Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Words from Fr Ed (From Sept 4th, 2011 Bulletin)

“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
                      - Mt 18:20

Christ Connection and Correction
Most of our passage from the gospel this weekend focuses on fraternal correction, how to correct one another in charity and truth, which can be very difficult to practice. The passage closes however with a more familiar verse about where ‘two or three are gathered’.  The truth of Christ’s presence in the midst of Christians sheds light on his instruction about how to correct one another. Our reality as Christians is that we are bonded by truth and that truth is Christ Himself. This runs contrary to the prevailing culture, which says that ‘truth’ is relative, that is, it changes from person to person.

This relativism is totally contrary to reason, that gift by which we discern what is true and what is false. If I say, for example, that ‘God exists’. Another might say, ‘He may for you, but not for me.’ Well, I trust the person believes this and is being honest, but either God does exist as we believe or He doesn’t. There can’t be two different objective alternatives to this question.  Either our faith is accurate or a complete sham.

This truth applies to relations between persons as well. Either something is charitable or it is not. Either something is just or it is not. Discerning these things is not always easy, but Christ gives us excellent guidelines for doing this. There is a collective wisdom in judging things and behavior. Many of these principles have been clarified by Catholic moral and ethical teaching. Other situations require a hands-on discernment by the Body of Christ.

Preserving the truth between us takes great charity and humility on everyone’s part. It stretches us like the cross Jesus asks us to carry and even be crucified on. This is no small work; it is the great work of Christ. We must take great care in our relationships with one another to pursue the truth without judgment and with determination. The health of this Body of Christ depends on each member doing his or her part. Realizing that none of us is perfect, we need to have compassion on and patience with one another. When we do this, Christ is present.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Words from Fr Ed (From August 28th, 2011 Bulletin)

Pope Benedict Asks Young People to Love the Church!

I wanted to pass on to you parts of Pope Benedict’s homily to more than one million youth gathered last weekend in Madrid, Spain.  The Holy Father said,

Dear Young People,

In this celebration of the Eucharist we have reached the high point of this World Youth Day. Seeing you here, gathered in such great numbers from all parts of the world, fills my heart with joy. I think of the special love with which Jesus is looking upon you. Yes, the Lord loves you and calls you his friends (cf. Jn 15:15). He goes out to meet you and he wants to accompany you on your journey, to open the door to a life of fulfillment and to give you a share in his own closeness to the Father. For our part, we have come to know the immensity of his love and we want to respond generously to his love by sharing with others the joy we have received…

Dear young people, today Christ is asking you the same question which he asked the Apostles: “Who do you say that I am?” Respond to him with generosity and courage, as befits young hearts like your own. Say to him: “Jesus, I know that you are the Son of God, who have given your life for me. I want to follow you faithfully and to be led by your word. You know me and you love me. I place my trust in you and I put my whole life into your hands. I want you to be the power that strengthens me and the joy which never leaves me”.

Jesus responds to Peter’s confession by speaking of the Church: “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church”. What do these words mean? Jesus builds the Church on the rock of the faith of Peter, who confesses that Christ is God. 

The Church, then, is not simply a human institution, like any other. Rather, she is closely joined to God. Christ himself speaks of her as “his” Church. Christ cannot be separated from the Church any more than the head can be separated from the body (cf. 1 Cor 12:12). The Church does not draw her life from herself, but from the Lord.

Dear young friends, … Make Christ, the Son of God, the centre of your life. But let me also remind you that following Jesus in faith means walking at his side in the communion of the Church. We cannot follow Jesus on our own. Anyone who would be tempted to do so “on his own”, or to approach the life of faith with that kind of individualism so prevalent today, will risk never truly encountering Jesus, or will end up following a counterfeit Jesus.

Having faith means drawing support from the faith of your brothers and sisters, even as your own faith serves as a support for the faith of others. I ask you, dear friends, to love the Church which brought you to birth in the faith, which helped you to grow in the knowledge of Christ and which led you to discover the beauty of his love. Growing in friendship with Christ necessarily means recognizing the importance of joyful participation in the life of your parishes, communities and movements, as well as the celebration of Sunday Mass, frequent reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and the cultivation of personal prayer and meditation on God’s word. Friendship with Jesus will also lead you to bear witness to the faith wherever you are, even when it meets with rejection or indifference. We cannot encounter Christ and not want to make him known to others. So do not keep Christ to yourselves! Share with others the joy of your faith. The world needs the witness of your faith, it surely needs God. I think that the presence here of so many young people, coming from all over the world, is a wonderful proof of the fruitfulness of Christ’s command to the Church: “Go into all the world and proclaim the Gospel to the whole creation” (Mk 16:15). You too have been given the extraordinary task of being disciples and missionaries of Christ in other lands and countries filled with young people who are looking for something greater and, because their heart tells them that more authentic values do exist, they do not let themselves be seduced by the empty promises of a lifestyle which has no room for God.

Dear young people, I pray for you with heartfelt affection. I commend all of you to the Virgin Mary and I ask her to accompany you always by her maternal intercession and to teach you how to remain faithful to God’s word. I ask you to pray for the Pope, so that, as the Successor of Peter, he may always confirm his brothers and sisters in the faith. May all of us in the Church, pastors and faithful alike, draw closer to the Lord each day. May we grow in holiness of life and be effective witnesses to the truth that Jesus Christ is indeed the Son of God, the Savior of all mankind and the living source of our hope. Amen.                       

                                                                                                                                                                                                 - Benedict XVI at the beginning of the Eucharistic Celebration, Cuatro

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Words from Fr Ed (From August 21, 2011 Bulletin)

Who do you say I am?

Jesus asks the ultimate question of his Apostles in our Gospel today. It is a question that reverberates throughout history and confronts every human soul with the fact of our faith or lack thereof. What do we believe about Jesus Christ? It is the most critical aspect of our lives. This is not to make anyone panic for lack of faith. Of the twelve Apostles only one, Peter, was able to annunciate his belief that Jesus was truly “the Christ, the Son of the living God.” We perhaps, like the other Apostles, might be hesitant or not sure of what we believe. Jesus did not reject them, nor does he reject us.

Peter’s faith and proclamation made him Jesus’ rock upon which he would build His Church. It is this Church that has handed on the faith through the centuries. Like the first California winegrowers who brought quality grapevines from Europe, the Church continues to produce the same pure faith in souls that receive it. Like good wine, it can even grow richer with age. We cling to this vine and ask God to enrich us as heirs to a promise made to Peter: that while our faith will be tested, “the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.”

Faith Prevails

I’ve finished two books lately on the incredible story of the missionaries and Japanese Christians around Nagasaki. The first book I finished was, “Bells of Nagasaki”, the testimony of Dr. Taguchi Nagai, a Catholic doctor who was in Nagasaki when the U.S. dropped the atomic bomb there. It speaks both of the horrific destruction of human life that took place, along with Nagai’s ability to forgive and even see God’s providence in guiding the bomb over the Catholic Cathedral in his village of Urakami, the primary community of Christians in Japan. As he said in his funeral address for 8000 Catholics who died in the bombing:

…the American pilots did not aim at Urakami. It was the providence of God that carried the bomb to that destination. 

Is there not a profound relationship between the destruction of Nagasaki and the end of the war? Nagasaki, the only holy place in all Japan- was it not chosen as a victim, a pure lamb, to be slaughtered and burned on the altar of sacrifice to expiate the sins committed by humanity in the Second World War?

St. Paul said in Romans, “We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.” (Rom 8:28)

A second book just finished is, “The Twenty-Six Martyrs of Nagasaki” by Diego Yuuki, S.J. This is the story of the ancestors of the Japanese Catholics first evangelized by St. Francis Xavier, but then facing a terrible persecution from 1597 until the mid 19th Century. (St. Francis Xavier landed in Japan on August 15th of1549, the Feast of the Assumption, the day I’m writing this article!) These martyrs are celebrated as St. Paul Miki and Companions. Included in the 26 were both Franciscans and Jesuits along with some lay associates. Fray Pedro (Peter) Bautista proclaims the faith that motivated the apostles, “I firmly believe that to die for Christ is God’s greatest gift, and I hope that He will not take this great good from us. O, how happy we are to have come to Japan if we receive this blessing! What a wonderful way to begin the year!” (p.30)

A 14yr old, Thomas Kozaki, was martyred along with the religious. His faith matched their experience. In a letter to his parents he writes,

Although you need the priests, if you are deeply sorry for your sins, and have much devotion at the hour of your death, and if you remember and acknowledge the many blessings of Jesus Christ, then you will be saved. And bear in mind that everyone in this world has to come to an end, and so strive so that you will not lose the happiness of heaven. Whatever men may impose on you, try to have patience and show much charity for everyone. (p.55) 

Prophetic words, as soon Japan would be without priests for 250 years. But the Catholic Christians would continue to baptize and pray to the living God.

Considered the best preacher in Japan, brother Paul Miki used every chance he could to draw others to Christ. From his cross (the 26 were crucified), he proclaims:

I am not from the Philippines (where some foreign missionaries were from), I am a Japanese, and a Jesuit Brother. I have not committed any crime, but die only for having preached the religion of Our Lord Jesus Christ. I greatly rejoice to die for this cause; for me this is a great blessing that the Lord grants me. I am at the hour when you may believe that I won’t lie to you, and I guarantee and affirm that there is no other way to salvation except by the Christian path. (p.77)

We are challenged by such faith and courage to listen to Jesus’ question once more, “Who do you say that I am?”

Come to the Rock of Faith
If our faith is growing, the answer to Jesus’ question, “Who do you say that I am?” will be slightly different each time because as we grow in our knowledge and relationship with God, the deepening effect will color our response. Eventually, we get to the point when God is so vast and yet so personal we can hardly find words for a heart so full of love. Our vocabulary is too puny, our words too vague to adequately describe who our wondrous God is to us. Would you like to explore a deeper experience of God? If you are already Catholic but would like to learn with others wishing to join the Catholic Church, contact or 253-631-1940, x104 for more information.  Our next RCIA Information Night is next Thursday, September 1 at 7:00 PM in the Outreach Annex.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Words from Fr Ed (From August 14th, 2011 Bulletin)

“Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David!” - Mt 15:22

Here, in this simple plea of the Canaanite woman, is a prayer that we should all be familiar with. It is one of the sources of the ‘Jesus Prayer’, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner.” This is a recipe for successful prayer, knowledge of self and knowledge of God. The one who can admit his or her need is more than half way home. Faith tells us who can solve our need. When we cry out to Jesus, He comes. In fact, He is already there; otherwise we would not have the grace to cry out.

To know and admit our need should not make us feel ashamed in front of others. We are all weak sinners. We might feel shame in relation to God, but this should not discourage us from seeking Him. Jesus wants to free us from shame. It is destructive and debilitating. He is all-merciful and does not desire that we shrink back in some false humility. Often I hear, “I am too unworthy” to do this or that. “Yes” I say, “and so am I. We are all unworthy. That’s why we say in the Mass, ‘Lord, I am unworthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.’”

‘Unworthy’ is not a problem for God. Stubborn refusal to accept His mercy is, however, a serious problem. It can even lead to final obstinacy, which some have said is the ‘sin against the Holy Spirit’. This means that one does not recognize that Jesus has the power to forgive any sin, which is at the same time a failure to recognize and accept His Divinity. St. Therese said that even if she had committed the most grievous sin, she would not hesitate to run and jump into the Father’s lap. Let us pray for that grace to always run to His mercy without hesitation.

Rectory Update

The Interim Priests Residence has seen some changes with Fr. Reynaldo Yu moving in. He would be considered “Priest in Residence,” meaning that his assignment is elsewhere though he resides at St. Stephen’s. While Fr. Yu has been substituting around the Archdiocese, he has helped out in many ways here at St. Stephen’s as well. Cliff Macaraeg, our summer seminarian, was also residing here until this past week. Cliff is off to World Youth Day in Spain, which begins on August 16. With other priest guests coming and going, I moved the chapel out of the fourth bedroom and into the dining room. Thank you, Jesus, for being flexible!

The influx of residents makes a review of the Joint Oversight Committee’s Recommendations a topic for future discussion. I hope to share more fully in a future column their recommendations, which included waiting on building a new rectory as the recent recession took hold. The instability of the economy continues to make building a serious challenge. Fortunately, our parish has been healthy financially and has decreased our debt to below $700,000. In the meantime, the Interim Priests Residence continues to be a huge blessing for me and the other clerics who have benefited from being so close to the Church. Thank you for your generosity in providing such a wonderful dwelling.

The New Roman Missal Translation is Coming

As you may have read, there is a new translation of our Mass texts that will be implemented on the First Sunday of Advent this year (November 27, 2011). It will involve several changes, some simple and easy, some a little more challenging. There will be updates appearing in the bulletin that will describe these in detail. We are also free to begin some of the sung parts on September 1, including the Gloria, the Sanctus (Holy, Holy), and the Memorial Acclamation. Please take time to study these changes (see website below). And beginning in the fall, we will take time during the Mass to learn these together.

Change can be difficult, but we continue to be an organic, living Church, which changes over time, but remains true to Herself. I love the analogy of our Sequoia tree north of the Outreach Annex. It continues to grow, to change, to put out new needles, branches, and bark, but we would say it is the same tree that it was yesterday or last year. The changes in the Mass will stretch us individually and as a community; our unity of heart and mind may be tested, but I believe that together we can grow in understanding the beauty and power of the Mass as we study more closely the language we use to praise Our Lord. (Changes to the people’s parts can be viewed at

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Words from Fr Ed (From August 7th, 2011 Bulletin)

“Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” - Matthew 14:27

Jesus’ words to the disciples on the Sea of Galilee, “Take courage…”, ought to encourage us as well. Identifying the voice of Christ as our primary inspiration is vital to our spiritual life as Catholics. It is really His voice and God’s grace that help us persevere in our faith. The grace of God acts like gravity in the earth’s core, holding us close to where we belong.

Someone said to me just yesterday, “I don’t know where I belong.” OK, then let gravity, spiritual gravity that is, have its effect. The truth is, as Jesus says, “No one can come to me unless the Father draws him…” (Jn 6:44) But Paul also says that God, “…wills all to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim 2:4) This ‘draw’ then is available to everyone.

St. Thomas Aquinas writes in his Summa Theologica (see that all are ordered towards happiness as their last end. (Summa, Pt. I-II, Q1, Art 7) We believe as Christians that God’s will is our greatest instrument of our happiness, which would be our sanctification. All our actions ought to seek to conform with this great truth so that we can fearlessly follow Christ, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Mystery of Love Award Goes to a New Documentary on the Porn Industry

The documentary film, Out of Darkness, won the Mystery of Love Award at the 2011 John Paul II International Film Festival in Miami. I was impressed and moved by the trailer, which shows the tragedy of the porn industry. Sadly, many are trapped in various aspects of this criminal behavior. There will be a screening of this film at World Youth Day in Spain on August 17. You can see the promotional at

World Youth Day is Coming

World Youth Day is from August 16-21. You can follow it closely at or

Commandments for Husbands and Fathers (continued)

IX.  Pray that each one of your children may answer the call to the vocation that Almighty God has chosen for him or her from all eternity. … Ask each child, “What do you think God is calling you to be?” Help them to discern their states-in-life, whether it be singlehood, the married state or consecrated religious life. Have this discussion often with your children, especially after they reach the age of 15. [In fact, many know their vocation much earlier, even by 6th grade. The basic truth regardless, is that all have a vocation of some kind and need parental support in finding it. EW]

X. Ensure the frequenting of the Sacraments by your family members. The Sacrament of Confession should be partaken of at least monthly and the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist should be partaken of at least weekly. You must make sure that your family’s sense of sin is never dulled. Take your family to Sunday Mass precisely as a family. …Foster among your family members a great love of the Holy Eucharist. Tithe regularly and devotedly. Do everything in your power … to truly make Sunday the Lord’s Day and a day of family togetherness; that is, a day of prayer, relaxation and recreation. Again, this calls for creativity, imagination and frequent planning in advance. Seek input from your wife and older children in this regard. Remember, any good and wholesome recreation is really a “re-creation” of both body and soul. - Fr. Wade Menezes, Inspired by and adapted from Superabundant Family Love by Fr. Bill McCarthy, MSA

Invite Someone to Walk on Water

In the gospel when Peter began to walk on the water, he was able "until he saw how strong the wind was and he became frightened." How often do we allow circumstances dictate our response rather than faith?! With God, everything is possible; with faith, everything is reasonable though our humanness would argue differently. What kind of faith would you like to have- the faith that defies logic or one dependent on the logical? Jesus calls us to "step out" of the security of the boat and risk answering his call. The result is growth beyond our imagining and we too can believe, like Peter who said, "Truly you are the Son of God." RCIA explores this kind of faith. Join us on Thursday, September 1 at 7:00 PM to find out more. Contact for more information.