All posts by Patti Lombardo

The Rosary and Repetition in Prayer

This week’s “Ask a Priest” question is about a difficulty  some people have with certain forms of Catholic prayer and devotion:

I’m dating someone who comes from a Methodist background and now practices at a non-denominational church. He and his family do not understand repetitive prayer like praying the Rosary. Why as Catholics do we pray the Rosary and why is that repetition of prayer not considered babbling or meaningless?

To respond to this question, some historical context is helpful. The Rosary in its current form took centuries to develop. It began simply as a means for laypeople to imitate the practice of monks and nuns, whose prayer life was based on the 150 biblical Psalms. Since most people could not afford copies of the Psalter (and many were illiterate), they would instead pray 150 Our Fathers or Hail Marys, using beads to keep count. Over time, the practice of meditating on the life of Jesus came to be connected with the saying of the prayers, which were divided into groups of 10, or “decades.”

Eventually, 3 sets of 5 “mysteries” – the Joyful, the Sorrowful, and the Glorious – came to be seen as standard, allowing those saying the Rosary to meditate on the most  significant events of the Redemption. Beginning with the  Annunciation to Mary by the Angel Gabriel (Luke 1:26-38), one can “walk with Mary” through the events of Jesus’ life, culminating with her own participation in His victory over death in her Assumption and Coronation.

In 2002, St. John Paul II issued an Apostolic Letter on the Rosary (Rosarium Virginis Mariae), in which he proposed adding an additional 5 “Luminous” mysteries, covering the period between Jesus’ childhood and His Passion: His Baptism, the Wedding at Cana, His preaching of the Kingdom, the Transfiguration, and the institution of the Holy Eucharist. While the historical link with the 150 Psalms was severed, it allowed for a richer meditation on the life and work of Christ.

In this document, John Paul also offered a helpful suggestion for maintaining one’s focus while saying the Rosary: After the word “Jesus” in each Hail Mary, add a phrase related to the mystery being meditated upon. For example, for the 1st Joyful Mystery, the Annunciation, one could say, “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus, the Word made flesh. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.” Since the Incarnation took place at the Annunciation, when Mary gave her fiat (“let it be”) to God’s plan, that is the point at which the Word of God took on the flesh of our humanity and began to dwell among us (cf. John 1:14). Another example: the 2nd Sorrowful Mystery is the Scourging at the Pillar, so the words “wounded for our offenses” could be added after the word “Jesus” in each Hail Mary (cf. Isaiah 53:5). Other phrases could be chosen – use whatever works best for you.

The Rosary is ultimately Christ-centered and Scriptural. There are various forms of “Scriptural Rosaries” – a passage from the Bible illustrating the mystery can be read before each one, while other versions attach a particular verse to each bead. The “Hail Mary” itself has its origins in the Scriptures, beginning with Gabriel’s salutation at the Annunciation, followed by Elizabeth’s exclamation to Mary, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” at the Visitation (Luke 1:42). The word “Jesus” was added later, making the Holy Name the center of the prayer.

Each decade begins with the Lord’s Prayer, again echoing the monastic practice, and concludes with the “Glory Be”, grounding the entire meditation in the Blessed Trinity. Following this, the “Fatima Prayer” may be added, dating to the apparitions of the Blessed Mother in Portugal in 1917: “O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of Hell. Lead all souls to Heaven, especially those in most need of Thy mercy.”

There is, of course, repetition in the Rosary. But Jesus’  statement about repetition in prayer (Matthew 6:7 – “do not babble like the pagans” or “do not heap up empty phrases”) is meant to warn us against thinking that we can force God to do what we want “because of our many words.” Our  prayer should be founded on trust in the One who knows what we need before we ask Him (Matthew 6:8), not on a perceived need to manipulate God to accede to our desires. The repetition of the Rosary, on the other hand, allows us to meditate deeply on the life of Jesus, who perfectly fulfilled His Father’s will in all things. May this prayer allow us to imitate Him more perfectly.


Prayer Shawl Ministry in the News: The September issue of the Southside Newsline has a front-page story on Holy Family’s own Prayer Shawl Ministry. Congratulations to the members of this beautiful ministry of care and compassion for the recognition of their work!


Priests’ Retreat: The priests of the diocese will be on  retreat from the afternoon of Monday, October 2nd, through the morning of Friday, October 6th. On Monday, we will have our regular morning Masses at 7:00 am and 9:00 am. The rest of the week there will be no daily Masses. We will, however, have a Communion Service each day at 9:00 am from Tuesday through Friday. We will resume our regular Mass schedule with our First Saturday Mass on October 7th.


Catechism Corner

What does the Church say about superstition?

The First Commandment forbids honoring gods other than the one Lord who has revealed himself to His people. It proscribes superstition and irreligion. Superstition in some sense represents a perverse excess of religion…. It can even affect the worship we offer the true God, e.g., when one attributes an importance in some way magical to certain practices otherwise lawful or necessary. To attribute the efficacy of prayers or sacramental signs to their mere external performance, apart from the interior dispositions they demand, is to fall into superstition. (Paragraphs 2110-11)


The Bible and the Church – September 10, 2017

No one has an “original” copy of the Bible. The oldest manuscripts that we have of the complete Bible date to the 4th or 5th centuries, with portions of the Old Testament discovered in the Dead Sea Scrolls going back to perhaps the 1st century before Christ. What we have essentially are copies of copies, going back many centuries, and in some cases including errors in transmission. So how do we know that we have the right book?

Actually, the Bible is not a book, but a collection of books, with many different literary styles and genres, from poetry to narrative, from epic history to apocalyptic prediction. This “library” came into being over the course of millennia, as the fruit of much debate and discernment. How were these particular books selected?

For the earliest Christians, of course, there was no New Testament! Consider what St. Paul writes in his 2nd letter to Timothy: “Remain faithful to what you have learned and believed, because you know from whom you learned it, and that from infancy you have known the sacred Scriptures, which are capable of giving you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (3:14-15).

What are the Scriptures to which Paul is referring? When Paul was writing, for example, the 4 Gospel accounts were not yet in existence. So he must be talking about the Hebrew Scriptures – for Jesus and His first followers, this was the  Bible. It had been in the process of development for many centuries, some stories dating back almost 2 millennia. After the Babylonian exile (6th century BC), they began to be codified; it was commonly thought that revelation ended with Ezra (5th century BC). But new books continued to be written (e.g., 1 & 2 Maccabees, Wisdom) and were included in the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible known as the Septuagint. This was the Bible most early Christians knew. (Variation between the Greek and Hebrew versions of the Old Testament is one reason for the difference between Catholic and Protestant Bibles.)

Over time, various writings circulated among the Christian churches – Gospels, letters, books of “Acts”, prophetic books like Revelation. Different communities accepted different books, but a consensus grew around the 4 Gospels, the letters of Paul, and some other writings. There were questions about some books (2 Peter, Revelation), but lists of approved books began circulating especially in the 4th century, and by 419, with the help of St. Augustine, the matter was settled. Some point to the Council of Trent’s declaration of the approved books of the Bible in 1546 as the first official statement on the matter, but the evidence is clear that the Bible had been fixed relatively early after a process of discernment.

What were the criteria for inclusion in the New Testament? Typically, authorship by an Apostle or a close companion (Mark, Luke) was thought to be essential; in addition, they were proclaimed as part of the Church’s public prayer, and they were in harmony with the apostolic preaching – which came first! Consider the openings of the letters of St. Paul – for example, 1st Corinthians: “Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, to the church of God that is in Corinth…” (1:1-2). The church of Corinth was in existence (founded by Paul himself, in fact) long before the letters addressed to them became part of the New Testament. The proclamation of the Gospel began with Jesus Himself, followed by the Apostles and their co-workers, before the written Gospels came into being. The New Testament put into written form what the disciples had experienced in Christ and the community he founded, and what they had witnessed to others in their preaching.

The Bible did not simply drop down from the heavens. It was, in the end, the Church itself which determined, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, which books were truly   inspired and meant as a rule (or “canon”) for all Christians. The Church as a whole, under the leadership of the Pope and bishops (the Magisterium), then also has the responsibility for the proper interpretation of the Scriptures.

The Bible is properly understood as a gift handed down to us from the earliest believers, who wished to invite those who came after them to share what they had encountered in Jesus, and to live in response to that encounter. As we welcome the magnificent St. John’s Bible to our parish this weekend, let us give thanks to God for this awesome gift.


Catechism Corner

 Is the Devil Real?

“Deliver Us from Evil”… Evil is not an abstraction but  refers to a person, Satan, the Evil One, the angel who opposes God. The devil (dia-bolos) is the one who “throws himself across” God’s plan and His work of salvation accomplished in Christ. Satan … and the other demons were at first good angels, created naturally good, who became evil by their own doing. He is only a creature, powerful from the fact that he is pure spirit, but still a creature. He cannot prevent the building up of God’s reign. (Glossary and Paragraphs 395 & 2851)




Marriage & Family Ministry Seminar

The Marriage & Family Ministry Seminar is for anyone who is interested in serving marriages and families in the Diocese of St. Augustine.  The Seminar will be hosted by Don & Lorrie Gramer on Saturday, October 7 , 9:00 am – 4:00 pm in the Holy Family Parish Life Center.  Cost is $50 per parish or $25 per person.  If you are interested, you may register below.

If you should have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me at (904) 551-2619 or

Register Here.

Communion with Christ, Communion with the Church – September 3, 3017

This week’s “Ask a Priest” question is about who may receive Holy Communion:

How and when is the best way to approach non-Catholics, and Catholics who are not practicing their faith, about  receiving Communion?

In the early Church, there were many martyrs – but there were also some who apostasized (denied their faith) to save their lives. After the persecutions ended under the Emperor Constantine in 313, Christian leaders were faced with a dilemma: Could these apostates be reconciled with the Church? And if so, how?

Some thought that they should be welcomed back with open arms, understanding the pressure that they were under – who could say that they would not have done the same? Others said no – serious sins after baptism could not be forgiven; indeed, to do so would dishonor the memory of the martyrs and confessors who would not abandon Christ even under the threat of torture and death.

A middle way was found: the Order of Penitents. In a process similar to the catechumenate which prepared non-Christians for Baptism, it was a process which could take several years of prayer, fasting, and other forms of spiritual discipline to recover the grace of Baptism. After publicly confessing their sins to the bishop, the penitents would be sent out of the church, where they would kneel on the steps and ask for  prayers from their fellow Christians. By stages they would be permitted back into the church, until, finally, on Holy Thursday, the bishop would declare them reconciled and allow them to receive Holy Communion again for the first time.

This practice of public penance was superseded over the centuries by private confession (for which we should be  grateful!), but the principle is the same: serious sin breaks one’s communion with God – and with the Church. That’s what sin does – it seriously damages or even destroys our  relationships with the Lord and with each other. Repentance and reconciliation restore this communion – when we confess to a priest, he represents both Christ and the Church, the Body of Christ, wounded by sin.

The forgiveness offered in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, then, renews baptismal grace – the grace by which we became members of the Body of Christ. This allows us to receive the Body of Christ in Holy Communion. In other words, we receive the Body of Christ in the Eucharist because we are members of the Body of Christ, the Church. We receive Holy Communion because we are in communion with Christ and each other.

That is why at this time, the Catholic Church, in most circumstances, is not able to offer Holy Communion to  non-Catholics. While we recognize that all who are baptized – whether Catholic, Protestant, or Orthodox – are part of the Body of Christ, we are not all fully in communion with one another. We have different beliefs about the sacraments, morals, and authority in the Church. These differences are significant, and they are not meaningless; to share in the Eucharist would essentially be making a false statement, claiming a unity in belief and life which does not yet exist. As St. John Paul II suggested, our current inability to gather around one Eucharistic altar should increase our hunger to attain true unity, rather than simply ignoring our real differences.

Catholics who do not practice their faith should also examine their relationship to the Church. Do they accept the Church’s authority concerning faith and morals, including the precept to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation? Do they understand that this is an expression of their membership in the Body of Christ and a means for growing in communion with the Lord and each other? Do they recognize the power of the sacraments, especially Reconciliation and the Eucharist, for growth in the life of grace?

Sometimes non-Catholics do recognize this – and provision can be made for them to receive the sacraments in cases of grave necessity (such as danger of death), if they ask for them of their own will, have no access to their own ministers, and demonstrate Catholic belief regarding these sacraments. For fallen-away Catholics, it is even simpler – a humble acknowledgement of one’s need for God’s grace, expressed in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

God wishes all to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4); he also desires that we live in unity (John 17:21). Let us pray that, despite the sad divisions currently existing, all Christians may one day share in one communion of life and love, represented and realized in the sharing of Holy Communion.


This weekend Holy Family welcomes Mr. Will Powell, a seminarian who will be spending his Pastoral Year with us. Hailing from Kansas and Oklahoma, Will moved to Jacksonville with his family in 2003.  He attended Mandarin High School, and received a degree in Economics from UNF in 2012.  After studying Philosophy at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland, he began theological studies at St. Vincent de Paul Seminary in Boynton Beach.  God willing he will be ordained in 2020.  Please join me in welcoming Will to  Holy Family!


Catechism Corner

Does it matter what I wear to church?

To prepare for worthy reception of this sacrament [of the Eucharist], the faithful should observe the fast required in their Church. [For Catholics of the Latin Rite, this is 1 hour before receiving Holy Communion.] Bodily demeanor (gestures, clothing) ought to convey the respect, solemnity, and joy of this moment when Christ becomes our guest. (Paragraph 1387) Remember: you are entering the presence of the King of Kings!



RCIA Inquiries

At Holy Family, RCIA normally takes a year or so, depending on individual cases, culminating at the Easter Vigil. We welcome the unbaptized (both those coming from other faith traditions and those with no faith background at all) and baptized Christians from other denominations (who are known as “candidates” rather than “catechumens” since the Catholic Church recognizes most Protestant baptisms). For those interested in learning more about the RCIA and the Catholic faith, we will have 2 “Inquiry” sessions this summer, the first on Tuesday, July 11th, the second on Tuesday, August 29th, both at 7:00 pm. For more information, please contact our RCIA Coordinator, Maria Petrotta, at Encourage your non-Catholic friends and family members to learn more about the faith of the Church and discern whether Christ might be calling them into our community!




Married Couples, spice up your marriage and join us for 6 evenings of fun!

SIX DATES for Catholic couples is a program offered by the Holy Family Family Life Ministry.  It will begin on Friday, September 8th, and will continue every other Friday until November 17th.  Childcare will be provided.

Register here.

Fr. Cusick’s Corner – Thank-yous, reminders, and coming events – August 27, 2017

I am very grateful for all those who have already responded to our Mortgage Reduction Campaign. As I mentioned last weekend, we are looking to raise $1.2 million over the next   3 years: $700,000 to pay off the loan from the construction of our new buildings, and $500,000 for long-term maintenance needs, including new roofs and air-conditioning units for both the church and the school. We will keep you posted about the progress of the Campaign in the coming months.

I am grateful as well to parishioner and School parent Todd Hardie for creating the beautiful video we presented last weekend.  Click the word “VIDEO” for those who did not have a chance to see it.


Our Adoration Chapel approaches completion! The Chapel should be ready to open on Tuesday, September 5th. We will add a few finishing touches in the months ahead, including statues of adoring angels and stained-glass windows. Many thanks to all the benefactors who have made this possible, and to Tim Kennedy, our Facilities Director, and his assistant Matt Hannigan, for the design and construction of the Chapel.

Please remember that we need 4 people in Adoration each hour from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. In addition, on Wednesdays we will have an addition two hours (5:00 pm to 6:45 pm) if enough people sign up. Please contact Renee Hertz at to claim your hour, or go to our website at for more information under “Parish News.”


In early September, Holy Family will be blessed to welcome the St. John’s Bible. This Bible is a hand-written and hand-illuminated Bible commissioned by St. John’s University and Abbey – the first such Bible in 500 years. As part of a year-long diocesan-wide program, one of the 7 volumes of the “Heritage Edition”, The Gospels and Acts, will be on campus through November 6th.

The weekend of September 9th-10th, I will preach at all Masses on the significance of this masterpiece of Scripture and art, and the Bible will be available for viewing in church each weekend. During the week, it will be housed in Room 217 of the Parish Life Center. On Monday, September 11th, our Men’s Club will sponsor a dinner for the whole parish to examine the St. John’s Bible more closely – I will offer a presentation on the history and production of the Bible. Other programs will be offered as well; for example, the Women’s Club has invited Mr. Vincent Reilly, Director of Faith Formation at St. Catherine’s Parish in Orange Park (which is currently hosting the St. John’s Bible), to speak about “Women in the Bible” on Monday, October 2nd. We hope you can join us for these events! For more information, please visit our website in the “News” section.


Don’t forget: Our Family Life Ministry will be hosting “Six Dates” for Catholic Couples beginning on Friday, September 8th, and continuing every  other Friday through November 17th. Childcare will be provided. You can  register by going to our website under “Parish News.”


And a reminder for those adults interested in becoming Catholic or learning more about the Church: our next RCIA Inquiry session will take place on Tuesday, August 29th, at 7:00 pm in the Parish Life Center. For further information, please contact our Director of Faith Formation, Maria Petrotta, at

In addition, for Adult Education this year, I will be offering a course on The History of the Church. We will using a text of that title from the Didache Series, which will be available in our Gift Shop. Sessions begin on Tuesday, October 24th, at 7:00 pm.


Catechism Corner

Why do we go to Mass on Sunday?

Sunday is expressly distinguished from the Sabbath which  it follows chronologically every week; for Christians its  ceremonial observance replaces that of the Sabbath. In Christ’s Passover, Sunday fulfills the spiritual truth of the Jewish Sabbath and announces man’s eternal rest in God. … The celebration of Sunday observes the moral commandment inscribed by nature in the human heart to render to God an outward, visible, public, and regular worship “as a sign of his universal beneficence to all.” Sunday worship fulfills the moral command of the Old Covenant, taking up its rhythm and spirit in the weekly celebration of the Creator and Redeemer of his people. (Paragraphs 2175-76)

The Saint John’s Bible on display from September 8th – November 6th

The Saint John’s Bible is the only handwritten and illuminated Bible commissioned by a Benedictine Monastery since the advent of the printing press more than 500 years ago. It is the work of an international team of calligraphers and artists  under the direction of Donald Jackson, an internationally renowned calligrapher and official scribe to Queen Elizabeth II. The Bible contains seven volumes, each 2′ tall by 3′ wide, weighing approximately 35 lbs. The combined volumes contain 1,165 pages with 160 major illuminations. While the original manuscript is at St. John’s Abbey and University in Collegeville, MN, there are 299 sets of the Heritage Edition, which are true to the scale, beauty, and artistic intent of the original. Through the generosity of the Diocese of St. Augustine and in an effort to inspire the study of art and scripture, Holy Family Catholic Church will have one volume of the Heritage Edition, Gospels and Acts, from September 8 through November 6, 2017. In this volume, the life of Christ and the journey of the early Church are explored in theologically rich and startling new ways that invite ongoing reflection.

For more detailed information on the SJB, please refer to the below website or simply click:  Saint John’s Bible.

The Bible and the Virgin Mary

Presented by the Holy Family Bible Study Ministry

The Bible and the Virgin Mary is a dynamic twelve-part video series that beautifully explains the Catholic truths about Our Lady showing how she has been a part of God’s plan to bring salvation to the world since the beginning of time. 

No RSVP required.  All are welcome.  Starting Thursday September 7 to October 12, 2017 from 7:00 to 8:30 PM Parish Life Center in Room 217. For more information call Pilar: 904-705-3541.


On Saturday, August 12th, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, issued the following statement in response to the violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, that left three dead and at least 19 injured:

“On behalf of the bishops of the United States, I join leaders from around the nation in condemning the violence and hatred … in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“The abhorrent acts of hatred on display in Charlottesville are an attack on the unity of our nation and therefore summon us all to fervent prayer and peaceful action. The bishops stand with all who are oppressed by evil ideology and entrust all who suffer to the prayers of St. Peter Claver as we approach his feast day. We also stand ready to work with all people of goodwill for an end to racial violence and for the building of peace in our communities.

“Last year a Task Force of our Bishops’ Conference under Archbishop Wilton Gregory proposed prayers and resources to work for unity and harmony in our country and in our Church. I am encouraging the bishops to continue that work especially as the Feast of St. Peter Claver approaches.”

On Sunday, Cardinal DiNardo joined Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, Florida, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, in calling on all people of goodwill to join in prayer and unity in response to the events of last Saturday; part of their statement follows:

“We stand against the evil of racism, white supremacy and neo-nazism. We stand with our sisters and brothers united in the sacrifice of Jesus, by which love’s victory over every form of evil is assured. At Mass, let us offer a special prayer of gratitude for the brave souls who sought to protect us from the violent ideology displayed yesterday. Let us especially remember those who lost their lives. Let us join their witness and stand against every form of oppression.”

Pastor’s note:  The task force mentioned above called for a National Day of Prayer for Peace in Our Communities on September 9th, 2016. September 9th is the Feast of St. Peter Claver, the 17th-century Jesuit missionary who ministered untiringly to African slaves in Cartagena, Colombia, for 40 years, assuring them of their equal dignity in God’s sight and calling for them to be treated with justice.

The following prayer was composed for the National Day of Prayer; perhaps we can make it our own:

O Lord our God,

in your mercy and kindness,

no thought of ours is left unnoticed,

no desire or concern ignored.

You have proven that blessings abound

when we fall on our knees in prayer,

and so we turn to you in our hour of need.

Surrounded by violence and cries for justice,

we hear your voice telling us what is required:

Only to do justice and to love goodness,

and to walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8).

Fill us with your mercy

so that we, in turn, may be merciful to others.

Strip away pride, suspicion, and racism

so that we may seek peace and justice

in our communities.

Strengthen our hearts so that they beat only

to the rhythm of your holy will.

Flood our path with your light as we walk humbly

toward a future filled with encounter and unity.

Be with us, O Lord, in our efforts,

for only by the prompting of your grace

can we progress toward virtue.

We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord.



 Catechism Corner

 What is the relationship between Tradition and Sacred Scripture?

“Sacred Scripture is the speech of God as it is put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit. And [Holy] Tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God which has been entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit. It transmits it to the successors of the apostles so that, enlightened by the Spirit of truth, they may faithfully preserve, expound and spread it abroad by their preaching.” (Paragraph 81; cf. Vatican II, Dei Verbum §9)