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

Oct. 1st, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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RESPECT LIFE SUNDAY | Be Not Afraid

Why do we celebrate RESPECT LIFE Sunday in October?

Back in 1972, the year before the United States Supreme Court ruled on Roe V. Wade to legalize abortion in the U.S., Pope John Paul II set aside the first Sunday of October as “Respect Life Sunday”, also called “Sanctity of Life Sunday.”

The Catholic Church has dedicated the month of October, starting with the first Sunday, to extra time and resources in advancing the culture of life. Such can be implemented through prayer, activism, and education against the falsehoods promoted by the pro-abortion advocates.

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On the matter of abortion, the Catholic Church teaches the following through its Catechism.

“Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person – among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life. ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.’ [Jer. 1:5] ‘My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the earth.” [Psalm 139:15]

Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law: “You shall not kill the embryo by abortion and shall not cause the newborn to perish. God, the Lord of life, has entrusted to men the noble mission of safeguarding life, and men must carry it out in a manner worthy of themselves. Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes.”[Gaudium et spes]

Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life. ‘A person who procures a completed abortion incurs excommunication latae sententiae,’ ‘by the very commission of the offense,’ and subject to the conditions provided by Canon Law. The Church does not thereby intend to restrict the scope of mercy. Rather, she makes clear the gravity of the crime committed, the irreparable harm done to the innocent who is put to death, as well as to the parents and the whole of society.” [Catechism of the Catholic Church # 2270-2272]

Sept. 24th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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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. 10th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Remember September: A Teacher’s Reflection of 9/11

By Clayton Atkins – Bishop Verot Teacher

I wrote this piece last year, the day before the 15th anniversary of 9/11. I wrote it because I was curious about how people conceive of historically important events that they do not remember personally.

I teach high school English. When my students come into my room, they are expected to spend the first 5 minutes of class writing in their journals. Usually, I allow them to write about whatever they want, as long as words come out on paper. Sometimes, when I want to get a good read on how my classes think about a topic, I ask them to respond to a prompt that I have written.

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I decided that I wanted to know how a bunch of kids (who were only 1-3 years old in 2001) fit this momentous historical event into their conception of the world. When I started thinking about that day, I realized that I currently teach my classes in the very same room of Bishop Verot Catholic High School that I was in on 09/11/2001, when I found out about the World Trade Center attack. For some reason, this fact was lost on me, even though I’ve taught classes in this room for the last two years of my life. I was attempting to get my students thinking beyond their narrow world of experience. I wanted them to see that their teachers are people too, who were once in high school, dealing with whatever adolescent things we had to deal with. I wanted them to see this event, which to them is nothing more than a section in their history books, or a documentary that airs once every year around this time, as a real thing that happened to people. I wanted to see how people who have no memory of a historic tragedy, conceive of such a thing.

Here’s what I wrote:

Yesterday was the fifteenth anniversary of the September Eleventh terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and United Airlines Flight 93. Most of you were very young when this occurred.

Me? I just so happened to be seated in this very room. I was a freshman in a World History Honors class.

Looking back on that day now, my memory fails me: I can only summon short flashes of scenes; brief moments in time are all that come to mind. I remember sitting in a desk just like the one you’re sitting in now, in a row just like the one you’re in, staring at the back of some kid’s head, mindlessly doodling in my notebook. Having already completed my response to our current event of the day, I was just about to close my notebook, reach into my backpack, and heave out my World History textbook (we had thick, massive textbooks, which we couldn’t possibly carry around all day, so in that impossibly short four minutes in between classes, we had to use the bathroom, decode a lock, switch out our gigantic tomes, lock everything back up, and scurry through the door of our next class before the bell…so I guess I was exhausted from all of that) when the loudspeaker dinged. This was a normal occurrence. We were at Verot: the loudspeaker dinged just about every day with some special announcement, or some special update about some special schedule or event.

But this ding was different. Normally, the loudspeaker ding was followed by a reasonable second of silence before whatever was to be spoken was actually spoken; but this ding—this ding went off like a gunshot, not because it was particularly loud, but because of the deafening silence that followed it. High above all the normal noise of the classroom—AC churning, fluorescent tubes humming, pens tapping—I could hear the death of authority: whoever decided to ding that loudspeaker, hadn’t decided what he was going to say once he did. I could tell that it was a man. The breathing was that of a man, but it was the breathing of a man at a loss for words. Usually, that ding signified an authoritative decree: “Students, Faculty, and Staff, tomorrow’s lunch period will be shortened by ten minutes to allow for adoration in the chapel”; “Student’s, tomorrow’s dress code will be strictly enforced”; “Good morning Verot, let us join in saying the Direction of Intention.” This ding, however, lingered in the air, attempting to drown out the tortured breathing of whoever was at the microphone.

I don’t know. Maybe the silence only lasted for a second longer than it usually did. What’s important is that, to me, right now, I remember it lasting an eternity. When the silence finally gave way to speech, everyone in the room must have been struck by the gravity in the speaker’s tone: no one spoke; again, there was a silence so severe, that it seeped into my skin and crept into my bones—I knew that this was no normal “special announcement.” I don’t remember how it was phrased, but I do remember snatches of speech, like “…planes have crashed into the World Trade Center…,” “…unsure of casualties…”, and “…pray for the people of New York…”. I don’t remember the loudspeaker voice instructing anyone to do so, but our teacher turned the classroom TV to the news. I remember watching the news coverage and not really grasping what was going on. I remember not grasping what was going on for the rest of the day. I remember everyone on campus filing into the newly constructed Anderson Theater and holding a prayer service. I remember meandering past the library on my way to my locker after lunch, seeing more news coverage on the TVs inside, and my best friend declaring: “Look at that! It’s so fake! Who could believe this?” And, for an instant, it did seem fake. I was born into an America that hadn’t been seriously attacked by a foreign power since Pearl Harbor. How could this happen?

But even in the throes of one of the most significant events in world history; even while I witnessed adults whom I respected—teachers, administrators, parents—break down and cry, unable to come up with any answers, anything that would comfort a young freshman—in the end, I didn’t care. I was so absorbed in my own life, that this momentous event, which would fundamentally alter the course of history, had almost no immediate impact on my daily life.

I remember my mother picking me up from school like any normal day. She must have been upset, but I simply requested that she take me to the comic book store on the way home; there was a new edition of Spiderman that I was anxious to read. Looking back, I suppose that she just appeased my desires, thinking that I’d already been through enough that day and deserved some distraction. But nothing could be further from the truth: I was young, naïve, and hell-bent on living my privileged American life.

It wasn’t until later that evening that things fell into focus. I remember waiting for dinner to be ready, sprawled out on the couch, finishing my Spiderman comic. It wasn’t until I had read the last frame of the issue that I fully realized that the news was on the television. I closed the comic, placed it on the end table, and turned my attention to the screen: footage of the towers being hit, burning, and imploding into a pillar of fire, dust, and ash replayed over and over again. It began to hypnotize me. My thoughts began to shift outside of my narrow realm of existence. I started to think about my relatives in New Jersey, some of whom commuted to New York daily; some of whom probably knew people who worked in the towers. I started to think of the actual people in those towers, and I started to feel guilty for my selfishness.

Then my attention shifted to my immediate surroundings: my mother at the stove, putting the finishing touches on our daily family meal; my father pacing between his office and his bedroom, doing whatever fathers do to earn a living, even in the midst of a national tragedy; but most of all, my eyes were drawn to my brother, nine years younger than I: he was building something. Although his eyes rarely left the television screen, he was meticulously placing one block atop another, constructing two twin towers out of toys. When his towers began to rise above his own meager height, he found a toy airplane, which was given to me by my grandfather when I was young. He held it delicately between his tiny fingers, made a noise like a little boys do when they try to sound like an engine—VROOM VROOM!—and careened that little piece of metal into his tower of wooden blocks, which shattered with an intensity and meaning far surpassing the real thing: the actual destruction of the actual towers did not affect me, but this child’s-play rendition of reality instantly shook me from my reverie: I knew then, as plaything smashed into plaything, that the world would never be the same. For some reason, this innocent child had to register this momentous event before I could.

When historic anniversaries inevitably come along, it’s important that we take a moment to reflect, not only on the moments themselves, but also on how we experienced them, how they felt to us at the time. This exercise has a revelatory potential. It can tell us about ourselves: who we were, who we are, and who we want to become. It also reinforces a point that is often lost on many of us: that some of the most important or memorable moments of our lives are nothing more than stories to successive generations. It is our job to relate these moments to them, emphasizing their historic magnitude, their humanity, and most importantly, how they made a deep impression on our lives.

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 27th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Bishops ask for peace after white nationalist rally turns deadly

By Rhina Guidos | Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — In the aftermath of a chaos- and hate-filled weekend in Virginia, Catholic bishops and groups throughout the nation called for peace after three people died and several others were injured following clashes between pacifists, protesters and white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, Aug. 11 and 12.

A 32-year-old paralegal, Heather D. Heyer, was killed when a car plowed into a group in Charlottesville Aug. 12. The driver was identified as James Alex Fields, who allegedly told his mother he was attending a rally for President Donald Trump. Reports say the car allegedly driven by Fields plowed into a crowd during a white nationalist rally and a counter-rally the afternoon of Aug. 12.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said early Aug. 14 the “evil attack” meets the legal definition of domestic terrorism and suggested pending federal charges for Fields, who was arrested and was being held without bail. Fields was formally charged Aug. 14 by a Charlottesville judge with second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding and failure to stop in an accident that resulted in death.

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Outside the Charlottesville courthouse where Judge Robert Downer handed down the charges and Fields appeared via video link from jail, white supremacists and counter-protesters clashed, but there were no arrests.The same day, anti-racism rallies were held in several cities.

The bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Richmond, Virginia, was one of the first to call for peace following the violence in Charlottesville late Aug. 11, which only became worse the following day.

On the evening of Aug. 11, The Associated Press and other news outlets reported a rally of hundreds of men and women, identified as white nationalists, carrying lit torches on the campus of the University of Virginia. Counter-protesters also were present during the rally and clashes were reported.

The following day, at least 20 were injured and the mayor of Charlottesville confirmed Heyer’s death later that afternoon via Twitter after the car allegedly driven by Fields rammed into the crowd of marchers. Two Virginia State Police troopers also died when a helicopter they were in crashed while trying to help with the violent events on the ground. CNN reported that 19 others were injured and remained hospitalized Aug. 14 but were listed in good condition.

“In the last 24 hours, hatred and violence have been on display in the city of Charlottesville,” said Richmond Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo in a statement on the afternoon of Aug. 12. “I earnestly pray for peace.”

Charlottesville is in Bishop DiLorenzo’s diocese.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, called the events “abhorrent acts of hatred” in an Aug. 12 statement. He said they were an “attack on the unity of our nation.”

Virginia’s governor declared a state of emergency Aug. 12 when violence erupted during the “Unite the Right” white nationalist protest against the removal of a statue of a Confederate general, Gen. Robert E. Lee. But the trouble already had started the night before with the lit torches and chants of anti-Semitic slogans on the grounds of the University of Virginia.

“Racism is evil,” President Trump said in an Aug. 14 statement. “And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans. … As I said on Saturday (Aug. 12), we condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence. It has no place in America.”

Trump was excoriated by many across the country for his Aug. 12 statement, because he condemned hatred, bigotry and violence “on many sides” in Charlottesville and did not specifically target white supremacists then, his critics said.

Other groups, including many faith groups, seeking to counter the white nationalist events showed up during both events. Authorities reported clashes at both instances.

“Only the light of Christ can quench the torches of hatred and violence. Let us pray for peace,” said Bishop DiLorenzo in his statement. “I pray that those men and women on both sides can talk and seek solutions to their differences respectfully.”

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, which covers Northern Virginia, tweeted on what was happening in Charlottesville and followed up with a lengthy statement, calling the events “saddening and disheartening.”

“The more we read about the demonstration of racism, bigotry and self-proclaimed superiority made it seem as though we were living in a different time,” said Bishop Burbidge, noting “much progress made” since the civil rights movement of the 1960s. “And yet, there are some who cling to misguided and evil beliefs about what makes American unique and remarkable.”

He condemned “all forms of bigotry and hatred,” denouncing “any form of hatred as a sin.”

“We must find unity as a country. Unity does not mean we all believe the same things,” Bishop Burbidge said. “We must be united by a shared interest in freedom, liberty and love for our neighbor. … Without respect for each other, even when we adamantly disagree, we will see more violence and discord in this great nation.”

On Twitter, Jesuit Father James Martin also denounced racism as a sin and said: “All Christians, all people of faith, should not only reject it, not only oppose it, but fight against it.”

Other bishops quickly followed in denouncing the violence.

“May this shocking incident and display of evil ignite a commitment among all people to end the racism, violence, bigotry and hatred that we have seen too often in our nation and throughout the world,” said Bishop Martin D. Holley of Memphis, Tennessee, in an Aug. 13 statement. “Let us pray for the repose of the souls of those who died tragically, including the officers, and for physical and emotional healing for all who were injured. May ours become a nation of peace, harmony and justice for one and all.”

Chicago’s Cardinal Blase J. Cupich said Aug. 12 via Twitter: “When it comes to racism, there is only one side: to stand against it.”

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia called racism the “poison of the soul,” and said in a statement that it was the United States’ “original sin” and one that “never fully healed.”

He added that, “blending it with the Nazi salute, the relic of a regime that murdered millions, compounds the obscenity.”

On Aug. 13, Cardinal DiNardo, along with Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, issued a statement saying: “We stand against the evil of racism, white supremacy and neo-Nazism. We stand with our sisters and brothers united in the sacrifice of Jesus, by which love’s victory over every form of evil is assured.”

Several other U.S. bishops issued statements or tweeted messages condemning racism, white supremacy and the deadly violence in Charlottesville.

Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori expressed sorrow about the events in a tweet, saying, “Our deepest prayers go out to those killed and wounded in Charlottesville. We must all work together to end the scourge of racism, and unite for the common good of all. Racism must be countered with love & respect.”

“We all watched the violence in Virginia this weekend with sadness and disgust,” Bishop Donald J. Hying of Gary, Indiana, tweeted. “The destructive evil of racism, Nazism and supremist ideologies that have no place in any human society.”

He added, “We join both our prayers and our condemnation to that of millions of people in our country and world who want to build an authentic civilization of life and love.”

Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, New Jersey, said the Catholic men, women and children of the archdiocese of Newark, “people who trace their roots to every continent of the world and represent every race and ethnicity” viewed with horror the events in Charlottesville and condemned “the racism and vicious rhetoric that contributed to this tragic moment in our nation’s history.”

“We stand in prayer and solidarity with all people of goodwill and we witness to our Christian calling to ‘love your enemies … that you may be children of your heavenly Father.”

“Hatred & vile racist actions defile the USA. Such activity is NEVER justified. Those who planned these acts must be denounced & defied,” said Atlanta Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory in a tweet.

Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln, Nebraska, tweeted: “Pray for an end to the evil of racism. And pray, especially today for its victims. Pray for justice and mercy in our nation.”

New Orleans Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond said what took place in Charlottesville “demonstrates again the racism, hatred, and violence that exists in our world today. This can never be justified and is contrary to Gospel values.”

He urged Catholics “to stand united against the evil of racism, white supremacy and neo-Nazism. We must be prophetic in speaking about and living the values of Jesus.”

Aug 20th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Encountering Christ Through the Sacraments

by: Rich Byrne, D.Min. – Parishioner

As Catholics, we have been raised with and attune to the Seven Sacraments. They have a special meaning among us. Yet, why? What makes them so special in our broken world?

These Sacraments, instituted by Christ, are meant to strengthen and to encourage us on our spiritual journeys. The Church, as the People of God, has a God-given role in helping us realize that we are chosen, we are called, we are discipled.

As we move daily among our many challenges, the Sacraments manifest visible signs of God’s Invisible Love for us, for all people and for all creation.

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In order to heighten that incarnational dimension, the Church highlights the physical or tangible dimension of every Sacrament. In earlier times, prayerful theologians realized that there is an undeniable moment in every Sacramental action (ex opere operato) in which one can attest that God, the Holy Spirit, the Risen Christ is truly present and acting. In Baptism, it is the pouring of the water. In Confirmation, Ordination, Anointing, and Reconciliation, it relates to the moments of the use of hands. In Eucharist, it is the Consecration. In Marriage, it is the communion of life and love between husband and wife. We can see that the tangible expresses the spiritually nurturing love that is present in such graced moments.

As we participate in these sacred moments, heaven and earth merge. They are real moments for multi-faceted healing, for forgiving mercy, for real spiritual nourishment. They are invaluable aids to support us as we strive to follow the challenging teachings of Jesus and of His supportive Church.

A clear challenge for each of us as members of this parochial and the ecclesial community is to grow in such awareness, that God is really alive, loving and present among us and within us. God is acting in every moment, especially (whether we are aware or not) in these great Sacramental moments. These are the signs of God’s longing to communicate His Infinite Love. Yes, we are abundantly loved. Can we wake up to that? Can we experience in prayer and in the Sacraments that we are absolutely lovable?

God created us to love ourselves, to love Him and to love all beings. Using the Sacraments more intentionally in our lives (such as, Sunday Eucharist) helps us realize ever more deeply that we are unconditionally and absolutely LOVED.

Encountering Christ Through the Sacraments Offered by the Faith Alive! Team

Whether you have been a life-long Catholic, have just recently become Catholic, or would like to hear more about the Sacraments, you are invited to join our parish community for this enlightening series. We will meet in the church community room from 6:30-8pm. Come to one session or the entire series. All are welcome! Registration is requested. Please call the parish office or email, jennifer@johnxxiii.net

August 22nd – Overview of the Sacraments:
The Seven Sacraments are central to our Catholic Faith and are the visible signs of God’s Love. During this introductory evening, we will discuss how Christ is the Great Sacrament of our encountering the Presence of God. By more deeply appreciating the Risen Christ, we, the People of God, may experience more fully the many Graces of the Sacraments.

August 29th – Baptism and Confirmation:
We will look at the meaning of our Baptism not only as the first step in our faith life, but also as a continuing journey where we not only face the challenges of life but also encounter the presence of Christ along the way. Confirmation is living life fully in the Holy Spirit. This sacrament is called Confirmation because the faith given in Baptism is now confirmed and made strong with new hope, grace and understanding.

September 5th – The Most Holy Eucharist:
“Do this in memory of me” is the command of the Lord to the Apostles at the Last Supper after Jesus instituted the greatest Sacrament of our salvation. The Holy Eucharist is the center and pinnacle of the Catholic life because it is the sacrament of the real Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ and is being celebrated every day.

September 12th – Sacraments of Healing:
By means of the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick, Christ willed His Church to continue His work of healing and salvation. Christ, the physician of our soul and body, instituted these Sacraments because the new life that He gives us can be weakened and even lost through sin.

September 19th – Sacraments of Vocations:
Matrimony and Holy Orders both involve a lifelong commitment, and their purpose is to bring the light of Christ into the world. This presentation will explore the graces and responsibilities of these sacraments.

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 2nd, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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God Bless America

Celebrating Independence Day as a Christian

July 4th is the national celebration of our Nation’s independence. As we celebrate let us remember to pray that God will strengthen and bless America and make our nation a haven of liberty and justice for all — born and unborn.

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How are we as Catholic Christians and Americans supposed to celebrate this great day? John Adams, one of the Founding Fathers of our country, wrote this about how to celebrate the fourth of July:

“It ought to be commemorated as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with parades and picnics with shews, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and fireworks from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more.”

Well, let’s see how we’re doing in celebrating the fourth of July the way one of the greatest Founders envisioned. Parades? Check. Picnic? Check. Sports? Backyard games count, right? Check. Bonfires? Check. Fireworks? Double check. Solemn Acts of Devotions to God Almighty? Um . . .I don’t know about you, but I don’t typically live up to that calling on the Fourth of July.

But, John Adams set an example for us. After everything’s said and done, we owe God more than anyone else for what occurred 241 years ago. In fact, the most famous part of the Declaration of Independence explicitly points to God as the source of our freedom:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

There are many ways to honor God on this special day. Perhaps you can read a passage from the Catholic Bible with your family to kick off the festivities, or pray a family rosary with the special intention for our political leaders and our country’s future.

Not our parents, or politicians, or government, are the source of our most important rights. Only God. As the source of our rights, He deserves the highest praise, honor, and glory on Independence Day and every day.

June 25th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Living Your Strengths

AT ST. JOHN XXIII CHURCH

by: Steve Engelman

At some time during the past seven years you may have seen and wondered about those five words near the bottom of parish name tags; noticed upcoming sessions advertised in the bulletin; or were one of the hundreds of parishioners who participated in a Living Your Strengths workshop.

Living Your Strengths, based on a book of the same title and the associated Clifton StrengthsFinder® assessment, has been a key component for enhancing parishioner engagement by raising awareness and understanding of the unique talents God bestowed upon each of us. These talents are natural ways of thinking, feeling and behaving that can be productively applied for enriching personal, communal, and spiritual lives.

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For the natural talents we are blessed with at birth to develop into true strengths, it requires awareness, understanding, education and practice to transform them from a raw condition to a more fully developed mature state.

The problem is most people do not know what their greatest talents are, or how to go about discovering them, and this untapped potential leads to a lack of engagement and spiritual fulfillment. Gallup’s research shows engagement drives a parish’s spiritual health and, contrary to popular belief, it is actually a greater sense of belonging felt by a parishioner that leads to enriched believing in the mission of Christ and the Church, not the opposite.

The model for achieving greater parishioner engagement, as defined by Gallup, is hierarchical with four stages building upon each other. Imagine a pyramid with the first level, or base, being “What do I get?” and the second level as “What do I give?”. The third and fourth levels are “Do I belong?” and “How can we grow?, respectively. At St. John XXIII, the first two levels are addressed in our Living Christ’s Covenant document originally introduced to parishioners in 2013 and renewed in February of this year. Additionally, the often displayed WORSHIP, GROW, SERVE, CONNECT, and GIVE banners are reminders of the “What do I give?” level and are intended to provide guidance to parishioners seeking to become further engaged and even more spiritual.

The level of parishioner engagement, and thus overall spiritual commitment, is measurable and can be categorized as shown below:

Engaged: These parishioners are intensely loyal with a strong psychological connection to our parish. They are more spiritually committed and more likely to extend invitations to others. They also tend to give more generously of their time, talents, and treasure.

Not Engaged: These parishioners may attend Mass regularly but are not psychologically connected and their connection is probably more social than spiritual. They donate moderately but not sacrificially and if they volunteer they only donate minimal amounts of time.

Actively Disengaged: These members usually attend Mass only once or twice a year, if at all. Some in this group may attend regularly, but if that’s the case, they are physically present but psychologically absent. Some are unhappy and may insist on sharing that unhappiness with just about anyone.

In 2011 our parish, with support from Gallup, conducted a survey to develop a baseline engagement measure and the results at that time were 32% engaged, 47% not engaged, and 21% actively disengaged. While these results were better than the average Catholic Church it was also apparent great opportunities exist.

Living your Strengths workshops address numerous elements of engagement and are designed to assist parishioners, through enhanced awareness and application of their unique talents, toward higher levels of engagement and the resulting spiritual enrichment.

You are invited to participate in the next workshop series where the ongoing journey toward greater satisfaction, throughout all aspects of your life, continues. During three interactive and enlightening sessions, you will transition from learning your unique God-given talents to truly living your strengths with greater understanding, confidence, and personal fulfillment. We will also explore the unique talents of others and the contributions each can make toward greater stewardship and discipleship.

This series of workshops is scheduled for July 11, 18, and 25 from 6pm-8pm

To register or for additional information please contact:

Jennifer Engelman in the parish office at jennifer@johnxxiii.net
or phone (239) 561-2245

June 18th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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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.

Can I use my existing Amazon.com account on AmazonSmile?
Yes, you use the same account on Amazon.com and AmazonSmile. Your shopping cart, Wish List, wedding or baby registry, and other account settings are also the same. Your login information will be the same as your Amazon.com account

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.

Can I receive a tax deduction for amounts donated from my purchases on AmazonSmile?
Donations are made by the AmazonSmile Foundation and are not tax deductible by you.

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

June 4th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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What is Pentecost Sunday?

It is the great feast that marks the birth of the Christian Church by the power of the Holy Spirit. Pentecost means “fiftieth day” and is celebrated 50 days after Easter. Red is the liturgical color for this day and it is encouraged that the faithful wear red to Church that day. Red is symbolic of the love of the Holy Spirit and recalls the tongues of fire in which the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles that first Pentecost. The color red also reminds us of the blood of the martyrs. These are the believers of every generation who by the power of the Holy Spirit hold firm to the true faith even at the cost of their lives.

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Pentecost Sunday is a commemoration and celebration of the receiving of the Holy Spirit by the early church. John the Baptist prophesied of the first Pentecost when Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire (Matthew 3:11). Jesus confirmed this prophecy with the promise of the Holy Spirit to the disciples in John 14:26. He showed Himself to these men after His death on the cross and His resurrection, giving convincing proofs that He was alive.
Jesus told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the Father’s gift of the Holy Spirit, from whom they would receive power to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:3-8).

After Jesus’ ascension to heaven, the men returned to Jerusalem and joined together in prayer in an upper room. On the Day of Pentecost, just as promised, the sound of a violent wind filled the house and tongues of fire came to rest on each of them and all were filled with the Holy Spirit. They were given the power of communication, which Peter used to begin the ministry for which Jesus had prepared him. After the coming of the Holy Spirit, the disciples did not stay in the room basking in God’s glory but burst out to tell the world. This was the beginning of the church as we know it.

Today, in many Christian churches, Pentecost Sunday is celebrated to recognize the gift of the Holy Spirit, realizing that God’s very life, breath and energy live in believers. During this service, John 20:19-23 may be the core of the message about our risen Savior supernaturally appearing to the fear-laden disciples. Their fear gave way to joy when the Lord showed them His hands and side. He assured them peace and repeated the command given in Matthew 28:19-20, saying, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” Then He breathed on them, and they received the Holy Spirit (John 20:21-23).

The celebration of Pentecost Sunday reminds us of the reality that we all have the unifying Spirit that was poured out upon the first-century church in Acts 2:1-4. It is a reminder that we are co-heirs with Christ, to suffer with Him that we may also be glorified with Him; that the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good (1 Corinthians 12:7); that we are all baptized by one Spirit into one body (1 Corinthians 12:13); and that the Spirit which raised Jesus from the dead lives inside believers (Romans 8:9-11). This gift of the Holy Spirit that was promised and given to all believers on the first Pentecost is promised for you and your children and for all who are far off whom the Lord our God will call (Acts 2:39).

May 21st, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Bishops among first signatories to pledge to end death penalty

By Mark Pattison | Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Bishops attending a meeting were among the first to sign the National Catholic Pledge to End the Death Penalty at the U.S. bishops’ headquarters building May 9.

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Each person taking the pledge promises to educate, advocate and pray for an end to capital punishment.

“All Christians and people of goodwill are thus called today to fight not only for the abolition of the death penalty, whether legal or illegal, and in all its forms, but also in order to improve prison conditions, with respect for the human dignity of the people deprived of their freedom,” Pope Francis has said. This quotation kicks off the pledge.

The pledge drive is organized by the Catholic Mobilizing Network.

“The death penalty represents a failure of our society to fulfill the demands of human dignity, as evidenced by the 159 people and counting who have been exonerated due to their innocence since 1973,” the organization says on the pledge sheet following space for someone’s signature.

Quoting from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the network added, “The death penalty is not needed to maintain public safety, punishment must ‘correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and (be) more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.’”

After capital punishment was halted nationwide briefly in the 1970s, more than 1,400 people have been executed since it resumed 40 years ago, according to the Catholic Mobilizing Network. “The prolonged nature of the death penalty process can perpetuate the trauma for victims’ families and prevents the opportunity for healing and reconciliation called for in the message of Jesus Christ.”

The idea for the pledge campaign took root in January, said Catholic Mobilizing Network executive director Karen Clifton in an interview with Catholic News Service. It is supported in part by a $50,000 grant from the U.S. bishops’ Catholic Communication Campaign.

Clifton said Arkansas’ bid to execute eight death-row prisoners in a 10-day span in April — four were ultimately put to death — “exacerbated the situation and showed it as a very live example of who we are executing and the reasons why the system is so broken,” she said.

Penalties for crime are “supposed to be retributive, but also restorative. The death penalty is definitely not restorative,” Clifton said. Those on death row are not the worst of the worst, they’re the least — the marginalized, the poor, those with improper (legal) counsel,” she added.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, said he and his fellow bishops have voiced their views strongly with Gov. Rick Scott of Florida, where capital punishment is legal and where prisoners have been executed.

Bishop Dewane, in recalling Pope John Paul II’s successful personal appeal to the governor of Missouri to spare a death-row inmate’s life during the pope’s visit to St. Louis in 1999, said the episode offers hope. “It’s a great example,” he added. “You never know how your words will be taken, or accepted.”

Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, California, who was one of a number of bishops who signed the pledge following a daylong meeting May 9 at the U.S. bishops’ headquarters building in Washington, said the church’s ministry to prisoners is another source of hope. “It’s the ministry of companionship that’s so important,” he noted.

Bishop Soto said the ministry of accompaniment is also necessary to the victims of crime. He recalled an instance when a priest of his diocese, who was expected to attend a meeting of priests, had to bow out “because he had to bury someone who had been killed by violence in his neighborhood. … We are not recognizing that the futility of the death penalty system.”

Capuchin Father John Pavlik, president of the Conference of Major Superiors of Men, told CNS that networking is a key tool in the toolbox in spreading information opposing the death penalty. CMSM, he said, has a person on staff to monitor issues surrounding justice and peace, and has consistently communicated capital punishment information to CMSM members.

Father Pavlik said he takes inspiration from an Ohio woman whose child was murdered decades ago. The killer was arrested, tried and convicted on a charge of capital murder, “and she has spent the last 25 years advocating against the execution of this man.” The priest also voiced his distaste at the “disregard for life” shown in Arkansas, which he said had tried to execute eight death-row prisoners in such a short time because “the drug (used in the fatal injection) was going to expire.”

May 7th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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World Day of Prayer for Vocations

World Day of Prayer will be observed on Sunday, May 7th, also known as “Good Shepherd Sunday.” Please pray that young men and women hear and respond generously to the Lord’s call to the priesthood, diaconate, religious life, societies of apostolic life or secular institutes. You can find many resources to promote a culture of vocations on the USCCB Vocations webpage: (www.usccb.org/vocations).

The purpose of the World Day of Prayer for Vocations is to publically fulfill the Lord’s instruction to, “Pray the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into his harvest” (Mt 9:38; Lk 10:2). As a climax to a prayer that is continually offered throughout the Church, it affirms the primacy of faith and grace in all that concerns vocations to the priesthood and to the consecrated life. While appreciating all vocations, the Church concentrates its attention this day on vocations to the ordained ministries (priesthood and diaconate), to the Religious life in all its forms (male and female, contemplative and apostolic), to societies of apostolic life, to secular institutes in their diversity of services and membership, and to the missionary life, in the particular sense of mission “ad gentes”.

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2017 marks the 54th Anniversary of the World Day of Prayer for Vocations.

Prayers of the Faithful:
For young men and women; That God may give them the gift of understanding to discern their service in the Church, the priesthood, diaconate, or consecrated life; And for the gift of courage to follow His call. We pray to the Lord. For young people; That they may know the personal love of the Lord for them, and respond with open and generous hearts. We pray to the Lord.

April 23rd, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Devotion of Divine Mercy

by: Mike Navarro

Divine Mercy Background in the Church

To open the millennium Pope John Paul II declared that the Second Sunday of Easter would become the Feast of Divine Mercy, and he exhorted the faithful to participate in the Devine Mercy Devotion.

On the first Feast of Divine Mercy, celebrated on April 30, 2000, he canonized St. Faustina. St. Faustina, a Sister from Poland, lived from 1905-1938 (33 years old). She entered the Apostolic Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy at the age of 20.

She mystically received over 17 extraordinary private revelations from Jesus, the Divine Mercy chaplet prayer, and the Divine Mercy Image.

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Since the year 2000, every pope (JPII, BXVI, and Francis) has celebrated the Vatican’s Devine Mercy Mass, and the Devine Mercy Service at 3:00 from the Chair of Peter.
In so doing, our Holy Fathers have put their imprimatur on this powerful devotion.

Another true sign was on April 2, 2005, after the Divine Mercy Vigil Mass celebrated in St.. Peter’s Cathedra, JPII passed away.

Last year Pope Francis culminated the Year of Mercy when he celebrated the Vatican’s Divine Mercy Service.

Divine Mercy Devotion (Pray the Chaplet, Participate in the Novena, and Attend Divine Mercy Celebration Service). Recitation of the Devine Mercy Chaplet, a five minute prayer.

The Divine Mercy Novena starts on Good Friday and ends the following Saturday. Each day the chaplet is prayed for certain souls:

  • Day 1: All sinners
  • Day 2: Priest and Religious
  • Day 3: Devout and Faithful Souls
  • Day 4: Those Who Do Not Believe in God
  • Day 5: Those Who Have Separated Themselves from the Church
  • Day 6: Meek and Humble Souls and the Souls of Little Children
  • Day 7: Souls Who Venerate and Glorify My Mercy
  • Day 8: Those Detained in Purgatory
  • Day 9: Those Who Have Become Lukewarm in Faith

Jesus’ special promise to those who complete the Divine Mercy Novena, go to confession, and receive communion on Divine Mercy Sunday: “…shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. On that day are open all the divine floodgates through which graces flow.”

Attend the Divine Mercy Celebration Service. At the service the Image is Displayed, Blessed, and Venerated, and personal articles are also blessed.

The image has the five wounds of Jesus. Emanating from the heart of Jesus is a pale ray and a red ray. The pale ray symbolizes the water which cleanses and purifies and the red ray represents the blood which gives new life to souls.

Words inscribed on the image are “Jesus, I Trust in You.”

Jesus’ Promises to People who recite and spread the Devotion of Divine Mercy:

“Souls who spread the honor of my mercy I shield through their entire life and at the hour of death will receive great mercy.”

When you pray the chaplet in the presence of the dying, I will stand between My Father and the dying person, not as the Just Judge, but as the Merciful Savior.”

Closing
Our Holy Fathers have told us that Divine Mercy is the greatest attribute of God, and it is especially needed in our modern, secular times.
All are invited to attend our Divine Mercy Service to receive these powerful graces and blessings of Mercy.

Easter Sunday 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Resurrection: He Is Risen, Indeed!

by Laura Bagby

Easter Sunday. To many it means the Easter bunny, a day of food and celebration. For some it is an obligatory church-attending holiday, after which life goes on as usual.

How sad that we have so quickly forgotten the true meaning of Easter. Our God reigns! Jesus Christ died, yes. But even more importantly, He rose again and is now seated at the right hand of God the Father, as we say in the Lord’s Prayer.

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Jesus Christ literally defied death. But He did more than just a Houdini move. We “ooo” and “ahhh” over the narrow escapes by magicians like David Copperfield and others, but eventually even those daredevils will face death. Their power is limited.

But Jesus Christ was greater — He defied death FOREVER. Jesus Christ lives and reigns for eternity, whether you or I believe that fact or not.

And He has reclaimed life for all those who believe in Him. This is the second miracle of Easter. Through God’s work on the cross, we have access to eternal life as well:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘ The righteous will live by faith’ (Romans 1:16-17).

If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved (Romans 10:9-10).

Whosoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven (Matt. 10:32-33).

Please consider today the wonder of God’s power and His love for you. He knows you. He knows what you have done. He knows what you are going to do. But He is waiting for your response, my friend. God doesn’t need your praise or your service to Him; He desires it. It is not what we do for God that gets us into heaven and gives us a right relationship with God. It is only by faith in Jesus Christ. Look at these Scriptures:

Know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified (Galatians 2:16).

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).

April 9th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Palm Sunday Story – Bible Story Summary

by Jack Zavada

SCRIPTURE REFERENCES
Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-44; John 12:12-19.

PALM SUNDAY STORY – THE TRIUMPHAL ENTRY SUMMARY
Jesus Christ was on his way to Jerusalem, knowing full well that this trip would end in his sacrificial death for the sin of humanity. He sent two disciples ahead to the village of Bethphage, about a mile away from the city at the foot of the Mount of Olives. He told them to look for a donkey tied by a house, with its unbroken colt next to it.

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Jesus instructed the disciples to tell the owners of the animal that “The Lord has need of it.” (Luke 19:31, ESV)

The men found the donkey, brought it and its colt to Jesus, and placed their cloaks on the colt. Jesus sat on the young donkey and slowly, humbly, made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. In his path, people threw their cloaks on the ground and put palm branches on the road before him. Others waved palm branches in the air.

Large Passover crowds surrounded Jesus, shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9, ESV)

By that time the commotion was spreading through the entire city. Many of the Galilean disciples had earlier seen Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead. Undoubtedly they were spreading the news of that astonishing miracle.

The Pharisees, who were jealous of Jesus and afraid of the Romans, said: “‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples.’ He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.'” (Luke 19:39-40, ESV)

POINTS OF INTEREST FROM THE PALM SUNDAY STORY
When he told the disciples to get the donkey, Jesus referred to himself as ‘The Lord,’ a definite proclamation of his divinity.

By riding into Jerusalem on the colt of a donkey, Jesus fulfilled an ancient prophecy in Zechariah 9:9: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (ESV) This was the only instance in the four Gospel books in which Jesus rode an animal.

Throwing cloaks in the path of someone was an act of homage and submission. The people were recognizing Jesus as the promised Messiah.

The people’s cries of ‘Hosanna’ came from Psalm 118:25-26. Hosanna means “save now.” Despite what Jesus had foretold about his mission, the people were looking for a military Messiah who would overthrow the Romans and restore Israel’s independence.

QUESTION FOR REFLECTION
The crowds refused to see Jesus Christ as he truly was, placing their personal desires on him instead. Who is Jesus for you? Is he someone whom you want to satisfy your selfish wants and goals, or is he Lord and Master who gave up his life to save you from your sins?

(Sources: The New Compact Bible Dictionary, edited by T. Alton Bryant; New Bible Commentary, edited by G.J. Wenham, J.A. Motyer, D.A. Carson, and R.T. France; and the ESV Study Bible, Crossway Bibles.)

April 2nd, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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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. 12th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Fasting: Lent’s spiritual practice creates space for prayer

By Carol Zimmermann
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — There is no getting around fasting during Lent.

Not only is it one of the three pillars of spiritual practice along with prayer and almsgiving, but it also bookends the period of preparation for Easter.

Fasting and abstinence is required of adult Catholics, ages 18-59, at the start of Lent on Ash Wednesday and at its end on Good Friday. This means eating only one full meal and two small meals that equal one meal as well as no snacks in between meals and no meat consumption.

Creighton University’s Online Ministries program, “Praying Lent 2017,” says the purpose of fasting is to “experience the effects of not eating. It also serves to be a penance or a sacrifice for the purpose of strengthening us.”

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“When we get hungry, we have a heightened sense of awareness,” it adds, noting that the practice helps people to clarify their thoughts. “It is purifying and prepares us to pray more deeply,” the resource from Jesuit-run Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, points out.

In addition to the two days of fasting, Catholics 14 and older are obligated to abstain from eating meat during Fridays in Lent.

The Friday practice is a sacrifice meant “to help Catholics make much bigger sacrifices,” the Creighton resource says, pointing out that not eating meat doesn’t give someone permission to eat a fancy fish meal. And for vegetarians, it could mean abstaining from a favorite meal.

Fasting, which has deep roots in many religious traditions, is meant to draw participants into deeper prayer and also link them with those in need.

For Christians, the tradition has roots in both the Old and New Testaments. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells his disciples how they should look when they are fasting — not gloomy, not neglecting their appearance and with their faces washed so they do not appear to be fasting.

“Jesus says when we fast, not if,” said Father John Riccardo, pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Plymouth, Michigan.

He said the key to fasting is to attach an intention to the practice “rather than seeing it as a flexing of our self-discipline muscles.” It makes the practice “not about me but someone else,” he told Catholic News Service March 1.

“Fasting is heavy artillery,” he added because the person doing it is denying themselves something and trusting that God will use it.

Although fasting is technically not eating food, giving something up can also be a form of fasting.

Msgr. Charles Murphy, author of the 2010 book: “The Spirituality of Fasting: Rediscovering a Christian Practice” said there are two forms of fasting — total and partial. A total fast is eating nothing and drinking nothing for a designated period of time where a partial fast involves giving up certain things for a specific period of time.

Partial fasting is a popular part of Lent where people choose to give up something such as soda, candy, beer, television or more increasingly, social media.

The top things people said they were going to give up this Lent, according to OpenBible.info, a Web search engine that examined Twitter posts during the week of Feb. 26, included a mix of social media and food and one wishful thinking: school. The only other top 10 mention that wasn’t a food or drink was to give up swearing.

Partial fasting, just like a full fast, shouldn’t be done to benefit the person doing it. “It’s not to make us more narcissistic, which it can do,” said Paulist Father Jack Collins, who helped Busted Halo, the Paulist website, with videos like “You don’t know Jack about Lent” a few years ago.

“We don’t fast to feel good, but to remind ourselves that half the world goes to bed hungry,” he said, adding that it’s a way of reminding us “we are our brother’s keeper.”

Paulist Father Larry Rice, director of the University Catholic Center at the University of Texas at Austin, is not keen on people looking for a loophole in their fasting practices, for example saying that Sundays don’t count and they can have whatever they gave up that day.

“I get that people want a pressure relief valve, ” he said, “but when I open my missal it says the First Sunday of Lent” meaning Sunday counts.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops gives a little leeway here. In its fasting guidelines it notes that if someone is giving something up for Lent it is more effective if it is continuous — “kept on Sundays as well. That being said, such practices are not regulated by the church, but by individual conscience.”

Father Rice, who is giving up riding elevators for Lent, said the Catholic college students he works with typically give up a food or social media. “They won’t give up texting. That would be like giving up breathing,” he added.

This age group, and Catholics at large, could take a small step toward a phone fast by following the initiative of the Archdiocese of Hartford, Connecticut, which urged Catholics to not use their phones on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday this year “as a way to reflect on God and the meaning of the Easter season.”

Fasting: Lent’s spiritual practice creates space for prayer