Last week: Ash Wednesday and beyond

p1010689Last Wednesday was Ash Wednesday, and I was glad to see the Cathedral packed for noon Mass. I spoke about the need to do something for Lent, and not just put off making a resolution. I also encouraged us to do our Lenten sacrifice out of love for Him, who first sacrificed for us.  You may read the text of my homily here.  I was pleased the Oakland Tribune featured a prominent photo of our Ash Wednesday Mass the next day. They also had a very fine article recently on Father Jay Matthews appointment as the new Rector of the Cathedral. See it here.  Nice to get some good publicity for the Church from our local media.

p1010704Photos:  Al Pacciorini/The Catholic Voice

divider bar for blogIn continuing my visits to our parishes for our Capital Campaign, I went to Queen of All Saints in Concord.  Fr. Michael Cunningham and Fr. Enrique welcomed everyone for a totally bilingual reception.  It was good to see such a large turnout from both language groups in the parish.  We are one family in Faith.

Photos:  Jose Felix

divider bar for blogI spent last Friday morning at the Marines Memorial Theatre in San Francisco for the annual Memorial Service for over 120 deceased service members from Northern California.  This non-denominational service, sponsored by the “Blue Star Mothers” is held to help the parents of the deceased find support and help in their grief.  There were a number of parents present from our Diocese.  Here I am with Elsie Silva from St. Anne’s in Union City, who lost her son Lance Corporal Andrew Silva, USMC, last year.  Please remember the souls of our deceased service members, as well as their families, in your prayers.

Photos: © Michael Mustacchi; courtesy

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The horrific murder of 21 Coptic Christians in Libya a week ago came as we began the Journey of Lent.  The next week on Ash Wednesday throughout the Diocese we wore the ashes of Penance on our foreheads, the sign of the Cross and of our faith visibly proclaimed to the world.  Those Christians in Libya were killed simply because they confessed Christ and his Cross.  Please join me standing together united with all Christians in prayer for our brother Copts, the newest martyrs.

20150220_151216_resizedAnd so last Friday I went to visit Saint Antonius Coptic Orthodox Church in Hayward to express condolences on behalf of everyone in our diocese on the murders in Libya. Fr. Ramon Gomez and Fr. Alex Castillo accompanied me and we were greeted very warmly by Fr. Bishoy Ray Ibrahim. I assured him that the Catholic  clergy, religious and laity of the Diocese of Oakland stand one in faith and in solidarity with the world Coptic community. We prayed together for the protection of religious freedom and of practicing the faith, and I asked Fr. Bishoy to deliver a letter from me to his patriarch His Holiness Tawadros II, Pope of Alexandria.  He agreed to do so and then invited me to read my letter to his congregation assembled for the Friday afternoon liturgy. You can read my letter here.

Fr. Bishoy and I exchanged our blessings and then exchanged gifts as well.  In the name of the Diocese I gave him the pectoral cross of The Good Shepherd which is worn by Pope Francis.  Fr. Bishoy presented each of us with a warm loaf of  leavened altar bread (unconsecrated) used in their Eucharistic service.  Straight from the oven!

The next day during evening Mass at the Cathedral I recounted this visit during my homily, which is linked below in the section on the FACE benefit.

As our beloved Pope Francis said last week, “The blood of our Christian brothers and sisters is a testimony which cries out to be heard. It makes no difference whether they be Catholics , Orthodox, Copts or Protestants.  They are Christians! Their blood is one and the same…”

20150220_151545_resized 2Photos:  Al Donner/The Catholic Voice; Fr. Alex Castillo

divider bar for blogThis weekend we had a special Mass and reception for FACE, Family Aid for Catholic Education, to thank our benefactors.  These generous people contribute to a scholarship fund helping our students pay tuition at our Catholic Schools.  Part of the funds raised in the Capital Campaign will go to creating an endowment for tuition assistance for Catholic Education. At the reception I was pleased to present Ron and Betty Courtney with the first Founders Award for their leadership and generosity.  You can listen to my homily here.

LQ3A0764divider bar for blogThis past weekend we had three large ceremonies, the “Rites of Election” to recognize Catechumens (those who are going to be baptized at Easter) and Candidates (those who, having been baptized are going to receive more sacraments, or those baptized in another Christian church who are converting to Catholicism).  When you see the Cathedral filled “times 3” it shows how alive and well the Catholic Faith is in our diocese.  In my homily I spoke about the witness of the Coptic Christian Martyrs in Libya.  You can listen to the homily in English or in Spanish.

Photos:  Darwin Sayo

divider bar for blogLast but not least we had our annual celebration of Mass for the Chinese Catholic community in honor of the Lunar New Year at St. Leo the Great parish in Oakland  They have a fantastic choir singing sacred music in Chinese.  St. Francis Xavier would have been proud to see how the Faith has taken root and continues to grow in China, in all of Asia, and in our Chinese community in Oakland.  Gung hay fat choy!CNY 2015 altarCNY 2015 bishops envelopes CNY 2015 bishops standing resizedPhotos:  Darwin Sayo/The Catholic Voice

Christmas Week 2014

It is still a busy Christmas season in our Cathedral. I would like to share with you a few thoughts in my Christmas homily and published in the Catholic Voice as well.  Be the peace you want to see in the world. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of you!

My Christmas Homily [in Firefox, ctrl-click]

Catholic Voice — January 5, 2015  — With all the evil going on in the world this season, one can be tempted to despair: beheadings in the Middle East, kidnapping of college kids and their execution in Mexico, the murder of two New York police officers in cold blood as they sat in their patrol car, the wanton destruction and vandalism of stores and businesses in our own city of Oakland. Even our cathedral was not spared.

Yet Isaiah prophesied: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” For those who love and follow Christ, the way is bright, joyful, and peaceful.

On Christmas this year, 2014, we celebrate one of the finest examples of the in-breaking of Christ’s light: “The Great Christmas Truce of 1914”. German and British soldiers were dug-in for miles in trenches. Snipers and poison gas took their toll. Yet on Christmas day, soldiers on opposing sides put up signs reading “Merry Christmas” on them. Then men from each side got up, unarmed, and walked toward each other in no man’s land. They shook hands, traded gifts, sang carols, ate and prayed together. They even played soccer with improvised balls. The truce spread for hundreds of miles and lasted up to New Year’s Day. When Pope Benedict XV heard about it, he asked England and Germany to extend the truce indefinitely. It took the threats of senior officers to force the men back into the trenches to resume the war.   But look what common love and regard for Christ’s birth accomplished. It is still possible.

In our liturgical calendar the Feast of the Holy Family follows on the Sunday after Christmas. I am one who believes that before there can be peace “in the world” there has to be peace “inside me” and then “inside my family”.   Yes you say, “But my sister did something really awful to me some years ago that really hurt.” Or, “My brother does not help support our aging parents, I have to do it all by myself.” Hurt is real. Pain is real. Yet so is Christ’s power to heal. When Christ went through his passion and death, he absorbed all the pain caused by our sins. Often when I go to the hospital to anoint a dying grandmother, I find the family – usually grown adult children – around the bed. Mother is usually unconscious. I ask the family to join hands and pray with me. I invite them, in their hearts, to forgive their mother for any sins she may have committed against them . . . and ask them to forgive any sins or hurts they may have inflicted on their mother. Many a family have been reconciled on their mother’s deathbed.

Christ’s overpowering love and sacrifice enable us to do the same.

I was impressed by how many parishes in our diocese held Reconciliation Services before Christmas – and how many people took advantage of them. I heard confessions at one of these Services in Pleasanton. But I knew I could not be a sign of reconciliation to others without going to confession myself first.

“His name will be called Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 6)

Be the peace you want to see in the world. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of you!

Look back at Rome visit, September 2014

141006_jesuFrom September 22-30 I was in Rome for a planning session for the next International Eucharistic Congress, to be held in the Philippines in 2016.  My trip coincided with the 200th anniversary of the re-constitution of the Jesuit Order, which was observed by Pope Francis in The Gesu (the mother-church of the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits) – and I was able to attend that, as well.  I wrote about those activities in my column for the Catholic Voice on October 6.  Here are some photos that were not in the paper, and also a video that some of you may have already seen.

Catholic Voice Column

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Altar

Altar

 

Mercy and Mystery

Last week I was invited to Phoenix to celebrate Mass for the annual LifeTeen Catholic youth ministers’ convention. When I stepped out of the airport it felt like opening the oven door when you take out a pizza. 101 degrees in the shade.

I was pleased we had over 30 youth ministers and priests from our Oakland diocese among the 800+ participants. We even had our own reception, and took the (in)famous photo that has inspired over 5,000 hits on our diocesan Facebook page.

crowdsurfing

You can check out the LifeTeen.com website to get an idea of how successful they are in bringing youth to Christ: edgy, yet solid.

In my homily I thought what could I say to folks who are more advanced than me in connecting with youth? I told them what I’ve seen:

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