Like most of you, I had no idea the circumstances under which I’d be writing this. Even two weeks ago, we thought our masses would continue on their regular schedule even if fewer of you could be there. Now we find ourselves under order to stay home and practice distancing in order to protect ourselves and one another. Our mass is being celebrated in an empty church and shared digitally with you. Many of you have sent us notes of appreciation and we are grateful and uplifted by them!
Today’s Scripture Readings have passages that can serve as prompts for reflection on where God is in our current reality. Since they are God’s Word, they bring hope and light, precious gifts that are sorely needed.
The first reading from the prophet Ezekiel where the LORD says that he will “open your graves and have you rise from them” is partly metaphorical, dealing with the future end of the Babylonian exile. But the notes of promise, restoration and God’s faithfulness are unmistakable. I say ”partly metaphorical” because in today’s Gospel reading an actual resurrection from the dead occurs when Jesus calls Lazarus out of the grave.
Friends, the pandemic through which we are living is scary, and on many levels. In addition to fear of the virus and for our own health, there is fear that we may lose someone we love. On top of that there is economic fear, fear of being cooped up, fear of things changing irrevocably, fear of shortage and scarcity, fear of civil unrest and any number of others. Where is God in this? He is right here, with us. The shortest verse in the Bible is in today’s gospel: “And Jesus wept” [at the death of his friend Lazarus, and at the pain of his family and friends].
On the other hand, there are many examples of courage and resilience, generosity and charity. If we are to be, as St. Teresa of Avila says, the hands and feet of Jesus Christ; if we are to look with his eyes of mercy on the world, then are not these stories of first responders and healthcare professionals; of families sharing with those in more dire straits than their own; of scientists and civic leaders collaborating reasons for hope and even for joy? Are these not the Body of the Risen Christ ministering to the Body? And what is that if not light in darkness?
Psalm 130 from which this Sunday’s responsorial psalm is taken expresses this duality well:
Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD;
LORD, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to my voice in supplication.
I trust in the LORD; my souls trusts in his word. More than sentinels wait for the dawn, let Israel wait for the LORD.
For with the LORD is kindness and with him is plenteous redemption; and he will redeem Israel.
When this pandemic has run its course and passes, and we are released from enforced isolation, as we first emerge and begin reordering our lives, maybe it will be a little like Lazarus emerging from the grave. And maybe we will live differently. Maybe we will be more patient, more grateful, more loving, and more attuned to God’s presence among us. May it be so.
County of Ventura Doctors:
Daniel Cox, MD, Palliative Care
Nessa Meshkaty, MD, Infectious Disease
Melissa Barger, MD, Infectious Disease
In the near future, we are going to experience a coronavirus surge here in Ventura County. We don’t know exactly what it will look like or feel like, but it will affect all of us.
Here’s what we all need to understand: this virus is dangerous. For many of us – including younger people who are indeed contracting the virus at a high rate – coronavirus will feel like a bad flu. With luck, rest, and fluids, one could ride out the fever, cough, and body aches and start to improve over a period of weeks. However, if our experience in Ventura County is similar to other areas, up to twenty percent of confirmed cases will have a different experience.
Let’s put this in perspective for our county, population ~850,000. In a worst-case scenario, 1 in 5 confirmed cases of COVID-19 will progress to serious illness requiring hospitalization. One quarter of those hospitalized patients with COVID-19 will further decline to the point where they need a ventilator and life support to survive. Using an epidemiologic model recommended by the California Department of Public Health, we find that without strict social distancing, we will need 18,000 ventilators to take care of the sickest patients at the peak of the surge on day 58 of the outbreak. Yet we have only an estimated 180 ventilators across the 8 hospitals in Ventura County. Hospitals in Italy, Iran, and now New York City have been overwhelmed when the infection rate spiked, and many have died that would otherwise have had a chance at surviving.
We realize that what we are saying is difficult to hear, but we also want to be very clear. These patients are not going to remain abstract statistics. This may well be someone you love, someone you know. Nonetheless, as your community health care providers, we wish to share this message: we are here for you. We are preparing for the surge every second of every day. We will care for you. We take our responsibility to the community seriously. But you have a responsibility to our community as well. Ultimately, despite our best efforts, we cannot adequately care for a sick population that exceeds our capacity. If the rates of coronavirus spike and our county residents all need acute care simultaneously – there will not be enough beds, and many will be denied the care that we would all expect to receive, leading to loss of life.
We understand why most people struggle with the idea of sheltering in place. It imposes limits on our basic freedoms. We are social animals by nature and our joy is tied to our interpersonal connections. Layer on top of that the real need to earn a living to support our families and it can feel like an impossible ask to stay at home. And yet human interaction is the fuel that spreads this virus. Everything we do and everywhere we go – the sum of our normal activities – are like dry brush in a forest fire for coronavirus. But by staying home – when we deny the virus pathways and carriers to spread – the virus starves. Ironically, after weeks of sheltering in place, if we see that nothing much has happened – that’s when we’ll know that our sacrifice made all the difference.
So here is the good news. If we are able to sustainably reduce social contact by 60%-70% and improve testing and treatment, the aforementioned epidemiologic model suggests we could improve from that worst-case scenario of 18,000 ventilators needed on day 58 to a much more manageable peak of 475 ventilators on day 170 of the outbreak. That extra time is critical for our hospitals to build ventilator capacity and allow for the development of novel treatments. Thousands of lives would be saved. The key is sustaining the recommended reduction in social contact for that prolonged period of time.
As your physicians in Ventura County, we care deeply about our community and providing the best care possible to our patients. That is why we are asking you to honor Governor Newsom’s order to stay home. Each week that we shelter in place gives our health care system a chance to adapt and build our defenses to better prepare for the coronavirus surge. Your efforts and sacrifice now will save lives of people you know and love in the future. We thank you.
Public Information Officer
County of Ventura, CEO
This is a long one, but I have a number of important items to pass on to you. The first is that I am praying for you, for your patience, for your confidence and fearlessness, for your generosity of spirit, and for your health and safety.
The second is that I and the parish pastoral team and staff are fine. The seniors have all gone home to work from a safe place, and most of the staff do as much from home as possible, which is quite a lot. We had some confusion as our first round of responses, limiting exposure, have all been undone by subsequent instructions, eliminating exposure. Sigh.
Dominic MacAller and I are working on next week’s liturgy. Be there at 10:00 am on Sunday.
Brett Becker, our youth minister, is doing amazing things online in Zoom meetings and the like with the teens. If you have a lonely teenager twiddling her thumbs, suggest she look in on Brett’s online gatherings (email@example.com). Guys too!
Tere Delgado is working with her lovely team to get lessons home to all the children in faith formation, to do with their parents. This will be a team effort, parents. Do your best!
Among Teresa’s goals at this time is to keep people in ministry connected to each other. If you belong to a parish ministry that needs to meet, please contact her (firstname.lastname@example.org) and ask how we can help set up a Zoom meeting. It’s fairly easy, even for this 60 year old who never attended a Zoom meeting until this last week.
Among the parish ministries that deserve particular praise is St. Vincent de Paul and members of the Young Adult Ministry, who are working very creatively to take care of households in financial crisis. Now would be a very good time to consider a donation to St. Vincent de Paul!
On that point, the parish collection this last weekend was under 1/5th of what we would normally receive. I know that many people have financial stresses. If you can contribute to your parish, now would be a very good time. Checks can be mailed or online offerings can be made at: www.osvonlinegiving.com/4191
Appointments with me:
The sacrament of reconciliation / confession:
Pastoral care of the sick
(Please read even if no one in the household is sick yet)
Sunday and weekday Mass
Stations of the Cross
Holy Week and Easter
Baptisms, weddings and funerals
If you have general questions, email the parish (email@example.com) or call the parish number (805) 482·6417 and Jane will direct your question to the right person.
In everything, we have to keep seeking those ways in which we can experience Jesus, even in a more constrained environment, and be His disciples in these troubled times.
Love from your priest,
Dear Parish Family,
Happy Laetare Sunday! “Rejoice Jerusalem.” On this Sunday, the Church expresses hope and joy in the midst of our Lenten fasts and penances. It gives us a glimpse of the Joy that awaits us for Easter, as we continue our Lenten journey.
I wonder if any of you have felt a similar experience this Lenten season. For me, with what is happening worldwide with the COVID 19, it has created an opportunity to have a more in depth Lenten experience. In our Lenten season, we are asked to Pray, Fast, and Give. With the big push to remind us to wash our hands for at least twenty seconds frequently, I found an excellent suggestion to say the Our Father and Hail Mary as I washed. As I mindfully pray the Our Father and Hail Mary with every hand washing or as I wipe down surfaces, I bring all my loved ones to mind, especially for all who are affected by this virus. I am grateful for the opportunity to add more prayer through the small things I do in my everyday life. Even some of the restrictions that are being implemented for our health and safety can be adopted as a Lenten sacrifice. The fact that we may have to sacrifice a planned trip to Disneyland, a canceled concert, or even attending a party. If we accept these sacrifices with patience and offer them up for the health and recovery of others, it makes it all more bearable and good for our soul.
Our readings this Sunday share the same common theme to SEE ... In our first reading David, by first glance, was not the obvious choice to be anointed king, yet he was the chosen one. Samuel tells us, “Not as man sees does God see because man sees the appearance, but the Lord looks into the heart” (1 Sm 16:7). In our Gospel, Jesus healed the man physically by giving him sight. He healed him spiritually, revealing that Jesus is the Son of Man, the Messiah. The man became a believer and worshiped Jesus.
Let us SEE the Light, to fill us with the much needed rest and joy within the sacrifices this Lenten season, as we look forward to Easter and the end of this pandemic. We are being called on our Christian virtues of Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and self control in the accepting of the changing conditions that make us feel out of control. Especially in how we treat each other, may all our works be pleasing to our God. That when he looks into our hearts, he will see how much we love him and our love for others in the way we are caring for each other. You are all loved and precious in the eyes of our Lord. Stay healthy and unafraid. “Even though I walk in the dark valley, I fear no evil; for you are at my side with your rod and your staff that give me courage. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.” Our Lord is with us always.
So...I’m certainly having a different Lent than the one I set my mind to those days before Lent. You too? The governor’s announcement has thrown my plans for keeping the parish open into complete disarray. I accept what Gov. Newsom is hoping to accomplish (flattening that curve of infections / not overwhelming the medical personnel and facilities).
As we move into this odd Lent of restrictions on our movements, and our current inability to work and support ourselves, I remember the words of Jesus in the Gospel of Ash Wednesday: “When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to others to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you” (Matt 6:16-17).
That has a renewed meaning for us as we deal with enforced enclosure, boredom, difficulties in shopping, loneliness etc., that we are to do it with good will, with calmness, and with a supportive attitude to others who will be having a harder time than we are.
Regarding the parish:
I will leave you these words that have been attributed to Pope Francis:
“Tonight before falling asleep, think about when we will return to the street.
When we hug again, when all the shopping together will seem like a party.
Let’s think about when the coffees will return to the bar, the small talk, the photos close to each other.
We think about when it will be all a memory, but normalcy will seem an unexpected and beautiful gift.
We will love everything that has so far seemed futile to us.
Every second will be precious.
Swims at the sea, the sun until late, sunsets, toasts, laughter.
We will go back to laughing together.
Strength and courage.
See you soon!”
I’m not much of a plain water drinker but I so love my coffee. I absolutely cherish the aroma, the sound the coffee maker makes while it’s brewing and finally that first sip. Whether morning, midday or evening, it’s never too early or too late for that wonderful cup of java. Even so, I hate to admit it, but coffee generally does not completely satisfy my thirst. I do trust there’s nothing like plain water to quench a thirst and I believe I’m not alone to think so. Nonetheless, many of us convince ourselves that the right thing for the moment is that soda, sugar-free drink, or yes even coffee...after all, it tastes so good!
Much like satisfying a physical thirst, we also seek to quench something much greater within us on a daily basis. We recognize that there’s more to life than our five senses can provide so we continue to look for that perfect answer. The real challenge is making the right selection when faced with a choice to quench our spiritual desires. Sin promises us that it can fill that need and it may appear to do so initially. Eventually though, it will certainly worsen our thirst leaving us wanting more. We must therefore reflect on real satisfaction and real hope. This internal drive is our spiritual journey and in a very special way the next three weeks for our elect.
This Lenten weekend, the elect from the RCIA process are invited to undergo the first of three Scrutinies. Their journey continues with contemplation in preparation to receive the Sacraments of Baptism, First Holy Communion and Confirmation. Not only the elect but our entire assembly is also invited to prepare. Each of us is called to reflect on our own life so to ready ourselves to greet the resurrected Christ at Easter. Whether elect or already baptized, we are challenged to find and uncover all that is weak, defective, and sinful within our souls and to strengthen all that is upright, strong and good. We are invited to seek what is truly needed to satisfy our spiritual longing. The greatest news of all is that we do not have wander and look for that spiritual drink alone. Jesus provides us a pathway through his words to the Samaritan woman: “Whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
In just a few weeks, we’ll pray, witness and celebrate the baptism of the elect. If already baptized, we will have an opportunity and privilege to renew our own baptismal promises. Our fervent preparation in the remaining days leading to the Easter Vigil will certainly add to the clarity we will experience. I guarantee that the effort put forth now will pay off on that day; there will be Jesus, arms wide open, welcoming us home once again with a wellspring like no other ... so much better than coffee.
Deacon Luc Papillon
Regarding COVID-19 / the current novel coronavirus and Padre Serra Parish
Dear Padre Serra Parishioners,
Many of you have sent me emails regarding COVID-19, the current coronavirus.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention currently evaluates the risk of people living in the United States, at this time (5:30 pm on 3/6/20), as being low. That might change, but we’ll do best if we evaluate the risks calmly and act in reasonable ways.
I would like to make the following suggestions:
My Dear Fellow Parishioners,
This Lent our parish is very blessed to have 16 members of the “Elect” – four adults, three teens, three middle schoolers and six elementary school children – who will be initiated into the Church through the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist at the Easter Vigil on April 11. On the First Sunday of Lent our parish community sent them, along with their godparents, to Bishop Barron who celebrated the Rite of Election with them and with the many other catechumens from throughout the region. During this important rite their godparents testified to the bishop about their readiness for initiation. The catechumens themselves publicly stated their desire to be baptized, and the bishop, at the high-point of the ceremony, proclaimed, “I declare you to be members of the Elect, chosen by God, to be initiated at the next Easter Vigil.”
What a joyful moment that was for all of us – newly elected, family members, friends, godparents and teachers!
Lent marks the Elect’s final period of preparation for the sacraments. They will celebrate three more rites called Scrutinies on the Third, Fourth and Fifth Sundays of Lent which will strengthen them as they strive to become more conformed to the ways of Jesus. They will increase their prayer life, fast and participate in charitable works along with us as they prepare for Baptism and we prepare to renew our own baptismal promises at Easter.
As they, and we, look to the remaining five weeks of Lent, it may all seem a little daunting. But I believe the readings for today can encourage all of us on our Lenten journey as well as on life’s journey. When I read in the account of the Transfiguration that Jesus’ clothes became “white as light,” I always think of the white garment we put on after we are baptized. The Transfiguration of Jesus, as well as our baptismal garment, give us a glimpse of his Resurrection which in turn gives hope of a new, transformed life for ourselves ... during Lent, throughout our lives and when we, too, rise from the dead.
The theme that God chooses and calls us is evident in all three readings. Also evident is that God guides us, blesses us and bestows grace on us that we may be holy. Our greatest guide and blessing is Jesus. At the end of today’s Gospel we are told, “Listen to him.” May our Lenten practices help us to listen to him more closely.
1929 - 2020
Wednesday, March 4
Padre Serra Parish