Married Couples Group – Wills & Rolls

A few weeks ago, the newly-formed and active Married Couples Group at St. Dominic’s held a Wills & Rolls night. Around a dozen couples gathered at O’Mai Cafe on Clement Street to meet other married Catholic couples, have great Vietnamese food and discuss the future.  Thanks, Yelena, for the write up!

The owners of O’Mai are parishioners of St Dominic’s.  Please support them!  It’s a great place!  

Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!


A few weeks ago, in September, my husband and I, along with some other delightful married and engaged couples attended a fantastic event organized by the St. Dominic’s Married Couples Group – Rolls and Wills: Vietnamese Cooking Class & Wills Lecture.

mcgPart of the new Cooking Class series that the group has been organizing, the event drew in an interesting group of people, giving us a unique opportunity to enjoy ourselves in the company of other like-minded couples, master some useful kitchen skills, and most of all, to deepen in our commitment to our relationships and marriages.

The evening was full of activities tailored specifically for couples to make meaningful connections, laugh, and learn. We mingled, sampled some delicious Vietnamese dishes – tamarind chicken being my favorite, chuckled with other couples as we, at first very clumsily, learned to roll our Vietnamese Spring Rolls, and thought of our lives’ commitments as we listened to the Will Drafting lecture.

As our hosts Peter and Madison spoiled us with delectable food and insightful advice, we grew closer together as couples, sharing our life stories, our love of food and cooking, and our hopes (and fears) for the future. The night drawing to a close, I was sad to leave, but happy to have attended such an enjoyable and meaningful event.

Thinking back to the night, I feel blessed to be part of St. Dominic’s Married Couples Group, to be part of such a dynamic, caring, and devoted group of people, group of friends, truly. While the parish has a wide variety of social units, the Married Couples Group uniquely focuses on organizing entertaining, informative, and interactive events that help couples grow closer together in their relationship and in their faith. So whether you’ve been married for decades or are just thinking about entering into matrimony, by joining the Married Couples Group and participating in their events, I hope that just as my husband and I have, you will find the emotional and spiritual support that you need and seek on your journey of life and of matrimony.


Rest in Peace, Fr. Benedict

10704106_10205094034020303_83894321750422577_nHappy Feast of the Holy Rosary!

I have a quick story to tell. When my class were novices in 2002, we met Fr. Benedict Groeschel, CFR.

He was here for a pair of talks, at the Cathedral and at the Shrine of St. Francis (now reopened).

Fr. Benedict was my first Catholic celebrity that I had ever met.  I remember the ten of us bunched around him after Evening Prayer, two of the more bookish brothers shaking his hand (and his arm) and giving him accolades.  Fr Gregory, who effectively convinced him to stay at the house, was all smiles at his little achievement.

images (1)When he spoke at the Cathedral, he was given thirty minutes to talk about Catholic education in the United States.  There were a few hundred in the room.  For fifteen minutes he praised the hospitality of the Dominicans.  The novices, he said, were young, zealous and vivacious, worthy of the mission of Dominic.

Frankly, it was embarrassing.  He was there to raise funds for Catholic education.  Instead, we got Fr. Benedict giving a vocations commercial in front of a bunch of teachers.

Within minutes after Fr. Benedict’s talk at the Cathedral, he was whisked into a car and sent to SFO for a flight back to NYC.

I remember one thing above all.  When I was told how old he was, I thought that we were going to host a curmudgeon. This crackly old guy with a stiff walk and a cane.  A man who is peddling along with nothing to say.  Hey—I was a novice…not exactly my most glorious moment.

I could have been more wrong.  But not by much.

Sure, the guy slowed down.  But you could tell that he was faster than lightening.  He was quick to pay attention, and often laughed with a raspy smile that made the meal table lighter, fuller, and more joyful.  He did have (what I now recognize) that trademark simplicity of the Francis’ little brothers.  Simple. Humble.  Joyful.  Zealously in love with Jesus.  Wicked Smart.  Always with a smile and a word of encouragement.

I could have been more wrong.  But not by much.

The man made me look at why I had entered in the first place.  Should I be a CFR instead of an OP?  Why am I following in Dominic’s footsteps?  What do I want to be?  Why am I here?

It forced me to look at what I wanted to be by the time I die.  What will people say about me?

Can I be zealously in love with God?  Can I serve his Church with fervent urgency?  Will I be loving, funny, always praising and thanking God?  Or will I be young, stupid and judgmental?

Fr. Benedict, thank you for making me look at what I want to be.

Goodbye, faithful servant of the Poor One of God.

Angelo_Lion_-_St_Dominic_and_St_Francis_-_WGA13061Fr. Benedict, may your sons and daughters be inspired by your zeal, love and life.

Jesus, see this good man into your house.

Perhaps, I’ll see him again one day.  One can only hope.

Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!

Holy Father Francis, pray for us!

Our Dominican Corner, October 5, 2014, Rosary Sunday

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHello. My name is Br. Andy Opsahl, and I am a student brother who has been in Dominican formation for the past three years. Given that I am assigned to St. Dominic’s Parish for a year of fulltime ministry as part of my discernment of a vocation to the Catholic priesthood, Fr. Michael Hurley asked me to introduce myself. I am 34 years old, grew up in the Sacramento region, and was raised in a devoutly Catholic family of five with two younger sisters. I began sensing a call to the priesthood when I was a sophomore in high school, which, frankly, was disconcerting. At the time, I basically viewed God the way I viewed vegetables in a meal. I recognized the health benefits of vegetables, and I wanted them, like I wanted God, on my plate. But as far as my life was concerned, I desired something fattier – more worldly – to be the main course. After earning a B.A. in journalism, I got a job as a reporter with Government Technology magazine based in Sacramento. It was an enjoyable career, but as thoughts of becoming a priest continued to confront me over the years, and as my faith gradually became the center of my life, finally, I was ready to embrace my desire to become a priest. I am happy to report that has not changed.

1609676_623624621020432_741193455_nAt St. Dominic’s I will prepare engaged couples for marriage, teach in the Children’s Liturgy program, and deliver talks to various groups in the parish. Today being Rosary Sunday, an occasion when our novices take up a second collection to support young Dominican friars in formation, the day brings back memories for me of when I was a novice performing that task. It was a humbling time in my life. Just a few months prior I had been a magazine journalist traveling to places like Manhattan and the White House. As a novice, I had become a guy who needed permission to travel to Walgreens. Dominican religious formation is not only about putting young men through graduate-level philosophical and theological training. It is a process of helping us die to ourselves through the Evangelical Counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience, which the Gospels teach are paths to Christian perfection. They are to frame a Dominican’s vowed life, and, as indicated earlier, the life is quite a change for an incoming layman. For example, after entering formation, I wore a religious habit, and, as part of religious poverty, it was no longer appropriate to be concerned with trendy clothes, slick-looking cars, and other elements of material fashion, at least as possessions for myself. Regarding chastity, I felt and continue to feel confident about that vow. However, there still are moments I feel a little stunned when contemplating what a profound sacrifice it will be. For Dominican friars, the vows of poverty and chastity are subsumed under obedience, which is the single vow a Dominican takes. Obedience truly can be an interior battle because it is often veryhumbling, which I discovered as a novice. What I found later, however, was that these Evangelical Counsels made it easier to embrace, with an undivided heart, a life of penance, prayer, and contemplation for the sake of preaching Christ to the world. This is the ultimate purpose of Dominican formation.

Near Anchorage, AK (credit: Molano)

Near Anchorage, AK
(credit: Molano)

My journey has not been without stumbles. I am nowhere near Christian perfection. But, due to the process of religious formation, I am increasingly confident that I will be able to give my life to the Church permanently as a Dominican priest, and that it will be a happy life. Thank you for your generosity on Rosary Sunday, because it is gifts from people like you that enable me to be formed in this way. I promise to do my best to honor your generosity, and I look forward to spending this year with you here at St. Dominic’s Parish.

It’s all in the details

2014-09-10_184635(Editors note: the alternative title of this post is “When blowing all of your cash is a good thing”  Thanks, April.)

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is the most magical place on earth.  Most would say that would be one of the Disney Parks.  Many on staff would roll their eyes.  I have received worst criticism in the past few months.

When parishioners and friends would ask for the one highlight of my vacation, the answer is undeniable: Diagon Alley, the first expansion of the Wizarding World.  In fact, when I had visited, the cast members were boasting that the upper echelons were so pleased with the immediate turnout of the Potter fandom that were already making plans for the second expansion.  Diagon Alley is an amazing experience for any sort of fan of the Boy Who Lived.

The entrance to Diagon Alley to left of King's Cross

The entrance to Diagon Alley to left of King’s Cross

In order to enter Diagon Alley, you need to go bypass King’s Cross.  Next to King’s Cross is an “obscure” alleyway (I put this in quotes because the lighting is poor by Universal Studios standards).  When you bypass the few obstacles, you enter through a “brick wall” and there it is.  Diagon.  Alley.  The first thing you see the Weasleys Wizard Wheezes, complete with a two story tall statue of one of the twins with a top hat.  Then the Carkitt Market in the background with Wiseacres and Scribbulus.  You look left and you see the Leaky Cauldron.  In front of you—Gringotts.  And the dragon.


Why are people so surprised when I tell them that I have Hogwarts robes?

I remember laughing my silly head off my eyes met the fiery beast.  I felt transported, as though I were on the set at Leavesdone Studios.  Actually no. I felt like I was transported to Wizard London.
What spurned me into a flurry of giddiness was the details.  The details.  Oh, the details.  The storefront of Quality Quidditch Supplies had equipment for the Chuddly Canons, as well as the Hogwarts house teams.  The top hat of the statue that dominates the façade of the Weasley store has a rabbit that appears and disappears—as in the movie.  The dragon spews fire.

But even more details.  The cast members would come up to me, saying, “Ravenclaw, aren’t you supposed to be in class?”

“Well,” I skirted, “it’s Divination.”

“Oh,” the cast member responded.  “But still.  Flitwick is not going to like it…”

“I have Defense in an hour,” I respond.

“How are you getting back to the castle?”

“Uh, well,” I stammered.  I wish I had a better response.

But even deeper.  When you make it to Knockturn Alley (yes, you read that) against a dark corridor is a light that is cast on the wall that advertises “Phoenix Firestarters”.  Now, this is not in the book at all, but the artwork and concept is perfectly consistent with Rowling’s world.

2014-09-09_130106Stone bricks for the ground.  Building tall enough to make you feel as though they were going to fall on your head.  The buildings themselves, all crooked and topsy-turvy, all held up by magic – naturally.  Butterbeer and pumpkin juice.  Chocolate frogs and every flavor beans.  Fake storefronts for brewing magic, buying books.  Real stores from the book about buying clothing and pet supplies…all there.  Yes, first on set as though from the Harry Potter movies, but more importantly, an import from the Harry Potter world.  Details upon details.  Well thought out and consistent.

If you have not a drop of knowledge of JK Rowling’s world, you are probably more lost than a medieval farmer in the middle of AT&T.  Sorry about that.

But to be sure…when a person enters Diagon Alley…you substantially enter Harry’s world.


A well-known Catholic of the earlier 20th century once said that “The Church is bigger from the inside.”  (I tried to Google the proper author of said quote, and ended up getting links to why the Catholic Church is not a Church and articles trying to convince me that Kool-aid is healthier than Sprite.)    Yes, most all Christians share in the Nicene Creed.  But how that is interpreted is oftentimes…interesting.

the-forerunners-of-christ-with-saints-and-martyrs-fra-angelicoThe Church truly is bigger from the inside.  For instance, when we say “Catholic”, most outside Catholicism would imagine the Institutional Church—Pope Francis, Cardinal Dolan, Father Michael, Sister Anne, St Peter’s, etc.  However, when we talk about the Catholic Church, we speak of the Roman Church as well as the eastern Churches, like the Greek Catholics and Ukrainian Catholics.  We speak of well-known Catholic laity like Dorothy Day and Lorenzo Ruiz.  When speaking of the priesthood, we dwell into diocesan priests (which most think of) but also into the Dominicans, Franciscans, Benedictines, and all forms of consecrated life.

Or let’s get more into theology and spirituality.  When we speak of Christology, we might think of the Hypostatic Union.  But what of notions that Jesus was fully imbibed with virtue due to his divinity?  Or what about when we talk about the Eucharist and how the Eucharist is the Sacrament of Sacraments, a model and pinnacle of all Sacraments and sacramentals?

church_corner1Or when we enter into St. Dominic’s.  It’s all about the details. How many shields are there? Ever count the number of angels (there are more than 400 of them)?  Did you know that there are two statues of St. Jude?  At least five images of the Mother of God?  Did you know that there is a particular and profound reason why St. Francis of Assisi and St. Dominic welcome you when you enter into the Church?  …did you even notice that they are there?

Details upon details.  Richness of our tradition, faith and God.  The Church is a lot bigger from the inside.

Our tradition likes multiple opinions on a lot of things.  That is why we take so long to decide on any doctrine.  So that everyone, in the past as well as the present, can have a say.  All opinions matter because we are all trying to dwell in the Truth.  We debate and annoy each other in order to get to the bottom of the Mysterious.  Rich is our tradition.  Overflowing with details and nuances in our life of faith.

One of the reasons why I entered the Dominicans is because they were men and women who were committed to dwell deep within the mysteries of God.  They were men and women who sought the face of God through their intellect, diving into the trenches of Mystery to dare God to amaze and astound.  And yes…He is astounding.

For all of the details of Diagon Alley, the Eucharist, God, the Sacraments and trump in detail and richness any day.

Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!

Our Pastor’s Corner, September 28, 2014, Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Last October, Pope Francis surprised many with his announcement calling for an Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on topics related to the family and evangelization. This will only be the third time the bishops have had such an extraordinary gathering, and the first since 1985.  Since the Synod will begin in the Vatican next Sunday October 5, Pope Francis has asked for our prayers this weekend.  In order to familiarize ourselves with the nature and significance of this extraordinary meeting, I have reprinted Pope Francis’ Letter to Families first published on February 2.  May the Holy Spirit guide the work of the Synod and inspire us to live what we profess. ~ Fr. Michael

Dear families,

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWith this letter, I wish, as it were, to come into your homes to speak about an event which will take place at the Vatican this coming October. It is the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which is being convened to discuss the theme of “pastoral challenges to the family in the context of evangelization.” Indeed, in our day the Church is called to proclaim the Gospel by confronting the new and urgent pastoral needs facing the family.

This important meeting will involve all the People of God – bishops, priests, consecrated men and women, and lay faithful of the particular Churches of the entire world – all of whom are actively participating in preparations for the meeting through practical suggestions and the crucial support of prayer. Such support on your part, dear families, is especially significant and more necessary than ever. This Synodal Assembly is dedicated in a special way to you, to your vocation and mission in the Church and in society; to the challenges of marriage, of family life, of the education of children; and the role of the family in the life of the Church. I ask you, therefore, to pray intensely to the Holy Spirit, so that the Spirit may illumine the Synodal Fathers and guide them in their important task. As you know, this Extraordinary Synodal Assembly will be followed a year later by the Ordinary Assembly, which will also have the family as its theme. In that context, there will also be the World Meeting of Families due to take place in Philadelphia in September, 2015. May we all, then, pray together so that through these events the Church will undertake a true journey of discernment and adopt the necessary pastoral means to help families face their present challenges with the light and strength that comes from the Gospel.

VATICAN - POPE-GRENATINESI am writing this letter to you on the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple. The evangelist Luke tells us that the Blessed Mother and Saint Joseph, in keeping with the Law of Moses, took the Baby Jesus to the temple to offer him to the Lord, and that an elderly man and woman, Simeon and Anna, moved by the Holy Spirit, went to meet them and acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah (cf. Lk 2:22-38). Simeon took him in his arms and thanked God that he had finally “seen” salvation. Anna, despite her advanced age, found new vigor and began to speak to everyone about the Baby. It is a beautiful image: two young parents and two elderly people, brought together by Jesus. He is the one who brings together and unites generations! He is the inexhaustible font of that love which overcomes every occasion of self-absorption, solitude, and sadness. In your journey as a family, you share so many beautiful moments: meals, rest, housework, leisure, prayer, trips and pilgrimages, and times of mutual support… Nevertheless, if there is no love then there is no joy, and authentic love comes to us from Jesus. He offers us his word, which illuminates our path; he gives us the Bread of Life which sustains us on our journey.

Dear families, your prayer for the Synod of Bishops will be a precious treasure which enriches the Church. I thank you, and I ask you to pray also for me, so that I may serve the People of God in truth and in love. May the protection of the Blessed Mother and Saint Joseph always accompany all of you and help you to walk united in love and in caring for one another. I willingly invoke on every family the blessing of the Lord. 

Pictured are The Holy Family, with Christ as a youth, portrayed in the Marriage window in the sanctuary above the organ console.

Mysteries and Stereotypes

Not too long ago, a member of my family was in the hospital for a routine surgery.  One of those procedures that many go through, and their lives are the better for it.  Anyway, I was asked to spend a few days with that part of the family.

“So why do I have to go?  Not that close to that part,” I protested.

“You’re the priest,” came the response.

“But it’s summer and it’s hot,” I complained.

“…and so is Hell.”

Anyway, I found myself journeying with this part of the family throughout the medical procedure.  Pre-op, the waiting room, through the recovery phase.  We saw this family member wake up, go back to sleep, everything.

We arrived at the hospital at 5:45 in the morning for an 8:00 procedure.  The morning was crisp and cool, the sky night-dark-blue with a haze of stars.  All was quiet, except for a handful of cars.  We rode to the hospital in a muddled silence, with a splash of tension.

Clovis Community Medical Center

Clovis Community Medical Center

Once we filled out a series of papers, we were brought into the pre-op station.  Nurses and personnel stopped by, asking about the procedure, going through diagnostics and checking legals.  One after another, the support staff and nurses mentioned that a Doctor Nguyen would stop by.  Doctor Nguyen this, Doctor Nguyen that.  We soon learned that he was the anesthesiologist.  Ah, I said to myself, the sleeper guy.

We strayed around the pre-op suite, looking at each other, making small talk, leaning on each other (the little ones fell back asleep), a small Vietnamese man in royal purple scrubs and a sky blue hairnet walked into my family’s station.  His whisper-of-a-mustache, his long, white fingers that reminded me of piano keys, his purposed movements.  He mumbled mostly, except when permitting the family to watch his injections.  Every movement was intentional, no one action put to waste.  Everything he did was for this singular focus of preparing this family member for surgery.

After about five minutes of movements and injections, he nodded to us, confident, and backed away.  Gone.

Doctor Nguyen’s appearance and performance made me think of stereotypes.

Anesthesiology, I have been told, is the trickiest of all of the branches of medicine.  You chemically bring people into a semi-death state, where you purposely slow a person’s breathing and heart rate.  There is always a chance that the person you put under may never awake.

Of course this doctor would be pinpoint focused on all of his actions.  Everything that he did did matter, he has no room for error.  Being a man that deals with the sleeping, of course he would be a slight man, smallish even, with a little voice and appearance.  Yet, he is also intentional, brilliant, a man who is confident in everything that he does.  I could not think of a better, stereotypical, image of an anesthesiologist.  Of course.  Naturally.

Stereotypes are fun.  In writing, they are extremely useful.  You write “A cowboy walks into a bar” and you think of the hat, the clinking spurs, the straw in his mouth and the gun at his side.  You think that he is dirty and unkept.  Most likely a stinkin’ cheatin’ robber witho’ no money and no fam’ly.  You don’t think of a Drew Carey dressed in a pair of holed up jeans and a chewed up A’s baseball cap.

Roman CollarDependent on a person’s background, I would get a lot of people trying to stereotype a priest.  A priest has to be reverent, holy, stiff-upper-lipped. The only things he is interested is in liturgy and praying his rosary.  He has clammy hands and a poor sense of humour.  His hair is just too perfect, his fingernails manicured a little too well. His shoes, black leather, are always shined and buffed.  He always is polite, kind, patient.  Yet simultaneously, socially awkward, off-putting, distant, rarely present to his people (except to the elderly housekeeper and the secretary).  He is charming to his dog, yet he can’t hold a conversation longer than fifteen minutes (because really, who would want to talk about how poor the parish is for longer than ten?).

The beauty of the priesthood is that this stereotype had never existed.  It.  Is.  A. Farce.  There is no such thing as a typical priest, just as there is no such thing as a typical day in the life of a priest.  Yes, we are men called to dispense Sacramental Graces and be with the people of God and be instruments of the Lord’s Love, Life and Light, but how that is done is wonderfully unique, dependent on the man.

PewterKnotOne of my Sacraments Professors aptly stated that the priest is, in a manner of speaking, a hypostatic union. What he meant is this: Just as the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity is fully divine and fully human, in a sense, so is the priest in a very very very limited way.  Jesus uses the full humanity of the priest—his gifts, charisms, talents, instincts, faults, virtues and vices—and allows that to influence how that priest offers his priesthood to the world.  There were twelve Apostles, twelve unique and particular (peculiar?) ways to manifest their priesthood to the world.  Thus, when the heirs of the Apostles called the presbyters, they did so knowing that they were going to manifest their priesthood in ways different from the Twelve.

This is a good thing.  Ours is a God is who is ultimately mysterious.  God is Mystery.  Thus, the more priests we know, or the more ardent Christians we know, the many more facets of the Mystery we encounter.  And through these encounters, we, hopefully, catch that many more glimmers into the trueness of the Living God.

Stereotypes are fun.  They are helpful tools to help us make sense of this crazy, varied world.  They help us make quick judgments in many situations.  Yet, we mustn’t fall into stereotypes all of the time.  The Mystery is wants to reveal something to us, and He guarantees that He will do so non-stereotypical ways.

Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!

The Liturgy of the Hours, part IX – Liturgy of the Hours and the Eucharist

From the Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours:

Pope_Francis_celebrates_Mass_at_the_Basilica_of_St_John_Lateran_on_April_7_2013_Credit_Stephen_Driscoll_CNA_3_CNA_4_8_13“To the different hours of the day the liturgy of the hours extends the praise and thanksgiving, the memorial of the mysteries of salvation, the petitions and the foretaste of heavenly glory that are present in the Eucharistic mystery, ‘the center and high point in the whole life of the Christian community.’

“The liturgy of the hours is in turn an excellent preparation for the celebration of the Eucharist itself, for it inspires and deepens in a fitting way the dispositions necessary for the fruitful celebration of the Eucharist: faith, hope, love, devotion, and the spirit of self-denial.”

Okay, so the Second Vatican Council teaches that the Liturgy of the Eucharist is the “Source and Summit” of our faith.  There is no higher form of praise and prayer than re-presenting, and actively participating in, the Liturgy of the Eucharist.  Remembering and being part of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of the Son of Mary—there is nothing better we can do with our time.

Near Anchorage, AK (credit: Molano)

Near Anchorage, AK
(credit: Molano)

We spend one hour, more or less, on top of the mountain, but what about the rest of our day?

The Liturgies of the Hours and the Eucharist are intimately connected.  They remind us of each other.  They look back at each other.  They refer to each other.

In fact, during the Liturgical Seasons (Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter), oftentimes, there are special psalms and antiphons for the day.  Moreover, the antiphon for the Gospel Canticles (the Benedictus and Magnifcat) are taken from the Gospel of the day.  The short phrase that sets the tone for the Benedictus and Magnificat is further shaded by the Gospel of that day’s Mass.

The saints have always called us to keep Jesus in the forefront of our mind. The Liturgy of the Hours sets this tone by referring to the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the high point of our day, week, and life.  When we step down from the Source and Summit of our faith, we do not necessarily have to leave the mountain.  Rather, when we leave the Source and Summit, we can rely on the Hours to keep our hearts, minds and souls to point us towards the mountaintop, towards the Risen Son.

So ends our series on the Liturgy of the Hours.  This is one of my favorite ways to connect with the Lord. I hope to see you in attendance at the hours one day.

Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!

Our Pastor’s Corner, September 21, 2014, Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

This weekend, Pastor Emeritus Fr. Martin Walsh, O.P., will preach about the current situation for Christians in Iraq. As the director of the Western Dominican Mission Foundation, he is uniquely connected with the work of our Dominican Sisters in the area. In anticipation of Fr. Martin’s preaching, I have included a recent letter from our Dominican Sisters, which brings color to their struggles and hopes under such dire circumstances.

~ Fr Michael

iraqsistersWe often hear the powerful words of Ecclesiastes that remind us of the inevitability of birth and death, that these realities come upon us regardless of whether we are prepared for them or not. No doubt we must accept and embrace them, but rarely, however, do we experience them both on the same day. Yesterday at Mass, though, we did just that.

We celebrated the birth of Our Lady and committed one of our elderly sisters into the hands of God. The sister, whom we buried yesterday, is among the elderly sisters whom we had promised to take to Karakosh after the construction of our general house. Unfortunately, our unforeseen displacement and journey to Ankawa/Erbil was a shock for them, for they were eager to return back to Karakosh. Although they were not able to help out in the camps and centres with the young sisters at Erbil, they were diligently following the news on TV. This doubled their heartache and worry over people’s suffering. So heavy was their burden that three of them passed away within ten days.

Despite the loss and pain our community is experiencing, we rejoice in the reality that our sisters have decisively chosen to live life, never letting despair extinguish the light within them, and in the midst of overwhelming hardship, two sisters renewed their vows yesterday evening and two postulants received the habit, becoming novices.

It was a day where the contradictions of life and death converged; we witnessed simultaneously death and resurrection. This was a sign of hope and God’s presence among us, and it gave us courage to continue our journey with our people who are still displaced, weakened, and impoverished.

We have entered the fifth week of displacement, and people are still living the same misery, which is only worsening, it seems, as our cries are ignored, and the world turns a blind eye to our sufferings. The challenges that threaten our people are now even greater as we face homelessness. The refugees taking shelter in schools are told to leave, as the school year starts soon. They do not know where to go, and there is a shortage of medicine, food, mattresses, blankets, and clothing. The dignity of the people has been utterly stripped away. Most painful of all is that we do not know when this ordeal will end. So far, neither the central government nor the Kurdish forces have made serious actions to reclaim all the Christian towns from the IS.

Also, we would like to inform you that we have started setting up temporary housing for our sisters in the back yard of our convent, but the needs are great. We hope that the work will be completed within two weeks. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers. Your help can make huge difference.

~ Dominican Sisters of Catherine of Siena–Iraq


Father’s been keeping a secret…part two

Ever since this post, many parishioners have been asking for an update regarding the Tuscany Prize.  When is the book going to be released?  When will you do a dramatic reading?  Or my personal favorite, “Can I please have a free, signed copy of the book?”

ancient letter and ink feathI was told early on that I will receive word if I had made the finals mid-August, and the winners will be released around Labor Day.  Well, last week, I received an e-mail from the editors of the Tuscany Prize.  There has been increase of over 40% of entries into the prize, so the main reason that I haven’t heard until a few days ago was because of sheer volume of entries.

Anyhow.  After a well written, elegant email, I was told that I did not make the top ten in my category.  I did not make the finals.

I feel at a little bit of a loss.  Yes, I will undergo my mourning period and sad phase about not making the top ten.  But where do I go from here?

As of this writing, I really don’t know.  (Eventually, I need to contact Tuscany and see if there is any feedback that they would like to warrant.  But that ain’t happenin’ now.) The reason that I’m bummed about this is not only because I didn’t make the top ten, though that, in itself, is a pretty good reason. The reason for my bummyness (I’m pretty sure that I just created a word) is that the book’s essence cuts to the heart of one of things I am most passionate about.

I love being with people in their struggle towards sainthood.  How do we find God while walking in Union Square?  Where is God in BART accidents?  Who am I?  What am I doing with my life?  How do I pray?  How do I discern my vocation?

Wandering in the Moonlight is about a young guy who has these questions, and is about his beloved girlfriend as she is trying to piece her life back together.  Existential God questions, as I like to say.  All of my thoughts, insights, and theology about these kinds of questions have been poured into this work.  I was blessed over a year ago with a a substantial amount of time to systematize these thoughts into a fictional form.

Further, writing the work was a profound spiritual exercise for me, experiencing my own faults and gifts, and my God, in the process of writing.  I thank God for His gift of Wandering in the Moonlight to me.  The only reason Praedicare exists is because I had rediscovered his gift of writing.

bow in prayer 2I need to remind myself, daily, to be thankful.  I am thankful that I didn’t get my cowardice get in the way.  I was brave enough to complete the manuscript, get Provincial permission to publish, re-title the novel, pay my shekels and submit the script for consideration.  I screwed up the courage to present the opening scene at Coffeehouse.  Over the past three weeks, I found myself in the Friar’s Chapel praying for a spirit of detachment and praying that the Lord’s will be done with my manuscript.  I need to see this as a victory in itself.

Now I have to find someone crazy enough to call himself or herself my publisher….

Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!

The Liturgy of the Hours, part VIII – Progressive Solemnity

When I was in hospital ministry, there was a Catholic seminarian on my team, and another woman who was studying to be a Lutheran pastor.  The seminarian and I were debating over whether or not a particular saint was celebrated as an optional or an obligatory memorial.  Our Protestant friend looked at us, rolled her eyes, and continued to eat her cupcake.

"Saints in Paradise," Fra Angelico. Progressive Solemnity is a concept in which we try to celebrate certain saints and blesseds within our tradition in an ordered manner.  Simply, there are people in our Church’s life that are more important than others.  The Mother of God is more important than, say, Sts Perpetua and Felicity.  So within our Church history, we try to honor saints accordingly, keeping in mind history, culture and context.

So here are the categories, from highest to lowest:

Resurrection of Our Lord by Fra Angelico.  Easter is a Solemnity

Resurrection of Our Lord by Fra Angelico. Easter is a Solemnity

Solemnity – The highest of feasts.  Most solemnities begin their celebration the evening before (at sundown—in honor to our Jewish roots).  Two Solemnities, Easter and Christmas, are eight days long.  (This, consequently, is why we have a Sunday Vigil Mass on Saturday evening—we begin our celebration of the Rising of the Son of God at the first sundown.)  In terms of the Divine Office, we celebrate a Solemnity with a first Vespers on the evening before.  On the day itself, a proper antiphon for the invitatory rite, the Office of Readings have particular psalms—sometimes selected proper for the day—proper readings that commemorate the saint and his or her life, a Te Deum, the Sunday I psalms from Morning Prayer, and perhaps proper psalms and antiphons on Evening Prayer.  Night prayer looks like a Sunday on both days, where are we asked to chant the psalms of Sunday.

We celebrate the Feast of St Thomas Aquinas in January.  Image by Fra Angelico

We celebrate the Feast of St Thomas Aquinas in January. Image by Fra Angelico

Feast – We begin our celebration with the Office of Readings of the day.  There are sometimes proper psalms and antiphons on the day that are predetermined, with Office of Reading concluding with the Te Deum.  Then for Lauds, Sunday I psalms with proper antiphons and special intercessions and blessings.  For Evening Prayer, there are oftentimes psalms chanted for the feast, with special antiphons, along with a proper blessing.

Obligatory Memorial – Sometimes a proper invitatory antiphon.  Almost always a special reading from the saint of the day in the Office of Readings. And almost always a proper closing prayer.

Optional Memorial – Rarely a proper invitatory antiphon.  Oftentimes a special reading from the saint of the day in the Office of Readings.  And almost always a proper closing prayer.  And this presumes that you celebrate the day in the first place.

Commemoration – You rarely see these because they occur are times of the year in which it is inappropriate to focus on anything other than the Sacred Mysteries.  Like, in Lent, all memorials minus Annunciation, St Joseph and, for our Archdiocese, St Patrick, are suppressed.  In other words, you don’t celebrate them.  (Two of my favorite saints are never celebrated because their feast day is in early March, which is always in Lent.)  So this is what happens: If there are readings provided, you read them after the closing prayer of Office of Readings.  So they are, technically, not even part of the day.

headache How’s that headache?

After you take your Advil, please stop by and partake of the Hours.  And just in case you haven’t seen the schedule, it’s right here.

Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!