Friday, June 29, 2012

Parents, consider St. Bernard Catholic School

I personally want to invite every family in our parish to consider our parish school for your child.

We are here to educate and form our children in the Catholic Faith. Our school is an excellent school with wonderful education also including technology and the arts.

The spiritual formation in faith makes our school particularly valuable to help our children develop as fine citizens and Christian Catholic models of faith.

Visit school Principal Margaret Samaniego to see how we can make a Catholic Education a reality for your child. Call the school at (323) 256-4989, or visit www.stbernard-school.com.

— Father Perry D. Leiker

What religious freedom is for

Archbishop José H. Gomez
By Archbishop José H. Gomez

I’m writing this week in the midst of the “Fortnight for Freedom” declared by the U.S. Bishops as a time of prayer, study and penance for religious freedom.

From time to time in our democracy, as citizens we need to renew our dedication to the founding freedoms that have made America so exceptional. If we don’t, we risk forgetting history’s lessons and we risk forgetting why these freedoms are so important.

As Christians, we also have a duty to be lovers of freedom and defenders of the freedoms we love. Church history teaches us that we have to struggle for these freedoms; they have never been given to Christians for free.

St. Paul used to say, “For freedom Christ has set us free!”

Jesus did not set us free from sin and death so that we could serve ourselves. We are set free for God — to love him and to serve him. We are set free so that we can be his instruments in bringing his salvation to our brothers and sisters.

Some people in our government and in the media say that we’re exaggerating when we talk about religious freedom being threatened.

We’re not exaggerating. The actions proposed by our government are real. They threaten our ability as individual Christians to live the way that Jesus wants us live. They threaten the church’s ability to carry out her mission.

But I think the biggest threat we face is our own indifference — or our feeling that this struggle doesn’t really affect us personally.

When we talk about “freedom of religion,” it can seem like an abstract concept. It can seem like something that’s maybe important in principle but doesn’t really have much to do with our everyday lives.

And it’s true that we are free today to go to church, to read our Bibles, to pray in our homes, and to read religious publications and find religious programming on television and the internet.

But religious freedom means more than that — because being a Christian means more than that.

Being a Christian means living with Jesus and worshipping him. It means living according to his words and example. It means carrying out his commandments — to love and to tell others about him. It means working to create a society that reflects the ethical and spiritual values of his Gospel.

That is what this struggle for religious liberty is about. It’s about making sure each of us has the freedom to carry out our Christian duty to evangelize and to serve others in love. And it’s about making sure that the church is free too — as the institution established by Christ to carry on his mission in the world.

I’ve been reflecting on the saints that we remember in the Church’s liturgical calendar during this two-week period.

Of course, the Church calendar wasn’t created with the Fortnight for Freedom in mind. The Church has been remembering these saints on these dates for centuries — centuries before our country was even founded.

Still, I find it striking to think about how many of saints that we remember during this fortnight were martyrs for freedom — who stayed true to Jesus and his Gospel in the face of persecution from political authorities.

The fortnight began on the vigil of the feast of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More. They were executed because they refused to bow to the political pressures of King Henry VIII — who demanded that they accept his “supremacy” over the church and that they deny the church’s teachings on the sanctity of marriage.

Also during this fortnight, we remember St. John the Baptist — who was also executed by a tyrannical king for defending God’s law for marriage.

We remember too during this period the first Martyrs of the Church of Rome, from the very beginnings of Christianity. And on June 29, we remember the greatest of these early martyrs, St. Peter and St. Paul.

All of these courageous men and women suffered death to defend the freedoms that we often take for granted. All of them used their freedom in Christ to transform their societies. From within. By the force of their love and their example. We are called — each one of us — to the same mission in our society.

Let’s ask the intercession of these martyrs during the final days of this fortnight. And as we pray for one another this week, let’s try to find some sacrifice, no matter how small, that we can make for this cause.

And let’s ask Our Lady of the Angels to give us the courage to defend the liberty of the Church and our freedom of conscience.

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

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Anointing of the sick

Even if one should die, this sacrament
usually prepares them and gifts them
with healing peace.
This sacrament is a powerfully healing sacrament meant to be given to the sick during their illness. It is not  necessary to wait for the last hours for it is no longer referred to or thought of as "last rites."

This sacrament shares the sacramental gift of Jesus Christ for the purpose of strengthening, encouraging, and healing a person deep within their spirit. Even if one should die, this sacrament usually prepares them and gifts them with healing peace. Some suggestions to be shared with all your family members:
  • Call a priest at the beginning of a serious illness or hospital stay.
  • Educate the family to understand that this sacrament is for healing.
  • Invite family members to participate in the celebration of this sacrament.
  • Do not wait for the last moments when a priest might not be available.
  • In the last moments, surround the dying with the presence, love and prayer of family.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A 'Fortnight for Freedom'

Archbishop José H. Gomez
By Archbishop José H. Gomez

On June 21, the eve of the memorial of Saints John Fisher and Thomas More, we begin a period of prayer, sacrifice and public witness for the cause of religious liberty. I join my brothers in the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in calling for this “Fortnight for Freedom,” which will run until July 4, the memorial of our country’s independence.

Religious liberty is a precious freedom. Sadly, it’s also a rare freedom. Three out of four people worldwide live in a country where the government doesn’t protect their right to worship and serve the God they believe in. 

Christians are by far the world’s most persecuted people. In some places, they risk their lives every time they go to Mass. So in this fortnight, let’s remember to pray for our Catholic brothers and sisters in places like Iraq, Pakistan, Vietnam, Nigeria, China and Cuba.

This global context puts our church’s current conflict with the United States government in perspective. But it’s important to remember: Just because believers here aren’t punished with violence and are free to go to church, that doesn’t mean freedom of religion isn’t in jeopardy.

For our country’s founders — and for every American generation until now — freedom of religion has meant much more than the freedom to worship.

Freedom of religion has always meant the freedom to establish institutions to help us live out our faith and carry out our religious duties. Freedom of religion has always meant the freedom to express our faith and values in political debates and the freedom to try to persuade others to share our convictions.

In recent years, this sense of religious liberty, conscience protection and religion’s public role have been eroding — under constant pressure from anti-Christian and secularizing elements in American society.

Government, at all levels, is increasingly pushing church agencies to go against their beliefs. Christian faith and values are more and more portrayed — in the media, in the courts, even in comments from high government officials — as a form of prejudice.

In our diverse, pluralistic society, it seems sometimes that Christianity is becoming the one lifestyle that can’t be tolerated to have a role in our public life.

These same secularizing and anti-Christian pressures are at work in our current conflicts. No one can credibly claim that this conflict with the government is about access to abortion and birth control. Because unfortunately, both are widely available and affordable to anyone who wants them in this country, often subsidized by federal and state governments.

We need to see this clearly: Our present conflict is part of a larger cultural struggle to redefine America as a purely secular society — in which there is no public role for religious institutions except if they serve the government’s purposes.

This struggle has been going on for a long time. What’s new is that our government — which has the duty to protect religious liberty — has now taken sides against the liberty of the Church.

Our government is now using the full weight of its powers to try to dictate the terms under which the Church and Catholic believers will be permitted to participate in our society.

For perhaps the first time in our history, our government is acting as if human rights don’t come from the hand of God, but are instead “benefits” that government can give, define and take away.

I’ve had well-meaning people ask me: Why is this so important? Why can’t the church just compromise and provide birth-control insurance to our employees? They tell me the greater good would be advanced if the church is able to keep serving the poor in her hospitals, schools and charities.

But Catholics don’t serve the poor to please our government. We serve the poor because we are compelled by the love of Christ. This same love for Christ compels us to bear witness that life, marriage and family are sacred and that preventing children from being born is immoral.

The “compromise” we’re being offered is to stop loving Christ and to stop being Christians. It’s the temptation to serve government and not God.

So what do we do? We do what the church and Christians have always done.

We love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. We live our faith with the freedom of the children of God, with a love that heals and inspires others. We tell the world the good news that God is alive and that he calls us all to a great destiny of love. We work to create a society of mutual sharing, reconciliation and love — rooted in the sanctity of the human person and family.

So let’s pray for one another and for our country this week.

And may Immaculate Mary, the patroness of the United States, give us the courage to defend the liberty of the church and our freedom of conscience.

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

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Lookng ahead

By Father Perry D. Leiker

"To know one's purpose in life" is for many, if not most, one of the most difficult things to discern.

Assessing one's gifts, linking them up to "what I want to do", oftentimes simply escapes a person's mind. Many youth struggle with this "existential" question that goes to the very "purpose of life." In fact, many struggle throughout their college years, or even receive their degrees, with this question lingering deep in their heart — unanswered.

But this was not so with John the Baptist. He knew who he was. He knew what God wanted him to do. He knew his purpose and understood clearly how it fit into God's purpose. He was at peace with his life and everyone felt it. He not only did not seem to question it, rather, he seemed to glory in it. With peace, conviction, inner-strength and with joy he proclaimed to all that salvation was near. He recognized the Christ and announced to "all the world" the need for repentance and getting ready to make way for the Lord. His birth was filled with grace and with God's loving presence. Everything about his birth had a miraculous sense about it according to the scriptures.

"To know one's purpose in life" is indeed a wonderful thing. To discover that God not only "loves me" but also has great designs on how I can bring about his goodness and be an instrument of his love is not only wonderful, but also fulfilling in the deepest and truest sense.

To know that God has known me from the womb, called me, has designs for my life, and sends me forth in his grace, is truly discovering my purpose in life!

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

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Our fathers and the Father who loves us

Archbishop José H. Gomez 
By Archbishop José H. Gomez 

Some years back, a good book for dads came out — "A Father's Covenant," by Stephen Gabriel (HarperCollins, 1996)

One of these promises made me laugh: "I will play Chutes and Ladders with enthusiasm!"

That reminded me of my childhood. That's a game my father used to play with us all the time!

And there is real wisdom in that promise.

It’s a promise to be faithful to the duty of being a father. The duty of love. Even after a long day of work, even if he’d rather be doing something else — instead he will smile and laugh and take delight in playing games with his kids. Because that’s what fathers do. They keep their promise to love.

This Sunday is Father's Day. Again we celebrate the beautiful reality of fatherhood and the importance of our fathers and grandfathers in our lives.

But we also realize that we’re living in a "fatherless" culture — where many fathers are absent from their children's lives.

Almost half of all children in our country are now born to mothers who aren't married to their children's fathers. More than a third of America’s children aren't being raised in the same home as their fathers.

Strong forces in our society are trying to re-imagine and re-engineer the basic meaning of human nature. They want us to believe that whether one is a man or a woman is just an "accident" of birth, and not important to whom we really are. They want us to believe that motherhood, fatherhood and marriage aren’t natural realities, but are just arbitrary "social constructs."

These tendencies in our society have deep pastoral implications for our parishes and for our duty to evangelize.

Because the Gospel we are called to live and proclaim is the good news of God’s "family plan" for history — and for each one of our lives. It's the good news that God is our Father — who loves us as his sons and daughters and who desires us to live as brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ.

That’s why our Father sent his only Son to be born of his Spirit in a mother’s womb and to be raised in a family with a mother and a father.

Jesus taught us to relate to God as he did. With a child's affection. With a child’s trust that his father will always provide.

He established his Church to be his "bride" and to be the mother of all who believe in him. He called his priests to be spiritual fathers, who bring up new children of God from the font of baptism and feed them with the Bread of Life.

To follow Jesus means we should think about our lives in terms of our divine filiation. Each one of us is a child of God. He created us in our Father’s image, just as children resemble their parents.

The rhythm and direction of our Catholic life of grace — our life of prayer and the sacraments — is meant to help us grow up as his sons and daughters, until we achieve mature spiritual adulthood in the image of Jesus, the Son of God.

The crisis of fatherhood and the family makes it much harder for us to lead people to God our Father. How will they understand these beautiful realities if they don't have any contact with their fathers or if they don't have any experience of traditional family life?

Our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI said recently: "A father's absence, the problem of a father who is not present in the child’s life, is a great problem of our time; and therefore, it becomes difficult to understand the profound significance of what it means to say that God is a Father to us."

We need to do everything we can to restore a "family culture" in our society. We need to do more to celebrate moms and dads and to support families in our parishes. We need to talk about the beauty of marriage to our children — from a very young age.

In our homes, we need to play Chutes and Ladders with enthusiasm! And we need to make sure that we’re spending time and giving love to our older children, too.

So let’s pray for all fathers this week — our natural fathers and our spiritual fathers, our priests! Let’s ask St. Joseph to guide them.

And let’s ask Mary, the mother of the family of God, to help all of us to grow as God’s children.

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

Thursday, June 14, 2012

St. Bernard catechumen is offered opportunity for a second chance

Darrin Buckland was fully initiated
into the Catholic Church at Holy
Saturday this year. The 43-year-old
looks forward to starting a new life in
the church, free of drugs and alcohol.
(Photographs by Michael J. Arvizu/
St. Bernard Church)
By Michael J. Arvizu

It is a bright, early Thursday morning. With me is Darrin Buckland, 43, a former Navy brat and Illinois native.

Now, let me tell you something about Buckland. Every morning for the last four years he has been coming to church, quietly sitting in the back row. He is a tall guy. His handshake is firm, and his face lights up with a bright smile when I meet him for our interview. My first impression of him is that he is a quiet man, a reserved man, humble and gentle. Yet underneath his quiet demeanor is a man full of excitement, joy and gratitude for what he is about to experience during Holy Week.

At his side is his RCIA instructor, Mary Trujillo, who joins us for the interview.

I meet Darrin after the daily 8 a.m. Mass. Buckland has been looking forward to our interview since we talked during his weekly Sunday morning RCIA class with Mary, which is where I first met Darrin.

For the last few months, Buckland has been enrolled in our parish’s Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults program, or RCIA. And on April 7, 2012, Holy Saturday, Darrin received the sacraments of baptism, Holy Eucharist and confirmation — all in one night.

Overwhelming? “Yes!” Buckland exclaims. Most people receive three of the seven sacraments at certain, fixed points in their lives — baptism as newborns, first communion as children, and confirmation as teenagers. Darrin received all of these in the space of one hour.

RCIA is designed for individuals who wish to enter the church at a time in their lives when they are able to fully comprehend what is taught to them. RCIA is designed for individuals 6 years of age or older who were never baptized; or for adults who were baptized but never received confirmation or the Eucharist and who have had little or no formation in their Catholic faith. The program teaches the tenants and customs of the church and challenges students to take a closer look at the religion they are about to initiated into. They are encouraged to ask questions about the faith from their instructors and sponsors, and they receive mentoring each step of the way. While in RCIA, no student is ever left alone on their journey toward complete initiation.

So it is with Buckland. Even as we walk to the church office, Trujillo brings up a question Buckland had earlier about the use of white vestments. He listens carefully to her explanation as we walk.

“He wasn’t too sure about his faith at the time, but just little things that would bother him,” Trujillo said. “One of the things that he was very adamant about was that he didn’t know enough about God. He felt that his faith wasn’t there.”

Darrin Buckland receives the sacrament of
confirmation from St. Bernard Parish Administrator
Father Perry D. Leiker as his sponsor, Ernie Obrero,
looks on.
RCIA can also serve as a way for people to enter the Catholic Church who may be former members of another religion as well. Buckland is a former member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Mormon Church. And this is where our interview starts.

ARVIZU: What is your religious background? Have you always considered going to the Catholic Church?

BUKLAND: I was a Mormon. It didn’t stick with all of my life. I lost my religion in my past. I walk to church every morning, Monday through Friday. And then I go to church on Saturday night and then on Sunday morning. I did not like the Mormon Church, ever since I was young.

ARVIZU: What was it about Catholicism and the Catholic Church that attracted you, that inspired you to start the RCIA process?

BUCKLAND: It’s less stressful than the Mormon Church.

ARVIZU: Explain.

BUCKLAND: I felt that I never really fit into the Mormon Church, that’s why I came to the Catholic Church.

ARVIZU: Why did you see yourself not fitting in with the Mormon Church?

BUCKLAND: I had a hard life growing up. I lost my religion because I used to do drugs. I lost everything, religiously. When I came here to the Catholic Church, I felt like I fit in because it’s a lot better. Plus, I only live 20 minutes away from here.

ARVIZU: So you felt more at home with the Catholic Church and with other Catholics as well?

BUCKLAND: Yes, I do, because I have a wonderful teacher, Mary [Trujillo]. [St. Bernard Parish Administrator] Father Perry [Leiker] is a great person. People welcome me. When I come in they say “Hi” to me and ask me how I am doing. They care. I didn’t get that when I was younger.

ARVIZU: Would you say that joining the Catholic Church is a way for you to make up for what you did not have when you were younger?

BUKLAND: Yes, it’s true.

ARVIZU: How do you feel now that you’re going through this process? It’s been a process for you, right, something that you have to dedicate part of your life to?

BUCKLAND: Yes. I would like to dedicate the rest of my life being Catholic.

ARVIZU: Has it been easy or has it been hard for you, dedicating yourself to this process and seeing it through?

BUCKLAND: No, not difficult at all. Like I said, I like it here and am welcomed.

ARIVZU: Has that made it easier for you?

BUCKLAND: A lot easier, because I lost my faith in the Mormon Church; and now since I am clean and sober, my life is here.

From left to right: St. Bernard Parish Administrator
Father Perry D. Leiker; Darrin's sponsor, Ernie Obrero;
recently confirmed and baptized, Darrin Buckland;
Darrin's RCIA instructor, Mary Trujillo; and Darrin's
friend, Maggie Bracamontes, at the conclusion of Holy
Saturday services at St. Bernard on Saturday,
April 7, 2012.
ARVIZU: You’re going to be baptized. You’re going to receive your first communion. You’re going to be confirmed. What have you had to do in order for that to happen?

BUCKLAND: Just committing myself. I’m just committed here. I’ve grown up a little bit, you know?

ARVIZU: You’re so close to being fully initiated into the church. What’s going through your mind? What are you thinking about?

BUCKLAND: I needed to get baptized. When I first walked in there and walked in the door, I was very emotional. I’ve just never been welcomed before. I have a family of seven, and I just lost my faith. Now I’ve started to get it back slowly but surely.

ARIVZU: You had a rough start to your life. Do you think that this is a second opportunity from God?

BUCKLAND: Yes, this is my second opportunity, and it’ll be the last opportunity.

ARVIZU: In what ways have you made changes to your life to fulfill that, to be grateful that you’ve gotten a second chance?

BUCKLAND: I’m clean and sober now. My mind is starting to get better. I think a lot more now. I need a second chance at life, because I overdosed on drugs many times. I should be dead right now, but I’m not because God has a given me a second chance; he has a purpose for me.

ARVIZU: What do you think God’s purpose is for you?

BUCKLAND: I don’t know. I don’t know what he wants me for. Hopefully, it will be something nice.

ARVIZU: Have you been able to talk to your fellow candidates about the RCIA process, get their thoughts about what it is like to be fully initiated?

BUCKLAND: I don’t know how they feel right now. I hope they’ll welcome me. They’ve been very supportive. I don’t know them yet, spiritually. But they are there with me and are there to support me.  There was no support in my life until I started going to the Catholic Church.

ARVIZU: Tell me about your family.

BUCKLAND: They’re not supportive at all. I wish they would be. My father, he accepts me being a Catholic. I love my father. He’s supportive of whatever I do.

ARVIZU: Your family hasn’t been as supportive as you would like, but your father has been. How important do you think support is — not just for you but for anybody who’s going through this process?

BUCKLAND: I don’t know. I’m supportive of myself. I am sure they’ll probably support it, but I know them well and it may not happen.

TRUJIILO: But the people around you, while you’re going through RCIA process, you’re being accepted and you’re being welcomed. How does it feel when the people are just saying “Welcome.” How does that feel? Is that something you think is important to have when you’re going through this process?

BUCKLAND: Yes, it is. It’s very important, you know? I never had anybody support me. When I am being dismissed, I am looking at everybody. It’s kind of scary because I don’t want to interrupt anything. I don’t draw people into my life.

TRUJILLO: So that’s something that’s new to you right now, is having people support you.

BUCKLAND: Yes.

RCIA catechumen Darrin
Buckland is baptized by
St. Bernard Parish
Administrator Father Perry D.
LEiker during Holy Saturday
services at St. Bernard on
Saturday, April 7, 2012.
ARVIZU: Tell me what you will be thinking about on Holy Saturday when you are baptized, confirmed and receive holy communion for the first time.

BUCKLAND: Emotional things, emotional thoughts. I’ll be happy, because I am being accepted. I have a wonderful teacher. I have a friend that’s supportive. I don’t know. I can’t put it into words. It’s just wonderful.

ARVIZU: Is this something you’ve been looking forward to for a long time?

BUCKLAND: Yes. I am looking forward to it. For the last four years, it has been good, very good. I had to struggle when I first moved to L.A., because I am the only person here in my family. I have no family here, so I have to depend on myself.

ARVIZU: Tell me about those first few years when you first moved to L.A.

BUCKLAND: I was living in Ventura. My father was born there, and I was living with his mom before she passed away.  I’ve always wanted to live in Los Angeles since I was a little boy. I always wanted to move here, and I got that chance. And Hollywood’s around, too. I love that place. It was hard for me to make friends because I always had to move.

ARVIZU: Where were you born?

BUCKLAND: Great Lakes, Illinois. I was there for like a year-and-a-half and then they moved. My dad moved a lot. I would make best friends, and then I had to move. And then I would have to move. So it’s hard for me to make a friend because I moved so much. I don’t know why I can’t make friends right now. That’s probably it, right?

TRUJILLO: I think that the Catholic Church has so much consistency. We have Mass at the same time. We see the same places all the time. It adds to the feeling of security that a community is going to be there for you. You said that it’s hard for you to make friends. Has it been easier to make friends here at church?

BUCKLAND: Yes. I like that a lot.

ARVIZU: You struggled so much when you came here. Now you’re entering this whole new phase where there are people who support you, care for you, and are concerned about you. How do you feel about that? It must be overwhelming.

BUCKLAND: It is. It is very overwhelming. Actually, I love it here. I love going to the meetings every day. When I come in, there are two or three people that say “Hi, how are you?” And I go, “Fine, thank you. How are you?”

ARVIZU: Does it catch you by surprise, people saying “Hi!” to you?

BUCKLAND: Yeah! I’m like, “Oh, my God!” They say hi to me on the street. It is very nice.

ARVIZU: When you are fully initiated, how are you going to pay back what you’ve been given? Are you going to go into ministry, maybe counsel others? How are you going to return the favor?

BUCKLAND: By staying away from drugs and alcohol. Staying away from old friends. People say that I’m going to start all over again, have a great life. I’m having a great life right now; but after I’m baptized, I’m going to have a better life. I’m committed to church and not having the devil on my side.

ARVIZU: What inspires you to keep going, to keep pursuing this gift that you will receive?

BUCKLAND: I like to learn a lot about the Catholic Church. I want to do my homework. I want to know everything about it. It’s a wonderful place. It’s good to start over. I like going to these classes because I learn so much in my mind and in my heart. I can’t explain it coming out of my mouth. I have people who’ll tell me things and they’ll explain it really well so I can understand it. That’s what I love about this program; people will explain it to me.

TRUJILLO: Seeing him, listening to him asking questions, I see his confidence getting stronger and stronger. It’s because he’s been asking questions, wanting to know. What happens in the classes is that a lot of students — we have discussions — they’ll have a question and we’ll discuss it. Then, after class, Darrin will ask them to clarify it: “Why did they say that?” or “Is it OK if I did this?” If he heard something and he wasn’t sure about it, he asked me to clarify it.

ARVIZU: When you’re in class, when you don’t understand something, you ask that it be explained?

BUCKLAND: Yes, I do. I am very quiet, and I don’t want people to think that I am stupid or something because I don’t understand.  It’s great to ask somebody else to explain it to me.

ARVIZU: I don’t blame you. Even people who are in the Catholic Church, they themselves may not understand all the things we do at Mass, for example. You’ve been able to slowly learn more about that.

The newly-baptized and confirmed Darrin Buckland
prepares to make his first communion, at Holy Saturday
services at St. Bernard on Saturday, April 7, 2012.
BUCKLAND: I know the process, and I will be able to do communion the right way.

ARVIZU: Tell me about those first few days of RCIA. Were they easy, were they difficult, were they overwhelming?

BUCKLAND: It reminded me of school. I did terrible in school. I had to quit and go to work because I wasn’t making it. I was not making it in school. I thought this [RCIA] was going to be “school.” I thought they were going to give tests. I thought they were going to give me whatever. [Laughs] I know I was going to fail.

ARVIZU: But it wasn’t that.

BUCKLAND: No. Not even close! [Laughs] It’s just wonderful because I am learning something, finally. It’s a wonderful class, it is. I like going to it. I may be quiet, but I’m learning something.

ARVIZU: Did you ask a lot of questions those first few days, or did you just go to class and listen to what Mary was saying?

BUCKLAND: Yes, it was going to class and listening to what Mary was saying.

TRUJILLO: Mostly it was regarding his faith. He would ask questions about the church, some of the things that were happening in the church or why it was being done. So we’re all growing and learning in our faith journey, all together. Darrin is so new. Some of the other students in the class are candidates; they have some knowledge of the Catholic faith, but Darrin started out not knowing anything.

ARVIZU: There is a line of scripture in the Bible about “my cup overflowing.” Do you believe your cup is overflowing?

BUCKLAND: Oh, yeah! It’s a slow start. I’m thinking about in the middle right now. I am about at the middle of the cup.

ARVIZU: Where do you see yourself five years from now, as far as your faith is concerned?

BUCKLAND: I don’t know, a lot of things. Maybe settle down with a girl or something. I hope she’ll be inside the Catholic Church if I settle down. It hasn’t happened yet, but hopefully it will happen in the future.

ARVIZU: As a catechumen, every Sunday you have to leave the church after the priest’s sermon — we call it “being dismissed.” What do you do during that time?

BUCKLAND: We carry the [Gospel] book outside. Mary will ask me questions about his [the priest’s] homily. Sometimes I’m on the nose, sometimes I’m not. I try to focus on what he’s saying. By the time I get outside, it’s gone. We open the book and then we read it. The things I didn’t get [from the priest’s homily], I get from reading the book.

ARVIZU: How do you feel about having to leave in the middle of Mass? Does it make you feel kind of sad that you’re not able to stay for the entire Mass?

BUCKLAND: Sometimes, but not all the time; I do miss it. I want to be part of it. I am part of it spiritually, right?

ARVIZU: You’re almost there. When you wake up that morning, what are you going to do? Do you have anything special planned? What will be your thoughts?

BUCKLAND: I think I am going to have a great morning. Being a Catholic, to me, is one of the best choices that I’ve seen. I’ll be happy. I’ll be getting my suit and tie on and dress for the day at the church. It’s a little scary, but then it’s a little wonderful. It will be emotional. I’ll want to cry, but I am going to try not to cry. I have a heart. I feel for things. When my brother died, I cried. My other brothers, not even a tear. I have a heart, and I like to share my heart wherever I go.

ARVIZU: That’s a beautiful thing to say.

BUCKLAND: Thanks. It’s how I feel, all the time.

ARVIZU: If you were to give other candidates, other cathecumens, any advice, what would that be, if you could sit down with them and offer them a piece of your heart?

BUCKLAND: Just go to where your heart says. Believe in God. That’s very important, to believe in God and say how you feel.

ARVIZU: What has been the primary driving force for you these past couple of months? What has inspired you?

BUCKLAND: God has been inspiring. I pray to God every morning. I feel a lot better than I used to. I never prayed. I prayed sometimes, it never worked out so I stopped praying, but I pray every day now.

ARVIZU: When you say that “it never worked out,” what do you mean?

BUCKLAND: I would pray for somebody and then the next day they would break their leg or end up in the hospital because their heart’s not good.

TRUJILLO: I think you see prayer differently now?

BUCKLAND: Yes.

ARVIZU: How do you see it?

BUCKLAND: I pray for my family. I pray for my friends. And I pray for myself to not make any stupid mistakes. That is what I say for myself when I pray.

ARVIZU: What is your favorite prayer?

BUCKLAND: The Our Father. I’ve known that since I was in Narcotics Anonymous. I learned that prayer when I was 18 years old. I am 43 and I know how to say it really well. It’s a good prayer. The opening prayer that Father Perry does, that’s a good one, too. It’s inspirational, I guess you can say. So much to look up to.

ARVIZU: Any last words?

BUCKLAND: Thank God. Thank you.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Looking ahead

By Father Perry D. Leiker

Blood is the life-source flowing through our bodies. Body and blood are what makes us human and alive and able to be in relationship with one another as human persons in the flesh.

For Jesus to speak of giving us his body and blood is to offer himself to us, to be consumed. His person and his presence given to us as food and drink becomes our very nourishment for our spirit, for our souls.

Blood, too, was sprinkled over the altar and over the people – covenants were made of blood. The deepest forgiveness was symbolized in the sprinkling of peoples with the blood of animals. Forgiveness, life, covenant, renewal – all of these were symbolized in Jesus' blood poured out for us.

Blood is the deep symbol of life. The blood of no lamb sacrificed had as much value as the blood of the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world – Jesus Christ. This great solemnity offers us a covenant of love through Jesus the Christ who is our bread of life and our cup of salvation.

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

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Tips for summer camp safety

Parents have the
responsibility of
controlling access that
new people will have to
their children.
Summer is almost here. School is almost out, and a whole host of new opportunities for recreation and relaxation await. Maybe you are sending your children to a music or sports camp? Or maybe they have been invited by their friends to go camping in the mountains or at the beach? Whatever the situation, it is important to remember that parents still have the responsibility of controlling access that new people will have to their children.

If your children are attending a summer camp, insist that counselors or anyone else who might have access to your children have undergone an application process that includes a criminal background check and reference checks.

For additional resources from Virtus Online, visit http://archla.org/safeguard and click on the PDF document "Summer Safety Tips Can Help Prevent Child Sexual Abuse."

For particular help, call Assistance Ministry at (213) 637-7650.

Monday, June 4, 2012

‘For Greater Glory’

Archbishop José H. Gomez
By Archbishop José H. Gomez 

The anti-Catholic persecutions in Mexico in the 1920s and 1930s are long forgotten, it seems. 

The reality is hard to believe. Just a generation ago, not far from our borders, thousands of men, women and even children, were imprisoned, exiled, tortured and murdered. All for the “crime” of believing in Jesus Christ and wanting to live by their faith in him.

So I welcome the new film, “For Greater Glory.” It tells the dramatic story of this unknown war against religion and our church’s heroic resistance. It’s a strong film with a timely message. It reminds us that our religious liberties are won by blood and we can never take them for granted.

That such repression could happen in a nation so deeply Catholic as Mexico should make everybody stop and think. Mexico was the original cradle of Christianity in the New World. It was the missionary base from which most of North and South America, and parts of Asia, were first evangelized.

Yet following the revolution in 1917, the new atheist-socialist regime vowed to free the people from all “fanaticism and prejudices.”
 

Jesuit priest and martyr Blessed Miguel
Pro Juarez is pictured just before his
execution by firing squad on Nov. 23,
1927, in Mexico.  His final words were
reported as, "Viva Cristo Rey!" ("Long
live Christ the King!"). (Credit: CNS)
Churches, seminaries and convents were seized, desecrated and many were destroyed. Public displays of piety and devotion were outlawed. Catholic schools and newspapers were shut down; Catholic political parties and labor unions banned. Priests were tortured and killed, many of them shot while celebrating Mass.

The dictator, Plutarco Elías Calles, used to boast about the numbers of priests he had executed. His hatred of organized religion ran deep. He really believed his reign of terror could exterminate the church and wipe the memory of Christ from Mexico within a single generation.

He was wrong. In the forge of his persecution, saints were made.

It became a time of international Catholic solidarity. American Catholics opened their doors to refugees fleeing the violence. My predecessor, Archbishop John Cantwell, welcomed many here to Los Angeles — including Venerable Maria Luisa Josefa de la Peña and Blessed María Inés Teresa Arias.

Ordinary Catholics became Cristeros, courageous defenders of Jesus Christ. Many felt compelled to take up arms to defend their rights in what became known as the Cristeros War. Others chose nonviolent means to bear witness to Christ.

“I die, but God does not die,” Blessed Anacleto González Flores said before his execution. His words were prophetic.

Martyrs are not defined by their dying but by what they choose to live for. And the Cristeros’ blood became the seed for the Church of future generations in Mexico.

Today, we need to know their names and we need to know their stories.

We need to know about the beautiful young catechist, Venerable María de la Luz Camacho. When the army came to burn her church down, she stood in front of the door and blocked their way. They shot her dead. But the church was somehow spared.

We need to know about all the heroic priests who risked their lives to celebrate Mass and hear confessions. Growing up, we had prayer cards made from a grainy photograph of one of these priests, Blessed Miguel Pro. He is standing before a firing squad without a blindfold, his arms stretched wide like Jesus on the cross as he cries out his last words: ¡Viva Cristo Rey! (“Long live Christ the King!”)

We need to learn from the examples of all the Cristeros who have been canonized and beatified by the Church. And today especially, we need to pray for their intercession.

As it always has been, today our Catholic religion is under attack in places all over the world. In Mexico and America, we don’t face suffering and death for practicing our faith. But we do confront “softer” forms of secularist bullying. And our societies are growing more aggressively secularized.

Already, sadly, we’ve accepted the “rules” and restrictions of our secular society. We keep our faith to ourselves. We’re cautious about “imposing” our beliefs on others — especially when it comes to politics. In recent months, our government has started demanding even more — trying to coerce our consciences, so that we deny our religious identity and values.

We need to ask for the strength to be Cristeros. By their dying, they show us what we should be living for.

So, let’s make that our prayer this week. That like the Cristeros, we might be always ready to love and sacrifice to stand up for Jesus and his Church.

And may Our Lady of Guadalupe — Mother of Mexico and the Americas, and the bright star of the New Evangelization, pray for us.

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

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Looking ahead

By Father Perry D. Leiker

"One" God in "three" persons.

St. Patrick supposedly used the three-leaf clover to express (explain) this mystery. The fact that it is called a mystery admits that it cannot really be explained nor fully understood, but truly a mystery to be shared, explored, studied, pondered — and little by little, in many different ways, perhaps, we will find it (like a beautiful flower opening its beauty, truth and wonder to us).

In Matthew, Jesus tells his disciples to go out and make disciples of all nations, "baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." We have a very distinct relationship with each person of the Trinity. Father/creator clearly is the God we see so powerfully present in the Hebrew scriptures.

Jesus/redeemer is the fully human expression of God in our lives and in our history — he is the one who died on the cross and "has been raised up." He is, for us, the one who clearly leads us to the Father and seeks only to do his Father's will.

The Holy Spirit/sanctifier in baptism and confirmation powerfully touches our lives and fills us with grace, power, and spirit — all that is holy! Every day, "sanctifying and bringing together the human and divine," happens so wondrously through the power and gift of the Spirit of God.

The scriptures give us this mystery, never explaining it, but presenting it to us as the God who is. It doesn’t seem surprising to have a notion of God as a communion of love between Father, Son, and Spirit — three persons, yet one God. Creation, redemption, sanctification — these three realities happen to us in and through this God, and the mystery is revealed and unfolds itself to us and through us now and forever. Amen.

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

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Lessons in humility

David Snyder
By David Snyder

This is a story about a great kabbalist named Rav Akiva who would meet his students every day to learn. On one occasion, however, one of his students didn't show up, so later that evening, Rav Akiva went to the student's house where he found the young man alone and very ill.

Rav Akiva cared for the student, giving him food and medicine and taking care of the house. Eventually, the young man recovered, but what saddened the great kabbalist the most was that none of his other students even noticed the one missing.

"How is this possible," Rav Akiva asked himself, "that with all these great sages, nobody saw the suffering of someone who studied with them every single day?"

This story contains a powerful lesson. The most important spiritual attribute we have is our humility, meaning our ability to open our eyes and see the people around us. This ability is what separates our true spiritual work from what might seem like spiritual work.

There are many of us who enjoy learning from a book, enjoy learning with other people, enjoy being a part of a religious or a spiritual establishment. But of all these people, how many of us are truly willing to do the work involved in stepping outside of ourselves to be there for others, especially when doing so is uncomfortable?

This week, let us remember that spirituality is not something that just happens to us — it's something we create. It is like being in a pool and you push the water away, the amount of water you push away is the amount that comes back to you.

It's the same in the system of life. The effort and energy we expend in our lives and extend to the lives of those around us is the amount of energy that we will receive back.

David Snyder conducts seminars, trainings, and special classes throughout the United States on the topics of energy, persuasion, healing and martial arts. He lives in San Diego. Reach him at david@sandiegoblackbelt.com.