Learning How to Serve

One of the many lessons I have learned about service  from Fr. Greg Boyle ever since touring Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles is, “God can get tiny, if we’re not careful.” For years, the lessons in the spiritual life have taught me to continue to challenge myself to open my arms, to intentionally expand my heart and mind and look with new eyes on everyone and everything I encounter.  I’ve spent the past thirty years focused on a deliberate and deep relationship with God.  The more I learn, the more there is to learn. Every day, the Holy One beckons and teaches me about an abundant love I could never fathom on my own. As a human being, ever restless and wanting closure, I need to make God tiny and in my own image. But, as I am so humbly reminded every day, God cannot be categorized, put in a box, or labeled with certain descriptions. God is anything BUT TINY!  I pray I don’t forget.

by Andrew

Unfiltered Prayer

My job for the past thirty-five years has taken me into many of the nooks and crannies of Orange County. Every so often I will find respite from the haste of the day in Our Lady of Guadalupe church located in the Delhi district of Santa Ana.  It’s a small and tidy church sharing its shady intersection with a liquor store, a fenced off vacant lot and a dilapidated house. A while back, as I was approaching the entrance, I heard the sound of yelling and crying from within. Cautiously, I peered in and saw a young Latina woman on her knees at the base of the sanctuary facing the crucifix. Rivers of tears flooded her face and with arms outstretched she seemed to be begging our crucified Lord for help. A loved one ill? A wayward son? The loss of a job?  I saw in this brave and humble woman a tortured soul in faith’s sweet spot. Deeply rooted faith. Raw unfiltered prayer.  Her cross led her to the Crucified One who holds the mystery of suffering and resurrection in his outstretched hands.

by Andrew


My True Self

In his book, Becoming Who You Are, by James Martin, SJ, we are invited to ponder our “true selves,” the me that God sees. The author examines the lives of Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen and other spiritual seekers and concludes that to be holy we only have to be willing to be of love and service to those around us.  Martin says, “Merton believed that the person engaged in the “active” life, that is, the laborer or parent or student or caregiver, could lead lives that were in fact more holy, more devout, and sanctified than those of “professionally religious” people, like the cloistered monk or nun.” Using this set of lenses, the life of a Trappist monk is no more holy than the life of a single mother. A compassionate caregiver is as saintly as the woman feeding the homeless. True joy, holy joy, is living one’s life, no matter how impoverished or affluent, in alignment with God’s will.  Mother Teresa often said to those who traveled from afar to help her in her ministry, “Find your own Calcutta.” May I find mine today.

by Andrew

Grow or Go

Within the 12-step recovery community there is the saying, “Grow or Go.”  They seem to know that unless my image and understanding of God is continually sought and developed, my faith will grow stagnant, rigid and stunted.  My own faith journey has been from once a childish belief in a “Santa Claus” God, to a total dismissing of a Higher Power in my life, to a more mature and absolute dependence on a God whose mercy, love and power continue to be revealed in my life. Through prayer and contemplation, reading and dialog, and as a man awake and walking among the living, I look for the God who pursues me and try to recognize His presence in all things seen and unseen. May the way of the cross, the way of joy, fashion me into a more refined reflection of God.

by Andrew

Remembering the Old Prayers

As an eight year old boy attending Our Lady of Refuge Catholic Church in Long Beach, I would ride my bike in the morning dark the two miles to serve as an altar boy at the 6:30 weekday mass. Ours was the last class to learn the Latin mass and my memorization of the Confiteor (the “I confess” prayer) was haphazard at best.  Entering the sacristy to don my cassock, old Father Daily would quietly nod at me while smoking a cigarette and reading the sports page.  He had some patience with us boys as we sleepily fumbled over the Latin rite kneeling on the cool stone floor, offering him cruets of water and wine. Sister Miguel would feed us small boxes of cereal and milk after mass since we had left home fasting for the Eucharist. She would finger the large black beads of the rosary which draped about her corpulent torso while we finished our morning repast.  Like the rosary circling her waist, this church surrounded me, and continues to surround me, with her imperfect and blessed people praying, laughing, and crying our way to heaven.

by Andrew

Witness to Love

Throughout the gospels Jesus shows me the ABC’s of love. He unfalteringly exhibits this love through acts of healing, forgiveness and acceptance. The woman at the well, the story of the Good Samaritan, the woman caught in adultery, the healing of the Centurion’s servant, the thief on the cross, the lost sheep; everywhere and always Jesus reveals his mercy. His love is never contingent on a person’s religious practice, ethnicity, country of origin or “worthiness”.  His is a love without concern for borders, religion, race, language or politics.  So for me, I’m going to follow Christ, no matter how unpopular or odious it may be to the powers of this world. I will be a witness of love for the poor, the homeless, the stranger, the marginalized, the demonized, the forgotten, the imprisoned, the sinful and the difficult to love among us. God says it. My Catholic faith teaches it. I believe it. “Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:8

by Andrew

Fully Alive

The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth.  So Jesus said to them, “Untie him and let him go.” John 11:44

Lazarus! Everyone knows this name.  In Lenten time, we know that Good Friday is closing in when once again we witness the drama of Lazarus being played out in Sunday’s gospel. Death and its attendant sorrow and pain are in full force with wailing mourners, Martha and Mary, Jesus and his disciples showing love and solidarity, sharing in loss, weeping.  Jesus, so fully alive, all man, all God, conscious of the cross that awaits him, was “deeply moved in spirit and troubled.”  The author of life, Emanuel, God with us, weeping with us, walking with us, laughing with us, always and everywhere for us, blessing and blessing and blessing us with this one and only precious life, is our model of being wholly and authentically alive.  Unbind me Lord and take away that which blinds me so that this day I may be fully alive.

by Andrew

Called to be Beacons

Over there,

on the horizon,

the sun has just touched the outermost

fringe of the western sky with light.

Sinking into the ocean,

the living ball of fire

wakes and trembles

for the other side to witness.

Sunset, sunrise, gradually lighting

each day with new

possibilities and hope.

Comforting anyone afflicted

left in the dark.

We, too,

rise and fall

each day bringing light

to each person we meet.

We bring God’s fire energy

to ignite other souls.

Carrying the light of Christ,

is worth the load and the grace

it reveals in the lighted path.

We are called to be beacons,

shining hope and blessing in the world around us.

by Liz