Dear Faith Family,
Happy New Year!
As you may know, with the beginning of Advent in our Church, we also celebrate the liturgical new year.
During our normal New Year’s celebrations it is not uncommon to have a countdown to midnight while sharing quality time with friends, but the most common tradition for New Year’s is the resolutions we keep for the betterment of ourselves. Might I suggest we do something similar for Advent?
Obviously, Advent is the countdown for one of our greatest feasts: Christmas! The birth of our Lord is obviously crucial for the loving Redemption that God has for us, but the celebration of Christmas is also such a wonderful opportunity for us to grow closer to God and to become better disciples.
In what ways can we spend more quality time with God? And what type of “New Year’s Resolutions” can we do during Advent? (It is the New Year, after all.)
Thankfully, we at Padre Serra are so blessed to have so many opportunities to dive into the season of Advent, and one of the most beautiful events is our Advent Penance Service on Wednesday, December 4.
For those who have not gone in a while, I can assure you that it is worth it. Whether is has been years, or days, I have never known a priest at our service to be upset with the length of time it has been since someone has gone to Reconciliation. In fact, I know plenty of stories of priests celebrating when people overcome their fears and go to Reconciliation. If you feel called to go, but are a little scared, I can assure you, IT IS NORMAL TO BE AFRAID OF RECONCILIATION.
During my time here at Padre Serra, I have been blessed to run the Year 2 Confirmation retreat. At most retreats, we offer Reconciliation for the candidates. The anxiety of the teens when they find out that the Sacrament is available is palpable, but every year the teens still go. It’s quite amazing. What is even more amazing, though, is the peace they have once they go and receive the grace of the Sacrament. It’s one of my favorite moments that I look forward to every year.
Again, if you are worried, I just want to assure you that you are not alone. If you haven’t gone in forever and forgot how it works, that’s fine! Reconciliation can be a scary thing. Even as someone who goes frequently, it is still a scary thing for me. But let me tell you, it’s definitely worth it.
I look forward to celebrating “the most wonderful time of the year” with all of you! With all of you, I am counting down the days to Christmas and am looking forward to another encounter of Christ.
Youth and Young Adult Minister
Can we ever be grateful enough? I don’t think so. Please know with certainty that one of my greatest points of gratitude is for you parishioners, for your goodness, for your support. I hope you have a longer list than mine. Consider making your own list. It lifts your heart!
May you have a lovely Thanksgiving, free of political discord, and full of affection, good food, and gratitude to the Lord, who makes all things possible.
Dear friends on the journey,
As we come to the end of our liturgical year next week and look forward to Christmas, we have gospels like today’s that look to the end of time when Jesus will return again and how we should prepare ourselves.
Today’s gospel sure paints a grim picture but we have to remember the context. Luke, taking inspiration from Mark’s writings, is describing Jesus’ already fulfilled prophesy of Jerusalem’s temple destruction in 70 AD, however the rest is to still to come “at an hour we do not know.” But Jesus tells us not to be terrified, to stand tall and persevere.
When our current view of life and experience of the world looks so much like the gospel’s bleak description of war, earthquakes, fire, famine, and persecution how can we possibly persevere and stand tall. Some days it feels like the end of the world and we wonder where God is in all of this. The big picture can be daunting. Hand in hand with the guarantee of pain, suffering and destruction is Jesus’ promise of God’s mercy, care and love for all of us collectively and individually.
This semester I am taking a class on one of our many Catholic spiritualities, Ignatian Spirituality, based on St. Ignatius of Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises. Very simple the focus of his spirituality is finding God in all things and one of his many exercises to do this is the Examen. It narrows the big picture into smaller, less overwhelming picture of our own lives. This simple reflective prayer, done even in 10 minutes at the end of the day, is a look back on your day to see where God was working and moving.
In five prompts you can find God’s presence, recall moments for which to be grateful, discern emotions and actions, review encounters that indicate the need for improvement, and look forward to another day.
I offer the Examen as a way of finding God in all ways of your daily living, whether it be in a season of easy going, a season of strife, and in this imperfect culture and impermanent world that is counter to the eternal life God promises us. This exercise provides a lens through which we see and experience God’s ever active love that helps us to not fear, to stand tall and to persevere in the here and now of life, as we celebrate Jesus’ coming this Christmas, prepare for his coming at the end of time, and most especially experience his presence among us now.
Faith Life Minister
At this time of year the daylight hours grow shorter as the nights become longer and colder. Leaves drop from the trees which seem to go into a suspended period of dormancy. And here in California, raging winds with their accompanying wildfires have become the “new normal.” These natural forces can turn our thoughts to the death of our loved ones, our own inevitable death and even to wondering about the end of the world. Many cultures, past and present, have customs, observances or rituals in the fall to deal with these realities, to remember departed loved ones and even to laugh at death.
The Church, in her wisdom, gives us HOPE at this time of year by focusing on resurrection and on God’s immeasurable love, mercy and faithfulness. As the liturgical year comes to an end over the next three weeks, the scriptures read at Mass may seem at first to be frightening and ominous, but their message is ultimately about God’s gift of eternal life. As Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel, God “is not God of the dead but of the living, for to him all are alive.”
The Resurrection is foundational to our Christian faith. At the end of the Apostle’s Creed, which we recite on Sunday, we say that we “believe in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.” Jesus’ resurrection is a promise of eternal life for all of us.
How do you imagine heaven will be? With our human limitations of understanding we use terms like paradise, banquet, clothed in white robes, shining like stars, being like angels, bathed in pure light. Or we think that heaven will be a better version of this life. But the life that God has in mind for us is beyond anything we can imagine!
For me, the most meaningful expression of heaven is this: God is LOVE and has loved us all into being. Ultimately we will be enfolded by the loving arms of God, Father, Son and Spirit, into their perfect bond of eternal love. What an existence that will be!
If anyone needs to hear and be reassured that they are loved by our good God, we hope that you were listening to today’s readings. If you weren’t really paying attention or if in the future you ever feel alone or unloved, these are great readings. In them we heard the fact that God is OUR CREATOR, that God has a never-ending love for us, we heard of God’s mercy and gentleness with sinners, and of God’s constant reaching out, searching for us, of God’s desire for us to know that we are loved.
In the first reading we heard of God’s love for ALL things that are and that God dislikes nothing that God made, that includes all of us! The unbelievable hugeness and allinclusive love God has for all of us no matter where we are or what we have done are the themes of today’s readings and our belief that the Scripture is God’s very own Word should give us strength and courage to face what we have to, what we need to do, to live our lives as disciples of Jesus.
God always desires to be in a relationship with us; He created us, and He wants to be a part of all we do. Sue and I have been married for 52 years and we have held hands many times during those years, it feels right and good. But all those many years ago I can still recall the feelings of being scared as I reached for her hand for the first time, what if she pulled away, what if she didn’t feel the same way I did. For many couples holding hands is their first experience of sharing intimacy, and it was for us. Before that first kiss, before even a hug, almost always comes that simple act of holding hands. In that grasp of hands lies the foundation of most relationships.
Now we go back and remember our readings today, the message that God reaches out and desires to be in relationship with us. From our first reading we heard proclaimed, “Oh Lord, lover of souls,” lover of all of us. God desires this relationship but never demands it. Instead God comes slowly “courting” us, quietly making his presence known in our lives, reaching out to hold our hands, patiently waiting for us to respond. As we heard in the Gospel with Zacchaeus, when we turn our gaze toward God our life changes, our life of faith begins. When we accept God’s offer of life and love, we are converted and transformed, our lives will never be the same again because our Creator and Lover is holding our hands.
Jesus came to Zacchaeus that day. Jesus comes to us today and salvation is always available to us as a reality that can enter our lives at any time if we only respond with a “yes” as we look back at that loving Jesus who is constantly looking at us. Did Zacchaeus even know that the power to make such a change in his life was in his heart? Do we? The power of Jesus’ gaze at each of us has the power to transform us beyond our wildest imagination!
Jesus asks if today he can dine at your home, knowing what that can mean in your life, what is your answer? Are we willing to take hold of Jesus’ hand and begin that relationship?
Deacon Bill and Sue Spies
Dear Friends, Reflecting on our lives as Catholic Christians, I have come to the conclusion that during our liturgies we are a people who are always moving toward someone or someplace with enthusiasm and joy. The use of parades for civic occasions and of processions for religious motives is common to all peoples. The Hebrew Testament and the Christian Testament provide biblical bases for the Judaeo-Christian practice of processions. The Christian procession is tied closely to the idea of pilgrimage. Life for us is a journey from one place to another. A journey becomes a pilgrimage when it is undertaken for God and seeks God as its ultimate goal. The great example of all this is, the pilgrimage of the People of Israel out of the bondage of Egypt through the desert to the promised land.
What does this insight have to do with altar servers? Are the altar servers involved in processions? Absolutely! At each liturgy, our altar servers are involved in both functional and special processions. The functional processions include the entrance and closing processions, procession of the gifts, the Gospel Procession, minor processions to the altar to bring up the chalice, the Sacramentary, communion cups, purificators and bread plates. And of course the Communion Procession which is the ritual expression of our identity as fellow pilgrims on a journey together to the heavenly banquet, singing as we walk.
Servers serve the prayer life of the assembly. They remind us of our journey toward the Lord. They know how to walk in the sacred space. They know the direction and they have a sense of purpose. They do not call attention to themselves. They facilitate worship with focus, moving from one place to another, making it happen easily with care and grace. By their actions they point to what is important and they lead the processions by example.
Altar servers are the youthful members of our community, they energize us and remind us of our journeying toward the Lord. They lead us silently, providing focus as to what is important in our liturgies.
In closing, I leave you with the words of Psalm 100: “Shout joy to the Lord, serve the Lord with gladness, enter God’s presence with joy and enter the temple with thanks and praise.” Our altar servers give joy to our hearts as they lead us in the many processions toward the God who calls us by name.
Altar Server Ministry Director
Today’s readings are among several that deal with persistence, an aspect of character that can be seen as a defect or as praiseworthy, depending on the circumstances and who the target of the persistence may be.
In the case of the first reading, Moses is persistent (with the help of Aaron and Hur when he gets tired) in holding up the staff of God. While he does so, Israel has the better of the fight against Amalek (who came and waged war). There was nothing magical about the staff itself. It was a symbol of Moses’ faith in a faithful God’s promises. It could be valuable to reflect upon who helps us with our persistence? Who is our Aaron? Our Hur? What is symbolic of our faith in God’s promises?
In Luke’s gospel, we have another story of a judge who fears neither God nor respects any human still deciding to render a just decision for a widow simply because of her persistence. I remember when I first heard this passage (many years ago) I thought that the judge in the story was a metaphor for God when we pray. It was only later that I realized that the judge in the story actually functions as a contrast to how God responds to our persistence. Again, when what we ask is in accord with God’s nature (kindness, love, beauty, truth, mercy, wisdom, justice), “Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night? Will he be slow to answer them? I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
One can almost feel Jesus’ weariness when he asks that last question. C.S. Lewis has said: “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are halfhearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”1
Perhaps if we had a better sense of what God wants to give us, it would influence what we asked for, and how persistently we did so.
In our second reading, St. Paul exhorts us in proclaiming the word to “be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage [emphasis mine] through all patience and teaching.”
It seems to me that persistence is also called for in our efforts to evangelize. To dispense with the million-dollar word, I could put it this way: persistence is also called for in looking constantly for the opportunity to introduce others to our faith by building relationship with them, and inviting them to come with us to Padre Serra – whether it’s to Mass, to an educational gathering, or to a purely social event.
Liturgy and Music Minister
1 The Weight of Glory, and Other Addresses
Dear parish family,
Last Sunday in our gospel we are told that if we have faith the size of a mustard seed, we could tell a mulberry tree to uproot itself and it would obey.
Today we hear about how Jesus encounters and heals ten lepers who shouted out to him, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!”. The Good News of our gospel this Sunday isn’t only that he healed them, but the fact that it was all ten. Yet, only one returns, and is described as glorifying God and returning to thank Jesus. The one who returns is a Samaritan, a foreigner. In the Jewish circles in which Jesus lived, Samaritans were looked down upon because of the differences between the two communities, the Samaritans were not part of the “chosen people.” Jesus could have chosen those who were “worthy” but he makes no distinction between them; they are all his people.
The good news for us once again, is that God’s Salvation is for ALL of us. Just like this man whom the Jewish community did not consider worthy of God’s mercy or healing; when God answers his prayer he cannot stop himself from immediately praising God, thanking him. He recognizes God’s mercy and the gift of healing. Jesus then goes on to tell the man, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.” This is significant; his faith and trust in God is rewarded.
Now with his new clean self, he is sent out, “ Stand up and go.” He needs to go out into the world, not stay in hiding anymore.
We too may have many needs of healing, physical or spiritual; let us too cry out to our Lord, “ Jesus Master! Have pity on us,” and may our faith and trust in God, and especially our gratitude be self evident. For our Lord looks to do great things for us.
Faith Formation Minister
Dear Faith Family,
As you may know, we have great plans for the future of our parish campus. In our vision, we have plans to build both a new youth center and choir room with offices for youth ministry and music and liturgy. It is quite a big dream, but I am confident that with your help, we can achieve it.
As the person who facilitates both our high school Confirmation session and our weekly youth group, I can tell you that there is definitely a need for a dedicated space for our youth and young adults at the parish.
It is not uncommon for each year of our Confirmation process to have 130-140 teens and leaders in attendance. Before each session, all people involved in the program gather for lunch in the San Juan Capistrano rooms. These rooms are unable to fit the number of people that are involved. Because of the lack of space, we potentially miss out on various evangelistic opportunities and it adds an obstacle for community building for those who need it.
A dedicated youth space is also desired so we can create a more effective home-away-from-home for our teens and young adults. Many of our teens love to spend time at their parish, but they find it difficult because the only dedicated space is quite small. There are times where we have dozens of people cramming into a leisure space that can comfortably fit 46 people.
To create a comfortable space for the youth and young adults of the parish would only increase the opportunities for our young people to encounter Jesus and to be disciples.
Of course, none of this can happen without the help from all of you. Because of this, I want to invite you to contribute in any way that you can. Through Called to Renew we are given an opportunity to contribute to this necessary cause.
Thank you so much for your willingness to contribute and I am looking forward to experiencing this great renewal with all of you!
Youth and Young Adult Minister
If you’re like me, you occasionally catch yourself in your own self-centeredness and remember (for a moment,
anyway) that to be a disciple of Jesus Christ is to care for and to serve others.
Today’s gospel story is of the rich man who dined sumptuously each day while the poor man Lazarus (not the same Lazarus that Jesus raises from the dead in the gospel of John) languishes at his door. Lazarus is quite literally dying for scraps from the rich man’s table, and suffering the indignity of dogs licking his sores.
In the first reading, the prophet Amos warns “Woe to the complacent ... they shall be the first to go into exile, and their wanton revelry shall be done away with.” It’s a little unsettling, isn’t it? And so is the fate of the rich man who ends up in torment in the netherworld.
In today’s responsorial psalm we sing that the LORD:
How does the LORD accomplish these things today? He ascended into heaven 2000+ years ago. In the 16th Century, St. Teresa of Avila said it this way: “Christ has no body now but yours, no hands but yours to heal the wounded world; no eyes but yours to gaze with compassion; no feet but yours to walk this world with mercy and justice.”
So, when we are roused from our complacency and see the suffering of others around us, it is up to us to act, to care, to share. St. Paul says to Timothy in today’s second reading “I charge you before God, who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus ... to keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The commandment to which Paul refers could be the Great Commandment: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind, and all your strength and love your neighbor as yourself.
Someone once said that the Word of God doesn’t just comfort the afflicted, it also afflicts the comfortable. I think this is one of those Sundays. Kyrie eleison!
Music and Liturgy Minister
I’m happy, upon occasion, to call your attention to the people who have made our parish such a vibrant community. I’d like to draw your attention, this week, to some lovely, generous people who work together, most often behind the scenes, to make our liturgies come alive. My focus, this week, is on those who work deep under cover: our wonderful sacristans.
The setup for Mass can be complicated. Chalices and ciboria (the plates for the Hosts) need to be prepared for both priests and eucharistic ministers, along with their linens (we call them “purificators”). Before each Mass, a check is made of the number of consecrated Hosts in the tabernacle so that the approximate number for the next liturgy can be prepared in the right vessels.
Seat covers, reserving seats for deacons, altar servers and visiting priests, need to be on the required chairs in the assembly well before the early birds arrive. Linens for the altar need to be in place, as well as the Roman Missal, tabbed correctly for the particular prayers set aside for the day.
The sacristan keeps an eye out on the sign-in sheet for eucharistic ministers and lectors, to ensure that backups are recruited if the assigned ministers are unable to attend.
During the liturgy, the sacristans keep careful eye on the altar servers, especially when their leader, Bob Shadduck, is not present. The servers are very well trained, and beautifully willing, but they are children, and profit from encouragement and oversight.
Once the liturgy begins, if anything goes sideways, often enough, the sacristans have observed it and are half way to solving the problem before I even detect it!
During the Our Father, the sacristans go to the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, to bring the ciborium from the tabernacle, placing it on the altar during the Lamb of God, and distributing the Hosts into the plates used by the ministers. On rare occasions, they step in to take the place of a eucharistic minister. Every now and then, in ways we can never predict, far more people show up than normal, and sacristans step up to make sure that all the stations have as many Hosts as they need.
As communion draws to a close, and the liturgy finishes, it is so very important that the vessels from Mass be cleansed in a conscientious and reverent way, which the sacristans do with great care. They then leave careful notes for the sacristan for the next liturgy to help them in the next setup.
Sacristans come very early to the liturgy, and don’t leave until most everyone has long departed. They bring me a real peace of mind, allowing me, both before and after the liturgy, to greet you all on your way through the doors. I learned long ago to trust their expertise and competence. How, ever, would I thank these people enough?
Fr. Patrick Pastor
Dear Parish Family,
Today’s Gospel seems to begin problematically ... a sheep got lost, a coin was mislaid, and a son left home. Yet the main message this Sunday is to rejoice! What was lost is found! “In just the same way, I tell you, there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” This is good news, our loving and merciful God is always waiting for us to return to him. We are called to take part in the sharing of the good news with others. When we share about our faith experience and help bring others to an encounter with Jesus, this is a catechetical moment.
Each year, the Catholic Church in the United States designates the third Sunday in September as “Catechetical Sunday” — a day to celebrate and pray for the Church’s mission to teach the Gospel to all people. Catechists and teachers will be commissioned and blessed at the 11:00 am Mass this Sunday. I invite you to listen closely as this invitation is not for just a few, but for us all. This year’s theme is “Stay with Us,” quoting the two disciples on the road to Emmaus who invited Jesus to stay with them (Luke 24:13-35). For Jesus is the ultimate teacher, whom we strive to imitate. Likewise in our own spiritual journey which we began the day of our Baptism, at times we are like the disciples, lost in need of guidance, open to be the learners. At times we will be like Jesus, listening and accompanying, and helping others understand all that Jesus taught and showed us about the Father. As catechists, we answer the call to share our faith with others, deepening our own faith in the process.
There are many ways we can answer our call to be catechists. Each one of us unique in our gifts and talents, which we are meant to use as his disciples and bring others to Encounter Jesus. I hope you have had the opportunity to visit the various ministries both last Sunday and today. There is a ministry for you. Where do you feel called to serve? No experience necessary.
To all catechists in our lives, parents and grandparents, priests and deacons, religious sisters, church family, all who have been encounters of Jesus in our lives, we thank you! Rejoice!
Faith Formation Minister
For the past thirty years, our family has been a part of the Padre Serra Community. We have worked, served and prayed alongside wonderful individuals who have been generous in their financial giving and their participation in parish ministries. While becoming involved in these ministries I have witnessed firsthand our parishioners’ generosity, goodwill and kindness.
Many of you may not be aware that there is a parish finance council. The finance council’s main focus is to review financial matters of the parish, to act in an advisory capacity, and to provide guidance to our parish leaders. The finance council members have diverse financial experiences, which is beneficial in providing sound financial advice that will help fulfill the vision and mission of the parish. The current members of the finance council are: Fr. Patrick, Jerry DeVillers, Chase Lichtenstein, Laura Meissner, Kathy Milner, Gene West, Kevin Hrabovsky and Joe Loll.
I remember as a young boy growing up in our family of six, that we always helped and supported our parish community. My parents looked upon our parish as part of our extended family so weekly giving was part of our commitment to the parish. Since then, it has become a tradition as part of our family too. Our financial contributions go to support Padre Serra parish in many ways, including to assist the neediest among us, to keep our church community informed in its current Catholicity, and to provide a welcoming environment where our community spirit will continue to grow.
We don’t want to be in a situation that Jesus warned about in today’s gospel, “This one began to build but did not have the resources to finish.” Our focus needs to be not only on our current results but we also need to be sure that we have the financial resources to meet the needs of the parish community on a long-term basis. This is the finance challenge of our parish: to meet the short-term needs while preparing for the major expenditures that are inevitable with the aging of the physical structures of the parish. With your support we can accomplish these goals.
Thank you for your continued support of Padre Serra parish through your prayers, financial giving and ministry participation. “One individual cannot possibly make a difference alone. It is individual efforts, collectively, that make a noticeable difference — all the difference in the world.”Jane Goodall.
Padre Serra Finance Council Chair
Also visit: 2019 Parish Financial Report
When I was in eighth grade, our class made a trip to the high desert to do some stargazing where there were few city lights and no smog or marine layer to get in the way of viewing the night sky. The view of the countless stars and the Milky Way galaxy was stunning. Through the telescope our science teacher brought we were able to see three of the four large moons of Jupiter. It was on this trip that my appreciation and love for astronomy began.
But what I remember most of all from that trip was something he said to us. He said something to the effect, “When I look into this telescope and am able to see the stars beyond the stars, my belief in God is strengthened.” When we pause to consider the immensity of all that God has created and put into motion, it is humbling to say the least.
When we awaken with breath in body, opening our eyes to see the sun shining and opening the window to hear the world around us, we are gifted. We do not have direct control over the very basic things of our life and our world. Miraculously, our heart beats, the sun shines, plants grow, the world moves in its perfect design without our involvement at all. This is all God’s doing.
In today’s gospel, Jesus is invited to a dinner and observes how the guests are jockeying for the places of honor. He tells the parable of the wedding banquet to challenge us to put aside seeking status and prestige grounded in the false ideals of power, authority and wealth. By telling us to “not recline at the place of honor,” Jesus is telling us to let go of only thinking about ourselves and instead consider the other. Later in the parable Jesus tells his host to not invite people who are able to return the favor, but instead invite those who are in no position to reciprocate.
Every week, we are privileged to gather at the banquet of the Eucharist. At this banquet, we are invited to love our host, the God who created all things. We are all called and equally worthy to be at the banquet. Can we quiet ourselves enough to be full of gratitude for the invitation and rejoice in all that we have? In response to that gratitude, can we humble ourselves and be present to serve those in our midst who are marginalized: the poor, the homeless and the outsider?
Deacon Joe Torti
Dear Faith Family,
This Summer has been an eventful one!
As you may know, Summer in Youth Ministry is generally busy, albeit fruitful. We have activities 4 times a week. Mondays, we have fellowship at a local coffee bean, Tuesdays we have Peer Leader Training and Wednesdays we have Bible Study (with free pizza), we also have the lounge open all day for anyone who wants to drop by.
Along with these daily activities we have various excursions as well. Our teens and Young Adults attend a Steubenville Conference in San Diego, we have a Peer Leader Retreat with 3 other parishes in the region and this year Howard Durand led us in a brand new Immersion Project in New Orleans. It’s safe to say that this Summer was a blast and it’s sad to see it come to an end.
With that said, our pursuit of discipleship isn’t limited to the Summers. In fact, part of the goal of the Summer activities is for the Youth and Young Adults to grow more comfortable with inviting others to share in their experience. Invitation is so vital for authentic for discipleship.
In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus tells us “…some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.” My prayer is that through these activities that all of us learn to invite others to a life in Christ, not out of pretension (being first) but as servants to love.
With our experiences in our Church (and our wonderful experiences at our parish) we have to always makes sure that we invite others because we have the yearning to share the one who is great.
Here’s to a wonderful end to our summer but an equally wonderful beginning of the fall!
“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.