The Blessed Blog

News, photos and stories from St. John XXIII Catholic Church.

Aug. 30th, 2015 | The 23rd Times

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10 Reasons to Pray the Rosary

Motivation is the key to carrying out any worthy enterprise. Great men and great women have clear goals and strong motivations. They know what they want and they have a clear plan before their eyes.

CEO’s in successful companies know what they want, have goals, deadlines, and concrete steps to attain those goals. Professional athletes have a determined determination to win. They study their opponents weak points, capitalize on their own strengths and play for victory. Therefore, to attain any goal there must be a clear plan and strong motivations.

Spiritual Goals And Objectives

Even more important for the human person created in the image and likeness of God should be the goal and the motivation to attain that goal. Our goal is very clear—to get to heaven. One of the most efficacious means to attain eternal salvation with God in heaven is through prayer. Prayer is the key to salvation. What oxygen is to our lungs, so is prayer to the life of our soul. For that reason Saint Augustine asserted: “He who prays well, lives well; he who lives well, dies well; and he who dies well, all is well.”

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Still there is a powerful means and intercessor before the throne of God who can help us to get to heaven and to help us in our prayer life and motivate us to focus our energies on God and God alone—the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Mary’s Favorite Prayer

Our Lady has a prayer that fills her heart with joy—the Hail Mary and the most Holy Rosary. Every time the Hail Mary is prayed with attention and sincere heart, Our Lady’s heart is filled with joy. Therefore, let us offer ten points to motivate us to pray the most Holy Rosary.

1. Our Lady of Fatima. Our Lady of Fatima appeared in Fatima, Portugal six times to three little shepherd children: Jacinta, Francisco, and Lucia. In every one of these six apparitions Our Lady said: “Pray the Rosary.”

2. Her Title. Finally at the end of her apparitions Our Lady gave herself the title: “Our Lady of the Rosary.” Therefore, if Our Lady insisted six times to pray the Rosary and actually called herself “Our Lady of the Rosary,” common sense tells us that she really wants us to pray the Rosary!

3. Pope St. John Paul II. This great modern saint, as well as spiritual giant, strongly encouraged the world to pray the most Holy Rosary. In his writing, The Blessed Virgin Mary and the Rosary the Vicar of Christ insisted that we pray the Rosary. He himself said at the start of his pontificate that the Rosary was his favorite prayer.

4. For the Sake of the Family. In this same document, Saint Pope John Paul II insisted that we pray the Rosary for the sake of the family which is under attack and in crisis. With the growing numbers of separations and divorces, with the legalization of same-sex unions, with so many children without the warmth of the family, now more than ever we must pray the most Holy Rosary. The Holy Father quotes the Rosary-priest, Father Patrick Peyton: “The family that prays together, stays together.”

5. For World Peace. The document of Saint Pope John Paul II came in the wake of the terrorist attack in New York City with the Twin Towers. Therefore, another reason to pray the Rosary now, more than ever, is for the sake of world peace. With the threat of ISIS, nuclear arsenals, and general tensions growing among nations, the Rosary can be our shield and safeguard. At the end of the First World War, Our Lady of Fatima stated clearly that wars come as a result of sin; and if people did not stop sinning, then a worse World War would erupt. Within twenty years, the Second World War broke out. Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen states that world wars are the net result of many individual wars waging in the hearts of sinners, that spreads out to towns, cities, countries and continents, and then boom—the huge war explodes. Sin produces war; prayer produces peace of heart, mind and soul and harmony among peoples!

6. To Save our Children. Never have we lived in a society with so many dangers, especially with respect to our children and teens. Of great importance is the virtue of purity. The mass media, the modern electronics media, the modern school and teaching agenda, billboards and posters, modern movies and TV programs militate fiercely against the virtue of purity. And to be honest, we live in a pornographic society! Devotion to Our Lady and the family Rosary can serve as a shield against this onslaught and deluge of filth that is descending upon the world, especially our children and young people. In a word, we must shield our children in the most pure and Immaculate Heart of Mary; she is an oasis, a refuge, and ark of safety and protection! If you, like Noah and his family, as well as the animals, sought refuge and protection from the deluge in the Ark, we must find refuge in the ark of Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart—most certainly a safe refuge!

7. To Order our Disorders. As a result of the Original Sin that we all inherit in the moment of our conception, our life is marked with disorder. Our thought process, our will, our emotional state of being, our soul, our intentions, our family and social life—all have a certain disorder. Saint Ignatius of Loyola suggests that we do the spiritual exercises so as to order the disordered in our lives. Sin causes disorder; prayer brings order. Prayer to Our Lady communicates to our soul and lives the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is a God of order. Our Lady of Guadalupe with her own hands ordered the roses in the tilma of Saint Juan Diego. By praying the most holy Rosary, Our Lady can help to order the disordered in our lives.

8. For Interior Peace Of Mind And Soul. Another wonderful effect of praying the most Holy Rosary is peace of mind, heart and soul. We all desire peace, and Our Lady of the Rosary, also known with the title “Queen of Peace” can definitely attain for us this peace that our hearts so ardently yearn. Saint Augustine defines peace as the tranquility of order. As the hymn reminds us: “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”

9. It’s a Biblical Prayer. Pope St. John XXIII stated that the Rosary is a summary of the whole of the Gospel. They are truly based on the Bible, even the prayers of the Our Father and the Hail Mary have their foundation in the Gospels. Therefore, by praying the Rosary fervently, we get to know Jesus and Mary better and better as presented from the Word of God, we fall in love with them and then we become their fiery and ardent Apostles in a world marked with so much coldness and indifference. As Pope Francis reminded us in his Lenten message: There is a widespread globalization of indifference because there is a lack of love of God in the world. This love can be planted and ignited through love of Our Lady and the Holy Rosary—a summary of the Gospels and a true Biblically centered prayer.

10. To Conquer our Adversities. David had to fight against the ferocious and malicious giant Goliath. Strategically, there was no way that the smaller, inexperienced, unprepared shepherd boy could conquer the giant Goliath. It was like an ant against an elephant. However, the Bible teaches us a very certain truth: Nothing is impossible with God. David went with a total trust in His God, the Lord of heaven and earth. We all know the ending! David shot a stone from his slingshot; the stone riveted itself in the brow of Goliath, who cascaded to the ground unconscious. David quickly drew the sword of Goliath and cut off his head! Victory, due to the intervention of God! Today we are surrounded by so many “Goliaths”, almost too many to count! However, our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth. Let us turn to the Queen of Heaven and earth and pull out our spiritual slingshot which is the most Holy Rosary and win the battle. Jesus is the King of Heaven and earth and Our Lady is the Queen. Let us find sure refuge under her heavenly mantle!

Aug. 23rd, 2015 | The 23rd Times

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Divorced & Remarried are Not Excommunicated, Pope Says at Audience

By: Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service

Catholics who have divorced and are civilly remarried “are not, in fact, excommunicated — they are not excommunicated — and they absolutely must not be treated as if they were,” Pope Francis said.

Resuming his Wednesday general audiences Aug. 5 after a month’s break, Pope Francis returned to the series of talks he has been giving on the family. It was the 100th general audience of his papacy.

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At his last audience, June 24, he talked about the damage caused especially to children when couples fight and hurt each other. “Today,” he said, “I want to draw our attention to another reality: how to care for those who, after the irreversible failure of the matrimonial bond, have undertaken a new union.”

Without an annulment of the sacramental marriage, “such a situation contradicts the Christian sacrament,” which is meant to be an indissoluble bond, the pope said.
According to church teaching, in most cases such couples are not permitted to receive Communion. But bishops at the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family last October and preparing for the general synod Oct. 4-25 have been studying and debating possibilities for allowing some couples in some situations to return to the sacraments.

The church, Pope Francis said at the audience, must have “the heart of a mother, a heart that, animated by the Holy Spirit, always seeks the good and the salvation of persons.”

The children of such couples suffer most and deserve particular care, the pope said.

“How can we tell these parents to do everything possible to raise their children in the Christian life, giving them the example of a convinced and lived faith, if we keep them at a distance from the life of the community as if they were excommunicated?” the pope asked.

Particularly over the past few decades, he said, “the church has not been insensitive or lazy” when it comes to providing pastoral care to the divorced and civilly remarried.

In his apostolic exhortation, “Familiaris Consortio,” St. John Paul II saw an “obligation, ‘for love of the truth,’ to exercise a ‘careful discernment of situations,’” noting for example “the difference between one who has endured a separation and one who provoked it,” Pope Francis said.

Retired Pope Benedict XVI also studied the question, he said, “calling for an attentive discernment and wise pastoral accompaniment, knowing that no ‘simple recipes’ exist.”

As the studies and discernment continue, Pope Francis said, it is essential that Catholic pastors “openly and coherently demonstrate the willingness of the community to welcome and encourage” divorced and remarried couples and their families to participate in church life.

Prayer, listening to the word of God, attending Mass, educating their children in the faith, serving the poor and working for justice and peace should be part of their lives, he said.

Quoting his apostolic exhortation, “The Joy of the Gospel,” Pope Francis told those gathered for the audience, “The church is called to be the house of the Father, with doors always wide open … Everyone can share in some way in the life of the church; everyone can be part of the community.”

August 16th, 2015 | The 23rd Times

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2 Trips 1 Mission: The SJXXIII Youth Group Gives Back

By: Meghan McCarthy, Youth Minister

Each summer the youth at St. John XXIII have the opportunity to participate in the St. John XXIII summer mission trips. It’s an opportunity for the teens to see and experience a little more of what is happening in the world around them.

In June, The Middle School Youth Group spent their fifth year in Jacksonville, Florida with the Just 5 Days service program. Just 5 Days, as it sounds, is a five day mission trip designed to introduce the teens to service trips. For most of the attendees, it was the first trip they made away from their families. During the day, the teens worked in the community at worksites. They sorted cans at local food banks, organized items at second hand stores, painted homes, picked up garbage, assisted in low-income community summer school programs and pulled weeds at local farms. All the places the teens worked are non-profits that provide services to those in need. In the evenings, the teens joined with other Middle School Youth Groups from all over the country for learning activities, prayer and liturgy. They also have some social time to get to know new friends, and build closer relationships with those they came with.

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The High School Youth Group visited New Orleans for the third time with our host, Operation Nehemiah. The teens spend nine days experiencing poverty and the destruction that lingered 10 years after Hurricane Katrina. The teens worked with Operation Nehemiah, run by Fred and Dee Franke. The group started 10 years ago, after the hurricane, and is one of the few still running today. Nehemiah has a furniture bank the teens helped stock and moved hundreds of pieces of furniture. The teens have helped rehab several local houses, a church and a couple of schools. During the nine days, the teens also enjoyed some of the attractions of New Orleans. We toured the French Quarter and City Park, visited a sugar cane plantation, listened to local music, Cajun dancing, and enjoyed the local food.

The service weeks connect the teens to God and the world around them in a hands-on way. They get to experience the lives of others and share in both their suffering and joy. Every year, the teens fulfill the call to ‘do good works’ and with the support of our parish, will continue to do so for years to come.

A special thanks to those who have made our trip possible, including: Operation Nehemiah, Just 5 Days, Ro-Lin Van Rentals, donations from the Knights of Columbus and the Lenten collection, and all those who gave to the M&M Mission fundraiser.

Quotes from the youth:

“The most impactful part of the mission trip was hearing Fred’s story and how he has given so much of his time and money to those in need. When I was doing work at his warehouse, I was able to help load a trailer full of furniture for a family. The furniture was in pretty good shape and he was giving it to them for such a low price that he was not making an actual profit from it. He has given so much that it is beginning to hinder him. He is very near to losing his home and I pray that he finds a way to keep it.” – Ryan Vance

“The New Orleans mission trip is a great experience for anyone who is willing to help. This was my first year on this trip, but I’ve always loved Just 5 Days, so I decided to upgrade to the high school mission trip. The New Orleans trip is for high schoolers because of the work we go through, but it’s amazing to do. It’s a great experience- for multiple reasons- it’s helping the ones in need, you get to travel, and it’s a fantastic learning experience. We were there from the 18th to the 26th of July. You are away from home for a bit, but you have plenty of time to contact your parents or loved ones. On the week days we would get up and head to our work site until Aaron and Meghan or Freddy (our host) told us we were done for the day. After, we’d shower and head out to eat and do an evening activity such as desserts, dancing, or a picnic. We toured the city and the French Quarter on both Saturday. All the food is very good and it was a great chance to try some new foods. Everyone on the trip is very friendly, so you won’t have to worry about being left out. Aaron and Meghan are great leaders who you can ask any question you have and you know they genuinely care. The other volunteers you get to know on the long drive there, so by the time we got there everyone was buddies. They’re people that you can laugh with and just have a great time with because they’re nice and inviting. I’d like to thank everyone that made my great experience possible. I’m looking forward to going next year because there is always more people to help.” – Alyssa Peters

“On this year’s mission trip to New Orleans, we had the opportunity to work hand-in-hand with Operation Nehemiah. We helped rearrange their warehouse and painted bed frames so they could provide more furniture to those in the community who are still in need. I’m grateful that we are given the chance to go to New Orleans to help out the community because this enabled us to impact other people’s lives, while making friendships that wouldn’t have been possible without this trip.” – Nicole Kostera

“Going to New Orleans for the first time with my youth group was a great experience for me. The youth group was a great way to experience and learn more about my faith and through this trip, I was certainly able to do that. Volunteering in the area made me feel a lot more confident and that I could make a difference in an area that needed our help. We were also able to experience amazing sights and sounds that we normally couldn’t experience in Florida. This trip made my summer and relationship with my church stronger and happier.” -Amanda Collins

“My trip to New Orleans was really quite nice. We helped out in a warehouse, where we organized furniture and also loaded some, too. Along with that, we helped around someone’s house. Although it wasn’t all work, each day after we worked we would head out into the town for some sort of activity. Five of the seven days we were there we worked. The first and last full day there was just us exploring the town. Even though we were working most of the time it was loads of fun doing everything. We did many great things and it was absolutely an amazing trip and will definitely go again next year.” – Josh Peters

August 9th, 2015 | The 23rd Times

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Papal Parenting Guide: Francis Delivers His Own How-To for Families

By: Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service

Pope Francis knows the family is made up of real people living in the real world, which is why he often gives down-to-earth advice.

The Catholic Church has long taught that the family is a school of humanity — the first and best place to learn about love and respect. In fact, a healthy society relies on citizens who learn love, responsibility, loyalty, acceptance of others and solidarity from their family relationships, Pope Francis has said.

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The pope, a former teacher, has, in a way, been handing today’s families detailed lesson plans, offering guidance in what actually needs to be done. The world Synod of Bishops on the family, which the pope has convoked for October, also is expected to deliver concrete guidelines for the pastoral care of the family and its members.

By devoting his general audience talks to the family since last December, as well as making the family a key topic of other speeches and homilies, Pope Francis has been offering concrete and, at times, colorful advice, which will give people gathering for the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia in September plenty of material to parse through.

The pope’s approach starts from the bottom up.

He doesn’t begin with a textbook concept or picture-perfect ideal everyone needs to magically become an exact replica of. The family is a real institution made up of very human, and therefore, limited members who need real help.

With examples from his own life and the real lives of others, he points to what is happening “on the ground” and then builds a pastoral plan — what would God’s response be to this reality.
For example, the Christian response to the all too typical problem of anger or misunderstanding is to choose the path of dialogue, which requires eating lots of tart “humble pie,” he said in a homily in January 2014.

“Sometimes the plates will fly,” the pope said. But “after the storm has passed,” things have to be worked out as soon as possible, “with a word, a gesture,” so no one ends up “isolated in this bitter broth of our resentment.”

Other similarly practical advice he has given couples: play with your kids more, stop the swearing, be more affectionate and always say, “Please,” “May I” and “Thank you.” Moms and dads must lead the way, he says;they are the most influential role models for their kids.

Kissing in front of the children is a “beautiful witness,” he told parents in June 2015. Children watch their parents carefully and “when they see that dad and mom love each other, the children grow in that climate of love, happiness and security.”

He has told youngsters to go out, discover the world and “build everything together, do everything with love, everything is possible and faith is an event always to be proclaimed.”
Talk to your best friend, Jesus, every day, he told children in December 2014, and be “apostles of peace and serenity” at home and at school.
“Remind your parents, brothers and sisters and peers that it is beautiful to love one another and that misunderstandings can be overcome, because when we are united with Jesus everything is possible,” he said.

Giving advice to grandparents, the pope has said that families and kids need their prayers, wisdom and gifts to give them the encouragement, hope and faith they often lack in today’s frenetic world.

“We older people can remind ambitious young people that a life without love is barren. We can tell fearful young people that worrying about the future can be overcome. We can teach young people who are in love with themselves too much that there is more joy in giving than receiving,” he told his fellow seniors in March 2015. The pope’s dream is that families challenge today’s throwaway culture with “the overflowing joy of a new embrace between young and old people.”

Key to drawing the needed strength and inspiration is reading the Gospel, prayer, confession, Communion and fellowship with the poor, he said in May 2015.

“Imagine how much our world would change if each one of us began right here and now and seriously took care of ourselves and generously took care of our relationship with God and our neighbor,” he told Vatican employees and their families before Christmas last year.

The Holy Family is still the perennial role model for families, the pope has said. Mothers can mirror the same love and attention Mary had for her son, and fathers can exemplify the patience and understanding of Joseph who did everything to support and protect his family.

The real secret, he said, is just to “welcome Jesus, listen to him, speak to him, take care of him, protect him and grow with him” like Mary and Joseph did, and “that is how the world will become better.”

Pope Francis knows families cannot do it on their own. He also insists policymakers and leaders devise and support policies that build up families and neutralize their biggest threats: war, poverty, consumerism and economic policies that promote the worship of money and power.

Justice for women must be promoted since, in the West, they face discrimination in the workplace and often are forced to choose between family and job obligations, the pope has said. Also, women too often face violence in “their lives as fiancees, wives, mothers, sisters and grandmothers” and, in developing countries, “women bear the heaviest burden” by having to walk miles to collect water, often risk dying in childbirth, and face kidnapping, rape and forced marriages, he said in May 2015.

Culture needs a humanizing re-haul, too, he said, to ease the pressure on couples to not be afraid of the lifelong commitment of marriage and to see children as a blessing, not a burden.

Pope Francis has been especially vocal about resisting current trends that seek to legitimize same-sex unions, contraception and fluid notions of gender. He warned families in the Philippines against this “ideological colonization that tries to destroy the family” and takes away human identity and dignity, and he repeatedly has reaffirmed church teaching that marriage is a lifelong bond between a man and a woman.

Given the many challenges — both within society and within the walls of the family home — Pope Francis regularly praises the many men and women who are fighting the good fight every day.
Leaders and communities “should kneel before these families, who are a true school of humanity, who are saving society from barbarity” by staying together and safeguarding their bonds amidst difficult conditions, even in poverty and crisis, he has said.

Regular men and women who care for their infirm loved ones, miss a night of sleep and still roll into work the next day are the “hidden heroes” and the “hidden saints” of today, he said.

The pope has urged the men and women who are on the right path to lend a hand to help evangelize and to help other families heal so that the teachings of the faith will touch more people’s hearts and give them the strength to follow God’s will.

August 2nd, 2015 | The 23rd Times

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Finding Community In Our Parish

Retrieved from Catholic Stewardship Bulletin of International Catholic Stewardship Council
Revised by Danielle Koleniak

It’s hard to think about it as we try to keep cool during the hottest time of the year, but we’ll be heading back to our routines before August is over. Most schools and colleges begin in August, and the back-to-school ads are starting to appear. Summer vacations will be winding down as the tomatoes and corn ripen. What does “routine” mean in terms of our faith and our parishes? During the lull of early August, while the kids are getting in their last laps at the pool, it’s a good time to reflect on what we hope to give to our parish this year, and what we hope to get from our parish.

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In society today, people yearn for community. But often, our extended families live far away, our lives are busy and often divided between demanding jobs and children with demanding schedules. We barely keep up with social media and don’t find real community there. We neglect community and suffer from its absence. As Christian stewards, we try to keep our lives Christ-centered. We can’t do that without community. Our commitment to Sunday Mass isn’t enough to foster deep community there. We need more – and our parish needs more from us.

In the spirit of Pope Francis, find out about St. John XXIII’s Social Justice committee. Find out about the social outreach the parish does on behalf of the poor. Select a ministry that speaks to you, something that you feel passionate about and that could use your skills and commitment.

Perhaps there is a Bible Study Group that interests you or a prayer group that would foster growth in your spiritual life. What you will find is not just a chance to serve or grow, but a deepening friendship with people who share your faith and walk on a spiritual journey which demands companionship. What you find in parish involvement is community.

A faith community is deeper than just the folks around the water cooler or the friends that meet for happy hour. A faith community asks more of us and gives us much more. The perfect place to find this community is in your parish. Finding a small faith community within the parish strengthens you, it strengthens the parish, and it strengthens the Body of Christ. Take a fresh look at what St. John XXIII Catholic Church offers this fall, and a fresh look at what you have to offer your parish.

A Stewardship Prayer for August For Our Families

Heavenly Father,
you have given us the model of life in the Holy Family of Nazareth.
Help us, O Loving Father, to make our family another Nazareth where love, peace and joy reign. May it be deeply contemplative, intensely Eucharistic, revived with joy.
Help us to stay together in joy and sorrow in family prayer. Teach us to see Jesus in the members of our families, especially in their distressing disguise. May the Eucharistic heart of Jesus make our hearts humble like his and help us to carry out our family duties in a holy way.
May we love one another as God loves each one of us, more and more each day, and forgive each other’s faults as you forgive our sins.
Help us, O Loving Father, to take whatever you give and give whatever you take with a big smile.
In Jesus’ name we pray.
Amen

~Blessed Teresa of Calcutta