Friday, November 23, 2007

1962 Latinists...Ecce! Macies meus pedibus vestris jam jacet!

Notes from the Thanksgiving celebration of the 10:00 AM Holy Mass in a large southern California parish.

It was a celebration of gratitude of more than 1,000 members of a multicultural community that knows how to pray together. It is a place where mutual support is the name of the game. It is a place where, such as yesterday, the celebration of the Eucharistic Banquet exhalts the ability of Catholics to excercise their faith and the religious expression of it in five or six languages all at the same time. Yes, we prayed in English, Spanish, Tagalog, Swahili, Hebrew, Greek and even, gasp, Latin. The happiness of the community was enhanced by the fact that we all knew that our Pastor had made it a point to rush back from the Philippines in time for this important celebration. If he was suffering from jet-lag (he was) it didn't show. After a grandiose
entrance procession, accompanied by singing and fervent applause, led by the exquisitely ornate Book of Gospels, he took his place at the altar accompanied by six other priest colleagues and one deacon, greeted the congregation in ritualistically correct liturgical language. There was then a blessing of water followed by a gracious rite of sprinkiing of the people with olive sprigs
dipped in the newly blessed water. It was so quiet that you could have heard a hat-pin drop, but none of the African Ladies who were wear wearing native head coverings dropped a hat-pin. The charming lady from Belize didn't need a hat-pin to hold her head-wear on, so there was no danger of her distracting the prayer. Many people celebrated their national origins by wearing their national, native formal clothing. I was all over the church yesterday morning and not a single person there was brazenly immodest about our common, God given birthday suit.
We then dipped into a little Greek with mellow Kyrie before giving full throat to a rollicking salute to Our Loving Trinity, in
Spanish. We couldn't help but appreciate the the musical offerings of this day. The piano gave way to the pipe organ (Yes, a real pipe organ) and the choir was in fine-tuned fettle.The "collect" (remember that word?) was meditatively proclaimed by the Pastor and followed by three clearly and reverently declaimed readings from the Sacred Scripture, Old Testament in English, letter of St. Paul in Spanish and then the Gospel, in Spanish and in English. The splendid Book of Gospels was placed on a throne of honor, right in front of the Ambo of the Word by the side of the Altar, for all to see. The homily was of very high tone, in Spanish and in English, evidently well prepared during the 14 hour flight from Manila to Los Angeles. It is always impressive to hear the story of the Ten Lepers for the "Nth" time and still hear reflections from a spiritually mature person that give you new insights to God's Message coming at you from that powerful parable. If God ever gives you the Grace to be able to visit the West Bank, you will thereafter never hear the word "Samaritan" without having a deep soul visit from the Spirit of God Himself.
We all stood and proudly proclaimed our faith, for the second time, this time not in song, but in deep-throated spoken conviction that didn't betray a single doubt. We continued standing as we joined together in the prayer of the "Great Petitions" that the present ritual calls for as a continuation of the traditional Good Friday moment which we all remember so well. (Five languages here. We saved the Latin for later.) This was followed by a sincere celebration of our shared Priesthood, Kingship and Prophethood when the preparation of the Eucharistic Altar took on epic proportions.
The incense bowls were still really smoking. Imagine, they had been going from the entrance and were continually fed and stoked by the assiduous altar servers. They led the procession of the altar cloths, the altar candles, the chalices, the wine, the water, the cash offerings, the food offerings and finally the food that many people of the community had brought to be placed around the altar to be blessed before they served it at home. HHmm, I shouldn't forget that many people remembered that the pastor appreciates fine wine (like Jesus?), so there were several offerings of that too, all carried by the offerers themselves, participating in the celebration of the Sacrifice. The Eucharistic prayers (canon) came after an original, multilingual composition of the "Sanctus" and was proclaimed in stentorian language (English), to the point where the Filipino accent disappeared and you would have thought that Tony Blair was in charge. It was so beautiful that the Great Amen was repeated three times, it sure feels good, sometimes.
When we stood up, we were ready to prepare ourselves for communion by a sincere, hand in hand recitation of the Lord's Prayer. We were led in the following doxology by the Mexican curate, followed by an invitation to share Christ's peace with one another while being led in a charismatic invitation to one another through the singing of everyone's favorite, "Da me la Mano...y hermanos seramos!" This was loud. This was organ pipes and drums (background) and singing people ready for the feast of Christ's body and Blood. Then, as quickly as it started, it stopped and the choir changed the mood back to Solemn Sacrificial by leading us in the Plain Chant "Agnus Dei". By the end of that, there were a lot of throat lumps in the pews. The communion of all these priestly people was a sight to see in itself. The music behind it was reverent and floated aross the sacred space in English, Spanish and Tagalog and ended with "Ubi Caritas et Amor, Deus ibi est."
Just like happens in so many families, the Pastor, still agog with jet-lag, was having a hard time to let go. The community was enjoying itself too and quietly and prayerfully participated in at least six or seven "special" blessings. One of the most touching was the recognition and the "commissioning" of the St. Christopher Parish security team of nine valiant men, certified guards all of them and constant in their vigilance over the church property every single evening when there is religious education and every weekend during all the Masses. We were sent back into the World to carry the message of Christ to all nations, in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit with the sound of "Malo-Malo Thanks be to God." By now it was 11:45 AM and the "Mass" continued until at least 1:00 PM. with people congregating on the church patio. That is when my spouse and I left in order to be able to reach our Thanksgiving family celebration one and one-half hours away. After a spiritual experience of this magnitude, anyone would be convinced why you don't have to cry at my funeral.
Oops, I almost forgot, mementote, nequeunt flere in funebris meis.

Saturday, November 3, 2007


I’ve been waiting a long time to get to heaven
In fact, since nineteen hundred and thirty seven.
It is now two thousand and double “O” seven,
A wonderful stretch of ten times seven
To keep me waiting for the invite to heaven.

I’ve told you all not to cry at my funeral
Because I’m not one who’s fond of bereavin’
And mostly not one who’s going to fuss about leavin’
Since I have been waiting so long to get to heaven,
It’s too late to cry about things and beefin'


This is the time when the barns have swallowed the harvest,
The artists have put the pumpkins to the carving test,
The turkeys are sure that they are approaching their oven test,
The chickens are scurrying to hide behind their feathered nest,
Mothers and Fathers will visit the child who cooks the best
And I’m thanking God that I’m still waiting for my eternal rest.


We all know that shortly Jesus is coming,
The two doves are a cooing
The three French hens are clucking
The four calling birds are calling
The five golden rings are blinging
The six geese are a-laying
The seven swans are singing (hmmm?)
The eight maids are a – milking
The nine ladies are a-dancing
The ten Lords are aerobically leaping
The eleven pipers are hotly piping
The twelve drummers are already drumming,
I am to Midnight Mass a-going
Because I don’t live where it is a-snowing
And I am happily one more year a-closing.

Dear God,

You have heard me time and time again say,
I am not afraid of your taking me by the hand,
For that last and glorious walk along San Diego’s sand.
I know that when you do that, I will recognize the way,
I will rejoice that you are taking me to the eternal day.


Lord, you give us November, month number eleven
To remind us of those you’ve already taken to heaven.
You do it to remind us that all beginnings start with an end.
You do it to remind us what we will find around the bend.
You do it to remind us that our funeral is a beginning, not an end.


At my funeral, no Kleenex required. Especially since I am a pure cotton handkerchief kind of guy.

Thursday, November 1, 2007


This is a story of a family who found a better way to give meaning to October 31, Halloween.

The Velasquez family, Lily and Felipe and their two sons, Andy and Robert are devoted Catholics who participate in the Mass every Sunday. Three years ago we started a more systematic Home Faith Formation program in the parish in which the family participated. Once a month the families met together for family catechesis that included arts and crafts. Lily loves arts and crafts and so she dove in to help make this part of the Saturday meetings a success. She was happy to volunteer for this activity.

On the last family gathering day she signed up to be in charge of the Arts and Crafts component of the family gatherings of last year (2006-007). It was also the second year of the SONshine Summer Bible Camp at St. Christopher parish. We invited Lily and her boys to help at the camp.

Lily did a marvelous job as the leader of the Arts & Crafts last year that we asked her again to take charge of this component of the Family Monthly Gatherings this year. I don’t have to belabor the point, you’re getting the drift. This year Lily has recruited her Mother to help in the Monthly Gatherings of Families in the Home Faith Formation program.This family is discovering dimensions to faith that they never thought existed.

When I got home from helping an old friend of mine “The Voice from the Kitchen” asked me to read her articles for her column in the Parish Bulletin in case there were some errors that needed correcting. One of the articles is a story about Lily, Felipe, Andy, Robert and Grandma. They went out on Halloween night, (except for Andy who had to stay home because of school work) and they went to the homes in their neighborhood. No costumes or anything like that. They asked everyone for a donation of non-perishable food which they would turn over to the St. Christopher parish food bank. They were overwhelmed with donations. Everyone gave willingly and generously. When they got back home, Andy was wondering how anything could be so wonderful. He wished he could have joined the family. They could not believe what had happened.

They still can’t.

Right then and there, they prayerfully made a family resolution: this is their new family Halloween tradition

Now tell me, are you going to cry at their funeral?