a Word from the pastor
November 17, 2020
As I sit at my desk thinking about a topic to write about, I suddenly realized that Thanksgiving is next week! So aside from good food and health what am thankful for during this time of year? I suppose there are many things to be grateful for but the one that comes immediately to mind is my mother coming home from hospital and resting in her own bed recuperating from her most recent ordeal. And two, I have my family close to me, so I don’t have to travel far to visit them and their families. I’m also living at a wonderful parish filled with caring and loving people. The world may be going through some rough times, but for the most part I’m doing OK knowing that God and His Son are here with me and guiding me through these turbulent times. As I think about Thanksgiving I am also thinking of the wonderful smells of turkey and baked good wafting in the air and the sound of my nieces, nephews and siblings as we await the feast my sister so lovingly prepares each year. And as such I think of Luke’s Gospel and how he connects Jesus’ Word’s in Scripture. Luke’s Gospel often uses metaphors relating to food and table fellowship that most Jews of Jesus’ time would recognize and most likely practice.
What is unique to Luke is his emphasis on table fellowship. Just as with the theme of material possessions Luke records many of Jesus’ deeds and words on this important theme while at the same time shaping the narrative to draw greater attention to eating meals. In the other synoptics, (Matthew and Mark), Jesus is accused of eating with tax collectors and sinners. Yet only does Luke record an actual banquet thrown by Levi. And only in Luke does Jesus use the occasion of a meal with a Pharisee to forgive a repentant woman who anoints Him and another meal to lambaste the hypocrisy of His opponents. Only in Luke does Jesus give extended parables of wedding feasts while at a great feast to illustrate future membership and life in the kingdom. Luke’s account of Jesus’ words and deeds and the Last Supper are by far the most influential of the entire gospel tradition. Luke presents the most detailed theology of the Last Supper 1) by recording Jesus explicitly connecting His Last Supper with the “new covenant” promised in Jeremiah; 2) by recording Jesus’ command to “do this” in His memory; and 3) by connecting the Last Supper celebration by the apostles so closely to their reign in the kingdom judging the tribes of Israel. This last point is of immense importance for Biblical catechesis on the Eucharist. In Luke, the kingdom of God is at least partly a present reality in which one participates by participating in the meal commanded by the Lord and mediated by his apostles. These last points should give all of us a greater sense of continuity, the longevity of our Catholic Christian faith, the distribution of Jesus’ body and blood and the belief from the very beginning that this mere piece of bread and wine are truly the body or flesh and blood of Christ. This is no representation but in fact reality of something so profound that many theologians and philosophers have tried explaining. But sometimes words cannot explain that faith which lies behind this mystery. As we approach Thanksgiving day along with all the wonderful foods and smells, let’s not forget the fellowship, and the faith we have which calls us all to the Table of the Lord. May God bless you all.
November 10, 2020
Among the Rocks by Robert Browning
Oh, good gigantic smile o ’the brown old earth,
This autumn morning! How he sets his bones
To bask i ’the sun, and thrusts out knees and feet
For the ripple to run over in its mirth;
Listening the while, where on the heap of stones
The white breast of the sea-lark twitters sweet.
That is the doctrine, simple, ancient, true;
Such is life’s trial, as old earth smiles and knows.
If you loved only what were worth your love,
Love were clear gain, and wholly well for you:
Make the low nature better by your throes!
Give earth yourself, go up for gain above!
Every once in awhile I think back on the many Novembers past and remember all the wonderful things about this time of year. It is a time of transition between the warmth of summer days and the chill of winter to come. It is during this time that I feel most close to the earth and as such I feel the many loses in my life. It is a sobering time, the realization that life comes and goes. It is a time of the last of the summer produce and a time for preparing wonderful and hearty meals. The Fall has a special place in my heart as it is a time to contemplate the things most important to me. It is a time to remember those you loved, who are now gone. I have often wished that those that I loved most were still with me and in many ways they are. As Catholic Christians, as does the rest of the world, we commemorate our deceased family members and friends. All Saints, and All Souls day give us the time to invite those that have gone before us back for a visit. In Japan for instance, families gather at cemeteries and picnic on the grave of a relative. In Mexico they celebrate Dia de los Muertos, the day of the dead. In this tradition families gather and build elaborate altars to their ancestors, followed with food and music. These cultures have no fear of death or the dead. They have an understanding that life does not end here, but continues to the next. To understand our shortness of life, God makes us aware of our own mortality and how we should live our lives in accordance to our Christian beliefs.
We read in Psalm 48:14, ”For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death.” There are so many scriptural texts that comfort us, to give us confidence that God does not abandon his flock, and to know that there is a place in the House of God. “My Father's house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?” John 14:2. Keep the peace and love one another. God bless.
November 2, 2020
November is a month in which we commemorate our beloved dead and celebrate one of two great secular holidays that are uniquely American; that is Thanksgiving and the other is the fourth of July. Although many think of Thanksgiving as a purely secular holiday, in fact its origins come from New England/Christian piety and over the decades have evolved into the holiday we are most familiar, that is gathering with family and friends, watching college football and eating copious amounts of turkey and other starches which add to our waste line. So by New Years we are making resolutions to loose the weight we so joyfully acquired during this time.
Here is what I discovered in my research as I was writing this week's “A Word from the Pastor"
Thanksgiving Day, annual national holiday in the United States and Canada celebrating the harvest and other blessings of the past year. Americans generally believe that their Thanksgiving is modeled on a 1621 harvest feast shared by the English colonists (Pilgrims) of Plymouth and the Wampanoag people. The American holiday is particularly rich in legend and symbolism, and the traditional fare of the Thanksgiving meal typically includes turkey, bread stuffing, potatoes, cranberries, and pumpkin pie. With respect to vehicular travel, the holiday is often the busiest of the year, as family members gather with one another.
Some of my fondest memories of growing up in a large family was the anticipation of the Holidays, beginning with Halloween, to Thanksgiving, Christmas and culminating with the big New Year’s eve bash. As a family we often gathered in front of the TV watching Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians playing familiar tunes from big band to rock and roll to classical all broadcasting from the Grand Ballroom of the Waldorf/Astoria hotel in New York City. It was also an evening of eating my mother’s annual tamale feast; I have yet to find a tamale that compares to hers. However, this year is very different from previous ones as we continue coping with this virus, unrest in our nation and an upcoming presidential election. 2020 will go down as one of the worse years in our collective memory. Or is it? 2020 can be labeled as Annus horribilis or a terrible year. Yet, I on the other hand, remain as always optimistisch (optimistic) in situations such as these if only to retain my sanity, so I encourage you, beloved members of our wonderful and caring community, to do the same. Keep an optimistic view and and do not let the outside world trample on your happiness. All Souls’ day and Thanksgiving should be a time of renewal and gratefulness for the things we do have. To have family, friends, health and food are core things that give us the strength to continue on and move forward in a “Topsy Turvy” world. As it is said in Proverbs: “Those who trouble their household [will] inherit the wind”. Let us not trouble our lives with those things passing in this world, but focus on the world we will inherit. God Bless.
October 27, 2020
What do sugar skulls, marigolds and monarch butterflies have in common? Just like pumpkins, witches and black cats are quintessential symbols of Halloween, these objects are associated with a different holiday: Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead.
As I was researching the meaning and traditions of this day, I came across with the help of the Smithsonian Latino Center, five facts that I didn’t even know until recently. So with that, please enjoy this very informative article:
Dance group Los Tecuanes perform the “La Danza de los Tecuanes” at a festival celebrating Día de los Muertos at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. (Courtesy of the Smithsonian Latino Center)
1. It’s not the same as Halloween
While Halloween is celebrated Oct. 31, Día de los Muertos is celebrated right after, on Nov. 2. Many communities that celebrate Día de los Muertos also celebrate Halloween and All Souls Day as well.
2. It originated in Mexico and Central America
Día de los Muertos originated in ancient Mesoamerica (Mexico and northern Central America) where indigenous groups, including Aztec, Maya and Toltec, had specific times when they commemorated their loved ones who had passed away. Certain months were dedicated to remembering the departed, based on whether the deceased was an adult or a child. After the arrival of the Spanish, this ritual of commemorating the dead was intertwined with two Spanish holidays: All Saints Day (Nov. 1) and All Soul’s Day (Nov. 2). Día de los Muertos is often celebrated on Nov. 1 as a day to remember children who have passed away, and on Nov. 2 to honor adults. Today, Día de los Muertos is celebrated mostly in Mexico and some parts of Central and South America. Recently it has become increasingly popular among Latino communities abroad, including in the United States. Sugar skulls, monarch butterflies, marigolds and traditional paper banners (papel picado) are all symbols of the Día de los Muertos. (Courtesy of the Smithsonian Latino Center)
3. It’s a celebration of life, not death
Ancient Mesoamericans believed that death was part of the journey of life. Rather than death ending life, they believed that new life came from death. This cycle is often associated with the cyclical nature of agriculture, whereby crops grow from the ground where the last crop lies buried. Día de los Muertos is an opportunity to remember and celebrate the lives of departed loved ones. Like any other celebration, Día de los Muertos is filled with music and dancing. Some popular dances include La Danza de los Viejitos—the dance of the little old men—in which boys and young men dress as old men, walk around crouched over then suddenly jump up in an energetic dance. Another dance is La Danza de los Tecuanes—the dance of the jaguars—that depicts farm workers hunting a jaguar. The ofrenda, or altar, is composed of mementos, photographs and objects of loved ones who have died and is intended to honor and remember their lives. This is an installation by artist Amalia Mesa-Bains, titled “An Ofrenda for Dolores del Rio” © 1991, Amalia Mesa-Bains. (Courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum)
4. The ofrenda is a central component
The ofrenda is often the most recognized symbol of Día de los Muertos. This temporary altar is a way for families to honor their loved ones and provide them what they need on their journey. They place down pictures of the deceased, along with items that belonged to them and objects that serve as a reminder of their lives.
Every ofrenda also includes the four elements: water, wind, earth and fire. Water is left in a pitcher so the spirits can quench their thirst. Papel picado, or traditional paper banners, represent the wind. Earth is represented by food, especially bread. Candles are often left in the form of a cross to represent the cardinal directions, so the spirits can find their way. Traditional calaveras, or skulls, which are prominent on Día de los Muertos. (Courtesy of the Smithsonian Latino Center)
5. Flowers, butterflies and skulls are typically used as symbols
The cempasúchil, a type of marigold flower native to Mexico, is often placed on ofrendas and around graves. With their strong scent and vibrant color the petals are used to make a path that leads the spirits from the cemetery to their families’ homes. Monarch butterflies play a role in Día de los Muertos because they are believed to hold the spirits of the departed. This belief stems from the fact that the first monarchs arrive in Mexico for the winter each fall on Nov. 1, which coincides with Día de los Muertos. Calaveritas de azucar, or sugar skulls, along with toys, are left on the altars for children who have passed. The skull is used not as morbid symbol but rather as a whimsical reminder of the cyclicality of life, which is why they are brightly decorated.
If you wish to learn more about Día de los Muertos please visit the Smithsonian Latino Center’s Latino Virtual Museum. This is a great resource for your children and grandchildren.
October 20, 2020
Becoming someone professionally is a very important goal for all of us. To be someone in a profession or vocation is what we strive for in our journey of life. To become someone successful in our culture is the most important thing to achieve. As Americans we believe the more successful we are, and the better educated we become, society will judge us to be good and contributing citizens. Dr. King said in his famous speech: "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." But there is always that struggle between wanting to be successful and accepted by our peers or the fear of being deemed as a failure by our friends and neighbors. Being material and financially successful doesn’t necessarily afford us the happiness we seek and sometimes those things can be our downfall. This is where I believe living in two worlds has its advantages; the material world and that of the spiritual.
If we choose one over the other, we face the danger of an empty life, void of a deeper, spiritual understanding of the world around us. To remove the transcendental or the spiritual leads to a superficial understanding of how we interact with others. We are either empathetic or apathetic to our fellow humans, from the unborn to the elderly.
In bishop Robert Barron’s latest book, “Centered: The Spirituality of Word on fire”, he writes about the union with God: “The proximity of God is not a threat to a creature but, on the contrary, that which allows the creature to be most fully itself. If a fellow creature were to enter into the very constitution of my being, I would be the victim of an aggression, and my freedom and integrity would be undermined. But the true God can enter into the most intimate ontological unity with a creature, and the result is not diminution but enhancement of creaturely being. God and the worldly are therefore capable of an ontological incoherence, a being-in-the-other, so that each can let the other be even as they enter into the closest contact.” (the priority of Christ, 56) God in His way enters into each of us not as an aggressor being, but to enhance our very character, our humanity. Bishop Barron continues, “The incarnation tells central truths concerning both God and us. If God became human without ceasing to be God and without Compromising the integrity of the creature he became, God must not be a competitor with His creation”. God only enhances us, to make us better, to care for us and to ultimately bring us closer to him and those around us. As Paul writes, we are all part of the body of Christ, with Christ as the head, the cornerstone. He makes us whole and brings us together to form the Christian family and to share in the one true God. Let us remember that for us to survive material, and spiritually, we must see Christ in all people. To be a part of the human species which means to collectively care for each member as part of Christ’s body. God bless.
October 13, 2020
Hello my brothers and sisters. We’re smack dab in the middle of Fall and I’m starting to enjoy the weather of cool mornings, and warm afternoons. I was hoping and praying for rain, but unfortunately none came then. Oh well. Let’s hope the weatherperson is wrong and we will have a decent wet winter to help heal the fire scared areas of our wonderful state.
There are a few events coming up for our parish I would like to share. But first, I would like to thank those who watched the lecture with Dr. Carole on her topic of recognizing various types of abuses and how to react to them. Her talk was well received by many of you, especially those in the medical and mental health professions. Dr. Carole’s talk was both informative and revealing, helping us to recognize abuses and to help those who have been abused. During this “shelter-in-place” situation, it’s nice to know there are resources out there to guide us through these difficult times and to help others facing difficult and challenging situations. I hope those watching Dr. Carole’s talk were able to find comfort and help. We will post on our website resource information.
Second, the Dad’s Club is sponsoring a pumpkin carving contest and drive-in movie this coming Saturday, October 17th. You can find the information on the school and parish websites. Thirdly, All Saints, and All Souls days are coming in November. The parish is planning something soon; of course it will be virtual, like everything else. More information is forthcoming. Thanksgiving will soon be upon us, and unfortunately we’re not sure if the county and diocese will allow for indoor mass. If they do allow for indoor mass, it will be most likely restricted to less than a hundred people. I hope to have an update soon. The same goes for Advent and the Christmas Season.
Pope Francis has come out with a new encyclical on “Fraternity and Social Friendship”, or “Fratelli Tutti”. I have not yet read the whole document, but will read the summary to understand what pope Francis’ hope and desire are for the environment, nature, respect for the dignity of the human person and for various cultures around the world.
“Fraternity and social friendship are the ways the Pontiff (Francis) indicates to build a better, more just and peaceful world, with the contribution of all people and institutions. With an emphatic confirmation of a ‘no’ to war and to globalized indifference.” The encyclical goes on to say, "What are the great ideals but also the tangible ways to advance for those who wish to build a more just and fraternal world in their ordinary relationships, in social life, politics and institutions? This is mainly the question that Fratelli tutti is intended to answer: the Pope describes it as a “Social Encyclical”, which borrows the title of the “Admonitions” of Saint Francis of Assisi, who used these words to “address his brothers and sisters and proposed to them a way of life marked by the flavor of the Gospel”. As pastor of Assumption parish, I will post the summary for your own discernment. Let us during this terrible fire season, the upcoming elections keep in mind that Christ is our center and that as sharers in the one body we must keep ourselves above the fray and pray for our world, environment and our country. Peace!
October 6, 2020
Hello my brothers and sisters in Christ. Many of you have asked me over the last several weeks whether or not when we are allowed to return to indoor mass will the parish continue with live streaming of the Liturgy? The short answer is yes. However, I would like to take this opportunity to explain why we need to come to mass at least once a month during this unusual time. And since we will be limited to a capacity of 80 parishioners per Sunday it goes without saying that most of you will not be able to attend in person. There are many reasons some may not return; some may not yet feel comfortable being inside with others, especially the elderly, those with immune deficiencies, and families with small children. And there are some who may wish to remain at home for the convenience of watching on their computers. These in themselves are all good reasons, but let us remind ourselves why it is necessary to attend the Liturgy in person. I compiled this eight point list to assist you in discerning why attending Mass is essential to the practice of our faith. Now keep in mind, Alameda County and the Bishop’s office has yet to give us the go-ahead to return to indoor mass, so with that, this compilation is simply a guide to be used as a tool for prayer and discernment. Thanks.
These are common feelings, especially among young people but among many adults as well. The great Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, when conducting a retreat for teenagers, once gave a talk on the meaning of the Mass. He said, "If you don't get anything out of Mass, it's because you don't bring the right expectations to it." The Mass is not entertainment, he said. It is worship of the God who made us and saves us. It is an opportunity to praise God and thank Him for all that He has done for us. If we have a correct understanding of Mass, Bishop Sheen said, it will become more meaningful for us. We will want to go to Mass. We will understand why the Mass is God's precious gift to us, and we wouldn't think of refusing that gift. Here are eight reasons to go to Mass:
I hope these eight reasons give you food for thought. God bless.
September 29, 2020
Hello brothers and sisters in Christ,
This week I bring you a very good article on hospitality from the holy father that was first published in January. I felt it is appropriate at this time to remind all of us that hospitality is vitally essential, especially when many are struggling because of the COVID 19 virus. I hope you enjoy this article from America Magazine: Pope Francis called on Christians not only to show hospitality to all other Christians of different traditions by recognizing “that they are truly our brothers and our sisters in Christ,” but also “to work together to show the love of God, revealed in Jesus Christ,” to the many migrants in today’s world who are fleeing from violence, war and poverty.
Addressing thousands of pilgrims from many countries at the weekly public audience in the Vatican’s Paul VI audience hall, Francis recalled that “hospitality” is the theme for this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which began on Jan. 18 and ends on Jan. 25.
He noted that the theme was developed by the Christian communities of Malta and Gozo that took their cue from chapter 28 of the Acts of the Apostles, which recounts St. Paul’s dramatic experience of being shipwrecked along with 260 other fellow passengers on the small island of Malta and how they were given hospitality by the inhabitants there. He recalled that St. Paul repaid their hospitality by healing many sick people.
“Hospitality is important, and it is also an important ecumenical virtue,” the pope told the pilgrims from all continents at the audience. He referred to two dimensions of the hospitality that is required of Christians: first, toward other Christians and, secondly, to the many migrants in today’s world. “First and foremost,” he said, hospitality means “to recognize that the other Christians are truly our brothers and our sisters in Christ,” whether they are Protestant, Orthodox or whatever denomination they belong to. “To welcome Christians of another tradition means, in the first place, to show the love of God to them—our brothers and sisters, and it also means to welcome that which God has done in their lives.” “Ecumenical hospitality demands the willingness to listen to others, paying attention to their personal stories of faith and to the history of their community, a community of faith with a different tradition to ours,” Francis said. “Ecumenical hospitality involves the desire to know the experience that other Christians have of God and the expectation to receive the spiritual gifts that come from them,” he continued. He recalled that once in his homeland, Argentina, when evangelical missionaries arrived, a group of Catholics set fire to their tents. But, he said, “that is not Christian! We are all brothers and sisters and we must give hospitality to each other.” Then, referring to the need to show hospitality to the many migrants in today’s world, he recalled that just as at the time of St. Paul, so too today the sea continues to be “a dangerous place” for those who travel by it. “Throughout the whole world, men and women—migrants—face dangerous journeys to flee violence, to flee from war, to escape from poverty.” But like St. Paul and his companions, “they experience the indifference, the hostility of the desert, the rivers and the seas…. And many times, they do not allow them to disembark in ports.”
Pope Francis told the thousands of pilgrims from many lands that “sadly too, they sometimes encounter even worse hostility from people. They are exploited by criminal traffickers—today! They are treated as numbers and a threat by some governments. Today! Sometimes, they are rejected like a wave toward the poverty and the dangers from which they have fled.” According to the United Nations’ IOM migration report for 2020, there are some 272 million international migrants in the world today (3.5 percent of the world’s population); two-thirds of them are looking for work, and the rest are fleeing conflict, violence or climate change. 47.9 percent are women and 13.9 percent children.
Francis called on all Christians “to work together to show to the migrants the love of God revealed in Jesus Christ,” and said, “we can and we must give witness that there is not only hostility and indifference, but that every person is precious for God and loved by him.”
Noting that “the divisions that still exist among us Christians prevent us from being fully the sign of the love of God,” Pope Francis said, “to work together to live ecumenical hospitality, especially towards those whose life is more vulnerable, will make all of us Christians – Protestants, Orthodox, Catholics, all Christians – better human beings, better disciples and a more united Christian people. Moreover, it will bring us closer to unity, which is the will of God for us.” Pope Francis then added a message of greeting to “the millions of men and women in the Far East and in various parts of the world who will celebrate the Lunar New Year” that starts on January 25.
He concluded his message by inviting everyone “to pray for peace, for dialogue and for solidarity between nations” which, he said, “are gifts that are more necessary than ever in today’s world.” Thanks for reading this article. I hope you all stay safe and healthy. LM.
September 21, 2020
Hello my brothers and sisters in Christ. This past July 1st. I celebrated my fourth year as your pastor and every day, every week and every month that I am here I grown more fond of this community and the people who make up this wonderful place I call home. I am grateful to all those who volunteer their time, services, resources and energy to make this a great parish, school and community of believers. I am very proud of the fact you all continue to support your parish so that we can pay our bills, expenses and staff salaries. We are living through an unprecedented period in our nation’s history, the pandemic, urban unrest, and an upcoming divisive election, and yet through all of this your keep our community together by the many ways you support each other in both our spiritual and temporal life.
This weekend, for example, with the leadership of Mary Schirmer and her first-rate catechist, we finally celebrated, after many delays, our parish and school children’s first communion mass. What a delight it was to SEE the children and their parents in the flesh. It was a beautiful sight to behold, to see and hear you all made Fr. Chris and me very happy. It’s hard to believe the “shelter in place” order is now more than six months old, it feels longer, but we are enduring the trials placed before and we are thriving. So, with that, I would like to thank Mary Schirmer, all the catechist, the children and parents for sharing this moment with our community. I would also like to give a big shout out to Paul, Kelli, and Alec Jackman for “live-streaming” all the masses, but more importantly this weekend’s first communion services. Paul and Alec, thanks for volunteering your time and equipment every Sunday. Another big thank you to Mr. Vaughan, Sophia, Colleen, Megan and Joe for coming forward and sharing yourselves for this special occasion as cantor, readers and altar server.
As many of you know by watching our Sunday live stream, we have offered and continue to offer after each Sunday mass, “drive-thru” communion. It continues to be a great success and a joy to have you all come to receive our Lord in person; we are averaging sixty five communicants each weekend. It’s wonderful to see you all come and it gives me great hope that many of you will return to mass once we’re able to come together and celebrate as a community inside the church. So thank you to the men and women who stand at the gates, who direct the traffic, and collect the basket donations. Each of you make the Sunday “drive-thrus” blessed, manageable and safe. God bless you all and God bless you parishioners for all that you do to make our parish and school community wonderful.
September 9, 2020
Hello brothers and sisters in Christ. I am writing to you from Mars this day or it certainly seems like it. I woke up thinking we might get a nice sunny, blue sky morning. Instead I wake up to something straight out of “Bladerunner”; those of you who have seen this Ridley Scott film know what I’m talking about. I know many of you, including myself, find this all too eerie and frightening to say the least. And at the same time I think we all find this interesting. For example someone on FaceBook posted the question: “Why as the sun rises higher does the sky get darker?” Interesting question, I thought. A question I will surely ask my meteorologist friend Roberta G. next time I text her.
As I was saying my morning office and meditating on today’s Word, I started thinking about how many Christians right now are thinking these are the end times. It certainly feels like it if you’re into that sort of thing. The Catholic understanding of the “end times” is not about destruction, chaos and mayhem, thats not our belief or tradition. As Catholics, we are mindful and profess in our Creed that Christ will come again to judge the living and the dead. The Second Vatican Council's "Dogmatic Constitution on the Church" states, "Already the final age of the world is with us and the renewal of the world is irrevocably under way; it is even now anticipated in a certain real way, for the Church on earth is endowed already with a sanctity that is real though imperfect" (No. 48). To try to grasp the when, what and how of this Second Coming and last judgment, we really need to glean the various passages in Sacred Scripture to see how our Church has interpreted them. Our Lord in the Gospel spoke of His second coming. He indicated that various signs would mark the event. Mankind would suffer from famine, pestilence and natural disasters. False prophets who claim to be the Messiah will deceive and mislead people. We do not know when the Second Coming will occur. Jesus said, "As to the exact day or hour, no one knows it, neither the angels in heaven nor even the Son, but only the Father. Be constantly on the watch! Stay awake! You do not know when the appointed time will come" (Mk 13:32-33). I am hopeful? You bet I am. I have a great faith in our Lord and Church. Right now things look bad, riots, racial tensions, political intrigue, a pandemic that seems to never end, and so forth and so on. But we should remember to invoke the name of Jesus and His Mother Mary. Remember Mary always points to her Son for comfort and guidance. Keep Jesus in you sight, and in your heart.
Things may seem bad, but there is always light at the end of the tunnel. Pope emeritus Benedict XVI writes: “Faith in the resurrection of Jesus says that there is a future for every human being; the cry for unending life which is a part of the person is indeed answered. God exists: that is the real message of Easter. Anyone who even begins to grasp what this means also knows what it means to be redeemed.” Pope Benedict XVI. God bless.
September 1, 2020
Hello brothers and sisters in Christ, given all that is happening in our world today in the last few weeks and months, I started looking around for something inspirational to write about. There are many of us who are yearning for calm, peace and among other things sanity and reason. It seems all of these things have been thrown out the kitchen window for the sake of politics and power. So with that, I would like to offer you these wonderfully powerful documents from the church on the “Seven Themes of Catholic Social Teaching”. Each week I will present one of these themes for you to ponder and meditate on their meaning and how you can apply them to everyday encounters with the community. I hope you enjoy the first theme, “Life and Dignity of the Human Person”. Thanks and God bless. “The Church's social teaching is a rich treasure of wisdom about building a just society and living lives of holiness amidst the challenges of modern society. Modern Catholic social teaching has been articulated through a tradition of papal, conciliar, and episcopal documents. The depth and richness of this tradition can be understood best through a direct reading of these documents. In these brief reflections, we highlight several of the key themes that are at the heart of our Catholic social tradition.” (USCCB).
The Catholic Church proclaims that human life is sacred and that the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society. This belief is the foundation of all the principles of our social teaching. In our society, human life is under direct attack from abortion and euthanasia. The value of human life is being threatened by cloning, embryonic stem cell research, and the use of the death penalty. The intentional targeting of civilians in war or terrorist attacks is always wrong. Catholic teaching also calls on us to work to avoid war. Nations must protect the right to life by finding increasingly effective ways to prevent conflicts and resolve them by peaceful means. We believe that every person is precious, that people are more important than things, and that the measure of every institution is whether it threatens or enhances the life and dignity of the human person.
“When we fail to acknowledge as part of reality the worth of a poor person, a human embryo, a person with disabilities – to offer just a few examples – it becomes difficult to hear the cry of nature itself; everything is connected. (Pope Francis, On Care for Our Common Home [Laudato Si'], no. 117) “The dignity of the individual and the demands of justice require, particularly today, that economic choices do not cause disparities in wealth to increase in an excessive and morally unacceptable manner.” (Pope Benedict XVI, Charity in Truth [Caritas in Veritate], no. 32)
Just as the commandment "Thou shalt not kill" sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say "thou shalt not" to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape. Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a "throw away" culture which is now spreading. It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society's underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised – they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the "exploited" but the outcast, the "leftovers". (Pope Francis, The Joy of the Gospel [Evangelii Gaudium], no. 153)
As explicitly formulated, the precept “You shall not kill” is strongly negative: it indicates the extreme limit which can never be exceeded. Implicitly, however, it encourages a positive attitude of absolute respect for life; it leads to the promotion of life and to progress along the way of a love which gives, receives and serves. (St. John Paul II, The Gospel of Life [Evangelium vitae],no. 54)
I hope these few sentences pique your interest into exploring more the church’s tradition on this subject. Next week: Call to Family, Community and Participation. Until then, take care and remember God loves us all no matter our imperfections.
August 26, 2020
Hello brothers and sisters in Christ, can you believe the Summer is almost over and a new school year has begun? Where did the time go? I know 2020 has been one heck of a Mr. Toad’s wild ride and I’m not digging this journey. But let’s look at what was and is positive in all of this chaos and mayhem.
One: even though we were all sheltered in place I know many of you were able to get out and about to see and enjoy this wonderful state and nation; that is until the lighting storm and the subsequent wildfires which put a stop to many activities in our lives. Nonetheless, we continued to keep our sanity and find other things to do. I am especially impressed with you families who have managed to keep things going by being great mom’s, dad’s or guardian’s. These are the types of situations which really test our mettle and endurance. I have spoken with many of you either at the drive-through communion or by email about the anxiety and fear you as parents are experiencing. And many of you are concerned, and rightfully so, about the well being of your children, their health and education. Pope Francis gives us comfort in knowing that Christ’ love for us is eternal and “By His compassionate closeness, Jesus showed the infinite love of God our Father for His children most in need.” You as parents, grand-parents and guardians are the rock from which these little one’s take comfort and assurance that all is safe in the world. We as community must sally forth and assure each other that we will get through all of this by keeping our faith in God and His Son. We cannot waiver in our faith, we must be strong and we must be confident that our nation and world which has endured many hardships, plagues, wars many times before will see victory and calm soon. Our nation has that tradition of learning and adopting from our past to improve and make for a better country and culture. This is why I have confidence in us, the American people.
Two: The Fall season is approaching and with that comes new opportunities for all of us through the various events that are in the planning stages. In September we are finally celebrating first communion, this is followed with confirmation of our young adults and the initiation of adults into our Catholic faith. October we will hear from Dr. Carole McKinley-Alvarez on the topic of child, spousal and elderly abuse. In November we will continue with a lecture from Fr. Leo Edgerly on race relations in the church and our nation. Other events are being planned for the Winter of 2021 and beyond. Despite all that seems gloomy there are always bright spots and joyful moments in our lives that make what is presently going on tolerable. Remember to keep moving forward, never look back because the future looks bright and hopeful. Sr. Clare Crockett, whom I admire very much and advocating for her canonization, has a motto I often use, “All or Nothing”.
Keep the faith, we are living in interesting times.
August 17, 2020
I was watching the news yesterday, which can be very depressing, and saw the anger, violence and hatred going on now in our country. I was also listening to what some people were saying and through all that I did not hear one person, not one politician say anything about reconciliation or forgiveness; instead they were pointing fingers and blaming one another for the situation we are facing today. These two actions, reconciling and forgiving, are essential and something we all should be thinking about, especially now. So, as I was searching for sources for today's article I came across this reflection and I thought you would enjoy reading it. Please read this article and then reflect on its message and afterwards sit with your family, friends and neighbor and discuss how we can forgive and reconcile our differences as a community moving forward.
"A number of years ago, an elderly priest began his Lenten homily by telling the people, “I hope I don’t die in the confessional.” After pausing to get the parishioners’ attention, he added, “because they probably wouldn’t find my body for three days!” What he meant, of course, is that many Catholics are not making use of the sacrament of God’s forgiveness commonly known as Confession or as we also call it, “reconciliation”. So the priest sits there alone waiting. Jesus emphasized forgiveness. Think about it! Jesus spent three years of public ministry preaching, teaching, curing bodily ailments, and forgiving sin. Then, on the cross, He practiced what He preached by saying, “Father, forgive them . . . ”
Three days later, on rising from the grave, the very first gift Jesus gives to the infant Church is the forgiveness of sin, saying to the Apostles, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them . . . ”. FORGIVENESS, the last concern on the lips of Our Lord at death, were the first words on His lips at the Resurrection. This has got to be significant!
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that Christ instituted the Sacrament of Penance for all the sinful members of the Church, that is, those who have fallen into grave sin. Isn’t it encouraging that God sees fit to give us a second chance? This idea constantly surfaces both in the life and teaching of Our Lord. Jesus told almost 40 parables as recorded in the New Testament. The most popular were probably the Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan. The first, a story of forgiveness, and the second, a story of neighborly love. In a sense, the two are interconnected. After Baptism, the early Fathers of the Church present the Sacrament of Penance as “the second plank (of salvation) after shipwreck which is the loss of grace” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, par.1446). In effect, there is no more profound way to show love than to forgive! Like the Good Samaritan who was willing to extend himself and reach out to a hurting traveler on the road, so the Prodigal Father was equally willing to reach out to a hurting child who had squandered his fortune and almost abandoned his birthright. As a loving Father, God is not only willing to suffer for us but with us. He hugs us like a father and binds up our wounds like a neighbor. We all know of people who are suffering — physically, emotionally, and mentally. You might be one of them, and sometimes we feel as though no one cares. But God cares as well as people, your family and, above all, the Church. The Sacrament of Penance is the healing balm the Church places on our soul after we have been wounded by sin. Not to make use of this sacrament to overcome the disease of sin is to abandon one of the most powerful spiritual medications that brings about holiness and healing in our life. The scars of sin don’t go away by themselves. Perhaps you have even been devastated by a heartbreaking divorce, or maybe abused, rejected, or betrayed by someone you trusted, or even hurt by a loved one’s untimely death. Talk it out and get it out. Share your sorrows with God and his representative, the Catholic priest. Begin by examining your conscience, express contrition, confess your sins, and receive absolution from the priest who is sitting in the confessional box or reconciliation room. If you check it out, you’ll find that most priests are not dying in the confessional. They’re really “living” there to help you receive God’s forgiveness and love. So why carry the heavy baggage of sin through life? Lighten the load!" God bless.
August 11, 2020
5 Tips for Creating a Prayer Routine
Hello brothers and sisters in Christ,
Once again some of you have asked me how you can improve your prayer life. And as always I respond by asking how badly do you want to improve your prayer life? That really is the question. Many people over the years have come up to me asking for advice or in some cases to direct them in what the church calls “Spiritual Direction”. I love spiritual directing as it allows me the opportunity to sit down with you and delve deeply into your spirituality and faith and hopefully provide you with the necessary tools for your spiritual journey. However, some you are not comfortable or ready for that type of spirituality or have no time in your busy schedules. I understand. There are other ways of re-connecting with one’s spirituality and prayer without being “directed”. I compiled list of how you can achieve this in your busy lives. But I also want to caution you that you may not achieve your goal right away. In fact my prayer life is still a struggle given all that is happening in our church and world today. I hope the list below helps you, if not I am always available for spiritual direction.
1. Be Realistic About Your Prayer Routine
Goals are good—even big ones. But setting unrealistic goals can lead to disappointment, and ultimately, the abandoning of the idea altogether. So be realistic about your new prayer routine, and you’ll actually stick with it! If you wake up at 8:00 each morning, don’t set a goal of waking up at 5:00—at least not right away. Pick something challenging, but doable in the long term. If you’re already pressed for time in the morning, don’t set a goal of an hour. Start with small goals—like 10 minutes, for example—and work your way up to where you’d eventually like to land. By taking it bit by bit, you’ll increase your chances of making your new prayer routine a lifelong habit.
2. Determine a Purpose for Your New Prayer Routine
Once you decide on time, if you don’t have a purpose for your prayer, you may find yourself speechless, and feeling like your time has been wasted. This isn’t a plan you’ll stick with! Of course, you should follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, but it’s best to start with a game plan. For example, your purpose could look something like this: • Worship, praise and honor the Lord • Intercede for your nation, your city, your church, your pastors and anyone else that comes to mind • Make your requests known to God—for yourself and your family. If you know the first thing you’re going to do is worship and praise the Lord, you won’t struggle to know where to start. You’ll move right into worship and get into a flow that will maximize your time.
3. Decide On a Place for Your New Prayer Routine
Where can you go to pray? Do you like to be outside on a deck or patio? Is your living room the quietest place? Choose a place where you’ll have privacy and quiet, without interruptions from children, a spouse or pets. If you know you’ll have this time all to yourself, you’re more likely to stick with it in the long run. Be sure to have easy access to your Bible, rosary and prayer books. If you like to sit while you pray, set up a comfortable chair in your place.
4. Choose a Goal for How Long Your New Prayer Routine Will Be
If you’d like to work your way up to an hour each day, begin with 10 or 15 minutes. Set a timer for the amount of time you’d like to pray, so you aren’t constantly distracted by looking at the clock. Then, after a week or two, bump your time up 10 minutes at a time until you reach your desired goal. But don’t cling too tightly to a specific time frame. You can move heaven and earth in an effective, fervent, faith-driven prayer that lasts 10 minutes, while you can ramble for 60 minutes and not achieve much! Keeping your time in check will help you stick with your goal, knowing you have a way to stay on schedule for the rest of your day.
5. Don’t Give Up on Your New Prayer Routine
If you don’t manage to get up early each day, or can’t quite hit your goal for time spent praying, don’t give up on your new prayer routine! There will be days you just can’t get yourself up and days when you run out of things to pray about. That’s OK! Setting a goal is to give you something to reach for, not something to cause you to become legalistic. If you miss it one day, just pick it back up the next. When you’re spending time with the Lord in the right way, He’ll meet you in your prayer time and manifest Himself to you. Then, you’ll come to desire it so much, you won’t feel like it’s a chore.
If you use these five tips to create a new prayer routine, you’ll stick with it! More importantly, it will change the outcome of your day as you begin putting first things first. Prayer is a wonderful time to prepare your heart for the day and to set breakthroughs in motion. So get praying!
July 9, 2020
Hello brothers and sisters in Christ. What is going on? Here we are already in July, what the heck happened to June? Considering we’re all “sheltered in place”, time seems to be going at a fast clip that I feel my head spinning. I have lots of items to discuss in relationship to our parish community. First, communion drive-in will continue until further notice. So far it has been very successful and spiritually rewarding to everyone who participates. Fr. Chris and myself have encountered many of you thanking us and our wonderful volunteers for providing the Body of Christ to you. It is our pleasure as it gives all of us hope and feeds our soul of the desire for our Lord. Our one outdoor drive-in mass was also a success, however it was unsustainable as we lack the number of volunteers that is required for setting up and breaking down everything, especially the equipment for streaming the mass; this is a very daunting task to accomplish each week. As I mentioned last week in a previous letter and on Facebook, the bishop has reviewed the protocol the parish created and has given his permission to re-open the church on a limited basis. That means we’re only going to allow fewer than 100 people to be inside the church and each person must wear a mask during the mass. We are also “social-distancing” ourselves, so every other pew will be taped off and strict procedures for receiving communion will be observed. Our parish webmaster has created a reservation portal on the our website to reserve your pew. I know this will seem strange at first, but I’m sure we’ll get used to this “new normal” in the coming weeks. My hope is this virus will soon disappear so we can worship in the way we’re accustomed. I know many of us miss our Sunday routine, and the fellowship we all enjoy, but we have to be mindful of others especially the elderly, the ill, and those with immune deficiencies. Coming together for the first time since March will require all of us to be patient and to practice safe hygiene. There will be masks in the vestibule along with hand sanitizers for your use. We do encourage you to bring your personal mask, however if you forget we will have extras available. As I said above, ushers will escort you from the front of the church to your pew. You will also be escorted from your pew to the communion line. After mass we ask that you remain seated until the usher escorts you out of the building. Thanks for your cooperation. Let me just say this, I am very happy to see many of you excited about returning to mass, but we do have to keep in mind the many steps it will take for us to return to a regular routine. It may take weeks or many months, but given what I have seen so far, I am encouraged to see the level of enthusiasm and faith you all have.
May God bless you.
June 30, 2020
I’m back from my annual retreat and what a great prayerful time I had in Big Sur. The only downside to my retreat was that the chapel was closed to the public and the monks, because of some of their ages, were not available to pray with or concelebrate mass. But I made the best of it. I don’t know how many of you have ever visited that part of California, all I can say is that it is a magical place. The beauty of the area is gorgeous and soothing. The retreat center accommodations are sparse; a single bed, desk, chair and lamp, very basic. The meals were surprisingly delicious and satisfying. Retreat grounds were conducive to meditation, prayer and writing; I did lots of writing and read the day away. Such a wonderful feeling knowing that I am in a place and belong to a church that gives me the time to reflect on my life and God and to recharge my batteries so that I can continue physically, emotionally and spiritually to serve you in the best way I am able. And for other business: As some of you may know, the bishop has given us permission to reopen the church to public mass beginning the weekend of July 11th; It will be great to see all of you again sharing in the Word and Body of our savior. Of course there will be rules and procedures we must follow. I will post that information on the parish FaceBook and website for you to download in the coming days.
I would also like to take this opportunity to clarify something. There were some complaints regarding Fr. Chris and myself for not taking precautions by wearing a face mask and sanitizing our hands prior to the distribution of communion. I reviewed the video of that particular mass and I saw that Fr. Chris and me did wear a face mask and we did sanitized our hands prior to the beginning of the mass and the distribution of communion. I appreciate your concern and I can assure you that we both take very seriously the health safety of our brothers and sisters during this pandemic. Both Fr. Chris and me would never think of endangering you or for that matter placing ourselves in any danger as well.
I will also share with you in the coming days and weeks some changes that will take place in the parish office and the mass schedule as we all make our way through this very strange time. Please know how much I love this parish and you and the many contributions you all make to support this parish.
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.