When applying for a graduate teaching program after college, one of the interview questions centered on my favorite Gospel story that relates to teaching. Relying on my years in Catholic elementary and high school, I suggested Jesus’ parable of the mustard seed. As educators, we plant small seeds and nurture them to grow into marvelous things!
Before staying home with our two sons, my wife was also a Catholic school teacher and principal. In her office was a quote by William Butler Yeats that read, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” We light small sparks that will grow and bring light and warmth to those who surround it.
I share these anecdotes this week as we begin the celebration of National Catholic Schools’ Week – an opportunity to recognize the tremendous achievements of the 6,429 Catholic schools across the United States.
Catholic schools are where students are able to learn, serve, lead, and ultimately succeed. Seeds are planted and sparks are lit every single day in our Catholic schools.
I feel so tremendously blessed to be principal at our very own Catholic school at St. Mary Magdalen here in Camarillo. It is a privilege to work with a dedicated and enthusiastic faculty and a tremendous honor to partner with amazing parents in the education of their children. It is with these teachers and parents that seeds are planted and small sparks are nurtured.
I am certainly proud of the academic achievements of our students that see them typically score above the national average on standardized tests and advance to the top high schools in our area. I’m also proud of the wide range of opportunities we are able to offer our students during the school day such as Spanish and music as well as after school activities including a wide variety of clubs and sports.
We help our students to grow and flourish in so many ways, but I truly believe the most important seeds we plant and flames we fan are that of our students’ faith. To be able to start every day in prayer, celebrate Mass together once a week as a school community, and openly talk with students about our shared Catholic faith is something I most enjoy about my job and something that sets our school apart from others. We prepare students to not only be productive citizens of this world, but also develop them to one day be citizens of heaven.
The work that we do is something that cannot be done without your prayers and support and to my fellow Padre Serra parishioners, I offer humble words of deep gratitude. Your generosity over the years allows us to continue to grow and thrive. This is your school community and you are such an important part of the educational journey and faith development of all our children.
You are there with us as we plant seeds and light the fire.
Principal, St. Mary Magdalen School
Today’s Gospel and Old Testament readings have to do with a call that Jonah experienced and that Simon, Andrew,
James and John all heard from Jesus and to which they responded. It’s a call to discipleship and it’s one that is meant for all of us.
Many of us heard the story of Jonah in the belly of the fish when we were young. I find it interesting that the church
chose to skip that part of the story for today’s reading which begins:
The word of the LORD came to Jonah, saying: "Set out for the great city of Nineveh, and announce to it the message that I will tell you." So Jonah made ready and went to Nineveh, according to the LORD'S bidding.
The reason Jonah was in the belly of the fish was because he first attempted to escape God’s call by literally fleeing on a ship. When God sent a storm, the sailors threw Jonah overboard, and the fish swallowed him. Three days later, returned to dry land (I’ll spare you the details), Jonah had a different attitude. I wonder if the point is that one way or another, it’s best to respond to God’s call, which is constant and unyielding, even in the face of our disobedience and imperfection.
The disciples that responded so readily to Jesus’ call in today’s Gospel were also far from perfect. Remember how they bickered over who would get to sit at Jesus’ right hand in the coming kingdom? Remember how they fell asleep at Gethsemane and abandoned him at Calvary? Yet they are saints – examples for all of us, celebrated for centuries by the church to which we belong.
So if the call to discipleship is unyielding and uncompromising, and meant for all of us, to what exactly are we being
In the Gospel, Jesus calls the disciples to follow him, and they do. What does following Jesus mean? To what are we to follow him? To preaching (announcing the good news that the reign of God is at hand and within), teaching, healing, prayer, obedience, redemptive suffering, death and resurrection. I realize that many of those words may sound churchy or foreign to us living as we do in the complex world of 2018. But they are what we are called to, according to the gifts we’ve been given, by virtue of our baptism. And if we, in our weakness and imperfection will try to respond to the call, God will bring great blessings to our world and to us.
When Jonah preached repentance as he’d been commanded, “the people of Nineveh believed God … When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way, he repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to them; he did not carry it out.”
When Jesus’ disciples obeyed the command to go and teach all nations, a church that none of them could imagine grew to span centuries and to touch all parts of our world. Ours is a church that has accomplished tremendous good, even though it is made up of imperfect, weak and disobedient people just like you and me, who have tried to respond to God’s call, relying on God’s grace.
Liturgy and Music Minister
In this three part series, professionals in the field of health care and in the church shared their knowledge of what to expect when a person nears the natural end of life, how to provide compassionate care, and what steps need to be taken in preparation and upon death.
Sponsored by the Adult Faith Formation Team and the following partners:
For years, our retreat leaders have volunteered their time (about 40 hours of preparation) and talent (years of experience sharing faith) for our Confirmation teens.
A little known fact, they also pay for room and board while many take time off work to help at the retreat. This year, we are hoping, praying and asking for help to offset the cost.
Whatever is donated to our retreat leader fund will go into a pool to reduce, or even eliminate, the cost for our leaders to volunteer. The total cost for leaders this year is $3,000. Every dollar given will be humbly and gratefully received as a ‘thank you for your love and dedication to our young teens.’ Envelopes are in the church narthex. Thank you church.
I write this message from the foggy, cool mountaintop home of Serra Retreat Center in Malibu. Fifty women from our parish are retreating to pray on the Epiphany readings and reflect on the stars in our lives, those guiding lights that point us to Jesus. I love beginning a new year with a retreat. This “vacation with God” is a wonderful opportunity to refuel and recommit time and energy to my spiritual journey. While I highly recommend and encourage a weekend retreat to anyone, scheduled intentional time with God to reflect on the Sunday readings each week from the comfort of our own home is just as valuable. God has some message for each of us. We just need to carve out the time in our ordinary day to listen. It’s that simple.
The theme of today’s readings is God’s invitation and our response (1). In the first reading, Samuel does not recognize the voice calling his name while he is sleeping: “Samuel, Samuel!” After the third time, his mentor Eli finally tells him what to say. What always strikes me about this story is the trust with which Samuel responds, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” For the rest of Samuel’s life, the Lord was with him always. It was that simple.
In the gospel, we hear another call and response. John the Baptist and two of his disciples encounter Jesus.
They are curious about him and what he is doing. Jesus said, “Come and you will see.” What did they do?
They followed Jesus with complete trust! It was that simple.
I wonder what those soon-to-be-apostles were thinking. What did they think they were going to see?
Today marks the beginning of Ordinary Time and the readings in the coming weeks will show us exactly what the apostles saw and experienced. They will walk us through Jesus’ daily life. If we are willing to go as the apostles did, we too will see, learn, and experience Jesus’ examples of love, forgiveness, healing, and ministry.
Ordinary daily life is where God shows up. Often times I think God is just saying hello. Other times I believe God is saying, “Listen up. Have I got something for you?” Every day, every week God invites us to confront real issues. How can I love the neighbor who irritates me? Can I forgive the family member who wronged me? What can I offer the homeless person on the corner? How can I comfort my grieving friend? We can never go wrong when we discern a situation and respond with loving Christian values.
Let’s journey together these coming weeks so we too can see and respond to God’s call to live our ordinary lives with extraordinary love. I promise it’s really that simple.
Faith Life Minister
(1) At Home with the Word 2018
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Dear Faith Family,
Merry Christmas to all of you and a Happy New Year as well!
I feel like I get the bulletin letter every year around this same time. This is one of my favorite letters to write because of our celebration of the Epiphany of Our Lord.
In my previous Epiphany letters, I remember writing about us being the star that leads people to Christ. A star so bright that people cannot help but to be compelled with what makes you so vibrant. While this still rings true, there is another element in the story of the Three Wise Men on Epiphany; the presentation of gifts to the Christ child.
During this New Year, we will all make resolutions that will help us be the best version of ourselves. The normal resolutions of eating healthier, spending more time with family and various things like this. These resolutions are wonderful ways to help live life more vibrantly and can also help us learn to love others in an unconditional way and we should not shy away from the wonderful promises to ourselves.
But in what ways though, can we learn to unconditionally serve our Lord? A great example can be seen in the Wise Men, by presenting their gifts.
This year, I pray that we become more conscious of the idea of what our gifts are. Once we become aware of our personal gold, frankincense, and myrrh then we become more aware of the best way we can serve.
Self-reflection is very important for our personal lives, but we often forget that when we get to know ourselves better (in our faults and weaknesses), then we gain the opportunity to serve in the most unconditional way imaginable.
So, friends, I invite you all to take time to see who God created you to be. It’s easy to spot the things in our lives that influence a healthy lifestyle. But this year, I invite you to take time to truly reflect on your gifts and talents. If you gain more clarity when it comes to those things, then I invite you to bring the gifts to God and ask Him how he wants you to serve Him.
God bless you all and Happy Epiphany everybody!
Youth and Young Adult Minister