Sunday, June 30, 2013

Looking Ahead

Father Perry D. Leiker
By Father Perry D. Leiker 

“No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.” These are such typical “Jesus words.” They are astoundingly significant in understanding what Jesus is inviting us to share.

The kingdom of God is something so present, so real, so radical, and yet so familiar and appropriately comfortable. The kingdom of God is realized in all things, yet it is distinct and can be missed and not experienced because we are not really open to it or ready to receive it.

Imagine Jesus saying to you (just after you have pledged to follow him after you bury your father): “Let the dead bury the dead.” Really? Are you seriously saying I should not take care of the burial of my own father? Herein lies the radical challenge of Jesus’ words.

The truth is that, when we embrace the kingdom of God, all realities and relationships become rearranged and realigned. God’s kingdom calls us to things convenient and inconvenient. We are asked to say “yes” when it feels so much safer to say “no.”

Is there a rule? No. Is there only one way to respond? No. In an instant we may find that what we did before always is not what is needed here; the kingdom of God calls us to new things, to be done in new ways, and invites us to go to new places in this moment and at this time.

Father Perry D. Leiker is St. Bernard parish administrator. Reach him at (323) 255-6142, Ext. 112, or email pleiker@stbernard-church.com.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Resources for faithful citizenship

Archbishop José H. Gomez 
By Archbishop José H. Gomez 

Although he lived more than 500 years ago, St. Thomas More’s life and witness seem more timely to me than ever.

I have been thinking a lot about him as we prepare to celebrate the feast of St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher on June 22.

Both were executed during the Protestant Reformation in England because they refused to bow to the political pressures of King Henry VIII — who demanded that they accept his “supremacy” over the church and deny the church’s teachings on the sanctity of marriage.

St. John Fisher was a bishop, so his witness of courage has a powerful meaning for me as your archbishop.

St. Thomas More was a layman. He was a loving father and husband; a loyal son of the church; an upright lawyer and civil servant. And in many ways, we need to learn from his example today.

Because Thomas More was also a selfless servant of truth and a servant of people; a man of conscience who obeyed the law of God rather than the law of men. He was a faithful citizen who gave his life rather than compromise the truth and teaching of the Church.

Our times call for Catholic voices and faithful Catholic witnesses.

Right now in California and across the country, the church faces deep challenges from the government.

The church is not an institution or a corporation. The church is a family, the family of God. We see that reality when we gather each week to worship Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. We are one family made up of many families, each of us able to pray to God as “Our Father.”

To be faithful to the Gospel of Jesus, we need to be faithful citizens. For bishops and priests, that means stirring hearts and minds and forming consciences, nourishing people with the bread of life and the word of God. We want to inspire people to love and serve the poor and to always be close to those in need. We want to motivate people to build a society worthy of the God-given dignity of every person.

Lay people carry out their duties of faithful citizenship by living their faith in the world — in their family, their work, in public life. By running for political office; by working within political parties; by communicating our concerns and positions to our elected officials; and by joining church and community organizations that seek justice and the common good in society.

To assist you in carrying out your duties, the archdiocese has established a new webpage, “Resources for Faithful Citizenship.” On this page you will find information to help you form your conscience in light of Catholic teaching and resources to become better informed about issues of importance to the Catholic community. You will also find information for contacting and learning more about your elected officials.

Through this new webpage, we provide a listing of the Catholic charities, parishes and schools serving in every legislative district in the archdiocese. I found this to be very instructive. Because you can see directly the impact the church has in our communities — through our immigration and refugee assistance programs; through our preschools and other services to working families and the poor; through our housing and health care programs; our elderly assistance programs; and all our works of community and neighborhood development.

The church is a force for human dignity and social justice throughout our state. Which is why we need to fight to defend the church.

Right now, my brother bishops and I in the California Catholic Conference are asking you to contact your assembly member and urge them to vote “no” on California Senate Bill 131. This legislation puts the social services and educational work of the church at risk and unjustly discriminates against Catholic schools and other private employers. The bishops of the California Catholic Conference believe it is urgent for Catholics to act now.

You can find more background on SB 131 and information on how to contact your assembly member on our new webpage. You can reach this new page at www.la-archdiocese.org.

Again this year, the United States Catholic bishops are asking all of us to pray in a special way for religious liberty during these next two weeks, June 21 to July 4, which we have designated as a “Fortnight for Freedom.”

Let’s pray for our religious freedom this week — and let’s exercise that freedom by contacting our legislators about SB 131.

And let’s ask Our Lady of the Angels to help us to carry our duty to be faithful citizens with courage and strength.

Archbishop José H. Gómez 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 at (213) 637-7000, or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/archbishopgomez.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Looking Ahead

Father Perry D. Leiker
By Father Perry D. Leiker 

When reading the scriptures, it is often helpful to find a word that captures the sense of the passage.

“Restoration” is a word that does that well. To “restore” something is: to give back or return something to its original state; to renew. Another more subtle definition describes it as: to put again in possession of something.

To look at the reverse of this brings even more clarity. We often speak of something losing its shine or not looking like its original self. When this happens, we determine that it might be time to restore it or return it back to its original look.

The same is true spiritually, but in a much deeper way. One way that people often speak about mental illness is that a person loses themselves. In order to find themselves, something has to happen that restores, renews or gives them back possession of their original self.

This is what the scripture describes in what we call original sin; that is, our original self was lost. Its restoration, or the giving back of ourselves, has happened in Christ. He gave us, or showed us, the way to be human again – truly human. He taught us that love restores us individually and communally so that the divisions that happen within and among us cannot destroy our humanity.

“Who do you say that I am?” Knowing who he truly was could lead us to understand what he had to do and what we have to do to follow him.

He must suffer and die and be raised! This complete surrender to love in the face of hate and rejection was a total giving of self – dying and rising. It was this reality that Jesus spoke to all: “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”

Loosing self leads to finding self. It is not a bad thing. It is a necessary thing. Somehow it is in the restoration that grace becomes fully alive in us.

Father Perry D. Leiker is St. Bernard parish administrator. Reach him at (323) 255-6142, Ext. 112, or email pleiker@stbernard-church.com.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Looking Ahead

Father Perry D. Leiker
By Father Perry D. Leiker

These readings on Father's Day seem, at first sight, to be quite a downer.

David sins to the point of causing the death of Uriah the Hittite, whose wife he essentially steals and eventually marries. A woman (known to be a public sinner) makes her way — uninvited — into the home of a well-to-do Pharisee in the middle of a dinner. Both sinners recognize and confess their sin.

Davis does so openly and directly to Nathan; the woman does so openly, yet in an intimate expression, by cleaning Jesus’ feet with her tears, anointing and kissing them in public. Although the scenes and the sins are different, the admittance of sin, guilt and sorrow are very much the same.

What is essential to true repentance is the acceptance of responsibility for the sins one has committed and a desire to change. In our faith, we have a tool that is enormously helpful to this process. In the sacrament of reconciliation (more commonly known as confession), a person goes before the priest (both sinners) and tells his or her sins.

What is required is accepting responsibility for one's sins by openly, directly, and simply, admitting one's guilt. By opening to let the sin out or telling it, one finds themselves open even more to receiving forgiveness and actually experiencing a reconciliation deep within. The woman in today's Gospel does it publicly, and yet it is so intimate and revealing — many were aghast! Jesus, however, defends her actions and notes how deep her love is.

Fathers — and for that matter, mothers and everyone else — a great truth is being expressed today which has to do with being imperfect, sinful, yet capable of true repentance. How human this is. How encouraging this is. And how filled with the mercy of love this us.

Father Perry D. Leiker is St. Bernard parish administrator. Reach him at (323) 255-6142, Ext. 112. Or email pleiker@stbernard-church.com.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

A time for immigration reform

Archbishop José H. Gomez 
By Archbishop José H. Gomez

We’ve reached an important moment in our national debate on immigration.

As I write, the U.S. Senate is set to begin debating bipartisan legislation that would make the most comprehensive change in our immigration laws in 30 years.

I am with my brothers in the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops meeting this week in San Diego for our annual midyear meeting. Much of our conversation has been focused on the immigration debate in Washington, D.C.

Last week, I was privileged to host a “consultation on migration” that brought together the bishops of Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, Canada and the United States. The meeting was sponsored by the U.S. bishops and was held at our Sacred Heart Retreat House in Alhambra.

The bishops of the Americas — North and South — are united in calling for U.S. immigration reform that secures the borders, defends the rule of law, protects human rights, and provides a path for legalization and citizenship for undocumented workers.

As the Senate debate begins, the U.S. bishops are urging our lawmakers to pass a bill that provides a clear and broad path to citizenship so that the maximum number of persons can be brought out of the shadows and become full members of our society.

The bishops also want to make sure that our immigration policy remains focused on families, which are the backbone of our society. Family unity, based on the union of a husband and a wife and their children, must remain the cornerstone of our nation's immigration system.

This debate about immigration is about the future of the United States — and about the future of the church. The Catholic Church in this country has always been a church of immigrants, just as America has always been a nation of immigrants.

Many of us have forgotten our immigrant roots. But our church remains a church of immigrants. In earlier generations, we welcomed newcomers from every nation in Europe. Today, we are still welcoming newcomers — but they come now mainly from Latin America, Asia, Oceania and Africa.

However, every day we are seeing the effects of a broken immigration system.

Families are separated, migrant workers are exploited, and our brothers and sisters are dying in the deserts outside our borders. By our political inaction we are allowing a large underclass to grow at the margins of our society.

For this great country — with its heritage as a haven for refugees and immigrants — this is morally unacceptable.

America has always been a nation of justice and law. But we are also a people of compassion and common sense. Right now, our system doesn’t serve the rule of law or the cause of human rights. What we’re doing right now betrays our values and is making our country weaker and more vulnerable.

It will be a difficult discussion in the Congress and the wider public, but I am optimistic that now is the time for true and just reform of our immigration policies.

I’ve been writing, speaking and advocating on the immigration issue for nearly 20 years. For me, our national debate about immigration is a great struggle for the American spirit and the American soul.

That’s why I decided to write a little book in the middle of this big debate. It’s called “Immigration and the Next America: Renewing the Soul of Our Nation” (Our Sunday Visitor, $11.95).

I’ve been working on this book for a long time. It is not a political proposal or a work of scholarship. I am writing as a pastor who is concerned about the soul of America and the dignity and rights of the estimated 11 million souls who are here without proper documentation.

For me, immigration is a human rights test of our generation. But it’s also a defining historical moment for America, a moment for national renewal.

America has always been a nation of immigrants with a missionary soul. In the midst of this great debate, my hope is that this little book might help us to recover that memory — and to reflect on what it is to be an American, and what is expected of us in this present hour.

So let’s pray for one another this week. And let’s ask Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Mother of the Americas to give our leaders — and all of us —the courage to work together for the common good of our nation.

Archbishop José H. Gómez 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 at (213) 637-7000, or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/archbishopgomez.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Treasures of Our Faith

The San Fernando Pastoral Region presents a new series of articles titled “Treasures of our Faith.” The series is authored by Ryan Adams, one of the region’s diaconate candidates and a member of the region’s media team.

In his ninth article, Adams talks about the Gospel reading.

By Ryan Adams

The Gospel is the high point of the liturgy of the word. The word “gospel” means “good news.” It is the true account of the words, actions, and ministry of Jesus and, therefore, very sacred.

As the priest or deacon greets us, we all make a small sign of the cross on the forehead, mouth and over our heart to express that our mind is open to the word, that we will speak and praise the Word, and that we will hold it in our hearts and love the word of God.

When we, as a community of the faithful, respond to the proclamation of the Gospel with the response, “Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ,” we let our minds, lips and hearts proclaim that beautiful response.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Looking Ahead

Father Perry D. Leiker
By Father Perry D. Leiker

The word today presents to us two widows separated by thousands of years but who share a common story.

One has an only son who is “sick unto death,” and the other a son who has already died. Each also has a person who intervenes in their lives and connects them with God’s healing powers. Elijah, a guest of the widow in the first story, appeals to God to save the child. The child comes back to perfect health and is returned to his mother.

In the Gospel, Jesus halts a funeral and tells the corpse — the dead son of the widows of our second story — to “arise.” The boy sits up, speaks, and is returned to his mother.

The obvious reality that is played out in these stories is that God’s tremendous mercy is experienced by these widows as they have their children taken back to them. These are miracles of the highest order.

Most of the attention in the stories goes directly to the miraculous moment of restoration. But the moment that “sets up” the miracle is worthy of attention.

Elijah is catapulted into action by the women’s hurt and angry plea, and he calls out to God passionately and with great faith: “O Lord, my God, let the life breath return to the body of this child.”

Jesus, too, is moved and thrust into action by his own compassion for the widow, a complete stranger who just happened into his pathway because of this funeral procession. By his “Godly authority” Jesus cries out: “Young man, I tell you, arise!” Both widows and their children meet “men of God” who profoundly change lives through this encounter.

Both scenes are true experiences of profound faith and love. Both scenes are moments of profound restoration of life, relationship, peace, and faith.

How could these women and their children ever be the same? What would they think of God from that moment forward until the day they die? What would they now think of the “gift of life”?

What do these stories do to us, our understanding of God, and appreciation of life?


Father Perry D. Leiker is St. Bernard parish administrator. Reach him at (323) 255-6142, of email pleiker@stbernard-church.com.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Retirement Fund for Archdiocesan Priests special collection

This weekend, we will be asked to generously support the Retirement Fund for Archdiocesan Priests. A special collection will be taken up at all Masses.

This is your invitation to say "Thank you" to our current and future retired priests who have served — and many who still serve — all of us so faithfully through their priestly ministry.

"When you give to the 2013 Priest Retirement Fund, you help support our retired priests right here in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles," said Archbishop of Los Angeles José H. Gomez. "I am so grateful to my brother priests for their years of service and dedication and I thank you for your gift made in appreciation of our elderly priests."

For more information, call (213) 637-7672.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Photo gallery: 2013 St. Bernard Catholic School commencement ceremonies

Students from St. Bernard's eighth grade class participated in commencement ceremonies in the church on Wednesday, June 5, 2013, in a Mass celebrated by St. Bernard Parish Administrator Father Perry D. Leiker and concelebrated by St. Bernard Church Pastor Emeritus Monsignor H. Gerald McSorley.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Treasures of Our Faith

The San Fernando Pastoral Region presents a new series of articles titled "Treasures of our Faith." The series is authored by Ryan Adams, one of the region's diaconate candidates and a member of the region's media team.

Adams' eighth article explains the Gospel Acclamation.

By Ryan Adams

As the Gospel Acclamation begins, we all stand as a sign of reverence. The posture of standing highlights the fact that the Gospel reading enjoys a preeminent place among the scripture readings. (GIRM) The Gospel Acclamation serves as ours, the community's, greeting to the Lord as an expression of our faith through song.

During the Gospel Acclamation, the deacon or priest carries the book of Gospels from the altar to the ambo in procession. He may be accompanied by altar servers with candles and a thurifer if incense is being used. When incense is used, traditionally the book of Gospels is incensed before the Gospel is proclaimed, again to show the importance of what we are experiencing and receiving through the proclaiming of the Gospel reading.

The Gospel procession is also an important ritual action in the liturgy of the word as it gives us, the community an opportunity to stand and welcome the presence of Jesus among us in the Gospel.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Looking ahead

Father Perry D. Leiker
By Father Perry D. Leiker

The bread and wine were blessed. The bread and fish were blessed and distributed. People were nourished. People were satisfied.

Eating and drinking, and blessing and celebrating reach back to the beginnings of both the Jewish and the Christians faiths. Two-thousand years later we gather precisely for this purpose: to bless bread and wine, to eat and drink, and to celebrate and be nourished by the presence and love of Jesus Christ. Jesus instructs us to do this in "remembrance of me" and gives the understanding: "For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes."

It is an action so simple and ordinary, part of everyday life. We come to the table of the Lord to eat and drink of the Lord. We listen to the word, we proclaim the Gospel, we apply it to our living, and then we bless and eat and drink the Eucharistic presence of Jesus Christ. This symbol is so accessible.

Food gives life. Without food we die. Food nourishes, satisfies, and unites us at the meal. Jesus the Christ is to be our food – food for the spirit where hunger and thirst are the deepest and most significant. People can easily satisfy physical hunger.

Spiritual hunger and thirst require the willingness to go deep within, to ask questions, to seek answers, and most of all to open and surrender to our God.

Eat! Drink!  Live!  Love!

Father Perry D. Leiker is St. Bernard parish administrator. Reach him at (323) 255-6142, Ext. 112, or email pleiker@stbernard-church.com.