The New, Catholic Evangelization – Catholic Hackathon & Called and Gifted Workshop

The Catholic Evangelization

This is a phrase that I have heard over and over ever since entering the Order.  When most

World Youth Day, Rio

World Youth Day, Rio

people hear the phrase, they get odd pictures in their mind about their fellow parishioners in suits and long dresses with the Baltimore Catechism in their hands and a monstrance or a family statue, going door to door.  Or they get the picture of Sister Mary of the Holy Name-That-Devotion in an overtly-stuffy habit peddling EWTN pamphlets.

However, as I see it, Catholic Evangelization is a very simple thing: inviting another to have an encounter with Jesus Christ.  When Paul preached at the gates of Corinth, or when Peter placed his hand on the shoulder of the begger, or when Jesus’ Mother spoke the last lines she had spoken in the Gospel of John, they all did the same thing—they pointed to Jesus.  They got out of the way and pointed the way to the Son of Man.

On Sept. 3, 2008,Pope Emertis Benedict XVI said, “Christianity is not a new philosophy or new morality. We are Christians only if we encounter Christ… Only in this personal relationship with Christ, only in this encounter with the Risen One do we really become Christians… Therefore, let us pray to the Lord to enlighten us, so that, in our world, he will grant us the encounter with his presence, and thus give us a lively faith, an open heart, and great charity for all, capable of renewing the world.” (Emphasis mine.)

Catholic Evangelization is having the humility and knowledge of Jesus’ gifts that He had given us, and having the compassion to want others to be blessed by the Lord in the very same way. This is the mission of the entire Church, not only for the ordained or the consecrated religious—this is the mission of the entire Body of Christ.

In our parish, we have two events that are imbued with this urgency.  One is the Catholic Hackathon, and the other, the Called & Gifted Workshop.

PastedGraphic-1The Hackathon happens on June 6-7. This Hackathon invites software engineers, technical and creative minds together to form new ways to promote the Catholic faith and Gospel in the digital age.  We brainstorm and network the first night, and spend the next day, developing and building our idea or project.  Registration concludes on May 31st.

called-and-gifted-flyer-1024x675The Called and Gifted Workshop (June 13-14) introduces the idea that, by virtue of our baptism, the Holy Spirit has embues us with particular charism in order to fulfill our mission to bring others into a closer relationship with the Holy Trinity. We will discuss many of the Spirit’s Gifts, and offer examples of how other Christians have succeeded in bringing the Gospel Light to others.

As we head towards the climax of our Easter Season, may we, at St Dominic’s Catholic Church in the City by the Bay, bring about a Pentecost!

Amen?

Prayer for our Military

PRINCE OF PEACE…

credit: hardingstreetcoc.net

credit: hardingstreetcoc.net

we pray for our brothers and sisters who have served in the military. We pray in thanksgiving for their fortitude and their protection.  We pray in thanksgiving for their sacrifice and their service.  Bless them with your love, your healing peace and your life.

May your Father’s providence fall upon them, their families, and all of their works.  May their sacrifice be our inspiration to give of ourselves to our Church and our world.

Through Christ Our Lord.
Amen.

Our Pastor’s (& Deacons’) Corner, May 25, 2014, Sixth Sunday of Easter

On this Sixth Sunday of Easter, we continue to follow the adventure of the early Church. Though persecuted, the apostles boldly preach, teach and heal in the name of Christ causing an explosion of Holy Spirit power which sends tremors of grace throughout the Roman Empire. Last week, we discovered how the apostles were aided in their preaching by the ministry of deacons ordained for service. The rich tradition of diaconal service continues here at St. Dominic’s. In order to better appreciate this wealth of diaconal ministry, last week we heard from Deacons Dan Rosen and Chuck McNeil. This weekend we hear from Deacon Mike and two preparing to be ordained, Jimmy Salcido and Dino Ornido. I hope that these stories have helped you to better appreciate and thank God for the blessings which our deacons are to St. Dominic’s. Keep them in your prayers as they continue bring Christ alive in our parish.
~Fr. Michael Hurley, O.P.

FrMDeaconand_color_cropDeacon Mike Curran: “I have been a member of St. Dominic’s parish for almost 20 years. Prior to my ordination in 2008 I served in the Landings ministry, the Parish Council, as a Mass coordinator and Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist, and assisted my late wife Dianna when she was the director of the parish Renew 2000. During formation I went to class one night a week at the Chancery, and one weekend a month at the seminary. I also served at the homeless shelter at 5th and Bryant, the Ozanam detox center at 8th and Howard, St. Boniface Parish in the Tenderloin for two years, as well as the baptismal class at St. Dominic for a year. Since ordination I taught the monthly baptismal class and the two-night monthly marriage prep class. I have celebrated the sacrament of baptism 275-300 times. I prepared 30-40 couples per year for marriage, preached occasionally, and worked in the Lima Center two days a week. I’ve also presided at weddings and funerals as needed, and counseled couples having difficulty in their marriage. Although I retired because of health issues I still try to help around the parish where I can. And I continue to assist the Dominican Sisters at Rose Court, where I live. From the time I began formation until now it has felt as if being a deacon was “just right” for me. If I had to pick one word to describe my diaconal service to the people of God at St. Dominic’s it would be: JOY!

Jimmy Salcido: “I was born in 1947, in this parish, at Stanford University Hospital, which is now CPMC on Sacramento and Buchanan Sts. I started setting up chairs in the parish hall 55 years ago. I took a hiatus of 40 years and resumed setting up chairs again in 1999. I entered the RCIA class that year with my sponsor, Mike Curran, who was not yet a deacon. Actually, I refer to Mike affectionately as my Godfather. For next three years I was the most blessed person at St. Dominic’s. I couldn’t receive; I could only cross my arms and get blessed. I never missed a Sunday. I probably hold the record for the longest reigning catechumen in the history of St. Dominic’s. Mike got a little grayer in those three years. As a catechumen, in 1999, I started serving as an usher. Back then we referred to it as the Hospitality Ministry. Presently, in addition to ushering, I’m a Mass Coordinator, an Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist, a lector, a member of the outreach commission that oversees participation in the sandwich program, coffee minutes and second spring. I’m also a columbarium guardian. This brings us to why I want to be a deacon. Two years ago two deacons and a Dominican Sister reinforced what I have known since 1999–that I’ve been called to serve. At this point in my life there is nothing I want to do other than serve Jesus Christ, my family and His Church. A deacon is the bridge between the clergy and laity. In the deacon’s liturgical ministry, as in a mirror, the Church sees a reflection of her own diaconal character and is reminded of her mission to serve as Jesus did. This is what I aspire to do. Vatican II says, In a world hungry and thirsty for convincing signs of the compassion and liberating love of God, the deacon sacramentalizes the mission of the Church in his words and deeds, responding to the master’s command of service and providing real-life examples of how to carry it out. I would like to think that I’m doing this now.”

Dino Ornido: “I am 45 years old, and I am the husband of Katharine and father to Michael and Elle. who both just received Confirmation. I have been in both the diaconate formation and St Dominic’s for 2 years. My wife and I are currently involved in the Marriage Preparation ministry. We also serve as Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion and lectors at the Sunday 5:30 mass. (I will soon be trained for the Acolyte ministry.) The reason why I want to be a deacon is I want to embrace more closely all God’s love and beauty I see in our world. I see God in my children’s eyes and in my wife’s kindness. I feel the love of God especially in times of trials and tragedies. I see it because no matter how bad things get, God always gets me through it in a way that humbles me. Being humbled nourishes me; I always feel growth in my heart and soul through God’s grace. God helps me see a love greater than all. His great love is both a mystery and lesson that life is truly a gift from God.”

A Preacher’s Life – Speaking Like a Dominican

When I was taking my screenwriting classes, our professor assigned us to write a dictionary.  “Every group has its own nomenclature,” she said.  Every society has its own slang and version of short-speak.  Dominicans fall into this just as much as anyone else.  So without further ado…

 

FRIAR: from the Latin, fratres, for brothers, the proper name for a male member of the Order.

Fran AngelicoHOLY FATHER DOMINIC: If you don’t know who this guy is, I don’t know what to tell you.  St. Dominic de Guzman, first member and father of the Order of Preachers.  That is why many of us call him “Holy Father” Dominic, relying on his paternal assistance in the Order’s mission for the salvation of souls.

NOVITIATE: St Dominic’s is home to the Novitiate of the Western Dominican Province.  The Novitiate is a year-long program in which a young man learns the basics of the Dominican Order and the Western Province.  (The ins-and-outs of the Novitiate will be elucidated in a later post.)

Novices on their Southern Tour of the Province

Novices on their Southern Tour of the Province

NOVICES: Funny enough, many people say that a person in the novitiate is a novitiate.  No.  The novitiate it the program; a novice is a person in the program.  He is also one of the youngest members of the province, learning from the senior community on how to live the Dominican life.  And sometimes, the habits that they actually learn are helpful….

NOVICE MASTER: Father Anthony is the current (and my) Novice Master.  He is the man who guides the novices through the first year.

OFFICE: most would think that this would be a small cubicle a quarter of the size of a San Franciscan studio, and a lot more sad.  For us, Office is not a place, but a duty.  We gather for prayer as a community a number of times a day.  When we talk about “Office”, this is short of “Divine Office” or the “Liturgy of the Hours.”  This is the prayer of the Church, answering St Paul’s call to pray constantly.  Morning Prayer and Office of Readings commence at 7:15, midday at 12 noon, Evening Prayer at 5:00 and Night prayer at 9:00.  Religious and clerics are obligated to pray the Office daily.

photoPRIORY: what you call a house, we call a priory.  This is the private residence of the friars.

PRIOR: In Big Brother terms, the Prior is the head of house. He is a friar in solemn vows who has been elected by the friars of the house to lead them.  Our current Prior is Fr. Steve (who is also our Vocations Director).

PRIOR PROVINCIAL: So, if the Prior is the head of the local community, the Provincial is the head of all of the communities within the Province.  There are four provinces, or territories, of Dominicans the country.  Basically, the Western Dominican Province is Salt Lake City to the coastline, from the tip of Alaska to the Mexicali.  The Provincial leads the Western Province.

STUDENT BROTHERS: Once you are in simple, temporary vows, but are still in formation, you are considered a Student Brother.  They are not seminarians.  Seminarians are men in formation for a particular diocese.  We aren’t diocesan priests.  A brother of the Order, but a student, learning the ways of the theology, philosophy and the ways of the Order and vocation.  Student Brothers are, more or less, expected to go through two years of philosophy and four years of theology amongst a battery of other things before solemn, final vows and, for those called, Holy Orders.

STUDENT MASTER: The man in charge – he makes sure that the student brothers are attending classes, are getting spiritually ready for ministry, and are being well-formed in the Dominican mode.

ThomasTHOMAS: I remember when I was at Stanford, I said, “Now, according to Thomas—“  and the students were like, “—the apostle?” I was so ashamed of them. (Has anyone taught them anything?!)  St Thomas Aquinas, of course, the Angelic Doctor, the great theologian of the West, a man whose theology must be battled if you ever want to contradict Church Doctrine.  All Dominicans learn from his Summa Theologiae, written as the pinnacle of his prolific academic and holy career.

 

 

Now I know that I am missing some terms.  Being a Dominican myself, in some ways, there is some slang that I don’t even realize is slang.  I mean, afterall, I can always write another post…

 

Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!

Our Pastor’s (and Deacon’s) Corner – May 18, 2014

Our Pastor’s (& Deacons’) Corner

As the number of disciples continued to grow, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. So the Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said, “It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table. Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task, whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” They presented these men to the apostles who prayed and laid hands on them. The word of God continued to spread, and the number of the disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly; even a large group of priests were becoming obedient to the faith. (Acts 6:1-7)

In today’s First Reading, we hear about the ordination of seven men to serve the early Church as “deacons.” In the face of growing factions and the neglect of those on the margins of the early church community, it became clear that there was a need for a diversity of service. And so the order of deacons was established. As its role developed, two main areas of diaconal service emerged: (1) Ministry of Charity and (2) Ministry of Worship. First, the deacon is ordained to be a witness to the Gospel through a life of service. A deacon serves through his person-to-person encounters: he ministers to the poor, the aged, the sick, prisoners. Second, the deacon assists at the Eucharistic Celebration, administers baptisms, witnesses marriages, officiates at wakes and funerals, administers some sacramentals, and presides at prayer services, i.e., communion services and benediction. The deacon has the flexibility to dedicate his special talents under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and through the Church, to contribute to the mission of the Church within his own community.

Here at St. Dominic’s we are fortunate to have the ministry of Deacons Mike Curran (who, though “retired,” still finds his way to serve at 7:30 a.m. Mass on Sunday!), Dan Rosen and Chuck McNeil. Moreover, we have two deacons in formation, Jimmy Salcido and Dino Ornido, who will be ordained in 2017. Over the next two weeks, we will hear what they have to say about this ministry. This week we will hear from Dan and Chuck, next week from Mike, Jimmy and Dino. Enjoy! ~Fr. Michael Hurley, O.P.

 

Deacon Dan Rosen

Deacon Dan Rosen

Deacon Dan Rosen: “I will celebrate my 24th year as a Deacon in June. I became involved at St Dominic’s through Deacon Mike and the Lima Center after I retired from full-time work. I had been involved in working with those who are homeless for more than ten years through the St. Vincent DePaul Society and continue working at the Lima Center. The Art of Dying ministry was just beginning when I arrived and I was intrigued by it. Fr. Emmanuel invited me to help get Art of Dying ministers trained, and we are ready to begin visiting sick and homebound parishioners. I love being a deacon and being with people at important moments in their life journey, especially at baptisms of children, at weddings and at funerals. I also enjoy the challenge of preaching in a way that helps people make sense of God’s presence in their lives.”

 

Deacon Chuck McNeil

Deacon Chuck McNeil

Deacon Chuck McNeil: “I was ordained a permanent Deacon in June, 1999, by Archbishop, now Cardinal, Levada. After my first assignment at Sacred Heart Church, where I was involved in outreach to a residential housing program for people living with AIDS, I was assigned to St. Dominic’s in 2001. St. Dominic’s for me is a place of prayer. I have a great love for the way the Dominican brothers pray and sing the liturgy of the hours.  I am always drawn into prayer by being in the church or participating in the liturgy. Shortly after coming to St. Dominic’s, I organized a team of parishioners who administer to inmates at the county jail. Recruiting, training, and supervising people who had never been in a jail was an amazing experience for me! To see how they have developed their pastoral skills and to share their passionate love for Jesus and for the church is inspiring. Several years ago, after my mother’s death, I began to facilitate the grief support group. Before my mother died, I never knew how important it was for people to have support after death. I’ve seen people who felt that they were hopeless, that they just couldn’t go on. But after seeing people months and years later, healed and supported by each other, truly gives me hope in my own life. This hope is confidence both that healing is possible and assurance that Jesus walks beside us. Being a Deacon has allowed me to minister in the name of the church and to be with people in many different situations. As a deacon I am invited into moments of death, joy, pain, success, suffering and scandal. One thing that the Bishop said to me when I was ordained and he gave me the Book of the Gospel was, “receive the Gospel of Christ whose preacher you now are; teach what you believe and practice what you teach.” These words “practice what you teach” still haunt me. I am inspired by the Dominican motto, “to preach, to praise and to bless.” I have learned from the Dominicans that preaching is more than just standing up in the pulpit: It’s the way you live, the way you pray and the way you listen.”

 

Guest post: Go in peace

Guest Post: Lee Gallery

One day last week at the 5:30pm Mass, just as Fr. Anthony was leading the final sign of
the cross, a disturbed man entered the church and began walking up the aisle, gesturing
wildly and shouting at the top of his voice: “I am the son of God, and you are not doing
this right!”tangere1
 
The congregation watched his progress with some apprehension, and as he approached
the altar, Fr. Anthony calmly continued to end the Mass with the usual “Go in Peace.”
And it seemed as if a great peace really did come upon us.
 
As Fr. Anthony came off the altar and approached the man, quietly asking him to
leave, several men surrounded him and gently led him out of the church. As this was
happening, the congregation simply continued lining up to receive the blessing of the St.
Jude relic, with no outward sign of disturbance.
 
It really was as if the peace of Christ had descended on us all.

Our Pastor’s Corner – May 11, 2014

Jesus said: “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber.  But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as the shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice.  But they will not follow a stranger; they will run away from him, because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.”  Although Jesus used this figure of speech, the Pharisees did not realize what he was trying to tell them. So Jesus said again, “Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate.  Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.  A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” (John 10:1-10)

 

Hurleydog_dominic_finalHappy Mother’s Day!  I once asked a group of elementary school children: “what is the most important gift that your mom ever gave you?”  After a few responses about Christmas and birthday toys, I hinted “You need it every day and it starts with the letter L.”  Immediately, a little boy cried out, “Lunch!”  When my chuckling about the inherent virtues of a well made PB&J subsided, I coaxed: “It begins with L, ends with E and is four letters long.”  A number of voices sang out: “Love.”  I replied: “Yes, love is the greatest gift for sure, but there’s even a more important, more foundational gift that we tend to take for granted. “It begins with L, ends with E, is four letters long and rhymes with WIFE.”  Eager to be lauded, a universal chorus rang out: “Life!”

Mothers give life. They nurture life. They devote their life to lives their children.  In recognition of their role as givers and sustainers of life, we honor all of our mothers both living and deceased.  As one of our children put it: “we love mom, because she is MOM!” On this weekend, when we celebrate mother’s day, we call to mind the prophet Isaiah who speaks of God’s love for us using maternal language: As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you (Is. 66:13).  The instinctual and potent bond that forms between mother and child shapes our understanding of God’s unconditional care for us, especially in times of need.  Just as our mother gives us life, so too, it is God’s love that creates and sustains us.

In the Sunday’s following Easter, we have seen the power of Easter come alive through various gifts of the Resurrection.  Easter is not just a day, but a whole season!  So a river of blessings and virtues flow from Easter into the following Sundays.  On the 2nd Sunday of Easter, we relished the gift of the ocean of God’s forgiveness on Divine Mercy Sunday.  In the wake of the Resurrection, God’s mercy invites us to trust in his loving care.  Last week, Christ appears to the timid, fearful and anxious disciples on the Road to Emmaus and gives them the gift of Eucharist.  Animated by this gift, they are empowered to race back to the place of sorrow and share the good news of the Risen Christ.  Through strength which the Eucharist offers us every time we participate at Mass, we too are inspired to witness to Christ is our lives.

This weekend as a Church we celebrate Good Shepherd Sunday.  Reflecting on the Christ Good shepherd helps us to understand the spiritual significance of mother’s day.   At the heart of this celebration is the gift of life.  In contrast to shepherds who work for money or some other selfish motive, Jesus is a shepherd who is willing to lay down His life for his flock. The tender love and compassion courage of our Good Shepherd gives us confidence that he is with us in wherever we are in life’s journey.  As the Psalmist says: “The Lord is my Shepherd I shall not want… Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff comfort me.” (Ps. 23)  Our sacrificial shepherd is always at our side to guide us.

Life to the church through sacraments.  Prayer for vocations

This gift flows from blessings of Easter.  Flowing from these Easter gifts, this week we have the image of Christ the Good Shepherd.

Silence at Westminster Cathedral

The first part of my trip to London was rough. 

Really.  Very.

I had already told you about my journey to the London Priory.  Heathrow to Belsize Park to the house.  Getting lost and all of that.  I’m still wondering about that one man with the glassy look on his face that looked in my general direction, and once I had the courage to ask him where Upper Park was, he kept looking at me as he had walked away.

Who would have thought that London had its crazies too?

Elizabeth Tower, Houses of Patrliament, Westminster Abbey

Elizabeth Tower, Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey

The second day of the trip, in some ways, was not as good as the first.  After Mass, Morning Prayer and breakfast with the brethren, I packed up my pack and took off. I took a walking tour of Westminster and the West End of London.  The meeting point was the Westminster Tube stop.  In front of us were the Houses of Parliament and the Elizabeth Tower, Big Ben ringing 10:00 am.

The walking tour concluded in Trafalgar Square.  Many things happen here—protests, street performers, the world premiere of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II.  A historic site, indeed.

I had decided to walk back to Westminster and have Evening Prayer at Westminster (Catholic) Cathedral.  It was on the same street as the Abbey, and I had seen the belltower from where I stood.

God decided to make it an interesting walk.  I ran into languages multiple—Mandarin, Tagalog, German, English, French, I think Italian.  (What’s the word for the Polish language?Because I knew I had heard Polish as well!)  The dress of my fellow tourists ranged from Seattle Grunge to French cuffs.  Juxtapose this to historical monuments, chintzy souvenir shops, double decker buses, black taxis and a healthy armada of pubs and restaurants.  I had walked through it all.

Then it started to rain. Then rain, to hail.

imagesAdmittedly not huge hail.

But I was already tired.  Now I was frustrated.  And sleep deprived.

…and annoyed.  Fairly annoyed. Okay, very annoyed.

I write this passage, looking out of my room, overlooking the streets of our city, the beautiful bright blue sky and the drifts of wind, the brisk passing of cars…and remember back to how I was only a few weeks ago.  I was not the same guy.

No.  That afternoon, I was Misery.  The physical manifestation of Misery.

The funny thing is that the Cathedral and Abbey are only a half mile apart.  Twelve minutes of walking. But if you’ve never been there, are sleep deprived, and by the way, it’s hailing…wanting to love God was an honest struggle.

Westminster_Cathedral_-_geograph.org.uk_-_785355Once I made it into the Cathedral, I reverenced the Sacrament, sat down, and prayed.  I had over two hours between then and when Evening Prayer began, and I was planning on staying there all afternoon.  There was no point of going back in the elements.

And so I prayed. And prayed.  I probably fell asleep. I had imitated of the men who sleep in the back pews of St. Dominic’s during the week.  In a sense, I too was homeless in a strange city.

After praying and doing a self-guided tour, I went up to the guard and had confirmed the time of Evening Prayer.

My voice cracked.

Then, it occurred to me—this was the first conversation I had had since Mass at 7:30 that morning.  It was past 4:00 in the afternoon.

Now, some friends have mentioned that this is actually a pretty sad insight.  And perhaps it is.  However, here’s the thing: Those two hours were great for my spiritual well-being.

Exhausted and sleep deprived, lonely and testy.  I hadn’t talked to anyone all day long.  Yet…I wasn’t really alone.  The time of silence forced me to pray.

I was forced to be reliant on the One who called me to this strange city.  I was forced into silence that Facebook or the blog could not noisy-up.  I had no one to talk to except to the One.

silenceThe Lord would rather speak to us in the silence of our hearts.  Though He can speak to us on the BART or Muni, while we are answering emails—He would rather speak to us when we allow ourselves to speak to Him.  He would rather us give Him time, rather and Him forcing us to speak to Him.  It’s easier for Him to speak to us, I think, when we allow ourselves the time and space to allow Him to speak back. Patient is His love for us.

So yes—there were parts of the trip that were lonely.  Tired.  Sad.  Vulnerable.  But it was in these times where I opened myself to the One.  And I say this with shame, because now that I am back in the City by the Bay, I go full steam ahead knowing that I will probably not allow Him to speak to me as He had in London. But perhaps.  Perhaps I have learned my lesson.  Perhaps I will rewrite my daily schedule in order to allow him to speak.  And allow myself to allow Him to speak.

Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!

Our Pastor’s Corner – May 4, 2014

As they approached the village to which they were going, he gave the impression that he was going on farther. But they urged him, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.  And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight. (Luke 24:29-32)

A number of years ago, I was helping to prepare a group of 2nd graders for First Communion.  As part of the presentation, I held up an unconsecrated host and asked, “At Mass, who does this become?”  With one voice, the class responded “Jesus!”  Please with their reply, I opened it up for questions, which mainly focused on the practicalities how to receive communion.  After a few minutes, I fielded a final question from a little girl sitting right up front.  With a puzzled look her face, she pointed to the host asked, “If that’s Jesus, how does He fit in there?”

(Credit: Mitchell)

(Credit: Mitchell)

This weekend we celebrate First Communions.  The mystery of the Eucharist is at the heart of our faith.  As a mystery, the “how” of the Eucharist goes beyond full comprehension.  Thankfully, Jesus says: “Take and eat,” not “take and understand.”  Though we might not fathom its physics, Christ gives us the Eucharist as food for our spiritual journey.  In Gospel, we meet Cleopas and his companion on Road to Emmaus.  In the wake of the crucifixion, they are fleeing from Jerusalem with heavy hearts.  They fear for their lives, they are ashamed that they abandoned their master in his hour of need, and they stew in the dejection of their shattered dreams of Christ as a political liberator.  In the midst of this darkness, they encounter Christ who enters into their conversation and begins to explain the mysteries of salvation.  Though they do not recognize Jesus, when they come to the crossroads, they urge him: “Stay with us.”  This invitation makes all the difference.  Their hearts have begun to heal and in this moment they are hungry for more.  As Christ breaks bread with them, he leaves them the gift of the Eucharist, his sacramental presence to be eaten and shared.  And their response is immediate and decisive.  They jump up and race back to the small, isolated community locked in Upper Room to share their encounter.  The Passover bread that they share is no longer simply bread, but is the substance of Christ himself which unites them both with Christ and with one another.

In the Eucharist, God not only forms us as a people, but transforms us by his grace. Our second reading from Peter tells us that God has redeemed us not with silver and gold but “with the precious blood of Christ.”  Salvation is not a transaction, but transformation.  Heaven is not something that we earn by good actions, but is given from the abundance of God’s life itself.   The great gift of the Eucharist is the gift of God’s life within us.  When we consume Communion, the very life of God transforms us, just as it does the bread.  This bread of angels, the panis angelicus, nourishes us with the life of God’s grace, and there is no moment in which we are closer to heaven than the moment we receive the Eucharist. In this moment, our hearts are nourished by heavenly bread.  Jesus becomes bread so that we might be fed.

gAs we rejoice to witness our children receive communion for the very first time, we are invited to once again treasure the gift of the Eucharist.  Like the disciples traveling the Emmaus road, we also travel the journey of life carrying fear, disappointment, embarrassment and guilt.  Through regular communion, we are given the strength to journey life’s road amid the frustrations and burdens.  Especially for us who are in the habit of receiving communion week after week, we have to guard against complacency and indifference.  A very simple prayer that I often call to mind right after I receive communion is the words of the disciples: “Stay with me, Lord.” As you receive the Eucharist and return to your pew, join me in praying: “Stay with me, Lord.”  As you go about the busyness of the day invite Jesus with the words: “Stay with me, Lord.” As you wake in morning and retire in evening call upon the strength of his presence: “Stay with me, Lord.”  And expect Christ to set your heart afire with his love.

 

-Fr. Michael Hurley, OP

What do you expect?

Within my first days at Stanford, I had discovered something.  Almost universally, every student at Stanford University has a plan.  Graduate in four years, two years for a Masters, a doctorate, perhaps, work in the industry, create something amazing, then boom!  The world is changed forever.

I mean, this is Stanford.  You don’t get in unless you are a hard-core planner, and/or class-one go-getter.  Determination, discipline, the ability to dream big.

The Plan.

So what would happen within the first year of an undergraduate’s life at the university is that they would figure out how difficult Organic Chemistry is?  Or how awful Introduction to Humanities is (which is now a passed-away requirement, apparently).  Or living in a dorm.  The ability to stay awake till 3 in the morning talking about Star Trek or Downton Abbey or a Capella or…something.  Or that, guess what—you’re surrounded by geniuses and most likely, you’re going to get your first “B” in the history of your life.

In short, your plan gets short-circuited.  The outline of your life meets Reality and Reality ain’t playing fair.  You have to change your plan.

And there is a cause of consternation here.  Expectations have been thwarted.  What you had expected is not coming together.  Life is not unfolding the way it was supposed to.

 

at-emmausThis Sunday’s Gospel is the Road to Emmaus.  The disciples in this weekend’s Gospel had expectations.  They had been expecting that the Christ was going to lead an army to overthrow Rome.  Get rid of Herod and get a real Jewish King on the throne.  Teach the Sanhedrin true Orthodoxy and Orthopraxis.  Jesus was supposed to ride the winds and be the physical manifestation of “amazing”.

But nope.

He died.  Badly.  And most likely, everyone sitting around him where going to be next.

 

Funny thing, though.  Jesus did lead an army.  He did get a new King on the throne.  He did teach orthodoxy and orthopraxis.  He did ride the winds.  He is the manifestation of “amazing”.

But not in a way we had expected.

Descent into Hell

Descent into Hell

On the actual Holy Saturday, we traditionally believe that Jesus partook of what we call “The Harrowing of Hell” in which Jesus unlocked the gates of the Netherworld and lead the just into the gates of our Heavenly Homeland.  Hell was unlocked and emptied.  This army of one led a charge to bring down the gates of death.

His Father crowned him with the crown of his father David, making him a true King of the Jews.

He had taught right worship and right practice all his life, and we spend our lives uncovering his words.

He does ride the winds and urges us to rely on the Spirit of God—the rush of Love—in all that we do.

He is the physical manifestation of “amazing”, and we spend our lives watching amazing things happen in our lives…granting that we pray to God to show us His awesome power.

Not in the way we had expected.  But in a way that we will never forget.

 

It is a silly thing to expect God to manifest himself to us in ways we would expect.  I mean, ours is a God of joy.  Ours is a God who loves seeing the looks on our surprised faces.  What do you expect?

 

Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!