May 30, 2020

Don’t hold your breath!

Dear Friends,

The great celebration of Pentecost is upon us. The Church commemorates the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon Christ’s first disciples. Filled with the breath of the Holy Spirit, the disciples were propelled out of their lockdown in the Upper Room. They took to the streets and the market places boldly proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God. Their lives and the world would never be the same. 

In previous years, we would have marked the event of Pentecost by gathering inside our church for Mass, in our own “Upper Room”. But like the first disciples, having received the Holy Spirit in that sacred place, they would not be returning to the Upper Room any time soon. 

The “first parishioners” of the first church were sent forth into the world to fearlessly carry out their Christian mission in new and creative ways. The Upper Room, where they first encountered the sacraments of the Eucharist and Confirmation was no longer the hive of Christian prayer and activity. The days that followed Pentecost were instead marked by missionary disciples planting seeds of faith in their own households, workplaces, and among friends and strangers. 

Yes, there would be, no doubt, a time when the disciples might return to the Upper Room where it all began. And that’s what we hope to do in the next few weeks ahead. However, in our preparation to return to church, don’t look at it as “picking up where we left off”. Nor should our coming back to church be like returning to a place of nostalgia. Our experience of being back will be different. But more importantly, we all should be different, even changed and matured in our Christian faith because of the very challenges we have all faced and the sacrifices we have made during these past months. In short, don’t come back as the same person you were!

My next communication will highlight how we can slowly begin to return back to church for Mass in public. But don’t hold your breath! Instead, allow the Holy Spirit, the breath of God, to continue to mold and shape your experiences, encounters and sacrifices with patience and perseverance. 

In the meantime, don’t be idle. You are a missionary disciple and there is still work to do in the outside world. The power of the Holy Spirit is not downloaded to the flock. It is poured out abundantly. The fire of the Holy Spirit purifies, it does not harm. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are freely given, they are not taken. You are His witnesses, not by phone or text, but instead by becoming Christ the healer and bringer of peace to a sick and fearful world. 

May Mary, Mother of the Church, always patient and always waiting, assure us we are never far from home. 

May 15, 2020

Pre-Boarding Announcement

Somewhat like Noah, getting the Ark ready, I am presently developing a strategy for a phase-by-phase return of the flock to Sunday Mass here at St. Margaret’s. It’s not a question of “when” Mass inside the church will return, be assured it will. When? I don’t know. But I want us to be ready and prepared. The question is “how” we will be able to do so while also responding prudently to evolving public health requirements. 

A few things to keep in mind:

1. When Mass returns publicly to the church, there will be likely limitations on how many can gather in the church at any given time. It will be sadly inevitable that not everyone who wants to attend Mass will be able to at first.

2. Those who have been waiting for their First Sacraments will naturally be invited first to any public Mass offered. 

3. Public Mass times will likely have to be revised and Mass will be offered in a very simplified form. 

4. Those who attend may still have to wear a mask and respect social distancing protocols. 

5. Holy Communion will likely be offered only after the Final Blessing. 

6. Confession will be offered outside on Sundays from 8am to 11am and on Saturday afternoons before the vigil Mass when it returns. 

In the meantime, so that we do not jeopardize our own and each other’s health or peace of mind, I am asking your consideration of the following:

A. If you have any underlying health issues, please follow the advice of your doctor before leaving your house. Don’t become your own doctor! 

B. Anyone who enters the church grounds, (unless you are from the same household), please continue to maintain social distancing requirements at all times (as expected by the State). 

C. Please do not linger or gather in the parking lot or the piazza, and if entering the church building, don’t spend more than ten minutes inside. 

D. Confession: Because of time constraints and especially to allow those who have been away a long time from the sacraments, please, please, prudently consider if you can defer your confession to a later date. 

You will always be in a good place if you make an examination of conscience every day followed with an act of contrition. Don’t let fear, scruples or mere habit dictate how you approach the sacraments. Doing so, often frustrates one’s free will to cooperate with God’s grace. 

Many of you have been bringing food baskets and we have been distributing them to the seniors who live nearby the church. Many of those I have spoken to at their doorstep have been truly appreciative and very grateful. Please continue to bring food packages to the church. The doors are still open every day from 7am to 4:30pm. 

As I continue to offer Mass every day in my home chapel, know that the grace of Christ’s Sacrifice flows out in every direction from my little altar towards you and your loved ones. 

May 9, 2020

Mother’s Day Church

One of the scripture lessons assigned for this Sunday highlights the beginning of the Church’s ministry reaching out with food and essential supplies to local seniors. From the Book of Acts beginning at chapter 6, you can read how the Apostles responded by appointing and ordaining the first deacons of the Church.

Not only are we grateful to the works of charity all deacons minister in various ways  on behalf of our mother the Church, and to our own deacon in particular, we all can likewise extend the maternal care of the parish, especially during these times around our local neighborhood. 

For example, during the week we were able to prepare thirty food packages and deliver them to those who live in senior housing beside the church grounds. Although we should have been doing something like this for years, the pandemic has forced us, not only to be careful for our own health, it has also rightly forced us to reach out in charity to the most vulnerable in our community who might not have family or many friends to support them.

If you are passing by the church, consider bringing with you a care package that we can deliver to more of the senior residents nearby. Perhaps in a shopping bag or small box you can place a few non perishable food items or toiletries that you think a senior might be able to easily use, such as canned food, oatmeal, pasta, cereal or snacks. 

The church doors are propped open every day from 7am to 4:30pm and on Sunday’s mornings both Deacon Chuck and Father Victor and I will be there, in one form or another responding to the spiritual hunger of the people of God. 

This is how the parish church can also be a mother church, not only for those who cross our threshold, but also to those who literally live around us, our extended family whether we know them or not. 

As our Lord once told a crowd He was teaching when He was reminded that His own family had shown up, “And who is my mother and family?” And stretching out His hand to those around He said “Here is my mother and family - whoever does the will of my Heavenly Father is my brother, my sister and my mother”. (Gospel of Matthew 12:48).  

On Mother’s Day, we give thanks to God for the gift of life. We thank Him for the gift of motherhood that brought us into the world so that we too, with our common mother Mary, may share the love of Christ to others. 

If you are local, drop off your individual food or care packages inside the church Sunday to Saturday 7am to 4:30pm. Or visit your own local parish what you can do for the least of your brothers, sisters and mothers, out of love for our Heavenly Father.

May 2, 2020

Get Outside

It is refreshing that, after the storms and rains, the present sunny weather gives us a hint of summer round the corner. Of course, blue skies and cool ocean breezes are no cure for families and individuals hit hard by physical illness or financial hardship. Yet, at the same time, God gives each one of us opportunities to appreciate that a slow and careful emergence of life and new growth is not restricted to necessary lockdowns, stay-in-place orders or social distancing. 

The month of May is dedicated to Mother Mary. Within her, every cell of her body, infused with the grace of God from the first moment of her conception, responded without restraint, to the movement of divine light. Like a seed that responds to light and warmth after the rain, Mary emerges as a most beautiful flower, gracefully leaning towards the sun, opening up towards its rays. With her whole body and soul, she responds with praise and reflects the simple glory of the God of all creation. She leads the way of the natural world in our response to the God who draws us out of darkness through Christ who is the enduring light for the world. How do we translate this into the present circumstances of our life?

“Spring cleaning” is what we often call getting rid of all the clutter we have accumulated in our homes, wiping away the hidden layers of dust around us or wiping away the smudges on our windows. Naturally, we also want to respond to springtime's tempting new light, that beckons us to move out carefully from the shadows of confinement. This natural movement to the outdoors is important not only for our mental and physical health, but equally for our spiritual well being that holds everything about us together. 

I have been encouraged by seeing many who are slowly getting out of their homes and apartments, not simply to go inside stores or sit in their cars. Even if it’s just to walk around our own garden, a stroll around the neighborhood or a visit to the local beach or open park, springtime is no time for hibernation. As the great, often quoted Saint Irenaeus would say, “the glory of God is man fully alive”, fully awake body and soul. 

On a personal note, when the confines of being indoors become too intense and threaten the health of body and soul, I am delighted that our local neighbors, visitors and parishioners passing by, can still look to St. Margaret’s as a safe place to respond in body and soul to the growing warmth of God’s gentle and strengthening light. 

If you need some open space, we will continue to maintain the church grounds for you. We’re even going to patch the asphalt and re-stripe the parking lot. The church doors are still open every day from 7am to 4:30pm if you need shade from the heat of the day, to drop off canned food for those experiencing hardship, to light a candle and say a prayer for your loved ones and especially for the sick, pick up a Mother’s Day novena card or drop of your usual Sunday offering. 

And as usual, on Sunday mornings, you’ll always see a priest or deacon around the parish grounds, either outside under the shade of a tree or inside by the Blessed Sacrament. 

Despite any fear or anxiety, give thanks to God that His light beckons us to respond with Mary, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my savior”. 

Gardening Kingdom

  We often hear this phrase, “The Kingdom of God ''.  We even pray, “Thy Kingdom Come”.  This “Kingdom” was the hallmark of Our Lord...