“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.” - Mother Teresa
Working with patients on the oncology unit, it became evident that living in the “now” was a most important endeavor. To be present, one must make the most of their time; live their life with purpose, dignity and support; make the most of this day, rather than getting too caught up in regrets for the past or fears of the future.
But we don’t want to wait until we are sick to learn how to make “now” such an important part of our life. From the moment we are born, “now” is always what we have. The present moment is life itself.
One beautiful method of making the most of “now,” is learning to be mindful; the practice of mindfulness – a nonjudgmental awareness of the present moment.
Mindfulness, in this sense, means bringing awareness to everyday life; to daily activities such as eating, walking, or doing chores. Each of these everyday activities gives us an opportunity to be mindful. These mindful moments connect us with life’s rhythms, helping us relate more directly to our life and experience an encounter with God.
As an example, the concept of mindful eating – simply eating or drinking while being aware of each bite or sip – may be used at any time, with any meal, and regards food and its preparation as sacred. The process requires one’s willingness to shift from being on automatic pilot or scarfing down a meal, to being fully aware of the moment as you eat.
Take note of what it is like to bite into a juicy plum. Appreciate the aroma and rich taste of that freshly brewed cup of coffee. Notice the crunch of the cucumber in your salad. Revel in the burst of scent and taste as you break open the skin of an orange. Savor that square of dark chocolate melting on your tongue. The wisdom of ancient cultures shows that food has always been a tool for spiritual growth and healthy living. We are reminded to live consciously and with an awareness of how all aspects of life – from food, to actions, to spirit, to community – are connected with all of our senses.
Christian mindfulness is the practice and discipline of being aware of Christ’s presence abiding with me the moment I wake up in the morning, while I eat, as I exercise, go about my work and throughout my day. Practice the presence of Christ today by taking the time to stop, to be mindful, to fill yourself with gratitude and to hear “Be still and know that I am God.”
Ann Mulligan RN, PHN
I confess that the summer is my forever-favorite time of year. The longer days are such a delight. To wake up to the sun, and occasionally, to get back to my house while the sun is still up, are simple, yet sweet, pleasures. I wonder how much of that fair-going, beach-time, long-day love comes from the forty-seven years of my life spent either receiving or giving an education. The “first day of vacation” is as loud for me at 60 as it was for me at 16. And the opposite is true of the passage of the summer: “school is starting” is also loud. It can be very exciting…and yet can’t compare with the first days of childhood
freedom, can it?
But here we find ourselves, fifty-two days into the ninety some days of summer. Today is a full forty minutes shorter than that first day of summer, the 21st of the solstice. And this next week is the last full week for our children at St. Mary Magdalen School, as they will be back in the classrooms on the 21st, with our Pleasant Valley School children returning a week later on the 28th.
I myself will be returning for the last time (I think) to the seminary to teach on August 26th. At 60 years, I can feel in my bones, in my energy level, in the small changes, adding up each year, the passage of time. As a few of you know, I visited the rector at the seminary early in the summer to step down as a faculty member. I have taught there for twenty years, since the fall semester of 1999. My assignment was only for fourteen years, but it was good and important work, and I was happy to carry on, especially as I have been able to remain so close to the seminary while pastoring at Padre Serra. I will teach one last course, Beginning Greek, as it so happens, and then hang up my hat. It was a good run, a happy one, with lots to look back on with pleasure and satisfaction. I set it aside, very much at peace with the decision.
I’m also aware that its part of the human process of fading. We spend our early years focused on becoming, our middle years on trying and, perhaps, succeeding, and then our later years on stepping back again, hopefully reflecting. So when I ponder the dying of the summer, the movement towards shorter and cooler days, and the passing of months and years, it seems so timely to hear our Lord Jesus speaking, in today’s Gospel, of being “ready to open immediately when the master comes and knocks.”
Will we, can we, ever be ready for the Lord’s return? The days of our lives are numbered, though they seem limitless when we are young. But we age, and the body reminds us, without subtlety, that there aren’t so many days as we might have thought. If we are reflective people, we might well ask ourselves “What is the purpose of the time we have?”
And Jesus instructs us of a Master who returns, a keeper of our days, who hopes to find us awake and attentive to the welfare of His household. And so I ask myself, in these early fading days of summer, how attentive am I, really, to readiness for the Lord? There is an urgency in Jesus’ words: “You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come” (Luke 35:40).
Can I encourage you, in these last days of vacation, to consider that the preparation for a new school year is nothing when weighed against the readiness for the Lord? Is there a selfless act waiting to be done, a personal quirk to set aside, a lost soul needing our finding? Is there an awareness of the holy presence of God awaiting our attention? Is there a personal fault to overcome, an undeveloped talent to grant attention? Give it some thought and consider one big thing or a few small ones to grant some attention and effort.
I was very fortunate growing up. Although my parents did not have much money, we lacked for nothing nor did we as children know the difficulties they faced. We were loved, ate well, were well dressed and took vacations from time to time. Even so, my brothers and I always had that one toy we wanted more than anything else, something we could not live without.
My grandparents did not have it so easy. Sadly, they lost a child and their home to a fire in 1963 forcing them to move into very difficult living conditions. They lived a very modest life often settling for what was available to eat. They owned few possessions other than what had been given to them. They did have material desires, but these were far more needs than wants.
One summer, my brothers and I settled in with grandma and grandpa for a three-week visit. There I realized my grandparents had figured out the important things in life. The love they shared for everyone who entered their home was palpable. The appreciation they showed for what little they had was obvious. Vanity was a nonexistent word. To this day, I cherish memories made during these weeks making toys from sticks and walking through ankle deep mud fields covered with cattails. My grandparents had taught us that hope and love went deeper than earthly things. Somehow, I suspect this is where I gained greater awareness of heaven through love on earth.
At times we miss the beauty of life by focusing on thoughts of wanting ... not only ‘wanting’ but ‘needing,’ that special something. The fact is that love shared and living simply can open the door to the joy of eternal life. Paul reminds us of this reality in his letter to the Colossians writing:
“Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
In these words, Paul invites us to live life to the fullest by first seeking absolute
fulfillment found in heaven where Christ has been raised and is now seated at the right hand of God.
By placing God at the center of everything, we begin to meet this invitation, but it does not come simply. As my parents and grandparents exemplified, we must develop our own recipe to put Him first. I suggest we begin with a suggestion written by C.S. Lewis in his book, Mere Christianity. He wrote, “Aim at heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither.” How can you aim at heaven first? Figure that out and you’re well on your way.
Deacon Luc Papillon
Part of the formation that music and liturgical ministers undergo teaches us to look for the bridge that connects the First Reading at mass to the Gospel. At first glance, this week’s connection eluded me (and, if I’m honest, at several glances beyond the first). But with the help of others wiser than I, a bridge became visible and I’d like to share it with you.
In the First Reading from Genesis, we have Abraham pleading with God to spare Sodom and Gomorrah from destruction. In a way that reminds me a bit of the tireless negotiating my four year old granddaughter subjects me to, Abraham asks God if he will spare the city if there are fifty righteous people there. But he doesn’t stop there. With occasional respectful phrases (“See how I am presuming to speak to my Lord though I am but dust and ashes!”), Abraham secures the commitment from God that even if there are only forty, only thirty, only twenty, and finally, only ten innocent people there, the city shall be spared.
The Gospel has Jesus’ disciples asking the Lord to teach them to pray. Presumably they can see how prayer grounds every moment of Jesus’ life, and they want to follow their master’s example. In response, Jesus teaches them the Lord’s Prayer, the Our Father that we say every Sunday at mass. But he doesn’t stop there. As a good Rabbi, he tells them stories of friends and neighbors, late night disturbance and request, and fathers who care well for their sons. He says, “I tell you, even if he does not get up to give the visitor the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up . . . because of his persistence.”
As Christians we are used to the idea that we can come to Jesus with any request, that God encourages and desires intimacy with us like a loving father who dotes on his children. But in Abraham’s time, there was not yet such a conception. The God Abraham bargained with was holy, wholly other, all powerful, mysterious, remote and prone to anger. Yet he was persistent, and God was merciful, ultimately granting Abraham’s request to spare Sodom.
Here is the bridge: Jesus wants us to be persistent in prayer, just as Abraham was. The answer we get may be “yes” or it may be “no”. It may be silence. But we know that God is loving, merciful, just, and powerful, and that he wants us to ask boldly for what we need.
One last thought: it didn’t hurt that what Abraham was asking for was in accord with God’s merciful nature. It doesn’t hurt either if we try to discern what God might want us to ask for when we aren’t sure. So in addition to persistent requests, we can also ask God to reveal to us what God wants. And we can be patient. On the other hand, the neighbor in the middle of the night demanding bread was anything but!
Dear Parish Family,
As I was reading over our readings, I could not help but notice how appropriate and relevant the readings are for what is happening in our world today. With our political climate and so much division, fighting over what is right (legally) and what is just (humanely)! Though it may seem that it is the same thing, it is not always the case.
In Jesus’ times social codes and boundaries were strict, many people were excluded and seen as having lesser value or dignity; women and children were among the most vulnerable and unprotected. Still today, we see this mistreatment and exclusion of our fellow man, especially with our immigrant brothers and sisters at our southern border. Though the laws and society may have their rules of what is acceptable in the treatment of others, as followers of Christ, this is where we listen to his words, his example, and follow in his steps, so that we will do what is right and just.
In our Gospel, Martha is conditioned by the existing social codes and boundaries of her society, woman’s place was to take care of the household, be servants to the need of the men and family. This is why Martha complains and asks Jesus to intervene. To Martha’s surprise Jesus defends Mary, “Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” Mary breaks through that boundary and becomes a disciple of Jesus. To love God with all one’s heart and one’s neighbor at times requires breaking some of society’s rules. The Kingdom of God is a society without distinctions and boundaries between its members. It is a society that requires times for seeing and doing and also times for listening and learning at the feet of a teacher.
Our Psalm today clearly reminds us we should live our lives with truth, justice, harm not our fellow man, accept no bribe against the innocent. “He who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord.”
Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying we should not follow the laws. Many of our laws, rules and limitations are good for us; they keep us safe and healthy. However, at times we must question if the laws are fair and just. Are these boundaries used to unfairly exclude and separate and dehumanize the children of God? Are we following the commandment, “Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself”? May we always seek to live in the presence of the Lord.
Faith Formation Minister
Dear Faith Family,
Our peer leaders in Youth and Young Adult ministry do so much for our programs. The dedication level of these leaders is so tremendous; here is a sample schedule of the weekly commitment that they give to our parishioners in the winter.
Some of you may be asking, why would they be willing to commit so much time? The answer is quite simple: They are disciples. The servant leadership that our leaders show far exceeds any example that I can give in my talks in Confirmation and Youth Group. Our leaders are the ones who sit down and share real life examples of how to live their faith.
These leaders also pay out of their own pocket to help at and to attend retreats. It’s not just their time they are sacrificing. It is also sad to say that some leaders cannot attend some of our events, simply because they can’t afford it. These events can be costly, typically hundreds of dollars for a weekend.
We also are excited to have our first service project in Louisiana this year, which as you can imagine, is also quite costly.
If you are feeling generous, we would love your support in sponsoring our leaders and Confirmation candidates in a scholarship fund. It is through your generosity that a lot of leaders may be able to go. If you are interested in contributing to this fund I know they would be eternally grateful.
I talk about our leaders quite a bit and I believe that it is justified. The leaders have not only helped hundreds of teens on their faith journeys, but they have helped me to understand what the love of God is personally.
Thank you so much for your time and generosity.
Youth and Young Adult Minister
Dear friends on the journey, Today’s gospel message is about sending out. Jesus has been preparing the Twelve and many others to witness to himself and his ministry. The seventy-two are being sent out to evangelize, by sharing the good news of Jesus. He describes the conditions to which they’re going, gives them specific instructions on what to bring (or not), and tasks them with a mission: bring peace and cure the sick. The mission involves sacrifice, trust, patience, and faith.
Jesus also tasks us his modern day disciples with a mission that can be summed up a few verses later in chapter 10. When Jesus is asked what is required to inherit eternal life, he responds with the simple and yet complex commandment: You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself (Lk 10:27).
“And your neighbor as yourself.” How do we do that today, individually and as a community? So many ways! Individually we are called to bring Jesus and be Jesus for our immediate family, neighbors, coworkers, friends, and strangers in our daily path. The parish community is another way to live out our missionary call individually and especially collectively. Our parish is rich with many opportunities to bring the mission of love to others. The Holy Spirit has called forth many individuals to engage in ministry and even start a ministry. I love watching the development of grass roots ministry. Someone sees a need then does something. This happened with our caregiver, cancer and divorce support groups, Career Transitions, Seeds of Faith, PAX Christi, Social Spanish, and so many more.
I am excited to share that today we launch another such ministry of love … our new Military Family Ministry (MFM). In recent years we recognized the growing number of military families attending our parish, rather quietly, and their unique life. Two military bases are situated in our county so we set out to learn more by meeting with the chaplains at both bases, sharing our experience thus far, and learned more about military life in general and the spiritual care in place at both bases. The Holy Spirit then got to work bringing together a small group of Catholic military persons under the leadership of Dave Gutierrez and Victor Maxion to brainstorm and vision what more we could do as a parish family to love these military families for the time they are here.
When I think about how military members are sent out around the world with a mission, a task and often times with great sacrifice for themselves and their families, I am even more convinced that our parish has now been called and sent to minister in a special way to the men, women, spouses and children of the military, right here in our own mission territory of Ventura County.
If you’re an active or reserve member of the military, we’d love to meet you after Mass today. Stop by the courtyard table to meet Dave, Victor and the team. We love you and thank you!
Faith Life Minister
Some years ago, one of the computer technicians assisting the parish shared that his family had been Mormon for almost 200 years. It stopped me in my tracks. For the first time, I considered just how long my own family had been Catholic. There is no way to fill in the historical gaps over the millennia involved. I can only guess that I have a long line of alternately spiritually devout and apathetic ancestors, both saints and sinners, and probably many that were both saintly and sinners. The fact remains that both family lines, three quarters Irish and one quarter Italian, are from areas that have had a consistently Catholic tenor to them. The Sicilian part of the family could have come to faith as early as the 2nd or 3rd Century. It’s hard to know as my family might also have participated in one of the many invasions of Sicily that happened later. Most of Ireland came to the faith by the 6th Century. I responded to the technician that, to the best of my knowledge, most of my family had probably been Catholic for between 1,500 and 1,700 years. Those numbers caused both of us to pause for a moment.
We all have our own history, and a greater or lesser openness to influence from ancestors, parents and peers. As far back as I know anything of my grandparents and great-grandparents, that I am the product of a short line of loving and good predecessors…and a physically abusive alcoholic grandfather. That’s the human story, isn’t it?
This July 1st, we’re celebrating the fourth year since the canonization of Junipero Serra. He was himself, a richly gifted and heroically good figure, with a shadow side. His mission system both shared the faith with, and dominated the lives of, the native peoples of California that he came to serve. His missions have influenced the architecture of our buildings and the names of our cities, counties and streets. Our visions of “old California” are colored by memories of Spanish rodeos and tri-tip barbacoa. Our farms still grow produce and wines first introduced by his confreres. We stand, sometimes awkwardly, on his shoulders.
Our past should inform our present. Serra came to a world that had not heard of the faith; we live in a world where people question faith’s utility in their lives. Like Serra, we have to find ways to proclaim the beauty and goodness of what we believe for others’ benefit. Like him, too, we will probably stumble in living out consistently all the best values of our beliefs. At our weakest moments, our own lives may get in the way of what we want the world to know of the Lord, our heart’s desire.
Our inability to do things perfectly should not get in the way of our willingness to try, even with enthusiasm, to accomplish the good we can do. God preserve us from our own worst instincts. God grant us the insight to know our world’s deepest needs and hungers, and the generosity to respond to and answer them. God forgive us when we err. God give us the courage to pick ourselves right back up and keep on trying. Lord knows, until this world’s end, that there are, perhaps, generations waiting to stand on our shoulders to accomplish their own great deeds (and errors).
On this weekend, closest to our patron’s feast, I wish you every joy!
This Sunday we celebrate The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. The three readings today are threaded together through food and drink with words we hear from the Last Supper. The first reading from Genesis has Melchizedek offering “bread and wine.” In the second reading St. Paul references the Eucharistic Prayer and in Luke’s Gospel Christ takes five loaves and two fish “and looking up to heaven, said the blessing over them, broke them and gave them to the disciples.”
In the ancient Greek world before Christ, the Greek mother god Demeter was reverenced for giving the gift of grain to the world through sacrifice. Grain was considered a power for salvation while the Greek god of wine Dionysus identified death by the blood of the grape to make wine to give new life. The history of God’s journey of love for his children winds through the imagery of God creating the grain and the grape. When we bring the gifts of bread and wine to the altar, we are bringing the toils and stories of our lives to Christ to become Christ, as an offering for us, for our salvation.
Jesus is the incarnational indwelling sent by God to feed us eternal life. It is all part of the continued love story of God given for our transformation. Fr. Richard Rohr in his book The Universal Christ writes, “Jesus did not come to change God’s mind about us. Jesus came to change our minds about God.” God loves us relentlessly.
In the breaking of the bread Christ’s love is multiplied over and over again. It is in the sharing of the broken bread that we are a part of the Body of Christ sharing our own brokenness to open our hearts to God and each other. We are all in communion with the truth of Christ’s rising in the bread and wine to heal our own sorrows and brokenness to live forever with the Father.
When we hear today in the Eucharistic prayer “this is my body and this is my blood” we are to hear Christ inviting us to take him in……all of him. It has been said when we taste a sip of the ocean all of the ocean is now inside of us. So too with Christ in Holy Communion……we take all of him inside of us. We are then a tabernacle for Christ inside of us. Do we know that?
Do we live that?
Deacon Jack Redmond
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.