Monday, June 21, 2010

June 14-21: A lot can happen in a week

About this time last week, I drove up the Coast to Santa Barbara from our friary at Old Mission San Luis Rey (Oceanside, California) to witness the priestly ordination of our brother, Luis Alberto Guzman, ofm. Since we friars all have different work schedules, I hitched a ride with Mark Beglin and Kay Sempel, two of our volunteer lay Covenant Members who live at the Mission and assist in our work and ministries. We had a great time together and made it to Santa Barbara in just under three hours-- record time-- in Kay's cool yellow Mustang convertible.

Our newly ordained confrere, Father Luis, 44, is a native of Tamaulipas, Mexico, and has been a member of our Province for more than a decade. A year ago, he finished his studies at our Franciscan School of Theology in Berkeley, before being assigned as deacon at the parish of Old Mission Santa Barbara. Luis is a fine man, and a friend, so I was keen to attend his ordination. Not only that, he has been assigned to our parish starting in July, so I had a professional interest in his ordination as well.

The beautiful twilight liturgy on June 15 was attended by hundreds of parishioners, family, friends and friars. Bishop Alexander Salazar, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, was warm and personable. He spoke directly to Luis and indirectly to the assembly, stressing that priestly ordination rises from our baptism in Christ Jesus. Everything a priest does is an act of service, he emphasized. Service expressed most profoundly through our sacramental life as Catholic Christians: the service of baptizing, the service of presiding at Eucharist, of hearing confessions, of witnessing marriages, of anointing the sick. As I sat in the sanctuary of the Old Mission church, I could not help but reflect upon my own priestly ministry a decade ago. Where has the time gone? But more importantly, how can I reclaim and keep alive in my own heart the tremendous feeling of peace and gratitude I experienced at my own ordination?

I stayed overnight at the Old Mission so I could attend Father Luis' first Mass at the monastery of the Poor Clares the next morning. Here, the setting was more intimate and familial. Flanked by three other Franciscans at the altar, Luis was well supported as he made his way through the liturgy. The chanting of the nuns-- unseen, cloistered behind their grill-- gave a formal and austere feeling to the event. But when the Mass was ended, everyone broke out into warm and enthusiastic applause. Luis just stood there for a moment, taking it all in, beaming.

After the ordination, I drove back to Oceanside with Friar Adrian Peelo, the third member of our team of sacramental ministers. We gave a ride to our new friar-to-be, Sam Nasada, who will enter our novitiate program at the beginning of July. We dropped Sam off in Los Angeles, stopped at Ikea for lunch, and chatted away about our plans and hopes for the parish now that we have a another priest to help out.

When I got home, I met with Brother Vincent Nguyen, who is staying with us for the summer. Brother Vincent has been commissioned to produce a full-scale interpretation of the celebrated Franciscan, or San Damiano Cross for our sanctuary. We hope to have the work completed by the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary on August 15. Meanwhile, we placed the blank form in the sanctuary this first weekend so that people would have an idea of the scale of the project. Vincent is making great progress and is generous in explaining the iconography of the Cross to parishioners and others. This is a very concrete way in which we hope to plant the Franciscan identity in our faith community.

I had scarcely unpacked when I learned that our three novices-- Friars Philip Polk, Michael Minton, and Ryan Thornton, along with their assistant novicemaster, Father Tom Frost, had stopped by to spend the night. The novices explained that they had been on the road for 19 straight days, visiting friars and friaries in Arizona and southern California. They were both exhausted and elated; they had learned a great deal during their site visits and were eager to share their insights. At the same time, they were more than ready to return home to Old Mission San Miguel (California) to prepare for their first profession of vows on July 2.

Once the novices left, there was no time to spare in preparing for weekend liturgies (we have 6 Masses-- 2 in Spanish; 4 in English). Everything looked fine until we discovered that we had no water pressure-- there was a break somewhere-- but where?-- in the line. So, we had to close all the bathrooms and shuttle people back and forth via golf cart to the Mission next door so they could use the facilities. Luckily, by noon on Sunday, we were able to plug the leak. Always something!

Today is Monday, June 21. Six of us friars decided to take our day off (yes, we get one whole free day a week) as a Fun Day. So, Friars Larry, Kelly, Andres, Mo, Adrian and myself piled onto the northbound Amtrak train together. We got off at the very next station to spend the afternoon visiting one of our sister missions, San Juan Capistrano. We were given the royal treatment by the staff at both the parish and Mission. San Juan is compact and easily accessible. Even though it welcomes more than 300,000 visitors annually, it has succeeded in retaining its identity and spirit as a place of prayer, reverence, and spiritual refreshment. We friars never seem to have enough time together, so this was a rare treat. We strolled through the Mission and its adjacent basilica , gazing and grazing. Savoring the gorgeous grounds. After an early dinner, we caught the next train back to Oceanside.

It's late. I'm tired and need to rest. It's been a great week; it's been a while since I've been able to spend this much time with the friars. But I have to admit I'm looking forward to some quieter days now to catch up with office work at the parish. Enjoy your week.


Marie said...

I am exhausted for you, just reading about your travels! Thank you for the "week in a life of a Franciscan Friar." For we lay people it is insightful.

Pseudo-Aquinas said...

Congratulations to Luis!
Vincent will do the same amazing job that he did at St. Elizabeth's!