September 15 Bulletin: My Dear Parishioners,
After one of last weekend's Masses, a parishioner chided me because I had not thought of praying for the victims of the hurricane in the Bahamas. I was more or less stunned by her reaction. I did not know how to respond to a correction of such a nature. Ultimately, I knew the parishioner was right: it was a terrible oversight on my part! This unhappy incident was actually propitious, for it provided some great food for thought and reflection. I want to share with you some of those thoughts and ideas.
Now, how would you pray for someone else's intentions? What would you actually do after you have told somebody, I will pray for you!" For me, this is not an easy matter. I could either say a few Hail Mary’s and call it good. But then my conscience would bite me later for being so casual and heartless about people's pain and suffering. Or I could take some time to think about the intentions I am about to pray for. Then I may actually bring those very same intentions to lay at the feet of the Blessed Mother and beg Her to intercede with Her Son for those intentions and for the person needing to be heard. Or I could take the next step which is to make those intentions my Mass intentions! I know if I am not careful, my promise to pray for somebody might just be a kind of reflexive responses similar to those social pleasantries that have no significance!
When I pray, I want to actually think about the circumstances that gave rise to the concerns I must pray for. I want to think about all the pains and all the sorrows those circumstances are causing for someone. I want to imagine the faces of the people who stand in need of God's graces and who are relying on this inadequate priest to intercede for them with Almighty God.
September 8 Bulletin: My Dear Parishioners,
I am grateful that school has begun again. It’s hard work to maintain a school but consider the alternatives! I am glad we have Catholic Schools where children could be educated to become the human beings God has intended them to be! Please pray for our school!
September 1 Bulletin: My Dear Parishioners,
If I am not mistaken, another recent survey by the Pew Research Center has indicated that up to almost 70 percent of Roman Catholics do not believe in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ's Body and Blood in the Blessed Sacrament. Bishop Barron lays the blame for this lamentable situation squarely on poor catechesis. I agree. But there may be some other factors. I am thinking of how different things now receive different level of emphasis in the Liturgy. Thus, during Mass, the altar receives more reverence and honor than even the Tabernacle (they said it's because of the Sacrifice that takes place on it). Now, during Mass, a lector coming up to read the lessons would only make a deep bow at the altar - even if the Tabernacle is situated behind it. And that is just one example. People are told to just bow and forget genuflecting altogether during Mass - except at the beginning and at the end. The end result of the new shift of focus is that people just simply bow at the altar, or at the Tabernacle, or at both. Period. Now, few people would remember or care to genuflect at the Tabernacle. Gradually, we have forsaken the one distinctive gesture of our faith and no longer reverence the Blessed Sacrament with a genuflection of the right knee as we all should. And once people have forgotten how to reverence the Blessed Sacrament in the Tabernacle, other customs are also vanishing - one by one - from the life of a local parish (for example, silence).
I think it's time that all of us work together to restore respect and reverence in church toward the Blessed Sacrament. If we don't have that, we have nothing. The external actions of the body betray what is in the heart. What we do externally with our body affects what we hold interiorly. And vice versa. This whole thing is not about rules and regulations, but it is about how we express our love and affection towards our Good Lord.
August 25 Bulletin: My Dear Parishioners,
According to Bishop Barron of LA, "By far the fastest-growing “religious” group in the United States is the “none’s,” that is, those who claim no religious affiliation. In the latest Pew Research Center survey, 25 percent of the country (80 million people) say that they have no formal religion, and the growth of this cohort is nothing short of startling. In 1970, only 3 percent of the country self-identified as “none.” In the last ten years, the number has gone from 16 percent to the current 25 percent. When we focus on young people, the picture is even bleaker. Almost 40 percent of those under thirty are “none,” and among Catholics in that age group, the number rises to 50 percent. Of all the Catholic children baptized or confirmed these last thirty years, half no longer participate in the life of the Church." (from “First Things”)
This is not "new" news for those among us who have been paying attention. What is new is the so-called "The New Evangelization" that aims to arrest this trend that has been proposed in various quarters of the Church. What about us at St. Agatha? What could we do to help win back some of these fallen brethren among our numbers? Let me propose one way that has been shown me by God's grace: Divine Mercy! Yes, let's bring in our hearts all those in our families and among our friends whose shadows have not darkened the door of our church for a long time, and entrust them to Divine Mercy! Let pray for them on Friday after Mass as we recite the Chaplet of Divine Mercy in front of that beautiful image (given to us by Mark and Lucy of Jade restaurant!). I hereby invite you to come and join us every Friday for Mass and for devotion to Divine Mercy as part of our efforts to win back souls for Christ from the clutch of Satan through our appeal to Divine Mercy!
August 18 Bulletin: My Dear Parishioners,
Until last Sunday, very few of you would have heard of Fr George Kuforiji, the pastor of St. Francis Church in SE Portland. Not any more! He made the front page story in the Sunday Oregonian!
Have you met Father George (as I always address him)? He is a priest and a gentleman! His mild manner and his winning smile would put you at ease immediately! But underneath that graciousness is a personality and an interior that are even more attractive -because he is truly a holy priest and a caring shepherd. Of course, I am only speaking for myself. I am not saying any more than I should say, but I am telling part of the other side of the story. I think before I should judge a priest, I should have met him in person, and I should have attended his Mass, and I should have listened to his homily, and I should have gone to him for confession.
I have met Father many times, and although I have not attended his Mass, I have gone to him for confession - more than once! What has struck me about him is his deep and profound insight the human heart, his compassion for penitents, and his availability. He is truly the shepherd after the heart of the Good Shepherd - kind, compassionate, and solicitous for souls. Father George is an accomplished man, having worked professionally as an engineer. He did not have to become a priest to make a living or to have a new direction in life or to satisfy a personal ambition. He became a priest out of a deep obedience to God as he had discerned a priestly vocation. And as a priest, he cares deeply for souls. He cares deeply that his sheep truly meet Jesus Christ. He cares deeply that they love Him and give him the proper respect and reverence, for he knows man has been made for adoration of God. He cares deeply so that he does smell his sheep!
I have been a priest for many years, and I have meet many priests in my life. Father George's humanity and holiness has won me over – so much so that I would seek him out to help me with my own spiritual life and conversion. Father's priesthood helps me understand what is most essential about this calling: a man for others!