a Word from the pastor
January 12, 2020
“Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid”. These words continue to guide me as I make my personal spiritual journey in this life and the next, which gives me great comfort knowing that Jesus is always with me. He is with me in good times and in bad. He gives me the strength to soldier on and the tools to tackle any adversity and tribulations that I might encounter along the way. Just the mere knowledge of His presence comforts me and gets me through some of the toughest situations I have come across.
This Sunday we celebrate “The Baptism of the Lord” and this also marks the end of Christmastide. As we enter together as a parish community into “ordinary’ time, I am reminded of Jesus’ assuring me to “not be afraid”. The New Year is an unknown book we have yet to read. But given that, I see this as another great adventure in my life and in the life of the parish. Yes, there are unknowns to be encountered, yet we sally forth in confidence with the hope Jesus gave us at His Resurrection, that life does not end, but changes. The Baptism of the Lord shows us the way we all must take, after all part of our baptism is to take up our obligation as members of Christ’ body and the priesthood each of us is given at Baptism.
The Body of Christ is, as St. Paul writes, one body but with many parts, so are we as members of this parish community. Parents and grandparents understand their obligation to teach and protect their children and they also have a duty, a baptismal right, to pass on their faith to the next generation. Along with this obligation they also have a responsibility to support their local parish community. In the coming weeks and months, I will write on the subject of stewardship and what that means to the whole parish community which also includes the school; without the parish there is no school. Christian Stewardship refers to the responsibility that Christians have in maintaining and using wisely the gifts that God has bestowed. The Christian steward is not only responsible for the financial blessings supplied by God but also the Spiritual gifts that are provided through the Holy Spirit. Stewardship is an essential part of being community; to assist the pastor and ministers of the parish is part of our obligation as Catholics at Assumption parish.
The Parish Pastoral Council and Faith Formation are planning a workshop that will give you an idea of what Christian Stewardship entails and why it is important for all to participate in our small, vibrant and diverse community of believers. I pray that all that read this column understand the significance of this and fully be a part of
something, I believe, will get us through our financial difficulties.
January 5, 2020
We just finished another beautiful Christmas celebration, thanks to Bill Vaughan, the Assumption parish choir, The Hathaway’s and their talented team of decorators and all involved with making our Christmas eve and morning liturgies great.
As we come to the end of another year, they seem to go faster as we get older, I’m reminded of the many things that have happened in our parish, the community of San Leandro and the Bay Area. We have seen some of our dearest friends pass away, and some who moved away to other parts of the state or country. Its always sad to see people we like and love leave our parish. We have seen new events this past year and some old ones getting better and better as time goes by. Our future together seems bright, but we are still struggling to make ends meet.
The parish is still not meeting our weekly Sunday goal of $9,500. This is essential for us to meet our financial obligations to our staff and to the diocesan offices. Let us remember that each of us has an obligation to our community if we are to thrive as a self-sustaining parish. Staffing, maintenance of the parish plant, various religious programs all require funding and if we cannot meet this goal, then certain programs suffer. The parish finance committee has made a great effort in cutting back on non-essential items that can be deferred for a short time. But that means cost will go up as these items are delayed.
We are currently asking for quotes to replace the rectory heating system. This past fall we had to replace the sewer line from the rectory to the city sewer system, which as a homeowner you can imagine the cost we incurred on that project. All of these things cost money and this is where as your pastor I am asking you all to consider adding an additional $5 per family to each Sunday’s collection. That’s an additional $20 a month on top of what you’re already donating now. Now multiply that by six hundred families, that’s a whopping $12,000 a month! That small amount
does add up allowing us to reach our goal each Sunday. Another thing, as the parish plant gets older, this includes the church, rectory, church hall, school building and gym and convent, more maintenance will be required to keep these structures safe for all to use.
In the coming months we will have a set of goals, and talks regarding Stewardship and what that means for the whole community. I wrote about stewardship last year, so now we will take action and will have a discussion sometime in the coming Spring. This will be a parish/school wide program encouraging parents, staff, teachers and church community to come together to help secure a financially stable future for all of us. I will have more information along with dates for you in the coming months. Remember to keep our whole parish and school in your thoughts,
prayers and donations. Remember, the parish is not just one but many. As St. Paul writes: “As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ.”
Amen and God bless.
December 29, 2019
Why is the beginning of a new year marked with so much noise? All across the world the standard way of marking the end of the old and the beginning of the new year is for people to set off fireworks, tearing apart the night sky with a blaze of light and an explosion of noise. The Romans have been at this for a long time, believing that the turning of the year was a vulnerable moment, a changeover that had to be watched carefully lest witches, ghosts and demons slip through the gap between the years and get up to all kinds of mischief. The antidote, they believed, was to make as much noise as possible, to scare away any wandering demon, ghost or witch who might think of trying to slip through that gap. To this day Rome at the end of the year is the noisiest place on earth. The only ghosts who could possibly slip through there are the ones who are profoundly deaf. Strange to think that sophisticated cities like Sydney, Paris, London and New York continue to mark the turn of the year in this primitive way.
Ten years we passed not just from one year or decade or century to another, but from one millennium to another. Remember how, as the year 2000 approached, there were so many articles, programs and films on ‘apocalyptic’, end-of-theworld themes. The feared catastrophe of the Y2K computer superbug was perhaps a secularized version of the fear the ancient Romans knew: something mysterious may slip through at the changeover and wreak all kinds of mischief. A number of films appeared at that time about demons insinuating their way into our world and its affairs. And there were some groups and individuals who felt that the world itself might come to an end with the great cosmic battle of Armageddon getting under way.
The origins of ‘apocalyptic’ thinking are in the Bible. The ten plagues of Egypt recounted in the Book of Exodus as well as the later prophecies which we still value and read — for example Ezekiel, Daniel and Zechariah — are the sources of apocalyptic imagery: horsemen, chariots, fire, floods, the world being turned upside down and inside out, the earth disappearing beneath our feet, the stars falling from the sky, strange beasts appearing — all that. Jesus himself preached in apocalyptic terms about the destruction of Jerusalem, the meaning of his own death, the breaking in of the kingdom of God and the return of the Son of Man on the clouds of heaven surrounded by the angels. It seems natural that our response to this kind of imagery should be a mixture of fear and hope. On the one hand we will want to keep it at bay, fingers crossed that if the ‘great and terrible day of the Lord’ is to come — as we believe it is — that maybe it won’t be for a while yet. On the other hand why are we not simply filled with that ‘joyful hope’, for which we pray at every Eucharist, at the prospect of the return of our Lord?
There is one very striking change in apocalyptic imagery as used by Christians. The Book of Revelation, the ‘Apocalypse’, places at the centre of the great battles and disturbances of the end time, the figure of a lamb, ‘a lamb that seemed to have been sacrificed’ (Revelation 5.6). This Lamb unlocks the secrets of the future of the world (Revelation 6.1). The Lamb stands on Mount Zion at the head of those who have been faithful to him (Revelation 14.1-5). The final battle with evil, sin and death is followed by the wedding feast of the Lamb (Revelation 19.9) and heaven is described as the new Jerusalem, a city whose only light is the glory of God and the Lamb (Revelation 21.23). It is a strange contrast, between the violent, aggressive and seemingly powerful armies of wickedness and the gentle creature who in fact holds the key to human history and whose sacrifice is the victory of God and of God’s people. The smoke of fireworks drifts away and the memory of their brightness and loudness fades. But the primitive fears, which they help us forget for a moment, remain. By contrast we continue in hope to follow the Lamb, a creature infinitely gentle, not aggressive, not violent, and yet infinitely more powerful than weapons with all their noise and clamour. The sacrifice of the Lamb — his death for love — is the most powerful moment in human history and the key to its meaning. In the Church we keep the memory of that moment alive each day, knowing that it is the source of any real strength we may have. With John the Baptist we continue to ‘stare hard’ at Jesus Christ and to say ‘look, there is the lamb of God’ (John 1.35). I hope and pray we all share in a prosperous and holy new year. (from an article from the Dominican Friars of England and Scotland)
December 22, 2019
This week marks the fourth Sunday in Advent and this coming Wednesday is Christmas. Really? Already? What happened to the Summer and Fall? I’ve previously written about this phenomenon of time quickly passing and how as we grow older time seems to fly by. I think, for myself anyway, the older I get the less important material things become. Indeed I do collect things, art objects and things of that sort, but if I had to chose one thing over the other it wouldn’t really make any difference as most things can be replaced. There are certain things that cannot, i.g. family photos, heirlooms, etc, and certainly family and friends as well. And here we are smack dab at the end of the Advent season and going into Christmas, New Year and Epiphany.
Which brings me to some important observations about the present and our future together as a community. Since arriving nearly four years ago, I have noticed certain changes occurring.
May God bless us all.
December 15, 2019
Today marks the third Sunday of Advent or the halfway mark until Christmas. Today is also known as Gaudete Sunday and so on this day the priest’s vestment can either be purple or rose. On one Sunday during Advent and Lent, priests have the option of wearing a rose chasuble. I haven’t yet purchased a “rose” vestment, but I am looking into purchasing such an outfit. On me such a color as rose would make me look like a bottle of Pepto-Bismol. While the choice of color and the priest’s comments might elicit a number of chuckles from the congregation, rose vestments have been part of the Church’s tradition for many centuries. It is, in fact, a beautiful color that has deep symbolic meaning. This color, which is only worn twice in the whole liturgical year, is traditionally associated with a sense of joy amidst a season of penance. On both Sundays (Gaudete in Advent and Laetare in Lent), rose is worn to remind us that the season of preparation is coming to a close and the great feast is swiftly approaching. Even the Entrance Antiphon that is traditionally sung at the beginning of Mass on Laetare Sunday (the Fourth Sunday of Lent) speaks of the joy we should possess: “Lætare Jerusalem: et conventum facite omnes qui diligitis eam: gaudete cum lætitia, qui in tristitia fuistis: ut exsultetis, et satiemini ab uberibus consolationis vestræ.” Psalm: Lætatus sum in his quæ dicta sunt mihi: in domum Domini ibimus. In English it reads: “Rejoice, O Jerusalem: and come together all you that love her: rejoice with joy, you that have been in sorrow: that you may exult and be filled from the breasts of your consolation.” Psalm: “I rejoiced when they said to me: “We shall go into God’s House!”
When we see the color rose at Mass we are beckoned to rejoice; the season of penance is coming to a close and the celebration of Christ’s Resurrection draws near!” Pope Francis, throughout his pontificate, has put much emphasis on joy and even dedicated an entire encyclical to the “Joy of the Gospel.” He wrote in the opening paragraph about what should fill the hearts of every Christian. “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.”
As we continue our Advent preparation and journey, and as we approach the Nativity of our Lord, remember to keep Christ our Savior as the center of this season. For it is not gifts that bring us happiness, but the love of God and others. Happy Gaudete Sunday and God bless.
December 8, 2019
Last week was the beginning of the first Sunday of Advent, our new Liturgical year, or the church’s “New Year” celebration. Unlike our secular version of New Years, our year begins four weeks before Christmas and continues from December to Epiphany in January of 2020. The Church year continues from ordinary time to Easter and so forth. During this period the Church gives us an incredible opportunity for a powerful encounter with Jesus. In her genius, the Church invites us during Advent to take a step back and look at who we are, what we are doing, and where Jesus fits into our lives. Jesus came into this world at that first Christmas for us, to bring meaning and deep satisfaction into our lives, to fill us with lasting joy, and ultimately to bring us to eternal happiness with him in heaven. That’s what we celebrate at Christmas.
Are we ready? In the Second reading of last week St. Paul’s letter poses the question of preparing ourselves for our final journey; are we ready and prepared for Christ’ coming. Some think Christmas is only one day out of the year, but what most people forget is that Christmas is an entire season ending with Epiphany in January. But for now let’s focus on Advent only. Yes, Advent is an entire season unto itself. it is a four week period prior to Christmas morning. It is a time for us as Catholics to prepare our minds and souls for the inevitable, that is the end our time on earth and the preparation of another part of our journey. God had taken on human flesh so that he may be with us on earth. To sacrifice himself in the form of a human person so that he can share in our human experience and existence. Think about it this way.
We prepare for everything we consider important in life. You wouldn’t show up to play in a football game and expect to win if you had not been training. You wouldn’t show up unprepared to give a big presentation at work and expect to get the project. We don’t expect to excel in exams if we have not studied. Consider the preparation that goes into hosting a barbecue, a dinner party, or a wedding.
Now I don’t mean the typical Christmas preparations. Buying and wrapping presents. Baking cookies. Planning parties. Putting up the lights, the tree, and other decorations. I mean preparing you. When was the last time you prepared your heart for Jesus’ coming at Christmas? Looking for a simple way to start preparing your heart to receive the Jesus, this Christmas season? I suggests you go to the parish website, there I’ve posted some spiritual books and movies for you to enjoy. Please, take this time to really prepare yourself and your loved ones for the great adventure we are sharing together. God bless.
December 1, 2019
The weeks leading up to Christmas are filled with holiday songs, seasonal sales, decorations, lights, and sometimes Advent wreaths and candles. Why? What is it that we’re celebrating? What is Advent? Each year the Catholic Church gives us an incredible
opportunity for a powerful encounter with Jesus. In her genius, the Church invites us during Advent to take a step back and look at who we are, what we are doing, and where Jesus fits into our lives.
Jesus came into this world at that first Christmas for you, to bring meaning and deep satisfaction into your life, to fill you with lasting joy, and ultimately to bring you to eternal happiness with him in heaven. That’s what we celebrate at Christmas. Are you ready? The word “advent” (the arrival of an important person or thing) is derived
from the Latin word “adventus,” which means “coming.” For Catholics, Advent is the four-week season leading up to Christmas. During Advent we anticipate the coming of Jesus. It’s a time full of reflection, excitement, and hope. Advent officially begins four Sundays before Christmas and ends on December 24. It marks the beginning of
the Catholic Church’s calendar year.
We have a shorter Advent this year (only twenty two days long!). Christmas Eve is the Fourth Monday of Advent, with Christmas falling on Tuesday. Four weeks isn't long, but that still leaves plenty of time to spend some quiet time preparing for Jesus’ coming. Common Advent traditions include an Advent calendar, the Advent wreath, and special Advent prayers. During Advent and Christmas, festively decorated evergreen wreaths hang in windows and on doors everywhere. In many homes and churches, it’s also common to see special wreaths lying on tables or ledges, adorned with four candles
(usually three purple and one pink). This familiar symbol of the season is the Advent wreath.
Traditionally, the Advent wreath is a circle of evergreen branches. Both the evergreen branches and the circular shape symbolize the passing of time and eternal life. The shape of the wreath, with no beginning or end, reflects the complete and endless love that Jesus has for us. During the Advent season, we eagerly anticipate his coming and the promise of eternal life in heaven with him.
Think about it this way. We prepare for everything we consider important in life. You wouldn’t show up to play in a football game and expect to win if you had not been training. You wouldn’t show up unprepared to give a big presentation at work and expect to get the project. We don’t expect to excel in exams if we have not studied. Consider the preparation that goes into hosting a barbecue, a dinner party, or a wedding.
Now I don’t mean the typical Christmas preparations. Buying and wrapping presents. Baking cookies. Planning parties. Putting up the lights, the tree, and other decorations. I mean preparing you. When was the last time you prepared your heart for Jesus’ coming at Christmas? I hope you have a wonderful Advent. May God bless you and yours during this most sacred time of the year.
November 24, 2019
Thanksgiving is just around the corner as is the first Sunday of Advent. Wow, how time does fly when you’re having fun and leading a busy life. Here’s a brief history of our wonderful and controversial celebration. In many American households, the Thanksgiving celebration has lost much of its original religious significance; instead, it now centers on cooking and sharing a bountiful meal with family and friends. Turkey, a Thanksgiving staple so ubiquitous it has become all but synonymous with the holiday, may or may not have been on offer when the Pilgrims hosted the inaugural feast in 1621. Today, however, nearly 90 percent of Americans eat the bird—whether roasted, baked or deep-fried—on Thanksgiving, according to the National Turkey Federation.
Other traditional foods include stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. Volunteering is a common Thanksgiving Day activity, and communities often hold food drives and host free dinners for the less fortunate. Parades have also become an integral part of the holiday in cities and towns across the United States. Presented by Macy’s department store since 1924, New York City’s Thanksgiving Day parade is the largest and most famous, attracting some 2 to 3 million spectators along its 2.5-mile route and drawing an enormous television audience. It typically features marching bands, performers, elaborate floats conveying various celebrities and giant balloons shaped like cartoon characters.
Beginning in the mid-20th century and perhaps even earlier, the president of the United States has “pardoned” one or two Thanksgiving turkeys each year, sparing the birds from slaughter and sending them to a farm for retirement. A number of U.S. governors also perform the annual turkey pardoning ritual. For some scholars, the jury is still out on whether the feast at Plymouth really constituted the first Thanksgiving in the United States. Indeed, historians have recorded other ceremonies of thanks among European settlers in North America that predate the Pilgrims’ celebration. In 1565, for instance, the Spanish explorer Pedro Menéndez de Avilé invited members of the local Timucua tribe to a dinner in St. Augustine, Florida, after holding a mass to thank God for his crew’s safe arrival. On December 4, 1619, when 38 British settlers reached a site known as Berkeley Hundred on the banks of Virginia’s James River, they read a proclamation designating the date as “a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God.”
Some Native Americans and others take issue with how the Thanksgiving story is presented to the American public, and especially to schoolchildren. In their view, the traditional narrative paints a deceptively sunny portrait of relations between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag people, masking the long and bloody history of conflict between Native Americans and European settlers that resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands. Since 1970, protesters have gathered on the day designated as Thanksgiving at the top of Cole’s Hill, which overlooks Plymouth Rock, to commemorate a “National Day of Mourning.” Similar events are held in other parts of the country. Although the American concept of Thanksgiving developed in the colonies of New England, its roots can be traced back to the other side of the Atlantic. Both the Separatists who came over on the Mayflower and the Puritans who arrived soon after brought with them a tradition of providential holidays—days of fasting during difficult or pivotal moments and days of feasting and celebration to thank God in times of plenty.
As an annual celebration of the harvest and its bounty, moreover, Thanksgiving falls under a category of festivals that spans cultures, continents and millennia. In ancient times, the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans feasted and paid tribute to their gods after the fall harvest. Thanksgiving also bears a resemblance to the ancient Jewish harvest festival of Sukkot. Finally, historians have noted that Native Americans had a rich tradition of commemorating the fall harvest with feasting and merrymaking long before Europeans set foot on their shores. I hope this brief history of our national holiday gives you opportunities to reflect on this day and to remember those who go without. Let us enjoy our family and friends when we gather around the day and to remember the author of this feast. God bless.
November 17, 2019
As your pastor and spiritual father, I would like very much to say thank you for your continued support and efforts in making this parish a welcoming and vibrant community of believers. Since the beginning of the school year we have had already several parish/school events by gathering all of our community together and enjoying each others company. We started the year with the school blessing of the kindergarten and TK classes followed with the parish picnic and continuing on with our first wine tasting fundraiser, Brats, Beer and Bingo, School Festival, and now we’re going into the Thanksgiving, and Christmas season and their related events. I will write more on those later. Soon our great nation will be celebrating a tradition that dates back to the very beginning of our nations founding.
This very secular of holiday does in fact have its origins in faith and the acknowledgment of the great creator. This is a holiday of gratitude to the almighty for the abundance of food our nation’s farmer’s produce. In fact we produce so much food that tons of it is either destroyed or set to other countries. It is important to remember how blessed we are as a country and people for the plentiful and copious varieties of foods we enjoy. Let us also remember that each culture from around the world that settles and makes their homes here also brings with them their traditions of cooking which contributes to the diversity of foods we eat and share. In California for example, we can have a cup of coffee with a croissant in the morning and for lunch we can order a burrito and for dinner Chinese take-out. And the next day we can have a whole new menu to choose from. Thanksgiving for me is thanking God for these things, my family, the varied cultures and
ethnic groups that have settled here giving us foods, music, the arts, and traditions we would otherwise never know. Knowing these things helps us to understand others outside our comfort zone. To see other things and learn our differences is important for all if we are to survive as a nation. In many ways I don’t think the founding fathers could’ve imagined how this nation they set forth would evolved and I wonder whether they would be pleased by what they set forth. In the Bible, the meaning of thanksgiving reflected adoration, sacrifice, praise, or an offering. Thanksgiving was a grateful language to God as an act of worship. Rarely, if ever, was thanksgiving extended to any person or thing, except God. “These things I remember as I pour out my soul; how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng” (Psalm 42:4). Long before the colonists celebrated their successes, Nehemiah assembled two great choirs to give thanks for God’s faithfulness in rebuilding the wall. “ . . . The Levites were sought out from where they lived and were brought to Jerusalem to celebrate joyfully and dedication with songs of thanksgiving and with the music of cymbals, harps, and lyres” (Nehemiah 12:27).
The true meaning of Thanksgiving focuses upon relationship. Thanksgiving is a relationship between God and man. Upon their arrival at New Plymouth, the Pilgrims composed The Mayflower Compact, which honored God. Thanksgiving begins with acknowledging God as faithful, earnestly giving Him thanks, in advance, for His abundant blessings. “. . . In everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6). Thanksgiving is an attitude of the heart that reinforces an intimate relationship with God.
Next week I’ll write more about Thanksgiving and how we can give more of ourselves to the wider community of San Leandro. God bless.
November 10, 2019
Today we celebrate the sacrifices our brave men and women who serve or have served in the military and their families and friends by inviting them to a special blessing during our regular weekend liturgies.
This Veterans Day, make a difference in the lives of present and former military members. Just thanking a veteran can go a long way, but an act of kindness means even more. Here are few ways we can show vets that we appreciate the sacrifices they and their families make. PICK UP THE TAB FOR THEIR COFFEE OR MEAL. The next time you see a veteran in a restaurant or standing in line for coffee, pick up the tab. You can do so anonymously if you would prefer, but even a quick "thank you for your service" would mean a lot to the veteran. You don't have to limit yourself to dinner or a latte—you could pay for a tank of gas, a prescription, or a cart of groceries.
DRIVE A VET TO A DOCTOR'S APPOINTMENT. Many vets, especially those who are infirm or disabled, have trouble making it to their doctor appointments. Give it a try by contacting the local VA hospital. TRAIN A SERVICE DOG. Service dogs are a great help to veterans with mobile disabilities and post-traumatic stress disorder, helping them rediscover physical and emotional independence. It takes approximately two years and $33,000 to properly train one service dog, so donations and training volunteers are critical. Even if you aren't equipped to train a dog, some organizations need "weekend puppy raisers," which help service dogs learn how to socialize, play, and interact with different types of people.
There are several organizations that provide this service for veterans, including Patriot Paws and Puppy Jake. WRITE A LETTER. Operation Gratitude is an organization that coordinates care packages, gifts, and letters of thanks to veterans. You can work through them to send your appreciation to a vet, or volunteer to help assemble care packages. And, if you still have candy kicking around from Halloween, Operation Gratitude also mails sweets to deployed troops.
VOLUNTEER AT A VA HOSPITAL. Whatever your talents are, they'll certainly be utilized at a Veterans Hospital. From working directly with patients to helping with recreational programs or even just providing companionship, your local VA Hospital would be thrilled to have a few hours of your time. HELP THEM WITH JOB TRAINING. Adjusting back to civilian life isn't always smooth sailing. Hire Heroes helps vets with interview skills, resumes, and training so they can find a post-military career. They even partner with various employers to host a job board. Through Hire Heroes, you can help veterans with mock interviews, career counseling, job searches, workshops, and more.
These suggestions are easy to accomplish, but it does require our own sacrifices of time and energy. Let’s remember our men and women who are in need our love, care and support. God bless.
November 3, 2019
These last few weeks have been devastating to the people of California who live in Sonoma county and parts of Southern California. Wildfires now seem to be a part of our fall season and believe me that’s not good. I love the Fall, but the last several years have made me nervous and hesitant in welcoming this once tranquil season. This is suppose to be a time of transition from Summer to Winter.
The Fall has so much to offer and yet here we are in the middle of another devastating fire season. The firestorm of 2017 and 2018 were horrible in themselves, but now here we are in 2019 and it doesn’t seem to be better than the previous years. I remember the destructive fire that rampaged through the Oakland and Berkeley hills in 1991. Many lives were lost and numerous homes and buildings were burned to the ground. Both cities learned a lesson in wildfire prevention, or did they? Wildfires are in themselves catastrophic and burn their way without any regard. Yet, these fires are part of nature’s way of cleaning house. I read an article years ago that in order for a redwood forest to regenerate they require fire to jumpstart the process. The idea of fire as life giving is beyond our normal understanding. We often think and see the disastrous results of wildfires by the destructive paths left behind. A great fire can burn thousands of acre and with a strong and mighty wind can cause an even more cataclysmic event as we are currently witnessing with these new fires.
I often think if I had to make a decision about leaving my home what items would I take with me. Perhaps the photographs of my two grandfathers and great uncles. Or the drafting tools my father gave me before his death. Or some of my
artwork that is currently in drawers. Or would I be practical and take just my important financial papers and documents? What is my priority? Honestly, I cannot say as I’ve never been placed in situation where I had to make that kind of decision in my life… so far. In the scheme of life what do we find most important, what is our priority? Some material things are replaceable, people are not. Do we help others in such devastating situations or is self preservation more urgent.
These are questions and actions we will not know until such time we are tested. And only then will we know the answer; am I a coward or am I brave? We won’t know. During this horrific time let us keep our brothers and sisters in our prayers. Here is a prayer I encourage you to use as we all fight for our beloved state and fellow men and women: Compassionate Lord, we pray for those who have been devastated by recent natural disasters. We remember those who have lost their lives so suddenly. We hold in our hearts the families forever changed by grief and loss. Bring them consolation and comfort.
October 27, 2019
Last Tuesday something wonderful happened to me at the end of mass; a very nice parishioner gave me a wonderful gift. She gave me a rosary that was blessed by a second class relic of St. John Paul II. I was so touched by this beautiful gesture it bought tears to my eyes. So I started thinking about acts of kindness and love and what they are and what they mean to others. And I remembered in our Catholic faith the Corporal Acts and the Spiritual Acts of Mercy. I’ve listed them below as a reminder to us and how we can apply these gifts to our everyday life.
The Corporal Acts of Mercy are as follows:
1. Feed the hungry
2. Give drink to the thirsty
3. Clothe the naked
4. Shelter the homeless
5. Visit the sick
6. Visit the imprisoned
7. Bury the dead
And the Spiritual Acts of Mercy:
1. Instruct the ignorant
2. Counsel the doubtful
3. Admonish sinners
4. Bear wrongs patiently
5. Forgive offenses willingly
6. Comfort the afflicted
7. Pray for the living and the dead
Paying for a stranger’s coffee is not in itself an act of mercy unless the stranger is a homeless person and it’s a cold day. Kindness can soften someone’s heart, certainly, but I don’t think it’s quite mercy. It’s a kindness by helping an elderly person cross the street for example. God shows
his love, not with great speeches, but with simple, tender acts of charity, Pope Francis said.
"When Jesus wants to teach us how a Christian should be, he tells us very little," the pope said, but he shows people by feeding the hungry and welcoming the stranger. "How does God show his love? With great things? No, he becomes small with gestures of tenderness, goodness," God stoops low and gets close. In Christ, God then became flesh, lowering himself even unto death, which helps teach Christians the right path they should take. "What does (Jesus) say? He doesn't say, 'I think God is like this. I have understood God's love.' No, no. I made God's love small,” pope Francis reminds us, that is, he expressed God's love concretely on a small scale by feeding someone who was hungry, giving the thirsty something to drink, visiting a prisoner or someone who is ill. The works of mercy are precisely the path of love that Jesus teaches us in continuity with this great love of God.
Therefore, there is no need for grand speeches about love, but there is a need for men and women who know how to do these little things for Jesus, for the Father. Works of mercy continues that love, which is made small so it can reach us and we carry it forward. Let us all commit random acts of kindness and mercy towards all we meet. God bless.
October 20, 2019
As we continue our journey into the new school and parish year we find ourselves in a very busy time. Mary Schirmer is again planning and preparing for our second annual “Brats, Beer and Bingo” fundraiser. Last year’s event was astounding! Lots of good food, (who doesn’t like sausages?), great craft beers, and of course BINGO! The fundraiser brought in more than twice that was expected which in turn helped our youth ministry to offer more programs. I’m hoping this year to see even more donations for our youth.
The parish will see many new programs and events in the month of October and into November. We already had our first parish wine tasting fundraiser. Last weekend we blessed our animal friends and we prayed the rosary in commemoration of our Lady of Fatima. November will also see some fun events as well. I’ll write about that later.
A couple of Sundays ago I wrote about spiritual direction and what it is and what it is not. In concert with Our Lady of Fatima rosary recitation of last week, I would like to continue with spirituality and how we can grow into our faith.
Catholic spirituality includes the various ways in which Catholics live out our Baptismal promise through prayer and action. The primary prayer of all Catholics is the Eucharistic liturgy in which we celebrate and share our faith together, in accord with Jesus' instruction: "Do this in memory of
me." The Catholic bishops at the Second Vatican Council decreed that "devotions should be so drawn up that they harmonize with the liturgical seasons, accord with the sacred liturgy, are in some fashion derived from it, and lead the people to it, since, in fact, the liturgy by its very nature far surpasses any of them." In accord with this, many additional forms of prayer have developed over the centuries as means of animating one's personal Christian life, at times in gatherings with others. Each of the religious orders and congregations of the Catholic church, as well as lay groupings, has specifics to its own spirituality – its way of approaching God in prayer to foster its way of living out the Gospel.
Living the Gospels in today’s culture can be an arduous task. Indeed, many parent have asked me how can they get their sons, daughters, spouses to mass. My answer is always the same, just be a witness to your faith. Being a witness to one’s faith is, in my opinion, the best way to influence others. To get someone back into their faith requires not only your witness, but also the power of prayer and the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit is allowed to do His job we will see the fruits of our prayers materialize and then we will know the real power of God. For God nothing is impossible. But we must keep the faith in order to witness the faith of others.
October 13, 2019
Last Sunday afternoon the parish came together for our first annual wine tasting fundraiser. What great fun that was. First I would like to thank Faye Clement and her crew for planning and executing this incredible function. I had a great time tasting all the different wines the diocese produces; who would’ve thought? The hors d’oeuvres were delicious and the company was fun. We also had a great little band playing whilst we noshed and drank on that sunny and warm afternoon. I’m already looking forward to next year!
This Sunday, today, the parish community is coming together to celebrate the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, his feast fell on October 4th, so we’re a little late in celebrating. The parish families will bring their furry, feathered and scaly friends to Mary Sees plaza for our annual blessing. This is a feast many people in many countries celebrate, including Protestants, Buddhists, non-religious, and non-believers; they all want their pets blessed just as much as we Catholics.
St. Francis is one of those saints, like St. Augustine, that are venerated and admired by many around the world. St. Francis is the patron saint of San Francisco, hence the city’s name, he is also patron saint of Italy and of our animal friends and nature. Francis was a poor man who astounded and inspired the Church by taking the gospel literally—not in a narrow fundamentalist sense, but by actually following all that Jesus said and did, joyfully, without limit, and without a sense of self-importance. From the cross in the neglected field-chapel of San Damiano, Christ told him, “Francis, go out and build up my house, for it is nearly falling down.” He is the patron saint of the environment and animals because he loved all creatures and all of God’s creation and
allegedly preached to the birds and the beasts of the forest. The thing I love most about this celebration is meeting all the wonderful animal brothers and sisters. To see their personalities and enjoy with their families the gift God gives us through his creation. Some say animals have no souls. On the contrary, animals have a type of soul, not like yours or mine, but certainly they have something innate in them that resembles a soul-like. Sometimes the question comes up, do animals have souls–and the answer is yes as do plants. What? Does this answer sound like something out of the New Age movement? Don’t worry –it isn’t. Rest assured we’re not saying animals and plants have souls like ours.
The soul is the principle of life. Since animals and plants are living things, they have souls, but not in the sense in which human beings have souls. Our souls are rational–theirs aren’t–and ours are rational because they’re spiritual, not material. Anyway, on this day of blessing our two and four legged friends I feel that I am blessed for being a part of this human community. To love doesn’t just mean loving other humans, but it also means loving God’s creation and showing the proper understanding of God and His supremacy of this earth.
Here is Francis’ prayer I think you might like to recite:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace: where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Amen. God bless.
October 6, 2019
I would like to touch on a subject I believe to be important and that is act of “Spiritual Direction”. Why do I think this is an important subject to discuss? Simply put, I believe everyone should consider doing spiritual direction at least once in their lives if not more often as I find this type of communications with God to be invaluable to my spiritual wellbeing, especially as a priest. As I have studied the lives of the holy men and women who make up the communion of saints — I have noticed three things they share in common.
1, they have a deep and abiding relationship with the Person of Jesus Christ. 2, not only have they each submitted their will and their life to the Lordship of Jesus, they have fully embraced the gift of their baptism as active members of the Catholic Church, His Mystical Body on Earth. 3, in order to maintain and grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ and His Church each of them has sought out spiritual direction.
So, what is spiritual direction? and What is a spiritual director? Spiritual direction is a discipline through which a person explores and deepens his or her relationship with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the context of confidential ongoing conversation with another disciple of Jesus who, because of his of her personal experience and intellectual knowledge of God and the spiritual life, accompanies others on their way home to God.
Spiritual direction helps us become aware of the ways in which we cooperate with, ignore, or in some cases actively hinder the Holy Spirit’s work within us. Grounded in the truths of the faith once
delivered to the saints, loyal to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, and drawing upon the spiritual wisdom of those who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith, spiritual direction is a ministry in service to the whole Church. Through it we grow in our prayer life, and learn to live more fully into and out of our call to holiness in whatever state of life God calls us. A spiritual director is a person whom we have chosen after prayerful consideration to accompany us, to hold us accountable, to encourage us, to challenge us and, when necessary, engage us in fraternal correction along our way of discipleship. Our spiritual director helps us to notice God’s presence and activity in our life. He or she can encourage us to explore our personal reactions and responses to the Holy Trinity’s presence and activity within and around us.
A spiritual director will usually have some training in the ministry of direction. Sometimes, however, a director is simply a woman or man who has a reputation in the community of faith for being able to offer spiritual insight and counsel when asked to do so. A spiritual direction meeting is a one-on -one meeting during which the director and the directee discuss the spiritual life of the directee. Where have you noticed God in your life since last we met? When have you experienced God as absent from your life since we last met? In what ways has God comforted you in your afflictions or afflicted you in your comfort since we last met? These are typical questions that might be asked and discussed in a spiritual direction session.
The frequency of spiritual direction is usually once a month for an hour. Or as I said in my opening sentence above, it should be done at least once in a lifetime. I find spiritual direction to be both comforting and up-lifting. The guidance I receive from my spiritual director helps to discern what it is I must do and to bring myself closer to God and His Son. A spiritual director is not a therapist or for confession, although confession can be a part of it, but spiritual direction is to provide you the tools to strengthen and guide you in your quest during your spiritual journey. I am available for spiritual direction anytime. Please call and make an appointment. God bless.
September 29, 2019
Constructive criticism is a good thing … really! I have often heard from my confreres how they sometimes receive anonymous letters “criticizing” them for numerous offenses and how they cope with these unsolicited letters. The problem with criticism is not the act of criticizing someone, but how the sender uses this in a demeaning and not very constructive way. Usually these anonymous letters are littered with insults, and perceptions that are not based on reality. So however negative these types of letter can be, there are some letters that actually provide constructive and wise suggestions. And if the letters are well intended, then it is the hope the recipient of these letters would reflect on them.
Here are just a few benefits that can be found when you make the most of constructive criticism: Constructive criticism is a valuable tool in the workplace or in a parish setting that allows individuals to learn and grow. But quite often people don't realize what a great resource it can be. The truth is, feedback and criticism can really help all of us succeed in the workplace and in life. Here are just a few benefits that can be found when you make the most of constructive criticism. Increases insight and perspective: First of all, criticism helps to give us a new perspective and opens our eyes to things we may have overlooked or never considered. Whether it's a peer review of your work or a performance review, constructive criticism and feedback can help you grow by shedding light and giving you the opportunity for improvement. Just remember, it's important that you don't take criticism so personally, it's meant to help you learn and grow and is not an attack on your skills or character.
Creates bonds: Criticism is especially beneficial at the parish because it shows that your community cares about you and want to see you succeed. Receiving feedback, whether it's positive or negative, is a good thing because it just goes to show that your peers, co-workers, or parishioners are invested in your future and they want to help you learn. Rather than letting you fail and replacing you, these people feel that you're the right person for the job and they want you on their team. With a little bit of guidance, you will be an even better fit for your position and learn a thing or two along the way. Cultivates a trustworthy workplace: In an environment where people are able to share feedback and constructive criticism, everyone is a winner. Creating a transparent, collaborative atmosphere at work gives us all the opportunities to become better workers and people. With feedback and input from your community we are able to learn and expand our horizons while creating trusting relationships with others. Most importantly, an open environment like this allows us to be proactive and share our input without putting people's personal feelings in jeopardy.
The above ideas are good for us to follow, but unfortunately some people think “criticism” involve insults, put downs, or downright hostilities towards recipient. This sort of behavior is not conducive to building up a person and encouraging an individual to exceed in their field. On the contrary, a letter such as this will cause a person anxiety and resentment. We must be careful and not use “criticism” in a way that is demeaning and detrimental to the individual. Let us use constructive criticism to better each other for all of our sakes. God bless.
September 22, 2019
Betty Davis, a famous American movie star from Hollywood’s golden age, once said in the movie “All about Eve”, “Hold on folks, we’re in for a bumpy ride”. I say, “Hold on folks, we’re in for an exciting ride”. Two weeks ago Doug Taylor, president of the Parish Pastoral Council, and the heads of each of the parish’s ministries came together for our very first parish ministry summit conference. We had a great time hearing what each minister/ministry is doing and what plans they have for future events and programs. One of the main points of discussion was how to reach out to our parishioners and recruit new blood into our various groups of parishioners who work hard bringing us the events and programs we currently have and programs we wish to plan. I understand that participating in these ministries does take time and indeed requires dedicating ourselves to something outside of our comfort zone and family life. But volunteering our time and energy to something worthwhile is what we should be doing. It is part of our love of parish and love of God. It is also being a good steward so that when we move on we leave a better place for future generations to inherit. Do we really want to leave something not worth keeping? I dare say not.
Onto other news: I am getting excited as the weeks pass about upcoming events. Faye Clements is heading and planning our first ever wine-tasting fundraiser. Not only will we taste the various wines the diocese produces, but we’ll also be treated to delicious food and great music. Additionally, Faye ordered our commemorative wine glasses with the parish’s newly minted logo. Another great fundraiser coming in the month of October is “Beer, Brats, and Bingo”. Last year Mary Schirmer set a goal to raise two thousand dollars and because of your participation and
generosity, she exceeded that goal by twice that amount. Exciting! The funds the parish received helped our youth ministry programs meet their goals for the year. Again thank you.
As some of may have noticed last week there was some construction going on at the rectory. Unfortunately the rectory and many of the buildings at Assumption are almost seventy years old and are in need of maintenance and repair. We’re very blessed so far that our facilities are still in pretty good shape, but like everything that reaches a certain age, repairs will have to take place. This is where good stewardship comes into play. As your parochial administrator working with the finance committee, I am hopeful many of you will come forward to help in maintaining this property. We have wonderful men who work with Larry Graves in maintaining our gardens, but there is going to be a time when they can no longer do this ministry for the parish. I am hoping there will be a new breed of men and women who will come forward and volunteer their time. I am also hopeful more of you will volunteer for the many events, projects, and programs our parish committees and organizations are planning for the future. Let’s all be generous with our time and energy and continue to make this a wonderfully caring and vibrant place for all who enter our front door. God Bless.
September 15, 2019
I cannot believe Fall is just around the corner, so I’m putting away my Hawaiian shirts and replacing them with something warmer and appropriate to the season. Summers are a fun time of year, but for me I personally love the Fall. There is something special about this season. I love the night chill and the smells of smoke wafting in the air from the many home fireplaces; the colors that surround us and the sounds of spent leaves crunching under foot. Fall is like a long pause or a deep breath before taking the plunge into a cold stream.
The winter months have its charms too; the Advent season begins, followed with Christmas and then the end of a year and the beginning of a new one. But Fall feels special to me more so than Spring. Fall is the last of the summer fruits and the beginning of winter vegetables that go so well with hearty stews and soups. Fall also gives me the chance to bundle up and read a good book. But mostly Fall is a time for preparation for the high holy days as I mentioned above. There is nothing I can think of that mirrors the cycle of life more than the four seasons.
In the Spring is new growth, new opportunities and the beginning of new life. This is followed with the carefree and warm and growing months of summer. The Fall returns coaxing us to slow down and take inventory of what we accomplished so far in the year. Then we find ourselves in the cold embrace of winter. But in that cold embrace is the warmth of the coming of Christ’ birth giving us hope for the coming new year. In the fall our parish community will be celebrating our annual festival in September. This is a wonderful time for the parish and school as this brings us all together to celebrate who we are as
a community. We’re NOT just a school and NOT just a parish, but in fact we are ONE. That parking lot does not separate us from each other, physically it does, but in fact it connects us as parish. This is why I think it is imperative we know this and to share this with others. I’ve heard too often the “them and us” mentality and I find this rather disturbing. It is not them or us, but we. We are a community. We are a parish. And We should be working together if we are going to survive as a parish community of believers. Let us continue to work together to build our community for the betterment of all. I wanted to share this wonderful poem Thomas Merton wrote while hiking through the forest one day: “…I live in the woods out of necessity. I get out of bed in the middle of the night because it is imperative that I hear the silence of the night, alone, and, with my face on the floor, say psalms, alone, in the silence of the night.” Let us make some time for silence in our lives. God Bless.
September 8, 2019
The other day I was catching up on my reading and came across this headline: “Just one-third of U.S. Catholics agree with their church that Eucharist is body, blood of Christ”. I thought that was curious and felt some disbelief in the research even as I read the statistics. Could this really be true, are the number of Catholics who do not believe really one-third? Being the curious fellow that I am, and to assure others who might have read this same article, I decided to look into this further. What I discovered was complex and not altogether accurate. There are many reasons for this disturbing trend in our church, especially amongst the millennials, but given the short amount of space I have I cannot possibly address them all here. So instead of analyzing the reasons I decided to write what the church believes about this miracle that occurs daily at mass.
This is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says about, “Transubstantiation”: “The Roman Catholic Church teaches that in the Eucharistic offering bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of Christ. ... The manner in which the change occurs, the Roman Catholic Church teaches, is a mystery: "The signs of bread and wine become, in a way surpassing understanding, the Body and Blood of Christ.” Now given this explanation I can understand why onethird of Catholics lack a deep belief in this sacrament. We are, after all, a modern people taught to think and reason and to observe the evidence as presented to us physically or scientifically. We see with our own eyes something that can be proven so therefore it must be true. What we’re lacking is faith in the transcendental. As bishop Barron rightly suggests that the people's absence of understanding the true nature of the Eucharist is due in most part to the church’s failure in teaching the people the real presence of Christ, not as a mere symbol but as a real occurrence; a real change from ordinary bread and wine to the Flesh and Blood of Christ. Flannery O’Connor, famous Southern Catholic writer once wrote when visiting a non-catholic friend: “Mrs. Broadwater said when she was a child and received the Host, she thought of it as the Holy Ghost, He being the ‘most portable’ person of the Trinity; now she thought of it as a symbol and implied that it was a pretty good one. I then said, in a very shaky voice, ‘Well, if it’s a symbol, to hell with it.’ That was all the defense I was capable of but I realize now that this is all I will ever be able to say about it,”. I say the same thing, if its only a symbol then why am I here doing what I’m doing? It makes sense that what we consume at each and every mass isn’t a mere symbol but an actual transformation that science and reason cannot possibly sum up.
Going back to the Pew Institutes’ research, I believe if the question was worded differently the results might have been more in tune with the church’s understanding. Or at least given those being polled a time to think about what the real presence is in reality. God bless.
September 1, 2019
Last Sunday the parish blessed and welcomed our new TK and Kindergarten classes to a new school year. It was wonderful seeing so many families attending mass and then participating in the parish picnic at the school/parish green. What a great time and lots of fun and good food; I was very impressed as to how many of us brought food to share. The lumpia’s were delicious, as were the many salads, bean dishes and numerous sides dishes; it was literally an international smorgasbord of deliciousness. The dessert table was laden with so many sweets I didn’t know which to choose.
I would like to take this time to thank all involved during this incredible time. Thank you Kelli and Paul Jackman and those who assisted them. Thank you Dad’s club for grilling hot dogs and tending bar; as always you guys do great work for the school and parish. And thank you all who came early and left late to set up and take down the canopies, tables and everything else. I would also like to thank all the teachers, staff and Mrs. Rocheford for being there to support this great community. And a big thank you to all the parents and their children for sharing this time with the whole parish. It was satisfying to see so many families and friends coming together to share in this joyous occasion. As I mentioned to Doug Taylor and Pedro Naranjo, I felt a lot of positive energy that day and feel like we have a great future ahead of us. Many parents and friends also said they thought our community was starting to come together not as just the school or the parish, but as a whole community of Assumption.
As pastor of this incredible parish, I am especially excited about the upcoming events that will take place in September and October. Our annual school festival is scheduled for September 27th thru the 28th, followed with a pancake breakfast on the 29th. This year also marks the beginning of what I hope to be an annual event on our parish calendar and that is the parish “Wine Tasting” fundraiser. Faye Clement has taken great strides in preparing for and planning this event. She’s doing a bang up job and I look forward to getting my very own wine glass with our parish logo etched on the side. And Mary Schirmer is again planning for our Second Annual Brats, Bingo and Beer fundraiser for our youth ministry programs. So much fun is coming our way.
One more piece of news. This Fall we’re getting a Transitional Deacon from St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park. Deacon Juuni is from Guam and will begin his “deacon year” starting Sunday, September 22nd. In addition to deacon Juuni, we are also blessed with another seminarian who will assist in our youth programs helping Mary to develop and expand the parish youth ministry. Lots of things happening in the Fall. Stay tuned as more projects and events come online. God bless.