From Our Lady’s visit

This wonderful picture was taken from the Pilgrim Statue of Our Lady of Fatima’s visit on January 22nd from 6:00pm – 9:00pm.

IMG_2323I’m bad with numbers, but the Church was packed.  We were so joyful that this Pilgrim Statue graced our community.  Thank you to the Young Adult community for adjusting their schedule in order to host this event.

Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!  Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!

Cross-blogging…

Just when you thought that this Parochial Vicar was all about Dominican Spirituality and Harry Potter (things that are not necessarily mutually exclusive, by the way), he throws in something like this.

There is other blog out there in which I periodically contribute.  It’s called “The Hogwarts Professor,” a blog about taking a serious, scholarly look at Young Adult literature.

allegiant-book-cover-high-resA few weeks back, I posted about Veronica Roth’s third installment of the Divergent Trilogy here.

I have a few other posts that I and a friend have contributed over the past few months.  My favorite post is this one, about Spiritual Friendship and The Hunger Games Trilogy.  You are welcome to the messiness of Young Adult Lit.

Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!

A Preacher’s Life – Intinerancy

“How come you guys move around so much?”

If the house was given a bottle every time we were asked this question, we would be a non-profit BevMo.

One of the unique aspects of the Order of Preachers is our itinerancy.  We move around a lot.  We’ve always moved around a lot.  Ever since the beginning nearly 800 years ago.  In fact, you can say that itinerancy is one of the hallmarks the Order.

jjWhen God inspired Holy Father Dominic to found an Order devoted to preaching, he was on the road.  He traveled with his Bishop Diego of Osma to the Marches, accompanying him and a bride-to-be.  It was while on the road, traipsing through southern France, that he was inspired to form an Order of wandering preachers.

Some documents of early Dominican history estimate that Holy Father Dominic traversed the European continent seven times, visiting houses in Bologna, Toulouse, Krakow and beyond.  In fact, some say that Holy Father Dominic walked himself to death, dying at the young age of fifty-one.

2 Op walkingHis immediate successor wasn’t much different.  Blessed Jordan of Saxony was always on the road, rarely at his place of assignment, mostly traveling between Paris, Bologna and Toulouse, just like Holy Father Dominic.  Oddly, though, he died on a boating accident off the coast of the Holy Land.

So yes.  Dominicans travel. A lot.

This insistent impulse to travel is ingrained within the Dominican Spirituality.  At the end of the month, the Novices will take off for three weeks to visit the southern part of the Western Dominican Province.  In the latter summer, they take off again to visit our northern ministries.

Once in vows and in studies, our itinerancy doesn’t really change much.  In my experience, Dominic itinerantI’ve found myself in Central Mexico, Guatamala, El Salvador, and the foreign country of Washington, DC.  (It’s a joke—get over it!)

But why do we travel so much?  Why do we come into a place, preach the Word, fall in love with the People of God, and leave for the next place?

In short, the answer is for the salvation of souls.

The Order of Preachers were founded to preach the Truth of Christ Jesus to all peoples.  To preach as the First Itinerant Preacher. That means going on the road, encouraging people to encounter Jesus Christ, and move on to the next place.  It means challenging our brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ along the journey towards our true homeland.  It allows us to offer a fresh perspective on how a person views their life, their relationships and their faith.  As the Jewish proverb goes, “A guest for a while sees a mile.”

This itinerancy is for the parish’s good as well as for the preacher’s.  It’s quite easy for human beings to get complacent.  We wake up, go to work, go to Mass, eat, talk on the phone, go to bed, repeat.  But what if there is a new person in your life that forces you to look at things in a different way?  A person that shocks your system, dares you to reevaluate your life, and forces you to stare at your faults and glories head on?  What if you met a preacher that will introduce you to Your Best Friend?

For the parish community, one preaching can shock an entire community.  It may create a fertile ground for intentional disciples.  For the preacher, being the conduit of grace is revitalizing and life-changing. It’s the life of the apostles, still living in the here and now.

Although our pastor was formally installed back in September, it is safe to say that our Dominic MSJcommunity will be in transition for yet a few months more.  People are scared of change.  They are critical and sometimes demanding.  They are off-putting without guile, honest without charity, proud without apology.

And they miss the brothers that were here before.  They miss Fr Xavier, Fr Stephen Maria, Fr Garry, Fr Francis, Fr John Paul, and the list goes on and on.

Yet the Order teaches this: Did you come for one particular brother and his preaching, or did you come because of the Order of Preachers?  Did you come for one preacher, or because of the Order of Preachers that want to serve, love and be with you on this part of your journey?

Saint Dominic’s Catholic Church is a Dominican Parish—not Fr Michael’s, not Fr Xavier’s, not Fr Roberto’s, not Fr Martin’s.  It is a ministry of the Dominican Order.  As such, we invite you to continue to be formed by the preaching of the Order.  We invite you to encounter us, as we, with you, encounter the Master Preacher.

Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!

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Vanilla Time

So what exactly is Ordinary Time?

otIn some ways, Ordinary Time is the Season without a theology.  We have concluded Advent and Christmas.  Advent, the Season where we meditate upon the coming of Christ.  Christmas, we have been contemplating the early life of Jesus, the theology of the gift, creation’s reaction to seeing the human face of God.  In Lent, we prepare for the Passion, Death and Resurrection of the Lord. Easter, the season in which we pray about our salvation, our communion with God, and the depth of God’s love for us.

But what about Ordinary Time?  It seems that the ‘green time’ is a season without a theology. It’s ordinary time—boring, vanilla, blah.

What we so often forget is that most of Jesus’ life on earth was boring, vanilla, blah.  Most indexof Jesus’ life was not about shepherds, magi, not about certain miracles and healings, not about getting arrested in Jerusalem, hauling his cross and dying.  Most of Jesus’ earthly ministry was boring.

Most of Jesus’ life was ordinary time.

During those months of ministry, Jesus’ life was filled with relatively small moments.  Encountering people, walking with his friends from village to village, late night conversations with people that needed a shoulder to cry on.  Nothing extraordinary, nothing miraculous, nothing worth the Chronicle, but nonetheless, a time of ordinary holiness.  A time where we can enter into Jesus’ life in an extraordinary way.

Most of our life is ordinary time.  Most of our life is not Christmas or Easter, graduating or getting married.  Most of our life is rather mundane—waking up, eating breakfast, checking our email, phone calls, coming home, dinner, repeat.  Most of our life is ordinary time.

It is in the quiet moments—the ordinary moments—where Jesus speaks to us. Yes, we Ordinary-Time-705700have those extraordinary moments in our lives, the times where we see miracles, the multiplication of loaves and fishes, those times of extraordinary healing and love from God.  But most of the time, our lives with God are ordinary nudges and pushes, invitations to see things with Jesus’ point of view, those little moments where Jesus speaks to us more clearly than any other time.

Hopefully, for many of us, that is where the Christian adventure resides.

 

Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!

Baptism of the Lord Reflection: A Grown Up Faith

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Logo of the Catholic Community at Stanford University

As you may remember, my first assignment was the parochial vicar at the Catholic Community at Stanford.  (Go Cardinal.  Beat Cal.)  One of the reasons why I have an affection for campus ministry boils down to one point: acquiring a grown-up faith.

A tragedy of the post-Vatican II era is the lack of grown-up faith in much of our Church.  At least in my experience, I was given a rather infantile level of catechesis.  In one CCD class I was in, I learned more about Islam than I did about the Beatitudes.  I knew how to be a faithful Muslim, but I was unable to tell you the Patronal Feast of our country.  (By the way, it’s the Immaculate Conception.)

The Baptism of the Lord, Fra. Angelico, OP

The Baptism of the Lord, Fra. Angelico, OP

The Baptism of the Lord teaches that it is time to grow up.  We are called to study, to inquire, to read and engage with our faith.  What is the tradition that we are a part of?  What makes it unique?  What makes it beautiful?  What makes it true?  Why should I stay Catholic in the first place?

It’s time to grow up.

Tomorrow, we will find ourselves in Ordinary Time.  The Green time, as it were.  This is a time in which we use the graces given to us during Advent and Christmas (do we even remember what the O Antiphons are?) in order to bring the world closer to God.

Let us pray for one another, living and learning, giving the gift of the Child Christ to all we meet.

Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!

California the Horcrux & the Body of Christ

Not too long ago, there was a story that was making it around Facebook.  Apparently, there is an initiative to break the Golden State into six pieces.  screen shot 2013-12-20 at 6.56.24 am

Now of course, when I heard this, my first natural reaction was like, “a la horcrux?”  Is there some amazing spell out there that a wizard can point at the State and boom!  Then I thought of…well, I shouldn’t tell you what I was thinking.  More about the initiative can be found on the info site.

Anyway, there is this initiative proposing to split up the State.  And if you look at the you would easily recognize that California will be split up, basically, by culture.  The Bay, SoCal, Central Valley, etc.

Now, before you think that I am going political, don’t click away yet. What I find interesting is that it is easy to walk away from that which you oppose.  Politically, Fresno is very different from San Diego, and San Diego is pretty different from Sacramento.  Yet we are all part of the same State of California.

In the Church’s life, it is easy to walk away from that which you oppose.  It’s easy to try to Sermon-on-the-Mount-Fra-Angelico-c1440find “the liberal parish” or “the conservative parish” or “the novos ordo parish” or the “Tridentine parish.”  Life is very easy if you surround yourself with the people that share you own views, especially if they are of a religious nature.

Yet our tradition is riddled with opposition within our own ranks.  The Acts of the Apostle testifies that the first fight we had to figure out was about the Gentile Christians—do they get circumcised?  Can they be Christian without being first Jewish?

Then there was Arianism (which we still fight today).  Is Jesus fully divine and fully human?  What does this mean for the Holy Spirit?

What about Mary’s role in the Church?

…and let’s not even think about thinking about women in the Church.

It’s easy to walk away from that which we oppose.  It’s easier to split up the State of California, or found your own Ecclesiastical Rite or crown your own Pope.

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World Youth Day, Rio

Yet we are the Body of Christ and individually members of it. 

In our own Church wars, it is very difficult to remember our fundamental values.  It’s easy to get wrapped up and start hating on each other when it comes to who ought to get ordained, or married, or which social issues we ought to support or condemn.  Yet if we would first remember our fundamental values first—the values outlined in the Nicene Creed—we would be pretty well off.

We are first united by the Blood of the Lamb of God.  This ought to be our first and foremost concern.  It’s okay that we have our disagreements, but let us first remind ourselves what keeps us united.  Let us remember He who calls us and asks us to be His own.

Epiphany Reflection: The Child Christ – The Great Gift to Humanity

According to legend, the three wise men—Casper, Melchior and Balthazar—visited the Child Christ as a symbol of the peoples of the world acknowledging the reverencing the Son of God.  This is also reminiscent to our stories in Genesis, when the sons of Noah–Shem,

Adoration of the Magi, by Fra. Angelico, OP

Adoration of the Magi, by Fra. Angelico, OP

Ham, and Japheth—go out to repopulate the world after the Great Flood.  As the three sons go out to repopulate the world, the three wise men come to their God to acknowledge His humility and greatness.

Eventually, of course, the Wise Men had to return for their native land.  They went back to tell others of their experience.  Telling others of Mary and Joseph’s simplicity, their trials with Herod, the brightness of Jesus’ eyes. 

We too are called to leave the Child Christ.  We are called to tell others of our personal experience with this Child King and invite others to look into his eyes.  Did you have a personal encounter with the Peaceful Babe?  Did you gaze into the eyes of the Child Christ?  Are you brave enough to tell others how your life was changed?

Give the great gift of Christ’s love to all the world!  Merry Christmas! Happy Epiphany!

adoration

A Preacher’s Life – Feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus

Today we celebrate the memorial of the Most Holy Name of Jesus.  This may be of little value to most, but for the friars of St. Dominic’s Priory, this is a very important day. Today is our patronal feast day—we belong to the Dominican Province of the Most Holy Name of Jesus.

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Dominicans are famous for not wanting to talk about ourselves.  But the egomaniac that I am, I would like to share with you who have been serving you since the late 1800s.

Our territory is the largest of the four Dominican Provinces in the country.  Our territory is basically from Salt Lake City to the coastline, and from Mexicali to Alaska.  (In terms of land mass, we reign supreme, primarily because of Alaska.)  We run ten traditional parishes and nine campus ministries.  We also co-founded the Catherine of Siena Institute, an apostolate dedicated to lay empowerment and vocational discernment. On top of that, we own and run the Dominican School of Philosophy &Theology, where we receive our philosophical and theological training.  We have men who are itinerant preachers, who give missions and retreat all over the world.  We have professors in Rome and Switzerland, and have had professors in Washington, DC, the University of Oregon and the University of Virginia.   Our brothers over these last 150 years have been to China, the Leprosarium in Tala, Philippines, Southern Mexico, Guatamala, El Salvador and Calcutta, India.

St.-Dominics-Benicia-exteriorFr Michael’s first pastorate is very important to the Province.  The first foundation of what eventually became the Province of the Most Holy Name arrived in Benicia in 1850.  There, we have our cemetery and our Church, St. Dominic’s, pictured here.

For a closer examination of the history of our province, I refer you to this link.

Though we do not speak of our accomplishments, we are proud that these happenings have been the fruit of our contemplation.  Happy feast day to the Dominican Province of the Most Holy Name of Jesus and to all whom we serve.

 

In His Holy Name, may God continually bless the friars’ work as to empower the work of our parish and all those who call St. Dominic’s their spiritual home.

 

O Lord Jesus Christ, you have said,
“Ask and you shall receive; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you”; mercifully attend to our supplications, and grant us the grace of your most divine love,
that we may love you with all our hearts, and in all our words and actions,
and never cease to praise you.

Make us, O Lord,
to have a perpetual fear and love of your holy name,
for you never fail to govern those whom you solidly establish in your love.
You, who live and reign forever and ever.

Amen.

Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

Mary of Nazareth is the strongest woman I know.

At the awkward age of fourteen, God’s messenger arrives at her home with a marriage 2013-12-09 09.12.23proposal.  She dutifully accepts, not at all sure what she got herself into.  Barely giving herself enough time to say goodbye to her parents (not to mention her fiancé) she leaves for the hill country to tend to Elizabeth.  Months into her pregnancy and showing, she returns.  Imagine the gossip.  Imagine how her pristine reputation now destroyed.  It makes sense that Joseph wanted to divorce her quietly—who would want to walk into such an unsure situation?

I am not verse in Feminist Theology by any means–so if I end up putting my foot in my mouth, I won’t be surprised.  (And if anyone would like to correct me, I’m happy to receive such a correction over coffee–I would rather have it be a coffee appointment so we can talk rather than a blasted email.)  There is a strain that claims that Mary was oppressed by God and her Son, saying that she was put in her place by being forced into domestic roles; that somehow, Mary she is the model of the petite, shy and demure wife who obeys everything that an abusive husband will order.  In my reading of scripture…this makes no sense.

This is the woman who—knowing that she was risking her life—stood at the foot of the cross of her criminal son.  She stayed in the Upper Room surrounded by terrified men who acted like boys.  She was the manifestation of fidelity when the Twelve (understandably) ran away. There is nothing weak about this.  If anything, she was stronger than all the world, and by human standards, slightly crazy.

For her stout-hearted fidelity, her Son assumed her to heaven and sat her right next to Him, crowning her with glory and praise.

indexThis is who we are celebrating today.  This is the first day of a new year, and we are celebrating Our Lady, this strong woman.  We celebrate everything about her on this day.  …it’s somehow fitting.

Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, pray for us!

Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us!

Cause of Our Joy, pray for us!

(originally published in the bulletin for Advent)

A Harry Potter Christmas

So here’s a flattering thought….

A number of people that have asked about my homily on Christmas day.  So instead of emailing it to a ton of people, why not get more hits on the blog?  (I know, it’s all about “I”.)  Besides, it’s still the Octave of Christmas.  So here we go!

I pray that this preaching brings the world closer to the Newborn Savior!

harryPotter_christmasIn the book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry wakes up Christmas morning with all of his Christmas presents at the foot of his bed.  Being that Harry is an orphan and was abused by his aunt and uncle for years, Harry hadn’t even imagined that anyone would think about getting him anything for Christmas.  Yet here he was, with a bundle of packages wrapped with his name on it.  He couldn’t have been anymore surprised.

He got a flute whittled from Hagrid, a box of chocolate frogs from Hermoine, and a fifty pence piece from his aunt and uncle and his famous invisibility cloak.

Happy-Christmas-harry-potter-27830546-500-500One present stands out for me.  The mother of his best friend hand-knitted Harry an emerald green sweater and a box of homemade fudge.  In fact, for the next six years, Harry would receive a hand-knitted something from Mrs. Weasley.  Ron, Ginny and their brothers would all receive sweaters every single Christmas.  For Ron, his sweaters are always maroon, brightly clashing with his red hair.

Harry, Ron, Ginny, all of them, would get sweaters every single year.  Hand-woven sweaters by a mother that truly loves and cares for them, tailor made for their needs.  And on Christmas day, everyone in the family would try on their sweaters and wear them for the Christmas feast.  Every year, the family would get personalized sweaters, and they would wear them on Christmas day.

3_redigerad-1_180445712_largeBut the thing is, the day after Christmas, the sweaters would be put in a drawer and forgotten.  The annual Christmas sweaters would be worn for one day, then put in the back closet, folded up and forgotten, stacked on top of the sweater from the year before, which is stacked on top of the sweater the year before that.  Folded, forgotten, out of sight, out of mind.

These gifts, hand made, time poured and spent for each individual, and the gift is simply squandered, used for a day, and then forgotten, right next to the Christmas lights, the fake tree and the plastic reindeer.

 

Today is Christmas Day.  Today, we remember that the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, the Father’s most precious possession, the Prince of Peace, was given to us as a gift.  Jesus of Nazareth was born to us this day.  We remember that Jesus was born of Mary in Bethlehem.

God’s most perfect gift.  The Son of God, Jesus Christ, was born this day.  He was born, indexgrew up, played with his cousins, spent time with his aunts and uncles, learned how to be a carpenter.  He had friends and family.  He had the entire human experience.  He was hungry, he was happy, he laughed, he was angry, he danced, he sang.  He had the full human experience.  Anything and everything that we experience on an hourly basis, Jesus too experienced.  There was not one emotion, not one experience, that Jesus did not have.  And this man, this God, is a gift….a gift to you.  Today.  Right here.  Right now.

Jesus is given to each of you, each of us, as a gift.  He is sent to us to show us how to be whole, how to be holy.  By his very life, his words and his example, Jesus has shown us how to live, how to be happy, how to flourish in this life.  By his examples and words, he has shown us a way love God, each other, and ourselves, without reservation, without hesitation.  Jesus is a gift.  A gift that teaches us to be whole, how to be holy.

However, it’s one thing to receive a gift.  But it’s completely different from living the gift.  It is one thing to receive a gift, it is another to use the gift throughout our lives.  It’s one thing to wear the Weasley family sweater to make Mrs. Weasley happy on Christmas day, but it is another to wear it on a regular basis, using it, washing it, showing it off, pulling it over our heads when it is cold, taking it out of the drawers when we see it, loving the gift as much as loving the gift-giver.

500wde_Beato-Angelico_NativityIt is one thing to appreciate the gift of Christ in our world. Acknowledge that Jesus has shown us a way to flourish.  To recognize that Jesus wants us to be healed from our issues and faults.  That Jesus wants us to have a life that is worth remembering.

But it is another thing to live the gift we have been given.  To take this gift seriously.  To accept this gift into our lives. To allow Jesus to have a seat at our dining table and our living rooms.  By allowing ourselves to pray.  Allowing ourselves to read the Gospels and ponder the words given to the shepherds.  To pull our rosaries from our kitchen drawers and allow ourselves to remember the mysteries.  To have the courage to come to Church every Sunday.

To not simply be a good person—a person who pays their taxes and baptizes their children and enrolls their kids in little league baseball.  But to be a holy person, a person with people can admire, a person of example, a person in which people look to for advice and mercy.

To look at young children and ponder what it was like for Mary and Joseph to hold the Prince of Peace in their arms.

It is one thing to accept the gift of Jesus.  It is another thing to live this gift in the here and now.

Harry never admitted it, but Ron often gave away his sweaters.  To House-Elves, to whoever.  But for most of us, there will be those presents which we force a smile on our face, thank the giver graciously, and eventually, shove the gift to a bottom drawer into the pit of unwanted gifts.

2013-12-25 16.30.14Will the Child Christ be found in this drawer?  Will this little child, precocious, wise and knowing, be found in the pile of broken Christmas ornaments, plastic reindeer and mechanical Santas?  Or will he be welcome at your Christmas feast?  Will he be present when you wake up tomorrow morning?  Will you take him when you travel back home?  When you go to work? Will he be present when you fight with your spouse, when you disciplining your children?

We have been given a Great and Immortal Gift—the Gift of the Son of God.  May we receive this gift, live this gift and be present to him as he is to us.