Category Archives: Fr. Cusick’s Corner

Corpus Christi – June 18, 2017

On the Feast of Corpus Christi, we give thanks and praise to God for Christ’s continued presence among us through the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. We should recall, however, that we receive the Body of Christ in Holy Communion to become more and more what we already are: the Body of Christ, which is the Church!

As we do each year on this feast, we offer a few reminders concerning the proper reception of Holy Communion:

1)     The Eucharistic fast is one hour before receiving Holy Communion; water and medicine may be taken. For the elderly and the sick, the fast can be dispensed.

2)     As you approach the minister, bow your head reverently as a sign of devotion to the Lord’s  Presence in the Eucharist.

3)     You may receive the Host on either the hand or the tongue. Please make it clear to the minister which way you are receiving (e.g., if receiving on the tongue, keep your hands folded).

4)     If you receive on the hand, hold both hands up, one on top of the other, making a throne to receive your Lord and King. After the minister says, “The Body of Christ,” please respond clearly, “Amen.” Allow the minister to place the Host in your hand. (Please don’t grab it from the minister; nor should you receive the Host only using one hand.) Then use your other hand to place the Host in your mouth; please do not use the same hand – this awkward motion may cause the Host to drop.

5)      If you are carrying anything in your hands, please receive on the tongue for the sake of reverence – this includes rosaries, canes, pocketbooks, worship aids, etc.

6)      If you are holding a small child, please receive on the tongue – it is much safer.

7)      If you receive on the tongue, say “Amen” first, then extend your tongue out of your mouth. Please do not move until the minister has placed the Host securely on your tongue.

8)     Please allow the Altar Server to place the paten under your hands or your chin as you receive to ensure that no fragments fall to the ground.

9)     If you receive from the chalice, again bow your head as you approach the minister, say “Amen” clearly, and take the chalice with both hands, being careful not to spill any of the Precious Blood.

10)   Christ is fully present – Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity – under both species, in the smallest fragment of a Host, and in the smallest drop of the Precious Blood. That is why we take such great care of it, but it is also why it’s acceptable to receive under only one species.

11)   We do have low-gluten hosts available; just request one in the Sacristy before Mass begins.

12)   If you are not Catholic, or if you are Catholic but not properly disposed to receive Holy Communion, you are still welcome to come forward in the procession. If you do so, simply cross your arms over your chest as you approach the minister, who will make the Sign of the Cross on your forehead.

13)   The Communion hymn allows us to join our voices as a sign of our unity in Christ that we experience through Holy Communion. (All the hymns for Mass can be found in the worship aids in your pew.) There will be time for silent prayer after the hymn concludes.

14)   Please remain kneeling until the Blessed Sacrament has been returned to the tabernacle.

May our devotion to the Eucharist bear much fruit as this great Sacrament strengthens us to bring Christ’s Presence to a world in desperate need of Him.

 

Tithes – June 11, 2017

This week’s “Ask a Priest” question is about supporting the Church and its ministries:

I would like to give joyfully and generously to the Church. What is a measurable tithe to the Church? Would that include tithing to my parish only or would it include other charities such as the Bishop’s Stewardship Appeal, missions, pro-life contributions, etc.? Would it also include the money spent to send my children to  Catholic school? Thank you.

The notion of “tithing” – giving one-tenth of one’s possessions or income in thanksgiving to God – has an ancient history. The Bible tells us that Abraham, our father  in faith, after defeating four kings in battle in order to rescue his nephew Lot, met Melchizedek, king of Salem (i.e., Jerusalem). Melchizedek “brought out bread and wine, and being priest of God Most High, he blessed Abraham … Then Abraham gave him a tenth of everything” (Genesis 14:18-20). His grandson Jacob imitated this gesture when he promised to “return a tenth part” of everything God gave him during his journeys (Genesis 28:22).

These were free-will offerings; but tithing became codified  in the Law of Moses hundreds of years later. A tenth of the produce of the fields and of the fruits of the trees, along with every tenth animal from the herds and flocks, was to be given to God (Numbers 27:30-32) for the service of the Temple and the support of the priests and Levites.

In early Christianity, free-will offerings provided the primary support for the Church and her ministers. Appeals were made to what the Lord Jesus Himself said, “The laborer deserves his keep” (Matthew 10:10); this was echoed by St. Paul, who wrote, “the Lord ordered that those who preach the Gospel should live by the Gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:14). Paul even recommends a weekly offering: “On the first day of the week, each of you should set aside and save whatever one can afford” (1 Corinthians 16:2).

As the Church grew and became the official religion of the Roman Empire, tithes were eventually made obligatory in a complicated system which grew out of the Old Testament regulations. Remnants of these practices can be seen in such places as Germany, which still has an official “Church tax” apportioned based on the numbers of Catholics and Lutherans.

In current Catholic practice, however, there is not a fixed  percentage required for the financial support of the Church, and the emphasis is on free-will offerings. But one of the  precepts of the Church is “that the faithful are obliged to   assist with the material needs of the Church, each according to their ability” (Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 2043.2). Canon 222 of the Code of Canon Law, similarly, prescribes the following:

  • 1 The Christian faithful are obliged to assist with the needs of the Church so that the Church has what is necessary for divine worship, for the works of the apostolate and of charity, and for the decent support of ministers.
  • 2 They are also obliged to promote social justice and, mindful of the precept of the Lord, to assist the poor from their own resources.

So support of the Church and of the poor is part of what it means to be a Catholic Christian. But how much? I know some people who set aside 10% of their income for all their charitable giving, including gifts to the Church. For some people that’s not possible due to circumstances. Those who have difficulty making financial contributions often do well by volunteering at the church, offering the gifts of their time and talent to help make the parish thrive. Catholic schools often offer discounted tuition for those who contribute regularly – though this is to ensure above all that the parents are active participants in the life of the parish. Some parishes have gone so far as to eliminate tuition payments for those who tithe.

Ultimately, it is a matter of conscience, prayerfully considering how best we can advance the mission of the Church and spread the message of the Gospel given the   concrete situations of our lives. Again, Jesus gives us an  illustration of what our response should be like: The story of the “widow’s mite” (Mark 12:41-44) shows us that our    giving should be modeled on that of Christ Himself, Who gave all that He had for our salvation. As St. Paul put it, “For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that for our sake He became poor although He was rich, so that by His poverty you might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).

So let us follow St. Paul’s advice as we consider how best to support our Church: “Consider this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each must do as already determined, without sadness or compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:6-7).

If you have a question, fill out a card in the Narthex, or click on the “Come, Ask a Priest” icon on our website.

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I will be speaking about the spirituality of marriage in Pope Francis’ Amoris Laetitia at “Theology on Tap” this Monday, June 12th, at 7:00 pm at Wicked Barley, 4100 Baymeadows Road.

 

 

Dancing Angels – June 4, 2017

The first “Ask a Priest” question I’ve chosen to answer was offered in a light-hearted spirit, but it’s still interesting:

How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

This is a question that was never meant to be taken seriously! It was devised in an attempt to mock the increasingly arcane types of questions that seemed to plague Scholasticism in the late medieval and early modern periods. Scholasticism was an approach to knowledge that sought to unite ancient philosophy (especially that of Aristotle, who lived in th4th-century BC) with Christian theology. Its most famous practitioner was St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), whose Summa Theologiae sought to understand all knowledge in the light of both faith and reason; it is still a major source of Catholic teaching today.

The “Scholastics” were so called because they worked out their program in the “schools”, which were the earliest universities (e.g., in Paris, Cologne, and Oxford – the  university is a Catholic invention!). Over time, however, their arguments sometimes became highly abstract, remote from the concerns of everyday life – by the time of the Protestant Reformation, the Scholastic approach to knowledge seemed to be trivial, akin to asking questions about angels and pins.

In a sense, however, this question is not trivial at all – because it’s ultimately about the nature of knowledge itself. Angels are purely spiritual beings: creatures like us, but without bodies (though this means that they can’t actually dance!). We come to know things through our senses; angels know them directly, without mediation. Whereas, due to our embodied nature, we can be in the physical presence of someone while our mind is far away, for an angel, to think of something is to be completely present to it. In other words, for an angel to think of the head of a pin is to be there. (Angels are often depicted with wings because they move at the speed of thought.)  So the number of angels who can “dance” on the head of a pin is: as many as are thinking of it at the same time!

If you have a question, fill out a card in the Narthex, or click on the “Come, Ask a Priest” icon on our website.

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Upcoming Events

  • Next weekend, June 10th-11th, I will be preaching at all Masses on the spirituality of Stewardship. I will be basing my presentation on Bishop Estévez’ One Faith,     One Family: A Pastoral Letter on Stewardship, which was recently sent to all Catholic homes in the diocese; it can also be found on our parish website, holyfamilyjax.com. I encourage you to read it, as I believe it to be an excellent document. Our Stewardship Committee has recently originally published by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops in 1992, and will be sharing their reflections with various ministries within the parish in the coming months. I hope that as we develop our understanding of    Stewardship, it will deepen our relationship with the Lord, the source of all of our gifts, leading us to follow Him ever more faithfully.
  • Sunday, June 18th, is the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, also known as Corpus Christi. At the end of the 11:30 am Mass, we will have our annual Corpus Christi Eucharistic Procession around our campus. This will be followed by Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament through the rest of the afternoon, concluding with Benediction before the 5:00 pm Mass. The 5:00 Mass on Corpus Christi will be a Teaching Mass, during which I will explain some of the history and meaning of the various parts of the Mass to help you participate more fully in the Eucharistic celebration. This will also be the last 5:00 pm Mass before the summer hiatus.
  • After consulting with Tim Kennedy, our Facilities Director, I’m afraid that I have to announce a delay in the opening of the Adoration Chapel. Due to some major projects in our parish school this summer (including replacement of the carpet for the 1st time since the school’s opening), along with some improvements in the design of the Chapel itself, we will likely need until the end of August to do the job properly. My apologies – but I assure you that it will be worth the wait!

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Congratulations and Thank You from Our Bishop!

Bishop Estévez recently wrote me to applaud the people of Holy Family Parish for your generosity in response to the Bishop’s Annual Stewardship Appeal.  We have exceeded our goals both in terms of the amount pledged and the number of families participating.  I am, as always, deeply grateful for all the ways you support our Parish, our Diocese, and the Church Universal.

 

 

A Long-Awaited Reconciliation-May 21, 2017

Last Sunday we heard about the Church’s first deacons.  They had been appointed to serve the needs of the poor of the community, but two of them, Stephen and Philip, almost immediately began to preach instead! St. Stephen’s fiery words led to his martyrdom, as well as the first sustained persecution of the new Christian community (led by Saul, who after his conversion would become St. Paul – see Chapters 8 & 9 of the Acts of the Apostles).

Yet even this persecution worked to fulfill God’s purposes, because it led to the spread of the Gospel outside of Jerusalem: “All were scattered throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria, except the Apostles” (Acts 8:1). Philip, as we hear in our 1st reading today, proclaimed Christ to the people of Samaria, many of whom were converted.

The region of Samaria, north of Jerusalem, was once known as the Kingdom of Israel; it had separated from the southern Kingdom of Judah after the death of Solomon in the 10th   century before Christ. The northern kingdom was conquered by the Assyrian Empire in 722 BC; much of the population was deported (the 10 “lost tribes”), while many people from other parts of the Empire were resettled there. Thus began a long period in which Jewish and pagan practices were intermingled in the conquered territory, and hostility between Jerusalem and Samaria became increasingly bitter. Jesus Himself was once refused entry into the region because He was headed to Jerusalem (Luke 9:52-53).

It is here, in this place which had long feuded with mainstream Judaism – represented by the Jerusalem Temple and its priesthood – that a new period of reconciliation finally begins. Hearing of Philip’s successful ministry, Peter and John come from Jerusalem to rejoice with their new brothers and sisters in Christ; to seal the new relationship, the Holy Spirit is called down upon them, bringing healing and peace after centuries of animosity. (Note that it is necessary for the Apostles to be present before the gift of the Holy Spirit is sent upon the Samaritans, prefiguring the Sacrament of      Confirmation conferred by the Bishop, a successor of the Apostles.)

“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation”

(2 Corinthians 5:18). These words were written by St. Paul, who was once Saul the persecutor before experiencing reconciliation through an encounter with Christ.

Our feuds are not as enduring as the one between Jerusalem and Samaria, nor are they as intense as Saul’s hatred for the Church – so how can we not trust that the Holy Spirit will help us to find reconciliation and healing in our own relationships?

 

Forming Good Shepherds – May 7, 2017

Forming Good Shepherds

“I am the Good Shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11).

Each year, on the 4th Sunday of Easter, we consider the role of the shepherd, an occupation which in the Bible is applied to the kings and spiritual leaders of God’s People. In many cases, these “shepherds” did not respond faithfully to their calling: “Woe to the shepherds of Israel who have been pasturing themselves! Should not shepherds, rather, pasture sheep? … You did not strengthen the weak nor heal the sick nor bind up the injured. You did not bring back the strayed nor seek the lost, but you lorded it over them harshly and brutally” (Ezekiel 34:2.4).

This indictment should be a sobering admonition to anyone in a position of leadership, especially those who are spiritual leaders. But the Lord promises us, “I will give you shepherds after my own heart” (Jeremiah 3:15). This promise is fulfilled above all in Jesus, the Good Shepherd, who “came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

His role is described beautifully in perhaps the most beloved passage of the Bible, Psalm 23:

The Lord is my shepherd;

there is nothing I shall want.

Fresh and green are the pastures

where he gives me repose.

Near restful waters he leads me;

he revives my soul.

He guides me along the right path,

for the sake of his name.

Though I should walk in the valley of the shadow of death,

no evil would I fear, for you are with me.

Your crook and your staff will give me comfort.

You have prepared a table for me

in the sight of my foes.

My head you have anointed with oil;

my cup is overflowing.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me

all the days of my life.

In the Lord’s own house shall I dwell

for length of days unending.

This Psalm consoles us with the promise that God will not abandon us; no matter where life takes us, He will be there to guide us on the right (and righteous) path.

As Christians called to follow the example of Jesus the Good Shepherd, we should consider how we can be “shepherds” in the world. As parents, friends, community and business leaders, ordained and lay ministers, are we faithful to each other? Do we seek our own interests, or do we sincerely attend to the needs of others? Do we flee when others are in trouble, or do we try to protect them from danger? Do we seek to heal broken relationships and broken hearts? Do we have the courage to guide others who struggle with doubts and confusion? With and through Jesus, we can lead others into the Lord’s abiding presence.

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Psalm 23 applies to the ministry of bishops and priests as well: The restful waters that revive the soul can be seen as an image of Baptism. The table prepared calls to mind the altar of the Eucharist, while the anointing with oil can refer to Confirmation and the Anointing of the Sick. The latter Sacrament and the Sacrament of Reconciliation offer the goodness and mercy of God to those who walk in the valley of the shadow of death.

As St. John Paul II noted in his apostolic exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis (“I will give you shepherds”), “God promises the Church not just any sort of shepherds, but  shepherds ‘after His own heart.’ And God’s ‘heart’ has revealed itself to us fully in the heart of Christ the Good Shepherd. Christ’s heart continues today to have compassion for the multitudes and to give them the bread of truth, the bread of love, the bread of life (cf. Mk. 6:30ff.), and it pleads to be allowed to beat in other hearts – priests’ hearts: ‘You give them something to eat’ (Mk. 6:37). People need to come out of their anonymity and fear. They need to be known and called by name, to walk in safety, along the paths of life, to be found again if they have become lost, to be loved, to receive salvation as the supreme gift of God’s love. All this is done by Jesus, the Good Shepherd – by himself and by his priests with him” (§82).

Jesus continues to call “shepherds after His own heart,” to serve the Church as priests. We are blessed to have here in our parish a number of young men who meet from time to time to discuss their discernment of a possible call to priesthood. For many others, the call may be hard to hear in a culture in which there is so much noise and so many distractions, and where sacrificing one’s self-interest for the sake of others is not often commended. So we must pray that the call of Christ may be heard more clearly, and that the Lord will raise up many good and holy priests. To this end, Holy Family Parish has been offering the “Vocation Chalice”, which allows individuals and families to take home a special chalice and use it as a focal point for prayer for a week. I invite all members of our parish to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity.  To receive the Chalice at the end of the 9:30 am Mass, please contact the Parish Office.  In the meantime, let us commit ourselves to responding to Jesus’ plea that we “pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:38).

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Introducing the “Catechism Corner”

As previously noted, the Faith Formation Committee will be offering reflections from the Catechism of the Catholic Church through a brief question-and-answer format in the bulletin each week. Here is this week’s selection:

What is the Magisterium of the Church?

Magisterium: The living, teaching office of the Church, whose task it is to give an authentic interpretation of the word of God, whether in its written form (Sacred Scripture), or in the form of Tradition. The Magisterium ensures the Church’s fidelity to the teaching of the Apostles in matters  of faith and morals. (Glossary; see Paragraphs 85, 890 and 2033) For this reason, the Magisterium consists of the Bishops of the Catholic Church throughout the world in communion with the Pope, the Bishop of Rome.

 

 

The Mass of Emmaus – April 30, 2017

The wonderful story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35), which we hear this weekend, is essentially a description of the first post-Resurrection Mass, at which Jesus Himself presided!

The Mass is divided into 4 distinct but interrelated parts: the Introductory Rites, the Liturgy of the Word, the Liturgy of the Eucharist, and the Concluding Rites. The Introductory Rites, according to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM), “ensure that the faithful, who come together as one, establish communion and dispose themselves worthily to listen to the Word of God and to celebrate the Eucharist worthily” (§46). Cleopas and his companion, conversing about what had happened to Jesus, have, in a sense, “gathered in His name”, as we do at Mass – and so the Lord, despite their conviction that He is gone for good, is present to them: “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). Perhaps, like these disciples, we may not always be aware that He is with us, but He is true to His promises.

Jesus then proclaims and interprets the Scriptures to them in response to the concerns and events of their lives. This is what the Liturgy of the Word is meant to do – as the GIRM puts it, here “God speaks to His people, opening to them the mystery of redemption and salvation, and offering spiritual nourishment; and Christ Himself is present through His word in the midst of the faithful” (§55). In fact, Jesus Himself is the Word of God made flesh (see John 1:1.14), and all of the words of the Bible point ultimately to Him, Who is the fullness of God’s revelation to us.

Then begins the Liturgy of the Eucharist: The disciples, their hearts inflamed with faith after Jesus opened the hidden meaning of the Scriptures to them (cf. Luke 24:32), ask Jesus to gather with them around their table. He then “took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them” (Luke 24:30), which recall Jesus’ actions at the Last Supper – and those of the priest at Mass, who acts in persona Christi. Then the disciples recognize Him “in the breaking of the bread”

(Luke 24:35), as we are meant to do whenever we celebrate the Eucharist.

Though the Risen Jesus has vanished from the disciples’ sight, the Mass of Emmaus is not yet over – they now have a task. Recall that despite receiving the news of the empty tomb, they have left Jerusalem, apparently in despair. Now, they return to Jerusalem to spread the good news of what they have discovered. They are restored to the community and share the joy of the Gospel with their friends. Likewise, the Concluding Rites of Mass give us a blessing and each may go back to doing good works, praising and blessing God” (GIRM §90).

In a sense, the road to Emmaus is an image of our journey through life, with its frustrations and disappointments, as well as its successes and joys – especially when we discover that Jesus has been our companion on the way. Let us then live our lives as a response to the dismissal at Mass: “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord!”

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Congratulations to our young people who received the Sacrament of Confirmation from Bishop Estévez last Saturday. Please continue to pray for them that the gifts of the Holy Spirit may come upon them in abundance and help them be faithful witnesses to Christ as they discern their vocations in life.

Please also keep in your prayers our young people who will soon receive their First Holy Communion on Saturday, May 13th, at 10:30 am. May they discover a great love for Christ, present to them in the Eucharist, and bring His presence to others.

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Congratulations to Holy Family parishioner Gail Zub Polochak, who has been chosen to receive the St. Marie Celinie Joubert Award for Excellence in Forming the Faithful, given annually to those who excel in catechesis in their parishes and schools in the Diocese of St. Augustine. Gail is being honored for her service at San José, Our Lady Star of the Sea, and Holy Family parishes. She, along with other recipients, will be given the award by Bishop Estévez at a special reception on May 4th. Thank you, Gail, for your service to the Lord and His Church!

 

 

Fr. Cusick’s Corner – “Doubting” Thomas? – April 23, 2017

Doubting” Thomas?

Everyone seems to know about St. Thomas’ doubt, but what about his faith? When he encounters the Risen Jesus, he exclaims, “My Lord and my God!” Thomas was actually able to see beyond the appearance of Christ’s risen body to the divinity within. Many Catholics have made this act of faith their own, repeating these words at the consecrations of the Host and the Chalice at Mass; here the faithful see beyond the appearances of bread and wine to the Real Presence of Christ’s Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity. But it is not meant to end there; our faith is meant to lead us to see the presence of Christ in other ways, especially in the dignity of each and every human person: from the child developing in the womb to the terminally ill in the ICU, from the victims of violent crime mourning their losses to the convict on Death Row awaiting execution, from the homeless person on the street to the married couple struggling to keep their family together. Christ came to restore the divine Image in each one of us despite our sins; let us pray that our eyes may be opened to recognize it in all those we meet.

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So many people contributed to the beauty and success of our Holy Week celebrations that it would be impossible to list them all. I am immensely grateful to our parish staff, music ministers, lectors, ministers of Holy Communion, altar servers, ushers, and sacristans for all of their hard work and dedication. I also want to thank all of you for your beautiful expressions of devotion during the Holy Week celebrations, and for your warm welcome of our many visitors. May the Lord continue to enrich us with His grace!

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A special word of thanks goes to Victoria Kutch, Nick Rebbe, and all who worked so hard to make our Senior High Youth Group’s presentation of the Living Stations of the Cross on Good Friday such a beautiful and moving experience. It was truly a wonderful expression of faith and devotion by our Young Church, and Bishop Estévez, who was in attendance, wrote to tell me that it was a remarkable event that he will never forget. Well done!

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Thanks as well to Don Moynahan, Joy Fashauer, and their crew for preparing the receptions following Living Stations and the Easter Vigil. They also help out with our wonderful rectory dinners; we still have a few spots open for dinner at the rectory on May 6th – please call the parish office if you’d like to join us!

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Do you know a Catholic who has drifted away from the church, for any reason?   Now is a great time to invite them home! Catholics Returning Home is designed to assist those who want to return to their Church and be updated on the faith. Sessions will take place on Thursdays, April 27th through May 18th, at 7:00 pm in our Parish Life Center; there will also be a special bonus session with a teaching Mass on Tuesday, May 16th, at 7:00 pm in the church. This is a wonderful opportunity to share stories of faith, return to the sacraments, and find healing and reconciliation – we’re here to welcome all those who are searching for a renewed relationship with their Lord.

 

 

Fr. Cusick’s Easter Corner – August 16, 2017

This weekend our parish welcomes 18 new Catholics: 7 of them baptized at the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday night, and 11 others, already baptized, who completed their initiation into the Catholic Church with the Sacraments of Confirmation and First Holy Communion. After a long period of prayer, discernment, and formation through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), they responded with a resounding “yes” to God’s gift of faith and communion. I thank Maria Petrotta, Deacon Doug, Fr. Matthew, Eric Stelzer, the sponsors of our newest members, and all who helped to prepare the candidates for this joyful moment. (On Sunday, May 7th, several young people who have been in the RCIA for Children program will receive their Confirmation and First Holy Communion at the 11:30 am Mass.)

As we rejoice with these newest members of our community, we also recall that the season of Lent has given each of us an opportunity to renew our own commitment to faith, culminating in the renewal of baptismal promises on Easter Sunday. Baptism is the “gateway” sacrament through which we enter the Church: It makes us members of the Body of Christ, temples of the Holy Spirit, and beloved children of God, freed from all our sins through the Passion and Resurrection of Christ. Let us give thanks for this gift of God’s grace – and let us pray for one another, as we continue to discern how to respond to our baptismal call to holiness.

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Some of the visitors joining us for worship today may have been away from the Catholic Church for an extended period of time. Holy Family welcomes you! You are invited to learn how to reestablish a relationship with Jesus Christ and His Church through the Catholics Returning Home program, beginning Thursday, April 27, at 7:00 pm. For more information, go to our website, www.holyfamilyjax.com, or contact Deacon Doug at dnullet@holyfamilyjax.com. May the Holy Spirit draw us to a closer relationship with our Lord and Savior, and with one another.

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God is rich in mercy (Ephesians 2:4). We experience this mercy in Baptism, in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and by approaching the fountain of God’s Mercy –Jesus Himself. Please join us in a celebration of Divine Mercy next Sunday, April 23rd. We will have adoration of the Blessed Sacrament beginning at the conclusion of the 11:30 am Mass, priests will be available to hear confessions at 2:00 pm, and we will chant the Divine Mercy Chaplet at 3:00 pm, concluding with Benediction. Join us and be refreshed at the wellsprings of salvation!

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Many, many thanks to Nick Rebbe, Victoria Kutch, and all who worked so hard to make our Senior High Youth Ministry’s recent presentation of the Stations of the Cross such a beautiful and moving experience. It was truly a wonderful expression of faith and devotion by our Young Church!

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From an Easter devotion of Pope Saint John XXIII:

Christianity is not that complex system of rules

which the unbeliever describes;

it is peace, joy, love, and life that is continually renewed,

like the mysterious pulse of nature

at the beginning of Spring.

We must assert this truth as confidently as the Apostles did,

and you must be convinced of it,

for it is your greatest treasure,

which alone can give meaning and serenity to your daily life.

 

I wish you and all those you love a blessed and joyful Easter.

 

This Holiest of Weeks – April 9, 2017

During Holy Week, we accompany Jesus during the final days of His earthly life, seeking to experience with Him all that He did and suffered for our redemption. In our celebration of the liturgy, we never simply recall events out of the past for the sake of reflection; rather, we are meant to make them living realities in our lives. At every Mass, we stand, as it were, at the foot of the Cross with Mary and the Beloved Disciple, as we join ourselves to Christ’s offering of Himself to the Father for the salvation of the world—for we, also, are meant to make our lives an offering to God for the sake of our brothers and sisters.

So, too, during Holy Week, we journey in heart and mind to Jerusalem, beginning with Jesus’ triumphal entry into the Holy City, when we stand with the crowds who waved palm branches and shouted, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Of course, we also sing these words just before the Consecration at every Mass, reminding us that the Lord is truly becoming present among us under the species of bread and wine.) We recline at table with the Apostles at the Last Supper, watching with wonder the institution of the Eucharist. We join the crowds calling for Jesus’ death—recognizing that He died for our sins—and walk with Him on the Way of the Cross. And, like Mary Magdalene and the other holy women, we are overwhelmed with amazement when we arrive at the tomb of Jesus and find it empty.

Holy Week reaches its climax during the Sacred Triduum (“three days”), which begins with the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday and concludes on Easter Sunday. In the Scriptures proclaimed on Holy Thursday, the theme of memory is prominent. We hear of the first Passover, which is to be “a memorial feast” and “a perpetual institution” for the people of Israel (Exodus 12:14). At a much later Passover, Jesus tells the Apostles, “Do this in remembrance of me” as He shares with them His Body and Blood (1 Corinthians 11:24-25). After He washes their feet, He says, “As I have done for you, you should also do” (John 13:15). He wishes that in all things we imitate Him, the One who “came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Just as the Eucharist re-presents – makes present again – Christ’s sacrifice, we re-member what Christ did at the Last Supper in order to realize that we are members of His Body, called to act as He did, to love as He loved—to the end.

Holy Thursday is sometimes known as “Maundy” Thursday – from the Latin word mandatum, referring to Jesus’ command to “love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12) at the Last Supper. This is why we often have a special collection of gifts for the poor on this day as an expression of our love for them. (This year we are asking for contributions of nonperishable goods for the Mandarin Food Bank.) But the mandatum can also be linked to the other elements of the event, which include the institution of the priesthood, the Eucharist, and, by extension, the other sacraments. We therefore present the Holy Oils that are used in the various sacraments at the Offertory, along with the other gifts; these special oils are blessed by the Bishop at the Chrism Mass – traditionally held on or near Holy Thursday – where priests also renew the promises they made at their ordination. In addition, we give special honor to the Eucharist at the end of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper with a procession and a period of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament – symbolizing Jesus’ journey to the Garden of Gethsemane, where He asked His disciples to keep watch and pray with Him (Mark 14:38).

On Good Friday, the church itself is stripped bare, as if it were sharing in Christ’s Passion. The Baptismal Font and Holy Water stoops are emptied – the waters of new life wait to be renewed at the Feast of the Resurrection. The afternoon liturgy, traditionally held at 3:00 pm, the hour of Jesus’ death, begins in silence, as the priest lies prostrate before the altar, as if in mourning and supplication for all the violence and injustice in the world. The Eucharist is not celebrated today – for the Eucharist signifies not only Jesus’ death, but His resurrection as well. Instead, we pray – we pray that the power of Christ’s sacrifice will redeem the whole world: the special intercessions this day reach out ever more widely to embrace all humanity, just as Jesus’ arms, stretched out on the Cross, embraced all of us to draw us back to the Father’s heart. And so we venerate the Cross, “on which hung the salvation of the world.” We recall the price of our redemption, and we bow down before the instrument which transformed death into life.

On Holy Saturday, the Church waits in silence by the tomb in the garden as Jesus rests in the womb of the earth on the Sabbath. Finally, as night falls and darkness and death seem to reign, a new fire flashes into being, the Paschal candle is lit, and the Light of Christ spreads through the church as the great Easter Vigil begins. “Exult, let them exult!” – the Church bursts forth in irrepressible joy as the ancient hymn, the Exsultet, calls us to praise God for the wonder of the Resurrection. The Resurrection is the source of our new life in Christ, so on this night we welcome our newest members as they pass through the waters of Baptism, in which they participate in the death and resurrection of Christ; they now are anointed with the Holy Spirit, and recognize themselves as members of the Body of Christ as they receive Holy  Communion for the first time. We share their joy, for on this night (or on Easter Sunday morning) all of us renew our own baptismal promises and our commitment to Christ. Having died to sin through the discipline of Lent, we can share in the fullness of life brought to us by the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord.

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What does the Church really say?

Our Faith Formation Committee, as part of the implementation of the Pastoral Plan, has recommended two opportunities to help the members of our Parish grow in their faith. First is a “Catechism Corner” in the bulletin, which will offer short quotations from the Catechism of the Catholic Church to illuminate various aspects of Catholic teaching. The other is a Question Box, which will allow parishioners to ask questions concerning faith or morals (it is not a “Suggestion Box” or a “Complaint Box”!). There will be a physical question box placed in the Narthex soon; you can also submit your questions electronically through our website – just click on the “Question Box” icon at the top of our website. These questions then will be answered by me in this column. I look forward to hearing from you!

 

 

 

 

Veiling the Mystery – April 2, 2017

The Fifth Sunday of Lent begins what was formerly known as “Passiontide”, a time of more intense focus on Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross for our redemption. Traditionally, crosses and images in the church were veiled during this time. This might appear to be counterintuitive: why cover the cross when we are meditating more deeply on it?

One reason has to do with the pre-Vatican II liturgy: before 1970, the Gospel reading for the 5th Sunday of Lent was John 8:46-59, which concludes with the words, “Jesus hid Himself, and went out of the Temple.” At that time, Jesus’s conflict with the religious authorities was increasingly tense – they were threatening to stone Him – culminating in the Crucifixion. Jesus would soon be departing the Temple of His body, hidden in the tomb. As Lent approaches its climax, we symbolically enter into this mystery. All during this holy season, our liturgy itself has entered into the dying process – the Alleluia and Gloria are buried until Easter, and the simple chants used during the Mass offer a more solemn atmosphere. Now with the covering of images, the altar of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross stands revealed as the central symbol of our faith.

The veiling of crosses is thus connected to the commemoration of the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday, when the Cross itself, not the altar, is the focus of our worship. (Good Friday is the one day of the year when the Eucharist is not consecrated, since it sacramentally re-presents the death and resurrection of Christ.) Before the veneration of the cross at the Good Friday liturgy, the cross may be gradually unveiled before the congregation. The cross then stands revealed as the “Tree of Life” and the instrument of our salvation, worthy of adoration. The veiling of the cross in the days preceding this celebration increases our anticipation of this act of worship. In addition, the unveiling of the cross reminds us of the veil of the Temple that was torn in two as Jesus died – the presence of God, hidden in the Holy of Holies, is now revealed to all through the victory of the Cross.

Other images in the church (e.g., statues of the saints) are also covered until Holy Saturday night to remind us that sanctity is the result not of our own efforts, but of the abundant grace brought forth by Christ’s Passion. The Church is born from the wounded side of Christ, from which blood and water flowed (John 19:34); this represents the sacramental life of the Church, especially Baptism and Eucharist. As our newest members celebrate these Sacraments for the first time at the Easter Vigil, they participate in the Death and Resurrection of Christ, become members of the Body of Christ, and are given the promise of glory in the company of all the saints, whose images now stand unveiled as a sign of what we are called to become.

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Palm  Sunday and Easter Mass Times:

Please be aware of the changes in Mass times for Palm Sunday and Easter. In order to properly celebrate these great liturgies and allow sufficient time for the clearing of the parking lot, the first morning Mass on these Sundays will begin at 7:30 am. In addition, on Holy Saturday, the Easter Vigil begins at 8:30 pm – there is no 5:30 pm Mass that day; there is also no 5:00 pm Mass on Easter Sunday. So the Mass schedule is as follows:

Palm Sunday:

Saturday, April 8th – 5:30 pm Vigil Mass

Sunday, April 9th – 7:30 am, 9:30 am, 11:30 am, 5:00 pm

Easter:

Saturday, April 15th – 8:30 pm Easter Vigil

(no 5:30 pm Mass)

Sunday, April 16th – 7:30 am, 9:30 am, 11:30 am

(no 5:00 pm Mass)

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Many parishioners have told me how much they appreciate The Lamb’s Supper by Scott Hahn, the book we gave out at Christmas.  The Holy Family Bible Study Ministry will be offering a study of the book on Tuesday evenings beginning April 18th through May 30th.  Please see the flyers by the doors of the Church for more information, or visit the “News” page on this website.