Pastor’s Weekly Message

Msgr. Michael D. McGraw
St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church
Pastor

St. Kateri Tekakwitha — A Model of Faith for our Summer Spiritual Growth

During the summer is probably not the best time to write about making progress toward sainthood. It is, however, a good time to call attention to a recently canonized saint who was very important in my own growth in faith and in the lives of many Catholics raised in the Northeast of our country. I call attention to Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, the “Lily of the Mohawks,” because in grade school every day we prayed for her canonization. She represents for the striving Christian a model of how to deal with persecution, misunderstanding, being ostracized from family and friends because of faith and devotion to God. She is also a great inspiration during these times that we suffer from illness or life-threatening diseases. Holiness, as Kateri teaches us, is a heroism of faithful practice of the basics of our faith and with a special concern for the sick, aged and vulnerable. These virtues are ones that we can surely practice this summer.

Kateri was born near the town of Auriesville, New York, in the year 1656, the daughter of a Mohawk warrior. She was four years old when her mother died of smallpox. The disease also attacked Kateri and damaged her face. She was adopted by her two aunts and an uncle. Kateri became converted as a teenager. She was baptized at the age of twenty and incurred the great hostility of her tribe. Although she had to suffer greatly for her Faith, she remained firm in it. Kateri went to a new Christian colony of Indians in Canada. Here she lived a life dedicated to prayer, penitential practices, and care for the sick and aged. Every morning, even in bitterest winter, she stood before the chapel door until it opened at four and remained there until after the last Mass. She was devoted to the Eucharist and to Jesus Crucified.

She died on April 17, 1680 at the age of twenty-four. She is known as the “Lily of the Mohawks.” Devotion to Kateri is responsible for establishing Native American ministries in Catholic Churches all over the United States and Canada. Kateri was declared venerable by the Catholic Church in 1943 and she was Beatified in 1980. Since she was officially canonized by the Church, hundreds of thousands have visited shrines to Kateri erected at both St. Francis Xavier and Caughnawaga and at her birth place at Auriesville, New York. Due to proximity of Auriesville, to my diocese, I often made my retreats there and grew in my devotion to Saint Kateri. It is a prayerful and spiritually powerful site to visit since it also is a Shrine to all of the North American Martyrs.

St. Kateri Teckakwitha is the first Native American to be declared a Saint. Her feast day is July 14. She is the patroness of the environment and ecology as is St. Francis of Assisi.

Msgr. Michael D. McGraw

The Declaration of Independence and Our Constitution:
Freedom From & Freedom For!

This weekend on July 4, we celebrate our Independence Day.This year, in addition to family gatherings and social-distancing, it is a day during which we reflect on freedom and its responsibilities. We remember the cost of the Revolutionary War and the courage of the Patriots that risked so much for an ideal and a dream.The victory of the Revolutionary War and the break from England were only first steps in a “serious enterprise” that ended with a Union, Constitution, Branches of Government and division of powers. We borrowed much from our “Mother Country” but also differentiated ourselves in very important ways.Without Monarchy or Parliament, the architects of our “Holy Experiment” placed much hope and responsibility upon the “common man” and upon a vision of a true democracy. Representative democracy has an inner optimism and commitment that human beings are free, responsible and capable of self-governance. The “freedom from” England was understood as a “freedom for” the creation of an entirely new way of governance and use of power and authority for the common good.

Today it is still very important that we remain committed to our Nation’s foundational goals and purposes. We have a “freedom from” many types of tyrants and abuses but we have not freed ourselves from racism, poverty, and abuses against life such as war, abortion, and capital punishment. Nor have we found our place as a leader of the free world without a dependence, however reluctantly, upon war and violence. We still have much work to do in order to use our “Freedom for” in the best way. As we continue to struggle with a devastating pandemic, economic fears and uncertainty, we are reminded that even as powerful of a country as the United States cannot unilaterally control the fate of an enmeshed and interdependent world.

So as People of Faith and of the Covenant, we pray that God will bless us with wisdom and grace, courage and perseverance.We pray for a Nation and a government that will respect our inalienable rights especially our right to religious freedom. We strive to create a common good and a set of societal arrangements that are not hostile toward religious faith and its place in national life.Our long standing Tradition of respect and religious toleration must continue to be operative and lived out.Our country’s “freedom from” should always be “freedom for” justice, equality under the law and the furtherance of the common good.As Catholic Christians, as “Faithful Citizens” this Fourth of July requires that we exercise our patriotism in an assertive and effective way so as to protect that which is most dear to us: our values, our ministries, our consciences, the very heart and soul of our faith. In order to be responsible citizens, we need to educate ourselves about the realities that we face as a Nation, the positions of political candidates, the key issues and national priorities.We need to practice the “art of discernment” as we connect in prayer our beliefs and values, our Tradition and Scripture, our moral and ethical positions. Most importantly, we must exercise our right to vote and to make our voices heard.

“Render onto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what belongs to God”.

Msgr. Michael D. McGraw

How do we handle the death of a loved one?

Unexpected serious illnesses and death are of critical concern today because of the coronavirus. It seems a good time to raise the issue of pastoral care of the sick and dying.

Today, clergy presence is carefully controlled by hospitals and hospices. This is for good reason and as the pastoral team here we respect that. It appears that the best way for a parishioner to receive pastoral care in time of sickness and death, is to call the Parish Office and request a priest to come to your home.

Traditionally, Catholics have waited to the very last minute to request “The Last Rites”. This changed after the Second Vatican Council and evolved into The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick of today. This sacrament is ideally received when the individual is conscious, alert, and capable of participation. The sacrament is meant to be uplifting, spiritually strengthening, and a sign of hope for the seriously ill. Prayer, scripture readings, and the anointing of the forehead and hands, all symbolize the love and concern that God has for the sick and dying. They convey the saving grace of the sacrament to the recipient.

Your pastoral team is prepared and solicitous for all of our parishioners who are seriously ill or dying. Please never hesitate to call upon us.

May God’s blessings be with us during these difficult times.

Msgr. Michael D. McGraw

How to Honor Father’s Day?

It seems that everyone has an ideaor wants to tell us how to celebrateFather’s Day.We are enticed to buy “men’s gifts” in the stores, special meals in the restaurants, even new car special offers. You can save thousands on every car in the lot.For my part,I would like to suggest that we honor the fathers among us in some additional ways:

• Sincere thank yous for all they have given to us especially the gift of their love and presence.. Communicated through hugs

• Generosity on our part to spend time with and celebrate the lives of our Dads (even listening to the same old stories)

• Children showing acts of love and respect especially in ways that surprise

• Acts of gratefulness to Grandfathers for their irreplaceable gifts of their time and care.Try more than slippers and pipe.

• Saying some extra special prayers for the health and well-being of our Dads

• Children and teens sharing about their lives and concerns with Dads so that the Dads are not the last to know about
what is important

• Telling each of our Dads what we have learned from them and how much we appreciate their wisdom. Make a list and share
it with him

• Having ice cream and a cake that is Dad’s favorite or as it was with my Father a big cherry pie

• Lobbying for the attendance at Mass as a family on Father’s Day.A great reason to give thanks to God as a family of faith

Saint Joan of Arc as one big Family of families gives special thanks to all of our Dads and Grandfathers.We love you.We respect you. We want to express our gratitude for all that you contribute by word and example.You are especially in our prayers on this Father’s Day.

Msgr. Michael D. McGraw

New Vision and New Collaborations

During these days when we are struggling with strong differing opinions about what is best for our Nation, it is important for us as Catholics to hold on to Christ as our peaceful center. It seems to me that nothing is accomplished by ad hominem attacks or absence of courtesy and respect.

In the mist of the pandemic, there is not a lot of security or clear picture of the future. The future that we want we must create now, especially through collaboration and cooperation among the interest groups. Our only critical concern must be the furtherance of the common good and protection of civil rights, and true justice for all.

For me Martin Luther King Jr. is a great hero because he saw the only way to create real change of heart was to commit to a way of non-violence. I believe his message is critical for us today, prayer, scripture, Christian community are the elements we need more than anything else in our troubled times.

God bless our beloved country with peace and virtuous living.

We must pray for peace and we must act for peace.

Msgr. Michael D. McGraw

Our Catholic Duty Today

Catholicism has always had a strong belief in duty. Cradle Catholics will remember the Easter Duty (to go to confession and receive Holy Communion at least once a year). We always understood the fulfillment of that duty, as a sort of minimum requirement for considering yourself a Catholic. But the concept of duty was always more complicated than just a liturgical requirement.

Especially today, we recognize that we have many Christian duties:

•To be concerned for the rights and dignity of others

•To be concerned about justice

•To be concerned about quality inter-personal relationships and kindness in action

•To develop a social conscience that is sensitive and true

•To act with fairness in the realm of public order and public safety

• To struggle as Catholic-Christians with the continued existence in our culture of institutionalized racism and inequality

•To connect our faith-life with the actions that we choose, and the decisions that we make, so that there is a congruency

•To ask the question in every situation “What would our Lord do?”

As Pope Francis recently stated during his weekly Angelus prayer at the Vatican on Wednesday: “Dear brothers and sisters in the United States, I have witnessed with great concern the disturbing social unrest in your nation in these past days, following the tragic death of Mr. George Floyd,” Francis said.“My friends, we cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life. “At the same time, we have to recognize that the violence of recent nights is self-destructive and self-defeating. Nothing is gained by violence and so much is lost,” Pope Francis urged.

So, our “Catholic duty” today is to put into practice in our daily lives, the love and concern for neighbor, that is at the heart of
Jesus’ teachings.

Let us continue together to create a better world for ourselves and for our children.

May the “Peaceable Kingdom” of our Pilgrim earliest American ancestors be our vision and hope for the future.

Msgr. Michael D. McGraw

Our Gratitude for Father Dominic Toan Tran

It is a bittersweet event here at St. Joan of Arc with the appointment of Fr. Dominic Toan Tran, as the new pastor for St. John the Evangelist Parish. We are happy that he will have new leadership opportunities but we will miss him dearly. His quiet, friendly, and responsible presence here has enriched our lives for the past four years. During his time here, Fr. Dominic was active in many parish ministries, among them: Sacramental Ministry, the Right of Christian Initiation, Eucharistic Ministers, Religious Education, Visitation of the Sick and he also was the Director of Liturgy.

We will all remember his thoughtful, inspirational and interactive homilies (remember the singing) that were delivered so conscientiously. During his past nine years in the ministry, five at St. Juliana and four here, he gained the necessary experience to now become a Pastor in his own right. The people of St. John the Evangelist are so privileged to have in their new pastor a holy and deeply spiritual leader.

On a most personal note, I would like to thank Fr. Dominic for the gift of his friendship, interesting table conversations, his unique perspective on life, his dedication to the priesthood, and his wise counsel.

Please join us at the 10:45am Mass on Sunday, June 21st as we say good bye to our dear Fr. Dominic.

The whole St. Joan of Arc Parish family wishes Fr. Dominic all spiritual success and many blessings as he moves west, to his new vineyard. We are sure that his ministry will continue to bear much fruit, for his new flock.

Sincerely,

Msgr. Michael D. McGraw

Pentecost Wisdom and Courage

The color of Pentecost is fiery red. This is in remembrance of the tongues of fire that hovered over the apostles in the locked room and of the powerful wind that also signaled the Holy Spirit’s presence. That this was a trans-formative event for the apostles is clear. They were a band of close collaborators and friends who were praying and seeking a new purpose and direction. They were not yet convinced of their new role as witnesses to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, their Rabbi and Master. They were unclear as to how they were to witness, where and in what capacity. Tradition suggests that they were also anxious, fearful of persecution and death.

Into this world of fear and uncertainty, the Holy Spirit descended and changed everything. The Gift of Tongues was characterized by many differentlanguages spoken in praise of God but miraculously understood by all present as their own language.The confusion of languages that had occurred in the Tower of Babel story is now overturned by a different experience of languages that does not result in confusion but exultant praise in a miraculous harmony.This event is also a foreshadowing of the responsibility of preaching the “Good News” to peoples of every race and language that the Apostles would gradually assume.

Pentecost reminds us that the Church is ever being energized and given new direction by the presence of the Holy Spirit.Each generation of Christians has its own set of challenges to deal with but we know that we are never alone. The Paraclete and Advocate that Jesus left us as a gift is constantly present with us. The Holy Spirit’s influence is one of courage, wisdom and imagination. The impetus to think outside of the box and to take necessary risks for the Gospel and its proclamation comes from the Holy Spirit. It is a prolongation of Pentecost to every age and generation.In our Church’s life and in our personal lives we need to discern, listen and follow wherever the Holy Spirit guides us. Prayer with true humility and docility opens the door for the Holy Spirit and brings us guidance and courage.

Come Holy Spirit, Come!

Msgr. Michael D. McGraw

A Blessing and Word of Encouragement.

To all parishioners, as we journey together in faith during these difficult days.It appears that we are exiting some of the extra rules and restrictions we have lived with recently.Certainly these recent openings have made our lives a bit more normal, but not yet back to “the normal” of past days . So we must journey on in faith and trust in God, as our ancestors in faith did.Practically, our church will soon open for Masses and we will be able to worship and be nourished by Word and Sacrament.We will have to take some special precautions related to distancing but still we will be together. In our families it will be more important than ever to pray, read the Bible and create a family life that is nurturing and loving. We are one big family of families and we know that our loving God looks over us all. Let us all be mindful of each other in prayer and never forget how much our God loves us.

Be well, joyful in the Lord Jesus and filled with hope until our church is packed again and our hymns reach to heaven!

Graduation This Year, A Celebration of Faith and Perseverance.

This week, we celebrated our eighth graders on the occasion of their graduation from Saint Joan of Arc School. This year’s festivities were conducted keeping our social-distancing in mind, nevertheless it was a great celebration of faith and perseverance. Our eighth graders, some of whom have been at our school from their kindergarten years, have spent a significant part of their young lives within the sheltering and nurturing environment of a Catholic school. They have learned through the study of their faith how much they are beloved by God and of their inestimable worth and dignity.

They have, furthermore, been challenged to be generous and compassionate to others especially those most in need. During this year, they have had many opportunities to express mercy, forgiveness, and friendship in ways that make a difference for the good in families and school. I am amazed at the degree to which they have made these virtues a part of their approach to others and to life.

In addition to moral growth, they have learned over the years to use their God-given gifts of reason and thought. Their study of math, science, English, technology, arts and music, sports and all of the other subjects has helped them to be prepared for secondary school. Catholic education is all about the education and formation of the whole person: body, mind and spirit. Saint Joan of Arc is a winner in all categories.

I hear from principals and teachers in our neighborhood high schools that they can easily spot a Saint Joan of Arc graduate. It is not by their clothes, gadgets or material possessions but rather by their holistic development in body, mind and spirit. We are proud of our graduates and grateful to their parents for their sacrifices and good examples. Christian family life today has to cope with a lot of challenges and to be disciplined and value centered.

At Saint Joan of Arc School, parents and students have learned to value spiritual realities and to embrace love and service to God and neighbor as most important priorities. At the drive-by graduation time, we gave praise and thanks to God for our eighth graders and joined in hope and anticipation of the impact for good in our world that they will accomplish. In addition to our parents, I wish to give special thanks to all of our dedicated faculty, staff and benefactors for their critical roles in helping our graduates reach this important milestone.

Msgr. Michael D. McGraw

Faith, Hope, Joy and Courage During these Challenging Times.

Dear Parishioners,

In this very difficult time for us, I want to share a message of hope, and Christian joy because they will both sustain us. As a parish family we are struggling together to be there for each other, and especially as families to support and care for each other. Our parish is one big family made up of many families, and together we are a great spiritual gift for our community. Boca Raton is so enriched by our presence. How impossible it is to think of Boca Raton without St. Joan of Arc.

I would like to give you an update of what’s been happening at the parish since we have had to shut down in so many ways. We have had joyful Mass celebrations daily during this pandemic, and have been nourished every day by Scripture in the Holy Eucharist. Everyday we’ve had two Homily presentations, one during Mass, and one after Mass. How wonderful it is to be strengthened by God’s Word and all of its wisdom!

On May 25th, we will have the first Mass at 9:00am in our Church again, that is Memorial Day and a great way to celebrate it with faith and community. For the foreseeable future, we will be celebrating daily Mass in our Church with a new schedule. Each day, Mass will be celebrated at 8:15am and 12:15pm. This new schedule reflects concerns of our people for Masses that are easily accessible especially at the new time of 12:15pm, before our lunch times. Hopefully, this will be particularly helpful for our senior members who are up-and-at-em at that time of the day.

On May 26th, there will be a Communal Penance Celebration at 7:00pm in the Church. All are invited to attend for Confessions. Please wear a mask on this special evening.

Concerning some safety precautions once we open in our Church:

1.- We will need to sanitize our hands and if needed, hand sanitizers will be available at the entrances to our church.

2.- We will need to respect social distancing of at least 6 feet between one another, including in the Communion line.

3.- Seating placement will be staggered pew arrangements.

4.- We also request that if there is no breathing difficulty, parishioners wear masks to protect yourself and others.

5.- There will be no exchange of peace except a verbal one. At Communion time, we will remove our masks for the reception of Communion on your hand, and receive the Consecrated Host without Precious Blood.

6.- Instead of the passing of the collection basket, envelopes and donations may be placed in the collection boxes located at the entrance of our Church and by the Altar.

7.- Our wonderful liturgical music will continue under Doug and David’s direction, but our choir will be limited to three or four singers. How can we ever forget our wonderful music that lifts us up, and praises God so beautifully!

8.- Unfortunately, our usual custom of gathering in groups before and after Mass will not be possible.

For all of our peace of mind, our Church will be sanitized thoroughly between Masses. This will create for us as safe as possible of an environment for our worship.

In closing, all of your Pastoral Team wants to assure you of our prayers and of our concern. We are confident that God is protecting us and assisting us with all of the special challenges of this time. Please remember that your Church is always here for you as a symbol of God’s love and of our solidarity in faith.

God’s blessings, health, peace, and compassionate care be with us all. We have such a powerful protector in St. Joan of Arc, she was a great soldier in warfare and is especially the same with us today.

Yours in Christ,

Msgr. Michael D. McGraw

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Dear parishioners,

The pandemic has caused us to change somethings about the way we conduct affairs as a parish family, and also I am sure, in your personal families. To begin, our daily Mass at 10:45am with a special pastoral message following it, will continue for the foreseeable future. We will alert you to any upcoming changes as soon as we are instructed by government or church authorities. Our Parish Office is open Monday through Friday from 10:00am to 2:00pm. Our priest team is responding to necessary anointings in parishioner’s homes. Hospital, hospice and nursing homes rules, do not allow any pastoral visitation. All of us on our pastoral team, want to assure you of our prayers and concern.

Recent daily Mass scripture has reminded us, that we are all like beloved sheep, and that our good shepherd embraces us and is the source for us of all blessings. We will continue to be in contact with you specially as circumstances allow us to open our church for normal religious services.

On this Mother’s Day weekend, we remember and celebrate the gift to us of our Mothers. Their example of self-sacrifice and love is the epitome of Gospel living. We extend to all mothers special prayers and blessings and the love of the St. Joan of Arc family.

During times of difficulty we are carried in the arms of the Good Shepherd. May God strengthen all of us during this difficult time,
and help us to persevere in prayer, and in practice of our faith.

Msgr. Michael D. McGraw

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Meditation: A Wonderful Way to Deal with Stress

During these days of heightened stress it is a great time to practice the age old spiritual discipline of meditation. The art of meditation is essentially a dialogue between ourselves and God with the help of scripture or some other inspirational reading. First we begin by consciously placing ourselves in the presence of God with a simple greeting and request for God to especially listen to us. Of course, this is all done within the context of faith and informed by our faith.

After placing ourselves in the presence of God, the next step is to choose a scripture passage or a passage from some other form of inspirational reading. When we have chosen the text we should read it over slowly and with an open mind and heart. We should ask for that particular message that God wants to communicate to us through the sacred reading. Meditating on the readings gives us the opportunity to discern if the message is a challenge to us, or a word of encouragement or a directive for us to follow. Listening prayerfully to the sacred text and being open to what we receive in this intimate conversation with God gives us the opportunity to respond in an integral way: body, mind and spirit.

Meditation is a bit more active of a prayer form than contemplation but it is a way of praying that unites our interior and exterior world in a unified and interconnected way. As we close our meditation time, we can do so with a sincere thanks to God and a prayer for divine assistance with putting into practice the spiritual message we have received. We can never go wrong by listening and responding to God with lively faith and steadfast trust. That is at the center of meditation.

Msgr. Michael D. McGraw

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