Sunday, October 7th, marked a special day in our parish history. We received from the Vatican the blood relic of St. John Paul II during the entrance procession of the 11:30 a.m. Mass. The Mass was concelebrated by Father Matthew Hawkins, who was once our Deacon one year ago. He paid us a “last-minute” surprise visit and was able to offer the Eucharist for those who attended. We were happy to have the opportunity to hear him preach the homily once again. At the end of Mass, the congregation was blessed by him with the relic, and many of them came forward to be individually blessed with the relic. It is now in the John Paul II Room on the north side of the rectory building, where it will remain until the new narthex addition is added to our church (except on a few days in November when it will be brought into church for all to see and venerate).
That Sunday afternoon was also a blessed time for the two dozen or so men, women and children who joined in prayer as faithful witnesses for the annual Respect Life Pray In at the intersection of Federal Highway and Linton Boulevard. As we’ve been noticing each year, more and more people give us a very positive reception while we hold our signs and pray. It’s a far cry from the years when we were verbally assaulted and had the middle digit thrown out to us during those prayerful and sacred moments. It was an appropriate day to pray the Rosary because October 7th is usually the Feast of the Holy Rosary. While many were comfortably ensconced in their homes or at the beach or elsewhere during that hour, our prayer warriors demonstrated a powerful witness for their respect for life. Even though a light sprinkle fell in the last seven minutes of our rally, we were not dissuaded from continuing our prayers. May the holy and good example of these good people be justly rewarded by the God who sees all and knows all.
As you well remember from recent reports during the disastrous sojourn of hurricane Michael in the panhandle section of our state, so much destruction took place throughout the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee. The new bishop of that diocese told us that three parish churches, a convent, two rectories and two parish halls were totally destroyed or so severely damaged that they are beyond repair. Ordained to the episcopacy only fourteen months ago, the 51-year-old diocesan shepherd had his “baptism by fire” as he struggles to learn all about his “new” diocese and how to be a good bishop. He is calling upon all people of good will to help reach out to the needs of his flock through volunteer services in cleaning up and in re-supplying the parishes so badly affected by that history-making hurricane. Our Knights of Columbus, along with other Catholic organizations throughout the state and country, is responding with supplies, money and manpower to his appeal. When I spoke with him not so long ago, he seemed so “upbeat” in his efforts to reach out to the victims of “Michael” and to address the many needs of his flock. Undismayed by the depth of the daunting task that lies ahead, he has visited each of the sites of destruction and has sought information on the needs of his parishioners in each situation.
Our bishop has asked us to reach out in any way we can to lend a “helping hand.” Therefore, on the weekend of November 3rd and 4th, we will take up a special 2nd collection in our parish to help the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee get back on its feet. That collection will go directly from our diocese to the relief work in that diocese. Though you may see this as just one more collection “for a good cause,” I know you will be generous as you have so often been in the past when calamity strikes and badly affects our “brothers and sisters in Christ.” I also know that if the proverbial shoe had been on the other foot and we were the victims of a catastrophic disaster, that diocese would be sending us help. That’s the way it works with “brothers and sisters united in Christ.” Just as Jesus sent the Twelve, Our Lord sends us out to do our part in proclaiming the Good News in our daily lives. One of the dismissals from the Roman Missal is, “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.” This is what the Apostles were called to do. We are sent out from each Mass renewed and refreshed to make the Good News of Jesus’ promise of love and mercy known to others. We are sent out to free all kinds of people from the things that oppress them and to help establish a kingdom built upon the values of justice, peace and love. We are sent out to bring healing and support to those who are hurt, distraught and weary. Like the Apostles, we are sent out to help make places where there is sorrow or sadness into places of joy and love. We may wonder why God has chosen us to do this; but like the Apostles, we may be surprised at what we can do in the power of God’s Holy Spirit.