On November 1, we celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints, a time to take pause and reflect on all those holy women and men who have come before us and those who live among us. As a culture, we love to acknowledge greatness. We celebrate super bowls, world series and Olympic games to identify and celebrate the best athletes. We have spelling bees and geography bees to celebrate the best and the brightest. We choose a valedictorian at graduation to identify who achieved the best grades. Who doesn’t love a glory story? All Saints Day is our opportunity to cherish those holy men and women who lived the gospel with their whole hearts. It wasn’t easy, popular or fun but he said, “Come follow me,” and they did.
I have been blessed to know many people who are saints. They have not been through the process of canonization, and will never have a feast day, but they have lived holy lives. Here on Earth they demonstrated their commitment to the Gospel in ministering to those around them. Just like the canonized saints, many of their lives did not start as glory stories. They struggled, but at some point they experienced conversion. I think most of us can identify someone we know who is a saint in our midst. Their actions and deeds speak to the kingdom in a way that is holy and good. On this holy day we celebrate each of them. We recall that they are praying for us, for our lives, for our struggles and our triumphs. When we pray together at Mass, we pray in communion with saints. All of us, living and dead, unite our prayers as one. While we do not pray to saints, we ask saints to pray for us. We look to the heavens and consider those who walk among us and deeply live the Gospel. We join them in prayer. We recall that as one People of God, we go to God together, praying for one another, celebrating everyday holiness, and especially the strength of those who have lived the Gospel.
On this eve of All Saints Day, All Hallow’s Eve, we remember we are called to be saints. Pope Francis reminded us of that in 2014, when he encouraged us to be saints in our daily lives. For me, that is when it is most difficult to be a saint. In the daily encounters, the comings and goings I fall short often. On All Saint’s Day however, I look to St. Peter, who denied Jesus three times and became the rock of our church. On this day I honor him and all those who came before me, who give hope that we too can live extraordinary virtues in our ordinary lives.
It was late at night when we flew into Cairo. It was too dark to see anything. The next morning we were up before sunrise, and just as the first ray of light shown, I saw the straight line high in the sky. It turned out to be the sun shining off the edge of the Great Pyramid.
I couldn’t believe it – we were that close.
For the next few days we explored Egypt and everyday Fr. Bob found a Catholic place where we had Mass. I proclaimed one of the readings.
I couldn’t believe it.
Crossing the Suez Canal and “coming up out of Egypt” we went North through the Gaza Strip. Palestinian kids with guns bigger than they were met us in white pickup trucks. They escorted us up to the northern border where we crossed the frontier into Israel. We arrived in Jerusalem late at night.
For the next week and a half Fr. Bob found places where our little gang could have Mass.
Jerusalem, Jordan River, Caesarea, Galilee
I couldn’t believe it.
Staying in Caesarea we explored the edge of the Sea of Galilee. At one point we were at a spot just south of Capernaum where we all got on a boat. We were crossing from the East to the West side. The motor of the boat was the only sound as we chugged along a fairly calm sea.
As we got a few miles from shore, a place called Tabka, the ship’s captain announced that he would cut the engines to simulate a quiet sail boat going the rest of the way.
I was standing in the middle of the boat watching the people. I noticed that a few of them were a little teary eyed. I figured it was the wind.
When we got to shore, I asked one of our people about the tears. She said that as she looked out over the Sea of Galilee, and if Jesus was walking on the water and reached out for her to walk to Him, would her faith be strong enough for her to step out of the boat.
It’s a tough one
YOU JUST HAVE TO BELIEVE.
Have you ever asked yourself, “how did we get here?” How did we end up in this pandemic, in this crazy political scene, trying to navigate a world we have not been in before? Does it seem the more you try to get back to “normal,” the more crazy it gets?You are not alone! It feels like everyone I talk to is asking these questions and is struggling in some way. Yet believe it or not, God has yet to let us down.
I was catching up with a friend who had just come back from the Camino de Santiago in Spain. He said it was the most physically challenging Camino he had done. Then I asked him, “how was it spiritually?” He shared two points that were profound take aways from his pilgrimage. They are simple and you have heard them before …but for us in this day and age of COVID, political and social crazy, too much to do and not enough time, and wondering when the heck we are going to get back to normal …these are two messages to ponder and take to heart.
On the Camino the pilgrims walk and pass by one another regularly. Sometimes they pass you and in the next minute you are passing them. At one point, a couple came up to him and walked with him awhile. The wife didn’t speak english so he pointed to his knee sharing it wasn’t at its best…she said, “poco y poco” ..little by little will get you there.
Further down the Camino two young men caught up with him and they were talking on the way. Again my friend was experiencing some difficulty walking with his knee and his foot. The young man said to him, “one foot in front of the other”…
Remember scripture reminds us that if it is of God, his “yoke is easy and the burden is light.” …if that is not the case, it may be worth reflecting on … We all have heard these sayings throughout our life, but for some reason these two sayings grabbed my heart and really set me free. Free of worry, anxiety that I am not doing enough, not the right thing in the long run and I can’t see the road ahead. I don’t have to have all the answers, the plan, an exact destination of where I am going right now today …little by little it will unfold as it should… patience. And the only way I am going to get anywhere is one foot in front of the other… just do the next right thing.
May we journey together on this pilgrimage of life …little by little, one foot in front of the other… Peace.
We all hear the stories of other people and their journey to a deeper sense of purpose in life. Some of us have wondered, “Why hasn’t that happened to me? Where was God in my life when I needed Him the most?”
Many years ago I found myself in a very dark place with toxic relationships and facing a personal crisis that brought me to my knees. Suffering my whole life from migraine headaches, this one took me to a place begging God to simply show me a way out. Next I found myself headed to church (as you know many people don’t come unless it’s a last resort!). As a child I was brought up in a home across the street from St. Rose of Lima in my small town of 562 people. It was always a source of family and comfort, and lots of music!
So I dragged myself to the local church, sat in a daily Mass and I heard the words we say before communion loud and clear – “Lord I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the Word and my soul shall be healed.” Of course the new translation is slightly different now, but for the very first time I HEARD and understood those words. Asked myself if I truly believed it and broke down in a puddle of tears and couldn’t move. On the way back from communion a woman laid her hand on my shoulder and said, ”Don’t worry, Jesus hears you.” As if on cue, the weight of my distress lifted out of my body and mind and I knew that God was real, here in my midst. We all have the opportunity to be that woman for someone else daily. Don’t miss the chance to be that grace of God as one never knows the difference you might make in the life of someone truly in need.
The Catholic Church honors October as “Respect Life Month,” in which we are called to “cherish, defend and protect those who are most vulnerable, from the beginning of life to its end, and at every point in between.” As Catholics, we believe each of us has inherent dignity. The first chapters of Genesis describe God creating the entire world, including humans. After each creation, we read: “and it was good.” We are inherently good because we were created by a good and loving God. Jesus also revealed for us the profound dignity of every human person in taking on human flesh himself, in dwelling among us and in sacrificing his life for us. Clearly “respecting life” is not only something we should think about in October, but this seems to be the underlying theme of everything we believe as Catholics!
I grew up and am still closely involved in the life of my uncle, Art, who has gone through life with various developmental disabilities and suffered from mental illness. Art is funny, empathetic, loves music and he’s the king of trivia when it comes to actors and musicians. He’s also extremely difficult, temperamental, paranoid and often the cause of much stress and anxiety within our family. Yet as a 63 year old man who’s been in and out of group homes and never held a job for more than a few months, he continues to share stories with us each week at family dinner about getting married and having his own family, becoming a famous writer and actor, or opening up his own nightclub. My uncle isn’t what anyone would consider “successful” or a productive member of society and he most likely won’t accomplish any of these goals he talks about. Yet, for those of us that know him and love him, we see his inherent dignity, as a human being and as a child of God.
Respecting life is a broad challenge. It means we welcome the outsider, ensure the poor have the necessities of life, provide support to those suffering from mental illness, stand up against racism, accept those who are different from us, support victims of trafficking or violence, say the immigrant life has value, honor the lives of those with different abilities, show mercy and compassion to those who have done wrong, protect the environment that supports all life… and the list goes on and on!
This October, let’s take this opportunity to reflect on those life issues that are near and dear to our own hearts. And let’s also accept the challenge to broaden our view of respecting life. Where do you notice the dignity of life not being honored with love and compassion? Is there something you can do to help? God invites us this month, and every day of our lives, to view each and every life as sacred and holy, just as he does.
Keep these words, that I am commanding you today, in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home.
– Deuteronomy 6:6-7
Our changing world has allowed me time to reflect on my growing up years and the times my family spent together at meals, watching TV, playing games, going on family outings, visiting relatives and friends, solving family issues and attending Mass. My needs were always met with love and care. My wants were not always given to me, but I loved and trusted my parents and knew they loved me just the same. I am so very grateful for the love, care and guidance my parents provided for my siblings and me.
With my own children, I worked hard to provide them with that same solid foundation and taught them to be thankful for what they have and to share with others. I believe that part of the process to happiness is in time spent with family and friends and caring for others and their needs.
More often than not, today’s families look to material things as the process that will make their children truly happy and caring adults … the latest outfit by Juicy and Hollister, the newest items from Tiffany’s and Coach, Play Stations, iPod’s, and cell phones.
The sad reality is that, when these items become a substitute for parental time and nurturing, I witness good families with children who are not in a process to true happiness … children who lack social skills, respect for themselves and others, and who are not liked by their peers no matter how many trendy items they have in their collections. I see children who are lost in a lack of gratefulness and caring for others.
Children of all ages are entering a new school year and some will begin a year of preparing to receive sacraments. I encourage everyone to set aside some family time to answer three questions each week: What am I grateful for? What am I sorry for? Whom did I help today? This little practice can define your family as one that cares. This practice can be the start of helping your children to develop their character, courage, and conscience for an ever-challenging world awaiting them. Reflecting on your day or week may be a start to true to happiness and making the world a better place for all.
“Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real.”
In the Gospel today, Jesus teaches us about humility. He says, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” Greatness does not come from position or status, but rather, greatness is found in service. Humble service places us hand in hand with everyone around us. Humility is a way of life, authentic life.
The other readings we hear today support the Gospel and reveal further what the gift of humility is and the challenge it is to live this virtue. Our own passions can betray us. We can begin to think that what we do is who we are, but, it is not the “what” but the “who we are doing it for” that counts. When we put the other first and serve them, we serve God. Humility honors God, and God will always be with us along the way, because Jesus walked the road before us. Humility is a realization that we can do nothing without the gifts of God in our life, and we can do all things through God who gives us strength.
Pope Francis is an example of humility for us to follow. Here are his words from the homily he gave at the inauguration of his pontificate, “Let us never forget that authentic power is service, and that the Pope too, when exercising power, must enter ever more fully into that service which has its radiant culmination on the Cross.” He continued to share ways he will try and be an example of humility for others, “[The Pope] must open his arms to protect all of God’s people and embrace with tender affection the whole of humanity, especially the poorest, the weakest, the least important.”
This year, we RISE. It is more than just a word and a theme, but a call to service. It may seem contrary, but, one way we RISE is to humble ourselves. Our prayer journal poses two questions to help us respond to this call: “Who are the unvalued in society today? How will we build up the dignity and value of someone else this week?”
I’m working on my answer.
Our Mission Statement at St. Patrick is that we are CHRISTIAN DISCIPLES IN MISSION and today we are being Commissioned to take our “sandals” and go out into the world and be about the mission of spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ! There is a passage from the Gospel of John 1:40-45, that gives a beautiful example of a Christian Disciple in Mission in Philip, who goes to his friend Nathanael and says to him that he has found the “one about whom Moses wrote…it’s Jesus of Nazareth.” Nathanael responds, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” And Philip’s answer is easy – all he said was, COME AND SEE.
Nathanael’s eventual encounter with Jesus began with something that any of us would find very natural, one friend seeking out another to share exciting news with them. But as we know, their innocent conversation ended up with life changing consequences. But what caught my attention was that the scripture passage very clearly says, PHILIP WENT TO LOOK FOR NATHANAEL. I took note of the phrase ‘went to look’ because that is a precise and deliberate action. It means he went in search of, he left the comfort of where he was, for a friend. As you read more of this passage, you’ll begin to see a pattern of discipleship in mission. It says, “Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of these men who heard what John (the Baptizer) said and then followed Jesus.” Andrew went to find his brother, Simon, and told him, “We have found the Messiah”…Then Andrew brought Simon to meet Jesus….The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Come, follow me….Philip went to look for Nathanael and told him…” And so on…Can you see the pattern? Once they are called and have that ENCOUNTER WITH JESUS, it is like the Spirit enters them and they eagerly go out to call the next person!
Sometimes I think that I assume that God should be bringing the people who are in need of an encounter with Jesus Christ to us at the church, (we have so many wonderful ministries, why wouldn’t they just come here?!), instead of me being out in the world, out of my comfort zone, where I can share the stories of my own encounter with Jesus, with those who are in need of an encounter with Jesus themselves. Testimony is one of the most powerful evangelizers, because the Jesus we encountered is now encountering the person with whom we are sharing our story. There may be people who never wanted to have anything to do with Jesus, who will want to know Him because of their relationship with you.
And while today’s readings, first from Isaiah (I gave my back to those who beat me…) and the Gospel from Mark (take up our cross and follow [Jesus]…) lets us know that this Disciple in Mission stuff might not always be a piece of cake, (like Nathanael’s possibly negative comment to Phillip about nothing good coming out of Nazareth), just the thought of a world that truly knows and loves Jesus is definitely worth “hoofing it” for!!!
So, we are being Commissioned today to go out to wherever our sandals take us, and invite others to COME AND SEE the Jesus we know and who wants to have a relationship with each and every one of us. As it it written: How beautiful are the feet of those who bring [the] good news!!!!
In his 2016 world youth day conference, Pope Francis reminded a crowd of over three million attendees that: “We must always be in preparation to receive God’s call” and that when he calls, he pays no attention to our limitations but rather reassures us that we are on a constant mission to make the world a better place and be a living witness to the Gospel.
This last sentence makes me think about how when we’ve allowed our self-imposed limitations from answering God’s call and as you’re reading this, I ask that you take a minute to think about it too and also reflect on how to overcome them.
There’s no denying that this year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo were unlike any in memory – with complications that we hope will never be repeated. This current pandemic forced a one year delay and officials found themselves agreeing to hold all the events we’ve grown to love and admire to be held in empty buildings and with a limited capacity to support these great athletes with superb stories of strength, discipline, determination and yes, Faith.
Through a wide variety of disciplines and sports, the USA team brought home 113 medals by individuals who face their limitations just like all of us but found the inspiration to keep on their journey to model after the best of athletic ability and in cases, like the one from Ms. Sydney McLaughlin, a living testament of gratitude, stewardship and in a constant living relationship with Jesus Christ.
At 21 years of age, Sydney has set a new world record of completing the 400 meter hurdle race at an astounding 51.46 seconds, that’s four times the length of a soccer field.
Shortly after she was awarded her gold medal, Sydney posted this on her Instagram Feed:
“I no longer run for self recognition, but to reflect HIS perfect will that is already set in stone and through the gifts HE has given me to point all the attention back to HIM. I don’t deserve anything. But by grace, through faith, Jesus. Records come and go. The Glory of God is eternal. What I have in Christ is far greater than what I have or don’t have in life.”
Although the day to day struggles may try to trick us to believe that we are not ONE in Christ and that our limitations set us apart from each other and from His grace and mercy, let us be reminded that Christ has nobody now but you and me to spread His good news of salvation, love, acceptance, mercy without hesitation or limitation – to do great and awesome acts of kindness with ourselves and our neighbors everyday.
Pay attention to His call and let it inflame your joy of Giving, Praying & Serving as this is the only way we can together advance our mission of discipleship evangelism.
– Fernando Gomez
My wife Debbie and I recently drove to San Pedro, California to visit my 94 year old mother. There are certain cities that have drastically changed over the years, but San Pedro is one of those places that, at its core, is the same old place. Located 30 miles south of downtown Los Angeles, San Pedro was built upon the blue-collar, hard-nosed working class of folks who labored in the fishing industry or on the docks in some capacity. Of course, as time progressed, the span of employment opportunities expanded and school choices changed. My four older brothers and I, for example, went to Loyola High School in downtown LA rather than the local schools. I think it was my parents’ first step and forethought to expose us to life outside of San Pedro.
But, one person in particular from San Pedro who has not changed her resident city is my mother. She has lived in SP all of her 94 years! Two of the five brothers still live there as well about five minutes away. Another unchanged trait is her absolute joy when we are all able to gather with our spouses and the grandchildren. One of her biggest delights is to sit down for a family dinner. Growing up, our friends were always invited to the table. This last time that Debbie and I went to visit, the immediate family went to an Italian restaurant in Torrance called Primo. We were fortunate enough to have our own space in the restaurant where we could sit and enjoy conversation with each other. Never wanting to be the center of attention, we placed my mom at the head of the table anyway.
The table at home is an extension of the table at Church from which we all gather. We bring our whole selves to commune and share in some capacity. It is a place to relax with each other and step away from the busyness and the noise of the outside world. It brings respite and connectivity to share our joys and sorrows. We give thanks for having this capacity to gather and pause. Let us all remember those who do not have a table to share with family or friends.