Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A joyful journey: Advent day by day

Tuesday: "Answering the call"

The brothers Andrew and Simon had no idea their lives would change drastically when they cast their nets into the sea one fine day. Then along came Jesus with his “Follow me.” That was the first day of their new lives as fishers of people who would say yes to the Gospel.

How will you follow Jesus by making your faith life a priority during Advent?

(Reference: Romans10:9-18; Matthew 4:18-22)

— American Catholic

Monday, November 29, 2010

A joyful journey: Advent day by day

Monday: "Believers without boundaries"

Isn’t it wonderful that the prayer we all offer before receiving the body and blood of Christ comes from a so-called pagan?

In his humility, the Roman centurion insists that Jesus can cure his servant without even traveling to his bedside. This man’s faith amazes Jesus and frees him to fulfill it.

How has your faith been enriched by others from outside the Church?

(Reference: Isaiah 4:2-6; Matthew 8:5-11)

— American Catholic

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A joyful journey: Advent day by day

First Week of Advent: "Wake from sleep"

Daily life lulls us into forgetting what we are here for and where we are heading. Advent rouses us with a robust “Be prepared.” We do not know the time of Christ’s coming, at the end of the world or the close of our earthly lives. When he comes, will he find us using swords or plowshares?

Name one way you will keep watch over your use of any wounding language that blames or belittles others.
— American Catholic

From the Back Pew: Reaching out through remodeling

By Michael J. Arvizu

Anytime a parish or church begins the process of remodeling its facilities, it piques my interest.

What will the architect come up with? What will the new facilities look like? And most importantly, how will these new buildings help the church or parish spread its message across its community?

It has always been the norm, at least to me, to consider church buildings as an extension of a church's overall mission. The buildings themselves don't make up the church. The people inside them do.

Consider St. Finbar's Catholic Church in Burbank, where this Thanksgiving, the church will open up its new kitchen facilities for the first time for the parish's annual Thanksgiving dinner, set for noon to 3 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, where roughly 300 meals are expected to be served.

According to St. Finbar Deacon Frank Kolbash, the kitchen resides in the church's new community center, which was dedicated in June. The community center was built after the old parish hall was torn down. The old parish hall was the first church when the parish was founded in the 1938, said Kolbash.

The new community center is part of what Kolbash calls the "revitalization" of the parish. According to its website, St. Finbar is remodeling its facilities in a project dubbed The Keystone Plan (named after the church's cross-street, Keystone Street). The Keystone Plan is said to be the largest construction project at the church in 60 years.

Sure, the project will see the rise of shiny new buildings, no doubt increasing the church's property values. So why is building buildings important? Why is the Keystone Project relevant to St. Finbar now?

Well, for one thing, the parish hopes to bring in new people, which Kolbash says St. Finbar's is seeing more of in its weekly Masses. These new people include Catholics who have left the church and are looking to return, he said. The facilities that will open at St. Finbar, including a new youth center at its former convent across the street and a daycare or classroom facility next door, will help the church reach out to these individuals.

"The thing that we are trying to instill on everyone is that it's more than just going to Mass on Sunday," said Kolbash. "It's a seven-day-a-week job. That's part of this revitalization. It's to get people to know that when they leave Mass on Sunday, we are sending them out to spread the message of God."

Of course, money is always the issue when it comes to projects like this, so the church has entered into a state of prayer and meditation such that the work — projected to cost upward of $2.5 million, with some help from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles — is completed (with guidance from St. Paul, wrote St. Finbar Pastor Rev. Albert Bahhuth in 2009 on the parish website).

Nella Ebli, 92, has been a parishioner of St. Finbar's since 1955. In those days, space was limited, she said. On one end, you had the kitchen, on the other, the parish hall.

"I used to belong to the ICF [Italian Catholic Federation]," Ebli said. "We had big dinners there and big crowds there."

Those big crowds, she said, is something she still sees at the church to this day. She hopes that people will be attracted to the new facilities and the services they offer free of charge, such as Thursday's Thanksgiving dinner.

"I think it's wonderful," said Ebli. "We have a beautiful church."

MICHAEL J. ARVIZU writes for the La Cañada Valley Sun. Reach him at (818) 637-3263 or e-mail michael.arvizu@latimes.com.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Sunday readings

This Sunday's readings come from the book of Isaiah, Psalm 122, Romans and the Gospel according to Matthew.

As of this Sunday, we are in Cycle A of the Sunday readings and Weekday Year I for the daily readings.


When have you realized you were unprepared for Christ's appearance in your life? This Advent, how can you strengthen your faith to respond to needs that come before you?


"Stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come" (Matthew 24:42).

— Courtesy Catholic News Service

Hopeful expectation

Our liturgical year begins with the season of Advent — a time of hopeful expectation of the coming of the Lord.

On the First Sunday of Advent we look forward to the end of time when we will awaken to the dawn of Christ’s new day. Today we hear Isaiah speak of a day when God’s power will have brought universal peace and God’s Word will have instructed all people, radiating God’s “light” (teachings) into all of human society.

Only when humanity walks “in the light of the LORD” (Isaiah 2:5), when all people desire to be instructed “in [God’s] ways” (Isaiah 2:3), will the world be set aright and our deepest longings fulfilled.

The reading from Romans calls us to “awake from sleep” for this final “day is at hand” (Romans 13:11, 12). Together this Sunday’s scriptures proclaim our Christian faith that Jesus is the One who will finally come to fulfill God’s plan of salvation.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

From the Back Pew: Their power is faith

By Michael J. Arvizu

This past Sunday, more than 350 worshipers gathered at Jesus Sacred Heart Antiochene Syriac Catholic Church in North Hollywood to memorialize the 58 people who were killed Oct. 31 during a siege of Baghdad's Sayidat al-Nejat (Our Lady of Salvation), a Syriac Catholic church.

According to news reports, the siege lasted several hours and has been linked to Al Qaeda gunmen. And after all was said and done, 58 people were dead, including two priests, 17 security officers and five gunmen.

Syriac Catholic Noel Habash of Burbank lost four family members in the attack. They were the nephews of his father-in-law.

I tried to imagine for a moment what it would be like if those had been my relatives who were killed, if those had been my relatives who were rescued by police.

With anger and frustration in his voice, Habash says of his family's turmoil, "Of course you're going to get mad; of course you're going to get nervous."

Now imagine for a moment that this happened in some far-off country where you were powerless to do anything. And imagine for a moment that you had relatives living in one of the most violent cities in the world.

Habash does. He has a brother and sister, each with their own big families, he said, and aunts and uncles, living in Baghdad.

"What kind of thought are you going to have?" he asked. "How are you going to hold up yourself and think normally? Every day you will keep thinking. Every day you will keep praying. Every day you will be angry. You need to see your own family live in peace."

When he s

aid that last sentence, I thought to myself, this is not unlike what the people in Ciudad Juarez are going through every day, with almost daily murders, kidnappings and unexplained disappearances. I have relatives who say they, too, fear for their lives at times, never seeming to know where the next bullet is going to come from.

I echo your sentiments, sir. I need my family to live in peace, too.

Habash believes what is happening in Iraq is nothing short of genocide, not unlike what Armenians and Jews went through. And he now has had a taste of what those families went through, he said. "Where is the government? Where is the United Nations? Where is the American government? Where is the European government?" Habash asks, his voice cracking with anger.

Yes, Habash's voice is full of anger and frustration over the attacks — anger that the attacks took place, and frustration over what he believes is the Iraq government's — which he says is composed of a bunch of gangs just sitting there, doing nothing — inability to suppress attacks that have killed not only Christians, but Muslims and people of other faiths. But on top of all that, Habash feels powerless, he said, with notable sadness in his voice.

"The government is very weak, and I don't think they're doing anything," said Sata Nasi of Glendale, a Syriac Catholic.

He turns to his faith, however: "Jesus Christ taught us to forgive people even if they insult you or attack you. That's the teaching," Nasi said. "We just pray to God for the rest of the people in Iraq, like Christians, so that they won't be harmed."

Nasi grew up and attended services at that church in Baghdad and had a house directly across from it.

"Everybody was mad, upset," said Nasi, who feels anger, he said, at the attackers that targeted a group of peaceful people. "They did not do any harm to any people. The Christian people in general, they are not fighters. We don't have a militia. We don't have weapons to fight or anything like that. It's targeted only because of the mentality of these attackers."

The only power he has, Habash said, is his faith in Jesus.

"We have no power of weapon. We have no power of gun. We have no power of violence," Habash said. "We have only one power. It's simple. People think of it as a stupid, idiot thought, but I would think that the huge power that we have is thinking, praying, and faith in Jesus."

MICHAEL J. ARVIZU is a reporter for the La Cañada Valley Sun. Reach him at (818) 637-3263 or e-mail michael.arvizu@latimes.com.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Advent 2010 Message:
A new beginning — and a time of preparation and renewal

By Cardinal Roger Mahony

The Preface for Mass for the First Sunday of Advent helps us focus upon the deep meaning of our Advent journey: "When Jesus humbled himself to come among us as a man, he fulfilled the plan you formed long ago and opened for us the way to salvation. Now we watch for the day, hoping that the salvation promised us will be ours when Christ our Lord will come again in his glory."

Advent is rightfully called a "new beginning" since God's plan of salvation in our lives is given new clarity and strength through these four weeks of preparing for the Birth of our Messiah, Jesus Christ.

But Advent 2010 has added importance since we now begin a year-long preparation for the introduction of a new English translation of the Roman Missal which we use at Mass. The new translation from Latin to English is more accurate and theologically correct than the former translations. This third edition of the Roman Missal in English will be used starting with the first Sunday of Advent 2011.

I recall being ordained a priest in 1962 in the midst of the Second Vatican Council. One of the Council initiatives was to make the celebration of the church's sacraments and liturgies available in the language of the local people. When the first full English translation of the Roman missal was published in 1973 — and revised in 1985 — there was no preparation of any kind for the celebrating priests of our liturgies nor of you, God's people. As soon as the English missals arrived, we just started using them.

This time, we are hopeful that far more thorough preparation and catechesis will result in a broader understanding of the newer translation by all of us.

Priests, deacons, religious, various ministers, choirs and all of the Catholics of our archdiocese will be given special sessions to prepare to celebrate the Mass in English according to the new translation. The new translation has many word changes because this translation is more fully faithful to the original Latin text.

Preparing ourselves for new wording and new responses at Mass is only part of the "new beginning" which we will celebrate as Advent 2011 begins next year. I am hopeful that these months of catechesis will help us renew our understanding of the Eucharist in our lives as Catholics. As Catholics, we are singularly a "Eucharistic Church." Our celebration of the Eucharist from the earliest days of the apostles, and down through history, distinguishes us from all other churches who call themselves Christian.

The Eucharist is one of God's greatest gifts to us in and through his Son, Jesus Christ. Recall the two men journeying to Emmaus on that first Easter Sunday afternoon who encountered the risen Jesus without knowing it was him, and then their eyes were opened as he sat at table with them and "broke the bread" for them — then vanishing from their sight.

We must recall that in the consecrated bread and wine, we truly receive Jesus Christ, body and blood, soul and divinity. The bread and wine are totally changed from the appearances of bread and wine into the very body and blood of our risen savior, Jesus Christ.

As Catholics, our faith in the total transformation of the bread and wine distinguishes us from many other Christian churches. We do not believe that the bread and wine simply serve as "reminders" or "symbols" of the Last Supper. Rather, we believe that the bread and wine are changed substantially into Christ's body and blood — usually referred to with the term "transubstantiation."

The Advent season we begin this year will be a time of preparation and renewal of our love for the Eucharist. The changes in wording and translation are only secondary to the great mystery of our faith — receiving the sacred body and blood of Jesus Christ!

Cardinal Roger Mahony is archbishop of Los Angeles. He blogs at http://cardinalrogermahonyblogsla.blogspot.com/.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Listen to the Sunday Readings

The Sunday readings for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

First Reading (Malachi 3:19-20a): There will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays.

Second Reading (2 Thessalonians 3:7-12): Paul speaks of his hard work among the Thessalonians.

Gospel (Luke 21: 5-19): Jesus foretells the destruction of Jerusalem, the persectuton of his followers. But their perseverance will be their salvation.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Sunday readings

This Sunday's readings come from the book of Malachi, Psalm 98, 2 Thessalonians and the Gospel according to Luke.

When disasters and unrest occur in the world, how do you usually respond to these reports? How do you engage in the daily practice of ... peace and justice?

"By your perseverance you will secure your lives" (Luke 21:19).

— Courtesy Catholic News Service

From the Back Pew: Homies and acts of kindness

By Michael J. Arvizu

I first met Father Greg Boyle three years ago when he came to speak to the young-adult ministry I was involved in at the time. We were thrilled and honored to have someone who has made a difference in thousands of lives take time out of his busy schedule to come speak to us about his two decades of work with gang members.

Father Boyle is known around the country for his work with some of Los Angeles’ fiercest gang members. His flagship company, Homeboy Industries, based in downtown Los Angeles, is a staple in the community and serves as a beacon of hope for young men and women looking to turn their lives around. What awed us the most was that the men and women he worked with were no younger than we were — mostly in their 20s and early 30s.

On Sunday, Boyle spoke at St. Bede’s Catholic Church in La Cañada. The talk was hosted by St. Bede’s and the Alumnae Association and Parents’ Guild of Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy. Earlier in the day, Boyle had been in San Diego giving a similar talk. He was also there to promote and sign his new book, “Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion,” a book chronicling 20 years working with gang members.

Boyle maintains a steady pitch in his voice when he speaks. He is never too loud or too soft. However, when speaking about the difficulties, or even the deaths, of some of his gang members, his voice deepens such that it seems as if he is almost groaning. And the pain of his loss is evident.

Then he picks up again and continues with another story. Perhaps he’ll tell you of the time he and three of his gang members, or homies, were invited to the White House.

“Surely crooks have been in this house before,” Boyle says of their visit. “But I think this is the first time gang members have been inside the White House.”

Funny, yes. But one homie almost didn’t make the trip because his probation officer wouldn’t give him clearance to leave the state. It’s almost as if, Boyle said, they were telling the parolee, “Who are you to think that you deserve the honor of visiting the White House?”

Or he’ll tell you the story of a former crack dealer, “Bandit,” who arrived at Homeboy Industries 15 years ago and today is married, has three kids, owns a home and recently saw a daughter off to college.

“¿Sabes que?” — “you know what?” — Bandit paused to say to Boyle, “I’m proud of myself. They used to call me a bueno para nada — a good for nothing.”

Then there’s the story of “Chico,” a skinny, 17-year-old kid with floppy ears with a single tattoo on his neck, who called Boyle one day out of the blue seeking employment. Chico got a job and found that earning a paycheck was the best thing that had ever happened to him. He and Boyle would spend their time having conversations about God, with Chico asking questions like, “Is God pissed at us?” and “Does God listen to us?”

Four months later, Chico was shot in the neck while standing on the street with his friends and died a week later, one of 169 young people Boyle has buried.

Boyle explains the essence of a homie story.

“It’s a story about the self being made to feel too small from having been bombarded with messages of shame and disgrace,” Boyle says. “How is that not our job description, as Christians, to reach right in there and to tell the truth all over again and to return people to themselves because of our kindness?”

MICHAEL J. ARVIZU writes for the La Cañada Valley Sun. Reach him at (818) 637-3263 or e-mail michael.arvizu@latimes.com.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Society of St. Vincent de Paul Thanksgiving

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s program to assist low income families enjoy Thanksgiving Day will be accepting applications at the church office on from noon until 6 p.m. today and 9 a.m. to noon Saturday.

All applicants need to bring some form of personal identification with them.

For more information, call the church office at (323) 255-6142.

Monday, November 8, 2010

From the Back Pew: The leadership competition

By Michael J. Arvizu

I've been quite amused by the News-Press and Burbank Leader sports departments the last couple of weeks, as all eyes were locked on our little newsroom television as it showed images of various baseball competitions played to determine who would be the next World Series champion.

Had you been sitting in my office seat, you would have been witness to some very intense arguments about who should win and why, in addition to arguments about who most deserved to clinch the title next year, what the odds are of that happening, and why.

The World Series competition got me to thinking about competition within the church — that is, the discussion that surrounds who will clinch the next papacy, cardinalate, monsignorship or pastoral assignment.
The papal election, of course, is the mother of all competitions, in my book, and the biggest example of promotion from within. For this election, the College of Cardinals will choose from within its ranks, in conclave, the next pope when Benedict XVI dies. Since the days of Michelangelo, each cardinal's choice has been a tightly held secret, known only to the cardinals and punishable by excommunication if revealed. Betting pools spring up around Rome during this time, each favoring a particular cardinal or the country the future pope will be from. (Network news also gets into the fray by analyzing the odds on whom the next pontiff might be — as if you could ever really analyze the workings of a conclave, in my opinion.) A pope from a country that hasn't had a pope in centuries can mean a great deal of pride for that country, as was the case with Polish Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, who was elected pope in 1979 and become Pope John Paul II, the first non-Italian pope in four centuries.

Cardinals themselves are chosen by the pope, and with little competition. As a cardinal, you are created and placed strategically anywhere in the world where the pope thinks you will do the most good, as is the case with our new Co-adjutor Archbishop Jose Gomez, the first Latino archbishop in many decades, who will serve a predominant Latino population of faithful. Arguments, for and against the appointment, arise. And people try to predict the future of the appointee. Will he become a cardinal? Is he a future pope? What are the odds that his appointment won't be a colossal mistake and make things worse for an archdiocese already neck-deep in controversy?

What hits close to home for me is the appointment of a new monsignor and pastor, which my parish has gone through, and will go through, respectively. Monsignors are also chosen by the pope and are announced to the parish to much fanfare and celebration. Eligible priests can apply for a pastoral assignment when one becomes available, much like an open managerial position in a company. The one with the best qualifications usually is offered the job. However, these are always a thorn in a church's side, especially when a beloved, long-time pastor retires. Will the new person be the right choice? What are the odds that the appointment won't be a colossal mistake?

This was the case with the appointment recently of Skip Lindeman as pastor of La Cañada Congregational Church. Although the church scored a home run in selecting Skip as its permanent pastor, it was not for certain that he would be that pastor. The odds were in his favor, of course, as he had already been there for nearly a decade. Just down the street at St. Bede's Church, a similar thing was taking place. Parishioners were betting that their new pastor would be a good fit. If only the betting pool was real, we'd be seeing a lot of new cars in town.

MICHAEL J. ARVIZU is a reporter for the La Cañada Valley Sun in La Cañada Flintridge. Reach him at (818) 637-3263 or e-mail michael.arvizu@latimes.com.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

A message from Father McSorley

Next year, God willing, I will reach the age of 70, celebrate my 47th anniversary of ordination and complete 18 years as pastor of St. Bernard’s.

At my request, Cardinal Mahony has granted me retirement, which will be effective on June 30, 2011.

The normal process for the archdiocese to appoint a new pastor is to invite eligible priests to apply for the position. An open meeting for the parishioners to express the needs of the parish and the skills that the incoming pastor should have is held by the clergy placement board of the archdiocese. Prospective pastors are interviewed by the same board; the Vicar for Clergy makes the final decision.

The process will take place over the next several months, and the incoming pastor will assume his position on July 1, 2011. I will not have a voice in determening who the next pastor will be.

I ask that you pray for the Holy Spirit to guide those who have the responsibility for providing St. Bernard’s with the next spiritual leader.

I will have more to say later about how blessed I am and have been to serve as the pastor of such a wonderful parish community.

— Monsignor Gerald McSorley

Friday, November 5, 2010

Annual November Mass for the deceased

A Mass for the deceased of the last 12 months will be celebrated at St. Bernard's at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 22.

Family members are invited to participate in the liturgy and must be in the church by 7:15 p.m. to receive instructions. You may give the name of your deceased loved one to the church office.

Please note that only the names of those who have died since last November will be read at this Mass.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

St. Vincent de Paul Thanksgiving

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s program to assist low income families enjoy Thanksgiving Day will be accepting applications at the church office from noon to 6 p.m. Nov. 12 in the church office, and 9 a.m. to noon Nov. 14.

All applicants need to bring some form of personal identification with them. For more information, call the church office at (323) 255-6142.

All Souls novena of Masses

The annual novena of Masses for the deceased continues at St. Bernard's.

Submit the name of your deceased loved one by e-mail stbernardla [at] stbernardla.cc, dropping it in the collection basket or visiting the church office.