From the Pastor’s Desk

Notes from the pastor

From the Pastor: June 11th, 2017

First Holy Communion 2

Children are the treasures of our Church. On June 11th —- of our children will receive First Holy Communion, the Body and Blood of Christ, along with their families.

We had briefly outlined how receiving Holy Communion radically changed in the early part of the 20th Century with the two encyclicals published by Pope Pius X. The first encyclical spoke about frequent Communion.

The second encyclical letter of the Pope said that there were some qualifications that a person must have to be ready to receive Eucharist for the first time. They need to know something about who Jesus is and who God the Father is; they need to be able to distinguish between this Eucharistic bread and ordinary bread and they need to want to receive it. It is felt that somewhere around the age of reason (usually seen as 7 years old) children are able, with instruction, to fulfill these minimal conditions. The age of First Communion then dropped so that it is typically received around age 7 after adequate preparation.

It is the Eucharist that is the ongoing center of our Catholic Christian life. These children who receive First Communion today are not so much going through a rite of passage as they are entering upon a daily and weekly journey of faith growing and developing all their life long. The fact that some of them will not receive Communion very often because their families do not take part in the celebration of the Eucharist when the Christian family gathers on Sunday is a great tragedy and a source of personal pain for those of us who see how vital and critically important such participation in the Christian Eucharist can be.

— Father Augustine

 

From the Pastor: June 3rd, 2017

Happy Birthday – Holy Mother Church

Today is the Feast on which we celebrate the Birthday of the Church, Pentecost.  It is the gift of the Holy Spirit, sent upon His followers by the Risen Lord Jesus that gives life to the Church.

It is the Holy Spirit who brings faith into our hearts.  It is the Holy Spirit who joins us to the Risen Lord in Baptism, who strengthens us to live a mature Christian life in Confirmation.  It is the Holy Spirit who calls us into our life’s vocation – whether in marriage and family life or in single life, Religious Life or the Priesthood.  It is the Holy Spirit who guides our steps through life – to the extent that we will seek out God’s will, listen and follow.  It is the Holy Spirit who gives peace in the depths of our hearts even when our world is in shambles around us.  It is the Holy Spirit who heals us, forgives us and rejoins us to Christ and to the community of believers when we have strayed.  It is the Holy Spirit who continually reaches out to us – often in subtle ways we don’t even perceive.  The Holy Spirit is the life of our Christian life.

And this Spirit is active everywhere in our world, reaching out to all, Christian and non-Christian, pagan and believer.  One of the things that Catholic missionaries have had to learn in the last century is that before the missionary ever arrives in a foreign country to bring the Gospel there, the Holy Spirit has already been there.  They must first of all tune into what the Spirit has already produced in the country, among the people, before they seek to bring what has already been accomplished to greater perfection in the proclamation of the Gospel, the Good News, of Jesus Christ.

Perhaps nothing captures the experience of the Holy Spirit better than an old Latin Church hymn Veni Creator Spiritus (“Come Creator Spirit”). It is a hymn believed to have been written by Rabanus Maurus in the 9th century. When the original Latin text is used, it is normally sung in Gregorian Chant. As an invocation of the Holy Spirit, in the practice of the Roman Catholic Church, it is sung during the liturgical celebration of the feast of Pentecost. It is also sung at occasions such as the entrance of Cardinals to the Sistine Chapel, when electing a new pope, as well as at the consecration of bishops, the ordination of priests, when celebrating the sacrament of Confirmation, the dedication of churches, the celebration of synods or councils, the coronation of kings, the profession of members of religious institutes and other similar solemn events. In my seminary days we always sang it before semester tests/exams.

Come, Holy Ghost, Creator, come
from thy bright heav’nly throne;
come, take possession of our souls,
and make them all thine own.

Thou who art called the Paraclete,
best gift of God above,
the living spring, the living fire,
sweet unction and true love.

Thou who art sevenfold in thy grace,
finger of God’s right hand;
His promise, teaching little ones
to speak and understand.

O guide our minds with thy blest light,
with love our hearts inflame;
and with thy strength, which ne’er decays,
confirm our mortal frame.

Far from us drive our deadly foe;
true peace unto us bring;
and through all perils lead us safe
beneath thy sacred wing.

Through thee may we the Father know,
through thee th’eternal Son,
and thee the Spirit of them both,
thrice-blessed three in One.
Amen.

— Father Augustine

 

From the Pastor: May 29th, 2017

First Holy Communion

Children are the treasures of our Church. On June 11th, three of our children will receive First Holy Communion, the Body and Blood of Christ, along with their families.

At the beginning of the 20th century, children usually did not receive their First Communion until they were 12 or 13 years old. It was presumed that they needed more extensive catechesis before beginning to receive this great sacrament. Also at that time, people usually did not receive Communion very often – once a year as a part of their Easter duty, or perhaps, if they were really holy and pious, once a month. Any more frequent reception was considered prideful, because after all, we are so unworthy.

This practice was changed in a very radical and sudden way. Pope St. Pius X put out two encyclical letters, one on frequent communion and the other on lowering the age for the reception of First Communion. They were such a total change in attitude that many people in Rome thought the Pope had literally lost his mind.

In the first case, he recommended frequent, even daily Communion. It is not that we are ever worthy of this great sacramental gift, but we need it desperately in order to be nourished, to be enabled to live the Christian life with greater energy and vigor. It is still true that one cannot receive Communion when one is conscious of serious mortal sin, but it is NOT true that a person always has to go to Confession before they go to Communion, as some people seemed to think in the last half of the twentieth century. They need to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation, however, when they are guilty of mortal sin before they come forward to receive the Eucharist. Frankly, you don’t give food to a dead person. They need to be restored to life first.
(To be continued)

— Father Augustine

 

From the Pastor: May 21st, 2017

The month of May is the “month which the piety of the faithful has especially dedicated to Our Blessed Lady,” and it is the occasion for a “moving tribute of faith and love which Catholics in every part of the world [pay] to The Queen of Heaven. During this month Christians, both in church and in the privacy of the home, offer up to Mary from their hearts an especially fervent and loving homage of prayer and veneration. In this month, too, the benefits of God’s mercy come down to us from her throne in greater abundance” (Paul VI: Encyclical on the Month of May, no. 1).

This Christian custom of dedicating the month of May to the Blessed Virgin arose at the end of the 13th century. In this way, the Church was able to Christianize the secular feasts which were wont to take place at that time. In the 16th century, books appeared and fostered this devotion.

The practice became especially popular among the members of the Jesuit Order – by 1700 it took hold among their students at the Roman College and a bit later it was publicly practiced in the Gesu Church in Rome. From there it spread to the whole Church.

Some of the popular Marian devotions are: May crowning; wearing scapulars and medals; reciting prayers like Hail Mary, Regina Coeli, The Rosary, The Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary, etc.

In our Church we have a beautiful Marian altar in the devotional chapel. We also have an opportunity for lighting candles (a popular practice in our Catholic culture) and kneeling in prayer before the altar.

Mary is not a goddess. She is the perfect disciple of Jesus, her son, and an exemplar/paradigm for all Christians. She is the inspiration and the hope of humanity. The Assumption of Mary tells us that we, too, will one day be with God in heaven. She points the way, leads the way and directs our way. May the prayers of Our Blessed Mother Mary always accompany us, “now and at the hour of death,” Amen.

— Father Augustine

A Mother’s Day Reflection: May 14th, 2017

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis thanked all mothers for their precious role in society and for what they give to the Church and to the world.
Reflecting on the role of mothers in society and in the Church, he pointed out that the Church too is a mother, “our mother” and that no believer is an orphan.

The Pope said that for all our symbolic glorification of mothers, their important contribution to the life of society, their daily sacrifices and their aspirations are not always properly appreciated.

Even in Christian communities – he said – often mothers are not listened to. He said that their voices should be taken more into consideration and they should be supported in their aspirations.

Mothers, Pope Francis said, “are an antidote to the spread of self-centeredness, a decline in openness, generosity and concern for others”.
And speaking of motherhood, the Pope said that it “is more than childbearing; it is a life choice, entailing sacrifice”, respect for life, and commitment to passing on those human and religious values which are essential for a healthy society.

A society without mothers, the Pope said, would be an “inhuman society” because even in the darkest moments “mothers are witnesses of tenderness, dedication and moral strength”. Mothers – he continued – are the ones who transmit “the deep sense of the practice of religion, the first prayers, the first gestures of devotion. The value of faith in the life of a human being is a message that mothers transmit without having to give too many explanations”. He said that explanations come later, but the “germ of faith is in those first, precious moments” of life, and without mothers, Francis pointed out, “not only there would be no new faithful, but faith itself would lose a good part of its simple and profound warmth.”

Recalling the words of Archbishop Oscar Romero who was assassinated while serving Mass in El Salvador in 1980, Francis said he spoke of a “martyrdom of mothers”, whose sensitivity to all that threatens human life and welfare is a source of enrichment for society and the Church. “To be a mother does not only mean to give life to a child, it is a choice of life, the choice of giving life. This is beautiful” he said.

Concluding his catechesis, Pope Francis asked all to join him in thanking mothers everywhere for what they are, and for all that they give to the Church and to our world.

A Gospel Reflection: May 7th, 2017

From Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pa

In this gospel passage, Jesus draws upon imagery associated with sheep herding. The people to whom he spoke were well aware of the practice of herding sheep into a protective corral during the night so that they would not become easy victims of wild animals. They were also aware that robbers could climb over the low wall and steal the sheep. The true shepherd does not need to do this because the sheep are entrusted to his care and he has access to them through the door of the corral. In the spiritual sense intended by Jesus, the thieves and robbers are those shepherds (pastors, counselors, friends) who claim to be concerned about the sheep (parishioners, anyone of us) but who deceive them by offering quick fixes, which promise salvation without the need of painful personal conversion.

Sheep have always had a reputation for being somewhat naïve and easily confused just as we humans, while very cautious in some areas, are often gullible when it comes to spiritual matters. Jesus then changes the imagery and calls himself the door to the corral. This means that it is only through the door of his teaching that one can find true salvation. In the same sense, he calls himself “the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6). His is the only trustworthy way because he teaches the only reliable truth which leads to true and lasting life. Life Implications We are great believers in salesmanship and we rely on salesmen even though we know that some of them inflate or misrepresent the benefits of the products they offer to us.

This is true also when the product is the most important thing we can imagine, namely, everlasting life and happiness. We are constantly bombarded with promises of eternal salvation without the need to deal with personal problems or deficiencies. We are vulnerable to such offers because we yearn for that kind of security and because these promises are often packaged in very attractive wrappings. We are told, for example, that if we go through certain external rituals or say certain special prayers we will find salvation in spite of our attachment to selfish behavior. Or we may be told that reaching an emotional pitch of fervor, which cannot be maintained, will nonetheless guarantee our future happiness. When Jesus says that he alone is the true shepherd and that he alone is the door to security for the sheep, he is telling us that it is only his teaching of unselfish love that will lead us to true life and happiness.

Prayers and rituals and fervor are wonderful and necessary, but only when they lead to real conversion from selfish tendencies to genuine concern for others. Being converted in this way will involve the painful process of facing the truth about destructive addictions and being willing to seek help in dealing with them. It will also mean being honest about one’s prejudices and striving with God’s help to escape from their dangerous influence. But most of all, it will mean trying to be a caring, thoughtful, generous person. This is the path on which the good shepherd leads us for he has come, not to deceive us, but that we “might have life and have it more abundantly” (v.10).

— Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B.

Pastor’s Note: April 30th, 2017

Blessed Easter Season

We tend to have a little quiet “letdown” time after the High Holy Days in the Church. Certainly we need some rest time of quiet growth in our Christian Faith. Like two of the disciples that were journeying to Emmaus we need to “converse about all the things that had occurred” – Paschal Triduum, Baptisms and Confirmations during Vigil service, etc.!

In the early Church the newly baptized were told to wear, all week long, the white robe that they were given on the night of their baptism and to bring it back unstained on the following Sunday. Among other things, the effort to do this was a good object lesson on how difficult it is to live a Christian life all the time. Our garments tend to get some smudges on them, as do our souls, though we return and rejoin the community in worship anyway, knowing that we are all on pilgrimage, not yet “arrived” at the kingdom of heaven.

For fifty days, this Easter celebration goes on, until we celebrate the coming of the promised Holy Spirit at Pentecost. For all these fifty days, we try to enter more deeply into the meaning of the Resurrection in our lives. We look at it from every angle. We listen to all the testimony of the Scriptures. We rejoice with a deep and abiding joy, a serene confidence, more than just in the “highs” of the moment.

Have a joyous, faith-filled Easter season. “We are Easter people and Alleluia is our song.” (St. Augustine)
— Father Augustine

 

Pastor’s Note: April 23rd, 2017

What is Divine Mercy?

The Divine Mercy Message and Devotion

The message of The Divine Mercy is simple. It is that God loves us – all of us. And, he wants us to recognize that His mercy is greater than our sins, so that we will call upon Him with trust, receive His mercy, and let it flow through us to others. Thus, all will come to share His joy.

The Divine Mercy message is one we can call to mind simply by remembering ABC:

A – Ask for His Mercy. God wants us to approach Him in prayer constantly, repenting of our sins and asking Him to pour His mercy out upon us and upon the whole world.

B – Be merciful. God wants us to receive His mercy and let it flow through us to others. He wants us to extend love and forgiveness to others just as He does to us.

C – Completely trust in Jesus. God wants us to know that the graces of His mercy are dependent upon our trust. The more we trust in Jesus, the more we will receive.

This message and devotion to Jesus as The Divine Mercy is based on the writings of Saint Faustina Kowalska, an uneducated Polish nun who, in obedience to her spiritual director, wrote a diary of about 600 pages recording the revelations she received about God’s mercy. Even before her death in 1938, the devotion to The Divine Mercy had begun to spread.

The message and devotional practices proposed in the Diary of Saint Faustina and set forth in this web site and other publications of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception are completely in accordance with the teachings of Church and are firmly rooted in the Gospel message of our Merciful Savior. Properly understood and implemented, they will help us grow as genuine followers of Christ.

Spend time to learn more about the mercy of God, learn to trust in Jesus, and live your life as merciful to others, as Christ is merciful to you.

–Father Augustine

Pastor’s Note: April 16th, 2017

HE IS RISEN

The New Testament states that the resurrection of Jesus, which Easter celebrates, is a foundation of the Christian faith. “… if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain” 1 Cor.15:14. The resurrection established Jesus as the powerful Son of God and is cited as proof that God will judge the world in righteousness. For those who trust in Jesus’ death and resurrection, “death is swallowed up in victory.” Any person who chooses to follow Jesus receives “a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead”. Through faith in the working of God those who follow Jesus are spiritually resurrected with Him so that they may walk in a new way of life and receive eternal salvation.

Easter is linked to the Passover and the Exodus from Egypt recorded in the Old Testament through the Last Supper, and the sufferings and crucifixion of Jesus that preceded the resurrection. According to the New Testament, Jesus gave the Passover meal a new meaning, as in the upper room during the Last Supper He prepared Himself and His disciples for His death. He identified the matzah and cup of wine as His body soon to be sacrificed and His blood soon to be shed. Paul states, “Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast-as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed”; this refers to the Passover requirement to have no yeast in the house and to the allegory of Jesus as the Paschal lamb.

What does the resurrection of Christ mean for me? It opens up a giant possibility for humanity and for each one of us. An allegory to help us understand the resurrection would be the contribution of the Wright Brothers to air travel. Traveling through air (fly like a bird) has been in the imagination of humanity nearly from the dawn of human history. The Veemaan mentioned in the great Indian epic Ramayana (4th century BC.) and the magic carpets from Arabian Nights or One Thousand and One Nights (8th century AD) bears testimony to it. But the great opening came when Wright Brothers made the first controlled, sustained flight of a powered, heavier-than-air aircraft on December 17, 1903, four miles south of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. It was just about 120 feet, 12 second flight that was just 10 feet above ground.

Salvation, life after death, eternal life, etc. has been part of human lore from time immemorial. The resurrection of Jesus made it real and possible.

Happy Easter and the blessing of the risen Lord.

— Father Augustine

 

Pastor’s Note:  April 9th, 2017

Palm Sunday

Passion Sunday – The Sunday before Easter, Palm Sunday, is observed by virtually all Christians. But for the Roman Catholic Church it is also Passion Sunday during which all stand for readings and meditations from the passion account. The feast has a bittersweet taste. Though it celebrates the King’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem amidst hosannas, the parade leads straight to the Lord Jesus’ suffering and death on Calvary.

Passion Sunday / Palm Sunday has a split personality. It starts with an upbeat gospel recounting Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. It is a festive affair, complete with a parade route strewn with palm branches instead of ticker tape. But we quickly progress to the stark reading of Jesus’ passion, bearable only because we already know its happy ending. Mel Gibson’s film did us a favor in reminding us how shockingly brutal the whole business really was.

The crowd that was cheering during the parade was jeering a few days later. They’d been wowed by His sermons, fed with loaves and fishes, healed of their diseases, and delivered of their demons. But as soon as the tide began to turn, so did they. Their cries of “Hosanna” turned to shouts of a very different kind: “Crucify him!”

Of course, He was not surprised in the least. The gospels tell us that He knew the human mind and heart all too well. He was not fooled by all the acclamations and fanfare. Flattery could not swell His head. He had no illusions of grandeur or ambition for worldly glory. In fact, our second reading tells us that He had willingly emptied Himself of heavenly glory in pursuit of His true passion – His Father’s will and our salvation.

Jesus “set His face like flint.” He was on a mission and nothing would deter Him. He barreled through barriers that usually stop us dead in our tracks-fear of ridicule, fear of suffering, abandonment by our closest companions. He was willing to endure the sting of sin to blot out sin, and was eager to face death in order to overcome it.

Diamonds may be a moving testimony to love, but the laying down of one’s life is even more compelling. And though this life is human and therefore vulnerable, it is also divine and, therefore, infinite in value. It is a gift so valuable that it outweighs every offense committed from the dawn of time till the end of the world. A gift so powerful that it melts hearts, opens the barred gates of paradise, and makes all things new.

— (Part of a reflection by Dr.M. D’Ambrosio)

 

Pastor’s Note: April 4th, 2017

A Spiritual Cleansing

Some people say, “Why must I confess my sins to a priest? Can I not ask forgiveness from God directly?” Certainly one can, and one must, ask forgiveness from God! However the need for the sacrament of reconciliation arises from our human and bodily existence.

Cleansing is part of our earthly life. It is necessary for our well-being and sound health. Sacrament of reconciliation can be understood as a spiritual cleansing that re-energizes the human spirit. Yet, it is not just a cleansing. It forgives sins. That is, through this sacrament God’s forgiveness is discernably made available to us. Through the forgiving action of God our sins are wiped clean. The imagery could be that of a chalk board or a white board. Once it is wiped clean whatever was on it disappears totally. God alone can forgive sins. (Luke 5:21)

Why do we need a priest then? Many times we receive healing through the help of a physician, psychiatrist, counsellor and so on. Scripture says, “Iron sharpens iron…”(proverbs 27:17) Our spiritual life, too, needs the help of another person – a professional at that!

In our Church there will be a talk on the Sacrament of Reconciliation on Wednesday, April 5th (Father Mark Wiesner) and an opportunity for individual reconciliation on Monday, April 10th. I invite everyone to take advantage of this great opportunity.

Thank you

I would like to thank all the members of the parish for your prayers and support during the illness and death of my Dad, Joseph. It was really a difficult and painful situation since I was so far away from him.

My dad was much loved by the local community. He was very active in the Church and the community. More than 1500 people came to pay respects in a spirit of solidarity and love.

— Father Augustine

Pastor’s Note: March 26th, 2017

A Gospel Reflection: Open the eyes of my soul, Lord!

It’s hard to know why Jesus went through the ritual of the spittle, the mud, and the water, in order to heal the man who was born blind. We are told that he healed other blind people with a touch, or simply a word.  He sent the ten lepers on their way, and they were healed as they journeyed along. He sent the centurion home and, before he reached home he got word that his servant was healed. It might well have been a test of this man’s faith. Maybe this is how Jesus heals many of us. We ask for his healing, and nothing seems to happen immediately. Maybe, after asking for his healing, we should go on our way, and expect to notice the healing taking place gradually as time goes by.

As today’s story unfolds, we notice that the man’s eyes were really opened, and that includes the eyes of his soul. Clearly Jesus was intent on healing the total person. We don’t imagine him healing someone, and then having that person going away still filled with resentment against another. Such a person would not really be healed in depth. The man in today’s gospel was totally healed, and he ended up on his knees, worshiping Jesus.

A practical and simple prayer is “Lord, that I may see.” It is a short prayer, but when it comes from the depths of my heart, it is a powerful prayer. Remember that other blind man named Bartimeus? He was told that Jesus was passing by, and he was determined to get his attention. Those around him tried to silence him, but he shouted all the louder. And he also was cured. To another man Jesus asked the pointed question, “Do you want to be healed?’

The greatest way we can do good for others is not by giving them money, though that can at times be what is needed, but in helping  them appreciate what they already have. It is good to affirm others and make them feel both loved and worthwhile. Many people have grown up with a poor self-image, and they just cannot see the good in themselves. This is another form of blindness, and it is a blindness in others that any one of us can have power to heal. The most certain proof that the Spirit of God lives in us is our willingness and ability to affirm and bring a blessing to other people.

 

 

Pastor’s Note: March 19th, 2017

A Gospel Reflection: Enjoying God

Today’s Gospel encounter is captivating. Tired on his journey, Jesus sits down next to Jacob’s Well. Soon
a woman arrives to draw water. She belongs to a semipagan people, despised by the Jews. Right out of the
blue, Jesus begins the dialogue. He doesn’t know how to look down on anyone, only how to look at them with
deep tenderness. “Woman, give me something to drink.” The woman stops in her tracks. How dare he be in contact with a Samaritan? Why does he lower himself to speak with an unknown woman? Jesus’ words surprise her all the more: “If you only knew what God is offering and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me
something to drink,’ you would have been the one to ask, and he would have given you living water.”

Many people, especially lately, find themselves far away from God, without even knowing what is really going on inside of them. By now God ends up ‘something strange’ to them. Everything connected to
God seems to them to be empty and meaningless: a childish world, fading into the past. I understand them. I
know what they might be feeling. I too find myself further and further away from such a “God of my childhood” that used to awaken in me so many fears, grief, unease. Probably without Jesus I never would have met a God who for me today is a Mystery of goodness: a presence that is friendly and welcoming, one whom I can always trust.

The task of proving my faith with scientific evidence has never attracted me: I believe it’s mistaken to regard
the mystery of God as if it were a laboratory project. But neither have religious dogmas helped me to really
meet God. I simply have let myself be led by a confidence in Jesus that has continued growing over the
years. I can’t explain exactly how my faith sustains me today in a religious crisis that affects me as much as
everyone else. I would only say that Jesus has brought me to live a faith in God in a simple way from the depth
of my being. If I listen, God isn’t silent. If I open myself, God isn’t closed. If I entrust myself, God welcomes
me. If I give myself, God sustains me. If I fall down, God raises me up.

I believe the first and most important experience is to find a way to enjoy God as a saving presence. When a
person knows what it is to enjoy God because, in spite of our mediocrity and selfishness, God welcomes us as
we are, then it would be difficult to abandon the faith. Many people today are abandoning God without ever
having known God. If they knew the experience of God that Jesus spreads, they would be seeking God. If they
recognized the gift that God is, they wouldn’t abandon God. They would find themselves enjoying God.

— (José Antonio Pagola)

Pastor’s Note: March 12th, 2017

Transformation

We all need a vision, a goal toward which we journey or life easily becomes reduced to just one thing after another –  routine, endless repetition.

Today, the Gospel story of the Transfiguration gives us a vision of where Jesus is heading and where all those who believe in Jesus and are joined to Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit are likewise heading – heavenly, transfigured glory.

I presume some of you have seen the movie “The Passion of the Christ.” One is moved by it, by the intense suffering that Jesus voluntarily underwent on our behalf.

But for Jesus, that was not the end.  His absolute trust in His heavenly Father is what led him to endure this extraordinary cruelty, for He knew that God, His Father, Abba, would make it right.

And so we celebrate His Resurrection from the dead.  We are all caught up into Jesus’ Resurrection by faith and Baptism.  We celebrate Jesus’ whole journey through life, His passion and His death, but the culmination of it all is the Risen Life of the Lord Jesus.

The Resurrection of Jesus, as portrayed in the film, is only partially correct.  The sinking burial garments that indicate that the Body of Jesus is no longer present is appropriate, I feel.  But the next scene of Jesus, looking like His old self, walking away from the tomb is not appropriate, because Jesus did not just come back to life, to the kind of life that He had before.  He came back to a totally transformed life, a totally different kind of life, a life totally in God, transfigured by the Holy Spirit.  The Risen Lord is not a resuscitated corpse who one day will die again.  No, he is once and for all the Risen Lord, our hope of glory.

That is the Risen Life we all share and which we live out in our daily lives here on earth already.  And we look forward to the day when we shall possess this Risen Life fully in Christ in the Kingdom of Heaven.  We already possess it in a beginning,

very real way and, during Lent especially, we want to give that Risen Life of Christ more room to transform us.  We want to be open to the power of Jesus’ Resurrection gradually transforming our spirits, our personalities, until body and soul; we are fully incorporated into the Risen Christ forever.

That is our goal here on earth – transformation.  It is our special goal during this season of Lenten renewal.  And we pray and work that this gift of Risen life in Christ will be given to all God’s children on earth that together we may look forward to being together forever – in the fullness of the life, joy and peace.

— Father Augustine

 

Pastor’s Note: March 5th, 2017

Do You Love Lent?

Is the season of Lent relevant for the 21st century? We are so automated, so busy; why do we need Lenten observances? Prayer, fasting and almsgiving, the three themes of Lent, are actually a welcome change to our routine life.

Prayer helps us to commune with the Almighty. We all experience limitations in our lives – sickness, pain, grief, suffering. Prayer moves us beyond our limitations and touches the unlimited. Find strength and courage, joy and happiness and experience “nirvana” (liberation). Well, prayer is worth the time, worth the effort, so why not try to pray more during this season of Lent!

Almsgiving or charity is a hallmark of our Christian faith. Every Christian, by his/her baptism, has a duty to be charitable. It is part of a realization of who we are. We have all received much or, rather, all that we have is a gift. We are merely stewards of God’s gift. Am I a good steward administering the gifts properly? Do I share my gifts and talents? Lent is a time to make changes that are needed for me. God loves a cheerful giver!

Fasting may not be pleasant to some people. It primarily means giving up some food as a sacrifice. There are people who give up certain food on doctor’s orders.  During Lent I fast because I want to do it. It is almost like the man who gave up his lifejacket on a sinking ship because there were not enough lifejackets for all! Moreover, fasting is not just about food alone. If you are able to kick some bad habits (alcoholism, smoking, internet pornography, using curse words, impatience, etc.) that, too, is a form of fasting. Maybe fasting is good for our body and soul.

Do you love Lent? I suppose many people will be reluctant to say yes. Maybe we should ask this question again and we may be surprised by our own answers!

Apps for Lent

Nearly everyone uses Smart phones. Our smart phones can be an obstacle to prayer and spiritual life especially when we use them during Church Service! However, during this Lent, our phones can help us to pray as well. They can inspire us to prayer, penance and almsgiving. Given below are some of the Catholic apps for Lent.

3 minute retreat (Free): 3-Minute Retreats invite you to take a short prayer break right at your computer/smartphone. Spend some quiet time reflecting on a Scripture passage.
Knowing that not everyone prays at the same pace, you have control over the pace of the retreat. After each screen, a Continue button will appear. Click it when you are ready to move on. If you are new to online prayer, the basic timing of the screens will guide you through the experience

Laudate (Free): It is one of the most downloaded free Catholic apps. It has everything that a Catholic could want: Mass, prayers, Bible, Vatican II documents, Catechism, rosary, lives of saints, etc. You can also bookmark your favorite prayers here.

Catholic TV (Free): Help us to stay on top of Catholic news.

RC Buddy (Free): It contains prayers, readings of the day, Rosary and liturgy of the hours.

Xt3 Lent Calendar ($1.99): It contains much of what you need to make the most of every day in Lent. It contains daily readings, ideas for penance, inspiration quotes and important feast days.

Stations of the Cross Walk With Me ($1.99): It is sold by the Daughters of Saint Paul. It is ideal for helping you fit the Stations of the Cross into your daily life.

Catholic meditations for Lent ($2.99): It contains 63 meditations for Lent. It has a free trial version.

— Father Augustine

Pastor’s Note: February 26th, 2017

A Gospel Reflection: Trust in the Lord

It is a real joy for us all to bask in the proclamation of today’s Gospel, Matthew 6:25-34, the teaching on God’s love and care for us.  It certainly is easy to wax poetic on the beautiful images presented: the birds of the air cared for by God, the fields, dressed by God with wild flowers making them more grand than King Solomon in all his glory.

The images are beautiful, but we do need to be careful that the message is not lost in the poetry.  The underlying message of this passage is pointed to those who are weak in faith, certainly me, perhaps also you.  The theme of little faith, found throughout the Gospel of Matthew, strengthens those of us whose faith in the Risen Lord is continually assaulted by the situation of our daily lives.  We are called to faith not just in times of great spiritual experiences, or in times of personal crisis, we are called to faith in the face of our typical day.

Two weeks ago we heard a passage in the Sermon on the Mount that precedes today’s Gospel.  It contained warnings about limiting the growth of holiness through a strict adherence to the letter of the law without going to the heart of the law.  You remember the precepts: it is not enough to avoid murder, we cannot hate, and so forth.  That passage was first pointed at the establishment thought of the Pharisees Scribes, and Sadducees.  The limitations of the wisdom of these self-styled sages is confronted with the enthusiasm a Christian must have in God.  The bottom line is that we are to trust in God to provide.  We should not base our trust on our money.  Today’s Gospel must have been seen as thoroughly irresponsible to the teachers of Jesus’ time, but it is an accurate demonstration of the faith we must nurture.  “Don’t worry about tomorrow. Let tomorrow take care of itself.  Seek first God’s kingdom over you and his way of holiness, and all will be given you.” “What irresponsibility,” the ancient and modern sages of the world would claim.  “What faith in God’s love,” the Christian must reply.

The passage itself builds on the Lord’s Prayer.  In the Lord’s Prayer, which begins some 20 verses before today’s gospel, we are told to pray to our Father who is in heaven.  Now we hear that our heavenly Father knows our needs.  We pray that his kingdom may come.  Now we are told that must seek his kingdom and his righteousness and all else will be given to us.  We pray that God might take care of our daily needs, our daily bread.  Now we are told that we must trust in God to take care of today and not worry about tomorrow.

In this age of information, when nothing is attempted unless it is the result of a thorough consultation, today’s gospel affects us the same way it affected the pseudo sages of Jerusalem.  It seems irresponsible to put our full trust in God and not to worry about tomorrow.  This is the radical faith demanded of all Christians.  We are challenged to live as individuals of faith in a materialistically orientated society.  We are challenged to live out the Lord’s prayer.  We are challenged to put faith in God first, to make his kingdom our priority, to trust in him not in our stuff.  Today’s Gospel is not just a poetic image of God’s love, it is a challenge to trust in this love.

These are the radical demands of Christianity. We are to  put God first and have faith in Him; then our happiness is no longer dependent on the contents of our closets, our bookshelves,  our cars, boats or houses, or even the people who move in and out of our lives.  When we put God first, our happiness flows from the experience of the presence of God’s love in our lives.  When we put God first, we have the time, no, more than that, we have the ability to look at the birds of the sky and flowers of the fields and say, “God, how beautiful they are.  How good You are.  How caring You are.”

In today’s Gospel the Lord calls us to enjoy life by trusting in him.  If we develop that attitude of faith, then whenever the events of our lives become heavy, when calamity strikes individuals or relationships in a family, we can call on the presence of the Lord to care for us, to share our burdens.  “Come to me all you who are weary and find life burdensome,” Jesus will say later on in the Gospel of Matthew, “My yoke is easy, my burden is light.”

May the Lord give us the faith to trust in the power of His love in our lives.

— Msgr. Joseph Pellegrino

 

Pastor’s Note: February 19th, 2017

The Law of Joy

Those of you who are circus devotees probably heard the bad news: Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey has announced that they as well as all circuses throughout the country have a serious shortage of clowns.  It seems that people just aren’t interested in the intense training. Being a part of 20 clowns in a VW Beatle has also lost its appeal.  But do not fear, the circuses have opened up a recruiting office in Washington, DC. There are plenty of people there who do not even have to go to clown school.

Four years ago this week, Pope Emeritus Benedict shocked the world by announcing that he would retire from the Chair of St. Peter.  This set into motion events that led to a change in the tone of the Catholic Church.  As you know, Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected pope, taking the name Francis and bringing the simplicity of St. Francis to the Church’s highest office. This new tone that Pope Francis brought to the Church is one of joy.  He has urged bishops, priests and deacons to step away from hammering at the same two moral issues, abortion and gay marriage,  that have become the focus of so many homilies, particularly in America.  His first major writing to the Church was the Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, The Joy of the Gospel.  He urged those preaching to use their  homilies to bring the joy of the Lord to the world.

For many this has not been the easiest of tasks.  Many homilists still feel a necessity to continue being negative.  Many in the pews are quite happy to hear priests and deacons  sticking it to those who promote abortion or gay marriage and will even applaud them as though it takes courage to preach to the choir.  It will take time, years really, before the tone of joy replaces the tone of confrontation.  But it will happen.  In time.

It has to happen.  We need to move away from the Church of No to the Church of Joy. There is so much more to the Gospel then confronting two issues.

Consider today’s readings.  All three readings tell us that the world does not have to be a place of hatred with its accompanying anger and violence.  History does not have to result from a series of wars.  The workplace does not have to be a place of nastiness, of unbridled ambition, of people destroying others for their own gain.  The school does not have to be a place where might makes right and mean Teens dominate.  Nor does the neighborhood have to be a place where rumors destroy lives.

The readings are telling us that the world does not have to be this way.  A Savior has come who has presented a new way of living, a new law, a Law of Joy.  This is a law that says if we check our desire for vengeance, we can live in peace with ourselves and our God.  If we refuse to be dominated by hatred, we can remain united to the One who is Love Become Flesh.  If there is only one person in the workplace who lives by this New Law, the workplace will experience the presence of the Lord in that person.  With the Grace of the Holy Spirit working through this person, the workplace can become a place of joy.  Similarly, if there is only one person at the cafeteria table who refuses to join the attack on someone at school, those plotting to hurt others will be forced to reconsider their plans.  Perhaps, eventually, they will realize that the mean have no joy, but the meek, those who follow today’s gospel, live in happiness.

The Gospel is taken from the Sermon on the Mount.  Throughout the sermon, Jesus calls on us to look inside ourselves.  If we allow hateful thoughts to overtake us, we cannot be people of peace.  If we nurture memories of the times that we were hurt and convince ourselves that we have a right to vengeance, our lives will be in continual turmoil.  The Lord tells us to adopt a new way of thinking, a new way of acting, a way that is radically opposed to the way of the world.  He tells us to turn the other cheek. That’s hard. He tells us to love our enemies.  That’s even harder. He tells us to be pleasant with those who attack us.  He tells us to live in peace with all, even those who hate us.  Others may or may not change their ways, but we cannot allow their actions to change us.  We cannot allow others to steal the joy we have in being united to Jesus Christ. We need to be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect.  That word perfect here in Matthew is better translated wholesome or sincere. If we do our best to be wholesome on the inside, our lives will be full of the Joy of the Lord.

We pray about this joy at every Mass, particularly during the Eucharistic prayer.  Perhaps you might want to listen for this today.  You may not hear the word joy, but you will hear us thanking God for the gift of our Savior, for accepting his Sacrifice for us, for giving us a share in his life.

I once spent a week on Barbados, one of the Caribbean Islands.  The Island is very Christian.  Every day when I saw the ladies who cleaned the rooms I would greet them and then say, “And how are you today?” I did this purposely because I loved hearing their answer.  Each lady would say the same thing: “I am blessed.”  And so are we all.

All the pettiness that we suffer from others.  All the hatred that others cast on us.  All the scheming that others might attempt.  None of this matters.  What matters is the Love of God and the joy we have in Jesus Christ, our Lord.   The New Law of the Kingdom of God, calls us to forgive, to turn from anger, to be kind. And live in peace.  The New Law of the Kingdom of God is the Law of Joy.

— Msgr. Joseph A. Pellegrino

 

Pastor’s Note: February 12th, 2017

A Gospel Reflection
Matthew continues the Sermon on the Mount with a three-part instruction by Jesus on the Way of Life in the kingdom of heaven. Today’s reading is part one and deals with the Law. Part two deals with worship and religious practice and contains the Lord’s Prayer. Part three deals with trusting God and deeds of loving service to our neighbor.

When Matthew speaks of “the Law and the prophets” he means the whole Scripture. When the Messiah brings the fullness of the kingdom none of scripture will be done away with. Instead it will be fulfilled. Matthew’s Jesus does not overturn the Law of Moses, nor does he set his followers free from the Law. He requires his followers to go beyond the Law by doing more than the Law requires.

The Law condemned murder. Jesus condemns anger. The Law condemned adultery. Jesus condemns even lustful looks. As Jewish Christians who had always been faithful to the Law Matthew’s community need a way to understand the difference Jesus and the kingdom he brings have made. They affirmed that God had always been at work in history through “the Law and the prophets.” But God’s work goes beyond that to be embodied by the Messiah who reveals the definitive will of God. The written scriptures and their interpretation in tradition are surpassed by Jesus whose life and teaching are the definitive revelation of the will of God.

Family Connection
Families have rules. Without rules, family life would be chaos. As a family, brainstorm a list of rules that you are all called to follow in your home in order for you all to get along together. Think about rules for play time, rules for eating, rules for how to speak to one another, rules for going out with friends, and so on. Emphasize that families follow rules as a way of showing love and respect for one another. Explain that in this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus talks about following the Law. Say: God’s Law of love can be thought of as rules that we are to follow in order to show our love and respect for one another. Read aloud this Sunday’s Gospel, Matthew 5:17-37. Talk specifically with one another about how anger is to be dealt with in your family. Conclude by praying for the grace to overcome anger and to show respect for one another as a family by following God’s Law of love.

— Father Augustine

 

Pastor’s Note: February 5th, 2017

A Gospel Reflection
Salt has a distinctive taste. It is easy to recognize. It stands out, like a light on a hill.

Jesus said to his disciples: You are the salt of the earth and You are the light of the world [Matthew 5:13,14]. They were encouraged to stand out, to be different and to be recognized. Yet last week we were thinking about humility: Blessed are the meek or the poor. People of no great distinction were promised special blessings and we saw there were good reasons for that. Surely then, if seeking fame and fortune is not to be rewarded as are the poor and the meek, Jesus is not expecting us to put ourselves forward with attention getting behavior. That is true. He was not encouraging us to draw attention to ourselves, but to be distinctive in another way. See just what he said about the light:

No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lamp stand, and it gives light to all in the house. {16} In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. — Matthew 5:15-16

The disciples were encouraged to let their light show up what they did so that God, not they themselves, would be glorified: let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. God was to be credited with the good that they did. There is the crux (= cross!) of the matter. It was indeed through humbling himself that Jesus drew attention to the saving love of God who draws people to himself through the sacrificial work of those who love other people as they love him. Jesus is the model and the means of achieving this strangely humble kind of recognition.

— Father Augustine

 

Pastor’s Note: January 29th, 2017

Flooding
The recent rains have brought much relief to drought-ridden California. We thank God for the rains. At the same time many places have experienced flooding and other rain- related disasters. Our Church has had its own share of troubles. The children’s Liturgy of the Word Room (one of the rooms below the gym) has serious flooding and water damage. Our insurance is currently in the process of fixing it. There is also flooding in the basements of the Church and Rectory.

It is a reminder that things are a mixed blessing. Whether it be in our personal lives or in our families or in our society, it is moderation that brings about happiness. As Aristotle said centuries ago, “virtue lies in the middle.” Too much of anything, even apparently good things, could turn out to be evil. It is good to have wealth, fame, power, influence and skills. However, for them to remain good, they need to be tempered and moderated by principles of truth, justice and goodness.

Opportunities for Social Action
Pope Francis invites us to work with the marginalized and less fortunate in our society. It is a constant theme of his papacy. The Church needs to be where the sick, the downtrodden, the refugees and the oppressed people are. It needs to “smell like the sheep.”Saint Vincent de Paul of our parish does an excellent job in assisting the needy in our parish. I want to thank and congratulate the members for their dedication and service to the Church.

We are assembling “Kare kits” that will serve homeless neighbors. It could be kept in one’s car as handouts. It is a start.  The Parish Pastoral Council is exploring various possibilities; there will be more opportunities for us throughout the year 2017.

Vacation: I am taking a few days off to visit my dad in India. He is in hospice care and needs all your prayers. I hope, also, to celebrate the first anniversary Holy Mass for my Mother who passed away last year. will be away from the parish from January 31st 2017 to February 23rd 2017. Well, it may not sound much like a vacation in the traditional sense!  I recommend myself, my dad and family to your valuable prayers.

— Father Augustine

Pastor’s Note: January 22nd, 2017

Saint Antony of Egypt

Saint Anthony or Antony  (c. 251 to 356) was a Christian monk from Egypt, revered since his death as a saint. He is distinguished from other saints named Anthony by various epithets: Anthony the Great, Anthony of Egypt, Anthony the Abbot, Anthony of the Desert, Anthony the Anchorite, and Anthony of Thebes. For his importance among the Desert Fathers and to all later Christian monasticism, he is also known as the Father of All Monks. His feast day is celebrated on January 17, among the Orthodox and Catholic churches and on Tobi 22, in the Egyptian calendar used by the Coptic Church.

Anthony was born in Coma in Lower Egypt in AD 251, to wealthy landowner parents. When he was about 18 years old, his parents died and left him in the care of his unmarried sister. Shortly thereafter, he decided to follow the Evangelical counsel of Jesus which reads, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasures in heaven.”

(Matt.19:21) Anthony gave away some of his family’s land to his neighbors, sold the remaining property, and donated the funds thus raised to the poor. He then left to live an ascetic life in the desert, placing his sister with a group of Christian virgins, a sort of proto-convent.

Everything we know about Antony comes from a hagiography (a favorable biography of a saintly person) written shortly after his death by the famous theologian Athanasius of Alexandria. According to him, Antony saw the Christian’s task as both simple and formidable: become a “lover of God” by resisting the Devil and yielding to Christ. Antony saw the world as a battlefield on which God’s servants waged war against the Devil and his demons.

His journey into purity began by removing himself from the village. He took up strenuous spiritual exercises: sleepless nights spent in prayer, fasting every other day, and eating only bread and water. He discovered, Athanasius wrote, “the mind of the soul is strong when the pleasures of the body are weak.”

When, at the age of 105, he knew he was near the end of his life, he took two companions with him into the desert to wait for his death. They were ordered to bury his body without a marker so no one could make his grave or relics an object of reverence.

“Wherever you find yourself, do not go forth from that place too quickly. Try to be patient and learn to stay in one place.” Saint Anthony of Egypt.

— Father Augustine

 

Pastor’s Note: January 15th, 2017

A Reflection by Robert Christian

Martin Luther King Jr. is a national hero, a remarkable figure whose courageous pursuit of justice compelled Americans to recognize and correct our nation’s failure to live up to its highest ideals, those so elegantly expressed in the Declaration of Independence. Yet King’s vision transcended these ideals. He articulated notions of equality, freedom, and justice more aligned with the common good than any imagined by our nation’s founders. For Catholics, King’s philosophy is especially appealing as his personalist, communitarian worldview is remarkably consistent with core Catholic principles. Meanwhile, King’s dream of an America united in universal brotherhood and sisterhood should remain the North Star that guides us as we work to end the divisions created by racial bigotry and prejudice and their enduring legacy.

The foundation of King’s philosophy is his understanding of the human person. King believed in the “sacredness of human personality”-that each person has inherent dignity and worth. For King, as for Catholics, since we are each made in the image of God, the innate worth of every person is fundamentally equal. Therefore, as children of God, universal brotherhood and sisterhood define our relationships with one another. King rejected the premise that one’s race, occupation, gender, family background, natural intelligence, or skills determined one’s dignity and worth. He recognized that success, even greatness, is not determined by one’s social status or reputation, but by love-inspired service of others. King said, “Anybody can be great…because anybody can serve.  You don’t need to have a college degree to serve.  You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve.  You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.”

King recognized that as social beings, we crave fellowship and can only reach our full potential as persons in community. He believed in the solidarity of the human family, and that “we are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality.” Thus, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” For Catholics, the quest for communion is our preeminent goal. Among the ways we pursue God is by loving others, as God dwells within each person. The failure to love others and treat them justly is a failure to become fully human.

This mentality leads to the recognition that deleterious social conditions often act as obstacles to the full intellectual, emotional, physical, and spiritual development of human persons. For both King and Catholics, social structures must always serve as the means to human flourishing. They should always be treated as means not ends because social structures can institutionalize injustice, dehumanizing the persons they are meant to serve. Social structures that prevent people from attaining their basic needs, which serve as prerequisites to their full development, are incompatible with human dignity and must be abolished or reformed. Justice, the common good in Catholic teaching and the beloved community in King’s thought, must be animated by love and grounded in the transcendent moral law.

… Martin Luther King Jr.’s most powerful vision was of an America no longer stained and divided by the scourge of racism. In one of the great speeches in human history, King famously said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

That dream endures. We still dream of a day when a person’s skin color will matter as much as their eye color, where unfair discrimination based on race will seem silly and strange. To achieve this, however, effort has to be made to break down the social construct that is race. This requires individual conversion through the eradication of the intellectual and spiritual ignorance that generates bigotry, an effort that has made incredible progress in the last fifty years. It also necessitates the creation of a more just society. Disparities in incarceration rates, access to quality healthcare, educational attainment levels, life expectancy, and a variety of other social conditions generate, preserve, and entrench racial identity. These cause alienation and act as a barrier to the construction of the society described in King’s speech.

As we celebrate King’s life and legacy, we can revel in his great achievements, but let us not forget, his work remains unfinished.

This article first appeared on Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good’s “Common Good Forum” on January 21st, 2013.

 

Pastor’s Note: January 8th, 2017

Recognizing Jesus

On a cold morning, three people were having a breakfast discussion. Soon two of them were engaged in a heated debate comparing their religions to decide which one was the true religion. John, the oldest among them, sat quietly listening to the debate. Suddenly the two turned to him and asked, “What do you think John? Which religion is the right one?” John rubbed his white beard and said thoughtfully, “Well, you know there are three ways to get from here to a restaurant in San Francisco: car, BART, and ferry. But you know, when you get there, the waitress doesn’t ask you how you came. All she asks is, ‘What would you like to eat?'”

In the stories of Jesus’ birth, two special groups of people came to visit the new-born babe: the shepherds and the magi. The church has no special feast to commemorate the visit of the shepherds but we have this special feast of Epiphany today to celebrate the visit of the magi. Why is that? It is because the visit of the magi is an eye-opener. The shepherds learned of the birth of Jesus through a direct revelation from angels appearing in the midnight sky. This is a direct and supernatural revelation. Many of us have no problem with that. The magi, on the other hand, learned of the birth of Jesus by observing a star. The star did not say anything to them. They had to interpret this natural sign of the star to know what it meant and where it led. If we remember that the   three wise men (magi) were nature worshipers, people who divined God’s will by reading the movements of the stars and other heavenly bodies, then we can see how the visit of the magi challenges some of our popular beliefs.

Notice how people of different religious traditions came to know that the Son of God was born. The shepherds who were regarded as unclean, and could not take part in Temple worship without undergoing purification, came to know through a direct vision of angels. The magi knew through a reading of the stars. And King Herod’s scribes came to know through searching the scriptures. Visions, stars, scriptures — different ways of arriving at the same truth.

Of course this does not mean that any religious tradition is just as good as the other. Notice how Matthew indicates that when the guiding star got to Jerusalem its light failed and the magi had to consult the scriptures to direct them to Bethlehem. Over and above the natural light of the star, the magi still needed the supernatural light of scripture to finally get to Jesus.

— Fr. Augustine

Pastor’s Note: January 1st, 2017

Troll and Gossip
 

Communication or talking is part of being human. We all need to talk. The arrival of telephones was a milestone in our ability to communicate. It is no longer the people nearby we can talk to but far away as well. With the internet came emails, chat sites, internet phone services, social media, etc. They have totally transformed the landscape. It made instant communications, within the reach of Average Joe, fun, entertaining, enlightening and, at times, frustrating, irritating, troubling and painful.

What we say or do, even in anonymity, have consequences. It can, on one end of the spectrum build relationships or on the other end, destroy reputations and people. If we have to communicate, and communicate we must, why don’t we say or do things that build up, or is constructive, rather than be destructive or demeaning?

In Internet slang, a troll is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal, on-topic discussion, often for the troll’s amusement.

The noun and the verb form of troll is associated with Internet discourse, but also has been used more widely. Media attention in recent years has equated trolling with online harassment. For example, the mass media have used troll to mean “a person who defaces Internet tribute sites with the aim of causing grief to families.” In addition, depictions of trolling have been included in popular fictional works, such as the HBO television program The Newsroom, in which a main character encounters harassing persons online and tries to infiltrate their circles by posting negative sexual comments.

Gossip is a casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true.

Social media has provided a much faster way to share gossip. In only a matter of minutes, harmful gossip and rumors can spread online from one place in the world to another.

Gossip is often considered a form of workplace violence, noting that it is “essentially a form of attack.” Gossip is thought by many to “empower one person while dis empowering another”. Accordingly, many companies have formal policies in their employee handbooks against gossip.

The New Year could be a wonderful occasion for us to make a change. Am I a positive person who helps to build up or a force for good rather than be destructive or a force for evil?

Today is the Feast day of Mary, Mother of God. As the scripture says, “But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.” Luke 2:19. Let us ponder with Our Blessed Mother, Mary, and make a resolution that helps us and others.

— Father Augustine

 

Pastor’s Note: December 25th, 2016

Merry Christmas

A little girl came home from school late. Her dad asked, “Darling where have you been? Why are you late?” 

She replied, “daddy, my friend, little Rose, died. I went to her home to console her mother.”

Now her daddy was curious, “…but how did you do that?” “I climbed into her mother’s lap and cried with her”, she replied.

When do we receive or give real comfort or consolation? Is it saying something or doing something? Sometimes, perhaps. But what really counts is that in moments of pain and suffering someone stays with us. More important than any particular action or word of advice is the simple presence of someone who cares.

In our modern times there are lots of methods and techniques designed to change people, influence their behavior, make them do new things, or think new thoughts. At the same time, we may have lost the simple but difficult gift of being present to each other.

Perhaps we lost this gift because we may have been led to believe that presence must be useful – doing something for the other or saying something meaningful and beautiful. At the same time, we might forget that it is in “useless,” unpretentious, humble presence to each other that we feel consolation and comfort.

Simply being with someone is difficult because it asks of us that we share in the other’s vulnerability, enter with him or her into the experience of weakness and powerlessness, become part of their uncertainty, and give up control and self-determination. And still whenever this happens, new strength and new hope are being born.

This gives us a glimpse of Christmas, a God who is Immanuel (God-with-us), a God who came to share our lives in solidarity. It does not mean that God solves our problems, clears our confusion, or offers answers to our many questions. God might do all of that, but solidarity with God consists in the fact that God is willing to enter with us into our problems, confusions and situations.

That is the good news of Christmas. “A virgin shall conceive and give birth to a son and they shall call him, Immanuel, a name which means God-is-with-us” (Mtt.1:22-23)

 Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 2017.

 — Father Augustine

 

Pastor’s Note: December 18th, 2016

A Great Opportunity

One of the troublesome things about human beings is also one of the glories of human beings.  We never really get it all together!

We are not the kind of creatures, like the angels, who make a decision once and for all and, forever, have put their whole heart and soul into it, their whole being.  So they are either condemned if they have aligned themselves against God or are forever with God if they have chosen to be one with Him who made them.

But we human beings are not like that.  We are always “more or less”.  We never can sum ourselves up once and for all.  There are always pieces of our personalities, pieces of our being left out, left over.

Therefore, we are always capable of change, of growth, of repentance, or turning from evil to good or (regrettably) from good to evil.  For us, conversion of heart is never over and done with as long as we live upon this earth. There is always something more, someone more, beckoning us onward and forward.

So, there is no one that we can “give up on”, and no persons who can take pride in their present blessedness and righteousness, lest they soon fall from grace.

The season of Advent is a time when we can change our lives, when we can take a step closer to the Lord – or back further away.  It is an opportunity provided us by God to pick up some of the loose, scattered pieces again, to bring another part of our lives, our attitudes, our hearts under the sway of the love of God.

What a joy it is to be such a weak human being, to be so wonderfully made, that at any given time, we can begin again, turn again, be converted and know that we are accepted and loved, forgiven and blessed, because of Him who loves us and was not ashamed to become one of us weak, fickle, changeable human beings.

We have a wonderful opportunity for it through the Sacrament of Reconciliation on Monday December 19th at 7:00 PM in our Church. This is as practical or helpful, as the Church can be in assisting us with transformation and change. I invite everyone to take advantage of this great gift.

— Father Augustine

 

Pastor’s Note: December 11th, 2016

Gaudete Sunday

Gaudete Sunday is the third Sunday of Advent in the liturgical calendar of the Western Church, including the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion, many Lutheran churches, and other mainline Protestant churches.

The day takes its common name from the Latin word Gaudete (“Rejoice”), the first word of the Introit (entrance antiphon), of this day’s Mass: “Gaudete in Domino semper…” (Latin)

This may be translated as: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Let your forbearance be known to all, for the Lord is near at hand; have no anxiety about anything, but in all things, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God. Lord, you have blessed your land; you have turned away the captivity of Jacob.” (Philippians 4:4-6; Psalm 85 (84):1)

While the theme of Advent is to focus on the coming of Jesus in three ways: His first, His present and His final Advent, the readings for Gaudete Sunday deal with rejoicing in the Lord – Christian joy – as well as the mission of St. John the Baptist and his connection with Advent. Theologian Henri Nouwen described the difference between joy and happiness. While happiness is dependent on external conditions, joy is “the experience of knowing that you are unconditionally loved and that nothing — sickness, failure, emotional distress, oppression, war, or even death — can take that love away.” Thus joy can be present even in the midst of sadness.

>In his 2014 Gaudete Sunday homily, Pope Francis said that Gaudete Sunday is known as the “Sunday of joy,” and that instead of fretting about “all they still haven’t” done to prepare for Christmas, people should “think of all the good things life has given you.”

On Gaudete Sunday rose-colored vestments may be worn instead of violet which is otherwise prescribed for every day in the season of Advent. Gaudete Sunday was also known as “Rose Sunday”. In churches that have an Advent wreath, the rose-colored candle is lit in addition to two of the violet (or blue) colored candles, which represent the first two Sundays of Advent.

— Fr. Augustine

 

Pastor’s Note: December 4th, 2016

Shoes for Saint Martin de Porres School

Thanks to everyone who participated in the Parish Mercy Project. We had a great response from the members of our parish. We’ve reached 100% of our goal. About 133 deserving children from Saint Martin de Porres Catholic School will be getting a new pair of Nike shoes. Congratulations!

Great Expectations

It is a classic novel by Charles Dickens. It is a story of great intrigues but especially misplaced expectations and some shattered dreams. The story appeals to most people because it mirrors human lives. It may not be far from the truth to say that expectations, hopes and dreams give meaning and direction to one’s life.

Shattered hopes and dreams can be devastating to people. This happens not only in individual lives, but in workplaces, Churches and in the social lives of People. In Dickens’s novel Miss Havisham is a classic example of a shattered expectation. It is her wedding day and she is awaiting the groom’s arrival; he never arrives. Instead she receives a letter from him (Mr. Compeyson) and realizes he had defrauded her and she had been left at the altar.

Humiliated and heartbroken, Miss Havisham suffered a mental breakdown and remained alone in her decaying mansion, Satis House – never removing her wedding dress, wearing only one shoe, leaving the wedding breakfast and cake uneaten on the table, and allowing only a few people to see her. She even had the clocks in her mansion stopped at twenty minutes to nine: the exact time when she had received Compeyson’s letter.

Advent too, is a time of great expectations. If our expectations are purely earth-bound we surely will experience disappointments. All earthly things will pass – money, wealth, health, beauty, friendships, fame, etc.

Advent invites us to ask the question: where do I place my hope? Perhaps, our dollar bills/Greenbacks get it right – IN GOD WE TRUST.

— Father Augustine

 

Pastor’s Note: November 27th, 2016

What is Spirituality?

The season of Advent ushers in the new liturgical year. Advent is the time before Christmas, a time of preparation, a time of expectation and hope. A new liturgical year calls for a new beginning in our lives, too. We are invited to put away the old ways and begin afresh our spiritual life.

What is Spirituality? We hear a lot about “spirituality” and “spiritual life”. What do they really mean? Is it something so mysterious that it is out of our reach?

Spirituality is a “way of living’ one’s life in the light of the Gospel. It covers every aspect of one’s life – family living, social and economic living, personal and community living, professional and recreational living.

Often spirituality is mistakenly restricted to our religious living and church life. We often think of churchy people as very spiritual. It could very well be that a person who attends Church may not be spiritual in the true and all-embracing meaning of the word. The real spirituality of an individual is manifested in his/her day to day living, after he or she leaves the Church.

Every one of us grows and evolves over the years. Our attitudes and values are constantly developing. The dreams, hopes and aspirations of a person at fifteen will be different at age thirty and still different at age sixty, and so on.

Once I was invited by a family for dinner. It was a young family with three children. The middle child was a girl who was attending eighth grade. I asked her, “What would you like to be when you grow up?” She replied with no hesitation at all, “The President of the United States of America.” I have to admit that it was I who was flabbergasted; I did not expect such an answer from an eighth grader. Anyway, I congratulated the child and wished her all the best in pursuing her dream!

After some years I was again a guest of the same family. I asked the same child, who by now was about to be eighteen years of age, the same question, “What would you like to be when you are an adult?” She said, “I want to be a structural engineer.” When I reminded her about the dream of being the President of the United States of America, she had all but forgotten it; she had moved on to something different.

It is in these personal changes that Spirituality serves as an anchor so that we do not drift afloat in the ocean of life. Spirituality too grows, changes and develops. However it is founded on Jesus Christ and his teaching. The foundation holds it together, gives it identity in the myriads of our life experiences. A growth in spirituality means the gospel values gradually embrace all facets of human life and living.

May the season Advent help us to grow in our spiritual life. At Saint Augustinewe have many opportunities for spiritual growth: Small Faith groups, Advent wreaths, liturgical celebrations, Wednesday evening prayers, Taize prayer and the Rosary.

— Father Augustine

 

Pastor’s Note: November 20th, 2016

What’s New Around Our Parish

Landscaping: The school that rents our buildings (EBI) is planning a major landscaping project in both  parking lots around the Church. We have been in discussion with them for about a year. Now the plans are in progress; we hope to finalize them in the coming months. Their hope is to begin work sometime in April 2017 and complete it during the summer months. Please pray that the project is good both for the Church and the School.

Shoes for Saint Martin de Porres School: I like to thank everyone who participated in the Parish Mercy Project. We had a good response from the parish. The total cost of the project has been $5,300. It provides shoes for about 133 children in the school. Donation received from the parishioners is about $3,870. We are short by about $1,430. I thank the members of the Parish Council for planning this project for the benefit of our children.

Open the door: Pope Francis has invited all the Churches to keep their doors open. However, practical difficulties make us keep our Church locked up. Parish Council is exploring ways to make it possible for our Church to remain open in a way that would help people come in and pray.

Holy season: Thanksgiving, Advent, Christmas and New Year are upon us. As we prepare to celebrate all these wonderful feasts, let us also be mindful of others who may not be as fortunate as we are. A kind gesture, a listening ear, a smile, a comforting word etc. can flavor our celebration and make it truly a delightful one. These celebrations present us with great opportunities to forgive others, to receive forgiveness and to pray for one another. It is a season of giving as well. As Saint Francis of Assisi says, “It is in giving that we receive.”

Parish Council: We have a vibrant Parish Council that looks at the various needs of the parish and ministry. They have redesigned the Bulletin and are looking to make the parish website more user friendly and attractive. The council is studying parish life and activities to strengthen and improve them. Challenging topics like ‘how to make the neighborhood present in the Church and make the Church present in the neighborhood’ are also under discussion. Kindly pray for the members of the parish council that the Lord may bless them for their sacrificing service to our community.

— Fr. Augustine Joseph

 

Pastor’s Note: November 13th, 2016

Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick
 

Anointing of the Sick is a sacrament of the Catholic Church that is administered to a Catholic “who begins to be in danger due to sickness (spiritual and/or physical) or old age”, except in the case of those who “persevere obstinately in manifest grave sin”.

The sacrament is also referred to as Unction, and in the past as Extreme Unction, and it is one of the three sacraments that constitute the last rites (together with the Sacrament of Penance and Viaticum or Holy Communion).

The sacrament is administered by a priest, who ordinarily uses Olive Oil blessed by the Bishop during Chrism Mass, to anoint the patient’s forehead and, perhaps, other parts of the body while reciting certain prayers. It is believed to give comfort, peace, courage and, if the sick person is unable to make a confession, forgiveness of sins.

“This sacred anointing of the sick was instituted by Christ, our Lord, as a true and proper sacrament of the New Testament. It is alluded to, indeed, by Mark, but is recommended to the faithful and promulgated by James the apostle and brother of the Lord” (CCC 1511; Mark 6:13; Jas. 5:14-15).

In the Church’s Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick, it is Jesus who touches the sick to heal them from sin – and sometimes even from physical ailment. His cures were signs of the arrival of the Kingdom of God. The core message of his healing tells us of His plan to conquer sin and death by his dying and rising.

The Rite of Anointing tells us there is no need to wait until a person is at the point of death to receive the Sacrament. A careful judgment about the serious nature of the illness is sufficient.

The Anointing of the Sick conveys several graces and imparts gifts of strengthening in the Holy Spirit against anxiety, discouragement, and temptation, and conveys peace and fortitude (CCC 1520). These graces flow from the atoning death of Jesus Christ, for “this was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah, ‘He took our infirmities and bore our diseases'” (Matt. 8:17).

When the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick is given, the hoped-for effect is that, if it be God’s will, the person be physically healed of illness. But even if there is no physical healing, the primary effect of the Sacrament is a spiritual healing by which the sick person receives the Holy Spirit’s gift of peace and courage to deal with the difficulties that accompany serious illness or the frailty of old age.

(From different sources)

— Father Augustine

 

Pastor’s Note: November 6th, 2016

It is no longer fashionable to talk about the Four Last Things: Death, judgment, Heaven, and Hell. Yet they try to describe the four truths a soul experiences in life, and after life. They were often commended as a collective topic for meditation; Saint Philip Neri wrote, “Beginners in religion ought to exercise themselves principally in meditation on the Four Last Things.” Traditionally, the sermons preached on the four Sundays of Advent were on the Four Last Things.

Death is a universal human experience. Everything that begins has an end. Bereavement, parting, pain and fear are generally part of death. Even some of the saints had a great fear of death. Death, for a Christian, is transforming not a final destruction. It is not easy to put into words exactly what this transformation is like. As the Scripture says, “For when they rise from the dead … [they] are like angels in heaven” (Mark 12:25.)

Practically every religion speaks about some sort of judgment of a person at the end of this earthly sojourn.  Even the ancient Egyptian religious paintings depict a judgment scene. In a balance, a person’s heart is weighed against a feather. If the heart is lighter than the feather, the person is judged as good, and vice versa. In the Bible a graphic judgment scene is portrayed in Matthew, Chapter 25. It is not easy to state precisely the nature of the judgment. However, it can be stated that it is a commonly held human belief.

>Heaven too is a widely held human belief. Different religions describe it differently. It is described as a beautiful mansion, a beautiful garden, a place where human desires find fulfillment, etc. For a Christian the best description of Heaven could be understood in the light of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ as explained by Saint Paul in 1 Corinthians 15. It clearly proves that heaven is not a “pie in the sky by and by” as Karl Marx puts it. Heaven is being in the presence of God. As Saint Paul says, “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.” (1 Cor.13:12)

Most religions speak of Hell as well. It is described as a place of punishment, torment, suffering, etc. If one reads, Dante’s Divine Comedy or John Milton’sParadise Lost there are vivid human descriptions of Heaven, Hell and Purgatory. Interesting or frightening, as the case may be, they are more the work of a fertile human imagination. It may be proper to say that hell is ‘not being in the presence of God.’ As the Catechism of the Catholic Church says… [it is] “self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed” (CCC 1033.)

Thank You: I am sure that parishioners will notice the new format of our Parish Bulletin. It is the result of  painstaking work by the Parish Council. I like to thank the members of the council in the name of the parish, especially the president of the Parish Council, Mike Marino, who spent a lot of time designing it. Thank you for your service of love.

— Father Augustine

 

Pastor’s Note: October 30th, 2016

Remembering Our Dear Departed

All Christians believe in the Four Last Things: death, judgment, Heaven and Hell. Purgatory is not part of the “Last Things” because, strictly speaking, Purgatory is a part of Heaven. Purgatory is the (waiting list) remedial class for Heaven-bound souls. Souls who go to Purgatory are those who have been judged worthy of Heaven, but not straightaway. They still need some purification (purgation) before they are ready for Heaven because, according to Revelation 21:27, “nothing unclean shall enter it.”

Even though Catholics believe in Purgatory and Protestants do not, we can say almost everyone seems to believe in an interim state of purification before Heaven. When we lose loved ones, Catholics and Protestants, alike, pray for the dead. We all say, “May their souls rest in peace.” Wait a minute. If the souls of are in Hell, why pray for them? Our prayers cannot help souls in Hell. And if they are in Heaven, why pray for them? They do not need our prayers; they are already in Heaven. Any sort of prayer for the dead has meaning insofar as the souls of the dead are in an interim state where they have not yet reached perfect union and peace with God, and where our prayers can help them get there. That is Purgatory.

In the feast of All Souls we pray for the souls of the faithful departed who are being purified in Purgatory. In this we profess our belief that, just as God has not stopped loving these poor souls because of their imperfections, neither have we. For us the belief in Purgatory is Good News: even though we may not in this life be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48), we can still hold fast to the hope that there are mansions for us in the kingdom of Heaven.

REQUIEM aeternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis. Requiesant in pace. Amen.

Eternal Rest grant unto them, O, Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace.

— Father Augustine

 

Pastor’s Note: October 23rd, 2016

The Rosary – Part 2

On average, Americans correctly answered 16 of the 32 religious knowledge questions on the survey by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life. Atheists and agnostics averaged 20.9 correct answers. Jews and Mormons did about as well, averaging 20.5 and 20.3 correct answers, respectively. Protestants as a whole average 16 correct answers; Catholics, as a whole, 14.7. Atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons perform better than other groups on the survey even after controlling for differing levels of education.

Religion, religious knowledge and practices are on decline in our society. There is a great shroud of ignorance and indifference gnawing at the very core of our human society, the human person. Our spiritual life itself is threatened. In such a situation the Rosary can become a great educational tool if we use it.

The Rosary has been described as the “Poor man’s bible”. At a time, when few people could read and write, memorizing the Rosary was a help in knowing the faith. It described the birth (Joyful Mysteries), suffering (Sorrowful Mysteries) and the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God (Glorious Mysteries). In October 2002, Pope John Paul II (now Saint John Paul II) added the Luminous Mysteries to the Rosary. They describe the adult life and teaching of Jesus. The Rosary, thus, could teach a person the fundamentals of the Christian Faith.

The Rosary can serve as personal prayer or as community prayer. One could pray it by oneself or in the company of others. As a community prayer it can involve a large number of people, making everyone participate in the prayer experience.

Rosary in the digital age: In our digital age there is a lot of help praying the Rosary.iRosary (Catholic Rosary) is a great app for the smart phones. There is also another app called The Holy Rosary. YouTube has uploaded many types of Rosary prayers. It is also possible to buy audio tapes and videos about praying the Rosary.

There is no dearth of resources out there to help us pray the Rosary. As we are in the Month of the Rosary (October) I invite everyone to pray the Rosary. You have nothing to lose but everything to gain – eternal life!

— Father Augustine

 

Pastor’s Note: October 14th, 2016

World Mission Sunday

On Sunday, October 23, 2016, we will celebrate World Mission Sunday. This year’s theme is “Mercy Changes the World.” Pope Francis invites the entire Church to support various young mission dioceses in Africa, Asia, the Pacific Islands, as well as parts of Latin America and Europe. These priests, religious and lay leaders serve some of the poorest and most under developed regions in the world. Please keep these missions in your prayers and be generous in aiding them with your collection gift for the Society of the Propagation of the Faith.

Supporting these struggling churches throughout the world with your prayers and bountiful offerings are indeed ways to fulfill the objective Pope Francis has given all of us. All World Mission Sunday collections will help missionaries offer the individuals of these poverty-stricken areas vital help as they learn and share the mercy of God. It will ensure the development of local dioceses and support the work of priests, religious and lay leaders who serve those in dire need of assistance. Extend your merciful witness to the whole world through your gift for the Society for the Propagation of the Faith.

The Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, which the Church is celebrating, casts a distinct light on World Mission Sunday 2016: it invites us to consider the missio ad gentes as a great, immense work of mercy, both spiritual and material. On this World Mission Sunday, all of us are invited to “go out” as missionary disciples, each generously offering their talents, creativity, wisdom and experience in order to bring the message of God’s tenderness and compassion to the entire human family. By virtue of the missionary mandate, the Church cares for those who do not know the Gospel, because she wants everyone to be saved and to experience the Lord’s love. She “is commissioned to announce the mercy of God, the beating heart of the Gospel” (Misericordiae Vultus, 12) and to proclaim mercy in every corner of the world, reaching every person.

— Fr. Augustine

 

Pastor’s Note: October 9th, 2016

Rosary

“Obsolete, repetitive, outdated. Why repeat it so many times? Isn’t it monotonous?” Probably many people, including Catholics, have similar sentiments about the Rosary. Some think it is pre-Vatican and no longer relevant or a medieval practice that has seen its day!

It is a far cry from the Family Rosary Crusade spearheaded by Fr. Patrick Peyton, the Rosary priest. It is estimated that a record-breaking crowd of 550,000 people, participated in the 1961 Rosary Rally at the Polo Fields in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. It was one of the largest gatherings in the history of San Francisco.

It may be a good question, “Is Rosary for the history books?” Do people pray the Rosary? A Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) study shows that only 16 percent of parents pray the Rosary at least once a month and 7 percent at least once a week in the United States…The survey was conducted in September and October 2014 with 1,014 self-identified Catholic parents. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. Yet, in other parts of the world, especially in Asia, South America and Africa, a large number of Catholics pray the Rosary daily.

Prayer is a personal decision one needs to make for one’s own, as well as for the community spiritual growth. Prayer is a conversation with God or, as Saint Paul says, acknowledging the fact that, “In Him we live, move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28) The Rosary is no doubt a great help in our prayer experience.

The Rosary reflects the rhythm of life, or as Indian Philosophy says, the cosmic Rita (order, arrangement.) As we are aware, there is constant repetition in nature, day and night, different seasons, recycling, etc. In humans, too, there is constant repetition; our breathing, in-take of food, habits, etc. The Rosary with its repetitive prayers connects us to the cosmic Rita which includes the entire universe and all in it. With its repetition the Rosary can restore our equilibrium and one can experience calmness, rest, relaxation and peace. It is a good experience to pray the Rosary before going to sleep for it can help one have a restful night.

October is the month of the Rosary. I invite all members of the parish to pray the Rosary in their homes. We had a community praying of the Rosary on October 4th 2016.

[To be continued]

— Fr. Augustine

 

Pastor’s Note: October 2nd, 2016

Mercy in Action

The Year of Mercy has been a time of grace for the parish. We have had talks on the topic, prayer services and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, banners etc. to help us appreciate the importance of mercy. As Saint Paul said, ‘We are what we are by the grace [mercy] of God.’ 1 Cor.15:10

While prayer and spiritual practices personally help us in our growth in holiness, we need to do something that manifests it in our actions towards our neighbor. We have heard it said, ‘action speaks louder than words.’ In this Year of Mercy we want to do something charitable as a community. The parish council came up with the idea of reaching out to the Catholic schools in our neighborhood. They have selected Saint Martin de Porres School and Elizabeth House as places that can use some help. We are providing shoes to the children in both establishments.

Francis of Assisi said, ‘it is in giving that you receive.’ As a community we want to give, or rather share, what we have with others who can use our help. The children at these institutions certainly can use the shoes that we give. Most of them are from families that would benefit from such help.  I invite everyone to participate in this project generously.

Parish Council

Our parish council has very dedicated members. Currently they are working hard to redesign the parish bulletin and the parish website. We hope to make it more reader- friendly. I want to thank the president, Michael Marino, and the members for working together to make it all possible.

We have openings in parish council membership. If any members of our parish wish to be on the council please contact the parish office or Father Augustine.

New Sound System

We thank God for the new sound system installed in the parish. Many parishioners have expressed their satisfaction with it. I like to thank John Belanger and Doug Castro who helped with the work.

Priest’s Convocation

Priests of the diocese of Oakland will be at a convocation in Pacific Grove, CA from October 3- 7th 2016. The theme for the convocation is “renewing our parishes for Mission.” Please pray for the success of the convocation.

Father Augustine

 

Pastor’s Note: September 25th, 2016

A Note From Fr. Freddie

Thank you!

I am thankful for the ministry that I have had for the past two years at St. Augustine’s. I gratefully remember Fr. William Rosario, our former Pas-tor who accepted me at St. Augustine’s. Dear Fr. Augustine, thank you for everything you have done for me. Our current staff: Linda, Doug, Karen and April have supported me in their best possible way for which I am grateful. I also, fondly, remember all the former staff members. My dear parishioners of St. Augustine’s, you have meant a lot to me. I am grateful for all your support, especially during my difficult times; for your prayers, your kindness and your friendship.

St. Augustine has been a family to me. The lit-urgy has been marvelous, the choir superb, and the parishioners fabulous. I will always cherish the beautiful experience with the Bible Study group, the daily Mass and Taize prayer commu-nity. I am fortunate to have met so many won-derful people and to have made many friends. As someone said, there are no endings, only new beginnings. I take my next assignment with me, and I carry wonderful memories of this parish. I want to express my deep gratitude to each one. United in Him we shall continue the mission of Christ our Lord.

In the Powerful Name of Jesus,

— Fr. Freddie

 

Pastor’s Note: September 11th and 18th, 2016

Congratulations, Father Freddie

Father Freddie has decided to pursue Accredited Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE) in John Muir Hospital, Concord. He has suspended his Biblical studies at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley. The Clinical Pastoral Education Program at John Muir Medical Center, Concord is accredited by the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education, Inc. He will be pursuing this study for one year. John Muir, Concord, which is offering him a four unit residency program of accredited CPE each year; each unit lasts eleven weeks, and is full-time from September through August, Monday through Friday from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM. Residents in the year-long program receive a stipend of $32,000 with medical insurance reimbursement up to $350 per month and pay no tuition.

Father Freddie is already enrolled in the program. As he says, “it was a stiff competition to get into the program. There were many applicants with limited seats.” He beat every odd and was accepted into the program.

He will be moving on from Saint Augustine Parish. We thank Father Freddie for his ministry at the parish. He has brought joy to the lives of many. We wish him all success and God’s blessing in his new ventures. Please join us for a farewell reception on Sunday, September 25th after the 10:30 a.m. Mass.

— Father Augustine

 

Pastor’s Note: September 4th, 2016

Mother Teresa, a Saint of our Times.

Saint of the gutters, saint of the poor and abandoned, a saint of our times. That was Mother Theresa. I am sure there are people in our community who have met her. I was privileged to meet Mother Theresa and shake hands with her while I was a student of Theology in Shillong, India. She had come there to give a talk to the theologians. I still remember the topic of her talk – the sacrament of Reconciliation. She was exhorting the future priests to be available always for the sacrament of Reconciliation.

The magnitude of Mother Theresa’s work can be appreciated better when we comprehend the milieu surrounding her life and works. She was born Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu of Albanian decent in Skopje, present day Macedonia. Catholics were a minority in her home town. It was her family’s deep faith that was a bedrock in those tumultuous times which saw endless revolving doors of political entities clambering for power. Maybe these experiences of upheavals, violence and political changes prepared the future saint to work in a foreign country, India.>

At 18, Anjezë joined the Sisters of Loreto in Ireland. It was there that she took the name Sister Mary Teresa. After a brief stay in Ireland she left for India where she officially joined the Loreto sisters; she made her final profession in 1937. Her assignment was to be a teacher in one of the schools run by her religious order.

The Loreto sisters have schools in Calcutta (now called Kolkata) which are considered elite schools even today. They cared mainly for the upper class children and a few poor children who received a totally free education. Sister Teresa taught in one of these schools; during class one of the girls passed out. Thinking the child was sleeping during her class Sister was upset. “Why do you sleep during class?” She shook the child and yelled, “Why don’t you stay home and sleep?” The child opened her eyes to see sister bending over her angrily. Tears rolled down its cheeks as the child sobbed in confusion and fear. Sister repeated the question, “Why are you sleeping in class?” The child was too frightened to speak. Seeing Sister’s growing frustration another child blurted out, “Sister, this girl has not eaten any food; she is very poor.”

Now, it was Sister Teresa who was reduced to tears. She took care of the child and fed her. Sister Teresa was gradually awakened to the plight of the poor surrounding the school.

In September 1946, while journeying to Darjeeling for her annual spiritual retreat, Sister Teresa received the call/inspiration to serve the poor. She left the security and comfort of the convent and stepped into the slums of Calcutta.

At this time, politically, India was in great turmoil with the freedom movement gaining huge momentum under Mahatma Gandhi. India gained freedom from British rule in August 1947; It was under this stormy sky, with uncertainties of every sort, that Sister Teresa set up her little nest in the middle of a slum in Calcutta. She was a foreigner, and a woman with hardly any knowledge of the local language, Bengali, and above all a Christian in a non-Christian (Hindu majority) country. It appeared to be a recipe for failure, nay, for total disaster. But God’s ways are not our ways!

An acquaintance from her teaching days allowed Sister Teresa to live in one of his huts. Soon news spread, “Sister is living in the slums.” Few of her students and friends visited her and some of them chose to live with her. Students and people around affectionately called Sister Teresa, ‘Mother.’ Gradually, Sister Teresa became Mother Teresa, and the rest is history. Today, she is Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta (Kolkata).

— Father Augustine

 

Pastor’s Note: August 21st and 28th, 2016

Parish Feast

On August 28th we celebrate the feast of Saint Augustine of Hippo (354 – 430), the patron saint of our parish. He was the bishop of Hippo in North Africa (Algeria).

Saint Augustine is one of the seminal minds of the early Church and wrote extensively on topics related to Christian doctrine: Trinity, divine grace, evil, original sin, etc. His most popular book has been, “Confessions,” which is considered a spiritual classic and read by a lot of people, even to this day. Another of his books, “The City of God”, is taught at some of the universities in our country.

During the celebration of the parish feast, we honor another Bishop emeritus, John S. Cummins, whose home parish was Saint Augustine Church. He shepherded the Church of Oakland for 26 years. We celebrate Bishop Cummins and his many years of dedicated service to the Church.

Bishop John Stephen Cummins was born in 1928. He grew up in the parish of Saint Augustine in Oakland, California. He was the second son of Michael and Mary Cummins, both natives of Ireland. He has a sister, Mary McCarthy, and a brother, Monsignor Bernard A. Cummins, who passed away in 1974.

Bishop Cummins was ordained to the priesthood on January 24, 1953 at St. Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco. His first assignment was as Associate Pastor at Mission Dolores Basilica in San Francisco. He also served as Campus Minister (Newman Club) at San Francisco State University until he was transferred to Bishop O’Dowd High School, as a faculty member, in 1957.

In 1962, while at Bishop O’Dowd, Father Cummins was named the first Chancellor of the newly created Diocese of Oakland. While serving as Chancellor, Monsignor Cummins also served as the diocesan liaison to the three Catholic theological schools entering the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley.

In February, 1971, he was appointed Executive Director of the California Catholic Conference of Bishops in Sacramento. On May 16, 1974 he was ordained Bishop and Auxiliary to Bishop Alden Bell in Sacramento.

Upon the death of Bishop Floyd L. Begin, founding bishop of the Diocese of Oakland, Bishop Cummins was appointed the second Bishop of Oakland and installed on June 30, 1977. He retired in 2003.

“Vatican II, Berkeley and Beyond: The First Half-Century of the Oakland Diocese, 1962-2012,” is the memoir written by Bishop Cummins. It is available at the Cathedral shop and on Amazon.com.

— Father Augustine

 

Pastor’s Note: August 14th, 2016

Feast of the Assumption

The Assumption of the Virgin Mary into Heaven, often shortened to the Assumption and also known as the Falling Asleep of the Blessed Virgin Mary, according to the beliefs of the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy, and parts of Anglicanism, was the bodily taking up of the Virgin Mary into Heaven at the end of her earthly life.

The Catholic Church teaches as dogma that the Virgin Mary “having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory” This doctrine was dogmatically defined by Pope Pius XII on November 1, 1950, in the apostolic constitution Munificentissimus Deus by exercising papal infallibility. While the Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Church believe in the Dormition of the Theotokos (Mother of God), which is the same as the Assumption, the alleged physical death of Mary has not been dogmatically defined.

In Munificentissimus Deus (item 39) Pope Pius XII pointed to the Book of Genesis (3:15) as scriptural support for the dogma in terms of Mary’s victory over sin and death as also reflected in 1 Corinthians 15:54: “then shall come to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory”.

The Assumption of Mary anticipates the destiny of each one of us. At the end of our earthly sojourn we, too, like Mary will be in heaven with God.

Ordinarily, the Feast of the Assumption is a Holy Day of Obligation; however this year it is not a holy day of obligation. At Saint Augustine we will be celebrating two Holy Masses on the Feast day of Assumption – at8:30 AM and 7:00 PM. Father Bonacci will be celebrating the 7:00 PMHoly Mass, after which he will also do a presentation on the Jubilee Year of Mercy.

— Father Augustine

 

Pastor’s Note: August 7th, 2016

Holy Mass is Community Worship

“… where two or three are gathered in My name, I am there among them.” Matt.18:20

Our path to God is not a solitary one. It is in the company of others, the community of believers. That is what brings us to church, that’s what makes us Christians.

People have not always freely chosen this path.  The Church itself, in times past, tended to encourage this individualism.  And the whole approach to religion in our country is individualistic.

Yet Christianity is radically communitarian.  At Mass not only do we grow closer to God, we grow closer to one another.  Not only are we dedicated and renewed to serve the Lord but to serve one another and the broader community of which we are a part.

If I really understand the Mass to be about US and God, I will not so easily or so casually absent myself, nor come late or leave early, except under extraordinary circumstances and pressures.  It’s like breaking up the family.  We just don’t do that.

How much energy parents spend helping their children realize that they are part of a family, that they don’t just get up and leave the family dinner table or other gatherings whenever they please or want to do their own thing!  It’s the same message many a priest tries to convey to his parishioners.  Sometimes they hear and respond, sometimes they don’t, but we keep on trying because the lesson is so important.

Our hospitality after the Holy Mass is a help to promote the community feature of our Christian worship. It is a wonderful opportunity to meet and greet people and make friends.

— Father Augustine

 

Pastor’s Note: July 31st, 2016

Holy Mass is Community Worship

One of the things that I have been thinking about in recent days is our sense of community at Mass on Sunday.

In many ways, most of you get the point that, when we come to Mass we are not just there as isolated individuals or families – to get something for ourselves.  We are there as part of the “People of God”, as part of the community whom God has called us together to hear His Word, to respond to His Word and to act on His Word.  We are called together each week to praise and thank the Lord for His blessings to us as a people, not just as individuals.  We participate through music and song, through words and gestures.  We are a part of it, not just an attendee.

Many priests, me included, have always struggled with those who habitually come late and even more especially with those who habitually leave early.  They, of course, will not be reading this message as they left after Communion, before the bulletins have been given out.

But I think I understand better now than I ever have how someone can do this.  “If I am ‘going to Mass’ as an individual, if I am “getting it in”, if I am there “to meet my obligation”, then there is no sense of being a part of the community.  There is no sense that I am there related to other people.  And when I have got what I came for, i.e. Communion, the sooner I’m out of there, the better.  I am a consumer, not a participant.  This is between me and God and the fact that there are other people about has nothing to do with it; as a matter of fact, they are somewhat of an annoyance and a distraction from my own prayer.”

 (To be continued)

— Father Augustine

 

Pastor’s Note: July 24th, 2016

Parish News

We thank God and members of our Church that we have been able to make some of the necessary improvements to our facility. Our facility is nearly seventy years old, with lots of wear and tear. It was imperative to make renovations to make it safe.

Painting the sanctuary of the Church: The ceiling above the altar had deteriorated considerably. The painting and the plaster were peeling off. About a month back we fixed the problem.

New carpets in the Church: I am sure many of you have already noticed the new carpets in our Church. Replacing the carpet was long overdue. Last week new carpets were put in and indeed our Church has a fresh look.

Rectory steps: The broken steps of the rectory have been a hazard for a long time. It took a lot of time to find the right people to fix it. Currently the work is in progress to repair the steps and we hope to complete it soon.

New sound system: A new sound system for the Church will be put in place by mid- August. Please pray that the new system will work to our satisfaction and everyone will be able to hear the Word of God comfortable and well.

Parking lots and landscaping: EBI (school in our facility) is drawing up plans to improve the parking lots and the surroundings. There has been several meetings and discussions about it. Once the plans are finalized and approved the work might start in the summer of 2017.

Volunteer Dinner: All who are volunteering and ministering in the Church are invited for prayer and dinner on August 4, 2016. Please RSVP to the Parish Office (510) 653-8631 if you plan to attend.

Parish Feast: Feast of the patron saint of our Church, Saint Augustine of Hippo, is on August 28th. Bishop Emeritus, John Cummins, will be our guest of honor. It is Bishop’s home parish and we like to felicitate him for his many years of service to the Diocese of Oakland!

— Father Augustine

 

Pastor’s Note: July 17th, 2016

Grace and Faith

Faith is our response to the divine initiative of grace. It is the human response to God. In Hebrews 11:1 we read, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” There are several nuances to the notion of faith. Some are examined below.

Faith as fidelity, or faithfulness, refers to relationship. It means to be faithful in our relationship with God. It implies following the commandment “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.”  (Deut. 6:5)  Its opposite is not doubt, but infidelity or in prophetic language, adultery and idolatry.

Another meaning of faith is Trust. To have faith in somebody is to trust them; to have faith in God is to trust God. Its opposite is anxiety and worry. In the passage about God’s care for the birds of the air and the lilies of the field, Jesus linked lack of faith and anxiety. “Why are you anxious, O people of little faith?” (Matt.6:25-34)

A third meaning of faith is belief. It is a general belief that there is something to it all – that there is a God. It can be specified as believing the doctrinal tenets of a religion. Thus belief can be different in various religions of the world. Even among the Christian denominations beliefs can be quite different. The Catholic Church has the “Credo” (I believe) inviting us to believe specific truths about our religion.

Faith is not merely a matter of my will or choice. We are led into it. It grows. Although will is involved in faith, it is a gift from God. Faith itself is grace.

— Father Augustine

 

Pastor’s Note: July 10th, 2016

Grace and Faith

We speak of grace in our daily conversations, prayers and worship. Grace is understood as “gratis data” (Latin) – free gift. We do not merit it. Grace means salvation comes from God. It is a divine initiative.  God takes initiative in forgiveness, (Amazing grace…that saved a wretch like me…) God loved us before we knew that, God gives new life to the dead, God gives the bread of life and the living water.

The more one understands grace, the less self-righteous and self-made one can feel. Grace undermines all Christian pretensions to self-righteousness. It challenges the contemporary American individualism: the notion that I am what I am because of how hard I have worked.

Even from a natural point of view the notion that we are ‘self-made’ is clearly false. How much of our achievement is due to our genetic inheritance, family and economic circumstances, opportunities we had, and other events in our lives over which we had little control. Thus, grace calls into question some of our most cherished religious and socio-political and achievement beliefs. The more we understand grace, our individualism and achievement-craze will be replaced by gratitude. Then we might truly exclaim with Saint Paul, “…by the grace of God I am what I am…” (1 Cor.15:10)

Faith: It is the response to the Divine initiative of grace. Faith is the human response to God. In Hebrews 11:1 we read, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Faith is a rich notion with shades of meaning; we shall examine some of its meanings next week.

— Father Augustine

 

Pastor’s Note: June 26th and July 3rd, 2016

Happy summer days

Summer is upon us. Most people enjoy the beautiful warm sunny days. It is a time for us to vacation, take time off from regular routine and do something different.

“Vacation” comes from the same root word from which we get the word “vacant”, “empty”.  It is meant to be a time when we can be empty, quiet, relaxed, laid back, not frantically rushing in the pursuit of new endeavors.

When one is empty, all kinds of things are possible.  We can get in touch with what is really going on inside ourselves.  We can tune into the things in our lives that make sense and the places in our lives where we are called to move on.  We can stop avoiding, via busyness and distractions, the things that we need to give attention to.  We can even hear the voice of the Lord in our heart speaking of His love and mercy, if we can get enough clashing life-noise toned down.

>My prayer for you this summer is that you may find some time of emptiness, that you may find a time to be quiet with your family, to simply enjoy one another without restless activities all the time.  I plan to do that for myself for at least a couple of weeks this summer.

Then we can all speak of a restful summer, a re-creation that vacation is meant to help us achieve.  Then we can come back into our world of work, whatever that world holds, with renewed energy, a refreshed outlook, a greater sense of ultimate purpose, a feeling of greater wholeness.

What a blessing vacation can be!

— Fr. Augustine

Pastor’s Note: June 19th, 2016

Father’s Day

After Anna Jarvis’ successful promotion of Mother’s Day in Grafton, West Virginia, the first observance of a “Father’s Day” was held on July 5, 1908, in Fairmont, West Virginia, in the Williams Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church South, now known as Central United Methodist Church. However, the event failed to catch on.

In 1910, a Father’s Day celebration was held in Spokane, Washington, at the YMCA by Sonora Smart Dodd, who was born in Arkansas. Her father, the civil war veteran, William Jackson Smart, was a single parent who raised his six children there. After hearing a sermon about Jarvis’ Mother’s Day in 1909, at Central Methodist Episcopal Church, she told her pastor that fathers should have a similar holiday honoring them.  Although she initially suggested June 5th, her father’s birthday, the pastor did not have enough time to prepare his sermon, and the celebration was deferred to the third Sunday of June. Several local clergymen accepted the idea, and, on June 19, 1910, the first Father’s Day, “sermons honoring fathers were presented throughout the city.”

Several attempts were made to promote a national recognition of the holiday. However, it was not until 1966, that President Lyndon B. Johnson issued the first presidential proclamation honoring fathers, designating the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day.

Parish pilgrimage: on June 11th, we had the parish pilgrimage. About 48 members of our parish joined the pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Christ the Light. We were warmly welcomed by the Cathedral docents who led us through the Holy Door. The docents gave us a guided tour of the Cathedral and the mausoleum.

>After the tour we celebrated the Holy Mass and prayed for all the members of our parish. One of the pilgrims said, “It was an unforgettable experience.” Another commented, “I heard so many negative comments about the Cathedral; on visiting it I can see how it is a spiritual home for the entire diocese.”

I want to thank the parish council and our ministry coordinator, Karen Glen, for organizing the event. It was well done and our pilgrims had a wonderful spiritual experience.

— Father Augustine

 

 

Pastor’s Note: June 12th, 2016

Parish news

Votive candles: A common type of candle offering is the votive light. Such an offering is indicative of seeking some favor from the Lord or the saint before which the candle is placed. Saints are also powerful intercessors.

Our Church will have two types of votive candles – Votive candles and perpetual votive candles. Votive candles are lit for certain number of hours and they go off after that. The suggested offering for lighting a votive candle is one dollar.

Perpetual votive candles are lit for an entire year. These are great if one wants a memorial for a dear departed person or for other intentions that are dear to one’s heart. There are only eight perpetual votive candles. The offering for a perpetual votive candle is $300. To light a perpetual votive candle one has to contact the parish office.

The total cost of the candles is about $4,300. Those who would like to donate to this project are welcome. We will acknowledge donations of $500 or more with a plaque. If you like to donate please contact the parish office or Father Augustine.

>Choir area of the Church: Since the flooring near the piano and choir has been deteriorating we have replaced it. We will be adding pews for the choir seating so that our choir members will have a comfortable place to sing.

I thank our choir members for their beautiful singing and for all the sacrifices they make to serve our parish community. May God continue to bless them and their families.

Carpets in the Church: We had been advised to replace the carpets in the Church last year. They are too aged and cannot any longer be stretched; they present a trip hazard to the faithful. Although it is expensive to do so (about $14,000), we have decided to complete the work for the good of all.

I invite everyone to pray that these projects may help our community in their prayer and faith life. All are welcome to become part of these projects through your prayers and financial assistance.

— Father Augustine

 

Pastor’s Note: June 6th, 2016

Devotional Candles

Soon Saint Augustine will have electric devotional candles. Why do we have them?

Throughout the world, lighting candles is a sacred ritual. We light a candle for many purposes: to illuminate darkness, dedicate prayers, solidify intentions, offer blessings, evoke the Spirit, and/or to nourish grateful living.

The sight of burning votive candles – real or electronic – is common in most Catholic churches. The candles are usually placed before statues of saints, or at shrines. But how did this tradition get its start?

The practice of lighting candles in order to obtain some favor probably had its origins in the custom of burning lights at the tombs of the martyrs in the catacombs. The lights burned as a sign of solidarity with Christians still on earth. Because the lights continually burned as a silent vigil, they became known as vigil lights.

A common type of candle offering is the votive light. Such an offering is indicative of seeking some favor from the Lord or the saint before which the votive is placed. Saints are also powerful intercessors.

We welcome you to the practice of lighting a candle — connecting you to the universal Church:  Church triumphant (heaven), Church suffering (purgatory) and Church militant (here on earth).

The total cost of the project is about $4,300. Those who would like to donate to this project are welcome. We will acknowledge donations of $500, or more, with a plaque. If you would like to donate, please contact the parish office or Father Augustine.

— Father Augustine

 

Pastor’s Note: May 29th, 2016

Altar for Devotions

Saint Augustine Church was built before Vatican II. We can notice three altars in the Church – the main altar (now not ordinarily used), the Marian altar and Saint Joseph altar. Post Vatican II saw a lot of changes in liturgy which called for changes in the arrangement of the Church buildings, tabernacles, altars, statues, baptisteries and a host of other things. The present configuration that we have in the Church is a response to those demands.

The tabernacle is on the Saint Joseph altar. Being at the side altar it is closer to the folks who would like to pray (including me) before the Blessed Sacrament. As we come into the Church our reverence is to the Blessed Sacrament that is preserved in the tabernacle. One may genuflect or bow as one may deem reverential.

Marian Altar: Up until few weeks ago, the Marian altar has been used by our choir. Now the choir has moved to the side center of the church, our Marian altar is once again available for devotional practices. The Parish Council has decided to bring all the statues in the Church together at the Marian altar to foster and promote devotional life in the parish. There will be devotional candles (electric) at that altar, as well, that the faithful can light for various intentions.

What is a devotion or devotional life?

Often devotions are understood as acts of religious observance or prayer; it could be private as well. It is an earnest attachment to a cause or a person.  Devotion implies all of it: fidelity, allegiance, fealty, (a fidelity as compelling as a sworn vow) loyalty, devotion, piety, etc.

In our Catholic Christian faith there are many types of devotions and devotionals. Some examples of devotion are: devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Mary, saints, rosary prayer, etc. Devotionals are those things that help in our devotional life. Some examples of devotional things are statues, holy pictures, holy water, rosary, lighting candles and so on.

So why would you want to use a devotional?

What will it actually do? Well, Christians use their devotionals as a way to grow closer to God and learn more about the Christian life. Devotion to saints serve the same purpose. Saints are those who have gone before us and who have lived their Christian Faith in an extraordinary way. They serve as inspiration, model and, above all, as persons who can pray for us. It is more or less like teams in competitive sports watching replays. It helps teams to correct mistakes and improve performance. Our devotions and reading of the lives of saints helps us to make corrections and improvements in our Christian life.

— Father Augustine

 

Pastor’s Note: May 22nd, 2016

Holy Trinity

Holy Trinity means God as three consubstantial persons or hypostases-the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit-as “one God in three Divine Persons”. The three persons are distinct, yet are one “substance, essence or nature”. In this context, a “nature” is what one is, while a “person” is who one is.

According to this central mystery of Christian faith, there is only one God in three persons: while distinct from one another in their relations of origin (as the Fourth Lateran Council declared, “it is the Father who generates, the Son who is begotten, and the Holy Spirit who proceeds”) In their relations with one another, they are stated to be one in all else, co-equal, co-eternal and consubstantial, and “each is God, whole and entire.” Accordingly, the whole work of creation and grace is seen as a single operation common to all three divine persons, in which each shows forth what is proper to him in the Trinity, so that all things are “from the Father”, “through the Son” and “in the Holy Spirit”.

For us Catholics, the Holy Trinity is invoked almost every time we pray. Most of us begin our prayer “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” It reminds us that the one God is a relationship of three persons. For us humans, too, healthy relationships are vital to healthy living.

Parish News

Pilgrimage: Our parish pilgrimage is scheduled for Saturday, June 11th 2016. It is following an invitation by Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, that as many of us Catholics as possible make a pilgrimage during this Year of Mercy. In our diocese Bishop Barber has designated Cathedral of Christ the Light as the Pilgrimage center. During the pilgrimage we will have an opportunity to walk through the Holy Door, celebrate Holy Mass and get a guided tour of the Cathedral.

I invite all members of our parish to participate in this pilgrimage and draw spiritual benefits from it. Transportation options are available for the pilgrimage!

— Father Augustine

 

Pastor’s Note: May 15th, 2016

Pentecost

In the New Testament, Pentecost was the occasion of the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and other followers of Jesus Christ, as described in the Acts of the Apostles 2:1-31. Thus in the Christian liturgical year, it became a feast commemorating this occasion. For this reason, Pentecost is described as the “Birthday of the Church.” The Pentecostal movement of Christianity derives its name from this New Testament event, as the movement emphasizes direct personal experience with God, akin to the Descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles. The Catholic Charismatic movement, too, has its inspiration from this New Testament event.

The main sign of Pentecost in the West is the color red. It symbolizes joy and the fire of the Holy Spirit. Priests or ministers, and choirs wear red vestments, and, in modern times, the custom has extended to the lay people of the congregation wearing red clothing in celebration as well. Red banners are often hung from walls or ceilings to symbolize the blowing of the “mighty wind” and the free movement of the Spirit.

In the Roman Catholic Church, Veni Sancte Spiritus is the sequence hymn for the Day of Pentecost. This has been translated into many languages and is sung in many denominations today.

Latin
Veni, creator Spiritus
mentes tuorum visita
imple superna gratia
quae tu creasti pectora.

English
Come, Holy Ghost, Creator, come
from thy bright heav’nly throne;
come, take possession of our souls,
and make them all thine own.

Devotional Chapel

We are hoping to set up the devotional chapel together with the Marian altar for our devotional practices. We want to add devotional candles (electric) that the faithful could light in honor of Our Blessed Mother Mary and the saints. We will have more information in the coming weeks.

— Father Augustine

 

Pastor’s Note: May 8th, 2016

Happy Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is a celebration honoring the mother of the family, as well as motherhood, maternal bonds, and the influence of mothers in society. It is celebrated on various days in many parts of the world, most commonly in the months of March or May.

The modern holiday of Mother’s Day was first celebrated in 1908, when Anna Jarvis held a memorial for her mother at St Andrew’s Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia. Today St Andrew’s Methodist Church contains the International Mother’s Day Shrine. Her campaign to make “Mother’s Day” a recognized holiday in the United States began in 1905, the year her mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, died. Ann Jarvis had been a peace activist who cared for wounded soldiers on both sides of the American Civil War, and created Mother’s Day Work Clubs to address public health issues. Anna Jarvis wanted to honor her mother by continuing the work she had started and to set aside a day to honor all mothers, because she believed that they were “the person who has done more for you than anyone in the world”.

In 1912, Anna Jarvis trademarked the phrases “second Sunday in May” and “Mother’s Day”, and created the Mother’s Day International Association. She specifically noted that “Mother’s” should “be a singular possessive, for each family to honor its own mother, not a plural possessive, commemorating all mothers in the world.”

Anna Jarvis disliked the commercialization of the holiday. By the early 1920s, Hallmark Cards and other companies had started selling Mother’s Day cards. Jarvis believed that the companies had misinterpreted and exploited the idea of Mother’s Day, and that the emphasis of the holiday should be on sentiment, not profit. (From various sources.)

Heavenly Mother: For those of us who lost their mother (including myself) it is a great opportunity to pray for our mothers and thank God for them. This day reminds us that we have a heavenly mother, Mary, the mother of Jesus. Hanging on the cross our Savior gave us this heavenly mother when he said, “Here is your mother,” John 19:27.

In our church we have a beautiful Marian altar. All are invited to pray at the altar. We hope to add devotional candles at the altar that it may help us in our prayer life!

 

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!       HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!        HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!  

— Fr. Augustine

 

Pastor’s Note: May 1st, 2016

Watch and Pray

The scriptures tell us to ‘watch and pray.’ “Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen…” Luke21:36. Christianity has always been a persecuted religion. It is no exception today. The model presented by Jesus is that in ‘dying we are born to eternal life.’

While on our pilgrim journey on this earth all of us experience suffering in different ways. While accepting the suffering that comes our way in Christ-like manner, we need not invite, nor look out for, suffering. In fact, it is our duty to minimize and reduce suffering as much as possible.  Robberies in Catholic Churches around Berkeley/Oakland: There have been some reported robberies of the collection basket in some Catholic Churches in the area. We experienced it last Sunday.

On Sunday, April 24th, at our 10:30 am Mass, one of our ushers was approached by a young man in his early twenties, who grabbed a handful of money that was in her collection basket.  He then ran out of the church. She had just started taking up the collection so only about $30 was lost.

I had noticed the young man coming in and out of the Church; he seemed to be looking for something. When asked ‘what he wanted,’ he said that he was looking for food for the poor. He pretended to be going out of the Church but instead came in through the front door, grabbed money out of the collection basket, and ran out.

Ministry leaders, and everyone else:  please be advised to report any suspicious behavior to the pastor or staff, or if necessary, call 911.  Under no circumstances should any parishioner ever try to apprehend or chase a suspect.

Let us pray for this young man and people engaged in wrong doings, that realizing their iniquities, they may amend their ways.

— Father Augustine

Pastor’s Note: April 24th, 2016

We have a very active and dynamic Parish Pastoral Council. We thank God for them and their ministry in our parish. Please keep the members of the council in your prayers that through their service to our community they may experience ‘the depth and breadth of Divine love.’

Month of Mary: The month of May is traditionally celebrated in Catholic tradition as a month dedicated of Mary, Mother of Jesus. It is a wonderful opportunity for all to grow in our filial devotion to Mary. While dying on the Cross, our Savior gave Mary to us as our own mother, (John 19:25-27) a heavenly intercessor who prays for us. A filial devotion to Mary is nurtured in our Catholic devotional life. The simple prayer ‘Hail Mary’ is on the lips of every Catholic person asking Mary to “pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.”

We are in the process of making the Marian Altar in the Church more accessible for devotional practices. ‘As part of this plan we want to relocate the choir to the side of the Church. Eventually we hope to add devotional candles in front of the statue of Mary that the faithful can light in her honor.

Day of Mercy: It is a great opportunity for us to spend time together in prayer. The next day of mercy is on Tuesday, May 3rd 2016. It will begin with Scriptural Rosary and conclude with Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction. All are welcome to participate in Day of Mercy prayer experience.

Ministry Month: We are celebrating the Month of May as Ministry Month. We have all received much from our church and our community. It is one way of giving back. It is a wonderful opportunity to share our time and talent with our faith community. ‘It is in giving that we receive.’ Mary, mother of Jesus, is a great example of service and it is fitting that we observe May as ministry month.

— Fr. Augustine

 

Pastor’s Note: April 17th, 2016

Amoris Laetitia: Apostolic Exhortation on Family
In “Amoris Laetitia,” (The Joy of Love) the apostolic exhortation released on Friday, April 8, 2016, the pontiff encouraged forgiveness and inclusivity within the church. It is a conclusion to the Catholic Church’s two-year Synod on the Family.
In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, the document once again highlights the importance of mercy in the pastoral life of the Church. As Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, the archbishop of Boston, said, “Pope Francis shows himself to be the gentle, merciful pastor who urges us all to take the time to meditate on the importance of families.”
It is not enough to solve problems theoretically or in principle. In practical living, situations demand greater mercy and understanding. It, once again, reminds us of what Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27) One should not be shackled and fettered by rigid laws and regulations forgetting that they were, in the first place, made for the good of humanity. As humans evolve and change so does the human situation; the rules, too, need to evolve and change. As someone once said, ‘change is the only constant.’
Every good rule needs to be studied, reexamined and carefully worded to make them ever relevant. This is an on-going task. As many of us know from personal experience, it is easier said than done. The complexities of our modern life defy any simple solutions. The first two chapters of the Apostolic Exhortation attempts to describe, briefly, the many problems confronting our present day families.
In Chapter 2 the exhortation reminds us, “let us not fall into the sin of trying to replace the creator. We are creatures, and not omnipotent.” As creatures of God we need guidance of the laws and moral principles that help us to live authentic human and Christian lives. As regards family the exhortation says, “The strength of the family “lies in its capacity to love and to teach how to love.”
Everyone is invited to read the Apostolic Exhortation. It is very readable as its language is not overly theological. Read it meditatively and prayerfully. If there are questions, we could form discussion groups that will help us to make it a very meaningful experience.
— Father Augustine

 

Pastor’s Note: April 10th, 2016

Parish News

Blessed Easter: Our parish had a beautiful celebration of Easter. Once again I would like to thank everyone for their active and devout participation in the Easter liturgies. Easter is the reason why we are a Church; Easter is the reason why we gather for worship; Easter is the reason why we are Christians. It is a time of rebirth, renewal and growth. May the Risen Lord continue to shower His many graces upon us and our community.

Growth and developments

As the parish continues to grow we are improving facilities one by one. There is a long standing complaint that the sound system is not effective. People are not able to hear well. We had a sound engineer looking at the system, and he said that it is quite obsolete. We are in the process of putting in a new system that promises to improve it considerably. The new system is estimated to cost around $26,000. It is, indeed, a costly undertaking! If anyone would like to contribute to this project, please contact the parish office or Father Augustine.

Other projects needing our attention are painting the sanctuary of the Church, replacing the carpets in the church, fixing the steps of the Rectory, painting the back fence close to the school, etc. As we deal with an aging facility, these changes become a necessity, although I would like to think otherwise.

Holy Mass for my mother

I will be offering the 10:30 AM Holy Mass on April 17th for the repose of the soul of my mother, Thresia Joseph. Please keep her, and all the members of my family, in your valuable prayers that the Lord may give us the grace to deal with this loss in faith and hope in the resurrection.

 — Father Augustine

Pastor’s Note: April 3rd, 2016

The Divine Mercy

The Divine Mercy, also known as the Divine Mercy of Jesus, is a Roman Catholic devotion to Jesus Christ associated with the reputed mystical apparitions revealed to Saint Faustina Kowalska. It refers to the unlimited merciful love of God towards all people. The devotion is rooted in the apparitions of Jesus reported by Sister Faustina Kowalska, who was granted the title “Secretary of Mercy” by the Holy See in the Jubilee Year of 2000.

Sister Faustina Kowalska reported a number of apparitions during religious ecstasy which she wrote in her diary, later published as the book Diary: Divine Mercy in My Soul. The three main themes of the devotion are to ask for and obtain the mercy of God, to trust in Christ’s abundant mercy, and, finally, to show mercy to others and act as a conduit for God’s mercy towards them.

The first and second elements relate to the signature “Jesus I trust in You” on the Divine Mercy image and Faustina stated that on April 28, 1935, the day the first Divine Mercy Sunday was celebrated, Jesus told her: “Every soul believing and trusting in My Mercy will obtain it.”

The third component is reflected in the statement “Call upon My mercy on behalf of sinners” attributed to Jesus in Faustina’s diary (Notebook I, items 186-187). This statement is followed in the diary by a specific short prayer: “O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fount of Mercy for us, I trust in You.” which Faustina also recommended for the Hour of Divine Mercy. In her diary (Notebook II, item 742) Faustina wrote that Jesus told her: “I demand from you deeds of mercy, which are to arise out of love for Me.” and that He explained that there are three ways of exercising mercy toward your neighbor: the first-by deed, the second-by word, the third-by prayer.

Pope John Paul II had notable affinity towards this devotion, being a native of Poland and significantly authorizing the devotions in the Liturgical Calendar of the Catholic Church. The same Pontiff issued the Papal encyclical “Dives in Misericordia” on 30 November 1980. The liturgical feast of the Divine Mercy is celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter.

 — Father Augustine

 

Pastor’s Note: March 27th, 2016

Resurrection and Religious Liberty

Resurrection is an opportunity. It’s an opportunity for us humans to rise; to rise from selfishness and hatred, from war and violence, from injustice and poverty, from intolerance and all other ills and evils afflicting our human race. It is an opportunity for growth in love, mercy, compassion and kindness, in caring for one another and for doing good for oneself and for others.

During this celebration we are reminded of liberty, especially religious liberty in our world. Jesus was crucified because He was seen as a threat to the establishment, especially the religious authorities of His time. In the written history of our human race there have been many wars fought in the name of religion and in the name of God, although a deeper analysis will reveal that in many cases, the real reasons for the wars were other than religious, nay, non-religious issues. In many cases religion and God have been trampled under-foot; they have been used to justify oppression, cruelty, terrorism and violence and even superstitions.

At the dawn of the 21st century there was a great sense that we may be moving beyond these struggles to a world where people lived in peace and harmony, caring for one another. However, confronted with war, violence and terrorism (often labeled religious) we are rudely awakened to the stark reality of our human situation; there is more work to be done! Millions of people are struggling to meet their basic needs (food, shelter, clothing), and the plight of the refugees; there is so much need for education, medical care and especially for hope. If people have a realistic hope for a better future, the present struggles become endurable and even pleasant.

Yet, people’s inhumanity to people remains unabated.

On March 4, 2016 terrorists attacked and killed 4 sisters and 12 inmates in a Missionaries of Charity’s convent in Yemen. The day after the slaughter, Pope Francis called the attack an act of “diabolical violence” in a message of condolence for the victims of the carnage and their families.

The Pope also said that the four nuns—Sister Anselm, Sister Reginette, Sister Judith, and Sister Marguerite—were “martyrs of today” who “gave their blood for the Church.”

Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil who was praying in the chapel of the convent at the time of the attack, was kidnapped by the attackers. I was pained hear about the kidnapping of Father Tom (a Salesian priest), whom I knew from my seminary days. Please pray for all the victims of this violence and especially for Father Tom that he may safely return to his ministry, and to his family and friends.

The Salesians are “the only Catholic priests working in the country” and minister to Catholic migrants from the Philippines, India, and Sri Lanka in four cities: Sana’a, Aden, Hodeida, and Taiz. The Missionaries of Charity (Mother Teresa’s sisters) have been present in the country since 1970. They have a home for the elderly in Aden; Father Tom was the chaplain in the facility. He is one of two priests who minister in the whole country of Yemen.

Happy Easter.

— Father Augustine

Pastor’s Note: March 20th, 2016

Holy Week

Most of us are familiar with Superman, Batman, Spiderman and other fictional characters that are in the cartoons and especially on the silver screen. Indeed,  many of them are box-office hits. They seem to enthrall the audience with their superhuman abilities.

In every human person there is an inherent desire to better oneself. That is why we spend time learning and practicing skills. Superheroes are the mirror image of humanity’s longing to surpass its limitations.

Even in the biblical story of Adam and Eve we find a similar situation. They eat the forbidden fruit because they want to go beyond their limitations and “become like God” (Genesis 2 -3). So,  this phenomenon is not a 20th or 21st century incidence besieging humanity. Such desire or need to transcend our inadequacy is woven into the very fabric of humanity as part of our DNA.

Is it possible for humans to fulfill or quench this desire? Looking over human history,  we realize that great progress has been made in this regard. Suppose a person, say from the first century AD, comes for a visit to the 21st century.  That person would be dazzled and hypnotized by what they see and experience. From the visitor’s perspective, perhaps the people of our times are ‘superheroes.’

Yet, we are painfully aware, that is not the case. Humanity is still wriggling in pain, sorrow, poverty, hatred, sickness and in struggles of all sorts. Is there hope for humanity? Is our desire to transcend a hopeless enterprise a road to nowhere?

The resurrection of Christ offers sure hope and comfort to humanity. As Saint Paul says, “If Christ has not risen from the dead, then our faith is in vain. (1 Corinthians 15)” The resurrected Christ raises us to super human status. We share in His resurrection. Just as Christ was raised from the dead we, too, shall rise with Him to eternity. In Christ we are becoming like God. What Adam and Eve hoped to achieve, Christ has done for us.

Happy Easter.

— Father Augustine

 

Pastor’s Note: March 13th, 2016

We are approaching the most holy time of the year. During the Holy Week we celebrate what Jesus has done for us and continues to do for us through His death and resurrection. It is important that we ponder these great mysteries of our faith. They give us new perspective, inject new life and give new purpose to our lives; nay, I should say they give greater zest to our lives. It is great being a Christian!

I was awakened afresh into these great truths during the past month, dealing with the death of my own mother. She was 84 and in fairly good health. She was helping in the kitchen with my brother and sister-in-law when she felt breathing difficulty. No one thought it to be very serious. However, within a few minutes it became very serious and she began to sweat profusely. They tried to rush her to the hospital which was about 3 miles away. Before reaching the hospital she breathed her last. It was so sudden and unexpected that everyone was in great shock. It was so hard to believe that she passed away so quickly.

In our seminary days it was a practice to pray for a ‘happy death.’ There used to be monthly recollections or short retreats that always concluded with a prayer to Saint Joseph for a happy death. In my mother’s case I believe it was a happy death. She did not have to go through all the ordeals and trials of our sunset years that we constantly see in our Care Homes and Comfort Cares. She died working and doing things she loved.

I do miss her terribly, yet I am consoled by the forthcoming celebration of Holy Week. Faith in Jesus, especially the resurrection, wipes away my sorrow and I truly believe that one day I will be with my mother in heaven and with all the faithful departed.

Thank you all for your prayers, support, greetings and help. In a special way I would like to thank Father Freddie and the parish staff who supported and strengthened me. They made many sacrifices and did extra work to take care of the parish.

Please continue to pray for Thresia Joseph, my mother, and my family members. May God continue to bless us all and prepare us for the Holy Week and Easter. I am sure that we will all take advantage of the wonderful opportunity for reconciliation on Monday, March 21st at 7:00 p.m. GOD’S MERCY ENDURES FOR EVER (Daniel 3:89).

— Father Augustine 

March 6th, 2016 — Reflection by Gerald Darring

Metanoia

We are prodigal children. We have in many ways squandered our Father’s inheritance. Provided with a wonderful garden to live in, we poison its air, we pollute its water, we erode its topsoil.

Provided with a wonderful family with whom to share our lives, we condemn many of our family members to survival-level existence, we refuse to associate with many of them, and we contribute to the death of many of them.

Lent is a time to ‘pass over,’ to pass from the world of injustice we have created over to a world of reconciliation. It is a time to “turn hatred to love, conflict to peace, death to eternal life.”

We know that such a turn can take place because we have a Father who sees us while we are still a long way off, who catches sight of us and is deeply moved, who will run out to meet us, throw his arms around our necks and kiss us.

We know that such a turn can take place because Jesus Christ brought mankind the gift of reconciliation by the suffering and death he endured.

The message of Lent, therefore, is clear: “We implore you, in Christ’s name: be reconciled to God.”

The first step, of course, is to do what the younger son did: “I will break away and return to my father, and say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against you.'”

Such a confession will enable us to “hasten toward Easter with the eagerness of faith and love,” and it will make possible the rejoicing which today’s liturgy foretells and encourages.

This kingdom and this salvation … are available to every human being as grace and mercy, and yet at the same time each individual must gain them. … through toil and suffering, through a life lived according to the gospel, through abnegation and the cross, through the spirit of the beatitudes. But above all each individual gains them through a total interior renewal which the gospel calls metanoia; it is a radical conversion, a profound change of mind and heart.

Pope Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi,1975:10

— Gerald Darring

 

February 28th, 2016 — Reflection by Gerald Darring 

The Prime Sin
 

Moses encountered on Mount Sinai the one God, the God of his ancestors, the God whose name is I am. A covenant was to be made with the people of Israel, one based on their recognition of YHWH as the one God. The Israelites would stray from that covenant from time to time, turning away from the one God and worshipping false gods.

Their prophets would repeatedly call them back to the covenant worship of the one God.

We, too, turn away from the one God to worship false gods. We make an idol of money, worshipping at the altar of the almighty dollar. We make an idol of power, worshipping at the altar of political domination and economic oppression. We make an idol of pleasure, worshipping at the altar of sex and luxurious comfort.

Our prophets call us back to the one God, but we ignore or kill them.

Lent is a season to turn away from our false idols and call on the merciful and gracious Lord, who is “slow to anger and abounding in kindness.” We are called in Lent “to prayer, fasting and works of mercy” because, as Jesus tells us in the Gospel, “you will all come to the same end unless you begin to reform.”

We are called to abandon our false gods of money, power and pleasure and return to the one God, “who secures justice and the rights of all the oppressed.”

The prime sin in so much of the biblical tradition is idolatry: service of the creature rather than of the creator, and the attempt to overturn creation by making God in human likeness. The Bible castigates not only the worship of idols, but also manifestations of idolatry, such as the quest for unrestrained power and the desire for great wealth.

U.S. Bishops, Economic Justice for All,1986: 33

— Gerald Darring

 

February 21st, 2016 — Reflection by Gerald Darring

Heavenly Vision; More Human World

While we were still without hope, God took us out of our emptiness and brought us into a new land, making with us a covenant of liberation.

But we remain “set upon the things of this world,” burdened with “the original darkness that shadows our vision.” Today’s liturgy is about restoring our sight so that we can “see the bounty of the Lord in the land of the living.”

The disciples saw “the bounty of the Lord” on the mountaintop. They witnessed the dazzling glory of Jesus shining in the company of Moses and Elijah, the glory of the fulfillment of the law and the prophets.

Abraham had also stood in the presence of the Lord, and he had been overwhelmed by a terrifying darkness pierced by the bright light of a smoking brazier and a flaming torch.

The road from Abraham’s encounter with God to the disciples’ encounter with God was a long one.

Lent is an acting out of the long road from the covenant to its fulfillment. It is our public proclamation that we are a people who “eagerly await the coming of our savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

We recognize that “we have our citizenship in heaven,” but in the meantime we exercise our citizenship on earth for the coming of the kingdom of God.

We purge ourselves of our Self-reliance, our thirst for power, and our preoccupation with self-interest, sacrificing and praying that God might “deliver Israel from all her distress.”

Christians, on pilgrimage toward the heavenly city, should seek and think of those things which are above. This duty in no way decreases, rather it increases, the importance of their obligation to work with all men in the building of a more human world.

Vatican II, Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, 1965: 57

— Gerald Darring

 

February 14th, 2016 — Reflection by Gerald Darring

Back to the Life of Jesus

The forty days of Lent are offered to God in imitation of Jesus, who “was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days, where he was tempted by the devil.” Jesus chose to rely on the care of his Father, to surrender himself as servant to the will and plan of his Father, and to follow God’s will in Jerusalem, even if that meant terrible suffering and shameful death on the cross. The season of Lent gives us the opportunity to participate in the liberation brought by Jesus to all those who are oppressed by the demons of self-reliance, power, and self-interest. During this season we seek to understand the meaning of Jesus’ death and resurrection with the ultimate goal of changing our lives.

“We are a people in trouble.” We dominate, discriminate, and oppress on the way to achieving personal success. We watch disinterestedly as our brothers and sisters suffer the pain of poverty, hunger, disease, homelessness, and death.

We rid ourselves of “the enemy” through war, abortion, and the death penalty. But we are also a people whose God is “rich in mercy,” a God who “has heard our cry and seen our affliction.” Lent is our prayer that this merciful God bring us back to the life Jesus has won for us.

The Christian lives under the interior law of liberty, which is a permanent call to man to turn away from self-sufficiency to confidence in God and from concern for self to sincere love of neighbor. Thus takes place his genuine liberation and the gift of himself for the freedom of others.

Synod of Bishops, Justice in the World, 1971: 33

– Gerald Darring

 

 

Pastor’s Note: February 7th, 2016

Season of Lent

Is the season of Lent relevant for the 21st century? We are so automated, so busy; why do we need Lenten observances? Prayer, fasting and almsgiving, the three themes of Lent, are actually a welcome change to our routine life.
Prayer helps us to commune with the Almighty. We all experience limitations in our lives – sickness, pain, grief, suffering. Prayer moves us beyond our limitations and touches the unlimited. Find strength and courage, joy and happiness and experience “nirvana” (liberation). Well, prayer is worth the time, worth the effort and why not try to pray more during this season of Lent!

Almsgiving, or charity, is a hallmark of our Christian faith. Every Christian by his/her baptism has a duty to be charitable. It part of a realization of who we are. We have all received much, or rather; all that we have is a gift. We are merely stewards of God’s gift. Am I a good steward administering the gifts properly? Do I share my gifts and talents? Lent is a time to make changes that I need for me. God loves a cheerful giver!

Fasting may not be pleasant to some people. It, primarily, means giving up some food as a sacrifice. There are people who give up certain food on doctor’s orders.  During Lent I fast because I want to do it. It is almost like the man who gave up his lifejacket on a sinking ship because there were not enough lifejackets for all! Moreover, fasting is not just about food alone. If you are able to kick some bad habits (alcoholism, smoking, internet pornography, using curse words, impatience, etc.) that, too, is a form of fasting. May be fasting is good for our body and our soul.
Do you love Lent? I suppose many people will be reluctant to say yes. Maybe we should ask this question again and we may be surprised by our own answers!

Apps for Lent

Nearly everyone uses Smartphones. Our smartphones can be an obstacle to prayer and spiritual life. However, during this Lent our phones can help us to pray as well. They can inspire us to prayer, penance and almsgiving. Given below are some of the Catholic Apps for Lent.
  • Laudate (Free): It is one of the most downloaded free Catholic apps. It has everything that a Catholic could want: Mass, prayers, Bible, Vatican II documents, Catechism, rosary, lives of saints, etc. You can also bookmark your favorite prayers here.
  • Catholic TV (Free): Helps us to stay on top of Catholic news.
  • RC Buddy (Free): It contains prayers, readings of the day, Rosary and liturgy of the hours.
  • Xt3 Lent Calendar ($1.99): It contains much of what you need to make the most of every day in Lent. It contains daily readings, ideas for penance, inspirational quotes and important Feast Days.
  • Stations of the Cross walk with me ($1.99): It is sold by the Daughters of Saint Paul. It is ideal for helping you fit the Stations of the Cross into your daily life.
  • Catholic meditations for Lent ($2.99): It contains 63 meditations for Lent. It has a free trial version

— Father Augustine

 

Pastor’s Note: January 30th, 2016

Flooding

Rains bring water and, lots of water, floods. As our Church basement sump pump breaker did not hold up we had an experience of some flooding.   About 4 inches of water rose from the sump well into the basement of the Church. 

Water damage was minimized because most items are stored off the floor. It took about 6 hours to drain off the water thanks to the hard work of Douglas Castro.

New Music minister

We welcome our new music director, April McNeely. We wish April a happy and holy ministry at Saint Augustine parish. I want to thank our committee that did the interview and made the selection. The following is from April herself:

I am a practicing Catholic, have been an active church musician for all of my adult life as Cantor and Choir Director, and have a thorough understanding of the Catholic Liturgy. I hold Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Music and a Master’s of Divinity.

I have worked at St. Augustine as an occasional musician in the past and really like the community. I am comfortable with all types of music – from Gregorian chant to Praise choruses and I am good at getting people to sing. I’m looking forward to working, worshiping, and singing with you.

Once again I like to thank Paul McWilliams, the outgoing music director, for his dedication and service to the parish.

Parish Pastoral Council

On January 19th we had the meeting of the Parish Pastoral Council. The following are the members of the parish pastoral council: Pat Nolan, Lorrie Soria, Sondra Arnsdorf, Michael Marino, and Courtenay Redis, and William Warner. We want to thank all the members for their generosity in serving our parish community. The pastoral council organizes and guides the pastoral life of the parish under the direction of the Pastor. May God bless them all for their spirit of service and love.

— Father Augustine

Pastor’s Note: January 24th, 2016

Conversion of Saint Paul

After the resurrection of Christ, the conversion of Paul is considered as one of the most momentous events in the history of Christianity. It was the relentless missionary spirit of Saint Paul that spread Christian faith across the Middle East especially in present day countries like Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Rome and the neighboring regions. Now many of these countries are engulfed by war and violence and need our prayers and support. It is also ironic that in some of these places Christian faith is all but gone.

The Jewish name of Paul was Saul; the Latin version of his name is Paulus or Paul. Paul was a well-educated and erudite Pharisee. He witnessed the martyrdom of Stephen (stoned to death) and quite approved of it. He was bent on uprooting the nascent Christian faith. As part of this mission he was on his way to Damascus in Syria when Jesus appears to him (Acts 22). In Paul’s own words:

While I was on my way and approaching Damascus, about noon, a great light from heaven suddenly shone about me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ Then He said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth whom you are persecuting.’ Acts 22:6-8.

The conversion experience transformed Paul into a believer, missionary and an apostle. As Paul’s words were not welcomed in the synagogues, he began to preach to the nonJewish population. We read in Acts of the Apostles:

Then both Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken first to you. Since you reject it … we are now turning to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, ‘I have set you to be a light for the Gentiles, so that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’” Acts 13: 46-48

When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and praised the word of the Lord; and as many as had been destined for eternal life became believers.

Paul, thus, becomes the apostle to the Gentiles or nations. January 25th is feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul.

-Father Augustine

Pastor’s Note: January 17th, 2016

Church Today

What is the Church? Many people would, perhaps, point to a building that is designated for community worship as the Church. It is not the building, but the gathering of people that constitute the Church. Saint Paul tells us that the Church is the body of Christ.

“Now you are the body of Christ and, individually, members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the Church: first, apostles, second, prophets, third, teachers; then, deeds of power, then, gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, and various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way”. 1 Corinthians 12:27-31

In Corinthians chapter 13 Paul points out the still more excellent way: love. And the greatest of these is love. Loves surpasses all else because “love never fails” 1 Cor.13:8.

Saint Therese of Lisieux commenting on this passage, says, “I understood that love comprised all vocations, that love was everything that it embraced all times and places…in a word, that it was eternal. Then in the excess of my delirious joy, I cried out: O Jesus, my love…my vocation, at last I have found it…MY VOCATION IS TO LOVE.”

The Church is a gathering of people who love Jesus and love one another. The Holy Mass is called agape, or a feast of love. If our gathering does not help us to grow in love, it is a waste of time. Our Sunday gathering is not a time for judgment, or critiquing or a time for catching up on the latest gossip or rumor.

Take the time to answer for yourself the question: what is Church for me?

– Father Augustine

Pastor’s Note: January 10th, 2016

Baptism of our Lord

No one is born a Christian. One becomes a Christian through baptism. At times we hear people saying, ‘Oh, I am born a Christian, because my parents are Christians.’ It may be nice to think that way but the reality is far from it.

To speak on a personal note, my family traces its root to Saint Thomas, the Apostle, who preached the Gospel in our part of India around 52 AD. We even revere the name of our early ancestors who received baptism more than 2000 years ago. Oral traditions about them becoming Christians is well established in our family folklore.

However, over the 2000 year history, some members of the family have become Hindus, Muslims, Christians of other denominations, etc. Remaining a Christian and a Catholic is a challenge, nay, a choice. It is not an automated process.
The Baptism of Jesus is an occasion for us to expose the significance of the sacrament of Baptism. In the Gospels we find Jesus receiving baptism from John. “Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him… And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:13, 17)

By baptism we become adopted children of God. It is a choice that we make during our earthly journey. Just as Jesus was revealed as the beloved son, we, too, through our baptism, become beloved sons and daughters of God. 

For infants, the choice is made by their parents or legal guardians. Parents care for the well-being of the child in a holistic manner. Therefore, it is appropriate as well as important that they care for the spiritual life of the child. Baptism and faith formation are as important as physical nourishment and schooling. In this respect, the role of the parents is to arouse interest in their children for religious practices, by means of modeling and discussion about God and spiritual observances.
Ask yourself: Do I thank God for the gift of baptism which made me a child of God? Do I witness to the gift of faith that God has given me?
– Father Augustine

Pastor’s Note: January 3rd, 2016

Happy New Year

As we begin the New Year 2016, many of us look back to the past year. How did we do? Was the past year a happy one? Do I need to make changes? What do I need to do to make 2016 even a better one for me and for the people around me? Did I spiritually grow during 2015? These are some of the questions worth asking as one steps into 2016.
Saint Augustine parish experienced lots of changes in 2015. A new pastor, new staff members, families moving in and out of the parish, lots of improvements in facilities in and around the Church and certain stability in the midst of all the changes. We are committed to the Year of Mercy, through organizing a Day of Mercy helping our community to grow in mercy embracing whole humanity. All our ministries continue to grow and develop. A spirit of welcome, which is the hallmark of our parish, continues to radiate joy and welcome to all people visiting the church.
The Director of our Music Ministry, Paul McWilliams, has resigned, effective January 31, 2016. Paul has been doing two jobs; at University of San Francisco and at Saint Augustine. Since he felt that the two jobs were difficult to manage, he decided to focus on USF. I would like to thank Paul for his service to the church and wish him well in his work at USF.
Our Christmas collection was $19,516.  I want thank everyone for their great generosity to the Church. May God bless each one of us and our community throughout the New Year, 2016! May it be a year of growth; growth in love, generosity, forgiveness and mercy.
On January 1st we celebrate the feast of Mary, Mother of God (Theotokos). Mary is the mother of us all. We ask for her prayers and protection throughout the New Year.
Happy New Year!   Happy New Year!    Happy New Year!
— Father Augustine

 


2015 Pastor’s Notes

Pastor’s Note: December 27, 2015

Joy to the world

Most people are familiar with the Christmas Carol, ‘Joy to the world.’ The words are by English hymn writer Isaac Watts, based on the second half of Psalm 98 in the Bible. The song celebrates what Christmas is about. It is all about joy.
People at times get stressed out during Christmas – shopping, decorations, gift-giving, dinners, parties, attending religious services and so on. It is important to take stress out of Christmas and enjoy this ‘most beautiful time of the year’.
Jesus was born in a stable with no fanfare or celebrity status. Angels sang at his birth, ‘glory to God in the highest and on earth people of good will.’ There were some visitors, shepherds and the magi. Jesus parents were not stressed out, except perhaps for finding a place for the birth of the messiah. There are no details in the Bible as to how distressed or desolate or abandoned they felt finding ‘no room in the inn.’ Whatever it be, they took it all in stride and things worked out because they had Jesus.
Saint Therese of Lisieux puts it beautifully: “I feel that my mission is about to begin, my mission to make God loved as I love Him, to teach souls my little way.” She was asked, “And what is this little way you want to teach to souls?” Therese answered: “it is the way of spiritual childhood, the way of trust and absolute surrender.”
The joy of Christmas comes from trust and surrender to God. That is the model Mary and Joseph presents before us; that is what Jesus himself did; that’s what all the saints tell us; that is what each one of us is invited to do.
Joy, everyone! Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
— Father Augustine

Pastor’s Note: December 20, 2015: Fourth Sunday of Advent

Give and receive mercy

We can give mercy through corporal works of mercy and  spiritual works of mercy. It is equally important to receive mercy. In the rich depository of the Church’s wisdom we have the Sacrament of Reconciliation. [In our parish the opportunity for the Sacrament of Reconciliation is on Monday, December 21 at 7:00 PM.]
The Sacrament of Reconciliation requires a sense of sorrow for our sins. It is not in any way meant to foster feelings of guilt in the individual; rather it is an opportunity for growth – spiritual growth. The second step is to confess our sins. We tell the wrongs we have done to a priest. Of course, it is God who forgives sins through the instrumentality of the ordained minister. Often we hear people saying, “Why do I need to tell my sins to a priest (a human person, who is a sinner as well?”) Can I not confess directly to God? The answer is obvious. Yes, we can.
However, as human beings we need a human way of receiving forgiveness. (This is the meaning of incarnation or Christmas. Jesus becomes one of us so that we can become gods.)  Ordinarily, a sick person would consult a doctor, although one could treat oneself or go directly to God asking for healing. It is much the same that a spiritually sick person consults an ordained minister empowered and prepared to treat the condition. Although there is a certain amount of shame in confessing one’s sins, the forgiveness received out-weighs any such feelings. Moreover, all people are sinners! As the old dictum says, “no man/woman is perfect.”
After receiving a brief bit of advice and absolution the penitent then fulfills the penance suggested by the priest. There should always be a plan or a pathway to change things that needs to be changed in one’s life and to seriously implement it. It is only then that the fruit of the Sacrament of Reconciliation is sustained!
To Celebrate the Year of Mercy our parish is holding a Day of Mercy once a month, running from January 2016 to November 2016. It will be on first Tuesday of every Month at 7:00 PM in our Church. The service will be for about an hour. It is a wonderful opportunity to experience mercy through communal prayer, singing, adoration of the Holy Eucharist and listening to God’s Word. There will also be an opportunity for the Sacrament of Reconciliation during this time. All are welcome.
Jesus is the human and merciful face of the Father. “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”(Luke 23:34) In him “mercy, forgiveness and justice have met.”
Merry Christmas and a Happy New year.
— Fr. Augustine

Pastor’s Note: December 13, 2015: Third Sunday of Advent

Receive Mercy

Pope Francis has declared 2016 as the Year of Mercy. The Year of Mercy begins on December 8, The Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and ends with The Feast of Christ the King, 2016.  It may be good for us to have a brief reflection on mercy and what it entails.
We can give mercy through corporal works of mercy and the spiritual works of mercy. It is equally important to receive mercy. In the rich depository of the Church’s wisdom we have the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In our parish the opportunity for the Sacrament of Reconciliation on December 21 at 7:00 PM. It is a very specific way to receive mercy.
The Sacrament of Reconciliation is not a magic formula. It involves work. First, it involves a deep sense of sorrow for one’s failings and sins. Sorrow is different from guilt. Sorrow means that you feel the pain of all the hurt you have inflicted on others, that you acknowledge all your inadequacy before God and are willing to remedy the situation with the help of God and people. Feeling true sorrow, you open your mind and your heart, to move past your mistakes into purification; to learn, to grow, and to be formed by God and your neighbor.
Guilt is a cognitive, or an emotional, experience that occurs when a person realizes or believes-accurately or not-that he or she has compromised his, or her, own standards of conduct or has violated a moral standard and bears significant responsibility for that violation. Guilt is connected in some ways with punishment. A clear illustration of guilt is Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment.
 In guilt, the focus is on the self and its failure to do the right thing, in sorrow, the focus is on the other and the need to help the other. In guilt one is shackled in the web of interior/psychological realities. Sorrow cuts through the web and frees us. Sorrow is an invitation to change, grow and develop with God’s grace and the help of people and our environment.
[To be continued]
— Fr. Augustine

Pastor’s Note: December 6, 2015: Second Sunday of Advent

Year of Mercy

Pope Francis has declared 2016 as the Year of Mercy. The Year of Mercy begins on December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and ends with the Feast of Christ the King, 2016.  It may be good for us to have a brief reflection on mercy and what it entails.
We need to both give and receive mercy. There could be people who wonder how can I give mercy? Well, it can be done in many ways. Practicing the corporal works of mercy is a sure way to do it. The corporal works of mercy are: to feed the hungry; to give drink to the thirsty; to clothe the naked; to shelter the homeless; to visit the sick; to ransom the captive; to bury the dead. Among these ransoming the captive may sound unfamiliar. It refers to rescuing people who are prisoners of war, people who are kidnapped for ransom, or held as political prisoners etc. Amnesty International is an organization in our times that works for such causes.
Amnesty International (commonly known as Amnesty and AI) is a non-governmental organization focused on human rights with over 7 million members and supporters around the world. The stated objective of the organization is “to conduct research and generate action to prevent and end grave abuses of human rights, and to demand justice for those whose rights have been violated.” Amnesty International was founded in London in 1961.
We can give mercy by doing spiritual works of mercy. They are: to instruct the ignorant; to counsel the doubtful; to admonish sinners; to bear wrongs patiently; to forgive offenses willingly; to comfort the afflicted; to pray for the living and the dead. These are easy enough for most people to do and are a help for one’s own spiritual growth.
(To be continued)
— Father Augustine

Pastor’s Note: November 29, 2015

New Liturgical Year

So it is refueling time, or to be more eco-friendly, recharging time – Advent or the beginning of the new liturgical year. At the end of our trip we recharge to begin anew. The year 2015 is coming to a close and we are invited to prepare for 2016. In the Church Advent is precisely a time given to us for preparing for the coming of the Lord.
Advent is a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas. The term is an anglicized version of the Latin word adventus, meaning “coming”. Latin adventus is the translation of the Greek word parousia, commonly used to refer to the Second Coming of Christ. For Christians, the season of Advent anticipates the coming of Christ from two different perspectives. The season offers the opportunity to share in the ancient longing for the coming of the Messiah, and to be alert for his Second Coming.
As a preparation for the solemnities of Christmas, during Advent, we remember the fulfillment of God’s promise in Jesus Christ, our messiah. It is hope fulfilled for humanity. The second coming is hope yet to be fulfilled. So Advent can be described as a time of hope. As we enter into the season of Advent it is our hope that there will be lasting peace, people will learn to live in peace and harmony, nations and leaders will work together for the common good and there will be an end to war, violence and terrorism. We pray for the coming of God’s kingdom where there will be no more sorrow, no more suffering and pain.
Practices associated with Advent include keeping an Advent calendar, lighting an Advent wreath, praying an Advent daily devotional, as well as other ways of preparing for Christmas, such as setting up Christmas decorations. Liturgical color for advent is purple/violet or blue.
— Father Augustine

Pastor’s Note: November 22, 2015

Year of Mercy

Pope Francis has declared 2016 as the Year of Mercy. The Year of Mercy begins on December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and ends with the Feast of Christ the King, 2016.  It may be good for us to have a brief reflection on mercy and what it means for each one of us.

The Bible is full of references to mercy and kindness. There are many stories and parables proclaiming the ‘mercies of the Lord’. In Daniel 3 we read: “his mercy endures forever.” Psalm 23 says,” Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.”

In Saint Matthew 5 Jesus says, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. Saint Luke’s Gospel is described as the Gospel of Mercy. We have, in Luke, the great parables of the lost sheep, lost coin and the prodigal son. “By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us,” Lk. 1:78.

For me, mercy simply means kindness in action. Mercy has an action component and is best described in Matthew 25, as ‘giving food and drink to the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting those in prison, etc.’ Also the corporal works of mercy tells us the same: To feed the hungry; To give drink to the thirsty; To clothe the naked; To harbor the harborless; To visit the sick; To ransom the captive; To bury the dead.

Around the parish: Just as we are all aging, so too are our buildings and facilities. We have been working hard to keep them up. Recently we have fixed the restrooms in the gym, repaired the asphalt where it was failing, painted the gym door and refinished the signs on the gym wall. People have commented that our fence reminds them of the World War II concentration camps! We have it painted on the Alcatraz side to make it more welcoming and friendly.

Parish pastoral council: The new team for the parish pastoral council is taking shape. I thank the many people who generously gave their time and talent to serve as members of the council. Kindly pray that the service of our council members may inspire every member of our church to be actively involved in building up the body of Christ, the Church.

Happy feast of Christ the King. Christus vincit, Christus regnat, Christus imperat! (Christ is the victor, Christ is King, Christ is the ruler of the world.)

— Father Augustine

Pastor’s Note: November 15, 2015

In Gratitude

It is a time of remembrance. Memories make up who we are. A loss of memory is effectively a loss of ourselves, our surroundings and all our cherished possessions. Many of us have met people suffering from Alzheimer’s and we are painfully reminded of this undeniable truth.

The month of November is liturgically dedicated to remembering and praying for those who have preceded us in the pilgrimage of life and especially for those who might still need our prayers to reach their ultimate goal – God and heaven. It is important and appropriate that we pray for our dear departed; feel and enjoy the communion of saints.

It is, also, a time for counting our blessings. Thanksgiving is around the corner. We are invited to thank God for life, light and happiness, the rich blessing of our earth, for water and all the fruits and flowers of the earth, for the air we breathe, for creatures of the earth and for the miracle that our universe is. We did not create any of these but God, in his rich design, blessed us with everything. Thanksgiving is the time when together with the canticle we say, “Let all creatures praise the Lord”…dew and rain bless the Lord”… (Daniel 3: 57f)

As I have celebrated the Silver Jubilee of my priestly ordination I thank God and all the people who gave me this privilege to serve. I believe that God chose me, not because I am worthy; God’s choice, God’s grace made me worthy. Together with Saint Paul I acknowledge, “By God’s grace I am what I am.” (1 Cor.15: 10)

God’s grace comes to us in many ways, but in a special way, through other people. I have been shaped and formed by my parents, siblings, teachers, friends and all people I have had the privilege to serve. I want to thank them all. In this I realize that I have failed as well. I apologize and ask pardon from God and people I may have hurt through my sins and weaknesses. “Where sin increases, may grace multiply!”

I thank all our staff and volunteers who set up, and worked preparing, for the jubilee.  All who attended the Holy Mass appreciated the melodious singing of the choir. Thanks to all the members of our parish for your support and help.

— Father Augustine

Pastor’s Note: November 8, 2015

Marian Pilgrimage

(continued from November 1, 2015)

In Paris, we celebrated Holy Mass at the miraculous medal Shrine of St. Catherine Laboure, visited the shrine of Saint Vincent De Paul and toured the historical sites of the French capital. A visit to Sacre Coeur (Church of the Sacred Heart) kind of concluded the pilgrimage. Hundreds and thousands of people visit Sacre Coeur. In the midst of all the hustle and bustle, there is a perpetual adoration with Blessed Sacrament exposed on the main altar of the Church. Perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament has continued uninterrupted in the Basilica since 1885. It was refreshing to spend a short time in adoration as our pilgrimage was winding down.
It appears to be more than a coincidence that our Marian Pilgrimage officially began with the miracle of the Holy Eucharist (Santarem) and concluded with the adoration of the Holy Eucharist (Sacre Coeur). As the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “Eucharist is the source and submit of our ecclesial life” (CCC 1327). “In brief, the Eucharist is the sum and summary of our faith: Our way of thinking is attuned to the Eucharist, and the Eucharist, in turn, confirms our way of thinking.”
Mary was leading us to Jesus. Holy Eucharist and Mary are the two pillars of our faith. If a Christian is anchored to these two pillars it is difficult to go wrong; it is possible to weather the storms of life and be still standing.
What impressed me most was the faith of the pilgrims themselves. Everyone seemed to get on well with everyone else. There was a unity of purpose that gave cohesion and harmony to the group. Members participated devoutly in prayers, Holy Masses and other spiritual exercises. Many in the group experienced spiritual renewal as the ancient faith came alive in those holy places. Those monuments, grottoes and holy places eloquently witness to the “faith of our fathers and mothers.” They invite us, challenge us, and even compel us to step out of ourselves and experience the presence of God.
Our faith so Ancient, yet so new, lives in the hearts of each human person. Pilgrimage is a journey of discovery, a discovery of oneself, of others and, ultimately, of God. Although it is true that God is not only found in the ancient monuments or cathedrals, they are awe-inspiring and a testimony to human efforts to transcend and touch the divine.
Kudos to The Catholic voice and Unitours Inc for their great organization and planning of the pilgrimage. It was a smooth sail with excellent weather and far few inconveniences.
— Father Augustine

Pastor’s Note: November 1, 2015

Marian Pilgrimage

(to be continued November 8, 2015)

Human life is a journey, from birth to death, through ‘the seven ages of [humanity]’; a journey that may be meaningless to some, one of sorrow and suffering for others, and of joy, hope and adventure yet for others.

Life of a Christian, too, is a journey. However, it could be more meaningful, focused and hopeful in spite of the sufferings, trials and tribulations that come our way, because it is a journey to Jesus Christ. The resurrection of Christ makes all the difference as it makes us partakers of the heavenly glory that awaits us at the end of our journey.

Pilgrimage is a journey, a journey of exalted purpose or moral meaning. It is a mirror image of our Christian life. Our recent Marian pilgrimage was no exception; it really helped us to experience this ‘Journey of life.’

Our first stop was Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, where we briefly visited some of the historical landmarks and the tomb of Vasco de Gama, who rediscovered the sea-route to India from Europe which was lost after the Muslim conquests of the Middle East.

En route to Fatima we stopped in Santarem, the Church of the Eucharistic Miracle and celebrated Holy Mass there. The miracle occurred during the early part of 13th century; the consecrated host began to bleed in the hands of a woman who had the intention of misusing it. The miracle was brought to the attention of the church authorities. The host is enshrined in its miraculous crystal pyx in a silver monstrance and placed on display above the tabernacle of the Church.

In Fatima and Lourdes we celebrated Holy Mass at the Chapel of the Apparitions, took part in the processions and other devotional practices. We visited the homes of the visionaries and prayed for families, friends and members of our parishes and remembered all those who requested  prayers. It need not be said that there were throngs of pilgrims milling around those two holy places!

The church of Santiago De Compostela has been for many centuries a place of pilgrimages. People from all over Europe often walked on foot the “routes of Saint James.” Some of us did a few miles on foot to “walk the walk”.

(to be continued November 8. 2015)

— Fr. Augustine 

Pastor’s Note: October 25, 2015

November, a Month of Remembrance

Native American tribes are known for their elaborate and colorful quilts. Often the memories of the tribes are woven into large quilts used in religious ceremonies. Native American peoples are believed to be among the best quilt makers in the world. What many people do not know is that they have an unwritten law governing the art of quilting: every quilt must have some flaw. Even when they could easily produce the perfect quilt, they go out of their way to introduce a flaw into it. Since the quilt for them is basically a representation of human life and the human condition, the symbolism is clear: no human life is perfect. In a way, the feast of All Souls which we celebrate today echoes the same message: no human life is perfect, not even the Christian life. The Good News we celebrate today is that God loves us even when we are not perfect, and that the love of God does not abandon the souls of our departed brothers and sisters in the faith even when they did not measure up to the ideals of Christian perfection.

In the feast of All Saints, we, the saints who are still struggling on earth (the Church Militant), celebrate fellowship with the saints who have already arrived in heavenly glory (the Church Triumphant). Today we celebrate our fellowship with the saints in purgatory, a state of temporary suffering for departed souls who are not yet fully ready for full fellowship with God in the glory of heaven (the Church Suffering).

In the feast of All Souls we pray for the souls of the faithful departed who are being purified in purgatory. In this we profess our belief that, just as God has not stopped loving these poor souls because of their imperfections, neither have we. For us the belief in purgatory is Good News: even though we may not in this life be perfect as our heavenly father is perfect (Matthew 5:48) we can still hold fast to the hope that there are mansions for us in the kingdom of heaven.

— Father Augustine

Pastor’s Note: October 18, 2015

Pope in America, Part 3

[this is the third of a three-part message from Fr. Augustine, “Pope in America.”]

Most of us followed the Pope as he visited the United States of America. We may have listened to his talks, commentaries and discussions about his words and reactions from friends and neighbors. I would like to add my two cents to it all!

Pope cites Four American heroes: “A nation can be considered great when it defends liberty as Lincoln did, when it fosters a culture which enables people to “dream” of full rights for all their brothers and sisters, as Martin Luther King sought to do; when it strives for justice and the cause of the oppressed, as Dorothy Day did by her tireless work, the fruit of a faith which becomes dialogue and sows peace in the contemplative style of Thomas Merton.”

Focus on what is the good, beautiful and true: The Church is not primarily about fighting evil, but rather on promoting whatever is good beautiful and true in human life. It is similar to what Saint Paul says, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all”. “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Rom. 12:17, 21) The pope’s visit highlights what the Church is all about. It is not to be mired in controversies and cultural wars; it stands for virtue, goodness, beauty, truth and love. The Letter to the Hebrews says,”Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  Do not let all kinds of strange teachings lead you from the right way.’ (Hebrews 13: 8-9) “All that is good, all that is true, all that is beautiful leads us to God. Because God is good, God is beautiful, God is true.” Pope Francis said this in Philadelphia.

Christian Family: “…Family is the living symbol of the loving plan of which the Father once dreamed. To want to form a family is to resolve to be a part of God’s dream, to choose to dream with Him, to want to build with Him, to join Him in this saga of building a world where no one will feel alone, unwanted or homeless.”

As Christians, we appreciate the beauty of the family and of family life as the place where we come to learn the meaning and value of human relationships. We learn that “to love someone is not just a strong feeling – it is a decision, it is a judgment, it is a promise” (Erich Fromm, The Art of Loving). We learn to stake everything on another person, and we learn that it is worth it.

— Fr. Augustine

Pastor’s Note: October 11, 2015

Pope in America, Part 2

[this is the second of a three-part message from Fr. Augustine, “Pope in America.”]

Most of us followed the Pope as he visited the United States of America. We may have listened to his talks, commentaries and discussions about his words and reactions from friends and neighbors. I would like to add my two cents to it all!
Beware of fundamentalism and extremism: “No religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism.” While combating extremism it is important to uphold religious freedom, intellectual freedom and individual freedom. “We know that in the attempt to be freed of the enemy without, we can be tempted to feed the enemy within.”
Polarization or labeling people as good or evil, righteous and sinners is a simplistic reductionism. Avoid the two-camp mentality. We are invited ‘to move forward together’ in a spirit of cooperation in restoring hope, righting wrongs, maintaining commitments, promoting the common good and building a better world.
Golden rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Mt7:12). It means we treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated. The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development and the global abolition of the death penalty.
The “golden rule” includes care for the earth, our common home, and protection of the environment. Creation and distribution of wealth and dialogue with peoples is important for eradicating poverty and hunger in the world and for promoting the common good.
(To be continued on October 18, 2015)
— Fr. Augustine

 

Pastor’s Note: October 4, 2015

Pope in America, Part 1

[this is the first of a three-part message from Fr. Augustine, “Pope in America.”]

Most of us followed the Pope as he visited the United States of America. We may have listened to his talks, commentaries and discussions about his words and reactions from friends and neighbors. I would like to add my two cents to it all!

Francis effect, a personal experience: Quite a few times people in the street have stopped me to talk about the Pope and the Catholic Church, which is something of a novelty. I have been in this country for about eighteen years and it has not happened before! In particular, I would like to share two instances. My Optometrist spent nearly a half-hour with me discussing the Pope’s visit to the United States, to the frustration of others, perhaps, waiting to meet him.

Then in a visit to the optician I had a similar experience. “First time in many years” he told me “I am proud/happy to say that I am a Catholic.” He was so enthralled by Pope Francis that he spent a long time talking about the renewal, energy and enthusiasm that he experienced in watching the Pope. God bless them all!

Inclusiveness: The Pope was addressing all people of this great nation, and ‘all people of good will.’ It transcends boundaries of race, color, creed, political affiliations, the young and elderly, interest groups or people with a particular agenda. All are called to a personal and social responsibility to humanity, not just to one’s family, friends, gangs or groups.

It is in keeping with the teaching of the Vatican II document Nostra Aetate: “The Church, therefore, exhorts …, that through dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions, carried out with prudence and love and in witness to the Christian faith and life, they recognize, preserve and promote the good things, spiritual and moral, as well as the socio-cultural values found among them.” (DECLARATION ON THE RELATION OF THE CHURCH TO NON-CHRISTIAN RELIGIONS. NOSTRA AETATE. PROCLAIMED BY HIS HOLINESS POPE PAUL VI ON OCTOBER 28, 1965)

(To be continued on October 11, 2015)

— Fr. Augustine

Pastor’s Note: September 27, 2015

Marian Pilgrimage

Pilgrimage is a journey of exalted purpose or moral meaning. It is a holistic experience; it cares for the whole human person, both spiritual and material. There will be time for prayer and meditation; our pilgrimage includes daily Holy Mass and prayers. Also, there will be lots of opportunities for sightseeing, rest, relaxation, shopping, etc.

There are about 83 pilgrims on this visit to the Marian shrines of Europe including Fatima and Lourdes. As we pray at each of the sanctuaries, I will specially remember and pray for the members of our parish, for my family and friends. May Our Blessed Mother, Mary, Pray for us!

I will be away from October 5th to October 21st. Please pray that the pilgrimage may go well and that everyone may come back safe, spiritually and physically renewed.

 **************************************************************************************

The greatest commandment: Love God and love your neighbor is the commandment that is at the very heart of Christian religion. It makes us responsible for one another. In the book of Genesis we hear God asking Cain, ‘where is your brother?’ (Gen.4:9). The answer was, ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ It sounds very much like a 21st century response! We are so buried in the world of gadgets, computers, TV, internet, social media and what not. We may not see a brother or sister anywhere around.

This Sunday’s Gospel reminds us that care for our neighbor includes also living a good life ourselves. Our lives serve as examples/models for others to lead good lives.

It further invites us to give proper guidance to others. A group of small children were amusing themselves pelting stones at a limping cat and chasing it around. A passerby was shocked at what she saw. She stopped and told the children that they should be helping the cat and not hurting it. On her way back she was overjoyed to see the children feeding the cat and caring for it!

— Father Augustine

Pastor’s Note: September 20, 2015

Pope’s Visit to the United States

Pope Francis will be visiting the USA from Sept. 22nd to 27th, and plans to stop in Washington, D.C., New York City and Philadelphia. His attendance at the World Meeting of Families is of great significance. In our thoughts and prayers we can join Pope Francis, along with hundreds of thousands of people from around the globe, in Philadelphia for the 8th World Meeting of Families.

World meeting of families (WMOF):  Love is our mission: The family fully alive is the theme of the World Meeting of Families – Philadelphia 2015, emphasizing the impact of the love and life of families on our society. The World Meeting of Families is the world’s largest Catholic gathering of families.

The theme was inspired by the words of the early Church Father, St. Irenaeus, who said that “the glory of God is man fully alive.” In like manner, the glory of men and women is their capacity to love as God loves.  Rarely can that love be lived out more intimately and fruitfully than in the family.

Family is the nursery or kindergarten where we learn to pray, love, forgive, serve and sacrifice for the good of others. It is the building block of our society. A healthy family, a healthy society.

Catholic families have a key role in God’s healing of a broken world. So let’s pray for each other that the World Meeting of Families 2015 will become for each of us and for the whole world, a new birth of the Church in each of our hearts … for our own salvation, the salvation of our families and the redemption of the world.

Please pray for the success of the Papal visit to our country.

— Father Augustine

Pastor’s Note: September 13, 2015

The Cross and the Christian

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen (now Venerable) is famously said to have stated, ‘America wants Christ without the Cross and Russia wants the Cross without Christ.’ Although we place crosses in our homes and church we tend to forget about the importance of a cross in our lives.

We celebrate the Feast of the Exultation of the Cross on September 14th. What does this feast mean for me personally? Is it just a celebration of some historic event? Does it touch me today?

Cross Purifies: ‘Gold is tested by fire’. When one is faced with a cross it can purify and help one to reevaluate goals and priorities. John was the CEO of a hedge fund, successful, ambitious and adventurous. Life seemed meaningful, enjoyable and endless until diagnosed with an untreatable disease affecting the nervous system. Faced with unexpected life choices, John began to sit back and think about life, it’s purpose and meaning. For the first time in years he noticed the crucifix his mother had hung on the wall quite against his wishes, because he thought it spoiled the aesthetic beauty of his home.

Cross is a Plus sign: It is a sign of hope. It links the limited with the unlimited, finite with the infinite, and human with the divine.  It reminds us that we are adopted children of God through our baptism.

Cross is an Invitation: The Cross is an enduring sign for the suffering humanity; we are invited to be sensitive to the plight of the immigrants, refugees, poor, sick, addicts and people in trouble. What do I do to alleviate suffering in the world?

Sign of victory: Cross is a sign or symbol pointing to the resurrection of Jesus. All is not lost. With all the sufferings, failures, sins and defeats life does not end. The final victory is ours. Like Christ we, too, shall rise to eternity to live with God forever!

 — Father Augustine

Pastor’s Note: September 6, 2015

Birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary

September 8th is celebrated as the feast of the nativity of Mary, mother of Jesus. The Feast was celebrated at least by the sixth century, when St. Romanos the Melodist, an Eastern Christian who composed many of the hymns used in the Eastern Catholic and Eastern Orthodox liturgies, composed a hymn for the feast. The feast spread to Rome in the seventh century, but it was a couple more centuries before it was celebrated throughout the west.

The present canon of scripture does not record Mary’s birth. The earliest known account of Mary’s birth is found in the Protoevangelium of James (5:2), an apocryphal text from the late second century, with her parents known as Saint Anne and Saint Joachim.

In the case of saints, the Catholic Church commemorates their date of death, with Saint John the Baptist and the Virgin Mary among the few whose birth dates are commemorated. The reason for this is found in the singular mission each had in salvation history, but traditionally also because these alone (besides the prophet Jeremiah, Jer. 1:5) were holy in their very birth (For Mary, it is her Immaculate Conception; John was sanctified in Saint Elizabeth’s womb according to the traditional interpretation of Lk 1:15).

Thank you

Thanks to all the members of our parish who helped to celebrate the feast of our patron, Saint Augustine. Thanks to Maureen and team who decorated the church tastefully. Music and the choir indeed rose to the occasion! Steve and the hospitality team made it a sumptuous feast; Jerry delivered the champagne, ‘the cup that cheers but does not inebriate.’ Thanks to everyone whose presence and contribution truly made our celebration beautiful.

— Fr. Augustine

Pastor’s Note: August 30, 2015   Happy Feast of Saint Augustine!

Saint Augustine of Hippo

Saint Augustine (354 -430 AD) is a central figure in early Christianity. He is considered one of the most notable Latin Christian writers on theology and philosophy. His explanation of the Trinity, and Evil are quite unsurpassed even to this day.

The church language had been Greek for about 500 years. It is through the writings of Augustine, Jerome and others that Latin began to be the Church language on the European continent. With the schism (the break of communion between what are now the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches)  in the 11th century Greek began to be used only in the Eastern Churches and Latin became the de facto language for the western churches.

Confessions and The City of God are two of the best known works of Saint Augustine. Confessions has become a classic of Christian theology and a key text in the history of autobiography. This work is an outpouring of thanksgiving and penitence. Although it is written as an account of his life, the Confessions also talks about the nature of time, causality, free will, and other important philosophical topics. The following is taken from that work:

Late have I loved Thee, O Lord; and behold,

Thou wast within and I without, and there I sought Thee.

Thou was with me when I was not with Thee.

Thou didst call, and cry, and burst my deafness.

Thou didst gleam, and glow, and dispel my blindness.

Thou didst touch me, and I burned for Thy peace.

For Thyself Thou hast made us,

And restless our hearts until in Thee they find their ease.

Late have I loved Thee, Thou Beauty ever old and ever new!

Ministry Coordinator: We are happy to welcome Karen Glen, our new Ministry Coordinator. She brings with her lots of experience working and volunteering in parishes at Martinez and Walnut Creek. She is a person of deep Faith and love for Jesus and the Church. She will be officially joining our parish on September 1, 2015. I, also, take this opportunity to thank the interview committee who helped in this process.

I am sure that we will all have opportunities to interact with Karen and make her ministry and service to our parish a happy and joyous experience. Please continue to pray for all our ministries and for the members of our parish.

— Fr. Augustine

Pastor’s Note: August 23, 2015

Hearing aid technology at Saint Augustine

Saint Augustine offers T loop technology to assist with hearing. In order to use this technology (to pick up the magnetic signal) your hearing aids must be equipped with a telecoil. Hearing aid users should always purchase phones that are hearing aid compatible as these will automatically transmit not only an acoustic signal but a magnetic signal as well.

What it is?

A telecoil or T loop is a specialized circuit that is placed within hearing aids and consists of a small coil of wire. Although small, this wire is mighty. It is designed to pick up magnetic signals versus acoustic signals picked up by the hearing aid microphone.

When a telecoil is activated the hearing aid’s normal microphone is turned off and the telecoil only picks up magnetic inputs. The hearing aid then converts the magnetic signal to sound which is then amplified by the hearing aid just as any other sound is. The benefit is no other sounds in the environment are amplified, thus the hearing aid user can focus only on the amplification of magnetic inputs.

Induction (hearing) loop technology delivers sound directly to hearing aids that are equipped with telecoils. The induction loops broadcast the desired signal (sound) as a magnetic signal to the room the loop is present in and the telecoil serves as the hearing aid’s antennae – picking up the magnetic signal.

As a result, hearing loops turn hearing aids into personal loud speakers that pick up signals generated by the induction loop. And since the hearing aid’s microphone is turned off, the magnetic signal is the only sound being heard (not the background noise). This creates a crisper and clearer signal for the user.

All the best with better hearing. If you have questions please call the parish office at (510) 653-8631.

— Fr. Augustine

Pastor’s Note: August 16, 2015

Feast of the Assumption, August 15th

The Assumption of the Virgin Mary into Heaven, informally known as the Assumption, according to the beliefs of the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy, and parts of Anglicanism, was the bodily taking up of the Virgin Mary into Heaven at the end of her earthly life.

The Catholic Church teaches as dogma that the Virgin Mary “having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory”. This doctrine was dogmatically defined by Pope Pius XII on November 1, 1950, in the Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus by exercising papal infallibility.

It is a feast of hope, as it anticipates what would happen to each of us at the end of our earthly sojourn. In other words, it confirms that we are heirs to eternal life and, as Saint Paul tells us, “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.” 1 Corinthians13:12.

Reclaiming Christ’s Mission Together

I wish to thank all the parishioners who have participated in the Diocesan Capital Campaign. There were some parishioners who felt that they would not be part of the campaign, no matter what; however, others joined in. Putting aside differences and coming together for a common cause takes courage and good will.

Around the diocese there has been a pretty good response. Some parishes have reached their goal and beyond.

In our parish currently about 31 persons/families have participated in the campaign. Once again I thank every one of them for stepping up to this challenge.  It is important to be a cheerful giver and not give grudgingly. If anyone else would like to participate, it is not too late. You are welcome to join.

Our Parish Goal: $259,794.23; Funds Raised: $93,554.00; Remaining to Raise: $166,240.23

% of goal raised: 36.01%

Ministry coordinator

We have a committee that is interviewing potential candidates for this position. Kindly pray that we find a faith-filled person to take up this important role in our parish ministry.

— Fr. Augustine

Pastor’s Note: August 9, 2015

Saint John Marie Vianney

Vianney was born on 8 May 1786, in the French town of Dardilly, and was baptized the same day. His feast day is celebrated on August 4.

By 1790, the French Revolution forced many loyal priests to hide from the government in order to carry out the sacraments in their parish. In order to attend Mass, even though it was illegal, the Vianneys travelled to distant farms where they could pray in secret. Since the priests risked their lives day by day, Vianney began to look upon priests as heroes. His First Communion lessons were carried out in a public home by three priests. He made his First Communion at the age of 13.During the Mass, the windows were covered so that the light of the candles could not be seen from the outside. The secrecy of his Catholic practices continued, especially during his preparation for confirmation.

The Catholic Church was re-established in France in 1802, resulting in religious peace throughout the country. By this time, Vianney was concerned about his future vocation and longed for an education. He was 20 when his father allowed him to leave the farm to be taught at a “presbytery-school” in the neighboring village of Écully, conducted by the Abbé Balley. The school taught arithmetic, history, geography and Latin. Vianney struggled with school, especially with Latin, since his past education had been interrupted by the French Revolution. Only because of Vianney’s deepest desire to be a priest – and Balley’s patience – did he persevere.

Vianney’s studies were interrupted in 1809 when he was drafted into Napoleon’s armies. As he missed the draft he was considered a deserter.  An imperial decree, proclaimed in March 1810, granted amnesty to all deserters, which enabled Vianney to go back legally to Ecully, where he resumed his studies. Considered a poor student, the authorities were reluctant to ordain him a priest. However, Balley persuaded the Vicars General that Vianney’s piety was great enough to compensate for his ignorance, and he was ordained a priest on 12 August 1815 in the Couvent des Minimes de Grenoble.

John-Marie Vianney was appointed as parish priest of the parish of Ars, a town of 230 inhabitants. As parish priest, Vianney realized that the Revolution’s aftermath had resulted in religious ignorance and indifference, due to the devastation wrought on the Catholic Church in France. At the time, Sundays in rural areas were spent working in the fields, or dancing and drinking in taverns. Through pastoral ministry, the sacrament of reconciliation and preaching, Vianney revived people’s faith.

Ministry coordinator: We have some applicants for the job. In the coming days we hope to complete the interview and selection process. Kindly pray that we find a faith-filled person who loves to minister to the people of God in our parish.

— Fr. Augustine

Pastor’s Note: August 2, 2015

A Letter From Fr. Don MacKinnon

 Dear Fr. Augustine,

Thanks again for the opportunity to pray with the folks at St. Augustine’s.  Our new Redemptorist approach to the icon of Mary of Perpetual Help has proven to be a great help to those who begin by gazing just two minutes a day.  In some, you can almost see the sacramental way of life open up for them.  My own personal testimony is that it’s blessed me in ways I didn’t dream of.  Of course, concelebrating with Msgr. Cardelli was the cap to the whole visit.

Much thanks also for your check.  As you can imagine, it will help a great deal.  I’m sure that our Rector, Fr. Tony, will gladly consider ways we might help you in the future.

To fine things ahead,

— Don MacKinnon

Pastor’s Note: July 26

The Fifth Commandment

In our modern society, it is not fashionable to speak about commandments, laws and regulations and let alone speak of God’s laws. Whether we ignore, scorn at or disregard, the Ten Commandments are necessary for a happy and holistic human life. They are the GPS for our relationship with God and with people.

This Sunday we celebrate the feast of Saints Joachim and Anne. By tradition they are considered to be the names of the parents of Mary, the Mother of Jesus. As we keep this feast it may be an occasion for us to meditate on the Fifth Commandment, Honor thy father and thy mother.” (Ex.20:12)

The ambivalence of our human situation is reflected in the practice of this commandment as well. Some weep because they have no parents, while others regret that they have parents and have to take care of them.

As we can see from the commandment, the need for caring for parents is from the dawn of human life. However, it is no secret that caring for the sick, the ailing and the elderly is a challenge of immense proportions in our times. I constantly experience it, as I visit the care homes, nursing facilities and the hospitals.

In the face of this challenge what is our response? Is it a response of love, gratitude and reverence? May be our parents made some mistakes (who does not make mistakes?), but they gave us life, they nurtured us as babies, and in lots of ways shaped our present, the person that we are.

I invite everyone to pray for their parents, both alive and deceased and spend some time today thanking God for your parents.

Expanding on this reflection on loving and honoring our parents, Father Freddy Thomas is a priest-in-residence at the Rectory. His father, Thomas, had a stroke and is partially paralyzed. Father Freddy has left for India, to take care of his Dad. Please keep his dad and the family in your prayers.

— Fr. Augustine

Pastor’s Note: July 19, 2015

Missionary Church

Jesus is the missionary sent by the Father to proclaim the kingdom of heaven from all eternity. He was born in a lowly place, supposedly, the son of a Carpenter. For most people Jesus was a ‘common kid around the block’. According to the Gospels his public ministry began at about the age of thirty.

Jesus was primarily a teacher (Rabbi) who preached repentance (change of heart) and the coming of God’s kingdom. Jesus’ missionary work took him from Galilee to Jerusalem and the surrounding region. He taught, preached, healed, and forgave during his earthly ministry. He was compassionate, kind and a very welcoming person.

During Jesus’ ministry there were people who did not like him. They did things to make his life miserable. Finally, they were able to nail him to a Cross after much torture. He died a common criminal’s death on a Cross. His enemies thought that was the end of it all. They were proven wrong; Jesus is risen. It was the beginning of it all – ‘our Christian Faith.’

Missionaries in the 21st century are not very different. They preach and teach, heal and forgive and bring God’s compassion and kindness to the people. They, too, experience rejection, opposition and hardship. If the Master had to endure it all, it cannot be very different for the disciple!

The weekend of August 8th and 9th Rev. Mount Joseph Selvan Durairaj S.J. who is now serving the diocese of Honolulu will be at our parish for Mission Appeal. Let us assist the missions with our prayers and with our resources.

Devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Help

Our Lady of Perpetual Help (also known as Our Lady of Perpetual Succour) is a Roman Catholic title of the Blessed Virgin Mary as represented in a celebrated 15th-century Byzantine icon. Due to the Redemptorist Priests, who had been appointed as both custodians and missionaries of this icon by Pope Pius IX in 1865, the image has become very popular among Roman Catholics in particular, and has been very much copied and reproduced. Modern reproductions are sometimes displayed in homes, business establishments, and public transportation.

Father Don MacKinnon, a Redemptorist priest, will be with us this weekend to present this devotion to the members of our parish.

— Fr. Augustine

Pastor’s Note: July 12, 2015

Thank You

One of the things that it is hard to deal with as a parish priest is the constant changes of personnel in the parish community and in the parish staff. I just get to know someone, work with them and they are either moved by their employer or retire to a different community or move to a home somewhere else for various reasons. Our community, as you well know, is somewhat of a transient community with lots of people coming and going.

I am not fond of good-byes. But I have also come to realize that they are inevitable. I try to deal with them in as orderly a fashion as possible in terms of staff transitions. Our part-time staff members Rebeccah Pelle, Jennifer Owens and Jenny Girard Malley will be moving on from staff positions. Their last day of service will be July 31st.  Together, with all the parishioners, I wish to thank them for their ministry at Saint Augustine Parish. They have touched the lives of many people in different ways. Only God really knows all the good they have done in the parish and may He reward them for their ministry and generosity. We wish them all the very best.

We are looking for a full-time staff person as ‘Ministry Coordinator.’ If anyone feels called to minister in the Church as a staff member, please find the advertisement in the bulletin.

I also realize that there are wonderful people who come, who would not have come unless someone had left. We have had changes in parish staffs that have resulted in wonderful replacements and new staff members who contribute their gifts to the community. We have profited from new parishioners moving into our parish, with some new ideas, new energy, new experiences and a willingness to share with our community something of what the Lord has been doing in their lives up til now. What a wonderful grace for us all!

And finally, I realize that none of us here on earth, has a lasting city. One day we shall all be moving on, and not just to a new community or a new house. We will all one day be moving on to the full realization of the Kingdom of God in heaven. Our movings about here on earth are but a sign of that ultimate move.

Moving is usually accompanied by some stress – for everyone involved. We pray to the Lord to make our final move as stress-free as possible – that we may willingly and joyfully go forward to our new home in our renewed community, where, with the Lord Jesus and all the saints of God, we shall dwell forever – all moving finished.

— Fr. Augustine

Pastor’s Note: July 5, 2015

Thank you Bishop Barber: As a parish community we want to thank Bishop Barber for presiding at the Holy Mass and blessing the daily Mass chapel. We pray that the Lord continues to bless your leadership and ministry at our Church.

Saint Thomas the Apostle, called Didymus, (which means “the twin”) was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ, according to the New Testament. He is informally called “doubting Thomas” because he doubted Jesus’ resurrection when first told, (in the Gospel of John), followed later by his confession of faith, “My Lord and my God”, on seeing Jesus’ wounded body.

Traditionally, he is said to have travelled outside the Roman Empire to preach the Gospel, traveling as far as India. According to tradition, the Apostle reached Muziris, or present day Kodungallur, a town situated 18 miles north of Kochi, India, in AD 52 and baptized several people, who today are known as Saint Thomas Christians or Nasranis. After his death, the reputed relics of Saint Thomas the Apostle were enshrined as far as Mesopotamia in the third century, and later moved to various places. In 1258, some of the relics were brought to Abruzzo in Ortona, Italy, where they have been held in the Church of Saint Thomas the Apostle. He is the Patron Saint of India, and the name Thomas remains quite popular among Saint Thomas Christians of India.

Freedom: As our nation celebrates July 4th, we are all made aware of the freedoms we enjoy. Most of the time we speak about freedom from: oppression, dictatorship, tyranny, violence, or from prejudices like racism, sexism, etc. Freedom as liberation from these and other restricting factors will not be lasting if one fails to understand freedom as the ability to do well. Freedom is not licentiousness for personal gratification without considering the good of others.

True freedom is our ability to serve the people in need and a willingness to contribute to the betterment of our human society. Today, with the growth in ecological sciences, we are further made to understand freedom as ‘taking care of God’s creation.’ As Pope Francis states in the Encyclical, Laudato si,  ‘we are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis, which is both social and environmental. Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature.’ (§139)

— Fr. Augustine

 

Pastor’s Note: June 28, 2015

Welcome Bishop Barber SJ

Saint Augustine Church, Oakland, welcomes Bishop Barber and thanks him for his leadership. May God continue to bless your Ministry to the People of God.

A Peek at the New Encyclical

The encyclical is titled “Laudato Si’: On the Care of Our Common Home,” which translates “praised be,” the first words of St. Francis’ “Canticle of the Creatures.” “Laudato si” is the introductory phrase to eight verses of St. Francis of Assisi’s famous prayer thanking God for the gifts of creation.

“Praised be you, my Lord, with all your creatures, especially Sir Brother Sun, who is the day, and through whom you give us light,” one of the first lines says. The prayer also praises God for the gifts of “Sister Moon,” “Brother Wind,” “Sister Water,” “Brother Fire” and “Sister Mother Earth.”

More than fifty years ago, with the world teetering on the brink of nuclear crisis, Pope Saint John XXIII wrote an Encyclical which not only rejected war but offered a proposal for peace. He addressed his message Pacem in Terris to the entire “Catholic world” and indeed “to all men and women of good will”.

Pope Francis says, “now, faced as we are with global environmental deterioration, I wish to address every person living on this planet. In my Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (Joy of the Gospel), I wrote to all the members of the Church with the aim of encouraging ongoing missionary renewal. In this Encyclical, I would like to enter into dialogue with all people about our common home, earth.’

It cannot be emphasized enough how everything is interconnected. Time and space are not independent of one another, and not even atoms or subatomic particles can be considered in isolation. Just as the different aspects of the planet – physical, chemical and biological – are interrelated, so, too, living species are part of a network which we will never fully explore and understand. A good part of our genetic code is shared by many living beings. It follows that the fragmentation of knowledge and the isolation of bits of information can actually become a form of ignorance, unless they are integrated into a broader vision of reality. – (§138)

We are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis which is both social and environmental. Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature”. – (§139)

— Fr. Augustine

Pastor’s Note: June 21, 2015

Daily Mass Chapel

Holy Mass is the sum, substance and the summit of our Catholic Christian worship. Our spiritual life begins and attains fruition in the Holy Eucharist. The Holy Eucharist gives strength to the wayfarer, nourishment to the pilgrim and solace and comfort to the sojourner.

Over the years people have loved to begin their day with the Holy Mass. My dad had been a daily communicant for the last 25 years until he was weakened and bedridden. He used to walk about a mile, rain or shine, to the Church and if, for some reason he could not, he used to say that his day was not the same!

In our parish, too, we have the faithful who attend daily Mass. They may be few in number, but their prayers, dedication and commitment is an inspiration to all. They pray for us and for the intentions of our Church and our world, and their example leads us on to a better living of our faith.

The Altar

 An altar is any structure upon which offerings such as sacrifices and worship are made for religious purposes. Altars are usually found at shrines, and they can be located in temples, churches and other places of worship. It is a tradition of the Roman liturgy to place relics of martyrs or other saints inside the altar.

The altar in our daily Mass chapel contains a relic of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux. She was a French Discalced Carmelite nun. She is popularly known as “The Little Flower of Jesus” or, simply, “The Little Flower”.

Thérèse has been a highly influential model of sanctity for Catholics and for others because of the “simplicity and practicality of her approach to the spiritual life”. Together with St. Francis of Assisi, she is one of the most popular saints in the history of the church. Pope Pius X called her “the greatest saint of modern times”.

Thérèse lived a hidden life and “wanted to be unknown”, yet became popular after her death through her spiritual autobiography – “The story of a Soul”. She also left letters, poems, religious plays, prayers, and her last conversations were recorded by her sisters. Paintings and photographs – mostly the work of her sister Céline – further led to her being recognized by millions of men and women.

Thérèse said on her death-bed, “I only love simplicity. I have a horror of pretense”, and she spoke out against some of the claims made concerning the lives of saints written in her day, “We should not say improbable things, or things we do not know. We must see their real, and not their imagined lives.”

The depth of her spirituality, of which she said, “my way is all confidence and love”, has inspired many believers. In the face of her littleness she trusted in God to be her sanctity. She wanted to go to heaven by an entirely new little way. “I wanted to find an elevator that would raise me to Jesus”. The elevator, she wrote, would be the arms of Jesus lifting her in all her littleness.

— Fr. Augustine