Pastor’s Weekly Message

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

January 22, 2022 –Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children

This Saturday, January 22, American Catholics are invited to observe a Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children with reflection and political action.

The sad truth of the matter is that even with a gradual decline in the number of abortions, thousands of abortions were recorded in the State of Florida during 2021. Our prayers and activism continue to be critical as we seek to reverse this evil that now enjoys legal justification. It is also important that we strive to create in our families a consistent “culture of life” that is our Catholic answer to the “culture of death”.

What does the “culture of life” look like? Our families should be characterized by a reverence and nurturance of human life throughout the continuum of life. It is important that we respect the rights of all family members, that we keep our homes safe from violence and abuse and that we teach peaceful and respectful resolution of family conflicts. Our senior family members should receive the care and respect necessary for them to enjoy an appropriate quality of life and relationships. Family members with disabilities also need to be assured of their value in the fabric of family relationships and gifts.

At the center of this family “culture of life” is a family spirituality that includes family prayer and devotions, scripture reading, weekly participation in Holy Mass and family good works of care and concern for others. Every important family event including birthdays, school events, meals, individual successes and accomplishments, difficult experiences, even suffering and deaths in the family all have a spiritual dimension that needs to be recognized and honored. Family life is filled with the grace and life of God but sometimes we just don’t notice or celebrate God’s role and presence. We can, however, create a Catholic family counter-culture that is life-reverencing and life embracing and stands as a “sign of contradiction” to the impoverishment of contemporary culture and values.

As we grieve the effects of the “culture of death”, we should be hopeful that together we can create a life-
reverencing and life-sustaining Way of Life that is “The Way” of Jesus “The Way” that always confronts and
ultimately triumphs over every sin and evil.

Msgr. Michael D. McGraw

 

 

Dear parishioner of St. Joan of Arc,

We are so lucky to have a large faith-filled vibrant parish here in Boca Raton.

A wonderful development has occurred in our parish grade school recently in the appointment of Miss Lani Hiponia as our School Principal. Lani has served successfully as a principal in the Archdiocese of Miami and now is bringing her expertise and experience to us as a principal. Miss Hiponia has served at St. Joan of Arc School as the Assistant Principal for the past 7 years. During that time, she has earned the respect of our school faculty, parents, and students. Miss Hiponia’s generosity extends to her willingness to even teach a class herself when needed (how lucky those students are!). Among her singular achievements is the successful leadership she provided in the successful Re-Accreditation of our school just granted by the Florida Catholic Conference. She was also instrumental in our STREAM Certification in 2018. It is a great joy for me to appoint Miss Hiponia as a strong advocate of the traditions of the Sisters of Mercy, since she first began working for them. She assertively maintains the Catholic identity and traditions of St. Joan of Arc.

In addition to the great things happening in our grade school, many other ministries are returning to full activity and our parish is alive with action. Gradually our parish ministries are now able to meet on campus. This weekend, the Santa Ana CCW circle along with parents and children delivered their traditional gifts of bicycles, food, toys, first necessity items, blankets and much more to the migrant workers and families in La Belle. Your contributions to the Angel Tree and help from our parish, made this visit a joyful event.

Our Hispanic Ministry began meeting again and their prayer groups are back in action. The Hispanic leadership group came to the consensus to change the Sunday Spanish Mass from 6:30pm to 5:30pm, to allow as many as possible family activities.

Our Koinonia Ministry has begun their call for participation to their Annual Retreat scheduled for the first weekend of Lent.

Volunteers and co-workers are providing families in need with the basics important for family life, under the direction of Deacon Bill. This ministry of our parish is now located in the re-purposed convent.

What a spiritually rich, diverse, and vibrant parish we have! 3,771 families that make up this community of faith.

Let us all give thanks to God for the many Blessings received through Saint Joan of Arc Church and its prayers and ministries.

Sincerely,

Msgr. Michael D. McGraw

 

A Birthday in the Spirit; Our Baptism

Every year we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord. Since Jesus Christ was conceived and born into a sinful word but was himself free of sin, his baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist might seem unnecessary. It is clear, however, that the experience of Baptism was for him a moment of God’s revelation and an affirmation of His identity and mission.

“ You are my Son, the Beloved; my favor rests on you” was a divine affirmation of the divinity of Jesus Christ and a summary of His mission. He was Son of God, Messiah and the One who by His Passion, Death and Resurrection would overcome sin and death and set humanity free. In the New Testament, in the early Christian synthesis of belief and practice (The Didache), and in the writings of the Church Fathers like Tertullian, Baptism is described as the beginning of our “new life in Christ” and the entrance into membership in the Church, the Body of Christ.

During the apostolic period when most converts were adults, there was a careful initiation process with attention to faith formation, moral conversion, and integration into the Church community. Sponsors were entrusted with the responsibility to be excellent role models for the newly initiated Christian. Gradually as entire families were converted and baptized, infant baptism was practiced and soon became the normal rite of Baptism. It was closely associated with the Sacrament of Confirmation (that “sealed”) Baptism and imparted the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Soon both were connected closely with reception of the Holy Eucharist in accomplishing full Christian initiation.

Today our Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults follows this same pattern of study, conversion and initiation into the faith and church community at the Easter Vigil. Our children, too, move in their spiritual progress through Baptism, First Eucharist, Penance and Confirmation.

Our own baptisms are occasions of great family joy, preparation by Godparents, passing down of Baptismal garments and most of all the re-commitment of the family of the baptized to our own baptismal promises. We know that the formation in faith of our children is accomplished by the complex process of passing on Christian values and understandings and the modeling of them in the home. A Christian family culture is lived and practiced and has our identity as a beloved child of God right at the center. The respecting of the dignity and value of each family  member needs to be taught and re-enforced each day.

Pope Francis reminds us that the virtues of mercy and forgiveness need to be experienced to become real. Antithetical teachings of greed, selfishness, overemphasis on passing material things need to be contradicted by living according to the Way of Jesus. Our parish is composed of so many different forms of families and of families at differing stages of development that it is hard to generalize. It seems clear, however, that true Gospel family living involves prayer, mutual love and understanding, charity toward neighbor and something of a counter-cultural life. It is true that we live in this world and that it is our home, but we must be vigilant not to let a secularized world define our identity as Christians. Amen.

Msgr. Michael D. McGraw

 

A New Year 2022

Every New Year seems to bring its own reasons to be thankful and to be concerned. This year is no different. For 62 years St. Joan of Arc parish and school has been celebrating faith and families, Alive in the Spirit of Christ. It is a time to remember with great joy all who throughout the years have experienced the power and presence and life of God through our worship and spirituality, our community life and our outreach ministries. We are particularly grateful for the gift that our children and youth have been to our parish and for the formation in faith that has helped them to know, love and serve God with joy in their hearts. Because our parish family is made up of all of our families, we have seen births and baptisms, Penance and Holy Communions, marriages and anniversaries. Together we have had more than a few times to rejoice in the gift of life and friendships.

It is true that we have had a lot to be concerned about as well. The pandemic is a sort of all-encompassing cloud of bad news and suffering that has created tensions and pressures that at times have seemed overwhelming. Many people have lost loved ones, friends and neighbors and we all have grieved together in a depression that seems never ending. The sickness, death and grieving that we experience as a parish family seem especially difficult during these days.

So once again in this New Year we confront the fact that life is a “mixed bag.” We begin the year by celebrating the Feast of Mary the Mother of God. We remember her “yes” of faith and how that openness to God’s will transformed her own life and all of history. We certainty need that type of faith ourselves. We should ask Our Lord for His Mother’s faith and also for her humility because we can accomplish little of lasting impact without the power and grace of God.

As we begin this New Year, we should also pray for peace. This too invites us to set aside the ways of anger and revenge in order to create the Kingdom of God within ourselves and in our world. We need to make room for the Prince of Peace to truly dwell within us and to help us transform our relationships with others. Creating space for God is only possible if we throw out what we don’t need in terms of attachments and bad habits and are truly open to the “new from God” in the New Year. Nothing can prepare us better for a different future than worship, prayer, meditation upon God’s Word and active works of mercy.

A “Happy New Year” in the Christian sense is what we will bring about with God’s grace and our hard work and imagination. Let’s welcome the New Year by creating the holy space and time and opportunities that we long for and that will give us true happiness.

Msgr. Michael D. McGraw

Promise, Hope and Action for the Future World We Are Creating

This past year has been another difficult one for so many of us here in the United States and for people throughout the world. We are so aware of health problems with the Covid19 pandemic and problems of sorrow, poverty, hunger and violence they seem to be without end. Even our best intentions and hard work barely seem to make a difference. Yet, encouraged by the Birth of the Lord and his transformation of human history, we will begin this New Year with New Courage and Determination. Things do not have to always be the same. Hope has come to us in the Birth of the Son of God. All good things are possible!

Each year when we celebrate New Year it is a powerful reminder to us that God is always making things new. We are not fated to a mindless repetition of the past but are caught up in the creative and ever-new that is characteristic of God’s love. The challenge for us as individual Christians and as members of God’s Kingdom is to quietly listen and discern what needs our attention, hard work and imagination. God’s plan often has different values and purposes than plans put forth by humanity. God’s logic or hidden designs are not always clear to us because we are too often blinded by self-interest and a self-imposed myopia.

What is clear, however, is that God wants to use our freedom and our intelligence to help make things new. New approaches to peace, new ways of acting justly, new forms of forgiveness and new sources of human sustenance are all examples of God’s agenda that invites our passion and faithful commitment. New Year’s Resolutions without the peaceful certitude that comes from prayer and discernment are easy prey to enthusiasms and short term fantasies. If we are congruent with the will of God though, real and concrete good will result from our efforts and the New Year will really be new. It will be renewed and re-created.

The “Happy New Year” we wish to others will become a reality as we join together as Christians with all people of good will to respect and govern this precious world that God has given us as His stewards. Renewal and New Year – A future to hope in and to create.

Msgr. Michael D. McGraw

The Birth of Our Lord in Us. Christmas 2021

Each year we remember with great joy and gratefulness the Birth of Our Messiah and Lord. His entrance into the world and into human history changed everything forever. The immense love that God has for us is now made real and approachable as was the infant in the manger for those first Shepherds and Kings. This incredible approachability of God in all Loving Mystery and Incomprehensibility is at the heart of the Feast of the Nativity. God is not “up there” or “out there” but “down here” with us and “right here” in us. The emotional impact of visiting and praying at the manger comes from the powerful truth that Emmanuel, God With Us, is really here!

Many of the great spiritual teachers in our Church’s history have invited us to understand that the mystery of the Nativity of the Lord is both an historical fact and an ongoing and everyday miracle. The Lord Jesus seeks to be born each day in the depths of our souls in order to fill us with His Presence. Like Mary we are challenged to say “Yes” and to surrender and make room for the Divine Presence. The Nativity of the Lord is thus both past and present and future.

His Second Coming that we await even as we treasure the First Coming reminds us that salvation history is ever dynamic and liberating of each of us, our Church and our world. Each Christmas is a powerful reminder that our gracious presence makes His Presence “Good News” for the entire world to hear.

May we all enjoy a Blessed Christmas and Peace in our hearts, families and everywhere.

Amen, Alleluia

Msgr. Michael D. McGraw

GAUDETE SUNDAY: The Fullness of Joy and Peace is Near!

The Third Sunday of Advent is also called “Gaudete” Sunday because of its emphasis upon the joy and hope that we  feel as we get closer to Christmas. It is also because we remember with so much joy and hope the salvation that will be finalized through Christ’s Second Coming in glory.

It is very appropriate that we highlight today in our Bulletin the mission heart and outreach that so characterizes our parish. Our Thanksgiving Food Collection, our Blessing of the Crèche in Sanborn Square, our Care Ministry Angel Tree Toy Drive, our Christmas Caroling in nearby retirement communities, and our annual Epiphany visit to the migrant families in LaBelle, are testimonies of the loving heart that is the heart of Saint Joan of Arc. These pictures of the Blessing of the Creche show us the visual power of caring that is so much more powerful than words.

This weekend, we also celebrate as a diverse family of faith, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Patroness of Mexico and of all of the Americas. This annual procession and Spanish Mass reminds us that during this Holy Season we journey with the company of Our Blessed Mother and in solidarity with all the peoples Mary holds dear.

These pictures, in addition, reveal the Incarnate Word at work in the world and the midst of all of its struggles through us.

May we rejoice and be glad that Emmanuel our El Santo Nino and El Nino Manuelito will soon be with us to transform our world with His love.

Msgr. Michael D. McGraw

All About Advent

Every year we observe the Holy Season of Advent as preparation for the Feast of the Nativity of the Lord. To do something every year suggests that it has some real important value for Catholic people. I would like to suggest a few reasons why Advent is important:

• Anything important like an anniversary or a wedding requires planning and preparation. Advent is our four weeks of getting ready for the remembrance of Jesus’s entrance into our history as one fully human and fully divine. Contemplation of the significance of this history changing event gives us much material for prayer and conversion of heart and manners.

• Conversion or turning around and changing direction is a good description of the spiritual and moral changes that constitute a worthwhile Advent preparation. God turns us around, helps us to leave behind sin and selfishness and to take on a new way of seeing ourselves and others–with the eyes of the Emmanuel.

• Conversion is also sometimes a painful experience because we need to say no to ourselves and our worldly concerns and to focus on eternity and growing in grace and virtues. Our world makes it hard to accomplish this purpose.

• Advent reminds us of two very important truths. Jesus Christ came into this world, suffered and died for us and for our salvation and He will also come again in glory and power to judge the world and to accomplish the final ending of Time and History.

• These Advent truths taken together move us to contrition and to a desire for healing and mercy. The Sacrament of Penance, received during Advent, is the perfect yes in response to all that God has accomplished for us.

• The mixed liturgical colors of Advent: purple and rose,reflect our sorrow for sin and our rejoicing in God’s mercy. Together they symbolically express the meaning of this Holy Season.

• The Advent Wreath, also multi-colored, encourages us as we move through the four weeks of Advent with our eyes on Christ Our Light shining in the four candles.

• Mercy is the overarching theme of Advent: God’s incredible mercy in Christ Jesus, God with us, and, also, our acts of mercy and generosity that bring love and kindness into our struggling world

May all members of our parish family enter deeply into this Holy Season and emerge from Advent into the Joy of the Birth of Our Lord, the true Light for the World. As the contemporary hymn puts it “Shine Jesus shine”.

Msgr. Michael D. McGraw

St. Joan of Arc’s Generous Heart

I would like to update all of you on a wonderful relationship that has evolved between St. Joan of Arc Church and the Archdiocese of Arequipa, Peru.Our charitable gift to this Diocese consists of a new clinic which will be built to serve families of the human settlement “Ciudad de Dios” (City of God), an indigenous population of displaced peasant families living on the outskirts of the city of Arequipa, in a situation of poverty. Most fathers and mothers lack formal work and live on what they can generate each day through various types of informal work. They are exposed to different social problems and lack health care. Their houses are extremely precarious, which makes them more vulnerable to respiratory diseases in the winter when the temperature reaches 41°F. In addition, not having water and sewage services permanently affects their health by causing gastrointestinal infections. Many homes do not have electricity either.

Diocesan Cáritas of Arequipa will provide a permanent nursing and first aid technician, as well as volunteer doctors who will take shifts at different days and hours of the week. Likewise, health prevention campaigns and education in basic care-at-home will be carried out in favor of these people in need. This arrangement is a perfect illustration of our on-going partnership.

Our gift for the clinic amounted to a $30,000 gift which will cover for the entire cost of the construction and furnishings for the clinic.

Our parish has a long history of assisting different parts of the world that have very difficult circumstances. In 1998, under the leadership of Msgr. John McMahon St. Joan of Arc built a church in Campo Bello, Mache, Peru, where Sister Immaculata was ministering.

Each recipient of our parish charity is carefully screened and selected for the quality of the services and outcomes they provide. You may remember Fr. Juan Portella who was recently assisting us at this parish. He belongs to the Archdiocese of Arequipa and was asked by Archbishop Javier Del Rio Alba to assist us and our Spanish language community.

Below, see some renderings of the proposed clinic. I will personally bring recent photos to share when this project is completed.
May God provide us with a generous heart.

Msgr. Michael D. McGraw

Our Posture of Thanks for Thanksgiving

Often Jesus teaches us about the value of thanksgiving. At the heart of the Our Father is a sincere response of thanksgiving for all the God has blessed us with: gift of life, health, purpose in life and the graces necessary to accomplish it. Every time we pray we should make it a prayer of thanksgiving for truly we are all recipients of God’s generosity. We are also reminded that as we say “Thank you” for gifts received, we acknowledge the responsibility to be generous ourselves with that which we have been given.

Our national celebration of Thanksgiving reminds us of kindnesses and assistance given to our Pilgrim ancestors whose very life was a gift from the Native Americans who protected them and fed them in the face of starvation.

When we enjoy our festive meal, we can also share of its abundance as we reach out with concern and material assistance to the poor and starving throughout the world. The Thanksgiving truth is to acknowledge all we have received and an opportunity to use it to accomplish great good in a troubled world.

Welcome Home to Our Seasonal Parishioners

Every year, around Thanksgiving, we welcome our seasonal parishioners back to presence and participation in our parish life. It is great to hear of life changes, special events and other family developments that have occurred during the summer months. It also gives us the opportunity to share good news from our parish family and do some “catching up”! Welcome to Boca Raton and your St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church!

Msgr. Michael D. McGraw

Christ The King

Most of us have never had to genuflect or kneel in front of a king or a queen, however, that role is very important in many countries. In the world of religion, Christ the King captures the fact that Jesus Christ and His teachings are most important for us, you could almost call them “Royal Mandates’’. The mandates to respect and to love wholeheartedly God our Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ our Divine Human Brother, and the Holy Spirit who grants us wisdom and courage.

Next Sunday, November 21st we will be celebrating the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. It is very appropriate that we spend some extra time with scripture and with all the teachings that the Church has handed on to us from our Lord. In addition to the Ten Commandments which come from our Hebrew-heritage, Jesus’ contribution tells us that we must do our best to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. This is not easy in a culture that tells us first think of yourself, secondly do the same and as a final love, love your neighbor.

We know that God’s grace and strength will help us to overcome selfishness and self-centeredness. Living in the Kingdom of Christ The King that is our moral responsibility and greatest joy.

Blessings for all of us who live under the loving gaze of Christ The King!

Msgr. Michael D. McGraw

Our Debt to Our Veterans

Each year, on November 11, we celebrate Veterans Day as a National Holiday. The celebration grew out of the Armistice Day memorial that marked the end of World War I, on November 11, 1918. President Dwight Eisenhower, in 1954, proclaimed Veterans Day a day of remembrance of all who served in the armed services and as a complementary remembrance to Memorial Day which specifically honors all those who died in military service. Every year, at 11:00 on November 11, at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Washington, a color guard representing all of the military services executes “Present Arms” and the presidential wreath is laid upon the tomb to the sound of taps.

As is the case with all memorials, it is important to keep reminding ourselves why we are celebrating. In the case of Memorial Day, we are remembering and honoring the bravery and courage of all veterans who in wartime and peacetime risked their lives in defense of our country and our ideals and values. I think that President Eisenhower expressed the meaning of this Veterans Day very powerfully when he wrote:

…”it is well for us to pause, to acknowledge our debt to those who paid so large a share of freedom’s price. As we stand here in grateful remembrance of the veteran’s contributions we renew our conviction of individual responsibility to live in ways that support the eternal truths upon which our Nation is founded, and from which flows all its strength and all its greatness”

Today we are perhaps more aware than at any recent time of the cost carried by the veterans of our country and their families. We read of the many problems with re-entry into civilian life, of health problems, financial problems and family stress. There are also accounts of veterans feeling unappreciated, misunderstood and disrespected. There are also the well-documented examples of inadequate healthcare and benefits never received.

Even though we are not in a declared “state of war” with anyone today, we are well aware of dangers in Korea, Vietnam, Cuba and communist China. We are far from “Peace on Earth and Good Will to All,” the message of the Christmas Angels. As people of faith and compassion, it seems to me that we have an important responsibility to live our American ideals and values in such way as to insure the strength of our Republic and its role in the world. Our veterans have shown us the way in the past. Soldiers today are responding to terrorism, health epidemics, tyranny, and threats to peace in a similar courageous way. We owe them our support and prayers.

This Saturday, we will honor our Veterans here in our Church at the 4:30pm Mass. A dinner/dance will follow in Mercy Center, organized by the Knights of Columbus. Veterans can attend free of charge and all others pay a $25 fee. Our School will attend a Mass on Wednesday, November 10 and a short School Prayer Service honoring our veterans will follow. I encourage us to get behind our Knights of Columbus and their supportive activities for the care for veterans in our community.

May God bless and keep all of our veterans and their families.

Msgr. Michael D. McGraw

All Saints – All Souls

These two feasts coming as they do back-to-back, have an important lesson to teach us, the lesson concerns the eternal bond with all of the saints who have gone before us and also the faithful departed who are enjoying life with God in heaven. These feasts remind us that our bond with them is indissoluble. They serve as inspiration for us in facing the challenges of being a believer today.

Many of the saints were persecuted for their faith but remain steadfast. When we pray in their memory we are reminded of their heroism and courage. One perfect example is our own patron St. Joan of Arc who was martyred at a young age, but had the faith and the courage of a woman far beyond her years. In an incredible duel of wits St. Joan of Arc defended herself against the (wise) church leaders of her day. She was not intimidated and her answers stupefied her accusers. So whenever we are at a loss of what to do, and what to say in difficult times, we have to remember our great patroness St. Joan of Arc.

We also want to remember all of our beloved who have passed away. They too, by the example of their lives, teach us a lot whatever our challenges are. They have faced many themselves. It is very uplifting to know that we have these wise friends and family in heaven to whom we can turn for inspiration.

May all the saints and all of our faithful departed be at peace. and filled with joy in their eternal home.

Msgr. Michael D. McGraw

The Important Moral Issue of the Death Penalty – Our Church’s Postion on the Death Penalty

Our Catechism teaches us that the use of the death penalty is only allowed in those cases where non-lethal means are insufficient to defend and protect peoples’ safety from an agressor. In this case, the death penalty would be allowed but according to Pope St. John Paul II, “this is very rare and practically non-existent.” In our state, juries can choose life without parole for convicted killers and this has worked well. They are locked up for life and none has escaped, a severe punishment. Society is well protected.

Given the development of the doctrine involving the death penalty, in August 2018, Pope Francis revised the instruction concerning the execution of human beings in stating: “the death penalty is inadmissible because it is  an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person”, and furthermore called for the Church to work with determination for its abolition worldwide.

Please light a candle on November 30th, at 5pm for those being executed and the victim’s families, and to end the death penalty.

Some facts to consider regarding the death penalty in Florida:

• There is no credible evidence that capital punishment is a deterrent.

• In Florida, because of appeals, it is more expensive to execute someone compared to life without parole.

• The death penalty discriminates against the poor because they cannot afford a private attorney.

• There have been 26 exonerations in Florida due to evidence of wrongful conviction, highest in our nation.

• There are approximately 400 people awaiting execution on Florida’s Death Row.

• The top five executing nations of the world are: China, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United States.

Please Read, Reflect, Pray and Act

A Dark Day in America

Email Congress: https://www.votervoice.net/USCCB/Campaigns/88618/Respond

Last Friday, the House of Representatives voted to pass the most radical abortion bill ever. Among other extreme actions, the so-called Women’s Health Protection Act would:

· Allow abortion on demand nationwide throughout every stage of pregnancy

· Ban pro-life laws in every state and local government

· Force Americans to support abortions with their tax dollars

· Likely eliminate conscience protections for doctors

Please contact your Representative today — either to express gratitude for voting against the bill or to express strong, but respectful, disagreement for voting for it, while urging him or her to reconsider support for this radical bill.

Additionally, it is likely that the Senate will also vote on this bill in the very near future. Please also contact your two Senators to strongly urge them to oppose the Senate version of this bill when it comes up for a vote.

Pre-written messages are ready for you to edit or send. It just takes a moment!

A Joyful Pet Blessings Day!

It was such a joy to see the variety of pets that our parishioners own on the day of our Annual Pet Blessings. It’s a great reminder to us of how our lives are enriched by them, and how much we learn from accompanying them in their journeys.
Having a pet was always an important part of my life, and the life of my family. As I recall it, we had 3 dogs, 2 cats, several hamsters, goldfish, several parrots (one who could talk), two turtles (one big one and one little one). Those are just the ones that I remember, but I want to add that taking care of them helped to expand our understanding of the beauty of life. It was always a family tragedy when one of them died and I remember crying for days when our pet dog was killed by an automobile. It’s not a bad thing though to have to let go of a loved one to which we are greatly attached. I think that the experience helps us all to grow and become more compassionate. So to all of our pet owners, Blessings during this week where we pray to St. Francis of Assisi who was the great pet lover par excellence!

May God keep all of our family members, furry and otherwise, safe and healthy. Amen.

Msgr. Michael D. McGraw

Upcoming Blessings

Saint Joan of Arc is filled with blessings of many different kinds. All of these events testify to the vitality, diversity, deep faith and robust community that is our parish family of faith.

Baby clothes and other baby care items will be the focus on Respect Sunday Weekend when we have our Annual Baby Shower to benefit Birthline/Lifeline pro-life ministry of Catholic Charities. We know what wonderful and compassionate care is provided through this ministry to young pregnant women and their babies. Please plan on bringing diapers, formula, clothes etc for babies to any of the Masses on October 2 and 3. They will be placed on the main altar steps as a symbol of our love and concern for the precious gift of life.

On Monday, October 4, at 6:00pm, behind our Church, we have the annual Blessing of our Parish Family Pets. This is a most joyful celebration of our many furry, feathered, slinky and aquatic family members. It is a great way to remember St. Francis of Assisi and his love for all living creatures. We give thanks to God for all of the joy that they bring into our lives and ask the Lord to bless them with health and longevity. I often have to ask myself “Who is the pet of whom” especially if pet and owner have come to resemble each other, so we always end up blessing families and pets together. This year, for safety reasons, we will be blessing the pets in a “drive-through” format.

Believe it or not, our Annual Gala Auction will be here sooner than we think, Friday evening, December 10, at The Polo Club in Boca Raton. This year the Gala/Auction “Christmas Angels” will have its usual wonderful features like fine dining, live dancing and the opportunity to meet with your parish and school friends. We really need your support for this event by buying tickets, helping to secure gifts for the Silent and Live Auctions, purchasing advertisements for your businesses, and sponsoring the many fun events of the evening. Our Special Projects team will be very grateful for all the help that we can give them. Please visit our Christmas Angels website:

https://one.bidpal.net/sjaauction2021/welcome

Your presence for a great, fun evening will ensure that this event – our only major fundraiser for church and school – will be a success. May God bless and assist the success of all of these parish family events and activities as we grow in faith together.

Msgr. Michael D. McGraw

The Gift and Responsibility of Forming Our Children in The Faith

What an incredible gift and blessing our children are to us as the Saint Joan of Arc parish family. I am filled with joy when I welcome them before and after Mass and see the love that they receive from their parents and give back in return. It is great to hear a baby singing along at Mass and adding his/her own special harmony. It is also very uplifting to visit our school and our religious education classes when they were in-person, and observe the faith being passed on with such commitment and dedication.

Because our children are our most precious of gifts, it is also true that the spiritual dimension of their young lives needs to be attended to with great care. As parents and as 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 spiritual 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 even more significant. The ancient practice of praying at the beginning and at the end of each day, teaches our children that their lives and destinies are God’s gifts to them 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 present 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 parties and gifts. The “presence” that each child is to the family is the real birthday “present”.

Our school and religious education programs have now began. It is an appropriate time for mothers and fathers to prayerfully consider how you will pass on your faith this year. What spiritual practices will be celebrated in your home? When will the Bible be read? How will you teach the Gospel values of unconditional love, forgiveness, generosity, truthfulness, gentleness, mutual respect, rights and responsibilities? It goes without saying that the teaching needs to be done with words and living example. Whatever successes are achieved in passing on of our faith in schools and classrooms, nothing is as important as the faith formation that occurs in the “domestic churches” of our parish families.

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 at our church doors each Sunday is the high point of my week. As Jesus said “Let the little children come onto me, for to just such as these belongs the Kingdom of Heaven” Please let Jesus welcome them, nurture them and bless them each Sunday.

Msgr. Michael D. McGraw

Our Lady of Charity

This Sunday, September 12 our St. Joan of Arc Hispanic Community will celebrate the Procession and Mass to honor Our Lady of Charity, Cuba’s Patron Saint, and an important symbol in the Roman Catholic Church.

Fr. Robinson Aza, myself and leaders of the Hispanic Ministry will lead the Procession that will begin at 6:00pm around our campus. The Mass in Spanish will follow at 6:30pm.

The story of Our lady of Charity or Nuestra Señora de la Caridad del Cobre stretches back to the early 1600s. Around that time, two Indigenous Cubans and a ten-year-old African slave went to collect salt in the Bay of Nipe. While at sea, a violent storm overtook their small boat. Stuck under a downpour with waves crashing aboard, the group prayed to an image of the Virgin Mary carried by the young slave.

At that moment, the skies opened, the storm cleared, and the group spotted a single, white bird floating on distant waves. But as they drew closer, they discovered the bird was a statue fixed to a board that read, “Yo Soy la Virgen de la Caridad” or “I am the Virgin of Charity.” Believing it was a literal sign of Mary’s protection the group rushed it back to their village, where a local official ordered a small chapel built in the village of Barajagua. But soon after, the statue disappeared from the chapel. Distraught, locals formed a search party that night – only to discover the statue back in its original location the following morning. This happened three more times before the villagers decided to move the image to the nearby town of El Cobre.

But once again, the statue disappeared. It was soon discovered by a young girl in the foothills of the Sierra Maestra mountains. On that hill, locals erected a church now known as the National Shrine Basilica of Our Lady of Charity. Two hundred years later in 1801, the king of Spain, Charles IV, freed Cuban slaves from the El Cobre copper mines – increasing Cuban belief in the power of the statue. And in 1916, Pope Benedict XV declared Our Lady of Charity the patroness of Cuba. Numerous popes awarded special status to the image in the decades since.

We hope many of you can join us to pray for hope and salvation in the face of misfortune for many in Cuba and people world-wide, in this month as we celebrate the feast day of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Blessings to all.

Msgr. Michael D. McGraw