Category Archives: Friar Reflections

A regular reflection from one of our Franciscan Friars on the day’s readings, the happenings around the parish, or discussing parochial outreach initiatives.

Rejoice, Rejoice | Friar Reflections | Laetare Sunday

Dear Parishioners,

Saints of God, the Lord be with you!

Today is the fourth Sunday of Lent, often called Laetare Sunday. Laetare translates from Latin to mean “rejoice.” I don’t know about you, but reaching the midpoint of Lent is cause for celebration in and of itself, since Lent is my least favorite liturgical season. However, all of today’s readings give us reason to rejoice. In the reading from the First Book of Samuel, the Lord sends the prophet to discover and anoint God’s choice to be king. God sends Samuel, not to the largest of cities, but to a small backwater village named Bethlehem. Surprisingly, God’s choice is not the eldest, nor the strongest, nor the wisest; but the youngest who is tending the sheep: David.

For God sees us with a depth of vision that we can’t even imagine.


God has chosen each of us to be baptized into the life, death, and resurrection of Christ so as to continue the incarnation.


Christ wears our face; Christ is who we are in the depths of our being.


The second reading from the Letter to the Ephesians reminds us that our identity in Christ is “light” and that we are called to live now as “light in the Lord. Live as children of light.” With so much darkness in the world, we are called to be the light of Christ. LAETARE! Baptism gives us a reason for living and the meaning of our lives: to continue the mission of Jesus Christ. In today’s Gospel according to John, Jesus cures a blind man who is subsequently thrown out of the synagogue. On hearing this, Jesus “found him” and reveals himself to the man now cured of blindness. The man says he believes that the one standing in front of him is the Son of Man, and worships Jesus.


Christ is always with us, but often goes unnoticed.


Christ will never abandon us or throw us out.

Stop and think this week on all the good works that you, the parishioners of Sacred Heart, do. What may be unnoticed by others is not unnoticed by God. Perhaps our greatest affirmation by God is the fact that this Easter, at the Vigil, Christ is calling seven men and women to enter the Catholic Church through the Parish of Sacred Heart.

– Fr. Steve

Accepting and Guiding Us | Friar Reflections | The Third Sunday of Lent

Dear Parishioners,

Baptism is very much in the foreground during lent. As we reflect on our relationship with Jesus during this season, we do so in the light of our baptism and the commitment it requires of us. Today’s scripture appropriately highlights baptism. As we read of Moses providing water for the exodus journey, St Paul reminds us that hope does not disappoint and the Holy Spirit has been poured forth in great abundance, and in our Gospel from John, Jesus refers to himself as the source of living water in his conversation with the Samaritan woman.

The Samaritan woman sees that Jesus is a prophet and is confirmed in faith by Jesus. That faith gives her the courage to move without hesitation, so much so, that she even leaves the water jar behind! Her faith moved her to evangelize, perhaps not knowing what that meant or entailed. The beautiful thing about her encounter is that she was accepted by Jesus in her sinful state, and that no longer seemed to bother her. She was gifted with an understanding of who it was who spoke to her, and the only thing that remained was for her to bring that Word to others. She turned away from the chores of everyday life and back toward the village where she now had a new role to play, as witness to Christ. Jesus accepts us as well. We are similarly called to be witness through our baptism.

The Samaritan woman was graced with a personal, firsthand encounter with Jesus. What Jesus did for the woman He also does for us, if we allow ourselves to be honest in our lives of reflection and prayer. Jesus thirsts to bring all of his children back into the fold, not only the alienated. He offers divine life to the entire world. We all thirst for the Word of God and our baptism is only the beginning of the well-spring of living water that Jesus offers to us. Jesus knows where we have been and lovingly guides us back. The Samaritans came to believe because of the heartfelt testimony of the woman. Our faith is not something to be guarded or hidden. It calls for conviction and courage.

May God grant us that grace.

Peace and all good,
Fr. Zack

The Three Pillars | Friar Reflections | The Second Sunday of Lent

Dear Parishioners,

Pope Francis stated during his Lenten message in 2021 that “Fasting, prayer and almsgiving, as preached by Jesus, enable and express our conversion. The path of poverty and self-denial (fasting), concern and loving care for the poor (almsgiving), and childlike dialogue with the Father (prayer) make it possible for us to live lives of sincere faith, living hope and effective charity.”

The first pillar of Lent is prayer. Lent is a time of spiritual renewal, and during Lent we put special time aside to be prayerful and reflective. Good communication is a sign of good relationship. Lent calls us to renew our relationship with God, by communicating with God each and every day. Some may like to pray with the Scriptures during Lent. Others like to pray the Rosary, or another devotional prayer. Others still may prefer to just find a time to sit quietly each day in God’s presence. There are as many different ways to pray or communicate with God as there are prayers. We encourage you to find your way of connecting with God this Lent. Here are some ideas:

    • Experiment with a new form or way of praying; Lectio Divina, the Rosary, etc.
    • For one week, set your alarm 10 minutes early, and spend that time in prayer before starting your day.
    • For one week, examine your conscience before you go to bed, reviewing your day.
    • Set up or decorate an intentional space for prayer; a quiet corner, a comfortable chair, a place in nature.
    • Participate in the Stations of the Cross, or pray the Rosary each week (as little as a decade a day).
    • Celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation this Lent.

The second Lenten pillar is fasting and abstinence. Fasting is the practice of limiting the food that we eat on certain days. You’ll know that we fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, meaning we only eat one full meal, as well as two smaller meals that together do not equal to a full meal. Abstinence is the practice of not eating certain types of food. Beginning with Ash Wednesday, and continuing with each Friday in Lent, we abstain from eating meat. Fasting and abstaining remind us of our total dependence on God. These practices help us to remember that it is only through the love of God that we are fed, nourished, and sustained. The practices also reflect the opportunity each of us has to remove the vices of our lives that pull us away from being the people God wants us to be. These ideas may help you extend beyond the standard obligations of fasting and abstinence:

    • Forego eating out once a week, and donate the money saved to a food bank.
    • Choose an unhealthy habit or vice, whether it be junk food, smoking, gossiping, or inactivity, and abstain from the behavior for one week (or more).
    • Abstain from buying any new clothing during Lent, and purge your closet of disused items that could be donated.
    • Abstain from social media for one week (or more), and spend the time saved reading scripture or in spiritual reflection.
    • Abstain from complaining for one week (or more), and write down five things each day for which you are grateful.

The third and final pillar of Lent is almsgiving, also thought of as “acts of mercy and love.” Almsgiving and acts of mercy are ways in which we tell God that we will not be possessed by our possessions, but are ready and willing to share our possessions and time in the service of others. During Lent, we make a special effort to do acts of charitable service or take up collections of food or clothing for those in need. Our parish is taking up that call this Lent in support of the Hillsborough food pantry of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul through the “40 Cans in 40 Days” drive, but that does not have to be the extent of your charitable efforts this season:

    • Volunteer once a week to help others; serve at a soup kitchen, assist a neighbor with yard work — reach out!
    • Stop by a nearby nursing home, and spend an hour visiting with the residents.
    • Make cards for those who are sick, homebound, closed off, or incarcerated. Let them know someone cares.
    • Perform one random act of kindness every day for a week (or more).

While Pope Francis’ 2021 message lays out “the what,” his 2014 Lenten message provides us with “the why” for our actions during the season. “Lent is a fitting time for self-denial; we would do well to ask ourselves what we can give up in order to help and enrich others by our own poverty. Let us not forget that real poverty hurts: no self-denial is real without this dimension of penance.”

Peace and all good,
Fr. Mike

Making Lent A Permanent Addition | Friar Reflections | The First Sunday of Lent

Dear Parishioners,

I’m writing to you on the eve of Ash Wednesday, dubbed “Fat Tuesday,” a day to celebrate before the Lenten season. Many of us will have been thinking about what we’ll give up for Lent on Fat Tuesday, potentially indulging one last time in what will be sacrificed for the next six weeks, whether it’s a common vice like chocolate or wine, or something a bit more procedural. I hear some folks try to give up cursing, though I also hear that is one of the more difficult options.

Any of these would be great to forgo during Lent, but what if we considered some more emotional or introspective options, like gossiping, lying, cheating, stealing or being selfish.  These are options which will cause us to truly evaluate ourselves, asking if we are truly being an imitator of Christ. Lent is a time for us all to spend in prayer, fasting and charity.

Prayer, an act of supplication or intercession directed towards God, can be healing and aid in our attempts to stick with our sacrificial commitments for the season. Through prayer we deepen our relationship with God. We see Jesus doing this throughout the New Testament, always seeking the Father before and after a healing. We, too, should seek the reassurance and refreshing shelter of God through prayer.

Our Lenten fasting does not have to focus on food alone. Abstaining from entertainment, like television and social media, can have quite an impact. However, the traditional view of fasting might sound sensational today, especially compared to the culture and norms during Jesus’ time. It was odd for a religious person not to fast. John the Baptist, who prepared the way for Jesus, often fasted. Jesus also teaches his disciples how to fast in the Sermon on the Mount, specifically telling them not to make a show of their fasting. Christians shouldn’t fast to look pious or religious. Fasting is a practice of humbling ourselves before God. Fasting isn’t about how God responds to our prayers, but how we bring our prayers to Him.

Charity is defined as the highest form of love, signifying the reciprocal love between God and man that is made manifest in unselfish love of one’s fellow men. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13, “If I have all things and yet do not have love, I’m nothing.” In a general sense, showing love, benevolence, good will, and a disposition of heart will incline others to think favorably of their fellow human being, and to do them good in turn. In a theological sense, it includes love of God, and universal good will to all. Over the years, the definition of Lent in the homilies I have given has changed from the simple thought to sacrificing something for forty days, to the thought of giving it up for good. The question I ask of myself is “What I am giving up and how will it cause me to grow in my relationship with God and my fellow neighbor?” I invite you to ask yourself this same question.

My brothers and sisters, it is my hope and prayer that this Lenten season truly becomes an awakening experience of God in our lives by our prayer, fasting and charity.

Peace and all good,
Friar Henry

His Perfect Love | Friar Reflections | The Seventh Sunday In Ordinary Time

Dear Parishioners,

Saints of God, the Lord be with you!

To fully appreciate today’s Gospel according to Matthew (5:38-48), we need to remember that he is writing to a primarily Jewish audience, to show that Jesus is the promised Messiah inaugurating the new Kingdom of God. While we, some two thousand years later, often call the time of Jesus living under Roman occupation “the Pax Romana,” it must be remembered that the peace of Roman rule was paid by a heavy price in both lives lost and heavy taxes.

The Kingdom of God will look and operate differently than the Empire of Rome, and this puts Jesus and those who follow him in a very dangerous position. Instead of the abusive use of power, revenge, retaliation, and greed, those in God’s Kingdom live the rule of forgiveness, pacifism, and generosity. As today’s first reading from Leviticus reminds us, this really isn’t a new teaching at all. If this sounds too good to be true, and an impossible way to live in the world, Jesus goes one step further by saying, “So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”


Of course, left on our own, none of this is possible. However, Jesus does not ask us to do something without giving us all we need to carry out His holy and true commands. Today’s second reading from the First Letter to the Corinthians (3:16-23), St. Paul reminds us that we are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in us. It is by yielding to the promptings and the power of the Spirit that enables us to live, here and now, how it will be in the Kingdom of God to come. Since the Lord is kind and merciful (Psalm 103) we can choose, one situation at a time, to be kind and merciful. Hence “be perfect” (perfect meaning ‘being whole or mature [in Christ]’).

This is the weekend before the start of Lent. Today’s readings, I think, point to the end result of what our Lenten disciplines of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are all about: growing in love for our neighbor and love of God.

Let us all continue to grow in “perfect love of God which reaches to our neighbor.”

Peace and all good.
Fr. Steve


Continuity and Conscience | Friar Reflections | The Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear Parishioners,

The wisdom of Sirach places a radical choice before us; it is a choice between life and death. The choice in favor of the law will lead to life, and rejection of the law brings along with it death. The authors of the Book of Wisdom remind us that there is always complete freedom to accept or reject it. It is important to remember that God does not constrain or force the will of anyone, God prizes too highly the freedom He has given us and sin never will proceed from God’s will, it is a consequence of human choice. God knows our hearts and our minds, yet our desires and our thoughts, however, do at times deviate from God’s will.

The lessons of today’s readings are multiple. There is continuity between the two laws, that of Moses and that of Jesus. When Paul writes to the Corinthians, he is well aware that their sophistication is no match for “the deep things of God.” He urges, rather, the wisdom of the spiritually mature. It does take some level of maturity to recognize that the Sermon on the Mount is not there to cast us down, to be meant only as a list of things not to do.

While Jesus’ intention is not to abolish the old law, he promises to fulfill or realize the law in a new way. Jesus reveals all injustice in our human frailty, yet is firm in what He expects from those who choose to follow him. In matters of discipleship Jesus does not allow ifs, ands, or buts. He tells us to “let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ Anything beyond that is from the evil one.” To read the Sermon on the Mount we should come away being challenged to the point of striving to make corrections in our own behaviors.

The Sermon on the Mount is our invitation to holiness. It hopefully resonates with our deepest sense of compassion in ways of loving ourselves and neighbor as a response to our most gracious God who has given us the true freedom to learn to love. Just imagine how different would our Eucharist be if we took Jesus seriously? The resentments we hold against others would have to dissolve before we approach the altar, lest we receive the sacrament unworthily. Perhaps that is why our Communion is aptly prefaced by the sign of peace. Just as we ask God, “look not on our sins, but on the faith of your church,” so also, we who have sinned against each other must see with the eyes of faith and forgive.

Peace and all good.
Fr. Zack


Good Deeds, Done in Love | Friar Reflections | The Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear Parishioners,

In this weekend’s Gospel, we see Jesus continuing with the Sermon on the Mount, with a section sometimes titled as the Similes of Salt and Light: When He says, “You are the light of the world,” Jesus believes that when we work through him we provide hope to our community. Our parish takes that seriously. We trust that His words in today’s Gospel carry power and we are going to draw from it. We know from experience that we can shine the light of Christ through good deeds, done in love. We need your help to be able to continue doing that for our local community. Just as you are a light, our Catholic Ministry Appeal is a light for all who rely on the ministries of our Church. Without your support, we can’t reach those who need Christ’s light to see. With your help, we can increase our impact, draw our neighbors into God’s house, and help our church burn brightly. Please help our goal of increasing our parish’s participation rate for this appeal. Any gift that you are able to contribute is welcomed and greatly appreciated. Thank you for your consideration in this appeal | Click here to make your gift to the appeal.

To update you, while the job was more involved than we initially thought, we are getting close to the completion of restorations for southernmost set of doors at the front of the church. We are waiting for the updated hardware to be delivered to allow for installation. It wasn’t until our contractors began removing some of the molding that we realized the extent of the damage to the doorway. What started as a job quoted near $9,000 for this first set is now estimated at $15,000. The additional cost is for the removal and re-installing the stain glass window and the additional wood and façade work. As I have mentioned before, these doors are original to the church, and our goal, along with any necessary maintenance, is focused on restoration and preservation, to keep with the historical nature of the church. Once this first set of doors are reinstalled, we will begin the process again with the entrance along Twiggs Street. We will place a temporary set of doors at that entryway, so those using handicap ramp will not have any impact to their access.

In January, new members were added to our Parish Advisory Board. The Advisory Board meets quarterly, and works alongside the Finance, Outreach, and Maintenance Committees in providing leadership and valuable input into our parish life. The board is comprised of eleven parishioners, along with our four friars. The parishioners are all active members who serve in one or more ministries each. The members are as follows: Laura Prather (Chair), Larry Bevis, Cindy Burnett, Sarah Daniels, Fr. Zack Elliott, OFM, Sam Ferlita, Friar Henry Fulmer, OFM, Fr. Mike Jones, OFM, Fr. Steve Kluge, OFM, Stephen Krist, Helen Lukavec, Lynda Marsh, Tony Miranda, Don Murray, and Felix Vega. I ask that you keep all of them in your prayers as they continue to serve our parish.

Activity up at the North Campus continues to grow, and with it, some income to assist with future upgrades and renovations. We are renting out the auditorium to the diocese on the third Saturday of each month as they host day-long pre-cana retreats for the couples of our greater Catholic community preparing for the Sacrament of Marriage. Later this month, our rental agreement for Bonaventure Hall, the campus’ former prekindergarten building, goes into effect, with the developers tasked with redeveloping Robles Park moving in as they begin their work. The money raised will be set aside for future renovations of the North Campus kitchen and auditorium. Funds from our Gala in April will also go toward that project. I hope you all have the opportunity to join us for that special evening.

Peace and all good.
Fr. Mike


Return to Dialogue | Friar Reflections | The Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear Parishioners,

I do not know if the daytime TV soaps “Days of Our Lives” and “As the World Turns” are still in syndication or producing new episodes, but in terms of titles, I feel as if they were precursors for the current way we see folks communicate and have discourse with one another. As our world turns, we see more and more that any form of communication we have is centered on what we think is important to us alone and no one else.

There are always exceptions to the rule. I am not suggesting this is the way we all interact with our neighbors, even those of whom we disagree with, but I do see this trend creeping into many of our communication channels, and it makes me wonder where the compassion, love and dialogue has gone within our homes, friends, family, not to mention within our own church.

In 2013, while addressing the founder of an Italian publication that often dissented against him, and with the heading, “Letter to the Non-Believers”, Pope Francis wrote, “I would not speak about “absolute” truths, even for believers, in the sense that absolute is that which is disconnected and bereft of all relationship. Truth, according to the Christian faith, is the love of God for us in Jesus Christ. Therefore, truth is a relationship.” The Pope went on to say, “it comes to us always and only as a way and a life.”

How can we come into truth without respect and assistance from one another? It’s easy to cheer along with your favorite team, to rally with a particular party, or to read posts shared by others who hold our same views. It’s easier to speak to those with similar backgrounds than those with which we have nothing in common. It has always been harder to love our enemy. When we write others off as irredeemable, we are missing something—kindness, compassion, and dialogue. We hear many times in scripture how those who were different were treated unfairly and looked down upon. It is Jesus who takes the time to speak and care for them. Why is He doing this, listening to them, and accepting them where their circumstances have brought them at that moment and time?

I feel as though dialogue was once very much welcomed and appreciated. It is a way of stretching one’s ability to see things in a different light. You may remember when there were debate teams in schools. It was very exciting to hear and listen to what was being debated on stage. It brought a sense of openness to the competitors, but it also gave some enlightenment and knowledge to the audience. These used to be the “Days of Our Lives” as the world turned. Dialogue, the common practice within our society, has now shifted to monologue. How are we expected to grow spiritually and mentally if we allow ourselves to be cut off from discourse?

In recent weeks, we’ve seen another uptick in tragic events that usually spark debate. People going out to relax with friends or family and have a good time, and not coming home. Bring back the days of our lives where kids can be kids, and adults can be respectful of each other in dialogue and work together to solve these crisis. I thought we’d always have that opportunity. This week, I hope we all take a small step towards the vision of speaking and listening in love. It is my prayer that we meet each other with respect and use dialogue in a spirit of compassion.

Open our hearts. Lord, and help us to find Christ in one another by dialoging in a spirit of openness.

May the Lord give you Peace,
Friar Henry


Proclaiming the Word | Deacon Reflections | The Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear Parishioners,

Pope Francis’ Apostolic Letter, issued motu proprio, or of his own initiative, Aperuit illis was published on September 30, 2019. As part of the Letter, the pope established that “the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time was to be devoted to the celebration, study and dissemination of the Word of God.” Today is that Sunday, now known as the Sunday of the Word of God. The timing of the Letter’s publication was significant, as its initial release came on the Feast of Saint Jerome. Saint Jerome translated most of the Bible into Latin, and proclaimed, “ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.”

My assignment and service as a permanent deacon here at Sacred Heart is something that I treasure and thank God for. I am grateful to you, the parishioners here at our dynamic parish, for journeying in faith with me over these past three years. Taking on this new role in my life and my faith has been challenging, but through your prayers and support, I’ve received the grace I’ve needed to continue to serve. Many of you have asked since my appointment, “what does a deacon actually do?” A deacon is ordained for three charisms that help guide his ministry. Word of God Sunday is especially meaningful to a deacon, as proclaiming the Word is one of the charisms in which we are ordained; the others being a minister of the cup and practicing charity for the rest of our lives.

This week is the perfect time to share with you what the charism of proclaiming the Word actually means.

“The deacon participates as an evangelizer and teacher in the Church’s mission of heralding the Word. In the liturgy of the Word, especially in the Eucharist or in those liturgies where he is the presiding minister, the deacon proclaims the Gospel.” (National Directory for the Formation, Ministry, and life of Permanent Deacons in the United States.)

When the bishop ordains a deacon, he gives him a Book of Gospels and says, “Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you now are. Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.”  I was profoundly humbled learning when deacons assist at Mass, even if it’s with the pope himself, they are to proclaim the Gospel, and at liturgies in accord with the provisions of Canon Law, they may preach by virtue of ordination.

Deacons are tasked with other designated responsibilities that relate to the Word of God. For example, at the beginning of Mass, the deacon processes with the Book of Gospels raised up in reverence, so all can see. A deacon also participates in specific penitential rites as designated in the Roman Missal. He voices the needs of the people in the General Intercessions, needs which he should have a particular and personal familiarity with from his charism and ministry of charity. During the celebration of the Mass, a deacon helps the faithful participate more fully, extending the invitation of peace, and later dismissing the community at the end of the Eucharistic Liturgy.                    

While these are just a sample of the greater duty set of a deacon, you can see each is related to spreading the Gospel. This is why this Word of God Sunday is near and dear to a deacon’s heart. We are all called to spread the Gospel, and to set the example by living It. As my father used to say to me, “actions speak louder than words.” As any one of us knows, oftentimes it is difficult to stick to that understanding of living the Gospel, but I work toward that each day. Focusing on, and spending time with the Living Word of God will change our hearts, and will enrich not only our own lives, but the lives of all.

Many years ago, I learned an acronym related to the Word…

B.I.B.L.E.: Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth

May we allow the Lord to inspire, encourage and strengthen us as we follow His instructions through His Word.

Peace of Christ,
Deacon Ray Ferreris
Servant for others


What Is Ours to Do | Friar Reflections | The Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear Parishioners,

Saints of God, the Lord be with you!

In today’s Gospel according to John (1:29-34), John the Baptist once again makes an appearance. Playing his usual role, he points away from himself and reminds his followers that he is only the forerunner, the one who makes ready and testifies to the One who is coming after him. John the Baptist then highlights the newly baptized Jesus as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” since it is He, Jesus, whom the Spirit comes upon and remains.

If there is any lesson to be learned from John it is the call to be humble and to recognize what it is ours to do, and then do it. When I begin to compare myself to others, it is then that I usually become frustrated or depressed. When I begin to compare myself to others, it’s then that I have forgotten that we are all servants of the Lord, through whom God shows His glory (Is. 49:3, 5-6), and that we have all been sanctified in Christ Jesus and are called to be holy (1 Cor. 1:1-3).

Rather than comparing ourselves to one another and making our Christian life some sort of competition, perhaps we should cooperate with and encourage one another in using our blessedness to magnify the presence of the Lord in our own little corner of the world. Making visible the Lord, Jesus Christ is a wonderful way to think about living out our own baptism.

One of the beautiful aspects of our parish is seeing the many ministries that extend into the community, each doing what is theirs to do. All those who are involved in liturgical ministries work together to ensure a smooth flowing and dignified worship experience. Those involved in faith formation seek to pass onto others the faith that speaks to the signs and needs of our times. Our parish is living the admonition of St. Francis when he wrote, “the Lord has shown me what to do, may the Lord show you.” Each in our own way is living our Baptism into Christ, and for that we should all be thankful.

Peace and All Good,
Fr. Steve