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 three children, 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 5,981 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 and especially proud of our entire community for prioritizing the importance of in-person instruction for our students over the course of the COVID19 pandemic. Seeing parents, teachers, and students overcome obstacles that at times feel insurmountable over the past two years plant seeds of inspiration and sparks of hope!
We help our students to grow and flourish in so many ways, but I truly believe the most important seeds we plant and the 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.
1936 - 2022
Wednesday, March 16, 2022
Padre Serra Parish
Dear friends on the journey,
As I write this in mid-January in ordinary time, I still have a bit of the post-Christmas “blues” that come after the sights, sounds, and smells of the magical holiday have been tucked away for another year. I miss the rainy cold weather that has given way to slightly warmer, windier days. I long for the feel-good stories of generosity and gift giving to strangers. Christmas brings out the collective goodness of humanity, when we care a little more for others, when we offer more kindness, and attend to the needs of the poor, hungry, and vulnerable. Various memes encouraging us to keep Christmas going by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for the ill, welcoming the stranger, extending forgiveness…essentially the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
I was drawn to the words in today’s gospel “bring glad tidings to the poor.” During my reflection, I kept thinking of the Christmas carols singing about “tidings.” The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible offers this translation, “preach the good news to the poor.” This is what the Incarnation is about…God coming among us in the person of Jesus to bring tidings, the good news, to the poor, which is really all of us. At some time in our lives, we have or will experience poverty whether it be financial, material, health, intellectual, emotional, or spiritual. It’s inevitable. But part of Jesus’ good news is that God is with us through it, that God walks with us, providing comfort, strength, and hope that poverty and darkness will become abundance and light.
Being in this weird place of still holding onto Christmas and looking forward in ordinary time, those simple memes are our reminder to live the spirit of Christmas through the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. How might you continue the spirit of Christmas, not just today but all year? How might you extend a work of mercy to another? How might you be Jesus for someone in poverty?
Here at Padre Serra, we have an opportunity to do just that. Our new Racial Justice Ministry has partnered with Friends of Fieldworkers, a local organization whose mission is to “befriend, celebrate and support families of fieldworkers in Ventura County” for a special project.
While our winters are mild, we cannot escape the cooler temperatures, especially at night. But you can provide warmth and comfort for our local farm workers and their families by donating a new blanket or sleeping bag next weekend. Simply drop it in one of the collection boxes before or after Mass next weekend or in the parish office by February 4.
Dear Parish Family,
As I reflect over today’s readings, I am reminded that our God loves us and knows us so well, better than we know ourselves. He gives us what we need, including the gift of his Mother Mary, our advocate and intercessor.
In the second reading, St. Paul tells us that our Lord gives each of us spiritual gifts. Giving each of us perhaps a different gift, not one that we might have asked for, but what we each need. “To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.” 1 Cor 12:7 The gift of which we may have most need of and through which we can give Glory to God.
In our Gospel today, as Jesus, his mother Mary and the apostles were celebrating at a wedding. Jesus is asked by his Mother Mary to help, they had run out of wine, and Mary wanted to spare the couple any embarrassment. Jesus reminds his mother it is not yet his time. Yet Mary says to the servants to “Do whatever he tells you”. Mary had full and complete faith in Jesus that he would do what was best for this couple. She never specifically told him what to do. That is not her role, She just brought up the problem to her son. Even though he was not yet ready to reveal himself, she had unconditional faith and trust that it would be handled. In our Mother Mary we have the best advocate, and intercessor.
Our Mother Mary, from her perfect “Yes” at the annunciation and continuously having unconditional faith and trust in God. Mary endured so much, being pregnant out of wedlock could have had her stoned to death. Having to flee to save the life of her Son. Enduring seeing how her Son was tortured and killed. Yet her faith and trust never waivered. Mary’s words to the servants can be directed to us as well: “Do whatever he tells you.” We know what he has told us, our Lord Jesus put it simply, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The second is this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30
Dear Faith Family,
I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and a blessed New Year.
This Sunday, we celebrate the Baptism of Jesus. Within the Gospel, we recognize the humility of John the Baptist. We also see the pride that God the Father has for His Son, when he says “You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased”.
At first glance, this makes all the sense in the world. Of course God, the Father, would be pleased with the actions of His perfect Son. Jesus is truly God, so he would never fail at pursuing what is asked of Him. At second glance though, we need to recognize that this Baptism, is to remind us of our own Baptisms as well.
Sometimes when we think of the Sacrament of Baptism, we think that it is a necessary step for us to be card-carrying Catholics. Original Sin must be washed away from us to we can cease to be scumbags or something.
In reality though, when we were Baptized (or when we are Baptized), we are not only without Original Sin, but it is also an establishment of a covenant with the God who loves us.
So, that sounds nice, but what exactly is a covenant? We tend to think that a covenant as an agreement between two parties, a fancy way of saying contract. In terms of our faith, though, it is quite more profound than that. A covenant is an act of establishing kinship. We see this throughout Salvation History (Adam, Moses, David, etc.). Simply put, a covenant is an agreement between us and God to be family. He is our Father and we are his children.
Because of that, whenever one is Baptized, God essentially says the same thing to us as he did to Jesus, “You are my beloved son/daughter, with you I am well pleased”.Not only does Baptism purify us from Original Sin, it also is a Sacramental Act where we accept God as our Father and God accepts up as their kin. It is quite a beautiful Sacrament and a really big deal!
While we celebrate wonderful feasts and holidays throughout our liturgical year, I also recommend that we find ways to celebrate our personal Baptism days! We celebrate birthdays in celebration of the past, why not celebrate our formalized kinship with the God who loves us?