Source & Summit – Defining the Mass, part 3

We continue our reflections on the definition of the Eucharistic Liturgy.  What follows is a re-presentation of the passage from the General Instruction:

157455543X16. The celebration of Mass, as the action of Christ and of the People of God arrayed hierarchically, is the center of the whole of Christian life for the Church both universal and local, as well as for each of the faithful individually.  For in it is found the high point both of the action by which God sanctifies the world in Christ and of the worship that the human race offers to the Father, adoring him through Christ, the Son of God, in the Holy Spirit. In it, moreover, during the course of the year, the mysteries of redemption are celebrated so as to be in some way made present. As to the other sacred actions and all the activities of the Christian life, these are bound up with it, flow from it, and are ordered to it.


-“during the course of the year, the mysteries of redemption are celebrated” 
Through the entire year, the mysteries of Christ’s life is celebrated, from His Annunciation to the Ascension.  Advent, Christmas, Ordinary Time, Lent, Easter.   Jesus’ entire life and ministry is re-presented every single year.  We celebrate the day he was born, certain milestones in his life, and his friends and family that are especially close to him.

This is hardly new.  We look forward to Christmas every year, right?  We are invited to insert ourselves into that life.  Seeing how Jesus sees, listening as Jesus listens, showing compassion as He had done.

52733683FO001_popePope Emeritus Benedict XVI mentions that the liturgy allows the believer to encounter Christ.  On September 3, 2008, he said, “We are only Christians if we encounter Christ, even if He does not reveal Himself to us as clearly and irresistibly as he did to Paul in making him the Apostle of the Gentiles. We can also encounter Christ in reading Holy Scripture, in prayer, and in the liturgical life of the Church – touch Christ’s heart and feel that Christ touches ours. And it is only in this personal relationship with Christ, in this meeting with the Risen One, that we are truly Christian.”

When was the last time Mass was an encounter with Jesus Christ?  Do we do to Mass in order to meet the Lord in an intimate way?

I remember when I was going through studies, there was an event that involved all three Catholic schools.  Before the closing prayer, we were told that someone was going to preach.  The Dominicans settled in, wondering how the person was going to do.

It was fantastic.  It was a very nice reflection.

Yet there was one thing missing.  Not once was “Jesus Christ” or “God” or “Spirit” mentioned. Not once did the preacher evoke the name of God.  Not once was the congregation challenged to engage God.  There was no invitation of encountering the divine.

195a38561eae8c9d65ac1c6afa334791This preacher isn’t alone.  I’ve visited a number of parishes…and there are many parishes in which Jesus has become “He Who Must Not Be Named”.

When was the last time a person came to Mass to encounter God?  I know that this sounds like an odd question.  But think about it.  So many people leave Catholicism—let alone religion—because they don’t know why they came to Mass. They have not an intimate relationship with God.  They have no prayer life whatsoever.  They have no relationships with the people that surround them every Sunday.

If a person is not at Mass celebrating God’s love for him or her, and deepening his or her relationship with Jesus—it’s no wonder people would leave the Church.

Yet during the course of the year, we gather as a community to celebrate the life, passion, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ.  We celebrate, as a community, the love God has shown us.  When the priest or deacon dismisses us, we are dared to share that love with the world.  “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.”

gOn an annual basis, the Church presents us the entirety of Jesus’ presence through the Eucharistic Liturgy.  We are called to live that liturgy in the here and now, in the streets, workplaces, on the BART and everywhere in between.  …God help us.

We are going to move on from this definition and head onto other exciting things about our tradition.  Thanks for your time.

God bless you!  Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!

Source & Summit – Defining the Mass, part 2

We have come to second part of unpacking the General Instruction’s definition of the Mass.  For the sake of convenience, here is a re-presentation of the definition of the Mass as prescribed:

CLP-2938stdominic16. The celebration of Mass, as the action of Christ and of the People of God arrayed hierarchically, is the center of the whole of Christian life for the Church both universal and local, as well as for each of the faithful individually.  For in it is found the high point both of the action by which God sanctifies the world in Christ and of the worship that the human race offers to the Father, adoring him through Christ, the Son of God, in the Holy Spirit. In it, moreover, during the course of the year, the mysteries of redemption are celebrated so as to be in some way made present. As to the other sacred actions and all the activities of the Christian life, these are bound up with it, flow from it, and are ordered to it.


We continue our unpacking with…

-“For in it is found the high point both of the action by which God sanctifies the world in Christ and of the worship that the human race offers to the Father.” 

I’ve been waiting for weeks to talk about this.  (I will not excuse myself for this liturgical nerd moment.  But if you skip a paragraph or five, I would not be surprised.)

In Eastern Christianity, we call this the synaxis.

Synaxis of the Archangels

Synaxis of the Archangels

It is the entire people of God, no matter what your position, no matter what your vocation, is lifted up to God.  All of our prayers, desires, penances, your pains and faults and failings, your accomplishments, EVERYTHING—is lifted up to God in sacrifice.  We lift up our entire beings in order to unite ourselves to God.

Ever have that relationship that feels like it came out of a fairy tale?  Like when you see the love of your life, that one person you want to spend all of your time with, that one person in which you would give anything and darn next to everything for—just to see him or her smile?  This is what we are talking about.  Giving up your everything in order to love Love in a dynamic, intimate way.  The synaxis!

Needless to say, the synaxis presupposes an intimate and dynamic love between God and the individual believer.   In fact, the entire definition as given by the GIRM presupposes that you have an intimate, dynamic and REAL relationship with God and His Church.  That God is not simply a thing “out there”, but rather, God is “in here”, in the echoes of our heart, waiting for us to turn to Him so that He can whisper “I love you.”

Within the synaxis, God takes these sacrifices, and sanctifies them as an act of worship, and thus bringing us into greater, deeper, and more profound union with the Trinity.  Our sacrifices, as painful as they are, are made holy and wonderful in God’s site.  By lifting up ourselves and our sacrifices to God, we are made holy. We put ourselves on the road to sainthood.

TrinityThe synaxis is explicitly Trinitarian.  The People of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit, worships the Father, in the name of the Son.  The prayers of the Mass are directed towards the Father, in Christ’s name, oftentimes invoking—if not inspired by—the Holy Spirit.

Next time, we will continue our reflections, focusing a bit on the Liturgical Year and encountering Jesus Christ.

God bless!

Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!

Our Pastor’s Corner – Our Lady of Lourdes

Act of Consecration to Our Lady of Lourdes

Holy Mary, Mother of God, Virgin Immaculate, you appeared 18 times to Bernadette at the grotto in Lourdes to remind Christians of what the truths in the Gospel require of them. You call them to prayer, penance, the Eucharist and the life of the church.

To answer your call more fully, I dedicate myself, through you, to your Son Jesus. Make me willing to accept what he said. By the fervor of my faith, by the conduct of my life in all its aspects, by my devotion to the sick, let me work with you in the comforting of those who suffer and in the reconciliation of people that the church may be one and there be peace in the world.

All this I ask, confident that you, Our Lady, will fully answer my prayer.

Blessed be the Holy and Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God.

Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us.

St. Bernadette, pray for us.


Fr. Michael at the Grotto  Photo Credit: K Mitchell

Fr. Michael at the Grotto Photo Credit: K Mitchell

This Tuesday we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. On February 11, 1858, Our Lady appeared to Bernadette Soubirous, a fourteen-year-old peasant girl, at a cave in Massabielle, France. Identifying herself as the Immaculate Conception, the Blessed Virgin urged Bernadette to live a life of prayer and penance for world peace and spiritual healing. Though many, including her parents, did not initially believe Bernadette’s fantastic story, the miraculous nature of her vision soon became undeniable. Very quickly, the focus of the pilgrims who traveled to the grotto to see where Mary appeared centered on the spring of water that Bernadette unearthed at the Lady’s promptings. Though at first the spring waters ran muddy, it soon became evident that some who washed in its waters were cured of various maladies. Word spread like fire and, though at first the Church was circumspect with regard to these miraculous reports, the scientific community verified the veracity of many of these claims of cure. With joy the Church approved the apparitions and today Our Lady’s grotto in Lourdes is one of the most visited Marian sites in the world, attracting more than 6 million pilgrims annually.


Pope Pius XII wrote a beautiful encyclical letter about the Lourdes apparitions in which he powerfully articulates how we can learn from and be healed through Our Lady’s intercession: In the school of Mary one can learn to live, not only to give Christ to the world, but also to await with faith the hour of Jesus, and to remain with Mary at the foot of the cross. Go to her, you who are crushed by material misery, defenseless against the hardships of life and the indifference of men. Go to her, you who are assailed by sorrows and moral trials. Go to her, beloved invalids and infirm, you who are sincerely welcomed and honored at Lourdes as the suffering members of our Lord. Go to her and receive peace of heart, strength for your daily duties, joy for the sacrifice you offer. (Le Pelerinage de Lourdes)


indexOne does not have to travel to France to be touched by the compassion of Our Lady who appeared to St. Bernadette. At St. Dominic’s we honor Our Lady at our Lourdes Grotto. Now situated in the parking lot, the Grotto was originally part of St. Rose Academy and resided in a garden cloister area used by our Dominican Sisters of San Raphael. When the Academy came down, the Grotto remained in place and today serves as a focal point of prayer and devotion. No matter the time of day, the Grotto always draws devotees who come to call upon Our Lady for her powerful intercession. I think of the countless prayers, rosaries and sacrifices offered at the foot of the Grotto (even in the most inclement weather), and know that many a pilgrim has experienced the peace and comfort of the Blessed Virgin at this special shrine. For those who have visited the Grotto, you have experienced its comfort. For those who have not, I invite to make a visit. Our Lady awaits!


Pastor Emeritus Father Martin DePorres Walsh, OP

Pastor Emeritus Father Martin DePorres Walsh, OP

Also, this week we have had the pleasure of having our own Pastor Emeritus, Fr. Martin Walsh, O.P., lead us in the St. Jude novena for Our Lady of Lourdes. In these past days, Fr. Martin has given us insight into the life of Mary. By looking to her words and even her silent contemplation, we are encouraged and inspired in the hopes and dreams of our spiritual journey. Called to be disciples, we are led by Mary who is the first and preeminent disciple. Even if you have not been able to join us for the novena, I invite you to come to the culmination celebration of this feast at the 5:30 p.m. Mass on Tuesday. May our Lady of Lourdes enlighten our path, touch our hearts and lead us to the embrace of her Son!

~ Fr. Michael Hurley, O.P.

Source & Summit – Defining the Mass, part 1

vaticanii“Source and Summit” is one of three regular series that we hope to propose to you as the life of this blog goes on.  We got the name of this series from the Second Vatican Council, which teaches that the Eucharistic Liturgy is the source and summit of the Christian faith.  The goal of “Source and Summit” is to explain and propose a liturgical spirituality.  We will explain liturgical objects and concepts.  Eventually, we will talk about the actual pieces that we use in the Liturgy of the Eucharist and the Liturgy of the Hours, but first, some theological gems for your contemplation.

In our first through third installments, we’ll unpack the definition of the Mass, as defined by the General Instruction for the Roman Missal (GIRM).

So let’s get to work!

First, the word for Liturgy means ‘work’—as in, the work of the people of God.  The Catechism reminds us that In Christian tradition it means the participation of the People of God in “the work of God.”Through the liturgy Christ, our redeemer and high priest, continues the work of our redemption in, with, and through his Church.” (CCC 1069)

The Liturgy is the work of the people of God in communion with Christ, who is imbued by the Holy Spirit, called to imitate Christ in order to glorify the Father.

Secondly, when Catholics generally think about the Liturgy, they oftentimes reduce this to the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the Mass.  A very rich definition of the Mass is from…

The GENERAL INSTRUCTION OF THE ROMAN MISSAL.   This is basically the how-to book on the Eucharistic Liturgy.  What prayers do you say when, what do the altar servers do, when does the bishop take off his miter, when does the deacon ask for a blessing, etc.  Early on in the document, we have a rich definition of the Mass.

16. The celebration of Mass, as the action of Christ and of the People of God arrayed hierarchically, is the center of the whole of Christian life for the Church both universal and local, as well as for each of the faithful individually.  For in it is found the high point both of the action by which God sanctifies the world in Christ and of the worship that the human race offers to the Father, adoring him through Christ, the Son of God, in the Holy Spirit. In it, moreover, during the course of the year, the mysteries of redemption are celebrated so as to be in some way made present. As to the other sacred actions and all the activities of the Christian life, these are bound up with it, flow from it, and are ordered to it.

This is rather dense.  …so what does it all mean?  A few reflections….

Mass as the action of Christ.  Christ works through us and within us.  It is not only an expression of our love for God, but it is an expression of Christ’s love for the Father, and Christ’s love for humanity.   Notice here.  The first thing we hear about the Mass is that it is the work of Christ.  The work of the Son of God.  Not our work.  But it is Christ working in us and through us.  It’s Jesus’ liturgy.  It does not belong to the priest, choir director or Mass coordinator. This is Jesus’ work.

I’ve run into many priests that talk about their celebration style.  Some sing the Eucharistic prayer, others would rather use one penitential rite over another.  But for some priests—and thankfully, they are few in number—who actually think that the Mass actually belongs to them.  They say, “In my Mass, we’ll do…”  At worst, some break liturgical praxis for their own gain or comfort.  Rather, the Church teaches, the priest and the Church’s ministers are servants of the liturgy, and not its masters.

The liturgy is the work of Christ, and thus, it belongs to Christ.  The minister that ego-trips is not welcome to serve.  The liturgy belongs to the High Priest, Jesus Christ.

 –People of God arrayed hierarchically.  That is, the entire people of God, all forms of vocation is represented and is working together in this moment.  Bishops, priests, deacons, religious, married, single—the entire people of God.  The entire family is together to worship as one.  In this case, the Bishop is not greater than the father, and the father is not greater than the daughter, and the daughter is not greater than the widow.  All are arranged hierarchically, but more important, everyone is home to worship the Lord.

27Just a few weeks ago, I concelebrated the Mass for Life at the Cathedral.  This is a great example of what we are talking about.  The bishops and their altar servers were in the sanctuary, we concelebrating priests had our sections, the religious sisters had their, the Dominican friars took like, four rows (awesome), but there was also and overabundance of lay faithful, young old, babies, strollers, teenagers, as well as seasoned veterans of the Prolife Movement.  The People of God in its fullness, of all vocations, of all ways and states in life, gathered together to worship God.  God’s people, allowing Christ to work through them, through the Holy Spirit, to glorify God the Father.


We are hardly done with this very rich definition of the Mass.  Next time, we’ll cover one of the most intriguing words in all of liturgy – the synaxis.  I’m excited just thinking about it….

Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!

Breakfast of Champions

…you know that you live in a house full of guys when this is your proposed breakfast.


I wish I were making this up. On second thought, I don’t wish that at all.  (I think it’s hilarious and awesome.)


Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!  Really, pray for us!  ….like, now.

Our Pastor’s Corner, February 2, 2014, The Presentation of the Lord

One of the classic movies of my youth is the comedy, Groundhog Day. Bill Murray stars as Phil Connors, a conceited weatherman, who begrudgingly goes to Punxsutawney, PA, to cover the annual Groundhog Day festival. Due to a snowstorm, Phil is marooned in the small hamlet and soon discovers that every day as he wakes to the Sonny-and-Cher duet, “I’ve got you, Babe,” it is February 2 all over again. He is stuck. Much of the comedy revolves around his “ability” to anticipate the day’s events as he pursues happiness in the proverbial wine, woman and song. But to no avail. At his lowest point, Phil realizes that no amount of self-seeking pleasure will ever make him happy and he despairs. His turning point happens when Phil reaches out to help a beggar who is freezing, and although he doesn’t save him the first time, this altruistic gesture begins to shape a selfless attitude that snowballs into Phil’s lending a helping hand to the entire community. By the end, Phil knows everyone, develops a few talents (playing the piano) and discovers that happiness comes not from what you get, but from what you give. Once Phil’s selfish shadow dissipates, the cycle is broken and spring comes to life.

The Presentation of Lord, Fra. Angelico, O.P.

The Presentation of Lord, Fra. Angelico, O.P.

Today we celebrate the Presentation of the Lord. This feast relives the moment when, 40 days after Christmas, Mary and Joseph brought the child Jesus into the Temple to be redeemed and dedicated to God. Entering the Temple, the Holy Family is greeted by Simeon, a priest who had been waiting for the promised Messiah. Simeon’s lifelong vigil represents the hopes and dreams of the Jewish nation. At the time of Christ’s birth, Israel was stuck in a holding pattern, waiting for God’s promises to be fulfilled. The Temple was missing the holy presence of God, the Ark of the Covenant. The Temple was specifically designed as a place to honor the ark, so its absence created ache and angst for the return of God’s living presence. As Christ is presented in the Temple, the cycle of waiting ends. The living presence of God returns to the Temple, not in a gold-gilded ark, but Incarnate in our own human nature. Simeon weeps for joy as he prophetically proclaims, “my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.” For the Jewish people, the light has dawned, and spring comes to life.

This theme of breaking cycles is built into how we approach the New Year. It is a time to take stock of our lives, to get perspective and to set goals for personal growth. But getting unstuck is tough. Statistics tells us that 92% of all New Year’s resolutions fail in the first month. Human nature tells us that, once we initially fail in our attempt, we easily throw in the towel. Old habits die hard, new habits take time. Precisely at this pivotal moment, the feast of the Presentation emerges to encourage us. It is a powerful reminder that, even 40 days after Christmas, God is still present with us. Don’t give up! Presumably, there were days when Simeon didn’t want to go to Temple to wait and pray. No doubt the trip from the cave in Bethlehem to the Temple in Jerusalem was a difficult and daunting journey for the new parents and child. Yet, the moment of presentation bursts forth with the promise of new life. Whatever resolution you’ve made and failed at, it’s worth restarting. If you haven’t made a resolution, go for it. God always calls us to grow in our relationship with him. Get creative. The Presentation is a second chance at a fresh start in the New Year.

In honor of this feast, here’s my Top Ten List of Presentation Resolutions:
1. Go to Mass every Sunday. God is waiting to fill you with his blessings.
2. Say Thank You every day. It’s not that happy people are grateful; it’s grateful people who are happy.
3. Tell the truth. It’s easy to fib and we do it more often than we’d like to admit.
4. Read the Gospels in a year. Go to and they’ll send a short piece of the Gospel to your email every day. (I read the entire Catechism this way last year)
5. Stop Complaining. Nothing kills the grace of God’s presence like self-absorbed griping.
6. Go to Confession regularly. There’s nothing like being forgiven and it’s free!
7. Pray the Rosary. It’ll be the best 14 minutes or 1% of your day.
8. Don’t Gossip but Encourage. When you find yourself gossiping, resolve to seek out that person and encourage them.
9. Spend less, pray more. Use your prayer book more than your checkbook.
10. Get active. There are so many ways to get involved in our parish. Join an Intentional Disciples’ small community or get involved in one of our 40 ministries. There’s something for everyone!

~ Fr. Michael Hurley, O.P.

On the Liturgy of Football

It’s Superbowl weekend. New York City.  Seahawks and Broncos.Odds-to-Win-2014-Super-Bowl-020313L

What is fascinating about the Superbowl is that, very year, we witness a liturgy of football that most of us do not see at any other time.

When most of us watch a sporting event, we do not see the entire ritual that goes before starting the game.  The entrance of the teams, the national anthem, the coin toss, etc.  Yet for some mysterious reason, we see it on Superbowl Sunday.  We see it every year. In fact, it wouldn’t be Superbowl Sunday if we didn’t have these preliminary rituals broadcasted all over the world.

It seems that we need to see this ritual seen and reseen.  It brings us together.  It binds us.  We like the predictability.  The ritual gives our society a common text that we read from.  And dare I say, in a city of insurgents and dissenters, some go out of their way to tell people of their disinterest in the game.  And funny enough, this, in itself, is a participation of the event.


Photo credit: Mary

Catholics like ritual, too.

We’ve been doing the same darn thing over and over again, a number of times a day, for the past two thousand years.  We go through the ritual of liturgy for much the same reasons.  As a people, it brings us together.  It binds us.  We are told and retold the Great Story of the Life, Passion, Death, and Resurrection of God.  Our ritual too gives our society—the Body of Christ—a common text that we read from.  It forms our mindset and grants us our presuppositions.  It reminds us of greater, granter, nobler things.  Not only that we belong to the American Community—that is what the Superbowl does—but that we belong to God’s family.  That our binding is not merely based on citizenship or pieces of paper, we Christians are bounded by blood and water and sacrifice.

The liturgy we partake in every time we attend Mass–Sunday, during the week, or otherwise–reminds us of that deeper something .  Seeing and reseeing the Great Story of Jesus Christ over and over again effects us, unites, and brings us (hopefully) into a deeper, more intimate relationship with Christ and his Church. Seeing an reseeing the Great Liturgy of the Sacrifice of the Mass binds us and makes us one.

So okay, football fans of the Catholic nature, enjoy watching (or not watching) the game in New York.  Have fun watching the commercials, watching or not watching the halftime show.   But as you are going through the Gathering Rites of the Superbowl, remember the Greater Rites of your faith.  We will not crown Russell Wilson or Peyton Manning as Emperor, we will not throw ourselves at the feet of Bruno Mars or the Red Hot Chili Peppers, we will not sacrifice our health to the pagan gods of hot wings.  Instead, we will remember that our God is King, we will throw our lot with the Queen of Heaven, we will sacrifice our health and lives to earn immortality.  With our liturgy, there are more noble, wondrous and amazing things awaiting.

Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!

NOT EXACTLY a day in the life of an average priest

There is no such thing as a typical day in the life of a priest.

Yet, I would like to share with you my Wednesday.  This was last Wednesday, day the Pilgrim Statue of Our Lady of Fatima had visited.  It was a lovely event, filled with peace and devotion, but I am getting ahead of myself.

rsz_2013-12-24_065809I woke up that morning at 5:30.  I presided and preached the 6:30 Mass.  It was going to be a long day and I knew it.

The morning was typical—Mass, Office of Readings and Morning Prayer, cup of coffee, meetings.  However, I was also “on call”.  There are three hospitals and a gaggle of nursing facilities on our geographic zone.  I don’t think our congregation realizes this.  Being “on call” means that the priest is scheduled to deal with walk-ins and sick calls or death calls from the hospitals or homes. It’s a day that screams for randomness, and randomness is what we got.

It began around 12:15.  I was in the refectory—I made a nice sandwich for lunch, a little salad.  It was so nice. I had just sat down, and just started to bit into my sandwich…and just then, I was called from a nursing facility saying that a long term patient was expiring.

“Okay, so I’ll walk over,” I said, “I can be there in about fifteen.”

“Oh no,” the nurse replied, “You can have you lunch first.  The family had already left.”

Now, try to comprehend the incomprehensible with me.  I was just told that someone was dying.  Yet the family had already left. Something funny was going on.

I finished my bite, grabbed the oils of the sick, and walked over.

Once I got there, the nurse wasn’t telling me the whole story….  Indeed, the patient was dying.  Indeed, we are all dying from the moment we are born.  God knows the day we make our return trip home.  As with this patient…let’s just say that she was sleeping with the Lord before she fell asleep in the Lord.  The moment was almost ethereal, hearing the monitors go bleep bleep bleep and boop boop boop as she laid in her hospital bed asleep.  It was almost angelic.  It was almost musical.  It was almost a lot of things.

I anointed her and prayed a Prayer of Commendation over her, as requested, all alone.  Seeing that there was no one else to talk to—even the nurses were busy with other things—I walked back to the Priory.  I returned to the house, wrote up the report, and just as I was putting things away, the on-call phone rang again, telling me that a person would like confession.

Boromir25255B325255DWhen I made it to the office, I saw a man speaking with the front desk personnel.  He reminded me of Boromir from The Lord of the Rings.  Tall, strong, boisterous personality, hands the size of dustbins, callouses and all. I was expecting him to carry that horn on his side or to talk to me in a Tolkien-esque English.  Call me a hobbit and demand food.  Or call me an orc and slay me. Something like that.

…but what a powerful moment it was.


Now, remember reading the Gospel of Mark?  And every other paragraph begins with the word “immediately” or “suddenly” or “just then”?

63358_clock_230_smThis was the day was turning into. And it was only 2:30.

The moment the penitent left, the front desk handed me a slip from one of the hospitals.  Someone else needed to be anointed.

Instinctively, I looked at the clock and laughed.  I’ve been running around like a track star.  So I went to my office, grabbed my oils and walked out the door.

It’s easy to be go-go-go and not appreciate the weather.  I know, we need rain.  But it was so pretty outside….  I was thankful that I breathed in the fresh air, gazed upon the bright blue sky, and prayed for the patient in whom I was called to seek.

I zigzagged though the hospital and made it to the floor.  After negotiating with the nursing staff, I was sent into a room full of laughter.  I had to knock on the door four times till someone had responded.  I have to admit, I had an odd feeling about this visit.  Someone needed to be anointed, yet the patient was surrounded by laughter.  It was such an odd situation.  I was expecting depression, loneliness and darkness.  Frankly, that is usually what you get.  I was hardly expecting to wait outside the hospital room door all of that time because the people inside were too busy laughing.  It was a good problem to have.

doctor4-1gk14oeThat was till I entered the room.  Within a pair of moments, the room was cleared and the patient and myself had some quality time together.  She looked at me, and all of her laughter, her composure, her smiling demeanor…vanished.  She told me about her procedure and she told me her low survival rate.  Most importantly, she wanted me to help her prepare for death.  In front of me was a Dead Woman Lying.

Thankfully, training kicked in and I knew what she needed.  I called in the patient’s friends and we shared in the Sacrament.

By this time, Evening Prayer at the parish was to start fairly soon.  I rushed back to the house.

I had thanked God that someone else was had the 5:30 Mass.  After Evening Prayer, I had hoped to grab a nap.  Or lunch.  Neither happened.  …in retrospect, I have no idea what happened to my sandwich.  I’m sure someone else ate it by now….

At 6:00, I was told that the Pilgrim Statue of Our Lady of Fatima will arrive.

I had been looking forward to the Pilgrim Statue’s visit for quite the while.  We were approached months ago by the chancery about her coming to us.  Such a beautiful opportunity.  I am so grateful to our Young Adult leadership team because they were open to reschedule their events in order to host the night.

The evening was a cacophony of activity.  The presentation of the statue, the presentation given by Carl Malburg, the giving over of the relics of Blessed Teresa.  Mass, of course.  Seeing the people’s devotion…wonderful.  But the one thing I do remember is…peace.


IMG_2323It is fitting, of course, that on the anniversary of the decision of Roe vs. Wade, an image of Our Lady of Fatima would visit our parish.  Our Lady, our Mother, offering us words of peace and wisdom and encouragement.  On the anniversary of the day our country opted for convenience rather than family, we remember the Mother of God visiting three young children who lived in the middle of no where.

A beautiful image sat in front of me as I had witnessed the unfolding of the night.  Seeing the throng of Mary’s children in front of the image.  Yes, some of them certainly wanted to see the statue cry.  Some were there out of curiosity.  Some where there because the Young Adult email said that people were getting food after Mass.  Fine.  Overall, the devotion and peace of the night.  Small moments of silence.  People waiting patiently to kneel at her feet.  Offering flowers and prayers of thanksgiving and supplication.  The look in people’s eyes as they gazed at the statue.  So many people wanting to immortalize the moment by taking pictures of the statue.  People purchasing pamphlets, devotionals, holy cards, scapulars…and tugging at me or Fr Michael for a blessing.  The People of God, joyfully wasting time with their mom.

Just after 9:00, the Dominican Community closed the night with Compline, Night Prayer.  We found it a fitting way to close, because the end of Night Prayer is the Salve Regina.  How else would Mary’s sons like to end the night by serenading the Mother of God?

It was such a powerful day.  For me, it was a day filled with life and death.

After over eighteen hours of running around from meetings, to hospitals, to nursing homes, to confessions, to the Church and everything in between, I was ready to collapse.  Honestly, I didn’t want to be in the church—I wanted to be in bed.  But I had a duty to stay.  I was in charge of these events. I was expected to fly.  I was expected to perform.  Demanding as they are, this is what the People of God need and deserve.


There is no such thing as a typical day in the life of a priest.  You are guaranteed that you will see the face of God in whatever you do.  You are guaranteed that you will be used as an instrument of God’s grace and peace.  You are guaranteed sleepless nights, groggy mornings, bloodshot eyes and tight shoulders.  You are guaranteed that you will help carry excruciating burdens, and in doing so, feel very, very alone.

But then again, I know that there are many, many parents out there working one or two jobs, barely keeping rent, working and praying and hoping that their children are getting fed and receiving the education that they need.  I know that there are many parishioners that have a worst life than I. People that also have sleepless nights, terrible mornings, good and bad days—people that are carrying burdens that are very, very heavy.

Fra Angelico, OP St. Dominic & Christ

Fra Angelico, OP
St. Dominic & Christ

But so did Jesus.

He who was rejected by his own friends, abandoned by weak, hypocritical idiots, constantly pressed upon by weak, jealous, selfish and demanding people.  He who was expected for so many years, yet once he came, was nothing like what the people wanted or expected.  He who died for an overall ungrateful people.  In being Jesus’ role, in persona Christi, a man is guaranteed a life that overflows with life, death, adventure and unpredictability.

If given the call, why would any young man really want to do anything else?

Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!

Dominican Speaker Series – Fr. Michael on “All About Angels”

Guest Post: Pastor Fr. Michael J. Hurley, OP

On Thursday, January 16th,  we launched our DOMINICAN SPEAKER series.  The goal of this series is to provide regular lecture presentations on interesting and relevant aspects of the faith which are not normally treated by our regular faith formation.  One of the blessings of St. Dominic’s Parish is the presence of the larger Dominican community which resides in both here at the Priory and at St. Albert’s, our House of Studies in Oakland.  The wealth of intellectual acumen and spiritual wisdom of our Dominican communities and staff provides welcome forum for delving into the mysteries of our faith.

IMG1308JPG180x134I was honored to give the inaugural talk titled “All About Angels.”  It was a wonderful evening of reflecting on the nature of spiritual creatures and our relationship with them.  I was surprised by the attendance.  Anticipating a group of about 50, we had over 100 people pack the Hall.  It was standing room only.  It was a pleasure to meet folks who came, not only from the parish, but from San Jose to Half Moon Bay.  There were also a healthy number of students from Marin Catholic High, who are studying Dante and whose questions were particularly incisive.  Also, a warm shout out to those good friends who traveled from my former parish, St. Dominic’s Benicia!

If you were not able to come to the talk, no worries! An audio recording for the evening can be found here.

IMG1319JPG300x168Another frequent question that emerged in the post lecture chit chat was “what is an intelligent but accessible book for learning more about the angels?”  Though my talk was most based on St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica, I recognize that this work is not the most approachable, due to its use of scholastic method and vocabulary.   A good, popular, yet academically sensible, book is Angels (and Demons) by Peter Kreeft.  It is a book based on his college class on angels and is in a Q&A format. It’s a good blend between scholarly and anecdotal.

These events don’t happen without support.  Thank you to the Friends of Christ who activity promoted and hosted the evening.   Thanks to Simon Berry and Scott Moyer, I was able to record the talk and post it on our website.  Also thank you to Zanna de Sant’Anna for her photos which beautifully captured the evening.