Thursday, November 19, 2015

St. Augustine Church Offers Parishioners Free Access to Symbolon

Blog by Paulina Rios

St. Augustine Church is taking a step toward the modern world by providing parishioners access to the unofficial Catholic Netflix.  
This “Catholic Netflix” is actually a website called, where members and guests of St. Augustine Church can enjoy free access to Symbolon, an online program that explains the Catechism of the Catholic Church in videos.
Vincent Herzog, coordinator of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) and Adult Confirmation Preparation Program, said Symbolon is a well-produced program that presents information in an objective manner.
Parishioners in RCIA or Adult Confirmation Preparation classes can use Symbolon to supplement their learning experience.
Isabella Trujillo, a UF marketing major, said Symbolon has helped her spiritually.
“Symbolon has taught me how to pray more peacefully and get closer to God,” Trujillo said.
Isabella Trujillo, 19, watches Symbolon in the Marston Science Library to prepare for the Adult Confirmation Preparation Program. Trujillo said Symbolon is entertaining because it appeals to both visual and auditory learners. Photo by Paulina Rios

Symbolon is divided into two categories. Part one is called “Knowing the Faith,” and it explores the creed.
“Imagine the creed like a drop-down menu on a website and each episode clicks on the line of the creed and expands it,” Herzog said.
Part two is called “Living the Faith,” and it is an exploration of how Catholics live.
“It is the sacramental life, life of service in the home and service in the community,” Vincent said.
Symbolon also provides a participant guide, which includes prayers, discussions, reflection questions, and links to related content.
Caitlin Moriarty, a UF biology major, said Symbolon serves as a good review for content she learned in high school.
“It’s always good to have the opportunity to brush up on Catholic teachings,” Moriarty said.
Herzog said Symbolon is dynamic and helpful for participants who find it difficult to keep up with the readings of the Catechism.
“One of the great things about audio and visual media is that it draws in the imagination, which is a very important faculty for learning,” Herzog said.
Symbolon features well-known teachers such as Jim Beckman, Tim Gray, and Edward Sri, who present the information in many different ways every few minutes.
Herzog said one moment you might be listening to a person giving a presentation with visuals in the background, and the next moment you are listening to a conversation between two people.
Herzog said Symbolon allows people to see and hear the beauty of the Church.
“It’s exciting how creative people can get in evangelizing and spreading the Gospel,” Herzog said.
St. Augustine Church has access to Symbolon for one year, and it can choose to renew the program once the year is over.
“We’d like to renew the program, but it depends on how willing the community is to support it,” Vincent said.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Thanks for a Great Summer St. A's!

Blog by Alex Sanchez

Picture by Michelle Habib
In case we didn't get a chance to meet this summer, my name is Alex Sanchez and I'm a seminarian for the Diocese for St. Augustine, FL. This summer, I was assigned to live in residence at St. Augustine's parish and to work at the Catholic Charities in Gainesville for eight weeks. For me personally, every summer assignment is an opportunity to build memories. It is these memories which I take with me back to seminary and reflect on as I discern my call to the priesthood. I must say as I reflect on them now back home that it has been an awesome summer and I can see how the Lord has affirmed my call.

 Picture by Joseph John Thalakkottor
This community has truly inspired me deeply by your amazing witness of living the Faith in a modern and secular world. This summer we saw many things happen in our nation, but I was impressed by how you, the students and the other family members of the parish, show love and full support to the teachings of Holy Mother Church. I was also impressed by your deep and strong desire to grow closer to our Lord through prayer and participation in the Liturgy. Basically I was impressed by how much you all love being Catholic!  I once saw an interview with Cardinal Dolan, in which he spoke of his time as a rector in the seminary and explained how much the seminarians impressed him with their desire to pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament, exposed every day. He said in the end of the interview that if they were going to pray an hour everyday, then he would pray two hours a day with them, because he was their shepherd and their father needing therefore to set the example and model of prayer. Being at St. A’s, I have been challenged by you all to fall more in love with the Church, more in love with our Blessed Mother, and more in love with our Lord in the precious gift of the Eucharist. Why? Because I truly believe God is calling me to be a priest and I want to be a good priest for His holy people.

I ask that you please pray for me as I return for my final year of seminary formation at St. John Vianney College Seminary, where I have spent three years studying philosophy. Again, thank you St. A’s for this wonderful summer! I had an awesome time getting to know many of you this summer. In a special way, I want to thank the priests of the parish who showed me an excellent priestly witness and gave great fraternal support to me. Please know that you are all in my prayers. God bless you all!

Praise be Jesus Christ, now and forever!
Alex Sanchez

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Finding Freedom in Jesus

Blog by Michelle Habib

“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel for He has come to His people to set them free” Lk 1:68. In a culture centered around a misunderstanding of freedom—doing what we want, when we want, and how we want—how is it that we, as believers in Christ, assert that Jesus is the source and founder of our freedom when, like the possessed man in the temple, many people today cry out to God and say “Let us alone! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?” Mk 1:24.  God can be identified more as this being who would come to destroy freedoms, hammering impossible regulations through strict institutions rather than seen as the loving but fierce shepherd who tends and guides His flock. This perspective is harmful in that it promotes a rebellious attitude towards the Lord, ultimately losing where true freedom is found—in the will of God.
Before we go further, first lets look at the definition of freedom. Interestingly enough, two definitions displayed while googling the word “freedom" are 1. the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint and 2. the state of not being enslaved or imprisoned. As Catholic Christians that understand human nature is afflicted by sin, a contradiction between these two definitions arises. How often do we become enslaved by our free actions, imprisoned by our free thoughts, or tormented by harsh or false words uttered freely towards another? How can both of these definitions be completely true?
Ultimately, how are we able to live freely and abundantly without acquiring the chains of bondage? The only way these two definitions can be reconciled to make sense is if they incorporate the person of Jesus Christ and His Church which He appointed as protector and guide for the human race. One of my favorite images to explain how the Church is actually a supporter of freedom rather than a vampire sucking out freedom pleasures is explained by G. K. Chesterton in his book, Orthodoxy. He explains, “Catholic doctrine and discipline may be walls; but they are walls of a playground. Christianity is the only frame which has preserved the pleasure of paganism. We might fancy some children playing on the flat, grassy top of some tall island in the sea. So long as there was a wall round the cliff’s edge, they could fling themselves into every frantic game and make the place the noisiest of nurseries.” The walls symbolize Mother Church as guardian and guide, for without her walls, the children would be forced to play, in fear, towards the center of that island and could not be free to roam around the borders.
Within this image is another opponent to true freedom: fear. Notice, those children without the wall (the Church) cannot skip and dance along the edges because they are afraid…as they should be. Fear can be paralyzing. It can be irrational—projected onto us from the media, people around us, or from the enemy. It can pin you down, discourage you, and preoccupy your thoughts away from the light of this world and onto the darkness. Even more, it is not always noticed as an obvious inducer of a complacent lifestyle.
Try praying the Litany of Humility sometime…you’ll quickly see how many fears about reputation or injury can plague the mind. I remember one time last summer, I was invited to go swing dancing with a new friend I had met. I hadn’t swing danced since the 4th grade in the school gym and was overly conscious that I would look dumb or sit alone for the night once my friends realized what a horrible dancer I was. I initially declined his invitation and spent the whole day battling my fears and doubts, but ultimately, I chose to go because the only reason I discovered I didn’t want to go in the first place was because I was afraid I would look dumb or get hurt.
I went, I had an incredible time, and driving home, I thought about how my fear could have kept me from experiencing that night. Small event, but isn’t your life made up of a series of seemingly small events? Seemingly small, but in reality, “each of us at each moment is progressing…into a creature that is in harmony with God, with other creatures, with itself or else, into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow creatures, and with itself” C.S. Lewis. Now, choosing whether to go dance or not doesn’t appear so consequential in guiding me towards Heaven or Hell but I will say that the joy I experienced in saying, “Ok, I’ll try”  to the unknown versus taking the safe route, reading my book in bed is incomparable. With Jesus, we do not need to fear for He is with us until the end of the age. And not only has He given Himself to us, but He has also given us His Immaculate Mother, the Communion of Saints, a guardian angel, and the sacraments.
True freedom is present only in Jesus Christ—the One Who formed you, Who guides you, and Who spilled His Precious Blood so that you could be freed from the chains of sin.

“Follow Jesus Christ who is the source of freedom and light. Be open to the Lord so that He may lighten all your ways.” Saint John Paul II

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Peter and Paul

Blog by Jennifer Ely

            In this month of June, we celebrate the Solemnity of two great titans of the Catholic Church: Peter and Paul, men immortalized by their fearlessness and fortitude for the sake of their beloved Church - for the sake of our beloved Church. Paul’s part was to go out to all the nations, to bring Gentiles and Jews and all people alike to Christ.  He is known to have written a large portion of the New Testament. His words of exhortation for the Faith drive us still today. Peter was to be the first Vicar of Christ here on Earth, the Rock of the Church, against which the gates of Hell would never prevail.
            So why do we celebrate these saints of Heaven on the same day? Surely they each deserve a day all to themselves! But Mother Church always has a plan for such things. We celebrate these great men together because of what they were for the Church: warriors of faith, champions of Christ, humble servants of their Lord united with His Will.
            This pairing is also a sign to us as Catholics. This day that we celebrate is one that should challenge us, should spur us forth to be more like Peter and Paul. We must step forward into the light of day and proclaim exactly what we are, and exactly what we believe. There is no way of changing this world for the better without Truth, and these men knew that, and taught us how to do it.
Saint Paul arrested,
 early 1900s Bible illustration
            We need St. Pauls out there, bringing in new and fresh hearts to Jesus constantly. We need a passion and fervency when we declare Christ as Lord of all. We need strength, valor, and solidity in our proclamation of the Kingdom of God. The words of Paul do not endure to this day simply because of their beauty, or because of his fervor alone; they endure because they are true, and Paul, in his deep humility, knew himself to be the conduit of that Truth. He knew all that the Lord asked of him was necessary, from his trips across the sea to unknown lands, to his multiple imprisonments. He knew his life was Christ’s, even in his last moments when the blade of a sword took it. All he had was given up for Christ, willingly, because he knew that the plans of the Lord were far greater than any he might try to conceive.
            There are many missionary organizations that operate with that same desire that Paul had, to set the world on fire for Christ. Programs like this need brave Catholics to step up and acknowledge their faith, and they also need the prayers of their fellow Christians. For nothing in our Church has ever been accomplished by the work of just one of us.
St. Peter Preaching the Gospel in the Catacombs by Jan Styka
           And while these missionary programs that take our people out into the world are so very necessary, we also need St. Peters. Peter was the first pope, yes, but in a time when that title was a death sentence from the world. Yet still he remained—shepherd of the flock of Christ, defender of the Church—and stood as both beacon of hope and rallying point for the Church’s knowledge, faith, and works. His was a task of great endurance, and one that, two thousand years later, we can still see the fruits of. His love for Christ was so great that he forfeited his life, and his understanding of what Jesus did on the Cross was so great that he would not allow himself to be killed in the way of Christ, choosing instead to die crucified upside-down. We need to be rocks of faith, building stones of the Church, standing firm on the solid foundation of the apostles' knowledge of Christ. We must untiringly seek out every last iota of our great Faith, and then share that information with those Catholics who may be tired, or jaded, or may misunderstand Mother Church. We cannot forgo the old Catholics, the cradle-Catholics, or the cafeteria-Catholics.
            How do we do this? How do we become like Peter or Paul? We strive. We go out, be we full time missionaries or missionaries within the work force, and we do not let this world dim the light of Christ in us. We don't go to Mass and sit, lemming-like, in the congregation without realizing what grace is happening before our eyes. We proclaim in both word and deed the love of God without compromising the Truth. We find the answers to the questions we have instead of thinking they're unimportant or foolish or, God forbid, that we know better than the Church or Christ. We learn about what it is that makes up our Faith, the one that we speak of in the Nicene Creed we recite every week.
            Yes, it's going to be hard, and complex, and take up time that you would normally use for other things. There is no denying that. But we are followers of Christ. It is branded on our souls that we are His, as He made Himself ours. That love can drive us to do things beyond our imagining, if only we allow the Lord to guide our way.

“I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world.” –John 16:33

The Holy Spirit and Pentecost: A Direct Line to Our Hearts

Blog by Tonia Borsellino

God often answers our quietest prayers first. He answers the prayers we briefly mention in the pews of His church - the prayers we think no one cares about, no one hears, or no one is willing to help us with.

When those prayers are answered, we are cut to the heart because we know they couldn’t have been answered by anyone else but Him.

“He plumbs the depths and penetrates the heart; their innermost being he understands. He makes known the past and the future, and reveals the deepest secrets.” Sirach 42: 18-19

For God to hear the prayers in the depths of our hearts, it means that even today, He is with us. God’s abundant love for us doesn’t allow Him to exist in just one moment in time. He is with us every second of the day. In moments where we feel like the world is ours to conquer, or when we feel like giving up and all hope is lost.

He comes to us in the sacraments and through the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit that came at Pentecost. 

“Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.” Acts 2:3-4

The Holy Spirit is living proof of God’s love for us. He is God, speaking directly to our hearts. Through the gifts of the Spirit, including visions, tongues, or prophecy, the Holy Spirit always finds a way to speak to our innermost desires.

Pentecost” by Jean Restout II, 1732.
Just like Peter said, the men at Pentecost weren’t drunk. It was too early in the morning for alcohol to play a factor in the way these men were acting. The only explanation for what was happening was God.

These men were given the gifts of the Holy Spirit to prophesy and proclaim the word of God, in the present moment, for all to know the love of Christ.

And the Holy Spirit doesn’t just touch the hearts of those who receive the gifts. He reaches everyone.

“They were astounded, and in amazement they asked, 'Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans? Then how does each of us hear them in his own native language? We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.'” Acts 2:7-8

The gifts confirm that what is being said or done is from God, by the Holy Spirit working in each person.

Peter explained at Pentecost that to receive the Holy Spirit, we must make our conscience clean with God through Reconciliation after we have been baptized. Those simple acts will open our hearts to the movement of the Holy Spirit in our lives and the sacred heart of God.

Sometimes God may feel far away and only present in moments of the Church’s historical beginnings like at Pentecost. But the same Holy Spirit that was there is in each and every person’s heart, waiting to be called on and to unite us with the One who gave His heart for all.