Like most of you, I had no idea the circumstances under which I’d be writing this. Even two weeks ago, we thought our masses would continue on their regular schedule even if fewer of you could be there. Now we find ourselves under order to stay home and practice distancing in order to protect ourselves and one another. Our mass is being celebrated in an empty church and shared digitally with you. Many of you have sent us notes of appreciation and we are grateful and uplifted by them!
Today’s Scripture Readings have passages that can serve as prompts for reflection on where God is in our current reality. Since they are God’s Word, they bring hope and light, precious gifts that are sorely needed.
The first reading from the prophet Ezekiel where the LORD says that he will “open your graves and have you rise from them” is partly metaphorical, dealing with the future end of the Babylonian exile. But the notes of promise, restoration and God’s faithfulness are unmistakable. I say ”partly metaphorical” because in today’s Gospel reading an actual resurrection from the dead occurs when Jesus calls Lazarus out of the grave.
Friends, the pandemic through which we are living is scary, and on many levels. In addition to fear of the virus and for our own health, there is fear that we may lose someone we love. On top of that there is economic fear, fear of being cooped up, fear of things changing irrevocably, fear of shortage and scarcity, fear of civil unrest and any number of others. Where is God in this? He is right here, with us. The shortest verse in the Bible is in today’s gospel: “And Jesus wept” [at the death of his friend Lazarus, and at the pain of his family and friends].
On the other hand, there are many examples of courage and resilience, generosity and charity. If we are to be, as St. Teresa of Avila says, the hands and feet of Jesus Christ; if we are to look with his eyes of mercy on the world, then are not these stories of first responders and healthcare professionals; of families sharing with those in more dire straits than their own; of scientists and civic leaders collaborating reasons for hope and even for joy? Are these not the Body of the Risen Christ ministering to the Body? And what is that if not light in darkness?
Psalm 130 from which this Sunday’s responsorial psalm is taken expresses this duality well:
Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD;
LORD, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to my voice in supplication.
I trust in the LORD; my souls trusts in his word. More than sentinels wait for the dawn, let Israel wait for the LORD.
For with the LORD is kindness and with him is plenteous redemption; and he will redeem Israel.
When this pandemic has run its course and passes, and we are released from enforced isolation, as we first emerge and begin reordering our lives, maybe it will be a little like Lazarus emerging from the grave. And maybe we will live differently. Maybe we will be more patient, more grateful, more loving, and more attuned to God’s presence among us. May it be so.
Dear Parish Family,
Happy Laetare Sunday! “Rejoice Jerusalem.” On this Sunday, the Church expresses hope and joy in the midst of our Lenten fasts and penances. It gives us a glimpse of the Joy that awaits us for Easter, as we continue our Lenten journey.
I wonder if any of you have felt a similar experience this Lenten season. For me, with what is happening worldwide with the COVID 19, it has created an opportunity to have a more in depth Lenten experience. In our Lenten season, we are asked to Pray, Fast, and Give. With the big push to remind us to wash our hands for at least twenty seconds frequently, I found an excellent suggestion to say the Our Father and Hail Mary as I washed. As I mindfully pray the Our Father and Hail Mary with every hand washing or as I wipe down surfaces, I bring all my loved ones to mind, especially for all who are affected by this virus. I am grateful for the opportunity to add more prayer through the small things I do in my everyday life. Even some of the restrictions that are being implemented for our health and safety can be adopted as a Lenten sacrifice. The fact that we may have to sacrifice a planned trip to Disneyland, a canceled concert, or even attending a party. If we accept these sacrifices with patience and offer them up for the health and recovery of others, it makes it all more bearable and good for our soul.
Our readings this Sunday share the same common theme to SEE ... In our first reading David, by first glance, was not the obvious choice to be anointed king, yet he was the chosen one. Samuel tells us, “Not as man sees does God see because man sees the appearance, but the Lord looks into the heart” (1 Sm 16:7). In our Gospel, Jesus healed the man physically by giving him sight. He healed him spiritually, revealing that Jesus is the Son of Man, the Messiah. The man became a believer and worshiped Jesus.
Let us SEE the Light, to fill us with the much needed rest and joy within the sacrifices this Lenten season, as we look forward to Easter and the end of this pandemic. We are being called on our Christian virtues of Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and self control in the accepting of the changing conditions that make us feel out of control. Especially in how we treat each other, may all our works be pleasing to our God. That when he looks into our hearts, he will see how much we love him and our love for others in the way we are caring for each other. You are all loved and precious in the eyes of our Lord. Stay healthy and unafraid. “Even though I walk in the dark valley, I fear no evil; for you are at my side with your rod and your staff that give me courage. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.” Our Lord is with us always.
I’m not much of a plain water drinker but I so love my coffee. I absolutely cherish the aroma, the sound the coffee maker makes while it’s brewing and finally that first sip. Whether morning, midday or evening, it’s never too early or too late for that wonderful cup of java. Even so, I hate to admit it, but coffee generally does not completely satisfy my thirst. I do trust there’s nothing like plain water to quench a thirst and I believe I’m not alone to think so. Nonetheless, many of us convince ourselves that the right thing for the moment is that soda, sugar-free drink, or yes even coffee...after all, it tastes so good!
Much like satisfying a physical thirst, we also seek to quench something much greater within us on a daily basis. We recognize that there’s more to life than our five senses can provide so we continue to look for that perfect answer. The real challenge is making the right selection when faced with a choice to quench our spiritual desires. Sin promises us that it can fill that need and it may appear to do so initially. Eventually though, it will certainly worsen our thirst leaving us wanting more. We must therefore reflect on real satisfaction and real hope. This internal drive is our spiritual journey and in a very special way the next three weeks for our elect.
This Lenten weekend, the elect from the RCIA process are invited to undergo the first of three Scrutinies. Their journey continues with contemplation in preparation to receive the Sacraments of Baptism, First Holy Communion and Confirmation. Not only the elect but our entire assembly is also invited to prepare. Each of us is called to reflect on our own life so to ready ourselves to greet the resurrected Christ at Easter. Whether elect or already baptized, we are challenged to find and uncover all that is weak, defective, and sinful within our souls and to strengthen all that is upright, strong and good. We are invited to seek what is truly needed to satisfy our spiritual longing. The greatest news of all is that we do not have wander and look for that spiritual drink alone. Jesus provides us a pathway through his words to the Samaritan woman: “Whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
In just a few weeks, we’ll pray, witness and celebrate the baptism of the elect. If already baptized, we will have an opportunity and privilege to renew our own baptismal promises. Our fervent preparation in the remaining days leading to the Easter Vigil will certainly add to the clarity we will experience. I guarantee that the effort put forth now will pay off on that day; there will be Jesus, arms wide open, welcoming us home once again with a wellspring like no other ... so much better than coffee.
Deacon Luc Papillon
My Dear Fellow Parishioners,
This Lent our parish is very blessed to have 16 members of the “Elect” – four adults, three teens, three middle schoolers and six elementary school children – who will be initiated into the Church through the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist at the Easter Vigil on April 11. On the First Sunday of Lent our parish community sent them, along with their godparents, to Bishop Barron who celebrated the Rite of Election with them and with the many other catechumens from throughout the region. During this important rite their godparents testified to the bishop about their readiness for initiation. The catechumens themselves publicly stated their desire to be baptized, and the bishop, at the high-point of the ceremony, proclaimed, “I declare you to be members of the Elect, chosen by God, to be initiated at the next Easter Vigil.”
What a joyful moment that was for all of us – newly elected, family members, friends, godparents and teachers!
Lent marks the Elect’s final period of preparation for the sacraments. They will celebrate three more rites called Scrutinies on the Third, Fourth and Fifth Sundays of Lent which will strengthen them as they strive to become more conformed to the ways of Jesus. They will increase their prayer life, fast and participate in charitable works along with us as they prepare for Baptism and we prepare to renew our own baptismal promises at Easter.
As they, and we, look to the remaining five weeks of Lent, it may all seem a little daunting. But I believe the readings for today can encourage all of us on our Lenten journey as well as on life’s journey. When I read in the account of the Transfiguration that Jesus’ clothes became “white as light,” I always think of the white garment we put on after we are baptized. The Transfiguration of Jesus, as well as our baptismal garment, give us a glimpse of his Resurrection which in turn gives hope of a new, transformed life for ourselves ... during Lent, throughout our lives and when we, too, rise from the dead.
The theme that God chooses and calls us is evident in all three readings. Also evident is that God guides us, blesses us and bestows grace on us that we may be holy. Our greatest guide and blessing is Jesus. At the end of today’s Gospel we are told, “Listen to him.” May our Lenten practices help us to listen to him more closely.
Dear Faith Family,
We are now 4 days into our change in eating habits. Chocolate companies are officially prepared for a decrease in sales in their most beloved products and fast food chains are now offering fish sandwiches at a discounted rate. Yes friends, it is indeed the first Sunday of Lent and our Lenten promises are now in full swing. I know like many of you, this is a go to Lenten sacrifice for me. There is something about 40 days of healthy eating that seems to be a wonderful benefit. While it is good to do this, every year I do ask myself, “why?”
Yes, it is proper to give up certain foods during this season and while the healthy result of this fast is indeed a good thing, sometimes we forget the reason why we give up the “good stuff” during Lent. It is in preparation for the glory of the Resurrection and also an opportunity to understand that all good things come from God.
In my mind, giving up certain foods or material pleasures aren’t a declaration that you are cleansing yourself from them, but rather, it is removing a thing from your life to replace with God, with the intent of creating more time and appreciation for our Creator. Hopefully at the end of our 40 days, we recognize that God is so great to allow humans the ability to provide and create these goods, allowing God’s imprint to be evident in all that we are surrounded by.
I know that it’s been said a million times, but the Lenten season is truly an opportunity to be with God further. And while giving up things can be very healthy, both spiritually and physically, we must remind ourselves to add an element to these 40 days that give us more intentional opportunity to be with God. Whether that is an increase in dedicated prayer at home, in the car, at the workplace or even an attempt to go to daily Mass, we must remember that this is not the season of taking away, but rather, a season of fasting, giving and prayer.
When we offer up the things we love to God, he cannot help but to smile. Our gifts of the world may seem so small compared to God, but I know our Father looks down on us with pride when we offer up these things to him.
So, good luck this Lenten season! I can’t wait to be celebrating the Resurrection with all of you while holding a Twix bar and a Double Double.
Youth and Young Adult Minister
Dear friends on the journey,
Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “change is the only constant in life.” But who likes change? I generally do not, unless it involves moving furniture! Change can often bring discomfort, fear and uncertainty. The thought of any of my kids or family moving away is gut wrenching. Anything that disturbs our daily comforts is overwhelming. On the other side of that same coin, change can bring us new people, adventures, experiences, joy and personal growth, both on the surface and deep down.
One constant change are the seasons. In the next few weeks spring will arrive, bringing a new earth, new light and new life. This Wednesday our liturgical season changes too. Lent begins our annual 40-day spiritual retreat, a time to reflect on our spiritual life and relationship with God. If done right, that reflection can lead to change, the positive kind, the kind that transforms our hearts and minds to be more like Jesus.
Jesus is constantly challenging us to change. To be his disciple means to shed our old ways and move closer to living the gospel values. Today’s readings are a perfect example of the radicalness of Christian discipleship. The readings are bookended by Lord telling the Israelite through Moses to “be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy” and Jesus telling his disciples (the apostles and us) to “be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” How can we possibly be holy and perfect? In Luke perfect is synonymous with merciful. Well, in the middle we’re given part of the formula:
What old way of yours is God calling you to change? Is it an unhealthy habit or addiction, a quick temper, too much time on a smart device? Is it an old grudge, impatience with your nextdoor neighbor or the store clerk, rage on the road, a family member with a different political opinion? Is it a lack of tolerance for the outorwork man at the off ramp, the indifference to the homeless, the judgment of immigrants, the condemnation of those of other races, religions, sexual orientation?
This Lent is a good time to pray on your own area of growth and reflect on the new way, the transformational change to which God is calling you to be holy and merciful and love your neighbor as yourself.
Faith Life Minister
Last October I had the opportunity of facilitating a Serra Seniors gathering on the “wisdom of seniors” and the following is a reflection on the experience.
In the bible, Job 12 says this: "Is wisdom with the aged, and understanding in length of days?" The question is rhetorical, because the answer was obvious: of course (or in today's lingo, "Duh!"). What was so obvious to other generations and other cultures has gotten lost in our generation and our culture. Older Americans have accepted the condescending and dismissive narrative that they are permanently in weekend mode, that now is the time for endless play and being entertained. Your services, your insight, your wisdom -- in short, you -- are no longer needed.
But in almost every society, the elderly are revered and consulted for their wisdom. All the great thinkers like Aristotle in the west and Confucius urge consulting the elderly on how to live or what gives life meaning, Don't consult the young; they have not lived enough. When Jesus is praised by the crowd for speaking with authority (Mt 7), they were perhaps praising him for having wisdom beyond his years, as Jesus was praised as a 12-year-old (Lk 2) for having wisdom beyond his years.
Retired people don't have to be retired. They don't even have to be tired! Sometimes an old person is asked to tell her life story. The old person can also be asked to tell what she has learned about life by living. The old person can be consulted for his philosophy, not just for his biography.
Here's advice from a popular self-help book: "Be true to your word." You need to buy a book for that? Old people don't have to read self-help books; they can write them. Seniors don't have to be told what to do; they know. The goal is not to feel better, but to think better.
Wisdom cannot be reduced to little sayings. Those little sayings need explanation, examples, and support -- as well as warnings about when they should be ignored. Each of these little sayings is the beginning of an insight, not the insight itself. Here is a small sample of wisdom from seniors here at Padre Serra, with suggestions on how to continue the insights.
You don't have to be old to start systematically questioning your own beliefs -- not so that you will give them up, but so that you understand them.
That verse from Job we started with is followed immediately by this one: "With God are wisdom and strength; God has counsel and understanding." Any wisdom we have is a gift from God. Pray for wisdom. When God favors you with it, write it down. Consult God, not a self-help book. Here is the final piece of advice. Have a regular prayer time each day that cannot be interrupted by anything.
Dr. Janice Daurio
Padre Serra’s annual golf tournament fundraiser, Fairways to Heaven, is just around the corner: Monday, March 16, at historic Las Posas Country Club here in Camarillo. Now in its fourth successful year, this fun-filled, all-day event features:
In advance of the event, everyone can participate in:
Whether you’re a golfer, sponsor, young, old, parishioner or new friend, this fabulous event is a lot of fun for everyone involved!
All Fairways to Heaven proceeds will benefit educational resources and technologies for our youth and young adult ministries.
The tournament committee needs your help to ensure this year’s tournament is the most successful yet! We are still looking for goods, services, vacation homes, sporting event tickets, unique experiences, a wine refrigerator, and much more to make our silent and live auctions even more spectacular, as well as additional golfers, dinner attendees, and sponsors at all levels.
The best part is that everyone can participate, even if he or she isn’t at the event. Whether it’s an auction donation, tee sponsorship, helicopter ball drop or dinner raffle ticket purchase, the more we all help and participate, the better!
Finally, this is a fantastic opportunity for your company or employer to sponsor a dinner table for eight, golf foursome,
or both as a team-building activity or department reward.
Thank you, everyone, for your support, and we look forward to seeing you at Fairways to Heaven on Monday, March 16!
Peace and blessings,
Paul and Eve Collier, Fairways Cochairs
Luke Cardella, Tournament Coordinator
Deserie Tyree and Mark Milner, Auction Coordinators
And the whole amazing committee!
It’s only every several years that the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord falls on a Sunday, so it may be more familiar to those who attend daily mass. But it’s an important enough feast that when it does fall on a Sunday of Ordinary Time, it replaces that Sunday’s usual prayers and readings. That is the case this year.
The reading from Luke’s gospel we hear this weekend is an account of how Mary and Joseph brought the child Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem in accordance with Jewish law, and of how two holy people who had been waiting faithfully for the Messiah (Simeon and Anna) reacted when they encountered Jesus. I’m struck by several things in the story. One is that Jesus was a Jew, as were his entire family and ancestry. He was brought up from the beginning to be observant of God’s law, to worship in the temple or synagogue, to observe the prescribed rituals, and to live justly and righteously, awaiting the fulfillment of God’s promise. Others much wiser than I have pondered at what point Jesus became aware that he was the Christ, the one that had been promised. The Scriptures tell us that he grew in grace, wisdom and favor.
The faith of Simeon and Anna is also significant. In particular, it seems that Simeon never doubted that God would fulfill what had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit – that he would not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord. I love the way Simeon addresses God upon meeting Jesus after having waited for so long: “Now, Master you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation”. And Anna embodies our parish mission statement: “And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were waiting the redemption of Jerusalem.” She encountered Jesus. She became a disciple.
The humility of Mary and Joseph is also compelling. Here are two people who have experienced a lot of supernatural events: Gabriel’s annunciation to Mary that she would be the Mother of the Savior, Joseph being counseled in a dream to go ahead and take Mary into his home even though she was with child, the journey to Bethlehem, the birth of Jesus in the stable, the angels sending shepherds to worship the child, the star which guided the Magi with their gifts to the child, the escape from Herod’s slaughter of the innocent – again prompted by Joseph’s dream. One might think they would become used to strange
and wonderful events. Yet they were “amazed” at what Simeon said about the child.
In the letter to the Hebrews (our second reading) we hear a little more about the meaning of the gift of Jesus Christ: “…He had to become like his brothers and sisters in every way, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest before God to expiate the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested through what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.”
Brothers and sisters, that is us.
Liturgy and Music Minister
Dear Parish Family,
As I was reflecting over the readings, I remembered a time when I was about 10 years old. I woke up in the middle of the night and as I sat up in my bed, I looked across the room; I thought I saw someone sitting on my chair. I immediately was frightened — who could it be, how did they get in? As scared as I was and noticing that they were not moving at all, I needed to at least turn on the lights. Now in a well lit room I could clearly see that the “person” sitting in my chair was actually just my big stuffed toy that I had forgotten I had left on my chair instead of putting it away. I even chuckled a bit when I realized how silly it was for me to have been scared. What joy and relief to have the light on to see clearly, to see things as they really are and not as I was imagining them to be.
In our first reading we are told, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone. You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing.” Is 9 12 The Light they experience is the light of God, his presence. In God’s light, everything assumes a new significance, its authentic and definitive meaning. In our Gospel, our first reading is once again echoed, a “light has arised.” As Jesus begins his ministry he calls on his first disciples. He assures them if they follow him he will make them fishers of men. They leave everything and they follow him.
Their willingness to leave everything and follow him, makes me think they could see clearly, perhaps not with their human eyes, but with their soul. The light of God made it possible for them to see clearly this was the path they must follow. May we too see Christ’s light as clearly, for there is a joy and happiness that becomes real in Jesus’ presence. He is the promised light that has come into our midst, His physical presence. Even today we are honored with his presence in the Eucharist. In Jesus we have everything.
Faith Formation Minister
“Behold the Lamb of God”: Another one of those profound Church sayings that we may take for granted. In our modern age, I’m not sure if we have any attachment to what a lamb is. We know it’s a farm animal, but what significance is that to God?
For me, it was just a phrase that didn’t make sense that I never really dove into. Why is Christ being the Lamb of God so significant? Because Christ is willing to be so. The reality is, Christ knew His mission, to be sacrificed for the sake of all of us so the gates of heaven can be opened for all.
Throughout the Old Testament there are so many instances of a lamb being sacrificed in place of others. The lamb is such a significant symbol, that those who are well versed in the Old Testament cannot think of the lamb in any other such way, (i.e., the sacrificed animal with Abraham and Isaac), the lamb’s theme will always be a means for sacrifice.
So why is this so important? Because of all the events of Salvation History, God allows His only begotten Son to be the sacrifice for all of us to open the gates of heaven. The ultimate sacrificial lamb, led to slaughter, for the sake of our eternal relationship with God.
If you’re like me, you may take a lot of “Church sayings” for granted, but what helps me to be in tune with our liturgy is to allow these terms to have the same strong meaning as for those who heard them for the first time.
I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and New Year!
Youth and Young Adult Minister
When I first saw this photo, I was knocked out. Most clergy say their ordination day was the most important day in their life. Most married people say: our wedding day.
For Pope Saint John Paul II, it was his baptism day (June 20, 1920). Here he is, on his first trip back to Poland after being elected pope, visiting his baptismal font and leaving a new paschal candle as a gift to the church (the church of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Wadowice, Poland).
In what church building were you baptized? What was the date? Who was the deacon or priest? Who are your godparents? For which saints and persons are you named?
Your baptism confirmed the promise God made the moment you were conceived: “This is my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
No one sang that better than Jeanne-Paule Marie Deckers (1933–1985), “The Singing Nun”:
ENTRE LES ETOILES/AMONG THE STARS
Among the stars the Lord has written your name, among the stars, way up high in his dwelling-place.
Among the stars the Lord placed your life, among the stars close to him in Paradise.
The night when God desired you, the night, that night when your life was fashioned from two bodies,
that night when His love first smiled upon you,
Blessed be that night.
The day that God redeemed you, on that day
the day He made you His child forever
the day when He made His dwelling in your heart
Blessed be that day.
The evening when God will call you, that evening,
That evening when your waning days will hasten your departure,
That evening of reunion, transfigured by hope,
Blessed be that evening.
Among the stars the Lord has written your name,
among the stars, way up high in his dwelling-place.
Among the stars the Lord placed your life,
among the stars close to him in Paradise.
Dr. Paul Ford
Professor of Theology and Liturgy
St. John’s Seminary
I have to admit that I like daylight savings time. Pictures of snowy landscapes capture the feeling of winter much better. Winter is associated with snow and freezing temperatures and death is a real possibility if you find yourself stranded on a highway in the middle of a winter storm as in my home state of Montana. The changing of the seasons to being colder and getting dark much earlier can be disorienting, even here in California. There is a redeeming quality, however, to this darkness. I like to spend time looking at night sky. There is a sense of wonder in being able to experience the expanse and beauty of the cosmos. The darkness broken by the starlight captures the sense of this season. Cosmology is the story of birth, development, and destiny of the universe and it is told with the aim of assisting us in our task of identifying our roles within this great drama. A Belgian physicist and priest postulated that there was a beginning to the universe and this became known as the Big Bang. Scientists have been able to calculate the age of the universe with a fair amount of accuracy, 13.7 billion years. Because all life is part of this single cosmic event, all life is connected at its most basic level. Our solar system came about as the result of a supernova explosion, the death eruption of a primal star. Death is integral to life. Yet from the very beginning the trajectory of the universe has been toward life.
Epiphany is a time to reflect on the meaning of Incarnation, God here and with us now and make the journey ourselves. God emptied himself to become like us so that we might become more like God. This is our hope, to enter more fully into this relationship. The metaphor of the magi following a star, risking their survival and traveling a great distance to discover this is fitting. The idea of relationship is central. The wisdom of the Catholic tradition is that salvation is possible in and through the community. We say as Catholics that we are saved in community that includes everybody. This idea is not necessarily even something we long for.
I really believe that our experience of Epiphany must be more than just hearing about the Magi. We must be willing to encounter God in this season by risking our own journey, as difficult as it may be, so that we can honestly experience the selfrevelation that we need in order to see God beyond ourselves. Epiphany reminds us that the trajectory of creation is toward life. Epiphany is about searching for God beyond ourselves in order that we might enter more fully enter into the mystery of the Incarnation, God
here and with us now. We are called to be active participants in this great drama and search for what it means when we say that salvation is possible in and through the community. May your Epiphany be one of discovery.
Deacon Bob Fargo
Dear friends on the journey,
Every Saturday was chore day. Each of us three kids always had age appropriate tasks, from dusting low furniture and sweeping to cleaning glass and dusting higher places to eventually vacuuming and laundry. During the week, we set and cleared the dinner table and later helped with cooking. As a family of five with two working parentings, it was necessary for all of us to keep our house in order and running. As family members age, we care for each other in different ways: prayer, finances, living situations, emotional support, child care and so on. More than just necessity all this is right and good. We love and live in relationship. That’s what family does.
We know in first century living a household was not only an immediate family but extended family. Jesus, Mary and Joseph likely lived with older and younger generations. They all had jobs and tasks to keep the house running and everyone cared for. It was necessary, right and good. They loved and lived in relationship.
So too with our human family. Jesus’ message can be summed up in just a few words: love God and love others. And he taught us exactly how to do it: comfort the sick and lonely, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for the dying, give preference to the marginalized, and love those who are struggling physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. He not only taught it; he showed it and lived it, no matter who they were. To love and live in relationship with our human family is necessary, right and good.
At our baptism, we are born into God’s family, the Church. We live out our baptism and discipleship in a parish family. Today we are the parish family of Padre Serra Parish. We love and live in relationship with each other as well as our greater Camarillo and human family. It is right and good.
Each year we express this relationship in a concrete way. Through our parish covenant, our Pastoral Team makes promises to you our family members and you as parishioners make promises to God in relationship with the parish family.
There’s one for single people and another for households with parents and children. Take one home this weekend to prayerfully review it and consider how you will respond. The goal is for each of us to commit to living our discipleship and membership in our domestic, human and parish families. Complete and sign the covenant then lay on the altar before or after Mass on January 11 and 12, the Feast of Jesus’ Baptism.
Siempre Adelante and Happy New Year,
Faith Life Minister
Holiday lights are a treat. Ever since I discovered the amazing decorations over on Gemini Street, here in Camarillo, I’ve visited them yearly to enjoy all the extra special effort the people there go to making the season bright. As much as I enjoy the cartoon characters, it’s the lighting that I really love.
The light that is shed by people whose day to day kindness springs from their love of Jesus is even more nurturing and important, pointing to Jesus in quiet ways. Shall we be a light? I find a special joy in Christmas parties. I have one every year at the parish house, alternating between deacons and the parish staff, along with their spouses. It’s a high point for me, sharing my home with people who work so hard and give so much. I also delight in gatherings at the homes of friends and family. What is better than good food with friends?
The ministry of Jesus was all about gathering people, healing their wounds, forgiving them and feeding them in their hunger. Shall we be a healing, forgiving and nourishing community? I don’t think any season of the year can compete with Christmas for great music. It’s a passion for me. I have 578 carols in my two Christmas playlists! Nothing gets me into the holiday mood more than the sound of carols. And don’t get me started on how much I enjoy our Christmas concert! It really lifts my spirits.
James 5:13, encourages us, “Is anyone in good spirits? Let them sing praise.” The very memory of the birth of Jesus might be enough to put us in good spirits. Shall we not just hear the carols in the background, like the soundtrack of our lives, but actually sing praise with grateful hearts?
There are so many beautiful Christmas cards – specially chosen greetings to communicate how we feel about the season and the people who receive them. I find such encouragement in reading and embracing the kindness and affection I sense in the cards.
John’s Gospel begins with a hymn, referring to Jesus as the Word, present to the Father from the beginning who came to us, His own. This Word proclaims good news to a weary, frightened and, perhaps, jaded world. Shall we make a point of bearing good news, hopeful and caring words to one another?
I have a nine-foot-tall Costco special Christmas tree with lots of lights. I also have long pine garlands on
my banister and the fireplace mantle, with pinecones and red berries for accents. Evergreens show up all over the place!
Jesus was born for us, that we might have life – everlasting life – and have it to the full. Shall we not, like the hope bearing trees that remain green in winter’s depths, encourage others to lives lived fully, kindly and happily?
I hope you are able to find more than a small amount of joy – even if times are difficult. Even more, I encourage you to be a blessing for others this Christmas. May the Christ Child find a warm place to be at rest in your hearts this Yuletide!
Fr. Patrick Mullen
The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe commemorates the apparitions of Mary, the Mother of God, 500 years ago to San Juan Diego. The course of events which transpired can readily be found through any internet search. I would like to convey what this feast means to me today. The appearance of this Palestinian woman is significant in her resemblance to the people of Mexico at a time when imperialistic dismantling of indigenous cultures brought their humanity in question, let alone whether those people had a soul. The hymn of La Guadalupana states her bearing and face were Mexican. The Mother of God is like us!
The significance of La Morenita is in the accompanying presence of Jesus. Her “Yes” to God’s role for her implies Christ’s presence in our “Yes” to God’s role for us. My role as a fire chaplain is one of accompaniment and witness to our human reaction of irrevocable loss. The reaction of the Marine’s mother at Borderline and the reaction of the wife of the campesino crushed by equipment in a strawberry field were elicited from the permanent physical separation of a loved one. To this I give witness, the separation at the border gives the same result. However, this border condition is impermanent and reversible. The dreamer that I am, imagines the day when the travesty of injustice at the border is humanely solved, to the delight of our Father, sisters and brothers.
Holy scripture for this feast speaks of a dragon wanting to devour a child and the mother fleeing to a place prepared by God [Rev. 12: 46] and Mary greeting Elizabeth in the Gospel of Luke. I ask you to join me in prayer. Walk alongside me as I walk my dogs, that the dragon is defeated and families can visit one another without fear, and safely walk in streets. My Marian devotion consists of reflection of the mysteries of Mondays and Thursdays are days when I fast and pray for families: pregnancies, births, baptisms, marriages and the preparation of couples of those people that come to mind. The other days I
prayerfully call to mind the individuals and families sorrowing through death, illness, and insecurity interspersed with praise and gratitude. The mood may vary from Let It Be, Good Day Sunshine, or Imagine. Pray for the reformation of laws and policies that separate us from one another and from God, is my default mode.
I believe Jerusalem does not need another wall. I believe that we have responsibility for our collective role as a country for the conditions at the border. If you think detention and deportation is the sole solution, please read the government publications I have listed. It is from such the alien is in our midst. I believe with God’s help we can make Jerusalem the city where the tribes go up.
May this Advent Season bring us to the Word made flesh dwelling among us.
Deacon Arnold Reyes
The Evolution of Los Zetas in Mexico and Central America: Sadism as an Instrument of Cartel Warfare apps.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a599872.pdf
Gangs in Central America fas.org/sgp/crs/row/RL34112.pdf
Dear Faith Family,
Happy New Year!
As you may know, with the beginning of Advent in our Church, we also celebrate the liturgical new year.
During our normal New Year’s celebrations it is not uncommon to have a countdown to midnight while sharing quality time with friends, but the most common tradition for New Year’s is the resolutions we keep for the betterment of ourselves. Might I suggest we do something similar for Advent?
Obviously, Advent is the countdown for one of our greatest feasts: Christmas! The birth of our Lord is obviously crucial for the loving Redemption that God has for us, but the celebration of Christmas is also such a wonderful opportunity for us to grow closer to God and to become better disciples.
In what ways can we spend more quality time with God? And what type of “New Year’s Resolutions” can we do during Advent? (It is the New Year, after all.)
Thankfully, we at Padre Serra are so blessed to have so many opportunities to dive into the season of Advent, and one of the most beautiful events is our Advent Penance Service on Wednesday, December 4.
For those who have not gone in a while, I can assure you that it is worth it. Whether is has been years, or days, I have never known a priest at our service to be upset with the length of time it has been since someone has gone to Reconciliation. In fact, I know plenty of stories of priests celebrating when people overcome their fears and go to Reconciliation. If you feel called to go, but are a little scared, I can assure you, IT IS NORMAL TO BE AFRAID OF RECONCILIATION.
During my time here at Padre Serra, I have been blessed to run the Year 2 Confirmation retreat. At most retreats, we offer Reconciliation for the candidates. The anxiety of the teens when they find out that the Sacrament is available is palpable, but every year the teens still go. It’s quite amazing. What is even more amazing, though, is the peace they have once they go and receive the grace of the Sacrament. It’s one of my favorite moments that I look forward to every year.
Again, if you are worried, I just want to assure you that you are not alone. If you haven’t gone in forever and forgot how it works, that’s fine! Reconciliation can be a scary thing. Even as someone who goes frequently, it is still a scary thing for me. But let me tell you, it’s definitely worth it.
I look forward to celebrating “the most wonderful time of the year” with all of you! With all of you, I am counting down the days to Christmas and am looking forward to another encounter of Christ.
Youth and Young Adult Minister
Can we ever be grateful enough? I don’t think so. Please know with certainty that one of my greatest points of gratitude is for you parishioners, for your goodness, for your support. I hope you have a longer list than mine. Consider making your own list. It lifts your heart!
May you have a lovely Thanksgiving, free of political discord, and full of affection, good food, and gratitude to the Lord, who makes all things possible.
Dear friends on the journey,
As we come to the end of our liturgical year next week and look forward to Christmas, we have gospels like today’s that look to the end of time when Jesus will return again and how we should prepare ourselves.
Today’s gospel sure paints a grim picture but we have to remember the context. Luke, taking inspiration from Mark’s writings, is describing Jesus’ already fulfilled prophesy of Jerusalem’s temple destruction in 70 AD, however the rest is to still to come “at an hour we do not know.” But Jesus tells us not to be terrified, to stand tall and persevere.
When our current view of life and experience of the world looks so much like the gospel’s bleak description of war, earthquakes, fire, famine, and persecution how can we possibly persevere and stand tall. Some days it feels like the end of the world and we wonder where God is in all of this. The big picture can be daunting. Hand in hand with the guarantee of pain, suffering and destruction is Jesus’ promise of God’s mercy, care and love for all of us collectively and individually.
This semester I am taking a class on one of our many Catholic spiritualities, Ignatian Spirituality, based on St. Ignatius of Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises. Very simple the focus of his spirituality is finding God in all things and one of his many exercises to do this is the Examen. It narrows the big picture into smaller, less overwhelming picture of our own lives. This simple reflective prayer, done even in 10 minutes at the end of the day, is a look back on your day to see where God was working and moving.
In five prompts you can find God’s presence, recall moments for which to be grateful, discern emotions and actions, review encounters that indicate the need for improvement, and look forward to another day.
I offer the Examen as a way of finding God in all ways of your daily living, whether it be in a season of easy going, a season of strife, and in this imperfect culture and impermanent world that is counter to the eternal life God promises us. This exercise provides a lens through which we see and experience God’s ever active love that helps us to not fear, to stand tall and to persevere in the here and now of life, as we celebrate Jesus’ coming this Christmas, prepare for his coming at the end of time, and most especially experience his presence among us now.
Faith Life Minister
At this time of year the daylight hours grow shorter as the nights become longer and colder. Leaves drop from the trees which seem to go into a suspended period of dormancy. And here in California, raging winds with their accompanying wildfires have become the “new normal.” These natural forces can turn our thoughts to the death of our loved ones, our own inevitable death and even to wondering about the end of the world. Many cultures, past and present, have customs, observances or rituals in the fall to deal with these realities, to remember departed loved ones and even to laugh at death.
The Church, in her wisdom, gives us HOPE at this time of year by focusing on resurrection and on God’s immeasurable love, mercy and faithfulness. As the liturgical year comes to an end over the next three weeks, the scriptures read at Mass may seem at first to be frightening and ominous, but their message is ultimately about God’s gift of eternal life. As Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel, God “is not God of the dead but of the living, for to him all are alive.”
The Resurrection is foundational to our Christian faith. At the end of the Apostle’s Creed, which we recite on Sunday, we say that we “believe in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.” Jesus’ resurrection is a promise of eternal life for all of us.
How do you imagine heaven will be? With our human limitations of understanding we use terms like paradise, banquet, clothed in white robes, shining like stars, being like angels, bathed in pure light. Or we think that heaven will be a better version of this life. But the life that God has in mind for us is beyond anything we can imagine!
For me, the most meaningful expression of heaven is this: God is LOVE and has loved us all into being. Ultimately we will be enfolded by the loving arms of God, Father, Son and Spirit, into their perfect bond of eternal love. What an existence that will be!
If anyone needs to hear and be reassured that they are loved by our good God, we hope that you were listening to today’s readings. If you weren’t really paying attention or if in the future you ever feel alone or unloved, these are great readings. In them we heard the fact that God is OUR CREATOR, that God has a never-ending love for us, we heard of God’s mercy and gentleness with sinners, and of God’s constant reaching out, searching for us, of God’s desire for us to know that we are loved.
In the first reading we heard of God’s love for ALL things that are and that God dislikes nothing that God made, that includes all of us! The unbelievable hugeness and allinclusive love God has for all of us no matter where we are or what we have done are the themes of today’s readings and our belief that the Scripture is God’s very own Word should give us strength and courage to face what we have to, what we need to do, to live our lives as disciples of Jesus.
God always desires to be in a relationship with us; He created us, and He wants to be a part of all we do. Sue and I have been married for 52 years and we have held hands many times during those years, it feels right and good. But all those many years ago I can still recall the feelings of being scared as I reached for her hand for the first time, what if she pulled away, what if she didn’t feel the same way I did. For many couples holding hands is their first experience of sharing intimacy, and it was for us. Before that first kiss, before even a hug, almost always comes that simple act of holding hands. In that grasp of hands lies the foundation of most relationships.
Now we go back and remember our readings today, the message that God reaches out and desires to be in relationship with us. From our first reading we heard proclaimed, “Oh Lord, lover of souls,” lover of all of us. God desires this relationship but never demands it. Instead God comes slowly “courting” us, quietly making his presence known in our lives, reaching out to hold our hands, patiently waiting for us to respond. As we heard in the Gospel with Zacchaeus, when we turn our gaze toward God our life changes, our life of faith begins. When we accept God’s offer of life and love, we are converted and transformed, our lives will never be the same again because our Creator and Lover is holding our hands.
Jesus came to Zacchaeus that day. Jesus comes to us today and salvation is always available to us as a reality that can enter our lives at any time if we only respond with a “yes” as we look back at that loving Jesus who is constantly looking at us. Did Zacchaeus even know that the power to make such a change in his life was in his heart? Do we? The power of Jesus’ gaze at each of us has the power to transform us beyond our wildest imagination!
Jesus asks if today he can dine at your home, knowing what that can mean in your life, what is your answer? Are we willing to take hold of Jesus’ hand and begin that relationship?
Deacon Bill and Sue Spies
Dear Friends, Reflecting on our lives as Catholic Christians, I have come to the conclusion that during our liturgies we are a people who are always moving toward someone or someplace with enthusiasm and joy. The use of parades for civic occasions and of processions for religious motives is common to all peoples. The Hebrew Testament and the Christian Testament provide biblical bases for the Judaeo-Christian practice of processions. The Christian procession is tied closely to the idea of pilgrimage. Life for us is a journey from one place to another. A journey becomes a pilgrimage when it is undertaken for God and seeks God as its ultimate goal. The great example of all this is, the pilgrimage of the People of Israel out of the bondage of Egypt through the desert to the promised land.
What does this insight have to do with altar servers? Are the altar servers involved in processions? Absolutely! At each liturgy, our altar servers are involved in both functional and special processions. The functional processions include the entrance and closing processions, procession of the gifts, the Gospel Procession, minor processions to the altar to bring up the chalice, the Sacramentary, communion cups, purificators and bread plates. And of course the Communion Procession which is the ritual expression of our identity as fellow pilgrims on a journey together to the heavenly banquet, singing as we walk.
Servers serve the prayer life of the assembly. They remind us of our journey toward the Lord. They know how to walk in the sacred space. They know the direction and they have a sense of purpose. They do not call attention to themselves. They facilitate worship with focus, moving from one place to another, making it happen easily with care and grace. By their actions they point to what is important and they lead the processions by example.
Altar servers are the youthful members of our community, they energize us and remind us of our journeying toward the Lord. They lead us silently, providing focus as to what is important in our liturgies.
In closing, I leave you with the words of Psalm 100: “Shout joy to the Lord, serve the Lord with gladness, enter God’s presence with joy and enter the temple with thanks and praise.” Our altar servers give joy to our hearts as they lead us in the many processions toward the God who calls us by name.
Altar Server Ministry Director
Today’s readings are among several that deal with persistence, an aspect of character that can be seen as a defect or as praiseworthy, depending on the circumstances and who the target of the persistence may be.
In the case of the first reading, Moses is persistent (with the help of Aaron and Hur when he gets tired) in holding up the staff of God. While he does so, Israel has the better of the fight against Amalek (who came and waged war). There was nothing magical about the staff itself. It was a symbol of Moses’ faith in a faithful God’s promises. It could be valuable to reflect upon who helps us with our persistence? Who is our Aaron? Our Hur? What is symbolic of our faith in God’s promises?
In Luke’s gospel, we have another story of a judge who fears neither God nor respects any human still deciding to render a just decision for a widow simply because of her persistence. I remember when I first heard this passage (many years ago) I thought that the judge in the story was a metaphor for God when we pray. It was only later that I realized that the judge in the story actually functions as a contrast to how God responds to our persistence. Again, when what we ask is in accord with God’s nature (kindness, love, beauty, truth, mercy, wisdom, justice), “Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night? Will he be slow to answer them? I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
One can almost feel Jesus’ weariness when he asks that last question. C.S. Lewis has said: “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are halfhearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”1
Perhaps if we had a better sense of what God wants to give us, it would influence what we asked for, and how persistently we did so.
In our second reading, St. Paul exhorts us in proclaiming the word to “be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage [emphasis mine] through all patience and teaching.”
It seems to me that persistence is also called for in our efforts to evangelize. To dispense with the million-dollar word, I could put it this way: persistence is also called for in looking constantly for the opportunity to introduce others to our faith by building relationship with them, and inviting them to come with us to Padre Serra – whether it’s to Mass, to an educational gathering, or to a purely social event.
Liturgy and Music Minister
1 The Weight of Glory, and Other Addresses
Dear parish family,
Last Sunday in our gospel we are told that if we have faith the size of a mustard seed, we could tell a mulberry tree to uproot itself and it would obey.
Today we hear about how Jesus encounters and heals ten lepers who shouted out to him, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!”. The Good News of our gospel this Sunday isn’t only that he healed them, but the fact that it was all ten. Yet, only one returns, and is described as glorifying God and returning to thank Jesus. The one who returns is a Samaritan, a foreigner. In the Jewish circles in which Jesus lived, Samaritans were looked down upon because of the differences between the two communities, the Samaritans were not part of the “chosen people.” Jesus could have chosen those who were “worthy” but he makes no distinction between them; they are all his people.
The good news for us once again, is that God’s Salvation is for ALL of us. Just like this man whom the Jewish community did not consider worthy of God’s mercy or healing; when God answers his prayer he cannot stop himself from immediately praising God, thanking him. He recognizes God’s mercy and the gift of healing. Jesus then goes on to tell the man, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.” This is significant; his faith and trust in God is rewarded.
Now with his new clean self, he is sent out, “ Stand up and go.” He needs to go out into the world, not stay in hiding anymore.
We too may have many needs of healing, physical or spiritual; let us too cry out to our Lord, “ Jesus Master! Have pity on us,” and may our faith and trust in God, and especially our gratitude be self evident. For our Lord looks to do great things for us.
Faith Formation Minister
Dear Faith Family,
As you may know, we have great plans for the future of our parish campus. In our vision, we have plans to build both a new youth center and choir room with offices for youth ministry and music and liturgy. It is quite a big dream, but I am confident that with your help, we can achieve it.
As the person who facilitates both our high school Confirmation session and our weekly youth group, I can tell you that there is definitely a need for a dedicated space for our youth and young adults at the parish.
It is not uncommon for each year of our Confirmation process to have 130-140 teens and leaders in attendance. Before each session, all people involved in the program gather for lunch in the San Juan Capistrano rooms. These rooms are unable to fit the number of people that are involved. Because of the lack of space, we potentially miss out on various evangelistic opportunities and it adds an obstacle for community building for those who need it.
A dedicated youth space is also desired so we can create a more effective home-away-from-home for our teens and young adults. Many of our teens love to spend time at their parish, but they find it difficult because the only dedicated space is quite small. There are times where we have dozens of people cramming into a leisure space that can comfortably fit 46 people.
To create a comfortable space for the youth and young adults of the parish would only increase the opportunities for our young people to encounter Jesus and to be disciples.
Of course, none of this can happen without the help from all of you. Because of this, I want to invite you to contribute in any way that you can. Through Called to Renew we are given an opportunity to contribute to this necessary cause.
Thank you so much for your willingness to contribute and I am looking forward to experiencing this great renewal with all of you!
Youth and Young Adult Minister