Nov. 27th, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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Blessing & Prayer for the Advent Wreath

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

An Advent wreath is a wreath of laurel, spruce or similar foliage with four candles that are lighted successively in weeks of Advent to symbolize the light that the birth of Christ brought to the world.

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Traditionally three of the candles are purple, the color of kings and of penance. A rose-colored candle is used to mark the Third Sunday of Advent as a time to rejoice over the closeness of Christmas and the coming of Christ.

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

Prayer:

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

Blessing of the Advent Wreath:

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

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

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

All: Amen.

The wreath would then be sprinkled with water.

The following prayer which is said before the evening meal each night of the first week of Advent:

Leader: O Lord, stir up Thy might, we beg Thee, and come, That by Thy protection we may deserve to be rescued from the threatening dangers of our sins and saved by Thy deliverance. Through Christ our Lord.

All: Amen.

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

Nov. 13th, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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Faith & Wine/Ale & Why Small Groups are Vital to Your Faith

By Damian Hanley

Small groups are the backbone of a healthy and thriving Church. At St. John XXIII, we like to think of ourselves that way. On more than one occasion from the pulpit, Father Bob describes the Church as the “triage hospital on the battlefield of life.” The small group is not just a pleasant addition to our Church, but a necessity for the spiritual health of its members. Without small groups, any ministry will be limited to what just a handful of leaders can accomplish by themselves.

In Exodus 18:21 (NASB), we read “Furthermore, you shall select out of all the people able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain; and you shall place these over them as leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens.”

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There is great wisdom in the people of our small groups. We can’t (and shouldn’t) depend solely on our priests for the love and direction we need. Small groups can help prevent what has been called the “Sunday-Only” culture of our faith. We can’t simply sit and listen only on Sunday – faith is an active, all-week way of life. The opportunities to grow closer to God happen daily, and we need other people to help us see them. Faith & Ale and Faith & Wine Lee County are two such small groups that are growing rapidly in our diocese.

“We kicked off our third season on October 27th, and we’re really excited for this year’s events,” shares Sue Ammon, president of Faith & Wine. “In the beginning, three years ago, we got together month after month and planned it, hoping all along that people would actually want to come! On opening night we had almost 300 women. We were floored! We were so excited.”

“Faith and Ale originated from the Men’s Gospel Forum back in 2008 when we were still Blessed John the 23rd. We actually still meet every Monday morning at 7:00am to discuss this week’s upcoming Gospel,” Mike Lancellot shares.

Even if you don’t know a single person going into a monthly meeting, you’ll at least be inspired and entertained by their slated cast of speakers. Just this past November 10th, Faith and Ale hosted Major Ed Pulido, the Sr. VP of the Folds of Honor Foundation a Veteran’s charity which provides the spouses and children of the fallen and wounded educational scholarships. He’s also a Founding member of Warriors for Freedom Foundation – a leadership institute focused on the mental, physical and wellness support of our wounded Veterans and their families.

In August of 2004, Major Pulido hit an I.E.D, or roadside bomb, while serving with the Coalition Military Assistance Training Team under the command of General David Petraeus. Due to the extensive injuries to his left knee, doctors had to amputate his left leg. During his recovery, he experienced depression, PTSD and suicidal ideation, as part of what he describes as a “deep wounding of a soldier’s spirit.”

He then realized that recovery would become a lifelong process, a process dependent upon God, his country, and his close family and friends. He could not do it alone. This further reinforces the importance of small groups within a larger church. Small groups can provide a sense of family for many whose biological family lives far away. Unlike generations past, it is increasingly more common for adults to find themselves living far away from their biological family. Add the growing number of broken homes and dysfunctional families and you have a snapshot of the 21st century. The right kind of small group can play a vital role in providing a sense of family.

“After every single event, people come up to us as they’re leaving and tell us how much the speaker touched them. They were either struggling with an issue, or – and this is very common – people explain that they were thinking of leaving the Church, but something about the speaker convinced them to stay,” Sue shares. “These are the real reasons we started this ministry and we just get so excited when we hear them.”

Something unique happens in a small group setting, and it’s important we recognize it and explain why it matters. It’s cliché to say that we’re less connected in a world that is more connected than ever, but even if things hadn’t changed, it’s still hard to make friends as an adult! We’re set in our ways. We have a backlog of unconscious prejudice we’ve developed as a natural byproduct of living in our culture. We’re lazy and being social takes emotional energy, which we don’t have.

But small groups are the best place to meet new people, care for others and be cared for yourself. The idea that we can grow spiritually while isolating ourselves is insanity. Getting and giving direction based on spiritual principles must be done in dialogue with our fellows. In our childish minds, the myth of the ascetic visiting a mountaintop to absorb divine wisdom must be dispelled. That’s not you. We belong in community with others.

Dialogue is one of the key ingredients of spiritual growth. If every spiritual experience we have is about listening, if it’s all about one-way communication, then we’re going to miss one of the most important developmental aspects of a growing faith.

“We’ve been really excited about what happens at our events,” says Sue. “The women come in and they’re very enthusiastic. They like their glass of wine and connecting with each other, while eating together. And then after the speaker, we again connect in what we call Table Talk, where we usually share how the speaker has touched us.”

“We have a similar format,” Mike explains. “The men have their name tags with their Parish on them, and we definitely do form friendships with men of other Parishes. From 6:00 to 6:45 we have social time and after the speaker, there’s open Q&A. And the guys love it. We’ve really grown through word of mouth. This past season we averaged 216 men per event. Prior to that it was 174 per event and three seasons ago we were at 145 men on average. That kind of growth year after year means we’re doing something right.”

Despite the large number of people at each event, the social time is constrained to smaller round tables of 5-7 people, so that real conversation can take place. So, if you’re not already a part of a small group at St. John XXIII, Faith & Wine/Ale is a great place to start.

Small groups aren’t just a gimmicky church growth strategy. They’re not just the latest innovation. They’re not just something fun to do, nor are they just something to fill up people’s time.

Small groups are the heart of the Church, because without relational connections, the church isn’t The Church. At best, without relationships with Christ and our fellow Parishioners, we are putting on a show. At worst, we’re wasting people’s time, energy, and resources. Relationships with people who want what’s best for us and who are headed in the direction we want to head, and who aspire to a closer connection with Christ – these are what fuel our faith.

For more information on event dates, speakers and the mission of each organization, visit faithandale.com and faithandwineleecounty.com.

Oct. 23rd, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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A Spiritual Solution Until a Medical One Arrives

By Damian Hanley

…In sickness and in health, till death do us part. When we hear those words, we immediately picture a young couple facing each other at an altar, about to take the most meaningful vows of their lives. And they mean it. It’s a black and white agreement. You are my responsibility until you or I perish. Healthy, happy marriages are one of the few institutions that, when we see that two people have it, it renews our faith. But what happens when the death of the mind precedes the death of the body?

Is this still the same person to whom you made vows? It is… and it isn’t. It is in the sense that their physical body has held continuity through time and space, but it isn’t if you’ve ever watched a loved one go through it. I have. I venture to guess many who read this have. Much unlike your vows, it is not a black and white process. It begins subtly, and ends… as American novelist Philip M. Roth attests, “old age isn’t a battle: old age is a massacre.” No matter how it’s caused, how it begins or ends, Alzheimer’s and dementia, and their many variants, are tragic.

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If you’ve been with your spouse long enough to witness them diagnosed with memory loss disease, then your love is sturdy. This is not someone you’d abandon because of some garden variety tough times. This is someone who you would die for, but alas, they need more than that now.

When your spouse is diagnosed with memory loss disease, and you are called to become their caregiver, more will be asked of you than you’d ever thought possible. They will become the most vulnerable version of themselves right before your eyes, until the day they no longer remember your name, let alone recognize your face.

And you are a good person. You fear God and take vows seriously. You weren’t prepared for this but knew it was in the realm of possibility. Becoming a caregiver to someone with memory loss disease has unique spiritual and ethical components. How good of a person are you? How patient are you? How deep is your faith? Do you really trust God?

Thousands of people in Southwest Florida find themselves asking these questions. Mary Freyre of the Alvin A. Dubin Alzheimer’s Resource Center wants to help answer them. “We typically get calls when people are in crisis. They say ‘I need help. I need help, now. What can I do?’ And then we start connecting them with resources and people in the community – neuropsychologists, neurologists, other family doctors. If they need a home health agency or respite care, we can help them find that.”

Mary is the Health Education Specialist for the Dubin Center – a community resource that is free to caregivers which was founded in 1995. “When someone finds out that their spouse has been diagnosed, they go through a tremendous amount of grief and loss. We call this anticipatory grief. We try to explain the process they’ll go through, but more than that, we try to get them into support groups.”

As an Education Specialist, Mary finds that a lot of the caregivers think they have to carry this burden on their shoulders by themselves. Nothing could be further from the truth (unless you watch the news). “There is a ton of support out there. In these groups, the caregivers form some really tight-knit friendships. It’s a safe place where they can talk about what they’re going through.”

This is not an uncommon example, but imagine if you’ve just retired and you expect to spend the remainder of your life traveling and enjoying life. Or imagine if you’re a husband and wife taking care of a parent with dementia, and you also have three kids in your home. Memory loss disease can affect the entire family, and it affects each person differently. This is how anticipatory grief can become overwhelming. (Anticipatory grief refers to a grief reaction that occurs before an impending loss. Typically, the impending loss is a death of someone close due to illness but it can also be experienced by dying individuals themselves.)

In reference to the title of this article, the Dubin Center is offering a new program whose origin came in the form of a promise to Mary’s uncle. Before his diagnosis, Mary’s uncle was a pastor of a large Protestant church in New Jersey. Seven years before his passing, during the early stages of his dementia, “he said to me, Mary, you’re a nurse, please be a voice for us. He had to give up ministering, he had to give up home visits, he had to eventually give up going to church. People stopped visiting. Even the other pastors stopped visiting. It was a very lonely and painful time for them.”

Two years ago, Mary got to work on the Dementia Friendly Houses of Worship Initiative. She mobilized a handful of organizations, among them the Lee County Sheriff Department, Dr. Mable Lopez of Mind & Brain Care of Fort Myers, Comfort Keepers Home Health, Right at Home, Shell Point Retirement Community, and Choices in Living Adult Day Care of Cape Coral.

These organizations came together and reached out to local churches with the understanding that most churches do not offer an AD friendly service, or resources for caregivers who generally cannot leave the house to attend a service.

“Many churches have a separate portion of the service geared towards the needs of children. We would help train churches and assist in designing a program or service geared towards the needs of AD patients. This would get them out of the house and give the caregivers a respite. We leave it up to the churches to customize each initiative around their particular denomination.”

But how big of an issue is this really? It’s huge. According to the Florida Department of Elder Affairs, there are close to 21,000 people diagnosed with AD in Lee County. The Alzheimer’s Association reports there are about 450,000 people currently in Florida with AD, and that number will increase to roughly 750,000 by 2050 if no cure is discovered. Those do not include the seasonal residents or the undiagnosed. Every 67 seconds someone in the US is diagnosed with memory loss disease, and by 2050 that rate will increase to every 33 seconds unless there is a cure. There are about 5.4 million Americans with memory loss disease, and by 2050 that number could be between 13-16 million, barring no cure. Millions of caregivers will need help.

Mary says, “Now do you see why I started this initiative? We offer one-on-one counseling with licensed clinical social workers, education, a safety program, a wanderer’s ID program, home visits, office visits, networking with other community agencies to help the families in coping with the disease. We also offer open support groups for caregivers caring for someone with dementia. The Center also offers a free evidence-based course to help teach the caregivers on how to improve the quality of life for their loved one with dementia and for themselves. All of the Dubin Center’s services are free.”

Individuals and families living with Alzheimer’s and Dementia will face many decisions throughout the course of the disease including decisions about care, treatment, participation in research, end-of-life issues, autonomy and safety.

Oct. 16th, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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Marietta Jaeger to speak October 18th

From Fury to Forgiveness

By Damian Hanley

We like to simplify complex things. Over-simplification keeps our thinking tidy, and preserves our mental energy in a world of infinite information and decision making. It is the basis of all the Dr. Oz pseudoscience that we relish in. Coffee is bad. Wine is good! Chocolate is really good. We like it because morality is complicated and we are lazy. That guy who cheated on his wife is evil. That woman who is smacking her kid in the checkout line at Publix is a lunatic. This driver in front of me should be taken out of his car and beaten with a rubber hose. The Death Penalty is merely an eye-for-an-eye consequence of a criminal act that cannot be forgiven.

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All of us at one point have justified it in our heads – at least for a minute. An attorney once described to me the point system used to determine a person’s eligibility for capital punishment, which is tallied based on the nature of the crime. Did it include kidnapping, torture, a minor..? By the end of the explanation, I admit, I was a bit swayed. My mind hadn’t gone there, but if someone had tortured and brutally killed an immediate family member, I started thinking I’d like to be the one to throw the switch.

marietta2

Casting judgment is a tool that has been sharpened in an attempt to preserve our lives by our homo sapient brain for the past 200,000 years. We used to really need that tool when we were fending for ourselves in the wild, running down our prey with spear in hand, engaging in fist fights with saber tooth cats and such. But alas, a Man showed up 2000 years ago and taught us a better way to live – which is why you picked up this bulletin.

A millennium and a half prior to Christ, God gave us the 10 Commandments. You’d think #5 on the list would have closed the book on the debate over the death penalty, but it hasn’t – not even among Catholics. In this state, we put people to death for crimes other than murder, but considering the Colony of New York’s “Duke’s Laws of 1665” dictated that offenses such as striking one’s mother or father, or denying the “true God” were punishable by death – we’ve made a little progress.

The death penalty has been around for all of recorded history, but in the United States, about 13,000 people have been legally executed since colonial times. Texas leads the way. In 1972 the Supreme Court actually abolished capital punishment. It held the death penalty as “cruel and unusual” and violated the Eighth Amendment. It was reinstated four years later.

Our culture’s relationship with the death penalty has been mixed. Our faith’s has not. Setting aside our commandment not to kill (over-simplified for a reason), there are a few very good reasons we, as Catholics, are obligated to oppose the death penalty.

Proponents of capital punishment cite it as a deterrent to crime. That is trite, but more than that, it cheapens life. Everyone can agree that human life is valuable, but the Catholic’s pro-life stance asserts that life is so valuable that no one, under any circumstance should be denied it.

“Even when people deny the dignity of others, we must still recognize that their dignity is a gift from God and is not something that is earned or lost through their behavior. Respect for life applies to all, even the perpetrators of terrible acts. Punishment should be consistent with the demands of justice and with respect for human life and dignity,” as stated in the USCCB’s A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death.

Amnesty International’s appeal to our philosophical side is not purely theoretical either. “The death penalty legitimizes an irreversible act of violence by the state and will inevitably claim innocent victims. As long as human justice remains fallible, the risk of executing the innocent can never be eliminated.”

From the Death Penalty Information Center’s website: On September 2, 2014, Leon Brown and Henry McCollum were exonerated and released from prison in North Carolina. The two African American men, who are half-brothers, had been convicted of the rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl and sentenced to death in 1984. Brown was 15 at the time of the crime and McCollum was 19. Both men have intellectual disabilities and were interrogated under duress until they confessed to the crime. In 2010, Brown turned to the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission for help. The Commission tested DNA evidence from the crime scene, which implicated a man who was convicted of a similar crime. Robeson County Judge Douglas Sasser vacated the men’s convictions and said the evidence indicated their innocence. District Attorney Johnson Britt supported their release and said no further charges will be brought against them.

How does one recover from that type of injustice? Were the authorities and families of the victim blind with rage when they ran their investigation? You bet they were. That girl’s parents didn’t want justice, they wanted revenge. And who could deny them that?

How would those two men forgive the courts? How would the authorities forgive themselves after stealing three decades’ worth of freedom from Brown and McCollum? Is it even possible to emotionally and spiritually overcome tragedy like this?

It is, and we’re going to show you how. On Tuesday, October 18th from 9am-10:30 and 6pm-7:30pm, – two days from now – St. John XXIII will host a speaker named Marietta Jaeger. “I have my degree from the school of hard knocks,” and her PhD in forgiveness.

Marietta’s experience is every parent’s worst nightmare. I promised not to divulge the details of her story, but imagine the worst possible act being committed against your 7-year-old daughter, and then imagining the other worst things also happening.

Marietta’s story will stretch your imagination to its boundaries of pain and suffering. She’s traveled the world for the past 40 years, speaking to audiences about the importance of developing our ability to forgive.

She spent ten years speaking at a rehabilitation facility for clergy. She’s been interviewed in Rome by the Vatican Radio three times, and testified to the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva, Switzerland. Marietta has worked with teen gangs in Peru and given many retreats across the country, including one in India for recovering alcoholic Catholic clergy.

On her own accord, she lived in Nicaragua during the Contra War researching forgiveness, only to discover that her own country had been spreading misinformation in the domestic media on the motives and nature of the conflict. That’s worth repeating. She moved to a country during a violent civil war to learn how the most marginalized and defenseless citizens were coping. Who among us today would move to Afghanistan, learn the language, and then live among the mountain-dwelling civilians to research their ability to forgive their enemies for the constant occupation, drone strikes and bombing?

“I went to Nicaragua to find out what was really going on with the campesinos,” Marietta shares. “How were they able to maintain a spirit of forgiveness during a period of daily occupation? This was an occupation of violence. Life was being taken every day.”

After the crime that took her daughter and changed her life, she spent two weeks wrestling with God, blinded by fury. She’d come from a background of strong faith, instilled in her by her parents and an influential nun, Sister Mary Columkille of Galway County, Ireland.

“She taught me not to be daunted by the division between the clergy and the people of the Church. She taught me this pre-Vatican II, so she was ahead of her time. She was quite progressive.”

She’s taken the pain from her experience and spun it into a ministry that serves the most forgotten and disenfranchised in our world. Who really has compassion for those serving a life sentence for murder? Everyone remembers the feelings and emotions that surround a trauma. We remember when life as we knew it was over. Things were not the same.

Marietta has taken this experience, and in it, she’s found her place in the world. This is the alchemy to which we’re called by Christ. Love is an action, and when we’re told to love our enemies, this is what that looks like.

“Jesus taught in parables, so I try to share my story with as many people as possible to give them hope. Forgiveness is a process. It doesn’t just happen and then it’s over. We have to live with a heart of forgivness. We have to maintain it.”

“If God can help me get through such a horrible situation, He can help anyone.” Our faith gives us the freedom to love those that our secularized world would have us hate. Come listen to her story. Be moved by it, and learn why capital punishment can never be an acceptable solution to our broken heart.

Oct. 9th, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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Celebrating October 11th | Feast Day of St. John XXIII

October 11th is the feast of St. John XXIII. He was pope from 1958-1963, and best known for convening the Second Vatican Council. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II on September 3rd, 2000. His feast is assigned to the day on which the first session of Vatican II opened in 1962. His feast is not on the General Roman Calendar, but can be celebrated locally.

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According to the 1962 Missal of St. John XXIII the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, today is the feast of the Motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The theological controversies regarding the divinity of Christ which disturbed the Church during the fourth and fifth centuries led to a denial of the divine maternity of Mary. The heretics refused to honor Mary as Mother of God. The Council of Ephesus in 431 declared that the Blessed Virgin “brought forth according to the flesh the Word of God made flesh” and that in consequence she is the Mother of God. Thus she is rightly given the title of divine maternity. In 1931, on the fifteenth centenary of this great Council, Pius XI instituted today’s feast. By this act the pope wished to emphasize not only Mary’s divine maternity, but also her motherhood of all the members of Christ’s Mystical Body.

St. John XXIII was born Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli at Sotto il Monte, Italy, in the Diocese of Bergamo on November 25th, 1881. He was the fourth in a family of 14. The family worked as sharecroppers. It was a patriarchal family in the sense that the families of two brothers lived together, headed by his great-uncle Zaverio, who had never married and whose wisdom guided the work and other business of the family. Zaverio was Angelo’s godfather, and to him he always attributed his first and most fundamental religious education. The religious atmosphere of his family and the fervent life of the parish, under the guidance of Fr. Francesco Rebuzzini, provided him with training in the Christian life.

He entered the Bergamo seminary in 1892. Here he began the practice of making spiritual notes, which he continued in one form or another until his death, and which have been gathered together in the Journal of a Soul. Here he also began the deeply cherished practice of regular spiritual direction. In 1896 he was admitted to the Secular Franciscan Order by the spiritual director of the Bergamo seminary, Fr. Luigi Isacchi; he made a profession of its Rule of life on May 23rd, 1897.

From 1901 to 1905 he was a student at the Pontifical Roman Seminary. On August 10th, 1904 he was ordained a priest in the church of Santa Maria in Monte Santo in Rome’s Piazza del Popolo. In 1905 he was appointed secretary to the new Bishop of Bergamo, Giacomo Maria Radini Tedeschi.

When Italy went to war in 1915 he was drafted as a sergeant in the medical corps and became a chaplain to wounded soldiers. When the war ended, he opened a “Student House” for the spiritual needs of young people.

In 1919 he was made spiritual director of the seminary, but in 1921 he was called to the service of the Holy See. Benedict XV brought him to Rome to be the Italian president of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith. In 1925 Pius XI named him Apostolic Visitator in Bulgaria, raising him to the episcopate with the titular Diocese of Areopolis. For his episcopal motto he chose Oboedientia et Pax, which became his guiding motto for the rest of his life.

On March 19th, 1925 he was ordained Bishop and left for Bulgaria. He was granted the title Apostolic Delegate and remained in Bulgaria until 1935, visiting Catholic communities and establishing relationships of respect and esteem with the other Christian communities.

In 1935 he was named Apostolic Delegate in Turkey and Greece. His ministry among the Catholics was intense, and his respectful approach and dialogue with the worlds of Orthodoxy and Islam became a feature of his tenure. In December 1944 Pius XII appointed him Nuncio in France.

At the death of Pius XII he was elected Pope on October 28th, 1958, taking the name John XXIII. His pontificate, which lasted less than five years, presented him to the entire world as an authentic image of the Good Shepherd. Meek and gentle, enterprising and courageous, simple and active, he carried out the Christian duties of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy: visiting the imprisoned and the sick, welcoming those of every nation and faith, bestowing on all his exquisite fatherly care. His social magisterium in the Encyclicals Pacem in terris and Mater et Magistra was deeply appreciated.

He convoked the Roman Synod, established the Commission for the Revision of the Code of Canon Law and summoned the Second Vatican Council. The faithful saw in him a reflection of the goodness of God and called him “the good Pope.” He was sustained by a profound spirit of prayer. He launched an extensive renewal of the Church, while radiating the peace of one who always trusted in the Lord. Pope John XXIII died on the evening of June 3rd, 1963, in a spirit of profound trust in Jesus and of longing for his embrace.
St. John XXIII was canonized a saint on April 27th, 2014.

Sept. 25th, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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Fight Complacency with Cursillo! Christ is calling you

By Damian Hanley

It is very, very difficult to achieve a state of perfect stagnation. And, so it is with our faith. The maxim goes something like: We can only live in faith or fear. When we’re living in one, the other is necessarily absent. By living in faith, we trust God. Gratitude is in our hearts. We are effective in our jobs, in our homes, and in the lives of friends. We are present.

When we live in a state of fear, our hearts are closed, we are selfish, mean-spirited and we isolate. We are moving away from God when we live in fear. On an esoteric level, fear is the liar that tells us we are doomed to a life of misery and meaninglessness. And on a pragmatic level, fear makes us hard to be around.

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And, so we must look for opportunities to grow in our faith so that we can grow closer to Christ, and then ideally, become better at giving and receiving love. Cursillo is one such opportunity.

You may have heard of Cursillo before, but if you haven’t, it is a three-day retreat experience, which takes a New Testament look at Christianity as a lifestyle. It is a highly structured weekend designed to strengthen and renew your faith, and in turn, help strengthen and renew the faith of your family, Church and environment.

From the Cursillo website: Cursillo (pronounced “kur-see-yoh”) is a Spanish term which means “short course in Christianity”. It is a combined effort of laity and clergy toward the renewal of the Church. Cursillo is an encounter with Christ that encourages growth in grace and intensifies the Catholic Christian’s ability to be His witness in the world. This encounter strengthens faith, promotes personal holiness and assists Christians in discovering their personal vocation.

Cursillo originated in Majorca, Spain in the 1940’s. Eduardo Bonnin and his companions developed the Cursillo Method while attempting to train others for a pilgrimage to the Shrine of St James at Compostela. This first effort produced such a profound effect that the group began holding three-day “short courses” and soon the method was accepted officially by the Church. The first Cursillo in North America was in Waco, Texas in 1959.

Cursillo is supported by the Roman Catholic Church. It is joined to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops through an official liaison in the person of Bishop Emeritus Carlos A. Sevilla S.J. from the Diocese of Yakima, and through the Bishops’ Secretariat for the Laity in Washington, D.C. The spiritual advisor for the movement in the United States is Rev. Alex Waraksa from the Diocese of Knoxville, TN.

“It’s really a great chance to get away from the ‘rat race’ and spend some time learning about the Catholic faith and God’s incredible love for you,” shares Kelly Mamott. She and her husband, Tom, are parishioners at St Katharine Drexel Parish, in Cape Coral. “It is wisely recommended that spouses experience the Cursillo weekend in the same year. It was wonderful to share this experience as a married couple. Not only did Cursillo help my faith, but our marriage has been enriched too.”

Marriage is work, and the Mamott’s have four children. It would be easy for them to fabricate an excuse for avoiding a 72-hour weekend. But they recognize that life and spirituality is a constant process of course correction. The quality of our relationships is a function of our ability to emulate Christ in our interaction with other people. In the minutia of daily life, it’s easy to lose track of the bigger picture – which is to become more loving people.

Sometimes we fall into the trap of thinking our job is to make money, provide for our family and stay out of trouble. The rest of our time should be spent watching pro athletes do things we would do if God really answered prayers. We want to live this one-dimensional life because the older we get, the better we get at it. By default, life keeps getting easier if these are our goals. But alas, these should not be our goals. We get complacent. We stagnate, and inevitably, fear creeps into our lives. If our focus is only on the material side of life, we will always be disappointed. We need regular reminders that serving God first is not an arbitrary suggestion.

“I was looking for a group of men that was more than just a social gathering. I was looking for a group of men interested in growing in their faith and sharing,” Tom shares. “My Pastor suggested making a Cursillo weekend since they have small group meetings after the weekend.”

See? We crave connection with other people on a spiritual level. If Tom had made a lifelong habit of ensuring his spiritual needs were met, he would have never gone looking for Cursillo. That doesn’t make him a bad person. It makes him human. We all slip. We all need to refocus our priorities. What Tom was feeling wasn’t irregular. We’ve all felt it.

How many times in our adult lives have we found ourselves participating with minimal effort and motivation, experiencing a general, vague malaise that you can’t really put into words? There is something missing.

Well, practicing Catholicism demands that you are shaken from your lethargy, and Cursillo can do this for you. There is an excitement that can be found in shifting one’s primary mindset from a fear-based existence to a faith-based life. Once your frame of reference shifts, the spirit in which you engage in life is altered dramatically.

Was it worth it? “The Cursillo weekend really got me excited about my Catholic faith and opened my understanding of Christian community,” Tom continues. “Cursillo helps me strive to be closer to Christ. I can witness to my faith through normal everyday encounters with people.”

And isn’t that what living your faith is all about? Show me someone that hides their Catholicism and I’ll show you a person that merely lacks the right education. Being prepared to deploy and defend the principles of our faith is synonymous with upholding the dignity of life.

The more time that passes in our lives, the more God expects from us. The more people He puts in our lives (children especially), the more responsible we are to being there for these people. So if we are not actively looking for ways to expand our spiritual capacity, we are losing ground. We are living in fear if we are resting on our laurels.

This is the role that Cursillo will play in your life. You don’t need to be married to participate, but you do need to be sponsored. Find out more at www.JesusInFlorida.com (I bet you’re a little surprised at that domain name).

If you’ve been lax in your spiritual development, it’s okay. You’re human. If you’ve been lax, and you’ve ignored this fact for the last decade, that’s not okay, and you need Cursillo more than you think. But seriously, complacency is a spirit killer. Take the action today and find a sponsor.

PLEASE SEE PAGE 10 of the Bulletin:

For more information regarding weekends available and Cursillo representatives.

July 3rd, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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Francis: British vote to leave the E.U. entails ‘great responsibility’ for Europe

by Joshua J. McElwee of NCR

Aboard the Papal Flight to Armenia – Pope Francis has said the United Kingdom’s vote to leave the 28-member European Union entails a “great responsibility” to respect the will of the British people while maintaining “the peaceful coexistence of the entire European continent.”

In brief remarks aboard the papal flight to Armenia Friday morning — just hours after final reporting indicated Britain had voted by 51.9 percent to leave the EU — the pontiff said the vote was “the will expressed by the people.”

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“This requires a great responsibility on the part of all of us to guarantee the good of the people of the United Kingdom as well as the peaceful coexistence of the entire European continent,” the pope continued. “This is what I expect.”

Francis was speaking Friday as global markets plummeted throughout the morning on the news of the British vote, and as it raised wide fears of a larger fracturing of the half-century of European integration following the Second World War.

Within an hour of the official tally of the British vote, Dutch conservatives called for their own referendum on EU membership and nationalist parties in France and Italy praised the British move.

The vote could also cause a fracturing of the structure of the United Kingdom itself, with both Scotland and Northern Ireland widely wishing to stay in the EU.
North Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, a member of the Sinn Fein political party, said that his party would seek a vote to leave the UK and unify with the Republic of Ireland, an EU member.

Scottish National Party Leader Nicola Sturgeon said Scotland should consider a new referendum on its own independence.

The UK held a referendum on Scottish independence in September 2014. While 55.3 percent voted then to remain in the UK, Sturgeon and other political leaders have said that vote presupposed UK membership in the EU.

With all precincts reporting Friday morning, more than 17 million Britons voted to leave the EU. About 15.9 million voted to stay. Following the news, the value of the British pound hit its lowest level in 40 years.

While Francis has criticized the European Union in the past, he has also called it a model for how nations can create solutions together to avoid repeating past violence.
In accepting the prestigious German Charlemagne award in May, he said the EU had “dared to change radically the models that had led only to violence and destruction.”

On Friday the pontiff also expressed happiness at news that the country of Colombia had signed a tentative peace agreement with FARC militants, who have been fighting a guerilla war against the government since the 1960s.

“I am happy of this news that arrived yesterday,” said the pope. “More than 50 years of war and guerilla warfare — so much blood spilled. Beautiful news.”
Francis has said before that should the peace deal prove successful he plans to visit Colombia some time in 2017.

The pontiff is visiting Armenia Friday-Sunday on his 14th visit outside Italy since his election in March 2013.

Upon landing in the country Friday afternoon, the pope is to meet with the leader of the Armenian Apostolic church, an Oriental Orthodox community that includes some 93 percent of Armenia’s population of three million. Francis will also meet Friday with President Serzh Sargsyan and the country’s political leaders. On Saturday, the pope will visit the country’s memorial to the World War I-era killings of some 1.5 million Armenians.

The pope caused a diplomatic kerfuffle with Turkish leaders last year when he described the killings as the first genocide of the 20th century, a description Turkey has long resisted.

[Joshua J. McElwee is NCR Vatican correspondent. His email address is jmcelwee@ncronline.org. Follow him on Twitter: @joshjmac.]

May 29th, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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Our Living Faith: Corpus Christi & The Streets

By: Glenna Walsh of Catholic Exchange

Growing up in a Catholic family, a Catholic school, and a Catholic neighborhood, I do not remember ever being told that the feast of Corpus Christi is a pretty big deal. No one need tell me; rather, it was shown to me, to the entire parish, through celebration. Every year after Mass we would have a procession. The celebrant, in his solemn vestments, would lead the parishioners, holding the Eucharist in the monstrance high above his head. The point impressed itself clearly upon my imagination: Jesus led His flock, my working class Italian neighborhood included, even if only around the block.

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The wonder of this feast in my childhood was the Mystery of the Real Presence, that little wafer host becoming the biggest thing there is—namely, the Body and Blood of Christ. More often now, I wonder at how few seem to remember, know, or acknowledge this Mystery.

If the Real Presence, the crux of the Corpus Christi feast, is slipping quickly out of mind, it follows from a significant slip out of sight. Visible, tangible, sensible signs are one of the greatest gifts of our Faith. Signs are part of our living tradition, citing joy for what has been given to us and calling us to look to the future that God has prepared.

Think miracles. The liquifying of St. Gennaro’s blood this past March was immediately met not only with celebration by the people of Naples, of whom the saint is patron, but with an exhortation by Pope Francis to sanctity. All signs pointing to the glory of God are wonderful, but they need not be miraculous in themselves. We ordinary Catholics have our own ways of pointing to the manifestation of the Kingdom of God—we are, after all, the Mystical Body of Christ.

Up there with the Real Presence in the Eucharist, one of my favorite facets of Corpus Christi is the history of its celebration. The feast took to the streets long before my home parish started our procession. Anglophiles and history buffs will enjoy as much as I do the particular pageant tradition of medieval England. Every year on this feast day, the walled city of York would revel in the historical manifestation of God’s glory with a cycle of plays that told (often by silly puns and slapstick humor) the entirety of Salvation History. The guilds, groups of craft and tradesmen, were each responsible for a different story—the shipwrights performed the Building of the Ark, the bakers depicted the Last Supper. Twelve plays were put on each year, with the whole polity of York processing from wagon to wagon to see “not fiction, but the holy realities which from [their] childhood [they] learned to venerate.”

The tongue-in-cheek tone of the York plays has always struck me. Rather than make mockery of God’s Revelation throughout human history, they marry the silliness of human folly to the gravity of Divine Providence, thus raising an interesting point. Why, in the Middle Ages, were these ordinary Englishmen so comfortable with their faith? On the other hand, why did the entire city stop what it was doing to watch plays about Noah bickering with his wife?

In short, because they knew just how big a deal the Faith is and was, which they made clear through their signs and celebrations.

In big, dramatic displays and small, provincial ones, the Faithful have been taking our Faith to the streets since Day One. Less than two weeks ago we celebrated Pentecost, which remembers the Apostles coming out from fear and trembling and boldly proclaiming the Faith. It can be done in words, it can be done in deeds—it can be done in both, through signs, through celebrations, both in Mass and in mirth.

I said earlier that in my childhood the wonder of Corpus Christi was the Real Presence. Perhaps I misspoke; the delight of Corpus Christi was the Real Presence. The delight of the Mass was that every Sunday (in fact, every day) Jesus Christ the Son of God made a point of visiting my little parish, a tiny church tucked away on a South Philly corner. Once a year, we made a point of throwing Him a parade.

The medieval York plays told the story of human folly making life hellish and God, in His infinite Love and Mercy, fixing it.

Celebrations of this kind, celebrations of this truth, have dwindled over the years. Every year the participation in my parish procession gets smaller and smaller, but, at least, there is a procession. Today is the feast of Corpus Christi in many dioceses; we need to celebrate. We need to remember that Christ is with is in a very real way, every day on altars across the world. We need to remember that we are His body, His hands, His footmen, and we need to take to the streets. We need to celebrate our Faith, cherish it, rejoice in it.

We need, moreover, to bring our salvation to light in our lives, so that just maybe the world might rejoice in it with us. It is, after all, the biggest and best deal there is.

May 8th, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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Happy Mother’s Day

As we celebrate Mother’s Day to honor the most important woman in our lives – our moms – we should also honor Mary, the Mother of God, and us all. The Bible tells as that she was the one who bore Christ, our Savior from our sins.

Jesus himself told His beloved disciple, John, “Behold your mother” (John 19:27), in a message to all the members of his Church that we should all behold the mother who brought God’s life to us. It is not surprising that Mary has become one of the most important images of the Catholic Church. Mary, our mother, has become the most sacred symbol of God’s love to his Church. As children of God, we are bound to one another through His love. And, Mary is the perfect symbol to remind us of this.

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Through Mary, the faithful is called to her son. She is our shining example of human virtue and we look at her as the epitome of our faith, the true humble handmade of the Lord. Yet, she is a woman with intense compassion to her children. Many faithful believe that we can get faster through Christ through her intervention. Such is the power she wields.

Even the Vatican Council II recognizes her importance when it decided to include a summary of Marian doctrine in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, instead of issuing another decree on Mary. Perhaps the Council Fathers want to remind the Catholic faithful that we should always place Mary equally within our understanding of the Christian faith.

Because Mother’s Day is also a time to pay tribute to the greatest mother of all, Mary, we can show our devotion to our Church with these Bible verses that will help us to reflect and renew our faith.

1. I Corinthians 13:4-7 – Love is patient; love is kind. Love is not jealous; is not proud; is not conceited; does not act foolishly; is not selfish; is not easily provoked to anger; keeps no record of wrongs; takes no pleasure in unrighteousness, but rejoices in the truth; love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.

This is one of the most well-known passages in the Bible on love. A mother’s love knows no boundaries.

2. Philippians 4:8 – Finally brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of a good report – if there is any virtue and if there is any praise – think on these things.

Moms are a great source of honor, loveliness and goodness. A mother’s love for her children is pure and full of virtue.

3. Psalm 127:3 – Lo, children are a heritage of the LORD, and the fruit of the womb is his reward.
The Bible also teaches us to praise motherhood as God himself praises the woman who gives life to a child. Being a mother is God’s reward.

4. Isaiah 49:15 – Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? A mother will never forget her child no matter what. A mother’s love and devotion to her child will stand the test of time.

5. Psalm 139:13 – You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb
And even while we are still in our mother’s womb, God’s hand is already working to nurture us and make us what we are now.

By: Komfie Manalo

Prayer for Mothers

Loving God,
We ask your blessings on all mothers.
May they be inspired with your mercy, wisdom, strength and selfless love.
For new mothers with new responsibilities; For expectant mothers, wondering and waiting;
For those who are tired, stressed or depressed; For those who balance the tasks of work and family; For those whose children have
physical, mental and emotional disabilities;
For those who raise children on their own; For those who selflessly place their child for adoption; For those who adopt a child into their family;
For those who have lost a child; For those who care for the children of others; For those whose children have left home; For those whose desire to be a mother has not been fulfilled.
Bless all mothers, that their love may be deep and tender, and that they may lead their children to know and do what is good.
Amen

 

April 24th, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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Harvesting the Mission: Earth Day 2016

By: Danielle O’Brien

“There is a nobility in the duty to care for creation through little daily actions . . . showing care for other living beings, using public transport or car-pooling, planting trees, turning off unnecessary lights, or any number of other practices. All of these reflect a generous and worthy creativity which brings out the best in human beings.” -Laudato Si’ 211

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Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ calls us to protect the Earth, our common home.

Earth Day is an opportunity to respond to the Pope’s call, as good stewards of the gifts God gave us.

April 22, 2016 marks the 46th anniversary of Earth Day, a secular celebration that many faith communities have incorporated into their annual calendars.

Care for Our Common Home (Laudato Si’) was Pope Francis’ appeal addressed to “every person living on this planet” for an inclusive dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet.

Pope Francis calls the Church and the world to acknowledge the urgency of our environmental challenges and to join him in embarking on a new path. This encyclical was written with both hope and resolve, looking to our common future with truthfulness and humility.

With that focus in mind, St. John XXIII Catholic Church has partnered with Healthy Harvest Community Farms to grow a vegetable garden on the property next to the St. John XXIII Villas.

Healthy Harvest Community Farms is a local non-profit organization that focuses on feeding the hungry by growing fruits and vegetables and then donating the produce to local pantries.

“We do so much with the vegetables we grow. Some go to St. Martin de Porre’s kitchen and food pantry, other produce is traded with farms that local pantries lack in vegetables. Bottom line, we provide fruits and vegetables to those in need through food banks and organizations at no cost. We want to promote a clean and healthy lifestyle for people in the community, regardless of economic limitations,” Joe Pearson, CEO of Healthy Harvest Community Farms, said.

The organically grown fruits and vegetables on the parish’s grounds will benefit residents at St. John XXIII Villas, and local food banks and kitchens such as St. Martin de Pores and Lehigh Community Services.

The future farm is Healthy Harvest Community Farm’s seventh farm and will rely on volunteers with the upkeep of the farm. The best part is, no experience is necessary. Joe and his team will train you, your ministry or your family. When volunteer work days open up we’ll announce it in the bulletin and schedule a sign-up.

We’re looking forward to seeing parishioners respond to Pope Francis’ call while feeding those in need (and learning and having fun too!).

Encyclical Prayer: Prayer for our Earth
All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe
and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love,
that we may protect life and beauty.
Fill us with peace, that we may live
as brothers and sisters, harming no one.
O God of the poor, help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth,
so precious in your eyes.
Bring healing to our lives,
that we may protect the world and not prey on it,
that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.
Touch the hearts
of those who look only for gain
at the expense of the poor and the earth.
Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,
to be filled with awe and contemplation,
to recognize that we are profoundly united with every creature
as we journey towards your infinite light.
We thank you for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle
for justice, love and peace.
Amen.

April 3rd, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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Holy Week & Easter Egg Hunt Photo Recap

A special thank you to all those who worked so hard to make our Easter Services and Egg Hunt run so smoothly! We are so blessed to have you!

Photos graciously provided by: Pro Photo’s by Tony Gravatte

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Announcements

  • Have you listened to our podcasts? Listen to weekly inspirational messages from Father Bob and homilies from Mass. Visit our site weekly at johnxxiii.podbean.com
  • ‘Like’ our Facebook page! For all the latest happenings and inspirational messages ‘Like’ us on Facebook. Search ‘St. John XXIII Catholic Church’.
  • Sign up for our weekly newsletter! Visit our website, Johnxxiii.net, scroll down to “Stay Connected” and enter your email address.
  • YARN needed! Craftie Ladies appreciate all your generous donations in the past, and now we are in need of more yarn to make projects. You may drop off the donations in the church Narthex. Thank you so much in helping us do for others.
  • Due to an increase in seasonal parishioners, the back grass parking lot is now open for all Masses. The golf cart shuttle will be available.
  • We remind you that if there is ANYONE asking for money around the Church outside of Mass at our exits, ignore them. We have been contacted by the police regarding a group of professionals who travel to various churches. Be generous in giving to our Poor Boxes. That is where and how we can assist those who are truly in need.
  • Thank you IStorage Fiddlesticks & Valuguard Self Storage! It’s obvious space is tight right now, but thanks to IStorage Fiddlesticks at 13701 Indian Paint Ln and Valuguard Self Storage at 13750 Plantation Rd we can safely store some of our items. A special thank you to them both for providing the parish with a storage unit at no cost for our year-round and holiday needs.
  • If you are hospitalized at Gulf Coast Hospital and would like to be visited by one of our Eucharistic Ministers, please let the Hospital Admissions Office know you are from our parish and contact our parish office, as well. Once you go home, if you are unable to attend Mass and would like to have the Eucharist brought to you, please call the parish office. 239-561-2245.
  • Mirage Nails & Spa has partnered with St. John XXIII The salon, located at 14261 Tamiami Trail South, (In the Bonefish Grill Plaza) will donate 10% of your purchase to the Capital Campaign. You must tell your tech you’re from St. John XXIII. Walk-ins and appointments welcome! 239-433-0061
  • We are in need of adult volunteers to assist our Catechists for our Middle School Youth Group! We are growing in leaps and bounds…which is a wonderful thing! Please contact Lois Kittenplan lois@johnxxiii.net. No prior experience necessary. You don’t need to be a Theologian; just need a heart for God.
  • We need your help with keeping our database current: Have you moved, changed email addresses, dropped a landline or changed your cell number? Please email Maryann@johnxxiii.net with any changes or additions to your contact information.
  • Please note!! If you make monetary contributions by credit card, card companies are issuing new cards with microchip technology. Please contact the Parish Office (561-2245) if there are any changes to your card, including expiration dates, so there is no interruption in your contributions.
  • Advertise with us! As much as you enjoy reading our bulletin, we’d love for you to be in it! If you own a business and are interested in advertising in our bulletin, please contact Dennis Gardner at J.S. Paluch 239-470-9200.

Easter | Mar. 27th, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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Helping Hands

By Parishioner Dan Pieper, RCIA Catechist

Each Sunday when I arrive at the church for Mass, I know there will be gifts waiting for me sent by the Holy Spirit himself, the Lord and Giver of Life as we proclaim in the Creed. I know this because my gifts are life-giving .They have sustained me for years, causing my faith to grow and deepen no matter what obstacles get in my way.

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It is Peggy, (my loving wife of 45 years) who brings me here each week, dropping me off at the front door because balance issues make walking difficult especially in crowded environments. It is always a comfort to see Al, our Minister of Welcome, waiting for me. He knows I will need help getting out of the car and doesn’t seem to mind handing me the cane that Peggy is passing through the open window, the one that I inevitably drop on the ground. While she leaves in search of a parking place, Al escorts me through the heavy entry door while as we continue the conversation we have every week…

“So, you still let sinners in here?” I ask.

“We love sinners.” he answers with a smile.

“Thank God!”

I inch my way through the pandemonium in the narthex, my eyes searching for the calming presence of another welcoming minister. Her name is Marilyn and her station is the door to the quiet interior of the church, the Door of Mercy. She too wears a smile and never fails to tell me how nice I look despite my half-buttoned shirt and mismatched socks. She has made it her mission to get me seated where I need be…a job made difficult by my wish to be in two places at the same time.

One of these is among the broken people in the handicap row. It is a place littered with walkers, wheel chairs, crutches, canes and other contraptions suggesting misfortune, weakness, tragedy and despair. For me, however, it is a place of peace, caring, courage and hope. The people here all wait patiently for the Spirit to appear like the crippled man by the pool at Bethesda. “Sir, I have no one to put me in the pool when the water is stirred up; while I am on my way someone else gets there before me.” So it seems to many of us until the Eucharistic ministers (Christophers) arrive carrying the healing, broken body of Christ to us. They are like the servants at Cana bringing the best wine to the wedding guests. It is a ministry poorly understood but desperately needed.

Their caregivers sit in this row too. You can tell them by their gentle manner, the worry in their eyes, and the pain hidden in their faces. There is a special bond among these people, all traveling in the same leaky boat and holding on to each other for dear life. There is no room here for anger, bitterness, or pride…just compassion, prayer and encouragement. I have come to love them all and yet…
…And yet there is another place I need to be.

There is a special place in the front of the church, a section of pews reserved for the people involved with the RITE OF CHRISTIAN INITIATION. (RCIA) While the Handicap Row is devoted to bodily problems, this section focuses on matters of the Soul. The people here have also sensed the stirring of the Spirit and have responded by seeking full communion with us in the Catholic Church.

For months they have prepared themselves by asking questions, formal instruction, studying the scriptures and participating in rites both ingratiating and deeply humbling. It has been my honor to journey with them as a catechist (teacher), although it is me who has benefited most from their collective wisdom, personal stories and profound insights. On this Sunday, Marilyn lifts the braided rope guarding an empty pew and I slide beneath, stashing my cane under the kneeler. Slowly the benches fill up around me. I realize I’ll never be able to get up for communion unless, perhaps, some guys lower me through the roof on a mat.

My plight must have been obvious because a woman sitting behind me began to calmly pat my shoulders with a healing touch while apologizing for singing too loudly in my ear. Fellow catechist, Rich Byrne offered his strong hand to help me from my seat to the aisle, Marilyn appeared to direct traffic, and Peggy came to apologize for the scene I was making. It takes a village sometimes to get one man to communion.

It is not one man, however, who seeks healing and nourishment. All of us are broken in some fashion and need the grace of God to save us. The people in the Handicap Row have discovered the healing presence of Jesus sitting in their midst, the people of the RCIA have been called my name and long for the grace they will receive at the Easter Vigil in the sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist). Indeed, we are all SACRAMENTS TO EACH OTHER, in our Catholic community of Saint John XXIII, outward signs created by God to point out the way to heaven and to give grace by the helping hands we extend to each other every day.

An Easter Message from Father Bob:

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in the Risen Lord,

A Blessed and Happy Easter to all of you!

It has been so good to see so many of you here at St. John XXIII throughout Lent, Holy Week and Easter. As we celebrate the great feast of Easter, our thoughts bring to mind new life and alleluias.

If this is your first visit to our church, we warmly welcome you and invite you to embrace our mission. Perhaps you are a member of another denomination; please know you are welcome to inquire and learn more about the different religious education programs we offer.
Please feel free to contact us if there is ever an issue you feel you need to discuss.

Many of our seasonal visitors are leaving or have left for the summer months. We thank you for being an important member of our parish community and we look forward to your return.

As we celebrate this Easter Season, I encourage you to invite others to return – those that are “on sabbatical” from their Catholic faith. Perhaps some of our loved ones have been wounded by a particular experience in the Catholic Church. I understand. But when we focus on the foundation of our faith, we see Him reaching out with open arms. I encourage all of you to reach out to that one person you know- a family member, friend, work associate- and invite them to come home- it’s time to celebrate the Eucharist.

All Are Welcome ~ Alleluia!

Sincerely yours in our Risen Lord,

Fr. Bob Tabbert
Pastor

Mar. 6th, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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Parish Mission | At a Glance

Sunday, March 6th
What is God’s extravagant mercy? 7:00pm – 8:00pm
Reading: Isaiah 61: 1-2 | John 8:2-11
Quiet Reflection: What does the word “mercy” mean to me?

Pope Francis:
Jesus’s attitude is striking: we do not hear the words of scorn, we do not hear words of condemnation, but only words of love, of mercy, which are an invitation to conversation. “Neither do I condemn you; go and do not sin again.”

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Monday, March 7th
How is God’s mercy experienced? 8:45am – 9:45am & 7:00pm – 8:00pm
Readings: Ezekiel 11:19-20 | Luke 5: 12-16
Quiet Reflection: When have I had the most profound experience of receiving mercy?

Pope Francis:
Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy. These words might well sum up the mystery of the Christian faith. Mercy has become living and visible in Jesus of Nazareth, reaching its culmination in him.

Tuesday, March 8th
How do we share God’s mercy? 8:45am – 9:45am & 7:00pm – 8:00pm with evening Reconciliation Service
Readings: Micah 6:8 | Luke 19:1-10
Quiet Reflection: How can I grow in compassion for others?

Pope Francis:
The time has come for the Church to take up the joyful call to mercy once more. It is time to return to the basics and to bear the weaknesses and struggles of our brothers and sisters. Mercy is the force that reawakens us to new life and instills in us the courage to look to the future with hope.

Reconciliation Service
1 Peter 2:4-10
Quiet Reflection:
How am I in need of mercy and forgiveness?
How can I extend mercy and forgiveness to another?

“A Parish Mission is an opportunity for us to get away and get into that boat with Jesus. It’s a time to quiet ourselves and listen to Him and ask, ‘What is Jesus saying to me right now?’”

– Father Bob Tabbert

Feb. 28th, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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2016 St. John XXIII Parish Picnic Recap

The Annual Parish Picnic was a great success! A special Thank You to Picnic Coordinators, Dick & Pat Dohack and Al & Sharon Natella, along with their amazing team of volunteers in the kitchen. Thank you to Bill & Lois Becker, Carol Davis, Andy & Betsy Engelbrecht, Tony Gravette, Knights of Columbus, Youth Group, Bishop Verot Students, and Boy Scout Troop 1! Big Thanks to Lt. Angelo Vaughn with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office and South Trail Fire Department for participating in the event with fun tutorials about law enforcement and fire safety. Thank you to The Hispanic Community for their delicious empanadas! Last, none of this would have happened without the hard work of Robert Erp, our Maintenance Supervisor and his team of helpers.

We are so grateful to have all of you part of our parish community!

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Jan. 31st, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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Rally in Tally

Their Education, Their Future, Their Voice

On January 19th, thousands of Florida parents and students rallied at the state’s capitol to urge the state’s largest teachers’ union to drop a lawsuit that challenges the Florida Step Up for Students income-based scholarship program.

Today, Step Up for Students serves more than 77 thousand students in Florida. Should this legislation be overturned, more than 550 students in the Diocese of Venice would be without scholarships to support their enrollment in our Catholic schools.

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Parishioners Sophie (11 years old) and Hannah (9 years old) Cruz attend St. Francis Xavier School on the Step Up Scholarship. They, along with their mother, Joana traveled in a bus-load of local parents and students to Tallahassee to take part in the “Rally in Tally”. They talked with me about their experience at the event, their passion for Catholic Education and the importance of the Step Up Scholarship program.

Danielle O’Brien: Why did you want to participate in Rally in Tally?

Joana Cruz: I wanted to participate in the rally because I will make any step necessary to save the scholarship that gives my kids the option to be in Catholic School.

Sophie Cruz: I wanted to participate in the Rally in Tally because I believe that kids have the right to choose the school that they want to go to, no matter where they live.

Danielle: Talk about your experience at the Rally! What was it like? How many people were there?

Joana: There were parents, students, educators and lots of school choice supporters. We had to leave at 2:00 a.m. and travel on the bus for 7 hours on a chilly morning of 30 degrees, spent about 4 hours there, then come back home. It was worth it, no regrets! My kids had a great experience overall!

Sophie: In America, you have the right to say and stand for what you want. During the rally, we said, “DROP THE SUIT!” and “I WANT MY SCHOLARSHIP!” I think I was the loudest one because by the end of the day, my throat was sore!

It was very exhilarating! Some people started to sing songs and shout chants. My school, St. Francis Xavier and another school made signs for the event. We all wore bright neon yellow t-shirts that said “#DROPTHESUIT.” The best part was that there were more than 10 thousand people with me! Can you believe it?! I can’t!

Hannah: It was a long trip and a cold day, but there were still so many people there. It was awesome to see thousands of people walking in peace and hope.

Danielle: Why do you love attending Catholic School?

Hannah: I love attending Catholic School because I have a lot of friends at my school. I love St. Francis Xavier. I’m afraid of the possibility of not being able to attend if we lose the suit.

Joana: To have my children in the local Catholic school was the best choice I have made for their future. We are so fortunate to have this unique opportunity! We became members of a special community where I am constantly amazed by the level of education they receive and the love that surrounds them every day!

They learn to serve, to pray and share their faith! They’re so comfortable and secure being there! They do not strive to be just good students, but also to care for others. Being Christ-like is as priority in their lives!

The support we have from the faculty and all other staff is priceless. Anytime my children have a problem that comes up, the school just contacts us, personally, by phone, by email and calmly ask how we can solve it together. It’s great to have a Principal who knows your kids and encourages them. It’s a great feeling of comfort to have your child’s first grade teacher calling you and asking why your child is not in a good mood that particular day and wonder if he’s not feeling well.

Teachers are there for you anytime you need to discuss anything about your child. They talk to you, give advice, tips and really care. It’s awesome to see the parents involved in all activities, working thousands of volunteer hours to make sure the school progresses.

Danielle: Why is it important ot you that the Step-up Program continues to be funded in Florida?

Sophie: How will I know if I will grow up to be one of the most influential person in the world because of the right education? Maybe there is a girl out there that wants to be president, but doesn’t have the right education. With the right education and motivation, everything is possible.

Joana: It is very important that the program that allows low-income parents to choose the school that best meets their children’s needs continues. Step Up for Students simply levels the education playing field for disadvantaged families. Perhaps some parents prefer public schools, but some students simply do better in private schools, which may offer a more intimate atmosphere or specialized programs. In our case, if the Step of Program ends, we will lose the option to give our kids Catholic education. Having them there, we know that nothing can hold back our Faith!

To advocate for the Step Up For Students Scholarship program go to www.flvoicesforchoices.org

Dec 13th, 2015 | The 23rd Times

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ARCHBISHOP BERNARDITO AUZA CELEBRATES MASS AT ST. JOHN XXIII

On Sunday, December 6th, Archbishop Bernardito Auza celebrated the 11:15am Mass at our parish. The Mass represnted all communities at our parish featuring readings in English, Spanish, Tagalog and Vietnamese. A very special thank you to all the ministries who made the Mass truly beautiful: Vietnamese Community, Hispanic Community, Knights of Columbus, The A-Team, Pro Photo’s by Tony Gravatte, Music Director Robert Kirchner and the Choir, Lois Becker and The Hospitality Team, and all volunteers!

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WHAT HAPPENS IN A HOLY YEAR?

By Today’s Catholic News

A Jubilee Year is made

St. John Paul II wanted the entire Church to enter the 21st century in a spirit of hope, strengthened by a deep-reaching renewal of faith. The new millennium’s arrival, he believed, signaled the start of a new stage in the Church’s history.

So in a 1994 apostolic letter titled “As the Third Millennium Draws Near” (“Tertio Millennio Adveniente”), he asked the Church’s people to begin preparing for a turn-of-the-century holy year, the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000.

This preparation would encompass a years-long period of reflection aimed at assuring that “the great challenge of the year 2000 is not overlooked.” From his pontificate’s very beginning, he considered this holy year “an important appointment,” St. John Paul said in January 2001, in his document “Novo Millennio Ineunte.”

“I thought of its celebration as a providential opportunity during which the Church, 35 years after the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, would examine how far she had renewed herself in order to be able to take up her evangelizing mission with fresh enthusiasm.”

The pope particularly wanted Catholics to focus from 1997 to 1999 on the Trinity, revisiting the ancient teaching on “Jesus Christ and His mystery of salvation” in 1997 and in 1998 developing “a renewed appreciation” of the Spirit’s “presence and activity,” he wrote in “As the Third Millennium Draws Near.”

The pope urged that 1999 be devoted to God the Father. All Christian life “is like a great pilgrimage to the house of the Father,” who loves every human being unconditionally, he wrote.

He hoped that a “sense of being on a ‘journey to the Father’” would “encourage everyone to undertake … a journey of authentic conversion.”

With that final word, St. John Paul summed up every holy year’s purpose: “conversion.” Holy years are times for turning toward God in ways that make a great difference for life in the faith community and in the world.

All holy years are alike in this sense. Conversion and renewal constitute the underlying rationale for the ordinary holy years celebrated every 25 years and the extraordinary holy years celebrated at other times, like the Year of Mercy, which began on December 8.

The sacrament of Reconciliation is accented strongly during a holy year. Conversion is this sacrament’s goal. Turning from whatever is sinful, people now accept God’s invitation to pursue a renewed life.

This way of living takes concrete form in prayer, worship and care for others. Penance, prayer, worship and service all play major roles in a holy year’s celebration.

God’s generous forgiveness of human failings also is underscored by the traditional holy year practice of granting indulgences, a practice linked with entering through the holy door of one of the Roman basilicas or of the cathedrals and churches designated by local bishops.

Pope Francis, describing an indulgence in his apostolic letter for the Year of Mercy, wrote that “in the sacrament of Reconciliation God forgives our sins, which He truly blots out.” But “sin leaves a negative effect on the way we think and act.”

The pope explained that “it becomes indulgence” on the part of God, who through the Church “reaches the pardoned sinner and frees him from every residue left by the consequences of sin, enabling him to act with charity, to grow in love.”

When Blessed Paul VI announced plans for the 1975 jubilee, he recalled how holy years developed historically and mentioned indulgences. He said:

“The jubilee was instituted by Boniface VIII in the year 1300 for a purely spiritual purpose. It consisted in making a penitential pilgrimage to the tombs of the apostles Peter and Paul. … In 1500, there was added to the jubilee the opening of the holy doors of the basilicas that were to be visited. This was intended … to symbolize easier access to divine mercy through the gaining of the jubilee indulgence.”

If all holy years are alike, each holy year is unique, for each one takes place in unique times.

Certainly, Pope Francis describes the Year of Mercy as “an extraordinary moment of grace and spiritual renewal.” Still, making clear what is unique about the present moment, he writes: “The time has come for the Church to take up the joyful call to mercy once more. It is time to return to the basics and to bear the weaknesses and struggles of our brothers and sisters.”

Pope Paul VI rather uniquely twinned the theme of renewal with the theme of reconciliation for the 1975 holy year. Reconciliation directly concerns “practical living,” he observed, since human lives and relationships are disturbed by so much disharmony.

Re-establishing a happy relationship with God will pave the way to re-establishing caring, just relationships with others in many settings, he proposed.

Pope Paul wanted as many as possible to undertake a holy year pilgrimage to the tombs of the apostles Peter and Paul.

Christians on pilgrimage, he noted, come into contact with the ancient sources of the Church’s faith and life in order to be converted by repentance, strengthened in charity and united more closely with their brethren by the grace of God.

On proclaiming a holy year

The concept of a holy year finds its roots in Judaism when a special year of forgiveness and pardon — a jubilee, if you will — was celebrated every 50 years.

As Leviticus 25:10 explains, “You shall treat this fiftieth year as sacred. You shall proclaim liberty in the land for all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, when each of you shall return to your own property, each of you to your own family.” The jubilee year celebrated forgiveness and returning to one’s home.

From the start, holy years have focused on the forgiveness of sins and have included indulgences (remission of punishment for sin) earned through penitential practices and pilgrimages to holy sites, particularly the four major basilicas in Rome. Participation during these holy years has historically been strong.

Dante’s “Inferno” mentions the number of pilgrims heading into Rome seeking the indulgence. In later years, the indulgences were extended to those who could not travel to Rome by allowing pilgrimages to holy sites within the individual’s home country or even home diocese.

One of the traditions of the holy year is the opening of the Holy Door at St. Peter’s Basilica. This tradition began in 1500 when Pope Alexander VI announced that the doors of the four major Roman basilicas that were part of the pilgrimage route — St. Peter’s, St. Paul Outside the Walls, St. John Lateran and St. Mary Major — would be opened simultaneously.

The symbolism of entering through each of the doors refers to the passage in John’s Gospel, where Jesus says, “I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved” (10:9).

The celebration of a holy year was changed markedly by St. John Paul II during the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000.

First, he proclaimed three years of meditation on the members of the Trinity before the holy year began.

Second, he simplified the holy year rites and the requirements for gaining the offered indulgences.

Third, for the first time, other Christians were invited to celebrate that holy year with Catholics.

The ecumenical aspects and the loosened requirements for indulgences will continue during the Year of Mercy Pope Francis has called for, to be held Dec. 8, 2015, to Nov. 20, 2016.
In his letter establishing the upcoming Year of Mercy, Pope Francis has again established an indulgence for those who make a pilgrimage to the basilicas in Rome or, for those who cannot travel, who make a visit to their local cathedral.

In addition, while making this pilgrimage, the pilgrim is to make Confession, celebrate the Eucharist and pray for the pope’s intentions. These last three are traditional requirements for receiving an indulgence.
For those unable to travel — the sick or elderly, and those in prison — the pope offers relaxed requirements for celebrating the holy year:

“Living with faith and joyful hope this moment of trial, receiving Communion or attending holy Mass and community prayer, even through the various means of communication, will be for them the means of obtaining the Jubilee indulgence.” In so doing, the pope prays that all will “be touched in a tangible way by the mercy of the Father.”

In addition, the pope has offered an indulgence for anyone who performs at least one of the corporal or spiritual works of mercy — feeding the hungry, praying for those in need, etc. — during this year of grace.
One of the biggest changes of the Year of Mercy is the emphasis the pope has placed upon the Church and all believers to be missionaries of mercy:

“The experience of mercy, indeed, becomes visible in the witness of concrete signs as Jesus Himself taught us. Each time that one of the faithful personally performs one or more of these actions, he or she shall surely obtain the jubilee indulgence.”

Nov. 8th, 2015 | The 23rd Times

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Trunk or Treat Recap

The event, held on October 24th, was a great success! Special thanks to the Youth, Meghan & Aaron McCarthy, Chris Biel, Knights of Columbus, Angelo & Catherine Vaughn and their parking crew, the Boy Scouts, Tony Gravatte for capturing the evening, and the Vance Family for sharing their wonderful ‘Mystery Maze.’

The Winners of the Trunk or Treat Best Decorated Vehicle are:

1st Place: Carncross | 2nd Place: K. Brandt | 3rd Place: Carroll

Please contact Meghan McCarthy to claim your prize!!!

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Announcing Archbishop Bernadito Auza’s Visit to St. John XXIII Catholic Church

It is with great excitement to announce that Archbishop Bernadito Auza, Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations will celebrate the 11:15am Mass on December 6th. In his trip to Southwest Florida, Archbishop Auza will present the 2015 Servitor Pacis Award to St. John XXIII Parishioners, Bob and Linda Simpson at the Florida Path to Peace Gala. The Annual Path to Peace Award is bestowed on individuals in recognition of thier commitment to the development of peace and human progress in the local, national and international arenas.

The event takes place on Saturday, Decemeber 5th. Please see the flyer on page 9 with the details and how to attend.

The Most Reverend Bernadito Auza was born in Talibon, The Republic of the Philippines on June 10, 1959. He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Tagbilaran in 1985.

Archbishop Auza attended the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy in Rome earning a doctorate in Sacred Theology and entered the diplomatic service of the Holy See in 1990. He has served at several diplomatic posts that include Madagascar, Bulgaria and Albania.

He also served in the Secretariat of the State at the Vatican and later at the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations in New York.

His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI appointed Msgr. Auza Apolostolic Nuncio to Haiti on May 8, 2008 and was ordained Titular Archbishop of Suacia on July 3, 2008.

Archbishop Auza was appointed Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations by His Holiness, Pope Francis on July 1, 2014. He was also appointed Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the Organization of the American States on July 16, 2014.

The Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations was officially established on 6 April 1964 and has since provided an active role toward the advancement of peace and justice in the international community, serving as a vehicle for promoting the teachings of the Catholic Church. Increasing interest in the works of the Papal Mission at the United Nations underlined the need to spread greater awareness of the teachings of the Holy Father on important international questions of morality, development and human rights, in order to provoke discussion and formulate humanitarian action.

Due to the need for expanded humanitarian and conciliatory activities which go beyond the strictly diplomatic parameters of the Holy See Mission to the United Nations, the Path to Peace Foundation was established in 1991, by Archbishop Renato R. Martino, the then Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations. The Foundation, independent from, but in collaboration with the Holy See Mission, directs its activities primarily to the international stage of the United Nations. Its principal purpose is the spreading of the message of peace by which the Catholic Church, through the words and activities of the Pope and of the Holy See, strives to “guide our steps into the path of peace” (Luke 1:79).

The Path to Peace Foundation accomplishes this goal by disseminating information and documentation on statements and initiatives of the Holy Father, the Holy See and Catholic organizations aimed at building a world of justice, charity and peace. Likewise, it initiates programs such as conferences, seminars, lectures, etc., to study the social teachings of the Church, as well as promoting initiatives of a cultural nature, touching on the Christian heritage of art, music and the humanities. Furthermore, the Foundation fosters projects of a religious, conciliatory, humanitarian and charitable nature with a view to promoting fundamental human rights by calling attention to specific emergency needs arising in different parts of the world.

Nov. 1st, 2015 | The 23rd Times

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Download Our New Parish App!

Our new St. John XXIII app is now available to download for iPhone and Android smart phones. Stay connected with our parish throughout the week with instant notifications, an easy-to-access event calendar, and the ability to quickly reply to or share messages via Facebook or Twitter. Also, enjoy several other additional features like prayers, daily readings, helpful reminders to silence your phone before Mass or Confession, and much more! Help foster a stronger parish life at St. John XXIII and better engage the New Evangelization.

Download our app today at myparishapp.com or search your phone’s app store for myparish. You can also text the word “APP” to 88202! Special thanks to Home Watch Plus for sponsoring our app!

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Spiritually Prepare for the Jubilee Year of Mercy

This December 8th consecration to Jesus through Mary will perfectly allow us to begin the Jubilee Year of Mercy that Pope Francis has declared. So what does this all mean, and how does one join in? Here are the FAQs:

What is a jubilee year?

In the ancient Hebrew tradition, the Jubilee Year, which was celebrated every 50 years, was meant to restore equality among all of the children of Israel, offering new possibilities to families which had lost their property and even their personal freedom.

The Catholic tradition of the Holy Year began in 1300. From 1475 onwards – in order to allow each generation to experience at least one Holy Year – the ordinary Jubilee was to be celebrated every 25 years. However, an extraordinary Jubilee may be announced on the occasion of an event of particular importance.

The Catholic Church has given to the Hebrew Jubilee a more spiritual significance. It consists in a general pardon, an indulgence open to all, and the possibility to renew one’s relationship with God and neighbor. Thus, the Holy Year is always an opportunity to deepen one’s faith and to live with a renewed commitment to Christian witness.

With the Jubilee of Mercy, Pope Francis focuses attention upon the merciful God who invites all men and women to return to Him. The encounter with God inspires in one the virtue of mercy.
The most recent extraordinary Jubilee Years were those in 1933, to celebrate 1900 hundred years of Redemption and in 1983, on the occasion of the 1950 years of Redemption.

What is Marian Consecration?

St. Pope John Paul II calls the Marian Consecration Devotion “the decisive turning point” of his life. In simplest terms, we give ourselves to Mary to be formed into the image of her Son.
Put another way, Marian Consecration or Entrustment is to give ourselves to Jesus through Mary so that she can bring us to the pierced side of Jesus, which is the Fountain of Mercy.
St. Louis de Montfort said that a total consecration to Jesus through Mary is the “quickest, easiest, surest and most perfect” path to becoming a saint.

How does Marian Consecration help us enter the Jubilee Year?

According to Pope Francis, it’s Mary who will prepare us for the Year of Mercy. For instance, in the document that establishes this extraordinary time of grace for the Church, he asked that “the sweetness of [Mary’s] countenance” might “watch over us in this Holy Year, so that all of us may rediscover the joy of God’s tenderness.”

Pope Francis decided that the Year of Mercy should begin on December 8th “when we remember and celebrate Mary’s greatest experience of God’s mercy: her being preserved from the first moment of her conception, from all stain of original sin.” This was an act of mercy she did nothing to deserve. Rather it came as a totally free gift at the very moment when she came to be. Because Mary knows the free gift of God’s mercy more than any other creature, she wants us to know it too.

By beginning the Year of Mercy consecrating to Mary, we will enter in more deeply to experience God’s mercy and then be able to share it better with others.

What should we do if we’d like to consecrate?

There are two ways:

1) Use the FREE retreat materials of 33 Days to Morning Glory by Fr. Michael Gaitley. In his retreat, one reads just 2 pages a day from the book, answers a couple of questions from the retreat companion and ponders them throughout the day. Then weekly, watch a video lecture by Fr. Gaitley to summarize the preparation. The retreat can be done alone or in small groups. For online materials, subscribe to www.formed.org. Parish code: 1823ee

2) Participate in an upcoming parish retreat!

Jubilee Year of Mercy
A Morning Retreat
Rich Byrne, D.Min.
Tuesday, December 8th
9:00 AM – 11:30 AM
The Community Room

On this Feast of Our Lady, we will focus on this first day of our Church’s Jubilee Year of Mercy. There will be periods of teaching, guided meditative prayer and communal sharing. The hope is that we will each become more aware of God’s generous mercy and so share more readily with others this ever-present and abundant forgiving love. On this Holy Day, the retreat offers you the opportunity to attend either the 8:00am or Noon Mass. Refreshments served from 8:45 AM–9:00 AM.

Please register in the narthex or email Jennifer Engelman at jennifer@johnxxiii.net

Oct. 11th, 2015 | The 23rd Times

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Respect Life Month Continues…

Crisis Pregnancy: The Power of an Image

By: Danielle Koleniak

As we dive into week two of Respect life Month: You are not Alone, we center in on a topic commonly identifiable with the ‘Respect Life’ subject: Crisis Pregnancy. Rather than focusing on the horror from the recent headlines involving Planned Parenthood and their alleged business practices, we’re going to report back to you some good news. About a year ago, parishioners of St. John XXIII joined forces with the Knights of Columbus to raise funds to purchase an ultrasound machine for Verity Pregnacy & Medical Resource Center. Verity is a non-profit, faith-based medical center that offers services such as pregnacy tests, ultrasounds, counseling, referral services (and the list goes on) to women and couples who are facing an unplanned pregnacy. Executive Director Becky Anderson says the results from the brand new ultrasound machine are nothing short of an answered prayer– and it’s not slowing down.

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So far this year, the center has saved more than 50 babies’ lives and she credits the hand of God, a hardworking staff and crystal clear images from the new ultrasound machine.

Danielle Koleniak: What has this past year been like at Verity Pregnancy & Medical Resource Center?
Becky Anderson: We are definitely feeling the blessings of God! We knew last December when we met for our staff retreat that God was calling us to be busier. We really didn’t know what that would look like, but sure enough when January 2nd came, and we opened our doors, we started seeing more clients every single day. We are now at a 60 percent increase in total client visits for the year. We’re very busy, but it’s all really good things. We’re seeing more abortion-vulnerable clients. We’re having the opportunity to do more child birthing classes and more counseling sessions. It helps these young families who don’t even know what they are facing, allow us to come alongside and help them learn what it means to be a parent. It really encourages them. It’s really exciting to see. We’re handling all of this with the same size staff and volunteers as last year. Are we tired? Yes! Are we blessed? Very much so! I’m really thankful that God is allowing us to do His work.

DK: It’s also been a year since you’ve received the new ultrasound machine, donated by the faithful parishioners of St. John XXIII. What effect or influence has this had in the past 12 months?
BA: By the numbers, we are also seeing a 60 percent increase in the number of ultrasounds we are doing. The stories are endless…. but here’s one:
About three weeks ago, we had a mother call to make an appointment for her 17 year-old daughter who she believed was pregnant as a result of a forced sexual encounter. They went to Planned Parenthood and the 17 year-old girl decided she wanted an abortion. Her mother did not want her to have one and was trying to gently help her toward a choice for life. She then called us to make that appointment. The girl came here because when she went to Planned Parenthood, she could not afford the ultrasound that she needed in order to know how much she was going to have to come up with to pay for the abortion. When she came to us for the free ultrasound, she saw the baby and made the choice for life.

DK: What’s next for her and the baby?
BA: She is in the process of making those decisions. We gave her all the information she needs on adoption. She left here saying she was going to take her time making the decision between parenting and adoption because she knew she was young and didn’t feel she was prepared to be a mother, but she wasn’t going to rush it. With our guidance, she was able to talk to some people who had been through all of it- adoptions, abortions and teen-motherhood. We reminded her that there is no rush. The baby is not coming tomorrow and that she has time to think through this and explore the options. The rest of the story is untold, but now the family will remain whole in so many ways, and that would not have happened, had she decided to get an abortion.

DK: What does the new ultrasound machine allow mothers to see, that could not be seen before?
BA: Just over a year ago, we were sitting in our conference room with some leaders from the parish’s Knights of Columbus talking about their interest in getting us a new ultrasound machine. We knew we would need the ultrasound machine sooner than later because what we had at the time was grainy and difficult to read. When we called for some technical assistance, we were told that if we could shut the machine down after every ultrasound, it would preserve the image just a little for the next one, but we would eventually have to get a new one. After that meeting, we thought we might get the new ultrasound machine sometime in 2015, but by the grace of God and the generosity, passion and persistence of the parishioners of St. John XXIII, as well as, the Knights of Columbus, we got the ultrasound machine much more quickly than we ever could have imagined. It was installed on October 2nd, 2014.

Before, with the old ultrasound, if a girl came in and was five weeks pregnant, we weren’t able to show her much. We could point to what we knew was a baby, but the girl would not be able to see it. Now at five and six weeks, you can clearly see the baby. More importantly, since October 2nd 2014, I can’t count the number of times we’ve watched an abortion-vulnerable girl who looks up at the screen, may not understand what she is looking at, fully, but sees a beating heart. That makes all the difference. It becomes that first moment of bonding. It literally saves lives.

DK: Has Planned Parenthood’s recently made headlines for alleged horrendous practices, made any difference for the women who walk through your doors?
BA: The vast majority of our clients are not news watching and they are unaware. Even women who are abortion vulnerable are turned off by what they are seeing in a very big way. I don’t believe that Planned Parenthood’s clients are going to go away tomorrow because they don’t really know what is happening. So, it’s important we continue the battle at a legislative level and every way you can imagine.

The ultrasound has required Planned Parenthood to change their narrative. That’s important because it’s not a blob or a clump of cells, it’s a life. The evil is very obvious.

We need to remember as the Church, there are women who have made the decision to have an abortion, seen the videos and are now suffering and need to find help. So, ‘Project Rachel’ and other programs are going to be more important than ever. We, as a church, need to be ready to serve them when they are ready to come for help. We need to take good care of them.

DK: With saving more than 50 babies this year and an increase in clients, what is your greatest need as Verity Pregnancy Center continues to grow?
BA: We could always use more volunteers. But, we understand that in the world we live in, volunteering is a difficult thing to do, so we may need to soon look at increasing our staff. We’re preparing to add sexual transmitted disease (STD) testing to our services because many of our clients have put themselves or been put into very risky behaviors that create an STD. We want the baby to be protected from that. It’s going to take more help, but it also means it is going to save more babies. People who won’t come for a pregnancy test, might come for an STD testing. In return, it will start a conversation about waiting to have sex to avoid STDs and/or an unplanned pregnancy. This service can become the preventative arm in our ministry. We are also always in need of baby bath and diapers!

To help support the mission of Verity Pregnancy & Medical Resource Center, please donate and drop off Baby Bath and diaper to the Respect Life Table in the Narthex, next weekend. We thank you for your continued support and generosity!

Sept. 20th, 2015 | The 23rd Times

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World Meeting of Families – Love is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive

By: Archbishop Charles Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.

I had the pleasure of making public Pope Francis’ theme for the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia: Love is our mission: the family fully alive. The theme was inspired by the words of the early Church Father, St. Irenaeus, who said that “the glory of God is man fully alive.” In like manner, the glory of men and women is their capacity to love as God loves. And rarely can that love be lived out more intimately and fruitfully than in the family.

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As we begin the “heavy lifting” to prepare for the World Meeting of Families and a possible papal visit, it’s a good moment to pause and reflect.

Every moment of every day, a mother and father are teaching and guiding each other and their children, while witnessing about their love to the world beyond their home. The structure of marriage — if lived faithfully — naturally points a man and woman outward toward the world, as well as inward toward one another and their children. As Augustine once said: “To be faithful in little things is a big thing.”

Simply by living their vocation, a husband and wife become the most important living cell of society. Marriage is the foundation and guarantee of the family. And the family is the foundation and guarantee of society.

It’s within the intimate community of the family that a son knows he is loved and has value. In observing her parents, a daughter first learns basic values like loyalty, honesty and selfless concern for others, which build up the character of the wider society. Truth is always most persuasive, not when we read about it in a book or hear about it in a classroom, but when we see it incarnated in the actions of our parents.

Marriage and family safeguard our most basic sense of community, because within the family, the child grows up in a web of tightly connected rights and responsibilities to other people. It also protects our individual identity, because it surrounds the child with a mantle of privacy and personal devotion. Most of the laws concerning marriage in our culture were originally developed precisely to protect family members from the selfishness and lack of love so common in wider society.

The family is the human person’s single most important sanctuary from mistaken models of love, misguided notions of sexual relationships and destructive ideas about self‑fulfillment. All these painful things, unchecked, can be a centrifugal force pulling families apart.

Love is a counter-force. Love is the glue both for family and society. This is why love is the fundamental mission of the family. It’s why the family must be a sanctuary of love. We most easily understand love when we, ourselves, are the fruit of our parents’ tenderness. We most easily believe in fidelity when we see it modeled by our father and mother.

Love lived generously is the unanswerable argument for God — and also for the dignity of the human heart. And marriage is transformed and fulfilled when spouses cooperate with God in the creation of new life. A husband and wife are completed by sharing in God’s procreative gift of life to their children, who are new and unique images of God.

In my years as a priest and bishop, I’ve seen again and again that the human heart is made for truth. People are hungry for the truth; and they’ll choose it, if it’s presented clearly and with conviction. Therein lies the need for every Christian marriage to be engaged in preaching by example. A husband and wife who model a love for Jesus Christ within their family — who pray and worship together with their children and read the Scriptures — become a beacon for other couples. They also more easily acquire an outward-looking zeal for consciously spreading the Gospel to others, teaching the faith and doing good apostolic works.

Our God is the God of life, abundance, deliverance and joy. And we’re his missionaries by nature and by mandate. In a developed world increasingly indifferent or hostile to God, no Catholic family can afford to be lukewarm about the Church. No culture is so traditionally “Christian” that it’s heard enough about Jesus Christ, or safe from the unbelief and disregard for human dignity which mark our age.

Catholic families have a key role in God’s healing of a broken world. So let’s pray for each other — beginning right now — that the World Meeting of Families 2015 will become for each of us and all of Philadelphia a new Pentecost; a new birth of the Church in each of our hearts … for our own salvation, the salvation of our families and the redemption of the world.

Take the Pledge to Walk With Francis

Welcome Pope Francis to the USA by committing to follow his example of faith and service. At Walkwithfrancis.org you can pledge to Walk with Francis and transform our community through one or more of these commitments:

  1. PRAY regularly for the Holy Father and learn about his message on the joy of the Gospel, the mercy of God and the love of Christ.
  2. SERVE by reaching out and caring for those in need and supporting charitable efforts in our communities and beyond.
  3. ACT to promote human life and dignity, justice and peace, family life and religious freedom, care for creation and the common good.