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.