Mother’s Day 2017

HAPPY MOTHERS DAY! To all of you who are mothers, grandmothers, godmothers, mothers-in-law, stepmothers and all who are like mothers or have the role of mother in the lives of others. My mother passed away two years ago. She suffered from dementia for many years so, in many ways, we had been saying farewell to her for many years. She was a gentle person; one of her favorite sayings, especially when she was raising the three of us, was, “If you don’t have anything nice to say about someone, don’t say anything at all”. And she lived that saying too.

Our mothers teach us many things; life lessons, how to interact with others, to be graceful and to take the higher road when necessary. When children (of any age) are asking for a favor, many times they go to their mother, who then takes the request to dad. How those decisions are made, the child may not know. I can remember when I was young, one night I couldn’t fall asleep and I heard my parents in the kitchen discussing the day’s events in their lives and in the lives of my siblings and I. Long afterward, I realized that that was how the family “decisions” were made.

It’s not hard to take this discussion to the next level and think about the family life of Mary and Joseph, raising the child Jesus. I’m sure they sat down and discussed the day’s activities; they prayed together and made decisions. Mary must have passed down to her Son life lessons.

Those of you who are mothers have an awesome responsibility as well as the possibility of molding your children (grandchildren, nieces and nephews,…). We pray for you, not only today but all days.

Fr. Ken

Feast of the Annunciation Celebration

When our parish received its name, St. Mary, Cause of Our Joy, we also received the official feast day, which is March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation of the angel Gabriel to Mary. It is that “yes” of Mary that fills us with joy. It is that “yes” of Mary that we celebrate.

This year, March 25 falls on a Saturday. After some discussions, we have decided to celebrate our feast day on Sunday, March 26, which is also “Laetare Sunday” (Rejoice Sunday). Our celebration will be as follows:


  • 1:15pm: (after the 12 Noon Mass) Prayer Service honoring Mary, our patron, in gratitude
  • 1:30pm: State of the Parish Update, by Fr. Ken. If there is any information that you may want addressed during this update, please fill out a card in the gathering space of church and put it in the box. The sooner you do so the better. Some of the information may require research that may take some time. We don’t necessarily have all of the information, especially financial information from the past, at our fingertips.
  • 2:15pm: Lunch provided by the parish and Open house of the Parish Offices and Social Hall, for those who may not have had the chance to visit yet.

Please RSVP to the parish office to let us know how many people to prepare for lunch.

This will be another opportunity to get to know each other better. The Prayer Service and gathering will take place in the church. The lunch will be in the social hall. Please come and spend an afternoon with your parish community.

Fr. Ken

The silence of God when we pray

Last weekend, I wrote about silence in our church, and the need to respect the Eucharist and others who are praying and listening to God. This weekend I would like to write about another silence. The silence of God when we pray.Silence_(2016_film).png

I am not much of a moviegoer; however I recently went to see the movie SILENCE, directed by Martin Scorsese. This movie is based on a book written by a well-known Japanese Christian author, Endo Shusaku. It is the story of Jesuit missionaries in Japan in the 1600’s, and the hidden Christians that they encountered. If you get a chance, I heartily recommend this film. It gives a good insight into the torture and persecutions that the Christians endured. For more than 250 years, Christianity and all contact from the outside world was outlawed in Japan. The Christians that remained were forced to practice their faith underground; if they were discovered they were often tortured, even martyred. The film portrays the life of these heroic Christians, and the lives of the missionaries sent to them.

The “silence” that this film refers to is the silence from God when we pray to Him and seem to hear nothing. Those who were being tortured for their faith prayed, and it seems that God wasn’t listening. Time and again in the history of Christianity in Japan, believers were told that if they just renounced their faith, by trampling on a cross (called a fumie) they would be freed, escaping the horrendous torture awaiting them. Why did it seem that God was not there for them? Wouldn’t God help them in their moment of most need? One of the missionaries continues to see the haunting face of Jesus over and over again, the face from a picture hanging in the seminary where he studied. It is a face he loves and serves; but the face never speaks. It remains silent when the priest is chained to a tree to watch the Christians die, silent when he asks for guidance on whether to commit the trampling on a cross (fumie) to set them free, and silent when he prays in his cell at night.

Although the movie ends in seeming ambiguity, the author’s intent was to confirm that God is not silent; He does speak to us, just not always in the ways that we would expect.

In our own lives, as well, there are times when we wonder if God is really there. Is He listening to me? Doesn’t he know the troubles in my life? I try to do everything for God, where is he? Sometimes our image of Jesus is one of majesty and power; the one who can do anything and everything. As we can learn from the movie, Jesus is also the one who suffered for us and is suffering with us. Jesus al- lows our weaknesses. Jesus, too, was weak and powerless. Often times, the answer from God is there, we just don’t hear it or don’t acknowledge it. Great saints, such as St. Theresa of Calcutta (Mother Theresa), asked God why He seemed to remain silent. Sometimes the deepest answers and love come in moments of silence. All we need to do is listen with an open heart.

Fr. Ken

The silence before mass…

Many of us enjoy coming to church for a number of reasons. Not only do we get a chance to be closer to God, but we also get to see some of our friends, people that we have known perhaps for a long time, which gives us a chance to catch up on what is going on in each other’s lives. Some people come to church to be able to serve in one way or another: singing in the choir, assisting at Mass in one or more ways, even cleaning during the quiet times when the church is empty. But most importantly, we come to church not for ourselves, not for our friends or for something to do. We come to church for God.

A friend of mine told me that years ago, one of the things that she brings to church in addition to a prayer book and a rosary was a set of ear plugs. EAR PLUGS? Yes, she told me. She comes to church and wants to spend some quality time with God. And try as she might, inevitably someone walks in and begins talking in a loud voice, or yelling across the church at a friend, and there is distraction from her listening to God.

Unfortunately, I would have to tell her that our church is the same. I am often stunned by the high level of noise coming from people’s voices before Mass. Talking, even yelling at one another, as if they were in the playground. The church is a sacred space, a place where many people come to talk…to God. Not to you. I wish that we treated our sanctuary as a sacred place, a place reserved for silence and mystery and reverence and prayer. I realize that our gathering space is small and the space is limited, and especially during the cold winter months, it is not easy to stand outside while we chit chat. However I often look around, both before Mass and afterwards, and see the individuals, struggling to remain in silence, while others around them carry on conversations, and not in whispering voices.

The church is not just another large room, a hall or movie theater. There is something different here, something worthy of worship. The silence of a church isn’t a fearful silence of a slave before his or her master; it’s the stunned silence of an adopted child basking in his Father’s love. It’s a soul washed clean standing before her Lord, gasping, “See what love!” The silence demanded by God’s sanctuary is one of gratitude, of intimacy mingled with awe.

So I invite you, friends, to take your conversations outside. If someone starts chatting with you, encourage him or her (in a whisper) to join you in the gathering space. Before Mass begins, kneel and pray in silence as a witness to the power of a silent sanctuary. Perhaps the people around you will be struck by your reverence and recognize more fully the God who is present to us in the tabernacle. You may find that your example draws other people to silent prayer, too.

Fr. Ken

A kinder, gentler nation

Twenty-nine years ago, during his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, George HW Bush called for a kinder, gentler nation. Although I may or may not have been a supporter of Mr. Bush, those words have always stuck with and I have tried to make them almost a motto for my life, my words and my actions.

Now, nearly three decades later, I think that this is even more necessary for our lives, not only in our nation (I am not here to write anything political) but in our daily lives, and even in our church. We need to be kinder to one another, we must be gentler in our words, actions and attitudes. Perhaps when I was younger, I might have been bolder, fiercer in pushing my beliefs around; to be honest, I don’t remember. Perhaps it is because of my life in Japan, where such aggressive attitudes are unacceptable, I have long ago come to realize that fighting with kindness is much more effective than returning with aggressive responses. I am not talking about political rallies and protests; I am speaking about our life, in our families, neighborhoods and church. There are groups and individuals who rarely have a nice thing to say, or a nice way of putting things. I am not a fan of the “in your face” mentality. Being kinder and gentler is easy on your stress level and blood pressure as well. In the Beatitudes, which we read during the Gospel last weekend, Jesus tells us, “Blessed are the peacemakers” and “Blessed are the meek”. In a few weeks, we will hear the passage where Jesus says: “You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

Strong armed tactics. Attitudes or self-righteousness and superiority. Words which cut down others, even those with whom we disagree. None of this should have a place in our lives. I am not speaking of warm, cozy and fuzzy feelings. We need not be running around hugging all the time; nor do we need to be sentimental, with tears welling up in our eyes. I mean, rather, a mature attitude of treating all people with respect. Of watching our words and actions carefully, rather than quoting the First Amendment to support the fact that. “I am free to say whatever I want…or however I want to.”

May we all strive to become kinder and gentler.

Fr. Ken

Our parish mission statement

Last fall, I asked all of you to write down some things that you want our parish, St. Mary, Cause of Our Joy, to become; the direction that we should take as a parish. (Not necessarily items or fixes that you wanted, but rather what we wanted to become, how we wanted be seen and known by others). After you filled out those blue cards, I compiled the answer and presented them to the parish pastoral council. After a few months of thinking, listening and discussing, at the January meeting, we came up with our parish mission statement.

The Parish of St. Mary, Cause of Our Joy, inspired by Mary’s “Yes” and led by the Holy Spirit, strives to be a faith-filled community, joyfully welcoming all to witness and to celebrate the Gospel.

This is a simple and humble statement, focusing on Mary, our model and the patroness of our parish. We “strive” to be a faith-filled community, because we are not perfect. That is why we need to be led by the Holy Spirit, in whom we place all of our trust and hope. We can’t do it on our own, nor are we there…yet. The merging of the three former parishes left many people feeling confused, disappointed, even angry or bitter. Now we want to get over those negative emotions and focus on the positive, the future, being joyful and upbeat about our community and all that God has blessed us with. In that way, our lives, our prayers, our celebrations help us witness to the love of God, and press us forward to be witnesses to the Gospel, to be joyful missionaries.

Fr. Ken


There used to be a common practice among Catholics called the “examination of Conscience”. An examination of conscience is a “prayerful self-reflection on our words and deeds in the light of the Gospel to determine how we may have sinned against God and others” Perhaps some of you still do this, particularly before receiving the Sacrament of Penance. Many times, people will look at the Ten Commandments to examine their sinfulness.

While this is a good start, the Ten Commandments are not the only instrument we should use to judge ourselves. Reflecting on the Beatitudes (Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are the meek…etc) is an excellent way of continuing to reflect and examine ourselves.

Pope Francis recently reminded us that the Beatitudes are, in some sense, the identity card of the Christian because they identify us as followers of Jesus. He says that we are called to be blessed, to be followers of Jesus, to confront the troubles and anxieties of our age with the spirit and love of Jesus. Thus we ought to be able to recognize and respond to new situations with fresh spiritual energy. The pope also suggested some modern day beatitudes. While they do not replace the ones of Jesus, of course, they should give us something to think about, and to use when we examine our conscience.

  • Blessed are those who remain faithful while enduring evils inflicted upon them by others, and forgive them from their heart.
  • Blessed are those who look into the eyes of the abandoned and marginalized, and show them their closeness.
  • Blessed are those see God in every person, and strive to make others also discover him.
  • Blessed are those who protect and care for our common home.
  • Blessed are those who renounce their own comfort in order to help others.
  • Blessed are those who pray and work for full communion between Christians.

All these are messengers of God’s mercy and tenderness, and surely they will receive from him their merited reward.

Fr. Ken

Feast of the Epiphany!

The-Nativity-by-Rhoden-Franz-Geburt-Christi.jpg Today is one of the greatest feasts in the year of the Church. Today Jesus’ birth, the Light of Christ, is made known to all the nations, not to just the few shepherds and village people near where Jesus was born. In many countries, the Feast of the Epiphany is more important than December 25. Many people exchange gifts on this day (as the magi brought gifts to Jesus). In fact, some Christian faiths celebrate January 6 as the actual birth of Jesus, not December 25.

As you may know, there are some theories as to the actual date of the birth of Jesus. Most theologians and biblical scholars believe that Jesus was actually born in the spring (March or April). In the hills around Bethlehem, the weather is too cold to have the sheep out and they would be corralled at night. Additionally, it is unlikely that the Emperor would have announced a census and made everyone travel to the native villages during the winter.

Many believe that the date of December 25 was chosen from an ancient pagan feast honoring Saturn or perhaps the Egyptian God of the sun, Ra (Re). The date of December 25 falls just after the winter solstice, when days start to get longer. Adopting the feast from a pagan celebration might have made Christmas more interesting to pagans, attracting some of them to Christianity.

There are some customs associated with Christmas that come from pagan tradition, for example the Christmas tree. Recently this theory is considered less likely. Beginning in the 4th century, according to tradition, there were two dates that Jesus birth was celebrated: December 25 in the west and January 6 in the east. Another theory says that Jesus crucifixion took place on March 25, which was near the Passover feast. That would mean that Jesus conception and death both took place on the same day. Other ideas look at the birth of John the Baptist, and when he was conceived, to determine the date of Jesus birth. In that case, it could be sometime in September.

As we know, the Bible is not an historical book; rather it tells us about the life and teaching of Jesus. It really makes no difference on which day Jesus was born, what is important is that He WAS born, lived and died for us. As we celebrate the feast of the Epiphany, we should be proclaiming that birth to all, by our actions and our lives. As we pray in today’s responsorial psalm, “Lord, every nation on earth shall adore you”!

Fr. Ken