Pastor’s Weekly Message

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

Spiritual Journeying Throughout a Life of Advent

Very often I am asked in Confession or Spiritual Direction how it is that we know if we are making spiritual progress or growing in holiness? In response, I would like to offer some ways of gauging our Advent progress in virtue and holiness.

First of all, we all know how fast the time before Christmas zips by with one day blurring into the next. So it is really necessary to counteract this mad race of events and tasks with some quiet time for reflection. We need to identify a few minutes of each day during which we focus on who we are and on the meaning of our life. It is good to remember the proverb that “an unexamined life is not worth living”.

A very helpful prayer form for this purpose is called “Meditation”. We meditate when we listen carefully in prayer and focus our attention on a spiritual event like the Nativity or the Incarnation. This type of prayerful attention and receptivity will teach us very much concerning the truth of our identity as a beloved child of God. We are so beloved of God that God chose to become one like us in order to tell us with divine/human words and actions who we really are. This is the saving Advent truth that we are all a beloved child of God.

In addition to paying attention to our true identity, it is equally helpful to reflect upon “Why we are here” the meaning and purpose of life. We will discover in moments of tranquility and prayerful centeredness that we exist out of love and for the purpose of love. The more unselfishly and passionately we love, the more we fulfill our life’s destiny and experience true and lasting happiness. “Hospitality of heart” is necessary to welcome the Christ Child, Emmanuel, and also, to create a safe and welcoming world for all of God’s vulnerable little ones.

Another important gauge of growth in the spiritual life is to measure how sacrificial our loving really is? We will benefit immensely during Advent from a thoughtful consideration of the important people and relationships that make up the tapestry of our lives. Once we do this, we will discover multiple opportunities for unselfish acts of love and consideration.

A simple, truthful compliment accomplishes far more than we think. Each time we affirm the worth, uniqueness and special gifts of another, we help that person to be more courageous, hopeful and joyful. The gift of speech is one of God’s greatest ones and it is easily misused or distorted. Every time we use our speech to build up and not tear down we are building the Kingdom of God that was ushered in on the first Advent of the Lord’s coming.

Our ministerial volunteerism in one of our parish ministries is also an opportunity to get out of our own preoccupations and focus upon the needs of others. As Jesus has taught us “What you do to the least of my sisters or brothers, you do to me”. Advent in an important way also teaches us that we do not journey in faith as a solitary. We are part of a People, chosen, saved and guided by the grace of God. At times we will be praying alone and have the Lord present in the Holy Eucharist as our companion. At other times, we find ourselves praying with others and for others in the spirit of true Christian solidarity. So another helpful Advent measure is how much time we have spent in our chapel?

Advent is a perfect time to pause and measure progress and perhaps re-commit so that Advent doesn’t come and go and we find ourselves still stalled in the same place on our spiritual journey.

Msgr. Michael D. McGraw, V.F.

 

Solemnity of CHRIST THE KING – Nov 20

What does it mean to acknowledge Christ as Our King? He was never an earthly king and always refused the honors and privilege of being one. Rather, He ruled through example, love and forgiveness. He came into our world to teach us how to live differently and with a higher purpose. He taught us that we are all of equal worth, dignity and value in God’s eyes. His Kingdom is a vision of a world that is a true loving community in which respect, love, forgiveness, and mercy are the hallmarks. Most of all to acknowledge Christ as Our King is to accept His love and friendship and to let it guide us to an Eternal Kingdom.

THANKSGIVING – Nov 24 – Our Posture of 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 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. Thanksgiving truth is to acknowledge all we have received and an opportunity to use it to accomplish great good in a troubled world.

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”!

At Thanksgiving and always I am thankful for all of you. Blessings.

Msgr. Michael D. McGraw, V.F.

 

A Starry Night Sky in Boca Raton

On December 9th, The Polo Club will feature an elegant nighttime decor and stars will be shinning at their best splendor.  We will all have the opportunity to join in an evening of fun, socializing, fine dining and philanthropy.  

The silent auction which will be pre-displayed in Mercy Center beginning on the weekend of December 3 and 4 after Masses, will offer a multitude of great deals on vacation getaways, gift baskets, paintings and artwork, golf packages and many more surprises. 

The live auction at the Gala is always an exciting drama of bidding and counter bidding all for the wonderful goal of supporting our parish and school. Our Annual Gala and Auction is the principal way that we raise the funds that we need to make improvements in church and school, support our ministries and build our sense of community.  What a great combination of fun, friendships, socializing and contributing to a cause close to our hearts as religious and faithful parishioners and friends.

There is still time to purchase a table, sponsor a specific area of the event, make a gift contribution, buy a ticket, bring your friends to our Stary Night experience on the balmy coast of Florida. Please help to make this annual fundraiser and fun-raiser a big success.  We need the presence of everyone to truly celebrate our parish vitality and future growth.  Our generous and joyful pulling together as a parish family will ensure our success and help make possible St. Joan of Arc’s future.  Get out your brilliant attires, and star-like outfits (not required) and join us for a warm, twinkling, and friendly Starry Night.

Please support your St. Joan of Arc Church and School on this special Starry Night and at the same time enjoy the fellowship amongst friends and family! What could be better than celebrating friendships under the stars?

PLEASE VISIT: https://one.bidpal.net/sjaauction2022/welcome

 

Msgr. Michael D. McGraw V.F.

 

Dear St. Joan of Arc Family,

After thirteen wonderful years as your Pastor, I will be leaving St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church & School on Sunday, January 1, 2023. Our Most Reverend Gerald Barbarito, Bishop of Palm Beach, has approved my retirement, and I will have completed my appointed pastoral and administrative term on that date.

What an enlightening experience it has been to share this journey of faith with each one of you, my St. Joan of Arc family!  Together, we have joined to serve God faithfully in the lives of our children and our brothers and sisters. Throughout all this time, we have grown in wonderful ways and bonded with each other while gaining a great deal of grace, joy, mercy, and love. Even in times of sorrow, what a blessing it has been to support each other and overcome those moments. The Lord has blessed us in more ways than we can count!

Our parish staff is preparing a “Farewell Weekend” in December. It will begin on Friday, December 9, 2022, at our “Starry Christmas Night Gala”. I do not know the details, but it promises to be a “brilliant” evening. Our farewell Sunday Mass will be on December 11 at the 10:45am Mass, a brunch reception will follow. That day, I will extend my love and thanks to all of you and I hope that I will be able to introduce you to your new appointed Pastor. I am sure you will give your new St. Joan of Arc Pastor the same support and encouragement you have given me. I will remain here for our Christmas celebrations and New Year’s Eve.

I will miss you deeply. May you and the St. Joan of Arc Parish family continue to grow in faith, hope and love.

Love and blessings, I thank God for you.

Yours in Christ,

Msgr. Michael D. McGraw

 

The Power of Our Parish’s Intentional Small Groups and Ministries

In a parish the size of Saint Joan of Arc, we are blessed with many small intentional groups and ministries that contribute to our spiritual and social vitality. From Bible study groups to Knitting groups to social and prayer groups we are indeed a lively parish community. Each of these contributes in its own way to our high level of energy and involvement. There are so many opportunities that we discuss with new parish registrants that they often seem overwhelmed with the good news of a parish so alive. We are truly a large community made up of many smaller communities that add diversity and opportunity. A challenge, however, comes with this multiplicity of opportunities as we must work hard at cooperation, mutual support and information sharing across what could be “silos” on our church grounds.

A wonderful spiritual/social organization on our campus celebrated the changing of leadership and inauguration of new officers. Saint Joan of Arc’s Knights of Columbus, it is a joy for Fr. Robinson to serve as chaplain for this group. They are made up of generous and involved parishioners who, also, make a big difference in other parish activities and organizations.

The Knights of Columbus grew out of a need to take care of Irish widows and children in the Northeast and quickly grew to Councils all over the United States and in many other parts of the world. The initial purpose gradually grew to include insurance and other services as well as a strong commitment to philanthropy. In addition to the insurance activities, the Knights of Columbus also exist as a spiritual and social fraternity. Here at Saint Joan of Arc. our Knights of Columbus Council assists our parish in many ways: twice yearly food drive, Christmas creche building in Sanborn Park, Right to Life marches –one happening THIS SUNDAY, October 9th beginning at 1:15pm at our parking lot,– various fund raisers to help good causes within and without of the parish.

Our Columbiettes Council engages in similar social, fraternal, and church related activities. Both groups, in addition, have local national causes and activities that they support like seminary education, Birthline/Lifeline Baby Shower and other pro-life activities A strong commitment to our faith and to putting it into action distinguishes both parish fraternal organizations.

An additional important intentional group in our parish is the Council of Catholic Women. This organization supports spiritual and educational activities and advocacy efforts such as combating human trafficking especially of women. By banding together, supporting one another and Catholic concerns locally and nationally, The Council of Catholic Women makes a big different in the engagement of women in the life of our Church, parish, and society.

The faith vitality and activity of our parish in indebted to our intentional parish small groups and ministries. Working together they help keep our parish relevant and effective for spiritual growth and in our interface with the larger society and its needs. If you are looking for a way to make a difference, grow spiritually and socially and to meet wonderful people, please consider joining any of our small groups and ministries. You have much to gain and nothing to lose.

Msgr. Michael D. McGraw, V.F.

 

Counting our Blessings

We must thank God that Boca Raton was spared of any mayor negative impact of Hurricane Ian. However, it is very important that we pray for all the people in the West Coast of Florida, Central Florida, Cuba, and those who have been in the hurricane’s path. They will need time, financial resources, and government help to handle all the damages. Please keep all affected in your prayers.

Creator God, we ask You to help those who have been in Hurricane Ian’s way. Hear the cries of our brothers and sisters who have been gravely harmed, and the cries of those who love them. Soothe their restless hearts with hope, steady their shaken spirits with faith. Open our hearts in generosity to all who need help in the coming days. Amen

October at St. Joan of Arc is filled with blessings of many different kinds. All these events testify to the vitality, diversity, deep faith, and robust community that is our parish family of faith. This Tuesday, October 4, at 6:00pm, 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. We give thanks to God for all the joy that they bring into our lives and ask the Lord to bless them with health and longevity. I often must 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.

Baby clothes and other baby care items will be the focus next weekend, October 8 and 9 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 and more for babies to any of the Masses. They will be placed on the main altar steps as a symbol of our love and concern for the precious gift of life. On that same Sunday, October 9th at 1:15pm, our SJA Knights of Columbus are leading a Life March in support of the unborn children and life from conception to natural death. Our SJA representatives and all who will join will march through the streets of Boca Raton from our St. Joan of Arc Campus to St. Gregory’s Church.

Finally, believe it or not, our Annual Gala Auction will be here sooner than we think, Friday evening, December 9, at The Polo Club. This year the Gala/Auction “Starry Christmas Night” will have fun dancing, live entertainment, as well as the opportunity to enjoy a wonderful evening amongst our SJA family. We really need your support for this event by buying tickets, helping to secure gifts for the Silent and Live Auctions. Our Honorary Chairpersons and friends will be very grateful for all the help that we can give them. Please visit https://one.bidpal.net/sjaauction2022/welcome for more details and ways to participate. Your presence for a great, fun evening will ensure that this event – our only major fundraiser for church and school – will be a star-studded success.

May God bless and assist the success of all these parish family events and activities as we grow in faith together.

Msgr. Michael D. McGraw, V.F.

 

Our Lady of Charity – La Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre

This Sunday, our parish will be celebrating the feast of Our Lady of Charity. There will be a Procession that will begin at 4:30pm, then a Spanish Mass at 5:30pm and a celebration will follow. I will concelebrate this special Mass with Fr. Robinson Aza.

The history of the La Vírgen de la Caridad del Cobre, began around 1612. The image is thought to have been brought by Spaniard colonists from the town of Illescas, a province in Toledo, Spain where a similar statue of the Virgin Mary of Charity was already well-venerated.

Local legend recalls the Spanish captains who bring with them religious Marian images to guide and protect them from English pirates at sea. Two Native American or Indian brothers, Rodrigo and Juan de Hoyos, and an African slave child, Juan Moreno, set out to the Bay of Nipe for salt. They needed the salt for the preservation of the meat at the Barajagua slaughter house, which supplied the workers and inhabitants of Santiago del Prado, now known as El Cobre. While out in the bay, a storm arose, rocking their tiny boat violently with incoming waves. Juan, the child, was wearing a medal with the image of the Virgin Mary. The three men began to pray for her protection. Suddenly, the skies cleared, and the storm was gone. In the distance, they saw a strange object floating in the water. They rowed towards it as the waves carried it to them. They were able to determine that it was a statue of the Virgin Mary holding the child Jesus on her left arm and a gold cross in her right hand. The statue was fastened to a board with an inscription saying “Yo Soy la Vírgen de la Caridad” or “I am the Virgin of Charity.” Much to their surprise, the statue remained completely dry while afloat in the water. Overjoyed by what they had discovered, they showed the statue to a government official, who then ordered a small chapel to be built in her honor. One night, Rodrigo went to visit the statue, but discovered that the image was gone.

He organized a search party, but had no success in finding Our Lady of Charity. Then, the next morning, she was back on the altar, as if nothing had happened. This was inconceivable as the chapel had been locked. This event happened three times. The people of Barajagua came to the conclusion that she wanted to be in a different spot, so they took her to El Cobre. She was received with much joy in El Cobre, and the church there had its bells ring on her arrival. It was at this point that she became known as “Nuestra Señora de la Caridad del Cobre” or “Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre”.

One day, a young girl named Jabba was playing outside, she went towards the mountains of the Sierra Maestra, where she came across the statue on top of a small hill. The Virgin was taken to the spot of her discovery, where a church was erected for her.

All of our parishioners are invited to this wonderful celebration. Lady of Charity Pray for Us!

Msgr. Michael D. McGraw, V.F.

 

LABOR DAY – More than just a free Monday

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 all things 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 de-humanizing 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 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 un-employed and struggling to make ends meet. Finally, I would like to thank all those who “labor out of love” in the different ministry leadership and ministry volunteerism here at Saint Joan of Arc. Their ministry involvement and mercy in action enriches the lives of so many and gives great glory to God.

Msgr. Michael D. McGraw, V.F.

 

The Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven at the end of her earthly life is a defined dogma of the Catholic Church. The Feast of the Assumption, celebrated every year on August 15, is a very old feast of the Church, celebrated universally by the sixth century. It commemorates the death of Mary and her bodily assumption into Heaven, before her body could begin to decay–a foretaste of our own bodily resurrection at the end of time. Because it signifies the Blessed Virgin’s passing into eternal life, it is the most important of all Marian feasts and a holy day of obligation.

The feast was originally celebrated in the East, where it is known as the Feast of the Dormition, a word which means “the falling asleep.” The earliest printed reference to the belief that Mary’s body was assumed into Heaven dates from the fourth century, in a document entitled “The Falling Asleep of the Holy Mother of God.” The document recounts, in the words of the Apostle John, to whom Christ on the Cross had entrusted the care of His mother, the death, laying in the tomb, and assumption of the Blessed Virgin. Tradition places Mary’s death at Jerusalem or at Ephesus, where John was living.

On November 1, 1950, Pope Pius XII, declared in the papal teaching “Munificentissimus Deus” that it is a dogma of the Church “that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.

Mary’s Assumption is a preview of the glorified life of heaven that awaits all believers. Comforting hope and peaceful joy!

Msgr. Michael D. McGraw, V.F.

 

Saint Joan of Arc Catholic School: An Exciting 2022-2023 School Year!

Every school year starts with excitement as the summer vacations winds down and expectations turn to “What will school be like this year? Who are the new teachers? What will be different?” I am personally very excited to give you a little preview of our school for this upcoming 2022-2023 school year.

First, as most of you know, we are very happy with the leadership, enthusiasm and experience of our school principal, Miss Lani Hiponia. We also welcome this year, our newly appointed Assistant to the Principal, Mrs. Mary Wachowiz. Together they will provide excellent leadership and council to parents, students, faculty, and staff. We have established an excellent professional relationship and are working together to advance our school and to serve our students and families in the absolute best way possible with a true synergism of church and school.

As your Pastor, I have tremendous confidence in our school as a learning environment that educates, supports, and forms the faith of our children. As a most important ministry of Saint Joan of Arc Church, our school’s faith formation, moral and character formation, intellectual and social, cultural and health and fitness formation express the love of God and of this parish for our young members.

I want to thank our administration, faculty staff and all parents who invest in our school and by your support help to make it great! It is no accident that in the past 16 years, twenty-three Valedictorians or Salutatorians in our local high schools have been Saint Joan of Arc graduates. Talk about a solid foundation for future success!

Please continue to pray for, advance and publicize our parish and our fantastic school.

Msgr. Michael D. McGraw, V.F.

 

Saint Joan of Arc Parish and the Formation of Priests

On August 4, we celebrate the Feast Day of Saint Jean-Baptiste Marie Vianney better known as the Cure of Ars. He lived in France from 1786-1859 and was the parish priest in a small, farming community. He is most renowned for his commitment to spiritual counseling and the Sacrament of Penance. Under his leadership there was a rebirth of religious enthusiasm and practice in his parish. He is recognized as the patron of parish priests because of his priestly example and his love of the priesthood. Here in Florida, we have a regional college seminary in Miami, Saint John Vianney, that is named in his honor.

Here at Saint Joan of Arc, we have a long tradition of welcoming seminarians to be a part of our parish life.  Under Monsignor McMahon’s leadership, seminarians lived here during summer placements and helped with CCD, parish visitation and youth ministry. During my years as Pastor, we have continued to welcome seminarians in pastoral placements to learn from and assist in our CCD programs and our R.C.I.A. program. If you remember, several years ago, Fr. Wesler spent his pastoral year here and was involved in most aspects of parish life. It was a profitable experience for him and for us. Hopefully, this coming academic year, we will have seminarians helping with our CCD program and R.C.I.A. program. We will know exactly how many seminarians will assist us in late August. It is an honor and a privilege for the priests of the parish and also for all of the ministry leadership staff to be a part of the critical work of priestly formation. We are very blessed to have the Provincial seminary, Saint Vincent DePaul, located in our diocese in Boynton Beach. Graduate level seminarians from all over the state and from other states live and study at Saint Vincent DePaul Regional Seminary. In the past we have seen deacons that served at Saint Joan of Arc ordained as priests for the Dioceses of Saint Petersburg, Orlando and Pensacola-Tallahassee. In the spring we will once again be the church location for the Ordination of deacons from all across the state.

I believe that it is very important for seminarians to have an in-depth experience of parish life and ministry. The seminary experience can be quite sheltering and protective of seminarians.  It is true that there is need for quiet, study, prayer, community life experience and other priestly formation activities. It is also true, however, that the people of any given parish can be great teachers of faith, community and service of neighbor.  These are all important lessons to be learned by seminarians. A parish also has a responsibility to support vocations to the priesthood through prayer and the active inviting of potential seminarians to consider the possibility of a religious vocation. Almost every priest can tell you that he was invited to consider the possibility of a vocation by a fellow parishioner. The most important role of all, however, is that of Catholic parents to support the interest of their children in a religious vocation. Sometimes it takes a lot of courage for a young man to show interest in the priesthood and the active encouragement by parents makes all the difference in the world.

Our church today needs dedicated and holy priests like Saint Jean Vianney-the Cure of Ars. We can help to create the ministry of the future by our active involvement in the process of priestly formation.  May God bless our efforts with a fruitful outcome.

 

Msgr. Michael D. McGraw, V.F.

 

THE CRITICAL ROLE OF GRANDPARENTS

St. Joachim and St. Anne – Patron Saints of Grandparents

July 24 is the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly.

In the first chapters of their Gospels, the evangelists Matthew 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, St. Joachim and St. Anne, named in Church Tradition, represent that entire quiet series of generations who faithfully perform their duties, practice their faith, and establish an atmosphere for the coming of the Messiah, but yet remain in the background often obscure.

What about the grandparents of Saint Joan of Arc? 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.

Msgr. Michael D. McGraw

Independence Day: Freedoms and Responsibilities

This Monday, we will celebrate the Fourth of July, our most important National holiday. It is a time for family picnics, playing at the beach, for barbecues and family get-togethers. It is, also, a time for fireworks displays and patriotic concerts and parades. We are all in a celebratory mood and American flags are flying everywhere.

The fun and good times are only a part of the picture, however. The Fourth of July is really about the serious and unique experiment that is the democracy we cherish and the pledge of allegiance to which we commit.

Our American rights and freedoms are gifts from God to be cherished and protected. They carry with them the accompanying responsibilities of mutual respect and reverence for each person and his/her dignity.Together, as American citizens, we form a union that is strong and a social compact that is unique in the history of nations… “one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all”.Community by community we need to re-commit to building a unified social fabric that leaves no individual or group ostracized or persecuted because of race or religion. Our Christian faith impels us to actions both real and substantial and not vague hopes and wishful thinking. Conversion of heart is what is called for.

As we take note of the liberty and freedoms that we enjoy as United States citizens, we also need to pay attention to the responsibilities that we have. We need to create a culture of respect, tolerance and national solidarity. This involves honest dialogue and openness to compromise so that the “common good” might be achieved. Our Catholic faith gives us vision and grace in order to be active and contributing members of our country. Our Catholic faith is lived in loving community that is in so many ways the foundation of our National community. The unique contribution of each American from every cultural, racial and religious heritage is what has helped make us strong, creative and brave in the face of oppression and evil. Vigilance and attention to our responsibilities will enable us to keep our freedoms and allow all Americans to enjoy them.

Together, as heirs of the freedoms and responsibilities born of the American Revolution, we have a critical role to play in preserving them and passing them on to the next generation of Americans.

May God Bless America and help us live our freedoms and responsibilities with a tenacity of will and a generosity
of heart.

Msgr. Michael D. McGraw

Summer Special Blessings

Summer in Florida brings the humidity, afternoon showers, fewer people on the roads and endless strong sunshine. For those of us who live here all year round, it is often,also, an excuse to get out of town on the family vacation. This precious time together as a family really needs to be cherished because in our busy lives we experience so many distractions and legitimate responsibilities that make it really difficult for us just to “hang out” together as a family.Because we are human beings and social animals we need “face time” with each other to strengthen our bonds as spouses, siblings and extended families. Intimacy and sharing require attentiveness and commitment even when we are having fun.

Besides the joys and sometimes the conflicts of living closely together on vacation, there are many opportunities to “rediscover” each other and those things that are important and significant to each one of us. Time for conversation, games, sightseeing, exploring and trying new things all are possible in the ‘unstructured” world of vacation. Vacation time can also be learning time if we take advantage of locations that are rich with the historical (when I was little it was Civil War sites) or geographically with sites like Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon or Mount Rushmore. Even more adventuresome are some of our parish families who use vacation as time to re-connect with relatives and friends in their countries of origin in Europe, Latin America or other places around the world.

Wherever we go, however, it is a very good idea to take the love of God and the practice of our faith along with us. It can be quite an eye-opener to worship in other parishes and sing joyfully (or not) with other Catholic communities. I remember visiting the churches of Quebec and Montreal and thinking to myself how odd French sounded. Later on I was motivated to study it in high school. How strangely God works even with experiences that we don’t really value at the time. Vacations have that characteristic of facing us with the new, different, challenging and surprising. If we are open to them, vacations can even change our lives and expand our worlds.

My prayer for all of the families of our parish is that summer vacation may be a time of refreshment, adventure, fun, and family bonding. The fall will bring us back to reality so we really need to “live in the moment” this summer wherever we may be in God’s wide world!

Msgr. Michael D. McGraw

 

Father’s by the Grace of God

This Sunday we celebrate Father’s Day and we call to mind the importance and the critical role of fathers. We all know the virtues that we associate with good fathering: patience, strength, humility, dependability and a love that is unconditional. It is clear that these virtues are needed more than ever in our day as we struggle with the challenges of parenting our children well. Both mother and father have a critical role to play and the complementarities of their roles are a marvelous gift of God’s providence.

The grace to be a good father is a special gift and tailored to the personality and gifts of each father. I find it difficult to relate to all of the Father’s Day T.V. and magazine advertisements that show fathers that look like movie stars with perfect grooming, clothes and other signs of worldly success. My own father was a little heavy, partly bald and shorter than average. He was, however, tall, strong and successful in what was important— teaching us that we were loved and teaching us how to love.

Recently at the Family, Faith, and Fun Day, I had the opportunity to interact and observe our St. Joan of Arc dads volunteer for the success of the event. I was amazed by the diversity of this fellowship of dads. Although all are between late-twenties and mid-forties, no two are really alike. Many are in business for themselves and are very entrepreneurial, go-getters and high energy guys. An equal number work in different business settings and, I am sure, are responsible for a lot of the success of the companies they work for. Some are very stressed by their jobs and sometimes even worried about their job futures. Because as men, we often define ourselves by what we do, it is most important to remember that men are far more than what we do. It is who we are in integrity, virtues, dependability and love in action that really defines who we are. What I really enjoy in interacting with the dads is also the sense of camaraderie, support and their ability to have fun in the midst of many and serious responsibilities.

They are all concerned with being the best possible husbands and fathers and are available to each other with good advice and active concern. However, there always seems to be room for recreation and social bonding in a neighborhood pub, golf outing or a fun time with the kids. Thankfully, we boys will always be boys!

As a spiritual father or “Dad”, I cannot claim any biological children. I do, however, see the men of our school along with all the fathers of this parish as my partners in parenting this parish. My prayer for all fathers today is that we know deeply the love of Our Father and that we share that love with our own children and with all the children of the world.

May we all remember on Father’s Day that regardless of size, shape, or amount of hair, all dads deserve a big hug from the family and a sincere thanks for a self-sacrificing vocation, well lived. Also, a prayer is in order that each dad knows the profound joy of being a grace-filled Father.

Msgr. Michael D. McGraw

Summer Vacation with God and Family

Now that school is out and the warmer weather has arrived in South Florida, it is time for most of us to head out on vacations. We are all looking to get out of the routines of our regular schedules and relax a little. There is nothing quite as refreshing to me as a day without the habits of scheduling and organizing everything. It seems just as healthy for human beings to break away from routines as it is to live within them. So, we pack up the car or get on the plane or ship and head out into the unknown that we anticipate with great enthusiasm!

It is comforting to know that however far away from home our vacation travels may take us, God is always traveling with us. The beauty of God’s creation surrounds us and God’s loving concern is everywhere. We may even be able to pray together as a family “on the road”.

New worship opportunities also present themselves and we can appreciate the unity but also the diversity that exists among Catholic churches throughout the country. Different homilists, different music and different church architecture can liven up summer worship and also make us more appreciative of our vibrant faith life back at Saint Joan of Arc.

Extended time together as family also gives us the chance to connect at a deeper level and to really enjoy each others company. There is nothing like being trapped in a car, van, plane or train to create new opportunities for family sharing. It is hard to refrain from talking to others in the family when the alternative is silence or fights over the radio, mobile phone or video selections.

New opportunities for compromises and shared decisions also emerge as decisions have to be made about where to eat or what movie to see. It’s probably also a good idea to spend some time together alone as parents or kids so that serious over-exposure is limited. Vacations are God given down time and to be enjoyed to the max.
God enjoys them as much as we do so let’s make sure God gets some good laughs this summer!

Msgr. Michael 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. One of the most powerful sermons presented in the Acts of the Apostles is Peter’sPentecost Address. It is a crystallization of post-Resurrection Faith that is most inspirational and challenging.

“THEREFORE LET THE WHOLE HOUSE OF ISRAEL KNOW FOR CERTAIN THAT GOD HAS MADE HIM BOTH LORD AND MESSIAH, THIS JESUS WHOM YOU CRUCIFIED”

Peter then goes on to invite all of his listeners to follow the New Way and have their lives changed forever.

“REPENT AND BE BAPTIZED, EVERYONE OF YOU, IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST FOR THE FORGIVENESS OF YOUR SINS, AND YOU WILL RECEIVE THE GIFT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.”

This declaration of faith and call to conversion would be echoed over and over again throughout the known world and and was spread like wildfire in a movement like the world had never seen before.Pentecost is often described as the “Birthday of the Church” because the preaching, witnessing, conversions and baptisms would build the early Church of community, sharing, mutual support and prayers.This is forever the model of earliest Christianity for all ages to imitate.

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 out side 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 M. Graw

 

The Ascension of The Lord

The Feast of the Ascension of Jesus Christ, commemorates our belief in the bodily Ascension of Jesus into heaven.

The Scripture readings for the Solemnity of the Ascension feature the mission of Jesus’ disciples. At the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles, Luke tells us that the disciples ask the risen Jesus about when the fulfillment of the kingdom of God will take place. Jesus had spoken about the in-breaking of the reign of God in his earthly ministry, and he had made that kingdom present in his words and actions. He had also promised the establishment of the fullness of this reign of God at the end of time. So the disciples understandably wonder when this will take place. But in his answer the risen Christ instructs his followers not to focus on speculations about the end of time. Rather, they are to commit themselves to the work of furthering Jesus’ mission in the present, in the here and now: “… you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” The gift of the Holy Spirit will empower and guide them in this work of proclaiming the good news of the crucified and risen Jesus.

The feast of the Ascension does not memorialize the absence of Christ. Nor does it suggest that Christ has been taken away from us. Rather, Jesus’ Resurrection and Ascension make it possible for him to be present to us in an entirely new way. He is so much a part of our lives, and we are so much a part of him, that Saint Paul can speak of believers as forming the body of Christ in the world. The closeness of Christ in our lives means that he finds ways to work through us to touch the lives of other people. It may happen through the words we speak about him, or it may take place without words in the compassion we show to others. We need to trust that we play an essential role in continuing the mission of Christ in the world today and that his Spirit is alive and active in us and through us.

What a tremendous vocation to be a witness to the resurrected and ascended Son of God!

Memorial Day – Why we remember them

Every year on Memorial Day we recall and reverence the women and men throughout our Nation’s history who suffered and sacrificed for the preservation of our freedoms. We especially hold in love and respect all those who made the ultimate sacrifice of giving their lives so that we might live in liberty and security. It is a as a special day for commemorating those fallen in battle and for visiting and ornamenting their graves with flowers, wreathes and crosses.

As Catholics, we also see our observance of Memorial Day as a way of recognizing Jesus’ teachings regarding peace, forgiveness and mercy. Wars that cause human injuries and deaths are terrible tragedies even as they are the contexts of incredible heroism and generosity of spirit. Memorial Day teaches that we must continually pray and work on behalf of a world where “war is no more.” We need to teach our children non-violent and peaceful ways of resolving conflicts and how to compromise while holding fast to our Christian principles.

It is interesting to note that on May 30, we celebrate the Feast of Saint Joan of Arc. Most often she is portrayed in paintings and statues as dressed in full body armor with a sword and banner. She is credited with inspiring the dispirited French nation in the Hundred Years War and leading French troops to victory over the English. In the midst of the violence and cruelty, she maintained her prayerful union with God and her desire to do God’s will. In the end she was martyred and was burned at the stake. She never lost faith in God or lost her courage in the face of evil and treachery. She died crying out “Jesus” and “Mary”, the motto she had inscribed on the banner she carried in battle.

May Saint Joan of Arc strengthen us in our desire and commitment for peace and in our courage to be steadfast in our opposition to evil. All of the heroic women and men we remember on Memorial Day give us additional witnesses to bravery in time of testing and in courage on behalf of love.

May our remembering this Memorial Day help us to grow in love, gratefulness and mercy. May all those who we remember rest in the eternal peace of Heaven.

Msgr. Michael M. Graw

 

FIRST HOLY COMMUNION AND MOTHER’S DAY

As we all know from personal experience, our church is a very busy place. Masses daily and many on weekends, Baptisms, Marriages, Funerals, Confirmations, Penance Celebrations, Anointing of the Sick, personal devotions  and prayers. All of these sacramental encounters with God strengthen us and help us to grow in holiness. Our church truly is the House of God and where the People of God encounter the “Living God” in ways that are transformational.

This Saturday we will gather to celebrate our greatest sacrament, the Holy Eucharist, being received for the first time by the children of our parish families. This reception of the Holy Eucharist is a significant and joy filled occasion for all of our larger parish family and for the families of our children. We are “One Body In Christ”. This is because the Holy Eucharist is both the center of our spiritual lives and the source of our unity with each other and with God. For over 2,000 years Catholics have gathered to be fed by Word and Sacrament and to be united in Christ as baptized members of His Body. As the Parable of the Vine and the Branches reminds us, united with Christ our Vine, we flourish, unattached to Him, we spiritually languish and die. The immense privilege of being united with Christ in the most intense way possible is what we are sharing with our children. Each family present for the First Holy Communion Mass will be passing on a priceless heritage and a most important family value and practice.

Families pass on, form and support faith and, like Christ, each family is itself a spiritual vine supporting the faith of all family members especially our youngest. Participation in the Holy Eucharist should be understood as the most significant moment in the faith life of the family. It should be one that completes the fabric of family prayer, scripture reading, spiritual devotions, love and forgiveness and care for neighbor. The “First Communion” is just that , the first, in a lifetime of Holy Communions that will support and nourish our children spiritually throughout their lives.

Families that together participate in the Holy Eucharist faithfully will be blessed with an abundance of love, peace and joy. As important as the food that we share around our tables, the Holy Eucharist keeps us spiritually alive and capable of living out our baptismal promises. We congratulate and are prayerfully united with all of our First Communicants and their families as they take this most important step in their spiritual development.

This weekend we also celebrate Mother’s Day and have an opportunity to recognize and thank all of the mothers of the parish for the immense gift they are to us. It goes without saying that most of us received our first  religious instruction from our mothers. It was not so much teaching with words but by the example of their generous and self-sacrificing love. For all of these lessons of love, we thank our mothers and pray that God’s most abundant blessings shower upon them and bless them.

Mary, Our Blessed Mother, pray for us and keep us always in your love, especially our mothers.

Msgr. Michael M. Graw