Friday, April 30, 2010

At the Crossroads: Come, Holy Spirit, Come!

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

In the Sundays of May leading to the Feast of the Pentecost, the descent of the Holy Spirit, we shall devote our reflections on the Holy Spirit, and the role of the Holy Spirit in the History of Salvation and in our human life.
When I was in first year high school in the seminary, in 1965, I was introduced to the devotion of the Holy Spirit through a beautiful prayer which I continue to pray to this day. In my younger days, I used this prayer to pass through easy and difficult exams. In my adult life as priest, I say this prayer to prepare for my papers and homilies. I do pray this every time I sit on the presider’s chair, prior to the proclamation of the Gospel. I use this prayer in difficult and decisive moments in my life.

The prayer is familiar to you. It is entitled: COME, HOLY SPIRIT!

Invocation: Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love.

Leader: Send forth Your Spirit, and they shall be created.

Response: And You shall renew the face of the earth.

Let us pray. O, God, who has taught the hearts of Your faithful by the light of the Holy Spirit, grant that by the gift of the same Spirit we may be always truly wise and ever rejoice in His consolations, through Christ Our Lord. Amen.

Immediately, we notice in this beautiful prayer the human invitation to the Holy Spirit to come to our human hearts so that our hearts will be fired with the Holy Spirit’s Love, not with our human way of loving. Then, the prayer continues, now asking God to send this Holy Spirit of His so that creation occurs, and the renewal of all creation takes place by His divine initiative. The concluding prayer invokes God as teacher of our hearts “by the light of the Holy Spirit”, that this Spirit is God’s gift to make us men and women of wisdom (“mind”). Yet, notwithstanding our imperfect hearts and minds, we have reasons to rejoice: we, in the totality of our being – mind, body, spirit – do receive the consolation of the Holy Spirit. And all these are possible only because of Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Wonderful! But who is the Holy Spirit? And what is His role in our lives?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Painful abuse scandal leading us to renewal

By Bishop Gerald R. Barnes
Diocese of San Bernardino
In this otherwise joyous season of Easter we are seeing the return of a story that many hoped was finished – the scandal surrounding the sexual abuse of children by priests. This time it has been cued by reports from Ireland and Germany, the native country of our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. The direct criticism of Pope Benedict in these recent media reports has made this especially painful for many Catholics and I ask you to pray for him as he leads our Church through this time of tribulation.

While further from home, these reports are no less painful to hear. We find ourselves reliving the emotions that came with eruption of this issue in the United States in 2002. Anger, sadness, disbelief and shame, among others.

As the Bishop of this diocese, I extend to all my deepest concern and prayer in this difficult time for our Church. As we have often said before, when one part of the Body of Christ is injured we all feel the pain. So it is again here.

The re-emergence of the crisis has provided a platform for those who disagree with our teachings and our involvement in public policy issues. They would like to see our Church destroyed and they are twisting and bending the circumstances of these cases to cast us in the worst possible light.

At the same time, we must own blame for the past practices of the Church in responding to abuse of our young people by priests.

In looking at this issue, key points must again be made. The sexual abuse of children and youth by priests, or anyone else, is a crime and a sin. Those who commit this reprehensible act must be justly punished. To all victims of abuse I offer my deepest sorrow and regret. I pray that they receive God’s grace and healing so that they may live productive lives. I also pledge the continued commitment of our diocese to protect young people in our churches from harm and to reach out to victim’s of abuse.

This is where we can look to the renewing spirit of Easter. We acknowledge that past efforts by the leaders of the Church to deal with this issue and hold perpetrators accountable were not adequate. It has been an imperfection in our Church and we ask God for forgiveness and mercy.

Then we see what has been learned and, indeed, already done to approach this issue with the justice and compassion of the Gospel.

With the foundation of the Office of Child and Youth Protection in 2002, we have made the protection of children and young people a permanent ministry of our diocese. This involves fingerprinting and other precautionary measures to ensure that no one with a history of sexual abuse has access to our young people. It also involves a massive (and mandatory) training and education component that helps priests, parents, teachers, church workers and children recognize and prevent this terrible crime.

We’ve come to learn that the sexual abuse of children is a scourge that exists at all levels of society, and most often in the family home. Another aspect of our ministry is to help bring this to light. With our “Restoring Me” retreats we encourage victims of abuse from someone in their family or community to come forward and begin the healing process.

While it hurts us to revisit child abuse in our Church, it may also be seen as a blessing that the issue is receiving prominent attention again. In this daylight, perhaps it can be better confronted in all the places where it exists.

I want to affirm the work of so many in our diocese to live our faith as it relates to this issue. It is a pattern that has been repeated all over the United States.

For those who minister in our churches and now find themselves again having to answer for the past sins of the Church, I say, continue to do the good works you are doing. We cannot argue or explain this scandal point-by-point. The best defense we have is to live our faith.

A good occasion for us to be enlivened in our faith will soon arrive with Pentecost, when we celebrate the coming of the Spirit. The apostles, too, were saddened and shocked by the events of the day. Like them, let us experience the power and the grace of the Holy Spirit as we continue the work of healing, building God’s Kingdom here on earth.

May God bless you.

Doloroso escándalo de abuso nos lleva a la renovación

Por Obispo Gerald R. Barnes
Diócesis de San Bernardino

En este que en otras circunstancias sería un alegre tiempo de Pascua, vemos el regreso de una historia que muchos esperaban había terminado – el escándalo en torno al abuso sexual de menores por parte de sacerdotes. Esta vez ha sido aludido por informes provenientes de Irlanda y Alemania, el país natal de Su Santidad, el Papa Benedicto XVI. La crítica directa del Papa Benedicto en estos recientes informes de los medios de difusión ha hecho esto especialmente doloroso para muchos católicos y les pido que oren por él mientras guía a nuestra Iglesia en estos momentos de tribulación.

Aunque nos separa una distancia geográfica, no es menos doloroso escuchar estos informes. Pues nos hacen revivir los sentimientos que suscitó la erupción de este problema en los Estados Unidos en el 2002. Ira, tristeza, incredulidad y vergüenza, entre otros.

Como Obispo de esta diócesis, les extiendo a todos mi más profunda preocupación y sincera oración en estos momentos difíciles para nuestra Iglesia. Como a menudo lo hemos dicho antes, cuando una parte del Cuerpo de Cristo resulta lastimada, todos sentimos el dolor. Así que el dolor está aquí otra vez.

El resurgimiento de la crisis ha proporcionado una plataforma a quienes están en desacuerdo con nuestras enseñanzas y nuestra participación en asuntos de política pública. Quisieran ver destruida a nuestra Iglesia y están tergiversando y torciendo las circunstancias de estos casos para ponernos a la luz de la peor manera posible.

A la vez, debemos aceptar culpabilidad por las anteriores prácticas de la Iglesia al responder al abuso de menores por parte de sacerdotes.

Al analizar este asunto, se deben enfatizar una vez más algunos puntos clave. El abuso sexual de niños y jóvenes por parte de sacerdotes, o alguien más, es un delito y un pecado. Quienes cometen este acto reprensible deben ser justamente castigados. A todas las víctimas de abuso les ofrezco mi más profundo pesar y compunción. Ruego al Señor para que reciban la gracia y sanación de Dios que les permitan vivir vidas productivas. Les reitero también el continuo compromiso de nuestra diócesis de proteger de todo daño a nuestros jóvenes en nuestras iglesias y ayudar a las víctimas de abuso.

Es aquí donde podemos acudir al espíritu renovador de la Pascua. Reconocemos que los esfuerzos pasados por parte de los líderes de la Iglesia para abordar este asunto y responsabilizar a los autores no fueron adecuados. Ha sido una imperfección en nuestra Iglesia y pedimos a Dios su perdón y su misericordia.

Vemos luego lo que se ha aprendido y, de hecho, lo que se ha hecho para abordar este asunto con la justicia y compasión del Evangelio.

Con la fundación de la Oficina para la Protección de Niños y Jóvenes en el 2002, hemos hecho de la protección de niños y jóvenes un ministerio permanente en nuestra diócesis. Esto incluye la toma de huellas digitales y otras medidas de precaución para asegurar que ninguna persona con un historial de abuso sexual tenga acceso a nuestros jóvenes. También incluye un masivo (y obligatorio) componente de capacitación y educación que ayuda a sacerdotes, padres de familia, maestros, empleados eclesiásticos y niños a reconocer y prevenir este terrible delito.

Hemos descubierto que el abuso sexual de menores es un flagelo que existe en todos los niveles de la sociedad, y más a menudo en la familia. Otro aspecto de nuestro ministerio es ayudar a sacarlo a la luz. Con nuestros retiros “Restaurándome,” exhortamos a las víctimas da abuso por parte de alguien en su familia o comunidad a que respondan a nuestro llamado e inicien el proceso de sanación. Hacemos también honor a todas las víctimas de abuso con una Misa anual que tendrá lugar hoy en la Iglesia San Bernardino.

Aunque nos duele volver a tocar el tema del abuso de menores en nuestra Iglesia, el que el tema esté recibiendo de nuevo atención prominente se podría ver también como una bendición. En este nuevo resurgimiento, tal vez se pueda confrontar mejor en todos los lugares que exista.

Quiero reconocer el esfuerzo de muchos en nuestra diócesis por vivir nuestra fe en relación a este asunto. Es una constante que se ha repetido en todos los Estados Unidos.

A quienes sirven en nuestras iglesias y se ven ahora teniendo que responder de nuevo por los pasados pecados de nuestra Iglesia, les digo, continúen haciendo las buenas obras que están haciendo. No podemos argumentar o explicar este escándalo punto por punto. La mejor defensa que tenemos es vivir nuestra fe.

Una buena ocasión para que nos reanimemos en nuestra fe llegará pronto con Pentecostés, cuando celebramos la venida del Espíritu. Los acontecimientos de sus días entristecieron y sorprendieron también a los apóstoles. Al igual que ellos, sintamos también nosotros el poder y la gracia del Espíritu Santo al continuar nuestra labor de sanación, de edificar el Reino de Dios aquí en la tierra.

Que Dios les bendiga.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Our Diocese Overflows with Gratitude

By Kathleen Hurt,
Diocesan Development Office
“I smile when I realize God has answered my prayers. I don’t always get what I’ve asked for; I thank Him especially for His wisdom.” This testimony of gratitude was received from Alex and Vicki at St. Joseph in Fontana joins nearly 7,000 other testimonies and special intentions submitted on 2010 Diocesan Development Fund (DDF) pledge cards. This over pouring of gratitude for the goodness our Lord has shared is confirmation that God’s presence is shining among parishioners throughout this diocese.

What are you most grateful for? Have you ever sat in awe over the way your life has positively unfolded from unanswered prayers or praised God for another glorious day of life?

Until we can be truly happy with what God has given we can’t truly be grateful. Over the coming month, I invite you and those you love to share three things you are grateful for each day or week. It can be shared over a cup of coffee with a good friend or part of the dinnertime routine with the family. It’s a Gratitude Revolution. Join in!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Spiritual Kite Flying

By Deacon John De Gano
St. Catherine of Alexandria, Riverside

One of Charles M. Schulz’ re-occurring themes in the comic strip Peanuts is Charlie Brown’s unsuccessful attempt to get his kite to fly. His desire and sheer determination were never a match against the dreaded ‘kite-eating tree.’ Often, the final panel showed a smiling tree and a defeated Charlie Brown trussed up head to foot in the very string with which he had hoped to use to see his beloved kite soar.

Like many of us, Charlie Brown remains undaunted by this setback. He will get another kite and, unfortunately, repeat the same mistakes all over again. And then get another. And another.

Are we like that, too? Are we so headstrong that we refuse to change our ways? Even when conventional wisdom would tell us to fly our ‘kite’ a few blocks over where there are no obstructions or ‘kite-eating trees’ to thwart our endeavors, do we listen? To God? Others?

What is it that binds us from being open to God and to the Holy Spirit’s gentle nudge to act in our own best spiritual interests? What prevents our spirits from soaring?

In John’s gospel account of the raising of Lazarus, he gives us a whole slew of reasons why Lazarus has been bound ‘head to toe’ in the grave. So many, in fact, that everyone figured Lazarus wasn’t going anywhere!

After all, Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. His body had been wrapped in a burial cloth and hands and feet tied (as per custom). A stone had been placed over the opening to the tomb and professional wailers had been called to the home to grieve with Martha and Mary at the loss of their brother.

However, when Jesus comes, he summarily rejects these ‘binds’ and does what no one has ever done before. He brings Lazarus back to life!

Unbelief must turn to belief. Lazarus’ physical binds are removed and he is free to walk about!

While this event is, in and of itself, clearly astounding, having a living breathing Lazarus in town provided irrefutable evidence that Jesus could not be a charlatan or magician. No slight of hand could disguise what everyone now was witnessing.

Such a display of awesome power rocked the world of the Jewish leaders. A sinner was doing the work of God! What would be next: The destruction of the temple?

In an act of desperation, the Pharisees and Sadducees will conspire together to kill both Jesus and Lazarus in order to hide the miracle! Like the ominous ‘kite-eating’ tree, they must protect their traditions. Destroy the evidence. Bind the spirit yearning to be free.

While the Scriptures are silent on the fate of Lazarus, we know that Jesus will be arrested and raised up on the cross. He will die. However, by his own death and resurrection he will conquer the tree. He will soar free.

As we celebrate the Easter Season and beyond, let us have the confidence of a Charlie Brown, trusting our God to lift our spiritual kites and conquer our ‘soul-eating’ trees so that we bind (and are bound) no more.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

At the Crossroads: Between the Agony of the Cross and the Joy of Easter – HOPE!

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

The last couple of weeks prior to Easter were difficult times of the cross for our believing people. We were facing a political-economic-moral issue that cut to the heart of the cherished identity as patriots and Catholics: the Health Care Reform Law.
Many practical questions are being raised on the law itself, written on some 2,700 pages, benefiting some 32 million uninsured Americans, estimated to cost some $938 billion and which will be gradually implemented for years. Disagreements seem to focus on the following:
(a) the insurance system - banks and private insurance companies are stripped of their profits from student loans, in favor of direct government lending;

(b) the impact of the costs on the poor, the middle class and the rich, the sick and the elderly - families with annual incomes of up to $88,000 will be assisted to pay for insurance; small businesses will also be subsidized as incentive to cover their employees, and insurance company practices denying coverage for sick people will be banned; and

(c) federal funding for abortion – an accompanying executive order has been signed disallowing the use of federal funds for abortions, except in the cases of rape, incest or danger to the life of the mother.
Behind these disagreements are ideological issues like the role of government in a free enterprise system, and the definition of the relationship between individual freedoms and government regulation. Some have raised the issue on a more fundamental level as a choice between Democracy and Republicanism, Capitalism and Socialism, and between the Spirit of the Founding Fathers of America and the European Welfare State or Social Democratic models.

The situation has been agonizing for U.S. Catholics, because the U.S. Catholic Church has joined the public arena. With its Social Doctrine, and inspired by the Second Vatican Council, she enters into the U.S. modern and post-modern society to preach the Good News and to offer an ethical and moral alternative based on the values of the Gospel. The next social arena where the Church will be involved in is on the issue of Comprehensive Immigration Reform.

This has led outstanding and sincere Catholics to a troubled conscience and a divided loyalty: loyalty to the State or to the Church, to Society or Religion, to Ideology or Faith in Jesus the Christ and Kingdom of God!

Yet we know that our journey towards newness is an experience of the Cross and Easter! And we live as a Confident People of Joyful Hope in the Resurrection.

Happy Easter to all!