September: New Beginnings In Our Parish

New Year’s resolutions are famously made on January 1, and infamously broken by the end of that month. But for many stewards, the real time of renewal and recommitment comes as we turn the calendar page into September, and the resolutions have a longer and greater impact. Why? Because good Catholic stewards realize that the parish is often-times the place where people encounter Christ’s presence in their lives, and in the fall, everything kicks into high gear at the parish.

Opportunities abound for growth, for giving, for community. It’s now that we ponder and make our decisions for how we will make a disciple’s response during the coming year through our commitment to the life of our parishes.

Here are a few tips for maximizing a grace-filled year: • Make Mass your top weekend priority, ahead of sports, school activities, or other temptations. • Consider how best to use your talents in the service of the parish. Pray over the ministry which calls to you the most. • Make an appointment to introduce yourself to the pastor or any new clergy if you do not know them, visit with them, or invite them to dinner. • Serve the poor through activities in your parish, in the spirit of St. Vincent de Paul. Our Feed My People Ministry is always in need of more helpers. • Visit our parish Ministry Faire next Sunday. Fun and informative, the Faire is a community builder, and a great way to get involved. • Visit your child’s faith formation class and introduce yourself to the teacher. Let your children know religious education is a priority to you, and be sure to thank in some way the parishioners who give of their time and talent to this ministry. • Review your financial giving. Were you a faithful giver during the summer? Think about signing up for on-line giving so your year-round support helps provide a stable parish income.

Our Ministry Faire will be held next Sunday, September 9 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Parish Center parking lot.  Please stop by to talk with the members of our ministries and then prayerfully discern where your gifts and talents can best be used.

Stewardship and Missionary Discipleship: Tending Our Faith Responsibly

Saint John Paul II wrote “Life is entrusted to man as a treasure which must not be squandered, as a talent which must be used well” (Evangelium Vitae, 52).

Our late pontiff also wrote: It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be ground down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal (Prayer Vigil, World Youth Day, August 19, 2000).

Another year of learning begins soon. Teachers everywhere will assemble students, engaging and encouraging them to discover their talents, recognize and focus on their potential, and understand more about life, faith, and the world.

Likewise, “Missionary Discipleship” calls each of us to commit ourselves to learning more about our faith. The need for ongoing formation and catechesis is not just for the young. It’s vital for everyone, throughout our lives. We respond to the call to be Missionary Disciples and gratefully receive the gift of our faith and cherish it. However, before we can share our faith with others in justice and love, we must tend to it, in a responsible and accountable manner.

What are some ways we could tend to our faith? Here are a few ideas: • Join, or lead, a parish Bible study group. • Start a book club reading religious books about saints, liturgy and Catholic practices. • Subscribe to or download an app for a daily devotional with reflection and commentary. • Participate in a diocesan faith-formation course. • Check a nearby seminary or Franciscan School for Theology (located at Mission San Luis Rey) for courses available to laity. • Read religious pamphlets and the diocesan Southern Cross newspaper  • Look for Catholic educational resources online or on DVD. • Search for and read online the documents and summaries from the Second Vatican Council. •  Pray every day, often. As regards to prayer, it would be a good idea to set aside time routinely for complete silence in order to listen for God’s still, small voice, like Elijah waiting in the cave. He too was humbly and patiently waiting to improve himself and society. The Lord called Elijah with a whisper, sending him on a mission to Damascus (1 Kings 19:12-16). We, too, are summoned to fulfill a role only we can play using the gift of faith entrusted to us. What is God pressing on your heart to do with your faith? How will you respond?

It’s Never Too Late to Say “Thanks”

I love my job.  Sure, it’s not all that exciting to write checks, do bookkeeping, meet with vendors.  But what IS exciting are THE PEOPLE.  St. Mary’s is blessed with wonderful parishioners who give themselves wholeheartedly to the service of the Lord.  I have come to know many on a personal level and have found them to be beautiful people of God.  Even when a parishioner complains, I accept it gratefully because it means that they care and want things to be better for everyone.

 

It’s not just the parishioners that I enjoy, but the visitors as well.  Over the years, we have had many visitors come in and tell me that their parents were married here.  Usually the story goes that their dad was stationed at Camp Pendleton and came into town to get married before being shipped out to the war (World War II).  I always take them into the church and then bring them back to the office where I look up the marriage record.  It always fills them with joy.  That is why, when we renovated the vestibule years ago, I created the display that shows the active-duty service men and women who were married here during WWII.  It also showcases our on-going association with the military.

 

Last week, a family was visiting from the East Coast and asked to see the inside of the church.  The wife (we’ll call her “MARY”) and teenage son (“JAMES”) walked out of the office and the husband (“JOHN”) stayed behind.  He said he wanted me to know why they came here to see the church.

 

He said that his dad (“DAD”) had completed boot camp in San Diego and was then moved to Camp Pendleton to wait to be shipped out to the Korean War.  The year was 1950.

 

FAST FORWARD TO 1997.  John and Mary were living in Southern California and had just had their first child.  Dad came to visit to see the grandchild.  He tells John that, while he was at Camp Pendleton, he and his buddies would go into Laguna Beach and he wanted to see it again because he enjoyed it so much.  So, off they go to Laguna.  Then Dad asks John to drive him down to Oceanside.  “Why?  What’s in Oceanside?”, John asks him.  “Please just take me there.”  When they drive into town, Dad remarks that everything looks very different, but if John would just drive around the downtown area, he will find his bearings.  They drive down Hill Street (now Coast Highway) and Dad tells him to turn onto Third Street (now Pier View Way).  That’s when he spots the church!  He instructs John to wait for him in the car and he disappears into the church for about an hour.

 

By the time Dad returns, John can’t stand it any longer and asks “What was that all about?”  Dad tells him that he was, understandably, very worried about going into the War.  The night before he was to be shipped out, he snuck off base, and came to our church.  He prostrated himself on the floor and begged God to let him come home alive.  He promised that, if he came home alive, he would come back here and “thank Him in person”.  It took 47 years, but his promise was kept!

 

FAST FORWARD TO 2018.  John and Mary and their family now live on the East Coast again (where John grew up).  Over the years, Dad’s story became almost a legend in the family.  So, while they were in Southern California on a family vacation, they went out of their way to bring James to see the church where God and Dad had their meeting that night.  Dad’s folklore now becomes a reality to James who will pass down the story to his future children.

 

I am certain that Dad thanked God profusely when he came home and probably every day thereafter for sparing his life and allowing him to have a wife, children, and grandchildren.  But he clearly held in his heart that he had a specific promise to keep and it brought him back here.

 

When moments like this occur, I am humbled.  I am reminded that we have a very special gift here and that we are caretakers of the past and guardians of the future.

STEWARDSHIP SAINT FOR AUGUST – Saint Lydia of Philippi

Lydia is the first recorded person in Europe to become a follower of Jesus Christ. She was Saint Paul’s first baptized convert at Philippi. What we know of Lydia is found in the Acts of the Apostles. She was from Thyatira, an industrial center located in what is now western Turkey. She was a wealthy business woman; a manufacturer and seller of purple dyes and fabrics for which the city of Thyatira was noted. Lydia was part of a high value industry. Purple goods were luxury items, used by emperors, high government officials, and priests of the pagan religions. At the time of the narrative in Acts, Lydia and her household had moved to the city of Philippi, a Roman colony on the Rome-to-Asia trade route. This is where she had her first encounter with Paul on his second missionary journey about the year 50. While visiting Philippi for the first time, Paul and his party came upon Lydia and a group of women gathered by the river that ran through the city center. He sat down and shared the gospel with them. Lydia listened intently, took the gospel message to heart, and she and her family were then baptized in the river. Lydia insisted on providing hospitality to Paul and his companions, so they made their home with her while in Philippi. She continued to help them even after they were jailed and released. As a successful businesswoman, her home would have been spacious enough to welcome guests and to become a place for community gatherings and liturgies. Paul cherished the members of the Christian community at Philippi and called them his “joy and crown.” Undoubtedly, Lydia’s generous hospitality and leadership in the founding of this early Christian community contributed to Paul’s affection. Saint Lydia’s feast day is August 3.