in paying teachers salaries and maintaining the buildings and equipment that are necessary for keeping our operations up to par. It enables our students to have up-to-date materials in order to meet the challenges that the world will present to them. Thank you for your participation in supporting our annual Ferrer Fund.

We were honored to have our bishop, the Most Rev. Gerald M. Barbarito, to administer the Sacrament of Confirmation this past Friday to 37 young men and women of the ninth grade. Now we can consider them fully initiated into the faith and life of the Catholic Church. We congratulate them and pray that their practice of the faith will grow stronger with their weekly (not weakly) participation in Mass and frequent reception of Our Lord’s Body and Blood in Holy Communion. May their parents and sponsors help to guide them on the path to God by giving good example of a lively Catholic-Christian faith.

A pall of deep sadness has come over our parish this past week with the sudden, unexpected passing of Wanda Skinner, the wife of Deacon Rusty Skinner and the mother of Wendy, Amy and Cindy.  She was a superb example of a good and faithful wife and mother, and was a steady volunteer in so many of our parish activities. We extend our deepest sympathy to Deacon Rusty and his family at this time, and pray for the repose of Wanda’s soul.

Steve Dudenhoefer, lay-missionary from the jungles of Guatemala, is speaking at all Masses this weekend, giving us an update on the progress being made at the Father Tom Moran School and its students. He also will be making an appeal to us once again to help continue providing food for the nearly 500 students who board there, and who otherwise would not be able to have a decent education and a real chance at bettering themselves in their own country. The supportive collection will be taken up as the second collection next weekend (Palm Sunday).

 Congratulations to parishioner Catherine A. Murphy who celebrates her 99th     birthday next weekend! “Sis” has been a steady and generous supporter of this parish for many years. May we join her again next year for the big 100!

Next Sunday is Palm Sunday, the beginning of the holiest week of the Church year. Many visitors will be here to attend Mass and get their blessed palms, so don’t forget to get to church a little earlier in order to find sufficient parking and seating.

Our Lenten Penance Service will be this Monday, April 3rd, at 7:00 p.m. There will be 10 priests available to hear confessions during that time. Not only is it a timely way to prepare for a worthy celebration of Holy Week and Easter, but an excellent opportunity to confess the serious sins that alienate us from our God, e.g., failing to keep holy the Lord’s Day by our weekly attendance at Mass, unworthy reception of Holy Communion, extra-marital relationships of a sexual nature, participating in the procuring of an abortion, etc. Now is the time to let Our Lord lift those burdensome weights off our shoulders and consciences, and to restore us to the loving and total forgiveness of our merciful God.

Congratulations to Julie Ott, her entire Festival Committee and the numerous volunteers who made this year’s Annual Parish Festival a great success. Our final tally maintained the same level of net proceeds as last year, despite having to bear several thousand dollars of additional expense driven by new regulations from the City of Delray Beach. One thing we’ve learned this year: Volunteers sure do make a difference!

 

Pastor’s Message March 26th, 2017

(Cont’d from March 19th Message)  These 11 million undocumented people did not just arrive overnight. It happened over the last 20 years. It happened because our government — at every level — failed to enforce our immigration laws. This is a difficult truth that we have to accept. We are a nation of laws. But for many reasons and for many years, our nation chose not to enforce our immigration laws. Of course, that doesn’t justify people breaking these laws. But it does explain how things got this way. Government and law enforcement officials looked the other way because American businesses demand “cheap” labor — and lots of it!

I believe strongly in personal responsibility and accountability. But I have to question why we are punishing only the undocumented workers  — ordinary parents who came here seeking a better life for their children? Why aren’t we punishing the businesses that hired them, or the government officials who didn’t enforce our laws? It just does not seem right to me.

What about us? We share some responsibility. All of us “benefit” every day from an economy built on undocumented labor. These are the people who clean our offices and build our homes and harvest the food we eat. There is plenty of blame to go around. That means there is a lot of opportunity to show mercy. Mercy is not the denial of justice. Mercy is the quality by which we carry out our justice. Mercy is the way we can move forward.

I am not proposing that we “forgive and forget.” Those who are here without authorization have broken our laws, and the rule of law must be respected. So there needs to be consequences when our laws are broken.

Now, we’ve made deportation a kind of “mandatory sentence” for anyone caught without proper papers. We’re not interested in mitigating circumstances or taking into account “hard cases.” Illegal immigration may be the only crime for which we don’t tolerate plea bargains or lesser sentences. But I don’t think that is fair, either.

Why don’t we require the undocumented to a pay a fine, to do community service? We should ask them to prove that they are holding a job and paying taxes and are learning English. This seems like a fair punishment to me. But, in addition to the punishment, we need to give them some clarity about their lives, some certainty about their status living in this country.

Most of the undocumented who are parents have children here who are citizens. They should be able to raise their children in peace, without the fear that one day we will change our minds and deport them. So, we need to establish some way for them to “normalize” their status.

There’s a lot of fear and frustration in this country today. I understand why some of it is directed at unknown people who have come in through a broken system. But I also want to suggest this: We may need this new generation of immigrants — to be our neighbors, to be our friends, to help us to renew the “soul” of our nation.

There’s a balance of law and love we can strike here. The immigrants that I know are people who have faith in God, who love their families, and who aren’t afraid of hard work and sacrifice. Most have come to this country for the same reasons that immigrants have always come to this country — to seek refuge from violence and poverty; to make a better life for their children. These are the kind of people we should want to be new Americans. These are the people we should want to join us in the work of rebuilding this great country.

I’ve been trying to speak realistically about the moral challenges we face with immigration. I believe that we can reform our immigration system and find a compassionate solution for those who are undocumented and forced to live in the shadows of our society. It is within our reach. We need to recognize immigration is about more than a set of specific policies. Immigration is ultimately a question about America. What is America? What does it mean to be an American? Who are we as a people and what is this country’s mission in the world?

Immigration goes to the heart of America’s identity and future as a nation. We need to commit ourselves to immigration reform that’s part of a more comprehensive renewal of the American spirit – a new sense of our national purpose and identity. Inside our nation’s Capitol building, you’ll find the statues of three Catholic priests: St. Damien of Molokai, St. Junípero Serra, and Father Eusebio Kino. There’s also a statue of a religious sister, Mother Joseph of the Sisters of Providence. They were all immigrants, all of them missionaries. Serra was an immigrant from Spain by way of Mexico. He was one of the founders of Los Angeles.  At a time when many denied the “humanity” of the Native peoples, Father Junípero drew up a “bill of rights” for them three years before America’s Declaration of Independence. Most Americans today do not know that. But Pope Francis knew that. That’s why he canonized St. Junípero in Washington, D.C., a couple of years ago. Pope Francis said St. Junípero was one of this country’s “founding fathers.” Most of us do not think of him as part of America’s story. We should! If we took this seriously, it could change how we understand our country’s history, identity and mission.

All people have a story they tell about their beginnings – a story about where they came from and how they got here. This “story of origins” helps them make sense of who they are as a people. Right now, the story we tell about America starts on the East Coast. We remember the first Thanksgiving, the Declaration of Independence, the Revolutionary War. That story is not complete. It gives the distorted impression that America was founded as a project only of Western Europeans. It makes us assume that only immigrants from those countries really “belong,” and can claim to be called “Americans.” This misreading of history has obvious implications for our current debates. We hear warnings all the time from politicians and the media that immigration from Mexico and Latin America is somehow changing our American “identity” and “character.” What American identity are we talking about?

Long before Plymouth Rock, George Washington and the 13 colonies, long before this country even had a name, there were missionaries and explorers here from Spain and Mexico, settling the territories of what are now Florida, Texas, California, and New Mexico. The first Asians, from the Philippines, started arriving in California about 50 years before the Pilgrims got to Plymouth Rock. The first non-indigenous language spoken in this country was not English. It was Spanish!

None of this denies that America’s laws, institutions and cultural traditions were defined and shaped by Anglo-Saxon and European ancestors. But, we can no longer afford to tell a story that excludes the rich inheritance of Latinos and Asians. Such a story cannot unite us and inspire us in an America that is changing. We need to embrace a new national narrative, a new patriotic memory — a story of our spiritual roots — a story that honors both our Catholic immigrant beginnings in the South and in the West and that honors the European founders who settled in the North and the East. We need to tell the story of St. Junípero Serra and Thomas Jefferson. We need to tell a new story to inspire a new generation.

America has always been a nation of immigrants with a missionary soul. Our founders dreamed of a nation where men and women from every race, religion and background could live in equality as brothers and sisters, children of the same God. Their universal vision helped make this a great nation — blessed with freedom, goodness and generosity — and committed to sharing our blessings with the whole human race. That is what’s at stake in our immigration debate: the future of this beautiful American story! Our national debate is really a great struggle for the American spirit and the American soul. How we respond will measure our national character and conscience in this generation.

May God bless you and your families and may God bless this great country.

Pastor’s Message March 19th, 2017

  In place of my usual weekly letter, I want to share with you a speech, recently given in Washington, D.C., by Archbishop Gomez of Los Angeles on the controversial topic of immigration. Because it’s long, it’s been edited for brevity and will appear in two parts.

Immigration is close to my heart, and immigrants have always been at the heart of my ministry — for nearly 40 years as a priest and now as a bishop. I was born in Mexico and I came to this country as an immigrant. I have relatives who have been living in (what is now) Texas since 1805, when it was still under Spanish rule. So my immigrant roots run deep. I have been a naturalized American citizen for more than 20 years now. I love this country and I believe in America’s providential place in history. I am inspired by this nation’s historic commitment to sharing the fruits of our liberty and prosperity and opening our arms to welcome the stranger and the refugee.  I know that I am not alone in feeling — I feel like our great country has lost its way on this issue of immigration. In my opinion, immigration is the human rights test of our generation.

You invited a pastor here today — not a politician. I have great respect for the vocation of politics; it is a noble calling, a vocation to serve justice and the common good. A pastor takes a different kind of approach to political “realities.” For me, immigration is about people not politics. Behind every number is a human soul with his or her own story –a soul who is created by God and loved by God; a soul who has a dignity and a purpose in God’s creation. Every immigrant is a child of God — a someone — not a something.

In the Church, in the good times and in the bad, we always stay together. We can never abandon our family. That’s why the Church has always been at the center of our debates about immigration, and always will be. We cannot leave our family alone, without a voice. Practically speaking, there’s no single institution in American life that has more day-to-day experience with immigrants than the Catholic Church — through our charities, ministries, schools and parishes. There is simple reason for that: Immigrants are the Church. The Catholic Church in this country has always been an immigrant Church. America has always been a nation of immigrants that thrives on the energy, creativity and faith of peoples from every corner of the world. In Los Angeles, we have about 5 million Catholics, from every part of the world, every race, nationality and ethnic background. Among my people in Los Angeles — we have about 1 million who are living in this country without authorization or documentation. So, these issues of immigration take on a daily urgency for me. I want to share my perspective on where we are at right now, because I am hopeful that we are at a moment when we can begin to make true progress in addressing these issues of immigration and our national identity.

I want to start by talking about the reality of immigration right now in our country, the “human face” of immigration. I want to follow that by talking specifically about what I believe is the most important moral issue — how we should respond to the 11 million undocumented persons living within our borders. I want to propose a solution today; and, finally, I want to talk about immigration and the “next America.” Our country has been divided over immigration many times before in our history. We are a nation of immigrants. But immigration to this country has never been easy. New nationalities and ethnic groups have seldom been welcomed with open arms. With each new wave of immigration have come suspicion, resentment and backlash. It’s no different with today’s immigrants. But, it is also true that our politics today is more divided today than I can ever remember. We seem to have lost the ability to show mercy, to see the “other” as a child of God. We are willing to accept injustices and abuses that we should never accept. That is what has happened on immigration. By our inaction and indifference we have created a quiet human rights tragedy that is playing out in communities all across this great country.

A vast underclass has grown up at the margins of our society, and we just seem to accept it as a society. We have millions of men and women living as perpetual servants — working for low wages in our restaurants, fields, factories, gardens, homes and hotels. These men and women have no security against sickness, disability or old age. In many cases they can’t even open up a checking account or get a driver’s license. They serve as our nannies and baby-sitters. But their own children can’t get jobs or go to college — because they were brought to this country illegally by their parents. Right now the only thing we have that resembles a national immigration “policy” is focused on deporting these people who are within our borders without proper papers.

Despite what we hear in the mainstream media, deportations did not begin with this new administration. We have needed a moratorium on deportations of non-violent immigrants for almost a decade. The previous president deported more than anyone in American history — more than 2.5 million people in eight years! The sad truth is that the vast majority of those we’re deporting are not violent criminals. In fact, up to one-quarter are mothers and fathers that our government is seizing and removing from ordinary households. We need to remember that when we talk about deportation as a policy — remember that we are talking about souls not statistics. Nobody disputes that we should be deporting violent criminals. Nobody! People have a right to live in safe neighborhoods. But what’s the public policy purpose that’s served by taking away some little girl’s dad or some little boy’s mom? This is what we are doing every day. We’re breaking up families and punishing kids for the mistakes of their parents.

Most of the 11 million undocumented people have been living in this country for five years or more. Two-thirds have been here for at least a decade. Almost half are living in homes with a spouse and children. So, what that means is that when you have a policy that is only about deportations — without reforming the underlying immigration system — you are going to cause a human rights nightmare. That’s what is going on in communities across the country.

In Los Angeles, we have children in our Catholic schools who don’t want to leave their homes in the morning because they are afraid they will come home to find their parents gone, deported. As a pastor, I do not think it is an acceptable moral response for us to say, “too bad, it’s their own fault,” or “this is what they get for breaking our laws.” They are still people, still children of God, no matter what they did wrong! And when you look into the eyes of a child whose parent has been deported — and I have had to do that more than I want to — you realize how inadequate all our excuses are.

There is an important role here for you and for me — for all of us who believe in God, because we are the ones who know that God does not judge us according to our political positions. Jesus tells us that we are judged by our love, by our mercy. The mercy we expect from God, we need to show to others. Jesus said, “I was a stranger,” an immigrant.  He did not distinguish between legal and illegal.

We need to help our neighbors to see that people don’t cease to be human – they do not cease to be our brothers and sisters — just because they have an irregular immigration status. No matter how they got here, no matter how frustrated we are with our government, we can’t lose sight of their humanity without losing our own. What can we do about the 11 million who are here without authorization? It is long past time for us to address this issue. Here again — as men and women of faith, we have an important role to play. We need to help our leaders find a solution that is realistic, but that is also just and compassionate. With that in mind, I want to share how I think about this issue as a pastor.  (To be continued)

 

Pastor’s Message March 12th, 2017

Every year on the Second Sunday of Lent, the Church offers for us the story of the Transfiguration of the Lord on Mt. Tabor. At first glance, it might not be entirely clear why the Church gives such importance to this event during our Lenten journey. In fact, the Feast of the Transfiguration is celebrated officially in the Church’s calendar on August 6, so the question may arise as to why it is repeated in Lent. The short answer is that the custom of reading today’s Gospel near the beginning of Lent may have come from the ancient tradition which held that the Transfiguration of Jesus took place forty days before Good Friday. But that only raises another question: why did the Transfiguration take place forty days before Christ’s suffering and death? To answer that question, we can reflect briefly on how it is that we approach our reading of the Bible.

The Sunday readings are connected to one another, particularly the first reading and the Gospel. A helpful point to consider when looking at a passage is to examine what is happening immediately before and after a passage so as to better understand the context of that passage. In the case of our Gospel reading, understanding the context is essential to seeing why this passage is so appropriate at this point in Lent. In the verses just prior to the account of the Transfiguration, Jesus shared with His disciples the first prediction of the Passion that He would undergo in Jerusalem. This prediction was received with disbelief, as we hear Peter when he rebukes Jesus, saying: “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you” (Matt. 16:22). This response indicates a weakness on the part of Peter and the disciples to understanding the path that would ultimately lead to the redemption. Aware of the weakness of His disciples, Jesus decides to take three of them to the top of Mt. Tabor to show them His glory and to strengthen the hearts of His disciples with a view to His coming Passion.

The importance of the Transfiguration during Lent is best understood when it’s considered in the context of the Cross that lies ahead in the journey. The event of the Transfiguration also offers an image of not only our Lenten journey, but of our entire lives while we are here on this earth. Life involves a series of ups and downs as we encounter various joys and sorrows.

As with the disciples at the Transfiguration, the Cross is the central reference point for all of the events of our lives, both the good and the bad. For the disciples, the cross was a sign of scandal, a sign of failure. When confronted by it at the Passion, all but a select few fled. Even though the Lord had prepared them for His Passion, when they experienced it, it was too much for them, for they had not yet fully believed that the Cross would lead to the Resurrection. The Lord blesses us with times of peace and joy, times where we are especially mindful of His love and concern for us, His children. These moments of joy help to serve as reference points of encouragement when we face times of difficulty and suffering, assisting us to not give up in the face of setbacks.

We who now live in the time following the Lord’s victory over death in the Resurrection have the privilege of seeing the Cross in a different light, no longer seeing it as a symbol of failure, but rather, as the symbol of victory. Instead of being a shameful reminder of death and defeat, it is a source of encouragement to us as we continue to journey toward the Resurrection.

During Lent, we are invited to refocus our attention on the Cross, to see it as that sign of triumph. The gift of our faith helps us to see beyond the suffering depicted on the Cross and to focus on the glory of the Resurrection. In a very real way, looking upon the Cross serves the same purpose for us as the Transfiguration did for Peter, James, and John, to encourage us not to despair in our journey but to persevere in following the often difficult path that leads to our participation in the Resurrection.

There is an interesting story that helps to highlight the importance of the Cross for us as a constant reminder to not lose hope. In 1953, a British expedition led by Sir John Hunt and Sir Edmund Hillary, set out to do the impossible: climb to the top of Mt. Everest, the tallest mountain in the world. Before setting out on the expedition, a Catholic priest sent a small crucifix to Hunt, along with a letter which read:

“I would be deeply grateful if you would leave this little crucifix at the highest point your expedition reaches, if possible, at the summit itself. It will, I am sure, give you added courage and determination to face all the difficulties and dangers which lie ahead of you; at the same time, it will be seen by many as a symbol of God’s eventual triumph and the rededication of the world to his service.” Colonel Hunt was moved by the request and gladly took the crucifix, passing it on the Sir Edmund Hillary who, upon reaching the summit, buried the crucifix at the top of the world.

The short letter of the priest expresses well the significance of the Cross as being a source of courage and determination, precisely because it is the symbol of Christ’s triumph over suffering and death. This triumph is guaranteed to each of us who embrace the Cross daily, and follow the path marked out for us by the Lord.

As we continue our Lenten journey, let’s take some time to ponder the great power of the Cross and all that it means to us as Christians. May it be for us what the Transfiguration was to the disciples, a source of strength to not give up as we face the difficulties of climbing the mountain of Christian perfection. May all our joys and sorrows be seen in reference to the Cross, the symbol of victory and the promise to us that through it we, too, will come to share in the glory of the Resurrection.

Pastor’s Message March 5th, 2017

Thank you to all the men, women and children who helped to make our annual Parish Festival such a wonderful success. The proceeds of this entire event go to benefit our school, and without it, it would be almost impossible to maintain the quality school program that we have. There still are some outstanding bills to be paid, and when these have been settled, we’ll give you the final results. In a special way, I thank Julie Ott for her leadership that pulled together a great team of volunteers and guided us through those long days before the festival and the actual three-day event itself. There were many men and women who worked behind the scenes, especially Jay Flood and his maintenance crew, and the Flea Market team under the direction of Al and Mignon Attard. Tickets sales reached the desired goal, thanks to an energized effort under Maria Sesto. Then there’s the ever-present, original “energizer-bunny,” Kim Weber. There were many others whose names I would like to mention, though I’m unable at this time. Suffice it to say, it was teamwork that helped us put it all together in a marvelous and very spirited effort to continue to support our parish school. Thank you, one and all!!

As we settle into our Lenten season, I will now share with you some excerpts of the Ash Wednesday homily of Pope Francis – a help to our meditation on this season.

“In this season of grace…. we once again turn our eyes to God’s mercy. Lent is a pathway that leads to the triumph of mercy over all that would crush us or reduce us to something unworthy of our dignity as God’s children. It is the road leading from slavery to freedom, from suffering to joy, from death to life.

The mark of the ashes…. reminds us of our origin, namely, that we were taken from the earth, that we are made of dust. However, we are dust in the loving hands of God, Who has breathed His spirit of life upon each one of us, and still wants to do so. He wants to keep giving us that breath of life that saves us from every other type of breath: the stifling asphyxia brought on by our selfishness, the stifling asphyxia generated by petty ambition and silent indifference – an asphyxia that smothers the spirit, narrows our horizons and slows the beating of our hearts. The breath of God’s life saves us from this asphyxia that dampens our faith, cools our charity and strangles every hope.

The breath of God’s life sets us free from the asphyxia that so often we fail to notice, or become so used to that it seems normal, even when its effects are felt. We think it is normal because we have grown so accustomed to breathing air in which hope has dissipated, the air of glumness and resignation, the stifling air of panic and hostility.

Lent is the time for saying “no” — No to the spiritual asphyxia born of the pollution caused by indifference, by thinking that other people’s lives are not my concern, and by every attempt to trivialize life, especially the lives of those whose flesh is burdened by so much superficiality. Lent means saying no to the toxic pollution of empty and meaningless words, of harsh and hasty criticism, of simplistic analyses that fail to grasp the complexity of problems, especially the problems of those who suffer the most.

Lent is the time to say no to the asphyxia of a prayer that soothes our conscience, of an almsgiving that leaves us self-satisfied, of a fasting that makes us feel good. Lent is the time to say no to the asphyxia born of relationships that exclude, that try to find God while avoiding the wounds of Christ present in the wounds of his brothers and sisters: in a word, all those forms of spirituality that reduce the faith to a ghetto culture, a culture of exclusion. Lent is a time for remembering, and asking ourselves what we would be if God had closed his doors to us.

What would we be without his mercy that never tires of forgiving us and always gives us the chance to begin anew? Lent is the time to ask ourselves where we would be without the help of so many people who in a thousand quiet ways have stretched out their hands, and, in very concrete ways, given us hope and enabled us to make a new beginning.

Lent is the time to start breathing again, to open our hearts to the breath of the One capable of turning our dust into humanity. It is a time to set aside everything that isolates us, encloses us and paralyzes us. Lent is a time of compassion, when, with the Psalmist, we can say: “Restore to us the joy of your salvation, sustain in us a willing spirit,” -so that by our lives we may declare God’s praise; and our dust – by the power of His breath of life – may become a new life.”

Pastor’s Message February 26th, 2017

I have something of grave importance to tell you. Last weekend, a man came into our Perpetual Adoration Chapel and broke into the donation box in the Votive Lamp room. Because of our security cameras, we can see him and the large sum of money he pilfered by damaging the locks on the two larger votive lamp stands. The police are now investigating the incident and hope to have an arrest soon. Thank God, no one else was in there at that time, so no one was physically harmed. However, we did notice that the culprit entered the Chapel by putting in the code. How did he get it?? There are several possible ways, but they all lead to the breakdown in keeping the code absolutely secret once we have learned it – sharing it with absolutely NO ONE! All strangers who may ask for the code (for legitimate purposes) MUST come to the Rectory and give us their I.D., which we record. This is so that we can match any recorded I.D. with the camera recordings. So, when you need to know the code, you must present yourself to the office staff of the rectory, and have your name recorded. THERE WILL BE A NEW CODE VERY SHORTLY! This will probably cause an inconvenience for you, but that’s the price we have to pay because of someone who did not follow instructions carefully. So if you are coming after hours to be in the Divine Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, you will need to get the new code – and MUST KEEP IT TO YOURSELF – NOT TO BE SHARED WITH ANYONE, INCLUDING PRIESTS, SISTERS, RELATIVES, FRIENDS AND ACQUAINTANCES!!!! If you violate this, you may be placing the security of people in jeopardy, as well as the votive gifts of decent people, allowing criminals to desecrate God’s sacred house, because telling another person leads them to think they can tell another, and so on.

Why do so many Catholics find it difficult to observe the spirit of Lent? Is it just because over the years we have grown spiritually lazy? Why do we let ourselves succumb to the power of the Evil One? What is it that seems to have a stranglehold on otherwise good Catholics?

We need to understand that the materialism of modern life, the constant modern emphasis on buying and consuming, is based on the falsehood that we “deserve” convenience and comfort; that our opinions and desires really matter. Of course, in the most important sense, we do matter. We’re infinitely precious in the eyes of God. But the world will forget us very quickly when we’re gone, and all of us will be gone sooner than we think. There are no exceptions.

So, the healthiest way for each of us to live Lent is to reflect on our mortality and take a hard, clear look at the behavior and choices that guide our typical day. If we don’t like some of what we see — and that should include every one of us, if we’re honest — then Lent is the time to begin changing our direction.

We need to think past the obvious things to “give up” — desserts, wine, the movies — and concentrate on those things we cling to that we don’t really need but like to indulge. It’s different for every person: shopping, dining frequently in restaurants, frequenting high-end coffee shops, etc. But even better is when we select some positive service to perform for another person, or volunteer our time where it is needed by our parish or a legitimate charity. The corporal and spiritual works of mercy are a great place to begin our Lenten reflections. We should adapt them to our circumstances and make a real effort to live them actively as we prepare for Easter. Of course, some daily time spent reading Scripture is always very fruitful.

We also need silence. If we can create some time every day — even just half an hour — when we eliminate all the distracting noise of the American lifestyle, our spirit will naturally begin to grow. Daily life in the United States is so filled with appetites and tensions stimulated by the mass media that turning the media off almost automatically results in deeper and clearer thinking. That interior quiet can very easily lead us to God.

But probably the single most important thing we can do during this Lent is to seek out the Sacrament of Penance on a regular basis– every other week would be ideal. Nearly everyone can do that if they try. Nothing has a more powerful and positive effect on the soul, other than the Holy Eucharist itself.

If you want to know how hard it can be to live a Christian life, just try overcoming one or two of your own worst faults. This takes humility, honesty, courage self-knowledge and persistence — and this is exactly the task of conversion that all of us are called to every Lent.  All of these virtues also underpin effective public witness. If you take your faith seriously enough to conform your own life to it, you’ll have very little trouble living and witnessing your faith in the presence of others, including the wider public square. Authentic Catholic witness is something the nation needs more than ever. That witness begins now, with each of us individually.

Pastor’s Message February 19th, 2017

There’s so much activity going on at our campus these days that it’s hard to keep track of all the events. But, a few are really worth mentioning. The following   students from our parish school recently were inducted into the Junior National Honor Society: Alex Avilla, Ralph Charles-Pierre, Riley Donelan, Sofia Guastella, Valdimir Labady, Ronald Retaleato, John Salvato and Matthew Schuhmann. We are so very proud of them and their accomplishments!

Our local Knights of Columbus council, graciously assisted by their counterpart Columbiettes, sponsored a very successful Mass with a Renewal of Wedding Vows, followed by a dinner last Saturday evening for a few dozen couples who signed up for this event. I especially thank Knight Darin Lueken for taking the initiative and setting up what will become an annual event in our parish. Special congratulations to those couples celebrating ruby, golden and diamond anniversaries this year. What a beautiful way to celebrate St. Valentine’s Day!

We will hold our 51st Annual Parish Festival next weekend. This is the biggest event of the year for our parish and the largest in the Diocese of Palm Beach. It takes a lot of volunteer hours on the part of many people to conduct it successfully. All of the festival proceeds go to support our parish school. Our $25,000 Grand Prize for the $100 per ticket raffle is probably the highlight of the weekend. I invite you to get your ticket now, for last year we sold out by Saturday afternoon, and many people complained that they didn’t get the chance to buy their ticket. Well, they waited until the last minute, and we’re limited to only 1,000 for this; so I advise you to get your tickets this weekend at the church doors. Maria Sesto, our ticket sales chairperson, will be glad to sell them to you. In advance, I thank Julie Ott for chairing the entire festival (and her entire Festival Committee), and I invite you to join me in prayer for its success and for good weather throughout the weekend. Also, I ask you to be very patient if you come to the Saturday afternoon Masses and find that parking is so very limited. Being one of the 5 major events in Delray Beach each year, our festival is so crowded that I strongly recommend that you attend one of the Sunday morning Masses instead. Have a great time at the festival!!

This year, we will mark the golden jubilees (50th anniversary) of three wonderful religious men and women who serve our parish community in various ways. Father Danis Ridore, Father Jay Haskin and Sister Maria Liber will jointly celebrate their jubilees on Sunday April 23rd at the 11:30 a.m. Mass, followed by a reception and luncheon in our parish hall. More information on this event will be forthcoming in the next few weeks. How blessed we are to have these fine religious jubilarians serving God’s people at St. Vincent Ferrer Parish – with a combined 150 years of service to God’s people!

Finally, I wish to thank the kind anonymous donor who sent us quite a sizeable donation this past week of $50,000 to help us in our Capital Campaign. May God bless them and reward them for this generous gift. It came at a time when we (Julie Ott and I – primarily Julie) went to present our case once again to the Palm Beach Diocesan Building Commission. We need 70% of the total cost of construction in cash up front to be able to get clearance for construction to begin. Many of our parishioners have already made their pledge and are in the process of honoring that pledge. For some of them, it was a real sacrifice to pledge the amount they did. But, there is a sizeable portion of our parish membership who have not yet made a pledge, nor have they contributed to the campaign in any amount. I hope that this anonymous gift will inspire many others to pledge and donate a sacrificial gift for this campaign. Our children, especially, want and need a larger and improved facility so that they can continue to learn how to grow and become good Christians and solid American citizens. This will require all of us to chip in and help make this possible. If you have already pledged/contributed, I thank you sincerely. If you have not done so, I ask you to examine your commitment so as to help build up our parish into a community of believers and doers.