Today’s reading from Mark’s gospel is one of my favorites, but with some caveats. I love what Jesus teaches his apostles after his conversation with James and John (Zebedee’s sons):
Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant;
whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.
For the Son of Man did not come to be served
but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.
It reminds me of a story one of our well-loved parishioners tells about when he and his wife first arrived at Padre Serra. She asked him how they would ever get to know people and be part of this new community into which they had moved. His answer was something like this: “That’s easy. Whatever activity or event we go to, we just stay after and help clean up.” They did that, and, sure enough, their experience was exactly as he’d predicted. They got to know more and more people, good people, who came to love and value them and they felt themselves more and more deeply drawn into the life of the parish and its people.
It is taking me a little longer to learn this lesson but I can say that in some cases where I’d rather not, but it seemed the only right thing to do, when I pitched in and helped with post-party or post-meeting cleanup, it has proved to be a way of connecting to other people and I walk away with a sense of peace.
I have a long way to go. This willingness to be of service comes from a radical sense of the value of the person we try to help, indeed, from an awareness of their having been made in God’s image and likeness. Saints see that value readily, even in the most wretched (St. Teresa of Calcutta comes to mind). For me, I have to make an effort of will sometimes, and ask for God’s help to see it in the people I encounter at home, or at work, or in the news.
Returning to the conversation between Jesus, James and John before the passage above. It seems that the two apostles are looking for a shortcut to greatness. “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.” When Jesus says to them “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” their glib response “we can” leaves me shaking my head at their apparent cluelessness. Of course James and John did go on to become great saints, so maybe there is hope for me when I am dense and self-absorbed, but not without cost:
The cup that I drink, you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized
If I read this correctly, there will be suffering for me, even were I to follow Jesus perfectly (which of course I can’t). It’s the second reading from the letter to the Hebrews that gives me (us) hope, in spite of my desire for glory and my reluctance sometimes to roll up my sleeves and serve. The author, referring to Jesus, says:
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin. So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.
Thanks be to God. Let’s pray for one another.
Dear Parish Family,
While running around doing my errands with my husband, there were two songs that came up in the playlist that really got my attention: The Beatles, Dear Prudence, followed by Baby, You’re a Rich Man. Funny that they both came up, as I was preparing to write this letter. I know those songs have nothing to do with our readings today, however the words that stayed with me echoed our message.
Such as the first words in the song, “Dear Prudence, won’t you come out to play” and the first words in our first reading, “I prayed, and prudence was given me; I pleaded, and the spirit of wisdom came to me.” Calling on the virtue of prudence to be present. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, prudence is the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our “true good” in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it; I remember as a child my mother often reminded me to pray for prudence, as I needed to think before I spoke out loud.
When I did, I notice I did not put my foot in my mouth quite as much. In our Gospel, a young, rich man is seeking to inherit eternal life. Jesus tells the man to give up his earthly possessions (his treasure will be in heaven) and follow him. This was something that saddens the man, for he had many possessions he didn’t want to give up, and he walked away. Jesus responds, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” What does this mean? Does God need us to be poor in order to inherit eternal life? Are we not allowed to have good things in life? Doesn’t God want our happiness? He not only wants our happiness but our Salvation too!
If we only look on the surface, it can put us, like the young man, in a bit of an identity crisis. Are we of this world, or are we seeking the Kingdom of God? The world tells us that wealth and possessions equate successes, this is what we all strive for and must make many sacrifices to obtain. When we go beyond our basic needs, pursuing to acquire luxury to excess, and it is never enough.
I may think, I’m not rich! I don’t own my own house or have all the luxuries ... yet I needed the taunting reminder in the Beatles song “Baby you’re a rich man; Baby you’re a rich man; Baby you’re a rich man too.” I know that after I have had my fill of a satisfying meal, rarely do I think of who is hungry around me. However, before my meal I look to see who I can share my meal with ... two very different thoughts and actions. Our comforts can keep us from seeing the need in our brothers and sisters.
Jesus doesn’t want to make it difficult for us to follow him, but he does want us to follow him with our whole heart. Sometimes this requires that we make changes in our lives to be Jesus’ disciple. If we truly believe our Home is in heaven, why would we be surprised that Jesus asks us to leave behind our possessions? Our physical wealth on this earth should not be what holds us back from entering the Kingdom of God. Let us always pray for prudence and wisdom, to keep us focused on our identity, Children of God and heirs of his kingdom, making our treasure in heaven, not on this earth.
Faith Formation Minister
Dear Faith Family,
This Sunday’s Gospel can be perceived as controversial. There are always legitimate concerns about the morality of divorce and it was no different back then. While the Church does have a stance on the morality of divorce (which is not as black and white as it seems in the Gospel), I do invite you all to look at this reading with a different lens. Let’s not be like the Pharisees who try to distract Jesus from preaching the good news. Instead of focusing on the conversation on divorce, it may be best to focus on how Jesus talks about the beauty of marriage.
The way Jesus explains the marital union as “two becoming one” is quite unique and intimate. I am blessed to have been married to my wife Britney for over 2 years and as many of you know, marriage is quite a wonderful journey. The joys of being with someone you adore is hard to express in words and I’m lucky that our commitment to each other has helped us through the inevitable difficulties of life.
I must say though, the thing I cherish most about my marriage, is the willingness to bring each other closer to Christ. And as many of you know, there are so many married couples that exemplify Christ’s love, and they motivate us to be holier people.
In the first reading this Sunday, from the book of Genesis, the bond between Adam and Eve bring so much joy that Adam can’t help but exalt his joy through poetry:
“This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.”
The beauty of this union is evident in not only the Gospels, but the book of Genesis. In the beginning of the Old Testament, to the start of the New Testament. It’s quite amazing to think that God has intended for marriage to be so intimate and complementary.
Divorce is rough, but like hell, if we focus on the fear of living as opposed to the joy of salvation/joy, we tend to miss the mark. The Gospels aren’t intended to be fear driven but it’s quite the opposite. It is clear that the Pharisees are trying to prevent Jesus from preaching about the glory of salvation, but Jesus makes sure to not be distracted by their challenge.
This is why the meaning of evangelization is “sharing the good news,” we were created to be creatures that yearn for union. If you are someone going through divorce, please know that you are both welcome and loved at the Church. If you need any discussion, counseling or prayer, we will always be here.
Youth and Young Adult Minister
When you hear the word, Gratitude, what comes to mind? Do you replay the thousands of times your parents reminded you to say please and thank you? Have you noticed how many times we give thanks and praise to our Lord during liturgy every week? Do you only say thank you when you’re reminded to do so?
Last week, the parish staff enjoyed a Staff Pray Day facilitated by fellow parishioner, Ann Pettit. The setting, a beautiful spot on the beach in Ventura. The theme for the day, “Gratitude.”
The staff pray day couldn’t have come at a better time for me and, honestly, I almost didn’t attend. I’m really busy with my husband and teenage kids; piles of dirty laundry that aren’t going to wash themselves; juggling two jobs with a to-do list that is over three pages long and growing … It’s not that I didn’t want to go, I just didn’t have time … I did show up, albeit late, because, well, my life’s just that hectic right now …
I walked in to find my coworkers in a very serene state of mind, quietly reflecting and so peaceful. My first thought was, “Where can I get some of that feeling? I’m too stressed to be like that!”
Ann helped me realize that I’ve been letting the wrong task list take the power position in my life. That I need to retrain myself to stop and give thanks, genuine thanks throughout the day, even for the little things. And that I should give thanks for the good times and the bad, because there’s something special in all that God has planned for us. How is that possible? Why give thanks for bad things? Take for example, a glass of spilled milk. You know the saying, “Don’t cry over spilled milk?” While there’s no sense getting mad about the spill now that it’s happened, we should instead be giving thanks that we had a glass of milk in the first place…
So, as I let myself unwind and live in the moment, I was able to feel a special communion with God taking place. I stopped, looked, listened, breathed, cried, laughed and then cried a lot more as I let the world around me come into better focus. And all because I slowed down enough to truly and deeply say, “Thank you, God.”
As I write this note, I’m on day number three of my personal stop, drop and pray program. I can already feel a greater sense of calm as I reclassify some of my daily challenges into grateful opportunities. It’s hard to believe the power of simply saying thank you.
I’d like to thank all of you, my parish family, for being so wonderful to me and my family. We are truly blessed to be members of this loving parish community. I see God’s grace in all of you; how you truly care for each other and strangers; how you give of yourselves to make Padre Serra a loving and welcoming place to help our community encounter Jesus and be disciples.
Thank you, Ann for helping me find greater focus. I am forever grateful.
Parish Business Manager
In today’s Gospel, we encounter the second of three predictions by Jesus that he would die. Tragedy piles upon heartbreak as the disciples fail to understand, neglect to support, and are unwilling to walk with Him on his difficult journey to Calvary.
The quick and easy jump for us is straight to the guilt question: are we any better at responding to the Lord in his difficult journey than they were? I’d rather, though, strategize successful ways of walking with Jesus than wallow in the guilt question. You might be with me in that.
Simon of Cyrene was right there when Jesus needed him. We’re separated from him by centuries, but we’re side-by-side with any number of people stumbling under the weight of their burdens. The parishioners of the parish join with them in their needs in a number of hands-on ministries that are out in the courtyard today, not talking about how someone else should make a difference, but stepping right up, themselves, to do what they can – the good within arms reach.
Adopt a Family and Angel Tags both work to provide special assistance at Christmas time so that families and children can have a joyful Christmas. You can choose the scale of your involvement, either with an entire family or an individual child or senior. JustFaith forms small groups of parishioners seeking to deepen their commitment to care for vulnerable people and our planet through prayer, study, dialogue, and immersion experiences. Many Meals jumps right into people’s lives with a good, hot meal, served every Monday at St. Mary Magdalene’s, because people are hungry all the time, not just Thanksgiving and the other holidays. Pax Christi members advocate for personal nonviolence, promote global disarmament and the end to the arms trade, work for economic justice, and support universal human rights. The Peace and Justice Team seek to create education and service opportunities for parishioners to grow in understanding the social conditions and needs of our time. The St. Vincent de Paul Society members keep people in their homes, their cars working and the lights on before financial crises lead to homelessness and joblessness.
I focused on service ministries because of the Gospel, but I also encourage you to consider Centering Prayer, First Friday Adoration and Our Lady of Perpetual Help Novena, who invite us into deeper forms of prayerful communion with God. We also have more people helping make our Sundays possible than most other Camarillo churches have people attending, whether it’s serving as Altar Servers, caring for children in Stay and Play, providing hospitality after Mass in our Sunday Café, or in the pews as Hospitality Ministers. Eucharistic Ministers generously minister to us, while Weekend Welcome kindly receives us.
I encourage you strongly to consider what you can do to make a difference, accompanying Jesus on His way, and His least ones on theirs.
Happy Catechetical Sunday to you all. On this day we celebrate the importance of passing on the faith and being witnesses to the Gospel. Parents are truly the primary catechists of their children. They prepare the soil and plant the first seeds of faith.
On Catechetical Sunday, we not only highlight the work of catechists in parishes and schools, but we also commend parents and guardians and encourage them to take seriously their role of making their Catholic households a place where faith is passed on to the next generation. This is why the rite of blessing of catechists used on Catechetical Sunday includes a blessing of parents and guardians.
The root of the word Catechesis comes from a Greek word meaning “to echo, or resound.” Catechism is the act of resounding or bringing the Church’s teachings to the world. A catechist is one who teaches in the name of the Church. This ministry of teaching in the name of the Church has a profound dignity, which is why catechists are formally commissioned by the Church. It is only fitting that we set aside a day to highlight this ministry and invite the entire church community to think about our responsibility to share our faith with others.
Today I would like to invite you all to consider answering the Call to become a Catechist. This call may come in the voice of our pastor or deacons, perhaps from one of our catechetical leaders, or even in this bulletin letter. But know that this calling ultimately comes from God whose Holy Spirit inspires and guides you. If this is something you have been thinking about or know someone who has the potential to serve in this role, I offer the following reasons to help you say, Yes!
Top reasons to become a catechist
Please reach out to me or any of our catechetical leaders, to help you get started in this beautiful ministry. May the Joy of Jesus in our lives shine through and make us true Witnesses of Christ at all times.
Faith Formation Minister
Dear Friends on the Journey,
What relief we feel when our ears “pop” after descending from high altitude or after being sick! We can hear again. We can speak at a normal volume again. In today’s gospel one word spoken by Jesus provides even greater relief for a deaf man: “Ephphatha” “Be opened.” In that miraculous moment, the man could actually hear and communicate with the world clearly! I can only imagine his joy and relief.
I admit though that I crave the silence the deaf man lived with. Granted his was likely not by choice but nonetheless there are moments and days when I long for just quiet and space void of pinging devices, voices (including my own), media, deadlines, rushing, juggling. Oh the joy to just be in peaceful silence! A few weeks back I reflected on a retreat experience that taught me how silence can heighten senses and increase awareness of God’s presence.
Silence can do even more. Silence is God’s language. When we stop talking at God, he can speak to us. When we close our mouths and open our ears, hearts and minds, we create a space to encounter Jesus, to have our own “ephphatha” moment, to be open to God. In this space, we can then listen to what and where God is calling or inviting us.
Over the next few weeks, we have the opportunity to consider the possibilities. Our parish covenant invites us as individuals and households to examine and reflect our discipleship – how we are living our faith in our homes, church family and neighborhood. The covenant can also help us discern what we need next on our journey.
I invite you these next days and weeks to take the covenant to prayer. Sit in silence and allow God to speak. Be open. God may just be calling you to something more. Then, visit the ministry fair. There might just be a ministry to help you take the next step in healing, learning, growing, prayer, service, action. If not, come see me.
Ephphatha and siempre adelante,
Faith Life Minister
Our second reading two weeks ago from the letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians said: Be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and playing to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks always and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father. Over the years, often in the courtyard, I’ve heard a number of reasons given for why not singing at mass would be all right:
As we have heard before, we are not the audience at Mass; God is. We are the performers. Not just the priest, or the choir… but all of us. Our contribution matters to God, as we see from the Scripture above.
We music ministers are not here to entertain you. We are here to support your efforts to pray in song. Even when the choirs occasionally sing choral music on their own, the aim is not entertainment, but to lift your minds and hearts – along with our own – to God, often by emphasizing a particular idea or image from the day’s readings, or from the season we are celebrating. But those moments are rare and occasional, and will happen mostly at offertory or after communion. Everything else from the entrance song through the sending forth song, is meant to be sung by all present. God doesn’t need our worship but we do.
And it does delight him ... and he’s asked for it!
Liturgy and Music Minister
Dear Faith Family,
I really love our Church. Not just our wonderful church community at Padre Serra, but the One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church. The rich history, the emphasis on philosophy and the promotion of a relationship with Jesus Christ through the Sacraments are so compelling to me and I’m so grateful every day that our Lord established this Church.
Within the rich history of our Church, we have had great minds invest their very being to the development of doctrine. Church councils have been formed throughout her history to simply pursue the truth so we can grow closer to God through it. These councils involved a lot of scrutiny and discussion and these have been happening all throughout our 2,000ish year history. I find it very comforting knowing that there have been greater minds than mine to pursue our dogmas and doctrines. I’m very glad that these truths don’t rely on my own personal research.
With that said, there are plenty of things that the Church teaches that I struggle with. Again, this is where the beauty of the Church’s pursuit of truth really helps me. Even though I may not understand something that the Church teaches (and maybe even struggle with it), there is something very humbling knowing that there have been so many brilliant minds who are not pursuing an agenda (like certain politicians), but rather, there are brilliant minds who just want to reveal who Jesus Christ is to the world.
This Sunday’s gospel really speaks to me because of my struggles to understand. Are we called to be like the Apostles, who know that Jesus “has the words of eternal life”? Or are we called to be the ones who see the Church and her teachings as something hard, and not worth pursuing?
Let me clarify, struggle is fine. In fact, if you read stories of the saints, I would say that struggle is a requisite of eternal life. It is through struggle that we understand our humanity, but we can also relate to Jesus. It is especially ok to struggle with things that may be happening or taught in the Church, as long as it compels an honest pursuit of the truth and Jesus Christ.
I’m praying for all of you and I appreciate that you are doing the same for me and Youth/Young Adult ministry. If you have any questions of struggle, I just want to let you all know that I am available to talk about things. I may not have all the answers, but at the very least, we can pursue the truth and Jesus together.
Youth and Young Adult Minister
Dear friends on the journey,
I wonder if the people around Jesus thought he was a lunatic, especially in today’s gospel story. How scandalous, ridiculous and confusing Jesus’ command to eat his flesh and drink his blood must have been to his fellow Jewish people. Of course, we know he doesn’t mean literally. So what does he mean exactly?
There’s nothing better than being in the presence of a loved one or friend. But sometimes their physical presence is not enough when they’re on the phone or watching TV and you’re trying to talk or connect. They are right next to you, yet their mind is elsewhere. Think about the opposite. That special person could be a thousand miles away yet so attentive and present to you when you talk on the phone or FaceTime. The absence makes you appreciate the time you have even more. In either situation we just want to be present to one another, sharing and connecting.
While Jesus is not physically present to us today, he is so very present to us in all we do. If we choose to recognize him, we can find Jesus in people, events, and little moments of our lives. The liturgy is a special place of encounter with Jesus. He is all over our banquet hall: in the congregation, the presider, the Word and most especially the Eucharist. This is what Jesus means in the gospel today.
When Jesus said to eat his body and drink his flesh, he meant that through the bread and wine we would encounter his presence, not his physical presence but his true Presence. When we receive the bread and wine, we are in communion with Jesus, the most fulfilling complete communion we can experience. We are taking on his very being, his spirit. We are taking on Christ. What a joyous miracle this is!
This miracle comes with responsibility though. If we are in total communion with Jesus, we are taking him with us when we leave. We are now his presence in the world. That reality should give us pause. It should influence our actions, our words, our way of thinking, our decision making, and the way we view and treat certain groups of people.
Imagine if we were more present to those around us. I really think our families, communities, schools, work places, country and world would experience more understanding, acceptance, love and peace.
Will Jesus’ presence in you change the way you are present to your parents, spouse, kids, friends and neighbors?
Faith Life Minister
Today’s readings remind us of the power and promise of the Eucharist. That in seeking reconciliation and celebrating the Eucharist, we are receiving confirmation and strength for our personal journeys. We are asked to believe without seeing and that our belief will lead us to everlasting life.
I am not a theologian. I am a scientist/businesswoman who spent the majority of my career developing therapies for life-threatening diseases. I have tried to be on the straight and narrow path with God, but have strayed more times than I’d care to admit. Yet, He has always welcomed me back home.
Being a data driven person, I’ve often wondered about believing in God without seeing Him. I’ve learned that if we slow down, look and listen, that we will find God all around us and working through us:
Celebrating the Eucharist is quite emotional for me as I think about God’s love and blessings. I also think about my shortcomings, continually pray for forgiveness and strength to be the best person I can possibly be. I feel the divine surge of the Holy Spirit through the Eucharist each week.
There is no doubt about what God is asking of us in the second reading (Eph 4:30–5:2): “All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ. So be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us.”
God is inviting us to join him on a most wonderful journey. He wants us to learn from Him, live like Him, forgive like Him and love like Him. I hope to learn from those of you further down this spiritual path with God and welcome others who are thinking about putting your
feet on the trail. There’s room for us all.
Parish Business Manager
I’ve never lived long with hunger. I’ve gone on diets and had to stare at food I was choosing not to eat. I’ve done a lot of physical work and been peckish. I’ve occasionally skipped meals and been extra especially ravenous. But I’ve never lived with ongoing hunger; I’ve never dealt with famine. I may have said, even more than once, “I’m starving,” but that was exaggeration.
The people in today’s Gospel, though, almost certainly lived with hunger as a normal and recurring condition. Archeological evidence, from studies of graves from most of the ancient world, reveals that a majority of peasants, who made up the bulk of the world’s population until relatively recently, lived with hunger and protein deficiency.
Without modern technology and machinery, lacking metal plows and unable to afford beasts of burden, most subsistence farmers produced only enough, when all went well, to feed their families in a hand-to-mouth kind of way. They ate what the earth brought forth soon after it ripened. They then lived with hunger until the next crop came to maturity. Droughts and taxes often stressed the poor farming family to the breaking point.
When we hear of the dogged perseverance of the crowds around Jesus in today’s Gospel, as they sought to encourage him to repeat the wonderful multiplication of the loaves, where everyone had their fill, and there was still food left over, we have to look upon them sympathetically. It also leads us to recognize the point of this passage for us. We’re not desperate about food. Our physical hunger isn’t going to get in the way of our ability to hear what God has to say…but…we have our own blind spots, places where our gaping needs, hurts and anguish overshadows our willingness to attend to what the Lord would be with us and do for us.
There is an implicit invitation for each of us to bring the places of our greatest struggles into dialogue with our communion with our Lord Jesus.
Where can we find companionship in our loneliness? Communion. Where can we find strength to overcome the difficult? Communion. Where can we find comfort in our physical pain? Communion. Where will we find life when we feel like we’re dying inside? Communion.
In receiving the Bread of Life we’re not having God “do it for us,” we’re committing to do all that we do, be all we can be, with Jesus. It takes a conscious act when we receive to make this possible. It requires us to return to our spiritual and physical union with Jesus in the moment of our struggle. We need to remember that we are not alone and that Jesus is working in, with and through us, for our greater good and the building up of the Kingdom
Communing with Jesus is not to be done automatically or unconsciously. Jesus is bringing His whole self to it. We do well to bring our whole heart, body, mind and soul to receiving Him.
Every three years the readings we hear at mass focus for several weeks in the summer on the gift of the Eucharist – the source and summit of our life as Christians. The connection between the Old Testament readings and the corresponding gospel passages are rich during this time. Because becoming familiar with the Scripture readings before we hear them proclaimed at mass can be a very enriching spiritual practice, I offer the summary below of what we can expect in the coming weeks. Please take advantage of the U.S. Catholic Bishop’s website where you can read the full text of these readings and let them sink deep into your heart www.usccb.org
Director of Liturgy and Music
Dear Parish Family,
The summer is here and our recent heat wave made sure we knew it! I hope you all found a way to keep cool, whether it was in an air-conditioned shopping mall, splashing in a pool or enjoying the cool breeze at the beach. Maybe you treated yourself to a tasty frosted drink or ice cream cone. Our necessity to stay cool perhaps provided us with an opportunity to take a much-needed and enjoyable respite from our otherwise busy, same old same routine, a joy we may not have taken the opportunity to experience had the weather not been so extreme.
In our gospel today, Jesus tells his apostles after their return from preaching the good news and healing many, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” To put balance back in their lives they needed time to withdraw for a while to reflect, rest, pray, and be at peace. God the Father set the example, “God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work he had done in creation” (Gen 2:3). Jesus too “would withdraw to deserted places to pray” (Lk 5:16). While he was so available to all those in need, the poor, the sick, the outcasts, he knew there was a limit to his availability. He took the time to get away, to rest the body, mind and spirit, being at peace with the Father and the Holy Spirit, a gift he gives us too: “Peace, I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid” (Jn 14:27). His peace gives us salvation, wholeness, health, welfare, safety and balance.
As we make plans and set out on our summer vacations (or staycations), let us not miss the opportunity to recharge our inner selves. It is not about how many items we can check off our bucket list, and it should not be filled with stress in the planning and execution of our plans (I can’t help but think of the Griswolds in National Lampoon's Vacation). Consider a personal goal to take some time to rest, refocus and recharge our spiritual batteries, restoring balance in our lives, especially caregivers of children, parents, or others entrusted in our care. Find some time this summer, even if it is just 10 minutes a day, where you can have some quiet time to reconnect with God.
Last week while on vacation with my husband, we stopped at Margaret Dodd Park in Pismo Beach. The weather was perfect, the view was absolutely breathtaking and my husband practiced his guitar (yes, we take it everywhere). I had the gift of God's presence and his peace. I began to thank him for the beauty of his creation, but soon found myself in complete silence and feeling happiness and peace in His presence. I could have stayed there forever, but just like the apostles after they have rested, I must return to my ministry. Now with my spiritual battery recharged, I return filled with joy and excitement for my continued service and ministry. I even came home with new ideas for the new program year.
Here are some suggestions of what you can do in your “Retreat with God.” For those of you who have young children, planning some quiet, alone time may be a big challenge. Why not do it together, by spending ‘one quiet minute with God,' where your family can learn to listen for God's voice in the whisper. At first it may be more like 10 seconds, but that's okay. If you enjoy a good book, let your summer reading be an opportunity to be inspired by a saint’s life. If you enjoy the outdoors, find a beautiful and tranquil location where you see and feel the presence of God in his creation such as the beach, on a mountaintop, near a waterfall or a beautiful garden.
Once you are there, ask our Lord to join you, then, just be in His presence... don't speak, just listen, and enjoy the quiet. With every breath, breathe in the peace of the Holy Spirit. If getting out to nature is not your thing, consider visiting Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel or find another quiet space. If you love apps, try the 3 Minute Retreat by Loyola Press, or God Moment (3 random daily reminders to take a moment to pray) or perhaps a podcast is more your style. Do what works for you and allow your soul to be at peace.
Faith Formation Minister
Dear Faith Family,
Happy summer to all of you!
This Sunday’s gospel is a unique one. As you may know by now, I like to try to relate our Sunday readings to something that is relevant to us in our current lives. Upon first glance, it seems pretty difficult to do so with the instructions that Christ gives to the Apostles regarding sacks, tunics and sandals. It especially seems irrelevant to us when Jesus gives authority to the Apostles over unclean spirits.
While it seems tough to relate to, there is plenty in this reading that can help us share the love of Christ with
I don’t know about you, but I can be timid when it comes to sharing my testimony to “random people.” There have been plenty of times in my life where I just assumed that people don’t have an interest or that they do not welcome my profession of faith. Looking back though, in plenty of those times where I was hesitant and didn’t utter a word, I missed out on a great opportunity to just knock on a door to see if I am welcomed. It is such a great disservice to our faith life to assume that everyone we speak to will not welcome your message.
Humility is rough; it is especially rough to exercise humility with a false idea of what it actually is. Father Patrick told me once that humility isn’t a denial of our gifts, but rather, an understanding of them. Once we understand our gifts, it is through humility that we know how effective and beautiful they can be. Especially in regard to sharing our story.
Yes, Jesus does let the Apostles know that there are some houses that will not welcome their message. But Jesus also doesn’t ask the Apostles to avoid those houses. In my worst times, I assume all houses hate my message. Because of that, I hesitate to knock on doors to share God. In this gospel message, I think Jesus is instructing us to not be afraid to be declined. If we lack this fear, then sharing our story will become an everyday occurrence.
So friends, be sure to share your story. Start with your friends and family and branch out from there. Let your faith be the most important part of your family, because it is through our faith that we have an understanding that we are all children of God and that we are loved. That seems like something worth sharing, even if we think no one wants to hear it.
Youth and Young Adult Minister
With summer and our vacations almost upon us, I thought I’d take a moment to give you some encouragement to make your summer time special and close to God!
It’s so important to bring a spirit of deep gratitude to God with you on vacation. So, before you travel, I encourage you to visit masstimes.org, where you can enter almost any place you will travel, even outside the U.S. You’ll get a google map with markers of the local Catholic churches and their times for Masses and confessions throughout the week, as well as a link to their webpages, if they have any. There are also some Mass-time apps for you to investigate. So plan some time on your Sunday mornings for Mass.
If you’ll be visiting with friends or family in far-off places, let them know that worshipping God on Sunday morning is a priority. Most will make an effort to accommodate you. Your expressing this interest is a form of evangelizing them – proclaiming the powerful place God has in your life.
If you can, keep the bulletins from the churches you visit and share them with me when you return. I learn all kinds of things from reviewing other parishes’ activities in their bulletins.
By the way, many cruises have Catholic chaplains offering Mass on-board.
On a different note, I encourage you to get a paperback Bible and put it in the trunk of your car, or download the Bible to your iPhone, perhaps the New American Bible, Revised Edition, which has an app for only $2.99. Put a post-it note at Psalm 104, to pray when you’re in the mountains or at the ocean – It’s a beautiful hymn of praise for all of God’s creation. Another would be Psalm 66, especially verses 614, when at the ocean or in a place where farmers bring forth food from the earth. If you’re ever in a place where you can see the Milky Way, have Psalm 8 close to hand and recount the glory of God’s heavens. Perhaps, in a place of wild beauty, you’ll want to simply reread the first chapter of the Bible, Genesis 1, on the creation of the world. A really special thing to do, in a place of wild beauty, with the spouse you love passionately, is to read the Song of Solomon together. The NABRE puts a “W” where the woman is to read, and an “M” where the man is supposed to read. There are some comical moments, comparing one’s wife to a mare, or one’s husband to an apple tree, but there are even more expressions that are beautiful. If flying gets to you, Psalm 91 is a lovely prayer for God’s calming assistance.
If you’re interested in a book to share with your small children on a road trip, take a look at Does God Know How to Tie Shoes, by Nancy White Carlstrom.
If you’re going to spend time with family and friends, consider avoiding politics for a while longer. Everyone’s feeling a bit fragile, and it’s so easy to spoil a good time with talk on divisive issues. Give yourself permission to kindly, kindly, tell your kin that you’d rather talk about something else.
I hope you have the most wonderful journeys. It might be nice, though, to give yourself some time to really rest. God rested at the end of Creation. Leave some time for that in whatever vacation time you have. Remember, if you don’t have any vacation time coming, that if you run down to Point Mugu with a beach chair and a sandwich and whatever else you want to snack on, you can give yourself a mini-vacation at a place of spectacular beauty. We are so lucky to live where we do!
As your father, I need to remind you to put on your sunscreen and have amazing adventures.
Dear Parish Family,
In the last few weeks many of us have been celebrating the promotions and graduations of the young people in our lives. We are filled with pride and are so hopeful for their future. We are confident that they will achieve great things. What will they become?
In the same manner, parents who are expecting the birth of their child are filled with so much love and expectations for the future. Carefully choosing the name, one which will give them much success. And with so much hope we ask, who will this child grow up to be?
This Sunday, we are reminded that God calls each of us for a special purpose. Today we celebrate the nativity of St John the Baptist, chosen before his birth, given a name by God. A name that means “God is gracious.” A name that made others question, “What will this child be?” We now know his mission was to prepare the way for the Lord.
Like John the Baptist, the twelve disciples, and many of the saints, the call and task were extraordinary within the history of salvation. We too have been called, most of us the call and task are more ordinary. Using their lives as our examples of how to live our life of faith.
Let us ask ourselves, who will we be? What is God’s mission for me?
With full confidence, living our faith in our homes and work, with our friends and families. In our ordinary actions and words, in our successes, defeats, joys and sorrows, with God in the center of all our thoughts and actions, may we lead others to our Lord. For each and every one of us have been given certain gifts and abilities to live out our mission. And if we lose confidence, let us remember today’s Psalm: “I praise you for I am wonderfully made. Truly you have formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother's womb. I give you thanks that I am fearfully, wonderfully made; wonderful are your works.”
Faith Formation Minister
As I look at this weekend’s readings, and think about being a dad, a grandfather and a son, a few themes emerge and I’d like to share them with you, in case they’d be useful.
In the second reading from Paul’s 2nd letter to the Corinthians, the apostle acknowledges the tension of living in the here and now, and yet living by faith: “… we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord. Therefore we aspire to please him, whether we are at home or away. For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense, according to what s/he did in the body, whether good or evil.” Clearly patience is required to live with this tension. Patience is also required of fathers, grandfathers and sons. I don’t mean only the patience a father must have as his children grow and learn and make mistakes along the way. I mean also the patience that fathers must learn to have with themselves, grappling with the truth that they are not perfect any more than their children are, nor than their own fathers were. The stakes are unbelievably high, though, when it comes to raising our children and we so badly want to get it right from the beginning. In Hearts On Fire, Teilhard de Chardin, S.J. puts it this way:
Above all, trust in the slow work of God. We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages. We are impatient on the way to something unknown, something new.
In our first reading from Ezekiel, we are reminded that the LORD operates in ways beyond our understanding: “I, the LORD, bring low the high tree, lift high the lowly tree, wither up the green tree, and make the withered tree bloom.” Dads know what it is to see our children turn out differently than we had planned, or to arrive at a good place but by a route we had not foreseen, nor endorsed! If our children, who are really only on loan to us, don’t succeed in some way to teach us to allow God to operate in his sometimes strange ways, then I don’t know who or what will. Chardin continues:
And yet it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability – and that it may take a very long time. And so I think it is with you; your ideas mature gradually – let them grow, let them shape themselves, without undue haste. Don’t try to force them on, as though you could be today what time (that is to say, grace and circumstances acting on your own good will) will make of you tomorrow.
In today’s passage from Mark’s gospel, Jesus tells the parable of a man who scatters seed on the land and goes about his business, rising and sleeping, night and day, trusting that through it all the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how.
Since the man’s livelihood, indeed his life are dependent on what happens “of its own accord,” that is, the land yielding fruit for the harvest, it’s clear that trust is in play here. And so it is with fathers, and grandfathers and sons. It may be that we come to trust in God only with great struggle. It may be that we have to renew that struggle daily, or maybe in different seasons of our lives. But trust we must. Chardin concludes:
Only God could say what this new spirit gradually forming within you will be. Give Our Lord the benefit of believing that his
hand is leading you, and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.
And why are we counseled to accept this anxiety and to trust? Because “of its own accord, the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the grain is ripe he wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come.”
So, our children, our dads, ourselves … one way or another we all become ripe for the harvest, in God’s mysterious way, in God’s time.
Director of Music and Liturgy
Dear friends on the journey,
Today’s readings are challenging and present us some serious issues to consider. The first reading shows us that, upon creation, God gave us free will and what happens when we choose our will over God’s. In the gospel, Jesus said that a kingdom which is divided cannot stand. He was also rocking the boat, challenging the societal norms, the status quo and creating uneasiness.
Division seems to be a word used a lot lately about the world, politics, economics, society, religion, communities, families and in our own selves. Divisions among and in these arenas are causing some shaky ground these days. The news is filled with stories of conflict. Perhaps they don’t directly affect our daily living, but they certainly impact our internal balance and how we view our sisters and brothers in God’s family. It’s a challenge to view the world, not just through our fuzzy lens, but as God views his beloved creation.
We may have inherited this division, but God has never left us alone with it. Throughout salvation history, God has given us ample opportunities and solutions to combat and heal the divisions in and around us, the best and most complete of all being Jesus, our redeemer, brother, healer, teacher, friend, and guide. In recent weeks, we’ve celebrated Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension, but he did not leave us alone there. He gave us the Holy Spirit, the powerful working of the Trinity and Jesus’ ongoing presence in the Eucharist. Other God-given “resources” to help us to discern God’s will in our own personal lives and how we view the world around us include prayer, scripture, tradition, church teaching, and the saints.
I know it’s super cliche but I honestly believe in the help of one simple question: What would Jesus do? Honestly though, this question has assisted me many times, especially when I couldn’t seem to make sense of a situation. What does God want me to do? What would Jesus do?
What would Jesus do if people from other lands came to his neighborhood? What would Jesus do if he was a baker asked to make a cake? What would Jesus do about a billion hungry people? What would Jesus do for the homeless person? What would Jesus do for the newly released prisoner? What would Jesus do for abused children, women and elderly? What would Jesus do about the bully in the classroom? What would Jesus do for the lonely, isolated teen? What would Jesus do about the annoying neighbor? What would Jesus do for a loved one who doesn’t believe or go to church? What would Jesus do with a disagreeable family member? What would Jesus do for you? What would Jesus do for me?
Jesus would love. That’s it.
Maybe the unsteady ground is good for it causes us to think and question the status quo and external influences. Only when we follow God’s will and stand on gospel values will we experience stability.
Faith Life Minister
Dear Faith Family,
Thank you for all of your support for our teens during the Confirmation process. Last weekend, our Confirmation liturgy was a wild success as more than 100 teens and adults received the Seal of the Holy Spirit.
Throughout the process, we always tell the Confirmation candidates that once they are Confirmed, that it is not the end of their formation, but rather, it is the beginning of their journey. Sometimes with the hubbub of a long catechetical process, we tend to forget the goal of Confirmation — to ask the Holy Spirit to equip us to “make disciples of all nations.” Yes, it is a call for all of us as Christians, but with Confirmation we ask the Holy Spirit to assist us in this journey.
So what does that mean, exactly? How do we make disciples of all nations? As you already know, it is within our parish mission statement to “encounter Jesus, be disciples” and within our mission lies our first step. To encounter Jesus Christ. How do we do this? I’m not sure when it happens, but I do know that it only happens when we seek Him. Once we do, the walls are torn down and our mission begins.
I wish making disciples was cut and dry with easy instruction, but once we encounter Jesus, we learn about ourselves in a deeper way, especially in the way that God calls us to share His good news. So does that mean some of us are called to go door to door to invite people to church? Yes, but this may not be some of us. Are some of us called to form our families in Christian values so they can set the world on fire? Yes, but some of us may not have families. As you can see, there are a multitude of ways that we can pursue this mission, but it is always most important to ask our God how he wants us to do
it; he definitely created us with gifts in mind to share the promise of salvation.
If you’re still confused on how to share the love of God, welcome to the club. I’m convinced it is a journey that lasts throughout our lifetimes. This is why a strong community of believers who are willing to support is vital to this mission. I don’t have to explain where to get that, I’m pretty sure we get that here.
So continue on the mission, friends. I’ll be praying for you as I hope that you are praying for me. It is officially ordinary time in our Church calendar. Let’s not let it be ordinary though, let’s use this time to show the world that Jesus invites us to His
church, even when it’s no longer Easter or Advent.
Youth and Young Adult Minister
My Dear Parish Family,
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
This beautiful, simple prayer is the first prayer I learned at age 3. It is probably one of the first prayers learned by most Catholic children around the world. It is pure Catholic prose complete with gestures! I was proud to practice, slowly, and finally figure out the hand motions … top of the forehead, deep down to the middle of the chest near the heart, then as far as I could reach from shoulder to shoulder, first the left then the right. Milestone conquered!
As a child, I imagined the sign of the cross as an invisible shield that helped me to be brave and strong in my faith and in my relationship with God. As an adult, the description of the vertical movement equating to my relationship with God and the horizontal movement pointing to my relationship with humankind is a wonderful reminder of our connectedness and our duty to those relationships. I make the sign of the cross 10 or 12 times a day. It reminds me who I am and whose I am. I find great comfort in that connection, that sense of belonging to something with deep meaning and great future, belonging to Jesus.
Today, our parish is blessed to have 105 candidates for Confirmation, receive the sign of the cross on their foreheads as Bishop Barron anoints them with oil and says, “Be sealed with the Holy Spirit.” With this sign and their response, these young people are making a milestone in their own lives, saying ‘yes’ to Jesus and a Christian way of life. Let’s support and encourage them and show them it can be done!
It has been one of my life’s great joys to be a member of the Padre Serra Parish staff alongside wonderful pastors, coworkers and volunteers in the vineyard of our parish home. I have worked hard and tried to give creative energy and physical might to help carry forward the richness our founders began. I am proud of our people and our accomplishments. Now, after more than 15 years on staff, I am retiring at the end of June.
I am ready for the next phase, the next milestone, with a heart wide open to whatever God has planned for me. I will continue to belong to our beautiful parish community as a participant and volunteer! I look forward to grandchildren and vegetable gardens, time to read, walk on the beach, travel the world, to being a homemaker making-home for my husband and family and even writing a book or two. Big and happy changes!
One thing remains the same, the commitment made for me at my Baptism and by me at my Confirmation, to find Jesus in the experiences of our lives and to share his love with others. I loved my job and appreciated the opportunities to see Jesus’ hand in the daily decisions, activities and people. I loved getting to know so many of you, thank you for sharing your lives with me. For those whom I have had the privilege to minister to in Faith Formation, especially those in youth and young adult ministry, I loved loving you, as a mom loves her kids, helping them grow and letting them go.
Jesus said, “I will be with you always.” I have seen him in all of you. Amen.
With a grateful heart, Siempre Adelante!
Parish Life Minister
The descent of the Holy Spirit as tongues of fire on the disciples at that first Pentecost lit the world on fire with God’s presence. That fire has not gone out, as is evident in the many quiet ways parishioners throw themselves into serving God in their care for one another. The work of the parish needs many hands. Some of it is clearly ministerial, as with those who assist in worship, teach children, or provide for the poor. Other hands, though, assist in practical ways to support our life together, often acting quietly to provide us a well-cared for parish campus, or to supply our needs.
(1) I’d like to draw your attention to the back pages of our bulletin/worship aid, to the many people who support the parish quietly, providing us this tool for singing. It’s also one of our primary sources of information on the life of the parish. A very quick survey of those back pages reveals nineteen advertisers I recognize as our own fellow parishioners. Their generosity assists our parish pray and keep informed. I am deeply grateful, and encourage you to continue your parish life by supporting them when you need the many services they supply.
(2) On a different note, I was standing in the parking lot with a parishioner, recently, who pointed out how beautiful everything looked. Parking lots are not often associated with beauty, and yet it’s true (even as our tipuana tipu trees are losing their leaves in their annual molt) – it must be the most attractive place to park a car in Camarillo. That is not an accident. I want to acknowledge quiet heroes, Winifred Jordan, Katherine Kruse and Mickey Hirsch, who volunteer as highlevel gardeners. They have been artfully sculpting our plants, not only in the parking lot, but also in our splendid Stations of the Cross garden, fashioning with care places that are green and life giving where we can breathe in the beauty of growing things. They’ve been volunteering for us for almost four years. We all have reason to be grateful.
(3) On a similar note, essential to the everyday workings of the parish, several parishioners have made themselves available to Dcn Neil Kingsley, who keeps everything in the parish running. When Christmas trees need to be moved, when a second set of hands are needed, when chairs need to be set up, when the seasonal decorations in the church need changing, he has a wonderful crew of volunteers who step up and help out. I’d like to recognize the following men, who I’ve seen working with Neil many times over the years, including Frank Staben, Marty McConnell, Dave Gutierrez, Chuck Bueker, George Marien, and Chuck Mink. Heartfelt gratitude to all of you for what you do for us!
These quiet heroes aren’t seeking our thanks. They love their God, they have a commitment to their parish, and they are willing to step up and make a difference. It pleases me to thank them anyway, and to invite you to celebrate, with me, their goodness.
Perhaps you have a gift that the parish can use. Be quick to step up, taking ownership of this community’s needs. Be a blessing. Take part in setting the world on fire.
Also visit: Pentecost
Dear Padre Serra Family,
Happy Mother’s Day! It brings me great joy and love to write this week about two of my favorite things, Mary and Moms. This is my second official Mother’s Day but my first one with Regina Scully Becker (Reggie) outside the womb. It also is my mom and Reggie’s birthday month which makes this month very special. But the best thing about the month of May is that it is dedicated to our mother, Momma Mary.
Being a mother has been the greatest sacrifice I have ever encountered. During my time as a new first time mom I find myself praying for guidance, strength and love and Momma Mary’s intercession. She is the ideal mother after all. My devotion and respect for her has continued to grow as Reggie grows. She is kind, calm and only lost her son once (and we all know Jesus was supposed to be with Joseph). She gives everyone love and comfort, and most importantly she points us straight to her son, Jesus. She is a great example of love and a great evangelist.
Mary was one of Jesus’ first disciples. Mary followed and believed in Him throughout his life, and like all moms, she talked about him to everyone she knew. She shows us how much God can love us. Without Mary, there would be no Jesus. The sacrifice she made by saying yes to being willing to be pregnant with the Son of God without being married was hard. She struggled. But she didn’t give up. She didn’t even throw in the towel once. She continued to strive for holiness and with being born without sin, she shows us our full potential if we live in true love with God.
So, to all moms out there, thank you. Thank you for the late nights, the early mornings and for sacrificing. You are doing the work of God. As St. Therese of Lisieux says, “Holiness consists simply in doing God's will, and being just what God wants us to be.” God wants us moms to be just that. Moms.
Now, let us end this beautiful Mother’s Day by praying to our heavenly Momma for her intercession and for us to grow a little closer to Jesus today.
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed are thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. AMEN!
Middle School Minister
Dear Parish Family,
Today we are reminded of our life’s purpose, to love one another as God has loved us. We were created out of love and for love. If we have experienced love in our lives, we have known God, for God is love.
There are many kinds of love. Love for parent, child, spouse, friends, even love for our pets. Each love is special and forms a connection with those we love, wanting their happiness more than our own. The experience of love in our lives empowers us, it fills us with joy and happiness, strength, courage and even self-giving sacrifices. It is the force that drives us, essential to our survival. It is an internal attitude which influences every single thing we do, say and think.
It is easy to love those who love us, like our friends and family or those we admire. I think that when Jesus gives us the commandment to love one another, this is not who he was referring to. It is an automatic response to immediately think of those we love, and their needs. The challenge is to love those who are hard to love. Those who reject us, the stranger, the poor, the sick, the immigrant, or the criminal. They are God’s beloved too. Created in God’s image, with dignity. They too are the body of Christ. We are called to love as God loves, unconditionally.
When we act out of love for one another, we seek to meet the needs of our brothers and sisters. Through love we are connected and their needs are our needs. We teach love by loving. Let us actively seek those who are in need of love, and show them love and kindness.
Faith Formation Minister