June 1, 2020
Dear Holy Angels!
Yesterday, Pentecost Sunday, was a truly momentous day for our church. With scant notice and very little time to prepare, our people responded in unprecedented droves to the call to feed the needy in these difficult times. It was a success that far exceeded anyone's expectations. While maintaining strict safety procedures to protect the health of all, we were able to collect a tremendous amount of food for our local Foothill Unity Center. Everyone knew the Angels would step up to the plate; no one could have foreseen the overwhelming response. An almost unbroken parade of vehicles arrived with food in such quantities that we could not keep up with it. One wonderful Angel had actually emailed all his neighbors to bring him all the food they could, and so he was able to arrive with an enormous vehicle loaded to the gills. One by one the Angels arrived, with great spirits and generous hearts. It was truly moving to witness the Spirit of God blowing like a mighty wind through the People of God. A true Pentecost.
THIS IS CHURCH!!!
Beautiful and grandiose as some of our buildings may be, the Church is not a structure of brick or stone or adobe or wood. The Church is the Spirit-filled People of God, responding to the call to love. It is not edifices that define it, but edifying acts of love. That Church is alive and well. That Church has never closed.
Yet that Church is also in constant need of reopening: a reopening of hearts to the Spirit Who "has sent me to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and to the blind new sight, to set the downtrodden free." This is the Spirit Who calls us to take a stand for the hungry, the oppressed, the marginalized. This is the Spirit Who sends us to take a stand against injustice, hatred, prejudice, racism, and the violence that is destroying our planet. This is the Spirit that makes us the living, loving, serving Church we must be if we can claim to be Church at all. That Church has never closed.
Doors of wood may open and close. Such doors do not open or close the Church. It is the door to our heart which we must always keep open, to allow the Spirit of God to "renew the face of the earth." One bag of groceries at a time.
Dear Holy Angels,
May 19, 2020
Dear Holy Angels!
The Sunday Gospel of a few weeks ago relates a story so important that it will be repeated very soon in the Gospel of Pentecost. The apostles are under lockdown, and Jesus comes to join them. He enters through the locked doors to bring a desperately needed message: "Peace be with you!"
The worldwide experience of these present times has been different for different people. Many are bored, some are frustrated, while others are worried, fearful, or lonely. Many others have become far more spiritual than ever before and have discovered a whole new set of resources they never knew before, both inside and outside the cyber-world, both inside and outside of themselves. Some have become irritable and some downright irrational, while others have become kinder, more loving, thoughtful and generous people. Some have allowed their higher nature to shine through as never before, while others have given in to quite the opposite. Some have been plunged into financial worries. Nearly all have connected or reconnected with others on a much deeper level.
The experience has been varied, but it has been a changing one for you and for me and for all of us, in one way or another. Of course ministering to the sick and witnessing the reality of the deathbed opens up eyes. Talking with dedicated veterans of decades of spiritual and physical care in the hospital gives a whole new perspective, as they face a frightening challenge unlike any they have ever seen. And hearing from friends in every corner of the globe puts our own situation into perspective, as they describe the far more extreme and far more strictly enforced restrictions in place long before ours, in the worldwide effort to halt the spread.
How comforting the message that can penetrate locked doors and closed hearts: Peace be with you!
These days will pass. But it would be a shame to return to what was before, without holding on to some of the tremendous good that has come out of this. Will we continue opening our hearts to others, lending a hand in extraordinary acts of generosity and kindness? Will we continue treating people with the old-fashioned courtesy and consideration so many have rediscovered in these days? Will we continue to nurture the wonderful connections we have discovered during these times of shared hardship? Will we still take the time for those important things we used to neglect in the busy-ness of our life, things like home, family, undistracted conversation and undivided attention? Will we continue to take the time to reflect and pray?
Or will we go back to cutting each other off on the roads, calling each other names? Will we go back to ignoring each other, suing each other, stepping over and on one another to get ahead? Will we begin once again to neglect those "unimportant" things that we have rediscovered now?
What will we be like afterwards? That is the real question. This has been a time when priorities and values have been rearranged, and that has certainly not all been bad! Things once considered important are now no longer so, and things we had long forgotten or neglected have now occupied their rightful place in our life.
As David Hollis has wisely admonished, "In the rush to return to normal, use this time to consider which parts of normal are worth rushing back to."
Let us be Holier Angels than ever before!
Peace be with you!
For so many parishioners and non-parishioners alike, our parish website has become the point of connectedness and spiritual nourishment. We invite you to visit it often and share with your friends the messages you find there.
Remember, if you are not receiving our email messages, it is probably because we do not have your current email address. Please do provide us with this information in order to receive our mailings.
Thank you for the tremendous support you continue showing your parish family during these times. Without you we could not continue being the family we are.
STAY WELL! STAY SAFE! STAY IN!
May 11, 2020
Dear Holy Angels!
So many people have been telling us how much they are enjoying the Mother's Day reflection on our parish website, along with the Mother's Day homily, the slideshow tribute, and the candles and pictures around the statue of our Blessed Mother. There is something about the songs and prayers and pictures of mothers that speaks to our heart and summons us back to something hidden yet still alive in us, primal and long forgotten.
These past weeks have been for almost the whole planet a time of relative isolation. We are not able to enjoy the company of others in the ways we have been used to. Parties, restaurants, meetings, visits, even Masses, have all ceased in the way we knew them before. Some have found the seeming isolation oppressive. By nature most of us crave human contact.
Mothers' Day, however, comes as a bold reminder that, unless we were twins, each of us spent the first nine months of life in similar isolation. Yet that isolation of the womb was not a lonely existence at all, for it was precisely at that time, and only at that time, that we were blessed with the most intimate human connection possible: the connection between mother and unborn child. During that magical time we never saw our mother's face; we didn't need to, for we were in her, a part of her, and we knew no other world -- nor did we need one. During that time we never saw anyone's face, yet we were content and at peace because that connection to the mother was so very real and unquestioned. During that time we grew, by leaps and bounds and in every way, as we would never grow again. We did not even notice the isolation; we felt only the powerful intimacy.
When it was finally time to sever that life-giving cord of connection, each of us came into the world kicking and screaming, every fiber of our being fighting against our release from this intimate isolation.
So wonderful is that gift!
Later in life we forget the gift in all of that. In the busy-ness of our hectic day-to-day life we become caught up in the motions and forget the Mover. We run in terror from moments of solitude, afraid perhaps of confronting ourselves. It is easier to keep running, than to stop and reflect on whether we are going in the right direction. In the precious and all too rare gift of solitude we see the lonely emptiness of the tomb, rather than the intimate connection of the womb.
In this period of Spiritual Retreat (for that is what it is for those who choose to make it so), let us rediscover the womb. The first gift of our mother, and the most important, was that nine-month period of intimacy in isolation, when we grew, and grew wondrously as human beings, in the silent, all-powerful connection of love. Our connection to God is as powerful and as intimate as that of an unborn child to its mother -- infinitely more so, in fact. Let us begin now to live in ever greater awareness of that most precious of gifts!
May our mother's blessing, and the blessing of our loving God, be ours in all its wondrous intimacy, in all the awesome connectedness already there in the womb of human existence, calling out for us to stop, wake up from our frenetic existence that passes for life, and take the time to notice!
May 4, 2020
Dear Holy Angels!
This unusual period of our life has brought many new elements to our lives, some of them quite difficult for many. To many, though, it has also brought a renewed sense of solidarity, with the realization that "we are all in this together" and what we do affects everyone around us, sometimes in vital ways. It is a renewed recognition that we are all citizens of the same planet; the pandemic may be universal, but so are the human experiences, the ties that bind us together. We are not alone.
From the very beginning of this, I have been receiving countless messages and calls from people in every corner of the planet, the vast majority living under far more drastic restrictions than we have been. Everywhere is the strong sentiment: We are doing our part to beat this disease! It is good to feel that unity, that solidarity with people everywhere. It is good to feel that we are not alone.
There has emerged in these days another level of tangible unity, and that is the unity with those who have gone before us and have lived through other difficult times. They are legion. Particularly powerful is the bond one suddenly feels with those who suffered the devastating influenza pandemic of a hundred years ago. We feel their pain now in very real ways. We are not alone.
In those days, of course, they did not have the modern means of efficient communication with which we are blessed. Their pastors could not send out mass emails or post reflections on a website. When the churches were closed for the pandemic of a hundred years ago, they used what simple means were available at the time, and often that was the newspaper. I have found it interesting to read through messages written by the pastors of 1918, and I would like to share with you a selection of their words, in the hopes that their encouragement to "rediscover" will speak to our hearts today.
1918 Rev. S. O. Coxe, Presbyterian
Rediscover the home
"By the wise and necessary action of the City Commission and the Board of Health, on account of the scourge of disease now prevailing, all congregational activities are canceled. But, while this providence is a severe one, affecting as it does all our plans and programs in this the most opportune season of the entire church year, may we not yet turn this season to best account by accepting it as an opportunity for the exercise of a fuller devotion to God and to the things of His Kingdom? Necessarily we shall be kept in our homes many hours that would otherwise be spent in recreation and amusement. Perhaps this circumstance will serve to remind us that in these sacred home-circles there is to be found the very finest of fellowship and the sweetest and most wholesome of all influences. And certainly if we should improve these hours by prayer and meditation, the seeming curse of this scourge would not be unmixed with blessing."
1918 Rev. Fletcher Parrish, Methodist
Rediscover meditation in this "unique Sabbath"
"Meditation is very profitable for the soul, but the rush of the world is so great at present that very little time is given to cogitation and reflection. Men think they have no time to walk out in the fields for contemplation, or to sit quietly by the fireside and muse.
"However, we have a God-given opportunity for this helpful indulgence by reason of this unique Sabbath which has dawned upon us. Out of necessity our churches are closed, and all public gatherings must be discontinued. We cannot go motoring, and we would not go to business if we could, and even the fields are dangerous lest we should come in contact with goldenrod and ragweed and take influenza. But we can sit by the fire and give ourselves to thought and reflection which will bring great profit to us."
1918 Father James E. Coyle, Catholic
Rediscover our appreciation for the Mass in its absence
"A situation unprecedented in the history of our State presents itself to you today. By order of the civil authorities, and by the advice of your religious leaders, you will not assemble in your various Catholic churches to assist at Holy Mass. That you may have some words of uplift and cheer, [the local newspaper] has courteously invited me to write a few words for its many Catholic readers, and I am thus enabled to address, by means of the printed word, a congregation greater far than the congregations that Sunday after Sunday gather.
"You are for the first time in your lives deprived of the opportunity of hearing Mass on Sunday, and you will, I trust, from this very circumstance, appreciate more thoroughly what Holy Mass is for the Catholics. Let us today reflect on the meaning and the history of that great sacrifice at which we may not assist, a sacrifice that links us with the saints and sages of every age from Christ's time till now, and let us beg God in his mercy to remove from us that sickness that keeps us deprived of the great sacrifice, so that soon we may again with glad, worshipful hearts, meet in our churches and assist in offering that sacrifice.
"The vigorous efforts made by the health authorities to stamp out the epidemic is, in one form or another, working hardship and discomfort to every single citizen, and this hardship and discomfort is cheerfully endured for the universal good. It is certain as good comes from every evil, that a deeper appreciation of the holy sacrifice will result from this necessary legislation. How true it is that we never really appreciate our blessings till deprived of the same for a season!"
In our prayers let us gratefully remember these long-departed shepherds and their flocks, who are interceding for us now in that marvelous solidarity that transcends time and space!
STAY WELL! STAY SAFE! STAY IN!