Category Archives: Fr. Cusick’s Corner

The Beginning – December 10, 2017

Last weekend was the beginning, in the Church’s calendar, of the Year of Grace 2018. It is also marked the beginning of Lectionary Cycle B. The Lectionary for Sunday Mass has a 3-year cycle of Gospel readings. Year “A” focuses on the Gospel of Matthew, Year “B” on Mark, and Year “C” on Luke, especially during Ordinary Time.

Mark is thought to be the 1st Gospel written, probably in the 60s. St. Mark was a companion of St. Paul on one of his missionary journeys (cf. Acts 15:36-41), and after they had parted company Mark joined St. Peter, with whom he eventually made his way to Rome (1 Peter 5:13). Because of this, Mark’s Gospel is believed to be in a sense the “memoir” of St. Peter, addressed to Roman Christians during the persecution of the Emperor Nero, under whom Peter had suffered martyrdom.

This helps to explain a number of unique aspects to the Gospel of Mark, especially the depiction of the disciples. They often seem to be fearful and uncomprehending (e.g., 4:37-41; 8:21). The original ending of the book (additions were made later) has the women at the empty tomb running away: “And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid” (16:8). Why would this be? Perhaps Mark was trying to encourage the young Church in Rome to overcome their fear of persecution and boldly proclaim the Risen Lord, as the women at the tomb obviously had!

Above all, the disciples in the Gospel do not understand who Jesus really is. But Mark gives the game away in the very first sentence (which we hear today): “The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” But no one recognizes this fact – no one human, that is. From the outset of Jesus’ public ministry, the evil spirits know who He is (1:24; 3:11; 5:7).  The first and only human being to acclaim Jesus as “Son of God,” however, is a Roman centurion at the Crucifixion! (15:39) Whereas the disciples saw Jesus as the Jewish Messiah who would drive the Romans out of the Holy Land, it was a Roman who saw that it was Jesus’ willingness to sacrifice His life for others that revealed His true, divine identity.

Mark is the shortest Gospel, with only 16 chapters. Unlike Matthew and Luke, it has no “infancy narrative,” describing the earliest days of Jesus’s life on earth. Rather, it starts with Jesus’ baptism, where the voice of the Father reveals Jesus as His “beloved Son.” Most of the material in Mark has parallels in Matthew and Luke, but the latter have many elements not found in the older Gospel (e.g., the Sermon on the Mount, the parables of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son). Scholars believe that Matthew and Luke used Mark as a foundation to which they added their own recollections and materials (Matthew having been an Apostle, Luke having been a companion of St. Paul and an acquaintance of the Blessed Virgin Mary).

In addition, because Mark is so short, there is not enough material to fill out the Lectionary for the entire year. Next week, for example, we will hear the account of John the Baptist from St. John’s Gospel. The following week, we will hear Luke’s story of the Annunciation (Mark, of course, not having recounted it). During the summer, we will stop reading Mark altogether in order to reflect for several weeks on the mystery of the Eucharist in the  “Bread of Life discourse” in the 6th chapter of John.

Despite all this, Mark is indispensable. Without him, the other Gospels might not exist as they do today, nor would we have the perspective of St. Peter himself – and of the city that would one day become the center of Christianity. Mark offers a breadth of detail often lacking in the other Gospels, and a view of Jesus not willing to waste a minute to bring His message of God’s healing and saving power to as many people, Jew and Gentile, as possible. Mark’s opening line, “The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God,” points to this being the first account of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, yes, but also to a new beginning for us who receive this “Good News” (which is what the word Gospel means) and accept Jesus as Son of God and Savior.


Preparing the Way – December 3, 2017

The Season of Advent has 3 aspects: past, present, and future. The future actually comes at the beginning of Advent: we look ahead to the Second Coming of Christ in glory, the culmination of history. As the season proceeds, we move backwards in time towards the first Christmas, meditating on the events that led to the Incarnation, God becoming one of us and transforming human history. But we do this in order to recognize His continued presence among us, and within us, each day, and to recognize His Lordship over all history. To help us recognize His presence and action in our lives now,  we have scheduled a number of events in the weeks ahead:

  • Our Advent Parish Mission with Fr. Ken Geraci will take place this week, from Monday, December 4th, through Thursday, December 7th, at 7:00 pm each evening. In addition, Fr. Geraci will offer a version of his mission presentations each morning following the 9:00 am Mass. He will be available for confessions at 6:00 pm each  evening, and we will have additional confessors on Wednesday, both in the morning and evening. On Thursday evening, the Mission will conclude at the Vigil Mass for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception (a Holy Day of Obligation). The Mission is for all ages and for people at any stage in their faith journey. If you miss a session, don’t worry – just come to the next one! I hope you can join us as we answer the question, Why Be Catholic?
  • On Friday, December 8th, Masses will be celebrated for the Holy Day at 7:00 am, 9:00 am, and 7:00 pm. The Friday evening Mass will conclude with Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament as part of the National Night of Prayer for Life. Please join us in praying to our Lord for a renewal of a Culture of Life in our nation under the patronage of Our Lady. Adoration will continue until  1:00 am.
  • Priests will be available to hear confessions each Saturday morning during Advent, following Mass at 9:00 am.
  • Our Music Ministry presents Lessons and Carols on Thursday, December 21st, at 7:00 pm in the church.

I wish all of you an Advent filled with hope and peaceful expectation.

Christmas Schedules

Since Christmas falls on a Monday this year, the 4th Sunday  of Advent falls on Christmas Eve, which may cause some  confusion. You are asked to attend Mass for both the Advent Sunday and Christmas. The schedule is as follows:

4th Sunday of Advent Masses

Saturday, December 23rd: 5:30 pm Vigil Mass

Sunday, December 24th: 8:00 am, 9:30 am, and 11:30 am

Christmas Masses

Sunday, December 24th: 4:00 pm and 7:00 pm

Monday, December 25th: Midnight, 9:30 am, and 11:30 am

The following weekend is our parish’s patronal feast day: the Feast of the Holy Family. Bishop Estévez will celebrate the 5:30 pm Vigil Mass on Saturday, December 30th.  Sunday Masses are at 8:00 am, 9:30 am, and 11:30 am. There is no 5:00 pm Mass on Sunday, December 31st.

This year, the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God (New Year’s Day) is not a Holy Day of Obligation. Masses on Monday, January 1st, will be celebrated at 8:00 am and 10:00 am (note the special times).

In addition, our Men’s Club will help us get into the spirit of the season with 2 events: Breakfast with Santa after all morning Masses on Sunday, December 10th; and Feast of the Holy Family Breakfast after all morning Masses on Sunday, December 31st. My thanks to the Men’s Club for this service to our parish!


Catechism Corner

What is the Immaculate Conception?

Through the centuries, the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, “full of grace” through God, was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854:

“The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.” (Paragraph 491)

Pastor’s note:

Since the Redemption wrought by Christ affects all of time, His salvific actions were applied to Mary even though they had not yet taken place in human history. Since God dwells in eternity, all times are present to Him.

The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception takes place on December 8th; the Birth of Mary is celebrated on September 8th, 9 months later – a helpful reminder that the Immaculate Conception refers to the origin of Mary, not Jesus. (Jesus’ conception is celebrated on the Solemnity of the Annunciation on March 25th.)




Christ our Shepherd – November 26, 2017

The Solemnity of Christ the King was established in 1925 by Pope Pius XI in response to the claims of secular ideologies such as Fascism, Nazism, and Communism that there was  nothing above or outside the omnipotent State. The Christian response is that all authority ultimately comes from God, and those who exercise authority must answer to Him; as Jesus said to Pilate during His trial, “You would have no power over me if it had not been given to you from above” (John 19:11). There is a higher law to which the decrees of government must be conformed; simply saying that something is legal does not mean that it is moral.

This denial of any authority above human institutions is nothing new. In ancient Israel, the people were meant to be governed by God through the Law given on Mount Sinai, and not through any normal political arrangement. But eventually they decided that they wanted to have a king, like other nations. But Israel was not meant to be like other nations!     So when the people asked the prophet Samuel to appoint a king over them, the Lord told him, “Grant the people’s every request. It is not you they reject, they are rejecting me as their king” (1 Samuel 8:5-7).

Yet God brought good out of this situation, eventually raising up a young shepherd named David, who became Israel’s greatest king. After this, the kings of Israel were often referred to as shepherds. In many cases, however, these “shepherds” did not respond faithfully to their calling. Even David fell into grievous sin, and most of his successors were much worse: “Woe to the shepherds of Israel who have been pasturing  themselves! Should not shepherds, rather, pasture sheep? … You did not strengthen the weak nor heal the sick nor bind up the injured. You did not bring back the strayed nor seek the lost, but you lorded it over them harshly and brutally” (Ezekiel 34:2.4).

The failure of Israel’s shepherds ultimately led to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Babylonian Exile (c. 587 BC). Yet through it all, the line of David did not fail, for the Lord had promised him a dynasty that would endure (2 Samuel 7:16). This promise was fulfilled in Jesus, the “son of David”, the true and eternal King and Good Shepherd. As the Lord had told the prophet Ezekiel during the Exile, “I myself will look after and tend my sheep” (Ezekiel 34:11). In Jesus, God Himself has come to seek out the lost, bind the injured, and heal the sick (Ezekiel 34:16).

Yet even now, people reject His Kingship, not accepting the One who is “far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion” (Ephesians 1:21). This is because we misconceive the nature of His rule. Due to the failures of  human kings (and queens) throughout history, we tend to consider a king to be by nature a tyrant who wishes to restrict our freedom. But Jesus offers a model of kingship which goes against the normal human presumptions about the exercise of power:

You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant…. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:25-28).

Indeed, as this weekend’s Gospel shows, the Kingship of Christ is expressed not through a desire to oppress, but to liberate; not through fear, but through compassion. We serve Him best through our care for the powerless; we reign with Him through mercy.


Next Saturday, December 2nd, our usual 1st Saturday Mass will also include the celebration of the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. If you are seriously ill, have a chronic condition, or are facing serious surgery, come and experience Christ’s healing presence in this beautiful Sacrament. The Rosary will be recited at 8:30 am, followed by Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. Mass is at 9:00 am, followed by confessions.


On Saturday evening, our Advent Parish Mission with Fr. Ken Geraci begins – he will preach at all Masses next weekend. Please join us for a reception to welcome him to Holy Family following the 5:30 pm Mass.


I would like to express my appreciation and admiration to Matt Daniel and our Music Ministry for the wonderful St. Cecilia Concert on November 17th. Our St. Gregory and St. Cecilia children’s choirs are developing their gifts beautifully, and our principal adult choir is exquisite! Well done!


My thanks go as well to Donald Moynahan and our Cooking Ministry, who have been working overtime lately. They prepared Thanksgiving feasts 3 times in a week: for our Refugee Ministry, the Young at Heart, and our parish celebration on Thursday. Among many other things, they also assist with my monthly Rectory dinners. I hope you can join me at my home for a meal and conversation with fellow parishioners. Upcoming dinners are on Saturday, December 16th, and Saturday, January 13th , following the 5:30 pm Mass. Please contact the Parish Office if you would like to come.


I am planning a Pilgrimage to Scotland and Ireland from June 26th through July 8th, 2018.  There will be an informational meeting, Sunday, December 3rd, at 1:00 pm in Room 217 the Parish Life Center if you are interested.


Bishop Estévez wrote me last week to thank you for your extraordinary generosity in response to the disaster relief collections for Hurricanes Irma, Harvey, and Maria. All  together, you contributed over $40,000 to these efforts. I too am truly grateful for your concern for all those in need.



Postures and Participation – November 19, 2017

The Church’s “New Year” (also known as the 1st Sunday of Advent) is nearly upon us. Here at Holy Family, a (mostly) annual ritual at this time of year is to review the postures and gestures through which we participate in the Mass. We have provided an insert in this week’s bulletin summarizing these.

This is not, however, simply a matter of external actions. It is a matter of assisting us in carrying out what the Second Vatican Council described as the “full, conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations” of all the faithful (“Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy,” §14). This  participation is meant to allow us to enter more deeply into the mystery of our salvation through the sacrifice of Christ:

The Church, therefore, earnestly desires that Christ’s faithful, when present at this mystery of faith, should not be there as strangers or silent spectators. On the contrary, through a good understanding of the rites and prayers they should take part in the sacred action, conscious of what they are doing, with devotion and full collaboration…. Offering the immaculate victim, not only through the hands of the priest but also together with him, they should learn to offer themselves (§48).

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal notes how this is to be expressed in the manner of our worship:

[The faithful] are to form one body, whether in hearing the word of God, or by taking part in the prayers and singing, or above all by the common  offering of the Sacrifice and by participating together at the Lord’s table. This unity is beautifully apparent from the gestures and bodily postures observed together by the faithful (§96).

As a people with a sacramental imagination, Catholics understand that the spiritual can be revealed through the physical. The outward signs of our worship are meant to help us achieve the proper interior orientation towards the Lord Jesus, as we join ourselves to His one sacrifice for the  salvation of the world.


Thanksgiving Day Events

On Thursday, November 23rd, there is no 7:00 am Mass. We invite the entire parish to a special Mass at 9:00 am to express our thanks to God for His many gifts. Following Mass, there will be a blessing of Thanksgiving food for all who wish to participate. And at 3:00 pm is our 2nd Annual Thanksgiving Feast in the Parish Life Center! If you would like to join us, please fill out the “ticket” in this bulletin and put it in the collection basket – or let the Parish Office know no later than this Monday. I wish all of you a safe and blessed Thanksgiving.


Advent Parish Mission December 2-7

Holy Family is pleased to welcome Father of Mercy Ken Geraci for our Advent Mission this year. Fr. Geraci   will preach at all Masses the weekend of December 2-3. The Mission proper, entitled “Why Be Catholic,” will take place Monday through Thursday, December 4th-7th, beginning at 7:00 pm. Fr. Geraci will also offer a version of the mission sessions following the 9:00 am Mass each day.

Each evening, Father will hear confessions beginning at 6:00 pm, as well as after the mission presentation. Each  conference will begin with Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. Thursday evening, however, the conference will be in the context of Mass (the Vigil of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception).

I look forward to seeing you at the Mission!


Catechism Corner

Why do Catholics get married in the Church rather than at the beach or in a park?

The priest (or deacon) who assists at the celebration of a marriage receives the consent of the spouses in the name of the Church and gives the blessing of the Church. The presence of the Church’s minister (and also of the witnesses) visibly expresses the fact that marriage is an  ecclesial reality. This is the reason why the Church normally requires that the faithful contract marriage according to the ecclesiastical form. Several reasons converge to explain this requirement:

  • Sacramental marriage is a liturgical act. It is therefore appropriate that it should be celebrated in the public liturgy of the Church.
  • Marriage introduces one into an ecclesial order, and creates rights and duties in the Church between the spouses and towards their children.
  • Since marriage is a state of life in the Church, certainty about it is necessary (hence the obligation to have witnesses).
  • The public character of the consent protects the “I do” once given and helps the spouses remain faithful to it. (Paragraphs 1630 and 1631)

[Note that in the Catholic understanding of Matrimony, the spouses themselves are the ministers of the sacrament. By making a complete gift of themselves—body, mind, and spirit—they imitate Christ who made a complete gift of Himself for our salvation.]


Gestures and Postures of the Congregation at Mass

In Sacramentum Caritatis (2007), Pope Emeritus Benedict stressed the need for formation and instruction about the Sacred Mysteries of the Eucharist (“mystagogical catechesis”), so that Catholic people will more fully understand and be able to unite themselves interiorly with the action of the Eucharist. The Holy Father specifically mentioned signs and gestures:

The Church’s great liturgical tradition teaches us that fruitful participation in the liturgy requires that one be personally conformed to the mystery being celebrated, offering one’s life to God in unity with the sacrifice of Christ for the salvation of the whole world. For this reason, the Synod of Bishops asked that the faithful be helped to make their interior dispositions correspond to their gestures and words. Otherwise, however carefully planned and executed our liturgies may be, they would risk falling into a certain ritualism. Hence the need to provide an education in Eucharistic faith capable of enabling the faithful to live personally what they celebrate …. (Sacramentum Caritatis §64)

Part of this instruction about the mystery of the Eucharist, the pope wrote, involves the meaning of ritual gestures:

A mystagogical catechesis must also be concerned with presenting the meaning of the signs contained in the rites. This is particularly important in.a highly technological age like our own, which risks losing the ability to appreciate signs and symbols. More than simply conveying information, a mystagogical catechesis should be capable of making the faithful more sensitive to the language of signs and gestures which, together with the word, make up the rite. (§64b. Original emphasis.)

The vocabulary of ritual gestures Catholics make during worship is by now, quite clearly, endangered – as has happened with other unwritten languages. As there are relatively few explicit rules (and even these are often not followed), little uniformity of practice, and considerable confusion, it seems worthwhile to compile a sort of “dictionary” of ritual gestures, their meaning and grammar, in order to relearn our historic language of ritual worship.

By our ritual gestures – this “body language” – we unite the physical and mental/spiritual aspects of our worship of the Lord, and  express our unity with Him with our entire being. Recalling this may help remind each of us to make the effort to restore this ineffable and powerful “form of speech” in our own acts of worship. With our bodies and our minds united, we express our love for Christ and witness to others His love for all.

From Gesture for Worship – Relearning Our Ritual Language

Adoremus Bulletin, February 2010

 Entrance Rites

  • Make the sign of the cross with holy water (a sign of baptism) upon entering the church.
  • Genuflect toward the tabernacle containing the Blessed Sacrament and the Altar of Sacrifice before entering the pew. (If there is no tabernacle in the sanctuary, or it is not visible, bow deeply, from the waist, toward the altar before entering the pew.)
  • Kneel upon entering the pew for private prayer before Mass begins.
  • Stand for the entrance procession.
  • Bow when the crucifix, a visible symbol of Christ’s sacrifice, passes you in the procession. (If there is a bishop, bow when he passes, as a sign of recognition that he represents the authority of the Church and of Christ as shepherd of the flock.).
  • Remain standing for the entrance rites. Make the sign of the cross with the priest at the beginning of Mass.
  • Strike your breast at the “mea culpa” (“through my fault”) in the Confiteor.
  • Bow your head when you say “Lord, have mercy” during the Kyrie.
  • If there is a Rite of Sprinkling (Asperges), make the sign of the cross when the priest sprinkles water from the aspergillum in your direction.
  • Throughout the Mass, bow your head at every mention of the name of Jesus or Mary and every time the 3 Persons of the Trinity are named together.

Liturgy of the Word

  • Sit for the Scripture readings.
  • Stand for the Gospel at the Alleluia verse.
  • When the priest or deacon announces the Gospel, trace a cross with the thumb on head, lips and heart. This gesture is a form of prayer for the presence of the Word of God in one’s mind, upon one’s lips, and in one’s heart.
  • Sit for the homily.
  • Creed: Stand; on most Sundays bow during the Incarnatus (“and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man”); on the solemnities of Christmas and the Annunciation all genuflect at this moment.

Liturgy of the Eucharist

  • Sit during the offertory.
  • Stand as the priest says, “Pray, brothers and sisters, that my sacrifice …” and remain standing to respond, “May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands…”
  • If incense is used, the congregation bows toward the thurifer when he bows to the congregation both before and after he has incensed them.
  • The congregation remains standing until the end of the Sanctus (“Holy, holy”), when they kneel for the entire Eucharistic Prayer.
  • At the moment of the Consecration of each element, bow the head and say silently “My Lord and my God,” acknowledging the Presence of Christ on the altar. These are the words of Saint Thomas when he realized that it was truly Christ who stood before him (John 20:28). Jesus responded, “Because you have seen me, you believed. Blessed are they that do not see and yet have believed” (John 20:29).
  • Stand at the priest’s invitation to recite the Lord’s Prayer (Pater Noster).
  • Reverently fold your hands and bow your head as you pray the Lord’s Prayer. Holding hands is optional.
  • Remain standing to exchange the sign of peace, if the invitation is made. (The sign of peace may be either a handshake or a bow of the head towards those nearest you, accompanied by the words, “Peace be with you.”)
  • Kneel at the end of the Agnus Dei (“Lamb of God …”).
  • Bow your head and strike your breast as you say, Domine non sum dignus ... (“Lord, I am not worthy …”)

Reception of Communion

Leave the pew (without genuflecting) and walk reverently toward the altar, with hands folded. Join in the Communion Hymn when it starts. Make a gesture of reverence as you approach the priest, deacon, or Extraordinary Minister in procession to receive Communion. (In The United States the bishops have asked that you bow as your approach the minister.)

  • If you are receiving on the tongue, after the minister has said “The Body of Christ”, say “Amen” before extending your tongue out of your mouth. Please do not move until the host is in your mouth.
  • If you are receiving in the hand, please use 2 hands, placing one hand over the other, making a throne to receive your King. With the lower hand, take the host and reverently place it in your mouth.
  • If you are carrying a child, or otherwise do not have both hands free, please receive on the tongue. It is both safer and more reverent.
  • If your hands are not clean, you are wearing a cast, or your clothing covers part of your hands, please receive on the tongue.
  • If you also receive from the chalice, make the same gesture of reverence when you approach the minister to receive. After saying, “Amen,” please reverently take the chalice with two hands.
  • Kneel when you return to your pew after Communion, until the Eucharist is placed back in the tabernacle.

Conclusion of Mass

  • Stand for the prayer after Communion.
  • Make the sign of the cross at the final blessing, as the priest invokes the Trinity.
  • Remain standing until all ministers have processed out. (If there is a recessional, bow in reverence to the crucifix as it passes by.)
  • If there is a hymn for the recessional, remain standing in your pew until it concludes.
  • If there is no concluding hymn, remain in your pew until all the ministers have gone out of the main body of the church.
  • After the Mass is concluded, you may kneel for a private prayer of thanksgiving.
  • Genuflect reverently toward the Blessed Sacrament and the Altar of Sacrifice as you leave the pew, and leave the nave (main body) of the church in silence.
  • Make the sign of the cross with holy water as you leave the church, a reminder of our baptismal obligation to carry Christ’s Gospel into the world.


© 2010 – Adoremus. Note: permission is granted to reproduce this for personal or parish use. For other uses, contact Adoremus – PO Box 300561, St. Louis, MO 63130

Phone: 314 863-8385; E-mail

This guide has been adapted in accordance with the new translation of the Roman Missal for Holy Family Catholic Church, Jacksonville, FL, November 2012. Further revised November 2017.




A Banned Title?

As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’ You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers. Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven. Do not be called ‘Master’; you have but one master, the Christ.

(Matthew 23:8-10)

Some weeks ago, I joined parishioners for coffee following morning Mass. As I left the restaurant afterwards, a young man approached me and asked me why my friends called me “Father,” clearly in contradiction of Jesus’ own words in today’s Gospel passage.

This wasn’t the first time this had happened, of course. My initial response was to ask him what he called his male parent – did he call him by his given name to avoid calling into question the Fatherhood of God?

For some reason, this did not satisfy him, so I didn’t challenge him further about whether he ever used the title “Mister” (derived from the term “Master”), or whether he   refused to recognize anyone who had earned a Master’s    Degree. Instead, I turned back to Scripture – the Bible helps to  interpret the Bible, they say; perhaps other passages could shed light on how literally we should take Jesus’ words in this case.

For example, St. Paul has this to say in his 1st Letter to the Corinthians: “Even if you should have countless guides to Christ, yet you do not have many fathers, for I became your father in Christ Jesus through the Gospel” (1 Corinthians 4:15). Here he makes it clear that his “fatherhood” is spiritual and linked to his authority as an Apostle. Elsewhere St. Paul writes:

  • “As you know, we treated each one of you as a father treats his children” (1 Thessalonians, 2:11).
  • “I, Paul, an old man, and now also a prisoner for Christ Jesus, urge you on behalf of my child Onesimus, whose father I have become in my imprisonment” (Philemon 10).
  • “Do not rebuke an older man (presbyter), but appeal to him as a father” (1 Timothy 5:1).

So did St. Paul disobey a command of Jesus? Perhaps not. Consider Jesus’ own words: In a debate with the Jewish leaders in John’s Gospel, Jesus says, “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he was to see my day” (John 8:56). Likewise, in the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31), Jesus also makes reference to “Father Abraham.” Clearly spiritual fatherhood is indicated here as something acceptable in Jesus’ eyes. This type of fatherhood is not, however, always positive, as seen in this passage from the same chapter as today’s Gospel: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ Thus you witness against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then the measure of your  fathers” (Matthew 23:29-32, RSV).

So if Jesus is not issuing an outright ban on calling anyone “father,” including such spiritual fathers as bishops and priests (the name for the Bishop of Rome, “the Pope,” of course, comes from “papa”), what is He doing? First, He is simply reminding us of our equality before God, whatever office we might hold or role we might play in the Church or the world. It is also a call to recognize the One who is the true Father of us all: “I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named” (Ephesians 3:14-15). Trying to imitate the perfection of our heavenly Father should fill us with humility, as Christ says at the end of today’s passage: “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:12). Please pray that all priests, who accept the title “Father” from those they serve, never lord their authority over them (cf. Matthew 20:25), but recognize them as brothers and sisters loved equally by God – and perhaps be encouraged to imitate St. Paul, who was gentle as a nursing mother towards those he brought to Christ.


Many, many thanks to our School PTO, especially coordinator Corey Smith, our Men’s Club, and all who worked so hard to  organize the wonderful Fall Festival last week. The weather was perfect, the food was delicious, and  a good time was had by all!


Catechism Corner

Should I abstain from meat on ordinary Fridays?

The seasons and days of penance in the course of the liturgical year (Lent, and each Friday in memory of the death of the Lord) are intense moments of the Church’s penitential practice. These times are particularly appropriate for spiritual exercises, penitential liturgies, pilgrimages as signs of penance, voluntary self-denial such as fasting and almsgiving, and fraternal sharing (charitable and missionary works). (Paragraph 1438) While abstinence is no longer required in the United States on the Fridays outside of Lent, some form is penance is still mandated by Church law; now the particular practice is left up to the individual Christian or family.



Becoming Saints – Fr. Cusick’s Corner – October 29, 2017

This week’s “Ask a Priest” question is about what it means  to be a saint:

Is a saint “born” a saint or does he/she become a saint? If we are all chosen and cherished, why aren’t we all saints?

Each one of us is indeed called to be a saint. But the only  person who could be said to have been born (or rather conceived) a saint was the Blessed Virgin Mary, the only “unfallen” member of the human race. Even in her case,  however, she had to consistently conform her will to God’s  in order to achieve sanctity.

In the Sermon on the Mount, which could be called the “charter of sainthood,” Jesus told his disciples, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). With her fiat (“Let it be,” Luke 1:38) at the Annunciation, Mary accepted God’s will for her life and all that this would mean for her – including having her heart pierced with sorrow (Luke 2:35). By her faithful response throughout her life, she is considered the greatest of saints.

By our Baptism, we become part of the Communion of Saints, that great “cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1) whose example inspires us—and whose prayers help us—as we run the race which they have already won with the help of God’s grace. St. Paul continually addresses the “saints” in the various churches to which he writes (e.g., 1 Corinthians 1:2, Ephesians 1:1, Philippians 1:1). For Paul, all those who were touched by the grace of Christ were already on the path to sainthood, if they endured to the end, as Mary did. “The saying is sure: If we have died with Him, we shall also live with Him; if we endure, we shall also reign with Him” (2 Timothy 2:11-12a). This echoes Jesus’ own words, “He who endures to the end will be saved” (Mark 13:13b).

Sainthood, as the fruit of grace, is a gift – but one with which we must cooperate. In the month of November, we pray in a special way that all those who have gone before us will find their call to sainthood fulfilled. On All Saints’ Day, we give thanks and praise to God for all those who responded to God’s call wholeheartedly, whether they are formally canonized or not. On November 2nd, All Souls Day, we pray that those who have departed this world “marked with the sign of faith” (i.e., the Cross with which they were sealed at Baptism) may be gathered into the company of saints in   heaven. This is done through the celebration of the Eucharist— the Church’s highest and most powerful form of prayer— and visits to cemeteries. On these two days  especially, we recall that the Church Militant (on earth), the Church Suffering (in Purgatory), and the Church Triumphant (in heaven) is but one family united in Christ as saints and saints-in-the-making. And since we are all, living and deceased, friends in Christ, and since friends pray for each other, our common prayer is that our unity may reach completion in the perfect joy of heaven, our true home.

All Saints’ Day is a Holy Day of Obligation. Masses will be celebrated on Tuesday, October 31st, at 7:00 pm, and Wednesday, November 1st, at 7:00 am, 9:00 am (with our schoolchildren), and 7:00 pm. (As usual, Wednesday evening confessions will begin at 6:00 pm.)

Masses on All Souls Day, Thursday, November 2nd, will be at 7:00 am, 9:00 am, and 7:00 pm. ___________________________________________________________________________

During November, we also honor the memory of the departed through our Book of Remembrance, which is placed by the baptismal font throughout the month. In it are inscribed the names of all deceased parishioners of recent years; we pray that the promise of their Baptism to share in Christ’s Resurrection will be fulfilled so that they may join the saints in heaven.

In addition, our Ministry of Consolation, which does so much to aid and comfort the bereaved of our parish, has arranged for a special Mass of Remembrance for those parishioners who have died in the past year. It will take place on Sunday, November 5th, at the 11:30 am Mass.


Upcoming Rectory Dinners: I’m always delighted to welcome parishioners to my home to share a meal and conversation, especially as the holidays approach. Our next rectory dinners are scheduled for Saturday, November 18th, and Saturday, December 16th, 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!


Catechism Corner

Does the Church permit cremation?

The Church permits cremation, provided that it does not demonstrate a denial of faith in the resurrection of the body (Paragraph 2301). The Church still prefers, however, that the body of the deceased be present for the Funeral Mass if at all possible. It is through the body that we come to know a person; it is the Temple of the Holy Spirit, washed in the waters of Baptism and fed with the Body of Christ. The  body is therefore treated with tremendous reverence – and  so should the cremated remains of a body. They should therefore be buried in a grave or columbarium, where a person’s memory may be enshrined, rather than kept in  one’s home (who will take care of them in later years?), or scattered to the winds.




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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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


Catechism Corner

What does the Church say about superstition?

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