Dominican Jubilee

Per usual, there are so many wonderful things happening at my favorite parish in the City by the Bay!

Today, we celebrate the Feast of St Jude, that wonderful patron of the impossible.  We thank you, Fr. Boniface, for being our preacher over these last nine days.  May the Lord continually bless your ministry at St Dominic’s in Eagle Rock and please say hello to the brothers for us.

jubileeop-logo-whiteI hope you know by now that the Order of Preachers is celebrating 800 years of the Gift of Life in 2016.  For eight centuries, Dominic’s sons and daughters have been proclaiming that Christ is Lord.  Being ministers of the Word of God, we have been challenging and encouraging a deeper relationship with the Triune God.

I am so joyful for being part of this endeavor, to be part of once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Master of the Order of Preachers, Fr. Bruno Cadore, OP

Master of the Order of Preachers, Fr. Bruno Cadore, OP

On October 31st, Master Bruno will be here to celebrate the Opening Celebration of the Dominican Order’s 800th Jubilee.  Here, of all places–not in Bologna where St Dominic is buried, not in Calaruega where he was born, not in Paris, one of the centers of our Order, but here in San Francisco, not in Rome, not in Manila, not anywhere else–will the heir of Dominic celebrate a Mass opening this year of joy.

And how will we open this year as a parish?  By deepening and forming our faith–how else would we?  I’m excited about this upcoming conference, happening on Saturday November 7th, the Feast of All Saints of the Order of Preachers.

It is one thing to know and understand our faith.  But it is another thing to put our faith in action.  St Dominic’s Jubilee Conference is all about that, where we focus on “Radiating the Joy of the Gospel in the Heart of the City.”  It is one thing to fall in love with Christ; it is another thing to tell someone about it.

The funny thing about being in love is that you want to tell the entire world that you are in love. Well–how do we tell people of the love we have for Jesus and His Church?  Come and be part of this conference and find out.

Find out more about St Dominic’s Jubilee Conference and all of our upcoming Jubilee events here.

 

Holy Father Dominic pray for us!

 

OFFICIAL JUBILEE PRAYER

God, Father of mercy,
who called your servant Dominic de Guzman
to set out in faith
as an itinerant pilgrim and a preacher of grace,
as we celebrate the Jubilee of the Order
we ask you to pour again into us
the Spirit of the Risen Christ,
that we might faithfully and joyfully proclaim
the Gospel of peace,
through the same Christ our Lord.
Amen

Our Dominican Corner, OCTOBER 25, 2015, THIRTIETH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

As Jesus was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a sizable crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus, sat by the roadside begging. On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.” And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he kept calling out all the more, “Son of David, have pity on me.” Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.” He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus. Jesus said to him in reply, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man replied to him, “Master, I want to see.” Jesus told him, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way. (Mark 10:46-52)

 

HurleyJudeThis weekend St. Mark recounts the healing story of Bartimaeus in order to both edify and instruct. In this powerful narrative, there are three moments that serve as an illustration for us in the dynamics of our relationship with God, in particular our life of prayer. First, despite the long odds of Jesus attending to his pleas and the rebuke of the crowd when he cries out, Bartimaeus is undaunted in pleading for mercy, “Jesus Son of David, have pity on me.” Second, the healing of Bartimaeus is not just about the cure of his blindness, but at a deeper level, it is a moment of communion, as Jesus gives him the gift of his grace. Jesus doesn’t merely say, “Go now and see;” he says, “Go, your faith has saved you.” The miracle of the story goes beyond physical cure to spiritual healing. Third, this healing prompts a response of grateful generosity as Bartimaeus does not simply go his way, but immediately follows Jesus on the way. In the midst of a desperate situation, Bartimaeus boldly implores the Lord and obtains not simply that for which he asks, but receives that for which he really needs. The culminating moment of Bartimaeus’ gratitude reveals the transformative power of Jesus’ healing grace as Bartimaeus is given a fresh start in life.

This week we are in the midst of our St. Jude Novena. Over the years, I have seen Christ’s power and healing at work through the intercession of St. Jude, who is the patron of desperate causes, particularly during these nine days of prayer. Our novena preacher, Fr. Boniface Willard, O.P., has framed his conferences around the Lord’s Prayer in order to bring us back to the basics of what prayer is all about. First, we are called to ask God boldly for our needs. In what would have been a shock to his disciples, Jesus tells them that they ought to call God, Our Father (which in Hebrew is Abba and might be translated using the familiar diminutive “daddy”). This familial language is meant to give us the courage of Bartimaeus to open our hearts fully to Our Father, no matter the desperate nature of the situation or what others may think. Second, when we ask the Lord through St. Jude to respond to our petitions, we recognize that what we will receive may not be exactly what we are expecting. We cannot know the mind of our Creator, and so, like Bartimaeus, we entrust our cares to our loving God knowing that when we ask for what we want, we ought to open our hearts to receive what we need. Finally, we give thanks to God for his grace in our lives as we anticipate the blessings and fruit of our novena journey. Bartimaeus’ swift reaction of gratitude and generosity inspires us in our own response to Christ.

Also as a community, we give thanks this weekend in a special way for the ordination of Fr. Marty Silva, S.J., whose vocation was cultivated as a member of St. Dominic’s Young Adults. This Sunday at 5:30 p.m., the newly ordained Fr. Marty will offer a Mass of Thanksgiving. We welcome Fr. Marty back to St. Dominic’s and rejoice with him as he begins his priestly ministry. May the Lord continue to work his healing through Fr. Marty that he might be a blessing to us and the entire Church!

~ Fr. Michael Hurley, O.P.

“Star Watch”, part 3

On October 7 and 14, we had been reading my latest short story, Star Watch.  When we left off, Alexa Rose, who helps young adults in Hong Kong, was short on housing, and is asking friends for a place to stay for the next few weeks.  We have also made the acquaintance of Alexa Rose’s mother and the church ministers from her home church, who are hardly supportive of her apostolate. Now we return to Star Watch, where we find Alexa Rose in Hong Kong after a successful fellowship meeting.

 

Alexa Rose sat in an empty hall.  She crossed her legs and leaned sideways onto the back of the folding chair, laying her head on her forearms.  More than two hundred seats scattered across the floor, some overturned, all still warm from the end of the meeting.  Someone brought a canister of silly string. After they had prayed for him, they sprayed him for his birthday.  The remnants of the little celebration were stuck to the chair.  Near the front center of the room, a member of the young adults team wound up some wires and continued to put Alexa Rose’s presentation materials away.  His guitar lay atop on his case a few feet away.  He looked tired.  But then, so was she.  Looking up, she saw her friend walk up to her, smiling with drooping, blood-shot eyes.

Elizabeth shook her head.  “That was quite the meeting.”

“All we did was sing some songs and talk about how to apply God’s love on the street,” Alexa Rose said, smiling.

“But did you see what you did?” Elizabeth asked. “You showed them that God loved them.”

Alexa Rose huffed, satisfied.  “It went well, I guess.” She leaned her arms over the back of her seat, leaning her head on her forearms.  She looked at her watch.  I’ve been up for seventeen hours.  She reviewed her day.  Early train to Stanley to meet with some benefactors, then went back to Central to have a meeting with one of the bishops about next year’s programming, then a meeting with a member of her young adults group, then two hours of teaching English—Gosh, did I have breakfast today?  Why am I feeling so lightheaded….oh.  Jordan is not going to like the thought of me not eating….

“Lexi!” Elizabeth exclaimed.  “You really don’t understand your impact, do you…?” She leaned into her friend and moved to shake her arms.

Alexa Rose, “I’m just letting God do his thing—”

Another girl cleared her throat.

“Hello-excuse-me?” she blurted.  She looked Eurasian, with slanted eyes and a pale, pale skin.  She wore a green polo shirt and a pleated skirt.  “Are you Alexa?”

“Alexa Rose, yes,” she smiled, standing up.  She placed a hand on her side.  Wow…didn’t realize how tired I am.  “Is everything okay?”

“Well, yes,” she said, looking at the ground.

Alexa Rose looked at Elizabeth.  After two years of working with each other, they developed a dictionary of looks.  Elizabeth helped clear their equipment.  Alexa Rose took the girl to a corner of the room, sitting down.

The girl didn’t want to look up to Alexa Rose.  Her black eyes fell to the ground, and a small tear welled up in the corner of her eye.  Her pale pink lips looked as though they had wanted to tremble, but were afraid.  She clutched her stomach.

She blurted, “I was baptized as a young girl. My mother converted when I was born.  So when she taught me about the God and the Church, she taught me all of the regulations, but none of what you talk about.”

Alexa Rose felt confused.

She rubbed her nose and sniffed.  “You tell me that God totally cares for me that he wants me to be happy and…and—“

“—flourish,” they said together.

She flushed.  “Yes.  Flourish.  I never heard that before.”  She sat taller in her seat, as though being called on by the teacher.  Yet, her head still bent towards the floor.  She kicked over a piece of silly string, which stuck to her pennyloafers.  “All this time…”

Finally, she looked into Alexa Rose’s eyes.  “I feel that I’ve been missing something all of my life.  Whatever you have, I want it, too.”

Shield c

“Lexi!”

Alexa Rose smiled when she saw her friend outside Saint Joseph’s.  Ever her aching arm—which had been dragging her luggage all day and night—felt lighter and stronger.  Above her, she noticed the stars pierce through the smog and clouds.  Elizabeth wore the same pink shirt with dragons that Alexa Rose liked so much.  They embraced, Elizabeth placing her hand against Alexa Rose’s head.  Alexa Rose sighed, whispering “Thank you.”

“You have a home here, always,” she whispered into her ear.

“We have no home except God,” she responded.

“There too,” Elizabeth smiled, letting her go.  “Come.  I’ve brought Natalie.”

“She’s still here?”

Elizabeth took the roller luggage from Alexa Rose.  “She is waiting.”

 

A few moments later, Alexa Rose sat across from her friends.

They sat in a café two blocks away from Saint Joseph’s.  The main room was large for this part of town, with rough, blackened wooden beams. Coffee colored banners had modern Chinese scribbled onto it.  The host looked tired and bored, waiting for his shift to end.  She looked at her watch.  The place doesn’t close for another five hours. Alexa Rose looked into her tea cup, watching the flowers bloom in front of her eyes as the green fragrance danced towards her face.

Natalie looked tired yet peaceful.  She wore a ring with a crucifix on it and played with it absentmindedly, her hands needing something to do. She cleared her throat.

Alexa Rose looked up. “I’m sorry. Just trying to process the events of today,” she explained.  “With the housing situation—“

“—No, I need to apologize,” Natalie mentioned.  “My cousins—they look at God and religion in a very different way than how you teach.  But….no matter, yes?  You’ll stay at my place until you leave next month.  I don’t have much—“

“—Something to get used to—“ Elizabeth laughed.

“I don’t have much,” Natalie repeated, looking at Elizabeth, “but it’s the very, very, least I can do.”

Alexa Rose smiled, looking at the ground.  She remembered when she first met Natalie, with her schoolgirl clothes. What you have, I want it, too. She responded, “That was not all of my doing.”

Natalie responded, “But you were part of it.  I would like to offer you my bed till you go back home.”

Home. Alexa Rose nodded.  “I am not taking your bed.”

“I will sleep on the couch.  You are taking my bed.  I even bought new sheets for you.”

Alexa Rose didn’t know whether to assent or to argue.  She leaned back against the wall of their booth and nodded, slowly.  She sighed, “Thank you.”

Elizabeth smirked as she glanced at Natalie. “There is something else you need to tell her.”

Alexa Rose popped into a different emotion.  Joy.  She felt her chest swell with nerves.  “I know what this is.”

Elizabeth said, “She received a letter from Mother Victoria.  From the monastery.”

Natalie glared at Elizabeth.  “I wanted to tell her this evening—alone.”  Looking at Alexa Rose, she said, “They have given me a date.  I will enter on October seventh, the feast of the Rosary.”

Elizabeth sighed, leaning her head on her propped up hand.  “My little nun.”

 

Shield c

Jordan and Alexa Rose sat across each other the evening after the meeting with the pastor.  Jordan clutched the sides of his head, staring at the half-eaten tater tots that lay in front of him.  Alexa Rose sipped a glass of lemonade and stared off past the priest and towards her last discussion with Natalie.  What you have, I want it, too.

What do I have?  This crazy notion of working in Hong Kong, basically, for free?  Coming back here to…this?  Why don’t I just stay there?  Here, I don’t know what I am coming home to.   She thought about a story her parents told her.  About a man who wandered the countryside and told people that his father loved them so very much.  And that he never had a place to stay, and was oftentimes run out of town on a regular basis.  Once, the story comforted her.  Today—not so much.

She thought of Jordan, who has been so supportive, trying to get her to speak at some neighboring parishes, at the Catholic club at the university, something.  Why don’t I just read the writing of the wall, get a one-way plane ticket, and just stay? 

“That was awful.”

Alexa Rose looked up, seeing Jordan shake his head between his hands.  His food sat, getting colder and colder.  He hadn’t touched it in almost ten minutes.  She mentioned, “I’ve never seen you this distraught.”

He didn’t respond.

She thought of her sister.  “Did I ever tell you about Christmas two years ago?”

Still, he didn’t respond.

She continued, “Zo was just moving into her duplex. She was so happy, Jordan.  She hadn’t been this happy in ages.  Anyway, this was near the beginning of my ministry in HK.  And my credit card was maxed out again, I just came back for the Christmas holidays, and my sister wanted to show me the new place.

“But I remember looking into the fridge before taking the hour-long drive to see my sister.  After an hour of showing me pictures of the house, she asked me how the ministry was and….  Anyway, one thing led to another, and I asked her to buy me groceries for Christmas.  A month’s worth of groceries.”

Jordan finally looked up.  “What was in the fridge?”

“That didn’t belong to my landlord?  One soda and a thing of moldy cheese.”

The look on Jordan’s face made her smile.  She continued, “I know this sounds crazy, but I’ve been through worse.  Maxing my credit card, whittling through my savings—all for this ministry calling thing.”

“It’s not right that you have to do this on your own.”

“It’s not right for a good man to be whipped, stretched out on planks of wood, and asphyxiated to death.”

Jordan looked past his friend and sighed. Alexa Rose recognized the look on his face.  He would oftentimes have that look after he reads the Gospel at Mass, as though reviewing his preaching in his mind.  Or when he is trying to figure out how to say something.  They sat for a while in silence.

Alexa Rose looked outside, past her friend’s shoulder.  The sun had long since set.  The street lamps shone in a dark yellow grid.  There weren’t many cars outside.  There weren’t many people inside, either.  Above, she noticed the moon was out, but could barely notice the stars. She almost felt alone.

After a while, the priest shook his head.  “Why do you do this?”

She smiled.  It was a bait.  He needed some reassurance, some hope for a better day.  Here is this leader of her Church, needing to be told that it was going to be okay.  “According to the weather today,” she began, “it should be a clear night.  But you wouldn’t know that by looking outside.”

Jordan responded, inquisitive. “Yeah—all of the light pollution.”

She nodded.  “Yeah—all of this artificial light blocking out the stars.”

“Would rather see the stars, myself.”

She said, crossing her arms, “I think most of us would seek out the natural light if given a choice.”

“Still don’t understand where you—“

“I think most of us know that natural light is better for us.  As good as a lightbulb is, I think most of us would choose a clear night sky.”  She sipped her drink.  “Jordan—all of this work in Hong Kong?  I do it because we are meant for the stars.”

 

Shield c

Those with hearts and ears open enough to hear, you may surmise that some of this story is based on real life.  Some facts were intentionally distorted, exaggerated, or minimized for overall thematic communication and dramatic effect.  Thanks for reading.

On October 18th, the Catholic Church celebrated World Mission Sunday.  If you would like to support real life missionaries, or even learn more, you are invited to visit the St. Francis Xavier Lay Missionary Society and the Dominican Mission Foundation.

 

Our Dominican Corner, OCTOBER 18, 2015, TWENTY-NINTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

Jesus summoned the twelve and said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mk 10:42-45

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

credit: KMitchell

We all want to be happy, yet the source of happiness itself can be elusive. As a priest, I find myself in discussions with folks about the true nature of happiness. What I have discovered in conversation is that we instinctively think that happiness is the result of success. Happiness happens when we plan, work hard, and accomplish our goals: “I will be happy when I get a new job.” “I will be happy when I meet the person of my dreams.” “I will be happy when I am recognized for my achievements.” In all such scenarios, happiness is the result of what I get; the effect of future endeavor. And yet, both social science and experience reveal that this thinking is backwards. Happiness is not the result of success, but rather success is rooted in happiness. The reason for this is that the source of happiness is not in what we get, but in how and what we give. Studies reveal that the common ingredients in the recipe of happiness include gratitude for blessings, recognizing our natural talents and gifts, and reaching out to share these with others. Happiness flows from an attitude of joy stemming from how we connect and give to others.

In the Gospel this weekend, Jesus intervenes in the disciples’ heated debate following James and John’s request for positions of honor in the Kingdom of God. Jesus reminds them that, though they have given up pleasure and wealth to follow Him, the goals of honor and recognition still tempt as sources of happiness. In response to the allure of this illusion, Jesus articulates a different vision for healthy living: whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. Service is not merely a duty or responsibility of the disciple, but is the spring of living well. For this reason, Jesus identifies his mission in terms of personal service, “The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Being of service to others is not something Jesus does, but is at the heart of who he is. The joy of Jesus’ saving words and deeds radiates from his servant’s heart.

jubileeop-logo-whiteLike the disciples, we are called to cultivate an attitude of service. As a community of faith, St. Dominic’s is that place from which we are sent to meet the needs around us with the joy in our lives. One way we might rekindle this sense of our mission to joyful service is to join us in as we launch 800 years of Dominican preaching at our Jubilee Conference Day on November 7. The theme of the day will be “Radiating the Joy of the Gospel in the Heart of the City.” The day begins at 9:00 a. m. with hospitality and prayer, followed by the keynote address by Fr. Michael Sweeney, who is the co-founder of the Catherine of Siena Institute, which has enhanced our own parish through such programs as the Called and Gifted workshop and Intentional Disciples. Throughout the day there will be workshops and breakout sessions for all ages, and speakers include Fr Xavier and some of the talent behind the character Joy in the movie, “Inside Out.” Adoration and confessions will be available throughout the day and lunch will be provided. (For this reason, registration for this unique event is required and available in the office or at our website.) The day concludes with a personal Rite of Blessing and Commission before sending folks out to specific service activities. The hope in creating this unique day is to reinvigorate our sense of living and sharing our faith, so that we might happily radiate the joy of the Gospel for all to see.

~ Fr. Michael Hurley, O.P.

“Star Watch”, part 2

We are continuing with one of my newest short stories, Star Watch.  If you would like to read part 1, please see the blog post from October 7, Feast of the Most Holy Rosary. 

Synopsis: Last time, we met Alex Rose on an evening in Hong Kong.  Her housing situation disintegrated, and is walking the streets of Central–a section of Hong Kong–discerning where to stay for the evening.  She remembers meeting her good friend Elizabeth while Alexa Rose was eating lunch at a local dim sum place.   We left off with Alexa Rose speaking with her sister, Zoe who had just bought a new home.  

 

Zoe switched ears for her phone as Alexa Rose woke up the next morning and walked into the kitchen.  They had been speaking well into the night and Zoe offered her sister the guest bed.  She made some bacon and worked on the scrambled eggs while talking on the phone.  Alexa Rose meandered to the pantry and pulled out some tea.

“I don’t see why you can’t allow her to live out her own life,” Zoe said, shaking her head.  She looked at her sister and shrugged.

Alexa Rose understood.  Mother, she thought, giving out a sigh.  Dropping some loose leaf jasmine tea into the cup, she watched the water turn pale green.  She felt a small smile pull as she saw the small flowers open in front of her, and the rummage of tea leaves give off their subtle fragrance.  I don’t want her to cause me a bad day.

“Lexi?”

Alexa Rose’s smile inverted.  Without looking up, she unfurled her hand, feeling a cell phone plop into it.  She brought it to her ear.  “Yes, Mom?”

She felt her mother’s acrid voice before she heard it. “Groceries?  Out of all of the things you ask for Christmas, you ask for groceries?”

Alexa Rose thought of the small room she lived back home.  Her entire life was in that room, books on the history of Hong Kong and China, Bible studies, statues of Saints Francis Xavier and Lorenzo Ruiz, books about the Catholic Faith, DVD series related to her work, not to mention her endless array of tea and tiny, glass animals.  “Yes, groceries.”

“I don’t feel comfortable with this idea.  What does it look like for our family?”

“It looks like reality,” she sighed, forcing herself to speak calmly, “sorry to say.”

“When are you going to stop your work in Hong Kong?  You run your credit card bills, then you come back here and pay them off doing all of these odd jobs, just to leave again—“

“It’s not as if my work is sponsored by anyone,” she said, biting back a tear.  The only support I get is prayer, but–  “I’m here for half of the year—that’s not a way to get a stable flow of resources.”

“You.  Are.  Taking.  Advantage.”

Alexa Rose felt like ice.  She stood straight up.  She saw the look on her sister’s face.  Zoe rushed into her room and closed the door.  Alexa Rose walked out of the house.  She breathed.  She looked over the trees, the clear blue sky, the wispy clouds that reminded her of young children playing in a park.  Breathe in.  Breathe out.  She remembered how free she felt while in Hong Kong, being with Elizabeth and her friends, leading Bible studies and helping others.  She remembered being in a room with two hundred Hong Kongers, all singing praise songs together, all trying to love Jesus and each other better.  Breathe in.  Breathe out.  She remembered the joy she felt, waking up, wondering what kind of adventure she was going to have that day.  This oftentimes brings a smile to her face.  Joy, even.  Breathe in.  Breathe out.  She tried to stay calm.  She tried to relax.  She tried.

Alexa Rose asked, “…of what?”

“Being on welfare and all—you are taking my tax payer money away because you like partying in Hong Kong all day.”

She was proud of herself—usually, she would have hung up by now. “Is that what I do?”

“Who sees the fruits of your labor, huh?” her mother gruffed.  “You need to end this nonsense and find yourself real work.”  Her mother cut the connection.

Alexa Rose sighed, clutching the phone.  “Merry Christmas, mama.”  She looked at the phone’s face.  Zoe’s wallpaper is a picture of the family, all smiling.

She went back into the house and placed the phone, gently, against the footboard of her sister’s door.  Then, she went into her sister’s guestroom, closed the door, and cried.

Shield c

Alexa Rose tried to tell Natalie’s story to the pastor.  Very hard.

Jordan described the office, and the pastor, as “vanilla with personality”.  She did not quite understand what he had meant by that till she was sitting in his office, across from him, next to Jordan.  The walls were coated a yellowish white, with caramel carpet and creamy brown chairs.  The blonde wood desk had dark pencil holders and file organizers on top of it.  The desktop computer was open, occasionally blinking or whirring for attention.  Reams of white and yellow paper towered crookedly at the corners of the desk.  Behind the desk hung his degrees.  One, his Masters of Divinity, and another, his Masters of Arts from a prestigious university.

The priests both had yellow pads on their laps, Jordan with a pen in his ear.  He squirmed.  Alexa Rose had asked him to be at this meeting.

“I barely talk to him myself,” he muttered, “and you want me to, intentionally, be in the same room with him?”

Looking the pastor in the eye, she continued, “As I was saying, Natalie had been baptized, but she never heard that God loved her.  I mean, I was talking about stuff you and Jordan—Father Jordan—talk about all of the time.  A message you preach about every week—you don’t hear this in Hong Kong.”

Her pastor bit the inside of his lip.  He slouched in his chair like a teenage boy, his arms propped up on the arms.  He looked like he were impersonating a spider crab.

Jordan asked, “Alexa Rose, this is really extraordinary work, as I had said to you countless of times.  So how would you like the parish to help?”

Alexa Rose fought back a smile.  She remembered what he had told her yesterday—Just follow my lead…I’m giving you a script, all you have to do is play.  She opened her mouth to speak, but closed them.  She pondered how to phrase her words.

Just as she were about to speak, the pastor said, “So you want money.”  A statement, not a question.

“Um,” Alexa Rose stumbled, “that’s not necessarily the first thing.”  She cleared her throat, buying time.  Jordan looked on, panic in his eyes.  “Of course, we need funding.  But first, we need to tell the community that this is happening—“

“—We have so many ministries, Allison,” he cut in, quietly.  “I mean, you want me to tell the moms’ group or the Knights that they can’t have their second collection or whatever because of one girl’s work on the other side of the world?”

Girl.

“First, I would like us to raise awareness,” she blurted, leaning in.  “These are our brothers and sisters, here.  Yours and mine. Just because you don’t know their faces does not mean you do not know their needs.  How wonderful would it be if the Gospel you preach here every Sunday were said in the middle of—“

“—There isn’t the money.”

“I’m not asking for money. I’m asking for awareness and prayers. Couldn’t we—I—do a talk or have a booth after the Sunday Masses?”

“Accomplishing what?” he torted.  “It’s just another fundraiser.”

She leaned back into her chair.  She felt like knocking something over.  She looked back over her life within the parish.  She remembered a time when she and her father were talking to the previous pastor about college football and college rankings.  The time when she and her best friend at the time played hide and seek in the parish offices.  The time when she and Zoe wrestled near the jungle gym and the old pastor picked them both up and carried them to their mother, asking “I didn’t realize you were raising monkeys!  Can I have one for my niece?”  Her father’s funeral, her and her sister’s Confirmation.  The sending-forth at their Baccalaureate Mass three days before High School graduation.  She slouched her shoulders and looked at the carpet….caramel colored swirls with specks of white and dark brown. “I—I was baptized here, was part of core team for the teens, even served at the Altar for like four years.  And this is….”

Without looking up, she grabbed her purse, and walked out of the office.

Our Dominican’s Corner, Sunday October 11, 2014, Rosary Sunday

mg_0329This weekend, we welcome home Reverend Brother Christopher Brannan, OP, who will preach Rosary Sunday.

There are so many things we can say about the rosary, this beautiful and sacred devotion that we Dominicans cherish.  Acknowledging the upcoming international inauguration of the Jubilee Year of the Order of Preachers (here at St Dominic’s at 10:00am on Saturday, October 31st – all are invited to attend this Mass), let us contemplate how this devotion is related to the spirituality of the Order.

According to legend, during St Dominic’s early days, he had a dream.  The Blessed Mother appeared to him, giving him a suggestion on how to preach against the Albigensian heresy, which Dominic spent his life to preach against.  During their discussion, she handed him the rosary, the string of beads named after Mary’s crown.

The essence of the Albigensian heresy is that all matter, the body, food, the material world, is evil.  The only thing worth saving is the spiritual world, the soul.

If we think about the mysteries of the rosary, this is a perfect counter to the Albigensian way of thinking.  The first Joyful Mystery is the Annunciation, the announcement that the spiritual God will be incarnated into a human body.  The first Luminous is the Baptism of Jesus, where St John pours water over Jesus’ body in order to sanctify and institute this Sacrament of Baptism.  The first Sorrowful Mystery is the Agony in the Garden, when Jesus sweats tears of blood while preparing for his Passion and Death.  Finally, the first Glorious Mystery is the Resurrection of Jesus’ Body to new life.  How could you not see that the body and soul is holy, worthy of saving from Jesus’ point of view?  His entire earthly experience sanctified human action.  By the blueprint of Jesus’ life, he demonstrates that the body—as the soul—is a gift from God the Father, and can and may be an instrument of holiness and light.

dom crucifix 2Dominican spirituality acknowledges the weakness of every human being; despite ourselves, every one of us is redeemed by Christ.  Thus, we do not condemn the world.  Rather, it is wiser to acknowledge our weakness, and pray for an abundance of blessing to make holy those whom he has redeemed.  The blueprint of Jesus’ life shows us how and what we can do through His grace and life.

This is why we Dominicans wear the fifteen-decade rosary on our left hip.  We remember the great dream that Holy Father Dominic received, and also remember that we have this great weapon-of-choice, this sword of prayer, that will grant grace from God through Mary’s intercession.

May we use the grace given to live out the mysteries of the rosary in the here and now!

Lastly, on our blog, Praedicare (blog.stdominics.org) I plan to share my latest short story that I had written whilst away on vacation.  Star Watch tells the tale of a young woman who is trying to live out her faith in a strange and beautiful situation.  Facing adversity and doubt from home and abroad, she is surprised by those who help her, and together, they strive to become the best versions of themselves. The first installment had been published this past Wednesday, October 7. Parts two and three will be published on October 14 and October 21 respectively.

Our Lady of the Rosary, pray for us!
Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!

~Fr. Isaiah Mary Molano, O.P.

“Star Watch”, part 1

photo 2 (2)A few weeks back, I finally had time to write a short story. Joyful for this time, I spent many hours praying and thinking about God’s little gift to me.  And so, I will offer this to you during Month of the Rosary. This will be in three parts (how thomistic!)…so keep tuned. 

Also, please remember that the Dominican Jubilee will kick off at our blessed abode at 10:00am with a Mass celebrated by the Master of the Order, Father Bruno Cadore, O.P.  It’s the once in a lifetime event–you will be remiss to miss it!

 

Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!

 

STAR WATCH

The moon, sleepy and hazy, gazed over the highways of Hong Kong.  A moving parking lot of cars passed by overhead, dotted with the occasional double decker bus.  Concrete, noise and light embraced her like a scratchy shawl. Alexa Rose sat on a bench outside a congee place, listening to a bunch of young dishwashers and busboys, swearing in a mix of Cantonese and English.  She took out her phone and texted a friend, asking if she were home already.

“Maybe there,” she said, dropping her phone into her purse. She crossed her arms, bowing her head in prayer.  Her rested her arm over her large rolling luggage.  Her dismissal from her host’s home was cold, yet cordial.

“To be honest, I never felt comfortable with you staying with us in the first place—your work sounds important, but it doesn’t seem particularly…,” her former host said, her voice drifting.  She opened the main door.  The concrete sidewalk looked icey grey. “Perhaps you can email one of your young adults contacts.”

“Thank you,” Alexa Rose responded, more sheepish than she had intended.  She didn’t look at her former host in the eye, but rather, at the concrete path in front of her, rolling her baggage behind her.  The door closed behind her without a sigh.

Dragging her luggage behind her, she wandered Central, pondering her options.  None of her friends responded to her texts.  Being a workday, she contented herself sitting at a cafe, emailing her friends at home, telling two of them that she was just kicked out of her housing, and boasting to the rest of how happy she was to be back on the island. Meanwhile, she would text friends in Hong Kong, asking for a place to stay for the next few weeks.  Occasionally, she would glance at her large luggage bag.  Her entire life, including three years of working for these young adults for pennies, contained in three cubic feet.

She recalled the last time she and Jordan saw each other.  He had coffee, she a tall glass of tea.  “Now this time,” he begged her, “don’t tell me of your housing situation till it’s too late. I would hate to hear of you on the streets.” The memory let Alexa Rose shake her head.  She looked down at her phone.  Still nothing.

“Heyo,” she heard besides her.

She looked over, finding one of the busboys from the restaurant looking down on her.  Lanky in posture, he held a Styrofoam bowl in one hand, and hung off the doorpost with the other, his foot swinging down towards the concrete.  His hair, black and stringy, fell near his eyebrows and flayed at the ears.  There was a gap between his front teeth.

“Hello,” she responded, “Should I leave?”

He shrugged.  “Only if you want.  I just got this for you.”  He handed her the bowl.

She smiled.  “Oh, thanks,” she said, receiving the bowl.  “Congee?  What kind?”

“Standard stuff,” he responded.  “So yeah, you have somewhere to go tonight?”  He smiled.

She thought to herself, You can fit Montana between those teeth.  “Maybe,” she grinned, opening the bowl.  She sniffed. “Mmm.  Thank you.”

“If you want company, you know,” he shrugged, “I have a guy at Lan Kwai Fong.  Clubbing, drinking…you can spend the night, if you need.”

“Aww, that’d be nice.  Let me check with my friends and see,” she responded.

He smiled at her, going back into the restaurant.

Once he went back inside, she stuck her finger into the bowl and tasted the porridge.  She grimaced and snapped the bowl shut, suspicious at its contents.  She took her luggage and walked away, tossing the congee in the trash.

Shield c

Two years before, she sat across from her twin sister.  Fraternal twins, the only thing they shared in terms of looks was their blonde hair.  But even then, Zoe cut her hair pixie short, and tied it up in stubby pigtails. Meanwhile, her sister sat across from her in a long, parted ponytail, her eyes attentive.

“I just dropped the first few thousand on the duplex.  I mean, I didn’t think I would be a homeowner this quickly, but,” she hid a smile.

Alexa Rose responded, “I’m proud of you—mom must love it.”

She sighed, “Oh she does.  I think mom is lying about how many she told about Zoe being all grown up.”  She paused, drinking her coffee.  “I mean, we’re only twenty-nine, Lexi.”

Alexa Rose shrugged.  “Mom has to boast about one of us, you know.”

Her sister grimaced. “Yeah.”

“It’s a nice Christmas present,” Zoe mentioned, “Telling our mother that escrow went through.”  After a small pause, she continued,     “And you know, whenever you’re done with your work over in HK, you have a place to stay.  Your own room, your own shower.  Heck—I’ll even allow you to cook.”

Alexa Rose frowned.

Her sister shut her eyes tightly and shook her head. “Wow.  That was stupid.  I’m so sorry.”

After a long pause, Alexa Rose looked at her coffee cup and drained it.  “So that Christmas present that I was talking about.”

“Um, yeah,” she responded.  “I’ll happily—joyfully—pay for a month’s worth of groceries for you, of course.”

Shield c

Alexa Rose’s cell phone chimed.  Finally, she thought, flipping it out of her pocket.  Her friend, Elizabeth, texted back, “I can meet you at Saint Joseph’s right now.  Just finished adoration.”  Alexa Rose felt as though a foil of light pierced her heart.  Great!  The first thing that went right today.  Now, which MTR is that?  She answered her, “Walking there now.”

She remembered meeting Elizabeth, nearly three years ago.  Alexa Rose was finishing some research at one of the Universities on Chinese-American trade relationships for her thesis.  Needing a day out in the city, she packed up a novel, her smart phone and her Octopus card and left.  Finding herself near the Midlevel escalators, she walked around till she saw a blue building.

She paused in front of it, hitching up her backpack closer to her body.  A sign with chipping paint read “Dragon Boat Dim Sum” with a cartoony dragon boat painted underneath.  Inside the restaurant, there was a mashed assortment of plastic tables and iron chairs with red seats.  A soccer game played on a giant plasma screen.  A group of Chinese twentysomethings sat near the corner, two of them pouring over a book.  Some older folks read newspapers over cups of hot tea.  After a pause, she glanced at a menu at the entrance, already deciding to go in.  She waved to the guy behind the bar, who pointed to a table.

By the time Alexa Rose sat down, she already knew what she wanted.  When the waiter came by to drop off a boiling pot of tea, she ordered her lunch.  He nodded, his face plastic.  She disappeared into her book.

When some of her bowls had arrived, she put her book away and bowed her head in prayer.  She crossed herself and kissed her necklace crucifix, and quickly dropped food in her mouth.  She chewed slowly, feeling the ground pork and shrimp.  She tilted her head back and forth, comparing it to the shu mai that she had earlier that week.  She shrugged, and moved on.

“Excuse me?” she overheard.

Alexa Rose looked up and saw a woman her age.  She had large almond-shaped eyes and high cheekbones.  Her raven black hair flowed down past her shoulders.  She wore a pastel-pink shirt with sparkly dragons running down the front.  When Alexa Rose looked up at her, she could not help but match the large smile this woman had, feeling a breezy light emanate from her.  Alexa Rose felt like sighing.

Instead, she said, “Hello.  What’s up?”

“Up,” she said, looking at the ceiling.  She smiled, confusion painting across her face.  She looked back at Alexa Rose.  She flushed.

Whoops, Alexa Rose thought to herself, second language.  “May I help you?”

She recovered, looking back at her. “Yes, I hope so.  I saw you praying before you ate…” Her voice faded a little, her eyes resting below Alexa Rose’s chin.  “Are you a Catholic?”

“Why yes,” Alexa Rose responded, “I am.”  She felt the back of her neck prick, remembering a homily Jordan once preached.  If people ask if you are Catholic, he preached, how do we respond?  Do we tuck our crucifixes and scapulars in under our shirt, or do we boldly dress as a soldier of God?  She prepared herself for an insult, or a pointed question—something that would otherwise upset her.

“Well,” the girl flushed, looking at the floor. “Well, we’re Christians, too,” she said, motioning to the table filled with young adults.  “And when I saw you pray, I wondered if you would like to eat with us.  We’re having our Bible Study.”

Please return next Wednesday for the next installment of Star Watch!

Our Dominican Corner, OCTOBER 4, 2015, SOLEMNITY OF HOLY FATHER FRANCIS

Fr. Francisco, OFM Conv.

Fr. Francisco, OFM Conv.

Happy Feast of St Francis! This week, we celebrate the patron and namesake of our beloved city by the bay. As a Dominican parish, we also celebrate the wonderful connection between the Franciscans and ourselves, which is rooted in the many traditional stories about St. Dominic and St. Francis. Perhaps the most legendary encounter took place in Rome around the Great Lateran Council in 1215. Remember that, at the same time Dominic was preaching in France, Francis had sparked a religious revival in Assisi, Italy. Ten years St Dominic’s junior, but already given permission to establish a mendicant Order, St. Francis traveled to Rome for this Lateran Council, where St. Dominic was endeavoring to receive official recognition for his new order of preachers. Because of their proximity at this time, there are stories of the two great reformers meeting each other and exchanging gifts. One story has Dominic giving Francis the traditional Franciscan cord; another has Francis giving Dominic a leather belt. Most accounts agree that Francis and Dominic agreed to support one another and that future generations of their successors would work together in the Lord’s vineyard.

Though there have been examples of “sibling rivalry” between Dominicans and Franciscans over the years, there are two unifying traditions that have come down to us today. The first tradition is the invitation for a member of the other Order to preach on the feast of their Founder. For example, there is a custom for a Dominican to preach in Franciscan churches on the feast of St Francis and vice versa. This year, we are adding a twist to the spirit of this exchange by inviting one of our Franciscan brothers, Fr. Francisco Nahoe, OFM Conv., to come and preach this weekend. Fr. Francisco has been a Friar Minor Conventual for 31 years and a priest for 21 years. An ethnic Polynesian, he was reared in Oregon. Having entered the Franciscan Order in California, he completed his theological studies at the Seraphicum in Rome and returned to the Province after diaconal ordination. Since then, he has worked in Catholic education, campus ministry, formation and parochial ministry. More than a decade ago, he was assigned to the historical Church of Saint Francis, now the National Shrine of Saint Francis of Assisi. At present, he is the mission promoter for the Franciscan mission in Vietnam. When I asked him if he wanted to come and revive this fraternal pulpit exchange, he enthusiastically agreed, “I love the Dominicans!” Welcome, Fr. Francisco!

The second tradition aimed at fraternal bonding is rooted in our missionary corporation. When the Dominicans and Franciscans came to the Americas to establish missions, it was the custom to erect a prominent statue of a saint from the other Order. For example, if you visit any of the California missions established by the Franciscans, you will discover the image or statue of a Dominican saint somewhere inside. Last week, I visited the Mission at Carmel to pray at the grave of the newly canonized Fr. Serra and low and behold, amid a bevy of Franciscan saints, a beautiful painting of the Dominican, St. Rose of Lima decorates the wall of the mission. For our part, see if you can find the statue of St. Francis which adorns our very own St Dominic’s. (Hint: Look left of St. Dominic as you depart!) As we celebrate the feast of our Holy Father Francis, we call down God’s blessing on our city and world as we pray that Peace Prayer often attributed to St. Francis himself:

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, truth;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled, as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born
to eternal life. Amen.

Barely Barley

On the other side of Pope Francis’ visit, I reflected on some of the central themes of his young pontificate.  Caring for the poorest of the poor.  Having that elegant blend of being challenging and gentle when speaking about the most ardent of Catholic teachings.

That said, I had thought of that beautiful, paradigmatic tale of Jesus feeding the 5,000 with a few measly pieces of barley and a couple of tilapia.

tabghaThere is a small, random, detail that caught me this time around: the boy.  I mean, what is the boy doing there, in the first place?  It makes you wonder the circumstances that allowed this boy—and I have always imagined him being 8-years-old—to be on that hill in the first place.

One of his disciples,
Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish;
but what good are these for so many?” 

When thinking and praying about this passage, I am reminded of my father.  More specifically, I remember the viewing, the evening before his funeral Mass.  This was over ten years ago.

It wasn’t a proper Catholic vigil, mind you, but took place at the funeral home.  The place was small and sparse.  Innocuous brown carpet with black border lining.  Warm, wood paneling.  Up near the front stood a plain, dark wood podium, a matching cross, and dad’s casket, his body encased inside.

My mother walked to the casket, seeing my father’s face for the first time in over a week.  Her first glance was met with twisted consternation: “Those glasses—where are those glasses from?  He is not going to like to be buried in those glasses.”

My little second cousins grouped with their parents, as was the entire extended family. Two of them came up to my father’s remains with their Tonka Toy Trucks and Legos in their hands.  Their parents paced behind them, slowly, pensively, uncomfortable in their bodies and in their formalwear.

burning_candles_in_church_209033The children lined up, one by one, to pay respects.  However, after one little child looked at my father’s face, he turned around, and waved his sister over.  After they chatted, shook their heads and jilted and jangled from a few moments, they looked at each other and they nodded their heads most severely. The boy started stamping his foot and the girl hopped on one leg.  Quietly, quickly, they called on their father.  He looked at them, then at me.  I couldn’t help but smile…I mean, they’re children, right?

My cousin, their father, turned to me.  He was a proud father, and this was a family moment. He held a squelched smiled on his face, his arms swaggering, like an athlete ready to beat out his next opponent.

He asked me, “The kids want to give their toys to your dad as a going away present.”

And so they did.

 

Two little children give their favorite toys to their uncle, my father, as a going away present.  A little boy gives his little lunch to Jesus in order to feed 5000 people.  It’s not much, but it means much more than no one could have ever predicted.

Dominican Shield

And that is the thing with our life with Jesus.  We really don’t that much to offer—let’s be honest.  We have been given everything by God our Father, so the only thing that we have, really, is our sinfulness.  Not a great gift.

However, as little, and measly, as this gift is, we are still called to give it.  Like the little boy with the barley loaves, like the little children with their Tonka Trucks and Legos, they give to someone of importance what little that we have.

It challenges me.  Despite my vow of poverty, I find myself with boxes of stuff.  Books, memorabilia, liturgy supplies, boys, icons, books, trinkets, Harry Potter stuff, books.

The only thing, really, that I have is my sinfulness.  Not a great gift to God.

But…nonetheless, it is this little, annoying gift that I am called to offer.  Despite myself, even this is a gift which I am called to offer to my God.

Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!

September 27, 2015, Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Our Dominican Corner

frtim2Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward. Mark 9:41

Pope Francis’ visit to the United States has been a wonderful Catholic moment. From his address to Congress to his presence at the World Meeting of Families, from his homily at Ground Zero to his meeting with the poor in Harlem, the Pope has been a breath of fresh air in communicating the challenging power and exuberant joy of our faith. In a particular local way, the canonization of St. Junípero Serra marked a historic celebration. For the first time in Church history, a saint was canonized on American soil. For the first time, the Church has recognized a saint whose primary ministry took place in California. In his homily announcing St. Junípero’s canonization, Pope Francis articulated the reasons why devotion to St. Junípero is particularly important for us today. St. Junípero’s “work of evangelization reminds us of the first ‘12 Franciscan apostles’ who were pioneers of the Christian faith in Mexico. He ushered in a new springtime of evangelization in those immense territories, extending from Florida to California, which, in the previous 200 years, had been reached by missionaries from Spain. This was long before the pilgrims of the Mayflower reached the North Atlantic coast. There are three key aspects to the life and example of Friar Junípero: his missionary zeal, his Marian devotion and his witness of holiness.”

“First of all, he was a tireless missionary. What made Friar Junípero leave his home and country, his family, university chair and Franciscan community in Mallorca to go to the ends of the earth? Certainly, it was the desire to proclaim the Gospel ad gentes, that heartfelt impulse which seeks to share with those farthest away the gift of encountering Christ: a gift that he had first received and experienced in all its truth and beauty. Like Paul and Barnabas, like the disciples in Antioch and in all of Judea, he was filled with joy and the Holy Spirit in spreading the word of the Lord. Such zeal excites us, it challenges us! These missionary disciples who have encountered Jesus, the Son of God, who have come to know him through his merciful Father, moved by the grace of the Holy Spirit, went out to all the geographical, social and existential peripheries, to bear witness to charity. They challenge us! Sometimes we stop and thoughtfully examine their strengths and, above all, their weaknesses and their shortcomings. But I wonder if today we are able to respond with the same generosity and courage to the call of God, who invites us to leave everything in order to worship him, to follow him, to rediscover him in the face of the poor, to proclaim him to those who have not known Christ and, therefore, have not experienced the embrace of his mercy. Friar Junípero’s witness calls upon us to get involved, personally, in the mission to the whole continent, which finds its roots in Evangelii Gaudium.

“Secondly, Friar Junípero entrusted his missionary activity to the Blessed Virgin Mary. We know that before leaving for California, he wanted to consecrate his life to Our Lady of Guadalupe and to ask her for the grace to open the hearts of the colonizers and indigenous peoples, for the mission he was about to begin. In this prayer we can still see this humble brother kneeling in front of the “Mother of the true God”, the Morenita, who brought her Son to the New World. The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was and has been present in the 21 missions that Friar Junípero founded along the coast of California. Since then, Our Lady of Guadalupe has become, in fact, the Patroness of the whole American continent. You cannot separate her from the hearts of the American people. She represents our shared roots in this land, the shared roots of this continent. Indeed, today’s mission to the continent is entrusted to her, the first, holy missionary disciple, a constant presence and companion, our source of comfort and hope. For she always hears and protects her American children.”

“Thirdly, brothers and sisters, let us contemplate the witness of holiness given by Friar Junípero. He was one of the founding fathers of the United States, a saintly example of the Church’s universality and special patron of the Hispanic people of the country. In this way may all Americans rediscover their own dignity, and unite themselves ever more closely to Christ and his Church.”

(Fr. Tim Conlan, O.P., pictured here serving in Guatemala. As we pray to St. Junípero, may we also pray for the missionaries currently serving God’s people around the world.)