Today we celebrate Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe. How huge this is! We celebrate our sovereign, all powerful, all loving, and all compassionate Lord!
Jesus is our King – our Lord and Savior – and the ultimate steward of all time. Jesus is the Word made flesh who gave his life to save us. His was the ultimate gift, his own life, for our sins, down through time. Jesus offered himself to God as “the firstborn of the dead” (Revelation 1:5), and “the firstfruits of the those that have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20). All we have and enjoy comes from the incredible bounty of God, his graces, comforts, and blessings.
In our own lives, most likely we will not have to make such a sacrifice as Jesus did. However, as God’s stewards, and in our Catholic tradition, we are asked to give our time, talent, and treasure to others – and, especially and concurrently, a portion of it back to God, the “firstfruits” of our efforts.
Firstfruits are our best efforts, the portion of ourselves that we offer back to God – those that are the finest, of the highest quality, that challenge us for most of our time, effort, and resources. We do owe all that we have to God, but we should offer it in a filial, that is, son- or daughter-like, way, in a grateful, hopeful frame of mind – always willing to share it with others, especially those who are less fortunate and blessed by circumstances.
Jesus is the King of the Universe, but he is a king unlike no other; he came to serve, not to be served. He lived his life in humble service of others. Let us all remember that we are not the “lord” of our time, treasure, and talent; God is, and he wants us to share what all we have with others.
--Jim Wollak, Parishioner
Families come together during the holidays, sharing all of the love, laughter, friendship, and memories of the year. Immediate and extended, family members give each other the gifts of time and presence each year, taking time to appreciate the special relationships they hold. But families don’t just mean Moms and Dads, Aunts and Uncles, Grandmothers and Grandfathers. Families are also the families we create for ourselves, through shared experiences and understandings.
As we’ve gone through the final message series of the liturgical year, we’ve emphasized the unique beauty and experience that is being part of the Saint Brendan community. A foundation of love and acceptance grounds this community — this family — as one to be recognized for reaching out to the “other,” and drawing them into the fold. So, take time to sit down with your parish family and share some intentional time with them.
The Saint Brendan School Carnival and Christmas Boutique is fast approaching, Nov. 29th through Dec. 2, and is a perfect opportunity to engage in an intentional moment of time shared as a community.
“The best thing about it is that the boutique and carnival literally has something for everyone,” Elizabeth Gamarra, parishioner and Boutique Children’s Corner chair, said. “No matter the age, whether they attend Saint Brendan School, or even if they go to church here regularly, there will be something to engage and excite them.”
The Christmas Carnival and Boutique, which began as a boutique for adults-only Christmas shopping has since expanded into the ultimate family weekend, the opening to the holiday season for many generations of Saint Brendan parishioners, families, and alumnae. Realizing that a school- and parish-sponsored event needed to include the children whose education it supported, former school principal and Christmas Boutique mastermind Sr. Diane Erbacher came up with the concept of the Children’s Corner.
“What I love about this event is its neighborly feel,” said Father Roger. “It’s basically Saint Brendan’s answer to the neighborhood block party. All are invited to experience the joy and magic of this special time of year.”
Starting with the Champagne Preview on Thursday night and a tree-lighting/neon-dance-party on Friday night, the Boutique will have a gourmet holiday treats section, a home decor section, St. Brendan spirit wear section, raffle, and much more for attendees to enjoy. A cafe with hot drinks and treats to purchase provides a perfect excuse to grab a cup of cocoa or coffee with a parish friend, and remind them just how much they mean to you. A carnival in the schoolyard and gym with games, prizes, and inflatables beckons to kids of all ages.
“For a lot of families, who’ve lived in the neighborhood and been a part of the parish and school community for generations, the Christmas Boutique kicks off their holiday season,” Gamarra said. “While there has been a lot of changes to the event itself, its message has prevailed: Saint Brendan is a place for everyone, a community for everyone.”
--Claire Kosewic, Staff Bulletin Writer
As disciples of Christ, we are called to be his stewards in the world. With the seal of our common baptism, we are all priests like Christ and are called to make sacrifices for the world. To build up God’s kingdom on earth, we make sacrifices of time in prayer or by listening to a friend in hardship. We make sacrifices of treasure by giving to the Church and the poor. We make sacrifices of talent by investing our skills into the work of God. Whenever we are obedient to God and offer sacrifices in his name, there always are blessings and rewards for us personally.
But as we reflect on the recent mass shootings, wildfires, and other deep wounds of our common humanity, we may wonder whether our sacrifices will ever be enough to overcome the evil present in our world. Over the last few weeks, we’ve been reading through a letter in the New Testament called Hebrews. In today’s passage, the author distinguishes the imperfect sacrifices made by priests with the perfect sacrifice of Christ on the cross. “Every priest stands daily at his ministry, offering frequently those same sacrifices that can never take away sins,” the author states (Hebrews 10:11). In contrast, Christ made “one sacrifice for sins” (Hebrews 10:12). That sacrifice was so perfect that it makes “perfect forever those who are being consecrated” (Hebrews 10:14).
In other words, Jesus’ sacrifice works to perfect us for God’s kingdom. So, too, are our sacrifices brought to perfection in Christ because they participate in his one, perfect sacrifice. In this message series during which we reflect on the art of good neighboring, it’s important to remember that our sacrifices and good deeds never go to waste. Our world is hurting, and God wants us to build up his kingdom by becoming better neighbors to one another, and there is nothing trivial, unimportant or futile about that.
--Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
Neighborhoods reflect those who live in them. The efforts of the people living on the street make the rows of houses into communities, and that work is never easy. It takes extraordinary patience and kindness, a penchant for reaching out to those who live across and down the street, and a commitment to venturing out the front door. After long, hard days at work and school, it’s a pretty tall order.
That order can get even taller when getting along with our neighbors becomes complicated. It takes a special kind of patience and cooperation to be a good neighbor to those who don’t make it too easy — no matter how large or small the disagreement or altercation may be. Even a quick Google search for “neighborly” returns more negative quotes than positive ones.
But Colossians 3:11-15 reminds us, “Here there is not Greek or Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all and in all. Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do.”
As Christians, we are called to be good neighbors — especially to those it is most difficult to be a good neighbor to. Asking for help is okay (essential!) too — God does not expect us to be the perfect neighbor on our own, guiding us instead to pray over conflicts and go to confession. One St. Brendan parishioner recounted a neighborhood disagreement in which the neighbors in two houses on her block could not stop fighting.
“One neighbor just couldn’t do anything right for the other neighbor, who ended up being so angry that they put up a cyclone fence between their houses,” she said. “My husband, too, was distraught by the events, as he really liked the neighbors who were on the receiving end of all this negativity.”
“The whole experience was saddening and disheartening, as I had always considered myself to be a good neighbor,” she said, “but I found myself losing the sense of good-neighborliness as the fighting went on and on, and these neighbors continued to make life very difficult for this other family on the block.”
“So I decided to go to confession, knowing that at least talking about the problem would be better than how I was feeling, which was really not kind or positive to these neighbors,” she said. “I went to the Saturday afternoon confessions and just poured out my troubles,” she said. “As soon as I had brought everything I was feeling into the open, and the priest had absolved me, I felt an unmistakable sense of physical lightness, like nothing I had ever felt before.”
“Confession allowed me to be kind and open to these neighbors again, even when it seemed impossible,” she said. “The power of absolution allowed me to see past the negative emotion that had been clouding my neighborliness, and brought me back into the good neighbor role I wanted to play.”
--Claire Kosewic, Staff Bulletin Writer
Few, if any, passages from the four gospels are clearer than this week’s story of the widow’s mite about the importance of using the gifts of treasure God has given us for the work of his kingdom (Mark 12:41-44). In the story, Jesus commends a poor widow for contributing two small coins “worth a few cents,” while at the same time excoriating the rich for their proportionately paltry donations.
The Old Testament required Israelites to “tithe” by contributing ten percent of their wealth to the temple treasury. According to the law of Moses, “you shall tithe all the produce that grows in the field you have sown” each year (Deuteronomy 14:22). Presumably the wealthy Jews in the gospel were putting in their fair share, a tenth of all their income. Indeed, that was the law. But Jesus criticizes them anyway because they gave from their surplus and not from their need, as the widow did. She contributed “all she had, her whole livelihood” (Mark 12:44). Apparently, Jesus expected something more than a mathematically-correct tithe.
There’s a story of a fishing village where a missionary had visited and talked about stewardship and tithing. A young boy in the village went fishing. When he returned he came and knocked on the door of the missionary and said, “Here’s my fish.” The missionary asked, “Where are the other nine?” The boy said, “They’re still in the river. I haven’t caught them yet.” He gave his first and only fish, trusting that God would give him those other fish to eat, just like the poor widow contributed both coins she had and trusted God to give her the rest.
Catholics sometimes are confused about the biblical obligation to share their financial blessings. But Christ is clear. We are to contribute from our surplus with a sacrificial donation. In return, the Lord promises to open “the floodgates of heaven, to pour down blessing upon [us] without measure” (Malachi 3:10).
--Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
“Walking down West Portal, hopping on the streetcar at 6 a.m., going to Safeway, taking the dog out — you see people from Saint Brendan,” Jan Donovan, parishioner and Saint Brendan School Vice Principal, said. “It’s not just going to church or being at school that you feel the community.”
As we spend the weeks leading up to the hustle and bustle of the holidays, reflecting on what it means to be neighborly, and how to be good neighbors to one another, we are taking time to highlight what makes Saint Brendan such a neighborly community. Many parishioners live in the area, send their kids to school here, watch their families grow up, and live their lives within the geographical community. They join the parish’s small groups, participate in Saint Vincent de Paul’s Sandwich Sundays, smile and wave at their neighbors in the pews, and make Saint Brendan Church and School a place where people want to give and spend their time.
“On our street, it seems like about 70 percent of the people are somehow involved with St. Brendan,” said Tara Hardesty, who joined the parish about two years ago. “We moved into the West Portal area from downtown, and at first, we thought to ourselves, ‘What suburb have we landed in?’ but quickly found it to be the most wonderful community.”
The warmth of the Saint Brendan Parish family is overt, according to long-time parishioner Jeff Porter. While so many of the churches in the San Francisco Archdiocese have beautiful subtle hints at the welcoming and acceptance of their communities, Saint Brendan’s is impossible to miss.
“This is a community that looks out for each other, cares about each other, and supports each other,” Porter said. “Father Roger sets such a great example, reminding us that if we truly want to call ourselves Catholic, we need to set a tone of openness and kindness and generosity — and show that to all of our neighbors.”
Hardesty recalls coming to the parish for the first time with her 15-month old son and asking someone where the crying room was. “They said, ‘Well, we don’t have a crying room here. We want children in the pews with us, and if they cry or make noise, that’s okay,’” Hardesty said. “I honestly would have felt more comfortable in a crying room, but then I realized that Saint Brendan was not a place that could make you feel uncomfortable.”
“Saint Brendan feels like home. People recognize you and wave to you at Mass, even if they don’t know your name,” Donovan said. “One of my sons was coming to an early morning Mass, but had to stop because [it no longer fit with his work schedule]. After a few weeks, one of the people who always sat near my husband and I came up to me, and asked where my son was. He wanted to make sure my son was okay, even though we only knew each other to wave to.”
“Everyone here is just so down-to-earth, kind, and friendly,” Hardesty said. “It’s a community that you can’t help wanting to be part of.”
--Claire Kosewic, Staff Bulletin Writer
Last weekend, our own Sister Angela was recognized as one of the Archdiocese’s Women of the Year, an honor that no one at Saint Brendan would contest she deserves. From running the small groups to visiting elderly parishioners to nurturing existing and new ministries, Sister is the epitome of a Wonder Woman for the Church.
The San Francisco chapter of the National Council of Catholic Women solicited nominations from all 95 parishes in the Archdiocese. “We began giving the award every two years to all of the women nominated,” said event coordinator Cathy Mibach. “We couldn’t pick just one, not when these women, who organized ministries at their parishes, served as Lectors and Eucharistic Ministers, and more, were all so deserving.”
Eleven women total received the award yesterday, each supported by her parish family and friends, but no one had as big a turnout as Saint Brendan for Sister Angela. Guests from the parish filled four tables at the awards reception, according to Barbara Casey, who attended the event. “When I checked in, I asked where I should go,” Casey, who has worked extensively with Sister Angela on efforts for the Experienced Navigators, said. “They told me, ‘There are four tables here for Saint Brendan — you won’t have to walk far and you will find one.’ It was wonderful that so many people came out for Sister, who deserves this award more than anyone else.”
The four tables that Saint Brendan filled were illustrative of the warm, welcoming community that this is, according to both Casey and Katherine Hahn, who also attended the event. “I absolutely adore and admire Sister Angela, who is so giving of her time to the parish, so I was thrilled to attend,” Hahn said. “She encouraged me to get involved with small groups, which is where I really found the true community that is Saint Brendan.”
Casey, who grew up in the Saint Brendan Parish family, found herself drawn into the community after the passing of her sister. “I’m a retired teacher, and I have time to give. Saint Brendan’s is such a wonderful community that was here for me when I needed it, and I am happy to be able to return the favor. Through the Experienced Navigators, I’ve been able to work extensively with Sister, so I was thrilled to be able to support her.”
Indeed, the turnout epitomizes the neighborly feel at Saint Brendan. “In our new message series, we’re learning about how to be good neighbors,” Father Roger said. “Although saddened that I could not attend, the number of people who came out to honor Sister Angela underscores how good neighbors show up for each other.” As Sister Angela remarked, “I felt surrounded by the immense love of God, who is calling all of us to build a vibrant, welcoming community that reaches out to all our brothers and sisters.”
--Claire Kosewic, Staff Bulletin Writer
The main goal of our new message series, Next Door: The Art of Neighboring, is to help all of us begin to see our neighborhoods from a different perspective. Most of us do not move into homes thinking about our neighbors and perhaps many of us choose to ignore them, especially the difficult ones. But the premise of this series is that we should start seeing our neighborhood through God’s eyes.
A simple way to get started is to pray for your neighbors, by name if you can. Pray for the neighbors you like, as well as the cranky, nosy, and impossible people around you. Try taking a prayer walk around your neighborhood, for instance, or pray the rosary for your neighbors while you’re out running, walking your dog, or strolling down the block with your family.
Over the last few weeks, we’ve been reading through a letter in the New Testament called “Hebrews.” The overall point of the letter is that Jesus Christ, through his death on the cross, both became the perfect sacrifice for our sins and the perfect priest to offer that sacrifice on our behalf. Throughout this extended theological reflection, the author demonstrates that Christ is not like other priests who must repeatedly offer sacrifices for their own sins as well as those of the people. Instead Jesus is without sin and therefore is able to offer his one perfect sacrifice on the cross. He therefore is our eternal high priest, who “lives forever to make intercession for us” and to pray for us always (Heb. 7:25).
By virtue of our baptisms, we all share in that one priesthood of Christ. For that reason, we also are called to make intercession and to pray for the people around us, most especially those right in our own backyard.
--Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
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