Our Scriptures do a lot to illuminate and underpin our belief in the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, whose Solemnity we celebrate today. In the first reading from Proverbs we hear a beautiful and poetic declaration of the wonder of Creation. It’s written in the first person: “I was there when …” “I was his delight.” It speaks as the third person of the holy trinity: “Thus says the wisdom of God.”
For Christians there is a long tradition that Old Testament references to wisdom are in fact references to the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. So in this reading we have Wisdom detailing how he was there as all came to be. But it’s at the end of the passage that I think we hear something very important:
“… then was I beside him as his craftsman,
and I was his delight day by day,
playing before him all the while,
playing on the surface of his earth;
and I found delight in the human race.”
Here we have a description of creation from the very beginning, and God finding delight in us (and our ancestors). Sometimes we can lose sight of this very basic tenet of our faith – that God created us fundamentally good; so good, in fact, that God became one of us in order to redeem us and restore us to the union with him that we had broken. “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).
The gospel reading (John 16:12-15) has Jesus speaking to his disciples in a very comforting way, preparing them, perhaps, for the coming challenges of his mission – his passion, death, resurrection and ascension. “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth.”
"He [the Spirit] will glorify me,
because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.
Everything that the Father has is mine;
for this reason I told you that he [again, the Spirit] will take from what is mine
and declare it to you.”
Friends, we can never fully understand the mystery of the Holy Trinity. We accept Three Persons, One God, on faith. Today’s Scriptures are there to help us contemplate these truths.
Dear Parish Family,
Happy Pentecost! Today we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles. Jesus promised to send us his spirit, an advocate; though Jesus would leave us, we would not be alone. This is the beginning of the Church, Jesus commissions his disciples to continue the work that he has begun, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” As he breathes the Holy Spirit upon them, Jesus sends his disciples to continue his work of reconciliation through the forgiveness of sins.
As Christians, we are called to be agents of peace and forgiveness. The act of Reconciliation is transformative, spiritually, emotionally and physically. In Reconciliation we must Recognize our sins (wrong doing), Repent (truly feel sorry) and Confess our sin, do our Penance (seek to make amends), allowing us to receive Sanctifying Grace. Forgiveness is our first commandment as a church. This is a sacrament of healing and love, always creating the path to come back to the loving arms of our Lord.
Whether we are the ones needing the forgiveness or the ones who are asked to forgive, let us know we all have an active part in each other’s salvation. Just like it is necessary to have the priest give us absolution, hearing him say, “I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.” We have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit to help us, calling on the Spirit’s many gifts of Wisdom, Knowledge, Understanding, Council, Fortitude, Piety and Fear of the Lord. Even when the hurt is so painful we are not yet ready to say I forgive you, remember, “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13); after all, forgiveness comes from God.
Let us celebrate our birthday, this Pentecost, and just like every birthday party there are many gifts. Which of the Gifts of the Spirit will you call on? I pray you are all filled with Peace and Joy of the Spirit.
Faith Formation Minister
Dear Faith Family,
This Sunday’s Gospel is a funny one. When the chief priests, scribes and elders approach Jesus to ask Him what seems to be a valid question, Jesus gives them a pretty complex answer. Why is that?
Growing up, I was always raised to believe that I should ask God any questions. While I do think it’s true, why is it that Jesus didn’t answer the questions posed in the Gospel?
If we look at the tone of the question asked, the chief priests, scribes and elders are obviously trying to bait Jesus into speaking some form of heresy. I would argue that they probably know the answer to the question asked, but are trying to find any way to weaken Christ’s impact on the world that he had at the time. Jesus, all the wiser, evaded the question, knowing it’s a trap.
I don’t know about you, but when I think of the personality of Jesus, I tend to think of His mercy, compassion and unconditional love. Sometimes on reflection, I fail to realize that Christ was also incredibly wise and understood the human person. His wisdom is evident in his “answer” to the question posed.
His answer didn’t lack love, nor was it intended to be snarky. Rather, his answer showed that his purpose on earth isn’t just for political gain, but his answer showed that he is indeed one with the Father.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I try to bait God into questions that I already know the answers to. Instead of asking for change, I try to be clever to convince God that my way is the right way. These are the questions that tend to be unanswered in my life. Why? Because I don’t need to hear what I already know, sometimes.
So what’s the purpose of this passage? For me, personally, it teaches me to be earnest in my conversation with God. Our God is all-loving and wants the best for us and wants to answer the pressing questions in our lives. Let’s not waste our time asking questions that try to mold God into something that he is not.
Youth and Young Adult Minister
My Dear Fellow Disciples,
One of my greatest privileges at Padre Serra Parish is welcoming people who wish to learn more about the Catholic Church. They are school-aged children, teens, and adults who come to us from many different backgrounds and situations. Some are not baptized or have been baptized in another Christian community. Some were baptized in the Catholic Church as infants but were not raised in the faith. Some have been attending Mass with a Catholic spouse for many years and others do not know any Catholics but admire some aspect of our Church. Some seek doctrinal truth, others long for community and a sense of belonging. Many are impressed by our sense of reverence and dignity as we celebrate Mass. Whatever their situation, they all have been touched and called by God who has led them to us.
Because of the varied backgrounds of the seekers, there are various paths to becoming Catholic. We do not have a one-size-fits-all process. During an initial meeting, the seeker and I determine particular needs and set out a plan for them to discern their call, and then perhaps to prepare to be received into the Church. Those who are not baptized or who, although baptized were not brought up in the Christian faith, will take part in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). This is a gradual process of conversion which includes rites (ceremonies) with the community which mark their progress, and proceeds to the reception of the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist.
We do not re-baptize fellow Christians but, honoring their baptism, offer them a path to full communion with us. For those who have an extensive relationship with us, the process may last a few short months. Those who are less familiar with Catholicism or who have many questions or concerns may need a longer period of discernment before they are ready to make a Profession of Faith in the Catholic Church. The high point for all those becoming Catholic, by whatever path, is the first reception of Eucharist which is the sign of unity with Jesus and with us, his community of disciples.
Catholicism is not merely a set of beliefs to which we give assent. It is a way of life rooted in a love relationship with God and with each other. Therefore, one does not become Catholic simply by attending classes. Rather, it is an apprenticeship which involves rubbing shoulders with ordinary Catholics as we worship together, play together, serve others, and support one another during life’s ups and downs. It takes every one of us, not just the RCIA team, to bring people into our beloved Church.
Some parishioners are called to support the seekers in a special way as sponsors, sometimes called “journey companions.” Not everyone is able or has the time to fill this role, but we can all do our part in “making disciples” simply by modeling behavior: greeting those sitting near us at Mass, participating fully (that includes singing!), introducing ourselves to the newcomers in the courtyard, and perhaps inviting them to join us at an upcoming parish event. These are simple ways to become “disciples making disciples.” All it takes is a spirit of hospitality and a small step out of our comfort zone.
Dear friends on the journey,
As I write this, I am preparing to visit the Holy Land. On May 13, Fr. Patrick and 41 parishioners departed for a week-long journey, visiting the holiest of places, the land where Jesus was born, lived, died and resurrected. I’m wondering what it will be like to see, feel, taste, and smell all of Israel. Will we encounter Jesus there like the people of his time did?
In today’s gospel, at the Last Supper, Jesus sums up his mission and message with one commandment… love one another as I have loved you. As the apostles journeyed throughout Israel with Jesus, they witnessed firsthand his examples of love and we see it for ourselves in the stories of Jesus’ healing the blind and the lame, touching lepers, welcoming children, forgiving sinners, being with the outcast of society and laying down his life on the cross. This is the mission Jesus charged his apostles and its our mission too as 21st century disciples.
So what does that look like for us now?
Love one another is a simple statement but not always simple to live. Our discipleship is lifelong, complicated and challenging but when we don’t love well, we have the gift of starting again in the next moment, the next day. Thank God for that! Jesus’ mission field was Israel. Our mission is Ventura County.
This week as I travel through Israel, I will be praying for all of you and your journey of discipleship so that we too may love others as Jesus loves us and that all those who meet us will see and feel Jesus’ love through our actions and words!
Faith Life Minister
Dear Parish Family,
Today is known as Good Shepherd Sunday because each year of the liturgical cycle on this 4th Sunday, the Gospel is always taken from the 10th chapter of John where Jesus speaks of himself as the “Good Shepherd.”
Today’s Gospel challenges us to TRUST in God and never be despaired no matter the ugly events of our lives, because
our Shepherd is always there to lead us to greener pastures. He knows us and our needs, much more than we know ourselves. That is why the responsorial psalm reminds us that “We are his people, the sheep of his flock.” That means, as a shepherd never departs from his flock or allows them to be endangered, Jesus will never depart from us or allow us to be endangered. As a shepherd leads his flock to greener pastures, Jesus is leading us to a better life here on earth and to an eternal life there in heaven.
We must also be “listening sheep.” Jesus emphasized the qualities of his sheep when he said: “My sheep hear my voice... and they follow me.” As the sheep of Christ’s flock, do we listen to his voice in the words of the Sacred Scripture and in the teachings of the Church? Do we have compassion for the poor as he did? Do we pray as he prayed and do we have passion for the things of God as he had? Are we answering his call?
This Sunday is also Vocation Sunday, when we pray for our priest and Church leaders who are caring for the souls, who go out and gather the lost sheep to bring them back to God’s loving embrace. And for all the many good shepherds in our lives, who are given the responsibility of caring for others. May we all be his good sheep, listening attentively to his voice, and follow his example of self-giving love. Inspiring others to follow him especially in the vocation of priesthood or religious life.
On this Mother’s Day weekend I want to wish all the mothers who so diligently give of themselves in every way for their children, a bouquet of blessings.
Faith Formation Minister
Dear Faith Family,
After two years of formation, our teens have finally received the Sacrament of Confirmation. For those who don’t know, the 2 year process involves classes, small groups, ministry work and a weekend retreat. The purpose of the process isn’t to just educate our teens, but rather, it is meant to be an opportunity to encounter Jesus Christ.
While our program does conclude with Confirmation, in regards to the newly confirmed candidate’s faith, it truly is just the beginning. Throughout the classes we are taught that the Gifts of the Holy Spirit are strengthened when we receive the Sacrament of Confirmation. But what are the purpose of these gifts that are given to us?
In reality, the Gifts of the Holy Spirit are given to us to bring others closer to God. The gifts of Knowledge, Understanding, Wisdom, Right Judgment, Courage, Reverence and Wonder & Awe are the best tools to share God with others. And as
Dominic MaCaller reminded the newly confirmed at one of our sessions, the reality is that we are given these gifts already at Baptism, they are simply made stronger when we receive the Seal of the Spirit.
Sometimes to fail to realize that as Baptized and Confirmed Catholics, our mission is pretty straight forward: “Make Disciples of all Nations”. The gifts that we have already equip us the passion and the direction to do so. We are not alone in this commission, God wants to be with us step by step as we accomplish it.
I am so proud of our newly confirmed teens. Their willingness to break out of their comfort zones and to dedicate time to hear others is amazing to me. Holiness is needed to change this world and I’ve encountered so many holy teens within these
last 2 years. There is no doubt in my mind that our Church had become stronger on Saturday.
Youth and Young Adult Minister
In the first of this weekend’s readings, from the Acts of the Apostles, we hear an account of how many people came to faith in the risen Jesus Christ through the testimony of Peter and the other apostles, and through witnessing signs and wonders done in their midst “at the hands of the apostles.”
In the second reading, John, caught up in the spirit on the Lord’s day, is told by one that he sees in a vision “like a son of man” to “write down, therefore, what you have seen, and what is happening, and what will happen afterwards.” Again, testimony.
And in the gospel, again, we hear of signs and wonders, and testimony. Despite locked doors, the risen Lord Jesus comes and stands in the midst of the disciples, saying “Peace be with you.” He shows them his wounds and gives them their mission: “as the Father has sent me, so I send you.” On Pentecost the fullness of the Holy Spirit is given to them and they are able to carry out their mission with astounding effectiveness, as is illustrated in today’s first reading.
The thing is, it’s our mission too to preach the good news, to be, as St. Teresa of Avila said, Christ’s body to be his hands, his feet, his compassion on earth. By baptism we are part of an unbroken line of succession, going back to the earliest apostles who walked the earth with, and received the mission from Jesus himself, risen from the dead.
But Thomas wasn’t there that night and he wasn’t going to believe on the testimony of his fellow apostles alone. In fact, in words he may later have regretted, he declares that he will never believe without seeing and probing Jesus’ wounds for himself.
When I was younger and first heard this story, Thomas’ standing seemed to be portrayed as “less than” that of the disciples that were there: “blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” What we can never know, though, is how any of the other disciples might have reacted if they were the one absent that night. And what about us? Are we among the blessed because we have not seen yet have believed?
I have always identified with Thomas and his obstinate insistence on evidence. What I love about this gospel story though is another sign and wonder: Jesus already knew Thomas’ heart when he appeared again and invited him to probe his wounds. The Lord knew what Thomas needed to come to belief and in his love provided it. Thomas went on to evangelize, faithful to the mission given by Jesus Christ. India was where he ended up, and the community of Christians he founded there still exists today. It is concentrated in the Indian state of Kerala, boasting an impressive eight million members, according to the Catholic Near East Welfare Association*. Not too shabby for one who doubted, eh? So take heart if you struggle with doubt and ask the Lord to give you what you need to be faithful to the mission. He will, though you may not immediately “see” it.
* This information courtesy of catholicexchange.com
Dear Faith Family,
Happy Palm Sunday! We are inching toward the celebration of our Risen Lord.
Before we go into the miracle of the Resurrection though, it is always helpful to dive into Jesus’ Passion. Holy Week is an incredibly somber moment. It’s hard not to feel sadness when we dive deep into the experience of the suffering of our God. Our human instinct drives us the opposite way, as it should, but I want to express the importance of understanding the difficulties of Christ’s passion.
We’ve heard the story a thousand times. God became man. Sometimes we hear it so often that it doesn’t strike us as much as it should. This is why Holy Week is so important. It’s not the idea of being masochistic or glorifying pain, but rather, when we contemplate the Passion of Christ, we recognize the motives behind it: God has always been willing to die for us.
Personal suffering should not be pursued in our lives (I want to stress the importance of this), but we also know that sadness is inevitable at various times in our lives. We will suffer from loss and struggle in various forms — it’s a part of being human. The reason we dive into Jesus’ Passion so intently is to recognize that He was willing to be one of us, for us.
So although it may feel somber to experience Christ’s Passion, the reality is, that through His suffering, He conquered death. We have such a unique faith that expresses that what we go through, (whether it is the highs of our lives or our lows) that Christ has experienced it and transformed it.
When we exclaim that Christ conquered death, it is not just in the moment of His Resurrection, but through Christ, death is not the end. So throughout this week I invite you to remind yourself in prayer, that death is not the end and that is how God intended it to be.
Youth and Young Adult Minister
Dear friends on the journey,
Recently a Facebook friend posted about an “answered prayer” so I settled in to read the post, thinking it was going to be a heartwarming story. What I found was a tale of road rage in L.A. traffic in which he “prayed” that an impatient, somewhat erratic driver who passed him by would experience a flat tire. And what did he find a few miles up the road... the crazy driver in the shoulder with a flat tire! The acquaintance was quite pleased with his “prayer” and God for listening.
I was really surprised by this post, thinking he really misunderstands the concept of prayer but then today’s gospel of the woman caught in adultery reminded me how dangerous and common a self righteous attitude can be. The scribes, Pharisees and Jesus know full well that, according to Mosaic law, adultery is punishable by stoning. In their righteousness the scribes and Pharisees are hoping to punish a guilty woman and testing Jesus to see if he will follow the law. They are ready to lob stones at her. But Jesus counters and says, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” What happens next is hopeful. They all leave. The woman is untouched. Jesus forgives her and tells her to sin no more.
How many times do we pass judgment on someone for something they have done wrong and hope they “get what they deserve?” How often do we hope a guilty person gets the worst possible punishment? Have we ever taken a little bit of delight in someone’s pain or punishment? This self righteous attitude is unproductive, dangerous, and sinful on our part.
How can we possibly know what someone else is going through? Why was that guy driving erratically on the freeway? Why was that woman in such a relationship? Why is that teenager acting out? Why is our neighbor always so prickly? Why is that coworker always so difficult? Why is that kid such a bully? Why is that cashier so grumpy?
If we’re really made in God’s image, then we’re inherently good. We’re all wired for good, but this life is not perfect. We make bad decisions. We choose the wrong actions and words. Sometimes we’re on the receiving end of another’s bad decisions, leaving us to perpetuate the harm and pain. God did not promise an easy life but he promises to be with us through the trials. God promises us forgiveness. When was the last time we asked for forgiveness? What did that feel like?
We have two weeks left of Lent. Perhaps we can take this remaining time before Easter to reflect on our moments of self righteousness and then put ourselves in the place of the adulterous woman. Put ourselves in the places of our own guilt and shame and remember what forgiveness feels like. Instead of delighting in another’s guilt and misfortune, let us put down our stones and delight in another’s experience of Jesus’ care and compassion and God’s mercy.
Faith Life Minister
Dear Faith Family,
I just wanted to take an opportunity to thank all of you for your support in Youth and Young Adult Ministry. A couple weeks ago we had our annual “Fairways to Heaven” fundraiser and again it was a huge success. The numbers will be announced soon, but I can tell you that the support at the event was evident in your willingness to be present.
Thank you all for the support that you’ve given our ministries. Even for those who were unable to make it to the fundraiser, I appreciate all of your support. The dream of getting a new youth center is quickly becoming a reality and it is all thanks to all of you.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you so much.
Youth and Young Adult Minister
Dear Parish Family,
In the last few days I have heard several people express how happy they were that Lent had begun. They all shared the same desire to make the much needed time to reflect on their life, make the necessary changes for the better and add extra prayer time with our Lord. As I heard this I couldn’t help but rejoice at this treasure of the Catholic Church. As St Paul reminds us in the second reading, our citizenship is in heaven, and Lent gives us opportunity for us to prepare our souls.
In today’s Gospel when Peter, John and James accompanied Jesus to the quiet mountain top to pray they were witnesses to Jesus transfigured in his glory, in dazzling white garments and shining like a light, they then heard a voice from heaven saying “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.”
As we Journey through our lenten season, I encourage you to make this your focus of the week, find some quiet time and Listen to Him. How will we hear God’s voice? If we open our hearts to God’s inspiration, little by little through the Holy Spirit, he will strengthen our hearts with his divine love. Faith begins with a love for all things of God, and a growing desire for his love that nothing else can satisfy. We know his words in the Scriptures, listen to them with new ears. We will hear Gods voice in the breeze of the wind, the roaring of the sea, or the laughter of a child. Feel his touch in the warmth of the sunlight, or the gentle caress of our loved ones. We will see his face in all those we encounter (yes even in those whom we may find difficult to love). He surrounds us in his loving embrace. He never abandons us, it is us who choose to leave his love. When we choose sin. When we are tempted to give up and give in, let us look to Jesus transfigured in his Glory and see in him the future that is promised to us, not only at Easter but in the fullness of God’s Kingdom.
My Dear Parish Family,
Welcome to Lent! You may have already started your Lenten practices, or perhaps you are still pondering what you should do this year in preparation for the great feast of Easter, the glorious high point of our entire Church Year. Last weekend a flyer entitled Lent, 40 Days to Encounter Jesus, Be Disciples was given out. It is still available in the church lobby and parish office and is an excellent resource which suggests many, many opportunities for a grace-filled Lent. Take one home, look it over with your family or friends, and mark your calendar with some of the events. Rethink your attitude toward Lent regarding Prayer, Almsgiving and Fasting and follow some of the suggestions listed in the flyer or create some positive practices of your own.
Regarding Prayer, consider adding silence to your prayer life. Silence is something our modern culture struggles with but greatly needs. Try to find a place and time to sit silently in the holy presence of God for even a few minutes every day (with cell phone turned off!), perhaps in your car before work or school or in some quiet spot at home. St. Teresa of Calcutta often said, “In the silence of the heart God speaks.” Make a silent space for God to speak to you each day.
Regarding Almsgiving, our English word alms comes from a Greek word for mercy. The Gospels of St. Luke, which we hear proclaimed at Sunday Mass this year, are full of the message of God’s constant and unconditional mercy. Jesus commands us, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6: 36) During Lent, besides giving to the poor, we might challenge ourselves to go deeper and examine our attitudes and behavior towards those who trouble us most. Our “alms” to them could be the offering of compassion and tender care.
Regarding Fasting, we might focus on feasting during Lent as well. We can do this by choosing not to do some things (fasting) and then choosing to replace them with other things (feasting). For example, if we choose to fast from criticizing others, we can feast on giving compliments and praise.
Let this be our best Lent ever!
The weekly collection, every week at each parish, belongs to the parishioners, not the pastor. Every pastor who is doing his job has to be very serious about how that money is spent. It has to be for the parishioners’ welfare. I am happy to say that, while I’m convinced we need to save more for future capital needs (painting, roofs, plumbing, etc.), the parish has always paid its debts in a very timely way, and that is due to your generosity. I thank you!
So many pastors and parishes cannot say the same. In fact, sixty-five parishes rely on outside assistance to pay for their ordinary operations. An additional sixty-three schools also struggle financially. I can’t imagine what it’s like to be choosing between the ministries and activities to support, and which ones to let go, because there just isn’t enough…but there are many pastors who have to make those kinds of decisions every week.
Back when I was teaching full-time in the seminary, I travelled quite a bit, throughout the United States, giving continuing education talks on the Scriptures to many groups of priests. One of the things that I discovered is that many dioceses throughout the nation have big campaigns, like Together in Mission, but almost all of them aren’t for the poor parishes, but for the support of the chancery offices. I applaud the Archdiocese of Los Angeles for having a collection strictly for assisting our poor parishes. Let’s have it clear in our minds, these are our parishes. We belong to each other and share a common mission to bring people to an experience of Jesus and to become His disciples.
The Together in Mission collection enables the parishes and schools it helps to fix or replace roofs, paint walls, and upgrade electrical systems. It buys school textbooks and classroom technology. It keeps the lights on and pays for employee insurance. It helps parishes with their ministry and education programs. It pays essential salaries. It provides security at Catholic schools in tough neighborhoods to keep children safe.
The cause is just and the need is great. There is a careful distribution of the money raised, and prudent monitoring. In essence, it is money well spent. I can’t encourage you enough, please be supportive of this collection. You have done so much to ease my mind of great financial struggle. Can we do the same for others?
Also visit: Together in Mission - Our Story is Hope
This weekend’s mass readings are of course rich with meaning. They also have a pattern of contrasts and juxtapositions, in a sort of mirror image between the first reading from the prophet Jeremiah and the Gospel which is Luke’s account of the Sermon on the Mount.
Another interesting bridge between Jeremiah and Luke is this: At the end of the “blessed are yous”, Jesus says “for their ancestors treated the [true] prophets in the same way. At the end of the “woe to yous”, Jesus says “for their ancestors treated the [false] prophets in this way.”
Jeremiah was a true prophet of God and he was horribly treated – remember the passage about his being cast into a muddy pit because the king didn’t like the prophecies he was making? Jesus Christ was a true prophet and we know he was horribly treated: scorn, torture and cruel execution.
This can all be a little unsettling for those of us who have comforts in this life: enough to eat, adequate clothing and shelter, gainful employment, the love of families and friends.
But our second reading from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians has juxtapositions of its own and reaffirms the truth about Jesus to which we cling – that he was not only a true prophet, but the Son of God, risen from the dead:
If for this life only we have hope in Christ, we are the most pitiable people of all.
Now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
Every now and then I relish the opportunity to celebrate the quiet heroes of the parish, the people who, mostly remaining in the background, do so much good and enable the parish to become a place of healing, hope, friendship and faith. It is long past time that I acknowledge some not-so-quiet heroes – the parish musicians and choir members.
Part of the special character of Padre Serra is the way the music is so uplifting. The trouble is it is so consistently good that, if I’m not careful, I can begin to take it for granted.
When that happens, there is nothing like going to Mass anywhere else to refocus my awareness on how good we have it. Celebrating with other communities when I am away schools me in the need to appreciate the efforts of directors, musicians and singers who enliven our worship here in Camarillo so dependably well.
Part of our parish’s special tuneful equation is just how varied the repertoire is, from classic Catholic polyphony, to modern compositions, old standards, spirituals and praise hymns, from ancient to new. I’m sure you’ve noticed that, while our texts are overwhelmingly in English, some are Latin and, occasionally, Tagalog and Spanish. That kind of musical breadth and linguistic depth takes open spirits, the willingness to stretch and a lot of practice and experience.
Now, doing music as well as our choirs do it demands competence, artistry, and hours of practice. Children’s choir rehearses weekly on Mondays after school, the 11 am choir on Tuesdays, and the 9 am on Thursdays, both in the evening. When we get into the special liturgical seasons of the year, before Christmas concerts, to prepare for Holy Week, etc., additional rehearsals are necessary. I am truly grateful that our parish contains so many people with generous hearts, willing to make that double commitment, to be at a given Mass time and its preceding rehearsal.
On a side note, I hope you’ve noticed how often the words of the songs reflect the content of the readings. Time after time, Dominic has managed to find sung texts that reflect what I’ve tried to communicate in my homilies. I can’t say that it’s never an accident of grace, but most often it’s because of Dominic’s deep knowledge of the texts, and his willingness to do long range planning.
Having sung in choirs in the ten years I was in the seminary, I know the particular struggle of keeping my music in order, attending to meter, maintaining melody and pitch, faithfully observing the director’s leads, and…praying. The whole purpose of the music program is to lead us into sung prayer, where sacred texts and musical artistry combine to lift our minds to the holy presence of God. Musicians and singers have to commit deeply to prayer to stave off distractions. I am so thankful to them for this.
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 6,352 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.
Mike Ronan Mike Ronan
Principal, St. Mary Magdalen School
The Merriam Webster dictionary defines an Epiphany as (1): a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something. (2): an intuitive grasp of reality through something (such as an event) usually simple and striking. (3): an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure.
The Epiphany of the Lord that we celebrated two weeks ago certainly meets these criteria. Foreign Magi, following a very unusual and striking star, encounter the baby Jesus, and understand that he is the savior not only of the Jews, but of the Gentiles as well. Their reverence for the child may have caused an epiphany for the Jews surrounding him at the time, including Mary and Joseph.
Our Eastern Christian brothers and sisters celebrate three such manifestations or epiphanies. The first is the arrival of the Magi with their gifts, the revelation of Jesus as savior for all. We heard about the second in last week’s gospel. The now grown Jesus, about to embark on his public ministry, first seeks out his cousin John and requests baptism. John, knowing who Jesus is, questions this, saying that it is Jesus who should be baptizing him. But he obeys, and when Jesus comes up out of the water, many see a dove descending on him, and hear God’s voice from heaven saying to Jesus “you are my beloved Son. In you I am well pleased.” In this way, Jesus’ special relationship to the divine is revealed or manifested to those present (and to those who will hear their testimony later).
In this week’s reading from John’s gospel we hear of the third of these epiphanies. Jesus (with a little prompting from his mother) changes water into wine at a wedding feast at Cana. Much has been written about Jesus’ choice of venues and circumstances for his first miracle. Some say that a wedding feast where he provides the lacking wine is a metaphor for the kingdom of God. Others see Jesus’ generosity filling six stone water jars, each with a 20 to 30 gallon capacity, with wine of a superior quality as a sign of the abundant life that God calls us to. Still others point to the joyous occasion that Jesus obviously intended to enjoy as pointing to his humanity. But I think all can agree that Jesus’ divinity was also manifested here.
There is another aspect to see here as well. As is the case in so many of Jesus’ miracles, the beneficiaries were active participants. The wedding couple and their family provided the stone jars and the water, not to mention the event and the invitation that brought Jesus and his mother there. And Jesus’ mother Mary provided a little encouragement.
How can we manifest Jesus to others? How can we create epiphanies in our lives?
Dear Parish Family,
On this, the last day of the Christmas season, we experience once again a Great Epiphany. Today we celebrate the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. There are many levels to this Great Epiphany.
In our first epiphany, God gives us salvation, by sending his only son, who humbled himself and became human. He becomes the bridge for humanity to reach God. His Salvation is for all nations, especially those on the margins, the forgotten.
In this our second epiphany, the Holy Trinity is revealed to us, the Holy Spirit descending in the bodily form of a dove and God's voice speaking, revealing Jesus as his son, both human and divine. The one true God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, shows Himself in Christ, through Him, with Him and in Him.
At his Baptism, Jesus being divine and free of any sin, humbled himself and had John baptized him. Just as the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus then, every time someone is baptized, the Holy Spirit continues to descend over us, filling us with his Grace and making us new creations, free of sin. At Baptism we too are declared children of God, therefore making us all brothers and sisters.
In the Rite of Baptism, we are anointed with the Chrism oil, as priest, prophet and king. This should be a reminder of our mission, just like Jesus, after he was baptized he began his ministry, we too are given the power through the Holy Spirit to go out into the world and begin our ministry. With every sacrament, we continue to receive his Grace and strength to follow in Jesus path.
In Celebration of Jesus baptism and our own, look for your Baptismal keepsakes and share them with your family. Let us celebrate that we are God's Beloved.
Faith Formation Minister
Dear Faith Family,
I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas season. With this today being Epiphany Sunday, I also hope that your celebration has continued up to this point.
I had a wonderful Christmas! There is nothing like spending time with family and celebrating the peace that comes with our beautiful faith. My family and I spent a lot of time baking cookies, wrapping presents and just being in each other’s company. It’s a blessing to have this time of year to put your loved ones in perspective.
This year, my wife and I tried something a little different with our daughter Reggie. We decided to watch a Christmas movie on Christmas Eve. Usually, I’m not a big fan of Christmas movies but in the spirit of Christmas, I decided to be a team player. We logged into Netflix and we started a movie named “The Star.”
When the movie started, I almost completely tuned out. The Star is an animated film about animals, so I thought I was a little too old for it. Again, I exercised patience and focused my attention. To my surprise, I really enjoyed the film! In fact, there was a lot that I learned from it.
The animals in the film were helping Mary and Joseph to find a birthplace for baby Jesus. In the film though, there was a very different portrayal of Mary and Joseph that I found appealing; they were real people.
I know it sounds crazy that through a film for children that I found myself drawn to the holy lives of our Holy Mother, her husband and her Son, but there is something about a human portrayal of the Saints that we admire to help us understand that grace is real and available for anybody. I can honestly say that the movie was not a masterpiece, but its attempt to show Christ was effective to me.
Please understand that this letter is not intended to be a promotion of a film. In fact, I would say the film wasn’t even that good. In the film, there wasn’t a giant theological disposition and there wasn’t the most accurate movie when it comes to telling the story of the Nativity, but somehow it spoke to me. A simple, imperfect portrayal of the Greatest Story Ever Told somehow helped me to understand the holiness that Mary and Joseph had.
Sometimes we think that we aren’t smart, charismatic or holy enough to bring people closer to God. But when I watched this film it helped me to understand that we just need to tell our story. It may be imperfect, it may be strange and it may not be the most refined, but our own story can bring people closer to God, no matter how boring you may think it is.
Though this Christmas season is coming to an end, I invite all of you to be the star that leads people to Christ. I invite you to tell your story, as a Church, we need your story to be told. Even if you think it’s a waste of time, I guarantee it isn’t.
Youth and Young Adult Minister
Dear friends on the journey,
Confession time! I’ve been a Catholic nearly my entire life: 12 years of Catholic school, have all my sacraments, go to mass every Sunday, sent my kids to Catholic school, given more time, talent and treasure than I can count. For nearly 30 years, I have worked for the church, been involved in just about every ministry from new parents baptizing their babies to seniors, from fundraising to formation, and attended every talk or workshop to help me in ministry and life. I have been a good Catholic. Until…
Ten years ago, I began what would become a real journey of spiritual growth. An archdiocesan program, spiritual reading, more study and deeper reflection led me to this realization: I was religious but not spiritual. This one statement summed up my faith life to that point. I was behaving the way a good Catholic ought, had faith in the institution and structure of the Church, and had a lot of head knowledge about our Catholic religion. While all this is good, something more important was missing: my own true, authentic, personal relationship with God and Jesus. I did not have strong heart knowledge of our creator and savior. I truly believed but at a more superficial level. Since then my spiritual journey has shifted tremendously to turn my heart towards Jesus so that this relationship influences my thoughts, words and actions. This journey is lifelong and I am a work in progress every single day.
Our second reading today from 1 John tells us that we are children of God. We belong to God, we belong to one another, and as a result, we are commanded to believe in Jesus and love as he does. Interestingly, the USCCB commentary on verses 1-3 says: “The greatest sign of God’s love is the gift of his Son that has made Christians true children of God….true knowledge of God will ultimately be gained, and Christians prepare themselves now by virtuous lives in imitation of the Son.”
So I ask, how can we imitate Jesus does if we do not really know him through a personal, intimate relationship? Where are you on your journey with Jesus? If you truly belong to God, are you letting others know? Do you believe with your head or heart? Are you behaving by going through the motions? What does this life mean? What is our purpose?
I invite you to consider these questions in Alpha, a series of 15 interactive sessions exploring life and our Christian faith, who Jesus is, how to develop or grow a relationship with him, and how to live with authenticity and purpose. Starting January 28, we’ll get together weekly for a meal, a talk, and to discuss questions about life and faith. Alpha is for everyone… those who do not believe, those who are wondering, those new to the Christian faith, and those believers who want to go deeper. So start thinking about someone to invite and consider making Alpha your new year’s resolution!
My mom has two nativity sets.
One is beautiful and crème colored, finely hand-carved from milky alabaster stone, each piece sitting on its brightly polished, black marble base. The female shepherd is just a little larger than Joseph, and so I’ve always wondered if she didn’t belong to a different set, but you only notice if you look closely. Besides, women can be tall, can’t they? The general impression, though, is of elegance. My siblings and I all chipped in and bought this nativity set over several years, back in the early 80s, beginning with the Holy Family, then the barn animals, then the wise men, the shepherds with the sheep, and lastly the camels. It looks terrific on Mom’s refectory table, where she has chosen to keep it up all year long. We all love it for its beauty.
Mom’s other crèche is older than my earliest memories. It’s made of once brightly colored, though long since faded, plaster and has been much chipped over the years. I’m certain that statues from other nativities have made their way into the set, as there are two dogs, two cows and multiple shepherds. There is also an old, beaten up stable, which once had hay in it, long lost now. While the children are not to touch Mom’s beautiful alabaster nativity, they have free rein to do what they want with this older, ragtag collection of figures. My nieces and nephews happily rearrange them. Sometimes they are left in twosomes, everyone having a private conversation, Mary with Joseph, the shepherds with each other, the donkey with the cows, and so on. Other times, various animals will end up on a roof, or the wise men will make their way, along with their camels, to some distant shelf, far from the stable, still on their journey. The children have free reign to do whatever is necessary and good, as they see it.
I love that beaten up old set because of the memories attached, and the scent of living Christmas trees that accompany it in my mind.
Of the two crèches, the one I think gets to the real moment of Jesus, born into this world a helpless babe, is the old and battered set. Somehow it manages to get closer to the stories told in Luke’s Gospel, of there being no room in an inn, of a food trough for animals, of shepherd guests. It’s a stark contrast to our bright lights, gilded bulbs, and lawn ornaments.
Don’t get me wrong – I have gilded bulbs on my tree…the better to celebrate the Lord of Light breaking into the world, but I think it very important not to forget the humble reality of the only nativity staged by the one born. In all of human history, only Jesus chose His own circumstances of birth, and they are telling. No bassinette, no fine linens, no doctors or nurses…no soft blue blankets, no safe warm home, no long prepared baby room…and for a king, no palace, no soldiers, no servants…no courtiers, no power, no glory…and for a child of his own time, no extended family, no fire in the fireplace, no neighbors to come and chortle over the newborn.
While you enjoy your Christmas feast, have a thought for that baby in the manger. From the very first, He embraced the human struggle, for love of you. We have good reason to celebrate, and even better reason to remember.
Merry Christmas from your priest,
During the third week of Advent, a rose-colored candle is added to the advent wreath to remind us of the gift of joy that God gave us in his only son, the infant, Jesus Christ.
Jesus was born at a time when there was significant suffering, hardship and heartbreak. He brought the Holy Spirit, hope, unconditional love, courage and strength. By his words and deeds, he showed us how to care for each other in good times and bad.
It’s important to remember that God’s joy, Jesus, is always with us. While at times it may feel quite small, the hope, joy and resiliency of the Holy Spirit is not extinguished even during times of despair and heartbreak. The resiliency of our faith carries us one step at a time through the rough patches. It helps us come together as a community to support one another and to do as Jesus would do…
I initially struggled to find joy in this Advent season as I reflected upon recent events that impacted our community and parish family. And then it came to me with greater understanding when I read the following quotation from Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaugium, 6. “Joy adapts and changes, but it always endures, even as a flicker of light born of our personal certainty that, when everything is said and done, we are infinitely loved. I understand the grief of people who have to endure great suffering, yet slowly but surely we all have to let the joy of faith slowly revive as a quiet yet firm trust, even amid the greatest distress.”
So, while my outward expression of joy this Advent season may be a bit different from previous Advents, my inner peace, belief, hope and trust in our Lord is unwavering. I feel this renewal and promise as I look at the infant, Jesus. I celebrate in all that He represents, all that He has done for us and all the blessings to come.
I thank all of you, my Parish Family, for being a beacon of light for each other and for others in need during times of struggle and sorrow.
Joy is a gift from Jesus himself. The more we help spread Joy to others, the more we live in the way God intended.
Merry Christmas and God bless.
We are a week into our Advent observance. For the church, Advent is a season with two themes. The first is preparing for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, whose kingship we celebrated recently. The second, to which we shift from December 17th on, is celebrating the coming of Jesus in history where he became human – Emmanuel – God with us.
So if we are preparing for Jesus’ Second Coming, how might that look? Today’s Scriptures give us some idea. From the first reading from Baruch and the Responsorial Psalm (126) we encounter the following: There will be no more mourning nor misery. We will be “wrapped in a cloak of God’s justice.” There will be a sense of restoration: children returning “borne aloft in glory” after being taken from us by our enemies. We will be laughing and rejoicing, as in a dream. Where we had gone forth weeping, we will come back rejoicing, led by God, with mercy and justice for company.
In the second reading, Saints Paul and Timothy pray that our love may increase more and more, that we may be pure and blameless.
How will this restoration, this unbelievable joy come to us? It is made clear in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 3. In a very specific time and place (lest we are tempted to relegate all of this to a cozy myth), John the Baptist, the son of Zechariah and Elizabeth, prompted by the Holy Spirit, the Word of God, preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, quoting the prophet Isaiah the whole time: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.”
Repentance is key. It’s much more than merely feeling sorry. It is a sincere desire to change course, to turn away from what keeps us from God, and making an effort of will to turn toward God. We can ask God for help changing course. He is delighted by every faltering step we take toward him, no matter how humble. Since, as the second reading tells us, God will bring to completeness in us the good work he has begun in us, in his own good and mysterious time and way, we will experience a healing of all losses, all brokenness, all incompleteness, all grief, all mourning.
To get in touch with the enormity of this, and to bring it from an idea “out there” to a reality within, spend some time with the first reading and responsorial psalm. Realize that the powerful emotions prophesied are not exaggerations, nor are they merely symbolic. They are a foretaste of the joy we will experience at the coming of Jesus Chris in glory at the end of time.
This is a lot to wait and hope for – there is real depth in Advent if we’ll let it in. Let’s pray for one another that we can do so! Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!
Dear Parish Family,
Happy New year! It is the most wonderful time of the year… Advent; joyfully anticipating the Birth of Jesus.
With the difficult weeks, many of our brothers and sisters have endured it is important to remember to keep our eyes focus on our Lord. I want to share with you one of our many beautiful Catholic traditions and gifts and encourage you this Advent season to pray with our Mother Mary; she too is our Advent wreath leading us to her son, Jesus.
Through our history, we have been sent many messengers; The angels, the prophets and apostles, and the saints. All echo the same Good News, Jesus is the Truth, the Light, and the Way. Our Mother Mary is our most recent messenger sent from heaven. She takes on the likeness of those who she speaks to, making sure we recognize the message is meant for us. Through Mary we reach Jesus, through Jesus, we reach the Father. This month we have two feast days in her honor, December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (Mary is conceived without sin), and on December 12, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Her message in all her apparitions throughout the world is never about her, she always points to her Son. When the bishop asked for a sign, St. Juan Diego presented him with his 'tilma'. It was filled with Castilian roses. When St. Juan Diego opens his 'tilma' to expose the roses, they all saw the image of Santa Maria de Guadalupe was miraculously imprinted on it. It was left on a native fiber, meant only to last 30 years at most; however, it has been hundreds of years and the image is still perfectly intact. This is only the first of many miracles. Her image and words have spoken so clearly to all generations, she has aided in the conversion of millions.
The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is huge for the Mexican people, not only for having the honor of having Our Mother appear in Mexico but to have been given the privilege to have her image left for us to visit. Her story and her message have earned her the title of Patroness of the Americas (North & South). Her message in all her apparitions throughout the world is never about her, she always points to her Son. The Celebration consists of a novena from December 4 to December 12, every day we retell her story and are reminded of her intentions, to bring us to her son, Jesus:
The Mother of God appeared to St. Juan Diego in Mexico in 1531, requesting a church be built:
“My dear little son, I love you. I desire you to know who I am. I am the ever-virgin Mary, Mother of the true God who gives life and maintains its existence. He created all things. He is in all places. He is Lord of Heaven and Earth. I desire a church in this place where your people may experience my compassion. All those who sincerely ask my help in their work and in their sorrows will know my Mother's heart in this place. Here I will see their tears; I will console them and they will be at peace.”
When the bishop Fry Juan de Zumarraga asked for a sign, Juan Diego presented him with his Tilma which was filled with Castilian roses, previously unknown to the region and mysteriously blooming in winter. When St. Juan Diego opens his tilma to expose the roses, they all saw the image of Santa Maria de Guadalupe, was miraculously imprinted on it. Her image speaks loudly and clearly as her words. These are symbols that spoke clearly to the Aztecs and aid the conversion of millions. Some of the symbols are:
All this left on a native fiber, meant only to last 30 years at most; however, it has been hundreds of years and the image is still intact. This is only the first of many miracles. Her image and words have spoken so clearly to all generations, she has aid in the conversion of millions.
“Hear and let it penetrate into your heart, my dear little son: Let nothing discourage you, nothing depress you.
Let nothing alter your heart or your countenance. Also, do not fear any illness or vexation, anxiety or pain.
Am I not here, who am your mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection?
Am I not your fountain of life? Are you not in the folds of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms?
Is there anything else that you need?”
Our Lady of Guadalupe’s motherly love for us is palpable. What a better advocate for us, than someone who understands all our struggles perfectly. Come to her, pray with her, especially in your times of need. She will help us clear the path and take our petitions to her loving son. Let us confidently journey our advent season in hope, joy, and love.
Faith Formation Minister