Greetings my good friends,
Next Sunday we kick off Catholic Schools week, an annual event promoting the blessing of a Catholic Education. At the 9:30 AM Mass we will have our school children present our teachers and all those who love Catholic Schools. We are so blessed to have a catholic parish school here at OLR. A center of education, spirituality and formation of students from TK to 8th grade. The formative years are the most important years and we here at OLR school do an excellent job in preparing our young people for high school and their lives ahead.
Please take a tour of YOUR parish school after the 9:30 AM Mass next Sunday you will be so impressed! Please continue to always pray and support our school.
Over the past year, we have witnessed much violence in our country and abroad: shootings and bombings on our streets, in airports, and in schools. I can’t imagine what it is like to lose a loved one in such a way. With tragedies like this, the horror of the death lingers forever. I pray for all those who have lost a loved one in such an encounter. We are all hardened by the news, but our lives just move on, and wait for another message in the media.
Human life is sacred, it is beautiful. I was talking to friends the other night who are excited about the birth of their first grandchild, and they showed me the ultrasound x-rays. It was so beautiful to see this little boy forming in the womb at 20 weeks. I could see his entire body; his two little hands were cupping his ears. Just imagine the horror of abortion at 20 weeks! Sadly, we live in a society where that baby in the womb is called a fetus, a piece of tissue. But, what I witnessed in that x-ray was a beautiful baby in a safe womb. It is easy to cry pro-choice, but the reality is right there, this is a small perfect baby. Why be blind to the reality and say they are not, that they have no rights, and no voice? Let us all pray for life, life in the womb, and life in society from the moment of conception to natural death. Our society is also very picky, those who say they are pro-life are not always truthfully pro-life, they are pro-life in the womb only - not pro-life when it comes to the execution of adults. So, if you say you are pro-life in the Catholic sense, be fully pro-life -- not a half measure.
Pope Francis is right, we hear so much about one thing and nothing about another. We have children in this world who have no voice, who are hungry and dying of starvation while we here in the USA trash tons of food. We hear nothing of the children abandoned by their parents. We hear nothing of the children living homeless. We hear nothing of children abused by their family members. We hear nothing of children sad and lonely with no one to talk to. This is pro-life too, but it’s a silent voice in the USA. We cry for an end to abortion, but we can’t even take care of, or even advocate for the child that is born in poverty. Throughout Pope Francis’ ministry, time and time again, he has touched the world with his touch of love for the child, the innocent one, the child with disabilities, the young and not so young. Still, some people are saying he is not doing enough! We all know that some people are never satisfied. They always seem to find fault with one thing or another, often rejecting all the good that's taking place because their one issue is not proclaimed in the fashion they want.
Pope Francis is teaching us all about pro-life, from conception to natural death. All of us should embrace it. Remember, forgiveness is at the root of it, forgiveness from the heart, forgiveness which teaches us a new way of living and loving in the Spirit of Jesus Christ. It is a sad fact that many Catholics have politicized their Catholic faith and have created divisions and judgments against their brothers and sisters in Christ. To be Catholic is to be different. It is to love from the heart, free of all the conditions we constantly attach to our living it.
Why not be open to change? Why not become an advocate for poor children? Why not go out of your way and be Christ to one another, particularly to one you despise, you have rejected, or you have abandoned? This is the Spirit of Jesus Christ. This is one reason why Jesus was executed on the cross, another horror of an innocent who lived, spoke, and loved from the heart. Have the courage to do the same for, ''...My God is now my strength.'' (Isaiah 49:5) Amen. “Peace, perfect peace, is the gift of Christ our Lord.” (Hymn by Kevin Mayhew)
Please reflect upon what you donate to your parish when you see the ushers come by with the basket. Everything you put into the collection basket helps this parish community to survive. Quarters and one dollar bills will not pay the high expenses which the parish is obliged to pay on a monthly basis. Is the parish worth more than a $1 a week? Is it worth more than $5 or even $10 a week? You all know the expenses of keeping a home and a family. Please think again what OLR parish means to you. Thanks to all those who have increased their contributions to the parish. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, and thanks to those who give as much as they can afford.
Welcome to any visitors here this weekend. God bless you all. Especially those from other faith traditions. You are all welcome in this place of worship with love.
Love, Fr. Gerard
January 12, 2020 - The Baptism of the Lord
Today we celebrate THE BAPTISM OF THE LORD, what a beautiful Feast Day to end the Christmas season! This season is packed with all the different signs and wonders which confirm and affirm that Jesus is the Son of God. Today’s Feast Day is no exception because out of this day we hear God’s voice from heaven telling all…
''This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.'' (Matthew 3:13-17)
First, let us look at the great Prophet Isaiah's vision of this Son, this One sent into the world by God to share the vision of God with the people of God. Isaiah's prophecy is correct, he speaks of One sent by God to share the Spirit of God with all; a Spirit of justice and peace, a Spirit of joy and truth, a Spirit of wisdom and understanding, a Spirit of healing and love, and a Spirit of forgiveness and goodness. This is Jesus Christ who we know by faith, but for those listening to Isaiah all those years ago, it must have excited them into a new frenzy of longing for this Savior. Isaiah looks way ahead into the future, signaling a new era of renewal for all the People. His description of this Son’s mission is wonderful. We have witnessed it through the message of the Gospel of the early disciples of Jesus Christ, so Isaiah's words hold true to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
''I formed you, and set you as a covenant of the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.'' (Isaiah 42:6-7)
This was the mission of Jesus Christ, and it is our mission too, as His followers. We have to do the same if we profess to be followers of God’s only Son. It is the Spirit we receive at Baptism that gives us a share in this mission. Jesus received the same Spirit at His Baptism. By asking for Baptism, despite the fact He had no sins, Jesus paved the way for all of us to follow Him, knowing that the Spirit of God would be gifted to us as well. It is the Spirit that gives life to us. It is through the Spirit that God confirmed and affirmed His Son at His Baptism, and in the same way, God wants to be pleased with us as well.
Sadly, we live in a society today in which so many think they are God. They think that they speak and act in God’s ways. Many, sadly, are following false prophets and spirits which are not from God. Pope Francis said last week, at one of his daily Masses, that all of us need to test the spirits we follow because some are evil dressed up in lamb’s clothing. When we constantly condemn one group over another, when we judge that some will not enter the Kingdom of God, when we label people, reject them, and make fun of them, is that the correct role of the Christian? Is that the way Jesus Christ lived His life here on earth? Of course not!!! Why do we continue doing the opposite? What is missing? Where is forgiveness? Why do we profess to be Christian and say our faith is being attacked, when we constantly attack others ourselves and seek justice for it? Often our actions are a contradiction to the Spirit and love of Jesus Christ. If you are not willing to seek forgiveness, and continue to condemn
others, then what spirit are you following? Definitely it is not the Spirit of God, it is the spirit of the Evil One.
Every time you share this hatred of others because of their gender, race, or faith, the Evil One is rejoicing on a job well done! Can you believe it? You feel you are doing right, but in fact you are not. You are making the Evil One so happy, he has fooled another and gained another follower. We are called to resist the Evil One, but I am convinced many people today, many of whom we might call good Catholics and Christians, are being led by spirits that are not from God, their actions are a testament to this fact.
Through the Gospels, Jesus constantly teaches us another way. Stop condemning others. Stop judging. Stop rejecting. Show mercy. Share forgiveness. Teach respect and dignity for all God’s people. Try not to act superior to others who are not Christian. Welcome people with love. Smile, and be happy. Thank God for everything. Speak well of people. Stop gossiping. Stop looking down on people because they are poor or uneducated. Be a peacemaker. Live life. Share with the hungry. Be a light to others. Visit the sick. Stop being jealous and self-centered. Speak with love.
These are some examples from our God who created all humanity out of love, Who is with us always, Who is waiting for us to acknowledge and pledge our total love to the God of Jesus Christ. As we begin a new year, why not act now and change and be truly Christian to one another and stop relying on your old selves. Cast off the spirits which have led you astray and embrace the true Spirit of God in your lives.
God bless our beautiful parish community. God bless all the families. God bless all the children. God bless all our young adults and teenagers. God bless all the new born babies. God bless our pregnant mothers. God bless all our elders. God bless all visitors who come to our church. God bless all the priests that minister here. God bless all the men and women of the parish. God bless one another in love. Amen.
Many thanks to Debbie and Bill Wolf for all your hard work in decorating the church for Christmas, especially the beautiful sanctuary area. Also, many thanks to Ernie DeGuia for providing the lighting on the real Christmas tree and the outside spotlights. Many thanks to all those who donated towards the two new artificial Christmas trees and to Molly Garcia who gifted the parish once again this year the 12 foot real Christmas tree. God Bless you all.
I would also like to thank all the parishioners who mailed me cards and gifts both for my birthday and Christmas. You are a very generous parish community, thank you all so much .
Welcome to any visitors here this weekend, especially those of other faith traditions, you are welcome here as our brothers and sisters. Prayers for all our homebound, God bless you all, we love you!
January 5, 2020 - The Epiphany of the Lord
Greeting my good friends,
The Feast of the Epiphany highlights once again, that the gift of faith in Jesus Christ is a free gift to all people. You have sung the hymn “All Are Welcome” many times. This is the message of the Magi. They came from the East bearing gifts for the Christ Child. They followed that star to the actual spot where Jesus was born and they offered the gifts, knowing that this child was special: the Son of God. All of us are welcome in the eyes of Jesus. It doesn’t matter who we are, where we are from, or what we possess. The Lord welcomes u with great love and compassion. He wants us to follow Him with passion, never losing sight of the goal.
At the Christmas Eve Mass, we sing the popular Christmas hymn, “The Little Drummer Boy.” This year we had our first drummer boy. What a joy it was to listen to this very popular hymn and watch our little drummer play the drum throughout the church for baby Jesus. I think everyone in the church is touched by this simple act, but it goes deeper. Is it not similar to what we are experiencing today on the Feast of the Epiphany, as the Magi brought their gifts to the newborn King? Today might be the day for all of us to reflect on what gifts we give to Jesus. Can you think of any? Remember every gift you possess, your talents, abilities, and possessions are all a result of the God who created you out of love.
How often we tend to forget how God created us with the many gifts and talents we possess. How often we forget to give thanks to God for the many blessings we have received in life. Like the child at Christmas, we continually ask for a lot, but seldom return with thanks.
Maybe today's feast is an opportunity for all of us to place our gifts at the feet of Jesus. The first one might be to renew our vow to serve Him totally as we begin our new year. To serve involves action, action means participation. Why not start the new year by focusing on service to the Lord, participating in the various projects which the parish provides to build up the Kingdom of God. Thank you to all who contributed to making our Christmastide a special and beautiful time in our parish. We were enriched by the traditional Our Lady of Guadalupe Mass organized by our parish Guadalupe Group, the beautiful Simbang Gabi Mass arranged by our Filipino community. All are welcome here.
Don’t forget your parish in the New Year, our many ministries and programs need your support. Thank you to all of those who supported our parish in the past year, we appreciate your continued commitment to your parish family. Please pray for all our homebound parishioners, and those who live in other cities who miss us. Welcome to any visitors here this weekend, and to those of other faith traditions, God bless you.
December 29, 2019 - The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph
Greetings my good friends,
What a beautiful feast we celebrate today - the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, as we continue to celebrate what family is during this Christmas season. All the gifts are now open and shared with one another, and many family members might be journeying back to their respective homes as we celebrate Mass here this Sunday. This feast always reminds me of my own family, and I’ll bet it reminds you of yours! I had the privilege of being reared in a happy family environment, despite the fact that my mother was both father and mother to me since my dad died at a very young age. My mother never deprived me of anything, even though she had to go out to work to feed her four children. She was always there for all of us, since the moment we were born. What a beautiful boast that is. You know and I know some parents abandon their children, some children end up as orphans, some are lonely, and some are separated from their families. Some fathers never are fathers to their children, some mothers are the same.
Today’s Feast Day is a wake up call to all of us to be good fathers and mothers to our children. And even if we don’t have children, we all have the potential of being a good father or mother figure to others that we encounter in our journey of life. When I was growing up, my eldest brother Brendan was a great father figure to me, he was also my godfather, and since I was a child, he has always been there for me. I chat with him on online on practically a daily basis. Since I became a priest, I have had the privilege of being called ''father,'' and I have tried to live up to this beautiful title in my nearly 24 years of priesthood. Of course, I am human and I have my faults and failings, and sometimes I might not have been the greatest father figure to others. During these 24 years of priestly ministry, I have been inspired by very good father figure priests; from Msgr. Jim Loughnane who introduced me to Los Angeles, to Fr. Roddy, with whom I spent my first year here as an intern before ordination, to Msgr. Jack Foley, who befriended me at my first parish of St. James the Less, Msgr. Gus Moretti in my former parish, to our present pastor emeritus Fr. Bill here at Our Lady of Refuge, all great father figures to me.
I remember one day I visited Msgr. Gus when he was very sick with cancer, at the time he was residing in his sister’s home in Alhambra. We had a beautiful chat that day. I told him that during my years living with him in Pasadena, I realized that he was a great father to me since I grew up in a family without a father. In his weakened voice, he said to me, ''Gerry you are a good son.'' I can still remember his eyes
filling up and our great friendship was sealed. It is at moments like these that I think we touch the holiness of what family is all about. Yes, we look to Jesus, Mary, and Joseph as models of what all families ought to ground themselves in, but each family unit has the potential of amazing possibilities. Yes, it takes hard work, patience, and lots and lots of love and forgiveness, but it is possible and worth the challenge.
How can one achieve this holiness in a family? The second reading from St. Paul to the Colossians tells us how! “Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these PUT ON LOVE, that is, the bond of perfection.” (Colossians 3:12-14)
If all of us in our relationships with others, in our families, with our spouse, our children, our parents, our co-workers, our friends, our church groups, our school, wherever, if we could just, as St. Paul tells us, PUT ON LOVE, beautiful things will happen in our midst for the good. Yes it is possible! The only way we can achieve it is all of us taking an initiative for peace and harmony with the Lord on our side.
So today, let us rejoice in our God who sent His Son into the world to share with us the beauty of life, the beauty of the gift of life and our need to protect it. Let us be thankful of our faith in Jesus Christ, in his special family of Mary and Joseph and our families. Let us pray for families that are not grounded on love, for families in despair, for those in the midst of separation and divorce, and in the midst of arguments. Let us pray for all the families of the world, that all might find a renewal in faith, hope, and love. Amen
We are on the threshold of a new year. Let us give thanks for the past year. Let us remember all those who passed on to the Lord. Let us all forge ahead with the same passion as the countless generations before us. Let us go forward as St. Paul tells us, ''singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And what ever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.'' (Colossians 3:16 & 17)
Thanks to all of you who helped in any way during Christmas. Thank you to the ushers, all the ministers of the altar, and the entire community, God bless you all!
I wish you all a very happy and prosperous New Year!
Love, Fr. Gerard
Enrollment in Faith Direct has continued to grow at Our Lady of Refuge. There are now more families participating in electronic giving through Faith Direct’s convenient tool. When combined with "bill pay" donations, total electronic giving at OLR represents about 27% of the offertory collections.
Giving through Faith Direct lowers the costs associated with our weekly collections by eliminating envelope fees and by requiring less effort to count and deposit money. Electronic giving is a secure way to transmit money while being environmentally conscious. Our parish receives your contribution when you are traveling, sick, or in a rush. Your contribution amount is flexible; as you can give by the week or month and designate donations for specific purposes. It also improves our cash flow and the ability to project our income to match our expenses.
Faith Direct enables parishioners to make contributions through either direct debit from a checking/savings account or through a credit card. Now you can apply the convenience of direct debit to your parish offerings in much the same way as you may now use it to make your mortgage, car or tuition payments. This allows you to budget with a ‘set and forget' plan, as the donations recur on a defined schedule.
Electronic giving means you do not have to stop at the bank, carry cash or checks, or remember to write a check before coming to Mass. Faith Direct also offers you personalized offertory cards (if desired) to replace your envelopes for the collection basket. You can easily track your giving and know that your donations go directly to the bank. Any time during the year, you have access to records of your donations from both the bank and Faith Direct for tax reporting purposes.
For those of you who have yet to consider online giving, enrollment will be a continuing effort. Please visit the OLR website at https://www.ourladyofrefuge.
As your shepherd, I encourage you to consider Faith Direct. Please help us make our parish financially strong again. Thanks to all of you for your continued support of our parish.
In peace, Fr. Gerard