Vocation Day at St. Therese Parish
Bishop O'Connell speaks to youth
Members from 15 different religious orders “rapped” about how much they loved Jesus in front of nearly 500 sixth-grade Catholic school students from the San Gabriel Region during a rally at the inaugural Focus 11 Vocation Day. The event was held Feb. 7 at St. Therese Church in conjunction with the Carmelite Sisters’ St. Joseph Center in Alhambra.
Sponsored by the archdiocesan Office of Vocations and the Department of Catholic Schools, the rally kicking off the first Focus 11 was intended to help open students’ hearts and minds to vocations with a mix of fun and enthusiasm. Father Samuel Ward, associate director of Vocations, rapped, “My name is Father Sam and my rapping is atrocious, supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”
The St. Joseph Center erupted with laughter.
The jovial sixth-graders were the focus of the vocation day activities. Research indicates that most children are especially open to a priestly or religious calling at 11 years of age or in 11th grade.
“It is never too early to sow the seeds of a priestly or religious vocation in our students and to foster a new culture of vocations in the Church,” said Father Ward.
Members of NET (National Evangelization Teams) Ministries, young adults who teach youth ministry to high school students, taught the priests and religious how to rap for the opening rally and a skit that they presented before adoration. WAL — also known as We Are Loved, a music group led by brothers Matthew Leon and Michael Paul Leon — performed uplifting worship music.
“It was great for the students to see that there are exciting and rewarding ministries available for young adults to serve in the Church,” said Father Ward.
Father Jon Meyer, associate pastor at St. John the Baptist Church in Baldwin Park, and Sister Joanna Strouse, vocations director for the Society Devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, were the emcees for the day and presented most of the opening remarks.
Auxiliary Bishop David G. O’Connell, episcopal vicar for the San Gabriel Pastoral Region, celebrated Mass with the youths, and recounted his own calling to the priesthood during his homily. Growing up on a small farm in Ireland, Bishop O’Connell had to walk to school in a village three miles away. He frequently got jumped. For help, he prayed the rosary as he walked to and from school.
“It was Mary that put into my heart to be a priest even though I was getting into trouble all of the time,” said Bishop O’Connell.
Bishop O’Connell shared with the children that he has “loved being a priest.” He encouraged the sixth-graders to get into a “relationship with Jesus and a friendship with Mary.”
“You need to discern what Jesus wants for you to have a blessed life,” said Bishop O’Connell.
Following Mass, members of priestly and religious orders set up booths providing information about their orders for the students. Sister Strouse created a passport book for the students to take with them as they went from booth to booth. Each child received a sticker for every question they asked at the booths. Questions ranged from, “When did you enter your religious order?” to “Do you play a musical instrument?”
“It’s cool we get to come here. I learned more about vocations and I didn’t really know about them before,” said David Mendoza, who is in sixth grade at San Gabriel Mission.
Students had another chance to interact with and get to know priests and religious during the vocations panel. During the question-and-answer session, novices, seminarians, priests and sisters answered questions asked by the grade-schoolers.
“I learned about the different vocations and how they learned how they wanted to be a priest or a sister. I was inspired,” said Janna Yap, who is a sixth-grader at St. Andrews School.
Focus 11 ended with a Holy Hour at St. Therese Church. Students took home with them the knowledge that there are many callings in life, from being single to married to religious life.
“This is like a new Pentecost. They all look so inspired and energetic. They truly look open to the Holy Spirit,” said Sister Madonna-Joseph, who is a Carmelite Sister.
By Julie Schnieders, Angelus, Archdiocese of Los Angeles, CA
Pope Francis Message for Lent
March 1 - April 15
MESSAGE OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS
FOR LENT 2017
"The Word is a gift. Other persons are a gift"
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Lent is a new beginning, a path leading to the certain goal of Easter, Christ’s victory over death. This season urgently calls us to conversion. Christians are asked to return to God “with all their hearts” (Joel 2:12), to refuse to settle for mediocrity and to grow in friendship with the Lord. Jesus is the faithful friend who never abandons us. Even when we sin, he patiently awaits our return; by that patient expectation, he shows us his readiness to forgive (cf. Homily, 8 January 2016).
Lent is a favourable season for deepening our spiritual life through the means of sanctification offered us by the Church: fasting, prayer and almsgiving. At the basis of everything is the word of God, which during this season we are invited to hear and ponder more deeply. I would now like to consider the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (cf. Lk 16:19-31). Let us find inspiration in this meaningful story, for it provides a key to understanding what we need to do in order to attain true happiness and eternal life. It exhorts us to sincere conversion.
1. The other person is a gift
The parable begins by presenting its two main characters. The poor man is described in greater detail: he is wretched and lacks the strength even to stand. Lying before the door of the rich man, he fed on the crumbs falling from his table. His body is full of sores and dogs come to lick his wounds (cf. vv. 20-21). The picture is one of great misery; it portrays a man disgraced and pitiful.
The scene is even more dramatic if we consider that the poor man is called Lazarus: a name full of promise, which literally means God helps. This character is not anonymous. His features are clearly delineated and he appears as an individual with his own story. While practically invisible to the rich man, we see and know him as someone familiar. He becomes a face, and as such, a gift, a priceless treasure, a human being whom God loves and cares for, despite his concrete condition as an outcast (cf. Homily, 8 January 2016).
Lazarus teaches us that other persons are a gift. A right relationship with people consists in gratefully recognizing their value. Even the poor person at the door of the rich is not a nuisance, but a summons to conversion and to change. The parable first invites us to open the doors of our heart to others because each person is a gift, whether it be our neighbour or an anonymous pauper. Lent is a favourable season for opening the doors to all those in need and recognizing in them the face of Christ. Each of us meets people like this every day. Each life that we encounter is a gift deserving acceptance, respect and love. The word of God helps us to open our eyes to welcome and love life, especially when it is weak and vulnerable. But in order to do this, we have to take seriously what the Gospel tells us about the rich man.
2. Sin blinds us
The parable is unsparing in its description of the contradictions associated with the rich man (cf. v. 19). Unlike poor Lazarus, he does not have a name; he is simply called “a rich man”. His opulence was seen in his extravagant and expensive robes. Purple cloth was even more precious than silver and gold, and was thus reserved to divinities (cf. Jer 10:9) and kings (cf. Jg 8:26), while fine linen gave one an almost sacred character. The man was clearly ostentatious about his wealth, and in the habit of displaying it daily: “He feasted sumptuously every day” (v. 19). In him we can catch a dramatic glimpse of the corruption of sin, which progresses in three successive stages: love of money, vanity and pride (cf. Homily, 20 September 2013).
The Apostle Paul tells us that “the love of money is the root of all evils” (1 Tim 6:10). It is the main cause of corruption and a source of envy, strife and suspicion. Money can come to dominate us, even to the point of becoming a tyrannical idol (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 55). Instead of being an instrument at our service for doing good and showing solidarity towards others, money can chain us and the entire world to a selfish logic that leaves no room for love and hinders peace.
The parable then shows that the rich man’s greed makes him vain. His personality finds expression in appearances, in showing others what he can do. But his appearance masks an interior emptiness. His life is a prisoner to outward appearances, to the most superficial and fleeting aspects of existence (cf. ibid., 62).
The lowest rung of this moral degradation is pride. The rich man dresses like a king and acts like a god, forgetting that he is merely mortal. For those corrupted by love of riches, nothing exists beyond their own ego. Those around them do not come into their line of sight. The result of attachment to money is a sort of blindness. The rich man does not see the poor man who is starving, hurting, lying at his door.
Looking at this character, we can understand why the Gospel so bluntly condemns the love of money: “No one can be the slave of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or be attached to the first and despise the second. You cannot be the slave both of God and of money” (Mt 6:24).
3. The Word is a gift
The Gospel of the rich man and Lazarus helps us to make a good preparation for the approach of Easter. The liturgy of Ash Wednesday invites us to an experience quite similar to that of the rich man. When the priest imposes the ashes on our heads, he repeats the words: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return”. As it turned out, the rich man and the poor man both died, and the greater part of the parable takes place in the afterlife. The two characters suddenly discover that “we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it” (1 Tim 6:7).
We too see what happens in the afterlife. There the rich man speaks at length with Abraham, whom he calls “father” (Lk 16:24.27), as a sign that he belongs to God’s people. This detail makes his life appear all the more contradictory, for until this moment there had been no mention of his relation to God. In fact, there was no place for God in his life. His only god was himself.
The rich man recognizes Lazarus only amid the torments of the afterlife. He wants the poor man to alleviate his suffering with a drop of water. What he asks of Lazarus is similar to what he could have done but never did. Abraham tells him: “During your life you had your fill of good things, just as Lazarus had his fill of bad. Now he is being comforted here while you are in agony” (v. 25). In the afterlife, a kind of fairness is restored and life’s evils are balanced by good.
The parable goes on to offer a message for all Christians. The rich man asks Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his brothers, who are still alive. But Abraham answers: “They have Moses and the prophets, let them listen to them” (v. 29). Countering the rich man’s objections, he adds: “If they will not listen either to Moses or to the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone should rise from the dead” (v. 31).
The rich man’s real problem thus comes to the fore. At the root of all his ills was the failure to heed God’s word. As a result, he no longer loved God and grew to despise his neighbour. The word of God is alive and powerful, capable of converting hearts and leading them back to God. When we close our heart to the gift of God’s word, we end up closing our heart to the gift of our brothers and sisters.
Dear friends, Lent is the favourable season for renewing our encounter with Christ, living in his word, in the sacraments and in our neighbour. The Lord, who overcame the deceptions of the Tempter during the forty days in the desert, shows us the path we must take. May the Holy Spirit lead us on a true journey of conversion, so that we can rediscover the gift of God’s word, be purified of the sin that blinds us, and serve Christ present in our brothers and sisters in need. I encourage all the faithful to express this spiritual renewal also by sharing in the Lenten Campaigns promoted by many Church organizations in different parts of the world, and thus to favour the culture of encounter in our one human family. Let us pray for one another so that, by sharing in the victory of Christ, we may open our doors to the weak and poor. Then we will be able to experience and share to the full the joy of Easter.
From the Vatican, 18 October 2016
TWENTY-FIFTH WORLD DAY OF THE SICK 2017
MESSAGE OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS
FOR THE TWENTY-FIFTH WORLD DAY OF THE SICK 2017
Amazement at what God has accomplished:
“The Almighty has done great things for me…” (Lk 1:49)
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
On 11 February next, the Twenty-fifth World Day of the Sick will be celebrated throughout the Church and in a special way at Lourdes. The theme of this year’s celebration is “Amazement at what God has accomplished: ‘The Almighty has done great things for me….’” (Lk 1:49). Instituted by my predecessor Saint John Paul II in 1992, and first celebrated at Lourdes on 11 February 1993, this Day is an opportunity to reflect in particular on the needs of the sick and, more generally, of all those who suffer. It is also an occasion for those who generously assist the sick, beginning with family members, health workers and volunteers, to give thanks for their God-given vocation of accompanying our infirm brothers and sisters. This celebration likewise gives the Church renewed spiritual energy for carrying out ever more fully that fundamental part of her mission which includes serving the poor, the infirm, the suffering, the outcast and the marginalized (cf. John Paul II, Motu Proprio Dolentium Hominum, 11 February 1985, 1). Surely, the moments of prayer, the Eucharistic liturgies and the celebrations of the Anointing of the Sick, the sharing with the sick and the bioethical and theological-pastoral workshops to be held in Lourdes in those days will make new and significant contributions to that service.
Even now, I am spiritually present at the grotto of Massabielle, before the statue of the Immaculate Virgin, in whom the Almighty has done great things for the redemption of mankind. I express my closeness to all of you, our suffering brothers and sisters, and to your families, as well as my appreciation for all those in different roles of service and in healthcare institutions throughout the world who work with professionalism, responsibility and dedication for your care, treatment and daily well-being. I encourage all of you, the sick, the suffering, physicians, nurses, family members and volunteers, to see in Mary, Health of the Infirm, the sure sign of God’s love for every human being and a model of surrender to his will. May you always find in faith, nourished by the Word and by the Sacraments, the strength needed to love God, even in the experience of illness.
Like Saint Bernadette, we stand beneath the watchful gaze of Mary. The humble maiden of Lourdes tells us that the Virgin, whom she called “the Lovely Lady”, looked at her as one person looks at another. Those simple words describe the fullness of a relationship. Bernadette, poor, illiterate and ill, felt that Mary was looking at her as a person. The Lovely Lady spoke to her with great respect and without condescension. This reminds us that every person is, and always remains, a human being, and is to be treated as such. The sick and the those who are disabled, even severely, have their own inalienable dignity and mission in life. They never become simply objects. If at times they appear merely passive, in reality that is never the case.
After her visit to the Grotto, thanks to her prayer, Bernadette turned her frailty into support for others. Thanks to her love, she was able to enrich her neighbours and, above all, to offer her life for the salvation of humanity. The fact that the Lovely Lady asked her to pray for sinners reminds us that the infirm and the suffering desire not only to be healed, but also to live a truly Christian life, even to the point of offering it as authentic missionary disciples of Christ. Mary gave Bernadette the vocation of serving the sick and called her to become a Sister of Charity, a mission that she carried out in so exemplary a way as to become a model for every healthcare worker. Let us ask Mary Immaculate for the grace always to relate to the sick as persons who certainly need assistance, at times even for the simplest of things, but who have a gift of their own to share with others.
The gaze of Mary, Comfort of the Afflicted, brightens the face of the Church in her daily commitment to the suffering and those in need. The precious fruits of this solicitude for the world of suffering and sickness are a reason for gratitude to the Lord Jesus, who out of obedience to the will of the Father became one of us, even enduring death on the cross for the redemption of humanity. The solidarity shown by Christ, the Son of God born of Mary, is the expression of God’s merciful omnipotence, which is made manifest in our life – above all when that life is frail, pain-filled, humbled, marginalized and suffering – and fills it with the power of hope that can sustain us and enable us to get up again.
This great wealth of humanity and faith must not be dissipated. Instead, it should inspire us to speak openly of our human weaknesses and to address the challenges of present-day healthcare and technology. On this World Day of the Sick, may we find new incentive to work for the growth of a culture of respect for life, health and the environment. May this Day also inspire renewed efforts to defend the integrity and dignity of persons, not least through a correct approach to bioethical issues, the protection of the vulnerable and the protection of the environment.
On this Twenty-fifth World Day of the Sick, I once more offer my prayerful support and encouragement to physicians, nurses, volunteers and all those consecrated men and women committed to serving the sick and those in need. I also embrace the ecclesial and civil institutions working to this end, and the families who take loving care of their sick. I pray that all may be ever joyous signs of the presence of God’s love and imitate the luminous testimony of so many friends of God, including Saint John of God and Saint Camillus de’ Lellis, the patrons of hospitals and healthcare workers, and Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta, missionary of God’s love.
Dear brothers and sisters – the sick, healthcare workers and volunteers – I ask you to join me in praying to Mary. May her maternal intercession sustain and accompany our faith, and obtain for us from Christ her Son hope along our journey of healing and of health, a sense of fraternity and responsibility, a commitment to integral human development and the joy of feeling gratitude whenever God amazes us by his fidelity and his mercy.
Mary, our Mother,
in Christ you welcome each of us as a son or daughter.
Sustain the trusting expectation of our hearts,
succour us in our infirmities and sufferings,
and guide us to Christ, your Son and our brother.
Help us to entrust ourselves to the Father who accomplishes great things.
With the assurance of a constant remembrance in my prayers, I cordially impart to all of you my Apostolic Blessing.
8 December 2016, Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception
Blessed Marie-Eugene of the Child Jesus, OCD
New Feast Day to be celebrated on February 4th
Fr Marie-Eugene was born Henri Grialou on December 2, 1894, into a simple and deeply Catholic family in a mining village of the Southwest of France. From early childhood he desired to be a priest.
When his formation was interrupted by World War I, he served as an officer on the front lines, and for himself and his men he felt the powerful protection of St Therese of Lisieux. This Carmelite nun, now proclaimed a Doctor of the Church, was famous for saying "My vocation is to be love in the heart of the church" - a sentiment which inspired and moved Henri, and his love for her and her teachings continued his entire life. Fr Marie Eugene did not hesitate to write of her (in the time before her canonization while she was still Bl Therese) "It seems to me that the mission of the little Blessed is to spread divine love in souls in the form which God wills for our times."
In 1920 he discovered the writings of St John of the Cross, a saint who belonged to the Carmelite monastic order and who lived in 16th Century Spain. His writings and poetry are famous for their mystical character, for their insight into prayer and intimate contact with God through contemplation, and for the deep mark of love created in the soul by close contact with it's creator.
Deeply inspired by his discovery of St John of the Cross, Henri Grialou felt a deeper call beyond his vocation to the priesthood, to that of monastic life, specifically as a Carmelite monk
Upon completing his seminary studies after World War I, and his ordination as a priest in 1922, he entered Carmel and in religious life he took the name of Father Marie-Eugene of the Child Jesus, indicating his dedication to Our Lady, and the depth to which he was inspired by St Therese, who took the name of Sr Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face.
A man seized by the absolute of God and by the Marian grace of Carmel, he worked at making known the teachings of the Carmelite saints, believing the ways of contemplation and sanctity are open to all Christians living an ordinary life in the midst of the world.
His major work, I Want to See God and I am a Daughter of the Church provides a rich synthesis of Carmelite spirituality shaped by personal mystical experience; it is a study of the three great luminaries of the Carmelite Order, St Teresa of Avila, St John of the Cross and St Therese of Lisieux. Its two titles, I Want to See God and I Am a Daughter of the Church, words attributed to St Teresa of Avila, are like a twin call to everyone.
Called by God to share his charism with many, he founded the Institute of Notre Dame de Vie with Marie Pila in 1932 in Venasque, France, while serving at the highest levels in his Order and travelling extensively.
Fr Marie-Eugene's whole life was marked by the powerful influence of the Holy Spirit and Our Lady. He died on Easter Monday, March 27, 1967, the very day on which he loved to celebrate the Easter joy of Mary, Mother of Life.
Cause for Canonization
On Easter Sunday 1985, the Archbishop of Avignon, France, formally opened the cause for the canonization of Fr Marie-Eugene of the Child Jesus. Testimonies have been received worldwide, recounting numerous material and spiritual favors granted through his intercession.
On 19 December 2011 Pope Benedict XVI signed the decree recognizing the heroic virtues of Fr Marie-Eugene, thus declaring him "Venerable" in the eyes of the church.
Fr Marie Eugene was declared Blessed at a Mass in Avignon on November 19, 2016. Blessed Father Marie-Eugene's feast day will be celebrated on February 4th, the day he was ordained a priest.
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