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?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Hunger and Priorities

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

I have never experienced real hunger or thirst, not to the point of being in danger, nor do I personally know anyone who has.  So it is a little hard to get in touch with severe hunger and thirst.  Nonetheless, my faith calls me to be in solidarity with those who lack of access to the basic necessities of food and water.

Today 11 million people in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia are in danger of losing their lives due to the worst drought since 1950-51.  Crops have failed and livestock have died from thirst.  The United Nations declared a famine on July 20.  Refugees, most of whom are women with young children, are walking for weeks to reach overcrowded camps in hopes of finding water, food and help. 

In the United States, this news is overshadowed by the discussion of the debt crisis.  From my perspective the arguments between and within the political parties seem to be over how to cut spending.  A budget is a moral document.  Fiscal responsibility is important, but it is more important to decide what kind of a country we want to be and then figure out how to achieve that.  If we look at this question through the lens of our faith, surely we will find goals more compelling than balancing the budget for the sake of balancing the budget.

How is this related to the crisis in Africa?  One of the items being cut is poverty focused international assistance, even though this is less than 1% of our spending.  The Holy Father said "It is inadmissible to be indifferent in the face of the tragedy of the hungry and thirsty,"  Are we being indifferent to the crisis in Africa because we are so immersed in our own political rhetoric?

In last Sunday’s Gospel, the Multiplication of the Loaves as told in Matthew 14, Jesus tells the disciples to “give them some food yourselves.”  We can take this reading on the level or being a story about a miracle, which it surely was, or we can go deeper and look at it as Eucharistic.  How does Jesus call us to care for the poor and vulnerable, the hungry?  “Give them some food yourselves.” 

As the Holy Father said:  "The love of God is present in the bread of Christ; encountering him, we feed on the living God, so to speak, and we truly eat the bread come down from heaven….In the Eucharist, Jesus makes us witnesses to God's compassion for every brother and sister,"  (Please see the article from Catholic News Service)

Now, what can we do?  We can take action as individuals, as parish faith communities and as a nation.