Selected Text from the December 2016 issue of The Catholic Islander
The Magazine of the Roman Catholic Diocese of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands
Most Rev. Herbert Bevard - PUBLISHER
Father John Matthew Fewel -EDITOR
Sarah Jane von Haack - MANAGING EDITOR
Brother James Petrait, OSFS - WEBMASTER
Msgr. Michael Kosak - PROOFREADING, Advantage Editing
Deacon Emith Fludd- CIRCULATION

Scroll below for the text from the following articles from the December 2016 issue of The Catholic Islander:

From the Editor's Desk: Mass, ad orientum- from page 4
Cover story: What unites us, what divides us? - from page 13
Rediscovering the Catholic Faith: Attorney Ned Jacobs- from page 14
Saint of the Month: St. Virginia Centurione Bracelli - from page 15

Theology 101 - Lessons in Experiencing Mercy - from pages 16,17


From the Editor's Desk, Mass, ad orientem

By Father John Matthew Fewel

     Since His Eminence Robert Cardinal Sarah made the recommendation that all priests, wherever and whenever possible, celebrate Holy Mass in the ancient posture — looking with the people at the crucifix, altar, tabernacle — beginning with the season of Advent 2016, much discussion has ensued. A new and unfamiliar way of hearing Mass for many, the ancient practice is remembered by some who experienced it prior to Vatican II, and also is familiar to many others who have experienced it in recent times.

     In the photo, Robert Cardinal Sarah is seen at the elevation of the sacred body of Christ offering, in Christ's place, the precious Eucharist up to God the Father. He is looking with the assembly in just the same manner as the disciples looked up when Jesus bodily ascended to the Father's right hand. The moment is so profound, not only does it recall a great mystery that went before, but it anticipates what is our great hope and expectation for that great and final day when Christ returns in the same manner that he was taken up. And following that elevation of the host, when the Communion Rite begins, Jesus indeed comes to meet the faithful who come forward to receive Him in holy Communion.

     In the little Chapel of the Divine Mercy on Main Street in Charlotte Amalie, Mass has been celebrated in this ad orientem posture since its opening in 2012.

     We may not often see a Mass celebrated ad orientem in the coming year, but with the cardinal's opening up of the discussion there is certain to come opportunities for catechesis and learning about an important tradition that has adorned the Catholic Church with heavenly hosts of saints for more than two millenia.


Cover Story: What unites us, what divides us?

By Father John Matthew Fewel

     What unites us, what divides us? The answer is: one thing unites us; and many things divide us. Every soul on planet Earth has one source in whom we are united, one origin; and that source is God himself. To him, also, is each of us destined to return for judgement.

     The babe who lay in straw, who was adored by holy Mary, blessed Joseph, and all the hosts of heaven, is the very God who made heaven and earth and all vast reaches of the universe. He made all with the intent of being, or living, with his holy mother, and with each soul who would welcome him, love him, and obey him.

     When we see him in the poverty of a stable, laying in a manger meant to feed livestock, we may understand that though mankind sinned and lost his fellowship, God's intention from before the beginning of time to dwell with us would not be denied him. Who is able to deny that which God, the creator of everything, desires? Though it meant for him to endure poverty, his passion and suffering, to save those who would, he would endure these, to gather all the faithful to his bosom, by his own plan, purpose, and design.

     That is our common purpose; for the delight of the Word who proceeds from all eternity from the Father. The Holy Spirit, who comes from both the Father and the Son, was espoused to Mary, so that she would become our mother who became the mother of Jesus, who is the Word made flesh.

     Though all of human society is fractured and divided by our sins and our false attachments, the God who made us, calls us, throughout human history, to come back to him.

     All creation must glorify God. Even those who rebelled must glorify God.

     Our differences — in ancestry, social position, culture, ability, and so many more things, like language — mean very little, though they can seem like mountainous differences to us. They for God are not insurmountable, or his Gospel would not have spread like fire around the globe.

     This Advent and Christmas, all people of good will await and greet the birth of a savior for mankind. To him and to him alone belong all glory, all power, all adoration, all praise, honor, dominion, and might. Glory to God in the Highest! And on earth, peace to men of good will




     Attorney Ned Jacobs fights for justice for the unborn. Ned Jacobs first fell in love with St. Croix when he came for a visit with Gloria, his soon-to-be-wife, in the late 1970s. For Ned, this has been the place where he raised his two children, had a fulfilling career as an attorney and rediscovered his Catholic faith.

     “I was born in Chicago, 111,” Ned said. “My dad was a doctor and my mother was a teacher before they were married. Both of my parents were strong Catholics.” Ned was the seventh out of 13 children, and like his brothers and sisters went to Catholic school and was involved in the Church. He went to Mass regularly and learned about the intellectual foundations the Church teaches. “The Catholic faith always struck me as the articulation of the truth — that was always the thing that got me interested in the faith,” he explained.

     Growing up in the 1960s, all the cultural changes around him affected Ned. By the time he was in college and law school, he found he had drifted away from his faith. While living and practicing law in Pittsburgh, Pa., he met Gloria and the two fell in love and married. She was of Puerto Rican descent, and on a trip to visit some of her relatives in the late 1970s, Ned and Gloria first came to St. Croix and decided to live there.

     “It was really after coming here, living as husband and wife and having children that we became active in the Church again,” Ned said. “It was through the process of becoming parents that we started taking our faith seriously ... it makes you think about how you are living your life, what kind of life you want for them, and what you are going to teach them.”

     Ned and Gloria began attending Holy Cross Parish in Christiansted, where they are still active. Ned’s office is not far from the church, and his daughter was married there in February, 2016. Father Pat Lynch has been a big influence on Ned since he first arrived, and asked Ned to get involved with the parish council.

     “In St. Croix, Father Lynch started the practice of each month having people pray 15 decades of the rosary in front of one of the abortion mills,” Ned said. “We’ve been doing that for about 13 years now.” In college during the 70s, Ned remembers a talk by two young women who were in favor of legalized abortion. “They made this presentation to us, and it was totally outrageous — and obvious that a child in the womb was an innocent human being, and the whole purpose of having government was to protect the rights of innocent people.”

     As an attorney, Ned decided he would stand up for the pro- life cause by bringing an amendment to the American Bar Association at its annual meeting urging them to defend the right to life of all persons conceived but not yet born. The ABA did not vote on his amendment, but for the past 16 years, Ned attends its meeting, and reads the same proposed amendment before more than 500 delegates. Every year, it is “tabled indefinitely,” and not put to a vote. Ned compares it to another important struggle, one waged two centuries ago. “Just like the abolitionist, when he’s turned down, he doesn’t turn away and say, ‘OK, well I tried.’ You just keep on trying. When you have this kind of an injustice you have to keep at it, undeterred, to speak for these innocent kids,” he said.

     Today, Ned’s faith continues to influence him in profound ways. “It’s been so wonderful to have this magnificent faith passed on to us that gives us the sacraments — the holy Eucharist and confession. It’s just such an exciting life, being a Catholic.”



St. Virginia Centurione Bracelli Feast Day: December 15

     Virginia Centurione, born into a noble family in Genoa, Italy in 1587, was forced into marriage at a young age in spite of her wish to live a religious life. She had two daughters, Leila and Isabella. But her husband died when she was just 20 years old, which allowed her to devote her life to abandoned children and the needs of the elderly, the sick and the poor. Because of war in the region in 1624-25, many in her city were orphaned, hungry and unable to find work. St. Virginia was canonized in 2003 by St. John Paul II for her life’s work of pouring herself out in service to God and the needy who surrounded her.

     To address the needs of the poor in Genoa, St. Virginia founded the Cento Signore della Misericordia Protettrici dei Poveri di Gesu, which translates as Hundred Ladies of Mercy, Protectors of the Poor of Jesus Christ. The title of the house refers to the young women who worked with St. Virginia and helped her care for the marginalized. She taught them life skills, and shared the Good News of the Gospel with them.

     When St. Virginia’s house was overcrowded with the needy during a plague and famine in 1630, she rented a vacant convent nearby and placed some of her patients there, and proceeded to build new housing as well. By 1635, she was caring for 300 patients, and her "hospital” was officially recognized by the government. She spent her later years trying to keep the peace among noble households, and continuing her devotion to the poor.

     St. Virginia is known for her quote: “When God is the only goal, all disagreements are smoothed out, all difficulties overcome."



THEOLOGY 101 By Doug Culp



     JESUS TEACHES US that power should be used so that there might be life, and life to the full. In other words, power should be exercised mercifully. However, is there something required of us in order to experience the merciful exercise of power? Are there “preconditions” that dispose us more readily to experience, for example, God’s mercy? Is there something that “enables” God’s merciful action to take effect in our lives?

     Consider each of the following accounts:

     A leper approaches Jesus amidst a great crowd and says, “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.” Jesus replies, “I will do it. Be made clean.” The leprosy immediately leaves the man.

     At another time, a centurion approaches Jesus and makes his appeal, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, suffering dreadfully.” When Jesus offers to go to the centurion’s house to cure the servant, the centurion says, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed.” Jesus replies, “You may go; as you have believed, let it be done for you.” At that moment, the servant is healed.

     An official comes forward and kneels before Jesus saying, “My daughter has just died. But come, lay your hand on her, and she will live.” Jesus rises and follows the official to his home. However, along the way, a woman who has been suffering from hemorrhages for 12 years comes up behind Jesus and touches the tassel on his cloak. She says to herself, “If only I can touch his cloak, I shall be cured.” In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus turns to her and says, “Courage, daughter! Your faith has saved you.” The woman is instantly cured. When Jesus finally arrives to the official’s house, he takes the girl by the hand and she arises.

     Finally, Jesus encounters two blind men following him and crying out for pity. They approach Jesus and Jesus asks, “Do you believe that I can do this?” They both reply, “Yes, Lord.” Jesus touches their eyes and says, “Let it be done for you according to your faith.” Their eyes are opened.


     In each of these accounts, the person who is seeking mercy has to first approach Jesus and ask him for it. Of course, one would only bother to approach Jesus in the first place because he or she hopes that he has the power to do what they ask of him.

     The catechism teaches us that hope is the virtue by which “we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit.” (1817) In short, hope is the grace of both the desire itself and the expectation of obtaining what is desired.

     What could be more important than the virtue which makes it possible for us to desire our greatest good, and grants us the assurance we can attain it? Hope provides the motivation for us to begin, and then to continue on the path to fullness of life in Christ. It is hope that assures us we are definitely loved, and whatever happens to us — we are awaited by this Love. And so our lives — all of our lives — are good.

     So the existence of hope in our hearts seems to be a necessary precondition in order to experience the life-giving mercy of Jesus. Now, is there anything else that is required?


     The Letter to the Hebrews (11:1) asserts that faith “is the realization of what is hoped for.” In each of our stories, the hope for healing that drives each of the protagonists to approach Jesus is ultimately realized. The mechanism by which this is accomplished is faith.

     Jesus repeatedly responds to the petitioner’s faith in his ability to heal them or their loved one. Faith is that interior instinct with which God invites us to believe in his word. Faith makes it possible for the human mind to believe in the truth which reason cannot comprehend, based on the authority of the God who reveals it. In other words, faith allows us to overcome lack of evidence through confidence in the one who speaks.

     What’s more, faith is essential because, as Hebrews 11:3 explains, “What is seen was made from things that are not visible.” What this means is that faith enables us to see beyond the visible to the invisible, so that the invisible can be made visible.



     Thomas a Kempis provides us with sound advice and the proper mind-set as we approach our spiritual reading during this Year of Mercy. Spiritual reading is not simply reading spiritual classics but reading in a spiritual way that desires the closeness of God. To this end, The Imitation of Christ would make a fine addition to our reading list. It is a devotional book and handbook for spiritual life composed by the Dutch canon regular Thomas a Kempis (1380- 1471). It is perhaps the most translated book, apart from the Bible.


     Hope and faith both make it possible for us to experience Christ’s mercy in our lives. Perhaps this is the reason the Church links hope, faith and love so closely. These virtues adapt our faculties for participation in the divine life of communion for which we are destined, and where fitllness of life alone resides. As St. John Paul writes, mercy is love transformed, and “Believing in the crucified Son means ‘seeing the Father,’ means believing that love is present in the world and that this love is more powerful than any kind of evil in which individuals, humanity, or the world are involved.”


     Test your knowledge of what the Bible has to say about mercy... “So let us____ the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.”

a. consciously avoid

b. bow before

c. confidently approach

d. humbly exalt

Correct Answer is at the bottom of the page.



The Catholic Islander / December 2016 /

  Correct Answer is- confidently approach (from Heb 4:16)