Arm Yourself

Fr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

 

Once again, the bloody fingerprints of a terrorist have been left on our society. Ever since that dreadful day in September, 2001, we have been dealing with the fingerprints of terrorism either through waging war, using drones to take out terrorists, or through an increasing acceptance of trading our liberty for security. And as the years have waned, our taste for war has grown sour. In general, western democracies have little desire to fight any more wars. As a result, our will and resolve when it comes to dealing with terrorism is greatly diminished. And while being a warmonger is not what we aspire to, protecting liberty and freedom sometimes requires a strong hand. So either we keep doing what we are doing and hence keep getting what we are getting, or ask for the terms of surrender so the killing stops, or design a new strategy

In so many ways we are becoming like the French and English on the brink of World War II. There was little desire at that time to enter another war; after all, World War I was still fresh in the minds of most Europeans. But it was that weakened resolve that made it all the more easy for Hitler to occupy France so quickly and beat down the English unmercifully. There’s a lesson there for us and probably a warning

Another lesson can be gleaned from another time in history. By the middle of the sixteenth century, the Ottoman Turks, or the Mohammedans as they were known, had overtaken North Africa, made their way into Spain, and were knocking at the door of Western Europe. Their goal was to extend the Ottoman Empire to all of Europe and establish cultural and religious hegemony

Once again, the will of the Europeans was weak and their resolve to push the invaders back was almost non-existent. The Renaissance had bequeathed a little too much ease and comfort, and the divisiveness between Catholics and Protestants made forming a unified coalition almost impossible. But a few European leaders saw the trouble coming and with the help of Pope Pius V were able to string together a small confederation of the willing to fight off the Ottoman Turks. At the famous Battle of Lepanto, the Ottoman Turks were defeated decisively and for the next 500 years were no longer a threat to Europe.

The upset victory was attributed to the Pope and the faithful of Rome praying the Rosary during the Battle, as well as the newly found image of Our Lady of Guadalupe that one of the naval captain carried with him. Afterwards, the Church began celebrating the Feast of Our Lady of Victory, now Our Lady of the Rosary, on October 7 (the date the battle was won).

All of that reminds us that the greatest weapon that we have is prayer. Prayer can strengthen our resolve to bring a decisive end to terrorism, as well as giving us the wisdom to figure out how to accomplish that.

The Rosary is one of our most powerful prayer tools. Early in the 20th century, Our Lady’s apparition at Fatima warned of the coming turmoil and asked that the rosary be prayed for peace. More recently, Pope Francis placed his papacy under the protection of Our Lady of Fatima. It seems he is calling us at the beginning of the 21st century to heed the call to use the weapons of prayer, especially the rosary, to be instruments of peace for our world. During this centenary of Fatima, part of the new strategy to defeat terrorism is unleashing the power of the Rosary.

Our Lady of Fatima – pray for us.

Love,
Fr. John B.

The Graduate

Fr. John Bonavitacola
Dear Friends,

When I was young (er), I was Dustin Hoffman – or at least people thought I was. People would ask me if I was, and sometimes I would even give my autograph. Ironically, I also worked for a lady named Mrs. Robinson, strictly business relationship, of course. Actually, she was Jewish, but “Jesus loves you more than you will know.” I thought of this when I saw that it is the 50th anniversary of the film “The Graduate” with Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft. In the film, Hoffman, a recent college grad, is given non-stop advice on what he should do, what job, what career is the best for him and is constantly asked what he wants to do with his life. He is given advice such as “There’s a great future in plastics. Think about it. Will you think about it?” In the film he falls in love with the daughter of Anne Bancroft, who finds out he is also having an affair with her mother, and well, Hoffman’s entrance into adult life is a complicated mess.

So I think of all the graduates at this time of year. The number one question young people are so often asked is “what do you want to be?” Mostly, that question is meant to get to what type of career or work a young person is going to pursue. Gone are the days when a young person just did what his father and his grandfather did before him. In fact rather than staying at one job your entire career you might just be the butcher and the baker and the candlestick maker. In our culture at 18 or 21 or 22 yrs of age, it can be hard to know what you want to do for the rest of your life.

A better question might be not what do you want to do, but what kind of person do you want to be? The answer to that will determine whatever you do. If you want to be an honest person with integrity, you can’t be a dishonest car salesman or a corrupt politician. So knowing what kind of person you want to be is a prerequisite to determining a career or vocation path. What kind of person you want to be includes your definition of happiness which, in turn, includes your values, beliefs, and principles. After figuring that out, the heart will know where to pursue a career or vocation.

So often people ask, “Why did you become a priest?” After all these years (29 and counting), I can hardly remember. Because I look good in black? There was nothing else really to do? The Eagles didn’t offer me a contract?! I guess when God speaks to your soul, it is hard for the mind to put it into words. “I just knew” seems to be the best way to describe the reason. I knew I wanted to be of service to God and the Church. After that, determining the rest was detail.

But the more important question today is why do you remain a priest? After all, the grandeur of the image of Bing Crosby in “Going My Way” has long since lost its luster. So why stay? Well, it is for the same reason that all of you stay, all of you continue to not excuse yourselves from the Body of Christ. It’s because we are all gripped with the love of Jesus Christ, and he will not let go. “Lord to whom shall we go…?”

So don’t badger our recent graduates with “what are you going to do?” or “what career have you chosen?” but rather challenge them to articulate what values are important to them, what principles will guide their decision making and life choices and what kind of person do they want to be?

No one plans on becoming a person like the loveless Mrs. Robinson. That happens when we don’t pay attention to the foundation we are building, the choices we are making, and the consequences of our decisions. In the end, we were made for God. That is the ultimate goal; what we do along the way are the details and roadmaps that get us there.

Pray for our recent graduates that they may discern what is truly the surest path to God for their lives.

Love, Fr. John B.

Jubilee Year of Fatima

Fr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

As we enter into the Centenary Celebration of the Apparitions at Fatima, I want to point you towards Fr. Andrew Apostoli’s book Fatima for Today. Fr. Apostoli gives a thorough account of the history, theology, and the implica- tions of the messages for us today. I highly recommend his work and at the same time caution you that there are differ- ent groups that promote the Fatima message, and not all of them are worth your time. There are some groups that dis- pute that St. John Paul II revealed the full contents of the “third secret” or that the Consecration of Russia actually took place according to our Lady’s direction.

Our Lady did warn that Russia (communist) would continue to spread her errors throughout the world. She spe- cifically asked that the Pope consecrate Russia to her Immaculate Heart so it would be converted. Since no Pope has been able to actually go to Russia, though both John Paul II and Benedict XVI tried, this is how the consecration took place:

Pope John Paul II, after consulting with Sr. Lucia (one of the three children to whom our Lady appeared), working with political movements in Poland, and joining with President Reagan to loosen the grip of the Soviets, made the consecration after experiencing what he considered to be Mary’s rescue from an assassin’s bullet.

The Consecration took place as Soviets were planning an attack on Europe after Great Britain, Germany, Italy, Holland, and Belgium agreed to accept American medium-range missiles in 1983. But on May 13th, after the Consecration, an accident at the Severomorsk Naval Base caused most of the anti-aircraft mis- siles to explode, leaving the Soviet Northern Fleet without its strike capacity.

And at the same time that Pope John Paul II was carrying out the 1984 consecration in Rome, Bishop Pavel Hnilica (who had traveled surreptitiously to the Kremlin in civilian clothes) joined in the Pope’s consecration along with Fr. Leo Maasburg at the Church of St. Michael the Archangel in Moscow where they re- peated the consecration at the Church of the Dormition (Assumption) of Our Lady. Using hosts and water and wine in aspirin bottles, Bishop Hnilica and Fr. Maasburg were able to say Mass inconspicuously behind an open copy of the Soviet newspaper Pravda.

While Soviet Communism did collapse, the conversion of Russia is still an on-going challenge. I find it amazing how Russia is dominating the news these days. It seems the historical happenings of today are all somehow interwoven with the message of Fatima. So I highly encourage you to read Fatima for Today as Fr. Apostoli unravels some of the mysterious, as well as confusing, parts of the Fatima apparitions and messages.

In the meantime, in our little part of the world, we will honor Our Lady of Fatima by asking one of our families each weekend after Sunday Mass to take home the traveling image of Our Lady of Fatima for one week and keep her in their home and invite five families to pray together the Rosary and then return the statue the following weekend. More information and sign up is available on our website: olmctempe.com.

My prayer is that Our Lady will grant special blessings and graces to our Parish and our Parish families during this Jubilee. Remember the Holy Father has granted a plenary indulgence for this Jubilee Year of Fatima (until Nov. 26). In order to obtain plenary indulgences, the faithful who are truly repentant and filled with charity must fulfill the following ritual conditions: sacramental confession, Eucharistic communion, and prayer for the intentions of the Holy Father. They must also pray the Our Father, the Creed, and invoke Our Lady of Fatima. The indulgence is gained by: Making a Pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, Portugal, or Pray before any statue of Our Lady. “The pious faithful who visit with devotion a statue of Our Lady of Fatima solemnly exposed for public veneration in any church, oratory, or proper place during the days of the anniversary of the apparitions, the 13th of each month from May to October (2017), and there devoutly participate in some celebration or prayer in honor of the Virgin Mary.”

The elderly or the sick can pray in front of any image of Our Lady of Fatima and must spiritually unite them- selves to the jubilee celebrations on the days of the apparitions, the 13th of each month, between May and October 2017. They also must offer to merciful God with confidence, through Mary, their prayers and sufferings, or the sacrifices they make in their own lives.

Love, Fr. John B.

The Big One

Fr. John Bonavitacola

 

Dear Friends,

The BIG ONE is coming. No, not my first heart attack – still awaiting that one, but the 100th Anniver-

sary of the Apparitions at Fatima. The First Apparition took place on May 13, 1917, when Our Lady appeared to the three children, Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta on the 13th of every month from May until October. Her messages were dire warnings about the coming scourges that would engulf the world: two World Wars, Com- munist Russia and China – all of which were responsible for the deaths of tens of millions of people. Also, since she chose to appear in a city in Portugal named after the Muslim Prophet Muhammad, she also wanted to warn us of the conflict that is engulfing the world currently. Still, despite the warning of coming calamities, Our Lady offered hope that through prayer and penance some of the suffering could be mitigated and limited. After this period of 100 or so years, she promised that a period of peace would come upon the earth.

Prior to the Apparition of Our Lady, an Angel, who called himself the Angel of Peace, the Guardian Angel of Portugal, visited the children. The Angel in a sense tutored the children in prayer so as to prepare for Our Lady. The angel instructed them to pray: My God, I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love You. I ask pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope, and do not love You. The angel told the children to pray, as the hearts of Jesus and Mary were ready to listen.

The hearts of Jesus and Mary are ready to listen to us as well. We need to pray. The world is becoming more chaotic, and the stakes are as high as ever. Human solutions seem to evade us, and divisiveness is in- creasing among nations and within nations. The world is on a ruinous course once again, but that course can be altered if we take the teachings of Fatima to heart and put them into practice. Our Lady’s requests at Fatima include the following: praying the Rosary daily, acts of reparation and sacrifice, and wearing of the Brown Scapular of Mt. Carmel. She also urged us to practice the First Saturday Devotion (Mass and Rosary for 5 consecutive first Saturdays). We have been given this unique opportunity of the centennial celebration of the Apparitions of Fatima to beg our Lady to remember her promise of peace and to make us instruments of that peace.

We are on the cusp of this period of peace, but we must still heed Our Lady’s directions to pray and seek repentance for our sins. The prayer that she instructed us to pray is the Rosary, especially to be prayed together in families. So for this centennial celebration, I invite you to pray the rosary often and to join us for the following:

Saturday May 13
8AM Mass for the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima 12 Noon Rosary
5PM Vigil Mass with Bishop Olmsted

Then on the Feast of the Queenship of Mary, August 22, we will begin a 54-Day Rosary Novena in our Diocese culminating on October 13, the date of the final Apparition, with our Bishop solemnly consecrat- ing the Diocese of Phoenix to Our Lady of Fatima.

Love, Fr. John B.

PS Thanks to all who contacted Tempe City Council regarding additional Dispensaries for Medical Marijuana. The City Council meeting scheduled for May 4 has been rescheduled for May 25 at 6PM at which time the Council will vote on the issue.

PPS We were finally able to complete the Convent Chapel for the Sisters, so now the Sisters have the Blessed Sacra- ment present in their Convent and will have Mass once a week in the Chapel. We could still use donations of Mass vest- ments (chasubles): green, red and violet.

Overgrown

Fr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

Lest we “go to pot,” I need your help. Tempe City Council is being asked to expand the number of Medical Marijuana Dispensaries in Tempe. Currently there are two Dispensaries in Tempe. Tempe has already expanded the hours of operation for these two and reduced the age to purchase medical marijuana from 21 to 18. While there are a little over 4,000 people in Tempe with medical marijuana cards, the two Dispensaries report that their sales are well below invento- ry. Which means there is no need for access to additional Dispensaries in Tempe. Also, it should be noted that a person with a medical marijuana card can purchase marijuana at any licensed Dispensary in the State. And many of them adver- tise “home delivery”, so you don’t even need to go to the local dispensary to obtain marijuana.

Thankfully, the voters of Arizona voted down Proposition 205 in November, which called for the legalization of recreation use marijuana. Expanding the number of dispensaries is a back door way to achieve the goal of Proposition 205. Here’s why: the teens we have coming to our Full Circle Youth at Risk Program all report that they obtain marijua- na from people who have a medical marijuana card. In fact, they tell us that buying marijuana is a lot easier and less ex- pensive than purchasing tobacco! Young people today smoke more marijuana than cigarettes. Most of our teens get in- troduced to mind altering substances via marijuana. Many young people will tell you that they see no harm in using ma- rijuana and, in fact, it is a sort of health food used for medicinal purposes. Expanding access to marijuana only reinforces that myth to our young people. Of course, the more people use marijuana for non-medical reasons, the more likely they will be to support legalization for recreational purposes.

At the first City Council hearing on the request to open more Medical Marijuana Dispensaries, the Council mem- bers seemed skeptical that more were needed. They are, of course, worried that if they say no, they will be sued by the very wealthy and powerful marijuana industry. My advice to them is that they should be prepared to be sued and to make their case as the regulations allow cities to regulate zoning and other aspects of dispensary locations and operations. Su- ing is part of what the marijuana industry does so it can have things on its terms. And its terms are maximum profit. The day after the original Medical Marijuana Proposition was passed, there were at least a dozen lawsuits filed just so Big Marijuana could make sure it got its way during implementation. Make no mistake – the marijuana industry is the new “Big Tobacco,” with all its deceptions and health complications.

Dr. Michael Crowe, President of ASU, is opposing the expansion of Dispensaries in Tempe (http:// arizonarepublic.az.newsmemory.com/publink.php?shareid=1fad2de7d ). Obviously, as he is responsible for tens of thou- sands of young students, he knows the effects that making marijuana even more available and having dispensaries locat- ed in greater proximity to the ASU campus will only increase enticement for young people.

I ask you to oppose the expansion of Medical Marijuana Dispensaries in Tempe. Contact the City Council members and express your concerns. Below are the email and phone numbers for the council members. I encourage you to reach out to them today. The next Council Meeting is on Thursday, May 4, at 6pm, and you are welcomed to attend and speak.

Mark Mitchell.      mark_mitchell@tempe.gov 480-350-8793
Lauren Kuby.        lauren_kuby@tempe.gov 480-350-8507
David Schapira.   david_schapira@tempe.gov 480-350-8510
Kolby Granville    kolby_granville@tempe.gov 480-350-8796
Robin Arredondo Savage   robin_arredondosavage@tempe.gov 480-350-8792
Randy Keating   randy_keating@tempe.gov 480-350-8798
Joel Navarro   joel_navarro@tempe.gov 480-350-8795

Love,
Fr. John B.

Truth is Truth

Fr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

 

I’m not shouting “fire” in a theater but I do smell smoke. The culture seems to be burning itself down quicker than we can put out the flames. True enough, political wranglings give me much fodder to inveigh against. And I do seem to have this compulsion to point out foolishness that needs to be pointed out. But my overarching concern is not to opine the state of affairs but to give Christians some tools to provide the culture with Life support. But at this point in our journey it may be helpful to define what we believe our Catholic culture should look like. This is especially for the benefit of the newly baptized and confirmed. After all they are start- ing out their Catholic life and may need a few pointers from us so they can grasp what it means to be part of the Catholic world.

As Catholics we believe there is truth: Truth that is objective, absolute, and outside of ourselves. We also be- lieve that human reason can discover truth; in fact it is the goal of reason to pursue truth. Truth is the fulfill- ment of reason and the cause of our happiness. When we detach ourselves from truth we embark on a path to illusionary freedom. Obedience to the truth is not always easy. It is therefore our obligation to fit ourselves into the truth and not the other way around. Truth is not what we say it is or what we want it to be. That’s called relativism and skepticism. The clash of an understanding of truth as absolute and truth as relative is why we as Catholics find ourselves so scorned by the wider culture.

So here are the first two lessons for our newest Catholics: there is truth to which you are obliged to assent. To do otherwise would be irrational. But doing so will put you at odds with many others. This is what Jesus meant when he told us that “father will be against son, mother against daughter” and so forth. Unfortunately just by accepting that there is truth we set ourselves against the world. So it’s not so unusual these days for believers to be labeled troublemakers and blamed as the reason for so much contention in our society. Don’t be surprised to hear things such as, “if you Christians would just stop imposing your values on society all would be well”. Don’t be bullied into submission. Our values are human values not a religious imposition.

Many of our new Catholics have already experienced this divisiveness with family and friends. As much as we know that religion is not meant to be divisive, one of the sadder realities is that often those who reject our way of life use our beliefs against us. The challenge for the believer is to absorb much of the hatred and divisive- ness hurled at us in order to keep at least some channels open for dialogue and relationship.

As new Catholics you have already been pursuing truth. You find yourself in this Church because you have allowed your reason to lead you to the Truth. That necessarily entails rejecting false ways and half-truths.

But don’t think Christianity or Catholicism as overly somber. The Resurrection always follows the Cross. Our pursuit of the Truth leads us into joy. Truth always culminates in joy or as Paul tells us “love rejoices in the truth”. So the path that you have embarked upon as new Catholics is the way of joy. May your journey take you finally into the eternal joys that know no end.

May Mary, the Cause of our Joy, keep you safely in her care. Love, Fr. John B.

Overdose

Fr. John Bonavitacola

 

Dear Friends,

I noticed a new CVS Pharmacy being constructed on Apache and Rural. So let’s count’em: Rural & Apache,

Broadway & McClintock, Rural & Southern; then there is a Walgreens at Broadway & Mill, a Wal-Mart Pharmacy at Rural & Southern plus large pharmacies at the Broadway & Rural Safeway and the Rural & Southern Fry’s. That is seven pharmacies in less than 2 square miles. Obviously there is only so much toothpaste and band-aids that one needs so the raison de’etre is most likely to provide prescription drugs. We obviously take A LOT of them.

In the meantime there has been ample reporting about the massive Opioid Epidemic occurring in our coun- try. By 2015 more Americans were dying from drug overdoses than from traffic fatalities or gunshots. The current epidemic makes the heroin problem of the 1970’s and the crack problem of the ‘90’s look like small town gigs. Dur- ing the Presidential campaign, I was grateful that Mr. Trump made stopping the massive flow of drugs across our southern border an issue. Severely restricting the supply of illegal drugs is an important part of any strategy to bring this epidemic to an end.

But today more and more people are being introduced to opioids or narcotics via legal or prescription drugs. A big part of that problem is being fueled by the huge expansion of Medicaid, maybe an unintended consequence of health insurance expansion. Therefore, a larger part of the population has access to low cost or no cost prescription drugs than ever before. The problem is that for a few dollars co-pay you can get very expensive drugs such as the highly abused and addicting opiates. These drugs and many others are very profitable. Maybe that helps explain 7 pharmacies in less than 2 square miles.

The drug problem is getting lots of attention; now there is even a Presidential Commission designed to study this area. But the solutions are also creating unintended consequences. There are unscrupulous physicians who are content to make money off of writing scripts, and they need to be held accountable. But now even very conscientious physicians are being looked at with suspicion by the Drug Enforcement world. Their best medical judgments are be- ing second-guessed in many cases, and physicians are spending lots of time justifying why they prescribe pain pills. As a result another unintended consequence may be that there are patients whose pain is being under-treated, as phy- sicians don’t want to deal with being put on a watch list.

There is also another unintended consequence of expanding availability and the financing of prescription medications. Again, for a small co-pay, a person can turn around and sell the drugs on the street for hundreds of dol- lars. There is a big incentive to do that: a large portion of the able-bodied work age population is no longer in the workforce, mostly because no work is available. Additionally, a large percentage of this non-working population is now mostly purposeless and collecting some form of government assistance: disability, food stamp, and welfare. While you might be able to survive on government assistance, it is certainly not very luxurious. So making a few extra bucks by selling your prescription drugs would be tempting.

This is just a brief outline of the web that we have woven that is now entrapping so many people in its sticky and dangerous grasp. Many people today begin their descent into addiction with the help of the Retail Pharmacy Pusher on the corner dispensing U.S. made and pharmaceutical grade drugs, financed by medical insurance, and they soon graduate to the Drug Pusher standing outside the pharmacy dispensing imported drugs that are often cut with dangerous and toxic ingredients. In the end, the brain doesn’t know whether the drug it craves is illegal or legal. All we have done is double the pathways to addiction.

President Trump was right to describe it as “carnage.” It is not too harsh a word to use to get our full atten- tion to see the corpses piling up and the massive cost to our families and communities.

As we head into Holy Week, pray for those families carrying the cross of addiction.

Love, Fr. John B.

PS Thanks for your support of our FullCircle Program. For many years now, we have been able to help hundreds of families and their addicted teens successfully recover and find healing and hope. Your support is critical so we can continue to be on the front lines of this epidemic.