Monday, September 23, 2013

Bishop del Riego to seminarians: grow intellectually and spiritually

By Bishop Rutilio del Riego
Diocese of San Bernardino

The following are comments taken from the Commitment Mass for seminarians at Serra House with Aux. Bishop Rutilio del Riego held on Sept. 21 at Christ the Redeemer, Grand Terrace.

The readings of today are very appropriate for this occasion. The first one deals with the different ministries of the Church. Ministry does not only apply to the priesthood, but to all other ministries. One of the ministries is the ministry of shepherds, of pastors. So today we celebrate the commitment of these young men who, with the help of God’s grace, will one day serve as pastors in the Church.

The Gospel is also very appropriate because it talks about the calling of Jesus and the answer from Matthew, a very generous answer. Even though there is generosity on the part of Matthew, it’s nothing in comparison with the generosity of Jesus. That is what surprises and even scandalizes the people. So Jesus explains that he has not come to condemn sinners, but to save them. A doctor does not come to heal someone who is healthy, but to heal one who is sick. Those who think of God in a different way, is not a follower of Jesus. Jesus, son of the living God, is the God of mercy and God of forgiveness. This we need to keep in mind, both us priests and those who are preparing for the priesthood.

I could end here, but that would not be me.

View photos from Commitment Day Mass
The readings of today I think fit well with commitment day. Commitment day is a day in which seminarians make a commitment to a time of discernment and formation to the priesthood, if the lord calls them. It is a commitment before God and it should be a personal commitment, not just a requirement.

It has to be a personal commitment, a decision to take advantage of this time, to prepare well. If the lord calls you to the priesthood, then welcome it. If the lord is calling you to another ministry, then you will be prepared. It is a personal decision, but also a public commitment to live a life in the seminary.

You make a commitment in front of your mentors, in front of your brother seminarians, and members of your family. It is a commitment in front of this parish, Christ the Redeemer. You make this commitment to do what is necessary to grow in your physical, intellectual, psychological and spiritual life.

Many people will accompany you with their advice, prayers and their work. For them we pray in a special way today. We owe a debt of gratitude for your friends and family, your pastors and parishes and for the whole diocese for making this possible. The best way of expressing your gratitude for all these people is to work hard in your formation during your stay here at Serra House.

When I say work hard, I don’t mean only in terms of your school. I mean to work hard also in your spiritual growth. We know that this is the spirit is at work, but he expects us to do our share. During the priest convocation we heard how important it is for the priests not only to offer their ministry but offer an example of Christian life to the community. And so you are to prepare to be good Christians and good ministers. That requires the gift of the spirit and work.

One day you will be members of the presbyterate. You should be ready to live not as isolated individuals, but as member s of a community. Maybe to learn that is not to spend so many hours on the computer. That often isolates you instead of putting you in community. We used to think of asceticism as depriving ourselves of food or drink. Maybe part of asceticism today is depriving ourselves of time on the computer.

In the Gospel today, we see Matthew get up and follow Jesus. He is a good example for each of us to imitate, for you seminarians, for our lay brothers and sisters, for our men and women religious and for our brother priests and bishops.

You have probably heard about the recent interview with Pope Francis. Pope Francis states that his vocation is like that of Matthew. They asked him about his identity and he responded, “after looking at my life, I think the best word that describes me is that I am a sinner.” This is an identity for the pope. He knows of his complete dependence on God for his personal life and in his ministry. If it is good for the pope, then it should be good for each of us.

I wish to extend my gratitude in the name of Bishop Barnes to the rector, vice rector, spiritual director, Oblate Sisters of Santa Martha, the directors of Vocations, the Pastoral Coordinator of this parish, parish staff and all the parishioners of Christ the Redeemer who welcome the seminarians so generously.

This is a good sign for all the faithful. The responsibility for the calling and formation of priests comes through people like you. So you not only pray for priests but also take every opportunity to show your support for those who are preparing for the priesthood and for those ministering in the Church.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Desperately Seeking Participation: The Role of Civil Engagement in Discipleship

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

In an effort to encourage more participation in government (i.e., ‘transparency’) local residents have been given the ability to tune in to government access TV (GTV) and watch their civic leaders in action from the comfort of their barcaloungers.

While not nearly as popular as professional sports, G-TV has a small but loyal fan base.

I know this because I get fan mail. Or an occasional bewildered voice over the telephone, “Was that you I saw at the City Council meeting last night?”

“Yes!”, I respond enthusiastically, “That was me (on G-TV).”

That’s twice this month (A new record for me).

“If it happens a third time,” I tell my co-workers, “I may have to get a SAG-AFTRA union card!“ (This, of course, is a joke, since I would not qualify since I’m not being paid for any of my ‘performances’).

And the truth be told, I’m not that good at it. I’m not polished (like many a seasoned politician); I do not have a voice coach nor have I secured a hair and make up posse to hide the twelve o’clock shadow or the beads of sweat that sunk one famous (or infamous) TV personality and political debater of my adolescence.

The grace of ordination has not prevented my voice from cracking occasionally when I speak. I may even become self-conscious or concerned that my three minutes to speak will end before I finish my prepared comments, but I trust in God and, as they say, ‘keep it real’. I do not try and be anyone other than who I am… A baptized, disciple of Jesus Christ, called to live a life of love in service to God and my church and to be a witness of faith in my community.

And I invite others to do and be the same.

When Jesus called together his small band of disciples, he did not choose the most eloquent speakers he could find. Nor did he choose people of great power and influence in the community. He chose the outcasts, the misfits, those who desired to be more than a ‘big fish in a small pond’.

Fishermen, who had trouble catching fish. A despised tax collector. A zealot who advocated the overthrow of their Roman oppressors. Every day people who were hungry to know God better. Who, in time, were emboldened to act by the Holy Spirit and proclaim God’s concern and care for the poor and powerless in society.

And they were able to make a difference in the lives of the people they touched.

That challenge remains ours today.

Jesus’ commissioned us all to “Go. Preach, teach and baptize.” Not just for the apostles (modern day priests, bishops, etc.), or the seven deacons (who were waiting at tables), but to all the baptized. The born and future born.

This was affirmed fifty years ago in the Second Vatican Council document, Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity (published in 1965) and reiterated this last year in the document on the New Evangelization.

Even the document “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” published by our U.S. Bishops, stresses the need for people of faith to engage in the political process in order to provide a moral dimension to issues and laws affecting them and the ‘common good’ of all.

Often times, these ‘life’ issues (abortion, euthanasia, death penalty, education, immigration, housing and health care to name a few) are intentionally politicized by the politicians seeking office to divide (along party lines) rather than as a way to bring the community together and seek just and meaningful solutions.

Jesus was counter-cultural. He didn’t differentiate between the haves and the have nots. He offered the kingdom of God to all who would accept it. And the powerful rejected his message of hope and love.

Jesus calls us to action today. The message remains the same. Our elected officials are eager for our presence and our participation. So what’s to hold us back?

Let us rise out of our comfort zones (and comfy chairs) and be seen, counted and heard.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Pray for Peace in Syria

By Bishop Barnes
Diocese of San Bernardino

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The Holy Father has declared this Saturday, Sept. 7 as a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria, the Middle East and throughout the world. This is prompted by the terrible violence in Syria and the impending debate among our lawmakers about whether U.S. military intervention will take place. I am asking the parishes in our diocese to allow for a five-minute period of silence at vigil Masses scheduled on Sept. 7 so that we might bring our prayers for peace to God. Likewise, I ask that any other parish, school or ministerial gatherings on Sept. 7 also observe this period of silent prayer. In Rome, Pope Francis will lead a prayer vigil for peace that is scheduled to include Eucharistic adoration, recital of the Rosary and Scripture readings. These would also be appropriate observances in our parishes on Sept. 7.

Please join me on Saturday in raising up to God a fervent prayer of peace so that our brothers and sisters in Syria might be spared further bloodshed. And let us pray that God impart to the leaders of nations a spirit of prudence and of mercy as they consider how best to resolve this conflict.

Oremos por la paz en Siria

Por el Obispo Gerald Barnes
Diócesis de San Bernardino

Hermanos y hermanas en Cristo,

El Santo padre ha declarado este Sábado, 7 de septiembre como jornada de ayuno y oración por la paz en Siria, Medio Oriente y en el mundo entero. Esto es ocasionado por la terrible violencia en Siria y el inminente debate entre nuestros legisladores sobre si llevar a cabo la intervención militar de Estados Unidos. Le he pedido a las parroquias en nuestra diócesis que faciliten un periodo de cinco minutos de silencio en las misas de vigilia programadas para el 7 de septiembre, para que podamos presentarle a Dios nuestra oración por la paz. Asimismo, pido que en cualquier otra reunión de parroquia, escuela o ministerio el 7 de septiembre, también se observe este periodo de oración en silencio. En Roma, el Papa Francisco dirigirá una vigilia por la paz, en la cual se ha programado incluir adoración Eucarística, rezo del Rosario y lectura de las Escrituras, estas prácticas también serían apropiadas en nuestras parroquias el 7 de septiembre.

Por favor acompáñenme el sábado en elevar a Dios una ferviente oración de paz para que nuestros hermanos y hermanas en Siria sean librados de más derramamiento de sangre. Y oremos para que Dios imparta a los líderes de las naciones un espíritu de prudencia y de misericordia mientras consideran como resolver este conflicto de la mejor manera.