“Pardon the dust, we are under construction.”

Signed by Ashes

“Pardon the dust, we are under construction.” Today, we are told that over a billion people will receive ashes on their heads as a start to the lenten season. “Pardon the dust, we are under construction,” was a line that was woven into our penance service last night by one of the priest faculty members here at the seminary. He said that we can look at the Season of Lent as a construction site. While a building is being built, dust is always around. But, the building still gets built and eventually the dust will be removed and cleaned up. Lent is a time for on going construction of our lives. We are dusty and dirty but still have hope that our buildings (bodies and souls) will be constructed and cleaned for the glory of God.   Today the Bishop emeritus of Santa Rosa, CA led our annual day of recollection. The ashes we are signed with today have several purposes.

First they are a sign of our mortality. We are “from dust and to dust we shall return.” All things on earth are temporary, even our lives. For truly all of us yearn and strive our best for that perfect communion with our Creator. Let us not be attached to the things of this world for that is all dust. Rather, let us attach to the things of the world to come.

Secondly, these ashes is a sign of repentance. In the early days of the church and even in scripture it says that those who have offended God are to wear “sackcloth and ashes” and beg for mercy. Today we do just that. In the first reading of the Mass of Ash Wednesday, we are told from the Prophet Joel, “…return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, weeping, and mourning; Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the Lord your God.” – Joel 2:12. No one is perfect and these ashes is a sign to admit our failings and with complete trust in God try our best to make amends for our sins and avoid any occasion of sin.  We do this by fasting, prayer, and charity.

Thirdly and finally, we are told in the second reading today from the letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians that “We are ambassadors for Christ” 2 Cor 5:20. The Bishop took light of this. During lent, yes, we walk in the desert with Christ. We make penance, fast, and take part in his death and resurrection. The Bishop suggested that while we do this, it is important to look at those who are crucified in our own world today in 2012. They are our brothers and sisters too. They too, have “dust and is under construction.” We need to walk with them just as we walk with Christ. To see Christ in the unwed mother, the alcoholic, those in abusive relationships, drug addict, homeless children, the hungry, the poor, the immigrant and so much more may be hard to see and even fathom, but, they are being crucified and we must help them carry their crosses.

May these ashes we wear today be a sign to the world that we are not perfect but we are trying. May it be a sign of hope for a hopeless world as we see the suffering Christ in all. May this season of dust construct our lives into a new building this Easter. Happy Lent 2012!

Facebook & Lent 2012

Image

After much prayer and discernment, I have decided that as part of my Lenten Fast this year, I will be giving up the Facebook World. While I see it as a great tool for evangelization and socialization, it can also be a great distraction too. The primary reason I am giving facebook for this time being is that there is too much being put on there. There is too much things about people’s personal lives and drama. The term “innocence is bliss,” applies here and there are too much things out there I really don’t wanna know about people. Secondarily, I feel that I am spending way too much time on it. Really wasting time, when I could be doing other things like studying, praying, and or corresponding.

A couple weeks ago I attended a Confirmation Celebration and part of the Bishop’s homily was on Facebook. Now, in no way was he bashing it, but, he did make an observation. He said that in facebook you really only deal with your “friends,” you create your own world and can easily be able to get stuck in it. As Christians we are called to be in the world and deal with ALL people not just your “friends.”

So, what do I hope to gain from this? Well, I hope that at Easter, I will have grown closer to Christ but also the my “friends” in the facebook world and the real world too. I also hope this detachment will help me foster what it means to be a “public person” as a future priest and a clear meaning of the saying, “we are called to be in the world, but not of the world.”

Lent begins Ash Wednesday February 22, 2012. Let’s pray for one another!

Lent is upon us…

Lent, a Liturgical Season of the Roman Catholic Church 40 days before the great Feast of Easter. Lent begins this coming Wednesday February 22 with the celebration of Ash Wednesday and ends at the Easter Triduum on Holy Thursday on April 5. This 40 days, 7 weeks is a time when the Church walks with Christ in the desert. 40 is a very important number in scripture. These 40 days is a time of purification and realization for the self and the Church at large. Christ was tempted in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights after his baptism in the Jordan, where it was revealed that he was the “Son of God.” Jesus went into the desert  to know his mission on earth. These 40 days lead us to the Passion and Death of Jesus and then to the Glorious Triumphant Resurrection from the dead, saving all of us.

Lent is a time for a person to do just that. To rekindle his/her relationship with God and Jesus and the Church. It is a time to ask God for forgiveness of ones sins and a time to do good for others. Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving. Many people decide to “give up” something for lent and in place to do something good for themselves or another. It’s good to make that sacrifice, but I think that if one does give something up that at the end it should make him/her a better person spiritually and even more important strengthen his/her relation with God. The act of giving something up in a sense is dying to oneself and rising to new life with Christ at Easter.

On Ash Wednesday when being signed with ashes on your fore head, you will hear the minister say “Remember, you are dust and unto dust you shall return” or “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.” Lent is that. We must remember that our life here on earth is for life in eternity. All is temporary (dust to dust) and by following Christ and his Gospel on earth, we hope to obtain the eternal reward of heaven with Jesus the risen Lord. Happy Lent 2012!

“Lucky, Come Hawaii!”

“Lucky, Come Hawaii,” is a phrase that I grew up hearing all the time. My dad said it as a way to tease my brother and I that we were ordered from the Philippines and both of my grandfathers would say it all the time too. My Paternal Grandfather immigrated the family from Cebu Philippines in the 1970’s. My dad was in his early teens when they came over. My maternal grandfather was a first generation Portuguese. His father, my Great-grandfather immigrated from Portugal in the early 1900’s.

This afternoon, the Portuguese Community here at the seminary went out for an authentic Portuguese Lunch for a brief meeting and celebrating a fellow brothers birthday.  The restaurant we went to was Baccalau Grill and Market in “Little Portugal” of San Jose, CA. I didn’t know that there were many Portuguese here in the Bay Area. I was also amazed as to how preserved the Portuguese culture is here. The lunch was great, service awesome, and company even better. It was a wonderful afternoon.

As I was sitting there taking part in the conversations, listening to the Portuguese language of other patrons in the market, hearing the beautiful music, smelling the Baccalau, Garlic, Sweet Bread (Massa Sovada), tasting the different custards, and of course the vino. I couldn’t help at this moment to think of home. It was a nostalgic felling of homesickness. Maybe it was the food or the strange resemblances actions of people here and comparing it to my own Portuguese family members back home. I thought “it’s a shame!” that the Portuguese in Hawaii haven’t really preserved our culture besides the food. I wished my grandparents would’ve taught us to speak Portuguese and do the Festas and dances etc. I wished I would’ve learned to speak Visayan too!

Then, I thought of that famous saying “Lucky, Come Hawaii.” It wasn’t that we Portuguese or Filipinos or Japanese or Koreans have lost our cultures, we enhanced the beauty that which makes Hawaii, Hawaii. And actually, the Portuguese have really been influential in Hawaiian History. For example, we not only brought Bean Soup, Malassadas, and Sweet Bread but we also were pillars of  the Roman Catholic Faith in the Islands. We brought the Ukulele and added to the comedy of local living.

I left the restaurant an even prouder Portuguese (Yes I am proud to be Portuguese!) and more importantly a prouder Hawaiian. In a deeper sense I am thankful to my Dad who came from the Philippines and my Papa Joe who came from Portugal to Hawaii to provide for us a better lifestyle and instill in us the values of our cultures. Yes, the Portuguese culture may not be as active in Hawaii, but we are still there. Our love for family, work ethic, passion, and great faith in God is still seen under the skies of Hawaii. As as they say, forgive my spelling, but Bunza Dersh, Lucky, Come Hawaii!

Below is a Video about immigration to Hawaii. It focuses on Puhi Camp where my family still resides. The video is made by a desendent of one of the original immigrants to the Sugar Plantation Camp. My Uncle the late Billy Texeira is on there speaking about the Portuguese culture. May this video give you a better understanding of Hawaiian Culture and a greater appreciation for all that our ancestors did for us.

The Sacrament of Confirmation

Last Saturday, Jeremy and I attended the Celebration of the Sacrament of Confirmation at our ministry placement parish of Our Lady of the Angels in San Francisco. There were 68 young people receiving the Sacrament that beautiful Bay Area Morning. As we pulled up to the Church parking lot, we could see that it was getting full and there was a sense of electricity in the air. I personally think that was the Holy Spirit making himself ready to flow over these young men and women. It was a buzz! Mass began in a standing room only Church with the Auxiliary Bishop presiding. He gave a very inspiring homily, of which I will be blogging about too in the near future. Anyway, as the Bishop was ministering the Sacrament I myself had flashbacks to my own Confirmation on that warm June Saturday afternoon. I wondered, “Do these young people know what is happening?” “Do they know the graces which are being bestowed on them?” I thought this, because I gave this group a talk on what it means to live a life as a fully initiated member of the faith. I also thought about my own life and how am I now as a seminarian living out my Confirmation. Below is the text of the talk which I gave to these young men and women of God. May it be a reflection for us who are Confirmed to live out fully our Christian lives and a reflection and inspiration for those who might be getting ready for Confirmation or any other Sacrament. Please pray for our young people, they are our future Church.

 

 

Confirmation

 

            We hear at the end of each Mass we celebrate the words of dismissal that goes, “Go and glorify God with your lives.” Through this we are sent forth to go and do just that. Glorify God with our lives. In a few days, you will be confirmed and become fully initiated members of God’s holy and apostolic Church. So what? You may ask, is the point of this talk. Well for the last two years, you have been hearing talks, coming to weekly meetings, retreats, and doing various service projects in preparation to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation.

 

            The Catechism states that, “by the sacrament of Confirmation, [the baptized] are more perfectly bound to the Church and are enriched with a special strength of the Holy Spirit. Hence they are, as true witnesses of Christ, more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith by word and deed.” So, by Confirmation we are fulfilling our baptism vows and now glorifying God with our lives. Just as those words we hear at the end of Mass so too can that be applied to Confirmation. Confirmation is not a graduation from coming to youth group, or doing service projects, or, God forbid coming to Church. We now have a mission. In past years, it was very common that upon receiving Confirmation a young man or young woman like you was called a “soldier for Christ.” This can still be applied to you today. We must go into the world radiating Christ’s light and love to all.

 

            How can this be done, you may ask. Well, after I was confirmed at age 16, I helped out in the Youth Group and became a Catechist. I also became a lector and other ministries of the parish, which essentially, lead to my entrance into the Seminary and discernment of my vocation Priesthood. Confirmation and the gifts of the Holy Spirit that you will receive will also play a very important role in truly knowing your vocation in life. Some of you in here may be already feeling a call to serve God, his Church, and her people as a Priest or Religious Sister or Brother. Some of you may be called to love God and serve him through one person be that a husband or wife in the Sacrament of Matrimony and also raise families to love and serve God. And finally some might be called to the single life and love and serve the Lord and the mission of his Church.

 

Well, my brothers and sisters in the faith, I encourage you not to let what happens next week Saturday be an end. When you hear those words, “Go and glorify God with you lives,” go, and do just that. As full members of the Catholic Church go, and learn more and fall in love with our faith, get active at the parish by becoming a youth minister, a lector, an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist and other ministries there may be here. Be active not only at church but also in the community. Show them that you have the love of Christ within you and the joy you have by being a Catholic Christian. Be a sign of hope in a world and society that at times have no hope.  And most importantly, stay close to the Church and the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Confession. Trust God in all things and have courage for he will never abandon you.