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Some final thoughts

Before I take my leave, I thought I’d go back through some things I’ve shared with you over the years. I can’t take credit for most of them!

  • For peace of mind, resign as general manager of the universe. Let God be God.
  • Forgiveness means giving up all hope of having a better past.
  • Forgiveness brings you freedom – it means the other person no longer controls your thoughts and feelings.
  • Forgiveness is something you can do on your own; reconciliation requires a partner.
  • When you forgive someone who’s hurt you, that doesn’t mean that they don’t have to earn your trust again.
  • You are not your thoughts. Or emotions. Or desires. They are like clouds passing through the sky.
  • Emotions give us information. Our reason evaluates it, then directs our will. Don’t skip the middle step!
  • Everybody – even the most ardent atheist – worships something: You worship whatever you’re willing to sacrifice everything else in your life for.
  • If you’re not willing to sacrifice anything, it’s not that you worship nothing, it’s that you worship nothingness.
  • God is not another “being” like us, just bigger and more powerful. Rather, He is Being itself. “I am who am” (Exodus 3:14). To know God is to know reality.
  • Since we’re created in the image of the Trinity, 3 persons in relation, we are created for relationship, not autonomy.
  • We’re very good at figuring out how to get what we want. We’re not very good in figuring out why we want it. Question your motivations.
  • It’s amazing how much you can accomplish when you don’t care who gets credit for it.
  • Often, we don’t see other people as they are – we see them as we are. Or: “To the jaundiced eye, all things look yellow.”
  • We can look at others as (a) obstacles to our desires, (b) instruments to attain our desires, or (c) persons.
  • The proper response to God’s gifts is thanksgiving, the best antidote to pride and envy.
  • And be sure to thank the people who have made a difference in your life.
  • Sacraments aren’t magic; they’re promises of a Presence.
  • By praying the Rosary, you walk with Mary through the events of our redemption.
  • When asked, “What does the Mass have to do with real life?” the response is simply that the Mass is real life – joining ourselves to Christ in His gift of Himself to God for the salvation of the world. That’s what our entire life is meant to be.
  • “Our [American] Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” [John Adams]
  • We can’t be a self-governing nation if we don’t know how to govern ourselves as individuals.
  • Secular freedom is freedom from – from external restraints, from moral absolutes, from objective truth, from lasting commitment. Christian freedom is freedom for – for love, for service, for the last measure of devotion. We are saved to serve.
  • “It’s not that Christianity has been tried and found wanting, it’s been found difficult and left untried.” [G.K. Chesterton]
  • Whatever suffering you experience, or trials you undergo, are opportunities to grow in love. “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).
  • Christians don’t hate the body – God made it, and He even took one for Himself!
  • Love and desire are not the same thing.
  • Love is much more than a feeling – it’s an act of the will, a choice.
  • Love is never earned. There’s nothing you can do to make God love you – He already does. We shouldn’t try to make others earn our love either.
  • Everything is gift. Everything is a grace.
  • You are beloved.

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While this is my last “official” weekend at Holy Family, I won’t actually be departing for Washington, DC, until the beginning of August. After my return from pilgrimage to Scotland and Ireland on July 7th, I’ll be celebrating Mass with you from time to time. I will also be back for 3  weddings in October, November, and December. In the meantime, I can be reached at tjcusick@icloud.com.

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As I’ve been cleaning off my shelves in preparation for my move, I’ve found a number of books (and a few DVDs) that I would like to donate to the parish. They will form the core of a new Holy Family “library” in Room 211 of the Parish Life Center. It will be on the honor system.

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I will miss you all terribly. Please pray for me, as I do for you. God bless you!

 

 

Marriage in Church

This week’s “Ask a Priest” question is a relatively common one these days:

Why can’t Catholics get married on the beach?

Marriage is, of course, a sacrament; in the sacraments, God’s presence is revealed in a special way in the context of the saving work of Jesus Christ. In His Passion, Jesus made a complete gift of Himself, to the point of offering His very life to God the Father, for the salvation of the world. At their wedding, the bride and groom imitate this: they offer all that they have and are to each other, making a complete gift of themselves – body, mind, and spirit – to help each other on the way to salvation. This is why the spouses, not the priest or deacon, are the ministers of the Sacrament of  Matrimony. This is also why the Sacrament is celebrated in front of an altar, the symbol of Christ’s own sacrifice in which the couple participate – and why it normally takes place in the context of the Mass, in which our union with Christ and each other is deepened. “This is a great mystery,” says St. Paul regarding marriage, “but I speak in reference to Christ and the Church” (Ephesians 5:32).

Given this understanding of marriage, it can also be seen why living together before marriage is not desirable. Not only do sociological studies show that cohabitation increases the likelihood of future divorce, but it also contributes to a misunderstanding of who we are as human persons. It says that I can give my body to someone without giving anything else, as if my body had no true relation to my mind, my emotions, my will – to my “real” self. This is due to a deep confusion in our culture about our bodies:   On the one hand, enormous efforts are expended to attain ideals of physical attractiveness and pleasure. At the same time, we frequently seek to escape from the limitations of the body altogether, through efforts to deny our fertility, to escape into    virtual reality, or even, according to some futurists, to “upload” our minds into the “cloud” – though they have some difficulty explaining how our identities will remain continuous with our formerly embodied selves.

A foundational Christian belief is the Incarnation: that in Jesus Christ, God entered history and became truly human. Salvation came through His body—scourged and wounded though it was—which was given up for us on the Cross and glorified in His Resurrection. Christ came not just to save our souls, but our whole selves, body, mind, and spirit.

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Christian Smith is a sociologist at the University of Notre Dame who has done extensive research on the religious beliefs and practices of young people. He is perhaps best known for his formulation that many young Americans, even professed Christians, don’t practice historical Christianity but what he calls “Moral Therapeutic Deism.” In this view, God (a) wants us to be nice, kind, and fair, (b) leaves us alone for the most part, except when we need help, and (c) allows more or less everyone to get into heaven.  There is very little here about sin, repentance, grace, and Christ’s atoning death on the cross.

On this Fathers’ Day, however, it is one of Dr. Smith’s findings concerning religious practice in families that I find most striking. First, his research shows that parents are by far the most important influence on the strength of their children’s faith once they reach adulthood. (In other words, if I don’t “impose” my faith on my children, desiring them to decide for themselves when they come of age, it usually means that they’ll “decide” to have no faith as adults.) Second, while a mother’s practice has a noticeable effect on whether her children go to church when they grow up, it’s the father’s practice that has the most significant impact – upwards of 80% of children whose fathers faithfully attend church will do likewise as adults.

This fall, Holy Family plans to offer a program to help Catholic fathers, and all the men of our parish, to deepen their faith and live it out joyfully. That Man is You! has been utilized in several parishes in our diocese with tremendous success. The first course in the program, “Becoming a Man after God’s Own Heart,” is described by its creators as follows:

Combining the latest science with the teachings of the Church and the wisdom of the saints, Becoming a Man after God’s Own Heart develops the vision of man fully alive. It makes an honest assessment of challenges facing men today and provides a practical path to transformation by focusing on man’s relationship with God and introducing the 7 Steps to superabundance.

To find out more about this program, please contact our  seminarian, Jared De Leo, or visit paradisusdei.org.

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Humanae Vitae 50 Years Later (conclusion)

Love is Fruitful

[Married] love is fecund (fruitful). It is not confined wholly to the loving interchange of husband and wife; it also contrives to go beyond this to bring new life into being.

“Marriage and conjugal love are by their nature ordained toward the procreation and education of children. Children  are  really  the supreme gift of marriage and contribute in the highest degree to their parents’ welfare.” (Humanae vitae, no. 9)

Reflection

When God created Adam and Eve, he blessed them and told them “be fruitful and multiply,” a command which follows  almost immediately after their creation in Scripture and which precedes any other directive (Genesis 1:28). This command not only highlights the importance of procreation, but also that fruitful love is a way man and woman were made in God’s  image and likeness. For just as God in his goodness is supremely generous, creating the entire world to share in his goodness, so should husband and wife be generous, by remaining open to life, oriented toward children that spring from the love they share.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes marriage as “directed towards the salvation of others” (CCC 1534). This emphasis on others reminds us in another way that fruitful love goes forth, brings new life into being, and seeks the good of the other. Marriage calls the spouses out of themselves and into communion with each other and with their family.

 

 

The Bible and the Church – September 10, 2017

No one has an “original” copy of the Bible. The oldest manuscripts that we have of the complete Bible date to the 4th or 5th centuries, with portions of the Old Testament discovered in the Dead Sea Scrolls going back to perhaps the 1st century before Christ. What we have essentially are copies of copies, going back many centuries, and in some cases including errors in transmission. So how do we know that we have the right book?

Actually, the Bible is not a book, but a collection of books, with many different literary styles and genres, from poetry to narrative, from epic history to apocalyptic prediction. This “library” came into being over the course of millennia, as the fruit of much debate and discernment. How were these particular books selected?

For the earliest Christians, of course, there was no New Testament! Consider what St. Paul writes in his 2nd letter to Timothy: “Remain faithful to what you have learned and believed, because you know from whom you learned it, and that from infancy you have known the sacred Scriptures, which are capable of giving you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (3:14-15).

What are the Scriptures to which Paul is referring? When Paul was writing, for example, the 4 Gospel accounts were not yet in existence. So he must be talking about the Hebrew Scriptures – for Jesus and His first followers, this was the  Bible. It had been in the process of development for many centuries, some stories dating back almost 2 millennia. After the Babylonian exile (6th century BC), they began to be codified; it was commonly thought that revelation ended with Ezra (5th century BC). But new books continued to be written (e.g., 1 & 2 Maccabees, Wisdom) and were included in the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible known as the Septuagint. This was the Bible most early Christians knew. (Variation between the Greek and Hebrew versions of the Old Testament is one reason for the difference between Catholic and Protestant Bibles.)

Over time, various writings circulated among the Christian churches – Gospels, letters, books of “Acts”, prophetic books like Revelation. Different communities accepted different books, but a consensus grew around the 4 Gospels, the letters of Paul, and some other writings. There were questions about some books (2 Peter, Revelation), but lists of approved books began circulating especially in the 4th century, and by 419, with the help of St. Augustine, the matter was settled. Some point to the Council of Trent’s declaration of the approved books of the Bible in 1546 as the first official statement on the matter, but the evidence is clear that the Bible had been fixed relatively early after a process of discernment.

What were the criteria for inclusion in the New Testament? Typically, authorship by an Apostle or a close companion (Mark, Luke) was thought to be essential; in addition, they were proclaimed as part of the Church’s public prayer, and they were in harmony with the apostolic preaching – which came first! Consider the openings of the letters of St. Paul – for example, 1st Corinthians: “Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, to the church of God that is in Corinth…” (1:1-2). The church of Corinth was in existence (founded by Paul himself, in fact) long before the letters addressed to them became part of the New Testament. The proclamation of the Gospel began with Jesus Himself, followed by the Apostles and their co-workers, before the written Gospels came into being. The New Testament put into written form what the disciples had experienced in Christ and the community he founded, and what they had witnessed to others in their preaching.

The Bible did not simply drop down from the heavens. It was, in the end, the Church itself which determined, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, which books were truly   inspired and meant as a rule (or “canon”) for all Christians. The Church as a whole, under the leadership of the Pope and bishops (the Magisterium), then also has the responsibility for the proper interpretation of the Scriptures.

The Bible is properly understood as a gift handed down to us from the earliest believers, who wished to invite those who came after them to share what they had encountered in Jesus, and to live in response to that encounter. As we welcome the magnificent St. John’s Bible to our parish this weekend, let us give thanks to God for this awesome gift.

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Catechism Corner

 Is the Devil Real?

“Deliver Us from Evil”… Evil is not an abstraction but  refers to a person, Satan, the Evil One, the angel who opposes God. The devil (dia-bolos) is the one who “throws himself across” God’s plan and His work of salvation accomplished in Christ. Satan … and the other demons were at first good angels, created naturally good, who became evil by their own doing. He is only a creature, powerful from the fact that he is pure spirit, but still a creature. He cannot prevent the building up of God’s reign. (Glossary and Paragraphs 395 & 2851)

 

discernment.

 

Test DPI

Testing Ring in the New Year and celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family with Breakfast prepared and served by the Holy Family Men’s Club. Breakfast will be served after all morning Masses. We will have donuts for the kids! All members of the Parish and their visiting guests are welcome.

Confirmation Candidates in need of Service Hours can help serve at the Feast the Holy Family Breakfast. Please contact Joe Rolince at m1313j@yahoo.com.

Feast of the Holy Family Breakfast sponsored by the Men’s Club

holy-family-breakfast

Ring in the New Year and celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family with Breakfast prepared and served by the Holy Family Men’s Club. Breakfast will be served after all morning Masses. We will have donuts for the kids! All members of the Parish and their visiting guests are welcome.

Confirmation Candidates in need of Service Hours can help serve at the Feast the Holy Family Breakfast.  Please contact Joe Rolince at m1313j@yahoo.com.

 

 

The Mission of the 72 – and Our Mission – July 3, 2016

 “At that time the Lord appointed seventy-two others whom he sent ahead of Him in pairs to every town and place He  intended to visit” (Luke 10:1).

Jesus seeks out each human person and every community. He came to save every one of us and to redeem the whole world. So He “intends to visit” everyone in every place! Are we  preparing the way for Him? Do we join with fellow Christians to lead others to an encounter with the Lord Jesus?

The Church is missionary at its heart, called to bring the  Gospel to every nation (cf. Matthew 28:19). But this is not limited to those who have committed to become missionaries in foreign lands. All the faithful have a responsibility to  evangelize, to bring the Good News of God’s love and mercy to everyone they meet, as Pope Francis explains in his message for World Mission Sunday 2016:

The Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy … invites us to consider the missio ad gentes as a great, immense work of mercy, both spiritual and material…. [A]ll of us are invited to “go out” as missionary disciples, each generously offering their talents, creativity,  wisdom and experience in order to bring the message of God’s tenderness and compassion to the entire human family. By virtue of the missionary mandate, the Church cares for those who do not know the Gospel, because she wants everyone to be saved and to experience the Lord’s love…. [A]s I noted in my Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium: “Each Christian and every community must discern the path that the Lord points out, but all of us are asked to obey His call to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the ‘peripheries’ in need of the light of the Gospel” (20).

 

This does not mean that we have to become street-corner preachers, but rather that we witness to our faith by word and action in all aspects of our lives. This can be as simple as  being good spouses and parents, standing up for what is right at work and in the political arena, or inviting friends to consider joining the Catholic faith.

But we do also need to support those who work “in the missions”, where the Gospel has not been heard or has shallow roots. Each year our Diocese invites various missionary organizations to visit parishes to tell them about their ministries and ask for spiritual and material support for their work. The weekend of July 23-24, Holy Family will  welcome Mr. Tom Chitta of the Foundation for Children in Need, a Catholic lay organization based in Arlington Heights, Illinois. Mr. Chitta, co-founder of FCN, is very  happy to visit us and share about their mission work in the interior villages of southern India. FCN sponsors 2500 children and college students. They have been responsible for building several schools, boarding homes, a community health center, and a home for the elderly. They provide free medical check-ups and medicine to thousands of needy people and children. To know more about their mission work, please visit www.fcn-usa.org. Thank you in advance for your generosity (for which Holy Family is so well known!) in supporting this work, which embodies the mercy and compassion of Christ.

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This coming week, we will have training sessions for Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. We are still in great need of new EMs to assist us in the distribution of Holy Communion at Mass and to the homebound. If you feel the Lord is calling you to this wonderful ministry, please visit our website to sign up, or contact Deacon Doug. New ministers need to attend both training sessions: Practical training will be held on Thursday, July 7, at 7:00 pm in the church, and theological training will be offered on Saturday, July 9, at 10:00 am in Room 205 of the Parish Life Center. (Existing EMs are, of course, welcome to come to these sessions for a refresher!) My thanks go to those who have already responded and attended training last month – we look forward to serving with you! And many thanks to all those who have been giving of themselves so generously in this ministry – may your reverence and love for our Eucharistic Lord bring you an abundance of blessings.

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Many thanks to all who made our celebration of Our Lady, Queen of Peace, such a beautiful event. I would like to note especially Msgr. David Toups, who gave a beautiful homily inviting us to imitate St. John the Baptist and our Blessed Mother, and, after Mass, an inspiring story of his vocation; Sr. Joan Gabbin, Becky Jarboe, and Joe Helow, who did much to plan and coordinate the celebration; the Cenacolo Community, for leading the beautiful recitation of the Rosary; and Don Moynahan and his crew for preparing the reception following Mass. Well done, all!

 

Lenten Tones- February 14, 2016

 

During Lent, the tone of the liturgy changes. Certain texts which express exuberant joy are suppressed: we no longer sing the Gloria (except on major feasts); the Alleluia is silenced, not to be revived until the great Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday night; and we do not sing a recessional hymn at the end of Mass. The absence of these hymns of praise leads us to focus more on our need for God’s grace to fill our lives and hearts. And here at Holy Family, we have for several years now used some of the Church’s ancient chants to lend a tone of solemnity to the season.

 
The Kýrie Eléison (Greek for “Lord, have mercy”), the Sanctus (Latin for “Holy”), and the Agnus Dei (Latin for “Lamb of God”) are part of our liturgical patrimony. The Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (1963) states, “The Church recognizes Gregorian chant as especially native to the Roman liturgy. Therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services” (§116). The same document also advises “that the faithful may also be able to sing or say together in Latin those parts of the ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them” (§54).
The chant which follows the Consecration – the Mysterium Fidei, or “Mystery of Faith” – is meant to be an opportunity for the congregation to express its awestruck wonder at the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. While the Sanctus and Agnus Dei are relatively simple to translate into their English counterparts (with an almost one-to-one correspondence of words), the Mysterium Fidei is a bit more difficult, so a translation is here provided:

 
Mortem tuam annuntiamus, Domine is “Your death we proclaim, O Lord”.
Et tuam resurrectionem confitemur is “And your resurrection we confess”.
Donec venias is “Until you come”.

 
So at the moment that Christ becomes fully present to us, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, we also recognize that the Eucharist is our participation in Christ’s atoning Sacrifice on the Cross (which is why the consecrated bread is called a Host, from the Latin hostia, meaning “victim”); that it is His resurrected, glorified Body present to us in the Blessed Sacrament; and that we come to Holy Communion in anticipation of the great Heavenly Wedding Banquet that will be inaugurated at the Second Coming of our Lord.

 
During this Lenten season, may our use of these simple chants reconnect us to our rich tradition, help to raise our minds to God and His great mercy, and open our eyes to Christ’s Presence in the Eucharist.

 

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Worship Aids

 
These chants, with their musical settings, can all be found in the worship aids provided in your pews. When we began using these back in Advent, we wanted to provide parishioners with convenient access to all the texts of the Mass in one place: not everyone can see the hymn boards, for example, and we wanted to be able to print the texts of the Entrance and Communion antiphons, as well as the anthems the Choir sings at the Offertory. In addition, they allow us to provide a wider variety of music than is available in the Worship hymnal alone.

 
These worship aids are produced by our Music Director, Matt Daniel, and printed by Diocesan Publications, the company which also provides our bulletins. Because of our existing relationship with Diocesan, we are able to get the worship aids at a very affordable rate, and we take care to recycle them once the weekend is over. Matt and I have been discussing some the comments people have made about the worship aids, and we have decided that all the congregational music will be printed in them each week, including the hymns from the Worship hymnal – this should make participation in the singing much simpler. Our ownership of these hymnals includes the license to reproduce the music contained in them, and they are used as well for School Masses and other special events. We have also purchased licenses from publishers to use hymns and other music not contained in Worship.

 
We welcome continued comments on the worship aids – we want to make sure that they help all the members of the congregation achieve that “full, conscious, and active participation” in the Eucharist which the Second Vatican Council so urgently called for.

Parish Lenten Mission – February 22 – 24, 2016

Lenten Mission

Mission will be presented by:

Gus Lloyd, National Radio Host, Author and Speaker

Gus will be speaking on Loving, Learning and Living Your Faith

Bring the whole family, and invite a friend!

Monday-Wednesday, February 22-24, 2016
Begins at 7:00 pm each evening
Holy Family Catholic Church
9800 Baymeadows Rd., Jacksonville, FL 32256

904-641-5838