Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Twelve Days run counter to the "holiday" season

By Steve Valenzuela
Director, Small Faith Communities

Everyone has holiday traditions, even if your “tradition” is to forget about them and act as if they are just another day. Over the past couple of months it has been hard to escape the “Holiday” reality as retailers, media outlets and everyone in between has been getting ready for the “holidays.” And the last few weeks (four to be exact), ra­dio programs changed. Red and green or blue and white decorations have been ev­erywhere. Every night one could watch a holiday themed movie, special or regular television program.

On the evening of the 25th and definitely on the 26th, much of our media oriented world will make the transition back to non­holiday time.

And in a kind of gentle yet profound prophetic gesture, we in the Church have maintained a quiet stand against all the hoopla. Our churches (and some of our homes) have been simply adorned in purple with a large wreath and 4 tall candles lit in weekly progression until this weekend. We had been observing Advent. For us Catho­lics, beginning on December 25, now is the time of the great twelve days (though this year it is 14) of celebrating the Nativity of Our Lord, Jesus Christ!

In addition to shopping (for some de­spite it), many of us have been preparing for this time with wonderful ethnic foods to share this night and beyond, whether it’s steaming tamales, baking cabbage rolls or pans of lasagna, decorating cookies or creamy fudge or making fruit­filled pane­tone or cake, many of our cupboards and countertops are filled with sweet and sa­vory treats for feasting. There is no fasting with the birth of Savior, all will be fed, all will have their fill.

For many years now, over 25 since I have lived here in the IE, I have made a concert­ed effort to celebrate the 12 days. I try to do some kind of event each day whether it is a visit with out­of­town friends, a movie with colleagues, whatever. One event I do annually is a party on December 26th with a group of church friends in Riverside and Orange County. That event, one of my fa­vorites of the whole season, includes all the usual elements of a traditional Christmas celebration with gift giving, eating and drinking but ends around 10 p.m. (it use to be later but as most of us are beyond 50 now 10 seems reasonable!) with a wonder­ful tradition of faith sharing and prayer. Af­ter each person takes a turn to reveal what has been God’s activity in their lives this past year (some see each other only at this annual event), the group concludes singing the same folk hymn from our college days of fellowship meetings, bible studies and faith community houses.
These things I have spoken unto you
That in me you might have peace.
In the world, you shall have tribulation
But be of good cheer, be of good cheer
For I have overcome the World.
May your celebration of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus bring you peace and good cheer for the 12 days and throughout the New Year!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Christmas Message from Bishop Barnes & Bishop del Riego

By Bishop Gerald Barnes & Bishop Rutilio del Riego
Diocese of San Bernardino

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

We offer our deepest prayers to you at this most blessed time of year. Let the joy of Christmas fill us all. For today we celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ! As we exchange gifts with friends and family and enjoy the many blessings of this time of year, let us remember that we are the “reason for the season” because Jesus came for us so that we might be saved. That God would send His Son to be among us, to be one of us, shows His great love for human kind and His desire to be recon­ciled with us. It is the only gift we truly need and the world is a more holy place when we share it with each other and with those we meet in our days.

Though he was born anonymously and humbly, the birth of our Lord Jesus gave hope to the world. As we enter into Christmas and the New Year may we take a few moments to look at our lives and accept the hope that God continues to offer us in His Son, Jesus. It is there for us today just as it was more than 2,000 years ago when He was born of Our Blessed Mother Mary and became man.

May your holiday season be filled with love and good cheer…
May you experience the peace and joy of Christ’s birth in your heart…
May your family and friends be blessed with good health and safety…
May the presence of the Spirit guide you on your journey in 2012…
And may Almighty God bless you.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Advent Joy through our Catholic Schools

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

An excited second grader ran to me across the lunch quad.  In each hand she held treasures just made in our Santa’s Workshop.  She not only wanted to show me her ornament for mom and dad, but she was equally excited at the Christmas card she made.  This little girl had lost her grandfather the year before, and she was excited about making a card for somebody else’s grandpa who didn’t have grandchildren of his own.  This was a new idea this year, to make a project for parents and then a card for an elder shut-in at one of our local retirement centers.  Judging by the grin, the idea was a hit.  I was personally pleased that she was so excited at helping those who needed her and the love a child’s card would bring. 
That Saturday, I brought my mother to St. Catherine’s to show her how our mobile free health clinic worked.  We walked around the huge modified mobile-home, and I introduced her to two of the nurses as she was a retired ER nurse herself.  They smiled and we walked away slowly as one of the doctors came out.  His shift was over, and as he walked past, I thanked him for his service (he drove in each weekend from Orange).  He mentioned that today he saw a diabetic with some significant problems and was glad the man came in.  I thanked him again, and reminded him that he was saving lives – thank you!  He paused to make a joke, we smiled, and he departed.
I walked away with my mother in silent joy.  My school had worked in tandem with the parish in setting up the mobile Lestonnac Free Clinic a few months prior, and I was thrilled that so many people without health insurance were being helped in vital ways.    It was gratifying to know that we had volunteers (though we still need more volunteer doctors) who came together between our parish and our campus to bring hope and real healing to the lives of those in need.  There was no politics in it, no proselytizing, not even real social justice; just freely offered love on Christ’s behalf just as described by our Holy Father (cf. Deus Caritas Est 31).  It echoed our diocesan impact statement filling one soul at a time with hope. 
At the same time, the prior day’s encounter with that little second grade girl filled me with even more joy than that doctor had.  She was only seven, and she got it.  The ministry of Christ is reaching out to make people feel better, even people we don’t know – and that brings joy to ourselves.  Our Catholic schools educate our children academically better than any other system on earth.  But the most important part of our curriculum was best taught this year at St. Catherine’s in a little workshop where children fill lives with the hope of Christmas, and a promise to grow up knowing that helping others is a joyful way to celebrate Advent.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Occupy Movement and Catholic Social Teaching

By Bishop Gerald Barnes
Diocese of San Bernardino

What are we to make of the Occupy Movement that has found its way from Wall Street to many communities here in our diocese? How does our Catholic faith inform our view of it?

Some of us may have already joined the protests or considered it. Others may wonder ‘what’s the point?’ or question the use of civil disobedience as a means of political expression.

Certainly this movement is a reflection of the dissatisfaction and despair felt by so many who face unemployment, foreclosure, poverty, hunger and other ill effects of the Great Recession that has gripped our country for the past three years. Our diocese has felt this pain significantly, reporting unemployment and poverty rates that are among the worst in the United States. It’s no surprise, then, that people in San Bernardino, Riverside, Redlands, Victorville and other cities are taking to the streets to vent their frustration.

One of the great gifts of our nation is our right to freedom of expression, to speak our mind publicly when we disagree with a prevailing policy or wish to bring light to something we believe unjust. Those participating in the Occupy Movement are exercising that right and should be free to do so. At the same time, any destruction of property, violence and other abuses that take place as part of these protests must be condemned. Even such a strong statement of disagreement must carry the flag of civility.  We have the right to disagree with one another.  We do not have the right to be disrespectful of anyone. 

The Occupy Movement is challenging the fairness of our economic system, given that more and more people are being hurt by it than helped by it these days. Our faith is concerned with the economy in its impact on the human dignity that God grants each of us. We may think of the economy in terms of job reports, business transactions, stock markets and growth projections but Catholic teaching holds that the economy must be measured by how well it serves the people. Does it provide opportunities for meaningful work for the individual, a stability of food and shelter so that families can thrive, a distribution of resources that does not disproportionately favor one group over another and, in reflection of our Lord Jesus’ call in Matthew’s Gospel, does it provide for the poor and most vulnerable among us?

Much is made about the opportunity in America to go as far financially as your hard work, intelligence and determination can carry you. This is a great ideal but the workings of the economy must make it true. If the system is conducive to wealth for some at the expense of many others, this great statement of opportunity is not being lived. Those who have joined the Occupy Movement are telling us that such an imbalance may have come to pass.

This dovetails with our Catholic teaching that policies, laws and systems are created to serve the common good. We are not concerned just about individual opportunity but how the economy enhances community life.  Whether or not we choose to become part of the Occupy Movement, we are called as Catholics to exercise Faithful Citizenship, raising our voices when we see moral failure in the public policies and government actions that shape our lives. We do this not to side with a particular political ideology or to follow a cultural trend. We do it for the same reason every time – to protect and promote human dignity. We believe that every life has value – regardless of economic status, race, age, health or any other factor. This is the love to which our Lord Jesus Christ calls us.

Twenty-five years ago, a time that seems prosperous compared to today’s economic climate, the Bishops of the United States issued “Economic Justice for All,” a pastoral letter that applied Catholic Social Teaching to the U.S. Economy. It remains remarkably relevant today. As a reference for Catholic thinking about the Occupy Movement, I highly recommend a revisiting of this letter. It can be found at:

Regardless of your opinion about the Occupy Movement I urge you to continue to pray for those who find themselves in the margins of our society because of these difficult economic times, and to come to their aid in whatever way that you can.   This time of Advent is a time of hope.  It is a time for reflection and action.  We prepare for the celebration of the Lord’s coming.  May he find us waiting in hope; attentive to each other’s need; and sharing with one another the gifts He has given us.

My best wishes to you for a joyous and blessed Advent.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

On Neutrinos and the news words at Mass

By Jeanette Arnquist
Director, Ministry of Life Dignity and Justice

A few weeks ago, as I was driving home I heard about an experiment in which it appeared that scientists had measured neutrinos, those little electrically-neutral, sub-atomic particles, traveling faster than the speed of light.  When I went to school, they didn’t even have neutrinos, or at least they didn’t teach us about them.  I had to Google them. Wow! This story is all over the Internet, and if it is true, it has implications which I simply cannot imagine, much less understand.

Similarly, when it became apparent this year that I needed a new cell phone, I found that I didn’t even have the vocabulary to discuss it with a clerk one-third my age.

It is a cliché that our world is changing so rapidly that it is almost impossible to keep up.  Most of us don’t like change, especially in the Church.  I remember very well how controversial it was when the language of the Mass changed to English in the late 1960s.  Many people complained about how the beauty and mystery were being lost. 

Perhaps still smarting from a D in high school Latin, I was excited about the change.  The new translations caught my attention and made me reflect on the meaning of the words.  It deepened my faith.  And at that time I promised myself that I would never become an old lady grousing at changes in the Mass.

So here we are, more than 40 years later.  The language of the Mass is changing again and I am old.  I am not a liturgist and so I adopted a “wait and see” attitude.  During my first Mass with the new language I stumbled repeatedly.  How many times am I going to say, “and also with you.” when the paper I am holding says, in bold print, “and with your spirit?” After a couple of days I have managed to say, “and also with you-r spirit” most of the time, but old habits of speech die hard. 

The good news is that for the most part the new words woke me up again and made me once again reflect on the meaning of the words.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Black Catholic History Month celebrates a strong presence in the Church

By David Okonkwo
Director, Ministry of the Assembly of Catholics of African Descent

The month of November is chosen to be the Black Catholic history month and it is also the month of All Saints and All Souls. The National Black Clergy Caucus selected this month to celebrate the history of blacks and canonized saints of African descent in Catholic history. The month of February is when the U.S and Canada cel­ebrate the achievements and contributions of African diaspora.

In our Diocese, we celebrate the inception of the Assembly of Catholics of African Descent in our Diocese which convened on the recommendation of Bishop Phillip Straling. Under the leadership of two stal­warts Ms. Thelma Bledsoe and Ms. Lois Carson the Assembly was born. A Mass of Celebration marking this month will be held on Nov. 20 at 3 p.m. at St. Elizabeth Ann Seaton Church in Ontario.
Some ask why we celebrate November: So we will remember and tell our story all over again. As a people with a painful his­tory, we walk back with all and share it as it pertains to our faith.

When we look at the list of canonized saints in November who are of African descent, they include saints with the title “Father of the Church” and Archbishop St. Dionysius of Alexandra and St. Gela­sius, a pope who reigned for four years and made a tremendous impact to the life of the church and the papacy. St. Martin de Porres of Peru one of the favorites saints of blacks in the Americas, who is mostly famous for his humble service and as a re­cipient of extraordinary spiritual phenom­ena. The rest of the saints with their feast days in November include St. Pierius, St. Achillas, St. Catherine of Alexandria, and St. Peter of Alexandria. The titles of some of these saints and their contributions must have persuaded the National Black Clergy Caucus to easily choose the month of No­vember.

It is true some have called the Catholic Church the “white man’s church,” but the contributions and presence of black Catho­lics has always been important. Simon the Cyrenian was forced to help Jesus carry the cross found in the synoptic gospels. In the Acts of the Apostles the one men­tioned by most scholars (Acts 8:26-40) is Philip meeting and baptizing the Ethiopian eunuch. And here in our beloved country, from the beginning Africans carried on their backs the foundation of the Catho­lic Church. Slave trade was a trade that permeated through all industry including the Church. This caused a lot of pain and severed many people from the Catholic Church. As a people of reconciliation we have worked over the past centuries for healing from these sins.

Religion came to America again on the backs of African slaves and their owners. As early as 1536, as history has it, three Catholic Spaniards missionaries and their Catholic Spanish speaking slave Esteban (Stephen) a Moroccan trekked into this side of Americas which was formerly a Mexican territory, and so became the first black Catholic Spanish speaking slave mis­sionary worker to come into America. The Spaniards established a colony in northern Florida and named it St. Augustine which attracted free blacks and slaves to settle there. St. Augustine is the oldest Catholic parish and non-Native American city. Here in our diocese, St. Anthony in San Bernar­dino became the base for African American Catholics as they helped erect the church and the convent. The parish was designated an African American (Black) parish by the diocese and has enjoyed many ecumenical events as different churches were invited to participate in gospel fests. From St. An­thony also came the first African America deacon for the diocese, Deacon Joseph Keyes who has passed, may his soul rest in peace.

Today, the composition of Black Catho­lics looks different than in the past. Along with African-American Catholics we have a growing number of African Catholics who have come to the United States from their home countries. This is reflected in the growing Nigerian and Nigerian Igbo com­munities in the diocese. In this month of remembering Black Catholic History it is important to remember that this is for all of us who share an African heritage. Together we celebrate our contribution and our place in this Universal Church!
The National Black Catholic Congress is still going on today and comes together ev­ery five years. Bishops of African descent together with the rest of the bishops who make it to the Congress concelebrate mass, catechize the congress attendees. They then work together to put forth “A Pasto­ral Plan of Action” which attendees take back to their dioceses, parishes and lives. And work to fulfill the action plan through which they impact lives neighborhoods filling their lives with hope.

Friday, November 11, 2011

New missal is a step on the Way

By Bishop Gerald Barnes
Diocese of San Bernardino

Change is constant in our lives. We change jobs, we change our diet, we change schools, we change our hairstyle, we change where we live. Sometimes we initiate the change but more often it seems that change comes to us through circum­stances not of our making.

Beginning November 27 we, as Roman Catholics, will experience a change that seems rather significant in the way that we celebrate the Mass when we begin to use the new English translation of the Roman Missal. This is our “script” for Mass, con­taining the prayers, music and responses that articulate our communal worship of God and our acknowledgement of the real presence of the risen Christ. We don’t take the words that we say and sing at Mass lightly, so these changes will feel very foreign to us. Many of our parishes have begun to preview and practice them dur­ing Mass. Our priests, who have the most substantial number of changes to learn, continue to study and prepare in a variety of ways. I extend my deep gratitude to our priests, the diocesan Office of Worship, the Diocesan Liturgical Commission, the Of­fice of Continuing Education for Priests, and all in the parishes who are helping to prepare the people for the implementation of the new missal.

In reality, the new words will bring us closer to the intentions of the Church fa­thers who constructed the Roman Missal in Latin, the mother tongue of the Church for so many centuries. When we begin to study the changes, we also see a much stronger connection between what we will be saying and the scriptural foundation of the Mass. In the awkwardness of learning new words and phrases we will also have the opportunity to bring the meaning of the Mass more centrally into our conscious­ness. God blesses us with a love and a ca­pacity for absorbing new information, and so we experience joy in learning.

The introduction of the new translation coincides with the start of Advent, and looking at this change through the lens of Advent gives us a good perspective. We are invited during this season to look closer at our own relationship with God while at the same time understanding that the fulfill­ment of His kingdom is the ultimate des­tination for us and all of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

So if you are feeling the burden of hav­ing to learn the responses of the new trans­lation, I invite you to take the long view of Advent. As a community of believers we have our eyes set on something much big­ger, something eternal. We are patient and hopeful in this light, and we know that this change in our liturgy is just a step on our journey that we believe will bring us closer to God.

And as with all things Catholic, we will take this next step together. It is my Advent hope that we will take this change as an opportunity to draw closer to one another. We will stumble over the new words to­gether, we will discover the deeper mean­ings of the changes together, we will sing the new melody of the Gloria together, we will eventually learn to put away our mis­salettes together.

May God grant us patience and good will in this new journey of our Church. I offer my prayers to you for a blessed Ad­vent season.

El nuevo Misal es un paso en el largo camino al reino
Por Obispo Gerald Barnes
Diócesis de San Bernardino

El cambio es constante en nuestras vidas. Cambiamos de empleo, cambiamos nuestra dieta, cambiamos de escuelas, cambiamos el estilo de nuestro cabello, cambiamos de domicilio. A veces nosotros iniciamos el cambio pero en su mayoría parece que el cambio nos llega por circunstancias ajenas a nuestra voluntad.

Comenzando el 27 de noviembre, no­sotros, como católicos romanos, viviremos un cambio que parece muy notorio en la manera en que celebramos la Santa Misa cuando comencemos a utilizar la nueva tra­ducción al inglés del Misal Romano. Este es nuestro “guión” para la Misa y contiene oraciones, música y respuestas que articu­lan nuestro culto comunal a Dios y nues­tro reconocimiento de la presencia real del Cristo resucitado. No tomamos a la ligera las palabras que decimos y cantamos en la Misa, así que estos cambios nos parecen muy extraños. Muchas de nuestras par­roquias han comenzado a presentarlos y practicarlos durante la Misa. Nuestros sac­erdotes, quienes tienen el número mayor de cambios que aprender, continúan estu­diando y preparándose de varias maneras. Extiendo mi profundo agradecimiento a nuestros sacerdotes, a la Oficina Diocesana del Culto Divino, a la Comisión Litúrgica Diocesana, a la Oficina para la Educación Continua de Sacerdotes, y a todas las par­roquias que están ayudando a preparar al pueblo para la implementación del nuevo misal.

En realidad, las nuevas palabras nos acercarán más a las intenciones de los pa­dres de la Iglesia que recopilaron el Misal Romano en latín, la lengua madre de la Ig­lesia por tantos siglos. Cuando comenza­mos a estudiar los cambios, vemos también una conexión mucho más fuerte entre lo que vamos a decir y el fundamento bíblico de la Misa. En la incomodidad de aprender nuevas palabras y frases tendremos tam­bién la oportunidad de centralizar más el significado de la Misa en nuestra concien­cia. Dios nos bendice con un amor y una capacidad de absorber nueva información, y así sentimos la alegría de aprender.

La introducción de la nueva traducción coincide con el inicio del Tiempo de Advi­ento, y el mirar este cambio con los lentes de Adviento nos da una buena perspectiva. Se nos invita durante este tiempo a analizar con mayor detenimiento nuestra propia rel­ación con Dios al mismo tiempo que enten­demos que su reino es el destino final para nosotros y para todos nuestros hermanos y hermanas en Cristo.

Así que si se sienten agobiados por tener que aprender las respuestas de la nueva traducción, los invito a que lo hagan con la perspectiva de Adviento. Como comu­nidad de creyentes, tenemos nuestros ojos puestos en algo mucho más grande, algo eterno. Con esto en mente esperamos con paciencia y llenos de esperanza, y sabemos que este cambio en nuestra liturgia es sólo un paso en nuestro caminar que creemos nos acercará más a Dios.

Y como hacemos con todas las cosas católicas, tomaremos este próximo paso juntos. Mi esperanza de Adviento es que tomaremos este cambio como una oportu­nidad para acercarnos más los unos a los otros. Juntos nos confundiremos con las nuevas palabras, juntos descubriremos los significados más profundos de los cambios, juntos cantaremos la nueva melodía del Gloria, juntos aprenderemos finalmente a guardar nuestros misalitos.

Que Dios nos dé paciencia y buena vol­untad en esta nueva jornada de nuestra Ig­lesia. Ofrezco mis oraciones para que ten­gan ustedes un Tiempo de Adviento lleno de bendiciones.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

First National Assembly of Filipino Priests Serving the U.S. Church, A Historical Event

By Father Dennis Legaspi, V.F. Pastor
St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Desert Hot Springs

In conjunction with the 10th Anniversary of the USCCB Pastoral Statement, "Asian and Pacific Presence: Harmony in Faith" and in solidarity with other Asian and Pacific Catholic communities in the United States, the first ever National Assembly of Filipino Priests, U.S.A. will be held on November 8-11, 2011 at the Westin Los Angeles Airport Hotel in Los Angeles, California. The assembly aims 1) to promote unity, support, and growth among Filipino priests ministering with their cultural gifts and 2) to serve as a forum for collaboration and effective pastoral leadership development.

To date, there are approximately 900 Filipino Catholic priests serving in different capacities in the Roman Catholic Church in the U.S.A. They serve in parishes, schools, seminaries, chaplaincies, chancery offices, and national institutions in the 50 states and some US territories.

The national assembly will hold dialogue sessions and workshops for continuing education, spiritual growth and pastoral enrichment. Some topics are Intercultural Competencies for Mission; The Spirituality of the Filipino Priest; The Priest’s Role in The Public Arena; Mens Sana in Corpore Sano: Priest and Wellness; Lay Ministry: Joys and Challenges; and Priestly Fraternity and Ministry. The workshops will be facilitated by renowned speakers and presenters in various fields in the Church’s ministry, as well as respected Church leaders like His Eminence, Roger Cardinal Mahony, D.D., Archbishop Emeritus of Los Angeles; Most Rev. Randolph Calvo, D.D., Bishop of Reno and Chair of USCCB Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Island Affairs; Most Rev. Gerald Kicanas, D.D., Bishop of Tucson; Most Rev. Luis Antonio Tagle, D.D., Bishop of Imus, Cavite, Philippines; Most Rev. Robert McElroy, D.D., Auxiliary Bishop of San Francisco; and Most Rev. Oscar A. Solis, D.D. Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles and Episcopal Liaison to the Filipino Priests in the U.S.

The assembly will also hold a special Concelebrated Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels on Thursday, November 10, 2011 at 11:00 A.M. The Mass is open to the public. There will also be a Filipino Priests Concert and a Barrio Fiesta Dinner with lay leaders on the evening of November 10th at 7:30 P.M. at the Westin Los Angeles Airport Hotel Grand Ballroom. We ask for your prayers for the success of this historical event in the life of the U.S. Church.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Holidays Call Us to Remember, Be Grateful and Hope

By Steve Valenzuela
Director, Small Faith Communities

Once the calendar turned over to October, we began my favorite time of year, the secular and religious Holiday Trinity – Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas or as some of the discount stores display it, “Hallowgivingmas”.  Like the ghosts who visit Ebenezer, these three celebrations arrive both expectedly and unexpectedly, kind of in a blur, bringing memories of our pasts, demands on present lives and dreams about our futures.  The middle celebration, which many say is their “favorite” of the three, is part of our “American Civil Religion.”  This national observance recalls the arrival of the pilgrims to Plymouth as part of the story of our founding as a nation. From my observance, though, Thanksgiving has become more of a speed bump on the road to Christmas. For many, Thanksgiving is more of a national rationalization that we are not as materialistic or greedy as the next few weeks actually seem to demonstrate. Still being grateful is an important virtue for Christians to cultivate, especially beyond the few minutes before the annual Turkey feast.

So while most Americans are remembering to give thanks for health, home and hearth during November’s annual indulgence, all three celebrations remind us people of faith to spend time practicing both as individuals and as communities the virtue of gratefulness. So what are we grateful for? All Hallows followed All Souls and All Saints, invites us to remember fondly and give thanks for our dearly departed, the friends and family who have graced our lives and gave it both substance and meaning.   Thanksgiving, of course is all about cultivating gratefulness, especially for our present lives, the gifts and blessings we receive each day, the simple moments that bring joy and the challenges that bring growth. And finally with Christmas gratitude may be tough in light of all the stress and busyness the season brings but it too is ultimately a call to thank our God, for sending us His Only Begotten Son, for ushering in the Kingdom of Love, Justice and Peace, and for the hope of Eternal Life that arrived in that little town called Bethlehem..

Loyola-Marymount Professor of Spirituality Willie Au and his therapist wife Noreen Cannon Au write in their wonderful book, The Grateful Heart that “a spirituality of gratitude must lead us beyond the subjective well-being espoused by positive psychology to a holiness that is at once earthy and mystical.”

Earthy and mystical… sounds like being Catholic to me!  As Catholics, we gather as regular people who live everyday lives; we work and go to Mass, try to watch our weight, we worry about our children and play with our grandchildren.  We argue and make up with our spouses, we make love, have glass of wine, go out to dinner with friends and family. And when we gather in Jesus’ name, we are on Holy Ground. Whether we are at church, in our homes or at Starbuck’s, whenever we share faith and life God is with us.  We share stories of His presence, of his great love and mercy, of our need for forgiveness and our desire to be good and compassionate. We share because we are grateful for all that God has done, is doing and will do in the days, weeks, month and years we have yet to live. 

While every human being should cultivate an attitude of gratitude as positive psychology would say, I think those of us who gather in Jesus’ name have a particular obligation to be grateful. Often we are more aware of God’s presence in our lives because we are aware of what He is doing in the lives of those in our faith communities. Our mission as Catholics, given to us at Baptism, is to bring faith, hope and love to our families, neighborhoods, workplaces and especially to our struggling and challenging world.  What better way to be grateful than to share the love and mercy we have experienced as we sort the candy, pass the cranberry sauce, wrap gifts or while waiting for the tamales to steam. “God is Good… All the time and All the Time … We are called to be grateful!”

For Sharing: 
As you gather with family, friends and co-workers throughout the upcoming “holidaze” take time to name what God has done in your life this year, what has given you hope? What challenges have tempted you to give up gratitude and give in to cynicism, worry or despair?  How did you overcome them?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Parish, Diocesan leaders talk Roman Missal

With less than 40 days until parishes in Diocese of San Bernardino and throughout the United States implement the Third Edition of the Roman Missal, members of the Diocesan Liturgical Commission along with parish leadership discuss how parishes have prepared for this change and what is to be expected come Nov. 27.

In a round table discussion,  seven representatives from parishes and diocesan ministries embark on a frank discussion of the fruits and challenges that await parish ministers and the Catholic faithful with the new translation of the Roman Missal.

Joining John Andrews, director of Communications for the Dicoese and acting moderator are: Father Erik Esparza, parochial vicar at Sacred Heart Parish in Rancho Cucamonga; Phil Arkfeld, music director from St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Chino Hills; Sr. Sarah Michael King, pastoral coordinator of St. Mary of the Valley, Yucca Valley and chair of the Diocesan Liturgical Commission; Sr. Marilu Covani, director of the diocesan Office of Worship; Father David Andel, priest minister at St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Parish, Yucaipa and Judicial Vicar of the Dicoese; Father Frank DiCirstina, pastor at Blessed Junipero Serra Parish in Phelan and Our Lady of the Snows Parish in Wrightwood and Deacon Ed Clark, also from Sacred Heart Parish, Rancho Cucamonga

What do they think of the changes? Have Catholics been prepared for the changes? The series of videos below answer these questions and more.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Signing of CA DREAM Act renews hope

By Bishop Gerald Barnes
Diocese of San Bernardino

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The struggle to bring justice and compassion to our nation’s immigration system has been marked by many painful challenges. We have asked God to sustain us in hope as we accompany our immigrant brothers and sisters in their difficult journey.  We have looked for signs that our voices are being heard by those who make and enforce immigration law.

This past weekend Governor Jerry Brown signed into law the second, critical piece of legislation that makes up the California DREAM Act. This is, indeed, a moment for us to rejoice and to be renewed in hope. I offer my gratitude to Governor Brown for his wisdom and his compassion in passing this law to benefit young people who are seeking higher education to improve their lives and better their communities. I also extend my thanks to State Assemblyman Gil Cedillo, who courageously authored this legislation and fought for its passage in the State Legislature.

As we celebrate a Year for Youth in our diocese, we know that current immigration law has been a great barrier to many of our young people who seek stability, family unity and education. It is providential, then, that this advancement in the cause of the immigrant specifically serves our young. As Catholics we believe education is a God given right and with the passage of the California DREAM Act, the dream of higher education will be more attainable to more of our youth.

While we take this new law as a positive step, we know that much more is needed to repair our nation’s broken immigration system. The federal version of the DREAM Act would actually grant citizenship to those youth enrolled in our colleges and universities who meet specific criteria. Passing this legislation into law would be immensely important in helping college students put their education to use in the professional world for the benefit of their community and our nation. I call on our federal lawmakers to pass this important piece of legislation.

And along with my brother bishops of the United States I ask the Congress and President Barack Obama to take up the task of comprehensive immigration reform that, provides a path to earned legal residency for those undocumented immigrants in the United States; allows families of mixed immigration status to stay together pending attempts to achieve legal residency; creates a more efficient and timely process for legal immigration; has more targeted and humane enforcement practices that respect the human rights of all; and addresses the root causes of immigration by working with the governments of other nations to enhance their quality of life and economic opportunities.

I offer my blessings and continued prayer for all of those who bear the hardships of current immigration law. I offer my thanks and my encouragement to all of those who continue to stand up for the dignity of the immigrant and push for change that is just.

May God bless you.

Firma del Dream Act de CA renueva la esperanza

Por Obispo Gerald Barnes,
Diócesis de San Bernardino

Hermanos y Hermanas en Cristo,

La lucha por llevar justicia y compasión al sistema de inmigración de nuestra nación ha estado marcada por muchos dolorosos retos.  Hemos pedido a Dios que nos sustente en la esperanza mientras acompañamos a nuestros hermanos y hermanas inmigrantes en su difícil jornada.  Hemos buscado señales de que quines hacen y ponen en ejecución la ley migratoria escuchan nuestras voces. 

Este fin de semana pasado el Gobernador Jerry Brown firmó como ley la segunda, y esencial, parte de la legislación que compone DREAM Act de California.  Este es, en verdad, un momento para regocijarnos y renovar nuestra esperanza.  Ofrezco mi gratitud al Gobernador Brown por su sabiduría y su compasión al promulgar esta ley en beneficio de los jóvenes que buscan una educación superior para mejorar sus vidas y mejorar sus comunidades.  Extiendo también mi agradecimiento al Asambleísta Estatal Gil Cedillo quien valientemente redactó esta legislación y luchó por que la aprobara la Legislatura Estatal.   

Al celebrar el Año de la Juventud en nuestra diócesis, sabemos que la actual ley de inmigración ha sido una gran barrera para muchos de nuestros jóvenes que buscan estabilidad, unidad familiar y educación.  Es providencial, entonces, que este progreso en la causa de los inmigrantes sirve especialmente a nuestros jóvenes.  Como católicos creemos que la educación es un derecho que Dios nos ha dado y con la promulgación de DREAM Act de California el sueño de una educación superior estará al alcance de un mayor número de nuestros jóvenes. 

Aunque tomamos esta nueva ley como un paso positivo, sabemos que se necesita mucho más para reparar el imperfecto sistema de inmigración de nuestra nación.  La versión federal de DREAM Act concedería de hecho ciudadanía a los jóvenes matriculados en nuestros colegios y universidades que reúnan requisitos específicos.  Hacer que esta legislatura se promulgue en ley sería de suma importancia para ayudar a los estudiantes universitarios a poner en uso su educación en el mundo profesional para beneficio de su comunidad y nuestra nación.  Exhorto a nuestros legisladores federales a que aprueben esta importante pieza de legislación. 

Y junto con mis hermanos obispos de los Estados Unidos, pido al Congreso y al Presidente Barack Obama que emprendan una amplia reforma a las leyes de inmigración que proporcione un camino para ganarse la residencia legal para los inmigrantes indocumentados en los Estados Unidos; permita a las familias de status migratorio mixto que sigan juntas mientras sus intentos por lograr la residencia legal estén en proceso; tenga prácticas de ejecución más enfocadas y más humanas que respeten los derechos humanos de todos; y aborde el origen de las causas que provocan la inmigración trabajando con los gobiernos de otras naciones para mejorar su calidad de vida y las oportunidades económicas.

Ofrezco mis bendiciones y mi oración constante por quienes sufren penuarias a causa de la actual ley de inmigración.  Ofrezco mi agradecimiento y apoyo a todos los que continúan defendiendo la dignidad del inmigrante y que luchan por un cambio justo. 

Que Dios les bendiga. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A story worth remembering

By Marie Widmann
Director, Pro Life Catholic Ministries

Once upon a time, in a town not so very far away, little boys played in a field of spring wildflowers.  There they came upon some boxes and since little boys are curious creatures they peeked inside.  But there was no wonderful surprise awaiting them.  Upset, the boys ran home to their mothers and told them they had found boxes in the field, boxes filled with babies.

Within hours the news spread across the community.  People stopped their everyday activities in shock.  How had babies’ bodies come to be discarded in their peaceful little town?  Who had hurt these children and dumped them as trash?

Something needed to be done and within hours of the babies’ discovery local churches began organizing a prayer service.  Local, county and state authorities conducted an investigation and eventually traced the 54 babies’ bodies to a Los Angeles abortion clinic.  What would happen to these babies and how they would affect the community in which they had been discarded would be a story that evolved over one and one half years and receive national, even international attention. 

On January 21, 2012 a Mass in Thanksgiving for the Gift of Life will be celebrated by Episcopal Vicar Romeo Seleccion at 9 a.m. at St. Paul the Apostle Church in Chino Hills and an Interfaith Prayer Service will take place at Crestlawn Memorial Park in Riverside to commemorate the 15 year anniversary of the Discarded Babies of Chino Hills. 

During October, Respect for Human Life Month, hundreds of churches and thousands of people are committing to each spend one hour to peacefully pray at over 300 abortion clinics as part of 40DaysForLife.comOne hour to pray for families in crisis pregnancy circumstances, to pray for those who have been wounded by abortion, to pray for an end to abortion all together.  One hour of spiritual intervention to stop the discarding of our children.  

For more information, please contact Marie Widmann, Director of Pro Life Catholic Ministries Diocese of San Bernardino at  909.475.5351 or or

Thursday, September 29, 2011

God shines through our clouds

By Theresa Montminy

When clouds gather, we get discouraged. It’s a natural reaction. Our eyes tell us to run for cover or to hang on for survival. And we believe our eyes. We put an awful lot of faith in what they tell us. We let their information sink into our hearts and thrive there . . . no matter how painful that is. Can peace be the safe harbor we look for when we are in pain? We know that peace can lead us toward joy, patience and faith in the things we cannot see.

Our perspectives can be distorted so easily. We are habitual twisters, making dark things our surest truth, and, God’s light our most uncertain refuge. Such distortion is a sure recipe for despair. Instead, we are to believe what the Word and the Spirit tell us, regardless of the witness of the clouds . . . God always looms larger.

Until we’re trained in this perspective, our mind cannot be at peace. When we are faced with the choice between letting the clouds obscure Him or letting Him obscure the clouds, we must place our hope not in what our eyes tell us ~ that is too often hopeless ~ but in our faith in God. If we do not place our trust in Him we overestimate our problems and to underestimate our God.

So what steps can lead us toward making peace during the moments of storm in our life? First, we are to fix our eyes on hope and to be joyful about it. God has given us a glimpse of reality: His strength, His Kingdom’s inevitability, His promise of intervention, His eternal rewards. Why would we let a few clouds undermine those certainties? Second, we are to be patient in affliction. Those realities are invisible for a time, but they will be clear soon enough. And last, we are to be faithful in prayer. Why? Not because prayer changes things, but because God changes things and we must communicate with Him. His intervention is not arbitrary; it is the result of the give-and-take of relationship, and prayer is the means to that relationship. When we’ve follow these steps, we notice a remarkable transformation: clouds don’t seem to matter so much anymore. We find peace in knowing that we are fulfilling His will with our life.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Stuff of Happiness

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

Why did we choose the hottest weekend of the year for a yard sale?  It was 111º F and people kept coming all day Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  We had a lot of good stuff – our parents had died within eight months of each other and we were left with the daunting task of cleaning out the house. 

We had big stuff like the washing machine and dryer, and little stuff like coffee cups, books and humorous plaques.  And people wanted it.  Some of the people who came by were probably really in need of some of the things that they bought.  Others were just looking for a bargain.  They just wanted something that was selling at a fraction of its retail value.  They wanted more stuff.

The yard sale was just the latest event in the process of saying good-bye.  Our parents were wonderful people, faith filled, generous and hospitable, helpful in word and deed.  They are going to be missed and remembered for a long time, not just by their descendents, but by their whole community. 

In a society where people are judged by what they have, our parents would have been judged as moderately successful.  They had a mobile home and a car, all paid for and lots and lots of stuff.  Every closet and cupboard was full – really full!  But the stuff was not what made them happy.  What made them happy was the love they had for God, each other, their many family members and their friends. 

Let us hope that the people who shopped at the yard sale know that even though it might be fun to get a bargain, happiness doesn’t come from stuff.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Formal education helps us answer God’s call to learn

By Bishop Gerald Barnes
Diocese of San Bernardino

Like so many in my generation, I was raised with the idea that a good education was the wellspring for a positive adult life. It would bring blessings for me and, equally important, for the society of which I was a part. My parents, who lived through the Great Depression and whose own experience of formal education was limited, instilled the value of education to my siblings and me, as they say, “early and often.”

My thoughts and prayers are with the young ones in our diocese as we start a new school year and as we continue to celebrate the “Year for Youth” that began last month. There is always excitement and anticipation in the air as we enter the next leg of our educational journey. May this year bring you new knowledge and experiences in your formation as a strong Catholic Christian.

Our faith calls us to seek knowledge, through our own awareness, through interaction with others and in formal education at school. When we gain knowledge in the service of our vocational calling we reach closer to fulfilling our potential as human beings. We are using the gifts and tools given to us by God in whatever discipline we choose to make the world a better place. Along with this comes a sense of personal well-being and worth.

Through the centuries the opportunity to receive a formal education has been expanded to more and more people, a true mark of progress and a blessing from God. Catholic Social Teaching, in fact, holds that education is a God-given right of the people.

Still, we face challenges in pursuing that right today. The stresses that bear on our families in this climate of economic recession and unprecedented secular influence have somewhat clouded our vision of education as a beacon of hope. In California, our budgetary struggles have resulted in millions of dollars in cuts in our public schools and driven up the cost of higher education sharply. High school dropout rates in San Bernardino and Riverside counties remain alarmingly high. I am especially concerned that our Hispanic and African-American young people have disproportionately high dropout rates and disproportionately low college going rates.

These are the crosses we carry today in our educational journey. They are different than those of previous generations, who did not have access to education, but they are no less daunting.

And in this time of economic uncertainty and more competitive job markets, having an education has never been more important. A study released this year by the Social Science Research Council found that about 35% of high school dropouts were unemployed, compared to just 10% of college graduates.

Keeping our youth in school and guiding them toward college or vocational training is not just the job of parents and educators it is a Christian moral responsibility of us all. This means constantly preaching the importance of staying in school to our young people. This means reaching out to provide extra care and attention to struggling students so they don’t leave school. This means advocating to policymakers that even in these difficult economic times our schools must have enough resources to provide quality education. This means helping parents maintain a stable and nurturing home life that is critical to a child’s success in school.

Two years ago we began the Diocesan Education Initiative (DEI) to address some of these issues of concern and to emphasize the commitment of our local Church to support education. DEI is being led by Sister Carmel Crimmins, R.S.M., a lifelong Catholic educator, and Deacon Pete Bond, a retired public school teacher. I offer my gratitude to them and to the many others who have worked with them. I invite all in our diocese to be part of this effort in some way. Tell the young people in your life how important it is to get a good education, and help them on their journey to achieve it.

May God bless you.

Una educación formal nos ayuda a responder al llamado de Dios a aprender

Por Obispo Gerald Barnes
Diócesis de San Bernardino

Al igual que tantos en mi generación, yo fui criado con la idea de que una buena educación era la fuente para una vida adulta positiva.  Traería bendiciones para mí y, con la misma importancia, para la sociedad de que yo formara parte.  Mis padres, quienes vivieron la Gran Depresión y cuya experiencia propia de una educación formal era limitada, inculcaron en mí y en mis hermanos el valor de la educación, como dicen, “pronta y constantemente”. 

Tengo presentes en mis pensamientos y en mis oraciones a los jóvenes de nuestra diócesis al iniciar un nuevo año escolar y mientras continuamos celebrando el “Año de la Juventud” que inició el mes pasado.  Siempre hay entusiasmo y anticipación en el ambiente al iniciar la siguiente fase de nuestra jornada educacional.   Deseo y espero que este año les traiga conocimientos y experiencias nuevas en su formación como fuertes católicos cristianos. 

Nuestra fe nos llama a buscar los conocimientos, mediante nuestro propio conocimiento, mediante nuestra interacción con otros y en la educación formal en la escuela.  Cuando obtenemos conocimientos en el servicio de nuestro llamado vocacional nos acercamos a la plenitud de nuestro potencial como seres humanos.  Estamos utilizando los dones y herramientas que Dios nos da en cualquier disciplina que escojamos para hacer de éste un mundo mejor.  Esto trae consigo un sentimiento de bienestar y mérito personal. 

A través de los siglos, la oportunidad de recibir una educación formal se ha extendido a más y más personas, una verdadera señal de progreso y una bendición de Dios.  La Doctrina Social Católica, de hecho, sostiene que la educación es un derecho que Dios les da a los humanos. 

Aun así, enfrentamos retos en la aspiración a ese derecho en nuestros días.  Las tensiones que afectan a nuestras familias en este clima de recesión económica y la influencia secular sin precedentes han, de alguna forma, nublado nuestra visión de la educación como un faro de esperanza.  En California, nuestras dificultades con el presupuesto han resultado en recortes de millones de dólares en nuestras escuelas públicas y han elevado severamente los costos en la educación superior.  Los índices de deserción escolar en High School en los condados de San Bernardino y Riverside siguen siendo alarmantemente altos.  Me preocupa especialmente que nuestros jóvenes hispanos y afroamericanos tengan desproporcionadamente altos índices de deserción escolar en High School y desproporcionadamente bajos índices de asistencia universitaria.  

Estas son las cruces que cargamos en nuestros días en nuestra jornada educacional.  Estas cruces son diferentes a las de generaciones anteriores, que no tenían acceso a la educación, pero no son menos atemorizantes. 

Y en estos momentos de incertidumbre económica y de mercados laborales más competitivos, tener una educación nunca ha sido más importante.  Un estudio publicado este año por el Social Science Research Council determinó que aproximadamente 35% de quienes abandonan sus estudios en high school están desempleados, comparados con sólo el 10% de los graduados de la universidad. 

El mantener a nuestros jóvenes en la escuela y guiarlos a la universidad o capacitación vocacional no es sólo la labor de padres y educadores, es una responsabilidad moral cristiana de todos nosotros.  Esto significa predicar constantemente a nuestros jóvenes sobre la importancia de no abandonar sus estudios.  Significa proporcionar asistencia y atención a los estudiantes en dificultad para que no abandonen sus estudios.  Significa abogar ante los legisladores, que aun en estos momentos económicamente difíciles nuestras escuelas deben tener suficientes recursos para proveer una educación de calidad.  Significa ayudar a los padres de familia a mantener una vida familiar estable y sustentadora, lo cual es de suma importancia para el éxito académico de un niño.   

Hace dos años comenzamos la Iniciativa Diocesana sobre la Educación (DEI por sus siglas en inglés) para abordar algunos de estos puntos de inquietud y enfatizar el compromiso de nuestra Iglesia local a apoyar la educación.  DEI está bajo la guía de la Hna. Carmel Crimmins, R.S.M., educadora católica de toda la vida, y el Diácono Pete Bond, maestro jubilado de escuelas públicas.  A ellos y a los muchos otros que han trabajado con ellos les ofrezco mi gratitud.  Invito a todos en nuestra diócesis a ser parte de este esfuerzo de alguna forma.  Díganles a sus jóvenes lo importante que es obtener una buena educación, y ayúdenles en sus esfuerzos para lograrla. 

Que Dios les bendiga.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Go Make a Difference

By Kathi Scarpace
Justice for Immigrants Coordinator

In the Catholic Tradition, responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in political life is a moral obligation. This obligation is rooted in our baptismal commitment to follow Jesus Christ and to bear Christian witness in all we do.” (Faithful Citizenship 13). Uh, oh. This hot potato is the teaching of the Church. And this hot potato is something that we should be teaching, and modeling, for our children and teens.

Here is a little examination of conscience.

Are you registered to vote? Do you vote only for the president or do you vote in every election? Have you offered to help your 18-year-old register to vote?

What issues are important to you and why? How does your stand on these issues align with Catholic social teaching? Do you know what Catholic social teaching is?

How do you learn about the issues important to you? Who do you listen to for political advice?  Have you asked your teen his or her opinion on an issue that matters to you?

Do you know who your legislators are? Have you ever called or visited an elected official? Why or why not? How do you participate in the life of your town or city?

The word “political” comes from the Greek root word, polis or city. Greeks valued participation in the life of the city. Are you involved in a civic event, e.g., a bike race, a parade, a fundraiser? Do you bring your children with you to help with the event? What lessons are you teaching?

What does “separation of Church and state” mean to you? Have you ever read the bishops’ document, Faithful Citizenship? How does your faith impact your political point of view? If your faith does not influence your political perspective, why not? As Father Bransfield of the US Catholic Conference writes, “Conscience insists that human dilemmas are moral concerns long before they are political points of view.” 

“Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.”  This dismissal could be translated, “Go and make a difference.” Making a difference, for Catholics, often means charity. Charity is the needed tourniquet that stops the bleeding; political action is a surgery that closes the wound. Young people want to make a difference and an impact on the world. Political actions: voting, participating in civic events, learning about the issues of the day, reflecting on Church teaching and communicating our concerns and values to our legislators and our children, are ways we can fulfill the holy obligation of participation in political life.

Nothing to be scared of.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Destination Madrid: Journeying with Diocesan World Youth Day Pilgrims II

By Andres Rivera
Communications Department

Today is Virtual World Youth Day in San Bernardino. Today youth from throughout the diocese will arrive at Aquinas High School in San Bernardino to be in solidarity with the hundreds of thousands of youth that have gathered to celebrate their faith in Madrid, Spain with our Pope Benedict XVI.

The participants at Virtual World Youth Day will be able to have their own mini pilgrimage as they spend an afternoon enjoying games, music, talks and more. They will even get to experience a vigil with Bishop Gerald Barnes and sleep under the stars so they may hear our Pope speak at the closing ceremony in Madrid the following day.

Meanwhile in Madrid, similar events have been unfolding yet on a much grander scale. Chatechesis, concerts, Stations of the Cross and various opportunities to take part in the celebration of the Eucharist have been the norm for our diocesan pilgrims. But rather than talk about it, our correspondents in Madrid have been able to capture a little bit on video for us to continue our journey with them. Enjoy, reflect and pray for the pilgrims as they near the end of this unique experience.

*Note: This playlist begins with day one. If you have already seen the first three videos from the last blog post, you may want to skip ahead to day four on the playlist. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Destination Madrid: Journeying with Diocesan World Youth Day pilgrims

By Andres Rivera
Communications Office

It isn't everyday that we are able to take a spiritual pilgrimage of the magnitude that World Youth Day pilgrims will be experiencing over the next several days. The Diocese of San Bernardino will have roughly 350 in a diocesan group attending. What will they experience? What foods will they eat? Who will they meet? What about the sites, sounds, learning expereinces and moments of profound awe in all that God has to offer us? An even greater notion to reflect on is the fact that they will be gathering along with millions of other Catholics from all nations, cultures and backgrounds ...all with one common purpose: their faith. We can only imagine how excited they might be as the events begin.

Thanks to modern technology we are now able to take a sneak peak at what they are expereincing. And while it is not the same as actually being there, we can still journey with them in some way. The diocese is fortunate enough to offer exclusive videos highlighting daily events during the World Youth Day activities. Images can be found on our Facebook pages and videos are posted on our diocesan YouTube channel.

Need to catch up on what has been going on so far? Here's some of the first videos available to us.

Friday, August 12, 2011

A Workshop Reveals The Gospel Must Be Adapted to All Ages

By Steve Valenzuela
Director, Small Faith Communities

Recently I was asked to give a workshop for youth and young adults on the new translation of the Mass coming into use this Advent. As I set about preparing for this day long seminar, I knew I needed a hook to hang the ideas I was hoping to communicate to the young people.  I knew that what I was suppose to talk about could be pretty heady and boring stuff such as  theology, church history (not just any history!) and even an ancient language. If I did not figure out a way to speak to these generations in a language they could understand, we were all doomed to a horrible, terrible, boring day and of course, I would have failed as a teacher and evangelist. As I began my preparation, the words of a friend’s teenage son about his confirmation class haunted me, “don’t they know we’re teenagers!” I was determined not only to remember this reality but succeed in communicating with these young people in a way that would be relevant, but how?   

I was scheduled to give this “youth -friendly” seminar the same weekend the final Harry Potter film was opening.  While preparing it occurred to me that this movie event was my hook!  The current generation of young adults (the 20-somethings) and of high school teens, have all come of age during the “Potter” years (2000-2011).  Using images from the films would be a great hook to hang my teaching upon and link this very church-y knowledge to something happening right now in their media driven lives. A college student I know was re-reading all 8 Harry Potter books in prep for seeing the final film and others were re-watching the films. My mind raced as I began to connect the workshop’s formal content to scenes and images from the films.   For staying closer to the Latin, there was the scene from the Sorcerer’s Stone of Hermione trying to teach Ron how to pronounce a spell properly.  For the introductory rites at the beginning of Mass there were the grand entrances by the other schools in the Goblet of Fire. For the Liturgy of the Word, there were various speeches and proclamations by Dumbledore at the big meals and the continuing stories of the history of Hogwarts and the world of wizardry. The possibilities seemed endless.

As of the writing of this reflection, I had not yet led the seminar so I can’t reflect on how successful my Harry Potter approach was. The experience of preparing though reminded again me that the while the truth of the Gospel is universal, meant for all ages and cultures, it must be adapted and proclaimed into words and expressions that each people and generation can grasp and make their own. When I was a teen (unbelievably over 33+ years ago) I liked learning stuff about church history and tradition as long as it somehow connected to my life. It is still true for me today. To connect meaningfully to today’s youth and young adults, I think means connecting to popular entertainment such as movies and music and to social media such as Facebook and Twitter and soon the new Google+.

Some people, especially from my generation, are sometimes wary of the appropriation of popular media and technology (read Internet) for faith formation and ministry. Yet adapting the message to the hearers from each generation is as old as the Gospel itself. God first used this method by sending his Son to become one of us, as Joan Osborne sang in the 90s. The incarnation (God becoming human) was God’s way of adapting the message to those first human hearers in Palestine over 2,000 years ago. Jesus becoming human means that all that is human may be a conveyor of the divine message. A popular movie may help us understand and connect to an ancient ritual whose roots go back to the Upper Room. A hit song may help us sort out how divinity and humanity relate and a 137 character Tweet (see below) may contain the words of salvation:

God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life. –Jn 3:16
For Sharing and Reflection:

What popular song, TV show or movie speaks to you about the Gospel message of love, hope, justice and peace?