Author Archives: Bob Laquerre

Pastor’s Message March 10th, 2019

    Now that the holy season of Lent has begun, it might be good to set a course of action for ourselves based on the Gospel story of the Temptations of Christ. First, however, I can’t resist the temptation to comment on our Ash Wednesday observances. This might give us pause to see exactly where we are in our understanding of Lent and all that it entails. Many people called to inquire when ashes were being given out. When the answer came that it was “during each Mass,” the follow up was, “about what time in the Mass?” It occurs to me that for some people, the sacramental (ash) is more important than the Sacrament (the Eucharistic offering).

I guess we have a long way to go in catechizing Catholics about this purpose of beginning the sacred season of Lent. Noticeable, too, was the fact that more people came to the five Masses on Ash Wednesday (not a Holy Day of Obligation) than come on any of the Holy Days of Obligation, except Christmas (it’s sure hard to break old habits).      

The first temptation, to turn stone into bread, signifies the temptation to satisfy the various kinds of desires of the flesh. Here Lust, gluttony, and sloth are the current vices and sins that come into play. Though Jesus called upon his Father constantly to strengthen Him against temptation, our failure to intensify our prayer life will allow us to be seduced into the evils brought about through computer porn, excessive eating & drinking, smoking, drug & alcohol addiction and, in general, the failure to live up to Jesus’ words to remember that “our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit.” Our previous enlightened attitudes become lax because we’re so easily influenced by our surroundings – the media, our neighbors, popular opinions and fashionable trends.

The second temptation features Satan offering power over the world around us. The world will be ours if we would bend to the wishes of the devil. Here wrath (uncontrolled anger), envy and avarice (greed) prey upon our weakened human nature. We immerse ourselves in building up earthly treasures rather than spiritual ones. We allow ourselves to dominate, subjugate and control people; or we totally disrespect and abuse people: the unborn, the elderly, human trafficking, prostitution. In-fighting, fighting among nations; and the proverbial “keeping up with the Joneses” poses a threat to those who mistake “license” for freedom.

The third temptation, (when Satan calls upon Jesus to fling Himself off the temple tower for God’s angels will save Him) is probably the most common way that Satan deceives us. Through the sin of pride, the source of all the other deadly sins, the Evil One invites us to see ourselves as being just like God when we succumb to praising and giving glory to ourselves. We tend to give priority to something over God; we walk out on God – perhaps by leaving Mass early (the “Judas Stomp”), or we don’t even come to weekly Mass (“I got more important things to do”), or if we do, we receive the Holy Eucharist unworthily. We neglect our daily prayers. We push out the “sacred” and let in the profane. Why? Because we don’t really believe in God. We may say that we do, but those words ring hollow and are meaningless when it comes to following His divine initiatives. So, we’re lacking in a true and vibrant faith.

Like us, the disciples were heavily influenced by what St. Paul would soon call “the wisdom of this world,” which teaches us to hold onto grudges and to take revenge, not to forgive. This is “foolishness in the eyes of God” because it can never bring what everyone wants: peace of soul. God did not design the human heart to hold hatred and harmony together. One or the other has to go, and worldly wisdom makes room for hatred at the expense of peace. Time and again, the Tempter’s suggestions lure us on, even in Lent: easy in, easy out; no pain, good gain. Before long, the scarcely perceptible path of temptation turns into a well-trodden way of life settled in sin, paved tight with stones of self-justification. We acknowledge God but don’t fear Him. We don’t repent because we had long before justified our way of life to our satisfaction. The Tempter behind our temptations brings us down by the simple method of getting us to blur distinctions. Confused by the same Serpent’s cunning, Eve disastrously failed to distinguish between the trees God had placed in the Garden.

Therefore, we need to take serious time to come to recognize Jesus as the Son of God, and this can only be achieved through faith. We must seek Our Lord, who rescues us from sin and death, to help us make this Lent holy and fruitful. Regular worthy Confession, daily scriptural reading, weekend Mass  (and daily Mass, when possible), and good Catholic literature or programs are means to achieve this goal. You don’t have to give up watching television, just change your channel selections into more worthy and suitable programs. Keep your mind free from all those distractions that would pull it into some abyss. Know that God is Lord and Master of all creation and will guide us away from the Evil One if we just call upon His Name.

Pastor’s Message March 3rd, 2019

Congratulations to all of our Annual Festival Workers – the many volunteers who labored throughout last weekend – some for all three days – and helped make the resulting success a feather in their cap. I couldn’t believe all the hours some people spent preparing, setting up, breaking-down and cleaning-up the booths and tents. What an inspiring group of men and women to set the example of stewardship! Many unselfishly gave up spending time with their own families in order to serve the greater good of working with and for their parish family. Others volunteered from outside the parish and willingly worked three days at the festival with no expected reward except the gratification to know that “it’s all for the kids.” Thank you one and all!!

    This coming Wednesday is Ash Wednesday. Latin Rite Catholics throughout the world recognize Ash Wednesday as the solemn beginning of Lent, a sacred period of prayerful reflection and penance, as is evidenced by the large number of church-goers on this day.

As it marks the start of Lent, the obligation of fast and abstinence, along with deepened prayer and works of charity must naturally be the priority of the Catholic community. We begin the holy season of LENT as a solemn time set aside to reflect on our past weaknesses and to repent, i.e., change from our old sinful ways.

Even though Ash Wednesday is not a Holy Day of Obligation, we welcome you to begin your Lenten observance by coming to Mass that day. Ashes will be imposed at each of the Masses that day. They are at 7:00, 8:30 and 10:00 am, and 5:00 pm and 7:00 pm. It is one of two days set aside as a day of fasting (one full meal that day) and abstinence (refrain from meat and meat bi-products). Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are the obligatory days of fasting and abstinence for Catholics.

The norms concerning fasting oblige all Catholics from ages 18 until 59. Under Church law, every Catholic in good health, aged 18 to 59, must fast. They may eat just one full meal, supplemented by two smaller meals that together do not equal the full meal. When fasting, a person is permitted to eat one full meal that day (no snacking between meals!).

The norms concerning abstinence from meat and meat bi-products are binding upon members of the Latin Catholic Church from age 14 onwards. All Fridays during Lent are obligatory days of abstinence, as is Ash Wednesday.

   So, we ask the question, what is the real purpose of observing Lent each year? Lived well, Lent can convert the heart and transform a person’s life. That’s the whole point of the season – to ready us for the miracle of Easter. But self-examination, repentance and reconciliation are rarely painless; they can sound a lot easier in theory than they are in actual practice.

We owe ourselves exactly the same mercy we owe to others. Vilifying ourselves isn’t the point of Lent. Purifying our hearts is. Lent is the time when we learn the language of repentance and forgiveness by disciplining our mind, our spirit and our appetites, so that nothing prevents us from hearing God’s voice and seeking him out. The joy in Lent comes from our confidence in the resurrection of a Savior who will deliver us from sin and restore us to life. That’s why we take on the roles of greater sacrifice and almsgiving. This is following Jesus’ own way to show mercy toward others. After his desert experience, He was well-prepared to offer his life to secure the lives of others: He reached out to the poor, the blind, the deaf, the possessed, the lame, the sinners who were open to conversion – and He made a difference in their lives.

Of course, unless we understand our own sinfulness, unless we understand the urgency of repentance and reconciliation, the Cross makes no sense; the Resurrection makes no sense. Easter joy is the joy of deliverance and new life. If we don’t believe right down to our bones that we really, desperately need these things, then Easter is just another excuse for a holiday sale; and the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation and our fasting and our almsgiving are a waste of time. 

But in the silence of our own hearts, if we’re honest, we know we hunger for something more than our own selfishness and mistakes. We were made for glory, and we’re empty of that glory until God fills us with his presence. All things are made new in the victory of Jesus Christ – even sinners like you and me. The blood of the Cross washes away death. It purifies us as vessels for God’s new life. The Resurrection fills us with God’s own life.

Lent is an opportunity and a grace, not a burden. May we use the weeks of Lent this year to clean and ready our hearts so we can worthily receive Jesus Christ this Easter, and share his life with others who desperately need Him!

Pastor’s Message February 24th, 2019

It’s Festival weekend, and many people from all over the area will be on our campus to enjoy the fun and festivities of this annual celebration. Many will identify themselves as former or current members of St. Vincent Ferrer Parish – hence, identifying themselves, at least in some indirect way, as Catholics. While they will come for the weekend party, I wonder how many of them also will take the time to attend weekend Mass? 
   Two thousand years ago, there were many who observed Jesus closely as He went about his business. Some knew Him as lifelong friend and neighbor, others as a local tradesman like so many others. Some knew of his devotion to his widowed mother, others of his quiet fidelity to the law and things spiritual. One day, He left the obscure security of home and trade and began to speak publicly of his Father, to beckon others to the truth that something new was happening. He not only told them about this new life, He showed it to them — and many took notice. They found Him fascinating, his words appealing, his miracles tantalizing and even persuasive. They also observed hangers-on accompany Him on his walks around town and across desert roads to the next towns, and some wondered if it wouldn’t be interesting to actually go on one of those walks. Others watched from their rooftops, knowing his name but not really knowing Him. Some asked friends if it was worthwhile giving Him the time of day, while others simply ignored Him as one more in a succession of teachers who had come and gone over the years.  
Many admired Him. They admired his welcoming demeanor, his smile, his peaceful spirit. They admired his lessons about spendthrift sons and merciful fathers, about seeds sown carelessly and weeds thriving stubbornly, about wedding banquets and the hungry poor and about lost things and just judgments. Who could not identify with such colorful imagery from the lives they lived, the people they knew and earth they plowed?  
They watched God’s power at work in Him: he who had been blind his whole life could now see; and a troubled man who used to beg by the gate could now hold down a job and feed his family. There were stories of a little girl who at his touch awakened from death, and a friend of his who walked out of the tomb three days after death when Jesus called his name. No doubt about it, he struck a nerve, and something within them listened and yearned for more. But there were also disconcerting things.  
There was glorious talk of God forgiving the worst of sins, but then there was also the implication that we are to forgive just as magnanimously. He said that in order to find our lives we would have to lose them, but how could that be possible? He insinuated that there are crosses to carry and that He himself would die on one and then rise — but how could he be the Savior if He dies? And whoever heard of one’s own resurrection from the dead?  
There was extreme talk about eating his flesh and drinking his blood, and it became well-known that many of his admirers walked away when He said such things. He even claimed to be God’s only Son — and if that be true, well then, everything had changed! It could be a good thing to listen to Him, to put into practice some of his lessons; but to accept Him as Son of God without question, to let go of one’s own approach and one’s opinions? Well, that was another thing altogether. Many admired Him, but only some followed Him.  
The Danish philosopher, Søren Kierkegaard (1813–1855), wrote: “What is the difference between an admirer and a follower? A follower is or strives to be what he admires. An admirer, however, keeps himself personally detached. He fails to see that what is admired involves a claim upon him, and so he fails to be or strives to be what he admires … The admirer never makes any true sacrifices. He always plays it safe. Though in word he is inexhaustible about how highly he prizes Christ, he renounces nothing, will not reconstruct his life, and will not let his life express what it is he supposedly admires. No, no!” “The follower aspires with all his strength to be what he admires.”  
Do we sometimes live as mere admirers, holding back from giving him everything? Do we clutch tenaciously, even if unwittingly, to our stubborn will or to ways of living opposed to the ways of God? Are we too afraid, too proud or too egotistical to give him everything and confess that we have sinned? Are we mere admirers of Jesus, or do we desire to be his true followers, his true disciples? There were those in Jesus’ own day who knew Him well and liked what He did and said but never followed Him, who never became his disciples.  
You and I don’t find it any easier to follow Jesus than did countless Christians who have gone before us. But just like them, we can take courage in his unfailing fidelity to us, his patience and his mercy, as we aspire with all our strength to become true disciples.  
An admirer can walk away, because there is no real attachment. As Jesus watched some of his admirers leave Him because they found his teaching hard, He must have thought sadly about what they were giving up. So, He said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”  
We need to take time to renounce what does not belong to his ways, to abandon everything that does not help us grow closer to Him, to resolve to stay with Him permanently, and to allow Him to reconstruct us by his grace. He is Son of God, Savior, Eternal Word, our Peace, our Hope — our Everything! He knows we have so much to learn from Him, and we know that He alone has the words of eternal life.

Pastor’s Message February 17th, 2019

One of the many consequences of the so-called sexual revolution has been the decline in the number of people getting married. In an article entitled, “The Death of Eros,” which appeared in the October 2017 issue of the journal First Things, Mark Regnerus, associate professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin, wrote: “As recently as 2000, a majority – 55% of Americans between the ages of 25 and 34 were married, compared with only 34% who had never been married. Since then, the two groups have swapped places. By 2015, 52 % of Americans in that age group had never married, while only 41% were married.” Regnerus suggests a number of reasons why fewer people are getting married these days, but one of the primary reasons is a loss of understanding about the true meaning of love, which is not so much a feeling as it is giving of oneself and sacrificing one’s own interests for the sake of another. 
A few days ago, we celebrated Valentine’s Day, or, more precisely, St. Valentine’s Day.  The world around us associates Valentine’s Day with romance, the purchase of candy, flowers, or other gifts, including romantic, intimate dinners celebrating a day dedicated to what our secular culture views as love, we can look at this day as one connected with the color red. Have you ever wondered why? The reason red is associated with Valentine’s Day is because red is the color of martyrs. St. Valentine was a martyr who shed his blood in witness to his faith in Jesus, and willingly died out of love for his Savior, who, in turn, sacrificed his life and died for our sins on the cross – the motivation that spurs all of us on in our faith.   
There are several versions of the story of St. Valentine. Ironically, on this day of romantic love, the prevailing consensus is that it was named after a celibate priest! The Roman martyrology records the February 14th death of a priest named Valentine who died in the year 269. According to a book by Fern G. Brown, February 14th was called “Valentine’s Day” after this Christian priest who lived in Rome in the third century A.D.  At that time, Christians in the Roman Empire were persecuted and forbidden to follow the “new religion” of Christianity. St. Valentine was apprehended for preaching Christianity and sent to the prefect of Rome, who, on finding all his efforts to make Valentine renounce his faith ineffectual, commanded him to be beaten with clubs, and afterward, to be beheaded. He was executed on February 14. He apparently was buried on the Flaminian Way, a Roman highway extending north from Rome to Rimini built in 220 B.C., and a basilica was built in his honor less than a century after his death. He was later proclaimed a saint. 
Another story tells of a priest named Valentine who loved children and gave them flowers from his garden. He was put in prison by the emperor because he refused to pray to the Roman gods. The children missed their friend and threw him bouquets of flowers with love notes attached through the prison bars. Valentine spent a year in prison with only the most basic necessities. The jailer’s blind daughter brought him messages and food and tried to make Valentine’s life easier. The emperor, impressed with Valentine’s gentleness and dignity, offered to set him free if he would give up Christianity and begin to worship Roman gods. Valentine refused and was ordered to be put to death. During the priest’s last days, he prayed that the jailer’s daughter would regain her sight, and she did! Then Valentine was beheaded. 
If you never heard these stories of St. Valentine before, but if you are to truly live the life of a dedicated Catholic Christian, it is essential that you understand the life of martyrs like him and be willing to follow their example, even sacrificing your life out of love. Rather than simply celebrating a romantic sentimentality on February 14, may I suggest that it would be more appropriate on St. Valentine’s Day to focus on the sacrifices that true love demands of us.
   Next weekend (already???), we celebrate our Annual Parish Festival. “Many hands make light work” is an old expression that signifies what we need to make our festival successful. Since the festival benefits the school 100%, I’m urging all our parents to volunteer to help in some way – raffle tickets sales, manning booths/tables, working the Flea Market, food services, trash removal, shuttle transportation, set-up and break-down of equipment and a host of other possibilities are included. For those just attending and not working Saturday afternoon, I want to caution you that parking for the Saturday 4 pm Mass will be “a bear.” The 5:30 Mass will work a little better, and Sunday afternoon Mass, even more so. If you’re wanting to avoid the parking “mess,” I’d like to suggest that you attend one of the Sunday morning Masses next weekend. It will help you “keep your cool.” $100 raffle tickets are still available at the church or rectory.
   I offer my sincere thanks to Mary Sommerville, Director of Family Life Services, and those volunteers who assisted her in making last weekend’s retreat with Father Michael Gaitley, the beautiful occasion and success that it was! A special thanks goes to Jay Flood, our Director of Maintenance, assisted by his staff, for helping the program go so smoothly. Without their help, it would have been impossible to host over 550 guests at that weekend event in an orderly manner.  
   Congratulations to our Parish Coordinator of Stewardship, Dan Siller, who now takes on the role of Director. You can see him each weekend running around the church in one of his many roles, coordinating the ministers of hospitality, an important factor in promoting stewardship in our parish.   
   Congratulations to Thomas and Anita Scirica Liguori of the Archdiocese of New York and part-time parishioners here, as they celebrate 67 years of married life! Cent-anno!

Pastor’s Message February 10th, 2019

Because of its singular importance, and in view of the recent insidious activities of the governors of New York and Virginia, I offer my weekly letter space to this much needed statement from the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“The bishops of Florida join with Catholics and others of goodwill in reacting in horror and disgust to the recently passed law in New York State that legalizes abortion essentially for any reason through all nine months of pregnancy and removes any protection for children born alive after abortion. Sadly, similar bills were proposed in Virginia and elsewhere. As Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, Chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, stated, “This legislation is evil, pure and simple.”
Floridians can take some comfort in knowing that in regard to our state’s respect for children in the womb, Florida is not New York. Florida’s laws, as well as its present political realities, are substantially different than in the state of New York. With the current make-up of our legislature and leadership in the Florida House, Senate and governor’s office, a New York-type abortion bill stands no chance of passage in the Sunshine State in the near future.
Florida faces its own challenges in prohibiting or limiting abortion. Notwithstanding those challenges, numerous laws have been passed in Florida including:
*Requiring notification of a parent when a minor seeks an abortion (2005);
*Requiring the abortion provider to offer the mother the option to view an ultrasound image of her unborn child (2011);
*Requiring any infant born alive during an abortion to be transported to the nearest emergency medical facility for immediate treatment (2013);
*Prohibiting abortion if required testing determines the unborn child is viable outside the womb, with exceptions for life and irreversible physical impairment of the mother (2014);
*Allowing criminal prosecution if a person commits any crime that causes the death of, or bodily injury to, an unborn child (2014);
*Requiring abortionists to have admitting privileges or the facility to have a transfer agreement with a hospital within 30 minutes by emergency vehicle (2016);
*Securing state funding for pregnancy support services (2005 and ongoing) and including the Florida Pregnancy Care Network to Florida statutes (2018). 
 Since 1969, the bishops of Florida, through the Florida Catholic Conference, have been a consistent voice for human life and have actively engaged the Florida legislature to promote passage of these life-saving bills. The bishops will continue to be strong advocates for the passage of laws that protect and defend unborn babies and their mothers and fathers. Much work still needs to be done.
As noted above, Florida faces unique challenges in regulating and restricting abortion. As a result of an interpretation by the Florida Supreme Court, the privacy clause in our state constitution was found to provide a broader right to abortion than the U.S. Constitution. Consequently, unjust rulings have kept good laws from going into effect that seek to limit the harm of abortion. Laws blocked by our courts include requiring a 24-hour reflection period prior to abortion, which is still pending appeal, and parental consent prior to a minor’s abortion.
Even if the U.S. Supreme Court reverses Roe v. Wade, abortion could remain legal in our state due to the Florida Supreme Court’s broad interpretation of Florida’s privacy clause. “We advocate for the reconsideration of these decisions, and we remain hopeful that the courts will ultimately protect women in Florida from the predatory practices of the abortion industry,” said the bishops in their Statement on the 46th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade, January 22, 2019.
Please reach out to your lawmakers. They need to know where their constituents stand on this critical issue. Please send a message urging both your state and federal lawmakers against ever enacting legislation similar to the immoral New York State law. 
Pray for an end to abortion. Please pray for our elected and appointed leaders. Pray especially for those that support and celebrate abortion, that their eyes will be opened to the atrocity of killing an innocent human life in a mother’s womb. Pray that those who are pro-life and oppose abortion are reassured and strengthened in their convictions. Pray that all may recognize that devaluing the most innocent and vulnerable life leads to a coarseness and callousness towards one another and all life. And, pray that we have the strength to continue to fight until the scourge of abortion is brought to an end.”

Pastor’s Message February 3rd, 2019

We have witnessed in recent years a troubling distortion of the reality of love that has taken a deep hold in Western society, not only in the general culture of the day but also in the thoughts of many individual people. This distortion of the truth, and even the purpose of love, has been raised to new heights because of the legal attempts to redefine traditional marriage to include the so-called unions of two men or of two women. Sadly, such a redefinition of traditional marriage unfortunately was made law by our U.S. Supreme Court.  
Those who insist on this redefinition of marriage claim to do so “out of love.” They ask, “Should anyone be denied the right to love another person?” The answer, of course, is no, provided that we have a true definition of love, such as is given us by St. Paul in this Sunday’s 2nd Reading at Mass. This passage is frequently proclaimed at wedding ceremonies: that when a man is joined to his wife, the two become one flesh, because at the heart of marriage, as at the heart of every Christian life, is love (Gen. 2:24). At the beginning of this passage, Paul tells us to “strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts” (I Cor. 12:31); and at its conclusion, he tells us what the greatest spiritual gift is: “the greatest of these is love” (I Cor. 13:13).  
Consider this key and fundamental question: What is love? We may say that love is a feeling that we experience, an emotion; but it is also much more than a sentiment. Emotions come and go, like so many “friendships” in life, and sometimes they deceive us. It sometimes happens that we perceive to have been slighted by someone when no slight was intended or even done to us. We then become angry with friends, or even family members; but while we feel anger towards them and not necessarily affection, it doesn’t mean that our love for them has ceased.  
Rather than being an emotion, love is a choice. Love is a choice for the good of another person. Love is also the desire to act so as to obtain the good for another person. Love, then, is not so much an emotion as it is an act of the will; it is a decision to act in a certain way, not simply a feeling over which we have no control.  
We understand that what is good is not sinful and what is sinful is not good. Authentic love, then, never encourages sin or leads a person further into sin. Instead, it seeks to help another live a holy life. Love seeks to lead a person further away from sin and closer to the truth. And we know that truth is not just a thing, but a person, Jesus, who tells us, “I am the way and the truth and the life” (Jn 14:6). So one who truly loves seeks to lead the beloved always closer to Jesus, to Him who is not only the Good Shepherd but is, as St. Thomas Aquinas teaches us, Goodness itself (Jn 10:11).
St. Paul says, “love both elicits virtue and expels vice, not permitting it to spring up at all.” If vice is not expelled, but instead encouraged and fostered, then a person lives more in sin than in love, and their salvation is at risk. This is why St. John Chrysostom declared, “In other words, says Paul, if I have no love, I am not just useless but a positive nuisance.”  
Love doesn’t tolerate sinful desires and activities but seeks to root them out because “it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices in the truth” (I Cor 13:6). The Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen put it this way: “Christian love bears evil, but it does not tolerate it. It does penance for the sins of others, but it is not broadminded about sin.” Love forgives the sinner, and it hates the sin. It will always take back the sinner into the bosom of the Mystical Body, but it is unmerciful to the error in his mind.  
Real love also involves real hatred, for whoever has lost the power of moral indignation – like Jesus driving the buyers and sellers from the temple – has also lost a living, fervent love of Truth.
So, charity is not a mild philosophy of “live and let live;” it is not a species of sloppy sentiment. Charity is the infusion of God’s Spirit, which makes us love the beautiful and hate the morally ugly. When the Church teaches and proclaims what is moral and what is immoral, what is holy and what is sinful, what is right and what is wrong, what is just and what is unjust, she is met with opposition; evil never likes to be called out for what is. Yet, in the face of such opposition, the Church continues to speak the truth because “love endures all things” because she does not teach her mere opinion, but the truth she has received from Jesus Christ (I Cor 13:7).  
I am thinking of the recent chilling events about the abortion legislation just passed in the Empire State. With righteous indignation, we ask, “How can a “Catholic” governor not only allow, but also promote and rejoice in such laws? I hope and pray they will be challenged and defeated in civil courts. I also hope that bishops will be able to successfully challenge, in a truly charitable way, the “Catholics” who allowed such an abomination to reach this point.  
There will be some – as there have always been – who will seek to hurl those who speak the truth over a cliff, as they attempted with the Lord, but the truth must still be spoken because the message of salvation in Christ must always be proclaimed (Lk 4:29). As we seek to love in truth we must remember the word of the Lord: “They will fight against you but will not prevail over you, for I am with you to deliver you” (Jeremiah 1:19).
Pope Emeritus Benedict, in his Apostolic Letter “Porta Fidei,” pointed out that “the renewal of the Church is also achieved through the witness offered by lives of believers: by their very existence in the world, Christians are called to radiate the word of truth that the Lord Jesus has left us.” If you and I strive for the greatest spiritual gift, the gift of love, and seek to share that love in everything we do by acting for the good of others, not only will the Church be renewed, but the world also will be.

Pastor’s Message January 27th, 2019

   In his visit to America a few short years ago, one of the aims set forth by Pope Francis was to “to look to the past with gratitude.” When we consider the history of the Church in our country, we’ve seen how the Lord has blessed us in a special way, providing for our needs, particularly through the great work of the many religious who have been a part of shaping our identity. In a particular way, we recall with gratitude the profound impact that religious have had on the history of Catholic education in our country and our diocese. CATHOLIC SCHOOLS WEEK that we now observe, gives us a chance to focus on that legacy and the continued efforts to develop morally upright citizens and vibrant Christians through the means of Catholic education.  
In the past, we’ve remarked how numerous Catholic schools abounded and made great learning available at a reasonable cost through the sacrificial efforts of countless religious priests, brothers and sisters who had served the parish schools well. The remaining ones continue to be a source of great blessing to the life of the Church. Although the numbers of religious serving in schools are not what they once were, we must acknowledge that we would not be where we are without their many years of faithful service, and for that, we give thanks to God for the foundation they helped to build, a foundation from which we all benefit in more ways than we could ever fully appreciate. Today, that same legacy continues through the efforts of equally dedicated lay men and women who also make great sacrifices in order to keep our schools open.  
One of the many figures who contributed to this foundation of Catholic education in our country is St. Katharine Drexel. She was born into one of the wealthiest families in the country. She and her sisters were raised with a solid Catholic formation, which included many opportunities for serving the poor and underprivileged with the wealth that had been bestowed upon their family.  
Pope Francis, during his visit to Philadelphia, reflected on the life and example of St. Katharine who had been born in that city. He recounted an incident that changed the direction of her life forever. While on a trip to Europe, she had the opportunity to be in Rome and was granted an audience with Pope Leo XIII. She pleaded with the pope to send more priests to serve the needs of the American Indians. Pope Francis recounted the response of Pope Leo in the following way: “The Pope – he was a very wise Pope! – asked her pointedly: ‘What about you? What are you going to do’?” Those words changed Katharine’s life, because they reminded her that, in the end, every Christian man and woman, by virtue of baptism, has received a mission. Each one of us has to respond, as best we can, to the Lord’s call to build up his Body, the Church. Katharine went home and decided to dedicate her life to the service of the underprivileged as a religious sister. Though she inherited a large sum of money following the death of her father, people were astonished at her decision to become a religious sister. One newspaper even printed the headline: “Miss Drexel Enters a Catholic Convent—Gives Up Seven Million,” though not quite accurate.  
An important part of the work to which Katharine dedicated herself was education. She wanted to ensure that those who were unable to receive a Catholic education, either due to a lack of resources or unjust discrimination, would have the opportunity to do so. All of this happened because she was challenged to focus not just on what others could do to make a difference, but what she could do in order to respond to the needs of her time.
In reflecting on this challenge by Pope Leo XIII to St. Katherine, Pope Francis called attention to the significance that this invitation was given to “a young person, a young woman with high ideals.” He then said the following: “How many young people in our parishes and schools have the same high ideals, generosity of spirit, and love for Christ and the Church! I ask you: Do we challenge them? Do we make space for them and help them to do their part, to find ways of sharing their enthusiasm and gifts with our communities, above all in works of mercy and concern for others? Do we share our own joy and enthusiasm in serving the Lord?”
Unfortunately, the message of our Catholic faith and the guidance on ways in which we live it out in our daily lives is not the only message to which we are exposed. In the culture in which we live, we’re challenged with other questions which are often at odds with our Catholic faith. Instead of asking, “What am I going to do?” our culture says, “What am I going to get from it?” We get too wrapped up in ourselves, and we miss the chance to act like Christ to others. 
Our young people have high ideals placed in their hearts. This can be observed simply by asking children what they want to do when they grow up. It’s not uncommon to hear answers such as being a doctor, a firefighter, a police officer, a teacher, or a military officer. What is common among these professions? They all have to do with service to other people. Later on, others may choose similar professions, just because they promise a lot of money, or something personally exciting. Our Catholic faith constantly places before us those ideals of being of service to others. In our diocese and in our parish, we are always emphasizing God’s call to live stewardship and discipleship as a way of life. We are all stewards of God’s creation, entrusted to use the gifts He has given to us for the benefit of others. God also calls us to be His disciples, i.e., people who intentionally decide to follow Jesus.  
This is where we see the great value of our Catholic schools, because they are a special place where young people are challenged to live up to those high ideals that are so common in youthful hearts. It is here that they are given a space in which to learn not just what we believe, but how to put it into practice by being of service to others. That’s why we’re proud of our growing school.
Our Catholic schools are places where we should be able to live in the way that Christ calls us to live. It is here, especially in our daily interactions with one another, where we are challenged with that question: “What are you going to do?” Will we choose to act as Christians, or will we just choose to act as the culture pushes us, by looking the other way, focusing just on what concerns us, leaving the care of others to someone else?

Pastor’s Message January 20th, 2019

This week, our hearts and minds turn to the 46th  anniversary of the tragic Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade, which legalized the killing of unborn children through the terrible evil known as abortion. Since that dreadful day on January 22, 1973, more than 60 million unborn babies have been killed in this nation, founded on the very principle that every person is given by their Creator the inalienable right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
To put that number in some perspective, some 1.5 million Americans have been killed in every war in which this country has fought since 1775. Put another way, the number of children killed by abortion in this country so far is greater than the present populations of the States of California and Florida combined. To put it even more starkly, in the same span of time in which more than 60,000,000 children were aborted in our land, just 138,115,440 were born. The number is staggering, and terribly sad, and it continues due to ignorance on the part of many who could have a hand in stopping it but refuse to hear the truth. 
The Bishops in the United States have launched a major pastoral initiative calling for prayer and penance to promote and build a culture of life, marriage and religious liberty. This initiative includes “Nine Days of Prayer, Penance and Pilgrimage,” which began January 14th and continues to January 22nd (2019). It includes daily prayer intentions for the healing and conversion of our nation, for elected officials who support abortion, especially the so-called “Catholic” ones, and for all people whose lives have forever been changed by an abortion.  
Pope Francis has reminded us that “faith, precisely because it is a free act, also demands social responsibility for what one believes.” Everyone who speaks out against the horror of abortion and seeks to give aid to women in crisis pregnancies is living out their faith. Because we believe in the dignity of every human life from the moment conception to the moment of natural death, we must speak out and call for a greater respect for life in society in general and in our nation’s laws in particular.  
Whenever the Church teaches about the dignity of all human life, she does not teach merely her opinion, but the truth she has received from Jesus. Because it comes from the Lord, it cannot simply be laid aside. To have faith in Jesus Christ means “choosing to stand with the Lord so as to live with Him.” Few have stood so closely with the Lord, after a conversion to the truth, as Saint Augustine of Hippo. He realized a certain psalm was one sung at the dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem. He further noted that the new and ever-lasting temple of the Lord is being built of the sons and daughters of the Church.  
We, too, desire to sing a new song to the Lord because of the wonders he has done for us; because He has revealed himself through these deeds, we believe in Him. Our belief in Him gives us hope, even when we are surrounded by darkness. The light of his presence fills our hearts with his love and compels us to share that love with others. Whenever we share the love of the Lord, we offer hope to others. This hope can lead them, also, to faith in Jesus, faith in the one Savior of all. It  will, we pray, lead them one day into the fold of his Church.
So, as we turn to the Lord and implore Him: “Mercifully hear the pleading of your people and bestow your peace on our times,” I hope that all who claim the name of Christian and every person of good will, will pray, especially at this time, for the conversion of hearts and minds, praying that this Culture of Death will give way to the Culture of Life, so that every person who is conceived will be able to “sing to the Lord a new song” and “bless his name.”

In this coming week, the sad anniversary of the infamous Roe v. Wade decision, I invite you to join in prayer with many Catholic and others who respect life from the womb to the tomb, to pray that laws and hearts may be changed. Please join Bishop Barbarito and me this coming Tuesday, January 22nd, at 11:00 a.m., for an hour of prayer across from the Palm Beach County Court House on Dixie Highway in West Palm Beach. There we will implore Our Lord to help us save the unborn whose lives are threatened by abortion.  

Pastor’s Message January Pastor’s Message January 13th, 2019

We welcome Bishop Herbert Bevard of the Diocese of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands back to our parish once again, as he continues his missionary appeal to help the people of that twice hurricane-ravaged territory. Although our registered parishioners received in our mailed packets the envelope for this appeal earmarked for this weekend, we still can give a gift in next regular week’s collection by using the yellow envelopes that Bishop Bevard has provided. By whatever means and whatever amount you can give, you can be sure that your gift will be well-used and well appreciated by the bishop and people of that struggling diocese. It seems that many members of the Catholic community there have gone unemployed since the decimation of the three-island diocese by the double-whammy storms. Businesses were totally wiped out and others so severely damaged that they have yet to be repaired or restored. The major hotels of the island, which employ many local parishioners, have not returned to their former glory.

So, it’s hard to take care of teachers’ salaries and those of other employees of the diocese when there is little or almost no revenue available. Repairs are moving along at a snail’s pace, as materials have to be flown or shipped in from the mainland. So, Bishop Bevard is once again appealing to our kindness, generosity and good will to help him restore a sense of decency and dignity to the Catholic community, encouraging them to rebuild where churches and schools once stood.
HOORAY! THANK YOU! We did it! We made our designated goal for the annual DSA – the Diocesan Services

Appeal. Although the final results will come in when the diocese has calculated their share of the mailed-in pledges for our parish, we know that because of the generosity of so many of you throughout the year and in the last hours of the appeal in our parish, you helped us reach our goal of $252,000. The last-minute “call to heart” certainly drew a nice response. Now we await the “kick-off” for the 2019 campaign, which will begin in February. Although the appeal usually has become a long-term / dragged-out full yearlong effort, it can close quickly for us if everyone pitches in from the very beginning by everyone making an early pledge and then fulfilling it. YES, WE CAN!!!!

Today the universal Church celebrates the Feast of Jesus’ Baptism, and the official closing of the Christmas season. While the secular world more or less concluded its celebration on the 26th of December, the actual Christian observance of Christmas extends well beyond the opening days of the New Year, to include the great Feast of the Epiphany (Three Kings), as well as the celebration of Christ’s adult baptism. In this way, the brief days of the usual observance of Christmas are actually extended so that we can carry forth the message of hope and peace well into the next year. It was the hope of the ancient Fathers and writers of the early Church to help us retain that spirit throughout the year. So, while the sounds, sights, fragrances and other material essences of Christmas fade from our senses, the true meaning of the Savior’s birth can be renewed each day as we deepen our efforts to carry the spirit of Christmas on our lips and in our hearts – if we allow it to do so.

Last Sunday morning in Orlando, I had the privilege of celebrating Mass for nearly 300 Knights of Columbus Insurance Field Agents and their wives. Following Mass, I was invited to brunch with Supreme Knight Carl Anderson and his wife, and to engage in a conversation about the revival of anti-Catholic sentiment that is arising at a hurried pace, in view of several nominations of Catholic men to serve as judges in various federal courts. The discussion was prompted by the Supreme Knight’s recent message to all member knights about how Catholics can be good U.S. citizens and honest public servants. In it he wrote, “There have been times in our country’s past when uninformed or prejudiced people questions whether Catholics could be good citizens or honest public servants. Sadly, it seems that in some quarters, this prejudice remains. Such attacks on the basis of our Catholic faith are hardly new. From the founding of the Knights of Columbus until the presidential election of John F. Kennedy, many still held that Catholics were unfit for public office. The Knights of Columbus has always adhered to Catholic teaching and our primary motivation is Christ’s commandment that we love God completely and our neighbor as ourselves. It is this commandment of love that compels the Knights’ charitable work. This love also motivates us to stand with the Church on the important issues of life and marriage, precisely because the Church’s teaching reflects and is based on that love. We stand with our Church because we believe that what our faith teaches is consistent with reason, is timeless and transcends the changing sentiments of any particular time or place.”

Anderson then pointed out the “no religious test clause” of Article VI of the US Constitution, and the free exercise clause of the Constitution’s First Amendment, saying, “any suggestion that the Order’s adherence to the beliefs of the Catholic Church makes a Brother Knight unfit for public office blatantly violates those constitutional guarantees.” “Let us continue to express our love of God and neighbor by helping those in need and by standing with our Church, regardless of the popularity of doing so,” Anderson exhorted. “Let us also remember that, from our founding, we have embodied the truth that a good Catholic is a good citizen who shows civility and dignity even in the face of prejudice.”

The Knights of Columbus consists of 2 million members who, in 2017, carried out more than 75 million hours of volunteer work and raised more than $185 million for charitable purposes. I invite Catholic gentlemen at least 18 years of age, to consider becoming a Knight of Columbus.

Pastor’s Message January 6th, 2019

Today the Catholic Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Epiphany, the true highlight of the Christmas season – sometimes referred to as the Feast of the Three Kings. On the east wall of the chapel of King’s College at Cambridge in England, behind the altar, hangs a great painting by Peter Paul Rubens. It is The Adoration of the Magi. Three travelers from the east have journeyed far to look for the “infant king of the Jews.” The Christmas story, as told by St. Matthew, leads us to this great feast that we celebrate today – the Epiphany — that is, the revealing of Christ to the rest of the peoples of the whole world.  
In this Gospel story, we meet the powerful political figure of King Herod. He displays all the force and fallibility of any human leader. Once in power, his main objective seems to be to stay in power. With such an outlook, any power that could be used to help humankind can easily become corrupted into a force for destroying humanity. Herod’s wrongdoings have certainly made him so self-obsessed that he even fears the birth of an unknown child as some kind of threat to his own throne.  
His advisors, the religious and political elite, gather to discuss the political situation. It’s not too much unlike the world order today. These people are experts on how to manage things, so as not to rock the boat. They seem to know what they are talking about. They know where the Messiah will be born. But they don’t seem to be very interested in when, as long as it does not upset their routines of control. These people enjoy their position and their power, but they are not interested in the wider world.  
The travelers, however, are very interested in the wider world. They are seekers after wisdom; they look for the meaning of things. They don’t settle down in the comfort of the here and now. Their life is a journey, and they seek answers to life’s great questions. When they find a “lowly cattle shed,” they fall on their knees in homage to a child. All their searching and all their studying has brought them to this place, and to this newborn king.   
Today’s feast invites us to join the Magi, and to become wise travelers as we wander our way through this world. There is a great temptation in our lives to become like Herod, ruling our lives according to our own desires. We even are tempted to become political and religious experts, like Herod’s advisors, viewing the world according to our own theories of what’s right and what’s wrong, and never getting beyond argument.  
Alternatively, we can go on the journey, like the Wise Men of old, and look for the child, and adore Him when we find Him. When we accept this challenge, then, for as long as we are on this earth, we are on the journey. There is always so much to discover. Even St. Peter, who spent many a day in the company of Jesus, was never finished with learning. On one famous occasion he said, “The truth I have now come to realize is that God does not have favorites, but that anybody who fears God and does what is right is acceptable to Him.”  
In a sermon for the Epiphany in 1839, another great follower of Jesus, Blessed John Henry Newman, (an English convert and cardinal) said, “When men understand what each other mean, they see, for the most part, that controversy is either superfluous or hopeless.” This is the challenge for us on today’s feast – that we go out and embrace the world.  
In his book, Open Mind, Faithful Heart: Reflections on Following Jesus, Pope Francis speaks about the Epiphany as both a historical event and a part of each of our lives. He says that we ourselves ought to become epiphanies — manifestations of Jesus in our daily lives. We are to manifest Jesus in our thoughts, words and actions. Pope Francis challenges us to share the joy of the Gospel with people we meet.  Maybe we can help a friend to find new meaning in life. Perhaps we may have a new desire to speak of our faith in Jesus Christ. Maybe we can even make ourselves more prepared to love in a difficult situation.  
The Epiphany message calls us to be more open to people who are fragile and vulnerable, weak and poor, and in this way share our hope and joy with others. It invites us to find a new path and a new route as we begin this new year. It invites us to come with real intent to Mass, where we can experience Jesus as the light for our hearts and the one who lifts the burdens of our sins from our shoulders. As we approach Christ in Holy Communion at every Mass, you and I can truly say that we who walked in darkness have seen a great light. May our Epiphany celebration fill us with an awareness of the grace and peace that comes to us from God our Father through the Lord Jesus Christ, especially when we come to church to worthily receive the Holy Eucharist. Have a blessed Little Christmas!
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Blessed chalk and incense packets are available at the manger scene near the altar today. When you arrive home, use the blessed chalk to inscribe the initials of the Three Kings over the doorways of your home in this manner: 20 + C + M + B + 19. The incense you may burn in a safe receptacle as you wish. The fragrance symbolizes the essence of God in your home.