Lent – a time of spiritual renewal

The Lenten Season is an important time to take the opportunity to refocus one’s thinking on how to grow closer to God and farther away from evil.

Lent is one of the most important liturgical seasons of the Church’s calendar and begins on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024. The faithful are prepared this season for Holy Week, those sacred days in the Church calendar when we celebrate the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

“The faithful are all called to know better their faith, to live it more deeply, and share their love of the Lord with others,” Bishop Frank J. Dewane said. “This ties in directly with our Lenten call to turn our lives over to Christ and to be more the man or woman of God calls us to be.”

Many opportunities are offered by the Lenten Season to take advantage of that concept of knowing, living, and sharing the faith, Bishop Dewane said. The Catechism of the Catholic Church reads, “The interior penance of the Christian can be expressed in many and various ways. Scripture and the Fathers insist above all in several forms; fasting and abstinence, prayer and charity, and almsgiving and self-denial, which express conversion in relation to oneself, to God, and to others” (CCC 1434).

These three pillars of the Lenten observance, fasting, prayer, almsgiving, express conversion in relation to oneself, to God, and to others. The Lord calls each person to total commitment. By practicing these observances together, they become more than the sum of their parts. They become part of a faith that flourishes and a heart that is increasingly dedicated to the Lord.

Fasting and abstinence

Fasting and abstinence is not about food, or lack of it, but instead about sacrifice for the benefit of our spiritual lives. Sacrifice and self-denial should not be viewed as something to lament, but instead should be viewed as an opportunity to remove anything that distracts us from Jesus Christ.

For early Christians, fasting was an important and meaningful Lenten practice in commemoration of Christ’s Passion and Death. The current Lenten discipline, set forth by the Roman Catholic Church, consists of both fasting and abstinence on Ash Wednesday (Feb. 14) and Good Friday (March 29), as well as abstaining from meat each Friday of Lent. Fasting and abstinence are about spiritual conversion and renewal, not solely about meat and no food.

“I encourage each of you to reexamine fasting and abstinence this Lenten Season and possibly rediscover them as virtues in the living of your life,” Bishop Dewane said. “When fasting, or abstaining from meat, this Lenten Season try not to just ‘follow the motions,’ so to speak, make an extra effort to improve upon the spiritual areas of one’s life.”


The second Lenten pillar is prayer, which the Catechism tells us is coupled with charity. All Catholics are called to a meaningful prayer life. A prayer life includes both personal, which comes from the heart, and traditional prayer, with both dimensions the faithful grow closer to both Christ Himself — as well as to His Church.

“During Lent our prayer life should not only grow, but it should focus upon the areas of life in which we might have fallen short of God’s expectation—in other words, where we have sinned,” Bishop Dewane said.

Prayer is an indispensable component of the Catholic Faith. By growing and maturing in faith, prayer becomes an act of worship. As life progresses and one receives more of the Sacraments, and more often, prayer is recognized as a critical act of public worship in the Church, especially in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Vatican II called the Mass “The Source and the Summit.”

The five basic forms of prayer are blessing, petition, intercession, thanksgiving, and praise. When someone prays in any one of these forms, they are expressing a different emotion, need, concern or appreciation. No two prayers from the heart are the same, just as no two conversations are the same.

“In prayer, we grow in the love of God and greater appreciation of who God is and what God does,” Bishop Dewane said. “In a world so full of uncertainty and loneliness, great comfort should be taken in knowing that by praying, God will offer His blessings and grace. By praying, the blessing upon us is returned. This is the beautiful exchange that needs to be part of one’s daily life.”


The third pillar of Lent is almsgiving is coupled in the Catechism with self-denial. While often mentioned as the last of the three traditional pillars of the Lenten observance, is certainly not the least of the three and is often completely misunderstood. The Church’s expression of almsgiving is an act of self-denial, or an expression of charity and assistance extended to the needy.

By almsgiving during Lent, one not only expresses care for those in need, but also expresses a sign of gratitude for all God has provided in one’s own life. These acts of charity are connected to the responsibilities of living the faith that begins with baptism and is reignited in the Sacrament of Confirmation.

“All bear responsibility in helping our brothers and sisters in Christ, but it takes prayer and reflection to understand how God is calling each of us to give of oneself,” Bishop Dewane said. The Catechism states, “almsgiving, together with prayer and fasting, are traditionally recommended to foster the state of interior penance.”

“In a sense, almsgiving is a type of prayer,” Bishop Dewane said. “Because almsgiving requires sacrifice. It is also a sort of fasting from the material world, in that what could have been purchased.”

In addition, Bishop Dewane said the precept of confessing grave sins and receiving Holy Communion at least once during the Lenten Season merits a reminder.

To facilitate this requirement, every Parish in the Diocese of Venice will be open with a confessor present 4 to 8 p.m., Friday, March 22, and 9 a.m. to noon, Saturday, March 23. Check with your local Parish for additional confession times or the availability of a Penance Service. These opportunities are made available so that the faithful may find ample opportunity to receive God’s Mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

In World Peace Day message, Pope warns of risks of AI for peace

Catholic News Service

Vatican City –

All forms of artificial intelligence should be used to alleviate human suffering, promote integral development and help end wars and conflicts, not increase inequality and injustice in the world, Pope Francis said in his message for World Peace Day 2024.

“Artificial intelligence ought to serve our best human potential and our highest aspirations, not compete with them,” the Pope said in his message for the Jan. 1 commemoration.

The message, “Artificial Intelligence and Peace,” was addressed to all men and women in the world, and in particular to heads of state and government and the leaders of the different religions and civil society.

The Pope’s message highlighted the “need to strengthen or, if necessary, to establish bodies charged with examining the ethical issues arising in this field and protecting the rights of those who employ forms of artificial intelligence or are affected by them.”

Cardinal Michael Czerny, Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, told reporters at the Vatican Dec. 14 that “like any other product of human ingenuity, artificial intelligence is acceptable if it serves the common good, protects the inalienable value of the human person and promotes fundamental rights.”

“Artificial intelligences already exert huge influence and will increasingly do so,” Cardinal Czerny said, “but we do not know where AI will take us in politics and commerce, culture and the environment and so on, so everyone needs to be better informed about developments as they occur, to speak up and take responsibility.”

Barbara Caputo, a professor of computer engineering and artificial intelligence at the Turin Polytechnical University, told reporters at the Vatican news conference that while AI isn’t new, what is different today is the amount of information collected on individuals and “the concentration of resources” in so few hands.

The concentration of data, human talent, economic resources and computer capabilities in the hands of fewer entities means that profit will be their only or overriding motive, Caputo said. “The Pope reminds us with his message that artificial intelligence is made by people for people, and it must go back to being for everyone so it can really be an instrument for peace.”

Caputo supported the Pope’s call in his message for adequate education and methods of training.

“We must commit ourselves to ensuring quality technical training in artificial intelligence for all young women and men, all over the world, who wish to put their talents to use in this discipline, with dedication and enthusiasm,” she said.

The more “authoritative technical voices” there are from all over the world, Caputo said, the more they can bring “the richness of their experience, history and culture to the technical development of the artificial intelligence to come.”

Pope Francis said the impact of any form of artificial intelligence “depends not only on its technical design, but also on the aims and interests of its owners and developers, and on the situations in which it will be employed.”

Positive outcomes “will only be achieved if we show ourselves capable of acting responsibly and respect such fundamental human values as ‘inclusion, transparency, security, equity, privacy and reliability,'” the Holy Father added.

The huge advances in new information technologies, Pope Francis said, “offer exciting opportunities and grave risks, with serious implications for the pursuit of justice and harmony among peoples.”

Many urgent questions need to be asked, Pope Francis added, including, “What will be the consequences, in the medium and long term, of these new digital technologies? And what impact will they have on individual lives and on societies, on international stability and peace?” and he added, “We need to be aware of the rapid transformations now taking place and to manage them in ways that safeguard fundamental human rights and respect the institutions and laws that promote integral human development.”

The Holy Father said he hoped his message “will encourage efforts to ensure that progress in developing forms of artificial intelligence will ultimately serve the cause of human fraternity and peace. It is not the responsibility of a few but of the entire human family.”

The full text of the papal message is available in English at:

In Spanish:

Pope Francis calls for visiting Diocesan priests to be “holy, holy priests”

Six Diocese of Venice priests were among a group of nearly 100 who participated in the annual National Association of Hispanic Priests in the United States convention in Rome in mid-November 2023.

Leading the Diocesan contingent was Father Jiobani Batista, Pastor of Our Lady Queen of Heaven Parish and Holy Martyrs Mission, both in LaBelle, who became the new president of the National Association of Hispanic Priests (Asociación Nacional de Sacerdotes Hispanos). Also participating were Father Lorenzo Gonzalez, Pastor of St. Columbkille Parish in Fort Myers, who was elected treasurer of the organization, as well as Father Marcial García, Pastor of St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Moore Haven, and St. Theresa of the Child of Jesus Mission in Buckhead Ridge, Father Elbano Muñoz, Pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Bradenton, Father Felix Gonzalez, Parochial Vicar at St. James Parish and Santiago Mission, both in Lake Placid, and Father Luis Albarracin who is retired but continues to assist at Parishes throughout the Diocese.

One of the highlights of the association convention was an audience with Pope Francis on Nov. 16, 2023, in Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Place in Vatican City.

Pope Francis told the group, the daily rhythm of the life of a priest should resemble “ping pong” – praying on one’s knees before the tabernacle, helping those in need and returning to prayer.

“Do not leave those who suffer alone; do not leave the Lord in the tabernacle alone. Convince yourselves that you cannot do anything with your hands unless you do it on your knees,” the Holy Father said. “It’s like ping pong, one thing leads to the other.”

Pope Francis told them to “beware of ecclesiastical elegance,” because concern for keeping churches pristine increases the temptation to keep the doors closed and “that won’t do.”

During the U.S. National Eucharistic Revival and with preparations well underway for the National Eucharistic Congress in July 2024, the Holy Father focused his remarks on the importance of eucharistic adoration and the essential tie between reverencing the Eucharist and serving one’s brothers and sisters.

Pope Francis said he did not want to make anyone “blush,” so he would not ask the priests how many hours a week they spend in adoration, but “I’ll throw the question out there.”

In the busy life of a priest, there are many possible excuses for limiting time in private prayer, the Holy Father said. “But if you don’t pray, if you don’t adore, your life is worth little.”

Pope Francis told them to be “priests for the people.” While priests often will not get to see the results of the seeds they plant, the Holy Father said, God wants them to trust that he will make them bear fruit.

Father Batista said the annual convention is always a great opportunity to share with other Hispanic priests and some that work with the Hispanic community from across the U.S.

“The atmosphere of friendship and fraternity is what we all consider the best gain we have,” Father said. “Sharing moments of prayer, the Eucharist in the major Basilicas in Rome was a plus. To be able to have deep insights about the Synod on Synodality from some participants brought us closer to what our Universal Church is facing and will continue working on.”

Father Batista added that meeting personally with Pope Francis was a blessing. “I brought him a book of poems written by a priest friend and a letter sent by a parishioner who was a Cuban political prisoner and it led us to share a few words. He asked me to pray for those who live in that condition.”

He concluded by saying that being president of the National Association of Hispanic Priests is a great responsibility but also is a joyful way of serving the Church in the U.S.

Father Muñoz described the trip to Rome and convention as an inspiring experience.

“Getting together with many other priests doing Hispanic Ministry all over the U.S. was encouraging; sharing different experiences working with Hispanic parishioners and realizing that it almost the same kind of situations,” Father said.

He said the private audience with Pope Francis was “incredible. His talk was touching, inspiring and realistic. Pope Francis really wants us to be holy, holy priests.”

While in Rome and at the Vatican, the group had the opportunity to celebrate Holy Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica, the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, the Basilica of St. John Lateran, and the final Mass together as a group was at St. Patrick Parish. The main celebrant at this Mass was Father Batista.

Advent: Season of Preparation and Expectation

Ordinary Time is coming to an end and the Season of Advent is upon us. This Season, which marks the beginning of the Liturgical Year of the Church, commences on Sunday, Dec. 3, 2023, and will come to an end on Christmas Eve.

Pope Francis reminds us that “we have a beautiful promise that introduces us to the Season of Advent: ‘Your Lord is coming!’ Let us never forget this! God is near, and He is coming!”

Bishop Frank J. Dewane said Advent is “an invitation to pause in silence to recognize the signs of the coming of the presence of the Lord. It is a time of anticipation and of prayer.”

Advent has a two-fold character, for it is a time of preparation for the Solemnity of Christmas, in which the First Coming of the Son of God to humanity is remembered, and likewise a time when, by remembrance of this, minds and hearts are led to look forward to Christ’s Second Coming.  For these two reasons, Advent is a period of devout and expectant delight.

“A time of preparation, Advent describes Advent as relates to the coming of the Christ Child at Christmas,” Bishop Dewane said. “Let us resolve to help bring Him into the hearts of those we encounter throughout each day. Let us take advantage of what is new in the Advent Season as the Universal Church prepares for the birth of Christ. And let us grow in Faith during this portion of the Liturgical Year on our journey toward Salvation.”

The Advent Season in the Church is different from the Christmas Season. The First Sunday of Season is Dec. 3, and it runs through the vigil of the Nativity of the Lord (Dec. 24). The Christmas Season in the Church runs from First Vespers of the Nativity of the Lord up to the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord on Jan. 8, 2024.

Because the Fourth Sunday of Advent and Christmas fall on consecutive days, the faithful are reminded that there is an obligation to attend Mass for both days, and this must be satisfied by attendance at two separate Masses. A single Mass does not satisfy both obligations.

After the annual celebration of the Paschal Mystery, the Church has no more ancient custom than celebrating the memorial of the Nativity of the Lord and His first manifestations.

As earlier noted, the focus of the Advent Season is preparation. This is done through prayer, quiet reflection, weekday Mass attendance and even fasting, Bishop Dewane explained.

Taking time to quietly reflect and grow in Faith can be a challenge. Yet we are called to put distractions aside, even for a few minutes a day, which allows the love of God to fill one’s life with joy. Many Parishes in the Diocese offer extended times for Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, as well as the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

A key symbol in Churches for this Season is the Advent Wreath. The light emanating from the candles on the Advent Wreath serve to break through the darkness, reminding us of the Light of Christ that we anticipate during this Holy Season. The liturgical color of Advent is a particular shade of purple, a color which is most often associated with royalty. This color is used to symbolize the anticipation of the birth of Christ, who is our King and Savior.

Each Sunday of Advent, an additional candle of the wreath is lit, with the rose-colored candle lit on the Third Sunday of Advent. Best known as Gaudete Sunday, this celebration derives its name from Scripture: “Gaudete in Domino semper” (“Rejoice in the Lord always”) and marks the mid-point in the Season. Bishop Dewane said that the change in color provides encouragement to rejoice during ancient Season that was originally marked by penance, as we continue our spiritual preparation for Christmas.

Aside from the Sundays of Advent, the Church also celebrates two important Marian feasts, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, Dec. 8 (observed as a Holy Day of Obligation), and the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas, Dec. 12. We are also called to seek the intercession of the saints as we make this journey towards Christmas, particularly those saints whose feasts we celebrate during Advent, such as St. Ambrose, St. Nicholas, St. Juan Diego, St. Lucy, and St. John of the Cross. They model for us the way to salvation and assist us in our own pilgrimage to heaven.

Feasts of All Saints and All Souls: their special meaning for Catholics

During the month of November, the Church remembers in a particular way all those who have died, as She celebrates the Solemnity of All Saints and that of All Souls’ Day.

All Saints’ Day is celebrated each year on Nov. 1, a day on which we honor all the Saints in heaven, both those known and unknown. All Saints’ Day is also a Holy Day of Obligation, meaning all Catholics are required to attend Mass on that day.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane said, “the celebration of All Saints’ Day reminds us that we are all called to holiness, to become Saints, and we can accomplish that by striving to follow God’s commands and being united with Him in love. To be holy, to be a Saint, means allowing God ‘to live his life in us’ as Mother Teresa taught.”

Pope Francis said the Saints were not “starched,” picture-perfect conformists, but were “countercultural and revolutionary.” The Holy Father added that the multitude of men and women honored on the feast of All Saints lived according to the Eight Beatitudes, which made them decidedly out of place in the world.

Having a Saint to pray to is an important component of one’s faith life, Bishop Dewane said. One can pray to the Saint after whom you are named, but if someone is not named after a Saint, praying to the Saint of one’s chosen middle, or even the Saint of one’s Confirmation is appropriate. An alternative is to pray to the Saint after which your Parish is named, or even one who is a patron of a particular profession or interest you are pursuing.

There are four Diocesan Parishes which have Feast Days in November. First, Nov. 4 is the Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop (Parish and School in Port Charlotte); Nov. 10 is the Memorial of St. Leo the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church (Parish in Bonita Springs); Nov. 13 is the Memorial of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini (Parish in Parrish); and Nov. 22 is the Memorial of St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr (Parish in Fort Myers).

“Learn about these Saints that are a part of your life,” Bishop Dewane said. “Read about the extraordinary story behind their being named a Saint. As Pope Francis often states, the Saints can offer examples for our lives. This greater accessibility to a particular Saint can help enhance one’s prayer life and opens our hearts to seek their intercession when we are lost in the world.”

The commemoration of the Feast of All Souls, or the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, is celebrated on Nov. 2, for all the souls who await the joys in heaven.

“It is encouraged that you pray for immediate family members, those closest to you, who have gone before us. Continue to pray for them as they make their way to Heaven, to be with Jesus Christ, Our Lord,” Bishop Dewane said. “Through the prayers of the faithful on earth, the dead are cleansed of their sins so they may enter into heaven. May all those who have died in faith share the joys and blessings of the life to come.”

During November, it is encouraged to have a Mass offered for the intention of the soul of someone who has died. In addition, an indulgence is granted the faithful who devoutly visit a cemetery and pray, even if only mentally, for the dead. This indulgence is applicable only to the souls in purgatory. This indulgence is a plenary one from Nov. 1 through Nov. 8 and can be gained on each one of these days.

World Youth Day pilgrims share experiences

A group of Diocesan World Youth Day 2023 pilgrims from Epiphany Cathedral in Venice shared stories about their epic and faith-filled journey to their supporters during a gathering on Sept. 12, 2023.

Five teens, four priests and two adults, reflected upon their 11-day journey to Portugal, joining Pope Francis and 1.5 million others from around the world for a life-changing experience. They were among 52 pilgrims from the Diocese, including Bishop Frank J. Dewane, who travelled from July 29 to Aug. 8.

The evening was designed as a way for the pilgrims from the Cathedral to express their gratitude to the parishioners whose generosity allowed so many to go to World Youth Day. Stephanie Lovetere, Youth Director at Epiphany, organized the event.

As a slideshow of images and videos rotated on a screen, the pilgrims each reflected on highlights of the journey, including stops at Fatima, the site of a famous Marian apparition, as well as Santarem, the location of one of the earliest recognized Eucharistic Miracles, then in Lisbon for the main World Youth Day activities which included encounters with Pope Francis.

Christian DiGioia, a senior at Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota, said it was an honor and a privilege to have the opportunity to go to World Youth Day.

“It didn’t hit me until we were in Fatima, as everything was happening so fast and we were all tired from flying and taking a bus, and then we were with a large group, praying the rosary, outside of the big Fatima Basilica and Shrine. What a faith-filled and joyful experience,” DiGioia said.

Others shared similar experiences with one teen saying how the frequent encounters with youth from different countries helped to reassure them about their faith, noting how language barriers meant nothing when words such as Jesus and Mary were sung or spoken, and the faith connection was made stronger.

One young man explained that a faith journey for teens today can be very lonely. However, being amongst 1.5 million other youth who are excited about their faith lit something within him – it is a gift he will carry with him for the rest of his life, he said.

The youth also enjoyed seeing Pope Francis, either during an opening ceremony or riding in the Popemobile, and hearing his inspirational words during the closing Mass.

Adult chaperone Krista Lopez, who journeyed to Portugal with her daughter, Tatiana, saw how the young people were “on fire for the Lord. None of them were faking it.”

Tatiana Lopez said the pilgrimage was “outstanding” and described how she and other Diocesan pilgrims had youth from around the world sign a Portuguese flag, with many adding inspirational messages.

“I also made a pledge to myself to pray for the supporters back here at Epiphany Cathedral who made this experience possible,” Tatiana said. “I am so blessed, as this is the closest time to my faith I have ever had, and it remains strong within me.”

Also sharing their experiences were Cathedral Parochial Vicars Fathers Alex Pince and Kris Piotrowski, as well as retired twins Fathers Richard and Robert Beligotti. The twin priests offered the closing praying for the gathering.

Several supporters told the pilgrims how impressed they were to hear about their experiences, and were enthralled how the young people conveyed not just the stories but the true emotional impact of the journey to Portugal.

Msgr. Patrick Dubois, Cathedral Rector, concluded the presentation by thanking the supporters for their willingness to understand the benefit of sending so many to World Youth Day from the Cathedral as possible.

To the pilgrims, he said, “Treasure your experience and share this with your friends. And take what you gained and continue growing in your faith.”

Universal Diocesan Confession times ahead of Holy Week

With Holy Week just days away, it is not too late to ponder how well prepared we are for the Resurrection of the Lord on Easter Sunday.

One way to help in this effort is through participating in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

To facilitate this requirement, every Parish in the Diocese of Venice will be open with a confessor present from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., on Friday, March 31, 2023, and from 9 a.m. to noon, Saturday, April 1. These opportunities, facilitated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane, are made available so that the faithful may find ample opportunity to receive God’s Mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation during the Lenten Season.

Bishop Dewane said that many people view the idea of confessing one’s sins as so unbearable that they either completely avoid the Sacrament or go infrequently.

“It is heartbreaking to hear stories from those who have avoided confession for many years after carrying around a burden,” Bishop Dewane said. “It is heartwarming to talk to people of all ages who go to confession and are relieved and overjoyed at the benefits. Some even scold themselves for missing such a beautiful Sacrament for so long.”

Throughout the Lenten Season, Parishes have offered extended hours for the Sacrament, in addition to offering Penance Services, where multiple priests from the region were made available to hear the confessions of a large number of people.

Pope Francis often speaks about the healing benefits of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, saying that he goes about once every two weeks. On March 17, Pope Francis spoke about the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

“In Confession, let’s give God first place,” the Holy Father said. “Once He is in charge, everything becomes beautiful and confession becomes the Sacrament of joy, not of fear and judgement, but of joy.”

As the Catechism teaches, the priest is acting in Persona Christi, the person of Christ, within the confessional. So, like presenting oneself at the altar to be nourished by Christ in the Eucharist, a person going to Confession, is not ultimately confessing to a priest, but confessing to and receiving forgiveness from Jesus Christ.

“The Lord comes to us when we step back from our presumptuous ego… He can bridge the distance whenever, with honesty and sincerity, we bring our weaknesses before him,” Pope Francis said. “He holds out his hand and lifts us up whenever we realize we are ‘hitting rock bottom’ and we turn back to him with a sincere heart. That is how God is. He is waiting for us, deep down, for in Jesus he chose to ‘descend to the depths.’”

The Pope emphasized that God waits for us, especially in the Sacrament of Penance, where he said the Lord touches our wounds, heals our hearts, and leaves us with inner peace.

Please contact your local Parish for additional available confession times.

Solemnity of Christ the King Nov. 20

On the last Sunday of each liturgical year, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, or Christ the King.

Pope Pius XI instituted this feast in 1925 with his encyclical Quas primas (“In the first”) to respond to growing secularism and atheism. He recognized that attempting to “thrust Jesus Christ and His holy law” out of public life would result in continuing discord among people and nations. This solemnity reminds us that while governments come and go, Christ reigns as King forever.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops notes that this Solemnity is a fitting moment in the liturgical year to promote the Church’s teaching on religious freedom. The USCCB Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty “urge[d] that the Solemnity of Christ the King – a feast born out of resistance to totalitarian incursions against religious liberty – be a day specifically employed by Bishops and priests to preach about religious liberty, both here and abroad.”

Bishop Frank J. Dewane said this year’s commemoration of Christ the King Sunday has a special meaning for the people of the Diocese of Venice.

“On the Solemnity of Christ the King, in these trying times in which so many still suffer from the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, let us be mindful of hope,” Bishop Dewane said. “Hope, like faith, is a gift from God. On this day, we can ask Christ the King, the first to rise from the dead and head of the Church, to strengthen in us the hope that is essential to our faith, the hope that pushes us forward even when facing difficulty. In prayer, let us acknowledge that Christ is our King, and with Christ all things are possible. By truly knowing that our origin and end is in Jesus Christ Our King, we find hope, peace, justice, freedom, and happiness.”

Pope Francis said in a 2021 address about Christ the King, “His kingship is truly beyond human parameters. We could say that he is not like other kings, but he is a King for others.”

The Holy Father said that Jesus was a king who liberated His followers, freeing us from being subject to evil.

“His Kingdom is liberating, there is nothing oppressive about it,” Pope Francis continued. “He treats every disciple as a friend, not as a subject… Christ wants to have brothers and sisters with whom to share His joy… We do not lose anything in following Him — nothing is lost, no — but we acquire dignity because Christ does not want servility around Him, but people who are free.”

As stated by Pope Pius XI, Christ’s kingship is rooted in the Church’s teaching on the Incarnation. Jesus is fully God and fully man. He is both the divine Lord and the man who suffered and died on the Cross. One person of the Trinity unites Himself to human nature and reigns over all creation as the Incarnate Son of God. “From this it follows not only that Christ is to be adored by angels and men, but that to him as man angels and men are subject, and must recognize his empire; by reason of the hypostatic union Christ has power over all creatures” (Quas primas, 13).

For more information and resources about the Solemnity of Christ the King, please visit https://www.usccb.org/christtheking.

Assumption: a beautiful reflection on Mary Most Holy

“At the conclusion of Her earthly life, the Mother of Christ was raised in soul and body to Heaven, that is, in the glory of eternal life, in full communion with God,” said Pope Francis when describing why on Aug. 15, 2022, the Church celebrates one of the most important feasts dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary: the Solemnity of Her Assumption.

Pope Francis said that “Mary’s Assumption is a great mystery that concerns each one of us; it concerns our future. Mary, in fact, precedes us on the way on which all those go that, through Baptism, have bound their life to Jesus, as Mary bound her life to Him. That one of us dwells in the flesh in Heaven gives us hope: we understand that we are precious, destined to rise again. God does not allow our bodies to vanish into nothing. With God, nothing is lost… It is beautiful to think that the humblest and loftiest creature in history, the first to win heaven with her entire being, in soul and body, lived out her life for the most part within the domestic walls, she lived out her life in the ordinary, in humility.”

While the Blessed Virgin has entered into heavenly glory, the Holy Father added that “this does not mean that She is distant or detached from us; the Assumption should bring eternal hope to the faithful… May we not be robbed of hope, because this strength is a grace, a gift from God which carries us forward with our eyes fixed on heaven. Mary is always there… she accompanies them, suffers with them, and sings of hope with them and brings victory over death.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes the Assumption as follows: “The Immaculate Virgin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of death.”

This Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is the oldest celebration of Our Lady. The original celebration, known as the “Memory of Mary” or “Falling Asleep” of Mary for it initially centered on the end of her earthly existence, is commonly known as her “dormition.”

Soon the name was changed to the “Assumption of Mary,” since there was much more to the feast than the end of her earthly life. The belief that Mary had been taken up, body and soul, into heaven dates to the Apostles.

It was clear from the beginning that there were no relics of Mary to be venerated, and that an empty tomb stood on the edge of Jerusalem near the site of the end of her earthly existence or dormition. That location also soon became a place of pilgrimage. (Today, the Benedictine Abbey of the Dormition of Mary stands on the spot.)

In 1950, Pope Pius XII proclaimed the Assumption of Mary a dogma of the Catholic Church, therefore, an ancient belief became Catholic Doctrine and the Assumption was declared a truth revealed by God.

The declaration of the dogma was to “make our belief in our own resurrection stronger and render it more effective,” Pope Pius XII stated in a proclamation.

The proclamation went on to say that the definition of the Assumption “will contribute in no small way to the advantage of human society, since it (reflects and builds up) the glory of the Most Blessed Trinity, to which the Blessed Mother of God is bound by such singular bonds.”

It was also expected that the faithful would be stirred up to a stronger piety toward their heavenly Mother and that those who meditate upon the glorious example Mary offers, be more and more convinced of the value of a human life entirely devoted to carrying out the heavenly Father’s will and to bringing good to others.

Pope Francis said the current devotion the faithful throughout the world have toward the Blessed Virgin confirms the earlier expectations of Pope Pius XII. “We pray to Mary in a particular way, through the Rosary. This prayer brings us closer to the Blessed Mother and to her Son. We join in her suffering and her glory and rejoice looking to eternity and giving us hope that we, too, will follow Our Lady when our life is ended.”

All the feast days of Mary mark the great mysteries of her life and her part in the work of redemption. The central mystery of her life and person is her divine motherhood, celebrated both at Christmas and a week later (Jan. 1) on the feast of the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. The Immaculate Conception (Dec. 8) marks the preparation for that motherhood, so that she had the fullness of grace from the first moment of her existence, completely untouched by sin. The Assumption completes God’s work in her since it was not fitting that the flesh that had given life to God himself should ever undergo corruption. (Note: As the Solemnity falls on a Monday in 2022, it is not obligatory to attend Mass.)

Final Synod Listening Sessions in May

Time is running out to have your voice heard during the Diocesan Phase of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of Bishops, “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission,” as requested by His Holiness Pope Francis.

To ensure everyone has a voice, the faithful are encouraged to consider attending one of the final four Listening Sessions in May; three of which will be in person, with a Virtual Session to close out the Diocesan Phase.

To date, eight Listening Sessions, starting in February, have been completed throughout the Diocese with hundreds having their voice heard in this process. Each Session has the goal of discerning the Word of God in Scripture, what those Words are saying to us while remembering the living Mission of the Church. The feedback has been both positive and passionate.

“For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission,” is a worldwide effort for a deeper communion, fuller participation, and greater openness to fulfilling our mission in the world. Bishop Frank J. Dewane said the input of the faithful is critical as the Universal Church contemplates the future. The Faithful are encouraged to respond to the Synod with an open heart, mind and soul, the Bishop added.

Each session is being recorded to allow for proper documentation. The information gathered at the Diocesan Listening Sessions, as well as from direct or follow-up comments from the faithful, will be synthesized into a document which will be shared with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and ultimately the Vatican. Similar Listening Sessions are being held across the country and around the globe.

The format of the Listening Sessions includes an opening prayer and remarks before lively table discussions. Each Session concentrates on questions inspired by 10 Synod themes supplied by the Vatican. Participants are also able to share additional comments privately by emailing synod@dioceseofvenice.org.

Listening Session locations were selected based of geography and population to cover as much of the Diocese as possible and several have been offered in both English and Spanish.

Upcoming in-person Sessions will take place from 6:30-8 p.m. at the following locations:

  • Monday, May 9, St. Catherine Parish, 820 Hickory St., Sebring (Eng./Sp);
  • Monday, May 16, St. Agnes Parish, 7775 Vanderbilt Beach Road, Naples (Eng.);
  • Monday, May 23, Our Lady Queen of Heaven Parish, 355 S. Bridge St., LaBelle (Eng./Sp);

Please note, there will also be a Virtual Listening Session from 10:30 a.m. to noon, Wednesday, May 25.

Those interested in attending any of the Sessions are encouraged to confirm their attendance by registering at www.dioceseofvenice.org. A link will be provided for those interested in participating in the Virtual Listening Session.

For any questions or comments regarding the listening sessions, please email synod@dioceseofvenice.org.

Earlier Listening Session

Diocesan Phase for the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of Bishops, “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission.”

To date, eight in-person Listening Sessions have been completed, and they include:

  • (Completed) Feb. 9, St. Thomas More Parish, Sarasota (Eng.);
  • (Completed) Feb. 16, Epiphany Cathedral, Venice (Eng./Sp.);
  • (Completed) Feb. 22, Ss. Peter and Paul the Apostles Parish, Bradenton (Eng./Sp.);
  • (Completed) March 3, St. Andrew Parish, Cape Coral (Eng./Sp.);
  • (Completed) March 14, St. John XXIII Parish, Fort Myers (Eng.);
  • (Completed) March 16, Sacred Heart Parish, Punta Gorda (Eng.);
  • (Completed) March 24; St. Elizabeth Seton Parish, 5225, Golden Gate Parkway, Naples (Eng./Sp.).
  • (Completed) March 28, St. John the Evangelist Parish, 625 111th Ave. N., Naples (Eng.).