Pastor’s Weekly Message

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

God calls us all to Discern and to Follow His Way: PRIESTHOOD SUNDAY

This Sunday the Church throughout the world is celebrating the mystery of God’s call to vocation.  We believe that we are all called to live out our Baptismal promises and call as committed disciples and followers of the Way of Jesus.  We all share a common vocation to proclaim the Good News of Jesus and to be a living invitation to come and to know Jesus better.  We live out this common, universal call to be disciples in different ways. Traditionally we have described this diversity of responses to God’s invitation as the Married state, the Single state and Ordained or Vowed Life. Each of these overarching life directions carries its own responsibilities, accomplishments, joys, struggles and supernatural assistance. Each of them evolves and matures as we live them out with faithfulness and commitment. Each of them, hopefully, makes a difference for the good in our world.

This weekend we pray for and pay attention to the vocation to the priesthood in diocesan ministry or in vows, religious life as a priest. It is important for us a faith community to believe and to respond to the truth that God is always calling young and not so young Christians to a life of ordained ministry. The calls from God, however, need to be supported and reinforced by the support of family and friends. One of the most important influences on the discernment of a priestly vocation is parental and family encouragement.  The
support of other adults like priests, deacons, teachers, coaches etc., is also very critical. The faith and modeling by those living a life that is responsive to God, prayerful and compassionate provides mentors for those seeking God’s will in a vocational choice. Active participation by families in the worship and sacramental life of our parish provides the good example that is needed.  Participation in youth ministry, college campus ministry, service projects and other forms of volunteerism is also important in vocational discernment.

If you know of any young or not so young man who you believe may have a religious vocation (he may be a member of your family), please suggest and encourage openness and searching with him.  Remember that God works through faithful people to accomplish His will and to extend His invitations.  You may very well  be the necessary messenger.  For any further counsel on this matter, please feel free to personally contact one of your parish priests or deacons.

Cure of Ars, Saint John Vianney, Saint Vincent DePaul    Patrons of Clergy, pray for our parish and diocese!

Msgr. Michael D. McGraw  

To All of Our St. Joan of Arc Faithful Parishioners,

There have been some interesting developments here at St. Joan of Arc in the past few months. One busy process has been preparation for our school’s opening (August 24, 2020). I am happy to inform you that our school enrollment is a healthy 456 students. Our school property and buildings are constantly thoroughly sanitized so that they are as safe as possible of an environment for our students and staff.  The campus is alive with children playing, laughing, studying with their masks on. This is the challenging reality of our times.

 Another educational effort in service of our children is our online CCD programs. They can be accessed on the
computer. Faith education can become a fun and valuable part of family life. 

 Gradually parishioners are returning to daily and weekend Masses in our church. Again, it is worth noting that our church is sanitized before and after all Masses and is as joyful and welcoming environment as ever.

 Beginning on the first Sunday of Advent, other parish social activities will once again be occurring. These are most nurturing and face-supportive happenings to which all will be welcome. One of the most important of this social events is our Annual Gala Hybrid Auction that will take place in Mercy Center and in parishioner’s homes. All will
be connected simultaneously through online services. Much energy and hard work has been put into the re-design
of this event in response to the coronavirus. This challenging year will also afford us a wonderful opportunity to
offer this event as something fresh and enjoyable for all. Our theme this year Joy To The World is so timely and appropriate.

 As we anticipate the fall we know that also what lies ahead is our wonderful Holiday of Thanksgiving for national blessings and also an Advent which will be filled with expectancy and hope. The celebration of the appearance of
the Christ Child at the close of Advent is exactly what our worry world needs. 

May our faith be our source of strength in all things. All good blessings,

Msgr. Michael D. McGraw      

THE CRITICAL ROLE OF GRANDPARENTS –
St. Joachim and St. Anne
Patron saints of Grandparents
(Grandparents Day is Sunday, September 13, 2020)

In the first chapters of their Gospels, the evangelistsMatthew and Luke give us a family history of Jesus, tracing his ancestry to show that Jesus’ birth is the culmination of great promises. He is the long awaited Messiah whose life, death and Resurrection would bring new life and freedom.His Mother Mary and foster-Father Joseph are strong examples of trust in God and courage in the face of the unknown and unanticipated actions of God.

The remarkable character of Mary in making decisions, her continuous practice of prayer, her devotion to the laws of her faith, her steadiness at moments of crisis, and her devotion to her relatives—all indicate a close-knit, loving family that looked forward to the next generation even while retaining the best of the past, her Grandparents.

Tradition teaches very little about them except to present them as models of faith and commitment.They provided Mary with a family of devotion and attentiveness to God’s will.Mary as a model for us of prayerful listening to God must have developed that attentiveness as a child in her home.So she was able to grow into the “handmaid of the Lord”, because of the example of her parents.So we honor all grandparents and the powerful examples of faith that they are for all of us. In so many instances grandparents are the transmitters of our faith and its traditions.We are so grateful for them and the legacy they pass on to us. It is up to us to not only keep a memory alive but to make the experience of family in all of its richness a living reality today.

A further thought on Catholic education as we begin the school year. There are no more precious gifts that God
entrusts into our hands than our children.There is also an awesome responsibility that accompanies this great gift.We need to help our children grow up strong and committed to solid values of honesty, generosity and courage. When they see adults living and practicing as faithful Catholics, children gain security and a strong sense of self-worth and dignity.

Our Catholic schools embody the teachings of Jesus and His approach to living in this world. Catholic schools help our children grow, learn, mature and take responsibility for all God has given them.Within the nurturing environment of a Catholic school, parents, grandparents and all who love kids, will find that solid rock that is Jesus Christ and will feel confident that our children are firmly planted there.

Msgr. Michael D. McGraw

LABOR DAY – A Celebration of the Dignity and Value of Human Labor

On September 5, 1882, in New York City, the first Labor Day Holiday was celebrated as a “Workingmen’s Holiday” to honor those “Who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold”.The holiday caught on and by 1887 was celebrated in many states.On June 28, 1894, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday throughout the country. Ever since, Labor Day has been celebrated with speeches, parades and recreational activities. We honor all among us who by virtue of their labor make the world a better place and contribute to business, industry, education, agriculture and culture and many other areas of life.

From a spiritual perspective, we are invited by Labor Day to think beyond human labor as a curse for Adam and Eve and their descendants (the Book of Genesis description of life outside the Garden of Eden) and, rather, see human labor and creativity as an opportunity to imitate the creativity of God who made everything from nothing out of love.Labor can be effort that ennobles us and helps us grow in determination perseverance, imagination and fulfillment. Work can, unfortunately, also be a dehumanizing and enslaving enterprise when fair wages, enlightened management and integrity are absent.

Our Catholic Social Justice teachings provide helpful guidance in understanding human work and labor as truly human activity that needs to be respected and safeguarded by justice and fairness. Worker exploitation, inattention to worker safety, human trafficking and unfair wages cannot be tolerated in a just and free society like our own.

So in addition to enjoying (for those who are not working that day) a free Monday, Labor Day is a perfect time to attend Mass (9:00am at SJA) and thank God for creating us with a mind, imagination and a desire to create.It is also a very appropriate day to pray for all of those women and men in our country who are unemployed and struggling to make ends meet.We believe that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ and when one suffers, we all do. As many pundits say of unemployment today, “It’s jobs, stupid”.
Yes, jobs that help us grow in our humanity and put food on our tables.

Msgr. Michael D. McGraw

Dear Parishioners,

We are all experiencing some stress during these days. Some of it comes from the coronavirus and its effects, some from other uncertainties involving the future of work and family responsibilities, and some from challenging world events. Your St. Joan of Arc Pastoral Team would like to assure you of our prayers and special concern for you our beloved parishioners. The power of prayer during this time helps us to strengthen our relationship with our Lord, and to experience deeply His love and concern for us.

It appears safe to return to Church for our weekday and weekend Masses as long as we take the proper precautions, with masks, social distancing, and hand washing. Our church is sanitized before and after every Mass with a non-toxic spray disinfectant. In addition, the church remains open during the day for private prayer and eucharistic devotion. Every other pew is not used in order to provide proper distancing. Unfortunately, clergy visitation is not allowed in hospitals or nursing homes. However if a parishioner is gravely ill, a priest will come to the home for the sacrament of the sick.

Together we can help each other emerge from these difficult times with stronger faith, and a deeper sense of community. We want to specially thank you for your ongoing support and generosity for your parish. May God bless you, keep you safe, and embrace you and your loved ones in love and grace.

In her lifetime Saint Joan of Arc, our patroness, fought for the safety of her people. Today, we know that she looks over us and keeps us safe in our struggles. Sainte Jeanne D’Arc priez pour nous!

Yours in Christ,

Msgr. Michael D. McGraw & the SJA Pastoral Team

The Gift and Responsibility of Forming Our Children in the Faith

What an incredible blessing our children are to us as the Saint Joan of Arc Parish Family!

Because our children are our most precious gifts, it is also true that the spiritual dimension of their young lives needs to be attended to with great care. As parents and religious educators, it is critical that we explain in understandable ways the truths of our faith. It is also important that we pass on in our homes the devotions to Mary, the Saints and other culturally specific practices, for example the Colombian and Filipino practices of family novenas. If from our earliest days, we are surrounded by family-prayer and devotional practices, as we mature, they grow with us and become more significant. The ancient practices of praying at the beginning and at the end of each day teaches our children that their lives and destinies are God’s gifts and that God accompanies them throughout the entirety of their lives. Each moment of their lives, whether awake or asleep is watched over by their loving Father. Another natural opportunity to pass on our faith is the family habit of praying before and after meals. I realize that a meal with all family members is a miracle today but, as often as possible, God should be thanked for the gift of life and nourishment. Those responsible for the cooking should also be mentioned with gratefulness. Celebrating birthdays is also a great way of recognizing the blessing that each child is to your family. It is a time for praising and recognizing each child’s unique characteristics as the real purpose of birthday celebrations and gifts. The “presence” that each child is to the family is the real birthday “present”.

Our school and religious education programs will be starting up again soon. Because of the unusual circumstances that we are all living through, our school is giving families options of face-to-face education at our St. Joan of Arc School campus or at-home learning. A series of safety measures have been established to maintain the uppermost standards of hygiene and sanitation following the CDC recommendations. Classes will begin this Monday, August 24th and at this time the school is accepting registrations. Our religious education program will begin in September primarily as at-home learning supported by virtual class sessions. Our Religious Education
Director will revisit other options at the beginning of next year. This is an appropriate time for mothers and fathers to prayerfully
consider how you will pass-on your faith this year. It goes without saying that the teaching needs to be done with words and living example.

I want to assure all parents of our prayers and support as you live out your vocation of Christian parenting during this upcoming year. Greeting you and your children is the high point of my week. As Jesus said “Let the children come onto me, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.”

Msgr. Michael D. McGraw

Our Membership in a Parish and Why it is Important

Recently a church attendee asked me: “Why is it important to be a registered member of our parish? I come to church, what’s the big deal about being a “registered member”? I would like to address this question in the following way. Membership in any organization, your parish included, requires choice and commitment. In religious language it is a covenant. In addition, because the Church is both a human and divine reality, the human dimension of church life needs the active involvement and support of all members. The Church is the community of those baptized into Christ and united with him to form One Body. Our commitment to each other, in the language of Saint Paul, is like the commitment that the head has to the heart and the arms have to the legs. We need each other in order to function optimally as the Body of Christ in all of our diversity.

We have deep spiritual bonds that unite us and propel us toward reverence and mutual respect, knowledge of each other and a willingness to sacrifice for each other. The registration and commitment to membership is a sign and vehicle for us in expressing our deepest identity and mission. Registration and membership in a parish also has some very practical utility. Almost everyday I am asked by someone or some group “How many members do you have at Saint Joan of Arc?” Our registration process includes about 4,000 households right now and provides some sense of who we are. We need to keep some amount of information concerning individuals and families, ages, addresses, phone numbers and Email addresses, etc. This information is kept confidential and only a few staff members have access to it in order to do their jobs.

Parish registration and membership also brings spiritual and material benefits. A parish must certify active and practicing Church membership for anyone wishing to be a Baptismal or Confirmation sponsor. Church membership, because of the support of the parish that it indicates, entitles one to special parish rates for marriages, religious education, our parish school and other Catholic High Schools in Palm Beach and Broward counties.

Parish membership and registration is a statement that “I choose Saint Joan of Arc freely as my parish because I want to make a difference in the decisions and vitality of its life and mission”. To worship God and grow in faith, to be fed by Word and Sacrament, to participate in community life and to make a difference through unselfish ministerial service is what parish membership is all about.

Please prayerfully consider this choice if you are not yet registered in Saint Joan of Arc. For all of you who have already said yes and have chosen to make a difference in your life and in our parish, I say Thank You and God Bless You.

Finally, this Saturday, August the Fifteenth, we celebrate the Feast of the Assumption. This feast day, affords us an opportunity to reflect upon the role of Mary in our life of faith. Mary’s Assumption into heaven is a very powerful preview or foretelling of our own eternal destiny. When body and soul are united in heaven we will all be enjoying a blessedness and companionship with Mary and all of the saints. This Feast of the Assumption helps us to keep our eyes on heaven even as we work for God’s Kingdom here on earth.

Msgr. Michael D. McGraw

Our Churches: Our Spiritual Homes

For Catholics, sacred spaces like our chapels and churches have a special significance and value. They are the successors of the long history of Hebrew sanctuaries and holy places and especially of the Temple in Jerusalem. We understand them in the deepest sense as the House of God and the spaces where we can encounter God in a most profound and transformational way. Over the centuries our churches have been catacombs surrounded by the relics of the martyrs, renovated pagan temples, magnificent medieval cathedrals and thousands of local parish churches in every corner of the world.

We have a habit of decorating our churches with beautiful stained glass, statues, artwork, mosaics and icons. In the Middle Ages artisans would spend their entire lives working on a Cathedral like Chartres in France. Often when they died, they would then pass on their sacred project to their children. All the elements of church architecture combine to help foster an encounter with the sacred and a reverence for the presence of the living God. Central objects of attention in our churches are the altar with all of its biblical significance, the ambo or pulpit, the presider’s chair and most significantly, the tabernacle. We believe that the Lord Jesus is present in the most real way possible “the real presence” in the form of the consecrated bread, his Eucharistic Body. We adore the Most Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle with genuflections and other signs of worship. We spend time with Our Eucharistic Lord in quiet prayer and meditation. The Tabernacle and the Real Presence of the Lord make our churches like no other buildings. They are truly “sacred spaces” and the home of the Living God.

The “sacred” nature of our churches is also honored by the way that we dress and conduct ourselves within them. Clothing that is modest (not prudish) and appropriate for an encounter with God distinguishes our attire and is a reminder that we are not going to just any social or recreational activity but to a sacred meeting with God. An environment of quiet and serenity is also characteristic of our churches. We are not in a sports arena or a shopping mall but have been invited into the presence of the God who created and sustains our very being. In large cities like New York, for example, churches have a singular role to play as quiet sanctuaries of reflection and peace in the middle of hustle and bustle. Saint Joan of Arc Church and Chapel serve the same purpose for us in downtown Boca Raton.

Every time I enter our beautiful church and chapel, I am filled with gratitude to all of you who over the years have built the former and present St. Joan of Arc Churches and continue to make our present church and chapel such holy and inspiring sacred spaces. May we all cherish this expression of faith and enter them with an awe and reverence that honors their history and extraordinary place in our lives.

Msgr. Michael D. McGraw