Sunday, April 29, 2012

Pope prays for vocations to priesthood

Pope Benedict XVI in St. Peter's
Square (Credit: CNA)
... From Catholic News Agency

Vatican City (CNA/EWTN News) — On Sunday, the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, Pope Benedict XVI asked families, communities and local parishes to help young men in discerning their vocation to the priesthood.

“Dear friends, pray for the Church, every local community, that they are like a garden in which can germinate and ripen all the seeds of vocation that God sows in abundance,” said the Pope in his midday Regina Caeli address to pilgrims in St. Peter's Square April 29.

“In particular, families are the first environment into which ‘breathes’ the love of God, which gives inner strength even in the midst of the difficulties and trials of life.”

Continue reading: "Pope prays for vocations to priesthood" ...

Thursday, April 26, 2012

All roads still lead to Rome

Archbishop Jose Gomez gives the
homily as he concelebrates Mass
with bishops from California, Nevada,
Hawaii and Utah at the Basilica of
St. John Lateran in  Rome April 20.
(Credit: CNS/Paul Haring)
By Archbishop José H. Gomez

We are back from Rome! But my mind keeps returning to different moments of our beautiful pilgrimage “to the threshold” of the apostles’ tombs.

My brother bishops and I had the blessing to be able to celebrate the Holy Eucharist at the tombs of both St. Peter and St. Paul. And our weeklong “ad limina” visit for me was a profound experience of our communion with the universal Roman Catholic Church.

Saints Peter and Paul are the first pillars of our church. Peter was “the rock” on which Jesus chose to build his church and the shepherd he chose to feed his people. Paul was the apostle Jesus chose to lead the church’s mission — to proclaim his Gospel to all peoples and establish his church in all nations.

Peter and Paul shared in his passion, bearing witness to their faith in his Resurrection through the shedding of their blood. And their blood was the seed for his church to spread from Rome to the ends of the earth. We all trace our faith back to Rome and the faith of these apostles.

Omnes cum Petro ad Iesum per Mariam! (“All with Peter to Jesus through Mary!”)

I found myself praying those words from St. Josemaría Escrivá when I met our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI.

When the pope welcomed me, he told me, as he has before, that the Archdiocese of Los Angeles is very important in the universal church!

I wonder if we take that for granted. We’re not just important because we are the largest archdiocese in the United States. And we’re not important only because of Hollywood and its influence on the global culture.

We’re important because our local church in Los Angeles is a “microcosm.” We’re a sign of what God wants his holy Catholic Church to be. One communion of cultures. One family of families — drawn from every nation, tribe, people and tongue.

We are the most diverse local church in the world — our 5 million Catholics speak more than 40 different languages. And we are a young church, adding members every day from all over the world.

In preparing our “ad limina” reports, we found something very striking. We compared the number of infant baptisms here in Los Angeles with the numbers reported in the second and third largest archdioceses in our country — New York and Chicago.

In 2010, we baptized almost 77,000 infants in Los Angeles. The number of baptisms in New York and Chicago combined was 57,000.

This is a beautiful sign of hope for our church. It’s also a sign of our great responsibility.

We need to make sure these tiny souls grow up solid in their faith in Jesus Christ. That they have strong families to support them. That they inherit a culture where human life is cherished and holiness and virtue are alive.

I come home from this pilgrimage thinking that our evangelization of culture must begin with a renewed sense of our identity as “Roman” Catholics.

Whether we’re aware of it or not, we’re all shaped in some deep way by our American culture, which itself has been shaped by the thought-worlds of Protestantism and religious individualism.

But our Christian faith is not only an intimate personal relationship with Jesus. It is communion with him as children of God in his family, the church.

His will was to establish his church on the foundation of the apostles and their successors, the bishops. His will was that his church have a visible structure, a hierarchy of service, a holy priesthood and the sacraments of the faith.

Rome in the time of Jesus and his apostles was the center of the world. “All roads lead to Rome.” Then and now. His Gospel still goes out from Rome to the ends of the earth.

To be Roman Catholics means we belong to this family of God in which no one is a stranger to us. It means we share in the church’s universal mission of spreading Christ’s words of eternal life and the joy of his salvation.

So let’s pray for one another this week. Pray that we all grow more “Roman” — more holy, more Catholic and more apostolic. Let’s have a more tender love for the pope as our Holy Father.

Pray also for those of us who are leaders in his church. That God will strengthen our will so that he can use us — just as he used St. Peter and St. Paul. Pray that we always grow in holiness and in our desire to sanctify others.

So let us go to Jesus closely united to Peter, through Mary. And may Mary, Queen of the Apostles, continue to sustain us in the faith that sustained St. Peter and all the apostles.

Archbishop José H. Gomez is archbishop of Los Angeles. His weekly column is provided by The Tidings, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Reach Archbishop Gomez on Facebook at www.facebook.com/archbishopgomez

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Looking ahead

By Father Perry D. Leiker

Mystagogia is the period between Easter and Pentecost during which the newly baptized go deeper into the mysteries of faith celebrated in their Easter sacraments. They reflect and share and ponder what has happened to them, and how they have entered into a profound faith relationship with God and the church.

More important than "the answers" are the questions. Continuing to seek and to discover the power of grace and to appreciate the love they have received is what this time is about.

Catholic education and the Catholic school (our own St. Bernard’s) is in a very real sense a "mystagogia experience" — the very institution exists so that our children can reflect upon their faith. Not only do they receive an education in academia, they are also invited, challenged and given the opportunity to grow in their faith every day.

Through prayer, liturgy and the study of their faith, they are able to integrate every subject and daily living, sports, social contact, recreation — every aspect of their life — into a vibrant growing relationship with God. Integration is the final and most important part of education — to discover and name what it means to me/us.

Every family in this parish is invited to consider St. Bernard School — their parish school. It is a private school, but not an exclusive school. It is a rich experience, but not for the rich — it is for everyone. St. Bernard School is where your children can have the opportunity to grow as faith-filled, educated Catholic men and women.

Father Perry D. Leiker is St. Bernard parish administrator. Reach him at (323) 255-6142, Ext. 112; or through Facebook, at www.facebook.com/pleiker.

St. Bernard Catholic School fashion show fundraiser

Seventh grade homeroom teacher Bill Heinen, left, and
eighth grade homeroom teacher John Reyes pose as
bikers at the St. Bernard School Fashion Show at the
Quiet Cannon in Montebello on Saturday, April 9,
2011. Proceeds from this year's event will go toward
programs at St. Bernard Catholic School. (Credit:
Michael J. Arvizu/St. Bernard Church)
The St. Bernard School annual Fashion Show will be from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 28 at Quiet Cannon in Montebello, at 901 Via San Clemente in Montebello.

Please make every effort to support our school by attending the event or by buying raffle tickets.

Tickets for the show, titled "Fooloose: Fashion Among Friends," are being sold after all Masses this weekend.

For information, call Marisol Muñoz at (323) 440-2276 or Jacky Castaneda at (323) 420-3383.

And view photographs of last year's show here!

Friday, April 20, 2012

On the threshold of the apostles

By Archbishop José H. Gomez

Easter greetings from Rome! I’m here with my brother bishops this week for our “ad limina” visits.

Bishops are required to come to Rome once every five years or so to meet with the pope and give an account of the Catholic faith in their dioceses. So we’re here along with the other bishops of California and the bishops of Hawaii and Nevada.

The Latin words ad limina refer to going to "the threshold" of the tombs of the apostles, St. Peter and St. Paul. And these visits symbolize our respect for the pope, who is St. Peter’s successor as head of the college of bishops and Christ’s church on earth.

As I write, we’ve just finished our first day of meetings. It was a special day. Because we came to this "threshold" on April 16, Pope Benedict XVI’s 85th birthday.

I had the blessing of praying for our Holy Father first thing this morning, while looking out over St. Peter’s Basilica! I prayed the Apostle’s Creed and asked God for the strength to accompany the pope in his ministry to the universal church!

We will meet with the Holy Father later this week. My brother bishops and I will also be making the rounds of various Vatican departments to discuss specific areas of our ministry.

On our first day, we met with the Apostolic Tribunal, which oversees church law, which is known as canon law. We met with Cardinal Raymond Burke and his staff and we had a good discussion.

We talked about how the church’s law is not just a set of "dos" and “don’ts.” Church law is really a way of understanding and living by the truth of the Gospel.

I came away from this meeting with a renewed sense of how knowing canon law better can help us to know God’s love for us and can facilitate our path to sanctity.

We also met on our first day with officials for the Pontifical Council for the Family.

We talked about how Catholics need to be leaders in helping our world rediscover the beauty of marriage. And we talked about how essential it is for our society’s future that we strengthen marriage and the family.

This meeting made me reflect on how marriage and family must always remain "the way of the church” — which is what Blessed Pope John Paul II used to say.

Finally on this fruitful first day, we celebrated Mass at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls. This is where St. Paul is buried.

I think it’s providential that we started our visit here. Because in this basilica, in 1959, Blessed Pope John XXIII announced his desire to convene the Second Vatican Council.

This year we mark the 50th anniversary of the Council. And as we know, to celebrate, Pope Benedict has declared a "Year of Faith." It will start on Oct. 11, 2012, the anniversary of Vatican II’s opening in 1962.

So during our Mass, I prayed that all of us will have the apostolic zeal of St. Paul and dedicate ourselves again to the new evangelization! And I prayed that we will find new joy in living our faith and sharing our faith with others.

I find myself here in Rome with a renewed spirit of faith and joy. It is moving for me to come to this "threshold" during these early days of the Easter season.

The readings we hear in our liturgies during this season focus on the Acts of the Apostles and especially the preaching and ministry of St. Peter.

What we see in these early days of the church are a bold witness to the Resurrection and what is means to be "begotten by God" in Baptism.

In one of the readings we hear during this season, St. John says: "Whoever is begotten by God conquers the world! ... And who indeed is the victor over the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the son of God ... who came through water and blood."

I feel this faith in Jesus alive in our great archdiocese.

Our church here in Southern California is alive, growing and filled with commitment for the new evangelization of our culture and for building the new city of truth and love in America.

So let’s pray for one another in this beautiful season of hope. And please pray in a special way this week for my brother bishops and me.

And please know that my prayers here are with all the faithful of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. I am asking that God give us his grace to renew our love for God and his holy church.

Holy Mary, mother of the church, Our Lady of the Angels, pray for us!

Archbishop José H. Gomez is archbishop of Los Angeles. His weekly column is provided by The Tidings, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Reach Archbishop Gomez on Facebook at www.facebook.com/archbishopgomez.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Looking ahead

Thank you, God, for the gift of Thomas the doubter. Such honesty and straightforwardness is refreshing and epitomizes the person of Thomas. He insisted he would not believe if he did not see with his own eyes. But the Gospel now comes alive as Jesus' love, care and gentleness reaches out to Thomas. Jesus knew what he needed: "Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe." He invited and called forth faith and trust in Thomas who did not disappoint. Only Thomas is recorded as uttering these words of faith: "My Lord and my God!" He receives this invitation from Jesus the Christ and sees, understands and professes faith.

Do we ever doubt? Are we seekers of faith? Do we hand over doubts and questions to the Lord? Are we willing to allow him to call us to faith? Are we open to discovering, seeing, understanding and professing deeper faith? On this Divine Mercy Sunday, perhaps we will experience the love and mercy of God in a way that transforms our faith and gives to us new life!

Father Perry D. Leiker is St. Bernard parish administrator. Reach him at (323) 255-6142, Ext. 112; or through Facebook, at www.facebook.com/pleiker.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Our joy in Easter

Archbishop José H. Gomez
By Archbishop José H. Gomez

Our Christian faith is a faith of joy.

Joy is the note we hear in all the Gospel accounts of the Resurrection. “They departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.”

“The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.”

One my favorite Easter scenes is from Luke’s Gospel. Jesus appears out of nowhere to his disciples in Jerusalem. And Luke reports that they “disbelieved for joy and wondered.”

In other words: The disciples saw Jesus and they were so happy they could hardly believe their eyes.

This is the way Easter should make us feel.

Joy is what Jesus promised his disciples, again and again. “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”

In one of his parables, he compared his kingdom to a man who finds treasure buried in a field. The discovery fills the man with such joy that he runs off to sell everything he owns so he can buy that field.

This is how it should be with us. Knowing that Christ is alive should fill us with joy. Knowing that he is victorious over death should inspire us to imitate him, to live the life that he lives. It should make us want to run off to tell others about him!

Our Christian joy is not any ordinary feeling of satisfaction. It’s not about “feeling good.” Our joy is a deep spiritual emotion. It is the peace that comes from living as a witness to the Resurrection.

So we rejoice in his Resurrection during this beautiful season. We thank God for all his tender mercies in our lives. And we should commit ourselves once more to serving Jesus with joy and gladness.

Every day we need to get up and remember: We are children of God! Loved by our Father. Given a glorious inheritance in Jesus Christ — the promise of eternal life. Jesus has given each of us the task of cooperating with God in carrying out his great mission of salvation. The mission of making the risen Christ present in our world! What greater happiness and purpose could we want for our lives?

So we should be joyful — cheerful and optimistic in everything we do. People should be able to see Jesus in us. Christians should always make Christ present.

There is no room in our religion for doom and gloom or sadness and pessimism. We never want to deny Jesus by our attitudes or by our moods.

It’s hard sometimes to see past the suffering and troubles in our lives. It’s hard to be patient when we see injustices in our world. Christian joy is never an excuse to ignore pain or injustice. But it does give us a new perspective.

It’s good to remember that the apostles were able to rejoice, even in their worst trials and tribulations. This is a constant theme in the lives of the saints and martyrs.

The saints can rejoice because they know that Jesus is with us as our friend and companion through all our struggles and trials. When we share his cross and sufferings with love, we can share his resurrection. When we die with him, we also rise with him.

As Christians, if we’re feeling angry or pessimistic, it’s a sign that we need to do more interior struggle — with our pride, our ego, our selfishness. It’s always a battle, but we have to keep the battle up. And when we fail, we need to express contrition and begin again.

We need to always be striving to be closer to Jesus. This is the beautiful possibility we have because of his Resurrection. We can be closer to Jesus than the air we breathe. We can feel his love beating in our hearts. We can feel like St. Paul, who said, “I no longer live but Christ lives in me.”

The best way to stay close to Jesus is to dedicate every day to him. Try to set aside your own agendas and really seek his will in everything you do — in your work, in your family lives, in your communities. We want to live like Jesus did — by loving God and living for others.

St. Thomas Aquinas said in one of his biblical commentaries: “Everyone who wants to make progress in the spiritual life needs to have joy.”

Let’s make that our prayer for one another in this Easter season. Let’s pray for the grace to grow in Christian joy. I think we will see, as the apostles saw on that first Easter, that our joy will be contagious.

And let’s ask Mary, our Blessed Mother Mary, the cause of our joy, to help us to grow in our joy in her risen son.

Archbishop José H. Gomez is archbishop of Los Angeles. His weekly column is provided by The Tidings, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Reach Archbishop Gomez on Facebook at www.facebook.com/archbishopgomez.

Looking ahead

By Father Perry D. Leiker

"ALLELUIA!"

The Easter Song is sung out repeatedly in our Easter liturgies. This is the first time we hear these words for the last 40 days. Today he truly becomes "the Christ" — the anointed one. He enters into his glory resurrected and transformed.

As God raises him from death and into glory he also gives to us the pattern of our own immortal destiny. We, too, will share in the glory of the Lord and be given life eternal.

We rejoice also with our newly baptized and those who will receive confirmation and Eucharist for the first time. We look forward also with our confirmation youth who in a few short weeks will be confirmed and receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

There really is no time like Easter. This is the time of redemption. This is the time of promises made and promises kept. God’s covenant with us is fully revealed in the death and resurrection of his Son. If he had not been raised his death would be in vain. Because he has been raised, we are irrevocably changed and promised life eternal. For that reason alone we joyfully sing our Easter Song: "ALLELUIA!!!"

Father Perry D. Leiker is St. Bernard parish administrator. Reach him at (323) 255-6142, Ext. 112.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Is God on your side?

By Pastor Katharine Royal | Imagine you're in the crowd while all of this is going on: Palm Sunday, when Jesus is riding through the city on livestock. Think about what might be going through your mind.

Well, unless you were one of the Romans, that day would likely have made you pretty joyous. Here was your king, the promised one, the one who was triumphantly coming as prophesied to bring salvation. You might have stared at him in awe, perhaps vying for the closesst place to the front to get a better look, or maybe even to grasp his robe as so many had before in order that they might find healing.
He must have looked so serene riding through the crowds, palm branches laid down before him. He must have brought so much peace. Everyone watching must have felt like he was there just for them. He was on their side --- the side of justice and the side of truth.

It must have felt like at that very moment salvation came, as he rode through the street with the cheering crowd surrounding him singing praises to God. As we find out in the coming week, though, salvation doesn't come neatly packaged and tied up in ribbons. It doesn't come in the triumphant cheers of a crowd praising their savior and true king. It doesn't come, at all, in what most would consider a moment of joy, but in a moment most unlikely to be viewed as joyful, or a moment of salvation. Very little if anything about how God works is neatly packaged and tied up in ribbons. We're about to get a glimpse of that.

How startling must it have been to see him head straight for the temple and, from how it seems, fly into a rage! Was this the same man? Here he was, not being peaceful or serene at all, but rather acting like a mad man, flipping over the tables of the frauds doing their trades, making a total mess of the temple! Surely, this was showing the crowd that Jesus was NOT on the side of these people --- these crooks, these frauds, these people who had done wrong to others. He told the people the temple was to be a house of prayer, not a temple for thieves. So clearly, Jesus was not on the side of these thieves, right?

What we're told next makes me laugh, in a sense. We're told that the clearing out he did made way for people with disabilities to make their way around the temple; and they were able to then come to him, and he healed them. It makes me laugh because, in my mind, I can't help but thinking "Hey, Jesus was trying to enact the Americans with Disabilities Act WAY before 1990. What took the White House so long to get it?"

But look deeper. This goes MUCH deeper than just people with disabilities being able to move about in the temple. In doing what he did, he made the temple accessible to all who would come and use it for its intended purpose --- a house of prayer, with no discrimination. So, clearly, God isn't on the side of those who discriminate against others, right? It seems like God is on the side of those who are discriminated AGAINST.

Speaking of being discriminated against, what happened next was perhaps a bit funny as well, if for no other reason than the religious leaders were so far missing the point that it was nearly turning comical. Little children began running around the temple praising God, knowing that Jesus had come in the name of the Father, honestly spiritually moved and excited by what was going on. And what was the response of the religious leaders? All they paid attention to was the fact that the children were making noise, something that, in their eyes, disrupted the temple just as, in their eyes, Jesus overturning the tables had.

Jesus was quick with a response, though. He responded as though surprised that the religious leaders were not aware of it having been said, that out of the mouths of children would be built a house of praise. And what is praise, but a type of prayer? Sometimes little children are nearer to the heart of Christ than the most prominent religious leaders. Clearly, Jesus was on the side of the little children, and not at all on the side of the religious leaders who were denouncing all that was going on, right?

Well, I've asked a lot of questions, and the answer to the questions might surprise you. Jesus was and is on the side of all the people I've mentioned in this story; he was and is even on the side of those who had him arrested, lied about him, crucified him, spit on him, and pierced his side on the cross. Jesus is on your side, and he's on my side.

That's a tough concept to understand. I remember in elementary school having squabbles with others who told me that if I was so-and-so's friend I couldn't also be their friend. I had to pick one. At the time, I felt forced to choose the person making me choose. But you know what I learned as I got older? It was usually just one of the two or three people asking me to choose. The others simply didn't care who I was friends with. That didn't matter, in their eyes, to our friendship.
The thing about Jesus is that he doesn't pick whether he's on our side based on things we do. He doesn't have a sports team, a political party, a race that he prefers over any other. And you know why? He made all of them. He, along with the Father and Spirit, made Adolph Hitler and Mother Teresa, Charles Manson and Nelson Mandela, Osama bin Laden and Martin Luther King Jr.

I think a lot of times we want to think of God our parent and Christ our brother as someone who's on the side of only people who do good things in life. But guess what? All of us have messed up. We may look at the Adolph Hitlers and Osama bin Ladens of the world and think to ourselves "I haven't messed up NEARLY that bad. Surely, God is far more on my side than theirs."

This is where God, and God in Christ, differs amazingly from humankind. We base whose side we are on in situations --- political, familial, even watching sports --- based on who in our eyes most deserves us on their side, who we like the most, who we know the best, who we feel most deserves to win, who we feel is most on the right. But that's not how God operates.

God doesn't choose a person's side. He chooses the side of justice, righteousness, truth and love. Does that mean that if we fail to act out of these things God drops us like a sack of potatoes and says "sorry, kiddo; you're on your own now"? By no means. We aren't judged by how many mistakes we make or don't make. We're judged by our hearts, which only God can see. When we have Christ in our hearts, we're still gonna screw up. We're still gonna do things that God wouldn't approve of. We're still not going to always be just, truthful and loving. God is still on our side, though, just as he is still on the side of those we feel aren't on our side. There is NO partiality with God. He loves us all every bit as much as everyone else.

Put yourself back in the scene from the beginning. You're watching Jesus ride through town. You feel that euphoria. You feel that peace. You feel the love he has for you; and you realize that love is for everyone there, not just you.
Then he goes to the temple, and overturns the tables of those who have been taking advantage of others, making room for those who were discriminated against and welcoming them. Look at this with new eyes. Is Jesus really even saying he's not on the side of the people whose tables he's overturning? No, he's saying he doesn't approve of what they are doing.

That's a distinction that as fallible humans we have a really hard time making. It can be difficult sometimes to separate a person from things they are doing or words they are saying. We may feel we can't be on a person's "side" because of things they've said or done, or things we've heard they've said or done, but is that really the whole person? Is that really their heart?

I want all of us to take a moment to consider times in our lives where we've been in a tug of war, or perhaps put others in a tug of war between one another. It can be in your family, in your workplace, in your home, even here at church or at another church you've been to. I want you to visualize both parties who seemed to be on opposing sides during what went on. And I want you to visualize Jesus stepping in between and embracing them all, bridging the gap and showing us that the greatest love of all does not shun one person in order to be in the life of another.

The greatest love of all is great enough to love us all, if only we will accept that love.

Will we accept it from him? Will we accept it from one another and will we grant it to one another? Will we allow Jesus to bridge the gaps in our relationships with others in our relationship with him?

Pastor Katharine Royal is co-pastor with husband Micah Royal of Diversity In Faith: A Christian Church for All People in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Reach her at reverend_katharine@yahoo.com. This sermon originally appeared on Katharine Royal's her Facebook page and is re-posted here with permission.