Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Advent: The time of preparation

In this time of Advent, we are looking toward the Second Coming of our Lord, even as we prepare for the celebration of His First coming at Christmas time. There are many ways that we celebrate, prepare ourselves during Advent. Many of my friends have started an Advent Reflection blog or facebook page, each day reflecting on the daily readings at Mass, or in one case, reflecting on different readings from the Bible, but with the same themes as what we as Catholics read and reflect on. I have a college alumni who is not Catholic, but started doing an Advent Reflection last year. He says it is one of the most refreshing and uplifting exercises he has done in his Christian life.

One of our traditions is to have a Penance Service during Advent and another one during Lent. Usually as soon as possible at the beginning of each season. This years Advent Penance Service was on the first Monday of Advent. We had 16 priests from our vicariate come to hear confessions and give absolution for those confessed sins. The church was packed! Standing room only. Since it was not a Mass, and Father Mark didn't really need my help on anything, I got to sit with my wife in the pews (not a common occurrence in our parish, since I am usually on the altar assisting with the Mass). There was an opening song, a Scripture reading, a short homily and then a community penitential rite, the introduction of the priests and then GENERAL CHAOS ensues.

I say general chaos, because no matter how well the staff prepares the areas where the priests will hear confessions, or how orderly the lines are taped out on the floor, people just crowd to be the first in any line so they don't have to be there too much longer (I would hope it is because they want to get reconciled with God quickly before it's too late, but the cynic comes out in me). We do have certain priests who are very well thought of and considered very good confessors. Their lines fill up even before the service starts, they are usually placed in the choir room and the meditation chapel, so the lines run along the side walls of the church and the line does not impede the actual service proceedings.

As I reflect on how our penance service went, I am struck by a few things.

1: There are so many who coming, wanting to be cleansed and reconciled with God and his people, I wonder where they are during the rest of the year when we have regular reconciliation on Saturday mornings, or by appointment if they can't make it then. I realize that Church Law says that one is supposed to confess at least once a year, but I can tell you from personal experience it is needed more often than that.

2: If we had another priest on staff here at our parish (we only have the one, and he works a lot), I can't help but think that we would be able to better serve our community with those sacraments that only a priest can provide. (we deacons can only do so much you know).

 3: When it was my turn to go to reconciliation, I went to a priest with whom I had never confess to before. He is a convert to Catholicism, coming to us from the Anglican Tradition, so when he was ordained a Catholic priest, he became one of the few MARRIED priests we have here in our diocese. It was a truly different experience to talk to a married priest, one who had, in all likelihood, gone through the same experiences that I have gone through in my married life. Does this mean that I am in favor of getting rid of the celibacy discipline for priests? Absolutely not! An unmarried man can put all of his energies into ministry, not having to worry about pleasing a wife or running a household (these are Paul's words, not mine).

So the lines started to form, and my wife and I helped with directing the penitents to awaiting priests. I felt a sense of joy; joy that so many people were there to find peace and absolution and resolving not to continue in the walk of sin. May your Advent be a blessed season as you look towards the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Of tornadoes, destruction and hope.

After watching the emotional news over the last few days on the destruction of the tornado in Oklahoma, the loss of human life, from infants to the elderly, the utter, total loss of property, I am reminded of the stories my father would tell us about his life on a farm in Tornado Alley. Although he was born on a farm near Paris, Texas, he grew up on a farm near Gould, Oklahoma.

Dad lived a hard life, but a full one in Oklahoma. He was one of 10 children of William and Mardie Moon, one of those children dying as an infant. Eight boys and one girl, the girl being the youngest in the family (along with her twin), so the boys in Gould treated my aunt Nonie like a princess (if they didn't there would be 8 Moon boys to see to it they did!) Grandpa was a sharecropper, never owned the land he farmed, and they lived through drought, tornadoes, and bad crops. Dad would tell us of his time picking cotton, he said that was the worst thing they ever raised, because they couldn't afford the equipment for a cotton gin. The cotton would cut their hands even through the gloves they wore.

Of course, Dad loved to recall how they would WALK into town for the Saturday Night movies and get home around 1 in the morning, only to get up at 5 to start the day again. How they would walk to school 10 miles, uphill both ways! He had to work from the time he could walk, of course, living on a farm, but he also drove a school bus while he was in high school. School revolved around the planting and harvest seasons, they would be out of school during those times and basically in school all the other times.

Dad told us of tornadoes that would tear through the farmlands, destroying farmhouses, chicken coups, any other buildings that were around. Buildings were not as well built as they are today, so one could imagine how fast these buildings were destroyed when we see the speed at which this most recent tornado destroyed Moore, Ok. Of one of those tornadoes, I would like to share with all of you. It was a very bad twister, one that had already taken out many homes and barns. Afterwards, they went out into the town and saw a few dozen chickens lying in the road dead, still warm, but dead nonetheless. Dad said they thought about taking them home and cooking them, but when they went to pick them up he knew it would be impossible since the chickens were also full of wood splinters from the barns and such. This twister also took out an entire side of a house in town, but did not touch the piano that was next to the exterior wall, there also was a rose in a vase on the piano that was not touched.

Times were tough back in the day. There was no warning system, except the dark skies, etc. but no Doppler Radar or cable/satellite T.V. The results of the tornadoes are always the same, destruction. But, like my Dad, who lived through many of them and rebuilt their lives, helped their neighbors do the same, the good people of Oklahoma will rebuild, they are already helping their neighbors, and hope springs eternal.

God Bless Oklahoma.

(To my family: If there is any misinformation in this story, please let me know. My memory isn't what it used to be, but the stories that Dad told are still fresh in my mind.)

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Homily for Pentecost 2013

Pentecost Sunday: May 17, 2013

          Paq en tak kawi. Bon bon kawi wah. Who here understood what I had just said? It is a legitimate language, from the South Pacific Islands which one I don’t remember, but it was a phrase we learned in my linguistics class I had in college. If I remember correctly, it is a greeting.  The reason I bring this up is to highlight what today is. 

          Jesus’ disciples were together in one place, when a “mighty rushing wind” came in and then appeared as tongues of fire and rested on each of them, being filled with the Holy Spirit, they began to speak in different tongues, languages, as the Spirit enabled them to do. The crowds were amazed at how these simple people, many of them fishermen, others laborers, still others could have been the wives of those there in the room, could talk in different native languages from the various parts of the Roman Empire.

          The feast of Pentecost was one of the three major pilgrim festivals of Israel. Originally it was an agricultural feast marking the end of the grain harvest, also called feast of Weeks, because it was celebrated seven weeks, or 50 days after the feast of Unleavened Bread. As the other two pilgrim feasts, it took on historical importance, commemorating the giving of the law on Sinai. The fact it was a pilgrim feast explains why devout Jews from every nation where in Jerusalem at the time.

          This is an outpouring of the Spirit of God, an outpouring to show that the Gospel is for all to hear, for all to understand. Look back at the 11th Chapter of Genesis to the Tower of Babel, where men were trying to build a tower to heaven.  Language was confused at that point, so that man could not complete this project. The world was fractured at Babel, and at Pentecost the outpouring of the Spirit and the understanding of all can be seen as the reuniting of the human race and the gathering of all into the reign of God.

So Pentecost is a feast of the Holy Spirit, and his movements, his guidance in our lives. We see in Paul’s letter to the Romans, exactly how the Spirit of
God works in our lives. If we are in the flesh, meaning all of our human nature and its limitations that sometimes moves us away from God, we cannot please God. On the other hand, if we live in the Spirit, we are attuned to God. It is in that dimension of the human experience that can be joined to the very Spirit of God. 

Jesus says that if we love him, we will keep his commandments, and he will ask the Father to send another Advocate to be with us always. We follow his example of obedience to the Father. Obedience isn’t the requirement of love; it is the consequence of it. Such love is not an emotional response, but a state of being, it is how one lives, it permeates one’s life, allowing them to live in intimate relation with the Father and the Son, through the Spirit.

So at last, the plan of Salvation has been brought to a conclusion. The risen Lord has been exalted to his rightful place at the right hand of the Father, and he has sent his Spirit to fill the earth with God’s power. Our world is charged with divine energy, but it needs a spark in order to ignite it with life and excitement. In Acts, this excitement explodes onto the scene in an extraordinary way, tongues are loosed and speech overflows its restraints in understanding; charismatic gifts flood the valley of humanity; barred doors are burst open and frightened hearts are calmed. The Spirit of the Lord fills the whole world. Today, we gather for one reason, but we discover that God has another in mind We may come for personal devotion, but we find us wrapped up in communal divine worship. Through the Spirit of God, we are reconciled to one another and we spend ourselves for the common good. Through the Spirit of god the world is renewed, the community is revitalized, and we come to know the mysterious yet all-pervasive peace of Christ.

If all this has really happened, why does our world look the same? Why is there so much religious and ethnic rivalry? Why do we continue to make distinctions between Jew and Gentile, free and slave, man and woman, documented and undocumented, immigrant and citizen, distinctions that favor one at the expense of the other? Why is there so little peace? Why do we refuse to forgive or to be reconciled? Is Pentecost merely a feast we celebrate in red vestments? Has the face of the earth really been renewed?

The answer is YES! A resounding YES! The Spirit has been poured forth and works wonders wherever human hearts are open to his promptings. The earth is renewed each time rivalries are resolved, distinctions are recognized as merely expressions of diversity, peace is restored, comfort and solace are offered, and forgiveness is granted. We are immersed in the vigor of the Spirit of God; all we have to do is to open ourselves up to him and the reign of God will be born in our midst.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Homily for the Third Sunday of Easter 2013

Third Sunday of Easter 2013

Our society today has so much in common with the society of ancient Greece. Yes, it is true that we get much of our democratic ideas, rule of law, from the Greeks of old, 3 to 4 hundred years before Jesus. But we, as a society, still have much more than just the democratic rule of law in common with the ancients. They worshiped many gods, we, in turn, worship many gods too, just look at the sporting events held on any given day, especially on Sunday. Look at the importance we put on material goods, the almighty dollar….are these not gods? Do they not take up the majority of our time and energy in the pursuit of them? Do we not love them?

The Athenians had rule of law, we also, have rule of law. Unfortunately, we are headed back toward ancient Greece in other ways. The majority would rule and everybody was happy unless the minority started making waves. The philosopher Socrates was one of these minority trouble makers. His ideology was one not of self-rule, but of being guided by a loving and wise shepherd. He was put on trial for impiety toward the gods, but it was really because he was upsetting the apple cart. Standing in front of tyranny, Socrates states that it would be better to obey the gods than some earthly court.

Peter recalls the words of Socrates when he replies to the Sanhedrin that they must obey God rather than men. Peter and the Apostles were the minority that was upsetting the apple cart. The Apostles were ordered again to stop speaking in the name of Jesus. They left the Sanhedrin rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name.
Perhaps the Sanhedrin were upset because these followers of the Way were starting to gain more followers. Perhaps they felt that the Apostles truly were teaching false doctrine. Perhaps they felt that the Apostles would incite the people to turn against them pointing the finger to them as the ones who crucified the Christ. Or perhaps they were worried that the outgoing number of people would affect the bottom line of monies coming into the synagogue.  Whatever the reason, Peter and the rest stood firm on their convictions, on what they knew was right and moral, regardless of what the “majority” was saying.

Today, we are inundated with moral relativism. We are told that the Church is out of touch, that the Church doesn’t know how to relate to the people of today, that the Church is outdated. The Church is not outdated, the Church is timeless. Her teachings go beyond what the people of this age say, because she is being guided by God’s Holy Spirit, which is timeless himself. God’s truths are timeless and unchangeable.

We need to learn what our Church teaches, we need to stand up to those who say that the Church out of touch and outdated. We need to live the faith that we profess, we need to live the love of Christ for a world that is lost and dying. How do we do this? The answer lies within the Gospel reading.

Jesus, in his third appearance to the disciples after the Resurrection, meets them in an everyday experience. Just as Jesus meets us in everyday experiences.  Peter went back to his former vocation of being a fisherman, but as to why they did, we can’t really say. Some think it was because they lost their faith, they were afraid of the Sanhedrin and didn't want to make waves.
I think it was because Jesus told them to wait for him in Galilee, and while they were waiting, they had to have a way to eat, a way to support themselves. So they went fishing. Surprise of surprises, they make a large catch of fish when they listen to and obey the master fisherman.

Finally, Jesus exchange with Peter is a confirmation of Peter’s place in the economy of the Kingdom. Peter affirms his love three times, in reconciliation for his denial earlier. When Peter declares his love, Jesus commissions him to assume the role of shepherd of the flock. Since he is a man who failed, and was shown compassion and was restored, he is now a shepherd who can show compassion to others who have also failed.

While today’s gospel singles out Peter as a leader within the community, in no way does this mean that the care of the flock is the sole responsibility of its authorized leaders. It is the responsibility of all the baptized. Parents, you are the leaders of your home, the domestic church. It is your witness that feeds the flock. Students, you are the leaders in the school, you are the church militant! It is your witness that feeds the flock. We are all called to feed and tend the flock of God. Some are given the added responsibility of overseeing this ministry, these are our bishops, pastors, deacons and all pastoral ministers.

In the world in which we live, a world of extensive dehumanizing poverty, of terrifying and continual violence, of the exploitation and criminal abuse of the defenseless, the Church is rightfully judged by the character and extent of the care it provides for the most vulnerable. Those called to this service, as Peter was called, should respond out of the same kind of humble love Peter did, for they should know it is only the saving power of God that enables them to persevere. Without it, they too might deny Christ.

We are in a situation in the Church today that bears much resemblance to this earlier period. Our religious convictions seem to be floundering. The rapid pace of social change has caused many to relinquish any sense of religious purpose. The number of people NOT raised within a religious culture has increased sharply. There is more need for effective preaching and witness to the resurrection power of Jesus than ever before. We must take seriously our baptismal responsibilities, just as the early Christians did.
Listen to the witness of the last three Popes:
John Paul II: This is what the Church believes.
Benedict XVI: This is why the Church believes it.
Francis: This is how we live it.

We can learn all we need to learn about the faith, and so we should, but once we learn, we HAVE to live it. Like Pope Francis’ namesake said 800 years ago, Preach the Gospel always….use words when necessary.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

USCCB Blog: Here comes everybody: divorced, gays, sinners, a c...

USCCB Blog: Here comes everybody: divorced, gays, sinners, a c...: It amazes me when basic church teaching is received as if it were something brand new. This morning's New York Times brought the lates...

From the USCCB.


Here comes everybody: divorced, gays, sinners, a couple saints

It amazes me when basic church teaching is received as if it were something brand new. This morning's New York Times brought the latest example with the headline: "Dolan Says the Catholic Church Should Be More Welcoming to Gay People." A glance at other media outlets finds similar news accounts. From the NBC website: "Cardinal Dolan: Church Must Embrace Gays, Lesbians." Then from the NY Daily News: "'Jesus died on the cross for them as much as He did for me’: Cardinal Dolan says church should not push away gays."

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York created this media storm with basic pastoral comments on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" and CBS's "Face the Nation" with Bob Schieffer. Cardinal Dolan said the church is there for everyone.

I have two reactions.

1. The word "catholic" means all-encompassing, so how can people get the impression that the church is exclusionary? No one is carded at a Catholic Church. Shunning is not the Catholic tradition. Other news reports this week give homey examples of the church's inclusionary nature. Ann Rodgers, a reporter from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, was selected to carry olive branches in a Palm Sunday procession at the Vatican. Ann said she wasn't Catholic, but that wasn't a problem for organizers at the Holy See. A few days afterwards, a Muslim girl in a Rome youth detention facility had her feet washed by Pope Francis at the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord's Supper. Her standing outside the fold was no problem for the papal advance men. To reiterate Cardinal Dolan's point: Gays ae welcome in the church. So are divorced people. Heck, even in the rare instances that people are excommunicated, they're still expected at Sunday Mass. Although some sects ban you from the property for violating their rules, the Catholic Church still wants you in the pew.

2. More people have been excommunicated by their Aunt Minnie than by the church. Much of the media, and many Catholics, miss the fact that the Catholic Church is a church of mercy and forgiveness, and most of all, communion. It is so encompassing that writer James Joyce defined Catholicsm as "here comes everybody." The church looks for ways to make things better for people. We have seven sacraments -- and three, Baptism, the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the Sacrament of the Sick, are geared to bringing people into or back into the fold, sinner or no. It's pratically impossible to get out of the Catholic Church where if you leave we call you an ex-Catholic rather than a Protestant, atheist or the latest term, a "none" (the last in deference to pollsters who force you to check some box when asked about your religious practice).

Gay marriage is the issue de jour for media. So when Caridnal Dolan on Easter spoke kindly of the gays and lesbians, media feigned shock. In reality, the Catholic Church challenges all its members -- in different ways over different issues.

But know this: The Catholic Church will battle hard to maintain the sacredness of marriage as between a man and a woman. It also offers counseling to help people avoid divorce. It patiently insists that frenetic couples entering into marriage go through pre-marital counseling, no matter how busy they are with wedding planners and caterers. For the Catholic Church marriage is worth it all, even sadly, a trip to the U.S. Supreme Court.

And know even more: God's love for his children is boundless. A disagreement on the definition of marriage is a serious disagreement. It is not, however, separation from the love of God.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A Short History of a Conversion Part 2

    My years at CHC (Christian Heritage College) were very formative in my life. Not only did I make friends that have lasted even to this day, I learned much more about my Christian faith. One of my first classes was an apologetic class that dealt with the geologic column and radio active dating of rocks, etc., all from a Christian point of view. This was something that I had never heard of, a young earth and a reasonable explanation for it. In my Bible classes, I learned more about God's word than I had learned in my life up to that point. In retrospect, I don't remember much of Church history before the Reformation being taught in any classes, but if any alumni happen to read this, and this was not the case, please correct me. It is not my intention to paint an incorrect picture of my education, but this is what I remember from my time at Heritage. I do remember reading St. Augustine's "Confessions" in a Christian Literature class, but that was about the extent of early church fathers writings that were presented to us.

    I was also learning to fly small airplanes while I was at CHC. They had a Missionary Aviation program (which they still have, I believe) that was run out of Gillespie Field. It was an extreme experience to learn to fly and I have some great stories about it, but that is for another blog.

     I started working at a drive through dairy store while at CHC. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, it is an open air store where customers drive up, usually place their orders from the car, and we would go and get what they needed, usually a gallon of milk on the way home from work, or beer, bread, yogurt, you get the idea. Anyway, one of the services that Hank and Linda DeGroot offered was a delivery service to restaurants and taco shops in the local area. During summer break, I would stay in El Cajon and work full time and I would get to do the Taco Shop run on Tuesdays and Thursdays. What was great about this was I would get free food at just about every stop! Everybody would offer me something to eat! It got to the point where I would just take a soda, I couldn't eat so much. One of these Taco Shops was El Ranchito in Santee, where I met the girl who would steal my heart forever. We didn't start dating until 1984, 2 years after I graduated, moved to San Francisco for graduate studies at a Southern Baptist Seminary, then moved back to San Diego because I had too many problems in the Seminary.

Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary is located on a beautiful spot of land called Strawberry Point, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge in Mill Valley, California. I went there in January of 1983 to start my studies there for my Master of Divinity degree and to start my career as a minister. Apparently, the theological mindset from CHC rubbed off on me too much for GGBTS standards and I ran up against theological thought that I did not agree with. I  became stubborn in my views and it cost me a semester of academic probation. During that time, I was working as a Youth and Music minister in a small So. Baptist church in Concord, Ca. My second semester, I was working 30 hours in the church and taking 12 units of graduate studies, and commuting 50 miles each way twice a week. Needless to say, I burnt out pretty quickly and found myself back in San Diego.

     I started helping out in another small Baptist church, and also started to pursue a certain cute Mexican girl who at first didn't want anything to do with me. Martha finally relented and agreed to go out with me for one date.....we've been married now for over 26 years! During our dating, we both made the conscience decision to focus on the commonalities of our faiths instead of the differences. We found more in common the more we shared. There was still a cultural divide to cross, or to bridge, and it took a long time to do this...like I said, we've been married 26+ years, we still are building bridges together.

     When we were first married, I was still helping out in my parents church with the music (to this day I find it ironic that I was doing music ministry, since I don't even read music, but I can read and keep time). It was my mission to "convert" my wife into the Baptist church, I never voiced that, but it was always in the back of my head. We eventually moved out to Lake Elsinore, California, where again, I was helping out in a Baptist church, but by now, Martha had started longing to return to her Church. There was a small Catholic Church in the downtown area, and we would go to the Spanish Mass on Saturday and the Baptist Church on Sunday. I would not go up for communion at Mass, because I was aware of the doctrinal differences that prevented me from doing so in good conscience. It was at this time, that I started to look into the Catholic faith, but only to satisfy my own curiosity. I spent many a long talks with the parish priest who was very patient with me and answered all my questions the best he could. He put me on the path that would inevitably give me the answers I was looking for. He mentioned a three volume set by Jurgens called "The Faith of the Early Church Fathers" and was a collection of the writings of various early Church fathers, from Ignatius (who was a disciple of the Apostle John) and Polycarp (a disciple of Ignatius) to Augustine and Justin Martyr. It was by reading these men, who lived so close to the time of Christ, and in the case of Ignatius, was a disciple of one of the Apostles and could have actually know Jesus, that I started to see teachings that were not consistent with what I understood about my Christian faith. They way they worshiped, their liturgy, was so much different than to what I grew up with. This is what led me to investigate further the claims of the Catholic Church. In those investigations, I fell in love with the liturgy, the teachings, the sense of wholeness in the church.

Does this mean that I had turned my back on all that I had learned from my parents, my instructors, my pastors? No. Like I said in Part 1, I am forever grateful to my parents for bringing me to Christ. It is the primary responsibility of the parents to "bring up a child in the way they should go, so when they are old they will not depart form it". My parents taught me to be inquisitive, to ask questions, to be open to what God has for my life, and then to follow Him wherever He might lead. God has lead me home to the Catholic Church. My spiritual journey continues to this day. Like all of us who are on that journey, it will not end until 10 minutes after we die, then it will be a forever homecoming in Heaven. Until then, we have a home here on earth, that is in the Body of Christ, His Church. My journey continues, but it continues within my home, where I can explore the riches of all that God has, I can look honestly at myself and never worry about being rejected, for I am accepted just as I am.

A Short History of a Conversion Part 1

I have been asked many times to put down on paper the story of how I came into the Roman Catholic Church. Here is my story.

     I was born into a Southern Baptist family in the Los Angeles suburb of Lakewood in 1960. My Father was a deacon in the church, my Mother sang in the choir. My paternal great grandfather was a circuit riding preacher for the Methodist Church in the Oklahoma Territory during the last part of the 19th century, so I come by my Christian Heritage naturally. We, my sister, brother and I, were raised in the love and admonition of the Lord. We went to Sunday School and morning worship, Training Union and evening worship every Sunday (even if I had preferred to stay home Sunday nights to watch Wonderful World of Disney), and Wednesday night prayer meetings. On most Saturdays, my Dad and I would go to the church to mow the lawn and clean up for Sunday worship. We would go to the Rescue Missions on Skidrow in Los Angeles once a month or so to sing, preach and help feed the men (in those days it was mainly men on skidrow). I was shown, by the life of my parents, that this was how you showed your love for Christ. You went to Church, prayed, and shared the Gospel with those around you. I memorized many verses from the King James Bible as a child, and as a high school student moved up to the New American Standard Bible (Ryrie Study Bible Edition), since it was so much easier to read and we actually spoke the same language....it had been a few hundred years since anyone spoke like Shakespeare, except in Drama Class. To say that my parents brought me to a saving knowledge of Christ by their example of life would be an understatement. I owe them a debt of gratitude I could only hope to repay by being the same example of a loving Christian to my wife and family and those around me.

     I was baptized when I was eight years old, it was a decision I had made because I saw myself as one who needed Jesus in my life as my Savior, so I asked Jesus into my heart at that young age and was baptized  at Bellwood Baptist (SBC) church a few weeks later. I was one who was not afraid to share my faith. Jesus was real to me (he still is) and I wanted others to know to love that I knew because of what Jesus did for me, for all of us. This lead to a lot of bullying when I was in Junior High, because the bullies knew I would not fight back....that is not what Jesus would want. My friends at that time can bear witness to the fact that I talked my way out of many a fight, I also out ran many a bully too. (Sometimes I wish I could get into a DeLorean and fire up the flux capacitor and go back to the mid 70's with the knowledge of my second degree Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do and teach those bullies a lesson! But as Mr. Miyagi would say, "Karate for defense only"). I digress. In high school I was fairly well known on campus (I did not realize this at the time, but found out years later from alumni who I had not known at school, since we were 3000 in the school, and they came up to me and introduced themselves. I had to go back to the yearbook to verify who they were, and I still didn't know them!). I was part of a student led lunchtime Bible study group and in the Shutterbug (photography) club, I loved to take pics of the Friday Night Football games (ok, I took more pics of the cheer squad than the game, but this was high school for crying out loud.). I also played waterpolo and was probably in the best shape of my life during those years. I also had a very good friend with whom I forged a great friendship....he was also a committed Catholic. Randy Laya and I would have many talks about our respective faiths, and while I was never Anti-Catholic, I never really knew what to think about the Catholic Church. I knew they were Christians by their profession/creed, but it was too "high" church for me I guess.

     It was during high school that I heard the call of the Lord to what I thought was a full time Christian Ministry. I knew that God wanted me to follow him, I was working in our youth group at First So. Baptist in Long Beach, and helped with many other ministries in the church, along with my best friends Ken Cunningham and Bryan Richardson (Bryan would later "jump ship" and come into full communion with the Catholic Church years before I did, unfortunately I have lost contact with Ken). It was during this time that I had made friends with a kid that I met while visiting my sister and her husband in El Cajon, California. I was a junior in high school, and I went to a skateboard park to ride. I had all kinds of Christian Stickers on my helmet and was not ashamed to share my story with anyone who wanted to listen. One kid thought the stickers were cool and we started up a conversation, so started a friendship that would change my life. David Sciacca was a student at Christian High in El Cajon, his parents lived in the upper class neighborhood of Mount Helix (those who live in San Diego know that Mt. Helix is not a subdivision, but and actual Mount, a very large hill that is even used as a landmark by pilots at nearby Gillespie Field.) Frank and Connie Sciacca took a liking to me and invited me into their family. soon I was driving to San Diego, not to visit my sister, but to visit David and his family. Frank was into land development, and in the late 70's, San Diego was smoking! They knew of my desire to go to a Christian College and become a minister, they also knew of our limited finances in my family. One afternoon, after I had already finished high school and had enrolled at the local JC, I was talking with Frank on the phone. He asked me what I was going to do with my life. I responded by telling me I had started talking a few classes at LBCC until I could save up money to go to BIOLA and start my Bible degree. He told me I would never finish college by taking two classes at a time, and that he and Connie and been talking and praying about it and decided to give me a year at Christian Heritage College if I wanted it, Room, Board, Books...a full ride! (That one year turned into all 4 years, to which I am forever grateful to the faith they had in me). I told my parents, who were absolutely thrilled! I went to my boss, where I had just started working for a Christian company and his reaction was, "GO, just GO, this is God's call! Son in the Spring semester of 1979, I was enrolled at Christian Heritage College in El Cajon, California. This is a college that was founded, in part, by Tim LaHaye, famous preacher and author of many Christian books including the "Left Behind" series.

     In college, I started to learn so much more about my faith. I learned that there were other ways of looking at the same event or problem or Bible verse for that matter. Much of my head butting at college had to do more with the "practice" of my faith rather than the substance of it. We had "rules" we had to follow, the school consider themselves as "en Parentis loco" or as they would say, in "place of parents". This was a new concept for me, since we were in college, all over the age of 18 and were paying for the privilege of going to this school. Most of the rules were easy to follow and pretty common sense, curfew at such and such time, etc. But the music rules and radio station rules were way too strict. The administration wanted to micro manage our lives and many of us (me included) secretly rebelled.

     It was during this time of my life that I experienced bigotry against my beliefs, but not by Catholics, but by my own college classmates. I also learned what the term "fundamentalist" meant. We had some fundamentalists at Heritage who basically told me that because I didn't go to their church, believed what they believed, that I was damned and going to Hell! So much for the love of God! Here I was, a student at a Christian College, studying to be a Missionary pilot, to bring the Gospel to the heathens in Africa, or New Guinea or wherever, and I was told it wasn't good enough, I had to believe a different way, dress in a suit and tie, cross my t's and dot my i's. It was a brutal introduction to Legalism, and I rejected it as Jesus rejected the Pharisees' legalism.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Who will be our next Pope?

We certainly are living in exciting times these days. A new Pope will be elected soon, perhaps this week of March 10th, 2013. I am sure that many, if not all of us have heard all the speculations of who might be elected as Supreme Pontiff, Vicar of Christ on Earth and leader of the world's billion plus Catholics. However, he is not just responsible for the souls of his flock. Each Bishop is responsible for the souls of all who live within their respective dioceses, so the Pope has the responsibility of the entire world. No wonder the Cardinal, after he is elected, goes into the "room of tears" to weep with joy (and trepidation, no doubt) for the mission that he now faces.

The world's eyes have been turned to Rome for the last few weeks, but the world does continue on and many other things are taking place besides what is going on in Rome. Today, I was at a retreat for the children who have been in Catechism for their 1st Communion. The kid's parents were also at the retreat and they received their Catechism too. One thing we see is that families want their children to receive all their Sacraments, yet, afterwards, we see many of those same families leave the Church, or become C, A & E Catholics (Christmas, Ash Wednesday and Easter). Why is that?Many people are Catholic because that is how they were brought up, they are Cultural Catholics, not knowing their faith, never having a true relationship with Jesus, through prayer, Eucharist, fellowship and study of God's Word. They don't live the life that they are called to live, and that is sad because all of us, by our Baptism, are the Body of Christ, and we need to be working together for the good of the Body and for society in general.

So who will be our next Pope? Only God knows. But whoever he is, we are called to be faithful to the Magesterium of the Church and to live the faith as taught by the Church. We are a city set on the hill, let's let our light shine so that all can see the Kingdom of God in our lives.