Thursday, December 23, 2010

Keep the peace of Christmas all year long

By Bishop Gerald R. Barnes
Diocese of San Bernardino

“Peace on earth”

Many greeting cards and signs of the Christmas season offer us this phrase, reflecting the abundance of goodwill and joy that are present at this time of year. We feel peace in our hearts and we hope that our brothers and sisters all over the globe have the same feeling. For our Church this is rooted in the tremendous joy felt when God gifted us with the earthly presence of His son, our Lord Jesus Christ. I share this joy with you and I offer you my prayers and blessings for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

I also appeal to you that our prayers and wishes for peace extend beyond the Christmas season. Our world surely needs it on a year-round basis. As I write, there is an absence of peace in the Middle East, in Afghanistan, in Sudan, in Korea and in the drug violence that continues to plague our neighbor, Mexico. Our Christian brothers and sisters in Iraq and in the Holy Land are threatened by violence like never before. Please join me in asking God to protect and heal the victims of these conflicts and to change the hearts of those who would make war and violence. And also let us pray for the safety of our men and women in the armed forces.

Many are wishing for peace closer to home. Sometimes there is discord in our homes and families, in our relationships and within ourselves. In this way we can be in solidarity with the many in the world who seek their own kind of peace. Our God hears these cries and ignores not a one. 

It has been noted often – and indeed taught to us by our Lord – that meaningful peace can only be achieved when it occurs first and foremost in our own hearts. The kind of conversion that makes the beautiful phrase “peace on earth” more of a reality happens one heart at a time.

So with 2011 fast approaching how do we keep the peaceful feeling of Christmas with us throughout the year? When we seek to encounter Jesus in our daily lives through prayer, the Eucharist and fellowship with our bothers and sisters in faith; when we seek justice for the poor and vulnerable among us through participation in the civic process; and when we show our gratitude for the many gifts God gives us by sharing our abundance with those in great need.

It is well known that the birth of our Savior did not occur in the most peaceful circumstances. The Holy Family traveled a dangerous road and met with rejection on their way to the stable where the Lord was born. Perhaps God was showing us yet again that from the midst of turmoil and unrest the Light of the World shines. As we pray (and work) for peace this year, let us carry this hopeful message in our hearts.

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” (Colossians 3:15)


Conserven la paz de la Navidad durante todo el año
Por Obispo Gerald R. Barnes
Diócesis de San Bernardino

“Paz en la tierra”

Muchas tarjetas de Navidad y rótulos de la época navideña nos ofrecen esta frase, reflejando la abundancia de buena voluntad y alegría que se viven en este tiempo del año.  Sentimos paz en nuestros corazones y esperamos que nuestros hermanos y hermanas en todo el mundo sientan lo mismo.  Para nuestra Iglesia esto tiene sus raíces en la inmensa alegría que se sintió cuando Dios nos dio el regalo de la presencia terrenal de su Hijo, nuestro Señor Jesucristo.  Comparto con ustedes esta alegría y les ofrezco mis bendiciones y oraciones por una Feliz navidad y un próspero Año Nuevo. 

Les pido también que nuestras oraciones y deseos de paz se extiendan más allá de la temporada navideña.  Ciertamente, nuestro mundo necesita de esto todo el año.  Mientras escribo estas líneas, hay una falta de paz en el Medio Oriente, en Afganistán, en Sudán, en Corea y en la violencia relacionada con las drogas que azota a nuestro país vecino, México.  Nuestros hermanos y hermanas cristianos en Irak y en Tierra Santa se ven amenazados por la violencia como nunca antes.  Por favor únanse a mí en oración para pedir a Dios que proteja y sane a las víctimas de estos conflictos y que cambie los corazones de quienes practican guerra y violencia.  Oremos también por la seguridad de nuestros hombres y mujeres en las fuerzas armadas. 

Muchos desean la paz más cerca.  A veces hay discordia en nuestros hogares y familias, en nuestras relaciones y dentro de nosotros mismos.  De esta manera podemos estar en solidaridad con los muchos en el mundo que buscan su propio tipo de paz.  Nuestro Dios escucha estos clamores y no ignora alguno. 

Se ha notado a menudo – y de hecho nuestro Señor nos lo enseñó – que la paz significante sólo se puede lograr cuando ésta ocurre antes que nada en nuestros propios corazones.  El tipo de conversión que hace de la hermosa frase “paz en la tierra” una mayor realidad ocurre en un corazón a la vez.   

Así que, con la rápida proximidad del 2011 ¿cómo conservamos ese sentimiento de paz  que trae la Navidad con nosotros durante todo el año?  Cuando tratamos de encontrar a Jesús en nuestras vidas cotidianas por medio de la oración, la Eucaristía y el compartir con nuestros hermanos y hermanas en la fe; cuando procuramos la justicia para los pobres y vulnerables entre nosotros mediante nuestra participación en el proceso cívico; y cuando mostramos nuestra gratitud por los dones que Dios nos ha dado compartiendo nuestra abundancia con los más necesitados. 

Es muy sabido que el nacimiento de nuestro Salvador no ocurrió en las circunstancias más tranquilas.  La Sagrada Familia recorrió un camino peligroso y sufrió rechazo en su camino al pesebre donde nació el Señor.  Tal vez de esta manera Dios nos mostraba una vez más que en la agitación y la zozobra brilla la Luz del Mundo.  Al orar (y luchar) por la paz este año, llevemos este mensaje de esperanza en nuestros corazones. 

“Que la paz de Cristo reine en sus corazones; a ella los ha llamado Dios para formar un solo cuerpo.  Y sean agradecidos”.  (Colosenses 3:15)

Monday, December 20, 2010

What We Catholics Can All Agree About Immigration

By Rick Howick
Principal, St. Catherine of Alexandria School, Riverside

A couple of years ago, a Christian family in Iraq asked to place their child in our school under what’s called the I-20 program.  They were desperate.  The situation for Christians was deteriorating and they feared for his long-term safety.  We met telephonically, and agreed to help them get their child to the sanctuary of our school, only to hit a terminal snag in the immigration process.  I often think of that family as news of worsening conditions for Christians filter out of Iraq and I pray they find safety and peace.

At the same time, it widens for me the immigration debate we face in California.  Immigration is a wonderful example of how politics and religion make a messy mixture – but mix it we must. Most of our attention is turned toward economic immigrants, especially those who have not followed the rules.  Hearing of the plight of this Iraqi family, our heart strings are plucked – but seeing the hordes of economic refugees begging for work outside of the Home Depot I pass every day, something else is often triggered.  So many with no work, no money, no food, desperate to integrate into their new home can be overwhelming.  The call for solutions often morphs into strident shrieks from the political right or left, none of which furthers dialog on what would truly help.

It is hard for the Church to declare any specific bill the morally right solution.  Those who support the Dream Act, for example, point out its help for children of undocumented immigrants who were brought here before any age of consent.  Detractors talk of how “loopholes” cover so many others, or its passage encouraging others to risk coming illegally in the future.  The politics of it as a practical solution is genuinely debatable.  The solution, sadly, will likely be found in compromises and half-measures that politicians strike with political expediency, most of which is unsavory to those of us approaching immigration through the lens of faith – what would I do if Jesus were here?

On this, the Church should be clear.  We are called to help those we find in our midst, as Lazarus was at the door of the rich man.  We are called to welcome the immigrant, to feed the hungry, and to help the poor.  The Final Exam question was given to us in advance (take a look again at the Judgment of the Sheep and the Goats in Matthew 25; the only questions asked can be summarized as, “when I was in need, what did you do to help me?”).  Our call to help those we find in our community is clear.  Our response to those who are sick, homeless, hungry or strangers should bring hope to our neighbors, and reveals clearly to our maker how completely our hearts have been turned toward him. 

Our broken system was made real to me in the call I received informing me that the Iraqi family could not come.  Yet so many others are here right now who face the real dangers of hunger, poverty and homelessness without real help.  The politicians who genuinely care about immigrants may choose from multiple approaches to help in the future, and Christians of good will can and should debate how best to proceed in fixing the long term problem.  However, Jesus is in our midst and stands in front of home depot.  How will we Christians care for his needs?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

At the Crossroads: The Meaning of Simbang-Gabi

By Father Ben Alforque, M.S.C., V.F.
Parochial Vicar, St. Catherine of Alexandria, Riverside

The Filipino community of our parish is once again sharing with us the faith-expression of their Advent and Christmas celebration, Philippine-style: the Simbang-Gabi.  It is thus timely to remind ourselves of the meaning of Simbang-Gabi, and how it is celebrated.

Simbang-Gabi literally means “Evening Mass”.  It is a nine-day novena in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary as Mother of God.  It prepares the people for the birthday of Christ on Christmas day.  This novena begins in December 16th, and in the Philippines, is celebrated at 4:00 in the morning (Misa de Gallo=Mass when the cock crows), and culminates with a Misa de Aguinaldo (Mass of the Gift) at midnight of the 24th of December.  Jesus Christ our Savior is God’s Gift to humanity and to all of creation through Mary!

Because we are celebrating the Motherhood of Mary in view of the Birth of Christ, ergo, our celebration is festive, full of Christmas decors and songs, where the Gloria is sung and the liturgical color of the vestments and of the altar is white.

(On the other hand, the Advent season is our celebration of our expectation of the Lord’s Second Coming in glory.  It is penitential in tone.  Therefore, the color is purple - except for the Third Sunday of Advent whose theme is joy, where the color rose may be used - and the Gloria is not sung.) 

In the Philippines, the streets are lighted up with lanterns (the parol), signifying the star that led the wise men to Jesus:  Jesus is the only true Light of salvation for all of creation.  In the villages, streets, homes and chapels are decorated with fresh fruits, like bananas, and passersby may just freely pick them for food: all of creation participate in the abundant generosity and joyful hospitality of God.  The people are roused from sleep by the tolling of the church bells at 2:00 am, and a band may roam around the village streets to proclaim a new day of joy:  the Kingdom of God is at hand, and Mary, the Dawn of Salvation, has ushered it in.  Churches and chapels overflow with people, as whole families attend the Simbang-Gabi: a new community is gathered around the Eucharist, an eschatological family-community centered on Jesus, Savior and Lord.    The festive mood goes back to the homes after the mass, as people partake of their breakfast delicacies with families, neighbors and friends until sunrise of the new day:  for liturgy is a celebration of life, and a new way of living celebrated in festive meal points to the glorious meal in heaven.

Historically, Simbang-Gabi dates back to 1587, when a Fray Diego de Soria asked the Pope for permission to hold Yuletide masses outdoors, because the church could not accommodate the multitude attending the dawn masses.  Why dawn masses? So that the fisherfolks coming from the seas, and the farmers leaving for their farms would have a common time to celebrate the Eucharist and the novena together, at daybreak!  When Pope Sixtus V decreed through a papal bull that these dawn masses be held annually in the Philippines, the Simbang-Gabi tradition was born. Filipino Catholics would always bring this ingrained devotion and cultural faith-expression as one defining mark of their Catholic identity wherever they go, even if their sociological conditions and lifestyles have changed.  Here, in the Diocese of San Bernardino, Bishop Gerald Barnes has allowed Filipino communities to share this faith-life experience to all.  Some parishes in LA, in Chicago and New York are celebrating their Simbang-Gabi masses at 4:30 AM or 5:30 AM.  And they come as families, friends in multi-ethnic or national attires and in droves!

In November 11, 2011 all of us Filipino priests in the US will gather together for a 4-day national convocation and fun (November 8-11, 2011) in Los Angeles, California.  We will have common prayers and celebrations of the Eucharist, breakout study sessions, common meals, barrio fiesta and, of course, songs and a concert for friends and supporters.  This gathering has been spearheaded by Bishop Oscar Solis, first Filipino bishop in the US, to define and celebrate the Filipino priests’ contribution to the life and growth of the US Church.  This First National Assembly of Roman Catholic Filipino Priests in the US has, for its theme:  Paring Pinoy, Celebrating our Gifts!

In solidarity with our Filipino priests in the US, the Filipino Ministry-Diocese of San Bernardino, in its Simbang-Gabi 2010 celebrations, has this for its theme:  Celebrate our Filipino Giftedness to the Local Roman Catholic Church of San Bernardino!

Maligayang Pasko sa ating lahat!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Guadalupe, fiesta estimada y celebrada

Por Petra Alexander
Directora, Ofecina de Asuntos Hispanos

Este año los celebramos Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe en domingo. Se puede pensar que hay contradicción entre el llamado a la conversión y al cambio propio del tiempo de Adviento y el entusiasmo celebrativo que Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe despierta en todos los ambientes Latinos de California. Pero para el católico hispano, las dos celebraciones se hacen una, porque el Adviento es un tiempo mariano y porque celebramos ante todo a Cristo, venido a nosotros en el seno virginal de María, que aceptó ser madre de la Iglesia y protectora del pueblo hispano. Celebramos esta unión indisoluble, esta relación única de Madre e Hijo, Madre y Comunidad, Madre e Historia.

Este 12 de Diciembre la Iglesia nos invita a celebrar la cooperación más perfecta y entrañable para la obra de la salvación en la imagen de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. El evangelio relata que María, después de recibir el anuncio del ángel, acude a ayudar a su parienta de edad más avanzada. La Iglesia ha interpretado la visitación como el encuentro de dos maternidades, como el saludo de dos bendiciones y como la solidaridad y el compromiso de dos mujeres tocadas por la gracia. Algo semejante ha aplicado el pueblo del continente americano en sus situaciones de opresión y dificultad, que María baja presurosa a la colina del Tepeyac, al cerrito de Rouvidoux, a las arenas de los desiertos o al asfalto de las ciudades...  y muestra al pueblo sufriente su ternura y amor.

Su aparición es instrumento de bendición y con asombrosa rapidez, a través de ella,  Cristo es conocido y amado por el pueblo.  El Papa Juan Pablo II aseguró en su Ecclesia en América, que ella es la primera redimida y la más fiel seguidora de Cristo, modelo por excelencia de la forma como hemos de seguir a Cristo. El pueblo inmigrante en USA continúa la experiencia del indio Juan Diego al saber y sentir que María de Guadalupe está acompañando su camino plagado de dificultades, como ella misma dijo: "para mostrar y dar todo mi amor, compasión, auxilio y defensa, pues yo soy su piadosa Madre".

De manera especial este 12 de Diciembre delante de ella estarán las situaciones que quisiéramos fueran distintas: la falta de empleos, la anhelada Reforma Migratoria que no llega, el sueño de los jóvenes latinos que no tienen papeles, las familias separadas que quieren reunirse... tantas cosas que deben cambiar para enderezar el camino del Señor. Todo latino sabe que Santa María de Guadalupe es experta en ayudarnos a preparar los caminos para recibir a su Hijo. Este "saber" es transmitido con el lenguaje religioso más rico que se conozca: imagen, anuncio, predicación, canto, color, danza, peregrinación, música, comida especial... En una palabra, Guadalupe es para los Latinos la certeza de: Dios con nosotros.

Guadalupe: an appreciated and celebrated festival

By Petra Alexander
Director, Office of Hispanic Affairs

This year we celebrate Our Lady of Guadalupe on a Sunday. People may think that there’s a contradiction between the call to conversion and Advent, and the celebratory enthusiasm which Our Lady of Guadalupe awakens in all the Latin American environments of California. But for the Catholic with Hispanic roots the two celebrations are one. Advent is a time when we celebrate Mary and Christ above all, who came to us in the virginal womb of Mary, who, herself, agreed to be the mother of the Church and protector of the Hispanic people. We welcome this indissoluble union; this unique relationship of Mother and Son, Mother and Community, Mother and History.

This Dec. 12 the Church invites us to celebrate the most perfect and intimate cooperation for salvation, in the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The Gospel relates that Mary, after receiving the announcement of the angel comes to help her older kinswoman. The Church has interpreted the visitation as the meeting of two maternity wards, two blessings filled with greetings of solidarity and commitment from two women touched by grace. The message behind this gospel shows us that Maria will always hurry down the hill of Tepeyac, the hill of Rouvidoux, to the sands of the desert or the asphalt of the cities ... and show the suffering people tenderness and love.

Her appearance is an instrument of blessings and with astonishing speed, through her, Christ is known and loved by the people. Pope John Paul II stated in his Ecclesia in America, that she is the first redeemed and the most faithful follower of Christ, the ultimate model of how we should follow Christ. The immigrant people in the U.S. continue to experience what the Indian Juan Diego went through by knowing and feeling that Maria of Guadalupe is accompanying his path filled with difficulties. As she herself said, “I am here to show and give all my love, compassion, help and protection, because I'm his pious mother.”

This Dec. 12 in front of her will lay the situations that we wish were different: the lack of jobs, the long awaited immigration reform that does not come, the dreams of young Latinos who are undocumented, separated families wanting to be reunited…. many things must change to straighten the path of the Lord. All America knows that Santa Maria de Guadalupe is an expert in helping prepare us to meet and receive her son. This 'knowing' is transmitted with the richest religious language that is known; by her image, preaching, song, color, dance, journey, music, special food... In three words, for the Latinos, Guadalupe certifies: God with us.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Advent is the season of Hope

By Bishop Gerald Barnes,
Diocese of San Bernardino

The last word in our diocesan impact statement is ‘hope.’ As ministers of the Church of San Bernardino we talk often of a mission to fill lives with ‘hope’ through the impact of the gospel. Why do we use that word so much? Maybe because we know that where there is hope, there is intimacy with God. Where there is no hope, there is pain and sin. Seems pretty straightforward until you to try to reconcile hopefulness with what we sometimes encounter in our families, our communities and our society.

We see many things today that might chip away at our hope; wars that continue to claim the lives of our young people, a recession that has brought an unprecedented level of financial stress for many, and societal incivility that manifests itself in widespread media ranting, cyber bullying and physical violence. In our Church, we worry about the effect of mounting secularism, especially our youth. We struggle with issues that have public policy dimensions, such as immigration, marriage and capital punishment. And we’re also dealing with the painful re-emergence of the priest sex abuse crisis.
How do you hope in the face of all that?

As difficult as we might think it is today, the scriptures show us that history is littered with trial and tribulation, perhaps most vividly experienced in the passion of Jesus, himself. But it is also in the gospels that we find our eternal reason to hope. Beginning this month, we enter the season of Advent, a time when we are called to find within ourselves the hope and anticipation that was felt before the birth of the Christ child. Advent calls us to look for the light of the star of Bethlehem in the darkness of modern days.

But Advent isn’t just about revisiting the hope and anticipation that was felt before the birth of our Lord. This is the season when we reflect on the promise of the kingdom, fulfilled when He returns. In all of the day-to-day struggle of our lives, and even the tragedies we endure, we have hope because we know the reign of God is coming. Eternal life; a place at the heavenly table.

It is during Advent that we contemplate the immensity of this. We reach for God in prayer. We take measure of our relationship with Him. Are we prepared for the coming of Jesus the Christ?

There are key feast days and cultural traditions that take place during Advent. The Feast of the Immaculate Conception takes place on December 8 and is the patronal feast day of the United States. The feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patroness of our diocese, on December 12 is a high point of our year. Las Posadas and Simbang Gabi remind us of the faith and hope held by the Holy Family as they searched for the Lord’s birthplace.

Of course, we all look forward to the celebration of Christmas that is the natural culmination of Advent. Christmas is all the more joyful because it follows the patience and reflection that we experience during Advent.

Together, let us be reminded in this season that God is with us, Emmanuel. Let us see the light of Christ in our lives, knowing that his birth and the promise of his kingdom give us reason always to hope.

El adviento es el tiempo de esperanza

Por Obispo Gerald Barnes,
Diócesis de San Bernardino

La última palabra en nuestra declaración diocesana impacto es ‘esperanza’.  Como ministros de la Iglesia de San Bernardino hablamos a menudo de una misión de llenar vidas de ‘esperanza’ con el mensaje del Evangelio.  ¿Por qué usamos tanto esa palabra?  Tal vez porque sabemos que donde hay esperanza hay intimidad con Dios.  Donde no hay esperanza, hay dolor y pecado.  Parece muy simple, hasta que tratas de reconciliar la esperanza con lo que en ocasiones encontramos en nuestras familias, nuestras comunidades y nuestra sociedad.  

En la actualidad vemos muchas cosas que podrían minar nuestra esperanza; guerras que continúan cobrando las vidas de nuestros jóvenes, una recesión que ha traído un nivel sin precedentes de tensión económica para muchos e incivilidad social que se manifiesta en difundidos y altisonantes medios de difusión, acoso cibernético y violencia física.  En nuestra Iglesia, nos preocupa el efecto del creciente secularismo, especialmente nuestros jóvenes.  Enfrentamos con dificultad cuestiones que tienen dimensiones de política pública, tales como inmigración, matrimonio y pena capital.  Y enfrentamos también el doloroso resurgimiento de la crisis de abuso sexual por parte de sacerdotes. 

¿Cómo tener esperanza ante todo esto?

Aunque tal vez pensemos que la situación actual es de lo más difícil, las escrituras nos muestran que la historia está plagada de pruebas y tribulaciones, tal vez vividas más claramente en la pasión de Jesús mismo.  Pero es también en los evangelios que encontramos nuestra razón eterna para tener esperanza.  Comenzando este mes, entramos en el tiempo de Adviento, un tiempo en que somos llamados a encontrar en nuestros adentros la esperanza y anticipación que se sintió antes del nacimiento del niño Dios.  El Adviento nos llama a buscar la luz de la estrella de Belén en la oscuridad de los tiempos actuales.    

Pero el Adviento no es sólo revivir la esperanza y anticipación que se sintió antes del nacimiento de nuestro Señor.  Este es el tiempo en que reflexionamos sobre la promesa del reino, que se cumple en su segunda venida.  En todas las luchas cotidianas de nuestras vidas, y aun las tragedias que soportamos, tenemos esperanza porque sabemos que se avecina el reino de Dios.  La vida eterna; un lugar en el banquete celestial. 

Es durante el Adviento que contemplamos la inmensidad de esto.  Buscamos a Dios en la oración.  Medimos nuestra relación con Él.  ¿Estamos preparados para la venida de Jesucristo?

Hay fiestas y tradiciones culturales clave que tienen lugar durante el tiempo de Adviento.  La Fiesta de la Inmaculada Concepción tiene lugar el 8 de diciembre y es la fiesta patronal de los Estados Unidos.  La Fiesta de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, patrona de nuestra Diócesis, el 12 de diciembre, es un punto cumbre de nuestro año.  Las Posadas y Simbang Gabi nos recuerdan la fe y esperanza de la Sagrada Familia mientras buscaban el lugar en que nacería el Señor. 

Por supuesto, todos esperamos con anticipación la celebración de la Navidad que es la culminación natural del tiempo de Adviento.  La Navidad es una gran alegría porque sigue a la paciencia y reflexión que vivimos durante el tiempo de Adviento. 

Juntos, recordemos en este tiempo que Dios está con nosotros, Emmanuel.  Veamos la luz de Cristo en nuestras vidas, sabiendo que su nacimiento y la promesa de su reino nos dan una razón para siempre tener esperanza.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Give thanks for the little things

By Jeanette Arnquist,
Director, Ministry of Life, Dignity and Justice


This time of year we are reminded to be thankful for the blessings of the past. For some reason, this year I find the small, ordinary things coming to mind.

For example, chairs. A few years ago I visited some rural areas in the Philippines. The people I met were very gracious and offered me everything they had, but chairs were not among their possessions. They had stools. When I returned to a more developed area, the first thing I noticed was how great it was to sit in a chair and rest my back! Often it is only when I have to do without the convenience or luxury of an everyday fixture or habit that I notice how important it is to me.

In December of 2008 my 89-year-old father suffered a stroke which paralyzed his right side. He died October 18. During that 22 month journey, he never regained the ability to walk or read. He was able to speak, but had a hard time thinking of the words he needed to communicate.

So often during that time, when I would hop out of bed to turn off my alarm in the morning, I would realize that this ability is a gift from God, and I would give thanks. The love of walking is one of my favorite gifts and I have long been thankful for the ability to do long distance hiking. But only since Dad became disabled did I notice what a gift it is to be able to walk across the room, to get myself a glass of water, to take a shower whenever I want, even to go to the bathroom without needing help.

What would my life be like if I couldn’t read? What if I could only string together a few words? Being able to communicate with words is a marvelous gift!

Of course I am thankful for the big gifts in my life – my faith, family and friends, for having a job and a home. I am thankful for the gift of my father, my relationship with him, the time he gave to me and his example. And this year I am thankful for all of little things that might easily be taken for granted, and for learning to notice them as my father lost them. I pray that I may always be aware that these are gifts, and be able to give thanks for them.

Dar gracias por las cosas pequeñas

Por Jeanette Arnquist
Directora, Ministerio de Vida, Dignidad y Justicia

En este tiempo del año, recordamos ser agradecidos por las bendiciones de los últimos días del pasado. Por está razón, este año me encuentro con cosas pequeñas y ordinarias que viene a la mente.

Por ejemplo, las sillas. Hace unos años visité algunas zonas rurales en las Filipinas. La gente que conocí era muy amable y me ofrecían todo lo que tenían, pero las sillas no eran parte de sus pertenencias. Tenían bancos.  Cuando regrese a un lugar más desarrollando, lo primero que me di cuenta fue el sentir maravilloso en sentarse en la silla y descansar la espalda! Muchas veces esto sólo ocurre cuando tengo que vivir sin conveniencia o lujo todos los días y se hace un habito que comienza a notar que tan importante es para mi.

En diciembre del 2008, mi padre de 89 años de edad sufrió un accidente cerebrovascular que paralizó la parte derecha del cuerpo. Murió el 18 de octubre. Durante la jornada de 22 meses, el nunca recupero la capacidad de caminar o leer. Podía hablar, pero tenía  una gran dificulta pensar en las palabras necesarias para poder comunicarse.

Con frecuencia durante este tiempo, cuando brincaba de la cama para apagar mi alarma en mañana, me daba cuenta que esta habilidad era un regalo de Dios, y le daba gracias. La alegría de caminar es uno de mis favoritos regalos y he estado bien agradecido por la habilidad de caminar largas distancia de senderismo. Desde que mi padre estaba deshabilitado descubrí el hermoso regalo de caminar travesando un cuarto, tomar un baso de agua por mi mismo, darme un chaparrón cuando yo quiera, incluso ir a baño sin la ayuda de nadie.

¿Cómo sería mi vida si no podía leer? ¿Que tal si sólo podría decir unas pocas palabras? ¡Comunicarse con palabras del nuestro idioma es un regalo maravilloso!

Por supuesto estoy agradecido por el gran regalo en mi vida- la fe, familia y amigos, tener trabajo y una casa. Estoy agradecido por el regalo de mi padre, mi relación con él, por el tiempo que me dio y su ejemplo. Y este año estoy agradecido por todo las cosas pequeñas que fácilmente las tomo sin consideración y por darme cuenta de estos regalos cuando mi padre los perdió. Le pido a Dios en mis oraciones que siempre reconozca estos regalos en mi vida y poder darle gracias por otorgármelos.  

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

At the Crossroads: Paul at Ephesus

By Father Ben Alforque, M.S.C., V.F.
Parochial Vicar, St. Catherine of Alexandria, Riverside

And then we came to Ephesus. Much of the archaeological excavations that are popular for tourists to see are the remains of an ancient civilization that can be dated back to the time of the imperial reigns of Hadrian and Trajan.

But the Ephesus that Paul knew was during the reigns of Claudius and Nero. They built temples for themselves and theologically justified their godhood by building the Temple of Artemis-Diana, with an eastern twist: whereas Artemis-Diana was a virgin huntress, in Ephesus she meant accumulation of wealth and power. By this, she justified the wealth and power of Imperial Rome, at the expense of the ordinary citizens and slaves. While at this period, the emperor-god controlled the practice of other religions to prevent the subversion of the cult of the emperor, at Ephesus as at Rome the ideal Phallic Symbol of male domination was glorified. Rome conquered and raped Britannia, from the social-political perspective. At Ephesus, women were mere objects of male possession, penetration and conquest, in the personal-domestic relationship.

Before the Ephesians and the Ephesians Christian community, Paul declared that these were not, and could never be, acceptable. Using the language that these imperial cults adapted, Paul asserted that there is only one Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and no other!  The power and wealth that the Emperor-Artemis offered to the people are nothing when compared to the saving love of the Father and the grace of the Holy Spirit. The Church is the Body of Christ: the model of Christian social-political behavior and personal-domestic relationship. Conquest of nations by violence of war and injustice is rejected in favor of sharing a new way of life bound by one Church, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith and baptism, one God of all! Paul rejected the ideology of male domination when he presented marriage of husband and wife as a communion of equals in Christ! While women were told in a few sentences to respect their husbands, husbands were admonished to love their wives as themselves via a long paragraph. This is contrary to the fundamentalist and "macho" literalist interpretation of the text that women are subjects to patriarchal superiority. This opposes the emperor-god-"father of the family"-"father of the nation" ideology!

We prayed for you all as we celebrated the Eucharist, in the footsteps of Paul at Ephesus!


En la encrucijada: Pablo en Éfeso

Por Padre Ben Alforque, M.S.C.,V.F.
Vicaro Parroquial, Santa Catalina de Alejandría, Riverside

Y después llegamos a Éfeso. Muchas de las excavaciones arqueológicas que son populares para los turistas en conocer los restos de una civilización de modo que puedan ser fechado de un periodo atrás del reinado imperial de Adriano y Trajano.

Excepto que la cuidad Éfeso cual conocía Pablo fue durante el reinado de Claudio y Nerón. Ellos construían templos por sí mismos y teológicamente justificaban su divinidad con fundando el Templo de Artemisa-Diana, con un giro inesperado oriental; considerando que Artemisa-Diana fue una virgen cazadora, en Éfeso ella significaba la acumulación de fortuna y poder. Por medio de esto, ella justifica  la riqueza y el poder  del Imperio Romano, a expensas del ordinario ciudadano y esclavo. Mientras en este periodo, el emperador-dios tiene controlado las prácticas de otras religiones para prevenir una subversión de un culto del emperador, en Éfeso tal como en Roma el símbolo fálico ideal de la dominación masculina es glorificado. Roma conquistó y abuso a gran Bretaña, desde una perspectiva social-política. En Éfeso, la mujer eran meros sujetos como  posesión de un varonil, penetración, y conquista, en una la relación domestica-personal.

Antes de los Efesios y la comunidad Efesia cristiana, Pablo declara que estos no son, y nunca podría ser aceptable. Utilizando el idioma que estos cultos imperiales adaptaron, Pablo afirmo que sólo hay un Señor y Salvador, Jesucristo, y ¡nadie más! El poder y la riqueza que el Emperador-Ártemis ofrece a la gente no es nada en comparación al amor redentor del Padre y la gracia del Espíritu Santo. La Iglesia es el cuerpo de Cristo: es el modelo del comportamiento cristiano social-político y de una relación domestica personal. Las conquistas de naciones que fueron por la violencia de guerra y la injusticia son rechazadas a favor de compartir un nuevo modo de vida atado por una Iglesia, un Espíritu,  una Esperanza, un Señor, una fe y bautismo, ¡un Dios de todos! Pablo rechaza la ideología de la dominación masculina cuando representa el matrimonio entre marido y mujer como iguales en una misma comunión en Cristo! Mientras que las mujeres se les dijo en pocas palabras que respeten a sus maridos, y los maridos fueron amonestados a amar sus esposas como así mismo a través de un largo párrafo. Esto es contrario a lo fundamentalista y “macho” interpretaciones literal del texto que mujeres son sujetos a la superioridad patriarcal. ¡Se opone contra la ideología del emperador-dios “padre de la familia” – “padre de la nación”!

Oremos por todo ustedes a medida que celebramos la Eucaristía, ¡En los pasos de Pablo en Éfeso!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

At the Crossroads: In the Footsteps of St. Paul

By Father Ben Alforque, MSC, V.F.
Parochial Vicar, St. Catherine of Alexandria, Riverside

I am now in Greece to lead a Bible-Study-on-Site with a group of 38 people coming from the Diocese of San Bernardino and from other states across the country. This study-pilgrimage forms the second part of the Filipino Ministry of the Diocese of San Bernardino's program: Discovering and Re-discovering the Roots of Our Faith. This covers the early Christian communities founded by St. Paul in what are now Greece, Turkey and Rome.  We have a bonus in the island of Patmos and Padre Pio.

Upon arrival in Athens in the morning of the 5th of November, we proceeded right away to Corinth, visiting along the way the port of Cynchrae.

Ah, the ancient City of Corinth!  There we walked beneath the shadows of the huge columns of what used to be the Temple of the Apollo, the Greek god of music and eternal youth. Behind the temple were the Roman baths and the Agora which the Romans maintained as a commercial center and forum for philosophical and religious education. There is the "bema", the court that tried Paul under the pro-consulship of Gallio.  Behind it lies the Roman complex of other baths, physical training centers, public offices, refectories and temples dedicated to the Roman Emperor-Gods. There is what used to be the "macellum" where animals offered on the altar of the gods, were sold and distributed by priests for the people to eat in public places reserved for the well-to-do and leading citizens and in homes of ordinary people and slaves. All of them were acquainted with mystery religions, their esoteric initiation rites, intoxicating revelries and hedonistic rituals. There is also what used to be the Asclepeion room and hospital dedicated to Asclepius, son of Apollo and the physician god with his symbolic snake.  Above the city looms the magnificent acropolis - the highest point of the city - which hosted the Temple of  Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of beauty and erotic love.

In this highly stratified, divided and philosophically and religiously multicultural Corinthian society, Paul preached Jesus the Christ and his enduring alternative message!

After an existential critique of social divisions afflicting the Christian community, he preached the unity of the Body of Christ! Beyond the infantile notions of unclean food eaten with bacchanalian revelry, he re-articulated the Eucharistic words of Jesus in the sacred meal of His Body and Blood! Against the come-ons of erotic love, he preached true Christian love! In the human quest for good health and eternal youth, he proclaimed our participation in the resurrection of Jesus and life everlasting!

We prayed for you all at the Eucharist we celebrated in the cruise ship Orient Queen.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Destination Holy Land: Faith reinvigorated

By Father Erik Esparza
Parochial Vicar, St. Joseph, Barstow

Journal Entries Provided by Father Esparza as he goes on pilgrimage through the Holy Land along with 40 other pilgrims from the Diocese of San Beranrdino, including Bishop Gerald Barnes.

Day 10

Today we were up bright and early just as the sun was coming up to lighten the new day. At 5:30am we met to load the bus to proceed to pray the Way of the Cross also known as the Via Dolorosa. We began at the known location where Jesus was condemned to die (Lk 23:25). Together as one group we were to travel the way that led to Jesus' crucifixion and death on the Cross. We carried a large wooden cross, something not even close nor as heavy to what our Lord Jesus endured.  Four at a time, we took turns carrying the cross as we walked the city streets. We would come to stops along the way to commemorate and pray the Stations of the Cross. Each step we took, led us one step closer to the place where Jesus would give it all.  The last four Stations are marked inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. And so we entered and ascended a very steep staircase high above the main floor of the Church. We came to a Chapel that marks in glorious fashion, the Place of the Skulls, the very space our Lord Jesus breathed His last (Mk 15:37). One by one we lowered ourselves to climb under an altar to touch and to be touched once more by the Sacrifice of God's only Son. The scripture passage that so eloquently speaks of this climatic event is a one that we are all so familiar with. It is the famous John 3:16, "God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that those who believe in Him will not perish, but might have eternal life."

Bishop Barnes and others leading us
in prayer along the Via Dolorosa.
Morning Mass was to be there at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and was to begin promptly at 7:00am and conclude by 7:30am to accommodate the next group. We were blessed to have celebrated the Mass just feet away from where Christ was crucified and was left to die on the Cross. At a side altar, we all gathered close to one another in the small space to celebrate that same sacrifice of Christ. Bishop Barnes was the celebrant and homilist for the Mass. He reminded us that it was out of love that Christ died and that we always needed to remember and to remind others that we are the reason for Christ's great sacrifice. We need to continue being a people of Hope. Our Mass time together went by very quickly, but we had experienced the love of Christ once more in the breaking of the bread.

After Mass we journeyed back by foot to the hotel where breakfast awaited us. The rest of the morning was given to us as some free time. It wasn't until 11am that we needed to gather at the bus.

At 11am it was time to venture once more into the town of Bethlehem. This time we were set to meet some faculty and staff at the University of Bethlehem. We were welcomed and invited to share in a tasty meal served by the students of the University's Hotel and Restaurant Management Program. At each table, a student from the University shared a few things about themselves and the University. At our table was a twenty-one year old fourth year student from Jerusalem named Wala. She was very eloquent and shared openly about the experiences of her life. She was also a Muslim student attending a Catholic University. She spoke about the openness of the campus and that one of her best friends is a Christian. Bethlehem University prides itself on being a welcoming and embracing University that prepares the new leaders for the next generation. It really looks to provide people with hope especially for the Palestinian people. After lunch we watched a short but moving video about the University. When the video was completed, the students introduced themselves and opened themselves up for questions. Our time together was so enlightening and truly gave all of us pilgrims hope. We were once again reminded that part of our journey was much more than the Holy Sites, it was being able to share and pray for the other holy part of this land, the people!

We made just one last stop at a local business on the way back into Jerusalem. On display there is one of the found jars once containing some of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Such a piece of history just stumbled upon by Shepherds not too long ago and now a lasting memory for the family that purchased them and now for the whole world. Our time there also afforded us one last opportunity to shop for memories to take home from the town of Bethlehem.

We arrived at the Hotel for the last time and our very last night in Jerusalem and the entire Holy Land. We shared our last dinner at the Notre Dame Hotel. The hotel staff thanked us for our stay by presenting us with a yummy Cake. It was now time to sleep. Thank you to Jerusalem and to the surrounding areas for such a wonderful and unforgettable experience.

And thank you Jesus for the memories!

Day 11

The day had come, our last day in the Holy Land! Throughout our time, Sr. Sarah came saying to us all, "Can you believe we are in the Holy Land!" Now she was saying, "I can't believe it's our last day here!" Many of us were just not ready to return home. Yet, we knew we couldn't stay, in essence we needed to leave the mountain top and return home. We needed to tell the story of the Holy Land and her people. We needed to share our renewed faith back home. Despite the sadness of having to say goodbye, we knew we had one more day together.

We brought our luggage down from our rooms to prepare for our departure. We then ate our last meal at the Notre Dame Hotel. After breakfast, we waited in the lobby for our bags to be loaded so we could begin our trek back to Tel Aviv airport. On our way to airport we were going to make a few stops.

Our first stop was near Jerusalem. It was the birthplace of St. John the Baptist and where the Virgin Mary would have visited her cousin Elizabeth who was already in her sixth month of pregnancy (Lk 1:36ff). Outside of the Church written in many languages was the prayer of Zachariah. Found in the Gospel of Luke (1:68ff), it was the prayer of blessing spoken by Zachariah upon the regaining of his voice after the birth of his son whom he was to name John. We entered the Church and spent some time in prayer.

The next stop was a sad one. Our tour guide, Johnny, was leaving us. He was a great guide who taught us much about the Holy Land and always did it with a smile on his face. We were very thankful for his knowledge and love. He was not leaving us abandoned, his father Simon, who also is a tour guide and taught Johnny much about the tour business would join us. We said our goodbyes and waved so long to someone very special to us. Thank you Johnny for the memories!

Fawz our bus driver continued with us and now led by Simon we went to our next stop. We stopped further outside Jerusalem at a convent in an area that is known to have at one time kept hidden the beloved Ark of the Covenant before King David took it to Jerusalem. It was such a beautiful and peaceful place. We went for lunch in the same area and sat outside in a wonderful outdoor garden. And after enjoying a bite to eat, we headed for the City of Joppa.

In the City of Joppa we visited the Church of St. Peter and the home of Simon, the Tanner, along the breathtaking view of the Mediterranean Sea. Although very hot and humid, we spent some time in the very place where we read in the Acts of the Apostles that Peter ministered after the Resurrection. It is there in Joppa where Peter raised Tabitha from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:36ff) and while living with Simon the Tanner, Peter received a vision telling him that what the Lord gives and blesses is not to be called profaned or unclean (Acts 10:9ff). This vision opened the door for the first gentile baptism of the man named Cornelius and his entire household in nearby town of Caesarea (Acts 10:45ff).

Next to the Church of St. Peter was a Franciscan monastery with a very tiny Chapel where we would as one group, for the last time, celebrate the Eucharist together. In a small circle we gathered close to our Spiritual Guide, Bishop Barnes around the altar of the Lord to reflect on the Word of God and to be nourished by the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus. We were invited to ponder and reflect over a word or phrase that could begin to encompass our entire experience. As we went around sharing those thoughts with the group, it affirmed the life changing experience each of us had. The challenge left for us to reflect: where do we go from here and what will we do with this awesome experience? The answer can only be given in time.

At last, we shared our final meal together at a restaurant in Tel Aviv called Abu Nassar Hinnawi. It was at dinner that each of us, one by one, revealed to the whole group who had been our secret prayer pal during the whole pilgrimage. Prayer was such an important part of this pilgrimage. We learned to never underestimate the power of prayer.

Laughter, joy, and love filled the tables as we shared our experiences. The final part of our last meal together, left us giving thanks and gifts to the two special people among us that brought the whole experience together, Bishop Gerald Barnes and Lady Mary Gabriela Farrell. As a group we had the joy of spending twelve amazing days with two amazing persons. Thank you Bishop Barnes and Ms. Farrell for making this experience possible! With dinner completed, we took our last bus ride to the Tel Aviv Airport. For one last time, we unloaded our bags from the bus and said our goodbyes to Simon and our amazing driver Fawz. It was time to return home.

Day 12

As I write this twelfth and final day, we are on a flight heading back to where our journey all began in Los Angeles. It is still so difficult to fully encompass and realize all that we have experienced in our pilgrimage. The numerous places we traveled and the special people we met along the way. It was just twelve days ago we left as strangers going to a faraway place and to an unknown people, but now we return as friends coming back with stories from a journey and a people that have forever changed our lives. Our time in the Holy Land was not full of fear nor disappointment, but one of hope and excitement for the future peace of our Savior's homeland.

We are so thankful to the countless individuals, families, groups, and parish communities that prayed for us on the journey. Your prayerful support kept us safe, provided us an amazing experience, and brought us home a changed people. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

If any of you who are reading this now are ever given the opportunity to go to the Holy Land, please don't pass on it. But for those who may never go, know from this pilgrim, that it is all so true! Know that indeed our God sent His only Son Jesus to be born of a Virgin named Mary. Know that Jesus did live and walk this very earth. Know that Jesus taught us in unexpected ways the will of God. And know that Jesus our Lord died for our sins only to be resurrected to provide us new hope and everlasting life. Oh, it is true indeed!

May our loving God bless you and your families forever, in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit!

Amen.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Destination Holy Land: In wonder and awe

By Father Erik Esparza
Parochial Vicar, St. Joseph, Barstow

Journal entries provided by Father Esparza as he goes on pilgrimage through the Holy Land along with 40 other pilgrims from the Diocese of San Bernardino, including Bishop Gerald Barnes.

Day 7
We woke up to day 7 of our pilgrimage, the final day of our first week together. It is quite interesting to know just how much ground we have covered in such a short period of time. Today is the Day the Lord Has Made! It is Sunday and for us Christians it is our Sabbath. Taking this into account, our tour guide generously allowed for us to sleep in with a wake-up call at 7:30am.  We were expected after a warm breakfast to be boarded on the bus by 9:30am. 

At 9:30am we were ready to drive a short distance to a Catholic Christian parish community in Jerusalem. St. James was the name of the Church. It also was the community of our tour guide Johnny. Upon our arrival to the parish, the Pastor of the community, a Franciscan Priest, Friar Hijazin, warmly welcomed us. He gave us a short summary of the parish and then we entered to celebrate, which for most if not all of us, was our first Sunday Mass in Arabic. Bishop Barnes, Deacon Serembe, and I headed to the sacristy to vest for the Mass. Serving with us were two permanent deacon candidates in formation. They form the first class of permanent deacons who will soon be ordained for the Latin Patriarchate Church of Jerusalem. We entered for Mass as we would do in the U.S. with song. The song choice sounded very familiar to us. It was the hymn, Ode to Joy, the only difference, it was in Arabic.

The blessing of the universality of our Church is that we worship in a similar manner with a few exceptions and the Mass readings are the same at every Catholic Church throughout the world.  The priest generously allowed one of our pilgrims, Rich Herbst to proclaim the second reading in English and later to lead us in an after communion hymn. Additionally, the priest prayed the Eucharistic prayer in English for our group. With these exceptions, the other parts of the Mass were in Arabic. All in all, we had a wonderful celebration of the Banquet of the Lord with our Palestinian brothers and sisters. In the Mass, I also noticed some things which also were pretty universal to our Church. There were people coming in late to Mass, children playing in the pews, people sleeping or "reflecting" during the homily, and the lack of a teenage presence. I found it to be very interesting that some of the same situations found in our parishes in the U.S. would be experienced here in Jerusalem.

After the Mass, the community invited us over for some warm hospitality in the hall. They had coffee, soda, and snacks for each of us to enjoy. We were able to engage in conversation, to share our experiences, and of course to take photographs. Just like in the States as the parents were talking inside, the children gathered together outside. We were reminded that although the Churches we visit are special and holy sites, we cannot forget the living Church, the people, who form the Body of Christ. The pilgrims were very thankful for the great hospitality.

It was then time to leave the community and head over to Old Jerusalem. There we would visit the Muslim Holy Sites, the Jewish Wailing Wall, and the Temple Mount. Jerusalem is the holiest site for the Jewish faith because of the former temple site. The Jewish Temple has been built twice and destroyed twice, the last time by the Romans in 70 AD. There are still remnants that indicate the temple area, the same temple where our Lord Jesus was presented, preached at the age of twelve, and turned over the money changers' tables. Jerusalem is the third holiest site in the world, after Mecca and Medina, for the Muslim faith. It is also home of the well known, Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa Mosque. From the Temple Mount you can gain a panoramic view of all the sites that are so familiar to us in the Scriptures. At the Wailing Wall each of us were invited to enter and pray along the wall. It is also part of the tradition at the wall to insert into it little pieces of paper with some personal intentions one might have. The hope is that those personal intentions will be answered by God.

After spending the time in Old Jerusalem and before heading back to the Notre Dame Hotel, we stopped for a light lunch and then at a Diamond factory. The Diamond Industry is the number one source of income for all of Israel. We took a tour of a factory and found out more about the process involved in finding, creating, and marketing diamonds. After the tour, we were invited to purchase diamonds at a "discounted price".

We then returned back to the Hotel where we were to get dressed up a bit for a fantastic dinner at the famous restaurant within the Notre Dame Center, The Rotisserie. Everyone looked so nice as we gathered in the restaurant. All of us were treated to a five course meal and some wine. At times we needed help identifying what we were about to eat, but overall it was a great meal with delightful conversation.

Time for bed would soon come and we all headed up to our rooms. We needed to get our rest for another full day that would begin with a 6:00am morning wake-up call.

Thank you Jesus for the gift of faith!

Day 8
Monday morning would come very quickly with an early wake-up call at 6am. After breakfast it was time to load the bus for another full day around Jerusalem. 

Our first stop led us to Mt. Zion and the Church of the Dormition. This Church is recognized as one the places believed to be the location that the Virgin Mary fell asleep and was assumed body and soul into Heaven. The belief and tradition is that Mary went to Ephesus with the Apostle John and later returned to Jerusalem where she was assumed into heaven at Mt. Zion.

Not too far away we walked to the location known to be where Jesus shared the Last Supper with His disciples. While we were there, we sang all together, "I am the Bread of Life". It was a moment to pause and thank God for the great gift of the Eucharist. Even though we as pilgrims traveled many miles to walk the land of Our Lord Jesus, it's a comfort to know that in the Eucharist, no matter where we are in the world, we are the closet to Jesus! Near to the location of the Last Supper, we walked into a Jewish Synagogue where we visited one of the two claimed locations for the tomb of King David. As we did at the Wailing Wall, we separated the men from the women to enter the Jewish prayer space. While inside on the woman's side, we could hear the voice of a Jewish woman leading the other women in song of praises.

It was then time for us to walk a greater distance to the land of the former palace of the High Priest and the location believed to be where Jesus was brought after being arrested at the Garden of Gethsemane. Due to the time of the evening, Jesus is known to have been imprisoned one full night there. What now sits on this location is a beautifully designed mural Church now called St. Peter in Gallicantu. The murals express both the emotion of Jesus' arrest and the denial of Jesus by Peter (Jn 18:15ff). We were invited to descend a staircase to the lower levels of the Church where we were shown the old dudgeons of the palace. Our entire group entered into a small dudgeon where we meditated on Jesus' stay the night before He would die. We took a moment to pray for all those imprisoned throughout the world. We also sang a popular Lenten Hymn, "Were You There". Prior to the turning off of the lights to experience the space in a similar manner as would have Jesus, we heard a reading of Psalm 88 from the Book of Psalms. After some time of reflection we climbed the staircase back into the precious daylight. It was great reminder from Scriptures that we should be children of the light rather than children of darkness (Ephesians 5:8). Outside of the Church is a stone path that leads to the buildings. All historians agree that the stone is over two thousand years old and that it is possible the very same road Jesus was brought in from the Garden of Gethsemane leading into the house of the High Priest.

We found our bus driver Fawz and loaded the bus. We drove back into Old Jerusalem fighting the traffic. We reached a place in the road to unload from the bus. We took a short cut to reach the Shepherd's Gate (Jn 5:2). This gate is mentioned in the Gospel of John where Jesus finds a man outside the pools of Bethesda who had been ill for thirty-eight years and Jesus asked if he wanted to be healed. The answer was yes and so Jesus asked him to pick up his mat and he was healed. Our next stop takes us to the ruins of the Pool of Bethesda.

Close to the Pool of Bethesda is the Church of St. Anne's which is the believed location of the birthplace of Mary. Tradition tells us that Mary’s parents names were Joachim and Anne. The Church provided a beautiful echo for which our group, like many others, took full advantage of singing. We chose to sing, "Immaculate Mary". We then descended a staircase to the lower levels of the Church where lies the believed birthplace of our Mother Mary.

After a full morning, we went back to the Hotel for a three hour rest for our evening activities. It was also time for lunch, so a small group walked a short distance to the Christian Quarter of Old Jerusalem to search out some lunch and to do some shopping. Many of us had heard of a local Pizzeria and so there is where we all headed. It was nice to get a taste of a food we were all very accustomed to, a hot slice of pepperoni pizza!

After a couple of hours of free time, we were asked to be ready by 3pm for a walk to the Co-cathedral of the Latin Patriarchate's for Mass. 




Bishop Barnes and I at the Latin
Patriarchate Co-Cathedral in Jerusalem.
 
We walked as a group to the Co-cathedral of the Latin Patriarchate. We were admitted inside where we were scheduled to celebrate Mass. Every location where we have celebrated Mass along our journey has come with a strict time schedule to accommodate all other pilgrims. The group entered the Cathedral to prepare for Mass while the Bishop, deacon, and I vested. We entered a very large Cathedral with very little pews for seating. And whereas we have all sat very close together at all other Churches, this time we were seated more distant from the main altar. This Church like all others had beautiful frescos and statues throughout. 

At the conclusion of the Mass we walked upstairs nearby to the offices of the Patriarchate, where we were welcomed and received by an Auxiliary Bishop and provided some light refreshments. Then the Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulcher among us vested themselves in their gowns to prepare for a ceremony in the Cathedral, which they were to receive the Pilgrim's Shell for their visit to the Holy Land. The Auxiliary Bishop, whom just returned from the Synod of Bishops meetings in Rome, gave us a wonderful summary of their time together. He then proceeded to bestow onto five Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulcher, the Pilgrim's Shell for their pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

From the Cathedral we continued our journey in procession led by the Bishop and the Knights and Ladies to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. It is there where we commemorate the Death and Resurrection of our Lord. This was by far the highlight of our pilgrimage for a few reasons. First, we remember Christ's great sacrifice for us. Second, the whole basis for our faith is built upon the Resurrection. Finally, as part of the Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulcher we were given a very special grand entrance into the Church. The whole Church came to a standstill for our entrance. Being given musical accompaniment of the organ for our entrance, we were taken right outside the tomb of our Lord Jesus. The same tomb that He would not be found, for He had Risen, He had Risen indeed! The Franciscans led us in prayer and welcomed us to the Church. The Franciscan Priest who led us in prayer, Father Fergus Clarke, once ministered in California and worked with Sr. Sarah Shrewsbury in Brea, Ca. Truly a small world! After the prayer service, our group was invited four by four to enter the tomb of our Lord. In a very cramped space, we each took the time to pray thanking the Lord for His sacrifice on Calvary and for making us a Resurrection people! We all left experiencing that Hope renewed, but also knowing we were called to share that Hope with others.

We walked back through the narrow and darkened streets back to our Hotel. The full day was almost complete. All that was left was dinner and rest. We would begin again the next morning with our usual 6am wake-up call.

Thank you Jesus for your sacrifice!

Day 9
A new day came and we were all so thankful to have awoken once more in the City of Jerusalem. We began early as we have each day of our pilgrimage. After our morning breakfast we boarded our bus for a trip to the Mount of Olives. Our first stop was at Pater Noster Shrine. It is where Jesus taught His disciples how to pray using what we know as the Our Father (Lk 11:1-4). This Chapel and surrounding buildings have displayed the Our Father prayer in almost one hundred and thirty different languages.  It was so interesting to see such a special prayer written and more importantly prayed in so many languages of the world.

We then began our walk from the top of Mt Olives down was is known as the Palm Sunday Road, which is the way that Jesus would have rode triumphantly into Jerusalem. The panoramic view of Old Jerusalem was amazing. We took many pictures as well as one group picture to always remember our pilgrimage. We began the steep hill down Palm Sunday Road. As we walked down we sang together, "The King of Glory." About half way done the road, we stopped to visit a small chapel, Dominus Flevit, the Lord wept. It is here that Jesus wept over Jerusalem prior to His death (Lk 19:41). This small chapel has the most beautiful view from behind the altar overlooking Jerusalem. It is where we would celebrate Mass for the day. Joining us for Mass was a large Filipino community also from California. At the Mass, I was to be the Celebrant and homilist. At first I thought no one would be paying attention at Mass due to the outstanding view behind the altar, however the group was most attentive to receive the Word of God and the strength of the Lord in the Eucharist. We, like Jesus, have wept at the activities or situations in our lives. Sometimes it is so easy to be discouraged and want to give up. However, we, like Jesus, must move on and be the people He has called us to be, a resurrection people, a people of new life!

We continued down the Palm Sunday Road to the base where we came upon the special prayer place of Jesus just prior to His arrest, the Garden of Gethsemane. Surrounding the beautiful Church to mark the place of Jesus' prayer are numerous olive trees. Our guide, Johnny, told us that some of the olive tree roots in the area are known to be over two thousand years old. How amazing it is to imagine that the very trees we looked upon could be the same ones that Jesus' eyes gazed upon during his agony in the garden. The Church there is called, The Church of All Nations. It was given that name to honor the many nations that contributed to the construction of the Church. High above inside on the ceiling are emblems of every nation that helped with the project. Towards the entrance to the Church high above one can find the United States emblem. In the Church also sits near the altar space, the "Rock of Agony" which is a section of bedrock identified as the place where Jesus prayed alone in the garden prior to His arrest (Mk 14:32ff). We didn't spend too much time there for we were told that we would be going back later in the evening for a quiet Holy Hour all by ourselves.

We soon found our bus in the midst of the crowded streets. The next scheduled visit was to the House of Peace, an orphanage supported by the Knights and Ladies of the Western Lieutenancy. We spoke with one of the sisters who welcomed us and shared the activities of the Orphanage. There in that loving home three religious sisters care for over twenty children between the ages of three and eighteen. Just being in the home we felt the love and peace. We also experienced the tremendous faith of the sisters would depend greatly on God to provide for the needs of the children. Unfortunately we didn't get to see or speak with any of the children, mostly because they were in school, but we did see once more the lived out experience of the locals whom are filled with so much hope.

Our next trip was something we asked our guide to add to our pilgrimage. It was a journey to the town of Jericho and home of the Dead Sea, the lowest place on earth. We had a great buffet lunch at Temptations Restaurant. The name Temptation is used throughout the area to refer and commemorate where Jesus was tempted in the desert by the devil (Lk 4:1ff). Jericho is a relatively small city compared to many of the others we visited. After the lunch, we headed for the lowest spot in the entire world, the Dead Sea. Along the way we stopped on the side of the road to be shown the area where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found by a local Shepherd looking for his lost sheep. The shepherd we were told was disappointed with his find for he expected a treasure and only found containers with a few scrolls! A gift for the world that wasn't expected, but truly was a treasure, sound familiar?

Up next was to relax for a bit at the Dead Sea. We were told that if we stayed in the water for one hour we would look ten years younger! Unfortunately it didn't work, but for those of us who entered the water, we were happy we did. It was an experience that few ever get. After an hour there, we gathered together to return to the Hotel for dinner. After dinner we reconvened for one last trip back to the Garden of Gethsemane and the Church of All Nations. We were to have one hour of Adoration alone as a group in the very place our Lord agonized the night before He was to die. The Holy Hour was so powerful and the most fitting way to end the day full of so many experiences.

Thank you Jesus for saying yes to the will of the Father!