Aug 20th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Encountering Christ Through the Sacraments

by: Rich Byrne, D.Min. – Parishioner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aug 13th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Matt Piedimonte | Faith Called Into Focus

by Colleen Leavy, Bulletin Editor

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Additional Information

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

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

Aug 6th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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What is Transfiguration Sunday?

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

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

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

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

July 30th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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

By Julie Asher of Catholic News Service

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 23rd, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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

By Sarah Mac Donald of Catholic News Service

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 16th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Convocation delegates urged to take Gospel to struggling people everywhere

By Dennis Sadowski | Catholic News Service

ORLANDO, Fla. (CNS) — Being Christian is more than accepting Jesus as savior, but requires the faithful to go to the peripheries of society where people are struggling materially and spiritually, Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles told the “Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America.”

“Jesus calls us to follow him. That is an action, a decision that implies a way of life,” Archbishop Gomez said during a plenary session July 3, the third day of the convocation.

He said Pope Francis has focused the mission of the church on going to people on the sidelines of society, he said, calling it a responsibility not just for bishops, clergy and church professionals, but for the entire church.

The pope, the archbishop explained, sees the peripheries as both a physical place and existential. They are places that reflect a society that has determined that some people can be pushed aside or discarded.

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“They are places on a map, places where people live. The peripheries are parts of our cities and the rural areas that we never visit. The other side of the tracks. They are where the poor live. They are the prisons and the tent cities in our public spaces. The peripheries are the bitter fruits of neglect, exploitation and injustice. They are all the places our society is ashamed of and would rather forget about,” he said.

“But for Pope Francis, the peripheries are more than a physical location or a social category. They are places where poverty is not only material but also spiritual,” he said.

The archbishop called such locations places where people “are wounded and feel their life has no meaning and makes no difference,” trapping themselves in sin, addiction, slavery and self-deception.

“The pope is saying these peripheries are growing in the modern world and these peripheries are new mission territory,” he explained.

Archbishop Gomez, vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, admitted some of these places are “where the church does not like to go, where we do not like to go.” Yet, he reminded the 3,500 delegates, Jesus is at the margins, and that as people of faith, they are invited to go where Jesus exists.

“The church has always been present in the peripheries, through our schools, our parishes and our ministries. Sometimes we are the only ones serving these communities. But we can do better, we are called to do more. That is our challenge,” Archbishop Gomez said.

He also blamed “elites” for undertaking an “aggressive ‘de-Christianization’ of our society” to cause people to “‘un-remember’ our Christian roots and deconstruct everything that was built on these roots.”

“With the loss of God, we are witnessing the loss of the human person,” he said.

Archbishop Gomez pointed to American society as a prime example of where the need to minister on the margins is vital, especially because families are breaking down and communities are experiencing instability.

“This is one of the lessons from the last election, wasn’t it? America is pulling apart. We are a people divided along lines of money and race, education and family backgrounds. People are afraid of the future. They feel powerless and excluded,” he told the convocation.

The archbishop urged that such concerns be addressed by the church and the faithful, through being a presence to those in need to help bridge the widening gaps between people.

The answer to such concerns rests with imitating Jesus and meeting people at the “places of pain and injustice, to the places where people forgotten and along.”

“Siempre adelante,” he said in Spanish. “Always forward.”

Carl Anderson, supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus, in an address opening the plenary session, suggested to the delegates that if they “go deep enough into the peripheries, we will see the boundaries between us disappear.”

He said Pope Francis and his predecessors, Pope Benedict XVI and St. John Paul II, have urged action for society’s forgotten communities. He suggested marginalized people can be as close as the person next door.

Pope Francis asks the church to reach out “in joy in a permanent state of mission,” Anderson said. “This great task is for each of us.”

A panel discussion during the same session addressed several examples of the church working in the peripheries of the world including ministry with African-American Catholics; the work of Catholic Relief Services in more than 160 countries; care for immigrants along the border in the Rio Grande Valley in the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas; ministry to people with same-sex attraction; and the use of social media as a tool to reach youth and young adults.

July 9th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Why Is the Sacred Heart Burning?

By Stephen Beale

Images of the Sacred Heart meticulously recount key details of the crucifixion. The wounded heart itself, the crown of thorns, and the cross itself all appear. Some depictions even include the lance that pierced the side of Christ penetrating His heart.

But there’s one detail that seems out of place. There was no fire at the crucifixion, yet the Sacred Heart is often shown with flames. Why?

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A burnt offering. Recall that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was mean to recapitulate and supersede all the sacrifices of the Old Testament. What was a common feature of these sacrifices? Fire. Think of the fire that devoured the sacrifices offered by Elijah and the fire that Abraham would have set had an angel not intervened (see 1 Kings 18 and Genesis 22). In ancient Israel, a burnt offering was the supreme form of sacrifice, it symbolized a total commitment to God—particularly the death of the victim animal and the all-consuming nature of the fire. (Key sources here, here, and here.) The burning Sacred Heart reminds us that this sacrifice too was incorporated into Christ’s supreme offering of Himself on the cross.

Symbol of divinity. Of course, fire is also a familiar Old Testament symbol of God. We encounter God’s fiery presence at Sinai and in the account of Ezekiel (see Ezekiel 1). This symbolism carries over into the Old Testament, where the Holy Spirit descends upon the heads of the apostles as tongues of fire. Perhaps it’s especially fitting that the Sacred Heart is burning given that from it poured water and blood, symbols of the sacraments of baptism and the Eucharistic wine, both the work of the Holy Spirit.

Symbol of the divine Incarnate. The fire burns, but the Sacred Heart is not consumed. Does this sound familiar? It recalls Moses’ first encounter with God, in a bush that burned but was not consumed. This foreshadowed the Incarnation, in which God assumed human nature, without his divinity extinguishing the humanity that had been assumed: Christ was fully man and fully God. It is fitting that at this climactic moment of the Incarnation that its deepest reality is reaffirmed in such an acute way.

Jesus’ passion for us. In the context of the gospels, the Passion refers to the suffering of Christ. But, in our society, we usually use the word passion to refer to something or someone that drives our enthusiasm, interest, desires, and commitments. Is this meaning still valid for the Sacred Heart? I think so. There is evidence in the gospels that a burning heart signified intense emotions. One clear example of this is the two disciples who encountered Christ on the road to Emmaus and afterwards remarked that their hearts had been burning. (See Luke 24; my source for this interpretation is here.) So yes, the flames on the Sacred Heart are a true reminder of God’s burning love for us.

Light of the World. Fire does two things. First, it consumes that which it burns. Second, it gives off light. This second aspect is certainly relevant to the symbolism of the Sacred Heart, given that Christ is the true light of the world. Remember that during the crucifixion, darkness descended upon the land (see Mark 15:33). In the darkest hour, the Sacred Heart burned bright with hope.

Stephen Beale is a freelance writer based in Providence, Rhode Island. Raised as an evangelical Protestant, he is a convert to Catholicism. He is a former news editor at GoLocalProv.com and was a correspondent for the New Hampshire Union Leader, where he covered the 2008 presidential primary. He has appeared on Fox News, C-SPAN and the Today Show and his writing has been published in the Washington Times, Providence Journal, the National Catholic Register and on MSNBC.com and ABCNews.com. A native of Topsfield, Massachusetts, he graduated from Brown University in 2004 with a degree in classics and history. His areas of interest include Eastern Christianity, Marian and Eucharistic theology, medieval history, and the saints.

July 2nd, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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God Bless America

Celebrating Independence Day as a Christian

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 25th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Living Your Strengths

AT ST. JOHN XXIII CHURCH

by: Steve Engelman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To register or for additional information please contact:

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

June 18th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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

A Father’s Day Blessing

Saint Joseph The Patron Saint of Fathers

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shop AMAZONSMILE and SUPPORT

St. John XXIII Catholic Church

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 11th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

By | Bulletin, Interviews, Ministries, The 23rd Times | No Comments

Our Parish Library

LORI IZRAL SERVING ST. JOHN XXIII CHURCH

Did You Know? Lori Izral has spent most of her adult life in service of the Church. As a teacher since 1957, she taught at Catholic elementary, high school, college and university levels.

In addition, she served in various positions in the Communications field with Jesuits in Communication/North America, UNDA-USA (the official Catholic organization for broadcasters) and the American Catholic Bishops’ Communications Commission.

Lori carried her service to other organizations in administrative roles, such as The Chicago Association for Retarded Citizens (Vice-President), The National Telemedia Council (President) and The North American Broadcast Section of the World Association for Christian Communication (President).

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Sixteen years ago, after retiring from Loyola University as Professor Emerita, she and her husband John moved from LaGrange, IL, to Fort Myers, FL. They have been members of St. John XXIII since its inception at Noonan Academy. Lori serves as lector, Eucharistic Minister and Homebound Minister.

In November, 2009, she found an ad in the Church bulletin: “Wanted – a Literature Minister.” This minister would “oversee a small collection of books and have a willingness to manage new donations.” Lori met with Damian Hanley, Communications Director for our Parish at the time, and told him “I could do this.” He said “Go for it!” So, she did!

Whether a professor, communicator or librarian, Lori believes that her service in the Church is truly one of her greatest blessings.

History of Our Parish Library

Our Parish Library was established in 2010 for the following reasons:

  • To expand our growing knowledge of our faith
  • To instruct us in spiritual development
  • To inspire us in the practice of our moral choices
  • To entertain with faith and Christian values in mind
  • To enable all ministries to consolidate resources and share them with the parish community

The Library began with 15 books donated by the priests and staff of the parish. Today we have processed more than 2,000 books. These books came to us from our generous priests and parishioners, the Friends of the Lakes Public Library, the St. John XXIII Thrift Store, the St. Cecilia Parish Library and the Legends Golfand Country Club Library. We continually welcome contributions to expand our library holdings. This year we hope to be processing CDs and DVDs to our collections.

Processing books includes the following: cleaning and repairing books (where needed), stamping, categorizing, making labels for pockets and cards, making labels for the spines of the books and listings in our inventory (author, title, publisher, year of publication and call letters). The books are sorted into 34 categories, such as, reference, biography, art, history, family issues, spirituality, death and dying, fiction, ecclesiology, prayer and meditation, senior issues, liturgy, health and healing…just to name a few.

Space limitations and lack of funding curtail our physical abilities to house these treasures. To that issue we have been using two carts in the narthex to circulate our books. The carts have 12 shelves holding a few hundred books in several categories. The rest of our books are held in the meeting room of the administration building. About 15 newly processed books are rotated into the carts each week.

Books may be signed out from either place for as long as needed. The larger collection is available for research, supplemental reading, and circulation. Access to the room is limited because of meetings, conferences and religious lessons. However, should you wish to use the library, just call the office at (239) 561-2245 to ask if the room is free or to make an appointment.

Some ways you can help us:

  • Please continue to use our library
  • Be sure to sign out the books: date, name and phone number
  • Handle the books gently: no markings, dog-eared pages or marginal notes
  • Return books to the designated shelf of the carts

Generosity and Gratitude are two sides of the same coin that builds our parish community. Blessings to you for your generosity in helping our ministry. Thank you, Lori, for your time, talent and treasure to St. John XXIII!

June 4th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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What is Pentecost Sunday?

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

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

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

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

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

May 28th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

By | Bulletin, Pope Francis, The 23rd Times | No Comments

Ideological fanatics divide the Christian community, pope says

By Junno Arocho Esteves Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Christians who turn doctrine into ideology commit a grave mistake that upsets souls and divides the church, Pope Francis said.

From the beginning, there have been people in the church who preach “without any mandate” and become “fanatics of things that aren’t clear,” the pope said May 19 in his homily during Mass at Domus Sanctae Marthae.

“This is the problem: When the doctrine of the church, the one from the Gospel, the one inspired by the Holy Spirit — because Jesus said, ‘He will teach you and remind you of what I have taught!’ — when that doctrine becomes ideology. And this is the greatest mistake of these people,” he said.

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The pope reflected on the day’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles (15:22-31), in which, after much debate, the apostles and presbyters send representatives to allay the concerns of the gentile converts after they were ordered by overzealous believers to follow Jewish practices if they wished to be saved.

However, the apostles ruled that “it is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond” abstaining from meat sacrificed to idols and from strangled animals, blood and unlawful marriages.

The initial debate about how to deal with the gentiles, the pope said, was between “the group of the apostles who wanted to discuss the problem and the others who go and create problems.”

“They divide, they divide the church, they say that what the apostles preach is not what Jesus said, that it isn’t the truth,” he explained.

Those who sow discord and “divide the Christian community,” the pope said, do so because their “hearts are closed to the work of the Holy Spirit.”

These individuals, he added, “weren’t believers, they were ideologues.”

Pope Francis said the exhortation sent to the gentiles by Peter and the other apostles encourages all Christians to be unafraid before “the opinions of the ideologues of doctrine.”

“The church has its own magisterium, the magisterium of the pope (and) the bishops,” and it must follow along the path “that comes from Jesus’ preaching and the teaching and assistance of the Holy Spirit,” the pope said.

Doctrine, he said, unites the Christian community because it is “always open, always free” while “ideology divides.”

May 21st, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Bishops among first signatories to pledge to end death penalty

By Mark Pattison | Catholic News Service

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

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

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

The pledge drive is organized by the Catholic Mobilizing Network.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 14th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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

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

By Elise Harris

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 7th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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World Day of Prayer for Vocations

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

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

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

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

April 30th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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The Gift of Life

TESTIMONY FROM A ORGAN DONOR RECIPIENT

by: Clayton Atkins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 23rd, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Devotion of Divine Mercy

by: Mike Navarro

Divine Mercy Background in the Church

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Easter Sunday 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Resurrection: He Is Risen, Indeed!

by Laura Bagby

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 9th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Palm Sunday Story – Bible Story Summary

by Jack Zavada

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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