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.

ST. BENEDICT – STEWARDSHIP SAINT FOR JULY

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.

Be The Rainbow

For much of the summer, wild fires raged in the Northwest, consuming much of Montana and Washington.

Just last month, the Southeastern portion of the U.S. and the islands were devastated by hurricanes.

Close on the heels of the hurricanes was a massive earthquake in Mexico.

Two weeks ago, a lone shooter gunned down over 50 innocent people at a country music festival in Las Vegas.

As I write this, California is on fire. Populated areas are being threatened, including homes and businesses.

Close to home, the Anaheim Hills Fire is ravaging through Orange County.  Farther north, several counties in Northern California are being consumed by fire.

Even though some of these events took place thousands of miles away, I would guess that you know someone who was personally affected.

My best friend knows a young man that was gunned down in Las Vegas.  She will attend his funeral this weekend.

I had a short trip planned to visit my sister in Santa Rosa this last few days (Oct 11-14).  Her city is being leveled by a fire that is not only minimally confined.   Hotels, restaurants, department stores, expensive homes, mobile homes, a fire station, vineyards…nothing is safe.

Businesses that are not threatened cannot open because their employees are unable to get to work.  Roads are closed, some employees have lost everything, some have been evacuated from their homes and don’t have the essentials to be ready for work.

I have been visiting my sister in Santa Rosa for the last 45 years, and am very familiar with the city and the area.  You might have read that an Applebee’s burned to the ground.  I ate there during my last visit.  It becomes real when it’s more than a headline.

 

SO WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN TO US AS PEOPLE OF FAITH?

God does not stop bad things from happening.  Don’t get mad, don’t blame God.

It is up to each of us to be the light in someone else’s life and the light in our own.  We are called to be the Good Samaritan.

Think of the heroes in Las Vegas who stayed by a stranger’s side while they took their last breath.  They were able to offer nothing by themselves.

I think about the emergency instruction on the airlines.  Put the oxygen mask on yourself before helping others.

You are not physically able to hold someone’s hand in Florida, or Mexico, or Las Vegas, or Santa Rosa.  But you are able to spiritually wrap your arms around them.  Pray for those who have lost their homes, everything they own, even their lives.  Even those who are waiting out a tragedy, now knowing the outcome, are mentally tortured.  Pray for them to be strong.  Pray for the heroes—first responders and the common man.

Be the rainbow in the storm.

 

 

 

 

 

How Do our Catholic Values & Principles Relate to Stewardship?

How do our Catholic values and principles relate to stewardship?  Perhaps it would be easier to see how we live our faith through stewardship by imagining stewardship as a pyramid composed of several basic building blocks, each representing one of several key aspects.  This month’s let’s reflect on two of them: the principles of human dignity and respect for human life.

Every human being is created in the image of God and redeemed by Jesus Christ, and therefore is invaluable and worthy of respect.  This is the bedrock of Catholic Social Teaching.  What does this mean for each of us?  How do we treat ourselves and others, including people who look different from us?  How does this principle influence our interactions in both the real world and on social media?

The Catholic Church proclaims that human life, from conception to natural death, is sacred and that the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society.  Yet, in our society, human life is under direct attack from abortion and euthanasia, and the value of human life is threatened by cloning, embyonic stem cell research, and the death penalty.  Catholic teaching also calls on us to work to avoid war, seeking ways to resolve problems through peaceful means.  The intentional targeting of civilians in war or through terrorist attack is always wrong.

What can we do to demonstrate our respect for human life?

It all begins with self-respect.  If we do not respect ourselves, it will be more difficult for us to respect anyone else.   Respecting ourselves means recognizing our own worth and value as a human being.

How do I go about respecting myself?  Here are some ways:  Be honest with  yourself and others, and show respect for others’ views.  Value education, recognizing that knowledge is a key component of self-respect.  Don’t neglect exercise or nutrition; in order to be our best, we must feel our best.  Never forget that financial responsibility is a cornerstone of independence.  Demonstrate good manners; your proper conduct will make you feel good about yourself and earn you the respect of others.  Accept responsibility for your own actions; this includes formally apologizing for wrongdoing and striving to make amends.  Learn to distinguish between family members and friends who are good influences and others who are not; emulate the good.  Set important goals and make plans for reaching them; through each one, you will gain strength to challenge yourself a little more, and your self-respect will grow.

So, what does this have to do with being a disciple of Jesus Christ?  As members of the Church, Jesus calls us to be disciples, and this call has astonishing implications for us.  Mature disciples make a conscious decision to follow Jesus, no matter what the cost.

This most definitely includes recognizing the dignity and sanctity of every human life, from our own to those most different from us.  Christian disciples experience conversion—life-shaping changes of mind and heart—and commit their very selves to the Lord, striving to more fully life out these principles every day.

Christian stewards respond in a particular way to the call to be a disciple. Stewardship has the power to shape and mold our understanding of our lives and the way in which we live.  Jesus’ disciples and Christian stewards recognize God as the origin of life, giver of freedom, and source of all things.  We are grateful for the gifts we have received and are eager to use them to show our love for God and for one another.  We look to the life and teaching of Jesus for guidance in living as Christian Stewards.

 Thank you to Manny Aguilar, Diocesan Director for Stewardship for this article that was published in the recent edition of the Southern Cross.

 

A Letter from Our Pastor

Dear Parishioners,

From time to time, I would like to use this page to express the vision (short term and long term) that I have for our parish.

Since my arrival in July, I have been able to see what our bishops of San Diego had been talking about when they mentioned the many challenges I would face when arriving here and which I have been trying to prioritize with God’s help.

My first priority was to get to know you: my parishioners, my staff, other parish groups and their families, your customs and needs.

There are three dimensions that a Pastor must develop:  the one of Christ as Priest, the Sanctification of the people through the sacraments, and Christ as prophet.  May the Word of the Lord come to all through Evangelization and Catechesis and that you may receive Christ the King who governs through the proper guidelines and norms of our Catholic Church.

During the month of August, I started to reorganize these three dimensions, the first one is the one to govern.  I am slowly giving direction to my staff on where and how we will move on.

It is difficult at this time to have a clear plan but I believe that with good communication and order we will have a good start.

While the parish offices were recently remodeled for a more inviting and efficient use of space, I made a few additional modifications to the space to allow a more adequate office for the pastoral works of the pastor.   I will be very accessible to staff and parishioners alike.

During these coming months I will continue reorganizing the parish offices and staff to better meet our pastoral needs.

While preparing for this assignment, I studied the financial statements of the parish.  It worried me that the expenses exceed the income.  I am not saying that our parishioners are not generous, because I know you are.  With the help of the Finance Council, I am committed to reorganize our budget so that it will be in good accordance to our income.

I am also looking forward to a new school year as well as another year for our religious education program.

Later this month we will celebrate the 90th year of the dedication of our church and I would like to restore some things to their original place.

I will start by moving the wooden statues of Our Lady and Sacred Heart of Jesus to their original places in the side altars.   At this moment they are somewhat hidden behind our baptismal font.

We will be moving the statue of Majogorie and the tapestry of the Baptism of the Lord to another place in the church.  I will also be removing the black arch that is in front of the Sanctuary.  If for some reason removing it might damage the wall, we will paint it the same color as the wall.

I am also working with the Altar Society to buy a statue of the Holy Family with the intention of consecrating each one of our parish families during the new liturgical year.  It will be similar in design to main statues in the sanctuary area.  It will  be placed on the east side wall near the piano.

Finally, if someone has an objection with any of the changes that I have been sharing with you, I would like to hear from you.  Please send me an email (fatherg.stmarys@gmail.com) or call the parish office at your convenience.

Thank you to each and every one of you for all the kind attention you’ve had with me since I became pastor of St. Mary’s Parish  and please continue praying so that I may guide you to a safe place and you may always have the peace of our God.

In Christ, Father Gerardo Fernandez “Father G”

 

THE GRAND PRIZE

We talk about being on a Faith Journey.  That may sometimes sound vague and abstract.  Where exactly is this journey taking us?  What is our final destination?  What’s the point?

You may have a different answer than I, but to me, my faith journey is leading me to an eternity in Heaven with the God who knows me and loves me.

Along the way, if done well and with intention, my journey will allow me to become the best version of myself that I can possibly be.  That’s who I hope to be when I present myself on that final day.

To reach that end, I need to put a great amount of conscious effort in coming to know myself, others, and of course, The Lord.

I’m pretty confident that you are striving for the same goal—the same Grand Prize—that I am.  We are called to have faith that God exists, that He knows and loves each and every one of us and that He wants us to spend all of eternity in His presence.    In every thing that you do, Keep Your Eye on the Prize!

 

Mary Chapin Carpenter, a folk singer, has a beautiful song she calls “My Heaven”.  When I listen to her song, I am filled with joy to think that my eternity could be so beautiful.  And, with the faith I have, I know without doubt that this beautiful version of heaven will come nowhere close to the reality I will experience.

Nothing shatters, nothing breaks, nothing hurts and nothing aches.

We’ve got ourselves one heck of a place—in my heaven.

Looking down at the world below: a bunch of whining, fighting schmos.

Up here we’ve got none of those—in my heaven.

There’s pools and lakes and hills and mountains, music, art and lighted fountains.

Who needs bucks here?; no one’s counting—in my heaven.

No one works, we all just play.  You can pick the weather every day.

If you change your mind, that’s okay—in my heaven.

Grandma’s up here, Grandpa too in a condo with to-die-for views.

There’s presidents and movie stars.  Just come as you are.

No one’s lost and no one’s missing.  No more parting, just hugs and kissing.

And all these stars are just for wishing—in my heaven.

There’s little white lights everywhere, your childhood dog in dad’s old chair,

And more memories than my heart can hold when Eva’s singing “Fields of Gold”.

There’s neighbors, thieves and long lost lovers, villains, poets, kings and mothers.

Up here we forgive each other—in my heaven.

For every soul that’s down there waiting, holding on, still hesitating,

We say a prayer of levitating—in my heaven.

You can look back on your life and lot, but it can’t matter what you’re not.

By the time you’re here, we’re all we’ve got—in my heaven.

STEWARDSHIP SAINT FOR JULY

 

Saint James (the Greater), Apostle Saint James the Greater was one of the apostles closest to Jesus; the others being his younger brother, Saint John the Evangelist and Saint Peter. He is not to be confused with James the Lesser, another one of the twelve apostles, or with James from the Acts of the Apostles who was the author of the Letter of James and the leader of the Jerusalem community.

By the Gospels’ accounts, James, born in Galilee, was an ordinary fisherman who showed no signs of being readily able to grasp the genius of his master’s life and ministry. He and his brother were even considered “hotheads” as Jesus gave them the nickname “Sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17).

On one occasion, when a Samaritan village refused hospitality to Jesus, they urged him to call down fire from heaven to destroy it, which prompted a stern rebuke from their teacher (Luke 9:51-56).

On another occasion, with uncomprehending ambition, James and his brother made a daring request to sit at Jesus’ left and right hands, places of honor in the glory of the kingdom of God. Jesus warns them of the suffering and hardship they will eventually endure in Jesus’ name (Mk 10:35-40).

What makes this ordinary, impulsive man a stewardship saint, however, is that he allowed Jesus’ call to discipleship to cut through his ordinary, everyday life. His response was instant, complete and single-minded.

James and John were working on their boats with their father, Zebedee, when Jesus calls them to follow him. “And at once, leaving the boat and their father, they follow him” (Mt 4:22).

It was a call to share in Jesus’ mission, a call that allowed for no other priority.

James’ response in faith models what the response of each Christian disciple is to be to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

James is also privileged to be one of the apostles chosen by Jesus to witness his most dramatic signs of power: his Transfiguration and the raising to life of Jairus’ daughter.

James was the first of the Twelve to suffer martyrdom. He was beheaded during the persecution of Herod Agrippa I between the years 42 and 44 (Acts 12: 1-3).

Later traditions hold that James actually preached in Spain or that at least his body was transferred from Jerusalem to Compestela in Spain, which, in any case became a major pilgrimage site in the Middle Ages. Saint James the Greater is the patron saint of Spain, Chile, Guatemala and Nicaragua. He is also the patron saint of pilgrims, pharmacists, laborers and those suffering from arthritis. His feast is celebrated on July 25.

I hope you are inspired by the story of Saint James the Greater and can follow his example of following Jesus’ call to discipleship.  It’s who we are when we call ourselves Christians.  We need to mindfully act like one.

 

THANKS BE TO GOD!

 

I’d like you to meet Neal Finnegan McGrane.  He was delivered on Sunday night to my daughter Rachel, her husband Colin, loving grandparents and lots of excited extended family.  Little Neal is the first child of this generation in our family.

Rachel and Colin had a very specific birth plan.  But Neal did not arrive according to plan.  They had all their prenatal appointments with a midwifery in Orange County and planned a very natural and organic birth experience.   Things didn’t go as intended.  After 30 hours of “excruciating back labor”, Rachel asked to forego her original plan and have labor induced.  Eventually, the baby was delivered by caesarean section.

Through it all, they kept an attitude of gratitude, accepting that it is all God’s plan.  Not theirs.  They confidently knew that they had done everything in their power to make it happen.  The midwifery did everything in their power as well.

Several days later, I expressed to my daughter that she was lucky to have several days in the hospital to rest, get pampered, get used to new parenthood, get advice, etc.  She couldn’t have agreed more.

It is my experience that when you humbly let go and accept God’s will, you are rewarded.

EVERY DAY I am reminded that God wants nothing but the best for us.  AND…He knows exactly what we need.    Our only job is to gratefully accept His guidance and do the best we can with all the gifts He has given us.

This has truly been a blessing for my family and I thank you for keeping my family in your prayers.  And…you can call me Nana B.

 

 

Last week, I shared with you a Mid-year Reassessment.   We all tend to make some kind of resolution or commitment at the beginning of the year and then get less focused over time.  It’s human nature.

Can you believe that summer is about half over?  I heard today that one local school is starting on August 14!  Yikes!

School children are asked every year to reaffirm their commitment to education.   They are asked to come back to school ready to hit the ground running.  What I like best is that they must be ready not only to recommit, but to knuckle down and be ready to tackle an even more challenging year than the last.

That is how we grow.  In education, in maturity, in our faith life.  We must recommit on a regular basis and then challenge ourselves to tackle even more.

So, whether you are getting youngsters ready to start a new school year, you’re not yet at the place in your life, or you’re past all that, I challenge you to think about what you can do to recommit yourself for this next phase of the year.  I will close as I do so often:  Ask God for His guidance.  Follow it.