Past Letters from The Pastor

September 23rd, 2018

My Kingdom Come
The Lord’s Prayer (also called the Our Father or Pater Noster) is a venerated Christian prayer which, according to the New Testament, Jesus taught as the way to pray:

“Pray then in this way” … (Matthew 6:9 NRSV)

“When you pray, say” … (Luke 11:2 NRSV)

Two versions of this prayer are recorded in the gospels: a longer form within the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew, and a shorter form in the Gospel of Luke when “one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray as John taught his disciples.” Lutheran theologian Harold Buls suggested that both were original: the Matthaen version spoken by Jesus early in His ministry in Galilee, and the Lucan version one year later, “very likely in Judea”.

In the first part of the prayer we pray: ‘hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’

In our current culture people want their own Kingdoms built. All our efforts at personal success, achievements, and profits are ample testaments to this fact. All the achievements of science and technology, our marvelous cities and monuments, speak volumes. Humans have established many kingdoms and continue to do so. A question may arise, has “my kingdom” got any place in the Lord’ Prayer?

The prayer does not in any way speak of total self-abnegation as reflected, may be, in a hermetical life. It invites us to build our own kingdom but according to God’s will. That is the secret of a happy Christian life. A Christian is not one who runs away from the challenges of day to day life; rather one who is searching God’s will in all things and tries to carry it out to the full.

Doing God’s will does necessarily involve the Cross. That is why Jesus said “If any want to become My followers let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23)

 

September 9th and 16th, 2018

Bishop Barber’s recent statement on the current Clergy Sexual Abuse Scandal in the Church.

When I visited UC-Berkeley earlier this year and met with a large group of Catholic students for a discussion, the first question they asked me was, “What do I tell my Catholic friend who no longer practices his faith because of the scandals in the Church?” Many Catholics have had their faith shaken by the recent revelations in Pennsylvania, the scandalous behavior of an American cardinal and the recent letter from the former Apostolic Nuncio to the United States. Here’s how I answered the students. When the famous English theologian and academic John Henry Newman converted to the Catholic Faith in 1845, his closest Anglican friends asked him, “How can you join a Church which has such a history of corruption?” He responded that the Church is a Divine institution in human hands. And humans are sinners. He also said that Christ himself knew there would be sin and corruption in the Church, therefore he purposefully chose Judas Iscariot as one of his apostles. So we can trace corruption right back to the origin, yet also show that “Where sin prevails, grace prevails all the more.” Christ also preached the parable of the wheat and weeds, to show that both would exist in the Church.

Yet that’s not the end of the story. Christ has destroyed sin, and death.

I also told the students that I’ve been in the Navy Reserve for 27 years. Every year about 50 admirals, generals and commanding officers of ships and bases are removed for misbehavior, ethical violations, criminal activity or “loss of confidence in ability to command.” Yet we do not dismiss all commanders as criminal. One of my duties as chaplain is to visit the brig: the “jail” on a ship or Navy base.

Many of the prisoners are serving sentences for child abuse in their own families. Yet we do not say all sailors and Marines are abusers. We don’t say the Navy and Marine Corps is evil. No. We point out that the majority of sailors and Marines, and soldiers and airmen, are good and loyally serve our country every day, putting their lives on the line in many instances. In addition, we have real heroes in the military and recognize them with the Congressional Medal of Honor. So too in the Church. The majority of our priests serve you faithfully every day in every parish in our dioceses. We have heroes in the Church we call saints: like Mother Teresa and St. John Paul II. There is no excuse for the priests who have committed crimes against innocent children. There is no excuse for bishops who have covered up these crimes or abetted them by transferring abusers to other parishes. This is evil. The difference between the military and the church is that the military has a good accountability system. The Church does not. And we need to fix that now. I endorse the call of Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the US bishops, to the Holy Father to establish an independent, lay-led review board that will address complaints against bishops.

In regards to the scandal of Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick and the revelations of Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, we need such a board or commission to find the truth.

Perhaps this could be the existing National Review Board. Whatever group is set up, it needs to find out “who knew what, and when did they know it?”

They need access to all the relevant documents, most of which are protected as “Papal Secrets.” They need to interview priests who worked in the Roman Curia and U.S. diocesan offices, who also would be released from the “Papal Secret” and allowed to testify. We need to find out the truth. Only the truth will set us free. And only the pope can authorize the steps that need to be taken to find the truth. But there is action I can take as bishop of our diocese. In Oakland, I am calling for an independent outside audit of our Diocesan Review Board policies, to ensure we are faithfully following the precepts of the Dallas Charter, the procedures to investigate sexual abuse by clergy. I also am going to review the membership of the current Diocesan Review Board to make sure it has the number of lay experts we need in the fields of law enforcement, the judiciary, par-ents, and clinical professional specializing in treatment of childhood trauma and survivors.

— Bishop Michael Barber, S.J. (Reprinted from the Catholic Voice, September 3, 2018)

September 2nd, 2018

We had a great celebration of the Feast of Saint Augustine. It was wonderful to see parishioners coming together in prayer, love and sharing. The weather, too, was pleasant. I want to thank all those who worked behind the scenes, the members of the parish Pastoral Council, especially the president Courtenay Redis and all the members of the parish staff; our minister coordinator, Karen Glen, made sure that all the activities were well organized. There were also members from the Finance Committee and other committees present. Thank you to all.

Devastating Flood in Kerala, India
Many parishioners have been asking me about the flood situation in south India. The monsoon rains have caused great destruction and suffering to the people of Kerala in India. Some parts of the state received 160% more rain than the average rainfall. It caused massive landslides; flood waters have inundated towns and cities across the state. More than 400 people are reported to have died and, as the waters recede, the numbers are likely to go up. Many animals, too, died in this great devastation. It has been a flood of apocalyptic proportions!

It is the biggest calamity that has befallen the state since the great flood of 1924. We would like to reach out and help the people.

The flood has rendered about a million people homeless and they are now in relief camps. Most people have lost everything. To make matters worse, they do not have insurance. All sorts of in-frastructures, like water supplies, roads, electricity, etc. are disrupted. There is a serious danger of dis-ease outbreaks.
We hope to reach out and help these people who are in real need.

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Congratulations to all our parishioners. We have raised over $10,000 for the refugee co-sponsorship program. Thank you for your great generosity.

Book Club
Our book club will be starting during the first week of September – on Tuesday September 4th at 1:00 PM and on September 7th at 7:00 PM. There are about twenty six members who have signed up so far. Anyone else wanting to join is most welcome. The book we are reading is the Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis, Gaudete et Exsultate (Rejoice and Be Glad).

 

August 26th, 2018

World Today

Watching the news can be very depressing! Our own state, California, is battling many fires. There are earthquakes in Indonesia, terrorist attacks in different parts of the world, wars, and the struggles of immigrants and refugees. Adding to all of these is the constant political bickering and clashes.
Then, there are the ongoing scandals in the Church; the unfolding of the moral failures and crimes of Church ministers, especially priests and bishops. It calls for courageous structural changes within the church and personal conversions.

What is the meaning of it all? How do we deal with it? Of course, there are no easy answers. However, an important way to approach them is through prayer. The way prayer helps is not always in the way we think about it. Once in a while there may be a miracle; but that is rare.

Prayer makes us realize that even in the midst of most hopeless situations God is present. It trans-forms us into agents of hope, love and action. Prayer removes the bystander attitude of being a passive spectator. Prayer rids us of negativity and cynicism and allows grace or positive energy to fill our hearts. Prayer infuses the fortitude to get involved, to bring help and do what is in our power to make the situation better.

“Send out your Spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth!”
“He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then He said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Revelation, 21:5)

Devastating Flood in Kerala, India

Many parishioners have been asking me about the flood situation in South India. The monsoon rains have caused great destruction and suffering to the people of Kerala in India. Some parts of the state received 87% more rain than the average rainfall. It caused massive landslides; flood waters have inundated towns and cities across the state. More than 400 people are reported to have died and, as the waters recede, the numbers are likely to go up. Many animals, too, died in this great devastation. It has been a flood of apocalyptic proportions!

The flood has rendered about a million people homeless and they are now in relief camps. All sorts of infrastructures like water supply sources, roads, electricity, etc. are disrupted. There is a seri-ous danger of disease outbreaks.

It is the biggest calamity that has befallen the state since the great flood of 1924.

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“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)

Congratulations to all our parishioners. We have raised $8,877 for the refugee family co-sponsorship program. Our target is $10,000. Happy Feast of Saint Augustine.

 

August 19th, 2018

Parish News

Refugee Sponsor Program
On Thursday, August 9, some members of our parish joined the members of Catholic Charities of the East Bay at Oakland Airport to welcome the Khan family. They arrived around midnight looking cheerful and happy, though tired. In the Gospel Jesus says, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” (Matt.25, 43) It is this spirit of welcome that is the hallmark of our parish. Now it extends even outside the parish boundaries! I want to congratulate all parishioners for their support and prayers. In a special way I want to acknowledge the Young Adults of our parish who took the initiative and em-braced it enthusiastically. With youth is power and, once again, they have proven it!

Our fund raising effort has reached $4,187. Our goal is to collect $10,000 which would provide sup-port of the family with housing for about three months. Karen Glen is coordinating all these efforts. I want to congratulate and thank her for doing a wonderful job.

Parish Feast
We are celebrating the feast of Saint Augustine on Sunday, August 26th at the 10:30 AM Holy Mass. There will be only one Holy Mass on that day; there will be no 8:00 AM or 6:00 PM Masses.
It is a great opportunity for the parishioners to come together and celebrate with prayer, singing, food, games and fun. We need the participation of everyone to make it a real celebration. There is a sign-up board at the back of the Church. Those who are able to help with the different activities, kindly sign up.

Book Club
Our book club will be starting during the first week of September – on Tuesday September 4th at 1:00 PM, and, on September 7th, at 7:00 PM. There are about twenty six members who have signed up so far. Anyone else wanting to join is most welcome. The book we are reading is the “Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis, Gaudete et Exsultate (Rejoice and Be Glad)“.

 

August 12th, 2018

Homily by Father Joseph Pellegrino

Today’s Gospel reading, the third of the five Sundays from the Sixth chapter of the Gospel of John, begins with the Jews murmuring. That’s a great word, murmur. It’s an onomatopoeia, a word that sounds like its meaning, like screech, or bloop, or splash, or grunt, or giggle, etc. Murmur. Mom makes a large meatloaf on Sunday. On Monday it returns to the table with red sauce on it. On Tuesday it’s mixed in with vegetables, and all the family murmurs. Or school starts on a Wednesday, and on Friday the teacher assigns two hours of homework, and among the students there is murmuring. The Hebrews of the Bible were world class murmurers, especially those who lived in the times of Moses and the Exodus from Egypt. These people murmured because the Pharaoh increased their work load. It was all Moses’ fault they said angrily. They murmured when they camped next to the Red Sea and heard that the Pharaoh’s chariots were approaching. They murmured when they had no bread, or no meat, or no water. You would have thought that they would have had faith in God who had cared for their every need, but no, instead of faith there was murmuring. The murmuring of the Jews of the Exodus was recalled in the murmuring of the Jews in the beginning of today’s Gospel. They complained about Jesus. He had fed them with loaves and fish, but now He said that He was all the bread they needed. He was the Bread of Life that came down from heaven. They were convinced that He did not come down from heaven. They said that they knew his family. And they would have been correct if that was all there was to Jesus. If He were simply human, He could not be the Bread from heaven. He could not give them that which was infinitely greater than the Bread their ancestors ate, the manna. To accept the gift of the Bread of Life, they had to first accept that Jesus was more than human. He was Divine.

This is the same for us. To understand the miracle and mystery of communion, our starting point must be that Jesus is Divine, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. He gives us who He is, Eternal Life. Our Founding Fathers, Washington, Adams, Franklin, Jefferson, etc, gave us liberty, but they were not liberty. Abraham Lincoln gave the slaves freedom, but he was not freedom. But Jesus gave the Bread of the Eternal Life because He is the Bread of Life. He is not just a great man. He is Divine. The Bread of Life is Jesus, our Divine Sustenance. And we take Him into ourselves. When we receive the Eucharist, we are united to Him, to each other and to the whole Body of Christ…. This is Jesus who unites Himself to Us with His Body and Blood. This is the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Eternal Son of the Father, who humbled Himself to become one of us, to die for us, and then gave the gift of His Life and Death, to us in the form to the Blessed Sacrament. This is Jesus whom we will take into ourselves today when we receive communion.

We don’t murmur.

We proclaim.

— Homily by Father Joseph Pellegrino

August 5th, 2018

Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA)
Christianity is about 2000 years young in contrast to Islam which is about 1300 years old. What makes Christianity a young religion? It is its ability to continuously renew itself.

If we look at the Christianity of the first century AD it is very different from the Christianity of today; just as if we compare the people of first century AD they are very different from the people of 21st century. Review-ing the history of Christianity one finds that the Church has had its share of sins, abuses, scandals and wrongdoings. It is similar to the history of humanity with all its inhumanity, injustices, racisms, discriminations, prejudices, bigotries and so on.

However, the Church finds the courage and strength to correct the wrongs and continues to do so in the midst of many challenges. That is the working of the Holy Spirit. Lots of times we lose sight of it and become cynical or discouraged.
Although the Christianity of today may look differ-ent, its faith and teachings have not changed substantially. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8) Being a Christian basically means accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and savior.

Christianity is the Good News of salvation. It spreads from people to people, from family to family, from friends to friends. Do we not want to share good news with family and friends? It is this sharing of the Good News, led by the Holy Spirit, that keeps Christianity a young religion.

RCIA, too, is sharing our faith with others! It is the mission/task of the entire parish. It is not limited to the priest or the RCIA team in the parish. We are beginning RCIA in the parish. I am inviting every member to get involved in it.
RCIA meets on Wednesday at 6:30 PM and on Sun-days after the 10:30 AM Mass. If you are invited to share your faith, please do not hesitate, but, willingly embrace the opportunity. Also, take time to meet the candidates and make them feel welcome.

Kindly pray for the RCIA members and the team leaders that this faith journey will lead them all to an encounter with the living Lord, Jesus Christ. May Mary, the mother of Jesus, and all the saints assist us with their prayers!

 

July 29th, 2018

Parish News

Electronic Fund Transfer (EFT)
It is an easy and convenient way of contributing to the Church. I want to thank the many parishioners who use EFT for their Sunday offerings. However, some of them have expressed their feeling that when collection takers approach them, it may appear that they are not putting any offering into the collection basket. To remedy this situation the parish has created EFT plastic cards. You are welcome to pick them up before the Holy Mass begins and drop them into the collection basket as the ushers come around to take up the collection. The plastic card identifies you as an EFT donor.

Parish Pastoral Council Retreat
We are holding a retreat for the members of the parish Pastoral Council at Saint Alberts’s Priory on Saturday, August 4th. Please keep the members of the Pastoral Council in your prayers. They make a great sacrifice serving our community in different ways. I want to thank all of them in the name of our parish community.

Feast of Saint Augustine
We will be celebrating the Feast of Saint Augustine on Sunday, August 26th with Holy Mass at 10:30 AM. There will only be one Holy Mass on that day. The Parish Council is directly responsible for organizing the festivities. All the members of our parish are invited to come together in prayer and celebration. It is important that we, members of our Church, know each one and build friendships and spend time together in fellowship, fun and pastime.

Saint Augustine is a great theologian and one of the Fathers of the Church. He cradled the infant Church and introduced her into the Greco-Roman world through his preaching and especially through his writings. His writings were greatly influenced by the philosophy of Plato.

Support for Immigrants and Refugees
There will be a presentation on the topic by Catholic Charities on Monday, August 6th at 7:00 PM in our Church. We are all appalled by the plight of the immigrants and refugees. As the Scripture says “you were once aliens and refugees…” It is our turn to help. It is our privilege and a sign of our gratitude to share the lot of the suffering and needy. May God bless you all for your outstanding generosity and kindness.
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July 22nd, 2018

Sacred Language

A sacred language is often the language which was spoken and written in the society in which a religion’s sacred texts were first set down; however, these texts thereafter become fixed and “holy”, remaining frozen and immune to later linguistic developments. Once a language becomes associated with religious worship, its believers may ascribe virtues to the language of worship that they would not give to their native tongues.

A sacred language is typically vested with a solemnity and dignity that the vernacular – people think – lacks. Consequently, the training of clergy in the use of a sacred language becomes an important cultural in-vestment, and their use of the tongue is perceived to give them access to a body of knowledge that un-trained lay people cannot (or should not) access. In medieval Europe, the (real or putative) ability to read scripture—which was in Latin—was considered a prerogative of the priesthood, and a benchmark of literacy; until near the end of the period almost all who could read and write could do so in Latin.

In some cases, the sacred language is a dead lan-guage. In other cases, it may simply re-flect archaic forms of a living language. In more ex-treme cases, the language has changed so much from the language of the sacred texts that the liturgy is no longer comprehensible without special training.

In Hinduism Sanskrit is the sacred language since it is used in most rituals and liturgies. All the Hindu religious text are written in Sanskrit thousands of years ago. Buddhism considers both Pali and Sanskrit as sacred languages.

Biblical Hebrew is the Holy Language for Jews. It is the traditional language of Jewish religious services, although its usage may vary by denomination.

Christian rites, rituals, and ceremonies are not celebrated in one single sacred language. The Churches which trace their origin to the Apostles continued to use the standard languages of the first few centuries AD.

European Churches used Latin for a long time for liturgy. Liturgical or sacred languages for some of the
Churches are the following: Greek Churches use Greek, Slavic churches use Slavic languages, Armenian in Armenian Churches, Coptic in Egyptian churches, Ge’ez in Ethiopian Churches, Syriac in Syrian Churches or Saint Thomas Churches etc.

For Islam classical Arabic is the sacred language or liturgical language.

Is there a sacred language for all humanity irre-spective of religious differences?
Two stories is the Bible may help one to get an in-sight into this matter. Book of Genesis narrates the efforts of a people who sought to challenge God’s authority by building a tower high enough to reach heaven. God responded by reducing humanity to a Babel of languages, unable to understand each other or work together. (Genesis 11:1-9) Here language become a sources of conflict, war, hatred and discrimination. Language seems to have lost its sacredness!

However language was redeemed at Pentecost. The Acts of the Apostles describes how when the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit, people of every language group understood them. (Acts 2: 1-13) Now the sacredness of language seems to have been restored. A language is sacred when it helps understanding and promotes faith, hope and love. It is the language that ennobles, builds bridges, and brings out the best in a human person.

The language of civility, politeness and Good Manners is our sacred language. Unfortunately, lots of our public and private discourses seem to lack them. Do our news media or social media promote vulgar language? It time for us to restore sacredness to our language.

 

July 15th, 2018

Be a Light

Jesus is the missionary send 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 He was a ‘common kid around the block’. According to the Gospels, His public ministry be-gan 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 His 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 it 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 for-give and bring God’s compassion and kind-ness 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!

This weekend our parish is hosting Mission Appeal. Let us assist the missions with our prayers and resources.
The needs of the missions are many and varied. It is preaching the Gospel, bringing education to the people, taking care of basic heath and hygiene. In short, a missionary is overwhelmed with every human situation. As Saint Paul says, “To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have be-come all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” (1 Cor. 9:22)

 

July 1st and 8th, 2018

Be a Light

We are in the midst of social and cultural upheavals. It is not anything totally new. Every era, every age has its own challenges. To put it in Charles Dickens words, “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…” (A Tale of Two Cities)

Watching TV or the news gives one such a feeling of paradox. We have great achievements in science and technology and millions of people around the world are enjoying a greater quality of life than ever before. However, the problems of immigration, refugees, war, violence, the faces of suffering people, crying babies, etc. continue to haunt us.

All these can be disheartening or they can be a wakeup call. Instead of feeling helpless each of us is asked to do what we can. As the adage goes, “it is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.”

Together with the Catholic Charities of the East Bay, our parish wants to help the immigrants. We would like to sponsor a family for 3 months. It requires $8,000. We would hand over the sum to Catholic Charities for the care of the family.

It is praise-worthy that the Young Adult Group of our parish has already come forward to participate in the mission. Also, some members of our parish have expressed the desire to form a committee/group that can work for the welfare of the immigrants and refugees as well as for social justice. If any members of our Church would like join such a committee, kindly contact the parish office with your name, phone number and email address.

Christian Faith is all about helping people, especially the weak and unfortunate of our society. “‘If any of your fellow [men] become poor and are unable to support themselves among you, help them as you would a foreigner and stranger, so they can continue to live among you…” (Leviticus 25:35)

“The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 19:34).

“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing, some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:2)

June 24th, 2018

In the Name of God

There are only three Birthdays’ celebrated in the Church liturgically – Christmas, Birth of Mary, the Mother of Jesus and the Birthday of John the Baptist. This Sunday is the nativity of John the Baptist.

John the Baptist has been described as a prophet, who prepared the way of the Lord. A prophet is the mouthpiece of God; prophets speak in the name of God. They are the conscience of a community, who speaks up courageously against injustice and immorality.

Is there a difference between ethics and morality? Ethics deals with the rightness and wrongness of human behavior. It primarily deals with external or observable human behavior. It provides principles and guidelines for right human behavior. Golden rule is, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” (Matt. 7:12) However, ethics need not be based on any particular religion, tradition or culture.

Morality is the differentiation of intentions, decisions and actions between those that are distinguished as proper and those that are improper. Morality can be a body of standards or principles derived from a code of conduct from a particular philosophy, religion or culture, or it can derive from a standard that a person believes should be universal.

In our general conversations we use the word moral and morality more often than the word ethics. Often religion sanctions that accompanies morality make it a powerful tool. So we have people who claim to speak in the name of God; rulers who claim to represent God or act in God’s name; there are people who commit mass murder in the name of God. The history of our human race in littered with wars, violence, terrorism, injustice and oppression all committed in the name of God. Sadly it continues to be so even in our own times, in 21st century!

But there is a real difference between all those imposters who claim to speak in the name of God and the prophets who spoke in God’s name. The prophets who spoke in the name of God surrendered their very lives in the service of God, doing no harm to people around them. John the Baptist was beheaded because he pointed out the immoral behavior of the ruler, Herod. Jesus was crucified because he offended the religious authorities of his time. People like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King fared no better.

On the other hand, there are people who claim to speak or act in the name of God; they are willing to kill others to uphold moral norms and their beliefs while suffering little inconvenience themselves. Such atrocities are a clear proof that they are not speaking in God’s name. There are others who try to justify their carnages or evil rules by quoting religious texts. Well, even the devil can quote scriptures! (Matt.4:5-7)

John the Baptist invites us to stand up for truth and speak against, evil, injustice and immorality even at the cost of our very lives.

June 17th, 2018

Church, People of God

It may be quite legitimate to ask: what makes people go to Church? What makes them participate in Holy Mass?

I was in a Church at North Carolina; a Sunday Mass packed to capacity and overflowing; about 800 people, mostly white people, devoutly attending Holy Mass. Majority were not older folks, but young and middle aged. I was taken up by their respect and reverence in the Church and the way people conducted themselves. Priest was an older gentleman; homily was mediocre, music was lousy, yet the Church was full. I looked at their various ministries; they were similar to what is in most other Catholic Churches.

Obviously it was not the preaching nor the music that attracted these people. It was a far cry from oft repeated slogans one hears: ‘if the preaching is good, lots of people will come to Church’; if the music is good it will attract people; ‘if there are novel programs, people will flock to Church, and so on. The Church I visited claim to have no such extraordinary feats!

This Church still kept the communion rails, although not used for receiving Holy Communion. It had the pulpit from where the priest preached. It had quite a few statues of saints adorning its walls; there were devotional chapels for lighting candles. In short it was a beautiful Church built at the turn of 20th century and still exhibited the glories of classical Church architecture. It appeared to be a joyous place to pray.

So what attraction is there in such a Church? Probably people felt it as a place where they commune with God, grow in their spiritual life in the community of their brothers and sisters; a place where they can live the commandment, “love the Lord your God…and love your neighbor…”

Church is the people of God, as Vatican II points out. In Church we find ourselves while conferring with the Lord and the community. We do not go to Church for something except for ourselves. As the airplane announcement says, ‘first take care of yourself and then care for others.’ That is why I go to Church, “to care for myself and then to care for others.”

 

June 10th, 2018

Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, PA

Today marks the first time the Church will celebrate a Sunday of “ordinary time” since February 11th, almost four months ago. In the meantime, of course, we have observed the seasons of Lent and Easter, and then at the conclusion of the Easter season we celebrated three other great feasts on Sundays: Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, and Corpus Christi. Following these celebrations the Church now settles into the long ecclesial summertime that leads us back to the beginning of the next liturgical year, which begins this year on December 2nd, the first Sunday of Advent. While it may seems as though the first reading today from Genesis is therefore a natural place to start our post-Easter reflections? Beginning at the beginning?

It is actually a coincidence, since the Old Testament readings for ordinary time cover a wide range of topics and historical eras before we hear from Genesis on this tenth Sunday of the season. The focus of the Church is much more intent and systematic on the gospel, and that brings us to the third chapter of Mark where Jesus has been preaching the Kingdom, healing many who were sick, and casting out demons. Jesus has been exercising his ministry in the region around his home base of Capernaum, along the Sea of Galilee.

Just as he relaxes briefly in the home he used another large crowd arrived including scribes from Jerusalem who assert: “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “By the prince of demons he drives out demons” (Mark 3:22). These charges sound grasping and even jealous: his enemies are themselves so amazed by what Jesus has been doing that they cannot possibly deny his power; they are reduced, rather, to claiming that his power has a sinister origin.

This refusal to see the hand of God at work in Jesus is the fatal mistake that will lead to their condemnation, and that will be the factor determining whether generations of people even to the present day find salvation or condemnation in him. Jesus himself explains this immediately after he is accused of being in league with evil: he asks rhetorically, “How can Satan drive out Satan?…if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand; that is the end of him” (Mark 3:23, 26). In other words, anyone should be able to see that those who act against evil cannot be in alliance with evil at the same time? Thus the scribes? Accusation that Jesus was casting out demons by the prince of demons was ridiculous.

Seeing how his actions were badly misinterpreted by his enemies, Jesus emphasizes what it takes to be his true and faithful disciple: those who attribute his teaching and power to unclean sources have closed themselves off forever from his goodness, but those who hear his word and keep it, even if their efforts are imperfect, are the ones who find in him life, forgiveness, renewal, and redemption. As the Lord himself taught so forcefully: “looking around at those seated in the circle he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother?” (Mark 3:34-35).

As we forge into the summertime of the Church year let it be our resolve to turn away from the pattern of sin forecast in Genesis and exemplified by the scribes in the gospel, so that with all God’s holy people we might be numbered among the sisters and brothers of the Lord, saying always with the Psalmist: “With the Lord there is mercy, and fullness of redemption” (Ps 130:7).

— Father Edward Mazich, O.S.B.

 

June 3rd, 2018

Feast of Corpus Christi

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, historically known by its Latin name, Corpus Christi, celebrates the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist-Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. It is traditionally celebrated on the Thursday following the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity. The feast dates to the Middle Ages and originated with a visionary nun and a Eucharistic miracle where the bread became real flesh dripping blood.

The institution of Corpus Christi as a feast in the Christian calendar resulted from approximately forty years of work on the part of Juliana of Liège, a 13th century Norbertine canoness, also known as Juliana de Cornillon, born in 1191 or 1192 in Liège, Belgium.

In 1208, she reported her first vision of Christ in which she was instructed to plead for the institution of the feast of Corpus Christi. The vision was repeated for the next 20 years but she kept it a secret. When she eventually relayed it to her confessor, he relayed it to the bishop.

 

May 27th, 2018

Feast of the Most Holy Trinity

Feast of the Holy Trinity, also called Trinity Sunday, is a feast in honor of the Trinity. It is celebrated in the Christian churches on the Sunday following Pentecost (the 50th day after Easter). It is known that the feast was celebrated on this day from as early as the 10th century. Celebration of the feast gradually spread in the churches of Northern Europe, and in 1334 Pope John XXII approved it for the entire church.

The doctrine of the Trinity is foundational to the Christian faith. It is crucial for properly understanding what God is like, how He relates to us, and how we should relate to Him. But it also raises many difficult questions. How can God be both one and three? Is the Trinity a contradiction? If Jesus is God, why do the Gospels record instances where he prayed to God?

What does it mean for God to be three in one?
The doctrine of the Trinity means that there is one God who eternally exists as three distinct Persons – the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Stated differently, God is one in essence and three in person. These definitions express three crucial truths: (1) the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are distinct Persons, (2) each Person is fully God, and (3) there is only one God. This formulation can show us why there are not three Gods, and why the Trinity is not a contradiction. How is God one? He is one in essence. How is God three? He is three in Person. Essence and person are not the same thing. God is one in a certain way (essence) and three in a different way (person).

How does the doctrine of Trinity affect us? Trinity shows God is the communion of three persons. Church or ecclesia is a communion of persons. Church represents the reality of God here on earth. That is what Jesus meant when he said. “… Where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matt.18:20)

There is a tendency among some people to dismiss Church as a human invention. It is particularly so among people who say, ‘I am spiritual but not religious.’ Well, Church is more than that! It is the manifestation of the divine here on earth.

First Holy Communion: Next Sunday, June 3rd we have the First Holy Communion of eleven of our Children. It is a very joyous occasion for our Church. We congratulate the children and their families and pray that God gives them the grace to lead good and holy lives. I want to thank the teachers and the community that prepared the children for this momentous event with their prayers and support.

 

May 20th, 2018

Happy Birth Day – 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
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.

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

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

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

Amen

May 13th, 2018

The Ascension of the Lord

In the last chapter of Mark’s gospel, we hear the Risen Lord issuing to us a solemn challenge: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” This is not so much a call for proselytizing as it is a reminder that we should want to share the wonderful gift of faith with which we have been endowed. If we realize how important this wisdom of Jesus is for ourselves, we will never tire of offering it to others. The mysterious signs that will accompany those who believe are surely to be interpreted symbolically.

The ability to cast out demons, or to speak in new languages, or to be immune to poison, or to heal the sick represent the spiritual effects of a living and dynamic faith. The positive and hopeful witness of the believer will overcome the negative and destructive influence of those forces that represent the dark and chaotic powers that constantly attempt to destroy the harmony and goodness of God’s creation. Life Implications When we recognize this symbolic interpretation of the effects of living faith in our lives, we discover that vibrant faith has the power to enable us to make the spiritual journey through life successfully. In biblical times, dangerous serpents often lay along the path of those traveling on foot. Drinking from unfamiliar wells could also lead to a fatal illness, such as a new strain of typhoid to which one had not become immune. On the spiritual journey of faith, these would represent the two most dangerous challenges to face us, namely, cynicism and despair.

Our journey to God is especially threatened by a negative and destructive spirit, which contradicts the wisdom of unselfish love and makes fun of those who would live by such wisdom. The reference to healing hands in the present text refers to the comforting and healing presence of believers who offer the ill a witness of hope that transcends all our fears of sickness and mortality. Sometimes the laying on of hands can bring recovery, but this passage refers more likely to a spiritual presence that gives ultimate encouragement to those who are fearful about the uncertainty that their illness brings to their lives. When we offer to the ill a sense of God’s presence and love, we also give them an assurance that no threat in this life can withstand the power of God’s goodness.

The ability to deal successfully with all these problems in our fragile lives comes, therefore, from the power of a loving God who can never forget or abandon us. We are told that Jesus was “taken up into heaven,” but we also hear that “the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word (of the gospel) through accompanying signs.” The clear implication is that the Risen Lord, now seated at the right hand of God, is prepared to help us now more than he ever did in the days of his earthly existence. For this reason we should sing constantly, even if it is at times “in the rain.”

 

May 6th, 2018

Remain in My Love

Gospel invites us to remain in love. Probably, we all have experiences of love; however, it is not always easy to define love. Not easy to see, touch or hold it. Love is something so deep within us yet, strangely enough, hard to grasp. Feelings of love wells up within us, yet appears so far off! As someone said, “I know what love is but I cannot show it to you as I could, a scenery or a work of art.”

Saint Paul has one of the most beautiful descriptions of love.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13: 4- 7)

… And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13)

The Five Love Languages: is a 1995 book by Gary Chapman. It outlines five ways to express and experience love that Chapman calls “love languages”: 1: receiving gifts, 2: quality time, 3: words of affirmation, 4: acts of service (devotion), and 5: physical touch.
Jesus gives us wonderful examples of love languages. His greatest act of service was dying for us. Then, he says that if we love him, God the Father and “I will come to him and make our dwelling with him.” What greater quality time could there be than the indwelling of God: Father, Son, and Spirit?

In fact, Jesus covers all of the love languages to make sure there is no doubt of His love. Gift giving: His very life and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Words of affirmation: “I call you friends.” Physical touch: Jesus touched the leper, the blind man, the dead son of the widow, and the little children who came to Him. Jesus becomes one with us in the intimacy of the Eucharist. How can we show Jesus today that we love Him and are open to receive His love? How can I show love to my family; to people around me?

 

April 29th, 2018

Church News

Ushers and Greeters: We are in the process of training parishioners to be ushers and greeters. We have an urgent need for this ministry at all Holy Masses. Anyone who feels called to this ministry please enter your name on the signup sheet at the back of the Church. Kindly also indicate your preferences for the Holy Mass.
Being a greeter means welcoming people as they come into the church and helping them if they need assistance. They also help with collection taking and distributing the bulletins after Mass. Ushers are primarily responsible for taking up the collection.
I invite anyone able, to consider joining the ministry.

Young Adult Group: you may be aware that our parish has started a new Young Adult (18-35) ministry. It is the coming together of a dedicated group of young people for prayer, fellowship and ministry/mission work. I want to congratulate Rick and Lydia Kearney and their circle of friends who took the initiative to start the group. They meet on Mondays at 7:00 PM in the Church. All young adults are welcome to join this dynamic and fun-loving group.

Volunteer Dinner: It is our ways of saying thank you to all our dear volunteers who minister at the Church. We have nearly a hundred persons who step up in different ways to serve God and the Church. We thank them and appreciate their generosity. I invite all volunteers to attend the prayer service and the dinner.

First Communion: Our First Communion is around the corner. Our children are being prepared for this important event. This year, we have about eleven children who will be receiving Holy Eucharist for the first time. Kindly pray for the children and their families. We thank God for the gift of these families to the Church. I take this opportunity to congratulate the parents who prepare their children and educate them in the faith. Similarly, our Faith Formation teachers, too, do a great service to God and the families by educating the children. It is a time of rejoicing for our Church. I thank our ministry coordinator, Karen Glen, for organizing the Faith Formation in the parish.

Vacation: I will be taking some time off during the first two weeks of May. I am going to Germany to perform a Baptism for one of my family members. Since I did not take any time off after Easter, this will serve both as vacation and a bit of work! Kindly keep me in your prayers that everything goes well.

 

April 22nd, 2018

Church News

New Marian Feast:
 The Vatican published a decree in which Pope Francis declared that the Mary “Mother of the Church” feast would be celebrated on the Monday following Pentecost. This year, it falls on May 21.

The decree said Francis wanted the devotion to “encourage the growth of the maternal sense of the Church in the pastors, religious and faithful, as well as a growth of genuine Marian piety.”
The title of “Mother of the Church” was famously bestowed on the Blessed Virgin Mary by Blessed Pope Paul VI during the Second Vatican Council. The understanding of Mary’s motherhood has developed in the decades following Vatican II, especially as the Church has reflected on the Council’s teaching about Mary in chapter 8 of the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium).

In 2016, Francis set another feast day for another key woman in Christ’s life, declaring July 22 as the feast of St. Mary Magdalene.

Apostolic Exhortation:
An apostolic exhortation is a type of communication from the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church. It encourages a community of people to undertake a particular activity but does not define Church doctrine.

It is considered lower in formal authority than a papal encyclical, but higher than other ecclesiastical letters, Apostolic Letters and other papal writings.
Apostolic exhortations are issued in response to an assembly of the Synod of Bishops, in which case they are known as post-synodal apostolic exhortations.

New Apostolic Exhortation:
Gaudete Et Exsultate (Rejoice and be glad), March 19, 2018. Subtitled “On the call to holiness in the contemporary world”

Pope Francis has issued a long apostolic exhortation on holiness in today’s world, in which he emphasizes the universal call to sanctity, highlights the pitfalls to achieving it, and recalls that the Christian life is one of constant battle against the devil and the forces of evil.

As with every apostolic exhortation or letter, the document begins with its title: “Rejoice and be glad” – Jesus’ words to those persecuted or humiliated for His sake.

Its emphasis is on the importance of discernment, warnings against Gnosticism and neo-Pelagianism, rigidity, doing things as they have always been done, an excessive emphasis on doctrine, and gossip.

The document is rich in guidance on how to answer the call to holiness in a world filled with distractions, consumerism and hedonism. Frequently, the Pope stresses the importance of prayer and worship, but gives greater emphasis to acts of love and mercy toward one’s neighbor, especially the poor and those on the periphery.

“The Lord asks everything of us, and in return He offers us true life, the happiness for which we were created,” the Pope begins. “He wants us to be saints and not to settle for a bland and mediocre existence,” and he reminds the faithful that the call to holiness “is present in various ways from the very first pages of the Bible.”

In light of this, the Pope says his “modest goal” is to “re-propose the call to holiness in a practical way for our own time, with all its risks, challenges and opportunities. For the Lord has chosen each one of us ‘to be holy and blameless before Him in love.”

April 15th, 2018

Fake News

Some may think that fake news is a 21st century invention. It has been there from the dawn of human existence. The difference is the global reach and the speed with which it can travel and, consequently, affect or influence a vast number of people. Fake news can fall under any of the following categories: gossip, rumor, falsifying truth, deception, misinformation, deceiving, lying, misrepresenting, distorting, fabricating truth, etc.

We find mention of fake news in the Gospel: “while they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sum of money to the soldiers and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So they took the money and did as they were directed; and this story has been spread among the Jews to this day.” (Matthew 28:11-15)

The authorities were trying to falsify the resurrection of Jesus. If we examine history, we find that fake news has caused wars, violence, murders and all sorts of evil. Our penchant for truth is challenged and, at times, even overcome by fake news.

In discussing fake news, we may think that it is out there, or someone else is the cause of fake news. In some ways, we are all guilty of fake news. When we gossip or engage in character assassination of another we are engaging in fake news. Saint Francis of Sales says, “Slander is a kind of murder. We have three kinds of life: spiritual (God’s grace), corporal (that of body and soul) and social (our good name). Sin destroys the spiritual life, death the corporal life and slander/gossip destroys social life.”

The saint continues to say, “beware of falsely imputing crimes and sins to your neighbor, revealing his secret sins, exaggerating those that are manifest, putting an evil interpretation on his good works…in these you offend God and do harm to your neighbor.”

As we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus, it is good to ask: Am I an agent of fake news? In our TV, computer, internet and social media age, not only the agent of fake news, but the platform that supports it also is guilty. Those responsible for providing the platform for news and media should scrutinize and remove fake news before it does tremendous harm to humanity!

April 8th, 2018

Christianity

Acts of the Apostles explains how the disciples came to be called Christians. “So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul; and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church, and taught a large company of people; and in Antioch, the disciples were for the first time called Christians” (Acts 11:25-26.)
It may appear redundant to ask the question, what is Christianity? It looks obvious. We are Christians, we live among Christians, and our upbringing is Christian! Then, what? However, the question is legitimate. When I posed the question to a group of parishioners, a common response was, “Christianity is belief in Jesus Christi as the Son of God.” Isn’t Christianity more than a belief?

Lots of times’ people identify Christianity with Church buildings, schools and hospitals. For some, Christianity is set of rules and regulations and dogmas. For others, Christianity is social services and charitable works for the poor and needy. While all these may be true, good and necessary, the core of Christianity is something deeper.

Christianity is an experience of Jesus Christ as my God and Savior. It is a personal encounter with the Risen Lord. Jesus is not just a historical figure like Confucius, Buddha, Mahavira (Jainism) or Mohammad. As St. Paul teaches us, “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:14). As He is alive, we can experience him here and now. He is with us.

John describes it in his first letter. “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life – the life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it, and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father, and was made manifest to us – that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us; and our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. And we are writing this that our joy may be complete” (1 John 1: 1-4)

Christianity is that sharing of the joyful experience of the RISEN LORD. Without this personal encounter with the Risen Savior, Christianity could seem obsolete or out of fashion. Is this the reason some intellectuals speak of the PostChristian era? They want to relegate Christianity to history books! Such attempts are a caricature of Christianity.

Alleluia. The Lord is RISEN. He is with us. “…And lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)

 

April 1st, 2018

This is the Day the Lord Has Made

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” goes the ancient Christian hymn for this day and the fifty days of celebration which follow.

Today we celebrate THE Christian feast – the religious and spiritual event upon which Christianity stands or falls – the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

It is important to realize that Jesus did not just come back to the kind of life He had before, with all its limitations and narrowness. The Gospels try to indicate to us that yes, this is the same Jesus, but there is something different about Him. He is not always recognized right away. He appears and disappears. He passes through locked doors, yet He asks the disciples to touch His wounds, and to give Him something to eat – all to prove that it is the same Jesus, but with a different kind of body, a resurrected body. It is the human being, Jesus, now totally transformed by the Holy Spirit, totally one with the Father but without any of His former human limitations. So He can be present everywhere and not just in first century Palestine. He can dwell within each of us and we in Him. He is not just a resuscitated corpse, as many paintings and pictures portray Him. He is resurrected – which is totally different.

Because Jesus has been raised from the dead, so will we be who are joined to the Risen Lord by faith and Baptism. As long as we have not turned away from that faith by how we live or the sinful decisions we have made, we will be, upon our death, as He is. That is the whole foundation of our faith. St. Paul puts it very bluntly: “If Jesus is not raised from the dead then neither will we be. And we are then the most unhappy of humans,” for we are following an illusion, a deception. And when death comes, there is only oblivion that we have to look forward to.

In faith, we experience and begin to live that Risen Life of Christ from the first moment of our Baptism. We become alive with the very life that fills Jesus Christ, the life of the Holy Spirit. This happens in a real, though in this life, an imperfect way.

Because Baptism is so important to our Life in Christ, the whole of Lent is devoted to the renewal of our Baptismal commitment which we give voice to at Mass today. The Baptism of adults takes place at the Easter Vigil Service on Holy Saturday evening.

We seek to deepen our Holy-Spirit life, with God’s help. We seek to be more fully surrendered to the life of the Risen Christ within each of us. We seek to continue the work of Christ in this world, to serve our brothers and sisters, to share with them the Good News of salvation offered to all in Christ. We seek to bring to ever greater fullness the God-life given us in Baptism until that day when we experience it fully in the kingdom of our Father in heaven.

No wonder then that we rejoice in this day and will continue our celebration for fifty days. There is nothing to celebrate that is as important or as significant as this Easter Day. “Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

March 25th, 2018

Holy Week

Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday, or Passion Sunday. It 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.

And we have come, at the end of Lent – to the Great High Holy Days of the Christian faith, the Sacred Triduum (the Three Days) and Easter Sunday.

All our days of Lenten effort, our energy spent in spiritual renewal, our work at fasting and sacrifice, come to a conclusion this week. We come to renew our Baptismal commitment, and to celebrate what Christ has done for us in His dying and rising.

There are two final acts of preparation that many of us yet need to be a part of in order to participate fully in these experiences of Easter joy.

First, we need to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation; the Lord’s healing power and cleansing grace given us in and through the Church. We still have one opportunity when it is available to us – Monday evening this week, at St. Augustine at 7:00 PM. None of us can say that we have no need of healing, no need of God’s forgiveness. We need to come to the Easter celebrations with our hearts purified and unencumbered. We all need the Lord’s help to remain faithful, to begin yet again, and to grow in our relationship with Him, to be more fully a disciple filled with hope and joy.

Second, we need to actually take part in the Triduum celebrations of Holy Thursday (7::00 PM), Good Friday (7:00 PM) and the Easter Vigil Service (8:30 PM). They are really one celebration spread over three evenings. In entering into these beautiful liturgies, we enter more deeply into the mystery that is made present through them. There are no finer experiences of community prayer than the rites celebrated on these evenings.

May you experience this week in all its power and love. You are a fine community of God’s people. May you know the depths of His love, His presence, and His Resurrection in your hearts.

March 18th, 2018

Life is a Celebration

“Outdoors” is the slogan or watchword of our times. ‘Being one with nature evokes romance, nostalgia, and a yearning. Adam and Eve, our Biblical forefathers, lived in a state of nature (Garden of Eden, Gen2:8); they lived in that beautiful garden in a state of innocence! There are people who love to live in the “womb of nature” as seen in TV series like, “Legend of Mike Dodge, The Mountain Men,” or people who give up civilization to live in the wild. It could be that the homeless crisis is partly because people who choose to live in a state of nature!

Ecology and environmental considerations are on top of our agenda in developmental discussions and educational circles. These are wonderful advancements acknowledged by the Church, especially in the Encyclical, Laudato Si.

In the television and media world, nature shows (National Geographic, Animal Planet, Discovery Channel, etc.) generally receive high ratings. An interest in nature, even to the extent of worship, is not anything new to humanity. Nature worship has been part of our human lore from time immemorial. People worshipping trees, stones, forests, sun and moon are found even today in countries around the world.

It is not surprising, then, that outdoor weddings and outdoor celebrations traditionally held in churches or in religious places, seem to be a growing trend. For some, ecology is a science, while religion is pushed to the brink of superstition, myth or folklore. To some, churches appear to be the least desirable place for celebration. They think of churches as morbid, not-cool, and restrictive.

This Sunday we have a Birthday celebration in our Church. Mrs. Norma Gray is celebrating her 90th Birthday with a Holy Mass. For me, there is no better place to celebrate life than in a church. It is in church that we celebrate great moments of our lives – coming into this world (Baptism), commitment to a person (wedding, and departure from this world (death) or humorously put, “hatch, match and dispatch.”

It is an acknowledgement of the great and undeniable truth that life is a gift. None of us chose to be born. It is God’s infinite wisdom and mercy that brought us forth. Every birthday is a celebration in gratitude and love. It is a bonus to be able to celebrate one’s birthday in a church with a Holy Mass!

Jesus tells us, “I am the way, the truth and the Life” (John 14:6). Saint Irenaeus: “The glory of God is man fully alive.” In celebrating life, we celebrate a divine gift. Life is a celebration.

 

March 11th, 2018

A Spiritual Approach to Anxiety and Sorrow
(Reflections for Laetare Sunday)

Saint Francis De Sales, who lived in the 16th/17th century, has much to say about anxiety and sorrow. Even after more than 300 years his insights might help one to deal with these common human experiences. In our modern times much emphasis is given to medical and psychiatric intervention; however, a spiritual approach is not quite obsolete. Alcohol and drugs have been used from all ages to drown sorrows or to forget them and find relief!

Sadness is merely the grief of mind we experience because of an evil in life that is against our liking. It could be something external like poverty, sickness or contempt, or internal like ignorance, discontent or biological or chemical imbalance. When the human soul perceives that it has suffered certain evil, sadness follows. Human person wants to get rid of it.

If a person seeks to escape from such troubles for love for God, he/she will proceed patiently, meekly, humbly and calmly and look to God for deliverance; personal efforts, industry and diligence are necessary, yet they alone are not sufficient. Even when one needs medical intervention a reliance on God makes the healing process efficacious.

If deliverance or success do not come immediately the person could become too anxious and impatient. Such restlessness aggravates the situation rather than helping to heal it. If one’s heart is troubled by extreme anxiety, one loses the strength to overcome it.

Anxiety proceeds from an excess desire to be freed from present evil or to acquire a hope for good. It prevents you from enjoying the present good. Do you have mastery over yourself? Let no desire disturb your soul. When you realize that anxiety affects your mind recommend yourself to God. If you can discuss the cause of the anxiety with a spiritual director or good friend or confessor, it would help. Overcome anxiety gently and meekly.

Sorrow can be good or evil depending on the way it affects us. If sorrow is according to God it leads to compassion and repentance; if, according to worldly causes, it can lead to anxiety, sloth, wrath, jealousy, envy and impatience.

It may happen that good persons grieve over their virtues and good works; good deeds appear as less attractive and even disagreeable. For instance, a parent might grieve at the ingratitude of a grown up child and feel that all his/her good works and sacrifices in the upbringing of the child was a mistake or worthless!

Sorrow can generate inordinate fears, disgust for prayers, deprive the mind of prudence, judgement, and courage and destroy one’s strength. Sorrow takes away all sweetness from the soul and renders it disabled and impotent in all its faculties. No holiness is sadness. “A sad saint is a sorry saint,” said St. Teresa of Avila. “No one has ever heard of a sad saint or a saint with a funeral face,” Pope Francis.

In time of sorrow follow the advice of Saint James, “is any one of you sad? Let him pray” (5:13). Prayer is a great remedy for sadness as it lifts up the soul to God who is our joy and consolation. Focus on doing good works even if they seem difficult or worthless. External actions/charitable deeds are a great distraction from sadness. Speak to your spiritual director or counselor or a good friend. Look at the Crucifix! The example of the Lord and what He did for you should bring comfort and consolation.

 

March 4th, 2018

Pastimes and Recreations

Our Book Club has been reading, Introduction to the Devout Life, by Saint Francis De Sales. The book was published in the 17th century. It had become an instant sensation at the time of its publication. It had numerous editions and translations into various languages. The book continues to be a spiritual classic delighting readers with spiritual insights and consolation. It is a very practical book written for the common person desiring to achieve spiritual growth.

In one of the chapters the saint says, “It is necessary for us to relax both in mind and body by some kind of recreation.”…”it is undoubtedly a defect to be so strict, ill-bred, uncouth, and austere as neither to take any recreation ourselves nor to allow it to others.”

We are in the season of Lent. It appears to be incongruous to speak of recreation! While focusing on prayer, penance and almsgiving, let us not forget that sound recreation helps our spiritual life as well.

Our Choir Members were treated to a wonderful Bay Cruise. It was part of a birthday celebration for Wanda Ziemba, a choir member; her husband captained the boat. I was privileged to be included in the cruise.

Starting from Berkeley we sailed close to Alcatraz Island and passed under the Golden Gate Bridge and reached close to Kirby Cove. It was wonderful to hear from people (Bob & Suzy, Norma) tell their stories of the different sites and sights.

I was told that it is a tradition to pray and receive blessings as one sailed in and out of the Golden Gate. As we sailed past the Golden Gate Bridge we said a prayer for Wanda, our birthday celebrant, and blessed her and all present in the boat!

The Captain of our boat was a very kind gentleman who invited me into the control room. There he explained to me some of the navigational techniques and asked me to take the helm. Holding on to the steering wheel was a new kind of experience!

On our return we sailed close to the city shores taking in all the sights and sounds of the beautiful city – great buildings, historic landmarks, churches, the Ferry Building, AT&T Park (McCovey Cove/China Basin) and then under the Bay Bridge.

Returning to Berkeley we passed by Yerba Buena Island, the light house and under the new section of the Bay Bridge.

During the cruise I could not but admire the beauty of God’s creation. There is so much goodness, joy and love in our world. Violence, war, terrorism, hatred and other challenges seem to cloud them. Christ, the Light, shines through these clouds. May this season of Lent help us to experience the presence of the Lord around us! May he shine through the darkness of our lives and our world and melt away all sin and evil.

 

February 25th, 2018

CRS Rice Bowl Helps Us Encounter Lent.

We are called to love our neighbor. But, like the scholar in the scripture passage, we may find ourselves wondering, “Who is my neighbor?” This Lent, CRS Rice Bowl—Catholic Relief Services’ Lenten faith-in-action program, will help us answer that question.

We are invited to reflect on how an encounter with our neighbor—as companions on life’s journeys—can be transformative. We will see how our prayers, fasting and alms can support those worldwide who are forced to flee their homes to find safety or better opportunities.

Join nearly 14,000 faith communities in 180 dioceses around the U.S. in prayer, fasting and almsgiving this Lent. Together, we will serve our brothers and sisters most in need around the world while forming families and faith communities in global solidarity. Take action to build the culture of encounter as missionary disciples with Catholic Relief Services (CRS) this Lent.

Through prayer, we encounter Christ, present in the faces of every member of our human family, so often still walking that long road to Calvary.

Through fasting, we encounter our own obstacles, those things about ourselves that prevent us from loving God and neighbor.

Through almsgiving, we encounter our brothers and sisters around the world, asking what we can give up so that others might have life to the fullest.

Through CRS Rice Bowl, we hear stories from our brothers and sisters in need worldwide, and devote our Lenten prayers, fasting and gifts to change the lives of the poor. Each day of Lent, individuals are invited to use the Lenten Calendar—included with every CRS Rice Bowl—to guide their Lenten almsgiving. These daily almsgiving activities—for example, give 25 cents for every faucet found in your home—help families re-flect on the realities of our brothers and sisters around the world and how they can be in solidarity during the Lenten season.

How will you contribute to the culture of encounter this Lent?

Bring CRS Rice Bowl to your community.

Driven by our faith, we are committed to help those in need no matter where they may live. In that spirit:

75 percent of your gift supports CRS’ programs around the world. Some examples include:

Agriculture projects help farmers improve harvests
Water and sanitation projects bring clean water to communities
Microfinance projects support small businesses
Mother and child health projects offer health and nu-trition services
Education projects provide resources and training
25 percent of your donations go to hunger and poverty alleviation efforts in your own community

 

February 18th, 2018

A New Saint for Devotional Chapel

A new saint is to be added to our Bishop Cummins’ devotional chapel – Saint Bakhita.

She was born around the year 1869 in Darfur (now in western Sudan) in the village of Olgossa, west of Nyala and close to Mount Agilerei. She belonged to the prestigious Daju people; her respected and reasonably prosperous father was brother of the village chief. She was surrounded by a loving family of three brothers and three sisters; as she says in her autobiography: “I lived a very happy and carefree life, without knowing what suffering (was)”.

Sometime between the ages of seven to nine, probably in February 1877, she was kidnapped by Arab slave traders, who already had abducted her elder sister two years earlier. She was forced to walk barefoot, about 600 miles, to El Obeid and was sold and bought twice before she arrived there. Over the course of twelve years (1877–1889) she was resold again three more times and then given away. It is said that the trauma of her abduction caused her to forget her own name; she took one given to her by the slavers, bakhita, Arabic for lucky. She was also forcibly converted to Islam.

She was traded many times over and suffered great human cruelty and abuse of every type.

In 1883 Bakhita was bought in Khartoum by the Italian Vice Consul Callisto Legnani, who did not use the lash when giving orders and treated her in a cordial way. In Italy, too, she changed many hands until she came to be with the Canossian Sisters. Here she received legal help and the Italian court declared that Bakhita had never legally been a slave.

For the first time in her life Bakhita found herself in control of her own destiny. She chose to remain with the Canossians. On 9 January 1890 Bakhita was baptised with the names of Josephine Margaret.

On 7 December 1893 Josephine Bakhita entered the novitiate of the Canossian Sisters and on 8 December 1896 she took her vows, welcomed by Cardinal Sarto. In 1902 she was assigned to the Canossian convent at Schio, in the northern Italian province of Vicenza, where she spent the rest of her life.

A young student once asked Bakhita: “What would you do, if you were to meet your captors?” Without hesitation she responded: “If I were to meet those who kidnapped me, and even those who tortured me, I would kneel and kiss their hands. For, if these things had not happened, I would not have been a Christian and a religious today”.

 

February 11th and February 4th, 2018

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 limitation 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 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 the time to make changes that are 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. Maybe 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 every-one uses Smart-phones. Our smartphones can be obstacle to prayer and spiri-tual life. How-ever, during this Lent, our phones can help us to pray as well. They can inspire us to prayer, penance and almsgiving. Listed 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): 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.

 

January 28th, 2018

Resort Evangelization

Pope Francis is famous for his radical reinterpretation of Christian Ministry. In the book of Revelation Jesus says, ‘that He is at the door and-knocks’ (Rev.3:20). Traditionally, it is understood as Jesus is knocking from outside the door. Pope Francis inverted the image and asks the whole church to con-sider ‘the times in which Jesus knocks from within so that we will let Him come out!’

Church must go out into the world and minister to the needy. This is evangelization, the mission entrusted to the Church by Jesus Christ. The imagery the Pope uses is “field hospital.” It is different from a self-referential Church which operates as a defined group of people that are characterized as registered parishioners, Mass attendance or Church contribution, etc.

Pope Francis’ Church is a community that goes out to the world and brings Jesus’ healing and love to people around them. It is a community that taps into and shares its talents to find creative ways to bring solace, comfort and joy to their brothers and sisters.

I had a real experience of such ministry while in In-dia. One of my past students, Father Cyriac, invited me to join him in his evangelization work in a resort. At first I was quite puzzled, “what ministry could be done in a high-end resort?” Curiosity, or more properly, an eagerness to share old-times with a friend led me to accept the invitation.

I met with Father Cyriac and shared lots of wonderful memories. He took me to the Travancore Heritage, a beautiful resort in Trivandrum, the capital of Kerala state. It is indeed a spectacular beach resort that integrates the local architecture and culture with modern amenities. The peaceful, serene atmosphere is refreshing, rejuvenating and spiritually revitalizing. The resort also makes available the traditional medical treatment (Aurveda) for those interested. Without further elaboration I can say that it is one of the best resorts I have ever visited!

Why are we here? Father Cyriac’s mission is to work with under privileged youth in rural areas of India, especially in the state of Arun-achal Pradesh which boards China. He runs a Youth Center there, giving non-formal education to about 200 children every year. He gives them basic training in the English language, in hospitality and then finds jobs for them in different resorts in south India. He works with about 12 resorts.
Every year he visits the children employed in the various resorts, gathers them, organizes seminars, offers Holy Mass for them and enquires after their welfare. He makes sure that all of his trainees receive just wages and fair treatment.

The owner of the Resort is a Catholic gentleman who received us with kindness as his guests. By offer-ing jobs to the underprivileged children he feels he is participating in the mission of the Church.

Father Cyriac needs our help to replace his aging motor vehicle with a new one. It costs about $20,000. The type of vehicle he needs is an SUV to transport the youth from villages and to buy provisions for them from the market.

 

January 21st, 2018

Gospel Reflection

We can’t know with certainty how John the Baptist’s disciples reacted when Herod Antipas imprisoned him in the fortress of Machaeron, but we do know Jesus’ reaction to the Baptist’s arrest. He didn’t stay in the desert, nor did he seek refuge among his family in Nazareth. He began to travel around the villages of Galilee preaching an original and surprising message.

The evangelist Mark sums it up, saying that «he went into Galilee; there he proclaimed the gospel from God». Jesus doesn’t repeat the preaching of the Baptist nor does he speak of his baptism in the Jordan. He announces God as something new and good. This is his message:

«The time is fulfilled» The time of waiting that Israel has been going through has ended. Likewise the time of the Baptist has ended. With Jesus begins a new era. God doesn’t want to leave us alone with our problems, sufferings and challenges. God wants to build a more human world with us.

«The kingdom of God is close at hand» With an un-familiar audacity, Jesus surprises everyone when he announces something that no prophet had ever dared to declare: «Now God is here, with the creative power of justice, trying to reign among us». Jesus experiences God as a good and loving Presence that is seeking to open a path among us in order to humanize our life.

That’s why Jesus’ whole life is a call to hope. An alternative exists. It’s not true that history has to wander through the paths of injustice that the powerful people of the earth lay out for it. A more just and fraternal world is possible. We can change the trajectory of his-tory.

«Repent» It’s no longer possible to live as if nothing ever happens. God asks God’s children to collaborate. That’s why Jesus cries out: «Change your way of thinking and acting». We are the people who should be the first ones to change. God doesn’t impose anything by force, but God is always attracting our consciences toward a more human life.

«Believe the gospel» Take it seriously. Wake up out of your indifference. Mobilize your energies. Believe that it’s possible to humanize the world. Believe in the liberating power of the Gospel. Believe that transformation is possible. Introduce trust into the world.

What have we made of Jesus’ passionate message? How could we have forgotten it? What have we substituted for it? What’s keeping us busy if what’s most important is «seeking God’s reign and God’s justice»? How can we live tranquil, while observing that God’s creative project of a world full of peace and justice is being annihilated by people?

— Jose Antonio Pagola

 

January 14th, 2018

Ordinary Time

We are in the Ordinary Time of the liturgical year. It is a season of the Christian liturgical calendar, particularly the calendar of the ordinary form of the Ro-man rite of the Catholic Church, although some other rites in Western Christianity also use this term. The English name “ordinary time” translates the Latin term Tempus per annum (literally “time through the year”).

In our culture of adulation for celebrities, super-man, heroes and heroines the word ‘ordinary’ seem too mundane or inconsequential or trivial. Yet it is the ordinary that sustains the extraordinary or the exceptional.

Ordinary time is a time for Christian growth. As the Parable of the Growing Seed (Mark 4) indicates:

He also said, ‘The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head.

It is the Holy Spirit working in us invisible, non-obtruded, silently yet steadily that characterizes the season and the growth it purports. May the ordinary time nourish and strengthen us and prepare us for our journey of Christian life!

Rectory Closed Monday, January 15th: The parish office will be closed Monday, January 15th in observance of the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday. MLK Jr. Birthday observance is a civic holiday, and a day of observance recognized by the Diocese of Oakland. The Rectory will reopen Tuesday for normal office hours (9:00 AM—4:00 PM).

Morning Mass Celebrated January 15th: Despite the parish office being closed Monday, January 15th for the MLK Jr. Birthday holiday, mass will be celebrated in the Daily Mass Chapel at 8:30 AM.

Second Collection for Oakland Diocese Seminarians: During this weekend’s masses (there will be a Second Collection taken for the support the 17 seminarians preparing to become Oakland Diocese priests. This annual collection is taken to give the faithful the opportunity to prayerfully support and de-fray the considerable cost ($750,000) of training these young men for priesthood; thus, making sure that all men called to the vocation (and not just the “well-to-do) can afford to live out God’s call. Thank you in advance for your generosity.

Anniversary Holy Mass for my parents: I will be in India from January 10th to 22nd. I am planning to have an anniversary Holy Mass celebrated for my parents. Kindly keep us in your prayers. Thank you.

 

January 7th, 2018

Where is the New Born King?

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 beards and said thoughtfully, “Well, you know there are three ways to get from here to a restaurant in San Francisco: car, BART, or ferry. But you know, when you get there, the waitress doesn’t ask you how you came. All she asks is, ‘what 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 learnt of the birth of Jesus through a direct revelation from angels appearing in the midnight sky. This is direct and supernatural revelation. Many of us have no problem with that. The magi, on the other hand, learnt 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 magi or the three wise men were nature worshippers, 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.

Yet the crucial question in the story remains: Who actually got to find Jesus? Herod and his scribes who had the scriptures failed to find Jesus but the magi who followed the natural light of the stars were able to find him. Why? Because the Jewish authorities, even though they possessed the shining truth of revealed scriptures, did not follow it. They did not walk in the light of the scriptures. The Magi, on the other hand, who enjoyed only a star light, followed its guidance. It is not the possession of the truth that matters, it is how prepared we are to walk in the light of the truth that we possess. It is better to have the dim light of the stars and follow it than to have the bright light of the Holy Scriptures and neglect it.

As Christians, we believe that our religion possesses the fullness of truth. But what does that benefit us if we do not walk in the truth? Nature worshippers or non-believers who are sincerely committed to following the dim light of natural reason may arrive at Jesus before Christians who have the exalted truths revealed by God but who do not walk the walk of faith. This is the challenging truth we celebrate today in the story of the pagan wise men who seek and find the Lord.

December 31st, 2017

The name “January” comes from the Roman god Janus; the god with two faces, one looking to the past and the other looking to the future. This is, indeed, a time to look back at the year that has just ended and to look forward to the New Year ahead of us. How did I spend this one year of my life that has just passed? Did I use it to advance my goals and objectives in life? Did I use it to enhance the purpose of my existence? Could I have done better last year in the way I invested my time between the demands of work, family, friends and society, and the demands of my spiritual life? What things did I achieve last year and what did I fail to achieve? How can I consolidate the achievements of last year while reversing the failures and losses in this New Year? Through soul searching questions like these we find that a review of the past year naturally leads to setting goals and resolutions for the New Year.

There are people who tell you that there is no point making New Year resolutions. Do not believe them. We must set goals and make resolutions as a necessary conclusion to our review of the past year. And we do need to review our lives from year to year because, as Socrates says, the unexamined life is not worth living.

New Year is also the feast of Mary, Mother of God. Mary is a model of new life in Christ that all of us wish for ourselves in the New Year. There we see that Mary was prepared to do something to realize this goal. What did she do? We read that the shepherds, when they went to adore the Child Jesus in the manger, told all that the angels had said to them. “But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). Again after the boy Jesus was found in the Temple, we are told that “His mother treasured all these things in her heart” (Luke 2:51). Mary was a woman who valued the word of God, who treasured it and made time to meditate and ponder it. It is true that the holiness of Mary is attributed to the grace of God, but this should not make us forget that she needed to make an effort in order to cooperate with the grace of God. She pondered the word of God in order to discern what God was saying to her at every stage in her life as the handmaid of God.

Whatever the situation in which we find ourselves – a hardship, a disappointment, a decision to make – God has a solution, an answer that is right for us. We tell God about it in prayer but we also listen to what God has to tell us about it. Prayer is a conversation with God but sometimes all we do is pick up the phone, read out the list of our problems to God and drop the phone without listening to hear what God has to say to us. Let us today resolve to listen more to the voice of God, to treasure God’s word and ponder it in our hearts. Then we shall be able to realize our New Year resolution(s).

 

December 24th, 2017

Christmas Musings

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 the 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 celebration of Christmas 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, and 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.

Blessed Christmas to all!

December 19th, 2017

Prepare the way of the Lord

Just think of all the preparations we make when the first child is expected in our family.  I’m sure there are advance preparations as other children come along, too, but especially when parents are still new at it, untried, somewhat anxious, waiting, expectant; they go out of their way to see that they have all the proper equipment, to see that the room is ready, the sleeping arrangements clear and clean, the feeding equipment and bathing equipment in proper supply.

It is an anxious time, certainly, but a very joyful time as well, one filled with expectant hope and anticipation of new life.  The arrival of this child will truly make a difference in their lives – forever.  They ask themselves often: “Are we ready?”

The Church sets aside the season of Advent as our preparation time for the coming of Christ anew into our hearts.  It, too, is meant to be a time filled with joyful anticipation and hope.  And it is a time that requires some prep work, some attention given to the state of our interior home, our spirit, our soul.  Are we really ready and waiting?  Are we poised to welcome the Lord into our hearts with fresh enthusiasm, renewed faith?

Christ’s presence anew in our lives, just like the presence of a new child, can make a difference in our lives forever.  We cannot just continue as we have been going.  We cannot misplace our priorities any more.  We have someone far more important among us, within us, that we are called to pay attention to.

Certainly, one manner of preparation that many of us engage in is to take a time, however brief, of prayer and reflection during the days of Advent.  And we prepare our hearts by reaching out to others, seeing in our sisters and brothers in need, the face of our brother Jesus whom we serve – through the Giving Tree, our food to St. Vincent de Paul, our Wednesday evening prayer and so on.

And, we can take advantage of the great Sacrament of Renewal and Repentance that the Lord has given us – the Sacrament of Divine Forgiveness (confession).  We have an opportunity to celebrate this great Sacrament before Christmas this year.

Our communal celebration of Reconciliation (with private confession) will be held at St. Augustine Church at 7:00 p.m. on Monday,December 18th. Everyone is welcome to experience Divine Forgiveness.

 

December 10th, 2017

Prepare the way of the Lord

A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.(Isaiah 40:3)

The second Sunday of Advent is an invitation to prepare a way for the Lord. The whole season of Advent is a time for waiting and preparation. How does one prepare the way of the Lord? One of the ways to deal with it is to heal our memories.

Memory refers to the processes that are used to acquire, store, retain, and later, retrieve information. There are three major processes involved in memory: encoding, storage, and retrieval.

In order to form new memories, information must be changed into a usable form, which occurs through the process known as encoding. Once information has been successfully encoded, it must be stored in memory for later use. Much of this stored memory lies outside of our awareness most of the time, except when we actually need to use it. The retrieval process allows us to bring stored memories into conscious awareness.

Ordinarily, speaking memory deals with past experiences. Past experience can be a result of direct experience, hearsay or informational/historic, as from reading or study. Direct experience can be happy, traumatic, healthy or unhealthy. The same applies to hearsay and informational memory.

Advent can be a wonderful time to heal one’s memory. If there are traumatic or painful memories, it is a time to heal them. Make a highway in your heart and mind to receive the Lord Jesus; surrender all your pain into the merciful, forgiving and healing presence of Jesus.

Similarly, historic memories also need healing. One need not nurse an historic wrong! They have been “washed in the blood of the Lamb” and made whole.

Let this Advent be a time that we live; live as the persons we are all meant to be.

 

December 3rd, 2017

A Season of Waiting and Preparation

Advent is a season of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas. The term is a version of the Latin word meaning “coming”.

Latin adventus is the translation of the Greek wordparousia, commonly used to refer to the Second Coming of Christ. For Christians, the season of Advent anticipates the coming of Christ from three different perspectives. “Since the time of Bernard of Clairvaux (d.1153), Christians have spoken of the three comings of Christ: in the flesh in Bethlehem, in our hearts daily, and in glory at the end of time.” The season offers the opportunity to share in the ancient longing for the coming of the Messiah, and to be alert to His Second Coming.

Advent is the beginning of the Western liturgical year and commences on four Sundays before Christmas.

Practices associated with Advent include keeping an Advent calendar, lighting an Advent wreath, praying an Advent daily devotional, lighting a Christingle (Christ light), as well as other ways of preparing for Christmas, such as setting up Christmas decorations, a custom that is sometimes done liturgically, through a hanging of the greens ceremony.

The equivalent of Advent in Eastern Christianity is called the Nativity Fast, but it differs in length and observances, and does not begin the liturgical church year as it does in the West. The Eastern Nativity Fast does not use the equivalent parousia in its preparatory services.

Pope Benedict on the Benevolent Plan of God (Part 1 of 3)

Dear Brothers and Sisters, At the beginning of his letter to the Christians of Ephesus (cf. 1, 3-14), the apostle Paul raises a prayer of blessing God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ – a prayer that we have just heard – that introduces us to live the season of Advent, in the context of the faith. The theme of this hymn of praise is God’s plan for man, defined in terms full of joy, wonder and gratitude, as a “benevolent plan” (see 9), mercy and love. Why does the Apostle raise this blessing God, from the depths of his heart? Because he looks at his work in the history of salvation, culminating in the incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus, and he contemplates how Heavenly Father has chosen us even before the creation of the world, to be his sons in his only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ (cf. Rom 8:14 s.; Gal 4:4 f.). Therefore we exist from eternity in God, in a major project that God has kept within himself and decided to implement and to reveal in “the fullness of time” (cf. Eph 1:10). St. Paul helps us to understand, then, how all creation and, in particular, man and woman are not the result of chance, but a loving plan to respond to the eternal reason of God with the creative and redemptive power of his Word which creates the world. This first statement reminds us that our vocation is not simply to exist in the world, being inserted in history, or even just being a creature of God, it is something greater: it is being chosen by God, even before the creation of the world, in the Son, Jesus Christ. In Him we exist, so to speak, already. God contemplates us in Christ, as adopted children.

St. Vincent de Paul of St. Augustine is once again offering us all the opportunity to participate in the annual Giving Tree. You simply pick an ornament off the tree, sign your name and contact information onto the sheet provided, go shopping and return the gift to the church by December 10th. Let us remember that we are called to be Christ to others, and in this simple giving we will make a big difference in another person’s life.

 

November 19th, 2017 

A Modern Day Martyr (week 3 of 3)

The hired killer, Samandar Singh, was languishing in prison serving a life sentence. He had been abandoned by his patrons and was now a very bitter and desolate man. Swami Sadhananda (Father Michael Porattakara) visited the prisoner. Through his frequent visit the priest was able to gain the confidence of Samander Singh. The priest then asked Mr. Singh, “would you be open to a visit by Sister Selmy Paul, the biological sister of Sister Rani Maria?” Now, the meeting was not easy to arrange. Sister Selmy was hesitant, nay, terrified at the thought of meeting face to face with the man who killed her sister so brutally. Mr. Singh, now a sorry figure, did not know what to expect or how it will all turn out.

The priest encouraged both and eventually they agreed to meet. On August 31, 2002 Sister Selmy Paul visited the prison together with the priest and expressed her forgiveness. Mr. Singh, a Hindu, could not believe it; he was so overcome with grief and repentance. And he asked for forgiveness for his crime. The following year mother of Sister Rani Maria to came to the prison and visited Mr. Singh. In a gesture of forgiveness she kissed both the hands of the prisoner.

Meanwhile the family members found courage to forgive Mr. Singh. They petitioned the court for his pardon. Mr. Singh was released from prison in 2006. Father Michael (Swami Sadhananda) who had played a significant role in all this, took Mr. Singh under his wings. Together they paid a visit to the parental home of Sister Rani Maria in the state of Kerala, India. They were welcomed by the family members and Mr. Singh was adopted as a member of the family.

This great act of Christian forgiveness was quite alien to Mr. Singh. It changed his life; he asked to be baptized and became a Christian.

At the beatification ceremony seated in the audience was Samandar Singh; next to him sat Sister Selmy Paul and other family members of Sister Rani Maria. After the beatification, talking to one of the news agencies, Mr. Singh said,
“I accept full responsibility for my heinous murder of Sister Rani Maria. I cannot say that I was a hired killer, because my own hands stabbed her repeatedly and for this I will regret my actions till the day I die.” He continued, “I regularly visit her tomb. For me, it is like a sanctuary of peace and strength. I want everyone to know that Christians work to make India great. The missionaries give us hope through their service, which is to make us a strong and independent people.”

 

November 19th, 2017 

A Modern Day Martyr (week 2 of 3)

On February 25th, 1995 Sister Rani woke up early, attended Holy Mass and hurried with another sister to reach the bus stop. She was to board the bus to the county headquarters to get some work done. The sister who accompanied saw her off at the bus stop and returned to the convent. The bus moved along the country road with many passengers. After a while three men boarded it. They sat quite close to Sister Rani and began to taunt her with profanity. She sat quietly suffering all the insults. After a while one of the man, Samandar Singh, pulled out a large knife and stabbed sister in the stomach. They forced the bus to stop and tried to drag her out of the bus; as the poor nun tried to hold on to the door of the bus, they cut her hands off. They stabbed her again and again, more than fifty times. Finally they cut her throat to make sure that she was indeed dead. Till her last breath Sister Rani Maria had kept repeating the name, “Jesus!” All of this happened before all the passengers in the bus, but no one dared to come to the aid of the victim. Samandar Singh and his accomplices were hired killers to assassinate the nun.

As the news of this gruesome act spread the authorities rushed to the scene. Also a large crowd gathered to pay respect to the mutilated body of the sister whom they loved. Within three days the killers were all arrested but not the people who hired them! They were produced before the court and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Grief overflowed the aftermath of the tragic event. The community of sisters to whom Sister Rani belonged was inconsolable. Sister Selmy Paul, the younger sister of Sister Rani who was also a member of the same Religious Order was in great shock. She rushed to the scene and kissed the blood stained and lacerated body of her own sister. It was a day of mourning for the entire County.

Hundreds and thousands of people flocked to the funeral service which was held at the Cathedral Church in the city of Indore, India. In attendance were many bishops, hundreds of clergy and a very large number of lay people, both Christian and non-Christian. Everyone came to pay homage to a nun who had poured out her life as a libation to God in service of the poor.

 

November 12th, 2017

A Modern Day Martyr (week 1 of 3)

It sounds like a story from first or second century Christian era when so many Christians suffered martyrdom in most ghastly ways. Christian blood flowed freely! It prompted Tertullian, (155 – c. 240 AD), a prolific early Christian author from Carthage in the Roman province of Africa to say, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of Christianity.”

Blessed Mariam Vattalil (01/29/1954 to 02/25/1995) – religious name, Rani Maria – was an Indian Syro-Malabar professed religious and a social worker in the Franciscan Clarist Congregation (FCC) who worked among the poor within the Diocese of Indore in North India. Rani Maria (means Queen Mary in Indian language) dedicated herself to the catechetical formation and educational instruction; she was vocal in matters of social justice and in social activism.

The Vatican’s head of the Department for Cause of Saints, Cardinal Angelo Amato, declared Vattali, popularly known as Sister Rani, ‘Blessed’, a stage below sainthood.
Cardinal Amato read out Apostolic (Pope’s) letter declaring her ‘Blessed’ in Latin at a Holy Mass at Saint Paul Higher Secondary School’s ground in Indore in the presence of large numbers of clerics and Christians. The local people call her “Rani of Indore” – the queen of Indore.

Sister Rani worked among the landless poor in the Hindu-heartland of India, in the state of Madhya Pradesh. Her work in aiding poor to fight for their rights put her at odds with the landlords and the wealthy. The nun organized people who were exploited by moneylenders. Her self-help groups helped the poor and the downtrodden to break away from the clutches of the established money lending community. She also helped the illiterate poor to get government services available to them. Slowly, she was able to make a difference in their lives.

This indeed annoyed the rich and powerful. She was threatened several times, but she continued her good works undeterred. Her bold initiatives won the hearts of the poor tribal people, but they did not go down well with those having vested interests who ultimately decided to eliminate her.

[To be continued]

November 5th, 2017

All Saints Day

All Saints’ Day is a solemn holy day of the Catholic Church celebrated annually on November 1. The day is dedicated to the saints of the Church, that is, all those who have attained heaven. It should not be confused with All Souls’ Day, which is observed on November 2, and is dedicated to those who have died and not yet reached heaven.

Although millions, or even billions of people may already be saints, All Saints’ Day observances tend to focus on known saints –that is those recognized in the canon of the saints by the Catholic Church.

All Saints’ Day is also commemorated by members of the Eastern Orthodox Church as well as some protestant churches, such as Lutheran and Anglican churches.

The choice of the day may have been intended to co-opt the pagan holiday “Feast of the Lamures,” a day which pagans used to placate the restless spirits of the dead.

The holy day was eventually established on November 1 by Pope Gregory III in the mid-eighth century as a day dedicated to the saints and their relics.

In Ireland, the Church celebrated All Saints’ Day on April 20, to avoid associating the day with the traditional harvest festivals and pagan feasts associated with Samhain, celebrated at the same time.

Following the establishment of the Frankish Empire, and following the reign of Charlemagne, the holy day, which was already celebrated on November 1, became a holy day of obligation by decree of Pope Gregory IV and Louis the Pious, who was king over a portion of Charlemagne’s former empire.

Following the Protestant Reformation, many Protestants retained the holy day, although they dismissed the need to pray for the dead. Instead, the day has been used to commemorate those who have recently died, usually in the past year, and to remember the examples of those who lived holy lives.
The Catholic practice however, celebrates all those who have entered heaven, including saints who are recognized by the Church and those who are not.

Holy day customs vary around the world. In the United States, the day before is Halloween and is usually celebrated by dressing in costumes with themes of death commonly associated. Children go door-to-door in costume, trick-or-treating, that is soliciting candy from their neighbors. The holiday has lost much of its connection to its religious origins. Although nearly everyone celebrates Halloween for the fun of the secular holiday, the following religious solemnity is not widely practiced or acknowledged by most Americans unless they are Catholic.

In other countries, such as Portugal, Spain and Mexico, traditional practices include performance of the play, “Don Juan Tenorio” and offerings made to the dead. All Saints’ Say occurs on the same day as the Mexican “Dide los Innocentes” a day dedicated to deceased children.

Across much of Europe, the day is commemorated with offerings of flowers left on the graves of the dead. In Eastern Europe, candles are lit on graves instead of offerings of flowers. In some places, such as the Philippines, graves can be painted and repaired by family members. Many of these practices blur the distinction between All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day.

These celebrations often blur the distinction between All Saints’ Day, which is properly dedicated to those who are in heaven, and All Souls’ Day, on which prayers are offered for all those who have died, but have not yet reached heaven. In Mexico, the Day of the Dead holy days extend from October 31 through November 2.

The Day of the Dead is a Mexican holiday that has spread in popularity into parts of the United States and across Latin America. It is celebrated from October 31 through November 2, to coincide with both the American tradition and the Catholic holy days. Those three days are dedicated to all of the dead.

 

October 29th, 2017

Parish News

Lower Parking Lot: Work on the lower parking lot has been completed. All parishioners are welcome to visit the place and check it out!

Piano: I want to thank you for the enthusiastic support for the piano repairs. We have already sent the piano out for repairs; now we are using a loaner piano. We hope that it will be all completed before Christmas. We have raised over $10,000. I want to thank our music director, April McNeely, for taking charge of the project.

Book Club: over 20 people have signed up for the Book Club. Participants are divided into two groups. Please try to attend the meeting as much as possible in your own group. First meeting will be on October 31 2017, at 7:00 PM in the Rectory. Let us pray that it helps people understand spirituality and grow in spiritual life.

Fair Trade: Our parish is organizing a study/seminar on Fair Trade. It is a wonderful occasion for us to learn and support this organization. I invite everyone to take advantage of this opportunity.

Fair trade was founded in 1998 by the Institute for Agricultural Trade Policy (IATP). It is an independent, nonprofit organization that sets standards, certifies, and labels products that promote sustainable livelihoods for farmers and workers and protect the environment. Its mission is to “enable sustainable development and community empowerment by cultivating a more equitable global trade model that benefits farmers, workers, consumers, industry and the earth”.

The fair trade model requires rigorous protection of local ecosystems and ensures farmers work in safe conditions and receive a harvest price. In addition, annual inspections conducted by independent auditors like FLO-CERT and SCS Global Services ensure that strict socioeconomic development criteria are being met, in addition to sustainable farm management, environmental stewardship and democratic decision-making. The fair trade model seeks to empower farmers and workers around the world, keeping families, local economies, the natural environment, and the larger community strong today and for generations to come.

Fair Trade currently partners with over 800 brands, as well as 1.3 million farmers and workers in over 70 countries worldwide. Fair trade Certified products encompass many different commodities including coffee, tea, cocoa, sugar, spices, honey, produce, grains, wine & spirits, flowers, apparel & home goods, and body care. These commodities differ in location and types of labor used.

I thank Karen Glen for organizing the study.

Boutique & Book Sale: It is for the members of the parish to show-case their talents and creativity. Proceeds from it will also help our music ministry. This will be held on Sunday, November 19th after the 10:30 Mass.

Virtus Protecting the Children Project: Safe Environment training is an important requirement for our ministry in the Church. Everyone needs to be certified. All those who are in any form of ministry in the Church please make sure that you get certified. If you have questions please talk with Karen Glen.

 

October 15th & 22nd, 2017

State of the Parish

The financials of Saint Augustine Parish is presented in today’s bulletin. It is part of our stewardship that the members of our Church know about the finances. I thank everyone for their generous support to the upkeep and maintenance of our Church. Please take a prayerful look at it. Are there ways in which we can improve? I also thank the members of the finance committee for their generous service to our community. If you have any questions or need clarification, please call the parish office.

St. Augustine Parish 2016 Financial Statement

REVENUE
Rental Income $379,537 Plate $181,497
Facility Reimbursement $ 74,141
Gifts/Ministries $ 18,856
Parish Portion of Diocesan Capital Campaign $7,067
Holiday Shoe Drive $6,589
Hospitality $1,121
Votive Candles $ 351
Other $ 3,728
Sacraments $ 2,330
Other $ 2,103
Total Revenue: $658,464

EXPENSE
Parish Activities:
Priests $96,470
Priest $58,074
Extra Clergy $ 8,700
Priest—Operating Exp $15,337
Rectory Living—Op. Exp $14,359
Administration—Staff Salaries & Benefits $156,400
Administration—Operating Expenses $ 97,301
Music—Contract Personnel $ 39,620
Music—Operating Expenses $ 924
Faith Formation—Operating Expenses $ 4,060
Liturgy—Operating Expenses $ 9,522
Total Parish Activities $404,297
Other Parish Operations:
Building and Grounds $ 66,018
Diocesan Assessment $ 64,284
Facility Reimbursable Expense $ 41,799
Depreciation $ 26,009
Other $ 13,107
Total Other Parish Operations $211,217

Total Expense $615,514

NET INCOME $ 42,950

 

— Father Augustine

October 1st, 2017

Celebrate Giving

The weekend of October 14th & 15th we are celebrating as Stewardship Sunday. We will be presenting the financial picture of the parish those days.

The basic principle of stewardship is that everything we have and are, except our sins, is a gift of God… Our nationality, parents, race, etc. – we did not choose any of these.

I do not, ultimately, own anything. I have the use of many things for a time, but, ultimately, I am the steward, the caretaker of what God alone owns, even my own life. One day I have to render an account of my stewardship; how did I use the gifts that God had entrusted to me.

Once I realize this ultimate truth, my instinctive response should be to give thanks to God. This can be done in many ways:
a. Participate in the Holy Mass as the most important activity of my life. It is the perfect form of worship and thanksgiving to God, made possible by Jesus, the Son Of God. This is called the stewardship of time. Do I spend my time wisely, to praise and worship God?

b. We give thanks by using and developing the gifts that God has given us, not neglecting them or under-appreciating them. It is the stewardship of talent; using and developing my talents for the good of all

c. By giving back to God, some share of what God has given to me, a first share. It is the stewardship of treasure. Today we focus on the stewardship of treasure and we will have an occasion to speak of the other stewardships at another time

d. There is also the stewardship of ecology – conservation of energy and preserving God’s creation. Pope Francis’s encyclical, Laudato Si, speaks about it as a serious Christian obligation.

Stewardship of treasure/finances: It is about giving part of our treasures to God. In the Old Testament, Israel gave the first of everything to God…first born of lambs, harvest, first measure of olive oil, first jug of wine, as well as dedicating the first of their sons to God. The people gave 10% of their income to God. It may not be easy for all. An old archbishop used to say we should give 5% to the Church and other 5% to other charitable causes.

How do we start? Give gross salary of an hour a week that is 1/40th of what one has. At the beginning of the year plan your finances to give a percentage to God. Make it part of your priority. Give what we treasure to God; not our leftover or not what we do not need. The poor widow in the Gospel gave all she had (two cents!)

You give because you want to give; you love to give; not because the Church needs your gift. The Church will muddle along somehow. The basis of our decision is our need to give, to show our gratitude to God. It is part of our spiritual growth; it is an investment for us in the kingdom of heaven. It is not about fund raising. It springs up from your need to share what you have with God and with one another. I do not know what you contribute. That is between God and you.

— Father Augustine

 

September 24th, 2017

Faith Formation

The primary responsibility of educating a child is with the parents. The Church, however, shares in this responsibility and assists the parents.

Parents in our time face great challenges: some work at two jobs to support the family, parents themselves are not informed well in the faith and do not always teach it at home; baseball, soccer and basketball leagues schedule games on Sundays; youngsters often come home after a full day or full week of school and are not always as alert as you would like them to be.

In the face of these and other challenges faith formation is of utmost importance in the holistic growth of a child, nay, of every human person.

How would you respond if a parishioner asked, “So what do you really mean by faith formation?” The problem is ‘faith formation’ has become a catch-all term that can mean just about anything a church or Christian community does—from the parish picnic, to Bingo night, to team sports in the gym, to Sunday worship. It’s all faith formation, right?

Well, potentially, yes, but there are some criteria that our programs and activities ought to meet in order to fall under the faith formation umbrella.

In his latest book, Generations Together, John Roberto reaffirms a traditional, but very rich notion that faith formation informs, forms, and transforms the person—whether child, youth, or adult—into a robust, vital, and life-giving Christian faith that is holistic: a way of the head, the heart, and the hands. In a single sentence we could say faith formation is: equipping people to live as disciples of Jesus. And faith formation does the very same for the Christian community as it immerses people into the particular practices and particular way of life that identifies them as followers of Jesus.

While expressed in many different ways, faith formation at Saint Augustine seeks to help people:
Grow in their relationship with God for the whole of life.
Learn Catholic values and traditions and become familiar with the devotional life of the Church.
Live as disciples of Jesus at home, at work, in the community, and in the world. Develop an understanding of the Bible and their faith tradition.
Deepen their spiritual life and practices.
Engage in service and mission to the world. Participate in the life and ministries of their faith community”

So, faith formation may, indeed, occur at the parish picnic or on the gym floor, but it has little to do with eating hot dogs or sinking baskets, and whole lot to do with forming disciples of Jesus.
(from different sources)

September 17th, 2017

Why Sorrows?

Sorrows would seem rather an unlikely topic for a modern day discussion. Our current trend is to speak about happiness, self-fulfillment, fun time and entertainment. Most of our culture is an overt, as well as a covert, attempt at concealing, disregarding or minimizing sorrows; it would seem as if one is encouraged to for-get sorrows!

Yet the reality persists. Sorrows can be in a variety of ways. Birth, aging, illness, death, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair; association with the un-beloved; separation from the loved; not getting what is wanted, etc. How can I deal with it?

Celebration of the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows (September 15) reminds us that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was no alien to sorrows.

The Seven Sorrows of Mary are a popular Roman Catholic devotion. In common religious Catholic imagery, the Virgin Mary is portrayed in a sorrowful and lacrimating affect, with seven long knives or daggers piercing her heart, which is often bleeding.

The Seven Sorrows of Mary are the following:
1. The Prophecy of Simeon. (Luke 2:34–35)
2. The Escape and Flight into Egypt. (Matthew 2:13)
3. The Loss of the Child Jesus in the Temple of Jerusalem. (Luke 2:43–45)
4. The Meeting of Mary and Jesus on the Via Dolorosa.
5. The Crucifixion of Jesus on Mount Calvary. (John 19:25)
6. The Piercing of the Side of Jesus, and His Descent from the Cross. (Matthew 27:57–59)
7. The Burial of Jesus by Joseph of Arimathea. (John 19:40–42)

How did Mary deal with them? It is her unconditional and enduring faith in God, her fiat, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38) that made it possible for her to deal with sorrows. Unfortunately, in those days there were no counseling centers or psychiatric clinics. Even with all our modern amenities, a great faith like Mary’s can sustain us in the face of sorrows.

— Father Augustine

 

September 10th, 2017

Work is Sharing in God’s Creation

The end of summer brings about a flurry of activities, back to school, end of vacation for most people and back to a regular routine. Most Americans throughout the country have a day off from their regular work schedules on Monday. On Labor Day, we celebrate the contribution of all workers and laborers in ensuring that other citizens benefit from their efforts.

Around the world, International Workers’ Day, or Labor Day, is celebrated on May 1, which is also called May Day. However, the international date stems from the struggle of American workers. This day is associated with the American labor movement in the late 1800s, following violent protests at Haymarket Square in Chicago, because workers were made to work for seven days a week.

It is an occasion for us to pray for all workers whose contribution make our society run smoothly. In our turn let us be dedicated in our own works and services and give our best in serving our society and each other.

Father Phong Nguyen
We welcome Fr. Nguyen to Saint Augustine. He has been residing at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Fremont for the last two years. He is a priest belonging to the Hai Phòng diocese in Vietnam. The diocese of Hải Phòng is a Roman Catholic diocese in northern Vietnam. The bishop since 2002 has been Joseph Vu Van Thien.

Father Nguyen will be ‘in residence’ at Saint Augustine and attending the Dominican School of Theology in Berkeley. He is enrolled in the Masters’ program and is specializing in systematic theology (dogma). We wish him well in his studies and a happy stay at Saint Augustine.

— Father Augustine

September 3rd, 2017

Beautiful Sunday

It was family time. The celebration of the feast of Saint Augustine was all a family time. People came together in prayer, fellowship and sharing. The church family came together as the Scriptures say, “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” Psalm 133:1.

Holy Mass was beautiful, with melodious singing and active participation by all. Church environment was lovely and crisp. In our search for meaning, Saint Augustine is definitely a great exemplar. I believe that looking at the life and times of Saint Augustine everyone can find inspiration that chal-lenge us to be better people.

Our gathering after the Holy Mass was wonder-ful. There was so much food, with great variety, tastes and allurements. It was just impossible not to try the gourmet dishes. Even some of the passersby could not help but step in and taste some of the delicacies. Popsicles were a great hit with the children, not to mention the adults, given the heat of the day. “Little Francis” enjoyed a few of them!

Games were as much fun for children as well as adults. I could see the fathers showing off their basketball skills while the children enjoying the wa-ter balloons. I, too, had a try at the ‘cake walk’ with no luck accompanying me. One of the children told me, ‘If you do like this on Sundays, we all would like to come to Church!’

I thank all the members of our Church who made such a fun day possible. Thanks to those who set up and cleaned those who brought the food, those who organized the games and signed up to help with it all. I want thank our parish staff, especially Karen Glen and Doug Castro, who coor-dinated the celebration and saw to the food ar-rangements. Special thanks to Mike Marino, presi-dent of the Parish Council. April McNeely and the choir for their beautiful singing. Linda captured parts of the event on camera.

There was a smile on faces, joy in hearts, warmth in the air and Jesus amidst us. ‘Christ is the center of our celebration; the Unseen Guest at every meal; the Silent Listener to every conversation.’

— Father Augustine

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August 27th, 2017

110 Years’ Service to the Faithful  

The rich heritage at Saint Augustine parish is something to be proud of. It has brought comfort and solace to thousands of people; it’s been a safe haven for worshippers, reached out to the poor and the needy in our community, educated thousands of children, worked for social justice and peace, a welcoming place where everyone feels at home.

Parish Fest is a great opportunity for all parishioners to come together and experience fellowship and community prayer. The Church is not the building but the people. It is the people gathered in prayer (ecclesia) that constitutes the church.

We will have lots of fun, games and food. It is an occasion for us to celebrate our faith, celebrate our Christian heritage and life and, at the same time, recall memories of our patron saint, Augustine of Hippo.

Saint Augustine is a larger than life figure in Christian tradition. He is a prominent person among the Fathers of the Church. Prominent Christian thinkers and writers up to the 7th century AD are considered as Fathers of the Church because, they, through their preaching, teaching, writings and Christian living have inspired and nurtured the nascent Church. He is studied and acknowledged by practically all Christian denominations. Classical works of Saint Augustine, The City of God and The Confessions, are taught in universities around the world even in our present times. His expositions of Christian doctrines such as the Trinity, Grace and the understanding of the problem of evil, etc. are unmatched even to this day. Our feast day celebration is an occasion for us to thank God for the gift of such a wonderful saint.

Moreover, it is an occasion for us to thank other members of our faith family for their presence, kind services and spiritual fellowship.
Happy feast. Have a wonderful fun-filled day.

— Father Augustine

August 20th, 2017

Parish News

Parking Lot: Thanks to all the parishioners for putting up with some inconvenience while the parking lot was refinished. It is nearly completed. I also thank the school, EBI, for doing a fine job with it. It really enhances the environment of our worship space and the school.

Parish Feast-ival: Our upcoming parish feast is a great opportunity for all parishioners to come together and experience fellowship and community prayer. The Church is not the building, the people are. It is the people gathered in prayer (ecclesia) that constitutes the Church.

There will be lots of fun, games and food. It is an occasion for us to celebrate our faith, our Christian heritage and life, and at the same time recalling memories of our patron saint, Augustine of Hippo.

Saint Augustine is a larger than life figure in Christian tradition. He is a prominent person among the Fathers of the Church. Prominent Christian thinkers and writers up to the 7th Century AD are considered as Fathers of the Church because, they, through their preaching, teaching, writings and Christian living has inspired and nurtured the nascent Church. He is studied and acknowledged by practically all Christian denominations. Classical works of Saint Augustine, The City of God and The Confessions are taught in universities around the world, even in our present times. His expositions of Christian doctrines, such as the Trinity, Grace and the understanding of the problem of evil, etc. are unmatched even to this day. Our feast day celebration is an occasion for us to thank God for the gift of such a wonderful saint.

Novena Prayer: As a preparation for the feast, we are inviting all parishioners to pray the Novena Prayer. It is nine consecutive days of prayer that the faithful are requested to recite for the spiritual welfare of our community. The Novena Prayer is available in the vestibule of the Church. Kindly take it home and pray as a family prayer, or individually. It can also be prayed for one’s own personal intentions.

— Father Augustine

August 13th, 2017

Assumption of Mary

The Assumption of Mary into Heaven, often shortened to the Assumption, and also known as the Feast of Saint Mary the Virgin, mother of Our Lord Jesus Christ and/or the Falling Asleep of the Blessed Virgin Mary (the Dormition), 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 1 November 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, which is the same as the Assumption, whether Mary had a physical death 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”.

In the Catholic Church it is a Holy Day of obligation. What is the relevance of this feast in our lives?
“By contemplating Mary in heavenly glory, we understand that the earth is not the definitive homeland for us either, and that if we live with our gaze fixed on eternal goods we will one day share in this same glory and the earth will become more beautiful.

Consequently, we must not lose our serenity and peace even amid the thousands of daily difficulties. The luminous sign of Our Lady taken up into Heaven shines out even more brightly when sad shadows of suffering and violence seem to loom on the horizon.

We may be sure of it: from on high. Mary follows our footsteps with gentle concern, in which dispels the gloom in moments of darkness and distress, and reassures us with her motherly presence.” Pope Benedict XVI.

— Father Augustine

 

August 6th, 2017

Feast of the Transfiguration

The Transfiguration of Jesus is an event reported in the New Testament when Jesus is transfigured and becomes radiant in glory upon a mountain. The Synoptic Gospels (Matthew 17:1-8, Mark 9:2-8, Luke 9:28-36) describe it, and the Second Epistle of Peter also refers to it (2 Peter 1:16-18). It has also been hypothesized that the first chapter of the Gospel of John alludes to it (John 1:14).

In these accounts, Jesus and three of His apostles, Peter, James, and John, go to a mountain (the Mount of Transfiguration) to pray. On the mountain, Jesus begins to shine with bright rays of light. Then the prophets Moses and Elijah appear next to Him and He speaks with them. Jesus is then called “Son” by a voice in the sky, assumed to be God the Father, as in the Baptism of Jesus.

Many Christian traditions, including the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Anglican churches, commemorate the event in the Feast of the Transfiguration, a major festival.

The presence of the prophets next to Jesus and the perceptions of the disciples have been subject to theological debate. Origen (one of the earliest Christian writer) was the first to comment that the presence of Moses and Elijah represented the “Law and the Prophets”, referring to the Torah (also called the Pentateuch) and the rest of the Hebrew Bible. Martin Luther, continued to see them as the Law and the Prophets respectively, and their recognition of and conversation with Jesus as a symbol of how Jesus fulfills “the law and the prophets.”

All traditions merge in the transfigured, or the resurrected Lord. Law stands for conservatism and the prophets for liberalism. Both find fulfillment in the risen Lord. Jesus becomes the universal savior drawing all things to Himself.

 — Father Augustine

 

July 30th, 2017

Dream, Dream, Dream…

Solomon’s dream is narrated in the First Reading. In his dream Solomon asks for wisdom and God grants it to him.

In the Bible there are hundreds of references to dreams. For example, in Prophet Joel we read: “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.” (Joel 2:28)

Martin Luther King is famed for the lines, “I have a Dream…”

In political forums and discussions we often hear about, “The American dream”; whatever it means is quite a different question.

Probably every one of us has some dreams. There are as many different dreams as there are people. Some dreams are fantasies, others are nightmares, yet, others are life giving….

Do I dream? Dreams often guide our lives and influence our behaviors. A person without dreams is like the morning mist lingering to be burned off.

Jesus had a dream. The Kingdom of Heaven. He came to establish it. He explained it through many parables – ‘the wheat and the weed’, ‘a treasure buried in a field’, ‘a net thrown into the sea’ ‘a mustard seed’ like the yeast that a woman took and mixed with flour’, etc. Then he taught us to pray for it – “thy kingdom come”…

What is my dream? As a Christian, do I have a dream?

— Father Augustine

 

July 23rd, 2017

Apostle of the Apostles (part 2 of 2)

Mary Magdalene, who according to John 20:17-18 and Mark 16:9-1 was commissioned by the risen Jesus to inform the disciples of his resurrection, has been merited the title “Apostle to the apostles” by the Roman Catholic Church.

Matthew 28:1-8 and Luke 24:10 speak of women (in the plural), including Mary Magdalene, carrying out this function. An early Christian commentary on the Song of Songs, perhaps by Hippolytus of Rome (170-235), has Christ speak of two women, whom it calls Mary and Martha, as apostles to the apostles: “Christ showed Himself to the (male) apostles and said to them: … ‘It is I who appeared to these women and I who wanted to send them to you as apostles.'”

Use of the actual term “apostle to the apostles” or “apostle of the apostles” was first attested much later than the time of Hippolytus. According to Darrell Bock, it first appears in the 10th century, but Katherine Ludwig Jansen says she found no reference to it earlier than the 12th, by which time it was already commonplace. She mentions, in particular, Hugh of Cluny (1024-1109), Peter Abelard (1079-1142), and Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) among those who gave Mary Magdalene the title of “apostolorum apostola” (apostle of the apostles).

In his Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem (“On the dignity and vocation of women”, parts 67-69) dated 15 August 1988, Pope John Paul II dealt with the Easter events in relation to the women being present at the tomb after the Resurrection, in a section entitled ‘First Witnesses of the Resurrection’:

The women are the first at the tomb. They are the first to find it empty. They are the first to hear ‘He is not here. He has risen, as He said.’ They are the first to embrace his feet. The women are also the first to be called to announce this truth to the Apostles. The Gospel of John (cf. also Mk 16:9 emphasizes the special role of Mary Magdalene. She is the first to meet the Risen Christ. […] Hence she came to be called “the apostle of the Apostles”. Mary Magdalene was the first eyewitness of the Risen Christ, and, for this reason, she was also the first to bear witness to him before the Apostles. This event, in a sense, crowns all that has been said previously about Christ entrusting divine truths to women as well as men.  —  John Paul II

On 10 June 2016, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments issued a decree which elevated Mary’s liturgical commemoration from an obligatory memorial to a Feast Day, like that of most of the Apostles (Peter and Paul are commemorated with a solemnity). The Mass and Liturgy  of the Hours (Divine Office) remained the same as they were, except that a specific preface was added  to the Mass, to refer to her explicitly as the “Apostle  to the Apostles”.

— Fr. Augustine

 

July 16th, 2017

The Feast of Mary Magdalene (part 1 of 2)

On June 10, 2016, Pope Francis accorded the liturgical celebration of Mary Magdalene the status of a Feast like that of most of the apostles. Is Mary Magdalene, perhaps, one of the most misunderstood saints in western Christian tradition?

Mary Magdalene literally translated as Mary the Magdalene or Mary of Magdala, was a Jewish woman who, according to texts included in the New Testament, traveled with Jesus as one of His followers. She is said to have witnessed Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. Within the four Gospels she is named at least 12 times, more than most of the apostles.

Ideas that go beyond the gospel presentation of Mary Magdalene as a prominent representative of the women who followed Jesus have been put forward over the centuries.

Mary Magdalene is considered to be a saint by the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, and Lutheran churches-with a feast day of July 22.

Western Christianity: During the Middle Ages, Mary Magdalene was regarded in the west as a repentant prostitute or promiscuous woman, claims not found in any of the four canonical gospels. The identity of Mary Magdalene is believed to have been merged with the identity of the unnamed sinner who anoints Jesus’ feet in Luke 7:36-50. Mary Magdalene, the anointing sinner of Luke, and Mary of Bethany, who in John 11:1-2 also anoints Jesus’ feet, were long regarded as the same person. Though Mary Magdalene is named in each of the four gospels in the New Testament, none of the clear references to her indicate that she was a prostitute or notable for a sinful way of life, nor link her with Mary of Bethany.

Eastern Orthodox Tradition maintains that Mary Magdalene, distinguished from Mary of Bethany and the “sinful woman” who anoints Jesus in Luke, had been a virtuous woman all her life, even before her conversion. They have never celebrated her as a penitent. This view finds expression both in her written life and in the liturgical service in her honor and performed on her annual feast-day.

Mary Magdalene is honored as one of the first witnesses of the Resurrection of Jesus, and received a special commission from him to tell the Apostles of his resurrection. She is often depicted on icons bearing a vessel of ointment, not because of the anointing by the “sinful woman”, but because she was among those women who brought ointments to the tomb of Jesus. For this reason, she is called a Myrrhbearer.

According to Eastern traditions, she retired to Ephesus with the Theotokos (Mary, the Mother of God) and there she died. Her relics were transferred to Constantinople in 886 and are preserved there.
[To be continued]
— Fr. Augustine

July 9th, 2017

Parish News

Spiritual Retreat: I attended a spiritual retreat for the priests at San Damiano, in Danville. There were about twenty priests who made their annual retreat. The topic of the retreat was, ‘Meditations on Jesus’ Conversations in the Gospels.’ As we read the Gospels we find numerous occasions, where Jesus had conversations with different individuals. Of course, it was not possible to examine every instance. Few that we looked at were, Jesus’ conversation with His parents at the temple (Matt.1:18-25), the woman at the well (Jn.4:2-42), the scene of the woman caught in adultery (Jn.83-12), the post-resurrection dialogue with Peter (Jn.21:16-23) and at the scene of Lazarus recalled to life (Jn.11-44). These were presented in their Jewish context (sitz im leben) which made their meaning and interpretation rather unique.  During the retreat I prayed for all the members of our Church that we may continue to grow in faith, with renewed hope and charity toward one another.

Ice-Cream Social on July 19th kicks of our Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). It is a singular opportunity for those who would like to learn more about our Christian Faith or for those who would like to join the Catholic faith as well as for those who would like to complete their Sacraments of Initiation – Baptism, Holy Eucharist and Confirmation. I invite everyone who can make it to attend the Ice-Cream Social. Kindly invite your family, friends or acquaintances who may have an interest in RCIA.

Piano repair: As we have been hearing in these past few weeks our Piano is in need of repairs. It requires a refinished keyboard and also restringing. Our hope is to complete these works in two phases. The first phase is to refinish the keyboard and it would cost about $6,000. The second phase of restringing would costs about $6,000. The total cost of the entire project is around $12,000. Currently we have raised about $7,372. I want to thank everyone who contributed to this worthy project. Let us pray that we can complete it all by the end of the year.

Parking lot: The large parking lot at the west end of the Church is undergoing repair and renovation. The work is being done by EBI, the school that rents our premises. The plan has been studied and approved by the Parish Council and the building committee of the diocese. We hope that the entire project will be completed within five or six weeks.

— Father Augustine

 

July 2nd, 2017

Hospitality of Heart

Openness to life! Hospitality of heart – These are some of the themes that suggest themselves through the readings of this Sunday. The woman in the first reading was open to life; she welcomed the prophet into her home, was aware that he was a holy man of God, and set about facilitating his mission. In the gospel we, as disciples of Jesus, listen to his words addressed directly to us telling us how we are to open our lives to him, give him pride of place over family and friends even to the point of bearing his cross. Our welcome is to be whole-hearted, and if I am in any doubt as to where I am to exercise this total acceptance of Christ in my life I have only to turn to my neighbor. “He who welcomes you, welcomes me” Nothing could be clearer. Christ is all around me. He is present in my home, at work, in those who pass me in the street.. He is present in myself! In today’s second reading St Paul adds his voice to the celebration of Christian life! Through baptism we have entered into the great life of the resurrection. No wonder we cry out with the psalmist in joy; “I will sing forever of your love, 0 Lord.” The beautiful story of the Shunemite woman illustrates the fact that God’s word finds acceptance in people’s lives through the instrumentality of human agents. Elisha may seem to be an itinerant preacher. It is the woman who detects his mission and makes room for him in her house. Likewise, many a parent makes space for God in their family life by helping a child learn the words of a prayer and by showing respect for the things of God. When I reflect on how God found a space in my life, I will inevitably return to the influence of a human agent. The gospel’s emphasis on hospitality is presented in the form of a strange equation: “He who welcomes you, welcomes me.”

We may expect, then, that Christ will come to our doors in many disguises and almost always at the wrong time! He may not even be wearing clerical garb! Rather, I may find him hidden in the stranger, the outcast of society, the neighbor, the child needing attention, the sick person.. There are many delightful fairytales of princesses hidden in rags and of princes imprisoned in toads. Every child’s eyes light up in wonder at the moment when the disguise is dropped and the truth is revealed. Openness to wonder, to the mystery of Christ hidden in the other: these qualities are often sadly missing in my life. The “cup of cold water” is proverbially quoted as a somewhat dubious sign of Christian charity. Perhaps this is because it does not cost much in rain-drenched climates! In a hot, dusty climate, however, a drink of cold water can be a life-saver. The attitude of thoughtfulness, the lack of self-absorption; these would seem to underline the Christian attitude towards others. It is not what is given that counts but the heart with which it is given.

A legalistic, mathematical mind tends to measure the bare requirement due to the other. This does not make for a happy environment. No wonder that a sub-theme of today’s liturgy is joy: “Happy the people.. who find their joy every day in your name” we read in the psalm. The open-hearted person is always happy; there is much joy in giving. Cups of cold water may be translated into a letter, a phone-call, a smile, a word of appreciation. They cost little but how the world today is crying out for cups of cold water! Christ is often wounded and struggling in my neighbor. The image that could be explored by the homilist pertaining to the theme of hospitality is that of making a space for God in our lives. The woman of Shunem had a room built on the roof of her house for the prophet so that he might be rested and refreshed for his mission throughout Israel. She made physical space for the holy man of God. Christianity calls on us to make space for Christ and his message in our lives. Where do I find this space? Is it my time? A small part of my earnings to support the preaching of God’s word? Or is it a quiet space in my life where I can turn to welcome the indwelling of Christ in my heart? Mary is the model of Christian hospitality: she made a space in her heart for the Word just as she made a space in her womb for his body. She pondered his words in her heart so that gradually her whole life was filled with his presence.

June 25th, 2017

Happy Summer Days

It is my earnest hope and prayer that everyone finds some time for vacation this year. It is necessary for holistic health or Eudaimonia. Eudaimonia is a Greek word commonly translated as happiness or welfare; however, “human flourishing” has been proposed as a more accurate translation. For Aristotle virtue and its exercise are the most important constituents in eudaimonia but acknowledges, also, the importance of external goods such as health, wealth, and beauty…

The word Vacation comes from the same root from which comes the word vacant or empty. In time of vacation we are supposed to have some free, empty time; some time apart from the normal activities and concerns of our lives. It need not be expensive!

In our society, however, we often fill up our vacation time with activities, sometimes mindless, go-go activities, which is not the same as empty, quiet activity – i.e. “hanging out”.  The pattern of driving for six or seven hours, doing a quick tour of some “site” and then driving back home thinking we have accomplished something is a modern, American phenomenon.

We tend to be “doers”, not “thinkers” or “contemplatives”.  We tend to want to accomplish something, even while on vacation, when the whole purpose of vacation is to not accomplish something.

The stereotype of the American tourist who “does” the Vatican in an hour is not totally a stereotype, unfortunately.  Twenty minutes or so each with, the Saint Peters, the Sistine Chapel and the museum hits all the biggies and we can tell people we have “done” it.

My hope is that you have a wonderful vacation and accomplish nothing this summer; that you take the time provided as an opportunity to enjoy yourselves and your family members, that you lay back, take a nap, read a book – the more escapist the better.

I pray that you have empty time; time to realize what a gift the Lord has given us in giving us the time of our lives.  I encourage you to take the time to enjoy your lives and give thanks.  That would be a truly renewing vacation – emptiness that is in touch with the very fullness that is God.

— Fr. Augustine

June 18th, 2017

Come and See Event

Saint Vincent de Paul Society, Alameda County, organized a Parish Solidarity Initiative on June 13, 2017 at the Saint Vincent de Paul center, Oakland. It had representatives from various Catholic organizations, and Catholic inspired organizations, working with Social Justice needs like, CRS, Just Faith, Fair Trade, Catholic Charities, V Encuentro, Catholic worker, Maryknoll, etc. These organizations and many like them offer a lot of services for people in need.

Papal encyclical, Laudato Si (2015) gave one of the most solid foundations to Christian social teaching in the 21st century, ‘The earth is our common home; we have a responsibility to take care of it.’

Caring for the Earth is not limited to ecological concerns. It is primarily caring for our brothers and sisters. “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” Matt.25:40. Such caring involves a host of things, giving food to the needy, shelter to the homeless, welcoming immigrants and strangers, education and equal opportunities to all. In other words, it requires short term goals and long term goals. The short term goals take care of the immediate needs of a person, while the long term goals help them to be self-supportive. While looking out for each other, we encourage all to take good care of our common home – the Earth.

About seven members from our parish participated in the event/seminar. Although comparatively a small parish in membership, there is much awareness and participation helping the less fortunate at Saint Augustine’s.

The seminar/presentation ended by quoting the words of Saint Francis of Assisi, “Preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary use words.”

— Father Augustine

 

June 11th, 2017

First Holy Communion part 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

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

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

 

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

May 14th, 2017

A Mother’s Day Reflection

(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.

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.

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

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

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

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)

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

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.

 

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)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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.

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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