The Blessed Blog

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

May 29th, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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Our Living Faith: Corpus Christi & The Streets

By: Glenna Walsh of Catholic Exchange

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 22nd, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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Sharing the Trinity

By: Kevin Tierney of Catholic Exchange

When the Gospel was proclaimed at Pentecost, the Church entered a new phase in history. Likewise, with our celebration of Pentecost, while a new liturgical year is not restarted, we do enter a new liturgical season. As with all new things, the first thing we should do is acknowledge God, and this Sunday’s liturgy is no different. Throughout the week (Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday) traditionally Latin Catholics entered this new season with what were known as Ember Days, days set aside specifically for prayer and fasting. Once those days ended, the Church celebrated Trinity Sunday.

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What does it mean to acknowledge the Trinity? To say we are just acknowledging God is true, but what does that mean? The Collect states that we are able to acknowledge the Trinity “in confessing the true faith”, and that is the first lesson we should learn here. To know the fullness of God is a gift, something we are incapable on our own merits. We can understand God exists from our reason alone. Yet knowing he exists is different from knowing the extent of who he is.

Why does God wish to reveal this to us? The Gospel gives us a hint, where Christ commands us to baptize all in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Christ is engaging in a play on words here. He isn’t giving the Apostles three names, rather, he is giving them one name. The name of God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. All three are together, and you cannot mention one without the other two. That is why in our liturgies, prayers are never addressed solely to the Father, but to all three persons of the Trinity. All three play a role. In the Extraordinary Form, prayers ar concluded with (or with something similar to) “through Our Lord Jesus Christ your son, who lives and reigns with You (The Father), in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.

In the Hebrew culture of Christ’s time, sharing one’s name implies an intimate friendship. So when Jesus is revealing the name of God, He is revealing the desire of God to be close to His Church. That closeness is demonstrated in the way we address God. He is not simply “God”, but rather Abba, father. (Romans 8:15) God wishes himself to be understood in familial terms with us.

In addition to knowing God, Christ commands that we share Him. The first impulse of the Father is to share love with the Son, and that sharing is the Holy Spirit. Likewise, we who have had God made known to us likewise have an impulse to share our faith, our love with others, to make God known. This is the basic impulse of Christianity, to share it with others, both inside and outside the Church. One can even measure the Church by that impulse to share. While we should always be leery of measuring Christianity by the amount of converts we have, we should be measuring Christianity by our willingness to share that faith.

If we are looking for something to say “this is the cause of the Crisis”, I would argue it is that reluctance to share our faith. Due to our divided and factional nature, we do not share our faith with each other. Almost a decade after Summorum Pontificum, traditionalists in prominent dioceses are forbidden from advertising their Latin Masses, from sharing the faith as they understand it with their fellow Catholics. In a desire to go along to get along, how often do we avoid sharing our faith with others? As the Gospel reminds us, we aren’t just failing to share with them an abstraction known as “God”, but we are failing to bring them their family. Is withholding the identity of one’s father a kindness? Is it not cruel? Yet when we scare away from evangelizing, that is what we are doing.

If we aren’t sharing the faith, what’s the point? I want you to reflect on that a bit before answering. What’s the point of having a relationship with God, a relationship that can transform the entire world, just to sit on it and not let anyone know? When you do that, the Gospel loses its power to transform lives, at which point it becomes just another pointless self-help manual, and not a very good one at that. I don’t think any author would say the key to fulfillment is to annoy the world, invite its persecution, and then get killed in the Colliseum or at the hands of fanatics. Yet if we are sharing the message that can transform humanity and all the cosmos, such things are minor in comparison.

Another thing worth remembering in sharing the Trinity with others is that you are sharing something that is not of your own creation. This is the great temptation today. God wishes to reveal himself to humanity, and to be revealed in a certain way. When we change or water down his doctrine and truth, we are trying to show the world something that is not the Trinity. This is why all these debates about tradition and doctrine, frustrating as they can be, matter. We aren’t bitter Pharisees because of it; at least I hope we aren’t! We’ve been given a great gift, and we want everyone else to have it to, but when we change it, it is no longer God’s gift, but rather ours. Our gift can be nice. Our gift can even make people feel better. What it cannot do is change people’s lives. What it cannot do is offer them salvation. Only God can give that to someone, and all we can do is give that message to others in love, and try to create an environment where God’s grace can flourish.

That last sentence gives us our third and final truth about sharing the Trinity. In Catholicism today a large emphasis is placed on conversions. Conversions are great. They are wonderful. Many of us are either converts, or those who rediscovered the faith. Yet beautiful as they are, we cannot base our “success” on the amount of people we convert. We cannot do this because it is not us who converts. St. Paul made this point clear in his epistle to the Corinthians. He planted seeds, others watered, and God made it grow. If we limit our evangelization to simply announcing the word of God, what good is it? The most fertile plant in the world still doesn’t grow without some sort of nutrients. The best way to reveal God’s love is to love. What better way to show a life transformed by love than to show that great love unconditionally? How are we building up a culture of the Gospel so the grace of the Spirit can be fruitful? When we share the faith with others, are we still there the next day helping them out? Or did we do our good deed and go home? Are we sharing the faith in our actions as well as our words? While St. Francis of Assisi almost certainly never said “preach the Gospel, and when necessary, use words”, it must be remember we are revealing to others a new way of living, not just a new way of thinking. The Gospel is meant to transform every aspect of our lives. Unless we live out that transformation, why should anyone believe what we say?

I think all of these reasons are why Trinity Sunday is the first Sunday after Pentecost. We are called to take up the mission of spreading the Gospel just as the Apostles were. Their first task was to receive the truth about God, and then share it with others. When we go to Mass this Sunday, we are given the truth about the Trinity, and immediately expected to share it with others, in both our words, and our deeds.

May 15th, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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Introducing Our New Parish Nurses

By: Danielle O’Brien

One of many things St. John XXIII Catholic Church is blessed with are parishioners with great talent and want to use that talent to serve the Body of Christ. Parishioners, Helen Tuffy (pictured left) and Judy Balyeat (pictured right) are a true example of that. Both registered nurses with active licenses, Helen and Judy are taking their passion of nursing and combining it with their faith as they have just been commissioned as the Parish Nurses at St. John XXIII. The program, headed by Lee Memorial Health Systems, aims to bring a spiritual component to the encouragement of health and wellness making for a successful plan to focus on whole person health.

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Judy and Helen will be the first ones to say that they won’t be able to make your health problems go away, but they will do their best to understand what is happening and explain it to you in a way that you can understand.

Danielle O’Brien: Tell us a little bit about your nursing experience.

Judy Balyeat: I worked for forty years as a nurse. Since my husband and I were raising a family many of those years, I was part-time. I retired from Ohio State University after 27 years. I worked in individual departments such as critical care, peripheral vascular disease, trauma and same-day surgery. I also worked for five years in home health, three years for an allergist and three years volunteering for a pro-life clinic.

Helen Tuffy: I have been a nurse as long as I can remember! Since before we couldn’t tell our patients what their blood pressure was! I worked mostly in the Emergency Room and Intensive Care Units. My transfer to Home Health opened up a new world where I had one-on-one with my patients. I love it.

DOB: How did you first hear about the Parish Nurse Program?

JB: I was intrigued by the parish nurse program when I first came to St. John XXIII 10 years ago. I didn’t know anyone in the program at the time, so I got involved in home health ministries. Then about six weeks ago, Helen approached me about the parish nurse program. I was so honored and blessed to be asked. I can now combine the faith and profession that I love and cherish.

HT: Parish Nursing has become increasing in popularity over the past 20 years. Presently, there are only two Catholic Churches in Lee and Collier County that have the same program that we are involved in. Nancy Roberts of Lee Memorial Health Systems met with Holly and me to explain its advantages. After some discernment, we thought it might be a good ministry for St. John XXIII.

DOB: What are you most passionate about in nursing?

JB: All my life I wanted to be a nurse! I love helping people in all aspects of need and care.

DOB: What exactly does a “Parish Nurse” do?

Here’s an idea of what we do:

A.We’ll speak at the Parish Advisory Council (PAC) meetings and offer services, collaboration and resources to all parish groups and ministries.
B. We assist parishioners who are being discharged from the hospital and rehab facilities. We’ll make sure they have food, care and an understanding of the discharge instructions.
C. We assist with community resource referrals.

DOB: Why is the Parish Nurse program an answered prayer for many parishioners at St. John XXIII?

So many of our parishioners are very sick and need education and care in physical, emotional and spiritual areas. We are now beginning to offer assistance and hope to be fully operational in the Fall of 2016.

We hope to prevent problems for our parishioners before they rise to a crisis level, and lessen hospital re-admissions when we can, through the use of resources and education, as we share God’s love and mercy.

DOB: Talk about the process you had to go through in order to be commissioned as a Parish Nurse?

JB: Lee Memorial System has an awesome community program available to all parish nurses. Nancy Roberts will serve as our mentor and is guiding us through the learning and set-up process. We’ve had to get training through Lee Memorial Health System, CPR certified, Florida Nursing licenses and take a minimum 35 hour Parish nurse education program.

DOB: Can the parish nurses assist in helping non-members of St. John XXIII?

JB: Sure. While our parishioners come first, we can try to help any referrals given to us by the priests or parish office.

If someone would like to speak with you about one of your services, what should they do or how do they go about getting in contact with you?

Right now folks can contact the parish office, (239)561-2245. The office will pass the information on to us. Once we have visited a patient/parishioner, they will contact us directly for their future needs.

May 8th, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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Happy Mother’s Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By: Komfie Manalo

Prayer for Mothers

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

 

May 1st, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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A May For Mary

I always look forward to the month of May. For one, as a Wisconsinite, it finally means the snow might be gone for good! But most of all, because it is the month, that we as a Church, honor the Mother of God. To a certain degree, I treat the month of May as I do Lent. In particular, I try to add one Marian devotion to my daily repertoire or do something concretely Marian that month. As May 1st, quickly approaches, it is time for me to decide what I’ll do. Have you ever done something extra special for Mary during the month of May?

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If not, here are a couple of suggestions for living May for Mary this year!

Read a Book

There is no shortage of Marian books! After Jesus, the Mother of God is one of the people subjected the most to writings and artistic depictions. There are several different genres of Marian books though.

There are devotional books, meant to prompt further reflection on the life of Mary. I recently had the opportunity to review one for a journal called Mother of Mercy by Sr. Marie Paul Farran. She provides 31 reflections based on titles of Mary derived from the scriptures. Accompanied with an icon related to the title, along with a source text and a prayer from the tradition, makes the book a wonderful asset. There is also a marvelous work by Bishop Bousset, titled Meditations on Mary which will satiate anyone’s Marian hunger.

Then there are greater works on Mary by popular authors. One that immediately comes to mind is Fulton Sheen’s work The World’s Greatest Love. The classics from St. Louis de Montfort, True Devotion to Mary or The Secret of the Rosary are timeless treasures. For a more contemporary look at Mary, I recommend either Dr. Scott Hahn’s text or the work of Dr. Edward Sri.

And, little did you expect, there are even fictitious novels on Mary. One interesting one is Our Lady of the Lost and Found by Diane Schoemperlen. The novel recounts how Mary unexpectedly shows up at someone’s house one day. It’s an interesting story which interweaves history and teaching.

Plant a Mary Garden

Vincenzina Krymow wrote a magnificent book, Mary’s Flowers: Gardens, Legends, Meditations, in which she details flowers representative of Mary. At St. Francis Xavier Cathedral in Green Bay, for example, they plant a Mary garden, using those symbolic Marian flowers. Many families might have a Mary statue in their front yard, so why not spruce it up with some flowers this year? And when you plant the garden, be sure to bring flowers of the rarest and fairest to the Queen of the May.

Go on Pilgrimage

There are many Marian Shrines in the United States, Canada, and across the world. If you are able, go to one of those shrines. Many of them have Holy Doors commemorating the Year of Mercy. Walking through the Holy Doors affords you an opportunity to gain an indulgence. Marian Shrines are oases of God’s mercy since the sacrament of Penance is regularly offered. On pilgrimage, make time for Mass, and pray before the devotional image of Mary honored at that particular shrine.

Pray the Rosary

The rosary by and large is the Marian devotion par excellence. When people think Marian devotion, they usually think the rosary. If you are an irregular rosary pray-er, make May a month when you commit to praying it every day.

One of my favorite ways of praying the rosary is by walking. It’s a nice way for me to end the day, and since I’ve committed some of the phrases of A Rosary Litany to memory, I can even pray the rosary in that fashion while I walk. Last year, I wrote an article for Catholic Exchange titled, “Walking with Mary” which explained why praying the rosary while walking is legit.

Mary asked us to pray it every day when she appeared in Fatima, so May is an opportune time to start, since those apparitions began on May 13th!

Pray the Regina Caeli or the Angelus

You might hear Church bells ring daily at 6, 12, and 6. Those bells indicate the traditional time of praying the Angelus, a prayer which focuses on the incarnation. From Easter Sunday through Pentecost, the Regina Caeli replaces the Angelus prayer. The Regina Caeli focuses on Easter joy, and the resurrection of Jesus. During the month of May, both the Regina Caeli and Angelus will be prayed, so why not pray them at least once each day, if not all three times. If you cannot observe 6, 12, and 6, then pray before breakfast, lunch, and supper.

Celebrate the Feast of the Visitation

On May 31st, the Church celebrates the feast of the Visitation. I love the feast of the Visitation, partly because I was ordained a transitional deacon on that day, but secondly because there is a beauty in Mary’s generous response to become the mother of the Lord and the extension of generosity in her service to Elizabeth. If you have never done a Marian consecration, consider Fr. Michael Gaitley’s 33 Days to Morning Glory. Another way to honor the feast of the Visitation would be to pray a novena in honor of the feast.

Learn a New Marian Prayer or the Hail Mary in a New Language

There are lots of Marian prayers. So many, that they fill prayer books. How many do you know? Try a new Marian prayer like the Memorare or Sub Tuum Praesidium. Memorize the Magnificat (Mary’s Song of Praise from Luke 1: 46-55. Or learn the Hail Mary in another language: Latin, Spanish, Italian, or French.

Pray the Litany of Loreto

There are many titles for Mary, and the Litany of Loreto contains a lot of them. During the month of May, discover a fondness for a new title of Mary you are unfamiliar with. Maybe it’ll be Queen of Peace, because you realize the great need for peace in your heart, family, or our world. Maybe it’ll be Queen of Families, asking Mary to be a special patron of your family during the month of May. Or maybe you will be drawn to Health of the Sick, because you or someone you are close to is sick. Seek Mary’s intercession daily with the Litany of Loreto, and along the way, you might find a new devotional title for Mary to invoke.

Learn How to Make Corded Rosaries

During the Marian month of May, not only could you foster a greater devotion to Mary, but you could also help someone else. Many people have learned how to make corded knot rosaries. Learn how to make these rosaries and then give them away! Give them away to your friends, parishioners, or donate them to the missions.

Conclusion

May is Mary’s month. There are many ways for us to get to know our Mother. The above ways are mere suggestions and I know there are plenty I have left out.
Mary instructed us to “do whatever He tells you” and one of the last words of Jesus was to “behold your mother.” This month of May, behold Mary as your mother, and honor her in a special way. When you do, she will keep true to her promise of praying for you both now and at the hour of your death.
The complete article is available online at catholicexchange.com/a-may-for-mary