Category Archives: Fr. Cusick’s Corner

Annual Report – Fr. Cusick’s Corner – October 22, 2017

As Pastor, it is my responsibility, with the assistance of the Finance Council, to faithfully manage the resources the  members of Holy Family so generously offer to our parish. Each year, the Finance Council produces a Summary Financial Report for the previous Fiscal Year (which runs from July 1 to June 30) for presentation to the people of the parish. This year’s report, along with a summary of sacramental activity, is inserted in this bulletin.

I’m pleased to announce that Offertory contributions increased by over 12% this year – thank you so much!  At the same time, non-payroll expenses were down nearly 5%.

We ended the year with a deficit of just under $20,000, significantly better than the previous year, but still short of our goal. This can be attributed to several factors:

1)   Each parish contributes a portion of its income to the  Diocese on a regular basis. Since our income increased, our contribution increased correspondingly.

2)   This was the first full year of our mortgage, so our interest costs went up, to approximately $57,000. These costs, of course, will decline as we pay down the loan.

3)   Our utility costs for all buildings except the School totaled nearly $115,000, a significant increase due primarily to the cost of electricity for the Parish Life Center during its first full year of operation.

4)   Several years ago, the Diocese asked each parish to make a contribution to the renovation of the Cathedral-Basilica in St. Augustine. Our assessment was $82,000, payable over 4 years. We did not make a payment during construction, so we made 2 payments this year, totaling $41,000. We will make the final payment next year.

Be assured of our continued efforts to reduce expenses wherever possible. I know that many of you are already    making sacrificial gifts in support of our parish through the offertory collection and pledges to the Capital and Mortgage Reduction Campaigns, and I am truly grateful. Please pray for me, that I may be a faithful and prudent steward of the gifts you so generously offer to Holy Family.

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The initial phase of our Mortgage Reduction Campaign has brought in over $250,000 in gifts and pledges – one-third of the funds necessary to pay off our new buildings. Thank you!

As I explained in August, we are also are seeking an additional $500,000 for long-term maintenance needs.  (One project that is already scheduled is a new roof for the chapel area of the church.)

Our Campaign Committee and Finance Council have recommended placing “thermometers” in the church and  Parish Life Center to show our progress in reaching our  campaign goal. In addition to the pledge cards in church – which can simply be placed in the offertory basket or brought to the Parish Office – we will soon be reaching out to parishioners who have not been able to contribute to the Building Project thus far to ask for their support. I have every confidence that we will meet our goal, and I am humbled by your continued generosity in enabling Holy Family to live out its mission to be United in Christ,     Growing in Christ, Serving Christ in One Another.

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It is with sadness that I write to announce that Nick Rebbe, our Director of Youth Ministry, is no longer employed here at Holy Family Parish. We wish Nick well; please keep him in your prayers as he moves on to the next stage of his life.

As of this time, all Youth Ministry events for the month of October are cancelled. This includes this weekend’s High School retreat and the Trunk or Treat event on October 30th. Our November trips to the National Catholic Youth Conference and Universal Studios are still scheduled at this time. Additional information will be forthcoming.

Please be assured of my commitment to provide the young people of our parish with a dynamic Youth Ministry program to form them into faith-filled Catholic Christians. We will be moving quickly to identify new leadership for our program. Please pray that the Holy Spirit will guide our discernment so that our Youth Ministry will continue to flourish and grow.

 

 

 

Mass Intentions

The fruits of each Mass are infinite, since the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross was of infinite value. Christ’s sacrifice was once for all – but its effects transcend time and space. At Mass, this central event of our Redemption is made present to us – “re-presented” – so that we can participate in its benefits. When we celebrate the Eucharist, we stand, as it were, at the foot of the Cross, joining ourselves to Christ in His offering of Himself to the Father for the salvation of the world. As we do so, we also offer our prayers for ourselves and those we love, both living and dead.

All of our intentions, then, can be placed before the Lord when we celebrate Mass. Before the opening prayer, the priest pauses after saying “Let us pray” to allow the members of the congregation to call to mind their intentions; they are then gathered into the prayer of the priest, which is why it is called the “Collect”. Additional intentions are lifted up in the “Universal Prayer”, or  Prayer of the Faithful, which follows the homily and Creed. During this prayer, we often hear  mention of “today’s Mass intention”. What does this mean?

For centuries, the faithful have often asked priests to pray for specific intentions at Mass. A sacrificial gift, called a “stipend” or “Mass offering”, is frequently attached to this request to support the material needs of the Church and its ministers. In return, the priest makes a commitment to remember that particular intention at a particular celebration. The intention is published (usually in the parish bulletin) as a sign of this commitment; whichever priest is celebrating that Mass is obligated to pray for that intention, especially in the Eucharistic Prayer. Each Eucharistic Prayer (there are several different ones from which the celebrant can choose) has a place where the deceased can be remembered specifically, but there are general intentions for the needs of all at other points. (The 1st Eucharistic Prayer, or “Roman Canon”, has a specific place to pause to remember the needs of the living.)

The Mass intention, then, doesn’t mean that no other intentions are offered at the Eucharistic celebration or that God does not receive other prayers; rather, it points to a promise that the priest-celebrant will remember a specific prayer intention. It can be for the repose of the soul of a deceased family member or friend, for the healing of someone who is sick, for blessings on someone’s birthday,   or for virtually any need we may have. It is helpful if this is made clear when requesting the intention, so the priest knows for whom and for what he is praying. The standard free-will offering for a Mass intention in our diocese is $10 (though no one is to be refused if they cannot afford this), and typically a “Mass card” can be obtained to send to the person for whom the intention is offered (or to someone who may wish to attend that Mass.) One exception to this practice is that a pastor is required by Church law to offer a Mass for the needs of the people of his parish every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation; no offering may be received for that Mass. In addition, a priest may receive no more than one offering a day; offerings for any additional Masses he celebrates that day must be given to a charitable cause designated by the bishop (e.g., Catholic Charities, the seminary).

During the early days of November, we do something a little  different. In connection with All Souls’ Day, we have a Novena of Masses for all the faithful departed from November 2nd – 10th. Envelopes with the names of deceased loved ones are placed on the altar, and we pray for them in a special way at each Mass during that period. These envelopes are in the packets that are sent to parishioners’ homes, and additional ones can be found on the tables by the doors for those who use Faith Direct or are not registered parishioners. (Not registered? Registration forms can be found by the doors of the church, or online.) Please return the envelopes no later than Sunday, October 29th – simply drop them in the collection basket or bring them to the Parish Office.

As we commend those who have gone before us to the mercy of God, may we trust that the infinite riches and merits of Christ may bring them to the fullness of peace in the many mansions of the Father’s house.

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Members of Holy Family Parish have once again displayed their tremendous generosity in their response to the recent hurricanes. Our special collections for disaster relief for  Hurricanes Harvey and Irma each brought in over $15,000!   I am truly grateful.

We will be asking for your assistance once again next month: Bishop Estévez has requested that a special collection be taken up to assist the victims of Hurricane Maria and the recent earthquakes in Mexico the weekend of November 11th-12th. Thank you in advance for your continued generosity to those seeking to rebuild their lives following these natural disasters.

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Several people have asked me to share the story of the “Two Wolves” from my homily last weekend. It comes in different versions, and its origin is obscure, but here’s one rendering:

A man is talking to his grandson about life: “As I’ve grown older, I have discovered that there are two wolves constantly fighting within me. One is filled with anger, lust, greed, violence, hatred, envy, and ambition. The other is just, merciful, generous, courteous, peaceful but willing to defend the innocent. One day, you will recognize that these same wolves are fighting within you as well.” His grandson responds, “But which one will win?”

The old man answers, “Whichever one you feed.”

 

 

Clearing Up Myth-understandings: October 1, 2017

October 31st marks the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, when Martin Luther is said to have posted his “95 Theses” on the door of a church in Wittenberg, Germany. Since that time, polemics between Catholics and Protestants have allowed much confusion to spring up about the reasons for the Reformation, as well as about the practices and beliefs of the Catholic Church and other Christian denominations. More recently, those with an animus against religion in general have contributed to the growth in disinformation about the Church and her history. For example:

  • “Everyone knows” that the Church made Jesus, who was simply a good man preaching universal love, into a God several centuries after His death, right?
  • “Everyone knows” that priestly celibacy was only imposed in the 11th century.
  • “Everyone knows” that the Crusades were an unprovoked act of imperialistic conquest.
  • “Everyone knows” that the Church thought the world was flat until Columbus courageously demonstrated that it was round.
  • “Everyone knows” that the Inquisition was the worst miscarriage of justice in history.
  • “Everyone knows” that the Church has constantly tried to suppress the advancement of science.
  • And “everyone knows” that the Church never wanted laypeople to read the Bible, and didn’t even say which books were in the Bible until the 16th century.

Well, no. Not exactly. Not even close, in most cases!

In popular culture much of Christian history has become a caricature. To be sure, the all-too-human members of the Church have, over the centuries, been flawed and sinful, but that is not the whole story, which also includes extraordinary tales of heroism, fidelity, and charity. And Christians through the ages laid the foundation of many of the ideas and institutions which form the basis of our civilization.

If you want to know the truth of the Church’s past, please join me for this year’s Adult Education series on the History of the Catholic Church. We’ll cover 2,000 years of Church history, from Pentecost to Vatican II and beyond, in 12 sessions, beginning on Tuesday, October 10th, at 7:00 pm in the Parish Life Center. We will again be using “The Didache Series” for our source text: The History of the Church can be purchased in our Gift Shop. I look forward to seeing you for this enlightening course!

The Rosary and Repetition in Prayer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Catechism Corner

What does the Church say about superstition?

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Catechism Corner

Does it matter what I wear to church?

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

Please remember that we need 4 people in Adoration each hour from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. In addition, on Wednesdays we will have an addition two hours (5:00 pm to 6:45 pm) if enough people sign up. Please contact Renee Hertz at RJKH188@gmail.com to claim your hour, or go to our website at holyfamilyjax.com for more information under “Parish News.”

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

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

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

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

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

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Catechism Corner

Why do we go to Mass on Sunday?

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

A MESSAGE FROM THE UNITED STATES BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE – August 20, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

O Lord our God,

in your mercy and kindness,

no thought of ours is left unnoticed,

no desire or concern ignored.

You have proven that blessings abound

when we fall on our knees in prayer,

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

Surrounded by violence and cries for justice,

we hear your voice telling us what is required:

Only to do justice and to love goodness,

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

Fill us with your mercy

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

Strip away pride, suspicion, and racism

so that we may seek peace and justice

in our communities.

Strengthen our hearts so that they beat only

to the rhythm of your holy will.

Flood our path with your light as we walk humbly

toward a future filled with encounter and unity.

Be with us, O Lord, in our efforts,

for only by the prompting of your grace

can we progress toward virtue.

We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

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 Catechism Corner

 What is the relationship between Tradition and Sacred Scripture?

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

 

Fr. Cusick’s Homily – 19th Sunday (A)

Readings

1 Kings 19:9a.11-13a

Psalm 85

Romans 9:1-5

Matthew 14:22-33

Sometimes you just want to run away. Maybe it’s the constant frustrations of day-to-day living. Maybe it’s apparent failure in your career or relationships. Maybe it’s anxiety about everything going on in the world. Whatever it is, sometimes you just want to hop on a ship to a deserted island and leave everything behind.

The only problem is that you can’t run away from yourself. “Wherever you go, there you are,” as the saying goes. Whenever we try to run away from our problems, we eventually realize that part of the problem may be us.

That’s what happened to the prophet Elijah. He had challenged the king and queen of Israel, Ahab and Jezebel, about their idolatry and injustice. The funny thing is that, initially, he won. He convinced the people of Israel to abandon their false worship and return to the true God. But Jezebel vowed revenge – and Elijah lost heart. All he wanted to do was give up, to simply lie down and die. It seemed too much for him. Eventually he fled to Mount Sinai (also known as Horeb) – but there the Lord turned his flight into a retreat, a time when he could recover his sense of himself before God.

At Horeb, he was asked to look beneath all the violence and turmoil that he was experiencing. Notice that he discovers God’s presence not in the wind, or the fire, or the earthquake – but in a “tiny whispering sound,” a still, small voice assuring him that he has not been alone. And so Elijah is able to return to his mission – fulfilling it so successfully that he is remembered as one of the greatest prophets of Israel.

There’s a lesson for us here. Sometimes we need to make a retreat to renew ourselves to face the stresses and struggles of our lives. We can at times do this literally, even by something as simple as a visit to the Blessed Sacrament – finding a place of peace in which we can focus on the Lord’s presence. But we’re not always able to do this – but we can do this interiorly at any time.

It’s a matter of understanding, at a deep level, who we really are:

  • Are you your thoughts? Of course not – they’re changing all the time. Between now and the time you return home, hundreds, if not thousands, of thoughts will arise in your minds, most of them quite inconsequential. How can I define “myself” based on something that shifts so rapidly?
  • Are you your feelings? No; they’re also constantly changing. I might be despondent right now, and full of vim and vigor tomorrow. Emotions are like clouds passing through the sky; sometimes when they’re dark and stormy it seems like they’re all that exists, but we know that there is light and peace behind them.
  • Are you your desires? No! These don’t stay constant either – my desires change at different times of the day, and at different times of life. What I wanted as a child is different from what I wanted as a college student, which is different from what I want today. If there is any continuity in who “I” am, then mere desires cannot define me.

So who is having all these thoughts, feelings, desires, sensations? Perhaps there’s my true self – a still, small point which experiences all these things but is not identified with them. This peaceful center is where Christ dwells within us! Beneath all the noise and turmoil and fear is this oasis of tranquility which nothing, and no one, can take away.

Isn’t this where Peter lost his way? As long as he kept his eyes fixed on Jesus, he was able to walk on water! But when his attention shifted to the strength of the wind, he faltered. It was only when he turned again to Jesus that he was rescued – and when he took Him by the hand, the storm ceased.

So when we’re tempted to run away because of the problems life brings us, let’s make a retreat instead – to that still, small point in the center of our being where we can discover Christ in the midst of it all. And when we see Him there, we’ll be ready to step out of the boat.

Christ and the People of Israel – August 13, 2017

This week’s “Ask a Priest” question is about the relationship of Judaism to Christianity:

Since Jewish people only believe in the Old Testament, I’ve been told they can’t go to heaven. If so, where do   they go?

I offer a response to this question through a connection it makes with this weekend’s readings. Recently (last weekend excluded), the 2nd reading at Sunday Mass has been taken from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans. The first 8 chapters of this epistle summarize Paul’s teaching on sin and grace, the love of God revealed in Christ, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, Who makes us adopted children of God.

Chapters 9-11, from which we will read brief selections today and the next two weeks, together form an attempt to understand why Paul’s Jewish brothers and sisters did not  accept Christ. This situation causes Paul “constant anguish”; he even wishes that he himself were “cut off from Christ” if  it led the Israelites to accept Jesus as the Messiah  (Romans 9:2-3).

We should recall that many of the children of Israel did accept Christ, nor should we forget that Christianity is in   fundamental continuity with Judaism. The Jewish people are our “elder brothers”, in the words of St. John Paul II. We   accept the Hebrew Scriptures (what we call the Old Testament) as the inspired Word of God. Jesus, who was of course Himself Jewish, said that “salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22). The Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, the Apostles, and all the first Christians were Jewish. St. Paul himself had been a Pharisee, a movement within Judaism that was zealous in its defense of the Law of Moses.

It took a personal encounter with Christ to change Paul from a persecutor of Christianity into its most committed missionary. When he arrived in a new city, he would typically go first to the local synagogue and preach the Gospel there, hoping to lead his fellow Jews to a similar encounter; it was only when, as was often the case, that the synagogue leaders rejected him that he would turn his efforts to the Gentiles (cf. Acts 18:6).

His conversion experience and his proclamation of the Gospel perhaps suggested the solution that Paul proposes in the Letter to the Romans. He argues that the rejection of Jesus by the Jewish leaders opened the door for the Gospel to be proclaimed to the Gentiles – and once they see how much joy and freedom the new Christians enjoy, they will wish to share in it. This may be a long time off, but God’s universal salvific will (cf. 1 Timothy 2:4) for Jew and Gentile alike, will be realized – for the gifts and call of God are irrevocable (Romans 11:29, emphasis added). God will be true to His promises to the descendants of Abraham, and will show His mercy to all people (11:32), indeed all of creation (8:21).

In the meantime, it would be well to recall the prayer for  the Jewish people in the Good Friday liturgy: “that the people you first made your own may attain the fullness of redemption.” Trusting in God’s love for all, we can cry out with the Apostle: “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! … To Him be glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:33a.36b).

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With school underway, our Religious Education Program can’t be far behind! Religious Education classes begin on Wednesday, September 6th, for 1st-8th grades, and Sunday, September 10th, for Kindergarten and Pre-K. Registration begins next weekend, or sign up online anytime.

In addition, for those adults interested in becoming Catholic or learning more about the Church, the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) program begins in September. To find out more, come to our next RCIA Inquiry session  on Tuesday, August 29th, at 7:00 pm in the Parish Life    Center. For further information for both Religious Education and RCIA, please contact our Director of Faith Formation, Maria Petrotta, at mpetrotta@holyfamilyjax.com

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Catechism Corner

What does it mean to be excommunicated from the Church?

Certain particularly grave sins incur excommunication, the most severe ecclesiastical penalty, which impedes the reception of the sacraments and the exercise of certain    ecclesiastical acts, and for which absolution consequently cannot be granted, according to canon law, except by the Pope, the bishop, or priests authorized by them. In danger  of death any priest, even if deprived of faculties for hearing confessions, can absolve from every sin and excommunication. (Paragraph 1463)

 

 

 

The Past and Future of the Transfiguration – August 6, 2017

This Sunday is the Feast of the Transfiguration, which is celebrated on August 6th each year; when it falls on a Sunday, it takes precedence over the Sunday of Ordinary Time. Most feast days and saints’ days are not commemorated if they happen to fall on a Sunday; in addition to the Transfiguration, exceptions include the Presentation of the Lord (February 2nd), the Nativity of John the Baptist (June 24th), the Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul (June 29th), the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (August 15th), the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (September 14th), All Saints (November 1st) and All Souls (November 2nd).

There is a Latin maxim stating lex orandi, lex credendi – “the law of prayer is the law of belief.” In other words, if you wish to understand what the Church believes, study how she prays. For the meaning of a particular feast day, it is necessary to look at the “Propers” of the Mass. The “Ordinary” of the Mass includes the parts of the liturgy that always remain the same: the Lord’s  Prayer, for example, or the “Lamb of God”. The Propers are the parts that change from Mass to Mass, depending on the day, feast, or season; this includes the particular readings for the day, as well as such prayers as the “Collect” (or Opening Prayer) and the Preface, which is the part of the Eucharistic Prayer which precedes the Sanctus (the “Holy, Holy”).

Here is the Collect for this Sunday:

O God, who in the glorious Transfiguration

of your Only Begotten Son

confirmed the mysteries of faith by the witness of the Fathers

and wonderfully prefigured our full adoption to sonship,

grant, we pray, to your servants,

that listening to the voice of your beloved Son,

we may merit to become coheirs with him.

On Mount Tabor, Jesus is revealed as the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets, represented by Moses and Elijah (“the Fathers”). These two great figures are both associated with Mt. Sinai (also known as Horeb), where Moses received the Law from the Lord amid fire, earthquake and trumpet blast (Exodus 19:16-19), and where Elijah encountered the Lord in a still, small voice (1 Kings 19:12). The Lord may speak to us in the great and tumultuous events of life, or in quiet and stillness – the question is whether we are listening. But if we do, we will become like Christ Himself!

This is made even clearer in the Preface:

For he revealed His glory in the presence of chosen witnesses

and filled with the greatest splendor that bodily form

which he shares with all humanity

that the scandal of the Cross

might be removed from the hearts of his disciples

and that he might show

how in the Body of the whole Church is to be fulfilled

what so wonderfully shone forth first in its Head.

Before they went up the mountain, Peter, James, and John had just heard Jesus predicting His Passion, but they had not wanted to hear this! The Transfiguration was meant to strengthen them to endure the trials to come with the promise of future glory – and to accept all that Jesus had told them. This is the context as they hear the heavenly voice declare, “This is my beloved Son … listen to Him!”

Finally, the Prayer after Communion reminds us that the  Transfiguration is not just about Jesus, or even His Apostles, but about our own destiny:

May the heavenly nourishment we have received,

O Lord, we pray,

transform us into the likeness of your Son

whose radiant splendor you willed to make manifest

in his glorious Transfiguration.

The vision on Mount Tabor was a promise that all of us are meant to share in the glory of the Resurrection, indeed in the   fullness of the divine life (cf. 2 Peter 1:4). As St. Paul says, though “we hold this treasure in earthen vessels … all of us, gazing with unveiled face on the glory of the Lord, are being transformed from glory to glory… For this momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 3:18, 4:7.17). Whatever burdens we bear in the course of our daily lives, we can look ahead to the very great promises of God, first revealed at the Transfiguration.

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Earlier this year, we offered a special marriage-enrichment program called “The Choice Wine.” It was a tremendous success, with over 50 couples attending. Many of the participants have been asking for additional programs. Our Family Life Ministry, headed by Vanessa Guerrero-Pinate, is pleased to announce that SIX DATES for Catholic Couples will begin on Friday, September 8th, continuing every other Friday through November 17th. Childcare will be provided.  In the Spring of 2018, we hope to offer “Beloved: Finding Happiness in Marriage.” Stay tuned!

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The weekend of August 19th-20th, I will be making a presentation at all Masses on the usage and financing of the new Parish Life Center and Parish Office. At the recommendation of our Finance Council and Capital Campaign Committee, we will begin a Mortgage Reduction Campaign to pay off the debt on the new buildings as quickly as possible; this will help us to eliminate interest expenses so we can have more funds available for the service of the people of our parish. Since the beginning of our Capital Campaign over 3 years ago, your generosity has helped us complete the building project and begin paying down the debt, which is currently under $1.5  million. In that time, more than 400 families have joined Holy Family Parish – while I will be inviting those who have previously contributed to the Capital Campaign to fulfill their pledges and even extend them if possible (as I myself am doing), we hope that all who have been able to enjoy the new buildings will be able to contribute. Thank you in advance for your continued generosity and good stewardship!