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.


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.


Saint Benedict, the father of Western monasticism, is considered a model of Christian stewardship. He authored the famous Rule of St. Benedict, a handbook of daily Christian living that emphasizes exercising stewardship over prayer, work, and community. Born in central Italy in the town of Nursia around 480, Benedict studied in Rome as a young man. He was so distressed by the chaos and incivility he found there that he left the city and traveled to Subiaco, Italy to become a hermit.

He soon attracted followers who wanted to join him in his simple way of living; imitating his style of prayer and work while respecting the rhythms of the day. Benedict stayed there for 25 years before taking a small group of his monks to Monte Cassino, near Naples, where he wrote the final version of his Rule. The Rule of St. Benedict started a simple, spiritual tradition that exists to this day. It was meant to “…establish a school for the Lord’s service.” It is a set of Christian principles around which the members of the community were to organize their daily lives, focusing on the most important Christian values that would direct their daily actions and help them cultivate habits that would ensure good stewardship of their physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.

A hallmark of Christian stewardship is hospitality, making room for others. St. Benedict found this aspect of the Christian life especially important for his communities. In his Rule, St. Benedict writes: “Let all guests who arrive be received like Christ, for he is going to say: ‘I was a stranger and you welcomed me (Mt. 25:35).’ ‘And to all let due honor be shown, especially to those who share our faith’ (Gal. 6:10) and to pilgrims… In welcoming the poor and pilgrims the greatest care and solicitude should be shown, because it is especially in them that Christ is received” (Rule of St. Benedict 53:1-2, 15). The Rule of St. Benedict was meant to stand on the shoulders of the Gospels and many spiritual writers throughout the ages attest to its transforming power to change lives. It teaches the principles of stewardship, shows one how to live in a way that is uniquely countercultural and invites its adherents to enter into a deeper and more joyful relationship with the Lord.

St. Benedict died in approximately 550. He is the patron saint of monks and farm workers. In 1964 Pope Paul VI declared him to be the patron saint of Europe. His feast day is July 11.

Stewardship: Giving Us a Clear Sight

I recently received an updated eyeglass prescription and ordered new glasses. I was anxious to pick them up when they arrived, as my previous prescription had been inadequate for quite some time. With only a few hours with the new glasses, however, I could tell that something was just not right about them. The reading portion of the bifocal seemed off, which meant that I had to bob my head awkwardly to read a book or see the computer screen.


I returned to the optometry office the following morning, explained that the glasses were just not working. With two brief adjustments, the technician returned the glasses to me, and suddenly, I could see! All the way home, and throughout the following days,

I prayed many prayers of thanksgiving to God, for the gift of corrected sight and the blessing of a skilled technician. We who have committed ourselves to living and growing as good stewards experience these sorts of moments often.

We see the blessings within and around us every day and we grow in gratitude for these many gifts in our lives.

Like my glasses after the technician had adjusted them, stewardship gives us clear sight. We see the world, and our lives, as they really are — gifts from God, entrusted to us to steward well. The technician who fixed my glasses knew just what was needed in order to bring clarity to my vision.

We are called to act as stewardship leaders, “technicians”, who show others what is needed, so that they, too, may see themselves, their faith, gifts, and resources as blessings from God.

Through the things we say, our interactions with people, the sharing of lay witnesses, and the ways we ask our people to make commitments to Christ and to the Church, we point the way to the vision that God desires for all of his people — that we will see God’s grace in our midst, thank God for our many gifts, and give glory to God as we steward


by Leisa Anslinger, author and co-founder of Catholic Strengths and Engagement Community (CSEC)




Don’t Neglect Your “Garden”

The creation story in Genesis speaks about God placing Adam and Eve in a garden.  Like humanity’s first parents, God has entrusted us too with “gardening” duties.  We may not have been given a literal garden to oversee, but we have been given responsibility for the “garden” of our own life.

Our own personal “garden” is composed of three separate plots: our physical bodies, our relationships with others, and the natural world that surrounds us all.  God expects us to tend each of these plots.

The Garden of the Body

Sometimes, we forget that our physical body is a gift given to us by God.  St. Paul reminds us that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit.  However, we often abuse or neglect them.  Do we nourish our bodies with nutritious food and a balanced diet?  Do we receive enough sleep, or does sleep deprivation make us less productive at work and in our interactions with others?  Do we get regular check-ups and take any prescribed medications?  Have we unnecessarily exposed our bodies to harmful substances?  Have we exploited the body of another for our own selfish purposes?

The Social Garden

Our relationships also are precious gifts that we fail to nurture as we should.

Do we make it a priority to spend time with our families?  Sometimes, the people we are closest to are the very ones we take for granted.  Do we prioritize our relationship with our spouse over all other commitments except our relationship with God?

Are there friends and family members with whom we should spend more time?  Are there any unresolved issues that are seriously interfering with any of our relationships?  Are there people that we need to pray for, even if they have hurt us?  Cultivating our relationships means being attentive and communicating our love, commitment, and concern.

We must also ask, are we willing to take the risk of reaching out and welcoming newcomers into our social circle?

Matthew 25 reminds us of our obligation to server others, when Jesus says, “For I was hungry and you gave Me food…a stranger and you welcomed Me.”  In today’s world, immigrants and refugees are precisely the strangers we must welcome—and the Bible makes it clear that doing so is indispensable to our faith.

The Ecological Garden

The Bible tells us that God has entrusted the earth and all its creatures to us, so that we might be good caretakers.  St. Francis of Assisi made us particularly aware of God’s mysterious presence in all of creation.

Have we been wasteful or careless in the use of the material goods entrusted to us?  Do we make an effort to recycle or re-use these materials wherever possible?  Do we allow concern for the environment to influence our purchasing decisions/  Are there any steps we could take to reduce the impact that we have on the environment, such as buying re-usable shopping bags, lowering our thermostats, or reducing our use of plastic water bottles?  Do we truly understand that stewardship of the earth and its creatures is a way of honoring God, our Creator, and it will lead to a great respect for our fellow human beings?

All of this can feel like a lot to consider—and even more to actually do.  But with a series of small steps, each taken in succession, we can live out the call of Isaiah 1:17—”Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression, bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.”


By Manny Aguilar, Director of the diocesan Office for Stewardship



Stewardship Saint of the Month

Saint Anthony of Padua is one the most beloved and admired saints in the Church. A Franciscan friar and a Doctor of the Church, he is considered one of the greatest preachers in the history of Christianity.

Anthony was born on the Feast of the Assumption in Lisbon, Portugal, in 1195 to a wealthy and educated family of the Portuguese nobility. He entered the Augustinian religious community at an early age where he devoted himself to the study of sacred scripture and Latin classics.

He felt a call to missionary work, however, and was given permission to join the Franciscan Order when he was 26 years old. Anthony traveled tirelessly to preach what it meant to live according to the Gospel.

He is believed to have made as many as 400 trips to towns in both northern Italy and southern France where he attracted people by the thousands. He was so popular a preacher that he often had to speak in public squares and marketplaces rather than churches.

Anthony knew that preaching was not enough to help people understand how to follow Jesus Christ. He believed he had to give witness to the Gospel by the way he lived his personal life. So, he adopted and maintained a simple lifestyle consistent with what he believed the Gospel was calling him to. He became one of Francis of Assisi’s favorite disciples and closest friend. The last months of Anthony’s life were lived in Padua, Italy, with preaching, hearing confessions, and assisting those in debt. He died there on June 13, 1231 at the age of 36 and was proclaimed a saint less than one year after his death.

So simple, yet compelling and inspiring was Anthony’s teaching of the Catholic faith that he was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1946.

Anthony is best known as the saint to whom one prays to find a lost article. When a novice took his Psalter without permission, Anthony prayed for the book’s return. After the novice was visited by a ghost in a frightening nightmare, he rushed to give the book back to Anthony. Many people do not know, though, that St. Anthony is the patron of other causes. He is the patron saint of Brazil and Portugal, the poor, barren women, harvests and those who travel. His feast day is June 13.


Saint Anthony, great wonder-worker, intercede for us that God may grant us our request if it be for the good of our soul.

Saint Anthony, be our patron, our protector, and our advocate in life and in death.

Saint Anthony, attentive to those who invoke thee, grant us the aid of thy powerful intercession for the grace of holy purity, meekness, humility, obedience, the spirit of poverty, and perfect abandonment to the will of God.

Saint Anthony, servant of Mary, obtain for us greater devotion to the blessed Mother of God. 



Celebrating the Body and Blood of Christ as “Stewards of the Gospel”

This weekend, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, or Corpus Christi, to celebrate the gift of the Eucharist.

Of course, the best way to celebrate it is to live it, to put the Eucharist into action. None of us can be a mere spectator to the Eucharist, for this offering to God of bread and wine is really our offering to him of ourselves, of our lives and of the whole world. Jesus taught us this connectedness when he enjoined us to go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel (see Mark 16:15).

The Eucharist invites us to be “stewards of the gospel;” to follow in Jesus’ footsteps and to love others just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us.

This is the meaning behind the language of blood sacrifice of which we will hear proclaimed in the weekend’s readings. Blood is fundamentally life. The commitment to share in a common life, the covenant between God and Israel, was endorsed in blood, lots of it.

Sacrifice was, and is necessary. But how does the celebration of the Eucharist relate concretely to our ordinary day-to-day lives? At one level, the practice of going to Mass affirms our belief that there is something extraordinary in our ordinary, daily lives. We take time to acknowledge to ourselves, our families and our communities that we are engaged in a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. More deeply, however, is that the Eucharist transforms us. It provides a center of our being and a driving force that impels us to go out and “be” Christ to a broken world.

We are nourished and strengthened in a profound way in order to build up the Body of Christ and carry out Jesus’ command to be missionary disciples.

The theme for the 56th annual conference of the International Catholic Stewardship Council, to be held in Nashville, Tennessee, October 28 to 31, is Missionary Disciples: Stewards of the Gospel, in response to the United States bishops’ call to form ourselves, and others, as missionary disciples. This conference will give us a wonderful opportunity to learn more about putting the Eucharist into action and to become “doers” of God’s Word through missionary discipleship, as individual Catholics, and as local Catholic communities of faith. The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ reminds us that we are each called to serve, uniquely equipped with gifts for missionary discipleship, and sent forth to carry the good news of the gospel to all we meet wherever we go. And we are never alone in this journey of faith. Christ is with us in a real and most personal way.




Even though we live in sunny Southern California, we still have a period of winter “hibernation”.  Even though we don’t experience the seasons like in other parts of the country, we still have a “rebirth” when the sun is out and the temperatures are higher.

When these changes occur, something stirs within: the desire to tackle that dust we suddenly notice in places we seldom look. And those windows smeared with winter’s muck? And that disorganized closet? There’s a reason our grandmothers called it “spring housecleaning.” The season brings an almost physical desire to get out the mop.

Surprisingly, for the Christian steward, this can actually be a spiritual impulse.

There’s something intrinsically renewing and revitalizing about cleaning. Everything done with a prayerful heart can lead us closer to God, and cleaning, often a solitary and contemplative task, can definitely include prayer.

You might plan to begin your cleaning with prayer, and play music that lifts your spirit as you work.

Start with a closet. Open your heart to what it tells you about how blessed you are materially. But observe the consumerism a closet can reveal. As you examine each item of apparel, remember and thank God for the graces of the occasion: a wedding, a graduation, a vacation. Enjoy “shopping” in your own closet for items you’ve forgotten about. Pare down what you no longer need or what you feel called to share. Wash, mend, iron and select a place where your items may find a good home.

Many cities have refugee closets, and many nonprofits have thrift stores which support them.  St. Vincent de Paul shops serve the poor with inexpensive used items. Pray for those with whom you are about to share. Resolve to put your newly reorganized items to work for you and not rush out to buy more.

And those windows? Does anything lift the spirit like a clean window after a long winter? As you polish those panes of glass, pray about where your own inner life could use a cleaning.

Perhaps you don’t make it to the Sacrament of Reconciliation as often as you’d like. Use your quiet window cleaning time to examine the graces and challenges of your life. Thank God for the many blessings and be honest about failings.

And that ubiquitous dust? It promises to return, afflicts the rich and the poor. It’s a sign of our universal connection to the earth and the environment, a reminder of our own mortality. Even the dust we clean can be lifted up to God with a thank you from a steward’s grateful heart.

Don’t forget to look outside yourself as well to the outside.  Clean out those fallen leaves, trim back plants that didn’t make it through the winter, turn your sprinklers back on so your spring and summer yard can flourish.

Take this time—this long weekend is just the time to start—to look around you (and in you) and polish up the dirty corners!




This year, the Church celebrates the great feast of Pentecost on May 20. As recounted in the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, Pentecost occurred when the followers of Jesus were clustered together in a room and were suddenly surprised – overtaken is not too strong a word – by the dynamic presence of the Holy Spirit in their midst. Strong wind and flame seemed to sweep the room, and the Apostles were so filled with the gifts of the Spirit that they emerged to speak in multiple languages to the throngs who had come to Jerusalem to celebrate a Jewish festival.

In our secular culture, Pentecost goes largely unobserved. “Pentecost” cards don’t pop up on store shelves weeks in advance, and there’s no merchandising that remotely compares to Easter and Christmas.

Yet make no mistake. To Christians, Pentecost is a great celebration, sometimes called the birthday of the Church. The word Pentecost has its roots in the Greek word for “fifty;” Pentecost comes fifty days after the Resurrection on the seventh Sunday after Easter.

Why was Pentecost such a watershed event in the life of the Church? As Christian stewards, we know we are called to be missionary disciples. This calling has its roots in the momentous events of Pentecost.

Up until that time, the followers of Jesus were still a somewhat disorganized band of believers, still in shock over the events of the crucifixion, still confused about the meaning of the sightings of the Risen Lord. Pentecost abruptly and forever changed that. Suddenly, missionary disciples were born, followers both called and sent forth. Like us, they were called together, in community. They became aware that their great mission was to reach, not just their

Jewish brothers and sisters in Palestine, but the disparate crowds who visited Jerusalem and beyond.

Like us, they were called to bring Jesus to the world. The Holy Spirit brought courage to replace fear, understanding to replace confusion, faith to replace doubt. The same Holy Spirit moves in our own lives, perhaps not always with the drama of that first Pentecost, but with the same grace.

The Spirit calls us within our Church community to share Jesus with others, just as the disciples were called. Let’s celebrate Pentecost this year as heirs to this great moment in the life of our Church, as stewards inspired to be missionary disciples for the life of the world.




A Blessed Mothers Day

I remember as a young girl being asked “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  Without hesitation, I answered that I wanted to be a wife and a mother.

I think part of that came from the vibe of the 50’s and 60’s with stay-at-home moms who vacuumed wearing pearls (just kidding!), sewed kitchen curtains, cooked all meals from scratch (except the once-a-month tv dinner).

And part of it came from my mom personally who, by her actions, showed me how valuable a mother could be in a child’s life.

As I grew older, I aspired to being a culinary scientist or a math teacher.  But at the same time, I still had the burning desire/need to be a mom.

After I got married—quite young—we decided to spend some time getting to know each other.  One year turned into two, into five, into ten.  Finally I couldn’t deny the calling to be a mother, and we started our family.

I remember being asked how I could bring another human being into the mess of today’s world.  (Little did they know that it was going to get a lot messier.)

My heartfelt response was that I thought the world would always have its issues, and I wanted to add one more human being who could be part of the solution.

I set about to raise people of faith and good moral standing who could think for themselves and have a desire to make their lives and those around them better.

I will borrow the words my mother said to me once, because they are true for me as well:  “I did the best I could and I prayed a lot.”  There’s a good chance that you would agree.

Both of my children had meandering paths (I’ve talked about it before), but they always came back around to what is right and what is good.  And they never lost track of the value of family.

I love being a mom.  I would do anything for my children.  They are both adults with spouses (who are wonderful people), careers, real lives.   I wasn’t sure how much better it could get.

Until. I. Became. A. Grandparent!

Neal Finnegan McGrane entered my life 10 months ago and I have cherished every moment I share with him.   He has brought me such joy and a fullness that I could have never imagined.

My daughter would like a sibling for Neal and asked me if it was hard to juggle two children!  Oh yeah!  My children were 17.5 month apart.  Two in diapers, two with bottles, two in a stroller.  And yet, I couldn’t have been happier.

I was told a long time ago that our children are on loan to us.  They belong to God and He has entrusted their care to us.  I want to wish every mother, grandmother, mother-to-be a Blessed Mother’s Day.   As women, we have a special role to be part of the miracle of life.  I pray that moms value what a gift it is to be blessed with such a miracle.