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.

Don’t Hide Your Talent | Friar Reflections | Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear Parishioners,

Saints of God, the Lord be with you!

It seems to me that the readings this weekend are preparing us to celebrate the Solemnity of Christ, King of the Universe and the end of the liturgical year. Perhaps these readings were chosen to initiate a time of reflection or introspection concerning the past liturgical year.

We who are the Church are often described as the “Spouse of Christ” and both the first reading from the Book of Proverbs (31) and our Responsorial Psalm (128) use the image of a faithful and fruitful wife to help our reflection. Remembering that God has entrusted His heart to us.

You could stop there and that is enough to reflect on.

We need to examine if we “bring God good and reach out our hands to the poor and extend (our) arms to the needy.”

And you, dear Saints of God of Sacred Heart Parish, do! Hands of Hope, Bikes from the Heart, the St. Vincent de Paul Society, the Knights of Columbus and many other groups and individuals are the arms of the parish reaching into the community. Not to mention how you treat our homeless brothers and sisters with dignity and charity.

As the opening Collect reminds us this is how we show our devotion to God as we “serve with constancy the Author of all that is good.” And there is more since: God is for giving, we are made in His image and likeness, are made for giving as well, and when we give ourselves to others, we discover full and lasting happiness and joy.

Today’s Gospel from Matthew reminds us that each of us has been given a gift from God that we are called not to cling to nor hide, but to use for the benefit of others, beginning with our families. Charity begins at home, but shouldn’t stop there. Discipleship (imitation of Christ) is not safe. It’s risky to reach out to others with kindness and mercy. But if you think about it, this might be a good description of heaven, the eternal reaching out in mercy and kindness to us by God.

To prepare for heaven we must begin living heaven here on earth. We are called not to speculate when Christ will return in glory, but live as if He is already here in His glory. And if we do, then when our earthly life is over we will hear Him say,

“Well done, my good and faithful servant…Come share your master’s joy.”

Peace and All Good,
Fr. Steve

Seeking Wisdom | Friar Reflections | Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear Parishioners,

“Wisdom is readily perceived by those who love her and found by those who seek her.”  As we rapidly approach the end of another church year, it would be a good time for us all to reflect on this gift of the Holy Spirit; Wisdom. Wisdom participates in God’s capacity to order all things properly, and a wise person accomplishes in his or her life what God does for the whole of creation.

Wisdom invites itself in our daily lives. Wisdom is not a level of education, nor does it require us to read more books or memorize things. Rather, wisdom is a capacity to live well, and to make informed decisions. Such wisdom is only possible with good judgment, stemming from experience and everyday knowledge, through listening, observation, reflection and then putting it into practice. Wisdom, in order to be gained, must be sought out and desired. Each of us seeks in our own heart and mind the people that we might ask for advice in our lives. Those people are usually important figures for us, whose practical judgments we would trust and also whose spiritual advice could be helpful. Our first reading this Sunday reminds us that we need to seek wisdom to “the perfection of prudence,” and once we obtain some wisdom, we would be wise to treasure that wisdom. True wisdom figures and reflects the wisdom of God.

Wisdom can be seen as a preparedness for Jesus’ return. Our Gospel from Matthew today brings us back to wisdom.  The parable that Jesus gives to us illustrates the practical nature of wisdom. All ten of the virgins wanted to meet the bridegroom but five of them did not bring enough oil to keep their lamps burning. A person who knows about oil lamps will know that extra oil must be taken along if the wait is going to be long. Seems a practical foresight , but five of the virgins did not have that wisdom.  When the bridegroom was delayed, those five ran out of oil.

The point of this parable is to ensure we are ready at all times for the Lord. To be ready for the Lord, we must be willing to wait for the Lord. To wait for the Lord, we must be willing to do all the things that will allow us to be ready as we wait. And so the question is, “do we live our lives in such a way that we are always ready for Him?” We must live and conduct our lives in such a way as to mirror the life Jesus has presented to us. Our question may be “how does Christ know us?” He knows us when He looks into our hearts and sees Himself. We trust and follow Him, taking to ourselves His truth so that it becomes our truth. Then the door will open for us.  May you be filled with the Wisdom & Peace of Jesus!

Peace and All Good,
Fr. Zack

Fall Updates | From the Desk of the Pastor

Dear Parishioners,

I would like to thank all of our volunteers and staff for helping put on a very successful Fall Festival last Sunday. It was so nice to see so many of our parishioners come out and participate in our parish life. When several of our volunteers were informed that we were in the middle of an additional transition for our event coordination position, they quickly stepped up to aid in planning and execution. Building on last year’s event, we added a few new elements, including a chili cook-off, bike rally, and quilt raffle. Each gave parishioners a chance to win some great prizes for participating, but also allowed for sharing their God-given talents.   Speaking of talent, Fr. Steve and I participated in the Bike Rally, but we were not the quickest. In our defense, it is hard to ride a bike while wearing a habit.

A few weeks prior to the festival, we were able to again fill the vacant event, hospitality and outreach manager position, with parishioner Vicky McCarthy stepping into the role. I told her not to panic too much about the festival because I knew our wonderful volunteers had it under control. Vicky was there on Sunday helping and taking notes, already thinking of what we can do next year.

Last Sunday was busy enough with Masses and the festival, but I was called to spend the second half of the day in St. Petersburg at the Cathedral, and for a great reason. Tony Miranda, a parishioner here at Sacred Heart since 2017, was selected to receive our parish’s St. Jude Medal for 2023. The St. Jude medal is awarded annually to individuals and couples from each diocesan parish and mission for outstanding service to their communities. Tony is an amazing volunteer who helps where ever he is needed. Every Saturday, Tony works with Hands of Hope preparing and serving food to the homeless, while also serving as an active member of the Knights of Columbus, and our Parish Advisory, Outreach, and Maintenance Committees. Sunday was also a busy one for Tony as he volunteered at the festival for several hours before making the trek to the Cathedral to receive his award at the prayer service with Bishop Parkes.

Lastly, I’d like to thank all of our parishioners on behalf of the Outreach Committee for making our first Socktober drive a very successful one. In planning, we set a goal that we felt would not only be achievable, but one that directly reflected the homeless that we intended to serve within our community. The annual average population of those considered homeless in Hillsborough County is 1,600, so we set that number as the goal. That simple message must have created a spark, because we pushed well past goal by the end of the drive. A conservative count, not including any last minute donations, saw parishioners donate 4,325 pairs of socks. Many of you will remember that the Behavioral Resource Unit of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, who directly interact with the homeless of our area, offered to match donations for the last two weekends of October. That match will result in an additional 2,529 pairs of socks, bringing our drive’s total to 6,854 pairs. Collected socks are already in the hands of our partners at Tampa Hope, the St. Vincent de Paul Society, and our Hands of Hope ministry. When you are homeless, a simple thing such as clean, dry socks can make a difference. I’ve been a part of Socktober drives in several of my previous parishes, and it has always been very successful. Again, I thank all of you for your generosity, and look forward to holding this drive again in the future.

Peace and All Good,
Fr. Mike

Give God What Belongs to God | Deacon Reflections | Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear Friends,

In Matthew’s Gospel more than in any other, the Jewish authorities look for ways to trap Jesus into taking sides on a disputed issue. In the case of our Gospel today, the issue was the census tax. The Herodians thought it should be paid, the Pharisees did not. They took their time preparing the proper wording to try and throw Jesus off by making him choose one over the other. Jesus’ answer to them didn’t matter, because either way He would have been caught in a trap with His own words. They asked Him “Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” Knowing their malice, Jesus replied, “Why are you testing me, you hypocrites? Show me the coin that pays the census tax.” Then they handed Him the Roman coin. He said to them, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?” They replied, “Caesar’s.” At that, He said to them, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”

No matter what side Jesus took, it would get Him into trouble with someone. Jesus was not about to fall into the trap. Nor was He about to miss a chance to point out there were far more important things to worry about. He doesn’t answer the question on the legality according to the Jewish law. Rather, He turns their focus to the question of what they should be giving to God. Whether they pay the tax was a matter for Caesar to take up. Their faithfulness to the Ten Commandments and to loving and serving God with all their hearts was the real question. Were they giving God their wholehearted obedience there?  Are we?

We need to take Jesus’ example of our obligation and responsibility to the state but live the larger obligation to God and be Christ in the world through our actions toward one another. The same way the image of Caesar on the coin makes it Caesar’s, God created us. We belong to God and no one else. In all we say and do, we give glory and honor to God.

If we want to be more like Jesus, then we need to put our beliefs and actions into everything we do. All we say and do reflects God’s life in us. God works through our human hands. How do we help those who can’t help themselves? Do we feed and cloth the homeless through our generosity of all we have? How do we stand up for the voiceless in our society? Do we write to our government leaders on issues that affect them? How do we protect the sanctity and dignity of every human life from conception to natural death? Do we pray for those on death row?

There is so much to be done. If we just take the time to pray and ask God where he needs us most, and give ourselves absolutely to God, then remarkably we are free to give to others in ways that are gracious and life-giving. He will direct us to His people’s needs. We just need to listen to His words and not get tricked by agents of the devil who tried to trick Jesus.

How will you love and serve God today with your whole heart?  

Peace of Christ,
Deacon Ray Ferreris

“I Don’t Like Wedding Receptions.” | Friar Reflections | Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear Parishioners,

Saints of God, the Lord be with you!

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, “I don’t like wedding receptions.”

As a Franciscan, I own neither a suit nor a Roman collar. I never bring a plus one (and when I did it was my 85-year-old friend, Sr. Kate), and once I find that little piece of paper with the number on it and make my way toward the table, I can see the look of disappointment on the faces of my tablemates. Nothing puts an end to a good time quite like sitting with a priest. Even my own family says this! So, today’s Gospel according to Matthew (22:1-14), which depicts heaven as a wedding banquet following a life spent as a disciple of the Lord, is difficult for me.

I find much more Good News in our first reading from the Prophet Isaiah (25:6-10) where the Lord provides “a feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy rich food and pure choice wines.” The fact that Isaiah uses those words twice hints at the lavishness, generosity, and sensuousness of what we can expect. Death is destroyed, and tears are wiped dry; now that is something to look forward to! And let’s not forget the mouth-watering food and choice wine! All this is ours since while alive here on earth, we look to the Lord to save us.

We are being saved since God became human in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. The Incarnation is a wedding in itself: Two, God and the human, become One, in time and forever in eternity. At the Ascension, Jesus did not leave his humanity behind, but took his human nature and his human history with him. This Jesus, God become human, now sits at “the right hand of the Father and will come again to judge the living and the dead.” Jesus will judge us on how we have shown our faith, or in other words, given our faith “flesh.” We do this by living as if we are already in heaven by serving one another through acts of charity.

In our second reading, St. Paul (Philippians 4:12-14; 19-20) is reminding us that no matter what the circumstances of our life are, whether in riches or in poverty, in sickness or in health, Christ is with us. The good news is that even death does not end the loving bond Christ has with us.

Every Mass is a wedding banquet, a feast of the unbreakable bond Christ has with us and indeed all of creation. We feast of the richest of foods, the very body of Christ and the choicest of wines, His precious Blood. It is Christ himself who becomes united with us and invites us to become united with one another. This unity we experience here at Mass is a foretaste of what we will experience in the fullness of heaven. At this wedding feast which we call Mass, we are invited, changed, empowered, and sent to invite others.

So, who will be your plus one next weekend?

Peace and All Good,
Fr. Steve

Make Your Requests Known | Friar Reflections | Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear Parishioners;

In our second reading this Sunday, St. Paul in his Letter to the Philippians writes; “Brothers and sisters: Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

Here Paul is addressing the community he founded in Philippi instructing them to put aside excessive worldly concerns and preoccupations and to turn to the Lord in prayer. Then that gift of God which is His peace will be theirs. St. Paul understood that peace springs from harmonious relations between God and His people and then among the people themselves. He goes on to recommend embracing virtues such as graciousness, honor, and purity to elevate their values and to attain the peace of God.

What strikes me most about this passage is the part which states “make your requests known to God”. Now, we frequently say that God already knows what we need before we even ask, but even so, God still wants to hear from us and hopefully we trust that God will give us what we need.

Our society seems to have gotten to a point where we have become very busy about many things which seem to cause us undue anxiety and stress. That is contrary to God’s will for us. God doesn’t want us to be anxious, but trustful and open to His plan for us. St. Francis had this passage in mind as he crafted what is known as Rule of St. Francis in 1223. In it he writes in the 6th paragraph: 

“And wherever brothers meet one another, let them act like members of a common family. And let them securely make their needs known to one another, for if a mother loves and cares for her carnal son, how much more should one love and care for his spiritual son? And if one of them should become ill, let the other brothers serve him as they themselves would like to be served.”

Here, St. Francis is reminding his followers to trust the community they have joined, essentially saying ‘we are all in this together and we need to be attentive to one another.’ That can only take place when we humble ourselves and allow others the opportunity to care for us; Let your needs be known.

This isn’t always easy, but when we allow ourselves that grace, we also allow the peace of God into our lives. Many times, we find ourselves either too shy or even too proud to let others help us, we may find it as a weakness when in reality it is an act of courage. Francis wanted his followers to live fully in the peace of Christ and instinctively knew that that could only take place in authentic care for one another. Both St. Paul and St. Francis knew in their hearts the love God has for his people and reminds, as St. Paul also states. to “keep on doing what we have learned and received.” 

Peace and All Good,
Fr. Zack

Embodying St. Francis | From the Desk of the Pastor | Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear Parishioners,

This week we begin our celebration of St. Francis of Assisi, the founder of the Franciscan Order. On Tuesday, October 3, we will celebrate the Transitus of Our Holy Father Francis, a prayer service which remembers the passing of St. Francis, followed by a reception in St. Francis Hall. All are welcome!

Before his death, Francis asked that a letter be sent to Rome to his friend and benefactor, Lady Jacoba of Settesoli, to inform her that his death was approaching. The two had met when he had been preaching in Rome, where Francis would stay with her and her family. Lady Jacoba would later join the Third Order of the Franciscans, or Seculars as they are now called. The stories say she would often bring Francis food that he enjoyed. One such treat was an almond cookie. Many friar communities bake almond pastries as part of their Transitus and Feast Day celebrations. Ten years ago today, the staff at St. Anthony’s Shrine in Boston shared this recipe:

St. Francis’ Almond Cookies

1 ¾ cups whole almonds
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon salt
4 large egg whites
1 teaspoon almond extract
¼ cup sliced almonds

Toast almonds in 300° oven for five (5) minutes, then cool. Place almonds in food processor with sugar, flour, and salt. Process until finely ground. Add and process egg whites and extract. Drop by teaspoonfuls on parchment covered baking sheet 1” apart. Sprinkle with sliced almonds.  Bake at 300° for 25 minutes. Yields four (4) dozen.


This Wednesday, October 4, we will celebrate the Solemnity of St. Francis of Assisi at the 7 a.m. and 12:10 p.m. Masses with musical accompaniment at the 12:10 Mass. With Sacred Heart being a Franciscan parish, this feast day is elevated to a Solemnity. Finally, this Friday, October 6, we will be joining the Franciscan Center for the Blessing of the Animals. Details for each of these liturgies and events are in this weekend’s bulletin, and online at shfla.org/francis2023.


I think the best way to truly celebrate St. Francis is by imitating his example of taking care of the poor. Our parish will have several opportunities to embody that example throughout the month of October, as we feature two drives dedicated to those efforts. The parish will participate in Socktober,  where we will collect new socks all month long to be given to the homeless through three of our partner ministries. Drop boxes will be present in the back of the church, as well as the Gift and Book Store. We will also host our next Giving from the Heart drive on Saturday, October 14, at the North Campus, collecting items for Hands of Hope and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. Again, details for each of these specific initiatives are available in this bulletin.


Last Friday, we were notified that the Catholic Foundation of the Diocese of St. Petersburg awarded a Fall 2023 Community Impact Grant to one of our newest ministries, Bikes from the Heart. Our application successfully demonstrated that Bikes from the Heart meets their mission to courageously live the Gospel by serving Christ by serving others. Learn more about the ministry at shfla.org/bikes. Congratulations to the group on this award!

All of these good works help us to follow the example of St. Francis. St. Francis lived his life following in the footprints of Jesus. His Rule of life was the Gospel. He recognized God in all things and people. St. Francis continues to inspire many to follow his example. For those men entering the Franciscan Order:

The Rule and life of the Friars Minor is this,
namely, to observe the holy Gospel
of our Lord Jesus Christ
by living in-obedience, without property and in chastity.

May our brother who promised to observe all this
be filled in heaven with the blessing of the most high Father.

Amen.

Peace and All Good,
Fr. Mike

It’s Not Fair | Deacon Reflections | Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear Friends,

The Gospel this week may not be one of our favorites…

“It’s not fair!”

It’s a common response from children amongst siblings, but it’s also something we adults often feel. One may think that Jesus isn’t being fair when we hear this parable. It goes against what some of us value, the value of a hard day’s work and receiving proper and just compensation for it.  To think that we worked all day while someone else worked for only one hour and we both received the same pay would drive some of us wild.

“It’s not fair! “

But what the landowner says in response to the workers is correct. “Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money?”  The landowner made the workers an offer when they took the job and he kept his word.  You work for me today and I’ll pay you “X” amount of money.  Paying someone else more is up to him.

Why do you think the workers got upset that the others got paid the same for less work?  It could be that they were more focused on the pay and not the sense of purpose or pleasure in doing the work. This is something we should ask ourselves.  Why do I do what I do, is it for money, recognition, praise from others or pure sense of purpose?  If you’re doing something that is not self-satisfying and self-fulfilling, you might have some resentment and anger about doing it, and when someone comes along doing the same job and gets paid more, you’re likely to feel resentful like the workers in the parable.

The story is told of Yogi Berra. The New York Yankees were at their peak and were negotiating contracts for the next year. A group of reporters interviewed players as they emerged from the owner’s office, and one of them asked Yogi Berra about the terms of his contract. In his characteristically, plain-spoken style, he said, “I’m gonna get to play baseball again next year for the Yankees, and would you believe it, they’re gonna pay me besides!”  That’s the way to think about gainful employment, doing what you do and doing it well and getting paid for it too.

A second point I’d like to make is with the disgruntled workers in the parable, I feel perhaps they lacked a sense of gratitude. Think about it.  I know, like probably many of you as well, how it feels to be out of work.  It’s not the best of times, it’s a difficult situation.  Can you remember how grateful you were when you got that call with a job offer?  It’s the best feeling! In the parable, some of the workers who showed up to find the positions filled were saddened and stayed around all day and were probably hoping for a different opportunity or vacancy of sorts, so they could work to feed their families.  Then suddenly the landowner shows up and offers them a job.  What a feeling of relief and gratitude. 

At that point the worker would accept any amount of money to help feed his family. It was more than what he had started with!  At the end of the day the landowner pays them all the same because he knows that it takes “X” amount of money to feed their families, so he is generous enough to do so.  We, too, need to consider those less fortunate in our daily lives. You probably heard this before: “I complained because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.” The same holds true for every level of work. Are you able to clean your house or mow the lawn? Are you able to buy your groceries and pay your bills? There are those who are not able to do any of these things. The more we consider how blessed we are, the more we’re able to look upon those less fortunate with compassion instead of resentment. 

So let us be open to recognizing our blessings and recognizing the needs of others by reaching out to our sisters and brothers.  May we always remember that our God is never outdone in generosity. May we strive to be more like Him!

Peace of Christ,
Deacon Ray Ferreris

Forgiving Without Limit | Friar Reflections | Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear Parishioners,

Saints of God, the Lord be with you!

Perhaps the most challenging aspect of being a Catholic Christian is the call to be a forgiving person. This his highlighted in all the readings this weekend and even the Psalm (103) which states, “the Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger and rich in compassion.” Today’s first reading from the Book of Sirach (27:30-28:7) states, “Forgive your neighbor’s injustice, then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.” This reminds me of the Lord’s prayer which states, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” The phrase “as we” contains within it both a sense of time and a sense of manner.

Today’s Gospel according to Matthew (18:21-35) raises the question of how many times must we forgive. As much as seven times, Peter responds suggesting this is a generous amount by any standard. Perhaps. But Jesus answers, “Not seven times, but seventy-seven times!” This is God’s standard, forgive without counting and without limit. Even the second reading from Paul’s letter to the Romans (14:7-9), while not mentioning forgiveness, reminds that that we are called not to live for oneself, but for the Lord. A way to show that we are living for the Lord is to be a person of forgiveness. Even as he was dying on the cross, Jesus not only forgave those who crucified him, but even more astonishing made excuses for them: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34).

The dilemma is that most of us think that forgiveness is a feeling. It’s not. Forgiveness is a choice we make to treat with kindness and respect the person who wronged us. Forgiveness has nothing to do with forgetting how we were hurt or who has hurt us. Forgiveness is about remembering who hurt us, or how we have been hurt, but choosing to live our lives imitating our Lord who is kind, merciful, and rich in compassion. Forgiveness is choosing to live in the freedom of the present and the future Christ calls us to, and to not be shackled to past injustices done to us.

All of us have been hurt, and all of us have hurt others. We are a people, a community of disciples, both called to forgive and be forgiven. Asking for forgiveness is a hard pill for some of us to swallow, or, given the circumstances, impossible to ask from others. If this is the case, and we cannot “make amends,” then the least we can do is to ask God to bless those we have hurt. Let us remember, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has God put our transgressions from us.” Let’s put the transgressions against us as least as far.

Peace and All Good,
Fr. Steve

Reconciling with Your Brother | Friar Reflections | Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear Parishioners,

Last Sunday, we heard Jesus telling us we must take up our cross and follow him. That’s always difficult to hear. When we have the courage to do so, we are showing our willingness to follow Him. By taking up our cross, we show we are joined to Him. We show our trust in Him.

This Sunday, Jesus points towards a very common, real, and unfortunately uncomfortable experience in the task of offering forgiveness and reconciliation to an offending brother or sister. It is in this process of healing broken relationships that discipleship shows its very real and practical meaning. Life in common, even life in common among Christians, is not easy. We can rub each other the wrong way. Our speech can easily offend. Our anger can cause us to lash out. We are prone to gossip or tell stories about others that do not reflect the best in them, or ourselves.

Jesus outlines for us a three-step process for attempting to gain reconciliation in approaching a person who has offended us, but I would just like to address the what I feel is the first and most important step. While this process might not work for every case, we must engage in the process regardless.

That step we must take is to ensure the reconciliation is done face to face, one on one.

We must attempt to dialogue with one another in a deeply interpersonal manner. The process of coming together is not conducted by text message or email. The personal element preserves honor and dignity. You are carrying your cross and not forcing others to carry it for you.

Isn’t that where healing begins?

While we may not get through to the offending party, we can at least begin to come to terms with the hurt. Though Jesus says that the entire community may need to be brought in to resolve the situation, it is also true that reconciliation may happen prior to going that far.

Saint Paul sums it all up today when speaking about the Commandments that involve interpersonal behavior and responsibility. He says that, in the end, we owe no one anything except to love. For to love means that our lives are at peace with others and with the world.

Loving here is the most profound form of respect and caring. May the Lord give us that peace.

Peace and All Good,
Fr. Zack