Category Archives: Fr. Cusick’s Corner

A Message from our Director of Music, Matt Daniel-July 1 2018

Greetings in Christ!  I wanted to take this opportunity to give a brief update on some upcoming events and opportunities happening in our Holy Family Music Ministry.

This Fall, we will begin to have a more detailed concert series, which will bring in some of the best talent from our local Jacksonville community and beyond.  To kick off this series, I will be presenting a concert in October that will feature the music of one of the greatest and most influential   composers of all time, Johann Sebastian Bach.  Check out future bulletins and the parish website for more nformation regarding this     exciting new endeavor!

If you know any children (rising grades 2-8) that enjoy music and singing, registration for our Summer Music Camp will be opening soon.  This year’s camp will be held August 6-10 from 9am-1pm.  This is an exciting week filled with music, games, and lessons about our Catholic faith, with an exciting trip planned for the end of the week.  This is always one of the most fun weeks of the year for me, and it is an absolute joy to see our young church learn to glorify God through  sacred   music.

During the summer months, many parishioners often ask me “Where’s the choir?”  Throughout the choir season, our Holy Family Parish Choir and Children’s Choirs combine to lead music for over 100 Masses and other special events in our  Parish Community.  For every hour spent in Mass, our choirs spend an average of 2-3 hours in rehearsal and preparation to ensure the highest quality of music is offered to each of you during our celebration of Holy Mass and other liturgical celebrations.  So during the summer months, the choirs take some time off for some well-deserved rest and relaxation so we may come back refreshed and renewed in the Fall, which will allow us to continue to offer beautiful sacred music each week.  Children’s Choir rehearsals will resume on August 15th at 3:30 pm.  Currently, Holy Family has two  Children’s Choirs:  The St. Cecilia Choir (grades 2-5) and the St. Gregory Choir (grades 6-8).  Our Holy Family Parish Choir is open to adults and high school children.  This choir will resume rehearsals on September 6th at 7:00 pm.

There is always an open seat waiting for you!  Music reading is not necessary.  We are always looking for new singers to join our choir family.  If you or anyone you know is interested in becoming a part of our Music Ministry, please feel free to contact me at mdaniel@holyfamilyjax.com or 641-5838, ext. 215

 

Fr. Cusick’s Farewell Homily – June 24, 2018

Homily

The Nativity of John the Baptist

It’s been a long goodbye. (Although I must confess that it’s not quite over yet – while I formally step down as pastor this week, I’ll be around for much of July.) It’s been 5 months since I announced that Bishop Estévez had asked me to return to graduate school, with the goal of teaching moral theology at our seminary in Boynton Beach a couple of years from now. When I made the announcement, I said that there would be time later to say farewell, but now that the time has come, I’m finding it difficult to do so. When people have asked me how I feel about this new adventure, I’ve said, “Excited, nervous, and sad.” Today the sadness predominates. This parish means that much to me. You mean that much to me.

The journey to reach this point, of course, has been even longer. I suppose it goes back to when I first came into existence: The Lord tells the prophet Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you,” and He tells that to us as well. I was first consecrated to God at my Baptism in northern Indiana when I was just a few weeks old. The journey continued with my 1st Holy Communion in New Jersey in the early 1970s, and took another step with my Confirmation here in Jacksonville. And then it took a long pause. Sure, I came from a strong Catholic family, was an altar server right here at Holy Family for several years, and went to Bishop Kenny High School, but when the time came for college I followed my brothers in deciding to become an engineer.

But God wasn’t finished with me yet. As Msgr. Logan told me many years ago, “If the good Lord wants you, He’ll find a way to get you.” I admit that I had a sense of a calling to priesthood since I was a teenager. When I was an altar boy, I was fascinated by the Eucharist – there was a power there that I didn’t understand but knew was vitally important. And during my freshman year of college, when I was really struggling, I once confided to a friend, who was himself a devout evangelical Christian, that I thought I was supposed to be a priest.

But every time the thought came up, I would put it aside. I wanted a “normal” life – whatever that might mean! Until 1994. That’s when I read one of the books that changed my life (although the author probably didn’t intend it in quite this way). I had always had a keen interest in mythology and world religions, even when I was wandering away from the Church. And one day I picked up The Hero with a Thousand Faces, by Joseph Campbell. This was the book that supposedly inspired George Lucas to create “Star Wars.” It tells of the “hero’s journey,” with common themes that can be found across cultures: For example, there is often the wise mentor who disappears midway through the story so that the hero can learn his own strengths; the descent into dark places beneath the earth to face one’s fear of death; the monster who represents the forces of evil that exist within us and which must be conquered; the ascent, physical or spiritual, into heavenly realms. One section of the book talks about trees – there’s the Buddha sitting beneath the Bodhi tree to attain enlightenment; the Norse god Odin hanging from Yggdrasil, the great ash tree at the center of the universe, sacrificing himself to himself to gain the knowledge of the runes; and Christ on the tree of the Cross, reconciling heaven and earth.

When I read this, I felt like I had been struck by a bolt of lightning. Before this, I had thought that Christianity was mainly about morality, the rules for living a good life and earning your way into heaven. Now I saw that it also had a much deeper meaning – it was ultimately about reconciliation, between God and humanity, and among ourselves. My first response to this new understanding was, “I’ve got to tell people about this!” I returned to Church, going to confession for the 1st time in years, and began considering seminary.

As I’ve told you before, though, I continued to resist. It reminds me of when I would visit our parish school after I became pastor, and the children would ask me, “Why did you want to become a priest?” And my answer was always the same: “I didn’t!” But I was called, and it was only when I finally responded to the call that I began to have any peace in my life. But I still needed help along the way. I’m a “fixer,” and when I see something wrong, I immediately want to plunge in and start doing something to make it right, even if it frequently makes things even worse. I needed to learn patience.

The first lesson in patience I received was from Fr. Al Giaquinto, a spiritual director at the seminary who lived across the hall from me. He has since passed on, but he was a wise old priest who could read you like a book. I’ll never forget the first time I met with him. He listened to me for a while, then shook his head with a sly smile and, pointing to an African violet growing on the windowsill, said, “Tim, you want to figure everything out, but there is more mystery in that flower than you will ever be able to comprehend.”

Then there was Fr. David Thayer, who was my spiritual director for my last few years of seminary, and who remains a good friend. Some of you may remember him – I invited Fr. Thayer to give a parish mission in Lent of 2011, my first year at Holy Family. I was talking to him one day about social justice, about how various institutions in our society need to be reformed if the world is to become a better place. He responded by saying that that was all well and good, but it would never really get to the heart of the matter; the fundamental problem in our society, he argued, is that so many people simply feel unloved. I scoffed at this at first, but I have come to realize over the years that there is much truth in what he said.

I received confirmation of this in 1998, when I spent a summer in Costa Rica attempting to learn Spanish. It was there that I experienced what I call my 2nd conversion, when I had what I can only describe as an encounter with the living God. It’s impossible to explain what an experience like this is like; suffice it to say that He revealed Himself as being both infinitely powerful, and infinitely loving. For several weeks I felt like I was walking on air, as I recognized His presence and realized that He was nothing but love, through and through. Even though I’ve never had another experience like it since then, I’ve staked my life on it, because it is true, and it is the key to understanding our life on this earth and attaining true happiness now and in the life to come.

I have tried to be a witness to this as a priest and as a pastor.

When I was ordained a priest in 2000, Bishop Snyder invited my friend Fr. Thayer to preach. I still remember two things he said in his homily. First, “You are called to be a shepherd, but that does not mean that you can treat the people like sheep.” I hope I have lived up to that. The other was this: “Remember that there is only one Messiah, and you are not He”!

 

 

Which brings us to St. John the Baptist, whose birth we celebrate today. He constantly reminded people that he was not the Messiah. He said that he was not worthy to untie the straps of His sandals. He was the Bridegroom’s friend, not the Bridegroom Himself. He was a lamp, but not the Light. He was a voice that lasts for a moment, not the eternal Word that remains in the mind and heart when the voice has fallen silent. He said of Jesus, “He must increase, while I must decrease.” And when he finally saw Christ, he told his own disciples to follow Him instead, telling them, “Behold the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the world.”

When I was in Costa Rica, the parish I attended was dedicated to St. John the Baptist, and since then I have taken him as a patron, and as a model. I pray that, in my time with you, I have followed St. John’s example and simply pointed the way to Christ for you, so that you can experience the power of His love and mercy, that you can make Him the center of your life, and that you can know the joy that He longs to give you.

If, by the grace of God, I have been able to do this, then I can know that, whatever the future may bring, I have faithfully responded to His call. Sometimes I have failed at this task – and for this, I ask your forgiveness. I am a sinner, redeemed but still on the way to salvation. This is why I have often asked you to pray for my continued conversion, and I ask you to do so again as I prepare to move on to the next stage of my ministry. At the same time, I want to thank you for the witness you have given me. Your faithfulness, your devotion, your generosity, and your kindness have been an inspiration to me, and a tremendous source of healing. I will never forget you, or the good work the Lord continues to accomplish through you.

I ask as well that you pray for Fr. David Keegan as he comes to Holy Family this week. He will not only be leading this parish, but he is also the Vocations Director for the diocese; he is going to have a lot on his plate, and he will need your support. And finally, let us pray for each other, recognizing that though we will be separated for a time, we still share a common journey towards the One who loves us and wants us become saints. So, growing ever closer to Christ, and serving Him in one another, may we finally be united with Him and one another when we reach journey’s end.

Purity, Sin, and Culpability

This week’s “Ask a Priest” question concerns a sensitive issue:

Are solitary acts of impurity mortal sins?

For a sin to be considered “mortal,” that is, one that “destroys charity in the heart of man by a grave violation of God’s law” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, §1855) and is normally only forgiven through sacramental confession, three conditions must be met:

1) The act involves grave matter,

2) there is full knowledge of the sinful nature of the act,

3) and there is full consent of the will.

According to the Catechism (§1858), “Grave matter is specified by the Ten Commandments, corresponding to the answer of Jesus to the rich young man, ‘Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and your mother’ (Mark 10:19). The gravity of sins is more or less great: murder is graver than theft.”

Lack of knowledge of the wrongfulness of an act can reduce one’s culpability (i.e., level of guilt), but feigned ignorance,   or a refusal to form—or listen to—one’s conscience, makes matters worse, for the moral law is written on our hearts (cf. Jeremiah 31:33, Romans 2:15). In addition, acts may not be completely free in cases of “crimes of passion” (in which a surge of emotions overwhelms one’s reason), external pressures (including coercion), or pathological disorders (cf. Catechism, §1860).

That impurity, of mind or body, is considered grave matter is a long-held teaching of the Church. As Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount, “You have heard that it was said, You shall not commit adultery. But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28; see also Mark 7:20, Romans  1:24-27, Galatians 5:19-21, Colossians 3:5). Indeed, in all   cases the expression of the sexual faculty “is morally disordered when sought for itself, isolated from its procreative and unitive purposes” within the bond of marriage between a man and a woman (cf. Catechism, §2351-52).

In this particular case, the Catechism adds, “To form an equable judgment about the subject’s moral responsibility…, one must take into account the affective immaturity, force of acquired habit, conditions of anxiety, or other psychological or social factors that can lessen, if not even reduce to a minimum, moral culpability.” In other words, each situation is different and should be evaluated by a trusted priest or spiritual counselor. Not only that, we must in all cases remember the mercy of God, which is boundless and always available to us in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We should never fear to approach Him, for He knows and understands us through and through, and always desires our good.

The absolution we receive in Confession gives us a fresh start, but it does not automatically make us virtuous. Bad habits can take time to overcome—especially if they are addictive in nature—and they need to be replaced by healthy habits. For those who struggle with purity, there  are a number of resources online to help, including integrityrestored.com and chastityproject.com. And learning about St. John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body” can help one understand the “nuptial” meaning of the body. (theologyofthebody.net is a good place to start.) Building on the work of Blessed Paul VI in Humanae Vitae, John Paul teaches that, in the Christian perspective, the body is meant to be an instrument through which we make a complete gift ourselves to others, in imitation of Christ, who gave Himself completely for our salvation. Whether we are married, single, ordained, or religious, we each have a  specific way to respond to this high calling. Trusting in the Lord’s goodness and mercy, may we be granted the grace to live it out wholeheartedly.

_______________________________________________________________________

Humanae Vitae 50 Years Later (cont.)

Love is Faithful

Married love is also faithful and exclusive of all others, and this until death. This is how husband and wife understood it on the day on which, fully aware of what they were doing, they freely vowed themselves to one another in marriage. Though this fidelity of husband and wife sometimes presents difficulties, no one has the right to assert that it is impossible; it is, on the contrary, always honorable and meritorious. The example of countless married couples proves not only that fidelity is in accord with the nature of marriage, but also that it is the source of profound and enduring happiness. (Humanae vitae, no. 9)

Reflection

Salvation history tells the story of a faithful God and His oftentimes unfaithful people. The Israelites made idols in the desert. Out of fear, the disciples abandoned Jesus when He was arrested and Peter even denied knowing Him. Each time, however, through all of history, God did not abandon His people. Instead He forgave, and called His people back to a faithful, exclusive love.

This divine love stands as a model for married couples—to forsake all others and remain faithful unto death. The call to fidelity is represented in the wedding rings, which are blessed and exchanged as a sign of a couple’s love and fidelity for each other through all of life’s difficulties and trials.

 

 

 

Corpus Christi

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

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

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

2)  The long-standing tradition of the Church has been to receive the Host on the tongue. However, in recent decades, the Vatican has given permission for reception of the Host on the hand as well, as long as reverence for the Eucharist is safeguarded. Please make it clear to the  minister which way you are receiving (e.g., if receiving on the tongue, keep your hands folded).

3)  If you are carrying anything in your hands, or if your hands are dirty, please receive on the tongue for the sake of reverence – this includes rosaries, canes, pocketbooks, worship aids, casts/slings, etc.

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

5)  As you approach the minister, bow your head reverently as a sign of devotion to the Lord’s Presence in the Eucharist. Please come within arm’s length of the minister before receiving.

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

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

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

9) If you receive from the chalice, again bow your head as you approach the minister, say “Amen” clearly, and take the chalice with both hands, being careful not to spill any of the Precious Blood. Please take only a small sip from the chalice so that there will be enough for everyone who wishes to receive.

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

11)      We do have low-gluten hosts available, but you need to request one in the Sacristy well before Mass begins.

12) If you are not Catholic, or if you are Catholic but not in the state of grace, you are still welcome to come forward in the procession. If you do so, simply cross your arms over your chest as you approach the minister, who will make the Sign of the Cross on your forehead. Parents should also instruct their young children to cross their arms so that the minister will know that they have not yet received their First Holy Communion.

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

14) Following the hymn, there is a period of silent prayer, during which we should give thanks to God for this indescribable gift and resolve to live our Christian lives more faithfully. Leaving Mass early deprives us of this opportunity to realize the fruits of the Eucharist.

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

May our devotion to the Eucharist strengthen us in our  mission to bring Christ’s Presence to a world in desperate need of Him, and set the world on fire with love for the Lord.

__________________________________________________________________________

A big “Thank you!” to Kitty Iannotti and the Fellowship Committee, Donald Moynahan and the Cooking Ministry, and all who made our celebration in honor of Msgr. Logan and Msgr. Danaher such an enjoyable, and joyful, evening. More than one longtime parishioner said that it may have been our best event ever, and the good Monsignors were still beaming days later. Ad multos annos!

 

 

 

Assessing the Morality of Technology – May 27, 2018

In the first of this series of reflections on science and technology, I noted that technology, as the application of scientific knowledge, in itself is morally neutral. But the purposes to which technology is put do have moral content. For example, nuclear physics gives us immense knowledge about the structure, form, and activity of the fundamental particles that underlie the material universe. It has led to advances in medicine, power of alienationer fields. It also, of course, was necessary for the development of nuclear  weapons, which could conceivably end life on this planet.

Or, to take something less dramatic, consider communications technologies. Cell phones, the Internet, and social media have connected us to the world in ways inconceivable a generation ago. At the same time, they frequently inhibit our ability to communicate with those closest to us, impair our ability to give sustained, focused attention to tasks, limit our capacity to retain information, and, paradoxically, lead to a sense of alienation and loneliness, especially among the young. We have also seen how easily the information we share online can be stolen and exploited.

One of the most contentious areas of ethics surrounds reproductive technologies. For example, in vitro fertilization (IVF), the creation of human embryos in the laboratory, has led to a host of moral problems: What do we do with the hundreds of thousands of “leftover” embryos that are currently in frozen storage across the U.S.? Who gets to decide what happens to a couple’s embryos when they separate or divorce? How often are multiple embryos implanted in the uterus and later “reduced” by selective abortion? How often are embryos rejected or destroyed because they are the “wrong” gender or otherwise don’t live up to the parents’ expectations?

This is just the tip of the iceberg, and the moral problems surrounding such issues as surrogacy, genetic engineering, children with 3 (or more) genetic parents, and human-animal hybrids will become ever-more complex. It all began in the mid-20th century with the first mass-produced reproductive technology – the contraceptive pill. This year marks the 50th anniversary of Blessed Pope Paul VI’s prophetic encyclical on artificial contraception, Humanae Vitae. To mark the occasion, Bishop Estévez has offered a series of reflections on the encyclical, which will be printed in the bulletin over the next several weeks.

___________________________________________________________

Love is Freely Given

[Married love] is above all fully human, a compound of sense and spirit. It is not, then, merely a question of natural instinct or emotional drive. It is also, and above all, an act of the free will, whose trust is such that it is meant not only to survive the joys and sorrows of daily life, but also to grow, so that husband and wife become in a way one heart and one soul, and together attain their human  fulfillment. (Humanae Vitae, no. 9)

Reflection

Blessed Paul VI reminds us in his encyclical Humanae Vitae that married love comes from God who is love. In fact, married love mirrors God’s love. Divine love is freely given as a gift to us. We, in turn, should love others as God loves us. In choosing to love like God, we love in a way that is fully human.

Reflecting upon how God gave every man and woman this capacity to love like Him, married love is meant to reflect and participate in God’s love, which empowers husband and wife to freely decide to love in good times and through life’s challenges.

Reflection Question: What does love freely given look like in your life? How can you love others more as God loves us?

 

Science and the Judeo-Christian Difference – May 20, 2019

Returning to the question of technology: During the Middle Ages, there was a great debate among Islamic theologians about Allah’s relation to the created order. The opinion that won the day was that the universe is sustained at every instant by his will, without which everything would be reduced to nothingness. And if he willed that the sun should rise in the West tomorrow, then that is what would happen. With everything determined, at every moment, by Allah ’s all-powerful, inscrutable will, how could the scientific method, which presumes a certain regularity in the material world, be applied? There would be no fixed laws of nature, because everything could change at any moment.

In Hinduism (or even Western paganism) the patterns of the forces of nature may be even more difficult to discern, because everything – trees, rivers, rocks, mountains – has its own particular divinity attached to it. In Buddhism, nearly everything that we experience is an illusion. In the religious and philosophical traditions of China and elsewhere, the past was worshiped, so there was little incentive to discover and make new things.

In the Judeo-Christian tradition, however, the universe was seen as having been given a limited autonomy by its Creator – sustained by Him, yes, but with a certain stability and order.  In addition, history was going somewhere, to the Messianic age and beyond, to the culmination of all things in God. For humanity, this means that there is always more to learn, always more ways to shape the world God has entrusted to us.

This vision inspired scientists down through the centuries, from St. Albert the Great (d. 1280), Roger Bacon (d. 1292), Copernicus (d. 1543), Galileo (d. 1642), Newton (d. 1727), Mendel (d. 1884, a Catholic friar known for his work on heredity), Georges Lemaître (d. 1966, a Catholic priest and physicist who proposed the “Big Bang” theory of the origins  of the Universe), and many others formed by the Judeo-Christian worldview.

Some readers of this column may see the word “Galileo” (and perhaps “Copernicus”) and claim that the Catholic Church  opposed his work and treated him ruthlessly, for which the Church finally apologized in 1992. The historical record is  rather more complex – Galileo was not subjected to torture, for example, and his work was originally supported by the Pope, who was a personal friend and mentor until Galileo publicly mocked him. The major point of the affair, however, is that the Galileo case was a scientific debate among Catholics, who were seeking the truth about both God and nature. (For more on this case and other instances of anti-Catholic propaganda, see such books as Rodney Stark’s Bearing False Witness:  Debunking Centuries of Anti-Catholic History; Stark, it should be said, is a Protestant!)

From the Catholic perspective, the “war between science and religion” is a myth, promoted by those who want to remove God – and His moral law – from public debate. As we have seen, however, science developed in a Christian context, in an understanding of the world shaped by theology. Science is extremely effective at discovering how things work – but it is not able to tell us why things are. Some claim that scientific truth is the only truth – but what scientific experiment can prove this claim? When we sincerely seek the truth of things, we discover that faith and reason are both necessary – for all truth comes from God, and truth cannot contradict truth. We simply need to think harder, and more clearly.

________________________________________________

Catechism Corner

What was the role of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost?

As the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church from the 2nd Vatican Council states, “When the work which the Father gave the Son to do on earth was accomplished, the Holy Spirit was sent on the day of Pentecost in order that He might continually sanctify the Church.” Then, as the same council’s Decree on the Mission Activity of the Church adds, “the Church was openly displayed to the crowds and the spread of the Gospel among the nations, through preaching, was begun” – assisted, of course, by the Spirit’s gift of tongues (cf. paragraph 767 of the Catechism).

 

Where Did Jesus Go? May 13, 2018

Where Did Jesus Go?

He was lifted up, and a cloud took Him from their sight.     (Acts 1:9)

How far did Jesus have to be “lifted up” to reach Heaven? What is Heaven’s altitude? Is it somewhere in the remote reaches of space?

These questions arise because we tend to think of Heaven primarily as a physical place, rather than a state of being. But the Bible uses figurative language to express spiritual realities, without erasing the historical events through which God communicates them to us. So Jesus was physically “lifted up” as a sign of His exaltation and glorification following the Resurrection, and the “cloud that took Him from their sight” both hid His presence from us and signified His entrance into the presence of His Father.

Clouds represent the glory and power of God in the Scriptures, as well as the veil that keeps us from gazing into the depths of His being. But Jesus has both revealed the Father to us (John 14:9 – “He who has seen me has seen the Father”) and brought us with Him into the Father’s presence, for He continues to share our humanity.

In this sense, Jesus has never really left us, but rather raised us to a new way of life and opened a pathway to a higher spiritual state. If Heaven is simply where God dwells, if God is love    (1 John 4:8), and if Jesus has brought our human nature to Heaven in His glorified Body, then Heaven can be discovered whenever we, with His help, love as God loves.

Jesus was not simply taken away from us; He has promised to be with us always (Matthew 28:20). He is with us through His Body, the Church, and especially through the Eucharist. And by the perfection of His love, He has made the presence of God – Heaven – accessible to all.

But wouldn’t everything have been easier if Jesus had stuck around? He could simply have revealed His resurrected glory to everyone, and everyone would have responded by believing in Him and worshiping Him. All people would have the same faith, and the world would have been a peaceful and holy place.

But at what cost? At the cost of our freedom. Our response to the Risen Jesus might come from fear or even awe, but it would likely not be one of freely-offered love. What’s more, if Jesus had not returned to the Father, we would have lost the opportunity to be truly healed and restored to the condition we enjoyed before sin entered the world.

Jesus came to us to lead us back to the Father, to heal our wounded nature, and to allow us to share the loving communion of the Blessed Trinity. This is done through the gift of the Holy Spirit, Who incorporates us into the Body of

Christ, sharing in the restored and divinized human nature of Jesus, true God and true man. We become dwelling-places of God, and are enabled to act in accordance with God’s will, even as Jesus did.

By descending on believers, the Spirit forms the Church, which extends the presence of Christ throughout the world. While on earth, Jesus was limited by His physical existence as an individual in a particular time at a particular place. After His Ascension, He sent His Spirit so that His presence might extend to the ends of the earth and touch all of history. Through the Holy Spirit, we are empowered to continue Christ’s saving mission in the world!

_____________________________________________________________

A First Mass at Holy Family: Newly-ordained Fr. John Sollee will celebrate Mass here at Holy Family this Wednesday, May 16th, at 9:00 am.

_____________________________________________________________

Catechism Corner

Why is Pentecost called the “birthday of the Church”?

It is called the Church’s birthday because on that day the Holy Spirit was sent by Christ to sanctify the Church by transmitting the graces Jesus had won through the cross and his resurrection. The Catechism teaches:

“The Church was made manifest on the day of Pentecost by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit…. On that day, the Holy Trinity is fully revealed. Since that day, the Kingdom [of God] announced by Christ has been open to those who      believe in him: In the humility of the flesh and in faith, they already share in the communion of the Holy Trinity. By his coming, which never ceases, the Holy Spirit causes the world to enter into the ‘last days,’ the time of the Church, the Kingdom already inherited, though not yet consummated.… The mission of Christ and the Holy Spirit is brought to completion in the Church, which is the Body of Christ and the Temple of the Holy Spirit. This joint mission henceforth brings Christ’s faithful to share in his communion with the Father in the Holy Spirit” (Paragraphs 1076, 732, 737).

 

 

Church and State – and Family – May 6, 2018

Alfie Evans has died, shortly before what would have been his 2nd birthday. Suffering for much of his young life from an undiagnosed neurological disorder, Alfie was the subject of a dispute between his parents and the Liverpool hospital that had been treating him. Eventually the British courts became involved, ruling several times – in agreement with the hospital – that further treatment was “inhumane,” and insisting that life-support be withdrawn.

These rulings came despite Alfie’s parents desire to continue to seek help for their son. Pope Francis offered his support, Italy granted Alfie citizenship, and the Vatican’s Bambino Gesù Pediatric Hospital had a helicopter ready to transport him to their facility in Rome. Citing potential risks from travel and the supposed “futility” of another hospital’s treatment, the courts refused to allow Alfie to leave the hospital – or even to go home.

Whatever one’s judgment may be about Alfie’s medical condition and the possibility of improvement, the most disturbing aspect of this case is that the hospital and courts determined that it was better for Alfie to die. And they did this, they claimed, in the best interests of the child, even though his parents wished to fight for his life, to care for him as best they could, even though his prospects were dim indeed.

We should all be disturbed when a national government, from an officially Christian nation (the Church of England is still the established Church of the United Kingdom), determines that some lives are not worth living, and usurps the will of parents so cavalierly. A similar situation occurred in Britain with Charlie Gard last year. We should also be reminded of the  turmoil surrounding the Terry Schiavo case in 2005, in which the woman’s parents, who wished to take care of her in spite  of her severe cognitive disability, were overruled; Terry was deprived of nutrition and hydration for almost 2 weeks before finally dying.

May the Lord receive Alfie Evans into his loving arms, console his parents, and inspire us to build a Culture of Life that supports families and sees every human life as precious, regardless of physical or mental condition.

_________________________________________________________________

Please pray for our young people who will be making their    1st Holy Communion on Saturday, May 12th, at 10:30 am.  May they discover a great love for Christ, present to them in the Eucharist, and learn to bring His presence to others.

_________________________________________________________________

Catechism Corner

Is salvation possible outside of the Catholic Church? (Or asked another way, can non-Catholics go to heaven?)  Short answer: Yes, through the grace of Christ.

Outside the Church there is no salvation.

How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers? Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body:

Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, this Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; He is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it. (Lumen Gentium, Vatican II’s “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church,” §14)

This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no  fault of their own, do not know Christ and His Church:

Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will   as they know it through the dictates of their conscience – those too may achieve eternal salvation. (Lumen Gentium §16)

“Although in ways known to Himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is  impossible to please him, the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men.” (Ad Gentes Divinitus, Vatican II’s “Decree on the Church’s Missionary Activity,” §7)

(The above is from the Catechism, paragraphs 846-48.)

 

Christ and Technology – April 29, 2018

Christ and Technology

Jesus, we are told, was a carpenter – and the son of a carpenter (Mark 6:3; Matthew 13:55); in fact, the Church celebrates the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker this Tuesday, May 1st. The Greek word used in the New Testament is tekton, which can generally mean “craftsman,” although it also refers to woodworkers specifically. As was noted in last week ’s column, our word “technology” comes from a similar Greek word denoting the arts and crafts. Our Lord, then, spent much of His earthly life employed in the skillful working of wood and other materials, surely creating things of both utility and beauty. Based on His saying that “my yoke is easy” (Matthew 11:30), one commentator suggested that over His shop he had hung a sign, “My yokes fit well.”

In His labor, Jesus can show us the purposes of our work – in particular, how we take the goods of God’s creation (like wood), shape them according to ideas formed by our reason, and realize them using our physical abilities. In our complex economic world, these elements are often separated, but it is helpful to remember that all of them are necessary: the divine and the human, the physical and the intellectual – and even the spiritual, when considering the highest works of art.

And is not Creation itself the greatest work of art? The Gospel of John tells us that the universe was created through the Logos – a word usually translated from the Greek as “Word,” but also meaning “order,” and “reason.” This implies, then, that there is order, purpose, and meaning in the cosmos – it is rational, able to be comprehended by human beings, who are created in the image of the God who is Logos. The Judeo-Christian tradition, therefore, has at its core a vision which is at the root of modern science: the human ability to recognize the patterns woven into the fabric of creation. This view is not found in all religious and philosophical traditions. We will look at this in more detail in the next column.

________________________________________________________

My heartfelt gratitude goes out to Nina Isla, Kitty Iannotti, and all those who worked so hard to plan and organize our Multicultural Celebration last weekend. A beautiful multilingual Mass, wonderful food, amazing performances, and so much more made this a tremendous and joyful experience. What better way to show our unity in Christ with all of our unique gifts and backgrounds. Thank you all!

_________________________________________________________

Our final 5:00 pm Mass before the summer hiatus will be on Sunday, May 27th. As usual, this will be a “Teaching Mass,” during which I will pause at several points to explain the meaning and history of various elements of the Mass. I will also celebrate a Teaching Mass this Wednesday, May 2nd, at 7:00 pm, with our Religious Education students. Please join us as we seek to deepen our understanding of the Eucharist!

_________________________________________________________

Catechism Corner

 Can adults who have not been baptized achieve salvation?  Short answer: A qualified Yes.

“Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery.” (See Vatican II, “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church” §16, and “Decree on the Church’s Missionary Activity” §7) Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity. (Paragraph 1260)

The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care not to neglect the mission she has received from the Lord to see that all who can be baptized are “reborn of water and the Spirit.” God had bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but He Himself is not bound by His sacraments. (Paragraph 1257)

 

 

 

Technology and the Bible – April 22, 2018

This week’s “Ask a Priest” question concerns the place of technology in our faith:

Does the Bible mention technology? For good or evil?

The Bible is composed of materials dating from 2000 BC  to AD 100. The ancient communities described in the  Scriptures (even the sophisticated Roman Empire with its tremendous feats of engineering) were much different from the tech-saturated society we live in. But the Bible – and the Catholic tradition as a whole – have much to teach us about the proper place of science and technology in our lives.

The first direct mention of technology in the Bible occurs in the 4th chapter of Genesis, in describing the descendants of Cain:

Adah gave birth to Jabal,

the ancestor of all who dwell in tents and keep cattle.

His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the ancestor

of all who play the lyre and the pipe.

Zillah, on her part, have birth to Tubalcain,

the ancestor of all who forge instruments

of bronze and iron. (Genesis 4:20-22)

Earlier, however, we hear of perhaps the first form of technology – agriculture – when we are told that “Abel became a keeper of flocks, and Cain a tiller of the soil.” They both made an offering to God, but only Abel’s was accepted (Genesis 4:2-5). Is this evidence that God prefers a less “advanced” form of life? After all, the chosen people of Israel, beginning with Abraham, originated as a nomadic tribe; perhaps they were inclined to view “city folk” with a certain amount of disdain (compare ranchers and farmers to this day!). In the case of Cain and Abel, however, we are told that Abel offered “one of the best firstlings of his flock,” while Cain simply “brought an offering.” It seems that the intention, rather than the occupation, of the giver is what matters to God.

[Interestingly, the Bible makes no mention of the invention of fire, so significant in many mythologies and stories of civilizational origins. But the ability to till the soil and forge metal presumes the use of fire. The first reference to fire in Genesis seems to be when Noah offers sacrifices following the Flood (8:20-21).]

In the Book of Exodus, we are introduced to Bezalel, a gifted artisan who takes the lead in constructing the Tabernacle in the desert, which will hold the Ark of the Covenant during the  Israelites’ journey to the Promised Land:

Moses said to the Israelites, “See, the Lord has chosen Bezalel, son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and has filled him with a divine spirit of skill and understanding and knowledge in every craft: in the production of embroidery, in making things of gold, silver or bronze, in cutting and mounting precious stones, in carving wood, and in every other craft” (Exodus 35:30-33).

Centuries later, Solomon uses the skills of many – architects, stonecutters, foresters, carpenters, metalworkers, artists, and others – in the construction of the Temple in Jerusalem.

You may ask, “What does this have to do with technology?” When we think of technology these days, we usually start with advanced electronics and computing power – everything that’s “high-tech.” But the word “technology” comes from the Greek word techne, which simply means “art” or “craft.”  Combined with the suffix –logia, meaning “knowledge” or “study of,” it came to mean the application of scientific or other knowledge to practical concerns.

As human knowledge develops, so does technology. In this, it is morally neutral. But the purpose to which it is put makes a large moral difference. We will examine this further in the next column, especially in the light of a certain carpenter from Nazareth.

_____________________________________________________________

Catechism Corner

Can children who have not been baptized achieve salvation? Short answer: Yes.

As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus’ tenderness toward children which caused him to say: “Let the children come to me, do not hinder them” (Mark 10:14), allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism.  All the more urgent is the Church’s call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism. (Paragraph 1261)

_____________________________________________________________

UNBOUND at St. Joseph’s: Deacon Mike Holmes is part of a prayer ministry at St. Joseph’s Parish called Unbound, a safe, loving, effective prayer model that helps people find spiritual healing. After an hour session, which is conducted by a prayer leader and an intercessor, many participants have expressed feelings of peace, forgiveness, healing, goodwill and happiness. Issues that kept them unhappy, fearful, sad, or lonely seemed to melt away, and they were no longer held prisoner by addictions, persistent sin, or emotional or spiritual wounds.

The next Unbound session at St. Joseph’s is on Monday, May 14th, from 7:00-9:00 pm. Please contact Deacon Mike at mholmes@holyfamilyjax.com to make an appointment. For more information about this Catholic prayer ministry, please visit the Heart of the Father Ministry website at www.heartofthefather.com.