Category Archives: Fr. Cusick’s Corner

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.

 

 

An Examination of Conscience – March 26, 2017

Many parishioners were moved by the Examination of Conscience used by Fr. R.B. Williams during our recent Parish Mission. He has given permission for me to share it with you:

Introduction: Jesus sends an invitation to each of us. This invitation is to a life of love, healed of all division, marked by our willingness to forgive one another in mutual vulnerability, and to seek God’s mercy. The examination of conscience given below focuses on the state of our relationships, which should be the foundation of our experience in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. As you go through this examination, try to visualize the persons mentioned in your mind, as you ask the Lord to help you forgive them.

  • Lord Jesus Christ, I ask for the grace to forgive everyone in my life. So first of all, Lord, I ask you to help me forgive myself. I want to be free of all my burdens. In whatever ways I have separated myself from you and others through my own sinfulness, I seek your forgiveness. Forgive me, Lord, for my lack of belief and trust in your loving care. Forgive me, God, for all the sinful actions and judgments toward the people in my life and help me to forgive them for their hurtful actions toward me.
  • I  choose now to forgive my Mother and Father for any lack of love, affection, time or attention. I forgive them for anything which caused our family to be broken and wounded. Lord, with your help, I forgive my parents. Forgive me, too, for my failures in love to my parents.
  • Lord, I forgive my spouse for any lack of love, affection or consideration;  for any lack of support, attention, or communication. Lord God, forgive me also for my faults, weaknesses, attitudes, hurtful words or actions which have harmed my spouse in any way.
  • I choose now to forgive my brothers and sisters for any pain they may have caused me in the past. I forgive them for the times when they may have physically or emotionally harmed me. Forgive me too, Lord, for my sins against them.
  • Lord, I forgive my children for any disrespect or pain caused by their actions or attitudes. I forgive them for any lack of obedience, support, warmth, or understanding. Forgive me, too, Lord, for my lack of understanding, my impatience, my failures in loving my children.
  • Jesus, help me to forgive all my relatives. Some have treated my children without love and have hurt them; some have hurt me. Some have interfered in our family and brought dissension. I too have not been tolerant of their actions and have been unkind. Please forgive me, Lord.
  • I forgive my coworkers or employers who have made life difficult for me in any way.  Forgive me, Lord, for whatever difficulties I have created for them.
  • Jesus, I forgive any priests or sisters, any members of my parish, or our Church for the ways they may have hurt me. I forgive them for all their weaknesses and for any harm that they may have caused. Please forgive me, Lord, for any way that I have hurt or been unfaithful to any of them.
  • I forgive now any professional people for any pain they have caused me. I forgive doctors, nurses, police, lawyers, social workers, psychologists, teachers, or any other professional person who has made my life difficult or harmed me in any way.  Please forgive me, too, for any sins I may have committed against them.
  • Forgive me, God, for not seeing others as my brothers and sisters, as temples of the Holy Spirit, especially those about whom my vision is blurred – all against whom I   have any bias. Forgive me my prejudice, my lack of concern, my using or abusing of others, and help me to forgive others guilty of these same sins.
  • Forgive me for abusing your gifts on this Earth; for being wasteful and polluting; for thinking that we own all that is around us rather than caring for it while we are here and sharing it justly. Help me to forgive others who are also guilty of abusing the Earth.
  • Lord, finally, help me to forgive that one person who has hurt me the most, that one person whom I find hardest to forgive, that one person I  said I would never forgive. Free me of the burden of     unforgiveness and give me peace.

Concluding Prayer: Jesus, you know our needs. Give us the strength to forgive all these people. Through your Holy Spirit, drive out the darkness of unforgiveness and fill our hearts with your light. Through your power, we can choose to forgive all these people, including ourselves, and accept your forgiveness. Lead us by your grace to experience the Father’s mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and to be instruments of reconciliation in all of our relationships. We ask this in your name, Jesus, who are Lord, now and forever.

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A hearty thanks to the Men’s Club for another spectacular Fish Fry last weekend – a great time was had by all, as the men of our parish raised funds for charity. Well done!

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As part of our Lenten almsgiving, we will be having a Food Drive for Holy Thursday. Please bring nonperishable food items to the Narthex beginning Palm Sunday. A sample of the donations will be presented in the Offertory Procession at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday evening.  Thank you in advance for your generosity!

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Eucharistic Healing Mass, March 29th, 7:00 pm.

At our Wednesday evening Mass this week, we invite you to experience Christ’s healing presence in the Eucharist. At the end of the Mass, the exposed Blessed Sacrament will be carried in procession through the church, while intercessory prayers and reflections are offered. Join us as we implore our Savior for whatever healing we need in body, mind, or spirit – and in particular for peace and unity in our families.

 

 

 

 

Enlightenment – March 19, 2017

The readings for Sunday Mass are arranged in a 3-year cycle. This is Year “A”, during which we typically read from the Gospel of Matthew. Year B draws many selections from Mark’s Gospel, while Year C focuses on Luke. This can be seen clearly on the first two Sundays of Lent: Each year, the Gospel for the First Sunday of Lent concerns Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, as presented by Matthew, Mark, or Luke; while the Second Sunday gives us the evangelists’ distinctive accounts of the Transfiguration.

The 3rd, 4th, and 5th Sundays of Lent are a little different. The Gospel readings for Year A are taken from John, and they are addressed specifically to those preparing for Baptism at  Easter: These readings are connected with the “Scrutinies”, special prayers offered for the unbaptized as they approach the saving waters in which they will be immersed at the  Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday night. (That is why even during Years B and C, the Masses at which the Scrutinies are celebrated always use the Year A readings. This year the Scrutinies will take place at the 5:00 pm Mass on March 19th, the 11:30 pm Mass on March 26th, and the 5:30 pm Mass on April 1st.)

The passages from John’s Gospel used on these Sundays concern the Samaritan woman Jesus meets at the well (John 4:5-42), the healing of the man born blind (John 9:1-41), and the raising of Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-45). The themes of these readings are water, light, and life, respectively: Through the waters of Baptism, we are raised to a new life with our minds and hearts enlightened by the  presence of Christ, who is the Light of the World.

In each of these stories we are also challenged to deepen our understanding of who Jesus is. In the story of the woman at the well, for example, we see her gradually change her opinion of Him. At first He is simply “a Jew”. Then she calls Him, “sir”. Later, she says, “I can see you are a prophet.” When she returns to the town, she asks the people, “Could he possibly be the Christ?” And finally, when the people come to know Jesus, they call Him “the savior of the world.”

Likewise, in the story of the man born blind, he first describes the one who healed him as “the man called Jesus.” He later calls Him a prophet, and implies to the Pharisees that he had become a disciple of Jesus, who had obviously come “from God.” And when he meets Jesus again, he expresses his faith, calls Him Lord, and worships Him. The man born blind has not only gained physical sight, but  spiritual insight as well! Finally, in the story of Lazarus, Jesus is revealed as “the Resurrection and the Life”, and  Lazarus’ sister Martha confesses that He is “the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.”

I ask that in the coming weeks you pray in a special way for the men and women preparing for Baptism in our parish, and for all those who will be entering the Church this Easter. But Lent is also the time when we seek to renew the grace of our own Baptism, and deepen our own faith. Meditating on these beautiful readings can help us to do that. Let us pray for one another, that all of us may come to know the healing, life-giving presence of the Risen Christ in our lives.

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The 2017 Eucharistic Congress is here!

Next weekend is the annual Diocesan Eucharistic Congress at the Prime Osborne Convention Center. This is a wonderful way to join Catholics from throughout the Diocese of St.  Augustine in expressing our devotion to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. The schedule is as follows:

Friday, March 24th

5:30 pm: Doors Open

6:30 pm: Keynote – Helen Alvaré

7:30 pm: Living Stations of the Cross presented by Comunita Cenacolo

9:30 pm: Young Adult Track featuring Marie Miller and   Dr. Edward Sri

The Sacrament of Reconciliation will be available from   5:30 pm – 10:00 pm.

Saturday, March 25th

7:00 pm: Doors Open / Ministries Arrive For Procession

8:00 pm: Eucharistic Procession Begins / Children’s Choir

9:00 pm: Keynote – Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States

10:00 pm: Celebration of Holy Mass

12:30 pm: General Track, Spanish Track, Teen Track and Children’s Track Begin

4:00 pm: Rosary led by the Seminarians of the Diocese

4:20 pm: Closing Remarks of Bishop Felipe Estévez

4:30 pm: Closing Celebration

Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is available from 11:30 am to 4:00 pm.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation will be available throughout the day.

As you can see, the Eucharistic Congress has events for all ages, as well as many opportunities for Confession and Adoration. There will be a number of dynamic speakers,  including Fr. Michael Gaitley, Fr. Andrew Apostoli, and Tom Coughlin, along with the Cenacolo Community’s powerful presentation of the Stations of the Cross on Friday evening. See you at the Congress!

 

Permanent Deacons

This weekend, Holy Family Parish welcomes another Permanent Deacon to our team: Deacon Mike Holmes. Ordained for the Diocese of St. Petersburg in 2013, Deacon Mike and his wife Mary moved to Jacksonville last year to be closer to their family. Deacon Mike is looking forward to serving the people of Holy Family along with our priests, Deacon Doug, and our many lay ministers.

The Second Vatican Council restored the ministry of the permanent diaconate to the Church after centuries of the diaconate merely being a step on the way to the priesthood. (All priests are ordained as “transitional” deacons a short time before their priestly ordination.) As ordained members of the clergy, deacons are a part of the three-fold leadership of the Church (with bishops and priests), dating back to its earliest days.

The diaconate is rooted in Scripture, going back to the Levites of ancient Israel who assisted the priests at the Temple. A form of the diaconate was established by the Apostles in order to serve the temporal needs of certain members of the community (see Acts 6:1-6), and St. Paul discusses the qualifications of deacons in 1 Timothy 3:8-13. The word “deacon” comes from the Greek diakonos, which means “servant” or “minister”. The deacon, by his ordination, is thus conformed to the image of Christ, who “came not to be served, but to serve” (Mark 10:45). There are many sainted deacons, including St. Stephen, the first martyr (Acts 6:8-8:1);    St. Lawrence of Rome; St. Vincent of Saragossa; St. Ephrem the Syrian; and St. Francis of Assisi (who refused the priesthood out of humility).

In the early Church, deacons typically were entrusted by bishops with the care of the poor and the sick.  When challenged by the prefect of Rome to bring him the Church’s treasure, St. Lawrence presented him with the city’s poor, proclaiming them the “treasure of the Church(!) Their service of those in need led them to be administrators as well, for they were in charge of the distribution of alms; their ministry to the sick included bringing Holy Communion to those who could not be present at the celebration of the Eucharist.

Deacons thus became ministers of the altar, and of charity. While Deacons cannot celebrate Mass or absolve sins as priests do, they have many other functions in the celebration of the liturgy. At Mass, the deacon proclaims the Gospel and leads the Prayer of the Faithful (since    deacons often knew who in the community was in special need of prayer); he may also preach on occasion, give    instructions to the congregation (e.g., at the Sign of Peace, or the dismissal at the end of Mass), or make announcements. In the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the deacon is considered to be a minister of the chalice, symbol of Christ’s life poured out for us in loving service. The deacon prepares the chalice for the priest, mixing a little water with the wine, while saying quietly, “By the mystery of this water and wine, may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity”; it is also proper for him to distribute the Precious Blood at Communion.

Our new deacon was involved in many ministries in his former parish of St. Timothy in Tampa, including service to the sick and homebound, as well as prison ministry. He and Mary have been married for 42 years and have 3 grown children and a granddaughter: Kim, her husband Brian, and their 4-year-old daughter Brooke; Mark; and Michael. They both were originally from St. Louis, graduating from the University of Missouri. Deacon Mike worked in financial management in various capacities at Anheuser-Busch for 30 years, including 9 years at Busch Gardens Tampa and 6 years at SeaWorld of Orlando.

Here at Holy Family, Deacon Mike will serve at weekend liturgies as he discerns which other ministries will allow him to use his gifts most effectively. He hopes his service as a deacon in our parish will be a source of joy for all those he encounters as together we seek to imitate Christ the servant.

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New Ministry at Holy Family

Beginning this Tuesday, March 14th, our St. Vincent de Paul Society will be sponsoring a Career Networking Ministry at Holy Family. In cooperation with St. Joseph’s Parish, we hope to provide opportunities for mutual support and mentoring for those involved in a job search. My thanks to Ken Young, Rick Price, and all those who have helped bring this ministry to life!

 

 

The Great Temptations – Fr. Cusick’s Corner – March 5, 2017

 

The story of the Fall in the 3rd chapter of Genesis (a portion of which we hear proclaimed at Mass today), when read carefully, offers keen insight into the source of humanity’s troubles. It includes a series of deceptions which lead the man and the woman to a distorted understanding of God, themselves, and creation.

In the first place, the serpent tells Eve that God is an outright liar. God had told Adam not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil lest he die; when Eve informs the serpent of this, he responds, “You will certainly not die!”

He then goes on to suggest that God is jealous and suspicious of the man and the woman: “God knows well that the moment you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods who know what is good and what is evil.”

“You will be like gods”: This is perhaps the most subtle of the temptations, for it distracts from what had been told earlier in Genesis – humanity is already like God! “Then God said, let us make man in our image, after our likeness… So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:26-27). Within the created order, humanity was meant to be a reflection of the goodness, kindness, and providential care that are attributes of God Himself.

What the serpent implies, however, is that to be like God is to have power, especially the power to determine what is good and evil for oneself. Creation then is not a garden of delights in which the mutual cooperation of the divine, the human, and the natural brings forth an abundance, but an arena of competitive struggle for dominance in a zero-sum game. To wish to be “like God” in this sense is to desire to usurp His place and to turn creation into a factory to satisfy one’s own desires.

In addition, up to this point, it was not even possible to call anything in creation evil: “God looked at everything He had made, and He found it very good” (Genesis 1:31; emphasis added). Humanity is tempted to look upon God’s good creation and call the parts of it that it doesn’t like evil, seeking to destroy it rather than accepting it as a means to draw closer to the Lord: “We know that all things work for good for those who love God” (Romans 8:28).

It can be seen then that the Fall was not about eating an apple! (In fact, we’re not told what kind of fruit was on the tree – it has been presumed to be an apple since the words for “apple” and “evil” are similar in Latin.) It is about misunderstanding the nature of God, seeing Him as a tyrant who simply wishes to control us, and seeking to take His place as absolute masters of the created order. It is a recipe for conflict, as seen in the aftermath of the Fall – the man blames the woman  (even though we are told that he was right there with her as the serpent made his argument!) and the woman blames the serpent – man, woman, and nature are set against each other. Adam and Eve hide from God, and from one another, as they realize their nakedness and seek to cover it in their fear and shame. Nature no longer gives forth abundantly, but humanity must get bread to eat “by the sweat of your face until you return to the ground from which you were taken” (Genesis 3:19)

Jesus came to change all this. He restores God’s image in us by showing us God’s true face – not an implacable, jealous despot, but a loving, providential Father. Jesus Himself strips off His glory to become like us in all humility: “Christ Jesus, though He was in the form of God, did not deem equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, He emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, He humbled Himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:6-8). Taking on our likeness, He allows us to become “like God” again.

We see this demonstrated in the story of the temptation of Jesus in today’s Gospel: Jesus renounces all power – over nature (turning stones into bread), over people (ruling all the kingdoms of the world), and even over God (throwing Himself off the temple). In doing so, He reverses the outcome of the temptations in Eden, and shows us the path back to Paradise.

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Upcoming Rectory Dinners: I’m always delighted to   welcome parishioners to my home to share a meal and conversation. Our next rectory dinners are scheduled for   Saturday, March 11th, and Saturday, May 6th, following the 5:30 pm Vigil Mass. Please contact the Parish Office if you would like to join us – I look forward to seeing you!

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Many thanks to Tom Atkins and his team of ushers, Deacon Doug, and Eric Stelzer for their assistance in making the Bishop’s Annual Stewardship Appeal go so smoothly last weekend. And I wish to thank all of you as well for your continued generosity!

 

 

Ashes to Water to Fire – Fr. Cusick’s Corner – February 26, 2017

Lent has an interesting history. It took several centuries for the current form running from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday to develop. In the early Church, several different traditions may have merged to produce what we now know as Lent. One was the significance of 40 days in Scripture:

  • The 40 days of rain in the time of Noah (Genesis 7-8).
  • Moses’ 40 days on Mount Sinai as he prepared to receive the Law from God – and an additional 40 days in repentance for the Israelites’ creation of the golden calf! (See Deuteronomy 9)
  • The 40 days the Israelites spent in reconnoitering the Promised Land as they prepared to enter it (Numbers 13).
  • The 40 days that Goliath taunted the army of Israel before David challenged him (1 Samuel 17).
  • The prophet Elijah’s 40-day journey to Mount Sinai (aka “Horeb”) where he encountered God as a “still small voice” and was reconfirmed in this prophetic mission (1 Kings 19).
  • The prophet Ezekiel’s 40 days lying on his side to bear the iniquity of Judah at the time of the Babylonian Exile (Ezekiel 4:6).
  • The prophet Jonah’s announcement of the destruction of Nineveh in 40 days, and the resulting repentance of the people with fasting in sackcloth and ashes (Jonah 3).
  • Jesus’ own fast of 40 days in the wilderness following His Baptism, in preparation for His public ministry.
  • The 40 days that Jesus spent with the disciples before His Ascension.

“40 days” is then seen as a significant time of preparation for an encounter with God and/or the discernment of His will, including during times of physical or spiritual danger when God’s protection or mercy are needed.

It is interesting to note in this list that ashes are used as one sign of repentance. In the Bible, ashes are linked with one’s mortality and absolute dependence on God. Abraham says that he dares to speak to the Lord even though he is “but dust and ashes” (Genesis 18:27). Job, after his encounter with God, repents “in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6). This recalls God’s rebuke of Adam after the Fall: “You are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19), which is echoed in the words spoken when ashes are given to the faithful on Ash Wednesday.

In Old Testament times, ashes were often also used for purification (cf. Hebrews 2:13). Beginning our Lenten fast with ashes, therefore makes sense in two ways: Both fasting and ashes remind us of our dependence on God and His good creation for our continued existence and flourishing, and they help us seek physical and spiritual renewal.

Another tradition connected to the development of Lent was the period of intense preparation of the catechumens who would be baptized at Easter. Initially these men and women (in the early Church, adult baptism was the norm) were asked to fast and pray from the evening of Holy Thursday until the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday night. (Catholics are still encouraged to keep this “Paschal Fast”.) Later it was lengthened to a week. Finally, it was extended to 40 days in imitation of Jesus’ time in the desert. There may also be a connection with the 40 days of the Flood – this has long been seen as an image of Baptism, the prayer for the blessing of baptismal water making reference to it as an event that brought “an end to vice and a beginning of virtue” (The   Roman Missal, Ritual for the Easter Vigil).

Lent can then be seen as a special time of prayer for those preparing for Baptism through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), as well as a time to deepen our own baptismal commitment before renewing our baptismal  promises on Easter Sunday. It’s a time to reflect on the gift God has given us through this Sacrament, and to consider how well we have responded to His call to discipleship. This includes not only our prayerful support of those who will enter the Church at Easter, but also of those adults and children who will have the grace of their Baptism strengthened in the Sacrament of Confirmation this spring. The Holy Spirit will be called down upon them so that they may be fearless witnesses to Christ and the Gospel, just as the Apostles were at the first Pentecost, when the Spirit appeared as many tongues of flame.

Fire is normally extinguished with water, leaving nothing but ashes. During our Lenten journey to Easter and, ultimately, Pentecost, this process is reversed: The ashes of repentance lead to the cleansing waters of Baptism, which opens the way for the fire of the Spirit to be kindled in our hearts.

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How Long is Lent? Counting every day from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday actually gives 46 days. How do we account for the extra 6 days?

By not counting Sundays! The weekly remembrance of the Resurrection has been called the “primordial feast day” for Christians. It has traditionally never been a day of fasting – though, as a priest friend of mine once remarked, if you have promised to “fast” from harsh words or foul language during Lent, would you take Sundays off? Nonetheless, Sunday is meant to be a day of rejoicing rather than repentance. There are 6 Sundays in Lent, which leaves us with the familiar 40 days of the Lenten fast.

Fasting is meant to prepare us for feasting – a meal is all the more delicious when we are famished. But there are others who fast involuntarily – those who have insufficient resources to feed themselves and their families adequately.  In Christian tradition, therefore, fasting was meant to remind us of those who go hungry and to allow us to help them; the money we save by skipping meals or treats can go to those in need. This is the thinking behind the CRS Rice Bowl program, as well as a reason why the Bishop’s Annual Stewardship Appeal takes place as Lent approaches. Our Lenten discipline of fasting, then, should lead us to both  prayer – thanking God for the abundance which supplies our bodily needs, seeking His strength as we voluntarily give things up, and asking Him to support those who do not share our blessings – and almsgiving, actively supporting the less fortunate, both locally and throughout the world.

 

 

 

Lenten Preparation – Fr. Cusick’s Corner – February 19, 2017

Believe it or not, Lent is almost upon us! Ash Wednesday is on March 1st this year. Here are some of the activities planned as we approach this sacred season:

Ash Wednesday Liturgies

We will celebrate Mass with the blessing and distribution of ashes at our usual times of 7:00 am, 9:00 am (with our school community), and 7:00 pm. To accommodate those who would like to come to church during their lunch hour, however, we will have a briefer prayer service, rather than a full Mass, at 12:10 pm; this will include a Liturgy of the Word (the Scripture readings from Mass, homily, and Prayer of the Faithful), along with the distribution of ashes.

Lenten Parish Mission – March 6th-8th

To help us deepen our spiritual life during this holy season, Holy Family parish is pleased to welcome Dominican Father Richard B. Williams. “Fr. R. B.” currently lives in Lubbock, Texas, with the campus ministry community at Texas Tech University as he continues his itinerant preaching ministry. He will preach at all Masses the weekend of March 4th-5th; the Mission proper will take place Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday at 7:00 pm in the church. Monday evening will focus on our baptismal calling; Tuesday will include our Lenten Penance Service to renew the grace of our baptism; on Wednesday the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick will be offered following the evening’s presentation. (For those who cannot attend the Mission, we will also celebrate an Anointing of the Sick Mass on Saturday, March 11th, at 10:30 am) Fr. R. B. will offer a brief summary of his evening Mission talks at the 9:00 am Mass each day. I look forward to seeing you at the Mission!

Friday Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and Stations of the Cross

Each Friday during Lent we will have Eucharistic Exposition from 9:30 am until 6:45 pm. Come spend an hour in the presence of our Lord, Who has promised to stay with us always—particularly in the Blessed Sacrament—and Who wishes us to draw near to Him. On Friday evenings we will reflect on Jesus’ Passion as we celebrate the Stations of the Cross at 7:00 pm. (On First Fridays, March 3rd and April 7th, Exposition will continue as usual through the night, with a break from 6:45-7:45 pm for Stations.)

The annual diocesan Eucharistic Congress will take place Friday, March 24th, and Saturday, March 25th. There will be a beautiful presentation of the Stations of the Cross on Friday evening at the Prime Osborne Convention Center, so there will be no Stations at Holy Family that week, and Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament will end at 4:00 pm that day. In addition, our Youth Group will again present their powerful interpretation of the Stations on Good Friday, April 14th. We hope you can join us for these events!

Other Lenten Activities

Many parishioners have enjoyed Dynamic Catholic’s “Best Advent Ever” and “Best Lent Ever” programs. This year’s Best Lent Ever offers a free daily e-mail with a video from Matthew Kelly. From Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday, Matthew will help you identify what stands between you and happiness … and what to do about it. Sign up at dynamiccatholic.com/lent.  And on St. Patrick’s Day, Friday, March 17th, from 4:00-8:00 pm, join the Men’s Club for the best Fish Fry in town!

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Bishop’s Annual Stewardship Appeal: Next weekend is Commitment Sunday for the Bishop’s Annual Stewardship Appeal throughout the diocese. We will be showing a video during all Masses and asking for your support.

This week, please review the Bishop’s Annual Stewardship Appeal information you have received in the mail. Your gifts will provide critical funding to pay for the education of our seminarians, to help those most in need through four regional Catholic Charities offices, to provide support for five designated Catholic schools, and to developing newer means of evangelizing all the people of our diocese. As you review the ministries the Appeal supports, please reflect on your gifts. God has given you all that you have. Your gifts to our parish, to the diocese, and to the work of the Church throughout the world are a disciple’s response.

If you received your pledge form in the mail, please complete it and mail it back, or bring it with you to Mass next week. For those of you who did not receive a mailing or have not had time to respond to it, we will conduct our in-pew pledge process at all Masses next weekend. Thank you for your prayerful consideration and generous response.

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HRO Update: I offer my heartfelt thanks for the many prayers and expressions of support for my appearance on February 8th on the televised “town-hall” meeting concerning the expansion of Jacksonville’s Human Rights Ordinance. The proposal passed City Council last week (without Mayor Curry’s signature), but Bishop Estévez’ concerns about the religious freedom of individuals and institutions remain. To learn more, you can watch the debate at www.wjct.tv/show/community-thread.