Dec. 10th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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The True Meaning of Advent | God Comes for Us

by: Stephen Beale – Catholic Exchange

“Seek and you will find”, Jesus told his disciples. This command is possible only through God, who moves us to seek and enables us to find Him. “For God is the one who, for his good purpose, works in you both to desire and to work,” as Paul states in Philippians 2:13.

In the Old Testament, Abraham is called out of his home city of Ur to become a desert nomad, where he encounters God. The Israelites wander in the desert before arriving in the Promised Land where they experience the presence of God. Elijah strikes out into the desert and finds God in a mountain cave. Later, an exiled remnant of Israel will return home.

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But this is only half the story. In Advent, the hinges of history turn the other way. God seeks us out. This is what happens in the Incarnation. Heaven comes to earth. The invisible meets the visible. The infinite is inscribed in the finite.

Man could always imagine the ascent to God. He could conceive becoming more than what he was. The limits of his own existence taught him to long for more, as St. Augustine realized.
But it never occurred to man that God might first come looking for him. He never dreamt that God might descend to him. That God would not only do this but also become one of us—in the fullness of our humanity all the while losing none of His divinity—was beyond the imagination of ancient man.

Heaven arrived on earth, but there no armies of angels that stormed the land, no horsemen of the apocalypse deliver God’s wrath to sinners, no fire and brimstone, no earthquakes or eclipses. Instead, angels sing songs to sleepy shepherds. A couple takes shelter in a cave. A woman gives birth to a son.

What makes the Incarnation so great is that it was so small. God did not need conquering armies or avenging angels to announce His arrival on earth. No clouds of fire or quaking mountains accompanied His descent. The kingdom of heaven broke into earth not with a cry of battle but instead the cry of a newborn—because nothing could be more powerful than the fullness of God’s presence in single human being and no voice could echo through eternity like the divine Word Incarnate.

In becoming fully man, God came to us in a way that stirs us to seek Him all the more. He came as a child, born at night, hidden in a cave. This is the lesson of the shepherds watching by night and the three wise men who journey from the East. We do not need to tunnel through the bowels of the earth or walk on the bottom of the sea to find God. He has already crossed the chasm of the infinite to find us. Seek and find Him because He is present to us even now.

“Advent is a journey towards Bethlehem. May we let ourselves be drawn by the light of God.” – Pope Francis

Dec. 3rd, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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First Sunday of Advent

During the Advent season, families should spend time together preparing for the approaching celebration of the birth of Christ. An Advent wreath can be a great focal point for family prayers and holiday celebrations.

An Advent wreath is a wreath of laurel, spruce or similar foliage with four candles that are lighted successively in weeks of Advent to symbolize the light that the birth of Christ brought to the world. Traditionally three of the candles are purple, the color of kings and of penance. A rose-colored candle is used to mark the Third Sunday of Advent as a time to rejoice over the closeness of Christmas and the coming of Christ.

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Children love the beauty of the simple traditional ceremony. Lighting candles in an Advent wreath is a simple way to start a tradition of family worship in the home. Those who participate will cherish the experience all their lives.

Prayer:
Each day your family should gather around the Advent wreath, generally before the evening meal. The proper number of candles are then lighted and a prayer is said.

Blessing of the Advent Wreath:
It starts at the evening meal on the Saturday before the first Sunday in Advent with the blessing of the wreath. (The head of the household is the one designated to say the prayer, following which various members of his family light the candles. If the group is not a family, then a leader may be selected to say the prayers and other appointed to light the candles.)

The following prayer can be used:

Leader: Our help is in the name of the Lord.

All: Who made heaven and earth.

Leader: O God, by whose Word all things are sanctified, pour forth Your blessing upon this wreath and grant that we who use it may prepare our hearts for the coming Christ and may receive from You abundant graces. We ask this through Christ our Lord.

All: Amen.

The wreath would then be sprinkled with water.

The following prayer which is said before the evening meal each night of the first week of Advent:
Leader: O Lord, stir up Thy might, we beg Thee, and come, That by Thy protection we may deserve to be rescued from the threatening dangers of our sins and saved by Thy deliverance. Through Christ our Lord.
All: Amen.

The candle is allowed to burn during evening meals for the first week.

“Advent increases our hope, a hope which does not disappoint. The Lord never lets us down.” – Pope Francis

Nov. 26th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Christ the King Sunday

Christ the King Sunday is celebrated on the last Sunday of Ordinary time (last Sunday after Pentecost), before the beginning of Advent that starts the new Church Year. As the last Sunday of the Christian Church Year, Christ the King Sunday is the climax and conclusion of the Church’s liturgical journey through the life of Christ and the Gospel message. Its purpose is to celebrate the coming reign of Christ as King of the Earth and his completion of the renewed creation that marks the fullness of the Kingdom of God. That hope is born from the entire life of Christ and his teachings that have been celebrated in the seasons of the Church Year during the past twelve months. In celebrating the Reign of Christ the King, this Sunday also provides an appropriate bridge to the new Church Year that begins the following Sunday on the first Sunday of Advent with an emphasis on hope and expectation, the longing for the coming of the Kingdom of God amid the darkness of a sinful world (see Advent).

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As such a bridge between the completed year and the beginning of a new year, Christ the King services often use Scripture and song to provide both a retrospective and introductory overview of the journey through the life of Christ and the Gospel message that the Seasons of the Church Year provides. This offers not only an opportunity for a worshipful reflection on the significance of the life of Christ, it also presents opportunity to remind people of the meaning of the various seasons of the Church Year. It is the newest day in the liturgical year across the Western Church and first added in 1925 by the Roman Catholic Church in response to increasing secularization movements worldwide, but in particular to the plight of Mexican Christians who were being told by their government that only their government was due ultimate allegiance. The Church in Mexico remained faithful, holding public parades throughout the land (with significant governmental pushback!) proclaiming “Cristo Rey!,” “Christ is King!” Pope Pius XI made that declaration the basis of a Holy Day to be observed throughout the entire Roman Catholic Church, “Christ, The King of the Universe.” After Vatican II, Rome moved the observance of this day from October to the final Sunday of the Christian Year, and many Protestants, including United Methodists, who adopted the Revised Common Lectionary and its calendar have followed suit.

So today our voices come alongside those persecuted for their faith in all times and places, including in Mexico in the early twentieth century and the thousands facing persecution all over the world this very day, and with them we all proclaim in many languages, “Christ is King!”

“When the Son of man comes in His glory, and all the angels are with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne.” Matthew 25:31

Nov. 19th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Happy Thanksgiving!

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; His love endures forever.” PSALM 107:1

Thanksgiving Day Prayer

Thank you God for this Thanksgiving Day. God bless each of us with love, joy, hope and memories of those that have passed away.
Thank you for our forefathers, for our religious freedom, for bravely crossing the water to a new land so that we can worship freely as we seek God’s kingdom.
Thank you God for my wonderful friends and family. For the sunshine they bring to my life and the love and support they each give to me.
Thank you God for Your son that died for our sins. For Your unconditional love to each of us and for answering our prayers again and again.
Father, bless us this Thanksgiving day, bless this bounty of food, friends and family and bless each of us with memories that time cannot take away.
Amen

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Nov. 12th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Honor and Remember Veteran’s Day

It was the eleventh hour of the eleventh day in the eleventh month in 1918 when the world celebrated as a treaty was signed ending what was to be “the war to end all wars” – World War I.

One year later, on what came to be known as Armistice Day, Americans came together to remember and honor the sacrifices of the men and women who served during the war. Soldiers who survived the war marched in parades and were honored by speeches and ceremonies recognizing their contribution to peace throughout the world.

Congress declared Armistice Day a national holiday in 1938. By this time, with unrest in much of the world, Americans realized World War I would not be the last war. After the Second World War, which was even bloodier than the first, Armistice Day continued to be observed. In 1954, Congress changed the name of the holiday to Veterans Day to include veterans of all United States wars.

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Today, Americans honor the service and sacrifice of our armed forces in the past as well as the present on Veterans Day. The official, national ceremony takes place at Arlington National Cemetery at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers. A color guard representing all the branches of the military executes “Present Arms” at the tomb, a Presidential wreath is placed on the graves, and a bugler plays “taps.”

In communities across the county, there are parades, ceremonies and speeches. At 11:00 in the morning, Americans observe a moment of silence to remember those who fought for freedom. Let us remember every day the bravery of everyone who has served our country.

Sunday in the Narthex

This is a notice to all Vets that official representatives from The Bureau of Field Services for Florida Department of Veterans Affairs will be available to answer questions about benefits veterans are entitled to that they may not be aware of from 8:30am until 12:45pm in the Narthex this Sunday, November 12th.

Those vets that go to Saturday Mass can come between Sunday Masses to speak to them. They are expert at helping fill out forms, applications and will assist with follow up.

Some may be entitled to approximately $2000.00 per month Aid and attendance Income. Are you entitled to burial benefits? Health services or medications through the VA program? This is the time to ask!

Oct. 29th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Sue Edwards Reflects on Her Role Within the Women’s Guild

By Colleen Leavy – Bulletin Editor

Guided by faith, prayer, knowledge and concern, The Women’s Guild helps build St. John XXIII’s community through friendship, spiritual reflection, and the support of those in need.
The Women’s Guild’s success is due to the hard work of the many women who give so much of themselves.

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The following questions and answers reflect the newly elected president in her faith, commitment and dedication to her role within The Women’s Guild.

CL: What made you decide to serve?
SE: I grew up in a household where we were taught that the best way to show God’s love was to serve others. Ours was the house that friends and family came for help and comfort. For Thanksgiving and Christmas we included sailors from Great Lakes Naval Base and seniors from the state run nursing home. It was only natural then, that I became involved in the church from an early age. In the churches we have attended I’ve always looked for ways that I was being called to serve. When we moved to Fort Myers and I first attended St. John XXIII, I was happy to see so many opportunities to serve, especially, in the social justice area. I am now involved as a lector in The Women’s Guild, Caring for Creation, and helping with some of the social justice activities such as the backpack drive and the angel tree.

CL: How long have you been president?
SE: As I mentioned, when I come to a new church I look for opportunities to serve. When we were looking for a president, I offered to serve. I have been the president of 2 other women’s clubs so I had some experience. My only worry was that I was new to St. John XXIII and did not have the history of what has been done. Luckily I have a great board who have that history: Barbara Artale VP, Carolyn Hartmann secretary, and Joann Bernstein, treasurer. We took office in July and will serve for 3 years.

CL: How do you support Fr. Bob with your mission?
SE: The mission of the Women’s Guild is in line with that of the church’s mission. We desire that all feel welcome and that we show God’s love by the charities we support and the way we interact with others. We have been supportive of Fr.. Bob especially in the capital campaign and by supporting the charities that are close to his heart. We have tried to respond to any requests he has for our group.

CL: What would you tell someone who is interested in volunteering?
SE: There are many opportunities in our parish and within the Women’s Guild for women to choose: helping with collections like sneakers and backpacks, funeral lunches, bake sales for Lifeline and Verity, food for St. Martin de Porres. No matter what your interest or your talents there is a place for you and your skills. By using your God given talents, not only will you get a sense of satisfaction but God will be pleased you are using what He gave you. Plus you can serve others and get the bonus of meeting other great women and also having a good time.

CL: What upcoming events do you have planned?
SE: This Sunday night, October 29th, we have The Pippin Musical at The Broadway Palm. We are excited about The Fashion Show on February 24th. We also hope to include some luncheons after the first of the year.

CL: What do you hope to accomplish in the next 3 years?
SE: The one thing that I would like is for The Women’s Guild to help accomplish making our large parish more welcoming by providing women with the opportunity to meet one another and work together to accomplish God’s work here at St. John XXIII and the surrounding community.

Oct. 22nd, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Fighting Against Hunger & Forced Migration: End War/Arms Trade

by: Carol Glatz – Catholic News Service

It makes no sense to lament the problems of hunger and forced migration if one is unwilling to address their root causes, which are conflict and climate change, Pope Francis said.

“War and climate change lead to hunger; therefore, let’s avoid presenting it as if it were an incurable disease, and instead implement laws, economic policies, lifestyle changes and attitudes that prevent the problems in the first place,” he told world leaders at the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization.

Pope Francis received a standing ovation after he addressed the assembly at FAO’s Rome headquarters to mark World Food Day on October 16th, the date the organization was founded in 1945 to address the causes of poverty and hunger. The FAO was holding a conference on the theme “Changing the future of migration.”

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Food insecurity is linked to forced migration, the pope said, and the two can be addressed only “if we go to the root of the problem” — conflict and climate change.

International law already has all the instruments and means in place to prevent and quickly end the conflicts that tear communities and countries apart, and trigger hunger, malnutrition and migration, he said.

“Good will and dialogue are needed to stop conflicts,” he said, “and it is necessary to fully commit to gradual and systematic disarmament” as well as stop the “terrible plague of arms trafficking.”

“What good is denouncing that millions of people are victims of hunger and malnutrition because of conflicts if one then does not effectively work for peace and disarmament?” he asked.

As for climate change, he said, scientists know what needs to be done and the international instruments — like the Paris Agreement — are already available.
Without specifying which nations, the pope said, unfortunately “some are backing away” from the agreement.

“We cannot resign ourselves to saying, ‘Someone else will do it,’” he said. Everyone is called to adopt and promote changes in lifestyle, in the way resources are used and in production and consumption — particularly when it comes to food, which is increasingly wasted.

Some people believe reducing the number of mouths to feed would solve the problem of food insecurity, but, the pope said, this is “a false solution” given the enormous waste and overconsumption in the world.

“Cutting back is easy,” he said, but “sharing requires conversion and this is demanding.”

“We cannot act only if others are doing it or limit ourselves to having pity because pity doesn’t go beyond emergency aid,” the pope said.

International organizations, leaders and individuals need to act out of real love and mercy toward others — particularly the most vulnerable — in order to create a world based on true justice and solidarity.

Arriving at the FAO headquarters, Pope Francis presented a gift of a statue depicting the tragic death of Alan Kurdi (also known as Aylan), the 3-year-old Syrian boy whose body washed up on the shore of Turkey when a small inflatable boat holding a dozen refugees capsized in 2015. The statue, made of pure white Carrara marble, depicts a child-like angel weeping over the boy’s lifeless body.

Oct. 15th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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The Now Moment for America: A Conversation about Racism

By Joanne Halt, M.A.

Racism is one of those topics that can immediately put us on edge. We fear examining our beliefs because to do so could open a Pandora’s Box and we might be judged. The violent outcome of the march in Charlottesville V.A. illustrates that we are at a decision point in America about racial beliefs. People of conscience could not allow the coalition of white supremacists to march there without a counter march of protest since such hate groups such as the KKK and Neo-Nazis pose a direct challenge to the dignity of human life. To be supportive in any way to such activity is to foster racism. What many folks might feel is a “Where did all of this come from?” moment in society has been developing as the demographics of our country are changing and fear predominates. White supremacy group membership is at an all time high and increasingly vocal. White privilege, which fueled the march in Charlottesville, is a concept waiting to be unpacked for many of us. Concurrently, the issue of color determining one person’s response to another has been festering individually and collectively for the lifetime of pretty much every black or brown person living in America today. Ask any man of color what it feels like to see the kneejerk reaction of a white woman clutching her purse in fear as he walks toward her. For African Americans skin color is the barrier they face to assimilation, unlike other minority groups who have assimilated much more easily in our culture.

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To deny the racial divide in our country is not possible. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops recently announced the establishment of an Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism which is addressing the sin of racism in our society and Church, and the urgent need to come together to find solutions. Almost 40 years ago, the USCCB wrote a Pastoral Letter on Racism which stated that “Racism is a sin: a sin that divides the human family, blots out the image of God among specific members of that family, and violates the fundamental human dignity of those called to be children of the same Father.”

Prejudice can lurk unnoticed in our unconscious beliefs. Without prayerful reflection, it can feed on the fear of what is different and grow into overt racism. Self-reflection is a beginning that must then lead to action. Our bishops are calling us to this moment of self-inquiry and conversion.

To help us with this beginning step of self-inquiry, The Respect for Life Committee is hosting a presentation by Dr. Martha R. Bireda, PhD. on October 17th. She is Director of the Blanchard House Museum of African History and Culture, located in Punta Gorda, Florida. For over 30 years, Dr. Bireda has consulted, lectured, and written about social issues related to race, gender, class, power, and culture. She has contributed many magazine articles that explore critical issues past and present impacting our global society. She believes that awareness and recognition of the universality of social issues can contribute to the resolution of problems that affect all societies, and confirm our human connectivity. She is the author of twelve books.

When asked to describe her presentation, Dr. Bireda responded that we need the opportunity to explore our beliefs in a safe place. Our beliefs often operate on an unconscious level. Examining the beliefs on race that have been operative historically in America is a first step. Identifying those authority figures, educational systems and important others who contributed to our individual belief system is also important. Dr. Bireda’s presentation invites us to ask ourselves these questions: why do I believe what I do about my group and about other groups? Where did this come from and why do I believe it now? If I don’t believe what I was taught as a youth now, how do I express my present beliefs? Finally, she says, “The ultimate question is- how can I demonstrate with my actions what are my ‘now’ beliefs?” Ultimately we take responsibility for solving and not perpetuating the problem,
Dr. Bireda’s interest in raising consciousness began when she was 10 years old in 1955 and heard about Emmet Till being killed. Emmet was a 14 year old tortured and murdered in Mississippi by two Caucasian men. “Emmet was a child and I thought, so am I, …am I going to be killed too?” This question and feeling of vulnerability by virtue of skin color became the foundation for her life’s work.

According to Fr. George Murry, S.J., the Head of the USCCB Committee on Racism: “Through listening, prayer and meaningful collaboration, I’m hopeful we can find lasting solutions and common ground where racism will no longer find a place in our hearts or in our society.”

TUESDAY, October 17th
The Now Moment for America:
A Conversation about Racism
6:30pm-8:00pm – In the Community Room
Guest Speaker: Dr. Martha Bireda

Oct. 8th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Understanding Addiction | A Respect Life Issue

By Joanne Halt, M.A.

On October 10th at 6:30pm, we will have a golden opportunity to increase our knowledge of addictions when Dr. Marguerite Poreda, MD, staff psychiatrist at Park Royal Hospital comes to speak on “Understanding Addiction: My Brain; My Genetics; My Environment”. Dr. Poreda completed her residency in 1982 in Anesthesiology at Tufts New England Medical Center in Boston. In 1994, she began her retraining in Psychiatry, after learning about addictions in the hospital setting. She is board certified in Psychiatry with three sub-specialty board certifications and over 25 years in the field.

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Addiction is all about the loss of control over one’s life. We all know someone who causes us to feel uneasy or who has hurt us by their addictions. We can suspect addiction when we see: pre-occupation with using (craving); compulsive use in spite of negative consequences (legal, interpersonal; occupational, physical); using just to feel normal (tolerance); and efforts to control use fail (relapse). Dr. Poreda has a powerful presentation that gives the basics on understanding the interplay of genetics (Native Americans are genetically predisposed for alcoholism and Asians are not), brain issues (addiction is a complex disease process of the brain) and the effect of the environment (culture, family & friends) on developing an addiction and on treating addictions. Other factors leading to addiction include: trauma or stressors that overwhelm a person’s ability to cope, the presence of psychiatric disorder with an attempt to self medicate, and distorted beliefs in connection with self, others and God. It seems a slippery slope from use to abuse to addiction/dependency, but there is a way to assess what stage a person may be in.

Dr. Poreda shared some alarming facts with me. She stated that emergency room admissions for opiod addiction are up two and a half times what it was last year. The home medicine cabinet is the most likely place to begin a spiral into drug abuse. Narcan, the remedy for opioid overdoses is now being prescribed for family and friends of addicts. Nearly 1 in 8 adults in U.S. have been diagnosed with alcohol use disorder in 2013, a 50% increase from a decade earlier. Marijuana today is 10-15 times more potent than what it was in the ‘70s. Designer (lab/home manufactured) drugs usually are sold mixed in with other drugs. When asked about the consequences of legalizing marijuana, Dr. Poreda focused on our youth. “If there is any susceptibility mental health wise, pot can produce psychosis. Plus pot usually gets handed out with designer drugs. When teens get addicted, they stay stuck at the age they began using and a lot of their treatment is about helping them grow up emotionally.”

How can we improve our approach to addictions and utilize the tools available in the medical community for properly designed treatment? The steps include: prevention, early identification, treatment, relapse prevention and the policy and environmental changes needed to alter our addiction supporting culture. As Dr. Poreda explains it, we can force people into treatment by the Marchman Act, which nationwide, allows the court to order detox and evaluation, but only for a limited time. “Drug addicts are not going to get well with 3 days in the hospital. It’s what’s going to be happening after that, that makes the difference-the aftercare and recovery programs. We are faced with an overwhelming number of people needing treatment and have nowhere to send them and also, who wants to pay for it? As a Christian person, I don’t see a lot of social justice for this issue” according to Dr. Poreda.

Addiction takes an alarming toll on individuals, families and on our country as a whole. It costs taxpayers an estimated 235 billion dollars per year in lost productivity, medical services, and crime. According to Dr. Poreda, part of the problem is resistance at high government levels to fund recovery programs when the top priority is cutting programs to rein in the budget. Funding services for mental illness and addictions is not a high priority at the local level either. Public education is needed to understand addiction, its treatment and recovery, so that we can change attitudes at both a local and national level. Dr. Poreda estimates that addiction related (both substance and alcohol) deaths cost 6,000 Floridians their lives in the past 12 months. Helping those who suffer to acknowledge their addiction is just a first step. Giving them the tools and the time necessary to achieve recovery and return as healthy, productive citizens is something that requires awareness, commitment and action on all our parts. How many lives are we willing to lose? Make plans to hear an informative Respect for Life awareness session on Tuesday night with a dynamic speaker.

TUESDAY, October 10th
Understanding Addiction, My Brain;
My Genetics; My Environment
6:30pm-8:00pm – In the Community Room
Guest Speaker: Dr. Marguerite R. Poreda

Sept. 24th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

By | A Father Bob-Cast, Bulletin, Events, Pope Francis, The 23rd Times | No Comments

Hope After the Storm: We are stronger together.

We would like to thank everyone who volunteered their time to help St. John XXIII Catholic Church to be up and running again. We are so blessed to have a wonderful Parish community and staff that is willing to give of themselves for the good of others.

We would also like to thank our President, the Governor, meteorologists, first responders, line men, law enforcement and volunteers who presented a united front before, during and after the hurricane. We are truly stronger together!

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HOW TO HELP
Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc. has opened 11 Disaster Response Centers to assist with relief and recovery efforts from the devastation of Hurricane Irma in Southwest Florida. All centers are in need of water, non-perishable food, home cleaning supplies, and volunteers. Anyone interested in providing support or items should contact the center nearest you. The locations of the Disaster Response Centers are listed below:

HURRICANE IRMA DISASTER RESPONSE CENTERS

Arcadia
Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc. in DeSoto County
1210 East Oak Street, Arcadia, FL 34266
Office Phone: (863) 494-1068
Contact Persons: Sister Ann DeNicolo/Andy Herigodt

Bonita Springs
Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc. in Bonita Springs/St. Leo the Great Parish
28290 Beaumont Road, Bonita Springs, FL 34134
Office Phone: (239) 390-2928
Contact Person: Chuck Anderson

Clewiston
Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc. in Clewiston/St. Margaret Parish
208 North Deane Duff Avenue, Clewiston, FL 33440
Office Phone: (863) 983-8585
Contact Person: Rev. Jiobani Batista

Immokalee
Guadalupe Social Services of Catholic Charities
211 S. 9th Street, Immokalee, FL 34142
Office Phone: (239) 657-6242
Contact: Peggy Rodriguez

Fort Myers
Jesus the Worker Parish
881 Nuna Avenue, Fort Myers, FL 33905
Office Phone: (239) 693-5333 or (239) 693-0640
Contact Person: Rev. Patrick T. O’Connor
OPEN 12pm-5pm Volunteers welcome at 11am

Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc. in Fort Myers
4235 Michigan Ave. Link, Fort Myers, FL 33916
Office Phone: (239) 337-4193
Contact Person: Charles Anderson

Moore Haven
St. Joseph the Worker Parish
24065 U.S. Hwy 27, Moore Haven, FL 33471
Office Phone: (863) 946-0696
Contact Person: Rev. Marcial Garcia

Naples
Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc.
in Collier County
2210 Santa Barbara Blvd., Naples, FL 34116
Office Phone: (239) 455-2655
Contact Person: Mary Shaughnessy

Wauchula
St. Michael Parish
408 Heard Bridge Road, Wauchula, FL 33873
Office Phone: (863) 773-4089
Contact Person: Sister Gema Ruiz

Sebring
Holy Family Youth Center
900 US Highway 27, N., Sebring, FL 33870
Office Phone: (863) 385-0049
Contact Person: Rev. Jose Gonzalez

Lake Placid
Campo San Jose
170 Sun n’ Lake Blvd., Lake Placid, FL 33852
Office Phone: (863) 385-0049
Contact Person: Rev. Jose Gonzalez

Sept. 3rd, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Catholic groups mobilizing to help in Hurricane Harvey’s aftermath

By Rhina Guidos | Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Catholic dioceses and charities are quickly organizing to help in the aftermath of a Category 4 hurricane that made landfall with heavy rains and winds of 130 miles per hour late Aug. 25 into the Rockport, Texas area, northeast of Corpus Christi. The National Weather Service said in a tweet Aug. 27 that the rainfall expected after the hurricane and storm are over “are beyond anything experienced before.”The hurricane, named Harvey, is said to be the strongest one to hit the United States in more than a decade and perhaps the strongest one to make landfall in Texas.

Catholic Charities USA, as well as the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Disaster Services, announced early on Aug. 26 that they’re mobilizing to help an as-yet-unknown number of persons affected by the hurricane. The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops has a list of charities helping with the disaster listed on its website at https://txcatholic.org/harvey.

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Authorities reported at least five casualties as of Aug. 27, but because of safety issues, not many emergency teams have been yet able to respond to the aftermath and much of the damage is unknown. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott declared the state a disaster area, which will allow federal money to help in reconstruction. Catholic groups said they want to help with the immediate needs of the communities affected.

“We will be sending in rapid-response teams to help our impacted St. Vincent de Paul councils and we are coordinating nationally with the Knights of Columbus, Knights of Malta and (Catholic Charities USA),” said Elizabeth Disco-Shearer, CEO of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul USA.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, on Aug. 27 urged “all people of goodwill to closely monitor future calls for assistance for victims and survivors in the days ahead.”

The cardinal also is the head of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, one of the hardest-hit areas.

“Hurricane Harvey hit the Gulf Coast in a catastrophic and devastating way this weekend, bringing with it severe flooding and high winds which have taken human life, caused countless injuries, and severely damaged homes and property throughout the region,” said the cardinal in an Aug. 27 news release. “The effects of this storm continue to put people in harm’s way, with horrific scenes playing out all around, such as those of people trapped on their rooftops as water continues to rise around them. Many dioceses of the church in the United States have been affected; many others will be as the storm continues.”

He asked for prayers but also for assistance for those affected. One of the first to pledge help was the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas, where Bishop Daniel E. Flores authorized a second collection to be taken up at the diocese’s local churches on the weekend of Aug. 26-27 to send to Catholic Charities in nearby Corpus Christi and “other places hardest hit by loss of power, storm damage, flooding.”

It’s been hard to communicate with other areas, said Bishop Flores in an Aug. 26 interview with Catholic News Service, so it’s hard to gauge the extent of the damage. But he said his diocese wanted to get a head start to quickly divert help where it is needed and as fast as possible.

If the Rio Grande Valley, where Bishop Flores’ diocese is located, was spared the major impact of Hurricane Harvey, then the diocese had a duty to help their neighbors to the north, in the coastal areas of Corpus Christi and Galveston-Houston, which seemed to be hit hardest, he said. Hurricane Harvey seemed to enter near Corpus Christi and affected seven coastal counties in Texas and one Louisiana parish.

“We continue to pray for every for everyone affected by the hurricane and those who are at risk as the storms continue,” said Bishop Flores in a statement.

Though the brunt of the hurricane’s winds has passed and Harvey was downgraded to a tropical storm hours after landfall, heavy rains and “catastrophic flooding” are expected for days, said the National Hurricane Center.

“We have to remember … the families affected by flood damage in the next few days in other parts of the state will be in need of relief,” said Bishop Flores. “We will assess better how we can help as we get further information about the needs from the (Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops) and Catholic Charities.”

In an Aug. 26 statement published by the Galveston-Houston archdiocese, Cardinal DiNardo said powerful winds and heavy rainfall have already impacted many lives and homes throughout the region, and many in the southern counties of his archdiocese have already suffered substantial property damage and losses

In Houston, the country’s fourth largest city with 6.6 million residents, many struggled seeking safety in flooded residential streets, which are expected to get up to 50 inches of rainfall by the time the rain stops sometime at the end of August.

“Numerous homes in these communities are currently without power. Several forecasts anticipate additional storm damage and flooding in the coming days, along with high winds and tornado activity,” Cardinal DiNardo said.

Up to 250,000 have been reported without power in Texas, a number that’s expected to rise.

San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller said in a statement that the archdiocese pledged its support to recovery efforts that will start after the rain and wind subside.

“My thoughts and prayers are with the people of the dioceses of Corpus Christi and Victoria, as well as the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, as they cope with the damaging effects of Hurricane Harvey,” he said. “The people of San Antonio have opened their arms to welcome evacuees of this historic hurricane, and Catholic Charities of the archdiocese has been assisting and will continue to assist in a variety of ways those impacted by this natural disaster.”

Bishop W. Michael Mulvey, of the Diocese of Corpus Christi, said he was grateful to the bishops who reached out to him and to his diocese. He said the true damage around the diocese still is not known and officials are waiting for conditions that will allow a better assessment of the damage.

In his statement, Cardinal DiNardo asked for prayers for emergency personnel and volunteers who are out and about in dangerous conditions and also “for those residing in our archdiocese, in Texas and along the Gulf Coast, be safe and may God have mercy on those affected by Hurricane Harvey.”

Aug 13th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Matt Piedimonte | Faith Called Into Focus

by Colleen Leavy, Bulletin Editor

In the upcoming weeks, high school students will be venturing towards a new and exciting chapter in their education as they head off to college. For many of them, it will be a truly incredible experience, shaping them into the confident and passionate individuals they will become for the rest of their lives. However, with this newly found independence, uncertainty and fear can emerge. While college can give students a new opportunity to renew and shape their identity, others can become lost, abandoning their faith and falling victim to peer pressure.

This rang true for Matt Piedimonte, a missionary for the group FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students). Raised in Western NY as the second of four boys in a Catholic home, Matt attended Canisius College in Buffalo, NY, where he graduated with a Finance Degree in 2012. Throughout his collegiate career, Matt struggled with maintaining his faith and connection to God. Without a strong identity, he fell victim to the party culture, following advice from his friends on how to become happy. This lifestyle ended up leaving Matt with more questions than answers, and a sense of unfulfillment. “Despite graduating and having a good job lined up, I still had an ache.”

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Shortly after graduating, his expected lifetime career in finance took a drastic turn. Traditionally, older siblings are usually meant to be the mentors. Ironically, Matt’s younger brother was the one that gave him the direction he had been seeking. “When I witnessed him receive communion”, Matt says, “it looked like he knew God and he had something I didn’t have. He was instrumental in bringing me back to the faith.” This began a journey of rediscovering Matt’s identity in Christ, which culminated in a spiritual encounter at Mass, when he heard Jesus say to him “I love you.” After this, it became clear to him that God was asking him to share his experience and lead other young college students to true fulfillment, in the very same place he fell furthest away.

Slowly, Matt began to walk in God’s direction, but it wasn’t until 2015 while speaking to a priest in Rochester, NY, that he was told about FOCUS, founded by Curtis Martin in 1989, after he too had fallen away from his faith. In just 28 years, FOCUS has grown to represent 600 missionaries with 140 campuses participating, including three in Europe!

When Matt resigned from his job as a crop insurance agent, he began training to become a FOCUS Missionary by using their strategy to win, build and send others in faith. Trained in Church teachings, prayer, sacred Scripture, evangelization and discipleship, FOCUS missionaries encounter students in friendship where they currently are in life, inviting them into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and accompanying them as they pursue lives of virtue and excellence. After serving two years at the University of Maine, he will enter his third year with the organization, spreading his faith to Temple University in Philadelphia, PA, to lead a team of four missionaries and 35 student leaders.

No matter how far away you feel you have strayed from your calling, Matt offers these words of advice: “God will never stop pursuing us. He calls each and every one of us to be Saints in every walk of life.”

For Additional Information

If you are a college student in search of spiritual guidance, visit: https://focusoncampus.org/find-my-campus

Additionally, you will be able to see which missionaries serve at your campus and how to contact them.
Missionaries do not receive a salary. Matt’s basic living and mission needs come from individuals, families, businesses and Parishes who wish to partner with him. Help support Matt and his vision through his online fund-page at: https://www.focus.org/missionaries/matthew-piedimonte

Aug 6th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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What is Transfiguration Sunday?

About a week after Jesus plainly told His disciples that He would suffer, be killed, and be raised to life (Luke 9:22), He took Peter, James and John up a mountain to pray. While praying, His personal appearance was changed into a glorified form, and His clothing became dazzling white. Moses and Elijah appeared and talked with Jesus about His death that would soon take place. Peter, not knowing what he was saying and being very fearful, offered to put up three shelters for them. This is undoubtedly a reference to the booths that were used to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles, when the Israelites dwelt in booths for 7 days (Lev. 23:34–42). Peter was expressing a wish to stay in that place. When a cloud enveloped them, a voice said, “This is My Son, whom I have chosen, whom I love; listen to Him!” The cloud lifted, Moses and Elijah had disappeared, and Jesus was alone with His disciples who were still very much afraid. Jesus warned them not to tell anyone what they had seen until after His resurrection. The three accounts of this event are found in Matthew 17:1-8, Mark 9:2-8, and Luke 9:28-36.

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Undoubtedly, the purpose of the transfiguration of Christ into at least a part of His heavenly glory was so that the “inner circle” of His disciples could gain a greater understanding of who Jesus was. Christ underwent a dramatic change in appearance in order that the disciples could behold Him in His glory. The disciples, who had only known Him in His human body, now had a greater realization of the deity of Christ, though they could not fully comprehend it. That gave them the reassurance they needed after hearing the shocking news of His coming death.

Symbolically, the appearance of Moses and Elijah represented the Law and the Prophets. But God’s voice from heaven – “Listen to Him!” – clearly showed that the Law and the Prophets must give way to Jesus. The One who is the new and living way is replacing the old – He is the fulfillment of the Law and the countless prophecies in the Old Testament. Also, in His glorified form they saw a preview of His coming glorification and enthronement as King of kings and Lord of lords.

The disciples never forgot what happened that day on the mountain and no doubt this was intended. John wrote in his gospel, “We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only” (John 1:14). Peter also wrote of it, “We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to Him from the Majestic Glory, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.’ We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with Him on the sacred mountain” (2 Peter 1:16-18). Those who witnessed the transfiguration bore witness to it to the other disciples and to countless millions down through the centuries.

July 30th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Health bill must protect poor, unborn and conscience rights, bishop says

By Julie Asher of Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — U.S. senators must reject any bill that would replace the Affordable Care Act unless such a measure “protects poor and vulnerable people, including immigrants, safeguards the unborn and supports conscience rights,” said the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ domestic policy committee.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, called on the Senate to fix problems with the ACA in a more narrow way, rather than repeal it without an adequate replacement.

“Both the American Health Care Act legislation from the U.S. House of Representatives and the Better Care Reconciliation Act from the Senate were seriously flawed, and would have harmed those most in need in unacceptable ways,” Bishop Dewane said.

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The House passed its bill to repeal and replace the ACA health care law May 4 with a close vote of 217 to 213. The Senate’s version collapsed July 17 after four Republican senators said they couldn’t support it, leaving Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, short of the 50 votes needed to bring the bill to the floor for a debate.

“In the face of difficulties passing these proposals, the appropriate response is not to create greater uncertainty, especially for those who can bear it least, by repealing the ACA without a replacement,” he said.

Bishop Dewane made the comments in a July 20 letter to U.S. senators released July 21.

President Donald Trump had lunch with the GOP senators at the White House July 19 in an effort to get them to commit to moving forward a repeal and replace measure. A new Senate draft of a bill was released July 20, and McConnell is expected to hold a vote to begin debate July 25.

Bishop Dewane referred back to a Jan. 18 letter in which the U.S. bishops “encouraged Congress to work in a bipartisan fashion to protect vulnerable Americans and preserve important gains in health care coverage and access.”

That letter reiterated principles he said the bishops laid out when the ACA was being debated in early 2010. “All people need and should have access to comprehensive, quality health care that they can afford, and it should not depend on their stage of life, where or whether they or their parents work, how much they earn, where they live, or where they were born,” the bishops said at the time. “The bishops’ conference believes health care should be truly universal and it should be genuinely affordable.”

“Before any legislation had been proposed, the bishops were clear” in their Jan. 18 letter to lawmakers, Bishop Dewane said, “that a repeal of key provisions of the Affordable Care Act ought not be undertaken without the concurrent passage of a replacement plan that ensures access to adequate health care for the millions of people who now rely upon it for their well-being.

“To end coverage for those who struggle every day without an adequate alternative in place would be devastating,” he said. “Nothing has changed this analysis.”

At the same time, “reform is still needed to address the ACA’s moral deficiencies and challenges with long-term sustainability,” Bishop Dewane said.

“Problems with the ACA can be fixed with more narrow reforms, and in a bipartisan way,” he said, “Congress can extend full Hyde Amendment protections to the ACA, enact laws that protect the conscience rights of all stakeholders in health care, protect religious freedom, and pass legislation that begins to remove current and impending barriers to access and affordability, particularly for those most in need.”

In an analysis issued late July 20, the Congressional Budget office said the new version would still increase the current number of uninsured Americans by 22 million by 2026. In 2016, 28 million people were uninsured last year; in 2010, just over 48 million were uninsured in 2010, the year the ACA was signed into law by President Barack Obama.

It would reduce average premiums in the ACA exchanges by 25 percent in 2026, end the individual and employer mandates, and rescind the Medicaid expansion under the current law. Taxes on investment income and payroll taxes affecting higher-income Americans would remain.

July 23rd, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Cardinal Schonborn: Church doing best to strengthen families of all types

By Sarah Mac Donald of Catholic News Service

LIMERICK, Ireland (CNS) — The Catholic Church is doing whatever it can to strengthen the family, including families often considered nontraditional, said Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna, the theologian who reviewed Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on the family.

“Favoring the family does not mean disfavoring other forms of life — even those living in a same-sex partnership need their families,” the cardinal said during a visit to Ireland, which next year hosts the World Meeting of Families.

The family is “the survival network of the future” and “will remain forever the basis of every society,” Cardinal Schonborn told journalists July 13 ahead of addressing a conference, “Let’s Talk Family: Let’s Be Family.”

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The cardinal told the conference at Mary Immaculate College that people should not be discouraged about the future of the family, despite the many social and economic threats and policies that disregard it.

“Today, everybody can get married,” he said, but acknowledged “so many choose not to get married.” He suggested that the number of so-called irregular situations has increased enormously because the “framework of society has changed so much.”

“But let us not forget that marriage, as we have it today, is a privilege that was fairly rare in previous centuries, (when at most) a third of the population were able to get married.”

He said his great-grandmother, a wealthy widow who lived in what today is the Czech Republic but then was part of the Austrian empire, had six servants who remained unmarried because of laws against marriage for people of their status. “Marriage was a privilege,” he said.

The cardinal, a former student of retired Pope Benedict XVI, also noted that his German professor’s grandmother was the “illegitimate daughter of a maiden, who was not permitted to marry.”

He said if he had to sum it up for Twitter, he would say, “‘Amoris Laetitia’ tells you marriage and family are possible today.” “Amoris Laetitia” is Pope Francis’ 2016 apostolic exhortation after two synods of bishops on the family.

Asked about the reception of “Amoris Laetitia” within the church and the “dubia” — a series of questions raised by four cardinals to clear up confusion — Cardinal Schonborn said the “process of reception is a long process” and needs negotiation and discussion.

But he also criticized the cardinals over the manner in which they raised their concerns. “That cardinals, who should be the closest collaborators of the pope, try to force him and put pressure on him to give a public response to their publicized letter is absolutely inconvenient behavior,” he said.

He told journalists, “I fear those who have rapid, clear answers in politics and economy and also in religion. Rigorists and laxists have clear and rapid answers, but they fail to look at life. The rigorist avoids the effort of discernment, of looking closely at reality. The laxist lets everything possible go, and there is no discernment. They are the same but opposite.”

“St. Gregory the Great said the art of the pastoral accompaniment is the art of discernment. It is an art and it needs training,” he added.

During the conference, Cardinal Schonborn, whose own parents divorced, described Chapter 8 of “Amoris Laetitia” as the section that has been “most hotly debated.”

“Most often the topic is reduced to one question — ‘May they (remarried divorcees who did not receive an annulment) receive Communion? Yes or no!’ Pope Francis has said, ‘This is a trap!’ By narrowing this to one question the main purpose of ‘Amoris Laetitia’ is forgotten: Look closely and discern,” the cardinal said.

Commending the importance of pastoral discernment, the cardinal said that, in view of the immense variety of situations that can arise for couples encountering difficulties, “It is understandable that neither the synod nor this exhortation could be expected to provide a new set of general rules, canonical in nature and applicable to all cases.”

June 18th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

By | A Father Bob-Cast, Bulletin, Events, The 23rd Times | No Comments

A Father’s Day Blessing

Saint Joseph The Patron Saint of Fathers

St. Joseph, husband of Mary and earthly father of Jesus, is the model of fatherhood. His faith and obedience to God inspired his devotion for his family. As we prepare to celebrate Father’s Day on June 19, it might be helpful to study his example. In “Five Lessons from St. Joseph,” author Randy Hain points out attributes that serve as a helpful guide:

  • St. Joseph was obedient.
  • St. Joseph was selfless.
  • St. Joseph led by example.
  • St. Joseph was a worker.
  • St. Joseph was a leader.

“Let’s look to the inspiring example of St. Joseph, patron saint of fathers, workers and the Universal Church for his obedience, humility, selflessness, courage and the love he showed to Mary and Jesus. If we can emulate St. Joseph even a little each day, we will be that much closer to becoming the men you called to be.

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St. Pope John Paul II highlighted St. Joseph to explain the Catholic understanding of fatherhood in his 1989 apostolic exhortation, Redemptoris Custos (Guardian of the Redeemer: On the Person and Mission of St. Joseph in the Life of Christ and the Church).

“Commending ourselves, then, to the protection of (St. Joseph) to whose custody God ‘entrusted his greatest and most precious treasures. Let us at the same time learn from him how to be servants of the economy of salvation. May St. Joseph become for all of us an exceptional teacher in the service of Christ’s saving mission, a mission which is the responsibility of each and every member of the Church: husbands and wives, parents, those who live by the work of their hands or by any other kind of work, those called to the contemplative life and those called to the apostolate.”

The significance of St. Joseph’s presence in Jesus’ life reminds us how important fathers are in our lives. The following offers a variety of resources to help you celebrate the fathers in your life on Father’s Day.

Shop AMAZONSMILE and SUPPORT

St. John XXIII Catholic Church

What is AmazonSmile?
AmazonSmile is a simple and automatic way for you to support St. John XXIII every time you shop, at no cost to you. When you shop at smile.amazon.com, you’ll find the exact same low prices, vast selection and convenient shopping experience as Amazon.com, with the added bonus that Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price to your favorite charitable organization. This includes Prime benefits if you are a Prime member. You can choose from nearly one million organizations to support.

How do I shop at AmazonSmile?
To shop at AmazonSmile simply go to smile.amazon.com from the web browser on your computer or mobile device. You may also want to add a bookmark to smile.amazon.com to make it even easier to return and start your shopping at AmazonSmile.

Which products on AmazonSmile are eligible for charitable donations?
Tens of millions of products on AmazonSmile are eligible for donations. You will see eligible products marked “Eligible for AmazonSmile donation” on their product detail pages. Recurring Subscribe-and-Save purchases and subscription renewals are not currently eligible.

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How do I select St. John XXIII Catholic Church as my charitable organization to support when shopping on AmazonSmile?
On your first visit to AmazonSmile (smile.amazon.com), you will need to search for and select St. John XXIII to receive donations from eligible purchases before you begin shopping. Our parish will be listed as Saint John XXIII Parish in Fort Myers, FL. Please be sure that the parish, along with city & state are correct, as there are many listings. We will remember your selection, and then every eligible purchase you make at smile.amazon.com will result in a donation.

How much of my purchase does Amazon donate?
The AmazonSmile Foundation will donate 0.5% of the purchase price from your eligible AmazonSmile purchases. The purchase price is the amount paid for the item minus any rebates and excluding shipping & handling, gift-wrapping fees, taxes, or service charges. From time to time, we may offer special, limited time promotions that increase the donation amount on one or more products or services or provide for additional donations to charitable organizations. Special terms and restrictions may apply. Please see the relevant promotion for complete details.

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Contact Jennifer Baumgardner for more information at: jennb@johnxxiii.net

May 14th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

By | A Father Bob-Cast, Bulletin, Ministries, Pope Francis, The 23rd Times | No Comments

It’s official: Pope Francis to canonize Fatima visionaries during May visit

By Elise Harris

Vatican City, Apr 20, 2017 / 03:06 am (CNA/EWTN News).- During his trip to Portugal for the centenary of the Fatima Marian apparitions next month, Pope Francis will canonize visionaries Francisco and Jacinta Marto, making them the youngest non-martyrs to ever be declared saints.

The children will be canonized during Pope Francis’ May 13 Mass in Fatima. The decision for the date was made during a April 20 consistory of cardinals, which also voted on the dates of four other canonizations, in addition to that of Francisco and Jacinta, that will take place this year.

Some martyrs who will soon be saints are diocesan priests Andrea de Soveral and Ambrogio Francesco Ferro, and layman Matteo Moreira, killed in hatred of the faith in Brazil in 1645; and three teenagers – Cristóbal, Antonio, and Juan – killed in hatred of the faith in Mexico in 1529, who will be canonized October 15.

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Bl. Angelo da Acri, a Capuchin priest who died in October 1739, and Faustino Míguez, a Piarist priest who founded the Calasanziano Institute of the Daughters of the Divine Shepherd, will also be canonized October 15.

Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, the Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, is the man who was largely responsible for advancing the visionaries’ cause, paving the way for them to become the first canonized children who were not martyred.

Previously, the Portuguese cardinal told CNA, children were not beatified, due to the belief “that children didn’t yet have the ability to practice Christian heroic virtue like adults.”

But that all changed when the cause for Francisco and Jacinta Marto arrived on his desk.

Francisco, 11, and Jacinta, 10, became the youngest non-martyr children in the history of the Church to be beatified when on May 13, 2000, the 83rd anniversary of the first apparition of Our Lady at Fatima, Pope John Paul II proclaimed them “Blessed,” officially showing that young children can become Saints.

The brother and sister, who tended to their family’s sheep with their cousin Lucia Santo in the fields of Fatima, Portugal, witnessed the apparitions of Mary now commonly known as Our Lady of Fatima.

During the first apparition, which took place May 13, 1917, Our Lady asked the three children to pray the Rosary and make sacrifices for the conversion of sinners. The children did this and were known to pray often, giving their lunch to beggars and going without food themselves. They offered up their sacrifices and even refrained from drinking water on hot days.

When Francisco and Jacinta became seriously ill with the Spanish flu in October 1918, Mary appeared to them and said she would to take them to heaven soon.

Bed-ridden, Francisco requested and received his first Communion. The following day, Francisco died, April 4, 1919. Jacinta suffered a long illness and was eventually transferred to a Lisbon hospital, where she underwent an operation for an abscess in her chest. However, her health did not improve and she died Feb. 20, 1920.

Francisco and Jacinta “practiced Christian virtue in a heroic way,” Cardinal Martins said, explaining that among other things, one of the most obvious moments in which this virtue was apparent for him was when the three shepherd children were arrested and intimidated by their mayor on August 13, 1917.

Government stability in Portugal was rocky following the revolution and coup d’état that led to the overthrow of the monarchy and subsequent establishment of the First Portuguese Republic in 1910.

A new liberal constitution separating Church and state was drafted under the influence of Freemasonry, which sought to omit the faith – which for many was the backbone of Portuguese culture and society – from public life.

It was in this context that, after catching wind of the Virgin Mary’s appearance to Francisco, Jacinta and Lucia, district Mayor Artur de Oliveira Santos had the children arrested on the day Mary was to appear to them, and threatened to boil them in hot oil unless they would confess to inventing the apparitions.

At one point in the conversation at the jailhouse, Jacinta was taken out of the room, leaving Francisco and Lucia alone. The two were told that Jacinta had been burned with hot oil, and that if they didn’t lie, the same would happen to them.

However, instead of caving to the pressure, the children said: “you can do whatever you want, but we cannot tell a lie. Do whatever you want to us, burn us with oil, but we cannot tell a lie.”

“This was the virtue of these children,” Cardinal Martins said, noting that to accept death rather than tell a lie is “more heroic than many adults.”

“There’s a lot to say on the heroicness of children,” he said, adding that “because of this I brought their cause forward.”

Cardinal Martins was also the one to bring Lucia’s cause to the Vatican following her death in 2005. The visionary had spent the remainder of her life after the apparitions as a Carmelite nun.

Typically the must be a five-year waiting period after a person dies before their cause can be brought forward. However, after only three years Martins ask that the remaining two be dismissed, and his request was granted.

Although the diocesan phase of the cause has already been finished, Cardinal Martins – who knew the visionary personally – said Lucia’s process will take much longer than that of Francisco and Jacinta not only due to her long life, but also because of the vast number of letters and other material from her writings and correspondence that needs to be examined.

The cardinal, who will be present in Fatima with the Pope during his May 12-13 visit for the centenary of the apparitions, said he views the occasion as the conclusion of a process that began with him changing a norm regarding the view of children “and their heroic virtue.”

This process is important, he said, because it means there could be other children who practiced heroic virtue that can now be canonized, so “it’s certainly something important.”

“It needs to be seen that (children) are truly capable of practicing heroic virtue,” not only in Fatima, but “in the Christian life,” he said.

Although canonizations, apart from a few exceptions, are typically held in Rome, it was only recently that beatifications began to be held outside of Rome, in the local Church which promoted the new Blessed’s cause.

This change was made by Cardinal Martins in September 2005, after receiving the approval of Benedict XVI.

In the past, a beatification Mass in Rome would be presided over by the Cardinal-Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints during the morning, with the Pope coming down to the basilica to pray to the new Blessed in the afternoon. Cardinal Martins said he decided to change this because the beatification and the canonization “are two different realities.”

“While the canonizations had a more universal dimension of the Church, the beatifications have a more local dimension, where they (the Blessed) came from,” he said, noting that this is reflected even in the words spoken during the rites for each Mass.

“Because of this, I made a distinction: the beatification in their (the Blessed’s) own church, in their diocese, and the canonizations in Rome.”

The result was “a fantastic revolution,” he said, explaining that while maybe 2-3,000 people would participate in the beatification ceremonies in Rome, hundreds of thousands started to come for the local beatification Masses of new Blessed in their home dioceses.

The cardinal said that “it’s beautiful” to see people – many times including friends and family members of new Blessed – join in honoring their countryman, asking for their intercession, and seeking to follow their example.

He believes the custom will remain like this, adding that it is beautiful particularly from the standpoint of evangelization.

“The new Blessed says to their brothers, many of whom they knew, ‘I am one of you, one like you, so you must follow my path and live the Gospel in depth’,” the cardinal said, explaining that this is “a formidable act of evangelization, and with everyone happy about the new Blessed, they’ll immediately do what they say!”

Cardinal Martins said the decision was also prompted by the emphasis placed on local Churches during the Second Vatican Council.

“I thought, one of the most effective ways to highlight the importance of local Churches is to conduct in the local diocese the beatification of one of their sons,” he said.

April 30th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

By | A Father Bob-Cast, Bulletin, Interviews, The 23rd Times | No Comments

The Gift of Life

TESTIMONY FROM A ORGAN DONOR RECIPIENT

by: Clayton Atkins

If you ever have the pleasure of meeting Brian Bourgraf in person, my bet is that you wouldn’t immediately realize that he is a walking miracle. He is a cheerful man of fifty-three, with a delightful smile that emits a warm aura. Despite this general kindness that surrounds Brian, there isn’t anything else about him that strikes me as extraordinary—he seems like a normal guy. But that’s the miracle. Brian is here. He’s living his life, like any one of us.

However, Brian is not just a normal guy. He was born with Eagle-Barrett syndrome, a rare congenital disease that affects the abdominal muscles and urinary tract. In 1963, this uncommon birth defect could have been a death sentence. For the first 4 ½ years of his life, Brian lived in the hospital, tethered to a dialysis machine. He needed an organ transplant, a procedure which was still in its infancy. At that time, the surgery that Brian needed had only been performed on baboons. Four year-old Brian needed a double kidney transplant.

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Brian is a walking piece of history. His double kidney transplant was the first successful operation of its kind. But the doctors’ ingenious solution to his rare medical problem is not the most miraculous aspect of Brian’s story. The real miracle is the gift of life. The surgeons who performed the life-saving transplant were working with tools that only God could provide. Brian is here with us today because he received two kidneys from an organ donor, an infant who was taken off life support. I cannot begin to comprehend the pain of losing a newborn child, and neither can Brian. Yet, he owes his life to this couple, who chose to donate their child’s organs. From death, came life.

We all suffer—some more than others. But our suffering is never in vain. How could we experience joy without suffering? How could we appreciate life, without death? And here we approach one of life’s essential mysteries: why do we suffer and die? Such a stark and staggering question. Fortunately, when this brutal reality of everyday life rears its ugly head, we can choose to respond positively…we suffer and die for others. This is Christ’s essential message. We must sacrifice ourselves for the sake of others. This is what saved Brian’s life. A child died; but in death, that child preserved life.

Essentially, Brian’s story is an Easter story. What did we just witness in the Easter season? Jesus died, and in death, he gave us life. This is what Brian experienced when he received two healthy kidneys in 1968. Death, pain, and suffering…we can dwell on these things and let them dominate our perspective, or, we can view them from the Christian perspective, and choose to see life in death, growth in suffering. One grief-stricken family’s choice led to a full and productive life.

When I asked Brian to explain his outlook on life, as someone who almost lost it, his meager reply was: “Something was given to me, so now I have to give back.” What better words could we live by? You shouldn’t have to undergo such a harrowing experience to reach this message. You can find it throughout the Gospels: as Catholics, we believe that we are born in God’s grace, and that we must extend that Grace to everyone we meet. Brian has dedicated his life to this principle. He spent his career in a special part of the family business, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for charity and trying to make an impact on other people’s lives, just like one couple did for him, when he was only four years-old.

But Brian’s story doesn’t end with the successful operation from his childhood. Eventually, the kidneys he received from his infant benefactor wore out. It’s a miracle that this didn’t happen sooner. Most kidney transplant patients can expect to live for 10–20 years.

Brian was going on 50 when, suddenly, he felt something inside of him “turn off.” His second kidney failure did not cause him any direct pain; he simply noticed that something was wrong. The diagnosis was grim. He would need another transplant immediately. By this time, Brian had built himself such a reputation of selflessness and giving, that the mayor, a judge, and many other citizens of the small town that he called home offered to donate a kidney. However, it was ultimately his older brother, Joe, who wound up on the operating table beside him.

In 2011, Brian received another kidney, which saved his life once again.

Brian’s life is truly a miracle: if that caring couple hadn’t donated their dying child’s organs, Brian would be dead. If his brother hadn’t undergone the grueling process of testing and donating his own body, Brian would not be with us. He is here today because of the selfless choices that others have made. And he is grateful for everything. I have never seen anyone who has suffered so severely, strive to give back as much as Brian has. His fundraising efforts alone could account for millions of dollars’ worth of aid, but his true testament to humanity is his dedication to service. Brian considers his life a gift, because it truly was one. But we shouldn’t need such an extreme example to guide our own actions. All of our lives are a gift from God, and the only way that we can return the favor is by selflessly helping others.

Because Brian has lived his entire life on borrowed time, he is hyper-aware of how he owes his life to others: the infant who lost his life; the parents who made a selfless decision; Brian’s own parents, El and Elaine, who spent countless hours in doctor’s offices and hospitals, agonizing over their son; Brian’s younger brother, El-B, who has supported him since they were children, his older brother, Joe, who extended Brian’s lease on life; and, especially, his wife, Cathy, who has undergone health troubles of her own. One of the positives sides to suffering is that it prepares you to face whatever challenges life can throw at you. Brian admits that without the love and support from these people and countless others, he wouldn’t be here with us today. Thankfully, he is, and through his suffering, he has emerged as a strong, resilient person who has devoted his life to serving others.

Organ donation is perhaps one of the easiest ways that we can help others. Although, of course, the tragedy of a death is difficult to overcome, we can humbly mimic Christ’s sacrifice on the cross; by offering parts of ourselves or our loved ones to others, we reenact Christ’s death and resurrection—we give life.

April is National Donate Life Month. Brian’s story should serve as a reminder that each of us, no matter how broken, are gifts from God, and we should not waste the gift of life. Currently, there are 5,300 people awaiting lifesaving organ transplants in Florida, and 118,000 people across the country. One organ and tissue donor can potentially save the lives of eight people and enhance 75 other lives. Please consider making the selfless choice of becoming an organ donor. This is a decision that should be undertaken in conversation with your loved ones. We are here now, but one day, we won’t be. However, we all have the opportunity, even in death, to extend the gift of life that we were given by God.

To learn more about organ donation, visit Organ Transplant Recipients of South West Florida’s webpage at www.organsupport.org or call (239) 247-3073

April 2nd, 2017 | The 23rd Times

By | A Father Bob-Cast, Bulletin, Events, Ministries, Pope Francis, The 23rd Times | No Comments

U.S. Catholics asked to accompany migrants, refugees seeking better life

By Julie Asher | Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The U.S. bishops in a pastoral reflection released March 22 called all Catholics to do what each of them can “to accompany migrants and refugees who seek a better life in the United States.”

Titled “Living as a People of God in Unsettled Times,” the reflection was issued “in solidarity with those who have been forced to flee their homes due to violence, conflict or fear in their native lands,” said a news release from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

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“To live as a people of God is to live in the hope of the Resurrection,” said the reflection, which was approved by the USCCB Administrative Committee on the first day of a two-day meeting in Washington.

The 50 37-member committee is made up of the executive officers of the USCCB, elected committee chairmen and elected regional representatives. It acts on behalf of the nation’s bishops between their spring and fall general meetings.

“To live in Christ is to draw upon the limitless love of Jesus to fortify us against the temptation of fear,” it continued. “Pray that our engagement in the debate over immigration and refugee issues may bring peace and comfort to those most affected by current and proposed national policy changes.”

The bishops urged Catholics to pray for an end to the root causes of violence and other circumstances forcing families to flee their homeland to find a better life; to meet with newcomers in their parishes and “listen to their story, and share your own”; and to call, write or visit their elected representatives to ask them to fix our broken immigration system” in a way that would safeguard the country’s security and “our humanity through a generous opportunity for legal immigration.”

The statement opened with a passage from Chapter 19 of the Book of Leviticus: “The word of God is truly alive today. When an alien resides with you in your land, do not mistreat such a one. You shall treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; you shall love the alien as yourself; for you too were once aliens in the land of Egypt.”

The bishops urged Catholics to “not lose sight of the fact that behind every policy is the story of a person in search of a better life. They may be an immigrant or refugee family sacrificing so that their children might have a brighter future.”

“As shepherds of a pilgrim church,” they wrote, “we will not tire in saying to families who have the courage to set out from their despair onto the road of hope: “We are with you.”

Those families could include “a family seeking security from an increased threat of extremist violence,” they said, adding that “it is necessary to safeguard the United States in a manner that does not cause us to lose our humanity.”

The bishops said that “intense debate is essential to healthy democracy, but the rhetoric of fear does not serve us well.”

“When we look at one another do we see with the heart of Jesus?” they asked.

Their pastoral reflection comes at a time when the Trump administration’s rhetoric and its policies on national security, refugees and immigration are in the headlines almost daily. Those policies have sparked almost nonstop protests in various parts of the country since President Donald Trump’s Jan. 20 inauguration. In some cases, the anti-Trump demonstrations have turned violent.

The latest action on the refugee issue came March 16 when two federal judges blocked Trump’s new executive order banning for 90 days the entry into the U.S. of citizens from six Muslim-majority nations and suspending for 120 days the resettlement of refugees. Two federal judges, one in Hawaii and one in Maryland, blocked the order before it was too take affect March 16 at midnight.

The Department of Justice announced March 17 it will appeal the Maryland ruling in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, which is based in Richmond, Virginia.

In their reflection, the bishops said that all in this country find “common dreams for our children” in their “diverse backgrounds.”

“Hope in the next generation is how the nation will realize its founding motto, ‘out of many, one,’” they said. “In doing so, we will also realize God’s hope for all his children: that we would see each other as valued sisters and brothers regardless of race, religion or national origin.”

Christ, as the word made flesh, “strengthens us to bring our words to life,” they said and suggested three ways Catholics, “in our own small way,” can “bring our words of solidarity for migrants and refugees to life”: by praying, welcoming newcomers and writing to their elected representatives urging them to support humane immigration policies.

“Pray for an end to the root causes of violent hatred that force mothers and fathers to flee the only home they may have known in search of economic and physical security for their children,” the bishops said.

They asked Catholics to meet with newcomers in their parishes, and to “listen to their story and share your own.” The bishops noted parishes across the country have programs for immigrants and refugees “both to comfort them and to help them know their rights.”

They also urged Catholics to “to reach out in loving dialogue to those who may disagree with us. The more we come to understand each other’s concerns the better we can serve one another. Together, we are one body in Christ.”

Finally, Catholics should call, write or visit their elected officials urging they “fix our broken immigration system in a way that safeguards both our security and our humanity through a generous opportunity for legal immigration.”

The reflection ended with a quote from Pope Francis: “To migrate is the expression of that inherent desire for the happiness proper to every human being, a happiness that is to be sought and pursued. For us Christians, all human life is an itinerant journey toward our heavenly homeland.”

Mar. 26th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

By | A Father Bob-Cast, Bulletin, Pope Francis, The 23rd Times | No Comments

Pope: Conversion doesn’t happen through magic, but concrete actions

By Junno Arocho Esteves | Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Conversion doesn’t come from the wave of a magic wand, but from learning to do good through concrete actions every day, Pope Francis said.

While even “the saintliest person sins seven times a day,” conversion happens through humility and trying to become “better than the day before,” the pope said March 14 during the Mass in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

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“Converting doesn’t mean going to a fairy with a magic wand,” he said. “No, it is a path, a path of turning away (from evil) and of learning.”

Reflecting on the day’s first reading from the prophet Isaiah (1:10, 16-20), the pope said, “You learn to do good through concrete things. Not with words, but with actions.”

The reading from Isaiah gives three examples: “Help the oppressed, hear the orphan’s plea and defend the widow.”

In the day’s Gospel reading from Matthew (23:1-12), the pope continued, Jesus also reproaches the scribes and Pharisees because they do not practice what they preach.

“They do not know concreteness. If there is no concreteness, there can be no conversion,” he said.

Pope Francis said Christians are called to embark on “the path of Lenten conversion,” knowing that God “is a father who speaks, he is a father who loves us.”

“He accompanies us on this path of conversion. He only asks of us to be humble,” he said. “Then our sins all will be forgiven.”