Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas is a time to open our doors

By Bishop Gerald Barnes
Diocese of San Bernardino

One of the greatest gifts I received from my parents was their example of hospitality and charity when it came to people in need. It was not uncommon for my dad to bring home someone from my Boyle Heights neighborhood who needed something to eat or a place to rest. My mother was always there with a warm welcome. As we reflect during this season on the story of our Lord’s birth, you could say that my folks took the lesson of Las Posadas to heart. There was certainly room at their inn.

Many years later when they came to San Antonio for my ordination to the priesthood, that spirit of hospitality was returned to them beautifully. It was Christmas time and they were given such a welcome upon their arrival that I remember my mother saying that she felt she had truly experienced Las Posadas, herself. It was God’s poetry.

Some of us are blessed to have an “inn”—the means to provide something to a brother or sister in need. Others, like the Holy Family, are desperately in search of a room – a place to rest and take sustenance on a difficult journey. In either case, we all have a part in the story of how God came to be among us. “For today in the city of David a savior has been born who is Messiah and Lord (Lk 2:11).

As a diocese we celebrate hospitality as one of our four core values. In this season of giving and as we continue to observe the Year of Faith I invite you to pray and reflect on our call to be welcoming and to, as Jesus commanded, love our neighbor as ourselves.

Christmas is a time where we show hospitality by giving each other gifts and celebrating with family and friends. Though it has been 2012 years and we are surely living in a different world, the “Christmas Spirit” of today is a continuation of the hope and joy that was felt at the miraculous birth of Jesus, God’s promise of salvation made manifest in human form. The story of Las Posadas, the one that my parents so faithfully lived, is that we are called by God to open our homes and hearts to the other, the stranger, the unlikely one. It is in doing this that we show our gratitude to God for the many blessings he has provided us.

Let that be a seed that grows within us in 2013 as we continue to live the Year of Faith.

I offer you my deepest prayers and blessings for a joyous Christmas season. Let us all accept the gift of hope that God gives us in the birth of his Son. May your family and friends enjoy good health and prosperity in the New Year. And may God bless you in your journey of faith.

La Navidad es un tiempo para abrir nuestras puertas

Por Obispo Gerald Barnes
Diócesis de San Bernardino

Uno de los mejores regalos que recibí de mis padres fue su ejemplo de hospitalidad y caridad con los necesitados. No era raro que mi papá trajera a casa a alguien del vecindario de Boyle Heights que necesitaba algo que comer o un lugar para descansar. Mi madre estaba siempre ahí para recibirlo con afecto. Al reflexionar durante este tiempo sobre la historia del nacimiento de nuestro Señor, se podría decir que mis padres tomaron muy en serio la lección de las Posadas. Ciertamente, siempre había posada en su mesón.

Muchos años después cuando mis padres fueron a San Antonio para mi ordenación al sacerdocio, se les devolvió de manera hermosa ese espíritu de hospitalidad. Era el tiempo de Navidad y se les recibió con tanto beneplácito a su llegada que recuerdo haber escuchado a mi madre decir que en verdad ahora ella estaba viviendo Las Posadas. Era la poesía de Dios.

Algunos de nosotros gozamos la bendición de tener un “mesón”--- los medios para dar algo a nuestro hermano o hermana en necesidad. Otros, como la Sagrada Familia, buscan posada desesperadamente --- un lugar para descansar y tomar alimento en una jornada difícil. En cualquiera de los casos, todos tenemos parte la historia de cómo Dios vino para estar entre nosotros. “Les ha nacido hoy, en la ciudad de David, un Salvador, que es el Mesías, el Señor.” (Lucas 2:11)

Como diócesis celebramos la hospitalidad como uno de nuestros cuatro valores centrales. En este tiempo de dar y al continuar nuestra observancia del Año de la Fe, los invito a orar y a reflexionar sobre nuestro llamado a ser hospitalarios y a amar a nuestro prójimo como a nosotros mismos, como lo mandó Jesús.
La Navidad es un tiempo en que mostramos hospitalidad al darnos regalos los unos a los otros y celebrar con familiares y amigos. Aunque han pasado ya 2012 años y ciertamente vivimos en un mundo diferente, el “Espíritu de Navidad” en nuestros días es una continuación de la esperanza y alegría que se sintió en el milagroso nacimiento de Jesús, la promesa de salvación de Dios manifestada en forma humana. La historia de Las Posadas, la cual mis padres vivieron con tanta fidelidad, es que Dios nos llama a abrir nuestros hogares y nuestros corazones al otro, al forastero, al extraño. Es al hacerlo que mostramos nuestro agradecimiento a Dios por las muchas bendiciones con que nos ha colmado.

Dejemos que eso sea una semilla que crezca en nosotros en el 2013 al continuar viviendo el Año de la Fe.

Les ofrezco mis más profundas oraciones y bendiciones deseando que tengan un tiempo de Navidad lleno de júbilo. Aceptemos todos, pues, el regalo de la esperanza que Dios nos da en el nacimiento de su Hijo. 
Que su familia y amigos gocen de buena salud y prosperidad en el Año Nuevo. Y que Dios les bendiga en su peregrinación de fe.

Friday, December 14, 2012

A moment of pain and grief

By Bishop Gerald Barnes
Diocese of San Bernardino

My Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Today we have witnessed a terrible tragedy in the shootings that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. This horrific act of violence that claimed the lives of these little ones, so precious to God, is almost beyond comprehension. I ask all to join me in prayer for the victims, their families and the school community. May God’s mercy and compassion be with them during this terrible moment of pain and grief. May the souls of those who perished rest in the loving arms of God. And may we all continue to cherish and protect the children that bless us in our homes, schools and communities. In this season when we celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace, let us confront the violence in our midst by carrying His peace within us.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Santa Maria de Guadalupe, llévanos a la fe

Por Petra Alexander
Directora, Oficina de Asuntos Hispanos

En las tradiciones marianas se acostumbra decir que para abrir la puerta de acceso a Cristo, María, es la llave. Creo que entre las comunidades Hispanas de nuestra Diócesis, hay numerosos testimonios de cómo Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe ha hecho posible el milagro de nuestra fe. Ramón Valenzuela, de La Quinta, nos contaba cómo en su juventud tuvo una gran crisis de fe y buscó en diferentes iglesias pensando que eran mejores.

Ramón entró en una congregación cristiana, y por algunos malestares de salud necesitó un diagnóstico. En el Hospital de Loma Linda le confirmaron que tenía un cáncer severo para la que era urgente comenzar un doloroso tratamiento. En aquella lucha por su vida, pensó que entre tantas cosas que había conocido hallaría consuelo. Pero trataba de releer sus libros, repasó ideas de los buenos predicadores, temas de conferencias…

Todo se deshacía y nada de aquello le devolvía suficiente confianza para su batalla contra el cáncer. Repasó todo y finalmente sintió que el único recuerdo donde se aquietaba su angustia eran los rosarios de su madre ante Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. Y sí. Allí estaba el manantial de renovación, con Ella dejó la congoja y renació a su vida de católico creyente.

Actualmente la tecnología nos lleva a prescindir de las tradicionales llaves, muchas puertas no se abren desde fuera, sino que dentro están las claves electrónicas. A lo más, miramos una lucecita o un tenue sonido que nos avisan que la entrada está accesible. La experiencia de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe es también interior y nos abre a Cristo desde dentro de nosotros mismos. Los estudiosos de la Teología aseguran que la fe está relacionada con la experiencia de confianza, y la confianza la necesitamos para vencer los temores interiores más profundos.

Como seres humanos no podemos soportar la idea de que todo va a terminar mal. Por eso, ninguna presencia es tan eficaz como la de Nuestra Señora. Su mensaje corre paralelo a la constante expresión de Jesús: “No tengan miedo”. Santa María habla al pueblo necesitado con el lenguaje del afecto, pero no es para quedarse en un plano emocional. Ella sabe que el lenguaje de la Fe parece oscuro y frío, por eso ella da la tibieza de su abrazo y su maternidad compartida ilumina a quien se acerca a ella. Como a Juan Diego ella nos repite: ¿Acaso no están en el cruce de mis brazos? ¿No soy yo la fuente de tu alegría?

El Papa Benedicto afirma en Porta Fidei: “La Fe crece cuando se vive como experiencia de amor recibido y cuando se comunica como una experiencia de gracia y de alegría.” A quienes sientan que su fe se apaga o desfallece, a quienes experimenten frustración por sentir cerrada la puerta de su fe, les invitamos a acercarse a las celebraciones guadalupanas de nuestra Diócesis. La fe del pueblo creyente, que es generosa y rica en manifestaciones, le caracteriza esa facilidad para transmitir gracia y alegría.


Our Lady of Guadalupe, lead us to faith

By Petra Alexander
Director, Office of Hispanic Affairs


In Marian traditions it is customary to say that to open the gateway to Christ, Mary, is the key. Among the Hispanic communities of our diocese, there are numerous accounts of how Our Lady of Guadalupe has made possible the miracle of our faith. Ramon Valenzuela, La Quinta, told us how in his youth he had a major crisis of faith and even looked at different churches thinking they were better.

Ramon entered a Christian congregation and, because of some health discomforts, was in need of a diagnosis. Loma Linda Hospital confirmed that he had a severe cancer and that it was urgent for him to begin a painful treatment. In this fight for his life, he thought about the many things he had known in search of solace. He tried rereading his books, reviewed the writings of good preachers, recalled powerful conference themes that he had experienced.

Everything began falling apart and nothing gave back any confidence to face his battle with cancer. In the end the only memory which quieted his anguish were his mother’s rosaries to Our Lady of Guadalupe. And, yes, there was the source of renewal. With her, he left his grief behind and was reborn to his life as a Catholic believer.

Nowadays technology leads us to dispense with our traditional keys, but many doors will not open from the outside, because the locks are on the inside. At most, we look for a little light or a faint sound that tells us that the entrance is accessible. The experience of Our Lady of Guadalupe is “inside” and opens us to Christ from within ourselves. Theology scholars assure us that the faith is related to the experience of trust and confidence, and that we need confidence to overcome the deepest inner fears.

As human beings we cannot bear the idea that everything is going to end badly. For that reason, no presence is as effective as that of Our Lady. Her message runs parallel to the constant expression of Jesus, "Be not afraid.” Mary speaks to people in need in the language of love, but not just on an emotional level. She knows the language of faith seems dark and cold, so she gives the warmth of her embrace and shared maternity and enlightens those who approach her. As she said to Juan Diego, she repeats to us, “Are you not in the crossing of my arms? Am I not the source of your joy?”

Pope Benedict says in Porta Fidei, “Faith grows when it is lived as an experience of love received and when it is communicated as an experience of grace and joy." Those who feel that their faith shut downs or falters, those who experience frustration because of the closed the door on their faith, we invite you to come to the Guadalupana celebrations of our diocese. The faith of believers, which is generous and rich in events, characterizes the facility to transmit grace and joy.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Advent is a time to hope

By Sr. Carmel Crimmins, R.S.M.
Sisters of Mercy, Redlands

The word Advent brings to mind the familiar and comforting words we asso­ciate with this season – get ready, hope, promise, the Lord is near, a light to all people, O Come Emmanuel – are the words we love during the season prepar­ing us for Christmas.

Our Church, through its sacraments and seasons, constantly reminds us of God’s gracious loving care for us. In Advent’s first Sunday this year we hear the prophet Jeremiah’s prayer: “Your ways, O LORD, make known to me; teach me your paths, Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my savior, and for you I wait all the day.” In our lives, we sometimes think we are far from the path God has marked out for us. We feel rather hopeless, and doubtful. Here Jeremiah tells us “to wait all the day.” God’s love and care are always there and the emphasis on hope during Advent is a constant reminder of this fact.

The Gospel reading from the first Sunday of Advent (Luke 21:25-28) sounds ominous, almost threatening but again we are reminded of God’s plan. “When these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.” As we walk through these weeks of Advent, may we know God’s love and care.

God’s love and care is a constant theme for us who visit Juvenile Hall on Tuesday evenings. When we hear the deeply felt longing from the young people to know that God loves them, it strikes us how much we take our faith for granted. This awareness helps us to look inward, our­selves, in gratitude for God’s unfailing love that lights our way.

May this be a season for us to light the way for others in our families and commu­nities as we prepare for Christ’s coming at Christmas. Then we will truly “ready the way of the Lord.”

This reflection was originally published in the diocesan Office of Small Faith Communities’ Seasons of Faith resource for Advent and Christmas. To access the entire resource visit the Office of Small Faith Communities.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Keep Advent on the front burner

By Bishop Gerald Barnes
Diocese of San Bernardino

“For this momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to what is seen but what is unseen; for what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal ( 2 Cor. 4:14-16).”

In his second letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul challenges us to look beyond what confronts us in the present to what awaits us in eternity. In some respects this is counterintuitive to how we are wired – especially in today’s society that promotes instant gratification. Our packed schedules and our reliance on technology, among other things, keep us preoccupied with what is right in front of us and, unfortunately, this can distract us from the promise of our Lord’s return and our place in His Kingdom.

Fortunately for us as Roman Catholics we have a liturgical season that calls us back to this Holy long view. The season of Advent invites us to rediscover the art of waiting in hope. It’s probably no coincidence that it falls when our busyness is really kicking into high gear. Ministries are in full swing, the school year is underway and “the holidays” are nearly upon us. Amidst all of this, is a season of patience and anticipation.

The readings of the first half of Advent focus on the return of our Lord Jesus Christ; we look at our own readiness. Have we been the faithful servant of Jesus’ parable in the Gospel of Matthew? In the latter half of Advent we reflect on the hope and anticipation of the Lord’s birth, foretold by the prophets and given life in the ultimate faith of Our Blessed Mother. When we call to mind and spirit the events that led to the coming of Jesus (it wasn’t all smooth sailing, remember) perhaps we kindle in ourselves that same hope for His return. This also allows us to fully experience the joy of the Christmas season that immediately follows.

This Year of Faith that our Church has just begun invites us to reconnect with our Catholicity by renewing our relationship with the Lord and committing to know more about our faith by studying the Catechism and the documents of the Second Vatican Council. The Catechism teaches us that the seasons of liturgical calendar together depict the unfolding of the one Paschal Mystery. How important it is then that we don’t relegate our observance of Advent to the backburner but that we truly immerse ourselves in the coming fulfillment of Jesus’ promise of salvation. That part of our journey is just too important to miss.

I offer you my prayers for a blessed Advent. May you be truly alive in faith during this season.

Tengan siempre presente el Adviento

Por Obispo Gerald Barnes
Diócesis de San Bernardino

“Porque momentáneos y leves son los sufrimientos que, a cambio, nos preparan un caudal eterno e insuperable de Gloria; a nosotros que hemos puesto la esperanza, no en las cosas que se ven, sino en las que no se ven, pues las cosas que se ven son temporales, pero las que no se ven son eternas ( 2 Cor. 4:17-18).”

En su segunda carta a los corintios, San Pablo nos desafía a ver más allá de lo que enfrentamos en el presente, lo que nos espera en la eternidad. En algunos aspectos esto es contraintuitivo a la manera en que estamos programados – especialmente en la sociedad actual que promueve la satisfacción instantánea. Nuestras agendas tan cargadas y nuestra dependencia de la tecnología, entre otras cosas, nos mantienen preocupados por lo que está justo ante nosotros y, desafortunadamente, esto puede distraernos de la promesa de la segunda venida de nuestro Señor y nuestro lugar en Su Reino.

Afortunadamente para nosotros como católicos romanos, tenemos un tiempo litúrgico que nos llama a retornar a esta sagrada perspectiva. El tiempo de Adviento nos invita a redescubrir el arte de esperar con esperanza. Probablemente no es coincidencia que el Adviento cae en un tiempo cuando estamos realmente más ocupados. Los ministerios están en pleno auge, el año escolar está en marcha y los “días festivos” casi se nos vienen encima. En medio de todo esto está este tiempo de paciencia y anticipación.

Las lecturas de la primera mitad de Adviento se enfocan en la segunda venida de nuestro Señor Jesucristo; analizamos nuestra propia preparación. ¿Hemos sido el siervo fiel de la parábola de Jesús en el Evangelio de Mateo? En la segunda mitad de Adviento reflexionamos sobre la esperanza y anticipación del nacimiento del Señor, anunciado por los profetas y al que da vida la máxima fe de Nuestra Madre Santísima. Cuando recordamos los sucesos que condujeron a la venida de Jesús (no todo fue viento en popa, recuerden) despertamos quizás en nosotros esa misma esperanza de su segunda venida. Esto nos permite también sentir plenamente la alegría del tiempo de Navidad que sigue inmediatamente después.

Este Año de la Fe, que nuestra Iglesia acaba de iniciar, nos invita a reconectar con nuestra catolicidad, renovando nuestra relación con el Señor y comprometiéndonos a aprender más sobre nuestra fe, estudiando el Catecismo y los documentos del Concilio Vaticano Segundo. El Catecismo nos enseña que los tiempos del calendario litúrgico, en conjunto, representan la revelación del Misterio Pascual. Qué importante es entonces que no releguemos nuestra observancia del Adviento a segundo plano, sino que realmente entremos de lleno en el cumplimiento que se avecina de la promesa de salvación de Jesús. Esa parte de nuestra jornada es demasiado importante para omitirla.

Les ofrezco mis oraciones para que tengan un Adviento lleno de bendiciones. Que su fe realmente se avive durante este tiempo.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Practicing the ‘Gift’ of Presence


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

I have always tried to be pastoral in my dealings with others.

Since early in my teens I have invited the missionaries at my door to come in, have something to drink and talk with me about God.

I have patiently listened to my fellow angst-driven teens pour out their problems to me on school nights and have dispensed wisdom to them in return.

And as a permanent deacon for the Diocese of San Bernardino, I have been invited into the ‘sacred’ moments of life – birth, death and baptism into new life.

For all this I am humbled and grateful for the ‘gift’ that has been presented to me on such occurrences.

I have not always seen this as a blessing, however. As a teen I often felt a sign was affixed to my forehead with the letter “L” on it. While others might be labeled ‘loser,’ I had the equally uncomfortable label of being a “listener.”

And the awkwardness I felt then, and sometimes even now, was that I really had no more experience or expertise in matters of the heart or relationships than they had. They just needed someone sympathetic to listen to them.

And, in my immaturity, I mistakenly thought I had to give them answers.

Today, I am a more mature listener. Having received training in care giving and ‘tools’ with which to use in my role as listener and I am no longer anxious to ‘fix’ things as perhaps I felt I needed to do as a teen.

I offer my ear and try through empathy, to understand where they are coming from and what they are looking for. My goal (if that is what it can be called) is to let them know that they already have the answer to their situation. They don’t need me to ‘fix’ them, but only to help them gain clarity.

Each of us can be a gift to another if we practice the art of presence. To be present to another as a sign of respect, recognizing their human dignity and infinite value to God, who created us. By giving our full attention to the one we are speaking with and not texting or tweeting while half-listening to what is being shared with us, we affirm our brother or sister and their personal struggle in life.

We were made for community. And as communal creatures we owe it to ourselves to love our neighbor as ourselves.

This doesn’t mean monopolizing the other person’s time with our own life events, but by mutual sharing and listening with intentionality that the person sitting across from us is a beloved son or daughter of God and worthy of our love and our full attention.

And while we are practicing being ‘gift’ to one another, by all means, make eye contact! There we will encounter our God looking upon us with profound love.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Post election

By Bishop Gerald Barnes
Diocese of San Bernardino

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I would like to offer my sincere thanks to all those in our diocese who worked to promote passage of the state ballot propositions, Prop 34 and Prop 35, supported by the Bishops of California that were put to a vote of the people on Nov. 6. In our sustained and vocal advocacy for these propositions we answered God’s call to promote human dignity and to turn away from violence.

We are grateful to God that voters recognized the terrible scourge of human trafficking and passed Prop 35, which we hope will reduce the incidence of this crime and sin. Despite our efforts, Prop 34 was narrowly defeated and so the death penalty remains legal in California. While we are certainly disappointed, we must resolve to continue our work to abolish the death penalty and promote a consistent ethic of life. Please join me in continuing to pray for the families of murder victims and for our incarcerated brothers and sisters and their families. We ask God to bring to our society a spirit of reconciliation and non-violence.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

After the election

By Bishop Gerald Barnes
Diocese of San Bernardino

With the presidential election just days away, the political polarization of our country is difficult to deny. Many have strong feelings about the two candidates – both the one who will get their vote, and the one who will not.

I have written recently about our call as Catholics to accept the gift that God gives us to participate in the election of our government leaders. I am hopeful that you will measure the candidates and the propositions against the social teachings of the Church and that you will take the time to examine your conscience on these very important matters before us on Nov. 6.

Given the sometimes acrimonious tone of the dialogue, both inside and outside the Church, I am also compelled to again call upon the faithful of the diocese to show civility and respect for all of our brothers and sisters in Christ once the election is decided. Just as we are called to vote in the election and to stand up for the teachings of the Church in the public square, we must also respect the vote of the people and honor the office of the President of the United States, regardless of who holds it. We can disagree with his policies and we can even express that disagreement. But we give our respect to the office and offer our prayer that God will guide his leadership of our nation.

Our country is confronted with many challenges. Our Church has a part to play in easing the burden on those who find themselves on the margins, and also in promoting the culture of life and the value of religious freedom.

Let us come together on Nov. 7 in support and prayer for our president and other policymakers elected to office. May they govern the people of God with prudence and compassion.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Kateri Tekakwitha’s canonization is a moment of joy

By Bishop Gerald Barnes
Diocese of San Bernardino

I ask the Catholic faithful of our diocese to join me in giving thanks to God for the canonization of Kateri Tekakwitha, which takes place this weekend. Bishop del Riego is representing me at the ceremony and I send with him my prayers and blessings for the many from our diocese who join him there.

Our Native American brothers and sisters and those who minister at their side have been praying for this moment for decades and we share their joy in its arrival. While Kateri’s life serves as a model of holiness for all it is especially meaningful for Native American Catholics to see someone from their culture reach sainthood for the very first time. We are indeed a “communion of communities” and each one offers us rich and inspiring examples of holy life.

I celebrate, in a special way, with the faithful of Beaumont and Banning, whose parish bears Kateri’s name. A Mass of celebration will be held at St. Kateri Tekakwitha parish’s Beaumont church on Nov. 3. Our diocese will celebrate Kateri’s canonization with a Mass at Our Lady of the Rosary Cathedral on Nov. 24.

May God bless you.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Faithful Citizenship is worth the work

By Bishop Gerald Barnes
Diocese of San Bernardino

In about a month our nation will hold a general election to decide a number of important matters facing California and the country. It is a great gift from God that we have the opportunity to elect our government leaders and help determine public policy by voting on propositions and initiatives. First and foremost, I urge you to accept this gift by participating in the election. Our Catholic faith calls us to this participation as a moral responsibility. The Bishops of the United States often refer to this as “Faithful Citizenship.”

Does this mean that I and my fellow bishops, or your local priest, for that matter, will tell you how you should vote? No, it does not. This is a great relief to some, who struggle to see a relationship between their faith and matters of public policy. Others, to the contrary, would like a detailed Catholic “voter’s guide” so that the matter can be decided neatly.

But what the Church asks of us in this area of political participation is something different. It calls us to reflection. It calls us to prayer. It calls us to set aside our grievances and prejudices and consider more lasting moral truths. In reality, it’s harder.

In our writings on Faithful Citizenship, the bishops have held that the formation and examination of our conscience is a crucial precursor to voting and political participation. So we are called to measure the many issues at stake in the election against our own moral convictions that are (I hope and pray) grounded in the teachings of our faith. This kind of application often does not conform to political party lines and it does not allow us to focus on one election issue to the exclusion of all others. We must look at foreign policy, the economy, healthcare, education, criminal justice and many others and ask ourselves fundamental questions. How is our belief in the inherent dignity of every human person being impacted? Or, how does this proposition or candidate promote the common good?

Sometimes the answers are not easy and we struggle. Our personal experience on a particular issue rightfully colors how we might respond at the ballot. I invite you to take these struggles to God and ask Him to give you patience and clarity.

We will not all come to the same conclusions, of course, and that leads me to a final thought as we enter the heated final stretch toward the election. We are bound to disagree with each other. It’s natural. It’s even healthy. But to judge and demonize each other over our political opinions is not healthy, is not civil and does not respect the dignity that God has given every human person. It’s not Catholic. Please be civil and respectful to all of your brothers and sisters in Christ during the campaign and after the election has been decided as we confront as one the many challenges that face us.

I offer you my prayers as you prepare for this important election. May God bless you, your families and our nation.

La Ciudadanía Fiel vale el esfuerzo
Por Obispo Gerald Barnes 
Diócesis de San Bernardino

En aproximadamente un mes nuestra nación tendrá una elección general para decidir un número de cuestiones impor­tantes que enfrenta California y el país. Es un gran regalo de Dios que tengamos la oportunidad de elegir a nuestros líderes gubernamentales y contribuir a la deter­minación de la política pública al votar sobre propuestas e iniciativas. Antes que nada, los exhorto a que acepten este re­galo participando en la elección. Nuestra fe católica nos llama a esta participación como una responsabilidad moral. Los Obispos de los Estados Unidos a menu­do dan a esto el nombre de “Ciudadanía Fiel”.

¿Quiere esto decir que mis hermanos obispos y yo, o sus sacerdotes locales, in­cluso, les dirán cómo deben votar? No, no es así. Esto es un gran alivio para al­gunos a quienes les resulta difícil ver una relación entre su fe y las cuestiones de política pública. Otros, por el contrario, quisieran una “guía de votantes” católica y detallada para que la cuestión se pueda decidir cuidadosamente.

Pero lo que la Iglesia nos pide en esta área de la participación política es algo diferente. Nos llama a reflexionar. Nos llama a orar. Nos llama a dejar de lado nuestros resentimientos y prejuicios y a considerar las verdaderas morales que tienen mayor trascendencia. En realidad, es más difícil.

En nuestros escritos sobre Ciudadanía Fiel, los obispos hemos sostenido que la formación y el examen de nuestra con­ciencia son un precursor de suma im­portancia para el voto y la participación política. Así que somos llamados a medir las muchas cuestiones en juego en la elección en base a nuestras convicciones morales que están (espero y ruego a Dios) arraigadas en las enseñanzas de nuestra fe. Este tipo de aplicación a menudo no se amolda a los lineamientos de partidos políticos y no nos permite enfocarnos en una sola cuestión de elección y excluir todas las demás. Debemos analizar la política exterior, la economía, el cuidado de la salud, la educación, la justicia penal y muchas otras y hacernos preguntas fun­damentales. ¿Cómo se ve afectada nuestra creencia en la dignidad inherente de todo ser humano? O, ¿cómo esta propuesta o candidato promueve el bien común?

A veces las respuestas no son fáciles y nos resulta difícil aceptarlas. Nuestra experiencia personal sobre una cuestión en particular influencia legítimamente la manera en que respondemos en la boleta. Los invito a que pongan estas luchas in­ternas en las manos de Dios y le pidan que les dé paciencia y claridad.

No todos llegaremos a las mismas con­clusiones, por supuesto, y eso me lleva a un pensamiento final al entrar la elección en su acalorada recta final. Es inevitable que haya desacuerdo entre nosotros. Es natural. Hasta es saludable. Pero juzgar y vernos los unos a los otros como de­monios por razón de nuestras opiniones políticas no es saludable, no es un gesto de cortesía y no respeta la dignidad que Dios le ha dado a todo ser humano. No es católico. Por favor traten con cortesía y respeto a todos sus hermanos y hermanas en Cristo durante la campaña y después que se haya decidido la elección al en­frentar todos como uno los muchos de­safíos que nos confrontan.

Les ofrezco mis oraciones al prepara­rse ustedes para esta importante elección. Que Dios los bendiga a ustedes, a sus fa­milias y a nuestra nación.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What does being Catholic mean?

By Sister Mary Garascia
Pastoral Coordinator, Holy Name of Jesus, Riverside

A parishioner emailed the other day, suggesting that I put a presidential bumper sticker on my car because there was a Catholic on the ticket. I reminded him that there is also a Catholic on the other ticket — both Ryan and Biden are Catholics. But what does “Catholic” really mean?

“Catholicity, its Challenge for the Church” is an article in the New Theology Review (Nov 2011.) It is challenging reading, but I think it has some helpful things to say about “Catholic” as we consider our “Catholic” vote in the coming election.

Richard Lennan, the author, reminds us that we hear the word “Catholic” through biased ears. We hear it as opposed to “Protestant” even though there was a Catholic Church for 1600 years before Luther. So for sure Catholic does not mean “not Protestant”! We hear “Catholic” as associated with the Pope; but when we think about the four marks of the Church--One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic--it would really be “Apostolic” that connects us with Peter the apostle and his successors.

We hear “Catholic” as describing a certain ethical agenda — like being anti abortion--and that might be OK except that our polarized political realm has narrowed this agenda to just a few items. Speaking of polarization, Lennan has a great definition, borrowed from another author (Lash): polarization is the dramatized simplification of disagreement to the point where there appear to be two and only two approaches possible…locked in mutual incomprehension and distaste.

So, if “Catholic” does not mean not Protestant, and it does not mean a follower of the Pope, and it does not mean a narrow ethical agenda — what does “Catholic” really mean?

This word became part of the Creed in 381, after the Council of Constantinople. In its deepest meaning, Lennon says, it is related to the idea of the Trinity. What is expressed in our belief in the Trinity is that God has both unity and distinctions — Father, Son, Spirit. Jesus Christ also expresses the unity of one divine person who is also fully human. The one revelation of Jesus Christ is offered not just to the Jews but to the multitude of peoples of the world. The Holy Spirit pulled together all the peoples of the known world by speaking to each in his/her own language in the event of Pentecost. So at the most fundamental level, Catholic means unity in diversity.

Lennon continues drawing out the meaning of “Catholic.” Catholic means being a Church that celebrates differences but draws them into a unity of spirit.

Catholic means being a Church that is not confined to one way of being because it is always embracing what is new and good in changing culture. Catholic means being in dialogue with different religions, different cultures, different philosophies — in order to learn from these differences and to speak of the love of Jesus Christ in ways that can be heard despite the differences. Diversity in the Church, Lennon says, is a sign of the Holy Spirit in the Church. Unity of heart and mind comes when people who are different, and think differently, truly listen and speak with one another.

Regarding that bumper sticker, it seems to me that both parties are “locked in mutual incomprehension and distaste” as they demonize one another in the battle of negative commercials. I feel offended when they go after “the Catholic vote” by exaggerating one aspect or the other of our ethics. I would love it if they would appeal to the really “Catholic” values of concern for the common good (unity), respect for diversity, and the full social justice agenda of the Catholic Church. Only then would I want to put that bumper sticker on my car!

Friday, September 14, 2012

An Experience of God

By Ted Furlow,
Director, Department of Pastoral Planning

In the summer of 1955, I was planning to spend my free time as I had always done. After breakfast and chores, I was off on my bike, the only rule being that I headed home when the street lights came on. Lunches were catch as catch can, usually depending on how many empty soda pop bottles I could liberate off of back porches, cash in for the deposit, and buy something to eat.

But that summer, two members of the bicycle pack that I ran with had an aunt who offered her screened-in patio as a club house of sorts for us to use. It was perfect, tons of magazines, comic books, games, comfortable furniture, and an endless supply of iced tea. In retrospect, I suppose that the parents had gotten together and planned a safer place for us to be than the empty lots where we usually played. It was great for three days, but on the fourth day we became the 10 year olds that we were, rough housed the place, and got bounced out of it by the not so happy aunt.

In the almost sixty years that have passed, I never forgot that screened-in patio and the comfortable feeling of someplace special. As I grew into adult hood, I often sought out places like that, looking for the feeling of safety and comfort that they offered. I was fortunate to find many spots that filled that need, and as I grew older those “spots” become places which played a role in the “who” which I was becoming.

As a student at Loyola High School, I served Mass in the mornings for the priests in residence, and standing next to the priest in an alcove altar space, become one of those “spots”. Being three feet away, watching and hearing as the priest breathed the Latin words of consecration over the host and the wine, had a profound effect in shaping my sense of faith and love of the Eucharist.

As an adult, I was asked to participate in a food program for the homeless. One of my “spots” became literally in the streets at 6 am in the morning, feeding 300 homeless men, women, and children. Leading the grace before meals standing a concrete curb, surrounded by bushes is an unusual place to share faith, but the reward of seeing men and women of all stripes in the morning cold, with their heads bowed in a prayer of hope and thanksgiving, was priceless.

As a married man I was asked to participate in Marriage Preparation Classes in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, discovering a “spot” which I could share with my wife. In facilitating life with young people, making the same choice that we made to become a Domestic Church, the building block of the Universal Church, I found a way to give back some of the blessings and graces that my “spots” have given to me over the years.

My pursuit of “spots’ was not linear, and in the midst of my peripatetic seeking I knew that there was always someplace else to go. So, some years ago I found myself, in a “spot” not of my choosing, on a hillside in New Mexico inside of sacred circle that I had drawn with a walking stick. I had spent the day alone in prayer with no particular purpose in mind but to listen. I had passed the early hours of the day swatting flies, squirming in the hot sun, and resisting a mounting thirst.

I was looking at a horizon marked with red stone buttes, a cerulean sky, and topped with white thunder clouds. I don’t know how long I watched, but somewhere in that time, the heat, the thirst and flies became unimportant. I remember thinking how absurd it was for me, a seeker, full of anxieties, fears, passions, and stubbornness to be called to a remote corner of northern New Mexico, to sit on a hillside in the wonder of nature and listen for God. But then, most unexpectedly, I heard that soft voice in the stillness and felt that presence.

It has been years, and I still cannot fully explain what happened that day. But my need to listen was resolved, as were the questions which I had carried as life baggage. In an experience of God, I had stepped over a threshold. As I looked back at a life lived that finally made sense, I knew that I could only go forward. There would be other “spots” in my life, but this “spot” on that hillside was the one which I had always been seeking.

I was shaken from my reverie by the sound of someone laughing aloud; I was surprised to find that it was me.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Election gives us a chance to support a culture of life

By Bishop Gerald Barnes
Diocese of San Bernardino

My Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In recent weeks and months we have seen reports of terrible acts of violence against innocent people. In a Colorado movie theater; at a temple of peacefully worshipping Sikhs; in Syria, where so many blameless children and families are caught in the crossfire of the political uprising, and in our own city of San Bernardino, where 30 people have already been murdered in 2012 as of this writing.

God created each human person with loving care and with great intention. Each of us is so very precious in His eyes. For he fashioned all things that they might have being (Wis. 1:14).

Yet, our propensity to commit violence against one another seems to have been deeply ingrained in us from the beginning. This is sin at its most raw and forceful. We see it again and again throughout human history and, indeed, it is a recurring theme in the Holy Scriptures, from the story of Cain and Abel in the book of Genesis to the passion of our Lord as told in the Gospels.

Violence stirs many emotions in us. We feel fear for our safety, or sadness at the injury caused by violence, or we may be angered at its injustice and desire retribution.

As Roman Catholics we believe in the dignity of every human person and that every life has value. Acts of violence disrespect that dignity. We are especially pained when we see acts of violence that are sanctioned by law. Abortion is a prime example of this. The use of the death penalty is another.

The parishes in our diocese were very active earlier this year in promoting proposed state ballot measures that reflect the Catholic belief in human dignity and our opposition to both abortion and the death penalty. Despite the efforts of our diocese and the other 11 in California, the abortion-related measure did not obtain enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. The SAFE California Act, which would replace the death penalty in California with a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, did qualify for the state ballot. So we will have an opportunity on November 6 to, in a significant way, promote the culture of life by voting in favor of this measure, Proposition 34.

It is difficult for some to see the abolition of the death penalty as part of the consistent ethic of life in our Church, especially those who may have lost a loved one to an act of violence. Carrying the weight of such loss inevitably makes it more difficult to view the death penalty this way. If you have experienced this kind of loss please know that I hold you in my prayers and ask God to bring you peace and reconciliation. Several years ago I created the Office of Restorative Justice to minister to all those affected by crime and this past year they have begun retreats for families of murder victims and also trainings for ministers to accompany those who have lost a loved one to murder. I ask the faithful of the diocese to be aware of these victims and to reach out to them in prayer and pastoral support.

Our Church’s long history is not without the stain of violence, and even support for capital punishment. This must be acknowledged. At the same time, Church leadership from Rome to Washington D.C. to Sacramento has expressed with increasing volume the belief that the death penalty is a violation of human dignity. This began at the end of the last century under the leadership of Blessed John Paul II and brings us to the present stance of the U.S. Bishops that the death penalty should be abolished in our country and, specifically, the California Bishops’ support of Prop 34.

This change, as with all good things, is rooted in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ who God sent to “shine on those who sit in darkness and death’s shadow, to guide our feet into the path of peace (Luke 1:79).” Blessed John Paul II’s 1995 encyclical The Gospel of Life offers many important reflections that speak to the present position of our Church on the death penalty. In it, he revisits God’s protective marking of Cain and his subsequent exiling of Cain as a commentary on how we might treat those who commit murder. “God, who preferred the correction rather than the death of a sinner, did not desire that a homicide be punished by the exaction of another act of homicide,” wrote Blessed John Paul II.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church allows that punishment by death is permissible if it is the only means to protect the public. As first noted by Blessed John Paul II and often by my brother Bishops since, our society has developed sufficient methods for protecting the public from violent criminals that the Catholic criteria for using the death penalty can no longer be met. Whoever commits murder must surely be held responsible for that sinful act, and a life of imprisonment, as stipulated in Prop 34, surely represents a high price.

But at the heart of this very difficult issue is God’s call to us that we recognize the sanctity of all human life and the dignity of every person, even of the one who commits a grave act of violence. Jesus’ promise of unrestricted forgiveness is offered even to the worst of sinners. That gift to our humanity comes with no qualifications or stipulations.

And just as we cannot qualify our belief in the dignity of all life, we must also recognize the peril of sending our children and young people mixed messages about violence. We teach them not to bully, not to fight, not to kill, and yet we show them through state-sponsored execution that violence can be an acceptable solution. This, in no small part, perpetuates the culture of violence that has flared in the tragedies of recent months.

Signs that we, as a nation, are waking up to this double standard have emerged with the decisions over the past three years of New Mexico, Illinois and Connecticut to abolish the death penalty. Six more states, including our own, have put use of the death penalty on hold because of unresolved procedural or ethical concerns. With Prop 34, we will have an opportunity to be part of this conversion of heart on Nov. 6.

The Lord Jesus calls us to turn away from violence and to be sowers of peace (Luke 8:4-8). When we are ready to call for the death of a grievous sinner, He reminds us that our own sinfulness makes us unfit for such judgment (John 8:1-11). He came so that we might have life.

I pray that in this election season, as we are bombarded with information and partisan opinion, that you find time for prayer, reflection and examination of your conscience with respect to the many important matters that will be before us on Nov. 6. May the light of faith be your guide. And may God bless you.



Las elecciones nos dan una oportunidad para apoyar una cultura de vida
Por Obispo Gerald Barnes
Diócesis de San Bernardino

Mis Hermanos y Hermanas en Cristo,

En semanas y meses recientes hemos visto reportajes sobre actos terribles de violencia en contra de personas inocentes. En un cinema en Colorado; en un templo de sijes que rendían culto pacíficamente; en Siria, donde tantos niños y familias inocentes están atrapados en el fuego reciproco de la revuelta política, y en nuestra propia ciudad de San Bernardino, donde 30 personas han sido ya asesinadas en 2012 hasta el momento de este escrito.

Dios creó a cada ser humano con atención amorosa y con una gran intención. Cada uno de nosotros es valioso en sus ojos. Él lo creó todo para que subsistiera (Sab. 1:14).

Sin embargo, nuestra tendencia a cometer actos de violencia, los unos en contra de los otros, parece estar profundamente arraigada en nosotros desde el principio. Este es el pecado en su forma más cruda y enérgica. Lo vemos una y otra vez en la historia de la humanidad y, de hecho, es un tema constante en las Sagradas Escrituras, de la historia de Caín y Abel en el Libro del Génesis a la pasión de nuestro Señor como la relatan los Evangelios.

La violencia suscita en nosotros muchas emociones. Temor por nuestra seguridad, o tristeza ante el daño causado por la violencia, o tal vez nos enfurece su injusticia y deseamos represalia.

Como católicos romanos, nosotros creemos en la dignidad de todo ser humano y que toda vida es valiosa. Los actos de violencia ofenden esa dignidad. Los actos de violencia que son aprobados por la ley nos causan un dolor especial. El aborto es un ejemplo excelente de esto. El uso de la pena de muerte es otro.

Las parroquias en nuestra diócesis estuvieron muy activas a principios de este año promoviendo las medidas que se propusieron para la boleta electoral estatal; medidas que reflejan la creencia católica en la dignidad humana y nuestra oposición tanto al aborto como a la pena de muerte. A pesar de los esfuerzos de nuestra diócesis y de las otras 11 en California, la medida en relación al aborto no obtuvo suficientes firmas para ser incluida en la boleta. La medida SAFE California Act, la cual reemplazaría la pena de muerte en California con una condena de cadena perpetua sin la posibilidad de libertad preparatoria, sí recibió el apoyo necesario para ser incluida en la boleta estatal. Así que, el 6 de noviembre, tendremos la oportunidad de promover, de manera significativa, la cultura de vida al votar a favor de esta medida, la Propuesta 34.

Es difícil para algunos ver la abolición de la pena de muerte como parte de la ética consistente de vida en nuestra Iglesia, especialmente quienes tal vez hayan perdido a un ser querido a causa de un acto de violencia. El peso de esa pérdida inevitablemente hace más difícil ver la pena de muerte de esta manera. Si ustedes han sufrido este tipo de pérdida, sepan por favor que los recuerdo en mis oraciones y que pido a Dios que les dé paz y reconciliación. Hace varios años establecí la Oficina de Justicia Restitutiva para asistir a todos los afectados por la delincuencia y el año pasado el equipo pastoral de esta oficina comenzó a ofrecer retiros para las familias de las víctimas de asesinato y también capacitación para ministros que acompañan a quienes han perdido a un ser querido a causa del asesinato. Pido a los fieles de la diócesis que estén concientes del dolor de estas víctimas y les ofrezcan sus oraciones y su apoyo pastoral.

La larga historia de nuestra Iglesia no está limpia de la mancha de la violencia, y hasta el apoyo a la pena capital. Esto se debe reconocer. A la vez, los líderes eclesiásticos desde Roma a Washington D.C., a Sacramento han expresado con creciente insistencia la creencia de que la pena de muerte es un quebranto a la dignidad humana. Esto comenzó a finales del siglo pasado bajo el liderazgo del Beato Juan Pablo II y nos lleva a la presente postura de los Obispos de los Estados Unidos de que la pena de muerte se debe abolir en nuestro país y, específicamente, el apoyo de los Obispos de California a la Propuesta 34.

Este cambio, como todas las cosas buenas, está arraigado en la persona de nuestro Señor Jesucristo a quien Dios envió “para iluminar a los que están en tinieblas y en sombra de muerte, y para dirigir nuestros pasos hacia el camino de la paz”. La encíclica del Beato Juan Pablo II en 1995, El Evangelio de la Vida, ofrece muchas reflexiones importantes que hablan de la presente postura de nuestra Iglesia en torno a la pena de muerte. En ella, él hace referencia a la señal de protección que Dios puso en Caín y su subsiguiente exilio que impuso en Caín como comentario sobre cómo debemos tratar a quienes comenten asesinato. “Dios no quiso castigar al homicida con el homicidio, ya que quiere el arrepentimiento del pecador y no su muerte”, escribió el Beato Juan Pablo II.

El Catecismo de la Iglesia Católica consiente que el castigo con la muerte es permisible si éste es el único medio para proteger al público. Como recalcó primeramente el Beato Juan Pablo II y, posteriormente, a menudo recalcan mis hermanos Obispos, nuestra sociedad ha desarrollado suficientes métodos para proteger al público de delincuentes violentos de manera que ya no se puede satisfacer el criterio católico para utilizar la pena de muerte. A cualquiera que cometa asesinato se le debe responsabilizar sin duda por ese acto pecaminoso, y una vida de encarcelamiento, como se estipula en la Propuesta 34, seguramente representa un alto precio.

Pero en la médula de este tema tan difícil está el llamado que Dios nos hace a reconocer la santidad de toda vida humana y la dignidad de todo ser humano, aun de quien comete un grave acto de violencia. El perdón ilimitado que Jesús prometió se les ofrece hasta a los peores pecadores. Ese regalo que se le dio a nuestra humanidad viene sin reservas o condiciones.

Y así como no podemos matizar nuestra creencia en la dignidad de toda vida, debemos también reconocer el peligro de enviar a nuestros niños y jóvenes mensajes contradictorios sobre la violencia. Les enseñamos a no acosar, a no pelear, a no matar, y sin embargo, por medio de la ejecución respaldada por el estado, les mostramos que la violencia puede ser una solución aceptable. Esto, en gran parte, perpetúa la cultura de violencia que ha estallado en las tragedias de los meses recientes.

Señales de que nosotros, como nación, estamos despertando a este doble criterio han surgido con las decisiones, en los últimos tres años, de Nuevo México, Illinois y Connecticut de abolir la pena de muerte. Seis estados más, incluyendo el nuestro, han suspendido, por el momento, el uso de la pena de muerte debido a consideraciones procesales o éticas no resueltas. Con la Propuesta 34, el 6 de noviembre nosotros tendremos la oportunidad de ser parte de esta conversión de corazón.

El Señor Jesús nos llama a dar la espalda a la violencia y a ser sembradores de paz (Lucas 8:4-8). Cuando estamos preparados para pedir la muerte de un pecador terrible, él nos recuerda que nuestra propia pecaminosidad nos hace indignos de juzgar (Juan 8:1-11). Él vino para que tuviéramos vida.

Ruego al Señor para que en este tiempo de elecciones, en que nos vemos bombardeados con información y opiniones partidistas, ustedes hagan un tiempo para orar, reflexionar y examinar su conciencia con respecto a las muchas e importantes cuestiones que tendremos que decidir el 6 de noviembre. Que la luz de la fe sea su guía. Y que el Señor les bendiga.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Updating Ourselves: The New Evangelization (part 2)

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

Pope Benedict XVI, following the footsteps of his blessed predecessor, has declared the year from October 11, 2012, “the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council,” up to “the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Universal King, on the 24th of November 2013,.. the 20th anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church,” as the YEAR OF FAITH, with the theme: The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith.

The theme of the New Evangelization was again in Pope Benedict XVI’s Message for the 2012 World Day of Migrants and Refugees, in his Address to the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Family and his Address to the Participants in the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Promoting The New Evangelization.

It is important for us to take to heart the words of the Holy Fathers, Blessed Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI, especially in light of the situation of the U.S. Catholic Church.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, faithful to the Holy Father, through its website, says: “The Church in the United States can be likened to the mustard seed. The Church has been present in the Americas since the first missionaries arrived in the 15th Century. Over the past five centuries, the Church's foundation has sprung up and taken root in the U.S., spreading her branches and offering shade to the weary. This can be seen simply by looking at the work of Catholic Charities on behalf of the poor, the network of Catholic schools offering education to millions, and the commitment of U.S. Catholics to the Church's social justice teachings. However, there is still work to do.

The 2008 Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) study "Sacraments Today: Belief and Practice Among U.S. Catholics. . . ," provides a glimpse into the beliefs, practices and attitudes of U.S. Catholics. According to the study, only 23% of U.S. Catholics regularly attend Mass once a week, while 77% self-identify as proud to be Catholic. These statistics point to the need for the New Evangelization.

The seed of the Church is present, but the message of Jesus Christ needs to be re-sown and watered for those who have already heard Christ's call, but who have not been fully evangelized or catechized. Truly, the seed of Christ's message has taken root and yielded much fruit in past seasons.”

Thus: “The focus of the New Evangelization calls all Catholics to be evangelized and then go forth to evangelize. In a special way, the New Evangelization is focused on 're-proposing' the Gospel to those who have experienced a crisis of faith. (It) invites each Catholic to renew their relationship with Jesus Christ and his Church.”

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Updating Ourselves: The New Evangelization

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

In the Catholic Church today, there is a call to a New Evangelization. Blessed Pope John Paul II, on several occasions, did call for a new evangelization. This stemmed from his discernment on the situation of the world today and the new mission of the Church today in this new situation. The new situation of course refers to the passing of the 2nd millennium and the advent of the 3rd millennium. The encyclical letters that he wrote would be instructive for us, to understand his message more profoundly. I refer to the following documents: Redemptoris Missio, Sollicitudo Rei Sociali, and Novo Millenio Ineunte.

In the document on the mission of the Redeemer, the Blessed Holy Father proposed a definition of mission as having three trajectories, namely:
  1. to proclaim the good news to those who have not heard it yet; 
  2. to nourish the faith of those who have heard the good news and have accepted it, and 
  3. to proclaim the good news to those who had accepted it but have left it. 

In the document Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, he presented an analysis of the world situation and of the modern human condition, from the perspective of faith. And in the document on the beginning of the third millennium, the Holy Father defined the tasks that lay ahead, building on the synthesis of faith and human experience of the second millennium. It is in this last document that he also spoke loudly on the need for the NEW EVANGELIZATION.

After outlining the need for the people of the third millennium to learn to grow in Holiness and Prayer, he then says: (Novo Millenio Ineunte, 39) “ There is no doubt that this primacy of holiness and prayer is inconceivable without a renewed listening to the word of God. Ever since the Second Vatican Council underlined the pre-eminent role of the word of God in the life of the Church, great progress has certainly been made in devout listening to Sacred Scripture and attentive study of it. ..

(40.) To nourish ourselves with the word in order to be "servants of the word" in the work of evangelization: this is surely a priority for the Church at the dawn of the new millennium. Even in countries evangelized many centuries ago, the reality of a "Christian society" which, amid all the frailties which have always marked human life, measured itself explicitly on Gospel values, is now gone. Today we must courageously face a situation which is becoming increasingly diversified and demanding, in the context of "globalization" and of the consequent new and uncertain mingling of peoples and cultures. Over the years, I have often repeated the summons to the new evangelization. I do so again now, especially in order to insist that we must rekindle in ourselves the impetus of the beginnings and allow ourselves to be filled with the ardor of the apostolic preaching which followed Pentecost. We must revive in ourselves the burning conviction of Paul, who cried out: "Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel" (1 Cor 9:16).”

Thursday, August 23, 2012

What I did last Summer...

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


I hate to break it to you… Summer’s over and its time for English teachers to begin their writing assignments with the dreaded 500 word essay, “What I did last summer.” (A true buzz-kill to any fond memory of laziness and contentment).

The ominous signs and portends were there last week when the faculty at Notre Dame High School began returning to the parking lot we share in order to set up their rooms, have meetings, etc.

This week there was a spate of flurry as students began streaming in in two hour increments to get their locker assignments. The student athletes have been training (Heck Week?) and according to one of the school counselors I met in the parking lot this morning (to be left nameless for his/her protection), the school year begins next week.

Where did the time go? What did the students do all summer?

And why do English teachers care that much about other people’s summer plans, anyway?

That last question reminds me of an old George Carlin bit. The comedian used to say the reason adults ask children what they want to be when they grow up is because they are still looking for an answer themselves.

Maybe English teachers should report on their summer vacations? That way the students would appreciate their own lives more and go easier on their teachers throughout the school year.

Maybe, too, the students would be moved to pity and all chip in and mow the teacher’s lawn for them during the course of the year or volunteer to re-roof their house.

It’s not just that summer has ended that is the problem, but that we have once again allowed precious time to slip through our fingers. Did we accomplish everything we had hoped (and planned to) accomplish this summer? Did we read a book just for fun? Get up early to watch a sunrise? Or break away from our electronic devices long enough to watch a sunset?

What was on your list?

If you were not able to meet all your expectations, the world won’t come to a screeching halt. Did you get to do one thing on your list that is memorable? To you, at least?

If so, then with a sense of gratitude greet the new school year with humble thanks. Walk a little straighter and taller. Don’t be in such a hurry that you forget to thank those whose dedication to your future means a bit more sacrifice on their part. You carry that memory in your heart and you should reflect on those whom God’s love is revealed to you and offer a prayer of thanksgiving for them.

If you’re not in school, say a prayer for those who are. Pray that they have a roof over their heads and enough food in their bellies that they can concentrate on their studies.

Be grateful for your own situation. If you have a job, thank your boss. If you have a car, thank your mechanic. If you have a house, thank your parents who taught you how to save and invest wisely.

And do not fear… Summer will be right around the corner.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Prayers for our Sikh sisters and brothers

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I ask you to join me in prayer for the victims of the tragic shootings that took place August 5 at the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. We pray God’s strength and His peace for the departed, the wounded and all of the family members and friends traumatized by this horrific violence. We also take this moment to express solidarity with our Sikh brothers and sisters as people of God and to remember that our own faith calls us to tolerance and non-violence in a world filled with so many different faith traditions.

In Christ,

Most Reverend Gerald R. Barnes

Monday, July 30, 2012

Sabbath rest: Day one

By Deacon John DeGano
St. Catherine of Alexandria, Riverside

I have been talking about taking a day away from the office for close to a year, but something (and/or someone) always came up.

At our annual diaconate retreat we were challenged to find Sabbath rest in our weekly lives. A day or even a moment when we were at peace, quietly reflecting on our lives before God and just being.

As deacons and wives of deacons, we can easily overcommit because we are first and foremost about service to God and others. We struggle to find balance in our lives—marriage, church, family and job. And did I leave out leisure?

We are mostly agreeable types, and are frequently the ‘go-to’ people when a com­mitment wasn’t honored but the work re­mains to be done.

And so, we jokingly say, the first thing we are taught in diaconate formation is the word, “No.”

I said, taught. It’s another thing to actu­ally allow ourselves to utter the word. It seems so final.

And so, after consulting with my wife, Cheryl, I gave myself permission to begin keeping the Sabbath rest this week.

And a rather strange week it was. One where appointments were ‘sliding’ all over the place leaving me behind in my efforts to get out the door in order to con­tinue to fulfill another Lenten observation and self-imposed obligation: Spending time outside the confines of my office with people.

It was in reflecting on my Lenten prac­tice in light of Jesus’ ministry of service that I came to the conclusion that I had grown complacent by putting the onus on visitors to come to me instead of my seek­ing them out, as Jesus did at the Pool of Five Porticos, when he asked the invalid laying poolside, “Do you really want to be healed?”

Why, I asked myself, did I not see that before? I needed healing, too. And so, I made the commitment to myself to devel­op better habits. I decided to embrace the Sabbath rest.

Now Sabbath resting is not an easy thing to do.

In our society, value is placed on the ‘Rush! Rush!’ and those who march to a different drummer are seen as slackers and worse. Even our leisure time has to be ‘jam packed’ or we think we have been cheated.

We all need to develop Sabbath space in our lives to just be still with God; to allow God to minister to us and ‘recharge’ our spiritual batteries. It doesn’t have to be a whole day, but whatever time we give needs to be done with intentionality.

Jesus, after all, retreated often after dealing with the crowds that followed him wherever he went.

We can ease ourselves into it, retraining ourselves as we go to accept that ‘doing nothing’ is doing something beneficial for our body, mind and spirit.

To let go and let God have this time and space in our lives.

My first Sabbath rest may not have been totally successful (I felt somewhat guilty writing this column), however, I returned to the office full of energy and joy.

I can’t wait to see what next week will bring.

Hopefully, nothing.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

‘I chose you…’

Priest’s anniversary is a time to reflect on God’s gift of ordination
By Auxiliary Bishop Rutilio del Riego
Diocese of San Bernardino


A few of our priests in the Diocese of San Bernardino have been ordained for over 40 years. Every year we celebrate the 25th, 45th, and 50th anniversaries of ordination of some of our priests. It is a joyful occasion for the Bishop, the priests and the lay people who participate in the Mass and the fraternal dinner afterwards.
As priests, the day of our ordination was such an important day that it parted our lives into two periods, one before and the other after our ordination.

On the occasion of our anniversary we become more aware and appreciative of the fact that it was not we that chose the Lord but that it was He who chose us. His words to the disciples at the last discourse ring so true to us. “It was not you who chose me, but I chose you” (John 15:16). Jesus was the one who took the initiative and we, often hesitantly, responded to Him.

After so many years we realize that the Lord not only has called us to the priestly ministry, but he has accompanied us every step of the way. The words of Scripture sound very personal to us. When we read the words of God to Jeremiah “have no fear…because I am with you” (Jeremiah 1:8), we understand it. And it is very consoling and very real to hear Jesus say to his disciples at the end of the Gospel of Mark: “The Lord continued to work with them” (Mark 16:20).

During our life as priests, Jesus has given us many opportunities to serve Him and to accompany His people in so many places and in so many ways. On the occasion of our anniversary the main feelings are joy and gratitude to God for truly “the Lord has been good to us and we are glad indeed.”

We know that an anniversary is not only a look back, but this is an important part of it. Looking back we can verify that God has blessed us abundantly. Sometimes His blessings have come to us directly from Him; more often, they have come through others and through circumstances and events. Every priest has a different story, he has walked a different journey; however, whether one has ministered in a parish, a school or a hospital, each priest has one special place, one special community where he was able to identify with those he was called to serve. In that place, in that community, he felt at home, like in a family. There he was free to be himself and the people felt free to walk with him and, when necessary, to question him out of love.

The Lord Jesus has given us priests the opportunity to know some people well, and to love them, and be loved by them. Sometimes, with God’s grace the priest has been able to identify with those he has been called to serve, especially with those who are struggling for one reason or another and he has been able to be a fraternal support and a source of strength and hope for them. On the occasion of his anniversary the priest realizes that those are truly times of grace for the people and for himself.

At his best, the priest becomes aware that he is a dispenser of great gifts he has received to give them away freely. In his best days, the priest knows that he is not Jesus, that he is called to be like John the Baptist who prepared the way for Jesus. At his best, the priest knows that there are many in his parish or in his community that are more open to the Spirit and more faithful to Christ than he is. At his best, the priest knows that he is not the Word but just the voice in the words of St. Augustine. At his best, the priest knows he is not the Groom, but just the friend of the Groom, and what a privilege this is! At his best, he knows that he is not the Father but just his reflection or representative. At his best, he knows that he is not the Shepherd but just the shepherd’s servant and his assistant. At his best, the priest knows that he is not the light or the savior, for the savior and the way is Jesus and Jesus, only.