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.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Prayers for San Bernardino

By Bishop Gerald Barnes
Diocese of San Bernardino

This week the City of San Bernardino took the initial steps of filing for bankruptcy. This is distressing news for those who live and work in this community, named in honor of a great Catholic saint, St. Bernardine. Our Diocesan Pastoral Center is in San Bernardino and there are six parishes and three Catholic schools here. We are deeply connected to this community and we, too, have shared the pain of the financial crisis that has afflicted the region for several years. I offer my prayers and my support to City leaders in this difficult hour. I pray that God’s wisdom and His justice will be their guide as they attempt to chart a path back to financial health for the City. I also pray for the people of San Bernardino as the impacts of this budget crisis become more apparent in the weeks and months to come. Let us treat each other with the love and charity to which God calls us. Together we can weather this storm.

I also believe the faith community of San Bernardino has an important part in this journey. Through the services we can provide, and in the prayer and communal worship that takes place among our people, we can provide a measure of sustenance and hope for a better future. May God bless our city.

Oraciones por San Bernardino
Por Obispo Gerald Barnes
Diócesis de San Bernardino

Esta semana la Ciudad de San Bernardino tomó los pasos iniciales para declararse en quiebra. Estas son noticias angustiantes para quienes viven y trabajan en esta comunidad, nombrada en honor de uno de los grandes santos católicos, San Bernardino. Nuestro Centro Pastoral Diocesano está ubicado en la ciudad de San Bernardino y hay seis parroquias y tres escuelas católicas en esta ciudad. Estamos estrechamente ligados a esta comunidad y nosotros, también, hemos compartido el dolor de la crisis financiera que ha aquejado a la región por varios años. Ofrezco mis oraciones y apoyo a los líderes de la ciudad en este difícil momento. Ruego para que la sabiduría y la justicia de Dios sean su guía al intentar ellos trazar un camino que retorne a la ciudad a la salud financiera. Ofrezco también mis oraciones por los residentes de San Bernardino pues los impactos de esta crisis presupuestal serán más aparentes en las semanas y meses venideros. Tratémonos los unos a los otros con el amor y la caridad a que Dios nos llama. Juntos podemos capear este temporal.

Creo también que la comunidad de fe de San Bernardino tiene una función importante en esta jornada. Por medio de los servicios que podemos ofrecer, y en la oración y el culto comunal entre nuestra gente, podemos proveer una medida de sustento y esperanza para un futuro mejor. Dios bendiga nuestra ciudad.