The words from Saint James’ letter in the second reading today couldn’t be clearer, or more challenging. In last week’s passage, James wrote, rather pointedly, that “pure” religion is expressed in caring “for orphans and widows in their affliction,” who were considered the poorest and most vulnerable segments of society at that time. Indeed, giving charity was then, as it is now, central to the mission of Jesus Christ.
But James goes further today when he insists that Christians may not create distinctions among themselves based on economic class or social standing. “Show no partiality,” he says. “[I]f a man with gold rings and fine clothes comes into your assembly, and a poor person in shabby clothes also comes in,” they are of equal value in the sight of God and should be in our eyes as well.
Once during a Sunday Mass at my last church, several motorcycles roared into the parking lot. I could hear the groans of the assembly, as the tatted-up bikers walked into Mass late. People started shifting in their seats uncomfortably, having made, like myself, an instant judgment about these unexpected intruders. To everyone’s surprise, they took off their helmets, genuflected respectfully, and sat down to worship. They probably had been out for a ride on a Sunday afternoon and were looking for a church somewhere. But we made distinctions and judged them as outsiders who did not belong. Shame on us.
It is not easy for those of us who are comfortable to feel kinship with the poor, who can be dirty, ill-mannered, and even manipulative. Many of us give them a wide berth or even cross the street when they appear in our neighborhoods.
The charge of a Christian steward, however, is not merely to throw money at problems like the poor, but to engage with them personally and somehow, through considerable effort and prayer, see the Christ hidden within them.
--Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
The unknown. It’s a really scary place, full of questions and concerns, and no one person to go to for help or advice. It’s also an extremely broad fear, which makes things really scary, because it seems like there’s no one expert to whom you can turn.
As Father Roger said in his Sunday message this weekend, our parish today embarks on a year-long journey of reflection on the need for healing and spiritual wellness in our lives. Some of us, however, may feel a great deal of resistance to the idea of probing too deeply into our spiritual and emotional selves. In many ways, it may be like going to the doctor. The scary list of “what ifs” can get really long: What is going to happen to me there? What if I get bad news? What if the problem is too big and can’t be fixed? Like latrophobia, or fear of doctors, the resistance to getting better spiritually most often is rooted in fear of the unknown.
So, where does one start to begin addressing fear of the unknown? One of the first (and best) steps to take in combating fear of the unknown is writing down what makes you fearful. It seems silly and obvious, but writing down our fears pulls them out of the abstract recesses of our brains and forces them into concrete reality. Seeing our fears on paper can help us identify how to deal with the “what ifs.” In other words, physical lists help us to organize our hectic brains.
But lest you worry about a big, scary list of fears staring up at you, our faith has us covered even then. In Isaiah 43:1, it is written, “this is what the Lord says — he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.’”
And, there’s a wonderful piece of advice in Matthew 6:34 that addresses fear of the future, pretty much the biggest unknown that ever was: “Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
There’s a popular poem called “Footprints in the Sand,” in which a person reflects on scenes from his or her life while walking along the ocean. The person sees God’s footprints beside the individual’s own, except in the lowest and darkest of times, and asks God, why did you leave me, at those particular moments, when I needed you the most? God responds, “I love you and will never leave you . . . . When you saw only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.”
However clichéd and circulated this poem is, it illustrates that the Lord really does walk with us always. He has claimed us for his own. He has claimed each and every part of us and our lists of big, scary fears. And, he’ll carry us when we need it. When we can remember that immutable truth, then we don’t have to be so afraid, even of looking within ourselves for a few spiritual soft spots. Our God will be there to carry us along the way.
--Claire Kosewic, Staff Bulletin Writer
During Mass, we’ve been addressing some of your more complex questions about the Catholic faith in our message series, Faith Answering Questions. Here are a few less weighty but still interesting answers to a question we received (and one we didn’t!). Here are the responses from our staff bulletin writer, Claire Kosewic.
1. Can I wear sweatpants to Church?
Sneakily, this question is quite loaded, and can quickly lead to pretty heated discussions on other standards of behavior at Mass. Basically, though, there are two main schools of thought on this issue. Some people say that because Mass is a formal celebration of our highest sacrament, the Holy Eucharist, we should dress formally and respectfully, as we would for a job interview or formal social gathering. Some churches don’t allow men to enter in shorts, or women to enter without their shoulders covered — the rules can get pretty extreme and can even be a deterrent to Mass attendance. On the other hand, however, some people take the saying, “come as you are” a bit too literally. They believe that all kinds of clothing — sweatpants, jeans, leggings, even pajamas — are welcome in Church. These people emphasize that the clothing you wear should not preclude you from attending Mass.
Not being allowed into Church because of the clothing you wear seems a little extreme, but so does allowing any attire for Mass. Pajamas for consuming the Body and Blood of Jesus? I think not. There isn’t really a rule of thumb to follow on this one, which complicates things, but a happy medium between these two options definitely exists. The “easy” answer: no sweatpants, no denim, no leggings, and definitely no pajamas. Instead, non-denim pants, modest tops, modest skirts and dresses, and button downs and polos are all great options. That being said, don’t ever let your clothes stop you from coming to Mass — your attendance at Mass is really the most important thing. After all, the disciples didn’t go home and change clothes before they hung out with Jesus.
Father Roger says: “But I love jeans!”
2. Should I turn off my phone at Mass?
As a young person, I find it incredibly annoying when I am constantly lectured on the dangers of my phone and how it’s turning my brains into scrambled eggs. There are so many positive reasons for having and using a cell phone. But, my friends and I all know that there is immense value in disconnecting from our electronics regularly and making space for quality in-person interactions.
One of those times to definitely disconnect: Mass. It’s impossible to make space in your mind for God when you are connected to the entire world through your pocket. And while there are many fabulous faith-centered apps, Mass isn’t really the best time to take advantage of them. So, power off, and listen up — Fr. Roger’s homilies, though long, are actually pretty interesting!
Father Roger says: "But what about techie priests?"
Today we begin a five-week period in which portions of the Letter of Saint James in the New Testament will be read aloud at Sunday Masses. The author most likely is not one of the two James’ listed as Apostles in the synoptic gospels, but rather a relative of Jesus who after the death of the Lord became the leader of the Jewish Christian community in Jerusalem and himself was martyred in 62 A.D.
For the most part, the letter focuses on ethical conduct and responsible moral behavior in living the Christian life. It begins with an exhortation to persevere in faith and avoid temptation (1:2-16). The passage today warns readers, in particular, to conform their lives to Christian principles. Merely to listen to the gospel message without following its moral instruction amounts to self-delusion. Claiming to have faith without performing good works or helping the poor, James says, is like looking in a mirror and then forgetting your true appearance or, in other words, lying to yourself (1:23-24). “Do not be deceived,” James cautions his readers (1:16). We must be both “doers” and “hearers” of the Word.
Indeed, the genuine practice of stewardship arises from faith and is expressed in good works. It takes faith to comprehend that “every perfect gift is from above” and to be grateful for God’s “good giving” (1:17). But it also requires works of charity to become what James says we truly are: The “firstfruits” of our new birth in Christ through faith (1:18). According to Jewish custom, the firstfruits, or earliest produce of an abundant harvest, are offered to God in thanksgiving.
The truth about stewardship is that, when we actually live according to the law of love, we become the firstfruits of the plentiful harvest of faith in action that Jesus cultivated through his great sacrifice on the cross. And that is the greatest thank you note we can give to the Lord.
--Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
During Mass, we’ve been addressing some of your more complex questions about the Catholic faith in our message series, Faith Answering Questions. Here’s a question we received about music and a response from our Director Music Ministry, Mario Balestrieri.
Why do the church music ministers keep changing the tune of the church hymns?
Each Sunday we sing four hymns during mass: The Gathering, Offertory, Communion and Concluding Songs. The Church does not prescribe specific hymns or songs to be sung at these times. These songs are not chosen by random or as a matter of personal preference. These songs change every week because they are chosen carefully and thoughtfully to tie into the readings of the particular Sunday. As the readings change week by week, so do the songs. This is done as a way of reinforcing the Scripture message, and at the same time broadening our exposure to the church’s wealth of songs.
The parts of the mass that we sing regularly include the Gloria, Alleluia, Holy, Memorial Acclamation, Great Amen, and Lamb of God. These are not “hymns” or “songs” as such. They are prayers and acclamations from the Ordinary of the Mass, “ordinary” referring to regular or unchangeable parts of the mass. Composers set these acclamations to music usually in complete sets related by a musical theme or idea. Musical settings of the Mass parts are typically given a name such as “Mass of Christ the Savior” or “Mass of Glory.”
Just like the liturgical year with its various seasons, the Mass has a certain ebb and flow to it from beginning to end, a rhythm which builds to high points and settles down to quiet moments. The hymns or songs are chosen so as to accentuate the ebb and flow of the mass. Songs for the Gathering and Conclusion of Mass are generally strong and upbeat. By contrast, the songs for the Offertory and Communion can be more meditative and subdued in character. As for the Ordinary parts of the Mass, the Gloria, Alleluia, Holy, and Great Amen are rousing acclamations in contrast to the more subdued, quieter character of the Memorial Acclamation (When we eat this bread) and the Lamb of God.
We use different liturgical colors throughout the year to mark the seasons and the Holy Days. Just as the liturgical colors change to mark the change of season, the musical setting of the Ordinary parts of the Mass typically changes to mark the change of season in the same way.
Music has a unique ability to transcend us as we participate in the Mass and is, therefore, integral to its celebration. From the earliest days to the present time, the Church has always recognized the significant contribution of music to the Mass, be it instrumental or sung music. That has remained constant through the centuries. The style of music, however, has changed and evolved through the years. Chant of the early church and the Medieval times led to more complex music of the Renaissance Period, followed by the evolution of music styles in the Baroque, Classical and Romantic Periods on into the styles of the Twentieth century including Gospel and Contemporary music.
The second reading today often offends modern sensibilities when Saint Paul writes that the “husband is head of his wife” and that “[w]ives should be subordinate to their husbands” (Ephesians 5:22-23). Indeed, when one bride mistakenly selected this passage for her wedding, I remember the bridesmaid reading it aloud during the ceremony while at the same time rolling her eyes many times in an exaggerated fashion to make her disapproval clearly known.
As I pointed out in my homily, however, an often missed point is that Saint Paul actually wrote that both husbands and wives should be “subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21). While his instruction to women perhaps too uncritically accepted conventional standards, the essence of the passage actually is directed to husbands. In fact, what Paul had to say to men was nothing short of groundbreaking and radical.
At the time Paul was writing, husbands had complete dominion over their wives. They were considered little more than property with which the husband could do as he saw fit. Wives were often abused and mistreated as a result. Paul’s radical message is that the basis of Christian marriage is love, not authority. Moreover, the husband is to imitate Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and “hand himself over for” his bride (Ephesians 5:25), because the very definition of love is self-donation and subordination to the one who is loved.
Indeed, any form of authentic love is marked by the mutual submission of one to the other, including Christian discipleship. As followers of Christ, we are called to die to ourselves out of love for our neighbor. Stewardship expresses this call to discipleship through various forms of service using our God-given time, talents, and treasure. In seeking to serve and not be served, we follow the command to love others and imitate Christ in the process.
--Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
As part of our Faith Answering Questions message series, we received several questions from parishioners about the death penalty. Here is a response from our staff bulletin writer, Claire Kosewic.
The Roman Catholic Church has an “unconditionally pro-life” stance, which means that all human life must be protected, honored, and cherished as gifts from God. Although the issue of the death penalty has raised a great deal of debate among Catholics, the U.S Bishops, in a document entitled, A Culture of Life, argue that (i) God set a precedent in the Bible for the exercise of mercy towards those who commit heinous crimes, and (ii) the practice of the death penalty not only goes against Jesus’ most important commandment but negatively impacts all of human society.
In chapter four of the Book of Genesis, Adam and Eve have two sons, Cain and Abel. Time passes, and both sons bring offerings to the Lord. For whatever reason, God looks with favor on Abel’s offering, but not Cain’s. Overwrought with anger and jealousy, Cain attacks Abel and kills him. Although he tries to deny it when God confronts him about the murder, Cain eventually admits his crime. Rather than condemning him to death, God shows mercy and allows Cain to live. He will have to live in exile, however, which will make him a target for others. In another act of mercy, God marks him with a special tattoo — a sign to all that Cain is protected by God, and that no one is ever to harm him.
The story of Cain and Abel sets a clear biblical precedent against the death penalty. Cain committed murder, one of the most abominable of all crimes, yet God acted with mercy towards him. We, too, must follow that example of unconditional love and forgiveness. No sin is too great to repent from, we are taught. And, rarely (if ever), does the act of taking another human life bring closure to those directly affected by the crime.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote, “No act, even an execution, can bring back a loved one or heal terrible wounds. The pain and loss of one death cannot be wiped away by another death. . . . We also share the . . . loss and heartache that are the result of unspeakable acts of violence. Our family of faith must care for sisters and brothers who have been wounded by violence and support them in their loss and search for justice. They deserve our compassion, solidarity, and support. However, standing with the families of victims does not compel us to support the use of the death penalty.”
Furthermore, they wrote, “When the State, in our names and with our taxes, ends a human life despite having non-lethal alternatives, it suggests that society can overcome violence with violence. The use of the death penalty ought to be abandoned not only for what it does to those executed, but for what it does to all of society.” In supporting the death penalty, we support a culture of violence, hatred, and vengeance, not a culture of love, forgiveness, and compassion, as we are called to do in Jesus.
During Mass, we’ve been addressing some of your more complex questions about the Catholic faith in our message series, Faith Answering Questions. Here are a few less weighty but still interesting questions we received:
1. What is the Church’s rule on fasting before communion? How has it changed?
In 1983, Pope John Paul II laid down the law on fasting before communion: you must not eat or drink anything, except water or medicine, for at least one hour before receiving communion. (This does not mean at least one hour before Mass — if you were going to attend the 9:30 a.m. Mass, you could probably eat up until 9:15 a.m. or so, assuming that communion generally takes place at about 10:15 a.m. during that service.) Certain exceptions to this rule do apply — sick or elderly people and the people who care for them, such as nurses and doctors, do not have to fast before receiving the Blessed Sacrament.
Traditionally, the Catholic Church was very strict about the Eucharistic fast, requiring that anyone who wanted to receive communion could not eat or drink from the midnight before Mass until after they had received the sacrament. Water and medicine were included in “eating and drinking,” and there were no exceptions for children, the sick, the elderly, or even clergy. If a priest was going to say four Masses in one morning, he might not be able to eat or drink until past noon!
Catholics have fasted before taking the Eucharist for all time — in 240 A.D., the Christian writer Tertullian described the Eucharist as a bread which must be eaten before taking any other food. Likely, this tradition came from the Jewish culture, which gives extreme importance to fasts and includes them in several sacred celebrations. The rules for fasting have relaxed significantly since then, however, mostly for the sake of convenience, so they’re extremely easy to follow.
2. Does God love animals? How much does God love animals compared to human beings?
The short answer is yes, that God does love animals very much. We read in Genesis 1:20-25, “Let the earth bring forth every kind of living creature: tame animals, crawling things, and every kind of wild animal...God made every kind of wild animal, every kind of tame animal, and every kind of thing that crawls on the ground. God saw that it was good.” God created all the animals on this Earth, and He loves them all dearly. When He made humans, he did give us superiority over the animal kingdom, but with the stipulation that we would always be kind to other living things. Being cruel to animals defiles God’s creation, and is in direct contrast to anything God wants of us. Since human beings were created in God’s own image, we are responsible for showing the kindness and respect God shows to us, to all of creation.
Additionally, God takes many opportunities to remind us of the wisdom of animals. In Job 12, Job chides those who say that he [Job] will stop believing in God when his fortunes fail. He tells those non-believers that even the animals know that everything, good and bad and terrible, comes from God in heaven. “But now ask the beasts, and let them teach you; and the birds of the heavens, and let them tell you. Or speak to the earth, and let it teach you; And let the fish of the sea declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this, in whose hand is the life of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind?”
--Claire Kosewic, Staff Writer
When I first converted to the Catholic faith in 1989, I couldn’t wait to go to church on Sundays. The liturgy was captivating and brought me hope and strength for the coming week. The music and singing lifted me up, the homily edified me, and the communion I received with the Lord and other worshipers made me feel whole and part of something bigger than myself. The Mass was an irresistible experience for me, and I looked forward to it as each weekend approached.
Indeed, the first and most fundamental purpose of the Church is worship. As Psalm 34:3 says, “O magnify the Lord with me and let us exalt his name together.” To worship God fulfills the first portion of the Great Commandment Jesus gave in Matthew 22:37-40: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all our soul and with all your mind.”
In the second reading at Mass today, Saint Paul encourages his readers to cast off ignorance that leads to sin through worship. Instead, “be filled with the Spirit,” he urges them, “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and playing to the Lord in your hearts” (Ephesians 5:18-19). Throughout Scripture we’re commanded to celebrate God’s presence by adoring him in liturgy and common worship.
Our fundamental identity as stewards for God can lead us to the incorrect conclusion that service to others should be our primary goal. Sometimes we get so busy serving God by trying to do good deeds that we forget to offer the first and best sacrifice of our time in prayer. However, the Bible says, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only” (Matthew 4:10). Notice that worship is primary and comes before service.
Saint Paul says that we are to “give thanks always and for everything” (Eph. 5:20). Indeed, Christian stewards are grateful for all of God’s blessings. The greatest of these, however, is the opportunity and ability to worship him.
--Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
Wonder Woman, with her Golden Lasso of Truth, metal gauntlets, and Amazonian sword and shield, paints an impressive picture of strength, power, and wisdom. She always manages to save the day, making superhuman feats of athleticism and intelligence look like everyday occurrences.
The Wonder Women of the Bible we’ve been learning about over the past several weeks and their female saint counterparts could be said to do the same. Armed with prayer, wit, conscience, savvy decision-making, and courage, they have saved lives, rescued nations, kept the persecuted safe, led their countries into (and out of) battle, and much more. Their achievements are awe-inspiring, which makes them easy to admire, but in some senses very difficult to emulate.
So, the final “saints” in this series will be two women who aren’t actually saints at all. They are both world-renowned and their actions are almost venerable, but there is a key difference between them and the saints: whereas the saints’ actions were Godly, inspired acts of faith that seem impossible to replicate, there are some relatively simple ways to be like these women. (It would probably be pretty difficult to guide the entire nation of France to military victory like Joan of Arc or to leave one’s home, family, and friends behind for a completely foreign land like Rose Philippine Duchesne.)
In fact, the first one of them wasn’t even a Catholic. She simply saw something wrong with the world, felt an obligation to speak up, and did so — which happens to be exactly what Catholic social teaching asks of us. Rachel Carson is frequently cited as the mother of the American environmentalist movement, and her book Silent Spring is widely credited as the catalyst for governmental regulation of pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides. She was a scientist who noted a disturbing trend in the wildlife populations in areas with high rates of pesticide exposure, wrote a book about it, and changed the way we view chemicals and conservation forever. That was very difficult, but joining a Surfrider weekend beach cleanup, working to compost and recycle more, or spending a weekday afternoon restoring native plant species to San Francisco with the Presidio Native Plant Nursery wouldn’t be difficult at all.
Dorothy Day was a Catholic convert who dedicated her life to the development of the Catholic Worker Movement. It began as a sociopolitical organization, and has since evolved into communities of Catholics working to serve those living life on the margins. With the Great Depression in full swing and almost one-quarter of working America without work, Day saw how hard life was, and she did something to make it better. But starting a social movement isn’t the only way to reach out to those living on the margins. Be a little like Day, and give some time to St. Anthony’s Dining Room or the San Francisco Food Bank, make lunches for the St. Vincent de Paul Society’s sandwich Sundays, or make a small donation to a favorite charity each month.
It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the incredible feats of these Wonder Women of the Bible. But, we can all be Wonder Women (and Men!) in our own ways, and leading an army into battle isn’t necessarily on the job description.
--Claire Kosewic, Parishioner
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St. Brendan the Navigator
29 Rockaway Ave.
San Francisco CA 94127
In the Archdiocese of San Francisco
Sunday 9:00 am - 1:00 pm
Monday - Thursday 8:30 am - 4:00 pm
The rectory office is closed on Independence Day,
Labor Day, and other official holidays.
Weekday Mass Schedule
Monday-Friday 6:30 am & 8:15 am
Weekend Mass Schedule
Saturday 8:15 am & 5:00 pm Vigil Mass
Sunday 7:30 AM, 9:30 AM, 11:30 AM
Holy Days of Obligation and Ash Wednesday
6:30 am, 8:15 am, 6:00 pm
Wednesday 7:15 pm - 7:45 pm
Saturday 4:15 pm - 4:45 pm
Sunday 7-7:30, 8:30-9:30, 10:30-11:30 am
By appointment with any priest.
Wednesday 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Saturday 4:00 pm - 5:00pm
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