Dear Parish Family,
There is so much we can say of our Sunday Gospel this week, I will keep it simple. Jesus is the Good Shepherd, who showed us total self-giving love. For some of us, it’s hard to understand the sacrifices that a good shepherd was willing to make for his flock. A hired hand is there for the pay, at the sign of danger abandons the sheep, he has no investment with the sheep in his care. A good shepherd loves his sheep, living alongside of them for many years, knowing each one. He would see to the needs of his sheep, guiding them where to eat and drink, finding shelter from the weather, even risking his life to protect the sheep from wolves or thieves. A good shepherd knows his sheep and they know his voice, they trust him and follow him. He cares for his sheep not out of obligation but of love.
For those of us who have only seen sheep or shepherds at the county fair, perhaps it is easier to understand this kind of self-giving love, in the relationship of a parent and his child. In the second reading we are reminded, “Beloved: See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God.” We are His Children, his beloved. As his children, no sacrifice is too much. When I was a child my parents worked in the fields, at times leaving the house as the sun was rising and back as it was setting. A hard job and low wage, to be able to provide for my siblings and me. Even after they got home, they did not have the luxury to put their feet up and rest. Together they would take on the daily house tasks, mom making sure we ate together a warm healthy dinner, dad would make sure we had done our homework and have us share our day’s adventures. I remember dad always keeping up the yard, watering the grass and flowers. Why would he add another task to his already exhausted body? He did this because he wanted us to have a place to play and knew how much my mom loved the roses in the garden. Sundays, their only day off, after church, we would pack up the car and go to the park or beach. I am sure they would much rather have stayed home and slept in. I don’t remember ever hearing them
complain about how tired they were. I am able to see all their sacrifice was done not out of obligation but out of love. I am sure you have many similar stories of your own. No sacrifice is too big for those you love.
This Sunday is also Vocation Sunday, we pray for our priest and Church leaders who are caring for the souls, who go out and gather the lost sheep to bring 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. Jesus the Good Shepherd is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Let us as followers of Jesus, be witnesses to his resurrection, and do all things with love.
Faith Formation Minister
Dear Faith Family,
I hope you all are having a wonderful Easter Season!
This Sunday’s Gospel is quite interesting to me. I love how it opens with two disciples discussing their previous encounter with Jesus. A lot of us are blessed to have encounters with God; many of us have had an instance in our lives where God was present and it gives us fuel as we live our lives as disciples. But what makes this Sunday’s Gospel interesting, is that Jesus approaches them in the present and they are filled with anxiety.
I find this part of the Gospel relevant to our lives because we sometimes think of the past times where we have experienced God’s love, and also fail to realize how God reveals himself in the present.
I’ve been blessed with encounters of God on various retreats and I tend to hold these encounters close to my heart. There is absolutely nothing wrong thinking back to a time where God’s love was tangible and vibrant, and like I said, it is great fuel for our mission as disciples. Sometimes though, there is a temptation to only focus on those times and not recognize how God is calling us to mission in the present moment. In fact, when Jesus appears to the disciples, it says that they were “startled and terrified.” I think it’s common for us to feel this way as well.
It is normal to be a bit scared of what God is calling us to do in our everyday lives. But I think it should give us some sense of peace to know that His disciples felt the same way at times. It is nice knowing that we may share some insecurities that the disciples also had. In the Gospel their literal encounter with the resurrected Christ had them feeling startled and terrified. But when Jesus says “peace be with you,” to the disciples in this passage, he also is directing that toward us, His current
So faith family, I invite you all to lift each other up during this Easter Season and to help each other not only share your personal, past accounts of God’s grace, but to also show each other how God is currently present in our lives, calling us to share His loving message and to have a meal with Him.
Although discipleship can be scary sometimes, every time we encounter Christ, I pray that we allow ourselves to be at peace with the encounter and to have the bravery to go touch his wounds and have a meal with Him.
Happy Easter everybody!
Youth and Young Adult Minister
My Dear Parish Family,
Every week the Pastoral Team, including me, takes turns writing the message of the week. It is generally based on the message in the gospel for the day. Often we have another point or two to incorporate. It is amazing when the gospel message, God’s message, pulls it all together.
April is National Child Abuse Prevention month and it is my turn to write the letter. How do I make it relate? Every April we generally talk about the many ways that we as a parish help to prevent child sexual abuse, through the positive use of fingerprinting and training, campus assessments, committee meetings, and teaching the children what to watch for and guard against.
I remember the first time I taught Teaching Touching Safety training more than a decade ago as mandated by the
Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. I prepared for weeks. I attended the certification training, watched all the videos, read all the material and finally, spent days writing the lesson plans for grades 1 through 12. I was well prepared and… I was angry.
I was angry that a few depraved people had changed the game for everyone else. Thousands, millions of innocent children now had to put up with angry, anxious, apprehensive middle-aged women like me who were mandated to teach them about safe and unsafe touches. I teamed with my friend, volunteer and fellow parishioner Dr. Lisa Barra to conduct the training. When I saw those beautiful, sweet faces looking at me so trusting, something clicked. I realized what I was doing was not about the perpetrators, the darkness; this was about these children, the light. I had to equip these kids. I had to empower them to keep themselves safe. It quickly became perfectly natural to tell the children that Jesus loves them so much, he wants them to be happy. To help them in life, Jesus gave them lots of loving, trusted adults to care for them. So if they are not happy, or even a little uncomfortable, they need to tell.
The apostles knew to expect Jesus to suffer and die. They were not prepared for what came next, Jesus’ appearance in the upper room. He came to them with a message of peace. He breathed on them. That same breath surrounds us still today. That same breath animates us to do the work of God, to love one another, to see beauty and sweetness in the people around us.
All of us carry burdens and heartaches of our own or those of people we love. If you are a victim of abuse, please call the Victims Assistance Ministry office (213) 637·7650. If you have a heartache of a completely different nature, talk to your “trusted adult” or please call the parish office and ask to speak with Teresa Runyon who will connect you with a support group, therapist, deacon or priest. If you need to go to confession, please come to church any Saturday at 3:45pm.
Jesus loves you so much he wants you to be happy. After the cross, there is work and there is joy.
Parish Life Minister
P.S. Thanks and gratitude to our Safeguard the Children Committee: Suzy Maraboto, Dr. Lisa Barra, Jackie Perrin, Linda Smith, Brett Becker, Deacon Neil Kingsley, Tere Delgado, Liz Vega, Nancy Jorgesen and me. If you would like to join this caring group, please contact me or Nancy in the parish office.
The rains have come, at last. Our hills and mountains are taking on a beautiful shade of green, and flowers will soon begin to bloom. The wildflowers come in waves over the next few months, before the warmth of summer drives them back into dormancy. I was hiking last year in the Santa Monica Mountains, maybe a mile from the Ray Miller trailhead, when I took the picture below. We have to enjoy the flowers when they are growing, as they fade so quickly.
The new life on our hillsides comes along at just the right time this year to serve us as a metaphor, not only for the Risen Christ, but also for what’s possible in our own lives when we commit ourselves to the ancient spiritual path of the Christian life. It was always our Lord’s intent that we, too, would experience in our lives, here on earth, constant renewal and growth.
We would also like to burst forth in renewed, life giving ways:
My prayer for you this Easter is that the renewal we experience all around us in nature, and that we celebrate as the triumph of our Lord Jesus over death, finds its way into your life as well. I pray that you flourish, even blossom, especially in those places where you recognize the need to grow. I look forward to journeying with you this year, together, as God’s Easter people, ever filled with hope.
During these weeks of Lent, we’ve been preparing ourselves through fasting, prayer, and almsgiving so that we might open ourselves more fully to God’s presence in our lives. This has been a journey. So here we are now on Palm Sunday, hearing the story of Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem, his passion and his death. It’s a story we’ve heard many times before. We know how it begins and how it ends. But I invite you to consider experiencing Jesus’ journey, passion, death, and resurrection this Holy Week.
Today, like the crowds of Jesus’ time, we carry palms and praise him but during the Passion we are reminded that we are all sinners in need of God’s salvation. Today put your palms in a place that will be a constant reminder of your journey from the darkness of sin to God’s eternal light.
In Monday’s gospel, we hear the story of Jesus’ meal with Lazarus, Martha, and Mary. Judas the Iscariot criticizes Jesus for allowing Mary to use a costly perfumed oil to anoint his feet when it could have been sold “for three hundred days wages and given to the poor.” Jesus responds, “You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.” This is our reminder that we will never lack opportunities to give ourselves in imitation of Jesus to serve the poor. This week share more of your God-given gifts to help those in need.
In John’s account of the Last Supper in Tuesday’s gospel, Jesus announces that one of his disciples will betray him, leaving them all asking, “Is it I?” We know how the story goes: Judas betrays Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. But, really, haven’t we all betrayed Jesus at one time or another in our lives? Today, identify and resolve to overcome those behaviors that betray God.
In Wednesday’s gospel, Jesus instructs his disciples to prepare a place for the Passover meal, his Last Supper. Today is a good day to reflect on how this Lenten journey has helped us prepare a room for Jesus in our lives. Identify what worked and how you can continue that practice beyond Easter.
On Holy Thursday we celebrate the Last Supper, the institution of the Eucharist, the sacrament in which we receive his body and blood, and the priesthood through the washing of the disciples’ feet. This evening we celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper (7:00pm), a beautiful liturgy that reminds us of our call to be Jesus’ disciples, washing the feet of others in service and receiving the life giving food that sustains us in that service. This evening is a good opportunity to renew or commit to being a true disciple of Jesus.
Our Holy Week journey continues to Good Friday, the day Jesus suffered and died. Make a commitment to experience the Lord’s passion by attending one of our Good Friday liturgies (12:00 or 7:00pm) and the Living Stations of the Cross (1:45pm). Reflect today on how you have grown closer to God through your experience of physical or emotional suffering.
Holy Saturday is the night in which God turned death to life. Appropriately, at the Easter Vigil, we baptize new Christians and accept them into full communion with the church. Through the waters of baptism, they “die” to their old life and joyfully join themselves to Christ, to new life. If you’ve never been to an Easter Vigil, I invite you next Saturday (7:30pm). This night discern what needs to die in your life so that you may be joined more fully with Christ.
By experiencing Holy Week and allowing ourselves to enter into Jesus’ suffering, we can truly experience the joy of Easter Sunday when resurrected life begins, when love and light triumph over sin and darkness. At our Easter morning liturgy, the “Alleluia” will never sound so good or be more profound in our hearts.
Faith Life Minister
I want to share some thoughts and reflections with you about our worship, an important part of which is singing together – all of us! We’ve heard Fr. Patrick on several occasions encourage us to sing at mass. He’s even cited Scriptures where God commands us to do so. Yet some of us still are reluctant, or uncomfortable, and sing very softly, or maybe not at all.
Have you noticed how the singing of the National Anthem at sporting events has changed over the years? It used to be that everyone in the stadium stood, put their hand over their heart, and sang, perhaps accompanied by the organ at Dodger Stadium, or by a marching band at a football game. But how often do we see that now? Almost never. Instead, the singing of the National Anthem has become an event at which one person performs for the rest of us. S/he sings, and we stand there with our hands over our hearts (maybe) and then applaud. The next day we take to social media and dissect the performance.
Shows like “The Voice” and “American Idol” reinforce the notion that singing is a specialized activity reserved only for the chosen few. But this is a very recent development in human history and one that I think robs us of our ownership of and our comfort with communal singing and its beneficial effects. Singing together in community can lower blood pressure, relieve stress, reduce heart rate, and cause endorphins to be released that create a sense of wellbeing.
It is not necessary that the singing be perfect, just that it be together. Fr. Patrick recently reminded us that all of God’s commandments are intended for our benefit because God loves us. I’m sure the commandment to sing our praises to God is no exception.
Perhaps bearing in mind that we are singing primarily for the God who created us, who loves us, and who knows us better than we know ourselves – and who has commanded us repeatedly in the Scriptures to do so – can help us. A shift in our perception of the different roles at mass may be called for here.
I think many of us have the notion that we are the audience; that the priest, lector, cantors, servers, deacons, etc. are the performers; and that God is the “executive producer” of the show. But the truth is that God is the Audience and that all of us are called to be performers for one another’s benefit and for God’s pleasure. Of course it is also true that the mass is the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ the Eternal High Priest offered to the Father by the Holy Spirit. And it is also still true that Jesus Christ is present at mass in the person of the priest, in the proclaimed Word of God, in the Eucharist . . . and, yes, in the gathered Body of Christ – you and me and all of us.
Last weekend’s responsorial psalm asked “how could we sing a song of the LORD in a foreign land?” The Chosen People had been exiled from the Promised Land to Babylon and one of the ways their captors there tormented them was by asking them to “sing the songs of Zion.” They thought back longingly to the temple in Jerusalem where they worshipped the LORD, singing together in happier days.
Maybe those of us who still feel resistance to the idea of singing at all, particularly in a way where anyone else can hear us, could step out in faith and just try, this Lent and Easter season, to move beyond our comfort zone for the sake of the worship the Lord asks us for. It could transform the experience of celebrating the liturgy together for all of us.
Dear friends on the journey,
Think back to your childhood. What was your image of God when you were a kid? Now go to your teen or college years. What was your image or impression of God then? Was it any different from your early childhood? What did God mean for you at that time?
What’s your image of God today, as an adult? Has it evolved from your early years? Or is it the same? Is your grownup image a God one of judgement and harshness? Or is yours a loving God? I really hope this is the case and if not, if you feel only judgment from God, I encourage you to stop and reflect on why that is your image of God. Where does that come from? How can your image of God transition to one only of love and generosity?
Today’s gospel is an excellent place to start. It includes probably the most referenced scripture passage of all time, John 3:16 which says: For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. The passage goes on to say that Jesus was sent not to condemn the world but to save the world and he does this by death on the cross. He is the truth and the light. This is good news. No, this is fantastic news!
My image of God has certainly evolved over the course of my life and through my ever-deepening relationship with God. Sometimes I have this image of God like a parent who, when her child or teen does something stupid, just lowers her head and shakes it in disbelief. God must have done that with the Israelites, as we read in the first reading.
I’m sure he did that with the apostles and the early Christians and no doubt with us now. But then I picture God chuckling and wrapping his arms around us, knowing our imperfections and offering forgiveness anyway. Jesus did that for us. His crucifixion offers us the way to salvation and not just a few but all of us. We don’t need to earn it; we just need to respond. Our acceptance of this free gift is choosing to believe that, despite our imperfections, brokenness, occasional wrong decisions, God’s love is unconditional. We don’t have to wait to be perfect, happy, mature, rich, smart or have our stuff together in order to be in relationship with God. He wants us here and now so he can wrap his arms around us in forgiveness, comfort and love.
Most often we talk about God’s love for us collectively. To be quite honest, only in the last couple of years did I have a true personal realization that Jesus died for me. I hope you believe this about yourself too: he died for you. Look at the gospel again and read it to yourself:
For God so loved me that he gave his only Son, so that I will believe and not perish and have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn me, but that I might be saved through him.
If we believe this and accept God’s gift of salvation through Jesus, then we have to come out of the darkness and live in the light. As we come towards the end of Lent and prepare for Holy Week, let us all examine our image of God, our personal relationship with God, and our own dark areas. What is the Good Friday of our lives that needs God’s light and love? It’s there for each and everyone of us. Don’t wait.
Faith Life Minister
Dear Faith Family,
Today our Confirmation Year 2 teens embarked on our Confirmation retreat. This year, we had a new date and a new venue (Gindling Hilltop in Malibu), but the same mission: To allow the teens to encounter Christ and to advocate discipleship. I believe that we were successful.
I have been blessed to watch this encounter for almost a decade and it never ceases to move and motivate my spiritual life as well. With the help of the testimonies of our peer, young adult and adult leaders, the goofy ice breakers and the participation in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament I can honestly say that vibrant evangelization is at the forefront of our retreat.
Every retreat there seems to be, what we call in Youth Ministry, the “retreat high” and there is no doubt in my mind that our teens are currently feeling this. This tends to happen when you fall in love, or realize that someone loves you. This is what happens at most retreats; the realization of God’s love and the reciprocation of it tend to lead to this feeling.
Let us pray that after this retreat the understanding of God’s love is held onto, especially after the “retreat high” subsides. God’s love isn’t conditional, and it is there even in our busyness and our failure to recognize it.
With that said, it is still important to go on those “dates” with God, to reignite the feeling. For this Lenten season, I challenge you all to take time to spend with God. It doesn’t have to be a retreat (but if you can, go for it), but maybe time in the chapel, silent time in scripture or even listening to some music that resounds God’s love for us.
I also wanted to take this time to thank all of you who donated to our Peer Leader Retreat Fund. It was because of you we were able to send all 40 of all our leaders at a reduced cost.
Your generosity always amazes me and on behalf of the leaders, I’d like to say that we are truly blessed to have such a strong parish family that truly cares for each other.
Youth and Young Adult Minister
My Dear Fellow Parishioners,
It was my great joy last Sunday to accompany 13 people from our parish, along with their godparents and families, to St. Julie Billiart Church in Newbury Park where they celebrated the Rite of Election with Bishop Robert Barron. This rite is an important ceremony, conducted on the First Sunday of Lent in every diocese of the world, with the adults, teens, and school-age children who will be baptized at the upcoming Easter Vigil.
After the Rite of Election, these candidates are referred to as the “Elect.” Our parish community is blessed this year to have 13 Elect: April Arguelles, Abigail Booth, Brittany Carruth, Shay Carruth, Joshua Castillo, Trinity Gunnels, Adan Guzman, Alonzo Guzman, Robert Henson, Daniel Mendoza, Isabel Mendoza, Alina Miller and Bryan Petrie.
Since the Rite of Election happened to fall this year on a 3-day holiday weekend, some of our Elect gave up family trips in order to celebrate the Rite. This speaks highly of their understanding of the importance of Baptism.
Sometimes we forget the importance of our own baptisms, perhaps because we were infants when carried to the font. The 40 days of Lent are designed by our Church, in her wisdom, to prepare not only the Elect for their baptisms at Easter, but to prepare all of us to renew our own baptismal promises, spoken long ago by our parents and godparents.
“Election” means choice. Our Elect have been chosen by God, as have we, to be disciples of Jesus and to embrace his mission as our own. Baptism is not meant to be just for our personal salvation. Rather, it is for the salvation of the whole world! We are baptized into the Body of Christ to be Christ's eyes, ears, mouth, heart, hands, and feet in the world today. We all have been given the gifts and talents necessary to continue Jesus’ mission, each in our own unique way and according to our particular circumstances.
May our Lenten practices this year help us to recognize our gifts in order to follow Jesus more closely and with greater generosity. During the coming weeks, let us journey together with our Elect to the waters of the font, eager to renew our mission as disciples!
Coordinator of Initiation
My Dear Parish Family,
Life-giving activities are from the Spirit of God. What are my life-giving activities? What are those things that make me the person God intended me to be? In today’s gospel from Mark, Jesus was in the company of adversaries and angels. It occurs to me that we have to have both. We cannot have a choice of one. If there is only one thing before us, we don’t choose one or the … same one; there is no choice there. Everyday all of us are surrounded by adversaries and angels, bad and good, and we do choose, sometimes
consciously, sometimes not.
Life has become so busy, so full, even in “down” time we are missing ourselves, and maybe even others close to us, in the daily buzz. In thinking about Lenten practices 2018, what to give up … what to add … Let’s search for what will help us keep Jesus at the center of our life.
Enter Lent … another genius of the Church. Somehow, those early church leaders knew we all would need an annual retreat. They knew it would take about 40 days. They knew we would need to hear, again, the stories of Jesus’ own struggles and encounters with human beings just like us.
Lent is a time for spring-cleaning, for getting our house in order, for inspection. Clear out the clutter – remove distractions. Clean the house – fast from dirt and disorderliness. Purge duplicates – give to people who need the things we store in our cupboards and closets. Make room for sacred space, prayer, time and space for relationship with Jesus and the people in our lives. Give something up as a spiritual practice of self-discipline, a small suffering aligned with Jesus’ incredible suffering. Care for the poor, especially the cold and the hungry.
Lent is a time to clean up our house, the one we live in and the one inside of us, the dwelling place. A suggestion: Write down all your daily activities. Discern those that are responsibilities and do your best with them. Discern those activities that do not give life and discontinue or severely curtail them, get help if needed, and finally, identify and embrace those activities that do give you life. Unleash what God had in mind for you. Embrace the angels.
What adversaries will we defeat? Let’s go for a 40-day cleanse and revisit Fr. Patrick's suggestions to fast (choose 1 or more) from: worry, judging others and negativity, pessimism and complaining, anger about things and hostility towards people, anxiety and bitterness, self-righteousness and grudges, greed and deceit, envy and arrogance.
Parish Life Minister
There are almost 600 youth in Girl Scouting in Camarillo alone, from kindergarten Daisies to 12th grade Ambassador Scouts. The mission of this 100+ year organization is to build girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.
Service to others is interwoven into almost every aspect of scouting, as a component of most badges and especially at the highest Bronze, Silver and Gold Awards. Girl Scouts work closely with their community and other philanthropic organizations, including their schools and churches. Recently, Padre Serra Girl Scouts have organized food drives, sent care packages to children worldwide, supported our military and veterans, cleaned up parks and beaches, reached out to the homeless, and organized activities for younger children including babysitting and Trunk-or-Treat here at PSP.
Everything in Girl Scouting is based on the Girl Scout Promise and Law:
On my honor I will try to serve God and my country, to help people at all times and to live by the Girl Scout law.
The 10-stanza law includes practicing good morals like honesty, helpfulness, caring, respect while using resources wisely, and ultimately making the world a better place.
The Promise and Law includes many principles and values common across religions. So while a secular organization, Girl Scouts encourages girls to take spiritual journeys via their faiths' religious recognition.
Scouting welcomes girls of all faith traditions, teaching mutual respect. Two programs teach the girls more about their faith: the “My Promise My Faith” pin and national awards through Programs of Religious Activities with Youth (P.R.A.Y., www.praypub.org) or specifically for the Roman Catholic faith through the Catholic Committee on Scouting (www.nfcym.org). Scouting helps develop a passion for service, self-reliance, leadership, an array of skills, friendships … and besides, it’s fun!
For more information please visit www.micasagirlscouts.com (Camarillo Service Unit) or www.girlscoutsccc.org (local Council), or contact Karen Fraser at email@example.com.
For information on Padre Serra’s Boy Scout Troop #257, a vibrant outdoor troop that meets every first Tuesday each month, contact Lance and Cheryl Kistler at firstname.lastname@example.org. They will be participating in the Ventura County Boy Scout Council’s Annual Scouting for Food event on February 24 and some boys are working on the Ad Altare Dei Catholic Religious Award to be presented at the Cathedral in May. Come to their pancake breakfast the first Sunday in June to meet our troop in person.
Our parish is blessed to have a boys troop and a girls troop as real-life examples of living our mission.
They visit people in their homes, in convalescent hospitals, in assisted living residences, rehabilitation centers, and at both Pleasant Valley Hospital and St. John’s Hospital in Oxnard. Some of our ministers work full time and have families. Some are retired, and are generously making good use of their free time. They try, at each encounter, to spend some social time with their communicant, lead the sick in brief but intense and worshipful prayer, and then offer them communion.
I frequently note how deeply connected these ministers become to their charges, often accompanying them from home care, to hospital and convalescent care, all the way to their deaths, at times even attending their funerals. From personal experience, I can attest to the beautiful faith of our elderly and sick parishioners. I often feel that I receive more than those I visit, whose trust in, and love of the Lord is often so deep.
Those that do will often exhibit many other beautiful qualities of generosity, tenderness, prayerfulness and compassion. In effect, they resemble Jesus, at least to me.
This ministry is not for everyone. I encourage you to consider joining this marvelous company of Christlike, quiet heroes. You don’t have to be wise or eloquent. You do need a caring heart, but I bet that’s already true about you.
Give this service some deep thought.
When applying for a graduate teaching program after college, one of the interview questions centered on my favorite Gospel story that relates to teaching. Relying on my years in Catholic elementary and high school, I suggested Jesus’ parable of the mustard seed. As educators, we plant small seeds and nurture them to grow into marvelous things!
Before staying home with our two sons, my wife was also a Catholic school teacher and principal. In her office was a quote by William Butler Yeats that read, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” We light small sparks that will grow and bring light and warmth to those who surround it.
I share these anecdotes this week as we begin the celebration of National Catholic Schools’ Week – an opportunity to recognize the tremendous achievements of the 6,429 Catholic schools across the United States.
Catholic schools are where students are able to learn, serve, lead, and ultimately succeed. Seeds are planted and sparks are lit every single day in our Catholic schools.
I feel so tremendously blessed to be principal at our very own Catholic school at St. Mary Magdalen here in Camarillo. It is a privilege to work with a dedicated and enthusiastic faculty and a tremendous honor to partner with amazing parents in the education of their children. It is with these teachers and parents that seeds are planted and small sparks are nurtured.
I am certainly proud of the academic achievements of our students that see them typically score above the national average on standardized tests and advance to the top high schools in our area. I’m also proud of the wide range of opportunities we are able to offer our students during the school day such as Spanish and music as well as after school activities including a wide variety of clubs and sports.
We help our students to grow and flourish in so many ways, but I truly believe the most important seeds we plant and flames we fan are that of our students’ faith. To be able to start every day in prayer, celebrate Mass together once a week as a school community, and openly talk with students about our shared Catholic faith is something I most enjoy about my job and something that sets our school apart from others. We prepare students to not only be productive citizens of this world, but also develop them to one day be citizens of heaven.
The work that we do is something that cannot be done without your prayers and support and to my fellow Padre Serra parishioners, I offer humble words of deep gratitude. Your generosity over the years allows us to continue to grow and thrive. This is your school community and you are such an important part of the educational journey and faith development of all our children.
You are there with us as we plant seeds and light the fire.
Principal, St. Mary Magdalen School
Today’s Gospel and Old Testament readings have to do with a call that Jonah experienced and that Simon, Andrew,
James and John all heard from Jesus and to which they responded. It’s a call to discipleship and it’s one that is meant for all of us.
Many of us heard the story of Jonah in the belly of the fish when we were young. I find it interesting that the church
chose to skip that part of the story for today’s reading which begins:
The word of the LORD came to Jonah, saying: "Set out for the great city of Nineveh, and announce to it the message that I will tell you." So Jonah made ready and went to Nineveh, according to the LORD'S bidding.
The reason Jonah was in the belly of the fish was because he first attempted to escape God’s call by literally fleeing on a ship. When God sent a storm, the sailors threw Jonah overboard, and the fish swallowed him. Three days later, returned to dry land (I’ll spare you the details), Jonah had a different attitude. I wonder if the point is that one way or another, it’s best to respond to God’s call, which is constant and unyielding, even in the face of our disobedience and imperfection.
The disciples that responded so readily to Jesus’ call in today’s Gospel were also far from perfect. Remember how they bickered over who would get to sit at Jesus’ right hand in the coming kingdom? Remember how they fell asleep at Gethsemane and abandoned him at Calvary? Yet they are saints – examples for all of us, celebrated for centuries by the church to which we belong.
So if the call to discipleship is unyielding and uncompromising, and meant for all of us, to what exactly are we being
In the Gospel, Jesus calls the disciples to follow him, and they do. What does following Jesus mean? To what are we to follow him? To preaching (announcing the good news that the reign of God is at hand and within), teaching, healing, prayer, obedience, redemptive suffering, death and resurrection. I realize that many of those words may sound churchy or foreign to us living as we do in the complex world of 2018. But they are what we are called to, according to the gifts we’ve been given, by virtue of our baptism. And if we, in our weakness and imperfection will try to respond to the call, God will bring great blessings to our world and to us.
When Jonah preached repentance as he’d been commanded, “the people of Nineveh believed God … When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way, he repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to them; he did not carry it out.”
When Jesus’ disciples obeyed the command to go and teach all nations, a church that none of them could imagine grew to span centuries and to touch all parts of our world. Ours is a church that has accomplished tremendous good, even though it is made up of imperfect, weak and disobedient people just like you and me, who have tried to respond to God’s call, relying on God’s grace.
Liturgy and Music Minister
I write this message from the foggy, cool mountaintop home of Serra Retreat Center in Malibu. Fifty women from our parish are retreating to pray on the Epiphany readings and reflect on the stars in our lives, those guiding lights that point us to Jesus. I love beginning a new year with a retreat. This “vacation with God” is a wonderful opportunity to refuel and recommit time and energy to my spiritual journey. While I highly recommend and encourage a weekend retreat to anyone, scheduled intentional time with God to reflect on the Sunday readings each week from the comfort of our own home is just as valuable. God has some message for each of us. We just need to carve out the time in our ordinary day to listen. It’s that simple.
The theme of today’s readings is God’s invitation and our response (1). In the first reading, Samuel does not recognize the voice calling his name while he is sleeping: “Samuel, Samuel!” After the third time, his mentor Eli finally tells him what to say. What always strikes me about this story is the trust with which Samuel responds, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” For the rest of Samuel’s life, the Lord was with him always. It was that simple.
In the gospel, we hear another call and response. John the Baptist and two of his disciples encounter Jesus.
They are curious about him and what he is doing. Jesus said, “Come and you will see.” What did they do?
They followed Jesus with complete trust! It was that simple.
I wonder what those soon-to-be-apostles were thinking. What did they think they were going to see?
Today marks the beginning of Ordinary Time and the readings in the coming weeks will show us exactly what the apostles saw and experienced. They will walk us through Jesus’ daily life. If we are willing to go as the apostles did, we too will see, learn, and experience Jesus’ examples of love, forgiveness, healing, and ministry.
Ordinary daily life is where God shows up. Often times I think God is just saying hello. Other times I believe God is saying, “Listen up. Have I got something for you?” Every day, every week God invites us to confront real issues. How can I love the neighbor who irritates me? Can I forgive the family member who wronged me? What can I offer the homeless person on the corner? How can I comfort my grieving friend? We can never go wrong when we discern a situation and respond with loving Christian values.
Let’s journey together these coming weeks so we too can see and respond to God’s call to live our ordinary lives with extraordinary love. I promise it’s really that simple.
Faith Life Minister
(1) At Home with the Word 2018
Dear Faith Family,
Merry Christmas to all of you and a Happy New Year as well!
I feel like I get the bulletin letter every year around this same time. This is one of my favorite letters to write because of our celebration of the Epiphany of Our Lord.
In my previous Epiphany letters, I remember writing about us being the star that leads people to Christ. A star so bright that people cannot help but to be compelled with what makes you so vibrant. While this still rings true, there is another element in the story of the Three Wise Men on Epiphany; the presentation of gifts to the Christ child.
During this New Year, we will all make resolutions that will help us be the best version of ourselves. The normal resolutions of eating healthier, spending more time with family and various things like this. These resolutions are wonderful ways to help live life more vibrantly and can also help us learn to love others in an unconditional way and we should not shy away from the wonderful promises to ourselves.
But in what ways though, can we learn to unconditionally serve our Lord? A great example can be seen in the Wise Men, by presenting their gifts.
This year, I pray that we become more conscious of the idea of what our gifts are. Once we become aware of our personal gold, frankincense, and myrrh then we become more aware of the best way we can serve.
Self-reflection is very important for our personal lives, but we often forget that when we get to know ourselves better (in our faults and weaknesses), then we gain the opportunity to serve in the most unconditional way imaginable.
So, friends, I invite you all to take time to see who God created you to be. It’s easy to spot the things in our lives that influence a healthy lifestyle. But this year, I invite you to take time to truly reflect on your gifts and talents. If you gain more clarity when it comes to those things, then I invite you to bring the gifts to God and ask Him how he wants you to serve Him.
God bless you all and Happy Epiphany everybody!
Youth and Young Adult Minister
I remember the anticipation I felt as we drove to my grandparents’ home each New Year’s Eve. I so enjoyed the aroma of various meats, vegetables, dumplings and spices that filled the air as we arrived. Let’s face it though, as a young boy I also loved sneaking sweets just before dinner. I always thought I got away with it but I had fooled no one. My parents just watched, smiled and said nothing. They had wisely realized that these were childhood moments to be cherished, appreciated and even ‘hidden’ at times. Little did I know that in their actions I was also being taught how to treat others and deal with relationships. Over time, the education also grew and became more challenging but always provided greater insights.
Considering the impact my parents had in my life, I cannot help but wonder how Jesus, Mary and Joseph interacted with one another as a family. We honor them as role models and share our innermost thoughts with them. In many ways we feel we know this family quite well yet questions remain. For example, aside from Jesus’ early years and his time in the temple at age 12, little is known about him as a child, teenager or young adult. A single line in today’s Gospel reads, “The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom.” Reflecting on this verse however, I now realize this may not represent a gap or an open question at all. It could rather be an invitation for us to consider how Jesus grew up and learned the ways of the world by watching Mary and Joseph. It could provide us with our own opportunities within our own families.
We might define our family unit as traditional, nontraditional or communal yet we all are part of the one family of God. Armed with this truth and in celebration of today’s Feast of the Holy Family, I offer the following suggestions as we continue to hone our own ability to grow and participate more fully as active family members:
Happy New Year. Endless Blessings,
Deacon Luc Papillon
When politics are intense, and contentious, when hillsides and homes are burning, when the news sources offer a steady stream of grim stories, how do we lift our spirits? How do we find joy? Where do we find peace? We always need to have an answer to these questions because every year, every age, has its own agony.
Jesus chose just such a time to enter into our human history. Rome had conquered everyone in the known world. Millions had been forced into slavery, and most others lived at the margins of hunger, making only just enough to get by, from hand to mouth, day by day. Good farmland was hard to come by; so much of it had been depleted. Lives for peasants were hard and short. Judea was just a tiny kingdom, subject to the whims of Roman emperors and governors. Both Nazareth and Bethlehem were tiny backwaters.
It was that very moment and place of desperation that the Lord chose to enter into human history. In dark times, He is the unfailing light. In uncertainty, He is the Unchanging Word of God. In your struggle, He is strength. In poverty, He is the richness of the Father. In your loneliness, He is God with you and for you. He knows your story. He can feel your pain. He shared in it in His own time, and walks with you now.
I encourage you to place your burdens at the foot of the manger, where the Creator of All reveals Himself in the helplessness of a baby. I also invite you to take from that simple gathering, birthed by Mary and sheltered by Joseph, renewed commitment to foster the Lord in your own life.
May this Christmas time bring you hope, the real hope that endures all changes and human problems. May this New Year find you and all you love, richly blessed with all you truly need. May the Infant of Bethlehem be reborn in your home and life.
I wish you and all you love a Merry Christmas, and joy in the New Year!
Also visit: Christmas Masses
My Dear Parish Family,
In the Gospel today, John cried out in the desert, “Make straight the way of the Lord.” John is pointing to Jesus and encouraging us to abandon our crooked ways, our self-centered paths. John points to Jesus in his statement, and then recedes into the background. His actions say, “It’s not about me, it is about him.” I wonder what percent of our actions say it is not about me. How do we point to Jesus? Daily. Do we recede into the background?
It is easy to see examples of when folks are behaving selfishly, in general we seem to be less trained or focused on when people get things right. I want to stay positive ... I love that we have 466 parking spots at church and six of them are dedicated to visitors. When I see them full, I rejoice! What a dishonor it would be if able-bodied parishioners used those spaces. We are all grateful to the wonderful hospitality ministers that brew fresh coffee, 275 pots a year, 5 every Sunday plus Christmas and Easter. What a dishonor it would be to grumble about one pot that is a little delayed. Take it from St. John, it is not about me, it is about our Lord Jesus. How can we point to him? Offer others good parking and hot coffee.
I have been talking with middle school children about growing up and growing into a deeper, more lived out sense of Christian responsibility. I am proud to hear their ideas and even more proud to witness their actions such as hosting bake sales to raise money for hurricane and fire victims, picking up trash, saying ‘hello’ to people in wheel chairs, helping with Angel Tags.
There is so much goodness in the world! It seems it has to do with giving. Giving consideration to others ahead of myself. Giving to Angel Tags gifts. Giving time and so much talent at the Christmas concert. Giving prayers and words of encouragement to those in need. Giving the gift of ourselves, our time, to our loved ones. Consider going to a movie, mass or a ball game, baking cookies, helping to shop or wrap packages or decorate, whatever you are good at or want to be good at … try doing it for someone you care about. When we empty ourselves of
self-centeredness, we make space that fills up with the love of Jesus. We point to Jesus.
In a spirit of networking, I want to share that in January, we will be looking for a new Business Manager for the parish. We will advertise both in and outside the parish. We trust that God will bring us the right person to manage our business processes, connect with the people that God brings to our doors, and lead us in ways to Encounter Jesus and Be Disciples.
In a spirit of giving, I want to remind everyone, including my own family, tis the season! To remember our favorite charitable organizations and of course the parish in year-end giving. It is easy to get busy and postpone this task. It is so important to keep the parish not only going, but growing. The fruit of the gifts of our hands is immeasurable. I am convinced that God is working in and through the people of Padre Serra Parish to point to Jesus. Thank you.
God bless you and all those you love this Christmas,
Parish Life Minister
Dear Parish Family,
Happy and Blessed Advent. One of our family traditions is to get together and decorate the Christmas tree and house. We want the house to be festive, perfect to celebrate Christmas. One of the most important rules when doing this with a group of people is always leave a clear path so that others can get through. When we forget to do this, it never fails that someone will trip over the boxes, ending with a decoration casualty.
It made me think of our readings this Sunday. We are told, “Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her service is at an end. 1 A voice of one crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.’ 2 The Lord does not delay his promise ... the day of the Lord will come.” 3
Like John the Baptist, we are messengers in service to one who is greater than we are. Our Baptism commissions us to call others to life as disciples of Jesus. Christmas is not just the celebration of his birth but a reminder his second coming is near.
I ask myself, am I clearing the path for myself as well as for others to receive our Lord? What clutter do I have in the way, which can trip my step or impairs my vision to see Christ in others? How do I help others to have an encounter with Christ? How am I making this Christmas Christ-centered? How will I help others have a Holier Christmas?
I am setting new goals for this Advent season to keep my focus on our Lord; will you join me? Participate in
faith-growing opportunities and bring a friend. Invite at least one person to join me for Christmas Mass, and to our home. Gifts that will last all year long, gifts of presence, encouragement, support, understanding, patience and unconditional love. Put faith into action, get involved or support a charity. Be a reflection of God’s Love to others.
May your Advent season be Holy.
Faith Formation Minister
1 Is 40-15
2 Mk1: 3
3 2 Pt 3: 9
Happy New Year! Our liturgical year of 2018 starts today, with the beginning of the season of Advent. Advent is a time of preparation for 1. the Second Coming of Jesus Christ at the Last Judgement and 2. the commemoration of his first coming in history at Bethlehem. The focus really shifts to preparing for Christmas only from December 17th on. Until then, the Church calls us to prepare for the Lord’s return. Several phrases from today’s Scriptures speak of this.
In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah, speaking on our behalf prays
“Would that you might meet us doing right,
that we were mindful of you in our ways!”
I love the longing implicit in that prayer. But sometimes it seems like a tall order, since it seems so much easier not to be mindful of the Lord, and not to be always doing what is right. Murphy’s Law says that’s when the Lord will come, will meet us, so what hope do we have?
Responding to the first reading, we sing with the psalmist “Lord, make us turn to you, show us your face, and we shall be saved.” Make us? What happened to free will? Our friends who work 12-step programs may have something useful here. They advocate praying for willingness when it seems beyond our capacity to do right, to be mindful of the Lord in our ways. And honoring the sometimes incremental nature of surrender to God’s will, one can even pray for the willingness to be willing, or to become willing. While he will never force us, God can work with the tiniest crack in our defenses!
In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus exhorts us
“Be watchful! Be alert!
You do not know when the time will come.”
Just last week, we heard the Gospel story of the Last Judgement where Jesus separates the sheep from the goats – those who cared for him (by caring for one another) from those who did not. It is as clear a declaration as any that what we do matters – that God cares how we treat one another. So when we choose generosity over grasping, compassion over violence, we are in fact becoming Jesus’ disciples, and truly preparing to be met doing right, and mindful of the Lord in our ways.
In the second reading, St. Paul assures the community at Corinth (and us)
“…you are not lacking in any spiritual gift
as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
So, it seems, anxiety is not needed – just faith in God’s grace to help us be ready when Jesus comes again, when we can say, and mean: “Maranatha! Lord Jesus come!”
Worship and Music Minister
I remember as a child arguing with my siblings and cousins about who got to sit next to Grandma. We loved her so much and just wanted to snuggle up close and feel her love. Fortunately, Grandma had two sides and a lap so at least three of us could be lucky at any given time! In today’s gospel Jesus explains that God has two sides as well.
This gospel is about the final judgment when God will separate us as a shepherd does with the good and bad animals of his flock. The good are identified as the sheep and the bad as goats. The sheep and goats represent all the nations, all peoples who will be called together for this judgment. The point of the sheep and goat image is that all of us, you and me, will be judged by God on the basis of loving the least, how well we care for the weak and disadvantaged. Caring for the least of our sisters and brothers is our highest calling!
We’ve been hearing this theme of judgment in recent Sundays, as we always do at the end of the liturgical year. Today’s very direct and demanding gospel bridges us to the theme of preparedness in the coming weeks of Advent. So today, we are given the opportunity to reflect and evaluate how we’re doing, what are we really doing for the least then act. The kingdom of here and now is one of action and deeds and the season of Advent lends itself to simple, easy ways, or entry points, to care for the weak and disadvantaged in our midst:
Then let us take caring to the next level. The New Year is a good time to renew our commitment and challenge ourselves to move out of our comfort zone to care for others. If our judgment is based on what we do for “the least,” what side do we want to be on?
Will you be on the left with the goats, or will you be with the sheep on the right side, enjoying the splendor and abundant love of God’s heavenly kingdom?
Faith Life Minister
Dear Faith Family,
Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!
It has officially been 18 days since the Los Angeles Dodgers have broken my heart, so I think it’s time for me to get over it and talk about what it means to be thankful.
I say that jokingly (kinda), but there does seem to be a funny stereotype around Thanksgiving. In every movie and TV show that revolves around the theme of this holiday, the same thing happens. The scene starts off wonderfully; family members arriving, enjoying each other’s company, but inevitably, usually during the dinner scene, something is said and BAM! the drama begins. The good news is, by the end of the film, someone advocated for peace and harmony during this holiday, and the family comes to their senses and expresses all that they are thankful for.
Sometimes to be thankful is an easy task when something great has happened in our lives. This is indeed the proper response to any great news or life event, God has given us the ability to feel this way. Sometimes I am in awe about the way our God has created us in such a unique way.
Sometimes also, in our busy lives, especially during this busy holiday season, we need to take a step back and allow ourselves to be thankful. Allow the ability to take a break from business to reflect on the good in our lives to be the protagonist in the holiday film, helping us to understand that we have a lot to be grateful for.
So, what am I grateful for? A beautiful wife, a wonderful daughter, great family and friends and a great parish family. I’m especially grateful to all the leaders that dedicate so much time to youth and young adult ministry. I can’t remember how many times I’ve ever stated my gratitude for them previously, but I know that I haven’t stated it enough.
That’s my growing list of the things I’m currently thankful for. And I know this is the thanksgiving holiday bulletin letter, but I must make sure to express my gratitude to God for these things as well, because through Him, I have all these things and I’m able to understand what love truly is.
So, with all that said, what are you thankful for? Before you prep up that wonderful Thanksgiving speech this Thursday, why don’t you give a practice speech to God in your nightly prayer? I’m sure he would love to hear it as well. Even if you’re still trying to get over the World Series.
Youth and Young Adult Minister
November 19, 2017
My Dear Parish Family,
Advent is only three weeks away! If Advent is the time to prepare for Christmas, this must be the time to prepare for Advent! What needs to be done? Today’s Gospel spells it out for us in two action items.
First, be present. How can we receive an invitation if we are not there or not reachable or not known? “Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.” Here I am Lord, pick me, use me. I am yours. Be present.
Second, be ready. This is not idle time, waiting, this is active time, living a Christian life every single day. “Those who were ready went into the feast.” Beyond get ready, be ready.
Here is the ‘lineup’ at Padre Serra for things that will help us be known to Jesus and be ready for his invitation:
Little Books – one of my favorite things – will be available beginning next weekend in the narthex (church lobby). These little blue books offer a short, rich reading and reflection for each day of Advent. The perfect accompaniment to that first cup of coffee or tea in the morning and a great way to be known and present to Jesus in prayer and have hearts that are ready for his invitation.
Additionally, next weekend please find opportunities to support Life Centers and St. Vincent de Paul through poinsettia plants and See’s candies and help people in need at home and in third world counties through the Angel Tags on the trees in church and Concern America crafts in the courtyard. Give the gift of life through blood donation right here on campus next Sunday.
In recent weeks, I have been enjoying watching reruns of the Andy Griffith Show from the 1960’s. Invariably, the characters end up on the front porch, usually after ‘supper’ singing songs, or reminiscing, or recapping their day. It is peaceful presence they have together, a gentle connectedness found among family and friends. Let’s identify the ‘porch moments’ in our lives … coffee in the courtyard on Sunday mornings, hospitality after the penance service, dinner and a concert, finding Jesus at every turn.
Let’s set our focus on Jesus. Enjoy our family over the Thanksgiving holiday, seeing Jesus in each person gathered. Taking the opportunity to be attentive and focus on relationships. Let’s talk about our bucket lists and what in our life has given us great satisfaction. I think a lot of living well and being ready has to do with having our priorities in order. Articulate them.
The church gave us the whole season of Advent! An entire season to prepare, to make ready, to be about Jesus. Hallmark and the retail industry want us to think it is Christmas before Halloween. I am going with the wisdom of the Church. In the bigger life view, Advent is the time that helps us prepare to see God someday. I want to spend my Advent being present to the people around me, helping in small and big ways every day and with my heart set on Jesus in all I think, do and say.
On that eventual day when the Bridegroom comes, it is a matter of ready, set, go.
Parish Life Minister
Our Gospel this week challenges us with a counter-cultural idea – “The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself with be exalted.” In our world today where there is so much emphasis placed on titles and accolades, how do we humble ourselves and serve those around us?
We can always look to the saints. One favorite is St. Therese of Lisieux, “The Little Flower.” St. Therese wrote, “What matters in life is not great deeds, but great love.” She lived a life of attention to others. She believed in living as one flower among all the other flowers in God’s garden.
From time to time we encounter people who, like our saints, inspire us. Over the past seven years, I’ve been blessed to work alongside someone who embodies this spirit of love, service, and humility in everything she does. While it is a daunting task to encapsulate who she is in a few short paragraphs, I am excited to celebrate quiet hero – Mrs. Liz Loll – retired St. Mary Magdalen School Vice Principal and Padre Serra parishioner and active volunteer.
The first time I met Liz, I remember being struck by how genuinely warm and friendly she was. In our conversation as we walked across the school campus, I could immediately tell that she was someone who loved what she did and shared that love with all those around her.
Liz had an amazing ability to seemingly be everywhere at once and always be in exactly the right place at exactly the right time to lend a hand. Whether it was a student who needed a little TLC or a parent who needed some sage advice or even a principal who needed a listening ear, Liz was always there with a cheerful attitude and a kind word. Never looking for recognition or praise. At school Liz was a visible and tangible sign of God’s love; the love that he has for each one of us.
One of her favorite roles was sharing her Catholic faith with our students. Whether teaching in the classroom, helping eighth graders with service at Many Meals, or preparing students to lead the community during weekly Mass, Liz was and is a beacon of faith to everyone around her.
Even though she retired from her daily responsibilities at the school last June, she is still very much involved at our school, parish and in our greater Camarillo community. Liz embodies the words of Mother Teresa who said, “Do small things with great love.” Liz serves those around her with great love, in her own beautiful and humble way.
Please join me in thanking and celebrating our friend and hero, Liz Loll!
Mike Ronan, Principle
Saint Mary Magdalen School