A WORD FROM THE PASTOR
December 3, 2023
Happy Advent to you all.
We’re already at the beginning of a new liturgical calendar year and like many of you, I am amazed as to how fast this year has sped by.
Our parish has many events planned for the month of December. Not only are we preparing the way for the Lord, but we will also celebrate two of the great Marion feasts:
The Immaculate Conception of the Bless Virgin Mary and Our Lady of Guadalupe.
These two events of the life of the blessed mother are the gateway events to the season of Advent and the joyful Christmas season and ending with the presentation of the gift, or as it’s commonly known as Epiphany.
But let’s take a moment to understand these two events. Firstly, the Immaculate Conception of Mary: this is a Roman Catholic dogma asserting that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was preserved freely from the effects of the sin of Adam (usually referred to as “original sin”) from the first instant of her conception (her birth). However, Sacred Scripture does not explicitly proclaim the doctrine of Mary's Immaculate Conception (i.e. freedom from original sin from the very start of her life). The Catholic Church has reflected on this question for centuries, while considering biblical texts which seem related to the topic, at least it is implicitly suggested of this belief. The Eastern Catholic and Orthodox Churches teach that while Mary “inherited the same fallen nature, prone to sin” as with other humans, “she did not consent to sin through her free will.” Due to being conceived in ancestral sin, Mary still needed “to be delivered by our Savior, her Son” according to Eastern Orthodox tradition and teaching.
There is also the question of Mary’s virginity. Here Scripture is quite clear asserting that Mary did conceived Jesus in a virginal way – and by the power of the Holy Spirit, as we come to understand this belief by way of the Annunciation narrative prior to the birth of our Lord.
Additionally, it has been the constant teaching of the Magisterium of the Church that Mary did in fact retained her virginity, having no other children and never engaged in the marital act with Joseph. So how do we explain in Scripture the concept that Jesus had brothers and sisters? The First Lateran Council (649 A.D.) definitively declared that Mary was “ever virgin and immaculate.” Therefore, as Catholics, based on Sacred Scripture and Tradition, we do not believe that Mary and Joseph had other children and consequently that Jesus had blood brothers and sisters. On the one hand, in the Catholic tradition, these have always been regarded as the cousins of Jesus. In other words, they're not the children of Mary, so Catholic apologists will often point to a few key texts in the Bible to support the conclusion that the so-called brothers of Jesus are not actually children of Mary.
Next week I will tackle the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe and her significance in her role in the Americas.
November 26, 2023
I hope everyone had a wonderful and filling Thanksgiving.
During this time of year when the days are short and the cold of winter is settling in, I try spending time in the warmth of my living room reading, writing and contemplating the ways of the world. And right now as I write these words, the world is not at peace, but in chaos. To reflect on Advent as Thomas Merton understands it, gives me the chance to share with you what his thoughts are on this subject.
I found this reflection and felt it was appropriate to share these words with you. Thomas’ reflections on the Meaning of Advent and Christmas strengthens my own belief in this most sacred of time of year and how best we can prepare for the coming of the Christ child into our lives. Advent, a season of special grace, is a time set aside to prepare to receive Jesus more fully at Christmas. Advent is about readying one’s heart to cradle the One who will be born anew when the Nativity feast is celebrated once again. Advent is also a time of hopeful expectation that Jesus will heed one’s ardent longing that He abide more completely within oneself. If one’s desire for Jesus is great, one’s whole being will become centered in the joy that will accompany His renewed birthing in one’s life. Thomas Merton writes: “What joy is ours when we find Jesus, the sunshine of the universe. Heaven and earth kiss in Jesus. Jesus is God’s smile on the earth.”
According to Merton, Advent is a graced period of time when a person can choose to begin to end all that is not Christ-like in his or her life. Contemplating Advent as a season of seeking greater wholeness of living in Christ, Merton continues: “I begin to live in Christ when I come to the ‘end’ or to the ‘limit’ of what divides me from my fellow man; when I am willing to step beyond this end, cross the frontier, become a stranger, enter into the wilderness which is not ‘myself,’ where I do not breathe the air or hear the familiar, comforting racket of my own city, where I am alone and defenseless in the desert of God.”
In his writings, Merton considers Jesus’ three advents as discussed by Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, the founder of Cistercian monasticism. In the first Advent, the Logos became incarnated in this world ad homines, that is, in order to redeem humankind. Merton notes that, according to Saint Bernard, the virgin Mary’s role in the incarnation is central, since in and through her humanity God chose to enter into our world.
For Saint Bernard, the second Advent is in homines, which means that, through grace, God takes up residence within a person. Regarding this, Merton comments: “Christ comes to us, really gives Himself to us, so that we already possess our heaven in hope.” During this Advent time, one creates a sanctuary in one’s heart for the Word of God; one grows in humility and makes every effort to use one’s energies to do God’s will.
In his writings, Merton explores Saint Bernard’s third Advent as Christ’s final coming contra homines when He will return to Earth to judge the living and the deceased. According to Saint Bernard, this Advent will be an occasion when Christ will manifest His negative judgment on those persons who rejected His saving grace during their earthly lives and positive judgment on those who, in life, were receptive to His salvific grace.
In his work entitled “The Nativity Kergyma”, Merton provides a meditation on the meaning of Jesus’ birth. Merton reflects that the Savior’s nativity proclaims His initial historical presence but also His continued epiphany in the now moment. Each Christmas, Christ is born in new ways to be Light and Life in believers’ lives. Reflecting on the reality that long ago God chose to empty God-self to be born as a child in Bethlehem, Merton writes this:
“The Child that lies in the manger, helpless and abandoned to the love of His creatures, dependent entirely upon them to be fed, clothed, and sustained, remains the Creator and Ruler of the universe. … He wills to be helpless that we may take Him into our care. He has embraced our poverty … in order to give us his riches.”
For Merton, the message of the Nativity is gaudete: Rejoice for the Lord who suffered death is risen and is truly near!
November 19, 2023
I’ve often been asked what the Origins of Thanksgiving are and are Catholics encouraged to participate in this holiday that is seemingly religious and secular. As I was pondering this question and as I was crafting a good explanation of this holiday, I came across this wonderfully written article from Michael R. Heinlein editor of “Simply Catholic.” So, I thought I would share his insightful and delightful article which I think will make things clear as for its origin and how our Catholic faith was behind its inception.
The very heart of Christian worship takes its name from the Greek word expressing thanks. Eucharist means thanksgiving. It goes without saying, then, that Thanksgiving is a rather significant aspect of what the Mass is all about. And there is no real separation of church and state where the celebration of Thanksgiving is considered. Citizens of the United States have celebrated Thanksgiving, at least informally, since before the country’s inception. Both the Mass and the celebration of Thanksgiving Day call to mind the very necessary reality that, as human beings, we are made to give thanks.
What is the reason for our Thanksgiving? The late archbishop of Chicago Cardinal Francis E. George, O.M.I., put it best: “Recognizing that none of us is self-made and unwilling to declare ourselves a cosmic accident, we turn to the Author of all that is and say thanks. In the face of a gift that cannot be matched in return, all one can do is be grateful.”
And our last words at Mass is our response: “Thanks be to God.” Cardinal George explained their significance, saying that “Gratitude to God shapes our lives, at their beginning and their end. Each moment is a gift; each event unfolds under God’s loving providence.” The challenge for Christians is to live each day in recognition that all is gift — chief among which is our salvation. As St. Paul exhorts us, “in all circumstances give thanks” (1 Thes 5:18).
In 1789, George Washington declared a day of thanksgiving to acknowledge “the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor.” Washington set the day aside for Americans to give thanks for their newly established government, but most of all, to render unto God “sincere and humble thanks — for his kind care and protection.” In his Thanksgiving declaration, Washington rightfully acknowledged God as “the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be.”
Abraham Lincoln, America’s 16th president, said similar things in proclaiming Thanksgiving Day a national holiday. It came at a time when brother fought brother in the Civil War. In many ways, Lincoln’s 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation reads like a prayer.
Recounting the benefits of a major victory the Union received, Lincoln recognized God alone as the object of a nation’s gratitude. He wrote the victories “were the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.” And so Lincoln decided to invite all Americans to celebrate Thanksgiving Day on the fourth Thursday of each November — a day set aside to offer “Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.”
It’s American mythology, the celebration of Thanksgiving traces its roots back to the pioneering Puritan pilgrims of Plymouth Rock who gathered to give thanks for a good harvest in their new North American home. The celebration has religious connotations because these pilgrims sought political asylum to practice their freedom of religion. This “first” Thanksgiving floats about in the minds of many Americans each year as they gather around the table for their turkey.
But that was 1621. Since history is told by the winners, it is an example of the often anti-Catholic English narratives that prevailed about our nation’s early history, here specifically despite a detailed account of a thanksgiving feast celebrated over half a century earlier. The Thanksgiving of 1565 was celebrated in what is now St. Augustine, Florida. Of course, the Spanish colonizers who hosted it were Catholic, and they gave thanks to God, as Catholics do, for their safe passage and arrival in the New World. Not only did they celebrate with a meal of gratitude that day, but began with the celebration of Mass.
And so as your family celebrates Thanksgiving this year, don’t forget that most historians agree that it really started in America as a Catholic celebration. But, most importantly, remember the holiday’s origins and purpose. No matter if you believe it was started by Washington, Lincoln or Spanish colonialists, it has always been clear that God is the reason we give thanks.”
November 12, 2023
The month of November is a time for remembering the men and women who are saints and to pray for the souls in purgatory, while rejoicing in the material abundance our great nation provides for our comfort. It should be a time to remember those in our country, our community who go without and those who struggle everyday to survive. We are a land, a place that continues to offer opportunities of every kind to all those willing to grab the bull by the horns and take charge of their lives. We are Americans and as Americans we have a certain trait that is imbedded in each of us. That trait gives us the gumption, the temerity to push on, to make this a beer world and to assure others that they too can achieve a prosperous and fruitful life if they work hard for it.
To accomplish that dream one must put effort into the thing they desire most. To attain that goal in life for oneself and to share that dream with their families, can be the most rewarding achievement of all.
There are many important aspects of American culture. Some of these are a love of independence, a respect for hard work, a belief in equality, a respect for timeliness, and an outlook towards the future. Americans by nature are an optimistic people, always looking for beer ways for solutions to solve the problems we encounter as a community of like minded people.
At the beginning of this month and each year we take time to stop for moment and remember the saints and the souls of our beloved departed. We remember those great saints who over the decades and centuries had committed themselves to a great cause and that is to spread the Word of God to all nations and all peoples.
My love for this country never wavers. I am a champion of this nation for the freedoms it provides to those of us born here and for others who are brave and courageous to make sacrifice of uprooting themselves in order to seek a beer life. I’ve know many people from different lands and backgrounds whose adventure to this country would make for great movies as their stories are the stories that make America what it is today.
Let us also not forget the native peoples of this great nation and their struggles and their contributions. They are still here with us adding their voices to ours and making our nation a great one.
We come each month to remember our collective past by celebrating our heritage, our love of God, Family and Country. As Americans we believe that people have the right to individual freedoms, equality of opportunity, and the promise of material success, but these all require substantial responsibility: self-reliance, a willingness to compete, and hard work. Hard work is key to who we are as a nation and as a nation we want to achieve the best as a people. A good American believes in the United States as a government of the people, by the people and for the people. And as Catholics we are reminded to love God above all, with all our hearts, with all our soul and with all our being, and to love our neighbor as we wish to be loved.
November 5, 2023
The month of November is a transition time from Summer to Fall, while it is also a time to remember our beloved dead through the commemoration of the mass for All Saints Day and All Souls Day.
Although the loss of a loved one is sad, honoring the deceased and paying respects allows us to celebrate a life well lived and share the deceased's story. Rather than mourning over the loss, families can celebrate a life filled with love, happiness, and long-lasting memories. As Catholics, as well as many cultures around the world, we have a great respect and a deep understanding of the importance of honoring those who have gone home before us. In scripture, we read: "But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14)
Since we believe that Jesus died and rose from the dead, so we also believe that God will bring with Him those who have died in Jesus." The Good News: Even if you miss your loved ones, you can take comfort in knowing you will be reunited again someday. Trust that death does not mean goodbye forever. For us death is not the end but the beginning of something entirely different, so much so, that we cannot comprehend it.
Here is what we know that God says in Scripture: “Remember the days of old, Consider the years of all generations. Ask your father, and he will inform you, your elders, and they will tell you (Deu. 32:7). And in Josiah 1:13; “Remember the word which Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, saying, ‘The Lord your God gives you rest and will give you this land.’” These are words that should give us comfort knowing that there is something after we leave this world and enter into another.
God isn't immune or indifferent to grief; he's experienced it at the deepest level possible. And this same God is with us in our grief. He doesn't always tell us why we're suffering, but he does offer us himself: “The Father of all compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles” (2 Cor.)
Again, it is comforting to know that the God of us all is a compassionate and loving God. A God who helps us along in our grief and the sorrow we feel during and after a loved one dies. For it is in God through His Son Jesus that we know for certain there is something awaiting us after this life we spent on earth ends. Keep the faith and never waver in the belief that Jesus is the way and the truth. Amen.
October 29, 2023
To love God is to be loved and to love others. In my Word articles I usually never comment on the Sunday’s Gospel readings as I address that in my homilies on Sunday mornings. Today in view of the ongoing carnage in Israel, Gaza Ukraine, and Russia, I thought it appropriate to comment on what Jesus means in Matthew 22:34-40.
“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” To which Jesus replies: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.
To love someone, particularly a stranger, is a difficult mission to fulfill, a seemingly impossible task on the face of it. As we have witnessed over the centuries in human history the ugliness of war, the bigotry that blinds men that produces hatred, fear, and the destruction of human beings and their accomplishments is vile and painful to witness. To obliterate another out of hatred is the lowest one can go and yet through all of this we have men and women who still keep their faith even in times as we witness today.
As Thomas Merton writes: “When we are leading a life based on real love (or mature love), we are living life in a way that deals with fear and stress differently than a life where our love is not yet mature or genuine. Because a life of genuine love is texturally different from a way of life-based on immediate stress reduction and appeasing our fears and constantly seeking security. When we truly love another and those around us (and ourselves as well), we think and see the world differently, we don’t see the world from the standpoint merely of the self and what’s in it for me and what I like and dislike; rather, we see and engage the world in broader terms, from a larger set of considerations and a much larger perspective.”
Viewing the world from a “much larger perspective” provides us with a deeper and more profound understanding of the people around us. Understanding a different culture, and a different way of living, and empathizing with others provides us a beer understanding of the world in which we live, and hopefully, to achieve or at best appreciate and love other human beings as they are not as we wish them to be. To love is to be patient, to love is to be kind and loving, and to love requires every fiber of our being. These two commandments Jesus mentions in today’s Gospel are the cornerstone of all that we desire in life; to love and be at peace with one another and with ourselves. In 1 John we read: “God is love, and whoever abides in love remains in God and God in him. By living in this way, love is brought to perfection among us, and we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because as He is, so too are we in this world.”
As a member of the family of man we cannot escape from this world as hard as we might try, we are always being pulled back in, drawn back to our need for companionship for “man does not live on bread alone.” “Love is not just something that happens to you: it is a certain special way of living and being alive.” Remember God is love and he loves us as a father loves.
October 22, 2023
Recently I had the opportunity to discuss with someone who is searching to deepen their faith in the real presence of Christ in the bread and wine. It was a rather difficult but rewarding conversation as it gave me a chance to think about my own understanding of what the church means by real presence; are we talking figuratively or literally?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church for example states:
“The mode of Christ's presence under the Eucharistic species is unique. It raises the Eucharist above all the sacraments as ‘the perfection of the spiritual life and the end to which all the sacraments tend.’ In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist ‘the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained.’ ‘This presence is called ‘real’ - by which is not intended to exclude the other types of presence as if they could not be ‘real’ too, but because it is presence in the fullest sense: that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God, and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present.” CCC: 1374
This explanation to most of us would substantiate what we as Catholics believe. But there are still those in need of further convincing of this sacrament. As I have come to know this person, I realized early on that if he is going to appreciate and come to understand and believe in the real presence of Christ in the sacrament, he is going to have to convince himself of this reality.
From the Church’s early days, the Fathers referred to Christ’s presence in the Eucharist. “Ignatius roundly declares that . . . [t]he bread is the flesh of Jesus, the cup his blood. Clearly, he intends this realism to be taken strictly, for he makes it the basis of his argument against the Docetists’ denial of the reality of Christ’s body. . . . Irenaeus teaches that the bread and wine are really the Lord’s body and blood. His witness is, indeed, all the more impressive because he produces it quite incidentally while refuting the Gnostic and Docetic rejection of the Lord’s real humanity”.
It is rather difficult to wrap one’s mind around this notion of the real presence, but one must keep in mind that this, like the trinity and the divinity of Christ, are examples of “mystery” and with that to believe is to have a strong faith in these teachings. I suppose in our scientific and secular culture one cannot explain these phenomena in a coherent and plausible manner so as to convince modern humans of its reality.
So, the question is how does one help an individual to believe in the real presence? You can try, but ultimately the individual, along with the Holy Spirit, are on this journey together; the search is his or hers alone. As people of faith, all we can do is assist them with our prayers and hope they’ll find what they’re searching for. Amen.
October 15, 2023
Here is the Webster Dictionary definition of Hate: [an] “intense hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury extreme dislike or disgust : ANTIPATHY, LOATHING"
As many of you have watched on TV or read in the newspapers the horrific and evil that occurred last weekend in Southern Israel. The savagery and absolute disregard for human life is simply unimaginable to any civil and loving person. One person describe this event as demonic and I agree with that term. The hatred displayed was demonic, no other word can apply to describe the scene there. It is incomprehensible for any good, loving and God fearing person to understand.
Many people wonder, and rightfully so, where is God in all of this? Why does God allow this sort of thing to happen? Does God allow evil and why? How does the Christian faith in general, and the Catholic church in particular explain such behavior? I can only know from my own church’s point of view; here is how our Catholic faith describes evil:
“Catholics believe that free will is a gift from God. God created humans with the ability to choose between good and evil. When humans choose the wrong thing it causes suffering. Humans are to blame for the suffering, not God.”
What can we glean from this passage? What is a Catholic understanding of the concept of evil? According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, original sin is to blame as we read:
“Catholics believe that evil comes from human beings. Adam and Eve introduced sin to the world (known as original sin) when they chose to disobey God. This act brought sin into humanity. Since then people have been born with the ability to commit acts of evil.”
Are humans inherently good or evil?
“Our Catholic faith teaches that although we are inherently good because we were made in God's image, we struggle against sin to maintain His likeness.”
As many of us struggle everyday with sin, we know with sincere hearts we an overcome such things as hate, envy, selfishness, etc. And by contrition of our sins, and by asking for God’s forgiveness we can move forward with the opportunity to try again. Even if we are to fail, God the Father will always forgive us as a good father will. As for those men who commit these heinous crimes and atrocities to our brothers and sisters, will God forgive them? That is only known between God and the sinner.
In the Book of Job, for instance, we are given an account of what his suffering and why God allows him to suffer in the first place:
“Rather than tell Job the reason for his suffering, God assured Job of his love, wisdom, and power. Job learned the hard lesson that when everything is stripped away from our lives, all we have is God. And God is enough! No matter how bad life gets, God's love and His grace are enough.”
During this time of mourning for our brothers and sisters, let us pray for all people, Jew, Muslim, Christian and non-believer. May the God of Jacob, Isaac, and Abraham be with us.
October 8, 2023
In commemoration of the feast of St. Francis, which was on Oct. 4th., we will celebrate on the parish plaza one of the church’s favorite saints with the blessing of our beloved family pets. It's interesting to note that St. Francis is not just popular in our church, but he is an all-time favorite for many Christians and non-Christians alike; including those who profess no faith at all.
The persona of Francis transcends all people’s, traditions and cultures and is revered by many animal lovers, the poor and people seeking peace. So, the question is....what makes Francis popular among the masses in the first place, and why especially among those who love their pets?
St. Francis of Assisi is a venerated and beloved saint around the world. He is known for his ministry to the poor and the underprivileged, his care for nature and animals is well know around the world, and he is the founder of the Franciscan order; I grew up in a Franciscan parish. But why does this meek and humble servant of God instill in others a want to know him and like many that came after him, imitate his way of living?
Francis is also the patron saint of ecology, including animals, their lives and welfare. St. Francis had a devoted love of God and His word and mercy. His love for God was so profound that it overflowed to compassion for all His creatures, ranging from other people to birds and even predators, such as wolves. The quote below has great meaning --
“Start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” “For it is in giving that we receive.” “Remember that when you leave this earth, you can take with you nothing that have received--only what you have given.”
This profound and telling quote gives us time to pause, allowing us time to meditate on the contributions we’ve made and how much more we can offer. We are given a certain amount of time on this earth and so must come to grip that what we have now, we cannot take with us. Material
things have their value but are not essential to living a life well. And so with that we are given an opportunity to say to oneself, how can I make a difference for others? How can I give of myself more to my community, and should I not expect anything in return except the knowledge of knowing I helped my brothers and sisters while still here in this world. One of my favorite quotes from Francis gives me time to reflect on my own ministry as a priest and how much more I need to grow. Francis writes the following:
"The deeds you do may be the only sermon some persons will hear today." "The only thing ever achieved in life without effort is failure." "Do few things but do them well, simple joys are holy." “A single sunbeam is enough to drive away many shadows.”
October 1, 2023
Firstly, I want to thank you all for keeping me in your prayers, and thank you Fr. George for filling in for me during this past week. I had a wonderful and spiritual time off from my everyday routine, but now it's time to return and get back to work.
As I was wandering and praying at the monastery grounds, I met a very nice young Lutheran pastor who was also on retreat. I struck up a conversation with him as we discussed at length theological points around many of the differences and similarities we share as Christians. During our conversation, he said his congregation didn’t know what a retreat was, thinking he was looking to get an extra week of vacation.
This struck me as interesting. As Catholic Christians, we understand the differences between what a vacation is and how a retreat works. Below is a brief and succinct meaning on this subject: [A retreat is a…] “Withdrawal for a period of time from one's usual surroundings and occupation to a place of solitude for meditation, self-examination, and prayer, in order to make certain necessary decisions in one's spiritual life.”
To make necessary decisions in one’s spiritual life can mean any number of things. For the Lutheran minister, he needed to “re-charge” his spirituality and deepen his faith. For myself, it would be to get closer to God and to understand my mission as a Catholic priest. When one goes on retreat, one doesn’t always necessarily know why. We just know its time to go and be alone and away from our everyday surroundings. And in the process of doing so one hopes to come away “re-charged”, and rested knowing that the Holy Spirit guided us along the way.
My stay with the monks was exceptionally prayerful, even deeply spiritual. I prayed with them, I concelebrated mass with them and walked throughout their vineyard and walnut groves. The combination of all of these was key in my recuperation and spiritual healing. One doesn’t realize just how deprived one gets until one experiences a week isolated from the internet, family, friends, parishioners, and most importantly email and phone messages. These together can be overwhelming and at some point, one must divorce oneself from these. During my retreat, I purposely avoided anything to do with my phone or any other electronic device. The comfort and the freedom I felt during this time were well worth the long trip there. The meals were simple, mostly vegetarian. The accommodations were sparse but comfortable. And most importantly, to be able to say mass and spend time in adoration was the most rewarding. To sit with God and pray,
read, and wander, was so freeing. The time away and the space to myself gave me a sense of calm, which I so desired.
But as I said at the beginning, I am happy to be back home and to feel ready for the liturgical year ahead.
September 24, 2023
Since Vatican II closed one half century ago, our Church has struggled to evaluate and incorporate the recommendations guided by the Holy Spirit to the great body bishops assembled to craft a divinely inspired roadmap for our future. It seems to take a few centuries to digest an ecumenical council.
The Men’s Ministry at St. Anne meets to explore the Good News that we are hoping to share with our families and friends. We are a faith founded on profound mysteries of God’s love for all of creation - especially His People.
The Rosary suggests we explore twenty basic mysteries of the faith. Great idea. But how did we arrive at this list?
The Men’s Ministry decided to start at the very beginning (a very good place to start, remember).
For the past two years we have studied and read aloud together the gospels of Mark and Luke to discover the core teachings Jesus emphasized to the disciples. The Acts of the Apostles introduced us to the challenges the Holy Spirit overcame in crafting the first missions to the ends of the earth. Our discussions have been fraternal and enlightening. We feel the foundational messages are two: 1) With your whole heart love God and your neighbor; and 2) do Eucharist in community recalling Jesus’ love for us and share His love.
If we focus on these two mandates, the Holy Spirit will enliven our hearts with the fire of God’s love and God will renew the face of the Earth. This message started a revolution of Love in our history two millennia ago. The message will always resound.
Oh! Men of St. Anne Parish please join us on our second and fourth Tuesday morning meetings at ten in the parish hall. We are just starting St. John’s Gospel and could use your ideas. Love your help.
- Martin Bailey
September 17, 2023
The last two weeks I had two of our parish members write for this column, with many of you enjoying the change of perspective. So, with that, I decided I will again seek someone from our community to contribute to this space, giving us all an opportunity to hear and appreciate someone other than your pastor’s point of view.
As many of you know, starting this weekend and extending to next Saturday, I will be at my annual retreat at the New Clairvaux Trappist monastery in the little “town” of Vina, California. Vina? Where’s Vina, you ask? Vina is located two hours north of Sacramento. It is really just a two-building village consisting of a grocery store/post office/sheriff substation and a volunteer fire station down the street a spell. All of which is in the middle of walnut and almond groves.
Each year as priests and religious, we are encouraged and are required by canonical law to attend to our spiritual needs which include, generally speaking, a seven- or ten-day retreat, away from the parish or religious community.
The last two years my retreats were spent with my brother priests in some beautiful areas of the California coast. But this year I felt that the Holy Spirit was directing me on a different path altogether. If you have not visited the monks in their beautiful space, I highly recommend you do and take in the beauty and spirituality of the place. It is really quite comforting. The monks are delightful and friendly. They pray seven times a day and rise very early in the morning to begin their day. As for myself, I look forward to spending a quiet, peaceful, and prayerful time with them.
Many have asked, what is it you do at a retreat? What is the purpose and is it like a vacation? First, it’s not like a vacation. A retreat, instead, refreshes and revitalizes oneself, it gives the retreatant an opportunity for time spent in prayer and contemplation, and rekindles and deepens one's relationship with God. One may take this opportunity to hear God’s call more clearly and to seek God's healing grace and thereby attain a degree of spiritual renewal. Retreats allow us to dedicate time to the Lord and restore ourselves so that we might be better disciples of Christ. Without this necessary and holy rest, we are quick to burn out in our missionary work as disciples. Not only that, thetime spent re-focuses our attention on the needs of our parishioners and rejuvenates and deepens our love of God and community.
I am grateful to you and my church for allowing me this time away, to better understand my vocation as your pastor and a priest of Jesus Christ and to find the silence I so crave and need before the high holy days arrive. Remember, Advent and Christmas will soon be upon us.
I will keep you all in my prayers as I ask that you do the same for me and my religious brothers and sisters as many of them will be taking their retreats in the next few weeks and months. May God keep you in His embrace and peace.
September 10, 2023
Our Church refers to the Holy Eucharist as being the Sum and Summary of our faith. With the small percentage of Catholics who now believe in the “Real Presence” of the Holy Eucharist, our Church has embarked on a three-year program of “Eucharistic Revival”. That is sorely needed. Some years ago I wrote an article that was carried out by several diocesan newspapers, which was titled, “Eucharist – The Foundation of Evangelization”, and I still believe that to be true.
If we are to have a greater belief in the “Real Presence” among Catholics, it is a fair question to ask if what we are doing in the three-year program is what is needed. The focus on the Eucharist will no doubt be of help but in my opinion, it is not enough.
It is my view that we need to plant the seeds of faith in our youth in a better manner than is being done today and to do that we need a more systematic method of teaching the faith. When St. John Paul II released the Catechism of the Catholic Church, he noted that it was “a sure norm for teaching the faith” and that “a sure and authentic reference text for teaching catholic doctrine”. He also requested that compendia be prepared as needed for teaching the faith. Such a compendium has
never been prepared in this country for teaching our youth.
If we wish to reverse the decline in those who practice their faith and those who believe in the “Real Presence” we need to take two steps that will make a large difference in having a more systematic approach to teaching the faith:
Step 1. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) needs to prepare a compendium or compendia of the Catechism for teaching our youth and those wishing to convert to the Catholic religion.
Step 2. All diocesan Bishops need to instruct all parishes that such a compendium or compendia are to be used for teaching the Catholic faith and thereby honor the request made by St. John Paul II more than 30 years ago.
Those two steps are important to increasing participation in our Catholic faith and imparting a greater spiritual understanding of the Holy Eucharist and its importance to our souls. Each of us can be helpful in making the plea for those two steps to our local Bishop.
September 3, 2023
During the summer months, when my brothers, sister, and I were very young, Mom and Dad would take us to the family fishing camp, which was located in the Sierra foothills on the way to Yosemite. I can remember vividly when having a car air conditioner was not always a standard option, so the road trip could be brutal, especially during the months of June or July.
After arriving and setting up base camp after the long and hot drive, we finally had the chance to rest and take it easy. The very next morning Dad would wake us up early so we could get to the river in order to beat the other fishermen only to see anglers up and down the rushing waters of the Moccasin. This is where I believe I got the “bug”, but like everything else in one’s youth, you later forget about fishing and focus on something entirely different.
Of all of my brothers and my sister, I’m the only one who has returned to this sport. I love fly fishing. It's relaxing, it has taught me patience and has helped me in my priesthood to stop and take in life as it flows before me. The thing I notice most in our hectic world is that no one really seems to stop and as they say, “smell the roses.” The metaphor for fishing is used quite often in the Gospels as Jesus knew his audience, and knowing one’s audience you tend to fashion your teachings accordingly.
To fish well, you need to have hope and a faith that comes short of expectation but does not sink into despair. You need lots of patience, good judgment, and unearned grace. Fishing can be a boastful sport, inviting exaggeration and even, sometimes, unfortunately, dishonesty; I caught a fish this big!!!! Fishing also connects me to my familial past, as I mentioned above, and to the land and waters of my native California. There is a distinctly Christian spirituality to both fishing and a connection to the waters and land.
When Jesus told his disciples he would make them into fishers of men, he was not only using a biblical metaphor that harkened back to the prophet Jeremiah; he was also speaking to fishermen, offering them a new way to fish, fishing with a different purpose. We know that they struggled and would have understood that fishing is not the same thing as catching, but we also know that they would have understood his metaphor as a call to humanize their work as commercial anglers and become more of who they are, and to find a deeper purpose for their mission. Just as each of us is commissioned while still in our mother’s womb and then manifests that commissioning through our baptism and sacraments the completion of that trust. The road is long and offers few guarantees, none of us know exactly how our lives will turn out or when we’re called home, that is why our sacred task is now, at this time and not later.
I doubt I will ever become a great fly fisherman, but I am thankful to God for my vocation, for the gift of a type of fishing that forces me to fish for the person I wish to become and to guide those around me as we together journey through this life for something deeper, more substantial and fulfilling. May you all experience the good works of God’s love and fidelity and to continue the mission God has set before you.
August 27, 2023
I thank Fr. Leonard for giving me this opportunity to write this column this week. As I was prayerfully pondering, I came across the Saint of the Day, St. Monica. In honor of her Feast Day today (August 27), I offer this reflection on St. Monica in hopes it will encourage everyone to persist in prayer. She is honored as the patron saint of wives, mothers, difficult marriages, and wayward children.
St. Monica stands as an example of the Power of Persistent Prayer. St. Paul in 1 Thessalonians5:17 urged his fellow Christians to, “Pray without ceasing,”. St. Monica prayed through years of tears and against all odds for her pagan husband and wayward son.
While she was still young, Monica was married off to a pagan man with a violent temper who was critical of her faith. She met his rage with patient kindness and by the end of his life, won him over to
Monica’s brilliant son Augustine drove her to her knees because of his loose lifestyle and his love of Manicheism. Augustine challenged his mother to give up her faith to overcome the split between them, but she insisted that he was the one who was out of line. The more he strayed, the more she prayed and fasted and cried on his behalf. When she followed him to Rome, afraid he would never convert, he eluded her and moved to Milan, where he met St. Ambrose, under whose influence he eventually entered the Church. It was an answer to decades of his mother’s prayers. That son, who became Saint Augustine, later wrote gratefully of his mother: “She said little, preached not at all, loved deeply, prayed without ceasing.”
Monica had troubles of her own to battle. She’s not some self-righteous fanatic, she’s real.’ What really impressed me was that she didn’t wear her worry on her sleeve, moaning and nagging at her son. She took her tears to God and left them in his care, and she never stopped praying. Oftentimes, when we say a prayer, we expect that God will respond in some way, shape, or form right away. It’s important to remember, though, that the response that we get from God isn’t always the one that we expect but it is the one that we need at that time. While St. Monica was hoping for an instant response from God, this time in waiting and her own prayer was able to deepen her own faith so that when Augustine was ready, she could continue to guide him during his own journey similar to the steps that she took in her own.
In the Old Testament, Hannah caught the attention of the Lord through her tears and prayers long before there was a Monica or an Augustine. The Lord answered her request by sending her a son: the great judge and prophet Samuel. Like Monica, Hannah is known for her prayers; like Monica, her prayers contributed to the raising of a faithful, holy son. May their examples encourage us to redouble our prayers for the children in our care and for those who have no one to pray for them.
Prayer allows us to invite God into not just our own brokenness but also into the brokenness of others, to do his healing work. Saint Monica stands as proof of the power of love and tears and above all persistence in prayer. St. Monica, pray for us!
August 20, 2023
The history of the Ferragosto festival dates back to ancient Rome when it was celebrated as one of the most important holidays on the Roman calendar. It became a Christian holiday during the Middle Ages and has been observed by Catholics ever since.
This week has been a very relaxing and carefree time, all the while savoring this opportunity to just sit back, read some biographies, catching up on the latest papal documents, and spending time with my family and close friends. It’s also been a good time to think, plan and meditate on special events coming up in the Fall.
It’s hard to believe it’s already mid-August and that Summer will soon come to an end. In fact, for Italians, or for that matter, most Southern Europeans, they go on “holiday”, so they can get away from the oppressive heat that occurs at this time of year. It was during the Christian period after the Roman Empire fell, that the Church declared August 15 as the date of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven - known in Italy as the Ferragosto. As it was also the hottest time of the year, people would take a few days prior to and after for a getaway. Just a bit of trivia to share with you.
As I write this letter to you, I am thinking ahead for the fall and preparing a series of talks for our monthly “Coffee Chats”. A few weeks ago, I gave a short presentation at the Rossmoor Community on St. Francis and his spirituality. Many there enjoyed the talk, but there were many who were unable to attend for one reason or another. So, I thought why not present that talk here. And If I’m going to do that, then why not make a whole series of talks centered on the different religious order’s spiritualities; how they differ and what they have in common.
Beginning in September faith formation will present the first of these four “chats”. We will begin with Fr. Kevin and the Franciscan charism, followed by Oblates of Mary Immaculate, Daughters of St. Paul, and finally end with the spirituality of St. Ignatius. All in all, these four discussions should be a good jumping-off point for the Winter series that I am currently planning.
Onto a new topic: I wrote in my last letter to you my discovery of Joseph Cardinal Bernardin’s book on his spirituality and the strong faith he held during his dark times battling cancer and his ultimate acceptance of his impending demise. His courageous battle with cancer is an inspiration to us who experience and continue experiencing pains of every kind. As a priest, I have dealt with many who suffer, and yet they remain faithful while accepting their fate. I find these men and women who soldier on to be incredible saints. As for me, when I feel alone, frustrated, angry and feel pity, these men and women are my inspiration to trust God, to love God, and to remember God’s infinite mercy and compassion. As the Summer winds down and we settle back into our regular routines, let us pray for each other, keep each of us in our prayers, and keep in mind that Christmas is just around the corner. Happy Ferragosto!
August 13, 2023
I was a lile late in getting an article for the bulletin as I was busy with some projects I will gladly share with you next time. In the meantime, I came across this article written by Joseph Cardinal Bernardin during the time of his suffering from cancer and as Cardinal in Chicago. Through his suffering and his obvious faith in Christ our Savior, we can see through his eyes and heart what true letting go of ourselves can be. And at the end of it all, all that matters is our relationship with the Lord and His Son.
Please enjoy this short, but meaningful, article and to take the time to contemplate the two questions that are posed at the end of this article. May the Lord enrich you during this ordinary time.
Cardinal Joseph Bernardin: The value of suffering
It is a normal, instinctive response to run from suffering. We try to avoid it for ourselves, and we make every effort to protect our loved ones from it. Suffering is perceived as a dire threat to our life and happiness.
Our dread of suffering is so strong that we not only seek to shelter ourselves from it, but sometimes we shun others who suffer, even our friends and family, in our effort to escape its pleading voices.
Those who have been divorced sometimes report that their friends and family no longer invite them to parties. At times, those who have been fired or laid off tell us that when they encounter their former colleagues, they are met with embarrassed silence.
Cancer patients and others who suffer with serious illness notice that their former friends have difficulty looking at them, eye to eye. We don’t know what to say. The pitch and volume of suffering reduces us to silence.
Jesus tells us, however, that in that silence life begins! “Whoever would preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it” (Mark 8:35).
For every follower of Christ there comes a choice, when the path veers off toward the cross. The wisdom of the world raises an alarm: Turn back, beware, ahead lies our destruction! But in our hearts a softer, firmer voice invites us, “Come, follow me, and I will show you that path of life.” (From a Sept. 15, 1991 homily quoted in The Journey to Peace, Doubleday)
1. Are you afraid of suffering—whether your own or someone else’s?
2. How can you find God in the silence and loneliness of pain?
Bernardin (1928–1996) was the archbishop of Chicago from 1982 until his death from cancer. He wrote about his illness in The Gift of Peace (Loyola Press).
August 6, 2023
“We let go of what is nonessential and embrace what is essential. We empty ourselves so that God may more fully work within us. And we become instruments in the hands of the Lord.”
— Joseph Cardinal Bernadine
The other day, as I was looking over some books many of you, donated to the parish book fair, I came across a wonderful slim volume of quotes and thoughts from Joseph Cardinal Bernadine. If you’re not familiar with Cardinal Bernadine and his works here is a small snippet of his spirituality:
“Each of us journeys in this life from birth to death. God has chosen a path for us and calls us to walk along it. But he has also created us with a will and allows us to follow a route of our own choosing. There is nothing more important than choosing a path that leads to meaning, fulfillment, compassion, and joy. If we choose our own path, we risk the consequences of walking alone, with only our own meager resources. But if we choose to walk in God’s ways, he will give us all we need for the journey. When there are forks in the road, obstacles to be overcome, or alternate routes to take, God accompanies us and helps us discern his path from others.”
Do you believe that? Does God lead us to our ultimate destination, or do we choose our own path in life?
From my own experience, I have come to believe that a path is mapped out for us, and that map is the guide that will bring us the happiness and spirituality we crave. For God will not lead us to an impossible situation, nor will he test us beyond our means. It is true that God tests us — that is, He allows us to get into situations where we must make a choice between right and wrong; good and evil, or to submit to God’s desire for us to be happy. Sometimes the path we choose can be a struggle, and sometimes that struggle guides us to the path God intended for us to follow in the first place. Struggle in our journey aids us to a better understanding of ourselves and God’s paternal love and opens our eyes and heart to the mission that was given to us at our baptism. Each of us has a specific mission to accomplish and to accomplish this mission requires us to experience what life is about in the best and worst of situations. I know for myself what I wanted in life, but it wasn’t what God wanted for me. What God wants for us is what we want for ourselves, to be happy, to be fulfilled in every way, and to be spiritually satisfied:
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart;” — Jeremiah 1:1
God has set us apart from every other creature He created. God created each of us in His own image, and in that, we are given a great gift, the gift of being unique in every way, with an understanding of the world that no other creature possesses on this earth. From the Book of Psalms, 8:5 we read: “What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visit him? “For thou, hast made him [a] little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honor.”
We belong to God and no other. We are His and He is our God to love and worship all the days of our lives until the end of ages. May we all continue our journey set before us.
July 30, 2023
Here is the final installment of St. Bernard’s four degrees of God’s love.
The 4th Degree of Love: Self-Love for God’s Sake (Being United with God’s Love)
Blessed are those who can attain the fourth degree of love. Then they will love themselves only in God! “Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains… O Lord” (Psalm 36:6). For this love is a mountain of great elevation that is fertile and rich. “Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?” (Psalm 24:3)…
When will my soul, inebriated with divine love, learn to be unconsciously self-forgetful, and simply be a broken vessel (Psalm 31:12)? Then it will hasten to God to depend upon Him and cling only to Him. Then will my spirit be at one with God (1 Corinthians 6:17), saying, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:26).
Blessed and holy is the one who has been privileged, even if only momentarily in this life, to taste of this love. For to so lose yourself that you are reduced to nothing is a dive experience and not a human sentiment (Philippians 2:7)…
In God all our affections should center, so that in all things we should seek to do only His will and not to please ourselves. The true blessing will come to us then, not in self-gratification, nor in transient pleasure, but in accomplishing God’s will in us. So we pray daily. “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10)…
To reach this condition is to be Godly. For as a drop of water disappears in a barrel of wine, taking the taste and color of wine, so is this state. Or like a bar of iron that is heated and red-hot and becomes like the flame itself, so is this return to divine love. Or just as air becomes so radiant with the light of the sun that it appears to be the very sunlight itself, so it is with the saints whose human love is transmuted by the will of God Himself…
Not until death is swallowed up in victory (1 Corinthians 15:54), and eternal light overwhelms all darkness, and takes full possession so that glory alone shines in their bodies, can our souls be entirely set free to be given wholly to God. For until then the soul is restricted in the body, bound at least to it by the natural affections, of not also still vitally connected by physical sense…
[In heaven] the fourth degree of love is attained forever. It consists of loving God, only and always… God will be the reward of them that love Him.
Cultivating Bernard of Clairvaux’s Love of God
“God is love… Love comes from God…” (1 John 4.) To progress in Bernard’s stages of love from selfish love to agapé love that wills good for God and others we must deny our selfish passions, grow in thankfulness for God’s love to us, become captivated by God’s nature of love, and ultimately lose ourselves n God.
The other thing we can do to grow into greater degrees of the wonderful and beautiful love of Christ and of God our Father is to meditate on the lyrics to Bernard’s inspiring hymns of devotion to God until our soul begins to sing we are drawn to take heart for God from him.
Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee, Jesus, the very thought of Thee. With sweetness fills my breast; But sweeter far Thy face to see, And in Thy presence rest. No voice can sing, nor heart can frame, Nor can the memory find A sweeter sound than Thy blest name, O Savior of mankind. O hope of every contrite heart, O joy of all the meek, To those who fall how kind Thou art! How good to those who seek! But what to those who find? Ah, this No tongue nor pen can show. The love of Jesus, what it is, None but His loved ones know. Jesus, our only joy be Thou. As Thou our prize wilt be; Jesus, be Thou our glory now And thru eternity. Jesus, Thou Joy of Loving Hearts, Jesus, thou joy of loving hearts! Thou fount of life! Thou Light of men! From the best bliss that earth imparts, We turn unfill’d to Thee again. Thy truth unchanged hath ever stood; Thou savest those that on Thee call; To them that seek Thee, Thou art good, To them that find Thee, All in All! We taste thee, O thou living Bread, And long to feast upon thee still! We drink of Thee the Fountain-head, And thirst our souls from thee to fill, Our restless spirits yearn for thee Where’er our changeful lot is cast; Glad, when Thy gracious smile we see, Blest, when our faith can hold Thee fast. O Jesus, ever with us stay! Make all our moments calm and bright! Chase the dark night of sin away, Shed o’er the world thy holy light!
July 23, 2023
“God is love… Love comes from God…” (1 John 4) To progress in [St.] Bernard’s stages of love from selfish love to agapé love that wills good for God and others we must deny our selfish passions, grow in thankfulness for God’s love to us, become captivated by God’s nature of love, and ultimately lose ourselves in God.”
As we continue with this series of St. Bernard’s understanding of the four stages of Love of God, I would like to point out as a whole, his writings on this subject are meant for times of reflection and contemplation, and should be a tool for you to use as part of your everyday prayers. So with that I encourage you to save these writings for future references.
The 2nd Degree of Love: Loving God for Your Own Blessing (Dependence on God)
People who are animal and carnal by instinct, who only know what it means to love themselves,
can begin to love God for their own blessing.
[This second degree of love] means you now love God. Yet it is still love for your own benefit, not God’s own sake. Nevertheless, it is wisdom to know what you can do by yourself and what you can only do with God’s help to keep you from offending God by sin. If when sufferings occur and sins gain in frequency, then we are forced to turn to God for His unfailing love. Eventually will not even the cold heart of stone in a cast-iron cage be tenderized by the goodness of God’s grace? Will this one then not be forced to love God — not selfishly — but because God is God?…
Let’s respond with the psalmist, ”O, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good” (Psalm 118:1). This is not a confession of being good to the Lord, but of the Lord being good to us. It is the love of God for our benefits. The person who is at the second degree of love will give thanks to God when He has shown him kindness.
The 3rd Degree of Love: Loving God for God’s Own Sake (Intimacy with God)
Our frequent needs throw us back constantly upon God. By such continual dependence, we learn to enjoy God’s presence. This intimacy with God becomes sweet as we learn to discover how wonderful God is. This experience thus promotes the love of God, so that it transcends over all our needs. Like the Samaritans, we are to respond that we know His goodness, not because we were told about it, but we have experienced it for ourselves (John 4:42). So too we tell our flesh, “we love God, not because of your needs, for we have tasted and known for ourselves the sweetness of the Lord” (see Psalm 34:8)…
Now we love God for what He really is. Our love is pure, and we obey out of a pure heart and in loving obedience (1 Peter 1:22). We love justly… This love is also pleasing because it is spontaneous. It is true love, because it is not just wordy, but it is demonstrated by deeds (1 John 3:18). It is righteous, because it gives as it receives.
The person who loves like this, truly loves the things of God… without self-interest (1 Corinthians 13:5). This is to love those things that belong to Jesus Christ, even as Christ sought our interests, or rather sought us, and never looked after His own [interest]… (To be continued).
July 16, 2023
“God is love… Love comes from God…” (1 John 4.) To progress in [St.] Bernard’s stages of love from selfish love to agapé love that wills good for God and others we must deny our selfish passions, grow in thankfulness for God’s love to us, become captivated by God’s nature of love, and ultimately lose ourselves n God.”
Last week I wrote an article regarding St. Benedict’s devotional on the four degrees of love and this week I will present how we as the people of God can apply his devotional practice in our everyday lives. To love as God loves us can take a herculean effort to achieve, something that can be attained only if we are willing to accept the challenge set forth by Christ Himself. With that, let us deepen our understanding of this topic and read the words together as Benedict wrote them.
“‘What, then, will the Lord be to those who seek His presence?”
Here is a marvelous thing, for it is impossible to seek the Lord unless one is already found of Him… O God, You may be sought and found, but no one can [accomplish this on their own.] God in His provenience does this. For if we say, “Early shall my prayer come before Thee’ (Psalm 5), yet all prayer would still be lukewarm unless it were animated by Thine inspiration…
The 1st Degree of Love is Yourself For Your Own Sake (Selfish Love)
The first and great commandment is: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). But nature is so frail and weak that people are forced to love themselves first of all. However, this is carnal love… selfish… [This] love does not come as a precept, it comes naturally, for “no one ever yet hated their own flesh” (Ephesians 5:29). Yet it is natural for this love to grow excessively, and like a strong current, burst the banks of self-control, flooding the field of self-indulgence. A commandment, like a newly-built dike, is then needed: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39)…
Let us restrain our own self-love if we would avoid becoming transgressors. You can be as indulgent as you like about yourself, provided you show the same indulgence with your neighbors.
O friend, you need the restraint of temperance, lest you follow your own wanton desires to distraction, or become so enslaved by the passions which are the enemies of your soul. It is far better to divide your enjoyment with your neighbor than with your enemy [passions].
If you heed the counsel of the wise, you will turn away from your own appetites and discipline yourself (Proverbs 13:18). Then you will follow the teaching of the apostle: “But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that” (1 Timothy 6:8). In consequence, you will be able to “abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:11). Then you will not find it a burden to share with your neighbor what you have held back from your enemy [of your selfish passions]… So what could readily be a selfish love can become truly social when it can extend to include others.
But if you find that your benevolence to your neighbor reduces your own support which you need, what can you do then?… “Ask God who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to [you]” (James 1:5). Again, as the psalmist says, “You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing” (Psalm 145:16). There is not doubt that God will provide for our needs; indeed, He gives most people more than they need. So His promise is true: “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33; Luke 12:31). God freely promises to give all things necessary those who do not withhold themselves from the needs of others and who thus love their neighbors. To seek first the Kingdom of God means really to prevent sin from ruling in our lives (Romans 6:12) and to prefer the yoke of modesty and sobriety with God’s help…
However, if we are to love our neighbor with absolute righteousness, we need to acknowledge God as our motive and cause. For how can we love with pure motives if we do not love God first of all? Only then can we love our neighbor. It is impossible to love in God without first loving God (1 Thessalonians 2:1-11). So it is essential we love God first in order to love others also.
God, as the source of all goodness, is the source of our ability and disposition to love others… .”
Next week is the The Second Degree of Love: Dependance on God.
July 9, 2023
“God is love… Love comes from God…” 1) John 4.) To progress in [St.] Bernard’s stages of love from selfish love to agapé love that wills good for God and others we must deny our selfish passions, grow in thankfulness for God’s love to us, become captivated by God’s nature of love, and ultimately lose ourselves in God.
“Love is the fountain of life, and the soul which does not drink from it cannot be called alive.”
These are the ancient words of St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090 – 1153), a great lover of God and considered the last of the Church Fathers. To be sure, as I was preparing for my upcoming retreat, I earnestly began searching for inspirational words to provide a foundation from which to contemplate and examine my own spirituality before embarking on my retreat in September. As a part of my preparation for this journey, I felt it was important to fill my quiver with the essential tools of God’s Word if I am to achieve what I set out to do, that is to be one with God and to love God deeply as I know He loves me. But what is it to love God and to understand His love for His creation.
Thomas Merton refers to St. Bernard’s understanding of what it is to love God and to love him more than a filial or eros type of love, but to love God in a supernatural way, agape love. To love God is beyond a love that is human, that which is transcendent, or mystical. And in turn God loves us unconditionally as only the Heavenly Father can love.
St. Bernard’s devotional classic, “The Love of God”, explains what divine love is and how we grow and develop in the perfect love of God which has come to us in Jesus Christ. In it St. Bernard presents his famous Four Degrees of Love, which are a model for spiritual development in Christlikeness. It is my thought to present to you in four parts these “Four Degrees of Love”, as he presents them. Starting this week and continuing into the summer months, I will provide for your own spiritual journey some aspects of his understanding of what the love of God is and how we as creations of God can apply these thoughts into actions. As Christ commands us,
“‘I give you a new commandment: love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another’” (John 13:34). The apostle Paul goes on to tell us “Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Love, therefore, is the fulfillment of the law”. (Rom)
These inspiring and wonderful words should be a part of our everyday meditation, to reflect upon and to execute in our everyday encounters with others. Next week I will present excerpts from St. Bernard’s “The Love of God”. Until then, may the God of peace bring you comfort and love.
July 2, 2023
Welcome to Summer; the heat; the barbecues; swimming and everything else Americans associate with Summer. This is a time to relax, to enjoy ourselves in carefree times with family and friends. For myself I have many fond memories of this time of year; the smell of freshly cut grass on a hot summer’s morning comes to mind, or waking up and running outside to ride bikes all day with friends; long vacations of camping, fishing, and hiking in Yosemite, and fun times of just doing nothing but watching cartoons or sitting in an air- conditioned theatre watching a matinee at the Grand Lake Theater. I can still see in my mind’s eyes those wonderful days of long ago with a bit of nostalgia and some sadness; sadness because those I loved are long gone, but not forgotten.
Even with all those fond memories of summer, I still find the heat, especially out here where temperatures can soar into triple digits, can make me feel uncomfortable and rather sluggish. But I must sally forth and work and create, so that I can bring you opportunities to stretch your faith, to give you the tools necessary to understand that faith, and not blindly adhere to something you don’t comprehend fully. I have said this many times, !!!FAITH AND REASON!!!
Faith and reason are two vitally important aspects of knowing who God is and His Son. Understanding your faith by reasoning it out, should be a part of your quiver of tools, thus alleviating any doubt you might have or strengthening the faith you already possess; or reservations that may linger in preventing you from living out that faith to its fullest.
The one thing I do like about summer, though, is the fact that parish life slows down a bit, parishioners are off on vacation and out of town, giving me the opportunity to plan events and programs for the coming Fall, which by the way IS my favorite season, along with Spring.
This past Wednesday, Fr. George concluded the parish’s three-part lecture series by ending his presentation with Eucharistic Adoration. How wonderful it was to see many of you attend and share this time together. I am very aware of just how faithful this community is when I witness such actions by you.
Many of you who attended these lectures appreciated what Dr. Lilles, Fr. George and I were trying to convey and many of you left with a greater understanding of what the church in the United States is presenting to many of you who already believe in the real presence. And for some of you who are skeptical about this devotion, I hope this series of talks encouraged many to seek more information, to continue searching for answers and to never stop in your quest for truth.
As we continue with these series of discussions, demonstrations, and spiritual guidance, I hope in my heart of hearts, more of you within and outside our community will continue to support my efforts in bringing you quality topics that not only inform you but form you and your faith.
I realize these are difficult times for faithful people, especially in light of a world gone topsy turvy, and with rampant confusion about those things which only a generation before truly believed, and understood to be true, are now in flux. But we shouldn’t let that discourage us or sway us from our love of God, His Son, and the church. We know that Jesus is “the way, the truth and the life”, and that whatever chaos is prevalent today will eventually subside to a place of calm and peace.
June 25, 2023
“I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”
Last Wednesday as part of the parish’s ongoing discussions on the Eucharist, Dr. Anthony Lilles presented a wonderful talk on what the Eucharist is and its origin both biblical and traditional in our understanding of its significant importance.
As usual, you all came out in good numbers to share this important time together. Dr. Lilles’ talk was both informative and powerful. His lecture gave many in attendance an insight that deepened our love of this powerful sacrament and its reality in the world.
Next Wednesday, June 28th, Fr. George will present his lecture to our community by providing a spiritual and practical understanding of the Eucharist by lecture and adoration.
As Pope Francis emphasizes to us:
“One cannot know the Lord without this habit of adoring, of adoring in silence. I believe, if I am not mistaken, this prayer of adoration is the prayer least known by us, it is the one we do the least”, as if it were a “waste of time before the Lord, before the mystery of Jesus Christ”.
What I love about this quote from the holy father is its candor. For a while, this form of devotion to the Eucharist was lost and through the determination of many has made a comeback to our parish life. This is an important step in the revival the holy father wishes to see spread though out the Universal Church. This is also an opportunity for us as believers to share this devotion to family and friends and the community at large in the hope of spurring those with doubts to believe that Jesus is indeed fully present in the Host and Cup.
In the coming months, I hope to bring to this community many similar programs and lectures to guide you in your spiritual quest by providing quality speakers and reading materials and resources. It is important for me that we share this journey together for our salvation, and for the glory of God and His Holy Church.
I am reminded of Pope Benedict’s love of the Eucharist:
“In the Eucharist, the Son of God comes to meet us and desires to become one with us; eucharistic adoration is simply the natural consequence of the eucharistic celebration, which is itself the Church's supreme act of adoration.”
I will have more to write in my next article regarding Eucharistic Revival and other upcoming spiritual programs that are in the planning stages. God bless.
June 18, 2023
"St. Thomas Aquinas taught that the Eucharist has three major components: memory of the past, a present grace, and hope of eternal life."
Last week, Corpus Christi Sunday, marked the beginning of the Eucharistic Revival in which the bishops of the United States have come together to encourage the faithful across our nation to witness to others of our faith that the real presence of the Lord is contained wholly, body, blood, soul and divinity in the precious sacrament. This action taken by the church in the United States is in response to the Pew Research Center’s survey indicating that two-thirds of those who self-describe themselves as Catholics, that is, those attending mass regularly, no longer believe that Christ is present in the Eucharist but instead is merely a symbol of Christ in the Mass.
This of course has raised grave concerns among the church leadership, including many of my brother priests. So, the question remains, what are we to do about it? How are we going address this and what is the best way to communicate this core teaching of the church to our brothers and sisters?
In response to this rather grim report, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is addressing this situation by providing to dioceses and other church institutions, teaching and video materials as well as planned events throughout the nation.
One of the many events our parish is planning for the next three years is to present a series of lectures squarely focusing on this mission. Last Monday for example, I gave the first of the three presentations on the Eucharistic Revival in collaboration with the urging of the USCCB along with the bishop of Oakland, to inform the people of God exactly what the churches response is and how to convey this message clearly.
Another presentation on this subject is scheduled for June 21st given by Dr. Anthony Lilles, on the historical, scriptural, and traditional aspects of the Eucharist and why as Catholic Christians, we believe it to be the body and blood of Christ. And finally, on June 28th, Fr. George Da Roza, will give the last of these lectures by introducing our community to the spiritual understanding and the sacredness of this belief. This will be followed by the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.
Altogether it is the church’s desire to emphasize this belief if not to the whole parish community, at least to those whose beliefs have not waned or to those who continue to question its’ validity and efficacy. It is also my desire to see that you are given proper catechizing, with an understanding of the Eucharists’ transcendental reality. God bless.
June 11, 2023
After you exchange a handshake or a hug with someone, there is nothing you take away other than the feeling you share with that person. Something has changed—there is a sense of closeness, of unity, perhaps even of love. Imagine Jesus giving you a hug every week, telling you He loves you. That is the essence of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. When we partake in the Holy Eucharist, we remember the sacrifice of Jesus, but we also bring Jesus into our bodies. That is why coming to Mass each week is important: it is a time to listen to the word of God, to celebrate the sacrifice of His Son, to be joined with Jesus in this sacred meal, and to go and proclaim the Good News.
We are not strangers to the idea of sacrifice. Most of us know what it is like to sacrifice an hour of sleep for a good cause, or to give up the last piece of pizza to a hungry brother, or to take time out of your day to listen to someone when you may have more important things to do. As Catholics, we have grown accustomed to sacrifice and the good things that can come from it.
It is fitting to talk about sacrifice this weekend when we celebrate the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ. Every time we come to Church for the Holy Mass, we recall the great gift given to us by Jesus when He offered Himself for our redemption by giving over His Body and Blood. Jesus did not have to let Himself get arrested, falsely accused, scourged and murdered on a cross. He did not have to, but He did. He allowed Himself to be killed so that we might be saved.
That is why the Holy Eucharist we share is so important. These days, so many Catholics want to push aside the sacrament of communion by saying Jesus is not really present, the wafer we eat is just a symbol, a reminder of what Jesus did for us. But Catholics should know better. We should know Jesus is among us when the priest consecrates the bread and wine. It is changed, even though it still looks and tastes like bread and wine. Imagine Jesus giving you a hug every week. That is Holy Eucharist.
Deacon Rob Falco
Saint Raymond Church, Dublin, CA
June 4, 2023
“Our world is hurting. We all need healing, yet many of us are separated from the very source of our strength. Jesus Christ invites us to return to the source and summit of our faith in the celebration of the Eucharist. The National Eucharistic Revival is a movement to restore understanding and devotion to this great mystery here in the United States by helping us renew our worship of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.”
For the next three years the bishops of the United States, and his holiness, Pope Francis, are encouraging all the faithful across our nation to participate in “Eucharistic Revival”. This is a very important step in reclaiming the truth on whether or not the real presence of Christ is truly in the Host and wine or is it merely a symbol as some would believe. The frightening thing about our current situation is how wide spread it is among Catholics, especially among those under forty.
Since June is the start of this revival, I have planned three lectures on this subject. It is my hope our parish community and the surrounding neighborhood, will come together for this important series of talks. In addition to that, I have invited a theologian from St. Patrick’s seminary to lecture on the church’s teachings and how best to reach others in understanding this sacrament.
The Second Vatican Council rightly proclaimed that the Eucharistic sacrifice is “the source and summit of the Christian life”. “For the most holy Eucharist contains the Church's entire spiritual wealth: Christ himself, our Passover and living bread” [are all contained in all the sacraments, each returning to the Body and Blood of Christ.]
As part of this effort to teach and reflect, many of my forthcoming homilies will express the church’s magisterium and how she shares her spirituality with the faithful. And as bishops, priests and catechists, it is our responsibility and duty to evangelize the truth to the people of God.
Scandal, division, disease, and doubt; the Church has withstood each of these throughout our very human history. But today we confront all of them, all at once. Our response in this moment is pivotal. In the midst of these roaring waves, Jesus is present, reminding us that he is more powerful than the storm. He desires to heal, renew, and unify the Church and the world. How will he do it? By uniting us once again around the source and summit of our faith in the celebration of the Eucharist.
I will have more information, dates, times and place, for you in the coming days. May God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit continue to enrich you in your spiritual journey.
May 28, 2023
Here is Thomas Merton’s prayer for the Vigil of Pentecost. It’s long but worth reading and praying in its entirety.
“Today, Father, this blue-sky laud you. The delicate green and orange flowers of the tulip poplar tree praise you. The distant blue hills praise you together with the sweet-smelling air that is full of brilliant light. The bickering flycatchers praise you together with the lowing cattle and the quails that whistle over there. I too, Father, praise you, with all these my brothers, and they all give voice to my own heart and to my own silence. We are all one silence and a diversity of voices.
You have made us together, you have made us one and many, you have placed me here in the midst as witness, as awareness, and as joy. Here I am. In me the world is present, and you are present. I am a link in the chain of light and of presence. You have made me a kind of center, but a center that is nowhere. And yet I am “here,” let us say I am “here” under these trees, not others.
For a long time, I was in darkness and in sorrow, and I suppose my confusion was my own fault. No doubt my own will has been the root of my sorrow, and I regret it merciful father, but I do not regret it because this formula is acceptable as an official answer to all problems. I know I have sinned, but the sin is not to be found in any list. Perhaps I have looked too hard at all the lists to find out what my sin was, and I did not know that it was precisely the sin of looking at all the lists when you were telling me that this was useless. My “sin” is not on the list and is perhaps not even a sin. In any case I cannot know what it is, and doubtless there is nothing there anyway.
Whatever may have been my particular stupidity, the prayers of your friends and my own prayers have somehow been answered and I am here, in this solitude, before you, and I am glad because you see me here. For it here, I think, that you want to see me, and I am seen by you. My being here is a response you have asked of me, to something I have not clearly heard. But I have responded, and I am content: there is little to know about it at present.
Here you ask of me nothing else than to be content that I am your Child and your Friend. Which simply means to accept your friendship because it is your friendship and your Fatherhood because I am your son. This friendship is Son-ship and is Spirit. You have called me here to be repeatedly born in the Spirit as your son. Repeatedly born in light, in knowledge, in unknowing, in faith, in awareness, in gratitude, in poverty, in presence and in praise.
If I have any choice to make, it is to live here and perhaps die here. But in any case it is not the living or the dying that matter, but speaking your name with confidence in this light, in this unvisited place: to speak your name of “Father” just by being here as “son” in the Spirit and the Light which you have given , and which are no unearthly light but simply this plain June day, with its shining fields, its tulip trees, the pines, the woods, the clouds and the flowers everywhere.
To be here with the silence of Sonship in my heart is to be a center in which all things converge upon you. That is surely enough for the time being.
Therefore Father, I beg you to keep me in this silence so that I may learn from it the word of your peace and the word of your mercy and the word of your gentleness to the world: and that through me perhaps your word of peace may make itself heard where it has not been possible for anyone to hear it for a long time.
To study truth here and learn here to suffer for truth.
The Light itself, and the contentment and the Spirit, these are enough.
May 21, 2023
“Be good, keep your feet dry, your eyes open, your heart at peace and your soul in the joy of Christ.” — Thomas Merton
Last Thursday, May 18th, was my tenth anniversary of my ordination into the priesthood of Jesus Christ. It’s hard to believe that ten years have passed so quickly; actually its more like seventeen years if you count my time in graduate school and the seminary. And today, Sunday, I invite you all to join me in a celebration for this occasion to remember the wonderful gift God has given me. Not only did I receive from Him my vocation, but the gift of this community to guide and love. I am so grateful to God, the Bishop of Oakland and for you and your kindness in welcoming me here, my new home.
Some have asked me what was it that called me to enter religious life at the age of forty four? Let me go back to when I was a much younger man discerning for priesthood; I was especially interested in joining the Jesuits as I admired their education, their missionary history and the intellectual traditions they cultivated over the centuries, so much so, that I could see myself teaching at a Jesuit boys high school. My love for history, especially American history from the civil war on to the beginning of the cold war, have always held a special place in my heart. But what was then and continues today, is my faith in God, Christ and His church and to serve His people.
This compunction to enter the priesthood was something I’ve tried ignoring, but obviously failed, finally got a hold of me and wouldn’t let go; I was caught. It was during the death vigil of St. John Paul II, that that calling became even more clear. I was forced to answer after witnessing young men and women already committing themselves to the service of the church. For them to say “yes” at such a young age, compelled me to look inward and to decide to answer the call that was louder and more clear than ever before.
In the ensuing years that followed, the decision to enter religious life was the best decision I made. However, it was God who saw something special in me and pursued me as he knew from the beginning, even before I was born, to live my life in His service and the service of His people. Mahalo!
May 14, 2023
I have returned from my travels from Portugal and Spain and since I have just returned, I am providing you this article on Thomas Merton’s Mystical Vision in Louisville. I hope you enjoy this insight to Merton. I will return with my own article next week. God bless.
In downtown Louisville at the corner of 4th and Walnut, Trappist monk and author Thomas Merton had a mystical vision that’s one of the most famous revelations in the history of spirituality.
On March 18, 1958, Thomas Merton was running errands in downtown Louisville when he had an experience that would change his life and influence countless others. The spot is marked with a historical marker, the only one that I know of in the United States that marks a mystical experience.
Merton described it this way Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander:
“In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation in a special world, the world of renunciation and supposed holiness…This sense of liberation from an illusory difference was such a relief and such a joy to me that I almost laughed out loud… I have the immense joy of being man, a member of a race in which God Himself became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.”
Merton’s biographer William H. Shannon says that by the time of this experience, Merton had become a very different kind of monk than the man who wrote the best-seller The Seven Storey Mountain. “One of the things going on in him was the maturing realization, born of this contemplation, that it is not possible to leave the world in any real sense,” Shannon writes. “There is simply no place else to go. . . The experience challenged the concept of a separate ‘holy’ existence lived in a monastery. He experienced the glorious destiny that comes simply from being a human person and from being united with, not separated from, the rest of the human race.”
That experience in Louisville happened in the middle of an ordinary day, when Merton was running errands for the monastery. And when you visit that spot today, it still seems like an ordinary sort of place, until you know the story of what happened there.
But consider this: when I visited that spot, I wasn’t alone in remembering Merton. An older man and a young woman were there as well, and as I approached them I overheard him telling her the story of what had happened there, his voice barely audible above the sound of cars. It made me happy to see that I was not the only pilgrim that day at the busy intersection in Louisville. Merton’s words still echo there, even after all the intervening years.
“Then it was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts, where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God’s eyes. If only they could all see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all the time.”
"Lori Erickson is one of America’s top travel writers specializing in spiritual journeys.”
May 7, 2023
May is traditionally the month of Mary.
Catholics around the world honor Mary in the month of May, by crowning her, acknowledging her as queen, and by saying the Rosary. In Nicholas LaBanca’s, “5 Messages from Marian Apparitions and Their Meanings,“ he states: ”Our Lady wants nothing more than to lead us to her Son. This is why she is such a powerful intercessor.” The Church has approved 26 apparitions of our Lady, in most apparitions, our Lady has asked for prayers for the conversion of sinners, for peace, for repentance and for the receiving of abundant graces. Her messages always leads us to conversion, personal and communal. Perhaps this May, we can deepen our love and appreciation of Mary and for the gift of the Rosary. A tool that she has given us that has defeated armies, changed the course of histories and made saints out of sinners. In this limited space, it is not possible to cover all the apparitions but rather to highlight some of the messages that we might be drawn ever closer to Jesus through Mary.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, 1591: This apparition brought about the conversion of the indigenous people to the faith within months of her heavenly visit.
Our Lady of La Salette, 1846: Our Lady was seen crying as she spoke to the two visionaries of her desire for the conversion of sinners and to keep holy the Lord’s Day.
Our Lady of Lourdes, 1858: Here our Lady asked Bernadette for prayers and sacrifices for the conversion of sinners. Still today, millions travel to Lourdes seeking a miracle.
Our Lady of Fatima, 1917: Our Lady identified herself as the Lady of the Rosary, and 70,000 people witnessed the miracle of the sun which brought about many conversions. A, not so well known, fact is that the Rosary was prayed during the country’s elections and Portugal was saved from communist rule.
Our Lady has appeared in England, in Ireland, in most countries in Europe, in China, in Japan, in Korea, in Vietnam, in India, and in Egypt. More recently, Our Lady has appeared in Medjugorje 1981; in Rwanda 1981; in Venezuela 1976; in Nicaragua 1980; in Argentina 1983. The message has been consistent: “Pray, pray, pray.” Let us heed her word, and this month of May, pray the rosary daily.
Fr. George DaRoza SSC
April 30, 2023
Last week I introduced to you Karl Rahner and his essay on our relationship with Jesus and His Church. Indeed, as this relationship, this abiding matures, it more and more assumes the form of whole-hearted attention to and affective embrace of the one whom one loves. Indeed, “a throwing one’s arms” about the Lord of one’s life, as Rahner rather boldly declares to the evident dismay of his scholarly colleague.
Rahner certainly does not envision a “physical” embrace. Nonetheless, the embrace of Jesus is uniquely “tangible,” enlisting the full range of what the mystical tradition terms the “spiritual senses.” One recalls Augustine’s exultation in the magnificent Book Ten of his Confessions. Here Augustine struggles to give voice to the experience of his love for God and admits it far transcends physical sweetness or fragrance, brightness or beauty. And yet, he affirms: “in a sense I do love light and melody and fragrance and food and embrace when I love my God...when that light shines upon my soul which no place can contain, that voice sounds which no time can take from me, when I breathe that fragrance which no wind scatters, I eat the food which is not lessened by eating, and I lie in that embrace which satiety never comes to sunder.”
Augustine confirms (or better “inspires”) Rahner’s conviction that in the today of faith one can embrace the very Lord of life.
Note how Augustine draws upon physical sensory experience—sight, hearing, tasting, touching—to point toward the experience of senses transformed so as to perceive the hidden but real presence of God in Christ. Thus Augustine confirms (or better “inspires”) Rahner’s conviction that in the today of faith one can embrace the very Lord of life. For Augustine confesses that he could only find the way to the true God when he “embraced the Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, who is above all things, God blessed forever,” yet who humbled himself to embody and become the believer’s spiritual food and drink.
So we come to a final point worth noting. Two of Rahner’s very first theological essays, dating from the early 1930s, studied the notion of the “spiritual senses” in the writings of the early church father Origen and in the medieval Augustinian tradition. It would seem, then, that Rahner returned toward the end of his life to those early explorations on the spiritual senses and the Christian mystical tradition. In doing so he returned to the wisdom of the concluding line of T.S. Eliot’s “East Coker”: “In my end is my beginning.”
Throughout his theological journey, Rahner sought to broaden our appreciation of the mystical, not as “extracurricular” to the Christian way, reserved for the privileged few, but as intrinsic to Christian living, yesterday and today. He challenges us to extend our imagination beyond the examples of those classical mystics who exhibit extraordinary spiritual gifts. He sought to “democratize” mystical experience, viewing it as the full flowering of the Christian life: a life of relations transformed in Christ, heralding the new creation. Though employing different dictions, I am sure Rahner would celebrate the insights of his fellow Jesuit, Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J. Purified senses enable us to perceive that “Christ plays in ten thousand places, lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his.”
In and through all the intricacies of his signature “transcendental method,” Rahner’s pole star remained the love of Jesus, who alone fulfills our human desire for unconditional love and communion. Communion not only with the Lord but also with all the members of his body. For loving Jesus is always inseparable from loving those who Jesus loves.
April 23, 2023
Karl Rahner, S.J., was indisputably one of 20th-century Catholicism’s preeminent and most influential theologians. His long theological ministry spanned some 50 years, from the early 1930s until his death
One of his writings that has always fascinated me is an essay entitled “Christian Living Formerly and Today.” The essay appeared just as the Second Vatican Council was ending. It contains the prophetic and often quoted sentence: “The devout Christian of the future will either be a ‘mystic’—someone who has ‘experienced something’--or will cease to be anything at all.”
The essay strikes me as prophetic because in the ensuing 55 years since it first appeared, there has been a catastrophic decline in the Western world in the number of active and committed Catholics. To designate oneself as “none” (at least from the religious point of view) can indeed sound like “ceasing to be anything at all.”
One of the writings of Karl Rahner that has always fascinated me is an essay entitled “Christian Living Formerly and Today.” The reasons for the decline are of course many. They are both ecclesial (the sexual abuse scandal prominent among them) and cultural (the sexual revolution, the prevalence of a consumerist mindset and more). But, guided by Rahner, one might justly ask: Does it also indicate a deficit of “experience?” Put even more provocatively: Is it the failure to actually become a “mystic,” one who has experienced the faith at a certain depth and intensity?
Yet the Rahner essay also contains some perplexities.
For example, it was always puzzling to me why Rahner said “experience something,” rather than experience Someone. For at the center of Christian faith and living, formerly and today, is Jesus Christ. As the Letter to the Hebrews confesses: “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and for the ages” - a profession of faith notably echoed by the Second Vatican Council’s “Gaudium et Spes.” At the very heart of St. Paul’s apostolic vocation lies his faith experience of the Lord Jesus, “who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20). And, in the Letter to the Ephesians, he prays earnestly that all the saints may come “to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge” and thus “be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph 3:19).
Thus I was delighted when another essay by Rahner appeared some years later. In 1982, only two years before his death, he wrote an article entitled “What Does It Mean to Love Jesus?” Though dense, in the usual Rahnerian manner, it focused explicitly upon the Christian’s relation to his or her living savior. Rahner insists: “One can love Jesus, love him in himself, in true, genuine, immediate love.” And he includes these remarkable words (spoken, he tells us, to the surprise of a rather “rationalistic” colleague): “You’re actually only really dealing with Jesus when you throw your arms around him and realize right down to the bottom of your being that this is something you can still do today.” So the Christian of the future will be one who has experienced a life-changing encounter with the living Jesus Christ. As Pope Benedict XVI wrote in his first encyclical, “Deus Caritas Est,” “Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, who gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.” And this encounter gives rise to a relationship with Jesus that certainly admits of endless growth and deepening but is even now marked by intimate knowledge and love— “abiding” in him, as Jesus himself exhorts the disciples during the Farewell Discourse in John’s Gospel.
Next week I will conclude this essay on Rahner and the further implications of his writings and relationship we share with Christ. I will keep you all in my prayers as I make my through Portugal, Fatima and Spain. God bless.
April 16, 2023
"This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it, alleluia!”
I hope you had a wonderful time with family and friends. One of the many aspects of the Easter season I enjoy most are the planning leading up to and participating in the Triduum and watching my great nephews search for their Easter eggs and baskets; I recently found out that the Polish people have a tradition of blessing the baskets of food that will be consumed at the Easter dinner, much like we bless the bread and wine for Thanksgiving.
This past week, and ending today, we observed the eight days of Easter, also known as the Octave of Easter or, “Eastertide”.
Often times many have asked me what is the Octave of Easter and what do we do during this time.
There are two principal feasts in the Liturgical Year: Easter and Christmas. These are both solemnities and in the current liturgical calendar are the only feast days that have octaves attached (the 1962 Extraordinary Form calendar also has an Octave of Pentecost). Solemnities are festive and exceptional days, the highest ranked feasts of the liturgical calendar marked with special characteristics:
“Solemnities are counted as the principal days in the calendar and their observance begins with Evening Prayer I of the preceding day. Some also have their own vigil Mass for use when Mass is celebrated in the evening of the preceding day.
The celebration of Easter and Christmas, the two greatest solemnities, continues for eight days, with each octave governed by its own rules. (General Norms of the Liturgical Calendar)”
What does the Octave of Easter mean to us as a community?
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! The comprehension and joy of this amazing gift of Christ conquering sin and death by His death and resurrection cannot be confined to just one day. The Church as a mother understands the needs of men and women. Within the liturgical calendar there is a built-in pattern that corresponds to human rhythms: times of preparation and penance building up to major feasts with celebrations that are prolonged, and multi-level feast days spread throughout the year. The Easter Octave gives us time to impress upon our souls the mysteries, joys and graces of the greatest feast of the Church. Each day of the Octave the liturgy dwells on the mysteries of the resurrection of Christ and our own resurrection through the sacrament of Baptism. All these things lead up to two things, our salvation, and the decent of the Holy Spirit, when the apostles were given their marching orders, “to go and preach the good news to all corners of the world”. This also applies to us, to share our faith with others without being overbearing or self-righteous. The lives we live should be a model or example to others, to follow Christ and be a part of the greatest adventure ever created. Share your faith through example and witness. Tell the world the Good News, and herald the coming of Christ.
April 9, 2023
Happy Easter my dear brothers and sisters.
My wishes, prayers and hope are with you and your families as we come together to celebrate our Saviors death, and resurrection.
Many have asked me these last few days and weeks to keep them in my prayers and as always I write of those who make such a request to me in my little prayer book for your intentions. As I always ask you, dear brothers and sisters, to pray for Fr. George and me and all priests and religious men and women.
The summit of the Liturgical Year is the Easter Triduum — this occurs from the evening of Holy Thursday to the evening of Easter Sunday; the Great Vigil.
Though chronologically three days, they are liturgically just one day unfolding for us the unity of Christ's Paschal Mystery.
The single celebration of the Triduum marks the end of the Lenten season, and leads us to the Mass of the Lord’s Resurrection at the Easter Vigil. The liturgical services that take place during the Triduum are: Mass of the Lord's Supper on Thursday, Good Friday of the Lord's Passion, and the Mass of the Resurrection of our Savior.
The rubrics of the Missale Romanum or simply the Roman Missal, which the priests uses during the mass, reminds us that this "mother of all vigils" is the "greatest and most noble of all solemnities and it is to be unique in every single Church”. On this holy night, the Church keeps watch, celebrating the resurrection of Christ in the sacraments and awaiting his return in glory. It is the turning point of the Triduum, the Passover of the new covenant, which marks Christ's passage from death to life. Therefore, the Easter Vigil does not correspond to the usual Saturday evening Mass and its character is unique in the cycle of the liturgical year.
The Vigil, by its very nature, "ought to take place at night". It is not begun before nightfall and should end before daybreak on Easter Sunday. The celebration of the Easter Vigil takes the place of the Office of Readings.
Easter Sunday is the great moment in which we all gather to celebrate as a community of believers in Christ’ resurrection, thus instilling in each of us an awesome and holy feeling knowing that God, sacrificing his only Son, repairs our friendship, a period of reconnecting our relationship with God and deepening our understanding of the pascal mystery to which we overwhelmingly rejoice as a new creation and as new testament people. It is my wish today that each of us enjoy this time with the Lord and to remember why Christ died for us. Our next sacred moment comes on the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descends on the Apostles hence giving us our mission as Christians to spread the Gospel of peace.
Happy Easter and may God bless.
April 2, 2023
My brothers and sisters in Christ,
We enter today into this Holy Week, and in the Gospel passage that we just heard, we relive the last days and final hours of our Lord Jesus Christ’s earthly life.
The Gospel is written so that we become “witnesses.” We become part of the story. So, today we go with our Lord up to Jerusalem for the Passover festival. We have a seat at the table as he celebrates his last supper, and we witness the drama of his betrayal.
We try to keep watch with him in the garden, and we are there when the mob comes to arrest him. We witness the mockery of his trial, the cruelty of the soldiers, the falling away of his closest disciples.
And finally, we walk alongside our Lord, with Mary our Blessed Mother, as he carries his cross and is crucified.
So as we begin this Holy Week, let’s ask for the grace to enter into these mysteries in a deep and personal way. Let us truly accompany Jesus and Mary our Blessed Mother on this final journey.
As we walk this path with Jesus and Mary, we remember that everything that happens in these final moments of our Lord’s earthly life — happens according to God’s plan of salvation.
And we know the “end of the story.” Our Gospel today ends with our Lord suffering and dying on the cross, feeling abandoned and alone. Everything appears to be lost — but it’s not! And we know that. The victory is already won. God wins in the end!
St. Paul tells us today in the second reading: “Christ Jesus … humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him.”
Year after year, we remember the passion and death of our Lord. But always we know that Good Friday leads to Easter Sunday. The way of the cross leads to the Resurrection. Our God is the God of the living, not of the dead. Jesus dies in order to rise.
The lesson for us again in this Holy Week, is to have trust in God’s mercy, in his providence. God’s plans for us are all for love, for life, for our happiness and joy.
My brothers and sisters, whatever crosses we carry in our lives, whatever hardships we face, we need to know that Jesus is walking with us. We need to know that he goes with us in our sufferings, that the crosses we carry are a part of his cross. We are carrying his cross with him, like Simon, the Cyrenian, today in the Gospel.
Knowing this does not take away the pain or the fear, it does not spare us the disappointments and losses in our lives. But it tells us that our pain is not the last word of the story. God will wipe away every tear. If we carry our cross with him, He will lead us to the resurrection.
As we accompany Jesus and Mary throughout Holy Week, they are showing us the meaning of love.
Love means self-surrender. Love means handing over your whole self, everything you expect out of life, everything you want and have, all your actions and thoughts — putting it all in God’s hands, to do his will.
In his humanity, Jesus had a choice to make. We heard his anguished prayer to the Father in the Gospel today. “Abba, Father, all things are possible to you. Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will.”
This is what love looks like. Not what I will, but what God wills. This is the love we are called to, my dear brothers and sisters.
Holy Week makes us “witnesses” of our Lord’s love for us.
Let us ask for the grace this week, to testify to the love we have witnessed. Let us open our hearts to one another, as he has opened his heart for us. As we accompany Jesus and Mary on their final earthly journey together this week, let us say to God, as they did: “Not my will, but Thy will be done.”
May Mary our Blessed Mother go with us this week, as we carry our cross with her Son, that we might join him in his resurrection.
March 26, 2023
This is the last installment of Rahner’s essay on, “My Night Knows No Darkness”. Here Rahner discusses how, “[to] not despair when experiencing despair.” In his essay, Rahner writes with eloquence the idea of letting despair not control your belief in God and how we are to combat this notion of despair and how in some, are crippled by this emotion. As Rahner writes: “Let the despair take all away from you, since what is taken from is only the finite, the unimportant, even if it may have been ever so wonderful and great, even if it may be yourself with your ideals, with your smart and detailed plans for your life, with your image of a god that looks more like you than the incomprehensible one.”
He continues, “Allow all the exits to be blocked, for they are only exits into the finite and paths into dead ends. Do not be frightened by the solitude and forsakenness in your internal prison, which appears to be as dead as a grave.”
I find it interesting that he sees us and our human frailties and how they interfere with our spiritual and intellectual appreciation of who God is. Rahner further states that, “For if you stand firm, refusing to flee from despair and in the despair over the loss of your former idol that you called God, you do not doubt the true God; if you stand firm, which is a true miracle of grace, then you will realize suddenly that your grave-like prison cell is locked up only against what is meaningless and finite, that its deathly emptiness is only the vastness of God’s presence, that silence is filled with a word without words by the one who stand above all names and who is all in all.”
Rahner encourages and forces us to think, and comprehend our own feelings of who this God is and what He is not. For human beings, God’s Creation, we tend to see God not as God, but as a faint copy of ourselves. To which when we believe in this way, we come away disappointed and frustrated. If we think of God in this way, it’s no wonder then we should stop believing in a God of power, mercy and love. His Grace is what we want and what God wants for us. “The silence is his silence. He is saying that he is here.”
In conclusion, “…[the second thing] to do in your despair is to realize that he (God) is here and to understand by faith that he is with you. This means realizing that he has been expecting you for a long time in the deepest dungeon of your debris-covered heart, that he has been silently listening and waiting for a long time to see whether you in the busy din that is called your life might give him a chance to speak, to speak a word that has sounded up until then only like deathly silence. It also means realizing that you will not perish when you release the worry about yourself and for your life, that you will not perish when you let go, that you will not end up in despair when you finally despair of yourself, of your own wisdom and strength, and of the wrong image of God that is being torn away from you.” Next week is Palm Sunday. God Bless.
March 19, 2023
Last week’s bulletin article discusses Rahner’s essay on the perception of distance from God, and how this insight has lead many astray in knowing who this God is and His existence in the world. The following essay illuminates the theoretical and practical understanding of “atheism” and it’s impression upon modern thinking and the effect this mindset has caused in the society at large.
“The theoretical and practical atheism that many people express today is a wrong, impatient, and one-sided response to such a condition and is reactionary in the truest sense of the word, for it is still a clinging to the rather childlike notion that God needs to be near before worship is possible, and that when such nearness is not present one no longer understands God and can even say that God does not exist.” Rahner continues , “Today’s atheism becomes then the willful refusal to mature in the dark purgatory of a debris-covered heart for the sake of the God who is always greater than the God who was perceived and loved the previous day.
But enough of that! The sense of feeling distant from God exists and touches believers and non-believers alike, confuses the mind, and frightens the heart. Believers do not like to admit to it because they think that something like that should not happen to them, despite the fact that their Lord himself cried out: My God, why have you forsaken me? And the others, the non-believers, draw the wrong conclusions from it.
Since feeling distant from God in our debris-covered heart is the ultimate bitterness of our life’s Lenten season, it is appropriate to ask what can be done about it and, along the same lines, how the church’s liturgical season of Lent is to be lived. For when the bitter distance from God turns into holy worship, the Lenten season of the world is transformed into the Lenten season of the church.” Here Rahner makes a very good point, as he writes,
“The first thing you will need to do is to expose your debris-covered heart to the experience of feeling distant from God by refusing to escape through pious or worldly activity, by enduring the experience without the common sedatives, without committing sin, and without stubborn desperation. When you experience the heart’s emptiness like that, what kind of God is it who is actually distant from you? It certainly is not the true and living God, for he is the incomprehensible, the nameless one who is truly the God of your boundless heart. The one distant from you is a god that does not exist: a god that can be comprehended, a god of small ideas and cheap, undemanding human thoughts, a god of earthly security, a god that makes sure that the children do not cry and that human love does not end up in disappointment – in short, a rather dignified idol. That is the god that has become distant. And is not such a god-distance bearable?” Rahner continues that something that is true in that as human beings we need to allow ourselves to be open and free, by permitting our hearts to experience a kind of hopelessness, “… [which] permit your heart to experience [this] kind of despair, a despair that appears to be robbing you of everything, seemingly blocking your heart’s escape out into life, into fulfillment, into the open, into God.”
Next week Rahner addresses despair, distance and connecting to God and how believers can overcome these obstacles to understanding our faith.
March 12, 2023
Last week I introduced you to Karl Rahner, one of the church’s great theologians, and his essay on, “My Night Knows no Darkness”. This week’s installment, Rahner writes about the distance from God, or the perception of distance that we may experience at times in our lives. It is a rather dense piece, but with serious attention to detail and contemplation, one understands the message he is providing for our spiritual and intellectual curiosity. The following segment from his long essay should give you food for thought and a sense hope.
“Distance from God does not mean here that a person is denying God’s existence or indifferently ignoring it in life. Such an understanding is often, though not always, a wrong interpretation of the state that is meant here. Rather, distance from God here means something that can equally, if not mostly, exist in those who believe in God, long for God, and look for God’s light and sanctifying nearness. Even believers – and they especially – can and often are made to experience the fact that God appears as someone rather unreal, that God is mute and silently rejecting, as if he were framing our existence only as an empty, distant horizon in whose labyrinth of infinity our thoughts and the desires of our hearts are utterly lost. Distance from God says that our spirit has grown tired of the unsolved riddles, that our spirit has grown despondent over the unanswered prayers, and that we are tempted to see “God” only as one of those ultimate yet untrustworthy affirmations under which people repeatedly hide their own desperation, even though this desperation, too, has lost the strength to take itself seriously.”
Rahner’s next assertion suggests that as a people we may or have lost the ability to feel deeply for a God that seems to be distant from us and so with that we feel God Himself is nowhere to be found, not in the conventional sense as previous generations may have experienced. Rahner continues; God appears to us only as this bodiless, inaccessible infinity that, to make matters worse, seems to make even more finite and questionable our small piece of existence and makes us feel even more homeless in this world, since it seduces us into a vast longing that we ourselves cannot satisfy and that God seemingly cannot either.
Yes, it appears as if Western people today have to suffer and do penance in the “purgatory” of feeling distant from God more so than people of previous times. If individuals can experience, apart from the blessed moment of feeling close to God, the nights of the spiritual senses where the eternity of the living God draws near by the fact that God appears more distant and inapproachable, why should nations and continents not have similar experiences, so that theirs can somehow become the holy fate of all? The fact that this dismal condition may have been occasioned by the sins of an entire era does not preclude it from being a felix culpa, a blessed guilt.
Next week’s installment, Rahner explores the “theoretical and practical atheism many people express.” God Bless
March 5, 2023
This is the second week of Lent, and here I am in my office trying to write something and yet I am at a loss. It’s usually easy for me to write something, something on spirituality or something pertaining to our religious life. But this week I am dry; void of any ideas to share. As I went looking at my collection of spiritual books and such, I came across an interesting article written by one of the church’s great theologians. Karl Rahner wrote a wonderful sermon titled: “My Night Knows no Darkness”. Since I am not inspired at the moment, I thought these excerpts from him would suffice. I hope and pray that these words inspire you to seek out more in prayer during this time.
“Even today, the liturgical year of the church has a time dedicated to penance. Does this not seem strange? We certainly understand that in former centuries such at time was considered necessary for the management of the spiritual and the religious life. People back then were full of life’s joy, satisfied and carefree, and they celebrated Mardi Gras in the streets and laughed the laughter that still came from the heart. Therefore, they could presumably experience a brief period of recollection, of contemplative seriousness, and of ascetic restraint from life’s luxuries as a beneficial change from everyday life and for the good of the soul. What about us? Do we not consider the proclamation of the church about the start of a time of seriousness, contemplation, and fasting as something strangely surreal, and do we not see a “time of fasting” as a slightly dusty ceremony left over from the good old days? How is such a time relevant for us today with our many needs, our hopelessness with regard to this world, our bitter hearts, our sense that we would be willing to fast as long as it did not mean going hungry?”
What about us, Karl Rahner asks? The church gives us this time of the year to stop and ponder on the things we wish we can change and to pray for that change to make us better Christians, better and loving saints. The Lenten season is for penance and for the joy that will come. As New Testament people, our goal is to love one another and to assist our brothers and sisters in attaining that spiritual freedoms that God gives each of us so that we can find that joy and happiness that was meant from the beginning of creation. During this time continue to pray and fast, for at the end of it all a great reward awaits us.
Rahner continues: “In the present time our fasting, our Lenten season, starts long before Ash Wednesday, and will continue far beyond the forty days until Easter. It is a time so real that during this liturgically set period of penance we need not use this time as a convenient occasion for sentimentality, as is done in political speeches. The non-liturgical time of our present Lenten life looks harder and more difficult to us than any period of deprivation in generations past. Yes, we are suffering to some degree from a need to be filled and the absence of a carefree safe life, as well as from the fact that we sit in darkness and in the shadow of death; however, mostly – if one dare say so – we are suffering from a sense that God is far away. God is distant from us.”
I encourage you to read these words again, and again. Contemplate on what Rahner is suggesting and then read them again. For the next two weeks I will share with you his words and thoughts. Have a blessed week.
February 26, 2023
The Lenten season has begun and with that comes a period of reconciliation, prayer, fasting and of course, almsgiving.
Let’s tackle the first part of this and then discuss in subsequent letters the rest of the list.
Reconciliation as is noted, is a process of reconciling ones grievances or faults to someone you have wronged. This notion of Reconciliation, in Catholic Christian theology, is an element of salvation that refers to the results of atonement. Reconciliation is the end of the estrangement, caused by original sin, between God and humanity.
So, we ask, why is reconciliation important to God? He came to restore peace by reconciling all of Creation to God. Scripture says that God was reconciling to himself all things through His Son Jesus. Therefore by restoring our right relationship to God, Jesus opened the door for us to live in right relationships with each other, Creation, and ourselves. Simply put, as sinners, yes, we are all sinners, we are given a great opportunity to restore and repair the relationship we once enjoy prior to the fall in the garden. This same understanding is applied to when we are given the opportunity to sit in the confessional with a priest, who absolves us from the sins we’ve committed. But are we really confessing to God alone and asking for His forgiveness? Or is there something greater here that is going on? And the answer is yes. Confession as the Catholic Church defines it, is a sacrament instituted by Jesus Christ in his love and mercy to offer sinners forgiveness for offenses against God and against our sisters and brothers. Confession brings reconciliation between God and the penitent, between the penitent and others, and to the individual penitent. What most people don’t understand about confession or reconciliation is that the priest, the penitent and God are not the only players in this drama. The reality is that you and I are reconciling ourselves to restore a friendship not just with God, but with the whole Christian community; that is with our brothers and sisters. Because when we sin, we sin against all of creation. We sin against God, and everyone around us. This action and action from the priest aids us to live a better and fuller life as Christian brothers and sisters and to fully enjoy the Grace from which this sacrament provides.
The importance of this sacrament, especially now, is for the benefit of everyone around us. Not only does it [the Sacrament of Penance] free us from our sins but it also challenges us to have the same kind of compassion and forgiveness for those who sin against us. We are liberated to be forgivers. We obtain new insight into the words of the Prayer of St. Francis: "It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.” To pardon [forgive] can bring much healing to both injured parties. With absolution, we are reconciled to God and the Church. The Sacrament helps us stay close to the truth that we cannot live without God. "In him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28). God bless.
February 19, 2023
Ash Wednesday is coming up this week and I started thinking about what will I “give up” for Lent, but more importantly, what will I replace the thing I’m giving up?
Many, including myself, say things like, “I’m giving up chocolate, or coffee or some sort of food or activity I enjoy”. All of these things are good, but I’d like to take this a step further, why not replace those things with something else.
The main purpose of “giving up” things in Lent is to bring us closer to God; to prioritize God; to put God in the center of our minds and lives; to make God the focal point. And what better way of doing that is to take up reading spiritual books or helping others in need that we haven’t done so before. The church offers many different devotions and meditations, it’s just a matter of searching those things out and then practicing them during this time. Catholics meditate and engage in mental prayer to be able have an intimate conversation and relationship with God. But it can be difficult to know how to do this or even where to begin. The desire to enter into a relationship with God is written on the hearts of everyone, as Saint Augustine writes in his Confessions, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.” Perhaps Augustineʹs most often quoted phrase, it captures something that resonates deep within the human person. Restlessness is that desire to be filled and fulfilled. We are hardwired to want to know something that is beyond ourselves, beyond the known world and to enter into something that is wholly different than what we are experiencing now.
God in His infinite wisdom and goodness calls each of us to interact with Him on a level that allows us to engage in some deeper meaning, and become one with Him, knowing Him intimately.
A dear friend of mine tells me her best time with God is in chapel, with a cup of coffee in hand and rosary beads in another. She likens this to hanging out with a good friend and conversing and praying together. As Catholics we understand that God is love, and the embodiment of truth. To know God is to know what love is and to understand truth. Additionally, the more you know who God is and the better relationship you have with Him, the better you know yourself as you are made in His image and likeness. Mental prayer is about growing in knowledge and admiration of God and in virtue.
With that, I am encouraging you to seek out, to search deep in your own mind, soul and heart, the direction you want to travel during this Season of Lent. It’s good you give up a material thing, but lets spend some time discerning something that will bring us closer to the Lord and the Creator. God bless.
February 12, 2023
What inspires me to continue as a priest? That’s a question I often ask myself almost every day. And as I ponder that question, I think back over these last ten years and come to realize that you, the parishioners, give me that purpose, that love of my priesthood. The Holy Spirit guides me on this wonderful and rewarding journey, but it is you that reinforce that gift God has given me.
Recently I started viewing videos of men and women who take this journey and answer the call each man and woman hears and each of us answer that call in many different ways. Some enter a silence one can only find in a contemplative place, a monastery or convent. Others, like myself, answer the call as a secular or diocesan priest. As diocesan priests we are in the frontlines of Christ’ church. We pass to you the teachings of the magisterium, the sacraments and sacramentals; we are the one’s who baptize your children, who hear confessions and provide comfort and prayer in those times of need. We stand and witness at your weddings and preside over your loved ones at funerals. It is the priest who assist the bishop to provide the necessary and real things that make us unique among others.
Sometimes I sit in my chapel, reading in the morning hours the writings of the church fathers, scripture and praying the rosary. All of these things priests, and religious promise to perform each and every day. It is not a task that is difficult, but it does require us to sometimes stop, breath, and settle down to prayer. Prayer can come easily or not. And when we do have difficulties in praying that is when we work harder at it; we don’t give up simply because the moment is not there.
As the church approaches the Lenten season let me remind all of us that as practicing Catholics we are required to abstain from certain foods and drink; to give of ourselves through almsgiving, and most importantly to prepare ourselves for Christ’ passion and resurrection, we do this by attending mass regularly, and going at least once during the Lenten season and certainly before partaking of the Easter Liturgies to reconciliation what is commonly referred to as confession.
In my own practice of “giving something up” for Lent, I tend to replace that something with an action more meaningful, something more valuable and charitable. Its been my custom for many years to take those monies I would’ve spent on whatever it is, and donating the proceeds to the poor or food bank.
Let me suggest this to you; if you do plan on making a Lenten sacrifice , I urge you to first pray , then discern what is it that God is calling you to give up ; it can be a hard and difficult question to answer but it shouldn’t be such a hard task to achieve; what I ask of you to do is something I would ask of myself.
For your spiritual reading pleasure, I will post on our parish website a list of reading suggestions you might find useful as part of your personal faith journey.
For the next two weeks before Ash Wednesday and Lent begins, I would like to encourage you to discern what your sacrifice will be and what will you replace that sacrifice with?
Lent is a time for penance, to seek change and to make changes or a conversion to one’s life. St. Paul and St. Augustine are two great examples of a real conversion, a change so different, so profound and so complete that it boggles the mind to say the least. Can we make a conversion such as those? Maybe. What I am hoping for is that you and I find something that will change us in some way, in an interior way and in a way we all can see. God bless.
February 5, 2023
Be not afraid was last week’s text and this week I would like to encourage you to keep the faith.
What does it mean when someone says to you, “keep the faith”? To keep the faith means to remain optimistic about a person or situation, especially when faced with challenges. Often said imperatively as a phrase of encouragement or reassurance.
In 2 Timothy it reads: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith…”.
Keeping the faith requires remembering what brought us to faith in the first place. We need to be intentional about remembering God’s grace in our lives, the gift we were given at our baptism and the faith we receive through example and the action of the Holy Spirit are sources as people of God we can count on. God is there for us even if we should loose our faith in Christ or God, they will never leave us. As we read in letter to the Hebrews 12:1b–3 says, “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” These are encouraging words that should guide us throughout our earthly journey. Keeping the faith requires a love of truth and a commitment to the Word of God. A commitment we try to maintain and sometimes fail. But we know that God is always there watching, waiting and giving us the grace necessary to continue and to amend whatever situation we may find ourselves.
Many loose that faith, and just as many find it again and again. In many cases that faith does return, and it returns in times of despair, or periods in our lives when situations are their darkest and that is when we find that we didn’t loose our faith, but that our situation only blocked it from our sight.
Keeping faith also involves growth in Christ. Jesus is the author of our faith (the one who initiated the relationship), and He is the perfecter of our faith (the one who will see it through to the end). From beginning to end, Jesus is the source of our faith. We remember what He has done, and we look forward to what He will do. Practically, this involves having an active prayer life, studying God’s Word, and digging in to His truth.
Men and women in religious communities also struggle with their faith, but as religious they do not easily give up or give in to abandoning their faith in God, in Jesus Christ and in their community of like minded brothers and sisters. And just as these religious communities find ways of instilling and finding that faith they thought they lost, so too you can do the same.
Keeping the faith is also about lay and parish community. The Christian life is not lived exclusively between God and the individual; it is lived in community with other Christians. Hebrews 10:23–25 says, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful”. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
Fellow believers can encourage us to keep the faith. They can exhort us when we are going astray. They can join in our gladness and in our sorrow (Romans 12:15). Community is important and necessary for the believer to find strength and support, especially during this time in our world’s history. Keep the faith, and never allow the Evil One to discourage you from that faith and grace God has gifted you and me. Our faith will be challenged. But it is not only in the difficult times that we dig in our heels and fight for our faith. No, we contend for our faith always. What we do today prepares us for what is in store tomorrow. God is always at work in our lives. God bless.
January 29, 2023
Be not afraid --
The most commonly repeated phrase in the whole Bible, in both the Old Testament and the New Testament, is “Fear not!” or “Have no fear!” or “Do not be afraid!” or “Be not afraid!” These are comforting words that put me as ease especially given our current news of the world; war in the Ukraine, mass shootings in California, inflation, religious persecution in parts of Latin American and the suppression of religious freedom in China. What are we to make of all this? Be not afraid. On the one hand, God tells us that we need not be afraid of any person, circumstance, or created thing. God loves us and cares for us deeply; God is with us and protects us, even in times of suffering or hardship. God's faithful love extends even beyond the limits of our mortal lives. Yet with all of these horrible things happening we tend to forget how blessed we are living here in the United States and the things we share and enjoy and take for granted.
Pope Saint John Paul II used these words on many occasion to put us at ease, to remind us that God is with us, even when we think that he is not. We tend to feel alone, or abandoned by God and that can be a natural way to feel. Abandonment, forgotten or lonely are feelings we all share at some point in our lives; some feel these things more often that most, but we do share these emotions in common. We are, after all, human, frail and weak at times.
On the other hand, it is good to have an appropriate "fear" of God, but of God alone. This "fear" is not meant as a terrified expectation of punishment, but rather in the sense of "tremendous awe" or "reverential respect," similar to but even greater than the respect we owe to persons in legitimate authority: parents, civic leaders, or religious leaders.
St. John Paul II laid out the central message of his pontificate: “Do not be afraid". Open, I say open wide the doors for Christ. To His saving power open the boundaries of states, economic and political systems, the vast fields of culture, civilization, and development.” The above quote gives me the strength required, the hope and courage I need to move forward and persevere in the face of sorrow, fear and hopelessness that sometimes I encounter as I witness the ugliness that permeates our society. Let us open up to each other and take away that fear which many of us experience, a fear that can debilitate our lives, our way of living and our thoughts and actions to each other and the those around us. Fear can stifle and sometimes prevent us from excelling in life and interfere in our relations to others. This latter part is the most damaging to our humanity as a person our existence is premised on interacting with others, to rely on others not in the material sense, but in the Spiritual sense. To be with humanity and care for our brothers and sisters is what God requires of us to be. As God is love, so must we also be like God in love. Without that love we cannot endure. It is essential then to see Christ in all and to fear not, for God is with us. God bless.
January 22, 2023
First let me start off by admitting I have no main topic to discuss on this short page and I don’t know where I am going with the following subject other than to write something down on paper for this Sunday’s bulletin.
Often I find topics to write about with ease, and then there are those times I find it difficult to form a thought or two that’ll be interesting to you or for that matter for myself. So with that I’m just going to throw some thoughts at you and hope you find them interesting enough that you will remember something of what I put down on paper.
Ash Wednesday is fast approaching and I would like to briefly touch on that subject if for just a few lines. What is Ash Wednesday and aside from Roman and Eastern Catholics, who else celebrates this time of year in this way? What I find fascinating about all of this is that many protestants are actually beginning to recognize this as a time for prayer, alms giving and repentance; they are beginning to embrace some of the old and tried devotions that come from the earliest of church practices. Although there are still many other Christian denominations who have not come fully onboard with this tradition but remain open about it, which is a good thing. It demonstrates to me that non-Catholic Christians are searching for something deeper in their spiritual journey. They are coming to realize that studying Scripture alone is not enough. They, like us, are looking for something that will fulfill their spiritual lives and by observing Ash Wednesday and practicing in the way we practice, they are beginning to deepen their love for Christ and the mission He embarked on two thousand years ago.
Watching YouTube videos, I’ve come across various subject on protestants and their search for the earliest church and what that church looked like after the first and second centuries. What amazes me are the many young men and women who are searching and actually embracing what they discover. In one of the videos I watched, a young protestant male reached out to the Abbott of a monastery in Chicago and asked if he can come for a visit. Naturally the Abbott agreed enthusiastically and invited him to come stay for a few days to experience what it’s like to live as men in a Christian community. The Abbott gave him the grand tour of the Abby Church, its history, the history of the Rule of St. Benedict and his understanding of living a spiritual life. Needless to say, this young man’s take of the Church and early Church history was positive so much so that he conducted another one-on-one interview with the whole monastic community. A very insightful interview.
Onto something completely different. Many of you know how much I love coffee and the whole ritual of coffee making, especially in the morning just before I pray in my chapel. Getting up in the morning, preparing the espresso machine, making sure all the parts involved are warmed and ready to receive those finely ground beans. Then there’s that sound of hot water pushing its way through the coffee grounds and extracting those delicious flavors and oils to produce a wonderful elixir of brown goodness and then consumed with absolute delight. I think in many ways, this ritual of sorts, is akin to prayer; the anticipation of prayer and the feeling of satisfaction once you’ve completed praying.
Does any of this make sense? Is there connection? Not really. As I stated at the very beginning of this article, I have no main topic to speak of, but only random thoughts and observations I experienced this past week.
One thing is for sure, Ash Wednesday is coming, I saw a young man seek a deeper understanding of the church, his faith and what possibilities are available to him and his protestant tradition. And finally, my love of coffee. I hope one of these thoughts attracted you to explore those things above. Keep the peace.
January 15, 2023
This is the beginning of the second week of ordinary time and as such I would like to write and thank you for your continued financial support of our parish. I am especially grateful to those who volunteer their time and energy in supporting the many programs and events we have all come to enjoy and expect in our parish community.
As I mentioned in last weeks bulletin of the many things we have accomplished, I would like to reiterate to you the importance of your continued support and what that means not just to me but to the whole community. Without your support our parish would not be what it is today. I am proud of all of you and what we can do as the people of God.
I am also struck with the ownership many of you take and the pride you have in this parish which assists me in providing to you those things you value as most important. I do enjoy presenting various talks, programs and special events knowing how much you appreciate the energy and time I put into these things. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the wonderful men and women with St. Anne’s Society who work hard on the various events such as the St. Patrick’s dinner and barbecue; these volunteers do this out of love of parish and neighbor.
Now, what is a parish? ʺA parish is a definite community of the Christian faithful established on a stable basis within a particular Church; the pastoral care of the parish is entrusted to a pastor as its own shepherd under the authority of the diocesan bishopʺ (No. 515). For many a parish is more than just the definition above: it comprises of many types of personalities, talents and skills. Each of these contributes to the functioning of a parish. As a parish community it is important that we come together and make things work so that we can pass this onto the next generation. And as we know our parish demographics of our community is made up of an older generation. You as a people understand the significance of planning for the future of this community. So, how do we do that? That is something we will explore together in the coming year as I am hoping to establish a program that will entice the younger members in our surrounding neighborhood to explore. I am grateful to those of you who have kept an open mind and heart in regards to this very idea. As a matter of fact, many of you have approached me in regard to this idea. As a community and stewards it is our responsibility to maintain what we have, and improving upon it so that our parish will remain and thrive for the foreseeable future. It is our duty to invite people into our house of worship and to share our spiritual and material resources with others. I am looking forward to that day and will keep you informed. God bless.
January 8, 2023
Epiphany, also called Theophany in the Eastern Rite church, is a celebration of God manifesting as the baby Jesus and revealing Himself to the world. The holiday also marks the day the Magi, or the three kings, visited the baby Jesus in Bethlehem. Jesus' baptism is also celebrated during Epiphany.
The holiday is also sometimes known as Three Kings Day.
In many cultures throughout the Catholic world, Epiphany is the day gifts are exchanged, rather than Christmas Day itself as we experience in the United States.
In the Bible, the Epiphany is Jesus' visit from the Magi, aristocratic men from the east (often referred to as kings or wise men) followed a star to see the newborn baby Jesus in Bethlehem. The Magi brought Jesus gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Gold was considered a symbol of kings, frankincense a perfume representing divinity, and myrrh an anointing and embalming oil that symbolized death. These three gifts denotes the importance and respect that was afforded to the baby Jesus by these three wise kings.
But what do we think when someone says, “I had an epiphany”. The current understanding of this word refers usually to having a “sudden insight” into something private of profound and sharing it with others.
However, the message of Epiphany can be interpreted in several ways, and none are right or wrong. Some believe it is a message of faith in divine light, which guided the Magi to Bethlehem. Others interpret it as a celebration of Jesus coming to unite the world as the true "king of kings" and that He came to be a savior to all people.
Whatever you may think, epiphany is more than just a “feeling” brought on by a sudden realization, but instead as mentioned above, Epiphany is a time we share with each other and to know that the Christ child is among us. The gift that is given is not just from the three wisemen to the baby Jesus, but the true gift we each receive is more profound and more meaningful to us because the gift we receive comes from God Himself, the gift of His Son.
Today we celebrate that gift, and that is Christ Himself.
Happy Epiphany and may God bless.
January 1, 2023
Happy New Year to you all.
This past year was an incredible year of accomplishments and special projects. We just celebrated the
feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe for the first time, and two weeks ago we enjoyed a wonderful Christmas concert performed by Sheila and Gina. They did a fantastic job, and they were greatly appreciated by many of you who attended by showing your support for them and our community.
And last week we celebrated the Church’s annual Christmas Liturgies.
In the coming year, parish faith formation will be adding more spiritual programs in addition to
the Wednesday morning bible study, Coffee Chat with Fr. Leonard, Movies in the Afternoon and other
community wide events and programs. A list of new programs are forthcoming.
In May of 2023, I am celebrating my tenth anniversary as an ordained priest for our diocese and with that I am planning something BIG! I would like to share this special day with you by inviting you to come celebrate with me. Plans are in the works and will be finalized soon. I’ll let you know the date and time.
Many other changes are coming to our community that will surely enhance our faith and community spirit. It is my hope and desire these new events will benefit the whole community and our surrounding area.
One of our goals is to encourage and recruit families from the adjoining neighborhood to come join our parish community and share in the many upcoming events currently in the planning stages. This means getting more volunteers to help with Eucharistic ministry, planning events and to reactivate the parish council.
In addition to revitalizing our parish, we are also looking at updating our church lighting system, widening the altar and sanctuary area, removing the old carpet, and replacing the carpet on the altar area with Pergo wood flooring. More details are forthcoming.
If you have not noticed, the lawn on the parkway is now completely dried and ready for removal for the parish’s next big project. After last summer’s parking lot redo, we are now tackling the surrounding grounds to comply with the City of Walnut Creek and County of Contra Costa. Due to the ongoing drought the state continues to experience, the city of Walnut Creek has mandated that we cut back on our water consumption. By cutting back on the maintenance of the lawn, our water bill has drastically been reduced by many thousands of dollars, half to be exact.
Beginning in the spring of this year, 2023, we will undergo the removal of the entire lawn area running along Rossmoor Parkway and replacing it with drought tolerant vegetation and new landscaping which requires very little water and maintenance.
All these items listed above will be addressed and shared with you just as soon as I get more detailed information.
There are other projects and changes coming and I will certainly keep you abreast of any other develops in the works.
Wishing you a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year. God bless.
December 25, 2022
“I will honor Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!” - Dickens
Merry Christmas to you my brothers and sisters of St. Anne’s.
Christmas has many memories for me and often times I will sit in my living room thinking about those bygone years growing up with my family and all the fun things we did on Christmas morning.
After opening our gifts, mom would prepare her annual Christmas breakfast which consisted of pancakes, eggs, and bacon. Deeelish! Then my brothers and sister would play with our newly acquired possessions until we were called to the family Christmas dinner later that afternoon.
I miss those halcyon days of my youth and the bond I felt then as I still feel today with my brothers and sister and their families.
A few years ago the president of the Parents Teachers Association invited me to speak on the meaning of Christmas and its significance on our world. I enthusiastically accepted this invitation as I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to evangelize and re-catechize many families, including many Catholic families, who have forgotten what the true meaning is and why this is not a secular holiday.
But what is Christmas if it is not about a time to give and receive?
Christmas is an annual festival commemorating the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. We observe this feast primarily on December twenty fifth as a religious and cultural celebration among billions of people around the world. In most Catholic countries such as France, Italy and Spain, they play host to beautiful festivals of lights, parades and other cultural activities commemorating the birth of the baby Jesus.
In other parts of the non-Christian world they observe Christmas as a secular holiday with their traditions and such.
Christmas for Christians is more significant and more meaningful than just giving a material thing to a loved one, but instead Christmas is a celebration of the incarnation of God as a human baby, born of a human mother and brought up in human reality.
While Christians of many denominations observe this period, the Roman Catholic Church celebrates the four weeks preceding Christmas with many special observances in order to prepare for the coming of Christ. This time of year is regularly referred to as “the holidays” when they're really holy days.
Let us remember to rejoice and know that the baby born in a manger in the middle of the night is God who humbled himself and was born of a virgin in order to experience all that we experience. Christmas is about the Son of God, the Father and the beginning of our Salvation.
Merry Christmas. - Fr. Leonard Marrujo
December 18, 2022
This is our fourth and last Sunday in Advent before we celebrate Christmas Eve and Day, so I’d like to share just a few thoughts with you.
First, I love this time of year when we all gather in the name of the Lord to celebrate His birth. And second, after all is said and done, comes two very important events; New Years Day, where we hope the new year brings us good fortune and health and Epiphany, were the three wisemen give their gifts to the baby Jesus.
I am most grateful for you, the wonderful parishioners of St. Anne’s, and I feel especially blessed for my family and friends. Speaking of which, my family has a tradition of singing happy birthday to Jesus just before we partake of my sister’s wonderfully cooked and delicious Christmas dinner. My nieces and nephews love seeing their parents and uncles acting silly and having a good time all the while remembering past family members and why we actually gather and celebrate on Christmas day in the first place.
But before the dinner begins, and while we’re in the living room of my mother’s house, the family comes together to open the gifts Santa has brought us and left under the tree. It is especially fun now that we have a small four year old scampering about and the addition of a new baby to our family clan, to really get us into the Christmas spirit and fun. These are the small things in my life that keep me going in this rather chaotic and messy world we live. Knowing how important family and friends are, can be a very uplifting experience of which not all are blessed to have. But nonetheless, I remember those who go without.
I also want to remember and thank our bishop and the wonderful way in which he continues to support my brother priests and myself.
Bishop Barber each year sends to the priests of our diocese a practical gift he hopes will aide us in our prayer life; he is very thoughtful in that way. Last year, for instance, the bishop gifted the priests of the diocese the beautiful bible series from the Word on Fire Institute. This year he gave us a wonderful book titled, “The Holy Hour”, again from the Word on Fire Institute. Spending time in Eucharistic Adoration was not something I did on a regular basis, but since arriving here I have made it a part of my prayer routine and now that I do, I find it to be rather peaceful and comforting.
What a marvelous way to spend time in quiet prayer and meditation while adoring our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.
Because of you, regular prayer and the addition of Eucharistic Adoration to my routine, I am feeling closer to the Lord, knowing that He is here with us, but more so in the Blessed Sacrament and in the mass we celebrate each day. I hope you all experience the goodness of the Lord in your life during this time of peace, love and the beginnings of a new year. May God keep you always. God bless.
December 11, 2022
Dear brothers and sisters,
This is the third Sunday of Advent, and as such, we look forward to the coming of the kingdom of God, as we continue to prepare ourselves during this Advent season and the arrival of the infant Jesus on Christmas Day.
Firstly, let us understand what is it we’re preparing ourselves for and why is it important to do so.
Secondly, what is this discipleship notion that is mentioned in scripture, particularly as we hear and read about it in this Sunday’s Gospel reading?
To understand the meaning of the term “discipleship” and its origin we must understand what its meaning was during Jesus’ time. To be a disciple is to be a learner who follows a master teacher. In contrast to our current Western style of learning, to learn in Jesus’ time was very relational and holistic. Discipleship, at that time, meant much more than just the transfer of information . . . it referred to imitating the teacher’s life, inculcating his values, and reproducing his teachings. Therefore, Christian discipleship connotes a relationship with a master teacher, following them, and adhering to their way of life because their teaching shapes your own worldview.” This is not unique to Judaism, but can be experienced in other cultures and religions as well; we see this most notably in
the school of Athens and the great Hellenistic philosophers before.
“In the heart of a disciple there is a desire, and there is a decision or settled intent. The disciple of Christ desires above all else to be like him . . .”. We have been told since childhood to the present, that we must be “Christlike”, to imitate Christ in his actions, if we are to follow him in all things. What this means for us is to treat others as you would want to be treated, that is with fairness, love, care and above all, with dignity. It is not merely enough to show up at the daily or weekly mass or to pray everyday, if one does not imitate Christ and to follow his example of humility and love for all people. I know this is a difficult thing to follow and is something all of us will never master, but suffice it to say, we can at the very least try to adhere to Jesus’ mission and apply ourselves in the best possible way to achieve what our baptismal promises that were made for us.
John the Baptist asked the question through his disciples, “Are you the one to come, or should we look for another?”. Jesus gave his answer knowing John would understand the meaning of it. With this, John continued his mission along with his disciples with the knowledge that the Messiah is here and that John was aware that his mission for clearing the path for Christ was coming to an end.
Our mission as disciples of Christ continues, perhaps not as the same as John’s, but certainly our mission to help others is just as important. During this Advent season let us together bring joy and hope to those around us, especially those on the edge of our society.
December 4, 2022
Happy Second Sunday of Advent.
I was remembering many years ago a friend of mine encouraged me to pursue photography, knowing that I needed something to enrich my artistic curiosity. Photography at one time was an expensive endeavor, but with the age of digital photography and with color photo printers readily available and at good prices, taking pictures is now an accessible medium, for many. Of course, the initial startup costs can set you back a bit, but after a while it pays for itself.
Photography can be a spiritual experience as well as a fun hobby or profession. For many though, it’s not just point and shoot, but something more personal, more meaningful, that cultivates patients, understanding of the subject matter, and a keen eye for the aesthetic. And like painting, one learns along the way the fundamentals of composition.
What are the seven compositions in photography? A photographer's work can be broken down into its component parts—line, texture, shape, form, pattern, color, and space. Basic Photography Concepts Composition is at the heart of each of the seven essentials of photography. It is also important to utilize lines to connect different parts of your image to one another. For myself, these seven rules are not unlike those rules we follow in religious life.
We compose ourselves for prayer, connect ourselves to the spiritual and draw from religious life texture and space we encounter while in deep meditation of scripture and other devotions that help paint a greater intellect of who God is and what he wants of us.
Thomas Merton in addition to being a writer and monk, became an avid photographer, chronicling his life in Gethsemane and the surrounding Kentucky countryside where the Abby is situated. I mention this as I have returned to this fulfilling art form, while realizing just how gratifying this tool can be, all while connecting myself with a greater understanding of things that surround me.
“The still silence of the photographic image, for the contemplative eye, is enough to reveal the transcendence of the apparently irrelevant.” Merton understood his camera and its use, as reminding him “of things overlooked,” helping him cooperate “in the creation of new worlds.” It is through photography that one can see things more clearly by observing the minute details one finds in the printed image than through the naked eye alone. And as such, this gives us the time to stop, see, contemplate and finally absorb the essence of what we observe, giving us a profound perception, and a sense of connectedness to something greater than ourselves. Photography, contemplation and meditation are essentially the same, albeit, they are different in their execution, but are related to each other. To use a camera is just another tool to reach for something outside of ourselves.
"Mysticism flourishes most purely right in the middle of the ordinary.” - T. Merton
November 27, 2022
I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving Day.
I Have Great News! My nephew and his wife gave birth to their second child this past week. What a great gift my family received and for this we are eternally grateful to God almighty. Thanksgiving is a time for families and close friends to come together and rejoice and give thanks to God and the abundance we have received from the earth. I am especially grateful to the farmers, the migrant workers who toil each day, the truckers who drive miles under good and bad weather conditions and to those who stock our grocery shelves everyday while you and I sleep comfortably at night. Let us gives thanks to these unsung men and women and the hard and difficult work they perform each day and night.
As a priest, I am eternally grateful to bishop Michael Barber for placing me with you and to share another holiday with you and your family. It is a grace for me to enjoy your company, knowing that I am making a difference in your life and that you are enriching my life in the same way.
The first day of Advent is the first day of a new Liturgical (or church) calendar and begins a four-week period of preparation in anticipation of the nativity of our Lord. Today we celebrate the First Sunday of Advent, and so we begin to prepare ourselves to receive the Christ child, and to observe salvation history that is to come during the season of Lent. This is also a good time, in my opinion, to reflect on this past year and to make plans for the coming new year.
I often spend my days writing, reading, and learning something new to share with you. But what is most important to me is the time I spend meditating and praying on God’s Word and my personal devotion to Mary. As your spiritual leader and shepherd of this community, I encourage you to deepen your faith from now until Christmas by praying more than your regular routine, reading spiritual books that pertain to the season and giving more of yourselves so that others may benefit from your generosity and love. It is through the spirit of giving that we make a difference to others, while at the same time pleasing God.
As Christ himself reminds us when seeing the person on the street not as a stranger, but as our neighbor, and to see the face of Christ in each person we meet.
Advent Season is a very special time of year that sometimes gets lost in the bright lights of the Christmas season it precedes. Let us remember that this time of year is not just a time to rejoice but it is a time to reflect, prepare and to reconcile ourselves for the coming of the Lord. Amen.
November 20, 2022
“It has been an unchallengeable American doctrine that cranberry sauce, a pink goo with overtones of sugared tomatoes, is a delectable necessity of the Thanksgiving board and that turkey is uneatable without it.” — Alistair Cook
I love the description above, and even though I don’t agree entirely with Mr. Cooke’s description of this iconic condiment, I still love this gooey delight with my turkey dinner.
One of the many holidays we share as a nation and people is this very secular and also spiritual holiday where every race, tongue and belief or non-belief celebrate together the blessings of family, friends and material abundance; the other great secular holiday is our nation’s birthday bash on July 4.
The fondest memory I have are those special dinners I shared and continue sharing with my family. I especially remember with affection my father’s cooking and the wonderful smells emanating from the kitchen during those early morning hours of him preparing the great feast for that afternoon. My father prepared the meal with such great care, with attention to detail and most importantly, with lots of LOVE. I cannot remember the turkey being dry and tasteless, or anything he cooked to be off flavored in any way. His thanksgiving meals are memorable.
When dad passed away my sister took over the helm and has for the last thirty-five years done a superb job in cooking the family’s annual feast. Although on occasion the turkey might be just a tad dry. Nonetheless, it is good to be with family during these times of rejoicing and sharing.
I know there are many in our country and state who are going through some difficulties in their lives. Some are home alone with no family to speak of. There are those who can’t afford to have a large meal to share with their loved ones. And then there are those who are homeless or ill or have lost hope altogether. These are the ones, the forgotten ones, we need to keep in our prayers, these are the ones who need our help most. That is why I am so grateful to all of you for the financial contributions and donations you have made so far.
I am especially pleased that we as a parish have exceeded our goal of purchasing store gift cards by more than doubling our last donation to St. Mary’s St. Vincent de Paul food pantry. So far you have donated almost $3000 dollars in Safeway, Target, and Kohls gift cards. What a blessing you are making to the less fortunate families in our community. I’m sure Fr. Fred at St. Mary’s will be delighted and grateful for these gift cards.
Today I wish you and your families a wonderful, joyous, and delicious Thanksgiving Day. Remember, don’t eat too much and save room for dessert. See you all at Thanksgiving Day Mass. God bless.
November 13, 2022
“The Rosary is taken from the Latin word “rosarium” which means “crown of roses” or “garland of roses.” To us members of the Catholic Faith, the Rosary is a form of prayer that we use along with its namesake prayer beads.”
“According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, meditation “engages thought, imagination, emotion, and desire. This mobilization of faculties is necessary in order to deepen our convictions of faith, prompt the conversion of our heart and strengthen our will to follow Christ.”
I read an article published in last week’s Rossmoor News regarding the Catholic devotion to the rosary. I thought it interesting that someone would actually sit down and write about this devotion that many Catholics around the world recites each day. What the article didn’t touch on was what each of the decades represent.
What I found refreshing, but lacking in detail, was that someone at the local newspaper would touch on such a subject, yet not delve deeper into the meaning of each of the decades. I do commend Ms. Harris, the author of the article, for tackling such an esoteric topic such as the rosary and its associated devotion
I am assuming one of two things. One, Ms. Harris is not Catholic, or two, if she is Catholic, perhaps she was not given enough space to cover the entirety of what makes up the rosary’s story. I’m going to assume the latter rather than the former.
As many a Catholic understands this devotion, and this is where a brief explanation is required, the rosary has been described as the Gospels in miniature; how else can you teach the life of Christ when most could not read, or books were not readily available to the general public?
The Joyful, Sorrowful, Luminous and Glorious mysteries tell the story of the life of Jesus and Salvation history. The beads are there, as Ms. Harris points out, to keep track as we pray the different mysteries. What I find interesting in all of this is the comparison she makes to other religions and their use of prayer beads in their tradition, such as Hindus, Muslims, Buddhism and Jainism; she did not mention that the Eastern Catholic and Orthodox churches also use a form of prayer beads in their devotional practices.
These prayers as a devotional should be recited slowly, with full attention to each decade as we ponder and meditate on each segment of Christ’ life.
Pope St. John Paul II during his pontificate gave us the fourth mystery, the Luminous Mysteries. This was added in order to complete the life of Jesus and His ministry, therefore giving us the fullness and richness of this devotion.
I thank Ms. Harris and the Rossmoor News for publishing a wonderful, albeit, short article on one of the great and most widespread devotions in the church. Remember when reciting the rosary, take your time, pray it slowly and meditate on each of the decades. God bless.
November 6, 2022
This is a good prayer to recite especially during the month of November:
“Eternal rest grant to them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.”
Why is November dedicated to the dead and why do we pray to them? Why is it so important for Catholic Christian to connect to our ancestors, for those who have gone home before us?
November is a time for remembering and praying for our loved ones who have gone before us and whose loss we feel. It is a time when we are particularly conscious of those in our parishes who are grieving and all those families who have lost loved ones in the past year.
As I mentioned during the All Souls Day Mass, my family, particularly my sister, continue to grieve even after my beloved mother passed away two years ago. The grieving process is perhaps one of the most difficult and emotional situations one will experience. For those who tell us to “get over it”, or “be brave”, they haven’t a clue what profound sadness we are feeling. Each person, even within a family unit, all grieve differently and as such we must be left alone to deal with these very private and intense feelings. The death of a loved one is perhaps one of the most difficult and most private matters we find ourselves experiencing and we certainly don’t need someone with minimal understanding or spiritual maturity to lecture us on how and how long to grieve.
To comfort a friend or relative, we must be willing to do two things; one, be patient with the griever and two, show them compassion and love. There is nothing you can do to alleviate the inner pain someone has experienced after losing someone suddenly or to a prolonged and difficult illness.
What we can do to help them during this time of transitioning is simply to “be there” and lend them your shoulder and heart. I always suggest when consoling a family member or friend is simply to re- main quiet, showing them you care by listening, really hearing what they are saying or not. Some- times all they require of you is for you to listen to them or sometimes just remain silent.
The offering of Masses for the repose of the soul of the faithful departed is linked with our belief in Purgatory. We believe that if a person has died fundamentally believing in God but with venial sins and the hurt caused by sin, then God in His divine love and mercy will first purify the soul. Perhaps this is a difficult thing to grasp, especially when we come to believe those who have died are “good” people. However, let us remind ourselves as a fallen people that we have all sinned and therefore it may be necessary to cleanse ourselves as well as the souls in purgatory of our sinful inclinations.
On All Souls Day, we not only remember the dead, but we apply our efforts, through prayer, almsgiving, and the Mass, to their release from Purgatory. There are two plenary indulgences attached to All Souls Day, one for visiting a church and another for visiting a cemetery. Let us as a community of be- lievers continue praying for the souls in purgatory and those in heaven. And let us never forget to pray
for the living in our parish.
OCTOBER 30, 2022
Tomorrow is Halloween and as such many people have asked me this question: is it all right for Catholics to celebrate this day? The short answer is yes, of course we can.
How many of you have fond memories as a kid growing up, dressed in a ghost or cowboy costume with a bag or plastic pumpkin bucket in hand, running from one neighbor’s house to another to receive some sort of trick or sweet treat? I remember a night of fun, going from door to door and then returning home with our booty of sweets. My dad would then pore over my brother’s and my collective treasures of goodies to see if there was anything “funny” in our stash of chocolaty goodness. He of course would take the Baby Ruth and Milky Way bars, as he deemed them unsafe for our consumption. So, what exactly is Halloween and where does this tradition originate?
First, let me give you some historical background of what the holiday is and its origins. There is a lot of
misconception and some confusion whether or not Catholics can participate in this fun filled holiday. The truth is, Halloween actually belongs to the Catholic Church! Surprise?
Indeed, as a church we come to understand that we should not be afraid of death and that death is fully a part of the living as we believe that Jesus Christ resurrected from the dead and ascended into heaven. So we celebrate All Saints Day on November first, and all Souls Day the following day. So what makes Halloween Catholic?
The word “Halloween” comes from the name ‘All Hallows’ Eve'. The word “hallow” means “holy.” All Hallows’ Eve is essentially the “Christmas Eve” of All Saints’ Day. This day is also called All Hallows’ Day. All Saints’ Day (or All Hallows’ Day) is a major feast day on the Catholic Church’s calendar! On this day we honor not only the saints we know by name in Heaven, but also any saints whose names we don’t know!
There are so many saints in the church who don’t have an official feast day but are still special nonetheless! All Saints’ Day is a day dedicated to these known and forgotten saints. Halloween, All Saints’ Day, and All Souls’ Day (November 2nd) is a triduum of feast days called the Days of the Dead. They are also known as All Hallowtide, Hallowtide, or Hallowmas.
This is the time of year when the living honor all the dead: the saints already in Heaven and all the holy souls stuck in purgatory on their way to Heaven.
The Feast of All Saints was originally only a local feast day to Rome. Pope Gregory III transferred the Feast of All Saints from May 13th to November 1st. Pope Gregory IV then extended this feast to the Universal Church. That is why Halloween is celebrated by Catholics all around the world, but in their own cultural ways. The English, Irish, and French immigrants, for example, brought with them their own Catholic traditions and customs to the New World. Dressing up for Halloween, for instance, comes from the French tradition. While carving pumpkins comes from the Irish, who carved turnips originally! And finally the English went door-to-door begging for “Soul Cakes.” They promised to pray for the loved ones who had passed on of those who gave them the cakes. This is how trick-or-treating got started.
These traditions eventually became popular activities for Halloween celebrations in America and continue to this day.
I find Halloween to be more than just trick or treat, but more importantly, as I mentioned above, it is a time to remember all our beloved family, relatives, and friends who have gone before us. But it is also a time to honor our beloved saints known and unknown. So, let us go out for treat or treat and to also remember our brothers and sisters who have journeyed home. God bless.
OCTOBER 23, 2022
So glad to be back from Los Angeles. Whenever I travel down there I always come back to the Bay Area with a better appreciation of where we live; the traffic here is mild compared to the traffic down there, it’s simply frightful and maddening. And Los Angelinos are, well, let me put it to you politely, they are an interesting group of people to say the least.
Anyway, I returned on Friday from visiting friends in Southern California and having a wonderful time offering mass and enjoying many delicious meals with the Daughters of St. Paul; I did manage to venture out and see the sights, hear the sounds and smells of a great Cosmopolitan and international city.
Despite the traffic, and the craziness of the crowds, I always manage to find L.A. to be an interesting place to experience adventures and silence. Silence? In L.A.? Yes, it’s difficult to imagine how anyone can achieve silence in a place that is in constant movement twenty four hours of each day. The sisters’ book store and convent for example, are both located on a busy street in Culver City. Their book store is actually located on a main drag with several very good restaurants, and the Sony Pictures Studios further down the street. But the question remains, how does one achieve silence in such a noisy and distracting environment as I have described above? Simple. I am speaking of the interior silence, something no matter what your circumstances may be or where you are at the moment, one can always find silence within. To find silence within is not an easy task to achieve. It takes great effort and like most things that are desirable it sometimes takes time and patients. Thomas Merton writes,
“The world of men has forgotten the joys of silence, the peace of solitude, which is necessary, to some extent, for the fullness of human living. Man cannot be happy for long unless he is in contact with the springs of spiritual life which are hidden in the depths of his own soul. If man is exiled constantly from his own home, locked out of his spiritual solitude, he ceases to be a true person.”
The quote above encourages me everyday to seek that which gives me pleasure and silence which gives me the peace I so desire. Saint Augustine writes in his Confessions,
“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”
St. Augustine and Thomas Merton both of whom I admire, provide the fodder and grist needed to sustain my spiritual life and with that spiritual life comes the silence and fortitude necessary to continue on the path which God has destine for me to follow. We must allow silence to enter into our life if we are to follow in the footsteps of Jesus by loving each other as He and the Father loves us.
OCTOBER 16, 2022
Autumn Fires, by Robert Louis Stevenson
In the other gardens, And all up in the vale,
From the autumn bonfires, See the smoke trail!
Pleasant summer over, And all the summer flowers,
The red fire blazes, The grey smoke towers, Sing a song of seasons!
Something bright in all! Flowers in the summer, Fires in the fall!
Here we are once again at the beginning of yet another Fall season. I don’t know about you, but I do love this time of year, where we see and smell the gradual changes taking place as we continue our earthly journey. The changing of the seasons brings me to a better understanding of who we are and our place in the scheme of things.
The Creator in His infinite love, fashioned a world for us to live in and be a part of something greater. Fall is my very favorite season. It is so much more than just a time or place, but a focal point reminding me how finite our time is on this earth.
After celebrating the Christmas season, we find ourselves heading into Winter and all those cold days, frosty nights and chilly mornings. And with that comes warm fires, bulky sweaters and books we neglected to start or finish during the summer months. This is also a time to cook hearty and wonderfully delicious soups. As winter winds down we begin to see and feel the changes from winter to Spring. And with Spring comes the first blooms and grasses of the season. We begin to see life emerge from its long winter hibernation in the form of new life and new beginnings and to all of humanity a new hope, a new future. This is a time that Christians all over the world have waited for many months believing of Christ assures of life eternal, a life promised by His death and resurrection; and a life to live with Him and the Father in heaven.
Then we start all over again; Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall again. The cycle of life continues as it has since the beginning of time. As the years go by and we get older, wiser and mature, we see things a bit differently than in our youth, when we were full of hope, had many dreams and experiencing many failures. Thomas Merton wrote:
“You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope.”
Life on this earth is short lived, the life after this is eternal and pleasing. Let us grab onto each other and walking together as God meant us to do, to walk as brothers and sisters in His Son’s Name and for the greater glory of the Kingdom. Amen.
OCTOBER 9, 2022
Often, I find myself searching for silence in my life, especially when things around me become a
bit chaotic and seemingly unmanageable to handle. But what is silence? Why do some yearn for it? And how does one achieve silence?
The Webster’s dictionary defines “silence” as: “making no utterance: not speaking or making
The definition above is what most people assume when we describe silence, an absence of noise. But noise doesn’t necessarily mean sounds or the utterances of words directed at an individual. Silence in the spiritual realm means something entirely different.
The church asks the question, what does silence mean spiritually?
Silence is easier to define than solitude. In the spiritual realm, it is not the literal absence of all noise, but the absence of all human-created stimuli. “Human-created” because most would consider a walk in the woods, in which the sounds of nature are present, to still be a time of “silence.”
In Thomas Merton’s book, “The Sign of Jonas” he writes, “Exterior silence — its specially necessity in our world in which there is so much noise and inane speech… Babel, Silence not a virtue, noise not a sin — its godlessness, its despair. Let those who can stand a little silence find other people who like silence, and create silence and peace for one another.”
Silence in our culture is a difficult thing to achieve. The grocery stores for example, are full of distractions; just look down on the floor the next time you’re shopping and notice the advertisements urging us to purchase a product that will make us feel good about ourselves or a convenience food that’ll make our lives easier. Or go to most gas stations and you’ll hear the constant droning of some “celebrity” and their superficial exploits. It’s no wonder the youth in our country are so distracted when they are constantly bombarded by these trivial soufflés. We are fed a steady diet of pablum to munch on, rather than something more substantial, more meaningful to gnaw on and savor.
To be in silence is to be more in tune with God, more in tune with the creator and his creation. To find silence even in the noisy world we’ve created can be attained through meditation, prayer and conscious effort to push back the cacophony of unsolicited sounds that truly wish to block the true silence each of us wished to attain.
Merton writes: “When you gain this interior silence you can carry it around with you in the world, and pray everywhere,… just as interior asceticism cannot be acquired without concrete and exterior mortification, so it is absurd to talk about interior silence where there is no exterior silence.”
Can an interior silence be realized in such a strident environment, or can we attain it despite all that? Let us all begin to look inward and work hard to acquire this gift for our sake. Amen.
OCTOBER 2, 2022
The following information is derived from various internet sources and assembled here for your comfort and understanding of why we suffer and whether or not God is with us during our time in pain, suffering and loneliness.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states the following concerning redemptive suffering: “Moved by so much suffering Christ not only allows himself to be touched by the sick, but he makes their miseries his own: ‘He took our infirmities and bore our diseases.’ But he did not heal all the sick”.
Suffering can be a Tool of Sanctification: Suffering causes our focus to turn inward, to face those parts of ourselves we might otherwise ignore. God can use suffering then to develop us into better people: the people who can love and enjoy Him forever (Romans 5:3-5; James 1:2-4). Suffering according to St . Augustine: is that “Catholics believe that free will is a gift from God. God created humans with the ability to choose between good and evil. When humans choose the wrong thing it causes suffering. Humans are to blame for the suffering, not God.”
The Importance of Suffering explores a relational theory of understanding emotional suffering suggesting that suffering, does not spring from one dimension of our lives, but is often the outcome of how we relate to the world internally. Our suffering can be united to Godʹs saving work because through Baptism He has made us part of his mystical Body—the Church. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Now you are the body of Christ and individually member of it”.
We focus more on what we want to do. Thatʹs just human nature. Suffering gives us an opportunity to overcome our human nature and accept Godʹs grace more often. It gives us more opportunities to open our hearts to God and His grace.
Suffering Yields Wisdom and Compassion: If we suffer because of the consequences of poor choices, that is also an opportunity in disguise.
We can lift a voice of warning against addiction, abuse, impulsiveness, crime, and a variety of other choices, speaking from experience and influencing others to avoid our mistakes. We often wonder, where is God during our suffering? When we are suffering, God is right beside us. Nothing can separate us from His love. He wants to show us His love through His church, and give us a purpose through His Word! Sometimes it feels as if God had abandoned us, especially in those times when we feel alone and lonely during in our need of comfort. I hope the above helps you during those times when doubt enters into your soul.
SEPTEMBER 25, 2022
Last week I wrote to you about the physical pain we all experience in our long lives and how we can “give it up” to the Lord. At that installment I promised you I would continue on this line of thought. However, as many of you know, I was on my canonical retreat in the beautiful beach town of Santa Cruz. Many of you know how soothing it is to be in the presence of the ocean and in a relaxing atmosphere. So with that, I would like to share with you my experience and thoughts.
I always look forward to these times with my brother priests in prayer, contemplation and to share stories and individual experiences we have in common. Some stories are amusing, while others can be frustrating and others tragic. These stories we share make us realize that we’re all the same. We share the same situations, the same anxieties and the same frustrations. But the one main thing out of all of these is, we share the same stories that affirm why we answered the “call” to priesthood.
When one feels “down” or “bitter” and when we’re ready to jump ship, something always brings up back. Like a good fisherman, God gives us a little line to explore the things around us. In this way this helps us to understand our parishioners and the situations they live. Sometimes we forget what our mission is or we become complacent in the mission God has given. And when we do stray from that mission, that is when God reals us back in by giving us a situation that affirms our calling and who we are in this world.
As Jesus is mentioned many times in the Gospels, he goes off into the wilderness to be by himself in prayer. In this way we commune with the Heavenly Father, but we also re-charge our batteries, so to speak. We need this time to ourselves to understand our mission, but most importantly to reconnect to the Father and our spirituality.
Without these times away and to ourselves, we become rudderless and we lose that thing that calls us to mission. And once we lose our way that is when we lose our faith. Faith can be a delicate thing and easily shattered. We need to somehow find a way to keep our faith going; either by reading, meditating, praying or going on retreats. Faith can be shattered by circumstances that suddenly appear, losing a loved one, or witnessing some unpleasantness for example.
The Gospels are peppered with examples of Christ being alone to get away from the crowds and seeking the solace of His Father in desolate places. Retreats are a necessary tool in order for us to expand our faith and to nurture the mission that which God has given us. I encourage you to take the time to connect or reconnect with the Lord by intense prayer, and with good, solid Catholic spiritual readings. It is important for us to make time, not just find time, but to make time, to spend with God, His Son and the Holy Spirit.
Take care and God bless.
SEPTEMBER 18, 2022
Last week’s bulletin contained a brief letter on my thoughts concerning the human condition on why we suffer pain and why would God allow us to suffer. I wish to continue this line of thought, allowing me the opportunity to further explain this topic and for you to understand the question we often ask of God. “Why?”.
The queson I asked last week had a profound effect on many of you; either you or a loved one is suffering from chronic pain and want to know God would allow it.
To answer this question, if indeed there is an answer to this very complex and often sensitive topic, may still find ourselves questioning God and what is the point of it all. This week I found an article that can best articulate the Theological and Biblical implications I hope can answer in a way which will allow you some comfort in your search for peace of mind.
The following article was taken from YOUCAT, May 25, 2020: I will be on my annual retreat beginning, Monday, September 19 through September 26. Enjoy.
“It is not only since the Holocaust, in which millions of the Jewish population were annihilated but rather from me immemorial that people have asked themselves: "Why does God allow suffering?" This question is called the theodicy-question. This word is derived from the Old Greek words theós = God and díkē = justice and signifies the point where God's omnipotence seems to clash with God's grace. The philosopher Epikur (341-270 before Christ) supposedly said: "Either God wants to do away with suffering and cannot do it: Then God is weak, which cannot be. Or he can but will not do it: Then God is full of spite, which cannot be either. Or he cannot do it and does not want to do it: Then he is weak and full of spite, so he cannot be God."
What does the Bible say?
Sacred Scripture connects the queson of theodicy mainly with the figure of Job. Only with the Book of Job does the conviction emerge that illness and suffering are a punishment for falling away from God, while the righteous will receive blessings, happiness and wealth. It is true that a life according to God's commandments can result in a good, often happy life, but it is wrong to automatically interpret the onset of misfortune as God's punishment. The biblical Job ("In the land of Uz* there was a blameless and upright man named Job, who feared God and avoided evil." Job 1:1) has to endure all the different kinds of suffering a person can experience. His wife even urges him to curse this God who allows such things to happen. But Job does not let his wife, nor the false consolations and his friends‘ attempts to explain everything, dissuade him from his faith: "You speak as foolish women do. We accept good things from God; should we not accept evil?” (Job 2:10) The queson of suffering is not solved theoretically in the book of Job, but biographically and historically, by the appearance of a God who is there in the midst of the drama of human existence as a compassionate God: "But the LORD said: I have witnessed the affliction of my people in Egypt and have heard their cry against their taskmasters, so I know well what they are suffering" (Ex 3:7). This faith is also proclaimed in the Epistle of James: " Indeed we call blessed those who have persevered”. You have heard of the perseverance of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, because “the Lord is compassionate and merciful" (James 5:11). Through Jesus we can know for sure: "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God" (John 3:17-18). God on the cross is the only image that can withstand the image of the innocent suffering of the world. "The cross is indeed the place where God's perfect compassion for our world becomes visible" (Pope Benedict XVI). Next week I will further explore with you the queson: “why”. Take care.
SEPTEMBER 11, 2022
As I get older, I am starting to encounter physical pain, especially in my joints which has prompted me to reflect on these ailments and how best to combat them. During my physical struggles, I know that God’s abiding presence is always with me, he is with us. Sometimes, though, I feel He has abandoned me, leaving me to my own devices; on the contrary, that is not true. His loving Word contains many reminders of His love for us. He guides us and comforts us as we journey through our seasons of life. Reflecting upon this and wanting something tangible to soothe my discomfort, I’ve come across some scriptural passages I believe can aid us as we all grapple with our personal physical and spiritual ailments.
I hope these two passages are helpful.
Isaiah 41:10 - God strengthens you
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
God has promised us His strength, as the above Psalm states, …”do not fear, I am with you”. He will never give us a task we are unable to handle. As children of God, we can call upon the Father at any time.
In the book of Jeremiah, for example, we are comforted knowing that God, “will heal his people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security.” Jer. (33:6) Comforting words to ease ourselves indeed. But what about the question, “Why?” Why must we go through pain and discomfort?
Suffering as a Tool of Sanctification causes our focus to turn inward, to face those parts of ourselves we might otherwise ignore. God can use suffering to develop us into better people with a deeper understanding of Christ’s own suffering: the people who can love and enjoy Him forever and to empathize with others going through trauma themselves.
The other question we ask ourselves, “is suffering a blessing?” The church answers in this way: “The blessing to be found in pain is a right-here, right-now blessing, taking place in the very midst of suffering.” Suffering is part of the divine plan and is essential to our exaltation as a people. It is difficult to imagine that suffering and pain can be a blessing, but if we take a moment and understand the deeper meaning of this notion of blessing and such, we begin to understand Christ’s suffering and the pain He endured during His lifetime here on earth. In order to relate to us, He had to go through suffering as a model for us to emulate, to be a part of humanity that He came to save, and to reconcile our relationship, our friendship with God. This was essential to repair the fall that occurred with Adam and Eve and for the salvation of our souls.
Let us use our pain and suffering not as a punishment from above, but as a time to reflect, understand, and empathize with those suffering that is greater than ours. God bless.
SEPTEMBER 4, 2022
“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God”.
Have you ever waken up in the morning with dread, or a sense of foreboding? A feeling that the world just isn’t right?
Most mornings, however, I look out my bedroom window and see trees, the sun rising from the east, the potted plants on my deck welcoming the warmth of the new morning, while shaking off the morning dew from their green leaves. These are mornings I feel that all is good and that the creator is here with me now. But what does one do when that feeling of sorrow or apprehension enters into an otherwise beautiful morning as we often experience here in our part of this crazy world.
For myself when I feel this way, I go to my chapel and begin my morning prayers. The Breviary, or liturgy of the hours, is a book of prayers every priest and religious promise to recite when they are ordained or professed into religious life.
The Liturgy of the hours contain, amongst other writings, the beautifully composed and poetic book of The Psalms; here is where I find my comfort and joy. There is one particular passage I came across one morning whilst praying and reflecting, and that is what does this verse say to me. Why did these words, “put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God" grabbed my attention. What was it that struck me so, that I would stop and reflect on these words? Perhaps the notion that God is with me at all times, never really leaving me, but attending to my every need. We take for granted that God is here, now, with us, and yet we tend to forget that he is with us. And sometimes, as many of us do, we feel God is distant, not caring or worse, doesn’t really exist. When those thoughts enter my mind, that’s when I know the evil one is tempting me and clouding my vision and taking me away from God the Father. This is when those words above bring me comfort and joy and shield me from further anguish my human failures might bring me.
“As the deer longs for streams of water, so my soul longs for you, O God”. My soul thirsts for God, the living God. When can I enter and see the face of God? My tears have been my bread day and night, as they ask me every day, "Where is your God?" The Palmist writes eloquently the despair and joy we all feel when we are down, but then there is the day of rejoicing and finding that God hasn’t abandoned us, He hasn’t let us to our own devices, the Living God is here guiding us, protecting us and keeping us safe from harm’s way.
As I reflect further on these passages, I begin to sense that peace and comfort, to know of God’s mercy, love and His protecting arms surround me like that of a mother comforting her children. May you also find His comfort when life seems crazy and chaotic. Know that God is with us. God bless.
AUGUST 28, 2022
“The Rosary, though clearly Marian in character, is at heart a Christ-centered prayer. It has all the depth of the gospel message in its entirety. It is an echo of the prayer of Mary, her perennial Magnificat for the work of the redemptive Incarnation which began in her virginal womb.” St. John Paul II
I recently read a very disturbing and misguided article featured in the “Atlantic” magazine on the subject of the Rosary and how this journalist depicts the rosary as an “extremist” symbol for the “right”. I thought to myself how unfortunate and wrongheaded the author of this article is about this devotion and those Catholics, including myself, who pray this devoon daily for the benefit of others.
By demonstrating his ignorance on this subject, he reveals the age old an-Catholic bigotry that still remains in our society today. It is especially disheartening when those of the le think of themselves as open minded and less judgmental. Yet, this sort of journalism is most prevalent in the more liberal publications and news media in this country.
This point of view concerns me and others a great deal and I would like to address this issue with you so that you know how the media views a simple yet powerful tool in the spiritual warfare we are experiencing now.
A little personal history as to how I was introduced to this devotion to Our Lady. Just prior to my first communion, the Blue Army of Our Lady of Fatima came to my parish and instructed us first communicants the tradition and power of the rosary. We were given a short history, instructions on how to recite the rosary and what powers the rosary has in combating the evil around us. This introduction by the Blue Army gave me a deeper understanding of my faith and Mary’s role in our salvation. Since that time from the age eight to the present, I have devoted myself to this prayer nearly every day. For me and millions of others like myself who pray this prayer daily, we know that the Blessed Mother will always be at our side, guiding us to her Son and interceding for us before God on our behave. The rosary is nothing more than the Gospels in miniature, protecting us with the help of the blessed mother, from evil and providing us with comfort and peace of mind. How this journalist can construe this devotion in such a negative and fallacious way is beyond me. My only conclusion is, as I mentioned above, anti-Catholic bigotry is alive and well in a nation that is becoming more hostile towards men and women of faith and the institutions that influence them. It is my hope and desire this journalist in the near future will revisit his misinformed and slanderous piece by correcting his view and understand what and how this beautiful devotion is used by people of faith. It is not a tool for violence, or to divide, but rather a tool of love, peace and yes, a weapon to combat the evil one. I ask you all to do an additional rosary each day and pray for our nation.
AUGUST 21, 2022
"It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade." Mark 4: 31-32
Many parishioners have asked me to explain what the church means by the “New Evangelization”. As I was researching this topic for this week’s bulletin I came across a quote I hope will clarify the meaning of this term and what the church’s aspirations are for the Catholic people and the world:
“The New Evangelization” calls each of us to deepen our faith, believe in the Gospel message and go forth to proclaim the Gospel. The focus of the New Evangelization calls all Catholics to be evangelized and then go forth to evangelize. In a special way, the New Evangelization is focused on 're-proposing' the Gospel to those who have experienced a crisis of faith. Pope Benedict XVI called for the re-proposing of the Gospel "to those regions awaiting the first evangelization and to those regions where the roots of Christianity are deep but who have experienced a serious crisis of faith due to secularization.”
“The New Evangelization” invites each Catholic to renew their relationship with Jesus Christ and his Church. The above statement makes it succinct as to what we as Christians must accomplish through our own witnessing of the faith that was gifted to us through many generations of Catholics. Each of us has a responsibility to hand down the faith to the next generaon. But how do we do that when the world in which we inhabit is filled with distractions and noises that block the quiet voice of God and His message.
“The New Evangelization” charges us, as Catholic Christians, to preach and witness to our faith in whatever circumstance we find ourselves and through whatever vocation the Lord has given us. The pastoral leadership of the Church must guide us in how we carry out these evangelization efforts. It is imperative for the souls of our loved ones, and others in our community and world to be brought back into fold. While evangelization involves the personal discernment and contribution of each Catholic, evangelization is always an ecclesial act, an act of the Church. Together we profess clearly our belief in the one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church. This evangelical profession declares that within the faith community people encounter the living Christ. Hence, our witness to evangelization is a witness to the Church. The Church is not an extraneous dimension of evangelization, but a goal. Christ intended believers to be united as a family of faith, a family that would experience together the mysteries of the Kingdom of God. And thus that is what our mission is, to unite all our brothers and sister under one Catholic faith.
AUGUST 14, 2022
Have you ever gotten up from your chair or sofa, wandered into the kitchen, and then forgotten why you got up in the first place? As I get older, I find that my short-term memory is not as sharp as it once was. And I often wonder whether I am suffering from a mind debilitating disorder… or am I just getting more absent-minded as I age? Many of you know of friends, spouses, and family who have gone through or are going through now with dementia or Alzheimer's disease. These are two very real and terrible diseases that zap the person’s mind, personality, and body. It also creates anxiety and despair in those around them.
Why am I bringing this up? As we all know, we live in a community where we have all encountered this amongst friends, family, and neighbors. And we ask ourselves how I can help or will I suffer through this myself. These are questions I ask myself or many of you have spoken to me about. Quite frankly, I’m not sure how to answer these questions as I am not personally familiar with this disease and so I feel inadequate to address this in an intelligent way.
So with that, I am embarking to understand these two diseases in hope of comforting you and helping in your understanding of this disease so that you can accompany those you love on their journey.
As I was researching this topic, I came across this interesting abstract from the “Journal of Aging Studies”. Here is an overview of how we can engage our religious beliefs with those who suffer from this cognitive impairment.
“Increasing attention in the scientific literature is being given to the relationships among religion, spirituality, and overall well-being. Moreover, research has repeatedly identified religion and spirituality as significant coping resources throughout the life course. For this study, a group of 20 Catholic and Protestant older adults were interviewed; half were caregivers of a spouse with Alzheimer's disease and half were non-caregivers. The informants were asked about their views on religion, spirituality, and how they integrated their faith into their lives. Qualitative analysis identified several themes reinforcing previous work that has shown religion and spirituality are important dimensions of the human experience. All the informants had integrated religious and spiritual beliefs and practices into their lives to help make sense of stressful situations. The findings underscore the need for further scientific inquiry that examines how religion and spirituality promote healthy adaptation to significant life events.”
The above summary demonstrates how religion, or spirituality, can have a positive effect on coping with this disease. It also gives, not just the patient, but also the caregiver, comfort in their journey. Integrating a faith-based understanding with medical knowledge allows both the patient and caregiver comfort and peace. That our faith is an essential component in the healing this affliction causes. Prayer and faith provide the miracle we seek to ease ourselves into the inevitable.
AUGUST 7, 2022
A tree gives glory to God by being a tree. For in being what God means it to be it is obeying Him. It
“consents,” so to speak, to His creative love. It is expressing an idea which is in God and which is
not distinct from the essence of God, and therefore a tree imitates God by being a tree. — New Seeds
of Contemplation, New York: New Directions Books, 1961; p. 29.
I have often thought about this quote from Merton and always come away mystified but enlightened by the thought that I am who I am, I am the being who God wants me to be. To be what God wants of me is so very satisfying to say the least, that it gives me pause to contemplate the total sum of my existence. To know that I was born to follow the path that was set before me, reminds me of the passage in Jeremiah that reads, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,…”.
How comforting to know that of all the billions of souls God created, he knows each and everyone of us by name. Psalm 139:1-12, is of a praise to God from David. Here, David contemplates how intimately God knows each of us. God knows everything about us. He knows about our daily life. He knows everything we think, say, and do. He knows about our choices and our habits. David acknowledges God’s omnipresence. He reminds us that God is everywhere we go. No matter where we go we can’t escape Him. God holds us in His hand. He guides us through our life. When we are asleep God watches over us. When we are awake and going about our daily lives He is leading us each step of the way. Even in the darkness, we cannot hide from God.
The other day I was looking at the incredible images coming from the James Webb telescope and was totally amazed at what I saw. The images are crystal clear, so amazingly detailed it boggles the imagination. When I look at something like those images, I find myself thinking of all that God created and yet He found time to create me and this world that I inhabit. Who am I Lord, that you should give me dominion over your creation?
This reminds me of Psalm 8:4-6, “What is man that you are mindful of him, and a son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him little less than a god, crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him rule over the works of your hands, put all things at his feet…”
Think about it. In all of creation, in all of the immensity of the universe, in all of the mystery in God’s being, He chose to give us free will, a brain to think and reason, and a soul to contemplate His beauty and the beauty of His creation. All of this overwhelms me, I am staggered by it all, and even so, I know that each of us have an intimate relationship with the creator of our being, our world and the vast universe we share. God bless.
JULY 31, 2022
Mission Appeal There will be a guest speaker, Rev. Rajesh Kumar Nettem on August 6th and 7th from the Diocese of Guntur, India. Please find the information about the purpose of the mission appeals.
Missionary Cause, Diocese of Guntur, India
Thank you for inviting our diocese to your parishes on the weekend of August 06-07. Thanks for your support towards our missions. Thank you Fr. Leonard and parishioners for your guidance and support. Your help and support towards our missionary cause will directly benefit the education of the orphan children and the missions of our diocese. Please do consider helping us and praying for our missions.
About 80% of the people in our diocese live in poverty and distress. Most of them are socially discriminated. They live in huts. They are all struggling to survive, earning less than three dollars per day. The children of these families deprived of their basic needs. To help these children (below the age of 14 years) we are running 61 Orphanages. About 2000 children are residing and studying in these orphanages. The majority of these children don’t have parents. Some of them have lost one of their parents. Your help and support will go towards helping these orphan children.
We are also providing to the poorest of the poor families of our diocese drinking water facility through
bore-wells and water purifying machines. We also need to provide toilets to a good number of these poor families. Since we perform a large number of adult Baptisms every year the problem of providing places of worship (churches) are ever growing. The Diocese has to build chapels and churches in good number of villages of our diocese. Since they have no churches in some of the mission stations the priests of these parishes gather the people in different houses to celebrate the Eucharist. As you know it is not an easy thing.
You can well understand that all these programs are costing us enormous amounts of money. We are now going through a very difficult period due to want of funds and we are really struggling to maintain our diocese. At this time as a mission diocese we are in need of your generous love and support to continue the missionary work in our diocese. My Bishop is very worried with the lack of funds available that are used to help with different projects such as helping the orphan children, people who do not have toilets and drinking water facility in their houses, Catholics who do not have chapels and churches in their villages, etc. Providing food and education to the orphan children in our orphanages is a big challenge for us at this time and are our essential projects. Fr. Rajesh Kumar Nettem, a missionary priest from our diocese will be coming and making the appeals for our diocese on all the weekend masses of August 06-07. Please prayerfully consider our diocese and financially be generous in giving your support to the needy of our diocese. Please be generous in your support. If you are writing a check please make a check payable to your parish and please write the memo as “Missions.” Thank you!
Yours in Christ Jesus our Lord
Fr. Joseph Madanu
Mission Director, Diocese of Guntur, India
JULY 24, 2022
Mission Appeal There will be a guest speaker, Rev. Rajesh Kumar Nettem on August 6th and 7th from the Diocese of Guntur, India. Please find the information about the purpose of the mission appeals.
Missionary Cause, Diocese of Guntur, India
Thank you for inviting our diocese to your parishes on the weekend of August 06-07. Thanks for your support towards our missions. Thank you Fr. Leonard and parishioners for your guidance and support. Your help and support towards our missionary cause will directly benefit the education of the orphan children and the missions of our diocese. Please do consider helping us and praying for our missions.
About 80% of the people in our diocese live in poverty and distress. Most of them are socially discriminated. They live in huts. They are all struggling to survive, earning less than three dollars per day. The children of these families deprived of their basic needs. To help these children (below the age of 14 years) we are running 61 Orphanages. About 2000 children are residing and studying in these orphanages. The majority of these children don’t have parents. Some of them have lost one of their parents. Your help and support will go towards helping these orphan children.
We are also providing to the poorest of the poor families of our diocese drinking water facility through
bore-wells and water purifying machines. We also need to provide toilets to a good number of these poor families. Since we perform a large number of adult Baptisms every year the problem of providing places of worship (churches) are ever growing. The Diocese has to build chapels and churches in good number of villages of our diocese. Since they have no churches in some of the mission stations the priests of these parishes gather the people in different houses to celebrate the Eucharist. As you know it is not an easy thing.
You can well understand that all these programs are costing us enormous amounts of money. We are now going through a very difficult period due to want of funds and we are really struggling to maintain our diocese. At this time as a mission diocese we are in need of your generous love and support to continue the missionary work in our diocese. My Bishop is very worried with the lack of funds available that are used to help with different projects such as helping the orphan children, people who do not have toilets and drinking water facility in their houses, Catholics who do not have chapels and churches in their villages, etc. Providing food and education to the orphan children in our orphanages is a big challenge for us at this time and are our essential projects. Fr. Rajesh Kumar Nettem, a missionary priest from our diocese will be coming and making the appeals for our diocese on all the weekend masses of August 06-07. Please prayerfully consider our diocese and financially be generous in giving your support to the needy of our diocese. Please be generous in your support. If you are writing a check please make a check payable to your parish and please write the memo as “Missions.” Thank you!
Yours in Christ Jesus our Lord
Fr. Joseph Madanu
Mission Director, Diocese of Guntur, India
JULY 17, 2022
“The Eucharist is essential for us: it is Christ who wishes to enter our lives and fill us with his grace.” — Pope Francis
The above quote from the holy father, gives us insight to what the Eucharist means for Catholics and how to show respect to this sacred species. It is not merely a piece of bread we consume like so many cookies, but a real, divine and sacred bread. It is as the Lord says, “this is my Body…”.
The holy father gave this quote in a video message from the National Eucharistic Congress:
“Human beings all over the world today need nourishment. And this nourishment is not just to satisfy physical hunger. There are other hungers – for love, for immortality of life, for affection, for being cared for, for forgiveness, for mercy. This hunger can be satiated only by the bread that comes from above. Jesus himself is the living bread that gives life to the world. His body offered for our sake on the cross, his blood shed for the pardon of the sins of humanity is made available to us in the bread and wine to the Eucharist transformed in the consecration.”
“But the Eucharist does not end with the partaking of the bread and blood of the Lord. It leads us to solidarity with others. The communion with the Lord is necessarily a communion with our fellow brothers and sisters. And therefore the one who is fed and nourished by the very body and blood of Christ cannot remain unaffected when he sees his brothers suffering want and hunger. Those nourished by the Eucharist are called to bring the joy of the gospel to those who have not received it. Strengthened by the living Bread we are called to bring hope to those who live in darkness and in despair.”
These words profoundly struck me with a renewed vigor in proclaiming not just the Word, but also to take action in professing the reality of what the Eucharist is and not merely what it represents. This idea of Christ actually and really present in the bread and becoming His Flesh have some in our community questioning that reality. Is it really Jesus in the bread or is it just a symbol as some believe. As the U.S. bishops are quick to undertake this moment in history to re-energize and re-catechize the people of God on the teachings of Christ’ presence in the Eucharist, it is my obligation and duty as spiritual father to assist the holy father, and bishop Michael, in teaching this fundamental and essential teaching to all, including those whose faith in the real presence has never wavered. Together as the body of Christ, we can do this by our presence, determination and witnessing of our faith. Amen.
JULY 10, 2022
The Eucharist is the heart of the Church. Where Eucharistic life flourishes,… there the life of the church will blossom.
— Pope St. John Paul II
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is calling for a better understanding that Christ is truly present in the Eucharist we celebrate at the mass. For Catholics it is not just merely a symbol, but that the Eucharist actually contains Christ Himself, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) states: “Jesus is present to us in many ways, in his Word, in the poor, when two or more are gathered in prayer, and in the Sacraments. But only in the Holy Eucharist is He uniquely present — Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. This is what we mean by the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist”.
The bishops of the United States, after reviewing the Pew Institutes survey which was put forth to Catholics, asking the question whether the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist was real? The bishops after reading the survey’s answers, noticed a rather disturbing trend. It appears that many Catholics indicated in this survey no longer believe in “Transubstantiation” – the idea that during Mass, the bread and wine becomes the body and blood of Jesus Christ – which is central to the [our] Catholic faith. Indeed, the Catholic Church teaches that the Eucharist is ‘the source and summit of the Christian life.’ (CCC 1324)
The Pew Research Center survey finds that most self-described Catholics don’t believe this core teaching. In fact, nearly seven-in-ten Catholics (69%) say they personally believe that during Catholic Mass, the bread and wine used in Communion “are symbols of the body and blood of Jesus.” Just one-third of U.S. Catholics (31%) say they believe that “during the Mass, the bread and wine actually become the body and blood of Jesus.” The Vatican Council refers to the Eucharist as the “source and summit” of the Christian life and the “center of the Christian community.” (Lumen Gentium) With this news, many of the bishops are rightly concerned and have taken action to reverse this perception; we must do better in catechizing the faithful by giving them a better understanding of the teaching on this subject. Therein lies the gist of this pastoral letter. Beginning in the Fall of this year and continuing into the following year, Fr. George and I will be conducting lectures, films and workshops that will be presented on an ongoing basis. It is both of our hopes that these lectures will help those whose faith in the real presence will be restored and those whose faith have not wavered, will find these talks enlightening or at the very least interesting. And for those who are unsure of this core teaching, come join us and let us believe together. Amen.
JULY 3, 2022
I would like to put a question to you… What are you grateful for in your life?
This is a question I often asked myself, especially when I get too comfortable in my surroundings and sometimes the question pops up while working through the course of the day. Generally speaking my answer is always the same, my health and my family. But then I take a step back and look at the deeper understanding of the question. What am I grateful for?
I know many of you ask the same question and most likely you all have the same response as mine above. This time I would like to encourage you to re-think the question and search in your hearts and soul a deeper understanding of what you are most grateful for and why.
It's always important to reflect on all of the blessings we have. When gathered around the Thanksgiving table for example, most families reserve a minute or two to express their appreciation for the things they have, their families, and health. And with good reason: Gratitude is something that we should be able to express on any occasion—no matter how big or small. So don't reserve these thoughtful messages for the fourth Thursday in November.
John F. Kennedy once said, "As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” And Lauren Hill is quoted as saying, "Everything we do should be a result of our gratitude for what God has done for us.”
It is important to remember that God is always in control of our lives and that He is the Author of our being. And because of this, we should remember to thank God for all he does for us.
But what about those times when situations in our lives seem to go astray? What about those misfortunes and heartaches we encounter? That’s when our faith in God comes into question. Do we believe? Why is this happening to me? How can God be so cruel to people who love him? How, then, do we understand His reasoning and why should we still be grateful? These are hard issues to explain, especially when one feels abandoned by God.
When I go through personal ordeals that seem hopeless, I turn to God and I actually ask Him, WHY? What is your purpose for this happening? Sometimes the answer is made clear or sometimes the question doesn’t come quick and easy enough for us. We are often “put to the test”, as we read in Psalm 66:10 “For You have tried us, O God; You have refined us as silver is refined.” and “It’s a funny thing about life, once you begin to take note of the things you are grateful for, you begin to lose sight of the things that you lack .” — Germany Kent.
Indeed, I am grateful for my family and the health that I have. But I am most grateful for my faith in God, the love I feel when I come to mass, and my priesthood that God gifted to me. I lack nothing when I have everything I have written above. Be grateful for what you have because someone else, somewhere, is lacking something in their lives. God bless.
JUNE 26, 2022
“I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world”. [John 6:51]
With these words, our Lord Instituted the Sacrament of the Eucharist. To share His Body in this fashion gives us the intimacy Jesus desires for us in a special way. He is bringing both heaven and earth together, connecting us to Himself as One Body, and to share in the goodness of the Lord.
During the next several weeks, up to the October parish retreat, Fr. George and I will be contributing articles regarding the church’s Eucharistic Revival which is the church’s hope to strengthen and renew our faith in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.
We have witnessed scandals, division within the church and her members, diseases of every kind, and doubt have all contributed in some way or another in creating wounds and leaving scars in the wake of all of this, which now the church must take steps in healing those that have been hurt or left behind. The question we must ask ourselves is.…how?
The Church has withstood each of these failures throughout our very human history; the church may be a divine institution, guided by the Holy Spirit, but it is still an organization which is managed by flawed human beings. Today we confront all of them, all at once. The church and the holy father are responding to these failures at this moment in our history of the church and the world.
In the midst of these roaring waves, Jesus is present, reminding us that he is more powerful than the storms in our lives. He desires to heal, renew, and unify the Church and the world by making Himself present, and making Himself present means being present in the Eucharist itself. How will the Lord, the Holy Spirit and the church accomplish such a herculean task? By uniting us once again around the source and summit of our faith—the Holy Eucharist. The National Eucharistic Revival is the joyful, expectant, grassroots response of the entire Catholic Church in the U.S. to this divine invitation. We are all being called to participate in this revival in one way or another. And this is where for the next several weeks and months, Fr. George and I and the parish community will come together and decide how we can move forward on this vitally important mission that the church has entrusted to us. As the year goes by, I will keep you all informed about the Eucharistic Congress that is scheduled for July 2024 in Indianapolis. I am hoping our community can attend this occasion and share this time with other Catholic communities our belief in the real presence. Until then, God bless. Amen.
JUNE 19, 2022
What would you do if Jesus asked you to give up everything?
It could have gone very differently for the “rich young man” if he had chosen to give up everything for Jesus’ sake. But what can you and I give up in order to follow Christ? I think that is a question some of us asked ourselves at one time or another during our lives. What would I give up? And in giving up everything, how would that affect those I love? There are ripple effects that radiate from such a decision that do effect those around us.
As a religious some of us give up the opportunity to marry. Some who go into monastic or cloistered orders give up families, only seeing them once a year, if that. But what does the average Joe and Jane give up to follow Christ? What can the average layman or woman give up that is significant and yet not burdensome to family and friends?
The question is truly something to pray and discern about, especially since many of us have the desire to please our Lord in some tangible way and also to remain in the world.
Often times I read of ordinary people doing extraordinary things in their lives that contribute significantly to their communities. Some give of themselves by joining organizations, such as the Knights of Columbus, Catholic Charities, or the Catholic Movements that promote social justice
programs. These are all wonderful institutions in themselves. But what can we do to satisfy Jesus’ calling to make our lives more conformable to the mission each of us is given through our parent's gift of baptism?
This is a difficult and sometimes arduous journey each of us must decide to do; a journey that entails hardship and joy, a journey that has its failures and rewards. But at the end of it all we can say with joy and love the journey was well worth all of those things. To give up something, and not necessarily everything, instills in each of us a divine spark, knowing that we have accomplished something significant and not just for ourselves but for all in our community and world.
Some accomplish great things in their lives by denying themselves of everything, and there are those like you and me, who do what we can with the faculties and talents we possess, knowing that Christ appreciates all our efforts we make in his name. Amen.
JUNE 12, 2022
Celebrated Pentecost, now what?
While we celebrate Pentecost as the birthday of the Church, it isn’t a party where the guests leave and the party is over. We celebrate the arrival of the Holy Spirit that dwells within us daily. The collect, therefore, on the Feast of Pentecost best explains the now what:
O God, who by the mystery of today’s Great feast sanctify your whole Church in every people and nation, pour out, we pray the gifts of the Holy Spirit across the face of the earth and, with the divine grace that was at work when the Gospel was first proclaimed, fill now once more the hearts of believers. (italics are mine for emphasis)
We pray, therefore, for the same Spirit to infuse us with the same gifts. Wisdom is one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. («The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him- the Spirit of Wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of fortitude, the Spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord. Isaiah 11 :2) The Church teaches that wisdom is more than knowledge and understanding. As Rev. John Hardon SJ points out: where faith is a simple, knowledge of the articles of Christian belief, wisdom goes on to a certain divine penetration of the truths themselves. (Modern Catholic Dictionary: Image Books, New York, 1985).
The more we allow wisdom to guide us, the better we are able to discern the value of the world’s transient things. When we learn to detach ourselves from these things, wisdom guides us to love only the things of God, to discover and to discern so that we might lead holy and righteous lives. (Ephesians 1 :17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.)
Wisdom does not lead us to renunciation of the world but rather to care for it properly, to love our world as a creation of God and therefore all peoples. (Psalm 104 :24 O Lord, how manifold are Your works! In wisdom have you made them all: the earth is full of Your riches»). Wisdom is pure, peace loving, considerate, full of mercy, non-judgmental and sincere (James 3 :17). She wastes nothing and uses all our experiences to bring us to union with God. (So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom. Psalm 90 :12)
The gift of Wisdom is not an end in itself but an enduring expression of our hearts and minds, a way of living the joy of Christ. So let us always pray:
Spirit of God’s wisdom, fill us with understanding. Spirit of counsel, guide us on eternal paths. Spirit of love, teach us your way of prayer. Come, promised Spirit of Christ, pour out your gifts on us. Spirit of knowledge, teach us your truth. Spirit of strength, confirm us in fortitude. Come promised Spirit. Amen (Vigil of Pentecost: Vesper’s Response to Second Reading)
Fr. George Da Roza SSC
JUNE 5, 2022
My reflection on Pentecost and my mission as a Catholic priest occupy my thoughts this day and what I must do to continue as a servant of God for His people.
I cannot know what you think of Pentecost and what it means to observe this holy day as Catholic Christians. Every year we celebrate the importance of this feast which signals two things: the end of the Easter season and the beginning of the Christian Church.
We know from the Book of Acts, and from praying our rosary that the descent of the Holy Spirit comes upon the Apostles of Christ and are sent on their way to preach the Gospel to all people, to every place on the earth. This we know very well. But what does it mean to preach the Gospel to all people and how does one achieve this commissioning?
The Christian festival celebrating the descent of the Holy Spirit on the disciples of Jesus after his Ascension, is held on the seventh Sunday after Easter. It derives itself from the Jewish festival of Shavuoth. If you go back and read the Old Testament, you will discover that Pentecost was one of the Jewish feast days. Only they didnʹt call it Pentecost. Thatʹs the Greek name. The Jews called it the Feast of Harvest or the Feast of Weeks. It is mentioned five places in the first five books — in Exodus 23, Exodus 24, Leviticus 16, Numbers 28, and Deuteronomy 16.
We think that only the early church celebrated Pentecost, but in reality, Pentecost was the celebration of the beginning of the early weeks of harvest. In Palestine, for example, there were two harvests held each year. The early harvest came during the months of May and June and the final harvest came sometime during the Fall. Pentecost was the celebration of the beginning of the early wheat harvest, which meant that Pentecost always fell sometime during the middle of the month of May or sometimes in early June.
In our Catholic faith Pentecost has come to mean something entirely different. As I stated above, this is a time when the Holy Spirit descends to the disciples of Christ, changing them, giving them the ability to speak with different tongues and commissioning to share the Good News of the Lord. The significance of Pentecost to the church since then, is something that we need to walk through carefully, and we shouldnʹt ignore, because Pentecost was a Jewish celebration.
And so in our modern day of the New Testament church, we donʹt celebrate Pentecost in the way that the Old Testament Hebrews did. Instead we celebrate Pentecost as it was a moment in history after Christ had ascended into heaven. Christ promised during the gospel narratives, and during his earthly ministry, that he would leave, but that he would send an advocate, the Holy Spirit to accompany us. And it was at that moment in Pentecost where the spirit came, and he empowered the early believers, specifically the apostles that were left, and Peter.
Let us remember that Pentecost is also our mission to spread the Good News of Christ and to be a witness to that faith that Jesus, the Holy Spirit entrusted to us. Amen.
MAY 29, 2022
One of the great pleasures I have as a priest is getting to know many different people and their cultures. As many of you know, I love tasting different types of foods and cuisines from around the world and within our own borders. In addition to that, I also want to know about the person’s background and family history. Although there are some foods that are, ummm, hard to swallow, pun intended, I want to know and hear about the history, the taste and smell of their native foods, the music they listened to, and of course, about their faith journey.
These things all interest me as I think knowing my brothers and sisters in this way makes me a better priest and to understand who they are in a deeper way; as the holy father said to his priest on numerous occasions, “smell the sheep.” Christ makes a clear point of that statement to His disciples when He encourages them to make the effort to know our people and for them to know us. “The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” And in John 10:14–15 provides another insight: “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father.” These two statements should compel us to follow Christ’ lead in knowing who our brothers and sisters are within and outside our community.
I believe that if given the chance we would all benefit from this way of thought, and action. To understand someone, their problems, their way of thinking, gives us the opportunity to know someone in an intimate way, allowing us an insightful view from their perspective.
Someone once said that if you were to invite people of opposing ideas and ideologies together around the dinner table, you could solve most of the world’s problems. That’s sound a bit simplistic, but nonetheless, such possibilities might have a wide range effect on how we see and communicate with each other. My great uncle John had in his kitchen a small wooden plaque that had a Native American quote on it that read, “I have seen that in any great undertaking it is not enough for a man to depend simply upon himself.” - Lone Man, Teton Sioux -
We are a social animal, our DNA is geared toward interactions with our fellow human beings and as such we are responsible for each other.
St. Paul described our relationship with others in this way: “The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.”
We are all part of this same world, this same planet and we must be able to understand each other if we are to get along peacefully. Christ is the answer we search for, He is our refuge, for He alone can give us the peace that the world cannot give. “My peace I give you, my peace I leave you.” Peace to you brothers and sisters. God bless.
MAY 22, 2022
As I look out my office window I see construction of a new parking lot materializing and hearing the sounds of trucks moving about, rumbling and vibrating the whole house. I think about the church and how the church is always evolving in her understanding of our human nature and the world around her. The Church’s beliefs and dogmas are solid and grounded in God’s Word, and the way in which we come together to worship and pray. Prayer is always something we try doing everyday and sometimes we fail to keep that time for prayer. And that is okay. God does not expect us to be perfect people… or for me to be perfect. St. Therese of Lisieux writes, “For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.” And, "True prayer," wrote St. Augustine, "is nothing but love." Prayer should arise from the heart. "Prayer," said St. John Vianney, "is the inner bath of love into which the soul plunges itself." "Everyone of us needs half an hour of prayer each day," remarked St. Francis de Sales, "except when we are busy—then we need an hour."
Definitions of prayer are important, but insufficient. There is a huge difference between knowing about prayer and praying. On this issue, the Rule of St. Benedict is clear, "If a person wants to pray, let them go and pray.” These are all wise and encouraging words to entice us to pray often, everyday and sometimes more than once a day, if at all possible.
In today’s world, our nation is facing tremendous obstacles for prayer to happen; many distractions can take us away from prayer. But as my friend Sr. Margarita suggested to me many years
ago, “let those distractions be a part of your prayer.”
As a nation and culture we are witnessing many forms of lawlessness, anger, frustrations, loneliness, hatred, disrespect of the human person and lack of Charitable Christian forgiveness, which can, in many ways, be worrisome to most.
When I feel disheartened and fearful, I always remember the reassuring words Jesus utters to His disciples, “Peace I leave you; my peace I give you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.”
Christ will never let us down, or abandon us to the Evil One, but will keep us always in His embrace. This is why we must pray for all walks of life, from those who advocate for a woman’s choice and those who fight to choose life. Our wonderful church affords everyone from conception to natural death, the dignity each deserves. We believe that the human person is created in the likeness of God, the Creator, and as such, human being are entitled to love and care. The Church constantly makes herself relevant to every society in which it exists and is continuously fighting for the dignity that each person deserves. And that is why this day I appeal to your love of God, to seek that which is good and to share our love with those who hate and destroy. To share our peace with those who cannot find peace and to those who are lost or isolated for circumstances beyond their control. If we are to live as Christ commands us to live, then we must make an effort to do so. God bless.
MAY 15, 2022
Pentecost will soon be upon us and as we continue our faith journey that was endowed to us by virtue of our baptism, I would like to remind all of us of the importance of that mission we received.
Pentecost is celebrated on the 50th day from Easter Sunday. It commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and other followers of Jesus Christ while they were in Jerusalem celebrating the Feast of Weeks, as described in the Acts of the Apostles.
The festival of Pentecost is important to Catholic Christians because it represents the beginning of the Church. It reminds us how Jesusʹ promise that God would send the Holy Spirit to guide us and protect us for all eternity, was fulfilled on that day. We can be assured of this and to know God keeps his promises to the “thousandth generation”.
Why do priest’s wear the color red? The color red in church vestments and decorations, represents blood and, therefore, of martyrdom. Not only is the color red worn on the feasts of martyrs but the color may also be worn as well on Palm Sunday, Pentecost, Good Friday and celebrations of Christʹs passion.
ʺThe pope will wear a crimson outer-garment because it expresses the churchʹs belief -- like the martyrs -- that he is a witness of the faith,ʺ said Stephen Miles, assistant professor of theology at Loyola College in Maryland.
The cardinals also wear red because they are considered the closest advisers to the pope and therefore should be ready to shed their blood for the church and Christ; this I did not know until I was doing my research on church calendar color schemes.
After all of this, we return to “Ordinary” time and to wearing green vestments and church decorations.
On to other topics. Summer is coming and I am fast at work planning various spiritual gatherings and events to help shepherd you through our spiritual trek together. Details will soon be available along with dates, places and times.
Beginning June 8th, faith formation is planning three monthly movie afternoons. Our first feature will be “A Man Called Ove”. In July, is the wonderful film, “Brooklyn” and in August we feature the movie “Bella”. All movies will be shown on Wednesday afternoons at 1:00 in the parish hall.
In September, Fr. George will offer a one day retreat here at the parish center and I will conduct a one day retreat for the staff and ministry heads at San Damiano retreat center in Danville. The theme for that day will be “What is Parish Leadership?”.
This parish community is so eager and so wanting of things spiritual and prayerful, that I am getting excited and eager to begin all these programs, events and things to explore with you and to take our journey together in an altogether different path. Hopefully in concert with each other, we can achieve great things in our parish community. I will keep you all updated as we move forward. God bless.
MAY 8, 2022
Last week, Sunday, May 1st, I wrote about meditation and how we can apply that to our everyday lives. And today I will describe the church’s understanding of what is contemplation and how it differs from the practice of meditation.
So much of this will be personal, depending on the circumstances of one’s life at any particular moment and how one is led, through the promptings of God’s Spirit, to one or another aspect of the scene.
Note that this is one scene, and that the Scriptures are an inexhaustible resource for “understanding the why and the how of the Christian life” and in deepening our relationship with God.
What is Contemplation? How can I use this tool to further deepen my friendship with God, His Son, and the relationship to the saints and Scripture?
It is now time to speak of contemplation. No hard and fast distinction separates meditation from contemplation, but they are different and in many ways. It is probably best to think of them as two ends of a continuum.
As suggested in last week’s bulletin, there comes a time in meditation when the mental engagement, the “pondering” stops, and the focus of awareness shifts from our own thoughts and feelings to a silence that is deeper than anything produced by our mental efforts.
In contemplation for example, we make ourselves radically available for the presence of God. It is perhaps best expressed by the psalmist, “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)
The Catechism puts it this way. “Contemplative prayer is the simple expression of the mystery of prayer. It is a gaze of faith fixed on Jesus, an attentiveness to the Word of God, a silent love. It achieves real union with the prayer of Christ to the extent that it makes us share in his mystery.”
As for the witness of the saints, here is St. John of the Cross explanation: “contemplation is naught else than a secret, peaceful and loving infusion from God which, if it be possible, enkindles the soul with a spirit of love.”
And as St. Alphonsus states: “In meditation, God is sought after by a discursive effort; in contemplation there is no effort of this kind, as God has been found and is gazed at.”
We should pray, then, for the gift of contemplation. It presupposes a receptive heart, and most often, the effort to attach ourselves to Christ through the practice of meditation. It is a kind of divine peace in the midst of the chaos of our lives.
In the spirit of St. Paul, who identifies love as the greatest of the theological virtues, because it is the one that endures, so too, contemplation will absorb us for all eternity. It is the loving gaze of the beloved upon the wellspring of all love. (Ratzinger)
As we move forward, and the weeks and months pass, I want to invite you all to join me for Lectio Divina. Dates, time and place are forthcoming. Until then, may the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob be with you always. Amen.
MAY 1, 2022
What are the differences between meditating and contemplating?
While attending the Seminary I too was a bit confused about the differences and that these two practices or styles, are not the same and should not be used interchangeably.
One way of making sense of the difference is to understand that, according to our Catholic faith, those who enter heaven will spend all of eternity contemplating God. This suggests to us that contemplation represents a fulfillment of all of our efforts to deepen our personal relationship with God. It has the character of a gift that is given to us through the grace of gazing on the very source of our life.
Please let us remember that the goal for all types of prayer is to help us grow in our relationship with God, to deepen our faith and to understand that relationship we so desire. So, we should not be preoccupied with the particular kind or method of prayer that we lose sight for the reason for praying in the first place.
As such, with all relationships, it requires concentrated effort on our part, but we also need to remain open to receive from the other. Amid the many distractions of our daily lives, growing in intimacy with God will not happen without putting aside time each day to focus on the essentials of our lives.
For Catholics, this means to focus on the God who has created us for Himself and who, through his Son, has redeemed us from our sins. By first giving attention to the relationship, you may then be prepared to discover what form of prayer suits you best. It is through these two articles, the first part in today’s bulletin, and the second part in next Sunday’s bulletin, I will untangle the confusion these two very different types of prayer are and how one can meditate, contemplate or practice both styles.
Let us focus on what Meditation is and the practice one can achieve through it.
There are many different kinds of meditation, but they all involve an engaged form of mental activity, a deep concentration of the moment. When we meditate, for example, we do the work in order for us to achieve the desired result of it. We might read the Gospel and ponder its meaning, Lectio Divina, in itself and for our own lives. We can meditate on the mysteries of the faith, as we do when reciting the Rosary. This helps us to see that two elements of meditation are some type of “raw material” and a disciplined practice.
As the Catechism of the Catholic Church points out, in meditation the “mind seeks to understand the why and the how of the Christian life, in order to adhere and respond to what God is asking.” (CCC 2705)
Let’s take an example. I’ll use the Gospel passage narrating the miracle of the loaves and fishes in Matthew’s Gospel, which I believe best illustrates itself to meditation on a number of levels. We might find ourselves thinking about the hunger many people endure without food and drink. Which in turn could lead us to think of those in the world, perhaps in our own city or neighborhood, who suffer from the lack of nutritious and healthy food. Or sometimes our thoughts may touch us about ourselves with; our own hungers for example and not just a physical hunger but a spiritual hunger. We may focus our attention on the disciples and how helpless they must have felt when Jesus told them to provide food for the people themselves, echoing the helplessness we can often feel in the face of the needs of others. Or we may meditate on the miracle itself.
That is a powerful lesson in trust and humility, recognizing how much good, through the power of God, can be done with the few resources at our disposal. We may also wish to ponder the abundant mercy of Jesus, whose compassionate heart responds to the material and spiritual hungers of the crowd.
Finally, we may do well to meditate on Christ’s gift of himself in the Eucharist, so clearly foreshadowed in the blessing and breaking of the loaves. All of this, in turn, will lead us in the direction of contemplating the immensity of God’s love for us. For now let us meditate on this Sunday’s Gospel and how the readings of today can impact on our lives and how best to meditate on those words we hear today. Amen. Next week I’ll discuss what the church’s understanding of contemplation means and how Thomas Merton used this valuable tool to get in touch with his relationship with God. God Bless!
APRIL 24, 2022
Happy Easter! First, I would like to thank all of those who assisted during the Holy Week, Triduum and Easter Liturgies. They all did a great job in making all of last week a beautiful and holy experiences for many of us.
And I would like to thank each and everyone of you for coming and bringing your families to join our community for the Easter Vigil and morning Masses. It was wonderful to see you all, especially the young kids and hearing the babies cry out during the mass; I am so grateful to this community.
As this was my first Easter to share with you, I want to express my thoughts and feelings of what we all enjoyed together. Firstly, the church was beautifully decorated and the music was incredible. The volunteers all did a fantastic job of making sure we all enjoyed the festivities of this holy of holidays on the Christian calendar.
As we enter the Octave of Easter to await the Holy Spirit as He descends on Pentecost Sunday, we are reminded of what our obligations are as baptized Catholics. But what is the “Octave” of Easter and why is it so important to us?
The Catholic Church reminds us that, “With the whole Church we rejoice at the resurrection of Christ! The Church celebrates the Easter season or Eastertide. St. Athanasius said “the fifty days from the Sunday of the Resurrection to Pentecost Sunday are celebrated in joy and exultation as one feast day, indeed as one “great Sunday”. But the first eight days or octave specifically celebrate the solemnity of Easter every day. This serves as a companion piece to the Octave of the Christmas season.
There are two principal feasts in the Liturgical Year of both the Eastern and Western Churches: Easter and Christmas. These two seasons are both solemnities and in the current liturgical calendar are the only feast days that have octaves attached to them.
As stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, (CCC) 11. Solemnities are counted as the principal days in the calendar and their observance begins with Evening Prayer I of the preceding day. Some also have their own vigil Mass for use when Mass is celebrated in the evening of the preceding day.
The celebration of Easter and Christmas, the two greatest solemnities, continues for eight days. The comprehension and joy of this amazing gift of Christ conquering sin and death by His death and resurrection cannot be confined to just one day. The Church as a mother understands the needs of man. Within the liturgical calendar there is a built-in pattern that corresponds to human rhythms: times of preparation and penance building up to major feasts with celebrations that are prolonged, and multi-level feast days spread throughout the year. The Easter Octave gives us time to impress upon our souls the mysteries, joys and graces of the greatest feast of the Church. Each day of the Octave the liturgy dwells on the mysteries of the resurrection of Christ and our own resurrection through the sacrament of Baptism. That is why it is important to remember that, like Christmas, doesn’t end on Easter Sunday, but continues into the day of Pentecost, where we receive our mission as Christ Himself demands. Let us together look forward to celebrating that day in which the church is born. Amen. God Bless!
APRIL 17, 2022
HE IS RISEN! Happy Easter my brothers and sisters. I pray everyone at our community and beyond are doing well and that the love of God is with you and your family and friends on this day.
What a remarkable time for us to gather and witness our faith in action with the culmination of the Lenten season, the Triduum and this morning on Resurrection Sunday. We now move forward and wait for the descent of the Holy spirit and experience of Pentecost, it’s meaning and how we can prepare ourselves for that important moment in salvation history.
As we come together as a family of Christians, let us stop for a moment and take stock of our lives and reflect on what we have done in the past and what our expectations might be for our future.
As pastor and steward of this parish we have a number of projects I would like to share with you. Our first project is to re-landscape the parish property in order to meet the current drought conditions. The water bill to maintain the gardens as they are, have been enormous and will only become even more expensive as the drought continues. EBMUD is asking everyone to conserve water as California goes into its third year of drought. As a good steward, it is my responsibility to assure the parish’s finances are not wasted and so we must take steps that will reduce our usage of water, thereby reducing our financial cost. Secondly, the project after re-landscaping the grounds, is to re-do the parish parking lot. As many of you have seen, the parking lot is in dire need of replacement. The pot holes, cracks and other dangers require us to take safety into our hands so that none of you are injured as a result of a deteriorating parking lot. These two projects are sufficiently funded and will not impact on the parish’s overall savings and finances. I will make available to you more details of both projects as soon as they are presented to me.
This coming Spring and Summer will see the return of the Parish Pastoral Council, and faith formation programs. I am asking potential volunteers who wish to join our parish council to pray and discern their calling and how best they can assist me in providing for and making this a more faith filled and family oriented parish. My goal for the next two years is to bring young families to our parish insuring that St. Anne’s continues on for generations to come. The question is… how can we do this? That’s where you come in, with your ideas, thoughts, and prayers. This will take some effort, but certainly not an impossible task to undertake; I do look forward to working with you on many of these projects. All these things require hard, diligent work and dedication, and since I have only been here a short time, I know that this community can achieve the goals I’m setting for us.
As for the parking lot and landscaping projects are concerned, I will keep you all updated on the process and finances. God bless and have a lovely Easter brunch or dinner with family and friends.
APRIL 10, 2022
This week we are nearing our Lenten journey with this weekend’s Palm Sunday Liturgies and now entering the Sacred Triduum, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and finally Easter Sunday.
The Catholic Church’s mission is to carry out and continue the work of Jesus Christ on Earth and as per our parents promise when they decided to baptized us in the faith. The Church, and those in it, must:
Share the Word of God
Help those in need
Live as examples to all
Through this, missionaries aim to evangelize individuals and convert them to the Catholic faith. The sharing of the Gospel and the life of Christ started with the commissioning and sending out of the 12 apostles. At this command, Jesus is sending his first disciples out to continue his work and share the Word of God with the whole of humanity. This work and tradition is continued today by missionaries traveling the world, spreading the Gospel message and evangelizing to domestic and foreign lands and cultures around the world. Pope Francis in his encyclical: Evangelii Gaudium, further stresses the importance of missionary work to Catholics by emphasizing ... “that evangelization is first and foremost about preaching the Gospel to those who do not know Jesus Christ or who have always rejected him.” It is important to state this, especially after the Easter season and into Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended upon the twelve before sending them out to preach the Word of God.
However, the work of missionaries is not limited to any one area, culture or race. Galatians 3:28 shares the message that all of humanity are one in Christ and the work of the missionaries is to share: “So there is no difference between Jews and Gentiles, between slaves and free people, between men and women; you are all one in union with Christ Jesus.” This is who we are as Christians, and this is who we must be if we are to identify as committed Christians practicing in the world, particularly in this chaotic and often confusing time in human history. The Gospel values need to be lived out, which means helping people in need. Throughout the Gospels, Christ is seen with people who have sinned, people in pain and suffering and people who are marginalized in society. Pope Francis emphasizes this point in Evangelii Gaudium and outlines the role that all Catholics should consider undertaking: “But whom should she go first? When we read the Gospel we find a clear indication: not so much our friends and wealthy neighbors, but above all the poor and the sick, those who are usually despised and overlooked, "those who cannot repay you" (Lk 14:14).” As we near the end of our Lenten journey, let us step back a bit and contemplate what and how we are to live out the Gospel and be more Christ-like in our attitudes, and actions towards all and not just the few. God Bless.
APRIL 3, 2022
What is Holy Week? Holy Week is a string of eight days that allow us an opportunity to reflect upon Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and His Resurrection. It begins with Palm Sunday when Jesus enters the city of Jerusalem. The week then leads us to the Paschal Triduum or Easter Triduum, Holy Triduum, or the Three Days, is the period of three days that begins with the liturgy on the evening of Holy Thursday, reaches its high point in the Easter Vigil, and closes with evening prayer on Easter Sunday.
These three days of Christ’ life involve the Last Supper, His crucifixion, and ends on Easter Sunday with His resurrection. This is the basis of our Catholic Christian understanding, His sacrifice which began the New Covenant God promised and many had prophesied throughout the Old Testament. Each day of Holy Week allows us to peek into the heart of our Savior at intently close proximity. His love for us is reflected in every significant step toward the cross, every breath up to the last, and His resurrection.
How Holy Week Leads to Easter Sunday: Though Jesus didn’t walk the earth incarnate until He was born in Bethlehem to Mary and Joseph, He exists and works throughout the entirety of the Bible. Scripture assures us that He was present at Creation with the Father, that He is the Word, and many prophesy were specifically fulfilled during this final, holy week of Jesus’ life on earth. Each Gospel has a narrative of the last week of Jesus’ life; Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
During this one week, many biblical prophesies were fulfilled. Jesus came to earth to save humanity by dying on the cross on Good Friday and resurrecting on Easter Sunday. By enduring and defeating death sacrificially for us, He swung open the gates of heaven making a way for our sin to be forgiven and usher us into the presence of God.
Due to the sinful nature of humanity as a result of Adam and Eve’s fall in the garden of Eden, it’s impossible for us to be “good enough” to be in the presence of God and forgiven for our sins. Jesus died to make the way for salvation. The Old Testament Law offered many sacrifices to God, but Jesus was the perfect atoning sacrifice once and for all. He endured the cross out of His great love for us. Holy Week is a sacred opportunity to study the foundation of Christianity. Our God is not one of coincidence. Every step toward the cross was intentional, every lesson laced with His personal love for all of us. All that we see and do during this time is essential and important for us to pray, meditate and contemplate the actions our Savior did in order for us, God’s people, to reconcile our friendship with Him. let us be mindful of these next few weeks, to remember to fast and keep the Sabbath holy. God bless.
MARCH 27, 2022
Today we celebrate Laetare Sunday which is the fourth Sunday in the season of Lent, representing the middle of the church’s Lenten liturgical calendar.
This is also a sign that our Lenten journey is coming to an end and the high holy days are getting closer. Traditionally, Laetare Sunday has been a day of celebration, done within the austere period of Lent, giving us the opportunity to reflect even deeper as we journey through the Church’s great celebrations of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and finally Easter Sunday, and Jesus’ resurrection.
The name, Laetare, comes from the first words of the old Latin entrance hymnal for the Mass of that Liturgical day. Like the Advent season, where the four Advent candles represents the four Sundays preceding Christmas, which is when Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, are recognized for four virtues. The candles on the Advent wreath symbolize hope, love, joy and peace, the Third Sunday of Advent is called Gaudete (Rejoice) Sunday. On this day we celebrate that our waiting for the birth of Jesus on Christmas day is almost over. Rose is a liturgical color that is used to signify joy, so we light the single pink candle on the third Sunday of Advent. During the Lenten and especially on Laetare Sunday the priest wears the rose vestment that is traditional on this day.
Now we begin the final leg of our Lenten journey. Let me encourage you to re-think and re-commit yourself as I will do the same to make a real Lenten sacrifice that has real meaning and not a superficial one. I know that a sacrifice is difficult to make, but when making a sacrifice we do it out of love and dedication to family, church and ourselves. To sacrifice for a time should be a joy and a period of cleansing making ourselves spiritually clean for Jesus’ passion and crucifixion. And along with that, our joining to Him, gives us the chance to reconnect with the Father in holy friendship. Our reconciliation with God is important as we know how much God loves us that he sacrificed His only Son so that you and I can be admitted to the kingdom that Jesus our Savior teaches.
Many of us were taught as children to “give up something” for Lent. The sacrifices in Lent are really a penance, in the same spirit as the Ninevites that repented at the preaching of Jonah. Throughout our history, Christians have found prayer, fasting, and almsgiving to be an important part of repentance and renewal. Many Catholics now add something during Lent rather than giving up something, either to address personal habits that need work or to add some outreach to others in need. Let us add to that which we give up by attending special devotions, praying the rosary more often, and giving more to the poor. May God bless us all as we continue on to Holy Week.
MARCH 13, 2022
What is the real definition of fasting? “fasting, abstinence from food or drink or both for health, ritualistic, religious, or ethical purposes. The abstention may be complete or partial, lengthy, of short duration, or intermittent.”
What is the church’s understanding of fasting?
“The Catholic Church historically observes the disciplines of fasting and abstinence at various times each year. For Catholics, fasting is the reduction of one's intake of food, while abstinence refers to refraining from something that is good, and not inherently sinful, such as meat.”
When I Fast during the forty days of Lent I usually remove certain food like red meats, and sweets from my diet. Unfortunately, sometimes the temptation of eating those things is too great, especially when someone is gifting you a box of See's Candies. But rather than lament my failed attempt in keeping my Fast, I view this as a challenge for me to start again, only this time exchanging the thing I crave with something more savory for me to taste. And what might that be? The Word of God for me is tastier than anything you can place on a table. If we are to succeed in Fasting we must think of God’s Word as food for the soul and heart. As it is written in the Book of Psalms: “Fasting is a way to humble yourself in the sight of God (Psalm 35:13; Ezra 8:21). King David said, “I humbled my soul with fasting”. Jesus goes on to say: “It is written: Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” Matthew 4:4. And in Proverbs 16:24: “Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”
Fasting is our sacrifice during this time of Lenten preparation, and anticipation. We share in Christ’ passion, His Resurrection and Ascension. We share as a people the ills of the world and united with our brothers and sisters who suffer because of the greed and folly of humans, we try being with them, if not person, but in spirit.
As a community of Catholic Christians we sacrifice during this time in order to empathize with others who are in greater need of prayer and understanding. We witness the ugliness of war and famine, specifically in the Ukraine where the people of that nation are suffering under the weight of another. We see that human life is sometimes trivialized and marginalized. What has happened to our society when the unborn are discard or the elderly are forgotten. How can we better maintain our environment and all that God created? God has given us this time to also maintain ourselves, physically, bodily and spiritually. Let us Fast from our material things and partake in things that are beneficial and more substantial to our wellbeing. And let us unite ourselves with Christ and His people. God bless.
MARCH 6, 2022
This first Sunday of Lent is the beginning of our pascal journey and spending time with Jesus and the story of our salvation. This is foremost a simple thing: it is our time with Christ, to set our faces to Jerusalem and accompany him to the cross. Lent is our time to be with the crucified Lord, and to wait quietly with him for the brilliance of his resurrection. (Liturgical press, 2021) It is also a time of preparation and penance.
Last week Sr. Nancy from the Daughters of St. Paul, presented the parish Lenten mission which was based on the movie “The Way”.
She provided for us the necessary spiritual tools to use for the next forty days, by encouraging us to pray, think and to understand the journey we will undertake with each other and others in our community.
In the movie, “The Way”, which stars Martin Sheen and his son, Emilio Estevan, who also directed and produced this very touching film of lost faith, and the journey to recover that which was lost, is a powerful story of death and resurrection and about sacrifice and redemption. Sr. Nancy uses these themes as guide posts for us to follow and to discern how we can become closer to Jesus’ passion and share in his resurrection.
travel. God always knows what is best for us, and so that's when God’s plan takes place, showing us an entirely different path by forcing us to rethink what God truly desires of us or for us. When that
occurs, that's when we realize the true journey which God had decided for us to walk. The movie, “The Way”, showed us the many different journeys each of the four characters take and what their motivations were for taking the journey in the first place. Why would anyone want to make this grueling and arduous form of travel through desolate and sometimes lonely roads? What purpose is it to set ourselves on such a journey and what, if any, are the expectations? Are we looking for a miracle or miracles to aid us in our quest to find God or is the quest to find ourselves? We feel a need to deepen our relationship with Jesus and God, but we must stop for a moment and examine
not just the spiritual but also the inner being, the essence that make us who we are in this world and
As part of our discernment, fasting and prayer, I suggest we pay closer attention to what we really need in order for us to achieve the thing we most desire during this time of preparation. What are the motivations for our desire during this time, how do we better ourselves for others and most importantly how will we achieve the goal we set for ourselves? Effort is required along with prayer if we are to realize our objective. God bless.
FEBRUARY 27, 2022
March second is Ash Wednesday, a day we all gather to receive ashes and it also marks the beginning of the Lenten Season for most Christians around the world. For the Latin and Eastern-rite Churches and some Protestant denominations, this is also a time to prepare for the coming of our Savior. It is also a period to observe the fast and sacrifice the thing or things we love best.
Ash Wednesday, which is always 46 days before Easter Sunday, is marked by repentance, fasting, reflection, and ultimately ending with the Resurrection of our Lord on Easter Morning. This 40-day period represents Christ’s time of temptation in the wilderness, where he fasted and where Satan tempted him. Lent asks believers to set aside a time each year for similar fasting, marking an intentional season of focus on Christ’s life, ministry, sacrifice, and His resurrection.
As Catholic Christians, it is our obligation to observe these commitments and to be in solidarity with our brothers and sisters who are less fortunate than we are here in the United States. In the days prior to Lent, I encourage all of us to try one or more of the suggestions listed below:
kingdom. God bless.
FEBRUARY 20, 2022
How do you prepare for Lent? How have you prepared in the past? What are your ideas about what should happen during Lent?
Today I was searching for topics to discuss and the one that comes to mind is how do we prepare ourselves for Lent and Easter.
Two questions I’m not quite sure how some Catholics have answered in the past, nor do I think some
know how to answer that question today. This is of course through no fault of anyone, but it is something I would like for us to discern before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Lenten season.
As Catholics of the Latin Rite church, we have a tradition that dates back many generations. The practices of praying, fasting, and almsgiving are very important to most and many adhere to this practice even though some might not know exactly why we do these things. So, we pray more than usual, or we pray with different emphases than what we normally do during the course of the year.
Sometimes as part of our sacrifice, we eat smaller or fewer meals or give up a favorite food or beverage. We give more of our resources or give them specifically to special works of mercy during Lent: Prayer, fasting, and charitable giving continue to be quite good practices during Lent or really at any time of the year, but most importantly during this time of preparation.
But the one thing I do emphasize to all, including myself, is this: If I give something up, what do I replace that thing with? It’s fine to give up the thing or things you enjoy and to make that sacrifice, but is it a real sacrifice if one is only giving up a material thing, such as a favorite food or drink or activity? What would be more substantial than those listed? And if giving up those things, what then do you substitute that thing with?
You might think, how do I prepare myself for this season? What needs to happen within so that I can practice with more integrity and intention whatever I’m doing on the outside?
There are plenty of ideas for actions and practices during Lent; coming up with ideas usually is not the problem. But we don’t want to do anything simply to be doing it, even if it’s a good thing. We don’t want to make a list of merciful works so that we can place a checkmark beside each one as we accomplish it. There should be a conversion of sorts that will enhance one’s life for not just the forty days of Lent, but for the rest of one’s life. Conversion is the key to any practice of faith, prayer, and almsgiving. It’s good to have a plan for doing. It’s also good to have a plan for being.
How do I want to be during Lent this year? More quiet and thoughtful? More open to God’s desires? Better able to sit with people who need me? More attentive to sacred readings, whether in church or in private? Do I need to be more compassionate toward my own fears and failings? Do I need to become more courageous about using the gifts God has given me?
Next week I’ll continue this discussion and provide some thoughts of what I am planning for my own
conversion and sacrifice. Until then, God bless.
FEBRUARY 13, 2022
What is the one thing we all desire in life? Generally speaking, I believe it is to live a happy and healthy life. The quote below directs us to embrace a life worth living, a life of fulfillment, and a life of peace, love and charity:
“We are constituted so that simple acts of kindness, such as giving to charity or expressing gratitude, have a positive effect on our long-term moods. The key to the happy life, it seems, is the good life: a life with sustained relationships, challenging work, and connections to community.”
I would also add, a life in faith and belief in God and His Son. Billy Graham, the great evangelical minister said,
“The Christian life is not a constant high. I have my moments of deep discouragement. I have to go to God in prayer with tears in my eyes, and say, 'O God, forgive me,' or 'Help me.”
With these words and others that will follow in future installments beginning in the Sunday before Lent, I would like to begin us on our Lenten journey by encouraging you to discern what thing or things we are willing to and capable of “giving up” for the upcoming Lenten Season. What is it that matters a great deal to me that I am willing, without hesitation, to sacrifice; and NOT just something superficial but something that I have a strong connection to and willing to forgo for the forty days of fasting that will soon be upon us. Jesus himself set off into the desert for forty days and there He was tempted by that master of deception;
“At that time Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights and afterwards was hungry.” Matthew 4:1-11
It is through this passage that we model our own behavior during this time of preparation for Jesus’ ministry, passion, resurrection and ascension into heaven. And it is through this time that we prepare ourselves for our own time in the desert. Life is worth living as Bishop Sheen is often quoted, but to make life worth living, we have to struggle, and find our way through the desert of apathy, indifference, violence, hatred, and sloth. As caring human beings we are not isolated from one another, but rather, we are part of a community of believers, and as such we must remember the Words our Savior uttered, and that is to love our neighbor as our self and to love God, the Father, who loves us above all other things. We all want the good life, but in order to appreciate that good life, we need to exercise our spiritual muscles in order for our soul to remain strong through the storms that come with living in a fractured and damaged world. Let us remember that the desert can be a cleansing place, a place isolated so that you and I can spend time to understand our mission that God has given us. That life is only worth while so long as we share ourselves with others, especially those in need of love, understanding and who are lonely. God bless.
FEBRUARY 6, 2022
“What does stewardship mean in the Catholic Church?
Stewardship, quite simply, is recognizing that everything we have and everything we are is a gift from God and being grateful and generous with those gifts. God reveals His perfect and infinite love for us most visibly in His Son, Jesus Christ. A steward makes God's love visible by imitating Jesus.”
As I continue writing on this subject, I would like to bring to bear our obligations as men and women of Christ’ body, that to be members of His church is to serve others in and around our parish community. It is imperative and significant that we recognize those obligations we received at our baptism and which we now share with others through that initiation. For to be a Catholic Christian is to be part of the human race, the human suffering and the human joy that makes us brothers and sisters in Christ’ body. The idea of stewardship can mean only one thing and that is to provide and share what material things we have for others who are less fortunate that we. Most Christians believe that God gave human beings a special responsibility within creation to cultivate it, guard it and use it wisely. This is called stewardship. Humans has to work within creation and to look after it: God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. We too are cultivators in God’s creation, always providing and caring for ALL of His works on earth, under the earth and above the earth.
Here are the last two principles of Christian stewardship for you to review:
The Principle of Accountability
A steward is one who manages the possessions of another. We are all stewards of the resources, abilities, and opportunities that God has entrusted to our care, and one day each one of us will be called to give an account for how we have managed what the Master has given us.
This is the maxim taught by the parable of the talents. God has entrusted authority over the creation to us and we are not allowed to rule over it as we see fit. We are called to exercise our dominion under the watchful eye of the Creator, managing His creation in accord with the principles He has established.
Like the servants in the parable of the talents, we will be called to give an account of how we have administered everything we have been given, including our time, money, abilities, information, wisdom, relationships, and authority. We will all give account to the rightful owner as to how well we managed the things he has entrusted to us.
The Principle of Reward
In Colossians 3:23-24 Paul writes: "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving."
The Bible shows us in the parables of the kingdom that faithful stewards who do the Master's will with the Master's resources can expect to be rewarded incompletely in this life, but fully in the next. We all should long to hear the Master say what He exclaims in Matthew 25:21: "Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!" As Christians in the 21st century, we need to embrace this larger biblical view of stewardship, which goes beyond church budgets or building projects, though important; it connects everything we do with what God is doing in the world.
We need to be faithful stewards of all God has given us within the opportunities presented through His providence to glorify Him, serve the common good, and further His kingdom.
JANUARY 30, 2022
“Stewardship is taking care of something like a large household, the arrangements for a group or the resources of a community. An example of stewardship is the responsibility of managing the staff of an estate. An example of stewardship is the act of making wise use of the natural resources provided by the earth.”
The Catholic social teaching principle of stewardship is about being responsible guardians; we are guardians of the earth and as such, we exercise stewardship by caring for the gifts God has given us, which include the environment, our own personal talents and other resources both temporal and spiritual. We leave things and give to those after us something better than what we received. This is good stewardship.
In my first installment of this three-part article, I mentioned four guiding principles of good stewardship:
What is the principle of ownership? In the beginning God creates everything and puts Adam in the garden to work it and take care of it. It is clear that people were created work and to manage all of God’s works. This is the fundamental principle of biblical stewardship. That is to say that God owns everything, we, His creation, are simply caretakers acting on His behave. Therefore stewardship expresses our obedience regarding the administration of everything God has placed under our control. Stewardship is the commitment of one’s self and possessions to God’s service, recognizing that we do not have the right of control over our property and ourselves. In Deuteronomy 8:17 we read: “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” However in Deuteronomy 8:18 suggests us to think otherwise: “Remember the Lord your God for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth.”
The principle of responsibility: “Although God gives us ‘all things richly to enjoy,’ nothing is ours. Nothing really belongs to us. God owns everything; we’re responsible for how we treat it what we do with it. While we complain about our rights here on earth, the Bible constantly asks, what about your responsibilities? Owners have rights; stewards have responsibilities.” We are all called as God’s stewards to manage that which belongs to God. While God graciously entrusted us with the care, development, and enjoyment of everything he owns as his stewards, we are responsible to manage, or maintain, God’s holdings with care and according to His desires and purposes.
Next week I will continue this discussion regarding the last two principles. Until then, God bless and Amen.
JANUARY 23, 2022
“Christian Stewardship refers to the responsibility that Christians have in maintaining and using wisely the gifts that God has bestowed. God wishes human beings to be his collaborators in the work of creation, redemption and sanctification.”
Last week I wrote an outline regarding Christian stewardship and the various points in which I believe
this parish should take. This week I would like to elaborate a bit more on this subject as I think it is important for us as a community to review this particular theme in relationship to how we proceed forward.
As Christians we sometimes forget that we are not alone, but part of something greater than what we see around us. I count myself blessed since arriving here, knowing that elsewhere in the East Bay there are areas where some of our brothers and sisters are less fortunate than we are at St. Anne’s, and the Rossmoor community.
I wake each morning, seeing nature just outside my bedroom and living room windows knowing there are inner city and rural communities struggling to maintain any sort of peace or wellbeing; this is where good stewardship comes into play. With all that we have, and with all the materials things we own, stewardship grants us the opportunity to take some of our surplus goods and give to those less fortunate than we. But stewardship also means to take care of and be responsible for the gifts God has given us to maintain and safeguard for future generations to enjoy. As a long time Sierra Club member, I have long regarded my place on earth as part of something greater than myself. It is through that understanding that I have acknowledged what my duty is and what my obligations are to my neighbors.
Stewardship as I mentioned in last week’s article, isn’t only about fundraising or parish building projects, but something more important than those. Stewardship is about our whole being in committing ourselves to God’s works. Biblical stewardship means being a caretaker of God's kingdom. As Peter said, in 1 Peter 4:10-11, “As each has received a gift, employ it in serving one another, as good managers of the grace of God in its various forms. If anyone speaks, let it be as it were the very words of God.”
The question I ask myself, and I encourage you to discern for yourself this, how can I be a good steward of God and His Creation?
The answer is to Believe and understand that everything you have belongs to God. In everything you do, and with every decision you make, look first to how you can serve the Lord. Always invest the things he's trusted to you into kingdom work. Love God first, and love other people second.
Next week I will review each of these points: The principle of ownership, the principle of responsibility, the principle of accountability and the principle of reward. During the season of Lent I will have a questionnaire for you to respond on what your thoughts are and how we can best serve our community. Until then. Amen.
JANUARY 16, 2022
“Christian Stewardship refers to the responsibility that Christians have in maintaining and using wisely the gifts that God has bestowed. God wishes human beings to be his collaborators in the work of creation, redemption and sanctification.”
Why is stewardship important in Christianity?
The term stewardship means to look after the world for God. God has created a world in which humans have a special role as stewards of creation. This means they should look after the interests of the planet and all life on it. ... When God gave humans dominion over the land, he gave them responsibility too.
Last week’s bulletin I wrote about pope Francis and his urgent plea regarding our collective responsibility to take care of our environment and the creatures within. His plea is based on God’s gifts to humankind in which He gave us dominion over every living thing and to share that responsibly with others. The holy father warns us if we do not act now “future generations will never forgive us if we miss the opportunity to protect our common home”.
One of the programs I would like to introduce to this community is the idea of what stewardship is and what we can do and accomplish as a community of believers and how to share this idea with the surrounding community at large.
C.S. Lewis writes: “Every faculty you have, your power of thinking or of moving your limbs from moment to moment, is given you by God. If you devoted every moment of your whole life exclusively to His service, you could not give Him anything that was not in a sense His own already.” A question was recently asked, what does stewardship look like in our lives today? Sadly, many Christians can only associate the idea of stewardship with sermons they heard about church budget and building programs. For many people the concept of stewardship is associated only with money and finances. However, a biblical concept of what stewardship is about is much more expansive and has a much deeper meaning than what is associated in the secular world. Here in this writing, I will list briefly the four principles of biblical stewardship and next week I will of write in greater detail what each of these points mean.
JANUARY 9, 2022
“With each passing moments, let us embrace the New Year with a brighter, colorful, and joyous future. Happy New Year!”.
What are some of your expectations for this coming year?
That’s always a difficult question to ask. And sometimes we may not know the answer, especially during these uneasy times. But I’m not a pessimist; I never look at the glass as half empty. Last week the church celebrated Epiphany and as the new year begins we start looking to the future. What are we planning in the next six months or what are our long term goals and desires. Can we hope those plans come to fruition? If not, what are we to do?
As I wrote above, I am not a pessimist, I want to stay optimistic, and hopeful for my future, for the future of my family, friends and parishioners. I want to especially remain hopeful for our nation and world. Pope Francis led dozens of religious leaders on Oct. 4, 2021 in issuing a plea to protect the environment, warning that “Future generations will never forgive us if we miss the opportunity to protect our common home.” ... however Francis is not the first Catholic leader to emphasize care for our planet, nor will he be the last. As God is the creator He gave us this planet not for us to exploit its riches and resources, but to be the caretakers of His Creation. To be a caretaker means to do precisely as the word means, to take care of something so that future generations may inherit and enjoy the wonder of God’s creation. Francis evoked the need for "a renewed sense of shared responsibility for our world", adding that "each of us - whoever and wherever we may be - can play our own part in changing our collective response to the unprecedented threat of climate change and the degradation of our common home." No matter what your understanding of climate change may be, the holy father, understandably, expresses his concern for the planet we share with billions of others. Our world that was given to us from God the Creator, is ours for a short time and should be cared for as God intended for us to do so.
Our church has responded to the challenges raised by environmental issues by stressing the need for every individual and every nation to play their part. The important points that the Church makes include the beliefs that: creation has value because it reveals something about God the creator. These values extend not just to the environment in which we live, but includes all living creatures, from the most vulnerable to the poor and to those of wealthier nations. We in the West have a greater responsibility to provide for our planet in cooperation with governments of lesser means. The great St. John Paul II continued the Enlightenment separation of humans from nature, emphasizing the dignity of cooperative human labor as making something productive of God's gift of nature. "The pope is saying that the challenge of climate disruption and environmental deterioration will require ethical responses.”
“God requires that we assist the animals when they need our help. Each being (human or creature) has the same right of protection.” – St. Francis of Assisi
This New Year, let us together bring peace and prosperity to all our brother and sister creatures.
JANUARY 2, 2022
“We must often feel weary and tired yet God brings us through all these things.” - Saint Mary MacKillop.
Happy New Year and may it be a good and sane one. These last two years have been difficult for many of us. We’ve had our ups and downs; loosing loved ones and watching as our great nation went through some rather disturbing times. The pandemic continues to severely interrupted our lives by keeping us from doing the things we’ve grown accustomed in doing, especially going out in public without a mask. But given our love, our faith and our dedication to each other, we the American people will prevail. And through all of this we still find joy during this Advent, Christmas season and Epiphany.
I believe this new year will remedy the ills of the last two years and perhaps guide us, our community and our nation to be stronger in faith and bring us the needed hope we desire. 2021 was an annus horribilis, (a horrible year), but we weathered that storm with poise and dignity. In the Gospel story, Jesus calms the storm and settles the churning seas, so we too must seek refuge in His company as the apostles did during their time of lost faith. And even though we needn’t dwell on this past year, we should remember those whose lives have been altered in many ways. Those are the people we must focus on and pray for during this time of uncertainty. What I encourage all of us to do is focus on our faith, to spread the good news to others by witnessing our belief in Jesus and His Church. It will be through us, you and me, to bring hope to the hopeless and faith to those whose faith has been shattered or those who are discouraged. If we are to be the good neighbor as Jesus encourages us to be, then we need to take action and perform the duties given to us through our baptism. The church gives us the tools of faith, hope, charity and love, to combat whatever is thrown at us and for us to aid those in need, especially the most vulnerable in our society.
2022 should be an annus mirabilis, of year of hope and miracles. Hope is always there for us, and miracles are gifts given to us through the grace of God and His Son. I know in my heart of hearts that each of us will work these difficult and unpredictable times and we will do so through the love of God and the sacrifice His Son made on Calvary. I know from my faith we will succeed in all we do and accomplish. The Holy Spirit will never lets us down, nor should we give in to the present world events; let us make our world a better place. Amen.
DECEMBER 26, 2021
These last four weeks are now passing into what we have all been preparing ourselves for and that is the arrival of the baby Jesus and His saving Grace. For many, Christmas is a time for parties, family gatherings, exchanging of gifts and most importantly Christmas dinner. This year my family will experience our first Christmas without our beloved mother. It feels strange knowing that someone you love has gone home to their “reward” and life eternal and that the holiday will never be the same. It will be a very sad season for us, but because of mom’s love and the legacy she leaves behind, the family will endure and continue to celebrate not only Christmas, but all the other holidays as well.
As a Mexican American, our family, like many other Mexican families, has a tradition of making tamales for either Christmas or New Year's Eve.
Our family’s New Year’s tamale tradition will continue as my sister is already talking about buying all the necessary ingredient for the big tamale production, which, if any of you have ever made tamales, know the amount of time and effort that goes into producing these little gems of deliciousness. One of the last videos I have of my mom is her sitting at her chair in the breakfast room spreading the masa (corn dough) over the corn husks and then filling them with her wonderfully spicy and garlicky pork chili Colorado (red chili). The house was filled with these aromatic smells, that one almost feels like one has died and gone to tamale heaven. What a great smell that is and a wonderful memory.
Gift of Christmas
For myself as I get older, I’ve come to realize just how important Advent is and what Christmas is truly about. I know in our Western, secular society, Christmas has become something of a spectacle, a frenzy of buying stuff no one needs. We fill our lives with useless things that only take up space, time, money and energy, when we could actually use this time more meaningful on the things that matter most, on things that are more important for our happiness and sanity. Some call this the season of giving, but I often wonder what that really means.
What is the singular most important reason we celebrate this time of year?
The season of giving, has lost all its meaning of what this time of year is and for whom we celebrate. This is in fact a big worldwide birthday party for the most important person ever to be born. And that person is God’s only Son, Jesus Christ, the savior of the world. Jesus is God’s gift to humankind, to each of us Jesus is THE most precious of all gift we will ever receive in our life time. Let us keep that in mind and remember that a gift of you is more valuable to the Son of God than any material thing you can buy on Amazon. God Bless.
DECEMBER 19, 2021
Gaudete (Advent) Sunday is a counterpart to Laetare (Lent) Sunday and provides a similar break about midway through a season which is otherwise of a penitential character and signifies the nearness of the Lord's coming.
Joy and Thanksgiving
Yesterday the church celebrated Gaudete Sunday. As the above description reads, we are now mid point to the Nativity of our Lord’s birth. And with that comes joy and thanksgiving. The joy of God coming to us in the form of a baby, born in poverty, demonstrates to us of God’s love and His desire to be a part of our lives. His birth in this manner, shows us how God wishes to participate in our humanity and share in everything, but sin, with His creation.
Certain Sundays throughout the liturgical year have taken their names from the first words in Latin of the Introit, the entrance antiphon at the mass. Gaudete Sunday is one of these days.
Gaudete Sunday is a joyous celebration the church shares with her people and although it takes place during the usually penitential period of Advent, Gaudete Sunday serves as a mid-point break, an intermission so to speak, from the austere practices to rejoice in the nearness of Jesusʹ return. This gives us a period of time to remember the joyful anticipation we have all patiently been preparing for.
Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh
Next Sunday will be the last Sunday before the day of Christ’ birth, and with Christ’ birth comes our joy we share with each other. This, however, is only the beginning. Our salvation journey doesn’t end with Christmas day, but continues with the arrival of the three kings and their story. Each of these wise men brought with them as gifts to Christ valuable items that some will appreciate for their historical and symbolic meaning. The wise men brought gold, frankincense and myrrh to the newborn king. Gold, of course, was valuable as currency. Frankincense is a valuable perfume. Myrrh is a precious ointment often used in the burial process. These gifts are only given to men of importance, such as a king or head of state. And these kings knew the importance of Jesus’ birth and the significance of his coming reign to a weary world.
Because of Herod’s jealousy and hatred, the wisemen were instructed by an angel to return to their homes by a different route as Herod wanted not to pay tribute to Jesus, but to seek him out and destroy him.
Let us this week and next continue to prepare for our Savior’s birth and the coming of His
DECEMBER 12, 2021
In the Catholic Church, Advent is a period of preparation extending over the four Sundays before Christmas. The word Advent comes from the Latin advenio, "to come to," and refers to the coming of Christ.”
Happy Advent to you all!
As your new pastor I would like to say thank you for welcoming me into your community with open arms and warm hearts. All of you have been most generous with your time and smiles.
Sunday, November 28th was the first Sunday in Advent, and this past weekend was a very busy time for our community. First, we started the weekend with Sr. Nancy’s half day retreat where she did an excellent job in guiding us through the beginning of our Advent journey. As usual this wonderful community showed up in large numbers, welcoming Sr. Nancy with open arms and big, enthusiastic smiles; she enjoyed the warmth and friendship you extended to her.
Secondly, on Sunday afternoon, you all came through again by welcoming Christin Jezak into our parish church for her one woman play on St. Teresa of Calcutta, or Mother Teresa. Christin was so pleased and pleasantly surprised by your passion that she hopes to return during the Lenten season to perform for you again, she has a new play in the works.
Advent as it’s written at the beginning of this letter, is a time to prepare for the coming of our Savior and redeemer, who was born in a manger amongst the animals and shepherds. Preparing ourselves can mean any number of things. The beauty of Advent is that it is a season, not a single day. Preparing for Advent as Catholics means we are able to enjoy the richness of our faith which helps us to prepare our hearts and minds for celebrating the coming of the Christ child on Christmas.
I find it rather amusing the news in our country is painting such a dire picture of how the supply chain is going to cause havoc to the Christmas season. Using an old expression I say, BALDERDASH! In the animated Christmas classic, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”, there is a scene in which the Grinch sneaks into the Who village after all have gone to sleep, and makes off with all the Who packages, food and even the Who pudding.
Once he makes off with all these things and returns to his mountain cave, he cups his ear hoping to hear sadness and crying. Instead he hears joyful music coming from the Who village. He couldn’t understand why they were so joyful. There were no boxes or bags, no trees or lights and there was no Who pudding. He was so hateful that he also took a small crumb of food, that was too small even for a mouse. Then he realized that Christmas doesn’t come in a box, or a bag. Christmas isn’t wrapped in ribbons or in pretty foil paper. Christmas came after all despite no gifts under the tree. The Grinch suddenly realized the meaning of what Christmas is truly about, and that all those material things he stole meant nothing to the villagers. What mattered to the Who was their love for each other and being together in fellowship. Perhaps our culture can learn from Dr. Suess and the Who that Christmas is about the Christ child and his saving and redeeming grace and not pretty boxes with bows and ribbons. Amen.
DECEMBER 5, 2021
In the New Testament, the word for thanks means to be “thankful for Godʹs grace.” The root word in Greek actually has the word grace in it. When you give thanks, youʹre responding to Godʹs goodness and graciousness. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.”
In Merriam-Webster dictionary, the meaning of thankful is: “conscious of benefit received” This past week we celebrated one of two secular holiday traditions that are unique to our great nation, Thanksgiving and the other being the Fourth of July. The interesting thing about Thanksgiving is no matter what faith tradition you belong to or not, we as a people come together to show our gratitude for the things we have and share.
This year was my families first celebration of Thanksgiving without our beloved mother. Mom was always at the head of the table, presiding as it were, as the matriarch of our family. Her favorite part of this celebration was to see all of her children, and grandchildren come together to share laughs, and delicious food. And most importantly, to show our gratitude for the abundant treasure we share as a family, and that is LOVE.
No matter what, the family would come together to celebrate with food and drinks, and the food as always was delicious. My sister does a good job of cooking the turkey dinner, always moist and tasty, never dry. Although one Thanksgiving meal one of my brothers decided to deep fry the turkey in his new outdoor deep fryer… what a disaster that was. The turkey was more like pork cracklings than a succulent bird, (lesson learned).
What is Thanksgiving? Thanksgiving Day, a national holiday in the United States and Canada, is the celebration of the abundant harvest the farmers in our nation produce and as well as other blessings we received over the year. I am grateful for my family, friends and people who have helped me throughout my life. And I am also grateful for one more thing and that is for this wonderful community of St. Anne’s parish. Bishop Barber has great confidence in my ability to shepherd you and others in the right direction. He’s given me this assignment to evangelize and catechize you as well as you guiding me in my own priestly journey. The great many things I love about my priesthood are the people I meet and the lessons I learn from you. The latter is most important to me as it allows me to grow, providing me with the spiritual tools I need in order to help you in your journey.
Now that Thanksgiving is over, and another meal consumed, on to Advent and Christmas. As the new liturgical year begins, let us take some time to prepare ourselves for the coming of our saviors nativity and the abundance of his love to enter into our world. Remember Christmas isn’t about presents, but about a baby born in a manger amongst the poverty of humanity. Amen.
NOVEMBER 28, 2021
During the month of November the Church remembers the saints and prays for the souls of our dearly beloved. But another thing we do during this time is pray for vocations to the religious life, especially to the priesthood.
What are the four Catholic vocations?
Although your specific calling will be unique to you, there are four ʹcategoriesʹ of vocations that the Church uses to help us discern Godʹs plan: marriage, single life, priesthood and religious life. In each of these four ways of life, God is calling all of us to choose freely and to generously respond to His call.
What are the vocations in life?
Vocation is oneʹs response to a call from beyond oneself to use oneʹs strengths and gifts to make the world a better place through service, creativity, and leadership; a call from beyond oneself. The concept of vocation rests on the belief that life is about more than me. This is a concept the modern world has mostly lost sight and understanding of and what that life and dedication of service entail. There are some professions that continue to be recognized as a “vocation”, e.g., nursing, doctors and the law. These vocations are thought of as services given by selfless acts to others for the betterment of the whole.
When one is asked to describe this “calling”, the person being asked may not answer the question to the satisfaction of the person asking. The difficulty in answering is this, we’re not sure how to respond. The “calling” is a very personal one, and that the person being called may not know exactly how to describe that feeling to another person. The only way one can respond is to give the example of falling in love with someone and wanting to be with that person for all eternity. And even that is difficult to comprehend. To spend an eternity with someone or something is an inconceivable notion for the ordinary person to grasp.
Marriage, for example, is supposed to be insoluble, something to held onto forever. And in today’s culture the idea of a long term commitment is unthinkable. In the Catholic Church, marriage, also known as holy matrimony, is the ʺcovenant by which a man and woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life and which is ordered by its nature to the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring”. This notion of “forever” is almost a novel idea to the modern, Western person. For a man to be “called” is again a rather difficult question to answer, especially in this day of short term commitments. For a male to sacrifice marriage and family goes against the grain of the modern world. In the Catholic church a priest is described in this way: “the priest offers the ministry of Jesus Christ to us today”. When a priest offers the holy sacrifice of the Mass, it is Christ who offers the sacrifice. When he absolves sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, it is Christ who forgives. When he partakes in the mission of the Church to teach and evangelize, it is Christ who speaks through him. When he offers love, comfort and support to God’ s people, Christ is truly present with them. For this reason, St John Vianney explained the priesthood in the following terms: “The priest continues the work of redemption on earth … If we really understood the priest on earth we would not die of fright but of love … The priest is the love of the heart of Jesus” (CCC 1589) To explain this “calling” or vocation one receives, cannot, in many ways, be explained thoroughly enough to the person asking the question. Amen.
NOVEMBER 21, 2021
Jesus cures the blind in many of his miracles that he performs, but what is the deeper understanding
of these gospel readings relating to the blind and to blindness.
Jesus cures the blind in many of his miracles that he performs, but what is the deeper understanding
of these gospel readings relating to the blind and to blindness.
Blindness is not necessarily a physical affliction, but can be a spiritual one as well; a blindness that keeps us from fully reaching out to our brothers and sisters in need. Sometimes we purposely blind ourselves from seeing things that may be too harsh, or sad or frightening, which can lead to apathy as we see in our society today. Blindness can also be directed even to our loved ones without us being aware of it. Jesus wants us to open our eyes, mind and heart to those around us and not cut ourselves out from the world in which we live. As it is written in scripture, “we are not an island unto ourselves.” We are part of a larger picture, we are part of the human struggle that goes on day after day. Yes, with all its flaws, we belong in this chaotic and damaged world and our obligation is to make the best of it not just for ourselves, but others as well.
As we read the miracles Jesus performs for the blind, these physical cures symbolizes the opening of the personʹs mind and heart. The light that comes into the eyes of a blind person is really the light that fills the heart with faith and hope, it is the light of Christ.
In the gospel reading, the man’s coming to the light is a witness to us about how we should approach our faith. The blind man’s journey is not just his alone, but ours as well. We are encouraged to participate in the obligation we inherited from the baptismal promises made on our behave. And this obligation is mandatory, set upon us by Christ through the commands he preached during his time on earth, and that is to love your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all
your mind, and to love your neighbor as you love yourself.
This transformation that the blind man goes through calls to mind for us the process we go through in our faith journey. St Paul tells us we are called to live as children of the light for light produces every kind of goodness. At baptism we receive the light of Christ symbolized by the paschal candle….we bring the light of Christ to where ever there is darkness. When we do, we transform our families, our communities and our workplaces---- all the while transforming ourselves. Clear our eyes from the debris that clutters our vision so that we can see clearly the vision the Father has for all of us. Amen.
NOVEMBER 14, 2021
“Every morning was a cheerful invitation to make my life of equal simplicity, and I may say innocence, with Nature herself.” ― Henry David Thoreau, Walden
The mornings, for me at least, are a little space of time that allows me the solitude I so dearly desire. To sit in one’s living room with a cup of coffee, my prayer book in one hand and my mind drifting off into a transcendental haze, gives me the greatest pleasure. As Merton writes: “The spiritual life is first of all a life. It is not merely something to be known and studied, it is to be lived.” ― Thoughts in Solitude
The spiritual life is one that cannot easily be achieved by just prayer alone, effort is needed as well. To obtain a spiritual life or a prayerful life, one must remember to set realistic goals that are attainable. God does not expect us all to be monastics or for that matter, to be mystics as some of the great saints were. Even they had some difficulties achieving such a lofty ideal. It is said that St. John Paul II could be heard moaning as though he were in pain during his long hours before the Blessed Sacrament.
Can we as ordinary folk attain such a thing? If we are honest with ourselves our answer would be yes and no. We are all called to be spiritual mystics as the Catechism of the Catholic Church points out: “God calls us all to this intimate union with him” (#2014) — which means everyone is called to be a mystic, just as we are all called to be saints."
Why then do I write, yes and no? Yes we are all called to a life of prayer and charity as saints and mystics, and no, it is not easy for many of us to gain to our fullest expectation this noble calling. Like most things in life, one must work hard and diligently to accomplish what we set out to do. And sometimes because of our high expectations we are discouraged or disappointed that we let God down in some way. But why should we feel in this way? I believe it’s not God who we disappointed, but in our mind, we disappointed ourselves.
We place too much emphasis in achieving something and in the process we forget we are human and prone to failure and mistakes. God is understanding of who we are and what is realistic for each of us; God never gives us something more than we can handle. Not all of us are called to be extraordinary mystics, but we are called through our baptism to be mystics and saints. And in doing so bringing us closer to God’s plan for each of us. A spiritual life is attainable only if we allow whatever our gifts are and then allowing them to blossom to their fullest. Amen.
NOVEMBER 7, 2021
Belief in the resurrection of the dead is an essential part of Christian revelation. It implies a particular understanding of the ineluctable mystery of death. Death is the end of our earthly life, but ‘not of our existence’) St Ambrose) since the soul is immortal. Death is the passage to the fullness of true life. Death is the prolongation, in a new way, of life as the liturgy says: ‘For your faithful, O Lord, life has changed not ended; while our earthly dwelling is destroyed, a new and eternal dwelling is prepared for us in Heaven’ .According to the faith of the Church, ‘to die in Christ’ begins at baptism. In Baptism, the Lord’s disciples sacramentally die in Christ so as to live a new life. From the earliest days of the Christian religion the Church has honored with great respect the memory of the dead. The whole month of November is an interesting time of prayer in the Church as it is filled with many important feast days and it includes the days on which we commemorate all the saints and all the faithful departed. 1 November – All Saints Day
All Saints’ Day, also known as the Feast or Solemnity of All Saints, is celebrated every year on 1 November. On this day, which is a Holy Day of Obligation, we honor all of the Saints and ask them to pray for us. 2 November – All Souls’ Day All Souls’ Day or more formally ‘the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed’ is a solemn celebration commemorating all of those who have died and is observed on 2 November.
‘Indeed, the Church in its pilgrim members, from the very earliest days of the Christian religion, has honored with great respect the memory of the dead; and “because it is a holy and a wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins”, she offers her suffrages for them. These consist, primarily, in the celebration of the holy sacrifice of the Eucharist, mercy, and the application of indulgences to the souls of the faithful departed’ .November is a time for remembering and praying for our loved ones who have gone before us and whose loss we feel. It is a time when we are particularly conscious of those in our parishes who are grieving and all those families who have lost loved ones in the past year. Pope Francis on remembrance of the dead:
“The remembrance of the dead, the care for graves and prayers of repose are a witness of the confident hope, rooted in the certainty that death is not the final word on the human fate, since man is destined to a life without limits which has its roots and its fulfillment in God.”
Keep all of our brothers and sisters in your prayers during this time of transition from Summer
to Fall to Winter. God Bless.
OCTOBER 31, 2021
Fall brings sweater weather, spectacular displays of foliage, and harvest celebrations. For many, the equinox marks the start of a glorious season, filled with apple picking and pumpkin carving. For others, though, autumn is a melancholy reminder of summer's end.
Here I sit in my living room, at the beginning of my first rain storm of Autumn in a new place I call home, in a community of men and women who love their parish and their faith. A new place to experience can be a difficult thing, but soon the struggle of adjusting comes to an end and one feels at home with new people to know and love. It’s Autumn and as I look out my window I see a deluge of rain spattering across the vast plaza that makes up the view I see painted before. I often think on days like these and how blessed I am to have a warm place to live while others in our community, our state and cities, endure the harshness of being unsheltered and left alone. Even there, these unsheltered men and women share a community in a type of brotherhood that is special and unique to them. For they, like the early church, share what little they have with others who are less fortunate than they. To give up what little you have so that others can be comfortable is truly an altruistic act of kindness and love and in line with Christ’ own of giving and command to give. God created us to glorify Him, and in doing so we perform the acts of our obligation to others. Summer has come to a close, and Autumn takes her place, leaving us with a transition from warm days to cool nights and the changing of colors. Autumn also leaves us with an abundance of Fall fruits and vegetables that will soon become wonderfully delicious meals. There is nothing so wonderful as to arrive home from a cold and wet day to the aroma of freshly baked breads, the smell of hearty soups and stews, and knowing that a rich and sweet apple pie lies in waiting to be consumed with all the gusto one can muster. Yes, Autumn is my favorite time of year, the beginning of a new liturgical year, a time when things fall into a slumber and that upon waking to a new world of smells, and sights as we emerge from our Winter sleep and welcome new life, a new beginning, a resurrection from the cold embrace of old man Winter to the warmth of Spring and all her glory. I hope as always that these next few months keep up safe and sound and that God in His infinite goodness guide us during this time of transition. The Son of God is coming as we wait for his nativity, His Passion, His Resurrection and Ascension. For these seasons mirror our Saviors own life, from birth to death and to His Ascension. God bless.
OCTOBER 24, 2021
For prayer is nothing else than being on terms of friendship with God — St. Teresa of Avila
Prayer is a powerful tool that is available in our arsenal of weapons we can use to either combat that which is evil or to ease our pains and worries. I find that prayer is helpful when it comes to my personal burdens and worries. I use prayer as a means not to get what I want, but to pray for others who are in greater need than myself.
Prayer has been turned into something that it is not, and as Merton points out, that sometimes we pretend to pray when in fact we’re only going through the motions. That happens to me on occasion and that is fine. Prayer is supposed to be a spontaneous conversation between you and God and it shouldn’t be a complex proposition for us to make. Prayer should be as easy as breathing.
But what is prayer? Prayer according to the Bible is how believers of God talk to him. It's how they make their praise and requests known. The Scriptures are filled with beautiful examples of people crying out to God and asking for his strength, guidance, healing and more. Prayer is also, in the Christian faith and in many other spiritual traditions, a way of being and a way of relating. Prayer is a way of being: being in the moment, being present, being open. It is a way of learning to be ourselves. Prayer is a way of relating: to God, to ourselves, and to those around us.
Pope Benedict XVI writes: “Thus the plea the first Christian community of Jerusalem made to God in prayer was not “to be defended, to be spared from trials or to enjoy success, but only to be able to proclaim … the Word of God frankly, freely and courageously”. The community also asked that “their proclamation be accompanied by the hand of God so that healing, signs and wonders could be accomplished. In other words, they wanted to become a force for the transformation of reality, changing the hearts, minds and lives of men and bringing the radical novelty of the Gospel”.
“We too”, the Holy Father concluded his catechesis, “must bring the events of our daily lives into our prayer, in order to seek their most profound significance. And we too, like the first Christian community, allowing ourselves to be illuminated by the Word of God and meditating on Sacred Scripture, may learn to see that God is present in our lives, even at moments of difficulty, and that everything … is part of a plan of love in which the final victory over evil, sin and death is truly is that of goodness, grace, life and God”.
Prayer is a tool we can use to be one with the Lord and with ourselves. It is also a time to have a conversation with God. Don’t make prayer so complex that you stop praying. Pray always during the good and bad times in our lives, for disappointing moments and for times of joy. Let prayer be you comfort in everything you do. God bless.
OCTOBER 17, 2021
The Rosary is a combination of vocal and mental prayer, during which one reflects on the important events in the life of Jesus and Mary.
The devotion of the rosary is a very personal one and yet at the same time a devotion I love sharing with others. The Rosary is one of the most beloved prayers of the Catholic Church. We start off with the introduction to the Creed, followed by the Our Father, three Hail Mary’s and the Gloria, and then concluded with the recitation of the Salve Regina which, at times, can be sung by the participants.
The Rosary involves the recitation of five decades, consisting at the beginning of each decade the Our Father, ten Hail Mary’s, and the Gloria. During this recitation, the individual meditates on the saving mysteries of our Lord’s life and the faithful witness of our Blessed Mother. Journeying through the Joyful, Sorrowful, Luminous and Glorious mysteries of the Rosary, the individual brings to mind our Lord’s incarnation, His passion and death, His resurrection from the dead, and His ascension into heaven. In so doing, the Rosary assists us in growing in a deeper appreciation of these mysteries, in uniting our life more closely to our Lord, and in imploring His graced assistance to live the faith. We also ask for the prayers of our Blessed Mother, the exemplar of faith, who leads all believers to her Son.
This leads me to write about our annual outdoor “America needs Fatima” celebration. I’ve experienced this celebration many times in various parishes and have found this event to be quite inspiring and profound as it gives me a sense to the extent this devotion has on many a parishioner and parish community. Our celebration is set for Saturday, October 16th at 12:00 noon. I am excited that we are able to celebrate together and join in praying for our nation as we are experiencing various illnesses that plague our society today.
As Roman Catholics in California, we need to pray for the unborn, for the homelessness we see in our cities and towns, for the young and for the soul of the our nation against a secular and hostile culture of death. Another thing to pray for is an end to this persistent drought that has plagued the west, particularly here in California. As I always ask you to pray for the migrant workers who work in the fields, restaurants, and service industries. These men and women are always hidden in our very busy and noisy society. I especially ask you to pray for our vulnerable young teen boys and girls, and college age men and women, who are distracted with material things of this earth, rather than focusing on what is real and what is passing. As parents, grandparents and men and women who serve the church, it is our obligation to do so. May God keep you and bless you.
OCTOBER 10, 2021
There’s an old saying that goes, “Once a Catholic, always a Catholic.”
Maybe you have been away from the Church for a little while or for quite some time, but now you feel
a tug at your heart calling you back to the Church. Listen to that tug. It’s your Heavenly Father reaching his arms out to you, the Holy Spirit whispering in your ear, hoping to draw you home. Regardless of why you left or got out of the habit of going to Mass, you can always come home and return to the practice of the sacraments and the fullness of relationship with Jesus Christ and the Church he founded.
Your Father in heaven wants you to come home, and so do we, your fellow members of Christ’s body, the Church. The longing you have in your heart can be fulfilled through Jesus and the Church he founded. You are not alone. There are many of brothers and sisters in Christ who have returned home, who have come back to reconciliation and returned to the Mass, and have experienced the joy of a renewed relationship with the Father who loves them and accepts them unconditionally.
As a priest I have experienced many people who wish to return to the church, only to believe they’re not welcomed because of their past “failures” or some sin they committed in their youth. Some stay away because they are in disagreement with the church on certain issues, especially those moral issues we face in our society at large. Or they remain outside the church because of a perception based upon old practices or even misinformation about the fundamental teachings of the church. Whatever the case may be, perceptions can in fact discourage people from returning and participating in the life of their faith.
These perceptions and misinformation can be discouraging, especially for some who aren’t familiar with what the church actually teaches and practices and unfortunately these can lead to mistrust and anger on the part of those who feel a call to return. So how do we assist our brothers and sisters to return? Witness your faith to all. Witness your faith everyday so those who are interested in returning, or those who are searching, will see you and want to know more. We just need to guide them past their perceptions and distrust, to encourage them to look deeper into what the church teaches and practices and to let them know that as broken as they may be, we who are in the church and practicing our faith, are just as broken and sinful as they. No one is perfect, and no one should pretend to be perfect. God has given us an imperfect church as we live in an imperfect world. The church gives us the opportunity to gather and participate in the worship of God and His Son. Let us welcome our brothers and sisters back and let us do so without judging them. Christ is our center and He loves us unconditionally. Let us welcome them home. Welcome back brothers and sisters.
OCTOBER 3, 2021
The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines "charity" as "the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for His own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God”.
“It is imperative that no one, out of indifference to the course of events or because of inertia, would indulge in a merely individualistic morality. The best way to fulfill one’s obligations of justice and love is to contribute to the common good according to one’s means and the needs of others, and also to promote and help public and private organizations devoted to bettering the conditions of life.”
-Gaudium et Spes (The Church in the Modern World), Vatican II, 1965 #30.
This week I would like to address a topic that is close to my heart and that is feeding and caring for others physically and spiritually. Material food is essential to sustain our lives, after all we need good, nutritious food to keep our bodies strong and healthy. Just like we need to feed the mind with good things, this is to keep the mind functioning properly, to make us think and to reason our beliefs and thoughts. And we need to feed our spiritual hunger as well. All these points are required and are basic to our human existence. And through all of these, they aid us in providing for our less fortunate brothers and sisters in our community.
Charity means more than “the voluntary giving of help, typically in the form of money, to those in need: the care of the poor must not be left to private charity”, as defined in Webster Dictionary. Charity in the Christian tradition means more than the above quote.
“Our relationship to our neighbor is bound up with our relationship to God; our response to the love of God, saving us through Christ, is shown to be effective in his love and service of people. Christian love of neighbor and justice cannot be separated. For love implies an absolute demand for justice, namely a recognition of the dignity and rights of one’s neighbor. Justice attains its inner fullness only in love. Because every person is truly a visible image of the invisible God and a sibling of Christ, the Christian finds in every person God himself and God’s absolute demand for justice and love.
Justicia in Mundo (“Justice in the World”), World Synod of Catholic Bishops, 1971 #34. Last week we celebrated the feast of St. Vincent de Paul and I asked at the daily mass if people can purchase and donate a gift card to the hungry and needy. I am asking you today to do the same. To keep our less fortunate brothers and sisters in your prayers but more importantly to remember them materially by donating to the St. Vincent de Paul Society. Many thanks in advance of your generous offerings. May God bless you abundantly.
SEPTEMBER 26, 2021
Evil and suffering could make Christians question God's omnipotence, omnibenevolence, or his omniscience. For example:
When making a sick call often times I have been asked those questions above. And sometimes it’s difficult to answer or even harder to not answer those questions that most people would ask in the face of sorrow and suffering. How can you formulate an answer that would be satisfactory to a parent who just lost their child or try and explain why a spouse would take their life or why people have to suffer or die. I’ve learned over the years as a priest to not volunteer any answers but to listen and be present to the bereaved. It’s difficult to just sit there while those around you are suffering wanting an answer to that age old question, why?
The Catholic church has this to say about suffering:
“God has a plan for people's lives that they may not always understand. This may include evil and
suffering but Christians should trust and have faith in God's plan.”
Pope St. John Paul II outlined the importance and role of suffering and evil and how love is borne out of it in Salvifici Doloris, a document that responds to the problem of human evil and suffering.
Catholics believe that love can arise from evil and suffering, and that love is an important part of human life. The Catholic Church sees human suffering as a chance to follow the example of Christ and believe that it is a part of God’s plan. This aims to reconcile suffering and pain with the belief in a loving God. Those who suffer here on Earth are united in that suffering with Christ, who died on the cross. Suffering is a trial, but it is through that trial that faith, hope and love continue. And through that suffering, an individual can find their own identity and their identity in Christ. To think of suffering in this way will give many of us the courage and strength to face the most difficult of times that will enter into our private world. We will all go through our own drama, and through this act with Jesus’ own suffering we will enter into a better understanding. This should give us hope, not anguish and sorrow, in our final act and into a new life. God bless.
SEPTEMBER 19, 2021
"Sacred Scripture is not something for the past. The Lord does not speak in the past but speaks in the present, he speaks to us today, he enlightens us, he shows us the way through life, he gives us communion, and thus he prepares us and opens us to peace."
(Pope Benedict on Sacred Scripture March 29, 2006)
This past week St. Anne’s parish community embarked on two new activities, 1) studying Scripture and 2) practicing Lectio Divina. These are two very important practices I believe allows a person the opportunity to deepen their faith and discipline the mind to focus on the Word of God. This is something I’ve emphasize to each of you since arriving here; to deepen our faith, is to learn our traditions and practice them faithfully by witnessing to others. And by witnessing our faith to others we hope to influence and inspire them to either join us or return to the Church. This is a gift that was handed down to us from our parents and grandparents, and many generations before them.
Why study the Bible? Bible study can become a dry or optional habit if we’re not coming to God’s Word for the right reasons. I often think that some bible study courses are too academic, too dry and really it should be like a discussion or more like a conversation with each other than a class room lecture. After all we’re not here to earn a degree but rather to learn God’s word, salvation history and how we can apply these words to our everyday life. The Word of God is a priceless treasure. It’s true, and it will always be true; it’s enough, and it will always be enough; it’s unchanging, yet it is living and able to speak to each of us. Here are three reasons to Study Scripture:
1.To learn who God is, know him better, and recognize his voice.
How do you get to know someone? When you meet someone new, you take in your first impression, listen to what they say, and watch what they do. Eventually, the real person will become known. We go through a similar process getting to know God. Of course, God can reveal himself in any way imaginable, at any time and to anyone. But if we have his Word, then he expects us to read it and to know him through it. As we read his Word and observe his actions, we get to know who He is.
2. To gain wisdom, learn what’s right, correct wrong thinking, and receive guidance.
Bible study is more complicated than settling on a verse or two and figuring that you’ve got your answer. Often there are other passages that present a different perspective, and you must take it all in while asking for wisdom and depending on the guidance of the Holy Spirit. This is were the practice of Lectio Divina comes in handy. The more we study the Bible, the more we realize that it is not an outdated and irrelevant book, but the living Word of God.
“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)
3. To see and follow Jesus.
Jesus knew the Scriptures that were available to him, and he followed his Father flawlessly. He was not influenced by the Jewish elite of his time, the Pharisees; in fact, he often opposed them. He healed and delivered many people who came to him, and he taught with matchless authority. He was perfectly loving, yet he did not overlook sin, but took it upon himself at the cross.
Please come join us if you have not already and take this grand adventure with me and others. God bless.
SEPTEMBER 12, 2021
“The Catholic Church sees human suffering as a chance to follow the example of Christ and believe that it is a part of God's plan. The document aims to reconcile suffering and pain with the belief in a loving God. Those who suffer here on Earth are united in that suffering with Christ, who died on the cross.”
This past week I had an accident while putting up my tiki torches. As I was pushing the stake into the ground a large lizard leapt at me frightening me in the process. And as I reeled back I pulled the muscle around the sciatic nerve causing myself to fall back. As some of you may know, this type of injury is painful and often takes some considerable time to heal.
As I regained my strength and feeling the pain dissipate, I started thinking of the many people who suffer from chronic pain and how this impacts their lives; just to put on my socks and shoes was an herculean effort to perform such a mundane task. Those who suffer physical long term pain often will suffer mental anguish as well. As the pain continues, it seems at times, there is no hope and if there is no hope then there is no reason to continue. This is the danger that can lead to a deeper depression or in some cases the will to live. Chronic pain has a devastating effect on all of us which can lead to dejection. This is where as a community of believers need to intervene and assist in a person’s physical and mental wellbeing with prayer and above all with love.
Pope St. John Paul II wrote: “…“Your sufferings, accepted and borne with unshakable faith, when joined to those of Christ take on extraordinary value for the life of the Church and the good of humanity.”
The question of the meaning of suffering, in many ways an impenetrable question, finds an answer, above all, in the Passion of Jesus. On the cross, Jesus not only embraced human suffering in an incomparable way, but also made suffering redemptive. He conquered evil with good. He accomplished our salvation from sin and death by His own suffering on the cross. In suffering voluntarily and innocently, Christ gives the answer to the question about suffering and its meaning.
As Christians we have a deeper understanding and relationship with suffering as we witness Christ’ own embrace of the pains and sufferings we all face and experience. This suffering and pain gives us a deeper connection and gives us the opportunity to understand Christ’ own passion as He takes on those sins our original parents (Adam and Eve) committed in the Garden. Through Christ He shares our suffering and in turn gives us His comfort, care and love. Christ is with us through those times of physical and mental anguish and in those times Christ assures us of His presence. Let us always remember, as hard as it might seem, that Jesus is our Physician, our Savior and our Comfort. God bless..
SEPTEMBER 5, 2021
A retreat refreshes and revitalizes, gives the opportunity for more time spent in prayer and contemplation, and rekindles and deepens one's relationship with God. ... Sometimes Jesus would spend an entire night in retreat: “In those days he departed to the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer to God.
What is a Catholic retreat and why do we need one annually? As a priest I am canonically (by law) required to “take” some time off at either a diocesan sponsored retreat or a personally sponsored one, either supervised or not; I prefer the latter as this gives me time to be in solitude much like Christ was in the desert.
What we call a retreat consists of a series of days passed in solitude and consecrated to practices of asceticism (a person who practices severe self-discipline and abstention). In addition to that, I find taking some “quiet” time away from the parish, friends and family beneficial to my own well being and to enhance my spiritual deepening. Often times than not, I come away refreshed and energized knowing that I can now perform my vocation to it’s utmost enjoyment thus passing my re-vitalized self to the people I love and care most.
Modern-day retreats for lay people take many forms, but usually involve a weekend (or sometimes longer) away from home and familiar routines, usually under the direction of a priest, with talks, reflections, and also plenty of “alone time” for prayer and spiritual reading.
A few weeks ago I was given the privilege to speak at and spend a few hours with our ministry team on a half day retreat. What I experienced at this retreat gave me the opportunity to understand each of those who attended and they in turn were encouraged to continue their respective ministries in our community.
If you wish to do a private retreat at home or at a retreat center I would encourage you attend one during the Advent season. Here are some suggestions for an optimal retreat experience:
I hope you take some time to attend to your own spiritual needs. God Bless.
AUGUST 29, 2021
The joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew. In this Exhortation I wish to encourage the Christian faithful to embark upon a new chapter of evangelization marked by this joy, while pointing out new paths for the Church’s journey in years to come" - EVANGELII GAUDIUM
“Mere administration can no longer be enough. Throughout the world, let us be permanently in a state of mission.” - EVANGELII GAUDIUM
As we begin a new chapter together, let us be attentive to the holy father’s words above and put into action what is asked of us by the Gospel messages. We cannot remain in a state of maintenance as the holy father suggests, but rather we must take action and live as “Missionary Disciples”. As pastor of this parish I have come to realize the importance each of you share and the dedication many of you have demonstrated in the short amount of time since my arrival three months ago. I’ve come to believe each of you can be formatters to others in our community. This simply means by witnessing your faith to others you can influence those outside the church by your actions and behavior. This is part of your baptismal promises; to witness your faith in order to return God’s wayward people or at the very least, pique their interest so they may eventually succumb to their natural curiosity and the innateness of wanting to know something deeper and more profound. Human beings are natural explorers and are naturally curious of things around them. We want to know how something works, how something came into being and we are curious about the unknown. God in His infinite wisdom gave us the intellect and determination to seek outside ourselves something else other than the world around us. Many saints and mystic did precisely that. They wanted to know the unknown. They sought out that which they hoped would answer their questions about life and the meaning of life. What any wise person knows is that questions are easily raised but answers are difficult to come by or difficult to explain.
How are we to become “Missionary Disciples” one might argue? In his very first general audience, Pope Francis challenged all the baptized to move beyond a “dull or mechanical way of living our faith, and instead open the doors of our hearts, our lives, our parishes, our movements or associations, going out in search of others so as to bring them the light and the joy of our faith in Christ.” So as God’s people this is our clarion call to be disciples and call our brothers and sisters into a faith that transcends all other things. God bless.
AUGUST 22, 2021
“Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.”
“The will of God will not take us where the grace of God cannot sustain us.”
― Billy Graham
The Church calls people to the responsible stewardship of their time and talent in support of the Church. This often takes the form of volunteering for a specific lay ministry, most of which are liturgical, catechetical, or involved in pastoral care and social justice.
Liturgical lay ministries include lectors (Ministers of the Word) who proclaim scriptural (the Bible) passages during the Liturgy of the Word, altar servers and acolytes who assist the priest at the altar, cantors and music ministers who lead the singing, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion who serve during Mass and/or who take Holy Communion to the sick and homebound, and ushers or ministers of hospitality who direct the seating and procession of the assembly.
This past week St. Anne’s held a two hour refresher course on the various ministries and their function in providing support and service to our community through active participation. In addition to that, I introduced some new elements that will, I believe, enhance our Sunday liturgical experience. One thing I did impressed upon these ministers is the sense of service to others. What is the purpose of our coming together in service of the church and how does this benefit those we serve? These are questions I asked of them and now I wish to stress upon you the same question; how can I support my parish spiritually and financially, especially during this strange period in our history?
To emphasize the notion of serving the St. Anne’s / Rossmoor community is for you to pray, and discern and then stepping up and volunteering whatever talents and gifts God has given you. Why is this important? It should be important to all of us. We have an obligation to others as did the first Christian’s had a sense to serve others within their community; so we have that same obligation now. To feel strongly about service to our community we must place ourselves in service of others then we can receive the gifts of the church. Those gifts are what we receive from God, that is His Love, Patients, Care and, most importantly, God’s Grace. This is a fine community of believers who take seriously their faith and love of God. This community has the energy, know how, faith and foresight necessary to take from the past and build upon that to something even greater. God bless.
AUGUST 15, 2021
“If He is calling you to belong exclusively to Him, it is for your joy and for His glory. In His will is your peace.”
― Mother Clare Matthiass, Discerning Religious Life
Starting Sunday, August 15, I will begin my annual retreat with Bp. Barber and other priests at the retreat center at Vallombrosa in Menlo Park. I always look forward to attending these retreats as they do indeed recharge me spiritually and physically. It gives me the opportunity to relax, pray and meditate with my fellow confrères. it is also an important time for me to visit the bishop and discuss various topics including future plans for myself and the parish.
The wonderful thing about our bishop is that he cares deeply for his priests and the welfare of those he places in our charge. He often invites us to various programs, events and lectures, providing us with the necessary tools for our ministry. Running a parish can be rewarding but there are challenges that do pop up on occasion that need to be addressed. These challenges can vary from finances to plant operations to staff and personnel. But mostly this time with the bishop is to pray and learn.
As I acquaint myself with each of you and understand the dynamics of this place, I ask that you be patient and keep me in your prayers as we travel together on this wonderful adventure.
As I mentioned in my last “Word from the Pastor”, we are planning to bring back many of the events you have come to love, including Eucharistic Adoration, and St. Patrick’s dinner, Pizza and Bingo, and others. In addition to those, we will have bible study and two lectures, Thomas Merton and Dr. Anthony Lillis’ presentation on the Eucharist. I hope these will be exciting times for you as they are certainly for me.
In addition to preparing yourselves for the upcoming Holy Days, Advent and Christmas, I would like to encourage you to take some time during the next several weeks and months, to deepen your love of Christ and His Church. Taking time to meditate and be in the silence of God’s presence is essential for our spiritual wellbeing. I suggest you might consider spending some time in prayer, and/or meditating in front of the Blessed Sacrament, especially once we bring back Thursday Adoration. If you wish to have some time with me in Spiritual Direction, I am always happy to spend some time with you.
Thank you all for your generosity and kindness during this transition.
May God keep you as I will continue keeping you in my prayers. God bless.
AUGUST 8, 2021
"Traditions, traditions. Without our traditions our lives would be as shaky as...as a fiddler on the roof!" - Fiddler on the Roof.
Traditions are very important to many people and cultures around the world. Here at St. Anne’s, we have many traditions and in our Catholic faith we have traditions that date back many centuries. Some have gone, others are hardly practiced or appreciated and then there are those we as a community and church enjoy and take pride in doing.
Traditions also define a community and people; for example, we just celebrated a nine day novena to St. Anne, the patroness of our parish. As is define, a tradition is a belief or behavior (folk custom) passed down within a group or society with symbolic meaning or special significance with origins in the past. In our Catholic traditions there are actions that hold significant meaning to our connection of our religious past. These traditions would include Christmas, Easter, and other days of obligation. And then there are those traditions each parish, family and individual holds dear in their hearts.
Sometimes traditions can also include material things such as placing a Christmas tree in a particular spot within a household. Or celebrating birthdays in a certain way to give joy to those whose birthdays are being celebrated. Traditions also apply to our church buildings and structures. These traditions include bowing or genuflecting before the Tabernacle or Altar; saying a prayer before the mass or lighting a candle to a particular saint for a prayer answered.
Some parishes may have a tradition of sharing fellowship after mass or praying the rosary before the start of mass. All these examples lead up to my important announcement to our community. As some of you may have noticed the Tabernacle has returned to its proper space within the Sanctuary of the church. This does not mean I will remove the other Tabernacle from its current location at this time. What this does mean is we will repurpose the chapel as an adoration chapel for prayer and meditation. Therefore, beginning September 2nd, we are bringing back Thursday morning Adoration. I know many of you share this wonderful devotion to our Lord and I hope this will enhance your love of Jesus in the Eucharist. As many of you have surmise, changes are coming to St. Annes and each of these changes are designed for the deepening our Catholic faith. If you have any questions or would like to suggest something, please let me know. God bless.
AUGUST 1, 2021
“Food for the body is not enough. There must be food for the soul” — Dorothy Day
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that, beginning “at the moment of consecration”, the bread and wine offered at Mass “become Christ's body and blood.”
“The [Eucharist] is not a metaphor, a symbol, or a spiritual idea; it really happens. In the Eucharist, “the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained” (CCC 1374). The Eucharist still appears to our senses as ordinary bread and wine; but it has been transubstantiated (or changed in its substance) into the body and blood of Christ.
This is why Catholics attending Mass are encouraged to “convey the respect, solemnity, and joy of this moment when Christ becomes our guest” (CCC 1387); it’s why we adore the Eucharist, “not only during Mass, but also outside of it” (CCC 1378); and it’s why the Church teaches that the Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life” (CCC 1324).” — Bp. Robert Barron, Word on Fire Institute
"Well, if it's a symbol, to hell with it." — Flannery O’Connor
Ms. O’Connor puts it succinctly and to the point. Her brief, but substantial response to the Eucharist being “just” a symbol goes to the heart of what the Eucharist is with the church and to her members. If it’s only a symbol why, then, do people die protecting, and safe guarding it from those who would bring it harm? That’s my question to those who doubt the presence of our Lord in the bread and wine, which becomes the Flesh and Blood of Christ at the moment of consecration. I know of many men and women over the centuries who have lost their lives protecting the Eucharist, defending and bringing it to many believers; they did so because of their strong understanding of what this mere piece of bread and cup represents to believing Catholics. On the contrary, it is NOT just a piece of bread we consume at the Mass no matter what some may think or believe.
I read an interesting article published recently by the Pew Institute that as much as 69% of practicing and mass attending Catholics believe that the Eucharist is a symbol rather the real presence. As a priest and cradle catholic, I find this latest revelation to be disturbing. Disturbing in that we’ve lost our transcendence of the faith, in God and what God is capable of doing. I have always encouraged you to dig deeper into your faith, to let loose your mind and understand that faith is the only tool to grasp and understand what it is you’re consuming. Jesus has often said that we must think as a child would think, to be innocent in thought and deed. That’s not to say we aren’t suppose to think, but to let go of our consciousness, the thing we call reality, which will allow us to grasp the thing that makes our faith work. To enter into the holy of holies, and to transcend into a different world reality beyond space and time is our ultimate goal. As St. Thomas Aquinas suggest in his defense of the Eucharist: “The Blessed Eucharist is the perfect Sacrament of the Lord's Passion, since It contains Christ Himself and his Passion.” Let us together witness our love for Christ through His Church by bringing the real presence to all who practice their faith. God bless.
JULY 25, 2021
Last week in my homily I spoke about silence and what that entails. Many of you have asked me regarding the understanding of what is the silence we seek or what is the silence you wish us to seek?
A very good question, one I’m not sure I can answer under this limited format, however, I will try. Here is how Webster’s dictionary defines silence: “the complete absence of sound.” Sure, that is pretty simple. But what does Jesus and the church say silence is and how to achieve this silence, if we can at all. In the Catholic tradition we read that “Monastic silence is more highly developed in the Roman Catholic faith than in Protestantism, but it is not limited to Catholicism. The practice has a corresponding manifestation in the Orthodox church, which teaches that silence is a means to access the deity, to develop self-knowledge, or to live more harmoniously.” Silence in our Western tradition can vary from culture to culture and from faith to faith. Silence can also mean any number of things, but in this particular writing I am speaking of the silence Jesus suggests throughout his ministry on earth. In Mark’s gospel Jesus says to his disciples, “Come away by ourselves to a deserted place and rest awhile.” Jesus is asking us to do that very same thing. And as your pastor and a spiritual director, I ask you to do the same as well, to stop what you’re doing and sit in the quiet of your mind and heart. Sitting in silence may seem like a waste of time to some, but to others not so. In order to be silent and to find silence it takes time and includes a great effort to achieve.
Everyday we are bombarded with noise, noise, and more noise. You can’t go anywhere these days, be it a gas station, grocery store or park, without some kind of noise interfering with the quiet of our minds. So, what do I propose we do to get that silence we so eagerly desire and crave? That’s the hard question. That is the question we all seek an answer for and we can only find that silence by prayer and effort. Prayer and effort go hand in hand as we need both to achieve our goal and to find that silence which eludes many of us. If we can find the silence in our hearts and in our minds, then we can at least achieve some measure of quiet. As part of our Catholic tradition, some monastic communities follow the Rule of St. Benedict, who put a high value on silence, giving a whole chapter to the subject in the work. He believed that every aspect of the life of those following the rule should show a great reverence and preference for silence. But knowing how fallible we human beings are, he designated that, at the very least, certain times of the day and certain places in the monastery should be held in silence. He wanted his monks to have the best possible environment in which to hear the voice of God with the ear of the heart — and he succeeded.
I hope as the days and weeks go by, you look for a time for yourselves and find that deserted place in your life. Listen to Christ’ message and follow it to silence. God bless.
JULY 18, 2021
The last few weeks we have experienced unprecedented heatwaves in California and in most of the western United States that seems to go on forever and a drought that lingers like a bad winter cold. Summer is here and with that comes delicious summer fruits and vegetables. California is known for its farms and the wide variety of vegetables, fruits and nuts that are grown here; did you know that we produce eighty percent of the world’s almonds? Pretty amazing.
Along with our cornucopia of vegetables and fruits, I can’t help but think of our brothers and sisters who live in the central valley. These are the men and women who toil in the hot sun everyday from morning to dusk at back breaking work so that you and I can put food on our tables. These men and women go unnoticed and mostly unappreciated for the labor they perform. I remember driving to Brentwood and seeing for the first time migrant workers bent over picking strawberries and placing them in baskets for processing. This scene struck me hard and it also made me stop and reflect on what I witnessed. As Jesus commented: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
These are reassuring words given to us by our savior to comfort us in our everyday struggles. We all labor in some way or another in life; ours might not be as harsh or as difficult as the strawberry picker’s life, but nonetheless we all do struggle to a certain degree.
What I took away from that scene of men and women laboring in the field is my own ignorance of what really goes on in the central valley and how we get our food. I imagine that most of us haven’t a clue how these farm workers suffer, the illnesses they have and the poverty they share. I have made it my business to pray everyday for these farmers, the farms and the laborers in hope that God listens and instill in these people of God the desire to continue on and to make life better for their children and the next generation.
Here is a quote from Cesar Chavez: It is possible to become discouraged about the injustice we see everywhere. But God did not promise us that the world would be humane and just. He gives us the gift of life and allows us to choose the way we will use our limited time on earth. It is an awesome opportunity.
I pray for all of us this day and everyday to remind ourselves of the things we take for granted and to remember each time we find ourselves in the produce aisle the hard work that goes into bringing us the food we place on our tables. God Bless.
JULY 11, 2021
Happy belated Fourth of July. I hope everyone had a wonderful time celebrating our nations birthday. There are many things I love about the fourth of July. One, it’s a secular holiday, so anyone can enjoy it for what it is; a day to celebrate our independence from England and coming together with family and friends. The other thing about this holiday is the barbecue. My dad was the “pit master” until he passed away and then my sister took over. And over the course of thirty years has become in her own right a very good “pit master” herself.
Though it is a secular holiday, however for myself, it has a much deeper meaning. For the men and women of the armed services it also has a deeper, but a more profound significance. July fourth is a day of fireworks, family gatherings, camping, being at the beach or wherever you might find yourself on this day. But let us never forget the sacrifices these men and women made to secure our freedoms, which no one in all of history has experienced before. We the American people are the beneficiaries of sweat, blood, and tears. We have been given a great gift starting with the founding fathers, to the many thousands of men and women who believed strongly in this American experiment, the ideals of freedoms for all.
Unfortunately we haven’t lived up to our creed, but as Americans we must continue to strive forward, reaching and moving ahead to achieve universal equality and dignity for all. Sometimes in our secular society we leave some of our country men and women behind. We have yet to extend the right for the “pursuit of happiness” to our unborn brothers and sisters. We have forgotten our brothers and sisters of color, with those who have mental disorders and those who lack education or medical coverage. As Americans we are living in a time when old prejudices are subsiding, but not forgotten. As Americans we must correct the errors of the past by including all people in this great nation to the table of plenty.
One of the major developments in Catholic social teaching in the 20th century has been the preferential option for the poor. The option for the poor is simply the idea that, as reflected in canon law, “The Christian faithful are also obliged to promote social justice and, mindful of the precept of the Lord, to assist the poor.” It indicates an obligation, on the part of those who would call themselves Christian, first and foremost to care for the poor and vulnerable. This teaching of the church is profound in essence, and achievable if we put our minds to it.
I’ll leave you with these words, which most of us are familiar with and take seriously in our lives:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Let us pursue our own happiness during this time and remember those in the outer fringes of our society who go without. God bless.
JULY 4, 2021
Whew! It is getting hot! I am not a big fan of hot weather, but I know many of you enjoy this sort of heat. I have two seasons I enjoy most, Spring and Fall. Spring time is a time of renewal, re-birth, Resurrection and the beginning of the church. It is also a time of cool sunny mornings and warm evenings. It’s also the beginning of baseball season. My earliest recollection of my young childhood is the first time going to the ballpark and seeing the green grass of the outfield; the smell of hot dogs wafting in the air; and the excitement of finding your seats, realizing you’re seated behind the third base dugout! As the minutes tick by for the game to start, you are captivated by the activities on the field. Batting practice is a time to watch how well the batters and pitchers are doing and to see your favorite player.
“At the same time, what is so beautiful about baseball is that it does not come with specific requirements for an athlete’s physical condition. You neither need to be super tall nor do you need a lot of body weight to play baseball. In fact, no matter your physical proportion and fitness level, there will always be a place for you in a baseball game.”
Why did I choose the above quote? That's easy. It can also apply to you and me and our Christian faith. There are no physical, or mental requirements to be a Christian. You don’t have to be too tall or too short. You don’t need to be super smart. You don’t need to be in great physical shape or any shape at all. To be a Christian is to be a follower of Christ. Pretty simple? Not really. There is a line from “A League of their Own”, where Tom Hank’s character has this wonderful exchange with Gina Davis:
Jimmy Dugan: “sneaking out like this, quitting, you'll regret it for the rest of your life. Baseball is what gets inside you. It's what lights you up, you can't deny that."
Dottie Hinson: "It just got too hard."
Jimmy Dugan: "It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The hard... is what makes it great."
To be a Christian isn’t easy, especially in our secular society today, and especially for our young people today. Anyone who tells you that committing your life to Christ makes your life easier is not telling the truth. Fulfilling, yes. More joyful, absolutely. But easier? No. In some ways, life gets more difficult after we come to Christ. The struggle against sin is more pronounced, for one thing. Laziness, gluttony, swearing, anger, envy, self-centeredness, materialism, covetousness, intimacy issues—the temptations seem never-ending. The world, the flesh, and the devil don’t go away because we have stepped into a relationship with Christ. There is always the constant battle between good and evil, between right and wrong. These are things that keep us on our toes. And like a ball player, we are in constant need of practice, practice, and more practice. To follow Christ can be life changing, and a life long adventure. But as the quote above says, “It’s supposed to be hard… The hard is what makes it great!”. Amen.
JUNE 27, 2021
As I settled more into the everyday routine of this parish, I think about how and what can I introduce to you in new events. And by that I mean what spiritual and religious devotions I can bring to this community of faithful people.
I know from hearing and seeing some of you before the daily mass begins that many of you have a special place in your hearts for the Blessed Mother. I was pleasantly surprised to hear you reciting the rosary prior to the beginning of the daily mass. That has also been my devotion since I was eight years old as well. This devotion to Mary through the Rosary has kept me going in my faith, but more importantly it is her guidance to her Son that rejuvenates me on a daily basis. Mary, like our earthly mothers, has been a constant in my life. When we loose our earthly mothers through death, we can always count on Mary being there for us and comforting us through our sorrow, fear, loneliness, physical and mental anguish that each of us experience in everyday life. But Mary is also there to share in times of joy, prosperity, and good health. I truly believe that Mary stands along side our mothers in heaven, watching over us and making sure they, along with Mary, intercede on our behalf to our heavenly Father.
By highlighting the human dimension of the Incarnation, devotion to Mary helps the faithful "to discern the face of a God who shares the joys and sufferings of humanity", the Holy Father said at the General Audience of Wednesday, 5 November. Many Marian devotions and prayers are an extension of the liturgy itself and have sometimes contributed to its overall enrichment, as is the case with the Office in honor of the Blessed Virgin and other pious compositions which have become part of the Breviary and our everyday life. Calling upon "Holy Mary, Mother of God", Christians ask the one who was the immaculate Mother of the Lord by a unique privilege: "Pray for us sinners", and entrust themselves to her at the present moment and at the ultimate moment of death. Let us pray to our heavenly Mother to intercede on our behalf and that Jesus her Son welcomes us to the Heavenly Kingdom which he promised whilst living among us. Amen.
JUNE 20, 2021
This is week three of my transition into this wonderful parish and I am so grateful to many of you who have extended your prayers and well meaning to me. As some may know it is a difficult thing to pack up one’s belongings and leave a place that you called home for nearly five years and move to a totally new place. It is especially difficult to move into a different work environment and getting accustomed to a different routine that has been long established.
Usually a good pastor will stand back and observe how things are handled in both the office and the liturgical life of a parish. Every parish is very different from one to the other; even, in some cases, how the liturgy is celebrated. Every pastor has their way of doing things and sometimes that which the pastor established is ingrained into the community so much so that the parishioners will say, “that’s the way it’s done”. The bishop, when assigning a new pastor to a parish, always suggest to wait at least six months before making any changes, if needed. And so far that is what I am doing, observing and taking note.
One of the first things I am planning for the Fall is 1) starting Scripture studies and a series of lectures, the first of which will be based on Thomas Merton and his writing. If you’re not familiar with Thomas Merton you soon will be. I also want to acknowledge Fr. Joseph and his contributions he’s made here and the love and fondness you have for him. I have only been here a very short time and I’ve come to like him very much. He is a caring and loving man whom I have come to respect and admire him. I hope and pray for his country and his brothers and sisters who are suffering in that great nation. As I said to Fr. Joseph he can stay as long as he needs until his homeland is open and this terrible pandemic has subsided in India and the rest of the world.
I will keep this Word from the Pastor short, but will be bringing you more information in the coming days and weeks. I am excited about this parish and the many events that are coming up. I also hope and desire you let me know what events, programs and formation materials you would like to see happening here at St. Anne’s. May God bless you.