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
In today’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles we hear that [Saul] “moved about freely with them in Jerusalem, and spoke out boldly in the name of the Lord. He also spoke and debated with the Hellenists, but they tried to kill him.” Just a few verses later we hear “The church … was at peace.” For some reason this juxtaposition strikes me as funny. But there is great coherence in the Liturgy of the Word between the readings, nevertheless. At the end of this passage from Acts we hear that the church “was being built up and walked in the fear of the Lord, and with the consolation of the Holy Spirit it grew in numbers.”
In John’s gospel today, Jesus tells his disciples, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower … You are already pruned [by my Father] because of the word that I spoke to you. Remain in me, as I remain in you … because without me you can do nothing … [but] if you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”
And the author of the first letter of John (widely believed to be the same author as that of the fourth gospel) tells us that we must love in deed and truth, keeping God’s commandments to believe in Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded.
I think the introduction to the first letter of John on the U.S. Bishop’s website www.uscb.org/bible/1john/0 provides some useful food for reflection on not only that reading but on the others for today as well:
“… authentic Christian love, ethics, and faith take place only within the historical revelation and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The fullness of Christian life as fellowship with the Father must be based on true belief and result in charitable living; knowledge of God and love for one another are inseparable, and error in one inevitable affects the other.
Although the author recognizes that Christian doctrine presents intangible mysteries of faith about Christ, he insists that the concrete Christian life brings to light the deeper realities of the gospel.”
So what are some possible “takeaways” (pardon the jargon) from today’s readings for us, the community of Padre Serra Parish in Camarillo, in 2018? How about these:
So, brothers and sisters, let’s encourage one another continually along the way.
Liturgy and Music Minister
Dear Parish Family,
There is so much we can say of our Sunday Gospel this week, I will keep it simple. Jesus is the Good Shepherd, who showed us total self-giving love. For some of us, it’s hard to understand the sacrifices that a good shepherd was willing to make for his flock. A hired hand is there for the pay, at the sign of danger abandons the sheep, he has no investment with the sheep in his care. A good shepherd loves his sheep, living alongside of them for many years, knowing each one. He would see to the needs of his sheep, guiding them where to eat and drink, finding shelter from the weather, even risking his life to protect the sheep from wolves or thieves. A good shepherd knows his sheep and they know his voice, they trust him and follow him. He cares for his sheep not out of obligation but of love.
For those of us who have only seen sheep or shepherds at the county fair, perhaps it is easier to understand this kind of self-giving love, in the relationship of a parent and his child. In the second reading we are reminded, “Beloved: See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God.” We are His Children, his beloved. As his children, no sacrifice is too much. When I was a child my parents worked in the fields, at times leaving the house as the sun was rising and back as it was setting. A hard job and low wage, to be able to provide for my siblings and me. Even after they got home, they did not have the luxury to put their feet up and rest. Together they would take on the daily house tasks, mom making sure we ate together a warm healthy dinner, dad would make sure we had done our homework and have us share our day’s adventures. I remember dad always keeping up the yard, watering the grass and flowers. Why would he add another task to his already exhausted body? He did this because he wanted us to have a place to play and knew how much my mom loved the roses in the garden. Sundays, their only day off, after church, we would pack up the car and go to the park or beach. I am sure they would much rather have stayed home and slept in. I don’t remember ever hearing them
complain about how tired they were. I am able to see all their sacrifice was done not out of obligation but out of love. I am sure you have many similar stories of your own. No sacrifice is too big for those you love.
This Sunday is also Vocation Sunday, we pray for our priest and Church leaders who are caring for the souls, who go out and gather the lost sheep to bring back to God’s loving embrace. And for all the many good shepherds in our lives, who are given the responsibility of caring for others, may we all be his good sheep, listening attentively to his voice, and follow his example of self-giving love. Inspiring others to follow him especially in the vocation of priesthood or religious life. Jesus the Good Shepherd is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Let us as followers of Jesus, be witnesses to his resurrection, and do all things with love.
Faith Formation Minister
Dear Faith Family,
I hope you all are having a wonderful Easter Season!
This Sunday’s Gospel is quite interesting to me. I love how it opens with two disciples discussing their previous encounter with Jesus. A lot of us are blessed to have encounters with God; many of us have had an instance in our lives where God was present and it gives us fuel as we live our lives as disciples. But what makes this Sunday’s Gospel interesting, is that Jesus approaches them in the present and they are filled with anxiety.
I find this part of the Gospel relevant to our lives because we sometimes think of the past times where we have experienced God’s love, and also fail to realize how God reveals himself in the present.
I’ve been blessed with encounters of God on various retreats and I tend to hold these encounters close to my heart. There is absolutely nothing wrong thinking back to a time where God’s love was tangible and vibrant, and like I said, it is great fuel for our mission as disciples. Sometimes though, there is a temptation to only focus on those times and not recognize how God is calling us to mission in the present moment. In fact, when Jesus appears to the disciples, it says that they were “startled and terrified.” I think it’s common for us to feel this way as well.
It is normal to be a bit scared of what God is calling us to do in our everyday lives. But I think it should give us some sense of peace to know that His disciples felt the same way at times. It is nice knowing that we may share some insecurities that the disciples also had. In the Gospel their literal encounter with the resurrected Christ had them feeling startled and terrified. But when Jesus says “peace be with you,” to the disciples in this passage, he also is directing that toward us, His current
So faith family, I invite you all to lift each other up during this Easter Season and to help each other not only share your personal, past accounts of God’s grace, but to also show each other how God is currently present in our lives, calling us to share His loving message and to have a meal with Him.
Although discipleship can be scary sometimes, every time we encounter Christ, I pray that we allow ourselves to be at peace with the encounter and to have the bravery to go touch his wounds and have a meal with Him.
Happy Easter everybody!
Youth and Young Adult Minister
My Dear Parish Family,
Every week the Pastoral Team, including me, takes turns writing the message of the week. It is generally based on the message in the gospel for the day. Often we have another point or two to incorporate. It is amazing when the gospel message, God’s message, pulls it all together.
April is National Child Abuse Prevention month and it is my turn to write the letter. How do I make it relate? Every April we generally talk about the many ways that we as a parish help to prevent child sexual abuse, through the positive use of fingerprinting and training, campus assessments, committee meetings, and teaching the children what to watch for and guard against.
I remember the first time I taught Teaching Touching Safety training more than a decade ago as mandated by the
Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. I prepared for weeks. I attended the certification training, watched all the videos, read all the material and finally, spent days writing the lesson plans for grades 1 through 12. I was well prepared and… I was angry.
I was angry that a few depraved people had changed the game for everyone else. Thousands, millions of innocent children now had to put up with angry, anxious, apprehensive middle-aged women like me who were mandated to teach them about safe and unsafe touches. I teamed with my friend, volunteer and fellow parishioner Dr. Lisa Barra to conduct the training. When I saw those beautiful, sweet faces looking at me so trusting, something clicked. I realized what I was doing was not about the perpetrators, the darkness; this was about these children, the light. I had to equip these kids. I had to empower them to keep themselves safe. It quickly became perfectly natural to tell the children that Jesus loves them so much, he wants them to be happy. To help them in life, Jesus gave them lots of loving, trusted adults to care for them. So if they are not happy, or even a little uncomfortable, they need to tell.
The apostles knew to expect Jesus to suffer and die. They were not prepared for what came next, Jesus’ appearance in the upper room. He came to them with a message of peace. He breathed on them. That same breath surrounds us still today. That same breath animates us to do the work of God, to love one another, to see beauty and sweetness in the people around us.
All of us carry burdens and heartaches of our own or those of people we love. If you are a victim of abuse, please call the Victims Assistance Ministry office (213) 637·7650. If you have a heartache of a completely different nature, talk to your “trusted adult” or please call the parish office and ask to speak with Teresa Runyon who will connect you with a support group, therapist, deacon or priest. If you need to go to confession, please come to church any Saturday at 3:45pm.
Jesus loves you so much he wants you to be happy. After the cross, there is work and there is joy.
Parish Life Minister
P.S. Thanks and gratitude to our Safeguard the Children Committee: Suzy Maraboto, Dr. Lisa Barra, Jackie Perrin, Linda Smith, Brett Becker, Deacon Neil Kingsley, Tere Delgado, Liz Vega, Nancy Jorgesen and me. If you would like to join this caring group, please contact me or Nancy in the parish office.
The rains have come, at last. Our hills and mountains are taking on a beautiful shade of green, and flowers will soon begin to bloom. The wildflowers come in waves over the next few months, before the warmth of summer drives them back into dormancy. I was hiking last year in the Santa Monica Mountains, maybe a mile from the Ray Miller trailhead, when I took the picture below. We have to enjoy the flowers when they are growing, as they fade so quickly.
The new life on our hillsides comes along at just the right time this year to serve us as a metaphor, not only for the Risen Christ, but also for what’s possible in our own lives when we commit ourselves to the ancient spiritual path of the Christian life. It was always our Lord’s intent that we, too, would experience in our lives, here on earth, constant renewal and growth.
We would also like to burst forth in renewed, life giving ways:
My prayer for you this Easter is that the renewal we experience all around us in nature, and that we celebrate as the triumph of our Lord Jesus over death, finds its way into your life as well. I pray that you flourish, even blossom, especially in those places where you recognize the need to grow. I look forward to journeying with you this year, together, as God’s Easter people, ever filled with hope.
During these weeks of Lent, we’ve been preparing ourselves through fasting, prayer, and almsgiving so that we might open ourselves more fully to God’s presence in our lives. This has been a journey. So here we are now on Palm Sunday, hearing the story of Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem, his passion and his death. It’s a story we’ve heard many times before. We know how it begins and how it ends. But I invite you to consider experiencing Jesus’ journey, passion, death, and resurrection this Holy Week.
Today, like the crowds of Jesus’ time, we carry palms and praise him but during the Passion we are reminded that we are all sinners in need of God’s salvation. Today put your palms in a place that will be a constant reminder of your journey from the darkness of sin to God’s eternal light.
In Monday’s gospel, we hear the story of Jesus’ meal with Lazarus, Martha, and Mary. Judas the Iscariot criticizes Jesus for allowing Mary to use a costly perfumed oil to anoint his feet when it could have been sold “for three hundred days wages and given to the poor.” Jesus responds, “You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.” This is our reminder that we will never lack opportunities to give ourselves in imitation of Jesus to serve the poor. This week share more of your God-given gifts to help those in need.
In John’s account of the Last Supper in Tuesday’s gospel, Jesus announces that one of his disciples will betray him, leaving them all asking, “Is it I?” We know how the story goes: Judas betrays Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. But, really, haven’t we all betrayed Jesus at one time or another in our lives? Today, identify and resolve to overcome those behaviors that betray God.
In Wednesday’s gospel, Jesus instructs his disciples to prepare a place for the Passover meal, his Last Supper. Today is a good day to reflect on how this Lenten journey has helped us prepare a room for Jesus in our lives. Identify what worked and how you can continue that practice beyond Easter.
On Holy Thursday we celebrate the Last Supper, the institution of the Eucharist, the sacrament in which we receive his body and blood, and the priesthood through the washing of the disciples’ feet. This evening we celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper (7:00pm), a beautiful liturgy that reminds us of our call to be Jesus’ disciples, washing the feet of others in service and receiving the life giving food that sustains us in that service. This evening is a good opportunity to renew or commit to being a true disciple of Jesus.
Our Holy Week journey continues to Good Friday, the day Jesus suffered and died. Make a commitment to experience the Lord’s passion by attending one of our Good Friday liturgies (12:00 or 7:00pm) and the Living Stations of the Cross (1:45pm). Reflect today on how you have grown closer to God through your experience of physical or emotional suffering.
Holy Saturday is the night in which God turned death to life. Appropriately, at the Easter Vigil, we baptize new Christians and accept them into full communion with the church. Through the waters of baptism, they “die” to their old life and joyfully join themselves to Christ, to new life. If you’ve never been to an Easter Vigil, I invite you next Saturday (7:30pm). This night discern what needs to die in your life so that you may be joined more fully with Christ.
By experiencing Holy Week and allowing ourselves to enter into Jesus’ suffering, we can truly experience the joy of Easter Sunday when resurrected life begins, when love and light triumph over sin and darkness. At our Easter morning liturgy, the “Alleluia” will never sound so good or be more profound in our hearts.
Faith Life Minister
I want to share some thoughts and reflections with you about our worship, an important part of which is singing together – all of us! We’ve heard Fr. Patrick on several occasions encourage us to sing at mass. He’s even cited Scriptures where God commands us to do so. Yet some of us still are reluctant, or uncomfortable, and sing very softly, or maybe not at all.
Have you noticed how the singing of the National Anthem at sporting events has changed over the years? It used to be that everyone in the stadium stood, put their hand over their heart, and sang, perhaps accompanied by the organ at Dodger Stadium, or by a marching band at a football game. But how often do we see that now? Almost never. Instead, the singing of the National Anthem has become an event at which one person performs for the rest of us. S/he sings, and we stand there with our hands over our hearts (maybe) and then applaud. The next day we take to social media and dissect the performance.
Shows like “The Voice” and “American Idol” reinforce the notion that singing is a specialized activity reserved only for the chosen few. But this is a very recent development in human history and one that I think robs us of our ownership of and our comfort with communal singing and its beneficial effects. Singing together in community can lower blood pressure, relieve stress, reduce heart rate, and cause endorphins to be released that create a sense of wellbeing.
It is not necessary that the singing be perfect, just that it be together. Fr. Patrick recently reminded us that all of God’s commandments are intended for our benefit because God loves us. I’m sure the commandment to sing our praises to God is no exception.
Perhaps bearing in mind that we are singing primarily for the God who created us, who loves us, and who knows us better than we know ourselves – and who has commanded us repeatedly in the Scriptures to do so – can help us. A shift in our perception of the different roles at mass may be called for here.
I think many of us have the notion that we are the audience; that the priest, lector, cantors, servers, deacons, etc. are the performers; and that God is the “executive producer” of the show. But the truth is that God is the Audience and that all of us are called to be performers for one another’s benefit and for God’s pleasure. Of course it is also true that the mass is the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ the Eternal High Priest offered to the Father by the Holy Spirit. And it is also still true that Jesus Christ is present at mass in the person of the priest, in the proclaimed Word of God, in the Eucharist . . . and, yes, in the gathered Body of Christ – you and me and all of us.
Last weekend’s responsorial psalm asked “how could we sing a song of the LORD in a foreign land?” The Chosen People had been exiled from the Promised Land to Babylon and one of the ways their captors there tormented them was by asking them to “sing the songs of Zion.” They thought back longingly to the temple in Jerusalem where they worshipped the LORD, singing together in happier days.
Maybe those of us who still feel resistance to the idea of singing at all, particularly in a way where anyone else can hear us, could step out in faith and just try, this Lent and Easter season, to move beyond our comfort zone for the sake of the worship the Lord asks us for. It could transform the experience of celebrating the liturgy together for all of us.
Dear friends on the journey,
Think back to your childhood. What was your image of God when you were a kid? Now go to your teen or college years. What was your image or impression of God then? Was it any different from your early childhood? What did God mean for you at that time?
What’s your image of God today, as an adult? Has it evolved from your early years? Or is it the same? Is your grownup image a God one of judgement and harshness? Or is yours a loving God? I really hope this is the case and if not, if you feel only judgment from God, I encourage you to stop and reflect on why that is your image of God. Where does that come from? How can your image of God transition to one only of love and generosity?
Today’s gospel is an excellent place to start. It includes probably the most referenced scripture passage of all time, John 3:16 which says: For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. The passage goes on to say that Jesus was sent not to condemn the world but to save the world and he does this by death on the cross. He is the truth and the light. This is good news. No, this is fantastic news!
My image of God has certainly evolved over the course of my life and through my ever-deepening relationship with God. Sometimes I have this image of God like a parent who, when her child or teen does something stupid, just lowers her head and shakes it in disbelief. God must have done that with the Israelites, as we read in the first reading.
I’m sure he did that with the apostles and the early Christians and no doubt with us now. But then I picture God chuckling and wrapping his arms around us, knowing our imperfections and offering forgiveness anyway. Jesus did that for us. His crucifixion offers us the way to salvation and not just a few but all of us. We don’t need to earn it; we just need to respond. Our acceptance of this free gift is choosing to believe that, despite our imperfections, brokenness, occasional wrong decisions, God’s love is unconditional. We don’t have to wait to be perfect, happy, mature, rich, smart or have our stuff together in order to be in relationship with God. He wants us here and now so he can wrap his arms around us in forgiveness, comfort and love.
Most often we talk about God’s love for us collectively. To be quite honest, only in the last couple of years did I have a true personal realization that Jesus died for me. I hope you believe this about yourself too: he died for you. Look at the gospel again and read it to yourself:
For God so loved me that he gave his only Son, so that I will believe and not perish and have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn me, but that I might be saved through him.
If we believe this and accept God’s gift of salvation through Jesus, then we have to come out of the darkness and live in the light. As we come towards the end of Lent and prepare for Holy Week, let us all examine our image of God, our personal relationship with God, and our own dark areas. What is the Good Friday of our lives that needs God’s light and love? It’s there for each and everyone of us. Don’t wait.
Faith Life Minister
Dear Faith Family,
Today our Confirmation Year 2 teens embarked on our Confirmation retreat. This year, we had a new date and a new venue (Gindling Hilltop in Malibu), but the same mission: To allow the teens to encounter Christ and to advocate discipleship. I believe that we were successful.
I have been blessed to watch this encounter for almost a decade and it never ceases to move and motivate my spiritual life as well. With the help of the testimonies of our peer, young adult and adult leaders, the goofy ice breakers and the participation in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament I can honestly say that vibrant evangelization is at the forefront of our retreat.
Every retreat there seems to be, what we call in Youth Ministry, the “retreat high” and there is no doubt in my mind that our teens are currently feeling this. This tends to happen when you fall in love, or realize that someone loves you. This is what happens at most retreats; the realization of God’s love and the reciprocation of it tend to lead to this feeling.
Let us pray that after this retreat the understanding of God’s love is held onto, especially after the “retreat high” subsides. God’s love isn’t conditional, and it is there even in our busyness and our failure to recognize it.
With that said, it is still important to go on those “dates” with God, to reignite the feeling. For this Lenten season, I challenge you all to take time to spend with God. It doesn’t have to be a retreat (but if you can, go for it), but maybe time in the chapel, silent time in scripture or even listening to some music that resounds God’s love for us.
I also wanted to take this time to thank all of you who donated to our Peer Leader Retreat Fund. It was because of you we were able to send all 40 of all our leaders at a reduced cost.
Your generosity always amazes me and on behalf of the leaders, I’d like to say that we are truly blessed to have such a strong parish family that truly cares for each other.
Youth and Young Adult Minister
My Dear Fellow Parishioners,
It was my great joy last Sunday to accompany 13 people from our parish, along with their godparents and families, to St. Julie Billiart Church in Newbury Park where they celebrated the Rite of Election with Bishop Robert Barron. This rite is an important ceremony, conducted on the First Sunday of Lent in every diocese of the world, with the adults, teens, and school-age children who will be baptized at the upcoming Easter Vigil.
After the Rite of Election, these candidates are referred to as the “Elect.” Our parish community is blessed this year to have 13 Elect: April Arguelles, Abigail Booth, Brittany Carruth, Shay Carruth, Joshua Castillo, Trinity Gunnels, Adan Guzman, Alonzo Guzman, Robert Henson, Daniel Mendoza, Isabel Mendoza, Alina Miller and Bryan Petrie.
Since the Rite of Election happened to fall this year on a 3-day holiday weekend, some of our Elect gave up family trips in order to celebrate the Rite. This speaks highly of their understanding of the importance of Baptism.
Sometimes we forget the importance of our own baptisms, perhaps because we were infants when carried to the font. The 40 days of Lent are designed by our Church, in her wisdom, to prepare not only the Elect for their baptisms at Easter, but to prepare all of us to renew our own baptismal promises, spoken long ago by our parents and godparents.
“Election” means choice. Our Elect have been chosen by God, as have we, to be disciples of Jesus and to embrace his mission as our own. Baptism is not meant to be just for our personal salvation. Rather, it is for the salvation of the whole world! We are baptized into the Body of Christ to be Christ's eyes, ears, mouth, heart, hands, and feet in the world today. We all have been given the gifts and talents necessary to continue Jesus’ mission, each in our own unique way and according to our particular circumstances.
May our Lenten practices this year help us to recognize our gifts in order to follow Jesus more closely and with greater generosity. During the coming weeks, let us journey together with our Elect to the waters of the font, eager to renew our mission as disciples!
Coordinator of Initiation
My Dear Parish Family,
Life-giving activities are from the Spirit of God. What are my life-giving activities? What are those things that make me the person God intended me to be? In today’s gospel from Mark, Jesus was in the company of adversaries and angels. It occurs to me that we have to have both. We cannot have a choice of one. If there is only one thing before us, we don’t choose one or the … same one; there is no choice there. Everyday all of us are surrounded by adversaries and angels, bad and good, and we do choose, sometimes
consciously, sometimes not.
Life has become so busy, so full, even in “down” time we are missing ourselves, and maybe even others close to us, in the daily buzz. In thinking about Lenten practices 2018, what to give up … what to add … Let’s search for what will help us keep Jesus at the center of our life.
Enter Lent … another genius of the Church. Somehow, those early church leaders knew we all would need an annual retreat. They knew it would take about 40 days. They knew we would need to hear, again, the stories of Jesus’ own struggles and encounters with human beings just like us.
Lent is a time for spring-cleaning, for getting our house in order, for inspection. Clear out the clutter – remove distractions. Clean the house – fast from dirt and disorderliness. Purge duplicates – give to people who need the things we store in our cupboards and closets. Make room for sacred space, prayer, time and space for relationship with Jesus and the people in our lives. Give something up as a spiritual practice of self-discipline, a small suffering aligned with Jesus’ incredible suffering. Care for the poor, especially the cold and the hungry.
Lent is a time to clean up our house, the one we live in and the one inside of us, the dwelling place. A suggestion: Write down all your daily activities. Discern those that are responsibilities and do your best with them. Discern those activities that do not give life and discontinue or severely curtail them, get help if needed, and finally, identify and embrace those activities that do give you life. Unleash what God had in mind for you. Embrace the angels.
What adversaries will we defeat? Let’s go for a 40-day cleanse and revisit Fr. Patrick's suggestions to fast (choose 1 or more) from: worry, judging others and negativity, pessimism and complaining, anger about things and hostility towards people, anxiety and bitterness, self-righteousness and grudges, greed and deceit, envy and arrogance.
Parish Life Minister
There are almost 600 youth in Girl Scouting in Camarillo alone, from kindergarten Daisies to 12th grade Ambassador Scouts. The mission of this 100+ year organization is to build girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.
Service to others is interwoven into almost every aspect of scouting, as a component of most badges and especially at the highest Bronze, Silver and Gold Awards. Girl Scouts work closely with their community and other philanthropic organizations, including their schools and churches. Recently, Padre Serra Girl Scouts have organized food drives, sent care packages to children worldwide, supported our military and veterans, cleaned up parks and beaches, reached out to the homeless, and organized activities for younger children including babysitting and Trunk-or-Treat here at PSP.
Everything in Girl Scouting is based on the Girl Scout Promise and Law:
On my honor I will try to serve God and my country, to help people at all times and to live by the Girl Scout law.
The 10-stanza law includes practicing good morals like honesty, helpfulness, caring, respect while using resources wisely, and ultimately making the world a better place.
The Promise and Law includes many principles and values common across religions. So while a secular organization, Girl Scouts encourages girls to take spiritual journeys via their faiths' religious recognition.
Scouting welcomes girls of all faith traditions, teaching mutual respect. Two programs teach the girls more about their faith: the “My Promise My Faith” pin and national awards through Programs of Religious Activities with Youth (P.R.A.Y., www.praypub.org) or specifically for the Roman Catholic faith through the Catholic Committee on Scouting (www.nfcym.org). Scouting helps develop a passion for service, self-reliance, leadership, an array of skills, friendships … and besides, it’s fun!
For more information please visit www.micasagirlscouts.com (Camarillo Service Unit) or www.girlscoutsccc.org (local Council), or contact Karen Fraser at email@example.com.
For information on Padre Serra’s Boy Scout Troop #257, a vibrant outdoor troop that meets every first Tuesday each month, contact Lance and Cheryl Kistler at firstname.lastname@example.org. They will be participating in the Ventura County Boy Scout Council’s Annual Scouting for Food event on February 24 and some boys are working on the Ad Altare Dei Catholic Religious Award to be presented at the Cathedral in May. Come to their pancake breakfast the first Sunday in June to meet our troop in person.
Our parish is blessed to have a boys troop and a girls troop as real-life examples of living our mission.
They visit people in their homes, in convalescent hospitals, in assisted living residences, rehabilitation centers, and at both Pleasant Valley Hospital and St. John’s Hospital in Oxnard. Some of our ministers work full time and have families. Some are retired, and are generously making good use of their free time. They try, at each encounter, to spend some social time with their communicant, lead the sick in brief but intense and worshipful prayer, and then offer them communion.
I frequently note how deeply connected these ministers become to their charges, often accompanying them from home care, to hospital and convalescent care, all the way to their deaths, at times even attending their funerals. From personal experience, I can attest to the beautiful faith of our elderly and sick parishioners. I often feel that I receive more than those I visit, whose trust in, and love of the Lord is often so deep.
Those that do will often exhibit many other beautiful qualities of generosity, tenderness, prayerfulness and compassion. In effect, they resemble Jesus, at least to me.
This ministry is not for everyone. I encourage you to consider joining this marvelous company of Christlike, quiet heroes. You don’t have to be wise or eloquent. You do need a caring heart, but I bet that’s already true about you.
Give this service some deep thought.
When applying for a graduate teaching program after college, one of the interview questions centered on my favorite Gospel story that relates to teaching. Relying on my years in Catholic elementary and high school, I suggested Jesus’ parable of the mustard seed. As educators, we plant small seeds and nurture them to grow into marvelous things!
Before staying home with our two sons, my wife was also a Catholic school teacher and principal. In her office was a quote by William Butler Yeats that read, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” We light small sparks that will grow and bring light and warmth to those who surround it.
I share these anecdotes this week as we begin the celebration of National Catholic Schools’ Week – an opportunity to recognize the tremendous achievements of the 6,429 Catholic schools across the United States.
Catholic schools are where students are able to learn, serve, lead, and ultimately succeed. Seeds are planted and sparks are lit every single day in our Catholic schools.
I feel so tremendously blessed to be principal at our very own Catholic school at St. Mary Magdalen here in Camarillo. It is a privilege to work with a dedicated and enthusiastic faculty and a tremendous honor to partner with amazing parents in the education of their children. It is with these teachers and parents that seeds are planted and small sparks are nurtured.
I am certainly proud of the academic achievements of our students that see them typically score above the national average on standardized tests and advance to the top high schools in our area. I’m also proud of the wide range of opportunities we are able to offer our students during the school day such as Spanish and music as well as after school activities including a wide variety of clubs and sports.
We help our students to grow and flourish in so many ways, but I truly believe the most important seeds we plant and flames we fan are that of our students’ faith. To be able to start every day in prayer, celebrate Mass together once a week as a school community, and openly talk with students about our shared Catholic faith is something I most enjoy about my job and something that sets our school apart from others. We prepare students to not only be productive citizens of this world, but also develop them to one day be citizens of heaven.
The work that we do is something that cannot be done without your prayers and support and to my fellow Padre Serra parishioners, I offer humble words of deep gratitude. Your generosity over the years allows us to continue to grow and thrive. This is your school community and you are such an important part of the educational journey and faith development of all our children.
You are there with us as we plant seeds and light the fire.
Principal, St. Mary Magdalen School
Today’s Gospel and Old Testament readings have to do with a call that Jonah experienced and that Simon, Andrew,
James and John all heard from Jesus and to which they responded. It’s a call to discipleship and it’s one that is meant for all of us.
Many of us heard the story of Jonah in the belly of the fish when we were young. I find it interesting that the church
chose to skip that part of the story for today’s reading which begins:
The word of the LORD came to Jonah, saying: "Set out for the great city of Nineveh, and announce to it the message that I will tell you." So Jonah made ready and went to Nineveh, according to the LORD'S bidding.
The reason Jonah was in the belly of the fish was because he first attempted to escape God’s call by literally fleeing on a ship. When God sent a storm, the sailors threw Jonah overboard, and the fish swallowed him. Three days later, returned to dry land (I’ll spare you the details), Jonah had a different attitude. I wonder if the point is that one way or another, it’s best to respond to God’s call, which is constant and unyielding, even in the face of our disobedience and imperfection.
The disciples that responded so readily to Jesus’ call in today’s Gospel were also far from perfect. Remember how they bickered over who would get to sit at Jesus’ right hand in the coming kingdom? Remember how they fell asleep at Gethsemane and abandoned him at Calvary? Yet they are saints – examples for all of us, celebrated for centuries by the church to which we belong.
So if the call to discipleship is unyielding and uncompromising, and meant for all of us, to what exactly are we being
In the Gospel, Jesus calls the disciples to follow him, and they do. What does following Jesus mean? To what are we to follow him? To preaching (announcing the good news that the reign of God is at hand and within), teaching, healing, prayer, obedience, redemptive suffering, death and resurrection. I realize that many of those words may sound churchy or foreign to us living as we do in the complex world of 2018. But they are what we are called to, according to the gifts we’ve been given, by virtue of our baptism. And if we, in our weakness and imperfection will try to respond to the call, God will bring great blessings to our world and to us.
When Jonah preached repentance as he’d been commanded, “the people of Nineveh believed God … When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way, he repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to them; he did not carry it out.”
When Jesus’ disciples obeyed the command to go and teach all nations, a church that none of them could imagine grew to span centuries and to touch all parts of our world. Ours is a church that has accomplished tremendous good, even though it is made up of imperfect, weak and disobedient people just like you and me, who have tried to respond to God’s call, relying on God’s grace.
Liturgy and Music Minister
I write this message from the foggy, cool mountaintop home of Serra Retreat Center in Malibu. Fifty women from our parish are retreating to pray on the Epiphany readings and reflect on the stars in our lives, those guiding lights that point us to Jesus. I love beginning a new year with a retreat. This “vacation with God” is a wonderful opportunity to refuel and recommit time and energy to my spiritual journey. While I highly recommend and encourage a weekend retreat to anyone, scheduled intentional time with God to reflect on the Sunday readings each week from the comfort of our own home is just as valuable. God has some message for each of us. We just need to carve out the time in our ordinary day to listen. It’s that simple.
The theme of today’s readings is God’s invitation and our response (1). In the first reading, Samuel does not recognize the voice calling his name while he is sleeping: “Samuel, Samuel!” After the third time, his mentor Eli finally tells him what to say. What always strikes me about this story is the trust with which Samuel responds, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” For the rest of Samuel’s life, the Lord was with him always. It was that simple.
In the gospel, we hear another call and response. John the Baptist and two of his disciples encounter Jesus.
They are curious about him and what he is doing. Jesus said, “Come and you will see.” What did they do?
They followed Jesus with complete trust! It was that simple.
I wonder what those soon-to-be-apostles were thinking. What did they think they were going to see?
Today marks the beginning of Ordinary Time and the readings in the coming weeks will show us exactly what the apostles saw and experienced. They will walk us through Jesus’ daily life. If we are willing to go as the apostles did, we too will see, learn, and experience Jesus’ examples of love, forgiveness, healing, and ministry.
Ordinary daily life is where God shows up. Often times I think God is just saying hello. Other times I believe God is saying, “Listen up. Have I got something for you?” Every day, every week God invites us to confront real issues. How can I love the neighbor who irritates me? Can I forgive the family member who wronged me? What can I offer the homeless person on the corner? How can I comfort my grieving friend? We can never go wrong when we discern a situation and respond with loving Christian values.
Let’s journey together these coming weeks so we too can see and respond to God’s call to live our ordinary lives with extraordinary love. I promise it’s really that simple.
Faith Life Minister
(1) At Home with the Word 2018
Dear Faith Family,
Merry Christmas to all of you and a Happy New Year as well!
I feel like I get the bulletin letter every year around this same time. This is one of my favorite letters to write because of our celebration of the Epiphany of Our Lord.
In my previous Epiphany letters, I remember writing about us being the star that leads people to Christ. A star so bright that people cannot help but to be compelled with what makes you so vibrant. While this still rings true, there is another element in the story of the Three Wise Men on Epiphany; the presentation of gifts to the Christ child.
During this New Year, we will all make resolutions that will help us be the best version of ourselves. The normal resolutions of eating healthier, spending more time with family and various things like this. These resolutions are wonderful ways to help live life more vibrantly and can also help us learn to love others in an unconditional way and we should not shy away from the wonderful promises to ourselves.
But in what ways though, can we learn to unconditionally serve our Lord? A great example can be seen in the Wise Men, by presenting their gifts.
This year, I pray that we become more conscious of the idea of what our gifts are. Once we become aware of our personal gold, frankincense, and myrrh then we become more aware of the best way we can serve.
Self-reflection is very important for our personal lives, but we often forget that when we get to know ourselves better (in our faults and weaknesses), then we gain the opportunity to serve in the most unconditional way imaginable.
So, friends, I invite you all to take time to see who God created you to be. It’s easy to spot the things in our lives that influence a healthy lifestyle. But this year, I invite you to take time to truly reflect on your gifts and talents. If you gain more clarity when it comes to those things, then I invite you to bring the gifts to God and ask Him how he wants you to serve Him.
God bless you all and Happy Epiphany everybody!
Youth and Young Adult Minister
I remember the anticipation I felt as we drove to my grandparents’ home each New Year’s Eve. I so enjoyed the aroma of various meats, vegetables, dumplings and spices that filled the air as we arrived. Let’s face it though, as a young boy I also loved sneaking sweets just before dinner. I always thought I got away with it but I had fooled no one. My parents just watched, smiled and said nothing. They had wisely realized that these were childhood moments to be cherished, appreciated and even ‘hidden’ at times. Little did I know that in their actions I was also being taught how to treat others and deal with relationships. Over time, the education also grew and became more challenging but always provided greater insights.
Considering the impact my parents had in my life, I cannot help but wonder how Jesus, Mary and Joseph interacted with one another as a family. We honor them as role models and share our innermost thoughts with them. In many ways we feel we know this family quite well yet questions remain. For example, aside from Jesus’ early years and his time in the temple at age 12, little is known about him as a child, teenager or young adult. A single line in today’s Gospel reads, “The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom.” Reflecting on this verse however, I now realize this may not represent a gap or an open question at all. It could rather be an invitation for us to consider how Jesus grew up and learned the ways of the world by watching Mary and Joseph. It could provide us with our own opportunities within our own families.
We might define our family unit as traditional, nontraditional or communal yet we all are part of the one family of God. Armed with this truth and in celebration of today’s Feast of the Holy Family, I offer the following suggestions as we continue to hone our own ability to grow and participate more fully as active family members:
Happy New Year. Endless Blessings,
Deacon Luc Papillon
When politics are intense, and contentious, when hillsides and homes are burning, when the news sources offer a steady stream of grim stories, how do we lift our spirits? How do we find joy? Where do we find peace? We always need to have an answer to these questions because every year, every age, has its own agony.
Jesus chose just such a time to enter into our human history. Rome had conquered everyone in the known world. Millions had been forced into slavery, and most others lived at the margins of hunger, making only just enough to get by, from hand to mouth, day by day. Good farmland was hard to come by; so much of it had been depleted. Lives for peasants were hard and short. Judea was just a tiny kingdom, subject to the whims of Roman emperors and governors. Both Nazareth and Bethlehem were tiny backwaters.
It was that very moment and place of desperation that the Lord chose to enter into human history. In dark times, He is the unfailing light. In uncertainty, He is the Unchanging Word of God. In your struggle, He is strength. In poverty, He is the richness of the Father. In your loneliness, He is God with you and for you. He knows your story. He can feel your pain. He shared in it in His own time, and walks with you now.
I encourage you to place your burdens at the foot of the manger, where the Creator of All reveals Himself in the helplessness of a baby. I also invite you to take from that simple gathering, birthed by Mary and sheltered by Joseph, renewed commitment to foster the Lord in your own life.
May this Christmas time bring you hope, the real hope that endures all changes and human problems. May this New Year find you and all you love, richly blessed with all you truly need. May the Infant of Bethlehem be reborn in your home and life.
I wish you and all you love a Merry Christmas, and joy in the New Year!
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