Friday, December 18, 2015

Reflecting on San Bernardino 12/2

Bishop Barnes at City Vigil 

 ‘We believe that love is greater than hate’

Bishop Gerald Barnes joined San Bernardino civic and faith leaders at a candlelight vigil at San Manuel Baseball Stadium the night after the Inland Regional Center attack. The following are his remarks:

I would like to thank the mayor for bringing us together.

I would also like to thank law enforcement and first responders for putting their own lives in arms way to protect us.

All of us are affected by this tragedy; San Bernardino, Redlands, all of us who call the Inland Empire our home.

We know that this tragedy also has touched our neighboring cities, our State and Nation and all the world and we appreciate the prayerful support we have received from so many. And to them we give our deepest gratitude and ask that they continue to remember us in their prayers.

We all carry the loss that some of our families and friends have experienced. And we pray for our beloved dead. May they rest in peace. We pray for healing for all those injured physically and emotionally.

We identify with them and we identify with all those who are angry and fearful; we are one with those who are worried and sad; we embrace those who are traumatized at this senseless act of violence and murder.

Their tears are our tears, too. And we must cry.

We pray that with all those who journey with us through this pain and loss will lead us to seek, to find ways to make sense of the Gospel in the midst of this tragedy as we seek to provide support and comfort to one another.

We pray for God’s wisdom and courage as we step out in faith, for we are a people of faith and no one will rob that from us. We will take this challenge to build something constructive that puts an end to violence and hatred. We will not succumb to do otherwise. We believe that love is greater than hate; courage greater than fear, unity greater than separation.

And with our faith we turn to our God and pray:

Almighty Eternal God, Source of all compassion

The promise of your mercy and saving helps fill our hearts with hope even in the midst of our sorrow.
Hear the cries of all affected by hatred; bring healing to those suffering from violence, and comfort to those mourning their dead.

Convert the hearts of those who have taken up arms, and strengthen the resolve of those committed to peace.

O God of hope and Father of mercy,

Your Holy Spirit inspires us to look beyond ourselves and our own needs…

Inspire your people throughout the world with compassion… and fill us with hope for a future of peace built on justice for all.

We ask this through Jesus the Christ, the Prince of Peace and Light of the World, who lives and reigns for ever and ever.


'We Will Work Together For Peace'

In his remarks at the Dec. 7 Interfaith Prayer Vigil at Holy Rosary Cathedral a Muslim Imam speaks directly to the two who killed 14 at the Inland Regional Center

By Imam Dr. Aslam Abdullah 

In the name of God the most gracious the most merciful, I greet you with a greeting of peace. You attacked us on December 2nd and you tried to contaminate the minds of our youth with your nefarious and nihilistic ideology. But if you will hear and if you would see, look at the faces in this church; the beautiful faces. You wanted us to be angry but we are at peace with each other. You wanted us to be hateful to each other, but we come here with love. You wanted us to be disunited but we are united. You forgot the basic message that your book, the Koran, the scripture, tells you. All humanity is one and I am with all. You forgot that it is only in America, in a church, a Catholic church, in the presence of a bishop, in the presence of a rabbi, in the presence of people of different faiths and different nationalities and different ethnicities, we again rededicate ourselves and recommit ourselves to the idea of peace and to the oneness of humanity and that’s why we are here today.  No matter what name you take no matter what slogans you make, you cannot divide us because we believe that every human life is precious and sacred. It is our obligation to defend the human life if that means that we have to give our own life for that human life…We believe that it is our common destiny to stand for each other. We believe that each one of us has a right to live the way God wants us to live. We believe that life must be protected and as a people belonging to different religious identities and different religious ideas, we must hold our hands together to ensure that no human life is lost and to ensure that no human life is wasted because God doesn’t want enmity. Today, in the presence of God almighty and in the presence of my friends and the bishop and the rabbi and the priest, we make our commitment to that peace that we will all be together no matter what. And we will all work together for peace and for the decency and the safety of human life regardless of what that life belongs to. 

Thank you very much.

For better or worse:

We are called to practice what we preach in this Year of Mercy

By Deacon John De Gano

Fact: Life is precious 

As I added my voice to the prayers of our school kids, teachers, parents and staff as they prayed a ‘living Rosary’ for a former teacher, colleague and friend, I couldn’t help but feel a bit guilty for my initial reaction of disbelief at Bishop Barnes’ announcement of the senseless tragedy unfolding just a few miles away.
We had come to our Advent Day of Prayer to learn about the mercy of God, the theme for the upcoming Year of Mercy (which began on December 8), but none of us expected that we would be forced to wrestle with its challenges and/or implications quite so soon in our own lives and in the feelings we would have to share with one another as people of faith.
Our presenter, Father Ron Rolheiser, OMI,  had been sharing with us three views of God’s mercy and salvation coming to us from the Hebrew Scriptures. These included: 
  • Moses and the Law – Proper Practices (of faith and religion)
  • Prophets – Justice (including a focus on or ‘preferred option for’ the poor)
  • Wisdom literature – Compassion (a heart of mercy and forgiveness)
Each had adherents to support their view and many do so to this day.
So how are we supposed to approach salvation in light of such violence?
What does Jesus say we should do?
According to Fr. Rolheiser, Jesus didn’t make anyone happy. He ratified all three practices and then went one step further, he challenged his disciples to put them all into practice.
  •   For any of us to get into heaven we must follow God’s law.
  •  We must practice justice (restoring the poor and outcast).
  • And show mercy and forgiveness to those who have wronged us.
God’s love, Jesus reminds us, knows no bounds or limits.  His sunlight warms the good and the not so good. His rain waters both the wheat and the weeds in the field. We have to wait, He implies in His parable, for his return. Then judgment, divine judgment will be meted out and mercy shown the merciful.
A tough message to have to sell while family members grieve and bury their loved ones. But a message and a challenge to each of us not to let our vigilance waiver.
Jesus has faith in us.
He left us the job to build the kingdom. We can only do that when we place our trust in God and humbly ask for mercy and forgiveness for others in the same manner that we hope to receive it from God.
Forgive us, Lord, as we forgive…
And welcome our departed loved ones into your glory. 


For Redlands couple, attack hits close to home

By Brian St. Clair

I've heard the phrase "too close to home" more in the last few days than I pray I ever will again. My wife and I live in Redlands. She works at a nonprofit in San Bernardino down the street from the center where the recent mass shooting took place. I work in Redlands near the neighborhood where the shooters' apartment stocked with weaponry was discovered. The shooting rocked our community, our sense of safety, and our sense of being at home. The fact that it may in part have been designed to do just that makes it worse. The fact that the killers are dead gives us no solace. Only our friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, and love for one another can provide that.

The person and the place you call home are determined most by bonds of love and generosity. Much less by the things we oppose, and even less still by what we hate. Our hatred doesn't define us; it doesn't make us powerful. Only our love can do that.

When watching the news release the names of the shooters, our hearts sank. We feared the killers might be identified as Muslims and that this might bring a fresh wave of inhumane hatred with their act of inhumanity. It's a double crime to betray your community with horrific violence and at the same time corrupt the names of good and peaceful religious people who are among the creative citizens who call America their home. Such an act does violence to truth as well as to flesh and blood.

We have personal as well as social reasons to fear. My wife is Muslim and I am Catholic. We met eight years ago and got married for the first time nearly two years ago. I say "for the first time" because we were married three times to each other - once civilly (and within 90 days of legal entry) in accordance with American law, once in accordance with Islam, and once in accordance with the Catholic Church. We've made an art of reconciling requirements, statutes, and limitations, and turning them into a beautiful journey we can share together on our way to creating a life of joy and family and service to others.

Is ours a story of immigration, of interfaith union, of overcoming odds and obstacles? Maybe it is, but that's not how we see it. To us, ours is a love story like any other. Have we encountered bigotry and unintentional insult? Yes. Do we live in a safe world? Sometimes it is and sometimes it's not. Do we live in a world that supports our most glorious aspirations or one that's hostile to our deeply held dreams? Both. What about the country we call home? It often lives up to its reputation and sometimes it falls short. Does any of this paralyze us? Almost never.

And neither will the mass shooting here in San Bernardino. The day after the shooting, people lined up at Aadila's workplace, a local blood bank down the street from the building where the shooting happened, to donate blood for the victims. We're a people that literally bleed for each other when one of us is in trouble.

Much will be said about things we should do to make it more difficult for people to commit acts of mass murder like the one that happened here. We should talk about those things and we should do more to prevent these acts. But we should also do more to foster communities of hospitality, respect, and resilience. We should do more to be a haven for refugees, immigrants, and the poor. We should do more to live up to our highest ideals and not lower our standards in the interests of self-interest and self-protection. In the end, that doesn't make us safer - only smaller.

Many and specific will be the calls to respond. And if we must respond to extremism in the extreme, let it be thus: to extend friendship with those different from us, to welcome the stranger from foreign lands, to give when we haven't enough ourselves, to learn more about the people we find most difficult to understand, to serve one another when it makes us most uncomfortable, and to forgive when we would rather take vengeance. At this time, I'm reminded of the words of a Jesuit priest who spoke at mass on the day of my Georgetown graduation. While I don't remember his name, his words I'll never forget. He said, "The quality of your life will be determined by the quality of your loving." No words I've heard feel truer to me now than these.

'Damian was a bright light in this world'

A message from Trenna, Tina, and Tawnya Meins:

Wednesday, December 2, 2015 was a day that was marked by horror and has birthed a great sorrow.  That day, Damian Meins was brutally and savagely taken from us, in an act of senseless violence.  While we continue to seek answers and information, we are aware that ultimately, nothing we learn will bring solace, nothing will make any of this make sense, nothing will bring this amazing man back.  However, in the days since this horrific attack, we’ve also been overwhelmed by an outpouring of love and support from family, friends, and the nation. 

Everyone’s offers of love, prayers and support are truly appreciated and greatly needed.  Even in our time of great sadness, we have gratitude; we know that the world is still filled with love.  We’re grateful for the time we had on earth with Damian and we’re grateful that all knew him as the same person we did.  Damian was a bright light in this world.  His family was the most important thing in his life, his raison d’etre, and as such, he was an amazing husband, son and brother, and the perfect father.  He was extremely selfless, extremely intelligent, and had an awesome sense of humor.  He loved unconditionally, and was calm, creative, humble, tolerant, patient, and kind.  He did not believe in tolerance – he possessed no hatred or ill-will towards anyone.  He loved to read, to learn, to travel, to paint, to garden, and to sit by his pond.  He was creative and talented, hard-working, and generous with his time and talent.  Throughout his life, he painted many murals; he traveled to Europe, Asia, and all throughout the United States.  He played basketball, he coached his daughters’ soccer teams, and he worked as part of the “chain gang” for the Notre Dame High School football team.  He enjoyed working on cars, and always had a “fixer-upper” in the garage.  He loved to decorate for all the holidays and would always put up elaborate light displays and decorations on the house and yard every Halloween and Christmas.  Overall, he believed that life was good, and he lived by the motto “amplecti possiblitate.”  He was a very good, kind-hearted man with a gentle soul, and he will be deeply missed. 

We ask, as a family, that people fight hatred with love, and that they seek to perform small acts of kindness for others, as Damian always did.  “Many small people who in many small place do many small things that can alter the face of the world.”  Please choose love, compassion, and kindness.

Thank you

No Longer Just Ministry but New Beginnings

By Anna Hamilton

Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015 was a chilling and unforgettable day in San Bernardino.  Gunmen killed 14 people and wounded 22 more during a Christmas celebration for public health workers at a location often used for meetings by several community leaders.  Among the dead are parishioners, colleagues, neighbors, and friends.

It is overwhelming and shocking to believe a mother and father of a small child could be behind such vicious acts of violence.  In fact, who can we trust if our neighbor is planning such horrific deeds? 

I have worked in the City of San Bernardino for nearly 8 1/2 years and consider this area my home.  I look at the streets and the location and recognize that none of us are safe or immune to evil.  Yet, I am blessed by this community every day.  I am incredibly grateful to our law enforcement agencies and first responders who have efficiently pulled pieces of the puzzle together to offer some closure to the story.

Now I realize closure is far from where we are today.  We have been wounded and our freedom threatened.  Lives of loved ones who will no longer see the sunrise or their children’s smiles are now a part of memories which must be kept alive.  Candles are being lit for each soul lost.  This flame is the energy of hope that keeps us moving forward.  Communities are rising from the darkness and making a bold statement that we will not be weakened but strengthened; we will overcome this storm.  It is no longer ‘just ministry’ we provide to our community, but rather new beginnings.  We are all survivors of this tragedy.  A survivor takes on a mission to protect others from harm as well as being present to those weakened by loss.  The trauma caused wants to seek justice, but without prayer and support, we can become consumed by the anger and vengeance.  This will only feed the flames of injustice.  Our goal now is to heal the brokenness of loss and seek compassion for the living.  Now, we must remain united.  “If there is any encouragement in Christ, any solace in love, any participation in the Spirit, any compassion and mercy, Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but [also] everyone for those of others.  Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus”  - Philippians 2: 1, 3-5.

We will rebuild trust and we will stand firm as people of faith.  Most importantly, we live by a Creed, that our Lord will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end. – (Nicene Creed).  By this are we justified.  By this do we find our peace.  By this we heal and learn to forgive. 

The perpetrators are no longer with us.  Our closure began here.  Now we seek God’s grace in this Year of Mercy.  We pray for the dead, their families, the perpetrators and their families.  We take a breath, giving thanks for the gift of life and with joy we are washed in waters of newness because our experience has changed us.  We must become better and be examples to others who may experience similar tragedies.  God loves His children and we are challenged to return this love with grace. This is a new beginning.  We must look to the future with faith and hope knowing the Lord is with us.  We are not abandoned. 

The Office of Restorative Justice will be scheduling a five week support group for those indirectly affected by the tragedy to share their feelings and begin to heal from this traumatic experience. 

For more information, please contact Anna Hamilton at (909) 475-5474 or .

Anna Hamilton is he Associate Director of the Office of Restorative Justice for the Diocese of San Bernardino.