a Word from the pastor
July 4, 2021
Dear Assumption family and friends,
Last Sunday, Mark’s gospel told us two beautiful stories about Jairus, the synagogue official who went to call Jesus to save his dying daughter, and about a woman who had hemorrhage for 12 long years. Amidst their great need, Jesus healed the woman and raised Jairus’ dead daughter back to life. The display of their faith was so powerful it could work miracles.
In this Sunday’s gospel, however, faith is absent - and so are the miracles. The gospel tells us that Jesus returned to his own hometown Nazareth. When Jesus preached in the synagogue, his former townsfolk recognized him and were amazed at the authority and wisdom of his words.
And yet, despite all that, instead of accepting Jesus and His message, they rejected Him – a prophet without honor in his hometown. They thought they knew Jesus too well. They knew His family. They knew His background. They knew a lot about Jesus and had known him since childhood. And with that, they concluded that it is impossible that one of them, one so familiar, could really be a prophet sent from God. Blinded by their own biases and prejudice, they were not able to see beyond the ordinary presence of Jesus and to encounter the extraordinary presence of God right there in their midst.
As a result of this absence or lack of faith, the gospel tells us that Jesus was “not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them.”
My dear friends, we too may have the same tendency in our relationship with God and His Church. We may be tempted to think that we don’t need God or the Church because we have finally figured out that we can get by without Him. Or we may be too familiar or too complacent about our faith.
But the gospel today reminds us that when our hearts are open, God can make wonders in our lives. When we have faith, there is no limit to what we can expect from God. On the other hand, the absence or lack of faith in the Lord closes the door to the abundant blessings He wants to impart to us. In a sense, a closed heart limits the great possibilities on what God can do with us and through us.
So, how do we deepen and nurture our faith? It all begins in a personal encounter with Jesus through prayer, the sacraments and acts of mercy.
Let us pray for another always. If you need prayers or have special intentions, please email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the office at (510) 352-1537. These intentions will be included in our daily rosary. If you wish to be included in the universal prayer at mass, please contact the office.
May the good Lord continue to bless you and your loved ones with His abundant grace.
Have a blessed and Happy 4th of July.
June 27, 2021
My dear Assumption family and friends,
The gospel for this 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time gives us a beautiful story about two people who approached Jesus for help. One was a synagogue official named Jairus who came up to Jesus very publicly on behalf of his dying daughter. The other was a nameless woman who approached Jesus very privately on her own behalf and discreetly touched His cloak. For all their differences, these two people had something in common: their need for healing and their need for God. And it is in their great need that they found the strength and the courage to approach Jesus.
Friends, you and I are like these two people to some degree. The difficult situations in which we find ourselves or the sufferings and pains we bear in this life can move us powerfully to make contact with the Lord – to make contact with his overflowing generosity and immense love. And here lies a very important biblical principle - that we encounter God into our lives often in moments of our greatest vulnerability and need. Our difficult situations or our suffering and pain can be a sacred space where we meet God. Or better yet, where God meets us.
Our calling is to get out from our enclosures, from our isolation and reach out to God who is calling us to Himself. And God will never disappoint. Because the Lord wants to be near us and touch our lives. He wants to heal us and give us new life.
Isn’t this what we all long for and desire? Isn’t this what our hearts truly yearn for?
Friends, the Lord does not relate to us at a distance. Just as Jesus entered the home of Jairus and took his daughter by the hand, so He longs to enter our hearts and our lives and take us by the hand. Just as the woman with hemorrhage touched Jesus, so He longs that we touch Him with our faith and trust in order to open up the wellspring of His love and mercy.
I invite you, therefore, to approach our Lord and encounter His healing power.
Come and join us as we open wide the doors of our Church and make the sacrament of healing more available.
Every first Saturday of the month after the 8:15am Mass beginning July 3rd, the priests will be administering the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick. The Anointing of the Sick is not just a sacrament for those who are at the point of death. This sacrament is primarily intended for Catholics who are sick, those who are suffering from serious or chronic illness or facing life-threatening situations (like major surgery or a serious medical emergency), as well as those who may be struggling with the infirmities of age.
In this sacrament, through the ministry of the priest, it is Jesus, the Divine Physician, who touches the sick person to heal them from sin – and sometimes even from physical ailment. “When the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick is given, the hoped-for effect is that, if it be God's will, the person be physically healed of illness. But even if there is no physical healing, the primary effect of the Sacrament is a spiritual healing by which the sick person receives the Holy Spirit's gift of peace and courage to deal with the difficulties that accompany serious illness or the frailty of old age (United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, Chapter 19).
If you are homebound or scheduled to go to the hospital for surgery or extended care, please contact the Parish Office at 510-352-1537 to arrange with the priest for the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick.
Finally, we will be adding more Masses on Sundays beginning July 11th. We will post the new Mass times in the bulletin and our social media platforms in the coming week.
Please know that you and your loved ones especially those who are sick will always be in my prayers.
May God continue to bless you with abundant grace of peace, joy and love. O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee. Jesus, King of Mercy, I trust in You.
June 13, 2021
My dear Assumption Family,
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord. My spirit rejoices in God my savior” (Lk 1:46-47).
This passage, first uttered by Our Blessed Mother at the Annunciation, describes exactly how I feel after meeting you together with our parish staff and teams and our schoolteachers and students. Celebrating my first Sunday Mass with you last weekend was very moving. I am filled with so much joy and gratitude for the amazing blessings God has bestowed upon me in making me part of this parish community. Thank you for your warm welcome and hospitality. Thank you for your words of encouragement and support. Thank you for your love for God and His Church. You made me feel right at home. Indeed, Assumption Church is my new home. You are my new family.
As I mentioned in last Sunday’s homily, our Lord Jesus desires that we come closer to Him and enter into a deep and intimate relationship with Him. He desires that we each grow in our faith, so that our hearts can truly be opened to know and love Him and our neighbor. And it all starts from small beginnings like a mustard seed in today’s parable.
Yet, as the parable suggests, these small beginnings are the promise of something wonderful to come, just as the mustard seed “the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”
You see, humble beginnings can have extraordinary and beautiful outcome when it is participating in God’s work, when it is in accord to God’s will.
Friends, this should give us encouragement to keep on knowing and loving God and our neighbor. This should inspire us to keep on doing the little bit of good we are able to do. It may not seem much in our own eyes or in the eyes of others, yet God can work powerfully through us in ways that will surprise us. We can all plant the equivalent of the mustard seed. The prayers, the little initiative, the small gesture, the offer of help, can all bear fruit in ways that we could never imagine. The time, talent, and treasure you share, can work powerfully, and make a difference in the parish.
Our calling is often to plant some good seed and to trust that the Lord will do the rest. And our parish exists to make this a reality in our lives. I
am blessed to be able to work with amazing staff at our parish and school and our many ministers and volunteers. I’m impressed by the dedication that they have to the mission of Church. They truly desire our community to flourish! And I give thanks to God for these and the many other ways He has blessed our community.
Let us always pray for one another and ask the unfailing help of our Blessed Mother. May God continue to bless you and the people you love.
O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.
Jesus, King of Mercy, I trust in You.
May 21, 2021
“Goodbyes are not forever, are not the end; it simply means I’ll miss you until we meet again.”
I’m writing this last article to Assumption, and my first article to St. Anne’s, expressing the two very different emotions I am experiencing as I write this letter to both communities. My thoughts are with you, Assumption, as I close another chapter in my priestly life and thinking of all the wonderful memories I have collected over these past five years. I think of the wonderful people I have met and the volunteers I have worked with on many projects and events. Many of you have contributed to the great success we all have shared and en-joyed. It saddens me that I am leaving you, but my thoughts and prayers will remain with you always.
Change is always, for me anyway, a difficult process. To change address and move to an-other place is difficult enough, but when it comes to leaving people who you’ve come to love is even harder to face. Our time together was and is important to me as you collectively has given me strength, vitality and friendship. I am especially grateful to those who have contributed their talents in finance, faith formation, and organizational expertise. I leave this parish in good hands with Fr. John as he will be a good shepherd and confessor to you. His youth I believe, will energize this community even more so and especially with our youth. It is my desire that our youth programs will flourish and come to fruition under the leadership of your next pastor.
As for St. Anne’s; I am excited to be your next pastor. I hope I can share my vision and spirituality with you by example, prayer and wisdom. These three things are based on my solid belief in God, the teachings of the church, and the wisdom that I’ve come to learn over the course of my priesthood. I have many ideas I would like to share with you in the coming years. I will give my first lecture in the fall on my love and admiration of Thomas Merton. This I will follow with our first Advent mission.
It is also my wish to get to know each of you and to remember your names as we learn of each other. Please know that my office door is opened at all times for you and I am available whenever you need me. There are many changes coming to your parish in how we communicate the events that are being planned. My friend Michael Harmon is a web designer and he will assist me in designing the parish webpage and getting it up by the Fall of this year. We are also planning and implementing other ways of communicating as well. All these things I hope will keep you informed with the news and events of your parish. I am ready and delighted to be your shepherd, confessor and pastor for many years to come. May God bless Assumption and St. Anne’s parish communities.
May 24, 2021
“Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone - we find it with another.” — T. Merton
My dear brothers and sisters, today I depart from you with sadness and joy. The sadness comes from not seeing you every Sunday and everyday as I have these last five years, and the joy comes from knowing and sharing with this community God’s Word and partaking of the Body of Christ. These things we share in common as part of our shared culture and heritage, and our very fiber of who we are as Catholics. I do look forward to my new assignment and new challenge, but I also feel apprehension as one normally would when taking on a new position. We cannot help but feel these things as we leave a comfortable life and enter into an unknown. We keep our trust in God and His plans for us and perhaps we may not like the direction God sets us on, we ultimately leave our plans aside and follow His path instead. “"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart”. Jer. 1:5
Life is fluid, it is always moving forward, and like a stream, our life continues in a free flowing and meandering fashion, but never stopping otherwise the stream stagnates and looses it’s vitality and life giving energy. We must continue to grow, any other way our journey be-comes stale and unrewarding . God challenges us everyday to better understand ourselves and the relationship we share with Him and His creation, making us aware that life does not end, but continues in a new and very different way.
Our ultimate destiny, as Merton writes, is “love“. As we witness this in God’s action by sacrificing His only Begotten Son for the purpose of reconciling our friendship with Him. This sacrifice God performed was done out of love for the love of us all. His sacrifice like those of a mother and father, is done for the sake of the other, it is done in the name of love, and as such that love is life giving. To sacrifice one’s own happiness or pleasure in order to make those around them happy and safe is the ultimate sacrifice.
As we journey our separate ways and find new adventures, let us not forget our time together and the joys and love we share for our community. Let us remember that God, Our Father, desires us to be with Hm and to live with others in love and common respect. Jesus did not request us to love one another, He did not suggest we love each other, He demanded it from all of us. Love is our destiny, and love is our only way to achieve the things Jesus wants of us. To live in peace, love and harmony is our ultimate destiny while still on this earth. God bless.
May 18, 2021
Today as I sit here at my desk writing this article, I am reminded of how short our stay is on this earth. I don’t mean to sound maudlin, but there is some sadness I am experiencing as my time here comes to a close.
Last Tuesday, May 18th, I celebrated my eighth anniversary of my ordination to the priest-hood and I started thinking about my life in general and the last eight years in particular. There are times when one wonders whether or not we contributed anything of significance to our society or whether something we said or did made any difference at all. Then you start to get letters, cards and emails declaring what a difference you made in someone’s life or how you inspired someone to deepen their faith. That's when you realize the contributions you made to a particular person or community. That's when you also realize the sin of pride. A friend of mine once said as I was bemoaning my perceived failures as a pastor, suggested I “get rid of my ego”. I didn’t pay much attention to those words then, but after awhile I started to understand what he meant by saying, “get rid of your ego”. Pride can sometimes be detrimental and as such can damage relationships with family, friends and neighbor. Pride as defined thus: a feeling of deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one's own achievements”. Pride in achieving something is good, but when pride interferes with one’s ability to conduct oneself in a manner conducive to relating to others, then it becomes problematic. The Catechism of the Catholic Church views pride in this way: “It is essentially an act or disposition of the will desiring to be considered better than a person really is”… “it can lead to all sorts of sins, notably presumption, ambition, vainglory, boasting, hypocrisy, strife, and disobedience. Pride strives for perverse excellence. It despises others and, de-pending on its perversity, even looks down upon God.” Pride for me should be my silence, keeping the ego at bay, and not allowing it to cloud my point of view. Don’t get me wrong, I am very proud of the things I accomplished with others at this parish, I am proud of you for your support of the many parish events we worked on and planned together as a community. What’s wrong, in my opinion, is that I wanted that pat on the back, and “good job” father. And I did receive those pats on the back, but my ego, my pride, clouded my view and for this I am ashamed. I am proud of you and I know you appreciate all that I’ve done here. The ego can be a dangerous thing and one should never allow that beast from emerging and muddling one's mind or decisions. God bless.
May 11, 2021
I have been asked many times in my priesthood perhaps one of the most difficult questions asked by human beings, a question believers ask God — why suffering? What is its meaning? It is a question that expresses the anguish within ourselves when we experience not only bodily pain, but also spiritual pain, in ourselves and in those we love. It is a question also posed when people encounter tragedy and sufferings from natural catastrophes, like hurricanes and earthquakes. Or the tragedy of suffering that results from evil actions, like that of the innocent killed.
The answer is the cross of Jesus. The “why” of human suffering and the answer to evil can be discovered most deeply when we contemplate the love of the Father who sent His Son into the world to save us. Jesus reveals this love. In Eucharistic adoration, we gaze upon the Sacred Host, the Body of Christ present under the sign of bread, the Body born of the Virgin Mary which suffered on the Cross and is now glorified in heaven. The Eucharist is His Body given for us and His Blood poured out for us for the redemption of the world.
The question of the meaning of suffering, in many ways an impenetrable question, finds an answer, above all, in the Passion of Jesus. On the cross, Jesus not only embraced human suffering in an incomparable way, but also made suffering redemptive. He conquered evil with good. He accomplished our salvation from sin and death by His own suffering on the cross. In suffering voluntarily and innocently, Christ gives the answer to the question about suffering and its meaning. Jesus brings suffering into what we can call “a new dimension,” the dimension of love, salvific love. The Son of God strikes evil at its very root, conquering sin and death with the power of love. “He conquers sin by His obedience unto death, and He overcomes death by His resurrection” (Salvifici Doloris 14). In His passion, Jesus took all human suffering upon Himself. He gave it a new meaning. He used suffering to accomplish the work of salvation. He used it for good. His love transformed suffering so that this awful reality that is connected to evil might become a power for good. So suffering now has a saving power. And that is how we, as Christians, can find meaning and purpose in suffering, what before we might have thought was totally useless. I wish to emphasize that as Christians we do not give a merely abstract answer to the difficult question of why God permits suffering. Our answer is very concrete. The answer is a Person, Jesus Christ, and His cross and resurrection. Because of Him, we can even speak of suffering as a call, a vocation. St. John Paul II wrote: “Christ does not explain in the abstract the reasons for suffering, but before all else He says: ‘Follow me‘ ’Come! ’Take part through your suffering in this work of saving the world, a salvation achieved through my suffering! Through my Cross. Gradually, as the individual takes up his cross, spiritually uniting himself to the Cross of Christ, the salvific meaning of suffering is revealed before him. He does not discover this meaning at his own human level, but at the level of the suffering of Christ. He gives Himself to us and unites us to Himself in Holy Communion. When we are united to Christ in His suffering for the redemption of the world, we are living the Eucharist. May the Lord give us the faith and love to do so, together with Mary and all the saints who shared in the suffering of Christ and now reign with Him in glory!
The preceding text is from a homily delivered by Bishop Rhoades.
May 4, 2021
Why Catholics honor Mary in May
As a son I can relate to Jesus’ love of His Mother and as most of us do we respect and admire what our mom’s do. Their tireless efforts in keeping the family together, making sure we’re clean, fed, loved and nourished, and also being there for their husbands and their needs. The upbringing I experienced growing up is very different from today’s families which has in many ways become more complex.
In his 1965 encyclical, Mense Maio, Pope Paul VI wrote about the importance of Mary’s intercession for all the world, explaining that those who encounter her, encounter her Son, Jesus. the Catholic Church has dedicated May in her honour, writes Marge Fenelon.
It has been a long-standing tradition in both the Latin and Eastern churches to honour the Blessed Virgin Mary in May. In most Catholic churches (and even in many Catholic homes), a “May Altar” is erected with a statue or picture of Mary, flowers, and perhaps candles. The altar stands from May 1 to 31 as a reminder of Mary’s importance in the life of the Church and in our own lives as well.
Additionally, many Catholic churches and schools hold a “May Crowning,” presenting Mary with a crown made of blossoms or other hand-crafted materials to signify her queenship as the mother of Christ, the King. I’ve even seen some crowns made of glistening metal and synthetic jewels.
Why May? The tradition dates all the way back to the ancient Greeks who dedicated the month of May to Artemis, the goddess of fecundity. Romans also claimed May to honour Flora, the goddess of bloom or blossoms. They celebrated “floral games” at the end of April and petitioned Flora’s intercession for all that blooms. In medieval times, a tradition arose of expelling winter at this time of year, since May first was considered the start of new growth. It was during the Middle Ages (11th century) that the idea of giving the month of May to Mary began with an old tradition, the “30-Day Devotion to Mary”, which was originally held August 15 to September 14. During the month, special devotions to Mary were organized, and this custom, which began in Italy eventually spread elsewhere.
Although we do not see Mary as a goddess of any sort – Catholics do not worship Mary, we honour, or venerate, her as Jesus’ mother – we have adapted the early Greek and Roman customs of honoring important women in their religions by honoring the most important woman in our religion: Mary should be honored and loved just as much as we love our earthly mother. God bless.
April 27, 2021
Why is May the Month of Mary?
The ways Mary is honored in May is as varied as the people who honor her.
May, the month in which the earth springs into bloom (at least in the Northern Hemisphere) and we start thinking about planting gardens, family picnics and making vacation plans.
Having gone to a Catholic elementary and high schools run by the Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose, my early childhood memories include honoring Mary during May – a practice I’ve continued in my life. It’s as natural and essential to me as my morning coffee, but not quite the same. I know a number of Catholics who see May as the Month of Mary, and we all get the same question from time to time:
Why is May Mary’s month?
Here’s a brief explanation I read in the Catholic Register the other morning.
“For centuries, the Catholic Church has set aside the entire month of Mary to honor Mary, Mother of God. Not just a day in May, mind you, but the entire month.
The custom spans both centuries and cultures, with roots going back as far as the Ancient Greeks. In early Greece, May was dedicated to Artemis, the goddess of fecundity (the ability to produce an abundance of offspring or new growth; fertility)
In Ancient Rome, May was dedicated to Flora, the goddess of blooms, or blossoms. They celebrated ludi florals, or floral games, at the end of April and asked the intercession of Flora for all that blooms.”
In medieval times, similar customs abounded, all centering around the practice of expelling winter, as May 1 was considered the start of new growth. During this period, the tradition of Tricesimum, or “Thirty-Day Devotion to Mary,” came into being. Also called, “Lady Month,” the event was held from August 15-September 14 and is still observed in some areas.
The idea of a month dedicated specifically to Mary can be traced back to baroque times. Although it wasn’t always held during May, Mary Month included thirty daily spiritual exercises honoring Mary.
It was in this era that Mary’s Month and May were combined, making May the Month of Mary with special devotions organized on each day throughout the month. This custom became especially widespread during the nineteenth century and remains in practice until today.
The ways Mary is honored in May is as varied as the people who honor her.
It’s common for parishes have a daily recitation of the Rosary during May, and many erect a special May altar with a statue or picture of Mary as a reminder of Mary’s month. Additionally, it’s a long-standing tradition to crown the statue of Mary during May – a custom known as May Crowning. Often, the crown is made of beautiful blossoms representing Mary’s beauty and virtue. It’s also a reminder to the faithful to strive to imitate our Blessed Mother’s virtue in our own lives. May Crowning, in some areas, is a huge celebration and is usually done outside of Mass, although Mass may be celebrated before or after the actual crowning.
But May altars and crownings aren’t just “church” things. We can and should be doing the same in our homes. When we echo the customs and traditions of the Church in our homes – our domestic churches – we participate more fully in the life of the Church.
If you haven’t already, I encourage you to erect a prayer corner in your home. No matter how fancy or simple it is. The main point is that it’s a place designated for God, and more specifically, for spending time with him. Just as you need proper atmosphere to sleep, you also need proper atmosphere to pray.
For May, give Mary a special spot in your prayer corner. It can be a statue or picture, but place there some representation of our Blessed Mother. Make it appealing and a real tribute to her beauty and virtue.
Then, crown Mary. You can give her an actual or spiritual crown and you can make it a subtle gesture or ornate ceremony of your own device. The meaning is far more important than the action. You can do it in the beginning, at the end of May or anywhere in between.
Why? Not because it’s a long-standing tradition in the Church, although it is. Not because there are any special graces connected to it, although there is.
No, do it because Mary is Mother – your mother, my mother, everyone’s mother – and because she cares for all of us day-in-and-day-out without fail, interceding for us in even the tiniest matters.
For that, she deserves an entire month in her honor.
Portions of this article originally appeared May 1, 2016, at the Register.
April 20, 2021
Why is devotion to Mary so important to the Latin and Eastern Rite Churches? Over the years I’ve frequently been asked this question by protestant and evangelical Christians who are truly mystified by our great devotion to Jesus’ mother.
This question may seem difficult to answer, but its answer is actually quite simple: because God willed it.
My mother’s own devotion to our Blessed Lady was profound, so much so that her love of Mary influenced my own love for her. Since the age of eight years old my devotion through the rosary has been a constant in my life. I try reciting the rosary everyday through bad times and good. Mary has been my companion throughout my teen and adult life. She is especially present to me as a priest, guiding me to her Son.
We may ask why God would want us to have a relationship with his mother – wouldn’t it distract us from him? Doesn’t it seem quite contradictory?
Not necessarily – and our experience attests to it.
Why do we say that God wanted us to have a relationship with the Virgin Mary?
The Bible gives us the answer. In the Gospel of John, we find Jesus’ last words. They hold a special importance because, as we know, no one would waste their last breath by saying something superfluous. They carry a special meaning, they’re powerful. Jesus knows he doesn’t have much time left but struggles to say them anyway. Among these words we hear Jesus speak directly to his mother: “Woman, behold your son!” and to the beloved disciple: “Behold, your mother!”.
What does this mean? Many think that when Jesus calls his mother “woman,” he’s disrespecting or belittling her. But would Jesus really take the time to do that to his mother as he’s dying on the cross? Probably not. A deeper look allows us to see that the title “woman” carries a deeper meaning in the Gospel of John.
Jesus calls his mother “woman” because he’s calling her like the first woman in the Book of Genesis: Eve. John does something similar throughout his Gospel. He begins his Gospel with the same words as the Book of Genesis – “In the beginning” – to highlight that while Genesis tells the story of Creation, his Gospel tells the story of the New Creation brought about by Christ. In this New Creation, Jesus is the New Adam, and Mary is the New Eve.
Mary is the “woman” who’s seed (Jesus) would crush the serpent’s head.
So, by calling her “woman,” Jesus is calling Mary the “New Woman,” the spiritual mother of all who are born into the New Creation brought about by Christ. She becomes the mother of every beloved disciple, of every person who follows Jesus. God has given us a great gift – his own mother as our companion.
Jesus is the only Mediator between God and us.
As we have seen, God does act through meditations, but only Jesus is Mediator with a capital “M,” we could say. That is, only he was capable of uniting us to God, only he could become the bridge that overcame sin and brought us to new life. No one else is mediator in the way Jesus is. We have the “Mediator,” who is Jesus, and “mediators,” us Christians. Jesus wanted us to participate in his mediation, but this doesn’t mean we replace him or compete with him. This mediation is what allows us to invite people to know him. He willed his plan of salvation to be carried out in this way. So, when we say we or Mary are “mediators,” we’re obviously not saying that we’re “Mediators” like Christ. We’re simply saying that he chose to let us partake in his mission by reaching others through us.
When Catholics “pray” to Mary, we are not praying in the same way as we pray to God. We’re asking for her intercession, the same way we ask our brothers and sisters for prayers. That is what we ask from her in the Hail Mary.
What a beautiful prayer that is! God has given us the beautiful gift of a spiritual Mother to help us become one with him. Wouldn’t we honor him by accepting her? Jesus after all gave her to us at the foot of the Cross. God Bless.
April 13, 2021
“Contemplation is the highest expression of man’s intellectual and spiritual life…It is spiritual wonder. It is spontaneous awe at the sacredness of life, of being. It is a vivid realization of the fact that life and being in us proceed from an invisible, transcendent and infinitely abundant source. Contemplation is, above all, awareness of the reality of that source” — THOMAS MERTON: FROM NEW SEEDS OF CONTEMPLATION
Last week I went on my annual retreat and as I was praying, meditating and catching up on my spiritual reading I came across the above quote from Thomas Merton. As the years have gone by and I become more comfortable with my priesthood this quote reminded me that our spiritual life continues to grow. It doesn’t stop when we reach a certain age, like any-thing, our spiritual journey is an ongoing process to know God and our relationship with Him. Not only am I feeling more comfortable with my priesthood, but I’m also starting to understand my connection with God’s people; as pope Francis says, “smell the sheep”. This encouragement from the holy father motivates priests and religious men and women to be-come closer to the people of God by experiencing the things they’re going through in their lives. To feel the anxiety and fear they feel. To be present and to offer ourselves to those who are in need of love, care and respect. Part of my retreat is to know myself better and to know what God wants of me. And also to see the failures and achievements I made over the course of my eight years since my ordination. As priests we are not given classes to under-stand how parishes work, nor are we instructed on dealing with the running of parish life. This is something we learn as we go along. I have been blessed to have a well trained and experienced staff assist me during this time at Assumption. I rely on their expertise and years of accumulated knowledge to make sure and to assure to you that our parish is running well. We have experienced some disappointments but we have also shared some great moments with each other. My hope as the year progresses is for you to become more comfortable with your spirituality and faith. In today’s culture and as our society becomes more secular, it is vitally important that we maintain our sense of the transcendent, our under-standing and connection to God and our faith. This is where as Catholics we must continue to attend mass, practice our faith, teach our children and to be witnesses to this faith we inherited from previous generations of Christian men and women. I continue to pray for our community and for each of you during this Easter Season. God bless.
“…the true contemplative is not the one who prepares his mind for a particular message that he wants or expects to hear, but who remains empty because he knows that he can
never expect or anticipate the word that will transform his darkness into light. He does not demand light instead of darkness. He waits on the Word of God in silence…”
— THOMAS MERTON: THE CLIMATE OF MONASTIC PRAYER
April 6, 2021
“The day the Lord created hope was probably the same day he created Spring.” – Bernard Williams
The above quote reminds me of the beauty that is spring. The renewal of life, the shoots of green grass coming up and the awakening of the earth and all her inhabitants. The cycle of life begins anew and so does our spiritual life. We celebrate life and a renewed hope with the resurrection of our Lord. It is through the saving power of Christ that we enter into a new day, a new season where we witness life coming forward from the darkness that is winter. From death comes life and life is promised to us at our birth and baptism.
This has been a difficult year for all of us and especially for those who lost a loved one during this time. But we rejoice at Christ’ resurrection for he promises us a life after we pass from this one to the next. That promise is made when the priest signs us with the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Those three words and that action that takes place guarantees us that life exist after this one. We are a very blessed people to have such a love in our lives, to know that God in His infinite wisdom thinks so much of His creation that He leaves the doors open for us to walk in provided we accept His invitation to enter. That invitation God offers is only accepted if we truly wish to be with Him. God gives us that freewill to accept that invitation and reconcile our friendship with Him. He gives us every opportunity to be with Him by forgiving us our sins and He forgives by sacrificing His only Son. What parent would be so generous and willing to do that? To give up a loved one in order to save others?
As we continue on into the Easter Season and preparing for Pentecost, let us remember to keep each of us in prayer and to especially remember the poor, disenfranchised, the homeless and the sick. As Catholics we are given the responsibility of caring for those less fortunate than we, therefore giving us stewardship over all of God’s creation. God bless.
March 26, 2021
I'm a little early to post this, but here you go.
The year is going fast and once again Palm Sunday is here followed by the Great Liturgy of Easter. This has been a challenging year for all of us and what’s remarkable is that most of us are weathering this situation as best we can. Easter is the most important event in the life of the church and the culmination of our preparation for Jesus’ Resurrection. We are Easter people and as such our hope of life everlasting is solidified in Christ’ action in His Passion and Crucifixion. He died on the cross not for his own sake but the sake of all of us, God’s people. The ultimate act of sacrificing one’s life for another is demonstrated by Jesus action and also by countless others who saw their life in a greater way, that is committing a selfless act of no regard of one’s own life, but concern for those around them. I often wonder if I can commit such heroic acts as Christ did or any of the great saints in our church have done over the centuries. An act of such magnitude can only be described as Christ inspired. We see or hear of these acts of sacrifice and heroism by men and women of every culture and race. They think nothing of themselves but only of the other. Acts of heroism are seen on battlefields, inner cities and rural communities. There are many who act but we never hear or know of them.
St. Thomas More once commented to Richard Rich asking him why not be a teacher?
“Sir Thomas More: Why not be a teacher? You'd be a fine teacher; perhaps a great one.
Richard Rich: If I was, who would know it?
Sir Thomas More: You; your pupils, your friends, God. Not a bad public, that.”
Indeed not a bad public, that. There are many unsung heroes in our midst but only a very few are known, which in my opinion, says a lot. The Resurrection of our Lord gives us hope amidst this pandemic. His rising from the dead helps us and guides us to something better and far more richer than what we experience here on earth. As Easter people and children of God, let us together continue our journey to home and to be with the Creator, the Father.
Again Thomas More gives us these wise words: “It’s wrong to deprive someone else of a pleasure so that you can enjoy one yourself, but to deprive yourself of a pleasure so that you can add to someone else's enjoyment is an act of humanity by which you always gain more than you lose”. Let us all share and give of ourselves to our families, friends and strangers. God bless.
March 16, 2021
This week’s Word comes from Ed Rogers of the Catholic Education Resource Center.
There is a quote by Thomas Merton from” The Seven Story Mountain” that illustrates the the paradox of suffering and sacrificing during this time of Lent:
“Indeed, the truth that many people never understand, until it is too late, is that the more you try to avoid suffering, the more you suffer, because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you, in proportion to your fear of being hurt. The one who does most to avoid suffering is, in the end, the one who suffers most: and his suffering comes to him from things so little and so trivial that one can say that it is no longer objective at all. … This is another of the great perversions by which the devil uses our philosophies to turn our whole nature inside out, and eviscerate all our capacities for good, turning them against ourselves.”
What a powerful exposition of the danger of avoidance. The more we try to avoid suffering, the more we suffer. Yet all of us engage in avoidance to some degree. Fr. Robert Barron's Lenten reflections for today talks about Jesus temptation in the desert, and the first temptation to pursue physical and sensual comforts. We are rarely free of these temptations: in my life they sometimes win by mere persistence. What can keep us from sliding down the slope of increasing attention to our own comfort?
Acceptance includes an openness to and honesty about the way things are. This includes openness and honesty about painful feelings, urges and sensations.
Many people's first association with acceptance is giving up, ceasing to care, or finality to a bad situation. Accepting in this case means ceasing to deny or struggle against the painful reality, and speaks of freedom to live in healthy ways, given the circumstances. Acceptance leads to health, freedom and change. Willingness expresses much of the same concept as acceptance, with a bit more of an active connotation: it is an act of the will to allow and participate in current experiences. This means actively making room for painful feelings, urges and sensations, and allowing them to come and go without a struggle. When we are willing to experience pain, we do not become wrapped up in efforts to get rid of it; we are free to continue to live and pursue our values. Willingness says "YES" to our moment-to-moment experience, allowing both pleasant and painful experience to come and go as gifts of God. It neither holds on to pleasure or rejects pain.
Lent is the season where the church brings us face to face with suffering. Intentionally. Because it is by embracing suffering that we rob it of power over us. Lenten sacrifices are a workout for our "willingness" and "acceptance" muscles.
The Church year has a wonderful way of making sure that we practice what is important. God knows we are tempted to our own comfort and avoiding pain, but that the result will be entrapment and misery. Lent asks us to face pain head-on and acknowledge its salvific power in our lives — it is an extended exercise in willingness and acceptance.
"We spend one day a week not eating meat, and on a few days we skip meals altogether." Restated: We accept that physical pleasures are limited, and willingly choose to sacrifice them for spiritual goods.
"We voluntarily deprive ourselves of good things." Restated: We practice a willing stance towards suffering and discomfort.
"We intentionally ponder and ritualize the torture and death of our God/Leader." Restated: We bear witness that our salvation was earned through Christ's willingness to suffer and accept God's will.
By our willingness to give up the good things of the world, we reverse the bondage of avoidance, and become free to enjoy them as generous gifts of God.
Lent is not merely a pain-induction ritual, just as lifting weights is not merely a means of experiencing soreness. Given the trouble I have in getting myself to go to the gym, I am glad the Church has built the practice of Lent into the liturgical year. I need the encouragement to practice willingness and strengthen acceptance.
Lent need not be a somber season, a time of mourning for goods we have been obligated to relinquish. Rather I think it can be a joyful season, in the spirit in which St. Francis told Brother Leo: "Above all the graces and all the gifts of the Holy Spirit which Christ grants to his friends, is the grace of overcoming oneself, and accepting willingly, out of love for Christ, all suffering, injury, discomfort and contempt." Lent is a time in which we regain a healthy relationship with tangible pleasures. By our willingness to give up the good things of the world, we reverse the bondage of avoidance, and become free to enjoy them as generous gifts of God.
So I hope you are flexing those muscles, exercising your willingness to suffer and acceptance of God's will. Though you may be sore, it’s the kind of pain that delivers a joyful message of increasing health and freedom.
March 14, 2021
This past week I was thinking of what the cross means to me and why is so important that we venerate such a symbol. It is odd when you think about it. That an instrument of punishment has been turned into a symbol of our own death and resurrection. So as Catholics look at the Crucifix and see this man nailed to it and see it with sorrow but we also view it as our salvation. I often wonder how some Christians see this symbol of death and how they relate to it. I can only speak for myself and I hope this reflection on the cross resonates with you as well.
Certain things in our world are so prevalent and so present to us that oftentimes our eyes simply overlook them. These objects blend into the background; we’re desensitized to their impact. The beauty of a blue sky, the look on the face of a loved one, the fresh bloom of a spring lily — those are a mere sampling of the things we frequently and too easily take for granted, so they fail to affect us.
Perhaps the most powerful symbol that has been reduced to having the least impression on us is the cross. Although it’s depicted on everything from the tops of our churches to the bottoms of our neckties, from the front of our checkbook covers to the rear windows on our cars, we rarely see its significance.
The cross is about suffering. As a people we are challenged to take up our own personal cross and carry it. We freely and willingly undergo the sacrifices we encounter in our ordinary existence. Accepting our cross, though, does not translate into tolerating abuse or oppression. Instead, it indicates we are to surrender our wants and wishes for the benefit of others and to humbly give ourselves even when our desire might be to do otherwise.
The cross is death. A crucifix is a cross with Christ’s body still hanging, beaten and defeated, from it. The fact that the cross is a form of execution is not glossed over or kept hidden. The spotlight in this scenario shines on the dying and remains on the torture and pain of Good Friday.
The cross also points to the resurrection of Easter Sunday, moving beyond the conquering of death to the triumphant promise of eternal life. This style of ornate decor does not display Jesus ’physical body because the emphasis is that it cannot contain nor restrain Him.
The cross is hope. Being united and joined with Jesus is not reserved only for the next life, but is for the here and now. It is a calling for us to decide to live as Christians and to trust in the promise that we will be given the strength to do so. It is a commitment to remain stead-fast to our faith no matter how difficult the trials become. It is clinging to the belief that through the aid of the Lamb of God we, too, can endure and continue on like a lion.
The cross is identity. The cross serves as a reminder of these characteristics of our religion and functions as a representation to the world of who we are. It classifies us as followers of Christ. As the body of the church, we are to embody anything the cross is and everything that it stands for — to become so close and familiar with the cross that our words and actions ought to be constantly guided by it, while still remaining distant and foreign enough to it that we can recognize its freshness and innovativeness; to always have our gaze fixed upon it, but to never lose focus of its meaning.
As Catholic Christians I hope this article encourages you to spend some time venerating the cross or crucifixion in your own home. To remember we all bear our own crosses and that Jesus shares in this burden. God bless.
March 7, 2021
Last week I wrote about the practice of Lenten sacrifice and this week I would like to focus on the meaning of the phrase, to Sacrifice or what we refer to as “satisfactory works”. We offer up sacrifice in order to satisfy our desire to amend the offenses we’ve committed during the year. And by “giving up” things we love like, sweets, alcohol, coffee, etc. we display a tangible action to God and to ourselves for the intent of doing good for others. But keep in mind to give up those things like sweets and our favorite foods during the season of Lent it isn’t for the purpose of dieting but a commitment to a deeper understanding of its purpose. What are some material things we can give up in order for a truer and more satisfying “sacrifice” that will give us the closeness we desire to the Father?
Theologians call these sacrifices we make as “satisfactory works” (opera satisfactoria). This name comes from the Latin verb satisfacere, which in turn derives from the verb “facere,” meaning “to make” or “to do,” and the adverb satis, which means “enough.” This glance at the origin of the word satisfactory helps us to see that works so named are acts of the virtue of justice. They aim at restoring the order that has been damaged or destroyed by sin. One thing is obvious about Lenten satisfactory works: They seem to vary from one person to the next. As I mentioned above, some decide to give up coffee, alcohol, or sweets; while others work on praying more or delving into devotions they otherwise have neglected. Still others may volunteer at the local soup kitchen, or helping others less fortunate than themselves. Yet all the satisfactory works just mentioned, and any others which we can come up with, are categorized under one of the three kinds of human acts traditionally known as almsgiving, fasting, and prayer. Giving up coffee, alcohol, and sweets, for example, are forms of fasting. Ramping up one’s prayer life falls under the heading of prayer. And volunteering at a soup kitchen or giving up one’s time to serve others counts as almsgiving.
Almsgiving, fasting, and prayer exhaust all the satisfactory works we can do because this trio is based on an exhaustive division of all the goods we human beings can have. In other words, all the goods which belong to us can be divided into those which are external to us and those that are somehow internal to us. These latter goods are further divisible into goods of the body (bodily health, various sense pleasures, and so on) and goods of the soul (our intellects and wills themselves, knowledge, virtue, and so on). And since external goods, goods of the body, and goods of the soul comprise all goods that are properly human, it is also true that there are only three general kinds of works that we can do to make up for our sins.
To see that this is so, we should bear in mind that when we sin, we turn our hearts inordinately toward creatures and deprive God of his due glory. So, to make up for this, we may give alms and in so doing, deprive ourselves of some external goods for God’s glory. Or we may fast and thereby deprive ourselves of some goods of the body to give honor to God. Or lastly, we may pray, which means that we may raise our heart and mind to God and thereby surrender these goods of the soul to God himself. By “giving up” these highest faculties of ours to God when we pray, we also render glory to God.
Yet performing satisfactory works isn’t solely about making up for our past sins. For we also do these works to prevent ourselves from falling into future sins. In connection with this, St. John says the three causes of sin are sensual lust, enticement for the eyes, and a pretentious life. The first of these causes is uprooted, or at least weakened, by fasting; the second is almsgiving; and the third by prayer. In a similar way, since every sin is directed against God, oneself, or one’s neighbor, we can work to prevent ourselves from sinning in the future by praying, fasting, and giving alms, respectively.
In the apostle Peter, we find a wonderful example of someone performing satisfactory works both to make up for his past sins and to prevent future sins. Recall that after being denied by him for the third time, Jesus turned and looked at Peter. Seeing the face of his savior, Peter immediately received the grace of contrition and wept bitterly for his sins. Not until after the Resurrection, though, did Peter receive the grace which moved him to declare his love for Christ three times. These acts of charity were not only reparative of Peter’s threefold betrayal of Christ, but also medicinal or preventative in the sense that they strengthened him for what was to come. More specifically, these acts prepared Peter both to feed the flock of Christ and to embrace the very same kind of death which was suffered
God bless. Amen.
February 28, 2021
Lenten sacrifice is something we all try to accomplish. But for me, and I’m sure for others, sacrificing or giving something up you love can be difficult. For a very long time I used to give things up for Lent that were important, or at least I thought they were important. But as I get older I’ve come to realize that giving up sweets or things of that sort really aren’t much of a sacrifice. I always manage to find excuses to indulge in my favorite thing and so failing in my endeavor to be “Christ” like. Then, if that is the case, what is the point of giving something up only to indulge in it anyway.
The point that is being made is that Christ himself fasted and he prayed often, often leaving his men behind and seeking the desolation and isolation of the desert. “He advanced a little and fell prostrate in prayer, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.” When he returned to his disciples he found them asleep. He said to Peter, “So you could not keep watch with me for one hour? Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Mt. 26:40). These words that Jesus spoke to his disciples gives me food for thought. As I think back to Ash Wednesday, my first day of fasting, I failed miserably. My brother brought with him a dessert to share at the dinner meal and instead of denying myself this luscious treat, I, like Peter, denied my fast to Christ. This act showed my own human failings in that I could not even for one day “give up” something as trivial as a dessert. As Jesus said above to Peter, “So you could not keep watch with me for one hour?”. What should one do in my situation? Simple. Move on and try again, but try something with a greater meaning, and substance . God knows us from the very beginning of time, He knows what our weaknesses are and how much we are willing or capable of sacrificing.
Giving up desserts and these sorts of sacrifices really are not much of a sacrifice when we know there are those, even in our own country, who go without eating three meals a day, something you and I take for granted.
What then must we do to make a real Lenten sacrifice? The church asks us to give something up that is consequential in our lives and replace that thing with something that will help you as well as others. The church asks us, if we are able, to consume one full meal, with smaller meals in between and to take that money you would have spent on those meals and donate it to the poor. This simple gesture allows us the opportunity to share in the pain many people around the world, and in our own country, to go without eating. But it also gives us the occasion to center ourselves in prayer and meditation. “The goal of fasting is inner unity. This means hearing, but not with the ear; hearing, but not with the understanding; it is hearing with the spirit, with your whole being. ... Fasting of the heart empties the faculties, frees you from limitations and from preoccupations.” — Thomas Merton. As Merton says above, fasting is more than sacrifice for others, it is about you and me settling down, centering ourselves, putting us with God in the silence of our mind and heart. If you fail the first or second time in your fast then just begin again. God is understanding and patient. God bless.
February 21, 2021
In Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus offers us a pattern that can enable us to get the most out of our Lent this year. This reading can be used as a roadmap for us to follow as we journey on this Lenten season in anticipation of His Resurrection.
We are told that the “Spirit sent Jesus out toward the desert where he stayed forty days, put to the test by Satan.” What did he do for forty days in the desert? He did what many holy men and women have done in the desert. He listened to God, his Father. As he listened, he also heard the alluring voice of Satan - a voice that challenged him to be someone else other than what his Father wanted him to be. But Jesus spent a long enough time listening in prayer that he gradually knew who he was and what he had to do. And he returns to the countryside, a powerful man with a powerful message: “It’s time! The reign of God is at hand. Reform your lives and believe in the good news!”
That can be the pattern of Lent for us this year. Jesus invites us into the desert, the quiet of our hearts, and he asks us to listen. He knows that our Father will speak to us about who we are and what we are to do. He also knows that Satan will also speak to us - alluring us with all kinds of contradictory messages. And he asks us to stay in the quiet of our hearts long enough to come to know and believe his Father’s words of love and mercy.
Our willingness to listen will prepare us well to come back to our countryside and announce our recognition that the reign of God is at hand. We will be prepared at Easter to renew our baptismal commitment to reform our lives and live more deeply the good news.
The real temptation of our Lent will be to leave our desert too quickly. If we fall for Satan’s trickery (“You don’t really need all that quiet time!”), then our Lent may be like many other times in our lives - just another time we lived through.
If we are willing to stay in our desert and listen, we will be rewarded for our patience and we will be renewed.
As for myself, I try to remain in my fast and strive to pray even harder than I normally do. And sometimes this does not always translate into success. But I am not dishearten by my failures. On the contrary, I see this as a challenge for me to do better, pray better, deepen my faith and commitment to the church, and to you. We all have a call to challenge ourselves in our faith and if we fall, we get back up and try again. God loves us, he admires those who believe, who want to know Him and to be like His Son. Prayer is an important part of lent as it is the main source of communication to God. As we meditate on the sacrifice of Jesus, prayers for lent will help us verbalize our faith!
What choice will you - will I - make this Lent? Will we dare to enter the desert and stay to listen, or will we leave too quickly? Our choice can make all the difference to our lives!
February 14, 2020
This is the third and final series on “Reconciliation” or “Confession”. I hope after reading these three installments on this subject you consider and pray over this and decide to return to this wonderful and grace filled sacrament. This is not just about forgiveness, but to restore one’s friendship with God and the community. So with that, here is the third explanation taken from the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
The sacrament of Reconciliation is a sacrament in which the priest, as the agent of God, forgives sins committed after Baptism, when the sinner is heartily sorry for them, sincerely confesses them, and is willing to make satisfaction for them.
By his death on the Cross, Jesus Christ redeemed us from sin and from the consequences of his sin, especially from the eternal death that is sin’s due.
So it is not surprising that on the very day he rose from the dead, Jesus instituted the sacrament by which everyone’s sins could be forgiven. It was on Easter Sunday evening that Jesus appeared to his Apostles, gathered together in the Upper Room, where they had eaten the Last Supper. As they gaped and shrank back in a mixture of fear and dawning hope, Jesus spoke to them reassuringly. Jesus came and stood in the midst and said to them, ‘Peace be to you!’ And when he had said this he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples therefore rejoiced at the sight of the Lord. He therefore said to them again, ‘Peace be to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.’ When he had said this, he breathed upon them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit; whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.’ To paraphrase our Lord’s words in more modern terms, what he said was this: As God, I have the power to forgive sin. I now entrust the use of that power to you. You will be My representatives. Whatever sins you forgive, I shall forgive. Whatever sins you do not forgive, I shall not forgive. Jesus knew well that many of us would forget our brave baptismal promises and commit grave sins after our Baptism. He knew that many of us would lose the grace, the sharing-in-God’s-own-life which came to us in Baptism.
Since God’s mercy is infinite and unwearying, it seems inevitable that he would provide a second chance (and a third and a fourth and a hundredth if necessary) for those who might relapse into sin. This power to forgive sin which Jesus conferred upon his Apostles was not, of course, to die with them; no more so than the power to change bread and wine into his Body and Blood, which he conferred upon his Apostles at the Last Supper.
Jesus did not come upon earth just to save a few chosen souls, or just the people who lived on earth during the lifetime of his Apostles.
Jesus came to save everybody who was willing to be saved, down to the end of time. He had you and me in mind, as well as Timothy and Titus, when he died on the Cross.
It is evident then that the power to forgive sins is a part of the power of the priesthood, to be passed on in the sacrament of Holy Orders from generation to generation.
It is the power which every priest exercises when he raises his hand over the contrite sinner and says, “I absolve thee from thy sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” These are called “the words of absolution.” It is in this way we are forgiven our sins and giving us another chance at redeeming ourselves. God as Father wants us to be with him for eternity. And in giving us this grace filled sacrament He is giving us every possible chance. Let us as a people use this sacrament even if you only use it twice a year. Come, rekindle the fire in your hearts the desire for God’s love and friendship during this Lenten season. God bless.
February 7, 2021
Last week I introduced the subject of Reconciliation and what is it and it’s purpose. This week I wish to continue this conversation by addressing how the Latin-rite church (Roman) came to accept this practice in the first place. First, let us deal with the most common misunderstanding: many Protestants, for example, insist that since only God can forgive sin, every sinner must approach him individually. It is said that no man can forgive sins, hence to have priests forgiving sins in confession is a sacrilege and blasphemy. Furthermore, this power is alleged to be an invention of either the post-Constantinian Church or of the corrupt Church of the Middle Ages. However, during his life-time Christ forgave us our sins. Since he would not always be with the Church physically and visibly, Christ delegated this power to other men so that the Church would be able to offer forgiveness to future generations. He gave this as a communicable power to the apostles so it could be passed on to their successors, the bishops. In this passage (Jn 20:21-22) Jesus is telling the apostles to follow his own example, in delegating the power to the apostles to forgive sins. Note that all of this is God's doing. It is He who, through Christ, has reconciled us to himself, and allowed us to minister this reconciliation of his to others (2 Cor. 5:18). Indeed, confirms Paul, "We are Christ's ambassadors" (2 Cor 5:20). Note also that in the anointing of the sick described in Js 5:13-15-16, it is to the presbyters of the Church the person is to be brought, and his sins will be forgiven. It is to the ordained that the sick are brought. "Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The fervent prayer of a righteousness person is very powerful.” Self-accusation is listed as a part of the Church's requirement by the time of Irenaeus. Slightly later Christian writers, such as Origin, Cyprian, and Aphraates, state clearly that confession is to be made to a priest. Cyprian writes that the forgiving of sins can take place only through the priests." Ambrose says that "this right is given to priests only." These sayings are never seen as anything new and novel, but as reminders of accepted belief. This power to forgive is two-fold, to loose (to forgive) or to hold them bound (not to forgive). This means that sins had to be verbally confessed to the priests so they could know which sins to forgive and which not to forgive. Also, their authority was to forgive or not to forgive, not merely to proclaim that God had already forgiven sins based on people's subjective contrition. Benefits of doing this the Catholic way:
First, the Catholic is seeking forgiveness the way Christ intended it to be sought.
Second, by confessing to a priest, the Catholic learns a lesson in humility which is conveniently avoided when one confesses only through private prayer. Don’t we all desire to escape humbling experiences?
Third, the Catholic receives sacramental graces that the non-Catholic does not get; through the sacrament of penance, not only are sins forgiven, but graces are obtained.
Fourth, and in some ways the most important, the Catholic is assured that his sins are forgiven; he doesn’t have to rely on a subjective “feeling.”
Fifth, the Catholic can obtain sound and objective advice in analyzing his sins and avoiding sin in the future.
Sixth, the Catholic, by going to a recognized and trained confessor, is protected against the subjective dangers of such psychological tricks of the personality such as projection, rationalization, etc.
I hope this helps in discerning during this time of preparation and penance, what reconciliation is and why it is important as Catholics to at least attend confession during the Lenten or Easter season. As always Fr. Chris or me are available on Saturdays at 3:30 or by appointment. May you find Grace and hope during this very trying year by attending virtual Sunday Masses and seeking reconciliation with the Lord and the community. Next week I’ll tackle the basic components of sincere repentance. God bless.
January 30, 2021
In a little more than three weeks the Lenten season begins with Ash Wednesday kicking it off to hopefully a blessed time for all. One of the things I’d like to address during this time of preparation and prayer is the sacrament of Reconciliation or what is commonly known as “Confession”. It’s often said that confession is good for the soul and I believe that to be true. Confession is good for the soul, but more importantly, it’s good to rid ourselves of the baggage we accumulate during the year. And 2020 was, as the Queen once said, “anus horribilis”, a horrible year indeed. So with that I would like for the next few weeks write about this soothing and rewarding sacrament that reconciles our friendship not only with God but with our whole community. Firstly, let’s get to know what the Sacrament of Reconciliation is and it’s purpose in the life of the church by referring to the Catechism.
By starting off with this question, “what is the sacrament of reconciliation in the Catholic Church”, I believe will assist and guide us to a better and profound understanding of this vitally important sacrament we share.
In the Latin Rite Church, for example, people go to confession to say they’re sorry for the sins they committed in their lives and to experience God's healing power through forgiveness. Confession also permits reconciliation with the Church, which is wounded by the sins people commit”. "Those who approach the sacrament of Penance obtain pardon from God's mercy for the offense committed against him, and are, at the same time, reconciled with the Church which they have wounded by their sins and which by charity, by example, and by prayer labors for their conversion.” It is called the sacrament of conversion because it makes sacramentally present Jesus' call to conversion, the first step in returning to the Father from whom one has strayed by sin. It is called the sacrament of Penance, since it consecrates the Christian sinner's personal and ecclesial steps of conversion, penance, and satisfaction. It is called the sacrament of confession, since the disclosure or confession of sins to a priest is an essential element of this sacrament. In a profound sense it is also a "confession" - acknowledgment and praise - of the holiness of God and of his mercy toward sinful man. It is called the sacrament of forgiveness, since by the priest's sacramental absolution God grants the penitent "pardon and peace.” It is called the sacrament of Reconciliation, because it imparts to the sinner the life of God who reconciles: "Be reconciled to God." He who lives by God's merciful love is ready to respond to the Lord's call: "Go; first be reconciled to your brother."8
As a priest I find reconciliation or confession to be a good thing in that it gives me comfort knowing my Father in heaven pardons me and renews my friendship in a most profound way. Yes, I too go to reconcile my sins to a priest and I reconcile my sins knowing fully through Jesus suffering and death on the cross my sins are forgiven. If I didn’t believe that, then I make a mockery of Christ’ death. God is good and God wants us to be with him in His heavenly kingdom. God bless.
January 23, 2021
Hello everyone, after my mother’s funeral I started thinking about how my siblings and me will handle her passing and moving forward into uncharted waters. I know this will be a very challenging time for all of us, most especially for my sister who lived and cared for mom since dad’s passing. As a family we experienced many road trips and vacations together with mom and had a great time and many memorable adventures with her. But now that she is gone to be with dad, my brothers, sister and I are feeling an emptiness in our lives we never felt before. The emptiness we feel is palatable and It seems at times to overtake and drains our happiness and joy. I know every that person grieves differently and some may take longer than others to recover from the shock of loosing a loved one. But that is part of life, to be born, live your life and die. So with that let me ask you this question: What does a new beginning mean in your faith life? I ask this question because I wonder how people cope with lost of a loved one, and sorrow during this time of COVID, political turmoil, urban unrest and doubt.
In this time of renewal in the Church, we are called to revisit the integrity of our own faith. What are we doing to share God’s love? Are we doing things that take us away from Him, or omitting things that could bring us closer? Unleash the Gospel invites us to take up the spirit of “new beginnings” as a unified Church — globally and locally — and as individual disciples: “Recognizing that we cannot give what we don’t have, we continually seek to be refreshed in God’s presence and filled again and again with His love, so that it is His own love that we are giving away.” What does this look like? Therefore, I ask you to share what “new beginnings” means to your own faith? How can you share the Gospel, and what devotions you have and share with others?
The stories in scripture show time and time again that God offers people a new beginning, another chance for great things. God frees the oppressed, Jesus heals and restores, and the Holy Spirit imbues new life. This helps in our Catholic faith, our Christ centered community to which we belong and share and teaches us how to cope with lose of life. Sometimes new beginnings are chances to take a look at the things we’re holding onto. Saint Ignatius speaks of so-called “disordered attachments”, things we’re attached to that are not helpful to growing closer to God and our True Self. We need to get rid of those things. Are there any things that I can get rid of at this point in my life, things unhelpful to my journey? What do I need to let go of?
Let us start our new beginning with a prayer attributed to St Teresa of Avila and St Thérèse of Lisieux: May today there be peace within. May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.
May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be confident knowing you are a child of God. Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of us. God bless.
January 17, 2021
The Grief of Losing a Parent Is Complex — I know, I lost my mother, who was 92 at her passing. I can now call myself an “orphan”. The feeling of being lost is the thing I feel most. I’ve never really felt this emotion, exception when my father died more than thirty years ago. Below is an article I found as I was researching this topic of grieving and what are some of the steps one takes in order to cope with this lost, especially if the lost is someone whom you trusted, loved, and had a great respect. I hope those of us who have recently lost a father or mother or sibling finds solace in these words.
The finality of death can feel almost unbelievable, particularly when it strikes a parent, someone whose presence in your life may have never wavered. You finished growing up and successfully reached adulthood, but you still needed (and expected to have) your parents for years to come.
The loss of their support, guidance, and love can leave a vast emptiness and pain that might seem impossible to heal, even if their death was expected.
Or, maybe you and your parent were estranged or had a complicated relationship, resulting in a roller coaster of conflicting emotions.
Yet the world at large may expect you to recover from your grief fairly quickly — after the prescribed 3 days of bereavement leave, perhaps padded with a few extra days of personal time — and get back to business.
There’s no right or wrong way to grieve the loss of a parent, but these strategies can offer a starting place as you begin to acknowledge your loss. Sadness is common after the loss of a parent, but it’s also normal for other feelings to take over. You may not feel sad, and that’s OK, too. Perhaps you only feel numb, or relieved they’re no longer in pain. Grief opens the gate to a flood of complicated, often conflicting emotions. Your relationship with your parent might have had plenty of challenges, but it still represented an important key to your identity. They created you, or adopted and chose to raise you, and became your first anchor in the world.
After such a significant loss, it’s only natural to struggle or experience difficulties coming to terms with your distress. You might experience:
No matter how the loss hits you, remember this: Your feelings are valid, even if they don’t line up with what others think you “should” feel.
People react to grief in different ways, but it’s important to let yourself feel all of your feelings. There’s no single right way to grieve, no set amount of time after which you can automatically expect to feel better, no stages or steps of grief to check off a list. This in itself can be difficult to accept. Remind yourself grief is a difficult process as well as a painful one. Some people work through grief in a short time and move forward with the remnants of their sadness safely tucked away. Others need more time and support, no matter how expected the death was. The unexpected death of a parent still in middle age, on the other hand, may force you to confront your own mortality, a battle that can also complicate grief. Grief often has a significant impact on daily life. Some people find comfort in the distraction of work, but try to avoid forcing yourself to return before you feel ready. People often throw themselves into work, taking on more than they can comfortably handle to avoid scaling the ever-present wall of painful emotions.
Finding a balance is key. Some distraction can be healthy, provided you still make time to address your feelings. It might seem difficult, even inconsiderate, to dedicate time to self-care, but prioritizing your health becomes even more important as you recover from your loss. Talking to family members and other loved ones about what your parent meant to you and sharing stories can help keep their memory alive. If you have children, you might tell stories about their grandparent or carry on family traditions that were important in your childhood. It might feel painful at first to reminisce, but you may find that your grief begins to ease as the stories start flowing. Not everyone has positive memories of their parents, of course. And people often avoid sharing negative memories about people who’ve passed. If they abused, neglected, or hurt you in any way, you may wonder whether there’s any point to dredging up that old pain.
If you’ve never discussed or processed what happened, however, you might find it even harder to heal and move forward after their death. Opening up to a therapist or someone else you trust can help lighten the load. Upon hearing the news that an estranged parent has passed away, you might feel lost, numb, angry, or surprised by your grief. You might even feel cheated of the opportunity to address past trauma or unresolved hurt.
Life doesn’t always give us the answers we seek or the solutions we crave. Sometimes you just have to accept inadequate conclusions, however unfinished or painful they feel.
Instead of clutching tight to any lingering bitterness, try viewing this as an opportunity to let go of the past and move forward — for your sake.
Some things are truly difficult to forgive, but harboring resentment only harms you, since there’s no one left to receive it.
As a grieving child and feeling an incredible loss of one that I loved very much, I find the above article helpful and a guide to help me grieve for however long it may take me. The one thing that keeps me going these days are my family and the faith I have knowing that my mother is in good hands and that she is with my father. Knowing these things gives me the strength to move forward and enjoy the happy memories that came from a person who had a great impact in my life. Good bye mom, until we meet again. God bless.
January 10, 2020
Please enjoy the following article:
When James Sanders’ daughter was 5, her goldfish died. As a practicing Catholic and licensed marriage and family therapist, Sanders’ mind immediately went to the big question: “How can I introduce death to my 5-year-old daughter?” He set up a burial scene in the backyard, and gave a short eulogy, making sure to bring in some Catholic principles. His daughter listened solemnly, then said, “Dad, our fish is going into the ground and it’s going to decompose and help the soil, but its soul will go to heaven and become an angelfish.” On the grief scale, the death of a pet fish is a small occurrence. Still, Sanders’ daughter used one of the tools Sanders finds important when helping others deal with larger losses. “Using stories and metaphors can help us realize that death is a transition,” Sanders explains. “And help us to better understand that if there wasn’t death there wouldn’t be life. We can appreciate life more because we know it’s temporal.”
Of course, understanding what happens after a person or animal dies doesn’t always help with the often more looming question of why. Why, if God is good, does tragedy occur at all? Father Thomas P. Rausch, the T. Marie Chilton Professor of Catholic Theology at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, says, “People sometimes are tempted to blame God in times of tragedy, but that doesn’t work. God does not ‘cause’ tragic loss or suffering; Jesus, as one like us, knew it intimately, and God grieved for the suffering of his only beloved Son, as he grieves for all the pain of the children he so passionately loves.”
Sanders adds, “People will ask ‘Why did this have to happen?’ and we say ‘Who are we to question God’s decisions and plans?’”
The power of people “When Bad Things Happen to Good People,” published in 1981, is a seminal book about coping with grief and loss that attempts to answer the “why” of tragedy. Written by Rabbi Harold Kushner after the death of his son as a result of a degenerative disease at age 14, the book is an exploration of the doubts and fears that arise in the face of great loss. It has become a beacon for many who are suffering tremendous grief.
In a new preface written by Kushner in 2001, he said there is a line from the book that is often quoted back to him. It’s not a sentence written by Kushner, but a quote he found by a 19th century rabbi: “Human beings are God’s language.” The meaning, writes Kushner, is that God sends us people to help us deal with loss: Friends to help us through, doctors and nurses to heal us, family to sit by our side. This sentiment coincides with what Father Rausch advises for dealing with grief. He says, “People who are grieving need people to be with them, just to be present; also, we have to allow ourselves time to grieve. It does little good to try and suppress it, or to deny it.” For most, the “Why” of grief will never be sufficiently answered, but there are ways to ease yourself or others through the suffering process. In addition to a support network of friends and family, counseling can be useful, as can books about the topic. Sanders likes to get patients involved in finding a book that resonates with them, rather than picking one for them to read. When enough time has passed, tragedy can be dissected for meaning, or become a learning opportunity. Try and make it more of a positive process and let it help you appreciate the relationships you have in your life.” Father Rausch suggests you see grief as a way to better connect with God. “Grieving means dealing with pain, loss, tragedy, which is our share in the Paschal Mystery of Jesus; it means that we enter into his passion in faith so that we, too, might share in the Resurrection.”
This article was by Heather Skyler 4/26/2015
January 3, 2021
Happy New Year and I hope a much better and less stressful one at that.
2021, I hope, will be one of peace and calm in our nation and our communities as we strive forth in the new year as a battle tested people. Many of us suffered through this pandemic and some continue to do so. Many have lost loved ones during this time and many have come together stronger in their relationships with family and friends. This past year was an eye opening period in my life, so I can only write of my own experiences during this very unusual time. But I’m sure many will relate to what this time has been for me and my family. It’s hard to describe in words what one goes through when tragedy strikes; a loved one takes ill or dies and find ourselves in a situation where we question those things we’ve come to believe. Is there a God and why is he allowing this to happen? This is a legitimate and human reaction to those things happening around us. As human beings we are confused and at a lost when we loose someone dear to us and with that we question our faith and what this life is all about. For Aquinas, love for God granted by God himself is the very center of the Christian faith, the source of its perfection: “Charity is called the form of faith in so far as the act of faith is perfected and formed by charity.” Charity solicits believers to know of God and his works—i.e., everything that exists. For myself, it’s always good to question our faith, to go deeper in our understanding of who God is and our relationship with him. For to understand God we must understand the faith we profess. Some times in our questioning of why things happen we look deeper in ourselves, to try and understand why we must go through these trials and tribulations in our lives. Everyone in the world from the beginning of time have gone through some sort of sorrow that they must combat. At all times, “God is our comfort in the midst of suffering” (2 Corinthians 1:3–7). 11. “We are invited to join [Christ] in emptying ourselves for the sake of others so that we might also share in his glory” (Philippians 2:5–11). 12. Scripture, for myself, is always a source of comfort and a tool to deepen my faith. Faith is not an easy thing to acquire, like anything that is worth understanding requires us to search for an answer that sometimes may not come when you want it. “So it is and will be with us, when we are in the midst of some great suffering that we sense has been approved by God. ... In Christ Jesus, Who understands what it's like to go through that same suffering, there is wisdom, help and hope”. Let’s together as a community make 2021 a great year. Let us together pray for each other, our nation and our world. As St. Paul writes, “we are one body in Christ.” God bless and Happy New Year.
December 27, 2020
Merry Christmas. I hope you all had a wonderful and blessed time and that the new year will bring many of us a renewed sense of hope to our community and families. This year has been a very trying time for all of us as this pandemic seems to keep on going and going and I’m not talking about the Ever Ready Bunny we see on commercials. It has been a year of uncertainty as we continue to struggle with this dreaded disease that is sweeping the world and leaving sorrow in its wake. The one bit of light at the end of the tunnel is that a vaccine seems to be available and ready to combat this scourge that the whole world faces. I know of many who have died because of this horrible virus and the fear many are experiencing. There are three things we should keep in mind and those are our faith, hope in God, and loving family and friends. These three things are important for all of us to remember as we move forward to make the new year a more joyful and hopeful one. As Catholic Christians we have faith in Christ that He will show us the way and make crooked places straight for us. These words from Scripture are God’s Words that guarantee a place in His kingdom. He sent His only begotten Son to us not as a mere prophet of hope, but as God’s sign of His love. This sign of His love will guide us to Christ’ passion, death, and His resurrection on Easter morning. This sign is for all who are willing to see, hear and touch and follow God’s incarnate Word: for God so loved the world that he sacrifice His only begotten Son. Many, including myself, have a sense helplessness in the face of all that seems to be going wrong with the world, and we feel that there is nothing we can do to help the situation we find ourselves living and experiencing. But because we are a new Testament people we have hope in the life after this one, life in the kingdom that is promised and eternal life Jesus promises by His resurrection. “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” These wonderful words from Isaiah are inspiring and for me bring calm to my restless soul. For my hope is in the Lord and not in man. And as St. Paul writes: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” God is here and now, and even though He may seem to have abandoned us, He remains with us at all times. As Alfred Lord Tennyson writes: “Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering ‘it will be happier’…”. Keep hope alive within you, never let the flame of your faith die and always remember faith, hope and family. God bless
December 15, 2020
Last week I explained the meaning of Advent and some of the traditional difference between the Western and Eastern churches. This week, as promised, I will explain what and why we keep an Advent Wreath in our homes and parish churches and it’s meaning in symbols and words. The keeping of an Advent wreath is a common practice in homes or churches. The concept of the Advent wreath originated among German Lutherans in the 16th Century. However, it was not until three centuries later that the modern Advent wreath took shape. The modern Advent wreath, with its candles representing the Sundays of Advent, originated from an 1839 initiative by Johann Hinrich Wichern, a Protestant pastor in Germany and a pioneer in urban mission work among the poor. In view of the impatience of the children he taught as they awaited Christmas, he made a ring of wood, with nineteen small red tapers and four large white candles. Every morning a small candle was lit, and every Sunday a large candle. Custom has retained only the large candles.
The wreath crown is traditionally made of fir tree branches knotted with a red ribbon and decorated with pine cones, holly, laurel, and sometimes mistletoe. It is also an ancient symbol signifying several things; first of all, the crown symbolizes victory, in addition to its round form evoking the sun and its return each year. The number four represents the four Sundays of Advent, and the green twigs are a sign of life and hope. The fir tree is a symbol of strength and laurel a symbol of victory over sin and suffering. The latter two, with the holly, do not lose their leaves, and thus represent the eternity of God. The flames of candles are the representation of the Christmas light approaching and bringing hope and peace, as well as the symbol of the struggle against darkness. For Christians, this crown is also the symbol of Christ the King, the holly recalling the crown of thorns resting on the head of Christ.
The Advent wreath is adorned with candles, usually three violet or purple and one pink, the pink candle being lit on the Third Sunday of Advent, called Gaudete Sunday after the opening word, Gaudete, meaning "Rejoice", of the entrance antiphon at Mass. Some add a fifth candle (white), known as the Christ Candle, in the middle of the wreath, to be lit on Christmas Eve or Day. The candles symbolize, in one interpretation, the great stages of salvation before the coming of the Messiah; the first is the symbol of the forgiveness granted to Adam and Eve, the second is the symbol of the faith of Abraham and of the patriarchs who believe in the gift of the Promised Land, the third is the symbol of the joy of David whose lineage does not stop and also testifies to his covenant with God, and the
fourth and last candle is the symbol of the teaching of the prophets who announce a reign of justice and peace. Or they symbolize the four stages of human history; creation, the Incarnation, the redemption of sins, and the Last Judgment. In Orthodox churches there are sometimes wreaths with six candles, in line with the six-week duration of the Nativity Fast/Advent. In Sweden, white candles, symbol of festivity and purity, are used in celebrating Saint Lucy's Day, 13 December, which always falls within Advent. These traditions are beautiful and are helpful in preparing us for Christmas but they are more than just symbols, they are guides to enhance our journey through Salvation history and to God’s eternal kingdom. If you are looking for something to make your Advent a special one and wish to strengthen your faith and your children’s faith, I suggest you start this beautiful and meaningful tradition in your household. May God keep you safe.
December 8, 2020
I am writing this article to explain what Advent is and why we celebrate this season in the manner we do as the Western church’s practice is vastly different from that of the Eastern tradition. Next week I will explain how we can to the tradition of the Advent wreath.
Advent is a season of the liturgical year observed in most Christian denominations as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for both the celebration of the Nativity of Christ at Christmas and the return of Christ at the Second Coming. Advent is also the beginning of the liturgical year in the Western Church particularly among the liturgical churches.
The term "Advent" is also used in Eastern Orthodoxy for the 40-day Nativity Fast, which has practices different from those in the West of which I will write about next week.
The name was adopted from Latin adventus "coming; arrival", translating Greek parousia. In the New Testament, this is the term used for the Second Coming of Christ. Thus, the season of Advent in the Christian calendar anticipates the "coming of Christ" from three different perspectives: the physical nativity in Bethlehem, the reception of Christ in the heart of the believer, and the eschatological Second Coming. Practices associated with Advent include keeping an Advent calendar, lighting an Advent wreath, which by the way is a Lutheran tradition, praying an Advent daily devotional, erecting a Christmas tree or a Chrismon tree, lighting a Christingle, as well as other ways of preparing for Christmas, such as setting up Christmas decorations, a custom that is sometimes done liturgically through a hanging of the greens ceremony. The equivalent of Advent in Eastern Christianity is called the Nativity Fast, but it differs in length and observances, and does not begin the liturgical church year as it does in the West. The Eastern Nativity Fast does not use the equivalent parousia in its preparatory services. The theme of readings and teachings during Advent is often the preparation for the Second Coming and the Last Judgement. The first clear references in the Western Church to Advent occur in the Gelasian Sacramentary, which provides Advent Collects, Epistles, and Gospels for the five Sundays preceding Christmas and for the corresponding Wednesdays and Fridays. While the Sunday readings relate to the first coming of Jesus Christ as savior as well as to his Second Coming as judge, traditions vary in the relative importance of penitence and expectation during the weeks in Advent. Bishop Perpetuus of Tours, who died in 490, ordered fasting three days a week from the day after Saint Martin's Day (11 November). In the 6th century, local councils enjoined fasting on all days except Saturdays and Sundays from Saint Martin's Day to Epiphany (the feast of baptism), a period of 56 days, but of 40 days fasting, like the fast of Lent. It was therefore called Quadragesima Sancti Martini (Saint Martin's Lent). This period of fasting was later shortened and called "Advent" by the Church. In the Anglican and Lutheran churches this fasting rule was later relaxed. The Roman Catholic Church later abolished the precept of fasting (at an unknown date at the latest in 1917), later, but kept Advent as a season of penitence. In addition to fasting, dancing and similar festivities were forbidden in these traditions. On Rose Sunday, relaxation of the fast was permitted. Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches still hold the tradition of fasting for 40 days before Christmas. These traditions the Western and Eastern Churches have evolved are meant to enhance this period of time, to grasp a better understanding of our relationship to God and prepare our souls for the return of Christ.
Next week I will describe the tradition of the Advent wreath and it’s significance. Until then, keep safe, and prepare yourselves for the coming of the Baby Jesus. God bless.
December 1, 2020
This week has been very busy and so with that I am posting this article from Loyola Press for your reading pleasure. Next week I will more information regarding the parish Christmas concert and mass times.
In this week's Gospel Reading and next week's, our Advent preparation for Christmas invites us to consider John the Baptist and his relationship to Jesus. In this week's Gospel, Matthew describes the work and preaching of John the Baptist.
John the Baptist appears in the tradition of the great prophets of Israel, preaching repentance and reform to the people of Israel. In fact, the description of John found in this reading is reminiscent of the description of the prophet Elijah (2 Kings 1:8). In this reading, John directs a particularly pointed call to repentance to the Pharisees and Sadducees, parties within the Jewish community of the first century.
John marks the conversion of those who seek him out with a baptism of repentance. Other groups in this period are thought to have practiced ritual washings for similar purposes, and John's baptism may have been related to the practices of the Essenes, a Jewish sect of the first century. John's baptism can be understood as an anticipation of Christian baptism. In this passage, John himself alludes to the difference between his baptism and the one yet to come: “I am baptizing you with water, for repentance . . . He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Matthew 3:11).
In this reading, John makes very clear that his relationship to the Messiah yet to come (Jesus) is one of service and subservience: “. . . the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals” (Matthew 3:11). In the context of Matthew's Gospel, today's passage is followed by Jesus' baptism by John, an event that is attested to in all four of the Gospels and appears to have been the start of Jesus' public ministry.
John's preaching of the coming of the Lord is a key theme of the Advent season. As John's message prepared the way for Jesus in the first century, we, too, are called to prepare ourselves for Jesus' coming. We respond to John's message by our repentance and reform of our lives. We are also called to be prophets of Christ, who announce by our lives, as John did, the coming of the Lord. (Loyola Press 2020)
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.