A SPIRITUAL JOURNEY DURING THE PANDEMIC OF 2020
Consecration to St. Joseph
By: Andrea Aguilar, Jodi Fitzgerald, Susan Hall, Kathy Hooper, Maureen Nelson, Leda Sturla, Carol Virgin, Judy Williams
Our Spiritual Journey
After the pandemic started and our community began to close down, its impact left many of us who regularly volunteer questioning how we could still practice virtue and increase our faith without the opportunity for grace inherent within our volunteer ministries. When we could no longer attend daily mass, be altar servers and sacristans, be eucharistic ministers, say the rosary together, visit the nursing homes and the homebound or be greeters, we wondered how we could contribute when all these traditional avenues were put on hold for safety reasons. We asked ourselves if we could still remain close, when our parish friends who help nourish our spiritual life, must remain at a distance.
A small group of eight parishioners decided to take a journey together that helped us to remain close, but not close, meet new people and inspire each other. There is a saying “Go to Joseph” and it refers to the help, protection, and patronage of St. Joseph, the foster father of Jesus. The journey we took was a 33-day program of study to discover St. Joseph by Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC that ends with an entrustment of hearts to this glorious saint.
To maintain social distance, we set sail using the internet, with Fr. Calloway as he pursued St. Joseph around the globe finding him in churches and shrines dedicated to St. Joseph, in ten great wonders related to his life, and in the research he conducted from the lives of saints, popes, mystics, and Catholic traditions. Using a grassroots approach, we started a group email to respond to discussion topics listed in his book, offering online comments and reflections from our life experiences.
The ten wonders provided a rich source of additional exploration, stops at ports along the way. One among us, whose forte was searching the internet, shared with us tours of churches and shrines dedicated to St. Joseph and visuals of the wonders associated with St. Joseph, that enhanced and inspired online conversation. Others took a contemplative approach, listening with the heart and soaking in the refreshing ocean spray and sunshine of knowledge contained in our study.
Who did we meet on our voyage? We met St. Joseph in a way that we have never known him. While most of us had a traditional understanding of St. Joseph as Head of the Holy Family, and certainly this is the central role in his life, Fr. Calloway also introduces him as the “young” husband of Mary and earthly father of Jesus capable of walking to Egypt, Bethlehem, and Nazareth. While we knew him to be a silent gospel witness, humble and hidden, he also bears the commanding title of Terror of Demons. Jesus was subject and obedient to his foster father on earth. Fr. Calloway states in his role as earthly father to Jesus: “St. Joseph lovingly commanded the Son of God. Now in heaven, the intercessory power of St. Joseph poses a serious threat to the wiles of the devil. All hell trembles before him.” St. Joseph can be called the Savior of the Savior, because he saved the life of the Savior from Herod.
Comments from the Group on St. Joseph and Our Experience
The passage about our good God choosing a man to stand in for him during Jesus’ earthly existence was so powerful for me. St. Joseph received a heavenly commission to protect the living bread for the world. These two revelations for me are enough to honor this man as the greatest saint.
Let me reiterate how fascinated I am with all of this information on St. Joseph. After sixty plus years as a catholic there has never been much discussion about him. Life in our country has changed so much this year. We all need St Joseph in our lives to protect us from evil. We must be a model like St. Joseph to our families as they need us more than ever. I am loving this book and the bond that it is fostering between Joseph, Mary and I and hopefully my family.
Thanks to this wonderful group of women, I am now a better Catholic, a better Christian, a better wife. I have discovered much about my religious life that I didn’t know existed.
I just want to say I’m so looking forward to tomorrow’s consecration. I feel so much closer to my spiritual father and pray the rosary thinking of him. Just wanted to pass on how happy I feel.
We chose September 8, the birthday of Our Lady, to entrust our hearts to St. Joseph. Some of us would be meeting for the first time. From the start of our journey, Fr. Andrew gave us his support. He graciously guided us in a Consecration Service planned for the plaza. During exposition, adoration, and benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, Fr. Andrew chose a prayer of consecration for us to recite, led us in the rosary, and the Litany of St. Joseph. On that day St. Joseph shown with a special brightness and blessed us with a singular gift of grace. Many thanks to Fr. Andrew.
Let us say that you purchased a ticket to take a cruise down the Rhine through the beautiful fairytale landscapes of Germany. But when you disembark you find yourself in the Amazon Rain Forest. You think this is not what I signed up for. But after a while you begin to see the beauty and possibilities before you in the forest.
Even though our regular participation in the life of our church family is limited, we are still able to celebrate the great truth that no matter where we find ourselves, when two or more are gathered together, albeit socially distant, in all that is good and holy, solitary souls can reach across an ocean that separates one soul from another to keep each other afloat in the greatest of storms and faithful amid the darkness. St. Joseph came to us in a wonderful way. He held us all together by the gift of this special time with him. We hope you also will reach out to Saint Joseph, a powerful intercessor, protector, and spiritual father.
Click here to view: This is a beautiful “shelter in place” rendition of “Be Not Afraid”
By Maureen Nelson
It was in the early weeks of spring, 1994, that St. Vincent de Paul Church had been closed to worshipers so that its renovation could begin. During the month-long process of restoring this magnificent edifice to its original grandeur, Sunday Masses were celebrated before the beige cinderblock walls of St. Vincent High School gymnasium, a stark contrast to the thirty-two stained glass windows of our church that depicted its great saints. The weekday Masses for a faithful few, however, were held in the little chapel of the old St. Vincent’s convent, several blocks away from the church and across the yard from the elementary school. As it happened, I taught a weekly catechism class at the convent, in a small room adjacent to the chapel. My eight year old daughter, Ashley, was my aide. After clearing away the debris left by our frisky first graders, we would slip next door to the chapel to pray; it had become our little Tuesday afternoon ritual.
This humble dwelling, as lowly as a stable, had been brought back to life. Though afternoon breezes wafted through its cracked and broken stained glass windows, their colors could still reflect the beauty of the day’s waning light. Flickering candlelight shone from the red Sanctuary lamp standing like a sentinel to the right of the altar. Dark these many years, it now poured forth a soft red glow to signify the presence of God in the Blessed Sacrament, the Body of Christ. Behind the altar was a hidden door leading to cupboards which, once again, held vestments, altar linens, chalices, and candles. To the left of the altar was an alcove where a statue of our Blessed Mother kept vigil, her hands folded in prayer and her feet perpetually crushing the serpent. St. Joseph’s statue stood faithfully in the twin alcove to the right, tenderly holding the Child Jesus in his arms. Ten rows of tan, metal folding chairs had replaced the chapel’s pews, three of which were lined against the walls like the seats for the choir in grander churches. A small organ in the rear of the chapel rested in silence. There were no other embellishments in this place whose width could be walked in ten paces of Ashley’s small stride.
Into this peaceful oasis, she and I would enter like two guests in possession of a coveted invitation to dine alone with the Host. We sat side by side on those metal chairs and whispered our prayers, spoken and silent, secretly grateful for our private audience. There we were, mother and daughter, teacher and aide, but who teaches whom? I watched her linger, converse confidently, easily with her God, like a child who plays in perfect comfort at the feet of a King and calls out to Him, “Daddy!” She was so at home. Sometimes we would wonder aloud about the convent’s former occupants, a teaching order of nuns whose workplace was just across the courtyard. We would pretend to hear the rustling of their dresses, the click of hard shoes in the hall, or the echo of voices raised to Heaven in song or prayer. We spoke of school and home and family and friends; we shared the day’s events, its highlight and its disappointments. After a time, Ashley would proceed to the lectern in front of the altar, and leafing through the Sunday Missalette, she would practice her “future ministry” for St. Vincent’s. She read aloud Old Testament books and Epistles from St. Paul, spoken in the sweet voice of a child comfortable with her role, and unfamiliar with embarrassment. All too soon, we would hear the clank of a distant door and know the custodians had arrived. Not wanting to be intruded upon, we gathered our books and bags and parted until the next Tuesday.
Weeks passed, we continued our visits until finally, St. Vincent’s Church was due to reopen. This would be the last week that the Blessed Sacrament was present on the little chapel altar and our last Tuesday Ritual. That day, after our usual prayers and readings, Ashley announced to me from the lectern: “I want to dance for God.” In the space of a few seconds, I mentally ticked off all the reasons why she shouldn’t, but in a moment of inspiration, I simply said, “Your Irish dancing? That would be fine.” “I’m going to do the Reel,” she said dramatically; “I think it’s my best.” Then, leaving the stand, she walked to the altar, turned to face it, and bowed. Up on her toes, arms at her side, head erect, keeping time to music only she could hear, she began her dance.She kicked up her heels and twirled, legs straight, toes pointed, on and on she danced; spinning, whirling, twirling, round and round she spun, feet brushing the floor like whispers of prayer. I watched, feeling like an intruder myself, but I could not look away – how that chapel seemed to soar about her, as splendid as any cathedral. Around and around she went, dancing her gift until, with one last kick, her foot came down hard to the floor to signify the close. Majestically, she turned again towards the altar and bowed to her Audience. When she returned to her seat I whispered, “Could you hear the applause?” She looked up at me and smiled.
In silence, we gathered up our things and prepared for our parting, not yet knowing how much we would miss this time we shared alone. I looked back from the door as we closed it. Reluctant but replenished, we left the little chapel to bask in the glory restored to it by the presence of God and a gift of love.
To Our Recipients of St. Vincent de Paul Society: Our volunteers will resume helping out in September 2020. To receive help, go to the church garage located on 6th Street. Please wear a mask. We will not be at the Parish Hall, but at the garage.
Dear Fellow Parishioners,
Now that we have celebrated our first two outdoor weekend Masses, our staff and schools have been working hard to adapt several other sacramental celebrations to the current COVID-related guidelines. This is great news for our parish and our families.
1. Several First Communion and Confirmation ceremonies originally planned for Spring 2020 have now been re-scheduled to take place at St. Vincent de Paul High School. The first of these re-scheduled celebrations will take place on Saturday, September 26, and the others will follow until they have all been completed. If your child prepared to receive these sacraments, you will be hearing from your teacher or catechist regarding the particulars of your child’s First Communion or Confirmation.
2. Baptisms are now again being scheduled in English, on the second and fourth Sundays of the month at 2:00 p.m., as is the parish custom. Baptisms in English will normally take place in the church building, in groups no larger than permitted by current COVID-19 guidelines.
3. Baptisms are once again being scheduled in Spanish, for the first and third Saturdays of each month at 10:00 a.m., as is the parish custom.
4. Weddings are once again taking place in the Church, adapted to COVID-19 guidelines. Wedding preparation will be adapted to current circumstances. Please call the rectory office at (707) 762-4278 for details.
Many people have asked me why we do not have Mass in the church plaza by the fountain. It is a very good question, especially since the days are becoming more temperate. In addition to the traffic noise, it could be difficult to accommodate all those who might wish to attend. The biggest reason, in my experience, is the potential danger posed by a random bicyclist or skateboarder flying around the corners without regard to the safety of others.
Speaking of the fountain, you may have noticed that our beautiful plaza fountain has been deactivated and drained. Over the past several weeks, there has been a sharp increase of incidents of people pouring detergent into the fountain. (It’s probably a sign that COVID-19 has left some people with far too little to do…) While it may seem otherwise, this is not a harmless or inexpensive prank. The soap is a contaminant that must be cleaned up without allowing it to enter the storm drains. It also causes expensive repairs of the pumping equipment. In the meantime, I will be consulting with our maintenance team for a more pleasing, and permanent, solution. Fountain maintenance was not something taught in the seminary!
While official fire season will continue for many more weeks, the air is beginning to clear in Petaluma– at least for the time being. Great challenges remain, but bluer skies and milder temperatures are most welcome signs after so many hot and smoky days. The first day of fall is less than a week away, and fall is perhaps the most beautiful season of the year. While we continue to pray for our families, our parish and those in any need, let us also appreciate the beauty around us, and within each of us.
Fr. Bill Donahue
MIND THE WEEDS AND PLANT THE SEEDS
by Maria McCaffrey
The spring and summer of 2020 seem to have delivered a perfect storm with the combination of coronavirus, economic disparity, social unrest, political upheaval, police brutality, extreme heat waves, and now, the imposing threat of fires. Our faith typically provides that spiritual fix needed
to prioritize, regroup, and remain positive, but recently it feels like the overwhelming reality of current events can crowd God out of our thoughts. Fortunately, when the shelter-in-place restrictions were lifted, we had the opportunity to return to Mass for a couple of weeks. It felt good to be back in a pew, and at least I can hang on to and reflect back upon that last homily I heard. While referring to the parable of the weeds in Matthew 13, Father Pacheco made a simple yet powerful analogy about gardens, weeds, and our souls.
If I remember correctly, Father didn’t fully explain the parable; he simply touched on the idea that Jesus’ parable is a parallel to tending to our souls as if they are gardens. In Matthew 13:7, Jesus says, “Some seed fell on thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it.” Father said something about how our internal strife is like a vine of thorns that prevents us from growing in our faith, but if we continually address and eradicate that inner turmoil, we will have a healthier outlook and more space for God. As the current news of the world continues to boggle me, I have spent more and more time out in the garden, a quiet place where I relax and regroup. Sometimes I ponder Father’s analogy of the weeds, and I even added my own twist to his parallel.
When I walk around my garden, I deadhead, pluck weeds, water, putz, pray, and marvel at the gift of flowers. With the parable in mind, I wonder how I can tend to the garden within. I not only think about how to weed the rough spots, but I also wonder what seed we could plant in our souls that might grow and overpower the never-ending issues that inhibit growth and goodness. l find great joy in the success of certain plants, but I have given special consideration to one surprise plant this year because it has exhibited such health, beauty, and exponential growth that if we could somehow plant a facsimile of this seed in our inner gardens, it would do our souls a world of good.
I didn’t expect much when I planted a sunflower sapling because my garden space is small and crowded, but it has grown into a surprisingly large sunflower “tree” that catches the eye of all those who come down our little court. This sunflower has fallen “on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty, or thirty-fold” (Matthew 13:8). Bees and butterflies flit around it, and birds actually land in it. I can’t tell you how many Fed-Ex and UPS drivers have commented on it. Comcast folks, AT&T folks, contractors working on the block, gardeners, passersby, the mail carrier, and fellow neighbors have all mentioned the joy that they get from seeing such a grand plant. Last week my son-in-law said that he came around the corner and saw the plant with its many arms, which are loaded with flowers, welcoming him and all who see it. I have weeded around it a bit, yet the plant has grown so large and so strong that it seems to have overpowered any weeds in the garden with its presence.
Driving around town, I now see sunflowers everywhere. Some single sunflowers seem to hang their heads as they carry the burden of bearing the seeds for next spring. Some are covered with loads of bright yellow flowers while others have flowers with dark reddish petals. There are some with skinny stalks and some with incredibly thick stalks. There are those that look east in the morning and follow the sun toward the west in the evening. The sunflowers are strong, bright, and hearty, and they seem to resist the threat of weeds as they grow taller and grander. It’s no wonder that sunflowers are a symbol of happiness and optimism as they bring a sense of cheer to those of us who need a reason to smile. When I see sunflowers, they now remind me of the parable of the weeds. They remind me to not only tend to those internal thorns to make more room for God, but also to plant seeds of wisdom, hope, and grace that will grow with the same strength, heartiness, and joy.
It has been an incredibly challenging year for the world. The coronavirus has changed our lives as have the uncertainty of economics, the political divide, the social unrest, and the threat of fires. I miss my spiritual fix of attending Mass, but for now, I will continue to revisit the parable of the weeds and Fr. Pacheco’s analogy as I tend to both the garden outside and the problem spots in my soul. If the news regarding the elements of the perfect storm of 2020 begins to crowd out God, let us notice the sunflowers all over town – and let them be a reminder of the necessity to position ourselves to receive the Son’s warmth. Let them remind us to weed our problem spots to make room for planting something exciting. If we take control of the weeds that prevent us from growing closer to God, possibly we could develop that sense of inspiration that a simple sunflower has with its open-arms and positive joy. Let us read and pay attention to the parables about seeds. Let us be gardeners who make room for planting sunflowers in our souls.
Father Mychal Judge. an Authentic American Hero. Fr. Mychal was the first casualty of 9/11. He was a chaplain for the NY Fire Dept.
“Lord, take me where you want me to go,
Let me meet who you want me to meet,
Tell me what you want me to say,
And keep me out of your way”
Amen (so be it)
–Father Mychal Judge
COPING WITH COVID by Alice Forsythe
Times are tough. Our lives have been turned upside down. We are feeling restricted, alone, frustrated. Some of us feel we’re locked up in this lock down. We’re unable to share in our usual activities that keep us in touch with family, friends, co-workers,and keep us going.
If we’re cooped up with others, we may feel like there’s no “me time.” If we’re alone, we may feel isolated, lonely, cut off from the life we’re used to. Some only feel safe at home. No one comes in or goes out. Our homes become sanitized safety havens.
Uncertainty adds to our frustration. We don’t know how long these temporary restrictions will be in place, leaving us with a future with no discernible structure; no comfort there. How long can we tolerate this limited existence?
This is where your Faith steps in. With Him, you are never alone. You may have much more time now to get in touch with God. He is locked down with you, but He always brings peace with Him. Use some of your available time to do the Scripture reading you always said you’d do one day. Make Jesus your constant companion and you won’t feel alone. Make your days into one long sacrifice of prayer. Offer up everything you’re doing to keep your family and others safe. Your burden will be lighter.
Take it one day at a time, and be thankful for all the beauty you find in it. Leave the future to our Father who is watching over us. He always sneaks in the bright side of things for us to find if we keep looking UP. Keep looking!