Thursday, August 20, 2009

Health care debate is another ‘teachable moment’

By Bishop Gerald Barnes
Diocese of San Bernardino

In these summer months the debate over health care reform has become a lightning rod issue that has inspired a lot of strong feelings on all sides. It’s no wonder. This is a critical issue that affects every American in some way.
I must admit that I am quite dismayed at the tone of the discussion, which is actually a generous word to describe the way that words are often being exchanged. The television reports that highlight confrontational, anger-fueled conduct at town hall meetings do not set a good example for us as we attempt to talk about what is a complicated issue.

We do not necessarily have to agree but our faith calls us to treat each other with dignity and respect. The words that we choose and the tone in which speak, regardless of the issue or circumstance, reflect the presence of the Spirit inside us. As our Lord, himself, tells us in Matthew’s Gospel, “from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.”

Further, the emotion of this debate should not distract us from looking at health care from the perspective of our Catholic faith. Like other high profile social issues such as marriage and immigration, the debate of health care reform in the public square has provided us with a “teachable moment” about our own faith.

We have always believed and taught that health care is a fundamental right of all people. The Bishops of the United States have not proposed a reform package or taken a position for or against any proposed health care legislation, but we have offered that any reform should contain the following elements:

  • A truly universal health policy with respect for human life and dignity
  • Access for all with a special concern for the poor and inclusion of legal immigrants
  • Preserving the common good and pluralism including freedom of conscience and variety of options
  • Restraining costs and applying them equitably across the spectrum of payers

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has created a web site with more good resources about Catholic teaching on health care and suggestions for contacting policymakers to make your voice heard.

Please take some time to review this information. Then take some additional time to pray and reflect not only on your own stake in the discussion but that of all of our brothers and sisters who need and deserve quality health care.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Our God is a God of great Joy

By Deacon John DeGano
St. Catherine of Alexandria, Riverside

Our God is a God of great Joy!

And we can see God’s sense of humor scattered throughout the pages of the Holy Scriptures. Where else do you find a Zacchaeus (that ‘wee little man’) abandoning his pride and lofty social status in order to climb a tall sycamore tree to get a look at Jesus? Or to be doubly blessed when Jesus sees him and invites himself to Z’s house for supper!

Or what about Lazarus’s remains in the tomb? The people are more concerned with the potential smell of decay than they are in Jesus bringing his friend back to life!

It’s human conditioning, I suppose, to look to the dark side, but I certainly don’t believe that it is God’s way or even human nature to do so. There are just too many occurrences of God’s humor throughout our day and week for it to be a random coincidence.

My friend Rob knows I am a permanent deacon assigned to St. Catherine of Alexandria, Riverside and, although he isn’t a particularly religious person himself, he would agree with my statement from personal experience. Rob hears God speaking to him.

No, he is not what some might call crazy or even a modern-day Jean d’Arc. He is just a normal guy who happens to build things. One day, while visiting, he cautiously shared some startling news with me. “God has a sense of humor!”

When I did not react negatively, he relaxed a bit and told me of his encounter with God. I listened politely, but noticed he remained agitated. When I asked if there was something else I could do, he asked me to go with him to the store where he needed to purchase a few items. Duct tape. Metal screws. Stuff like that.

Open to the possibility of an encounter with God, I drove Rob to the store where we paused briefly outside for some last minute instructions.

“Listen,” he said. “The key is in the music that is playing.”

We walked through the front door and headed down the aisle to the duct tape. About half way there, the Rolling Stones tune “You can’t always get what you want…” began to fill the air. Rob halted abruptly in front of the tape shelf, turned and pointed at the shelves.

“See,” he said.

The shelves for duct tape were empty. There were spools of blue painter’s tape. Clear sealing tape. And even foam tape. But the most popular brand of tape was M.I.A.

How could this be?

“I couldn’t share this with anyone else,” he said sheepishly, “but it happens to me all the time. I think God’s trying to tell me something by all of this. But what?”

I had to allow the possibility. I had heard the music. I had witnessed the miracle of the vanishing duct tape. Just as Rob foretold. God obviously had plans for Rob.

We returned home, completely forgetting about the other items and laughed at ourselves for doing so. Rob would go back another day. The partial roll in the garage would do until then.

During this season of Ordinary Time, where Jesus’ daily actions are the stuff of miracles, we need to remember that our God is a God of great wonder and awe: Sending angels to shepherds, to Joseph and Mary; multiplying loaves and fish; raising the dead and curing the deaf, the blind and the lame.

I had to ask myself, if God could and did all that, what would prevent the usage of modern technology in order to call forth a simple man of dubious faith, share with him the gift of God’s boundless joy and presumably set him on the road to discipleship?

Deacon John shares a joyful moment with a guest of honor during the parish’s annual Blessing of the Animals celebration in front of the church.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The New Kid in Town

By Rev. Manuel "Manny" Cardoza
St. Catherine of Alexandria, Temecula

I was speaking to a group of kiddoes last month after my ordination and I was telling them that having such a close relationship with Jesus was totally awesome, but also crazy scary. I told them that the thing we have to realize when journeying with Jesus was that he will take you places where you didn’t expect or at times don’t even want to go. But when you give your life to him he won’t lead you astray. In seminary I did a various amount of ministries from working in a nursing home, RCIA, prison ministry, as a parish and the Emergency Room at a hospital. Some of these I was totally trippin about, I was like “Jesus what the heck, dude!” But as usual Jesus was on top of everything and I loved doing each of these ministries. I also went to some pretty awesome places, like San Antonio, New York City, London and Italy. All these experiences really helped me have a fuller understanding of what it meant to be a priest. We are truly called to be a servant as Jesus was as well as to help folks have a closer relationship with the Lord, that they may have everlasting life. This is why he sent me here to St. Catherine of Alexandria, [Temecula] to assist the people of St. Catherine in their faith journey.

This first two months as a priest have been awesome. Jesus was right when he called me to this thing, the holy priesthood, and I could already see the countless blessings that this call has given. For my first weekend at the parish I was preaching at all the Masses, in order that the parish could get to know me and I could start meeting all the wonderful people here at the parish. But as you might imagine, after six Masses, it was wearing on me, even at a youthful 31 years old. On returning for the final 6 p.m. Mass, I was like “all right Jesus, you’re gonna have to get me through this one, I’m pooped!” And of course he responded in kind, giving me so much energy and enthusiasm that I was hyped up for another two hours after the mass!

This is just one example of the blessings and graces that the Lord gives you in order to give yourself completely to the people and love them as he loves them. Just knowing that the Lord has granted us this power to change bread and wine to his body and blood, the authority to forgive sins and the power to make new Christians is so awesome and overwhelming. Even the people of God, they are so gracious and loving that, through their faith, they help me on my journey as a priest. As the “new kid in town” it has been such a blessing going from seminary living to being a priest for the diocese as well as for this parish. I am grateful to Almighty God for his gift of the priesthood as well as the gift of the People of God. Let us continue to journey as one people to our ultimate goal, to spend eternity with our loving God and remember, “Jesus loves you!”