Holy Week and Easter 2022
Dear Holy Angels!
The celebration of Holy Week and Easter is always a time to reflect on the mystery of life and death. It is a time of grace for all of us and a time to renew our conscious connection to the Crucified and Risen One.
As I write this (February), I have just received word of the death of a friend, a fellow priest of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. This makes four priests we have lost to the pandemic in the last ten days here in Los Angeles.
I say "lost," but that is not accurate at all. When someone dies, we do not lose them. We never lose anyone to God. It is only in God that we truly find one another.
During the last two years many people have been confronted with the reality and mystery of death -- perhaps their own and perhaps multiple deaths in their family. I myself have buried more people during this time than in the rest of my years put together. Yes, Good Friday is something everyone can relate to. Even without a pandemic, we all live with the reality that we are not going to be here forever. I remember a sundial in the cloister of an ancient monastery in Europe. On it was a Latin inscription: "Una vestrum ultima mea." "One of you (hours) will be my last." I was young at the time (this was many years ago!) and young people tend to think they are indestructible; it was a sobering meditation to stand daily before this prophetic sundial and realize that its message had been read by countless generations who were no longer here.
Everyone can relate to Good Friday. But what about Easter Sunday? What about the continuation of life after the grave? That is perhaps more difficult to grasp, for it is not yet within our immediate experience; we only catch glimpses of its reality for us. Yet it is the Easter Mystery that alone gives meaning to Good Friday; it is only eternal life that makes sense of earthly death.
This Holy Week, let us renew our connection to the Crucified Lord. More than that, though, let us allow the Risen Lord of Easter to embrace us and lift us up with Him. Life has conquered! Death is no more! Christ lives, and with Him so shall we!
Dear Holy Angels!
Christmas is the time of giving, the time of receiving, but most of all the time to reflect on what we have received and continue to receive in our life. All of us are so blessed by God, but each of us in a different way. Not merely material possessions, but talents and skills and experiences and memories and hopes and dreams and relationships all make us the unique individuals we are.
Each year, too, is unique and special. What God gives us in one year may be completely different from what we receive in the next. Each year, with its unique gifts and challenges, is an invitation to grow in special ways.
Two years ago, who could have known that last year's Christmas would be so radically different from what we were used to -- and so much like the very first Christmas of two thousand years ago? Who could have imagined that this Christmas too, we would still be facing the challenges of pandemic, though making enormous strides through caution and vaccine?
Sometimes in our life we might imagine we are facing things that no one has ever faced before. But there is really nothing new under the sun. Other generations have known similar times, lived and loved and feared and hoped as we do, experienced both the challenges of life and the guiding hand of God.
Exactly 150 years ago, on Christmas Eve, 1871, the beloved American author, Mark Twain, penned a heartfelt Christmas letter to his wife: "Joy and peace be with you and about you, and the benediction of God rest upon you this day! Get vaccinated -- right away! Small pox is everywhere; doctors think it may become an epidemic. Here there is a $25 fine if you are not vaccinated within the next ten days. Mine takes splendidly; my arm is quite sore. Attend to this, my child."
May this blessing and every Christmas blessing be yours!
Your priests at Holy Angels
P.s. We obviously were not able to hold our Fall Fiesta this year. That has always been a huge financial help to both church and school, to get us through the year. We humbly ask that, if you are able, please consider an extra special Christmas gift to your parish this year. If you are not in a position to this, we completely understand, and we pray that your situation and that of all the parish family will improve soon. May the festive joys of this holy season be yours!
June 15, 2021
Dear Holy Angels!
We have come a long way! For well over a year now the entire world has been dealing with a terrible pandemic, the likes of which we have not seen in our lifetime. In some parts of the world the death rate is right now at horrifying proportions, such as we experienced earlier. We in California, however, are now doing much better with it, thanks to the vigilance, the sacrifices and the high rate of vaccination. Let us pray that the worst is behind us. We must, however, remain cautious and continue to protect one another. Although vaccinations were able to eradicate smallpox and polio, it did not happen overnight.
Throughout the pandemic we have worked hard to minister to the spiritual needs of our people as the changing situation demanded. Like everywhere else, many things took on a different look, and it was good to discover new ways of connection with God and with one another. Besides the Masses and other Sacraments, we have been blessed with the extraordinarily successful in-car Communion line every Sunday for the past year. Through this creative and safe encounter, enormous numbers of people each week were able to receive our Lord in Holy Communion. For many, it was the highlight of their week, and they so appreciated not only the reception of the Sacrament, but the chance to interact with others in this awesome moment. It was truly an occasion of grace.
We have now reached the point where we are able to hold Masses again inside the church without the physical distancing we had everywhere grown so accustomed to. Beginning June 20 we will no longer be distributing Communion in the Sunday morning car line, but we will reintroduce the 9:00 Mass instead. The online Mass will also be discontinued, but the homily will still be available online as usual.
Thus, for now our schedule of Sunday Masses (all inside the church) will be:
Saturday 5:00 p.m.
Sunday 7:30 a.m.
Sunday 9:00 a.m.
Sunday 11:00 a.m.
At Mass, the Archdiocese will no longer be requiring the use of masks for anyone who has been fully vaccinated. Employees and volunteers must still wear masks.
We realize, of course, that many people will not yet feel comfortable in such a crowded setting. If you prefer to continue wearing the mask, by all means do so! We certainly would encourage that. In addition, anyone suffering from illness or underlying conditions, or is simply afraid of becoming ill in such a setting, is always dispensed from the obligation to attend Mass; we might suggest that you follow one of the televised or online Masses. As always, if you are homebound, or have someone who is, please call the parish office to schedule someone to bring Communion to you.
We thank all the many, many parishioners who have so faithfully participated in our Masses (indoor, outdoor or online) or in our in-car Communion during these times. We thank our wonderful volunteers who have worked so hard to make it possible. And we thank all those non-parishioners as well who have found a spiritual home here during these extraordinary times; we welcome you into our family. We hope to see all our "regulars" at church, and we hope to be able to greet many more who have chosen to stay away during these dangerous times.
Please continue praying for the many throughout the world still dying from this terrible plague. May God be with us all!
May 3, 2021
Dear Holy Angels,
On Saturday the Holy Father led a special rosary service in Rome to pray for the end of the terrible pandemic the world has been in for over a year, these trying times which have left so many people "anguished, bewildered and weeping for their dear ones who have died, buried sometimes in a way that wounds the soul.” The Pope also prayed for health care workers on the front lines as well as for “the men and women of science, so that they find right solutions to conquer this virus,” in order that "this hard trial may end and a horizon of hope and peace return.”
Together with the Holy Father, we all pray for this horizon of hope and peace. Although in many parts of the world the virus is reaching new highs of death and misery, we in California just may be catching our first glimpse of this horizon of hope. As more people are vaccinated, our numbers are finally beginning to look much better. Some hospitals are slowly starting to allow limited visitation. Even the cemeteries are at least starting to catch up with the appalling and unprecedented overload of the past months.
There is no question that we must remain cautious and vigilant, as we continue to protect ourselves and others. With very few exceptions, the vast majority of Catholic churches and schools have maintained the very safest procedures throughout this pandemic, placing the safety of our people ahead of material or sentimental considerations. And the Church, as Church, has been thriving! For it has rediscovered its real priorities, its message, its mission, and it has been reaching people in ways it never dreamed of before.
As we, as individuals, as a society, as a Church, slowly and cautiously adjust to changing realities, let us not forget the wonderful lessons God has sent our way. If we have not allowed ourselves to grow beyond what we were before the pandemic, if we have not come to distinguish between what is truly important and what is only a prop, if we have not developed into people who "worship in spirit and in truth" rather than in designated artificial places, if we have not become more loving, more open, more embracing people, then this God-given moment of grace has been wasted on us.
From the very beginning of this new challenge, Catholic churches throughout the world have responded in extraordinary, creative ways for the protection and spiritual nourishment of their people. There were times when no one gathered physically for Masses, but people utilized the modern marvels of technology that wonderfully brought the Mass into their own homes. Then some of us began to expand on this by offering Holy Communion as people remained in the safety of their cars. Our own Holy Angels parish was a pioneer of this, and it remains by far the most popular thing we offer; large numbers still come from far and wide to partake of this in-car Communion. At another point many of us opened our properties to open-air Masses and rediscovered the beauty of praying in the most beautiful cathedral in the world: God's magnificent creation. The highlight of this experience was the beautiful outdoor Easter Sunrise Mass, a tradition we hope to carry on even long after the pandemic is over.
For the majority of parishes, outdoor Masses have proved the best solution, since there is no limit to the number of people you can serve. As the summer heat approaches, however, it would obviously not be possible to hold outdoor Masses at most times of the day. Again, health and safety concerns are the priority. Therefore we will be making some changes to our schedule, beginning the weekend of May 15-16.
The 7:00 a.m. Sunday outdoor Mass will remain.
Online Mass will be at 8:00 a.m.
The Sunday In-car Communion will remain, from 8:30 till 9:30 a.m.
There will be NO MORE 2:00 p.m. Sunday Mass.
We will introduce an 11:00 a.m. Sunday Mass INSIDE the church.
In addition, we will have a SATURDAY evening vigil Mass at 5:00 p.m. INSIDE the church.
Please remember that we must keep the safe distancing procedures inside the church, which will greatly limit the number of people we can accommodate. (This is one of the principle reasons most parishes prefer the outdoor version.) People will be assigned a seat, and attendance will be first-come-first-served; if the church reaches capacity, we will not be able to admit more. (However, it is well to note that most parishes who have already offered inside Masses are not experiencing anywhere near their capacity, as most people seem definitely not ready to go inside.) There will also be no late seating. Of course, masks must continue to be worn at all the Masses and services, and the church will be ventilated as much as possible. All protocols will be strictly enforced.
For the time being, we hope that this schedule provides something for everyone, according to the comfort level of each. Some now feel comfortable enough to go inside, especially after being vaccinated. Many prefer to remain outside, and we continue to provide that opportunity as well, at the coolest time of the summer days. Many more feel safest inside their cars. Regardless, please continue being careful, and in your charity remember the safety of those around you.
With the Holy Father, we pray a new horizon of hope may not be far off.
Dear Holy Angels!
"Christmas will always be as long as we . . . stand heart to heart and hand in hand." These words of the great author of children's books, Dr. Seuss, resonate with us in a particular way this year. 2020 has been the year when everything on the planet was different from what it had been in living memory. Christmas will be no exception. Everywhere people are wondering: What will our Christmas be?
It is perhaps an opportune time to dust off our old copy of Dr. Seuss's 1957 classic, "How the Grinch Stole Christmas!"
We will remember the Grinch as a grouchy creature who hates Christmas and, like an insidious virus, tries his best to destroy it. He manages to take away all the worldly trappings, the decorations, festive foods, Christmas trees, presents, etc. and imagines that by doing so he is getting rid of Christmas. Expecting the people to wake up on Christmas morning to bitter disappointment and tears, he is shocked to hear them break out into a joyous Christmas carol instead.
Suddenly it dawns on him that "maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more" than just presents and feasting and external things. This stunning revelation causes his heart to grow three sizes, he brings back all he had stolen, and the Grinch himself joins in the celebration of Christmas.
There will always be Grinches and viruses trying to destroy our Christmas, destroy our peace, destroy our happiness. But the Grinch discovered he could only take away the trappings; the spirit was only strengthened by his deed, and Christmas was more meaningful than ever before. For the people found Christmas in one another.
When our hearts open to the breaking hearts of others around us, there is Christmas.
When we extend our hand in generous giving to those whose hands are empty, there is Christmas.
When we open our eyes and finally recognize the Child of Bethlehem in all those faces around us, there is Christmas.
Christmas does not consist of pomp and lights and colorful things; Christmas came in the abject poverty of a filthy, cold, dark stable, whose nothingness brought Everything to the world.
Christmas Day will always be,
just as long as we have we!
Welcome Christmas while we stand,
heart to heart, and hand in hand!
May this true Christmas be always ours!
December 6, 2020
Dear Holy Angels!
On the morning of St. Nicholas Day, December 6, 1917, two ships collided in the Halifax Harbor in Nova Scotia, Canada. This was the time of World War I, and one of the ships was carrying huge amounts of explosives. An enormous deadly explosion resulted, killing thousands of people in Halifax and creating both a tsunami and fires which destroyed large parts of the city, leaving the people homeless in the bitterly cold winter. It was an indescribable catastrophe, remembered with horror to this day. But help poured in, and much of it came from Boston, Massachusetts. As a result, the city began to be rebuilt.
When the terrible pandemic of the Spanish Flu struck in 1918, Nova Scotia sent a team of doctors to Boston in gratitude for the assistance received from Boston after the Halifax Explosion. In December 1918 Halifax sent a Christmas tree, which was installed in the Boston Common. This became a tradition that is still going on each Christmas. To this day, each year the lighting of the Halifax tree in Boston signals the start of Boston's Christmas festivities. It is an annual reminder of the catastrophe of 1917 and the worldwide pandemic of 1918. But much more than that, it is a beautiful reminder of the brotherly love that sustained people during their darkest times. It is a reminder of what Christmas means.
This has been a challenging year for all of us, for each individual, for each family, and for our parish family. It is thanks to your extraordinary generosity that we have been able to survive this new global pandemic, so reminiscent of the one of a hundred years ago. You have come through in unbelievable ways. Our Christmas tree is lit for you, in deep gratitude for all you have been doing, in proud commemoration of the amazing solidarity our Holy Angels have been showing. Few parishes have experienced this to the extent that we have.
Many people choose to make a year-end gift to their parish, to take advantage of the tax benefits. It is not too late for this. December 31 is just around the corner. Please consult your tax professional regarding the tax consequences associated with any donation you would like to make. You may wish to take advantage of our online giving program; simply click on "Online Giving."
The 1918 pandemic has been mirrored this year in a haunting manner. But the 1917 Explosion has returned in quite an extraordinary manner: in an unprecedented explosion of brotherly love and solidarity. Our Christmas tree is lit for you.
Thank you, thank you, thank you! And may God bless you in every way!
Fr. Kevin Rettig
A Prayer for Christmas
O, Divine Child, as we celebrate Your wondrous birth, we ask You to watch over us in these difficult times of sickness and death.
Be near to all who are suffering in the pandemic; be near to the families of the sick, the grieving families, those who care for the sick, nurses, doctors, first responders and others who risk their lives each day.
Comfort the dying and lead them safely home to the eternal Bethlehem.
In this holy season help us to be selfless as You are selfless, to put others' safety and welfare above our own desires; teach us that sometimes the way to show true, unselfish love is to stay apart from one another, as difficult as that may be.
May Your holy Mother, who cradled You in her arms that first Christmas night, cradle us too, lift us up, and hold us close to You.