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?