Lydia V. Contreras was called home to be with our Lord and Savior on Wednesday, November 15, 2017 at the age of 90. She is reunited in Heaven with her loving husband Joe A. Contreras, Sr. Lydia is loved and will be greatly missed by her children: Daughters, Yolanda Nierman and husband Dennis and Cerise Perez and husband Ruben; Sons, Joe A. Contreras Jr. and wife Cecelia, and Hector Contreras and wife Pamela. She is also survived by 4 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren as well as 2 sisters and 1 brother.
She is always in our hearts.
A Service of Remembrance will be held on Monday, November 27, 2017 at St Francis of Assisi Catholic Church at 6:30 pm followed by a Mass of Resurrection at 7:00 pm. On Tuesday, November 28, 2017 family and friends will gather at Castillo Mission Funeral Home at 7:00 am. A funeral procession will depart the funeral home at 8:00 am for a 9:00 am graveside service at Ft. Sam Houston National Cemetery.
Living in Watchfulness!
Our parish’s theme for Advent is Living in Watchfulness; Waiting in Wonder. Watching is different than waiting. Waiting is rather passive; watching implies activity and engagement. When we watch we pay keen and sharp attention. We are alert with all of our senses and ready for Jesus to come into our lives and into our world. We don’t just wait for life to happen, we are helping with the building of the Reign of God on earth.
Watching and being ready for Jesus to come into our lives means that we are spending some extra time in silence and in prayer. We pray that we become more and more aware of what is being born in our personal lives, in our family lives, in our community, and in our parish. How is Jesus coming to life in me? How am I awakening a knowledge of Jesus in my children and in my marriage or my vocation? What light is the coming of Jesus shedding on the events in our world today? Are we passively waiting for it all to get better or are we working to be beacons of compassion and voices of justice?
Jesus tells his disciples and us to not be found sleeping! Living in watchfulness means being a light in the darkness, creating paths to peace, promoting reconciliation and generating new hope for all. One way to do that is to participate in our Taizé prayer experience this evening, Dec. 1 at 7 pm in the church. It’s an excellent opportunity to practice living in watchfulness.
To See as Jesus Sees
Who are “the least”? And who is “called to serve”? These are the questions to be answered as we reflect on the Scriptures for this Sunday. Jesus is King of the Universe, but Jesus’ royalty turns everything upside down. We are invited TO SEE royalty in the least and the lowly. And we are invited to pay honor by giving aid to them.
Jesus is very clear in his directive—“Whatever you did for one of the least…of mine, you did for me.” Jesus defines the least as those who are hungry, thirsty, naked, ill, imprisoned, and strangers in need of welcome. Many of us recognize our response to these needs as doing the corporal works of mercy. Jesus says that if we don’t care for these who are least, we do not care for him! That’s the criteria for judgment at the end of our earthly lives—actions of mercy on behalf of “the least.”
The call to be shepherd and to care for the flock is both personal and communal. As we observe our Thanksgiving weekend and prepare for the beginning of Advent, we will doubtless see with our own eyes and hear with our own ears the many opportunities to see the face of Jesus in our brothers and sisters in need.
Jesus, help us to see as you see. Help us to act personally and communally in response to the needs of all—friends and strangers alike.
Giving and Receiving
Our generous God blesses us in so many ways in our St. Francis of Assisi community. Among the blessings are the gifts and talents that each of us has been given. This week we reflect on how we can multiply those gifts in service as a sign of gratitude. We also have the opportunity to reflect on what holds us back or makes us afraid to use those talents, to offer them in service to the larger community.
We have all received mercy, kindness, and unconditional love from God. Do we give that same gift to others? We have many physical, emotional, mental and spiritual abilities that can be used to better the lives of others. We have opportunities for spiritual renewal, growth, and maturity in our relationship with God, and continual access to continuing education in our faith. Are we generous in inviting others to experience the fruits of our giftedness, of our talents?
And so we pray: Gracious God, you lavish our lives with goodness and love. Create in our hearts great gratitude for the gifts and talents given to us. May we share freely and may our sharing become our pattern of existence as we continue to learn to be disciples of Jesus and to build the kingdom of God here on our precious Earth. May the gifts we have received become the gifts that we give!
How often do we hear those words? If you were a Boy Scout, you learned their meaning early in your life. For my family, be prepared usually meant, “Go to the bathroom now. We are going to church and there is no bathroom there.” Way back then, that was the truth!
Our readings for this weekend speak of a different time, the end time! It is otherwise known as the fullness of the Kingdom arriving, or the Second Coming. Jesus tells us that we never know when that will be. In the same way, we don’t know when we will die. Being prepared for death and conserving hope is part of our long-held Christian tradition. Most of us learned early that God made us to know, love, and serve God on earth and to be happy with God in heaven.
How does one prepare for death, especially in the midst of random acts of violence and terror, natural disasters of huge proportion, or the deaths of refugees seeking a better life? How do we make ourselves ready to meet the Lord each and every day? How do we stay vigilant with hope? How do we become like the “wise virgins” who keep their lamps lit with abundant oil?
First, hope in everlasting life with God asks us to not be afraid. Our much needed “oil” comes from a variety of sources. We consistently and intentionally reflect on God’s Word in Scripture, we look to the witness of Jesus, we celebrate the liturgy whole-heartedly, we live according to commandments to love unconditionally, and we seek spiritual guides or mentors. There we will find Wisdom. Paying attention to God’s presence in our lives will be our guiding light. Our lamps will burn brightly and illuminate our path. And we won’t run out of oil!
So we pray: Fill our lamps with hope so that we might be a light in the darkness. Help us to stay awake and open our hearts to act in ways that express love. And may we do all this with our eyes constantly fixed on you, God! We live in hope that you will come again to establish justice forever. This is your promise and our heart’s yearning.
Walk the Talk
Jesus often asks his disciples to practice what they preach—to walk the talk. This is appropriate behavior for religious leaders. Jesus accuses the scribes and Pharisees of power grabbing, of seeking greatness. “They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them.”
Instead of heavy-handed teaching and interpretation, Jesus asks them to be aware of the need to walk the talk. Instead, he counsels them to be humble in their service. He reiterates the lesson Paul teaches about the gentleness of the nursing mother. The mother’s life is inseparable from the survival of her baby. She quietly disappears into the nurturing role, a role of coaching. Paul tells us that the best leadership is the kind that vanishes into its service.
This week is Vocation Awareness Week! Each of us has a unique vocation, a unique way of knowing, loving, and serving God. Vocation awareness is not about power. It is about service. It is not about seeking greatness. Only God is great!
Today we have an invitation to name the persons in our lives who disappear behind their service. What lessons do they teach us? How can we “walk the talk” in our own lives? When we lay heavy burdens on others, how do we assist them? In what ways do we have lifting fingers?
We pray: O God, help our deeds match our words and nudge us to attend to one another as a nursing mother cares for her children. Help us to know what it means to have lifting fingers and hands of service. Amen.
How Do We Express Our Love for God and Neighbor?
Love for God and love for our neighbor are inseparable and complementary—just like the pairs of shoes we wear! You can’t have one without the other! Jesus refers to this as the greatest and first commandment. He also adds, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.”
Just how is it that we express our love for God? Our love for neighbor? The lyrics of a song by Sister Kathy Sherman provide a musical reflection on just those questions. You can listen here:
You can also find a prayer experience based on this song here: http://mercyassociationleadershipnetwork.blogspot.com/.
What does love of God and love of neighbor look like at St. Francis of Assisi? With which reasons for loving God do you/we most identify? For me, the experience of traveling to Haiti to drill a well that would provide water for the community is just that sort of inseparability of love of God and love of neighbor. For many of you, the same is true of Mobile Loaves and Fishes. Love of God impels us to both make sandwiches and to meet our neighbors who hunger for connectedness.
Our stretching most likely involves encountering the alien, the stranger, and persons who are not yet our friends. It involves all acts of mercy and compassion. That’s loving God with our whole heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind. May our feet walk the talk! We know the rules of the road—the journey that is ours as disciples.
January 14, 1953 – October 7, 2017
Thom Alvarez went to be with our Lord on October 7, 2017 after a courageous battle with cancer. Thom was born on January 14, 1953 to Thomas and Maria Alvarez. Thom was preceded in death by his grandparents Damiana and Nieves Alvarez, Severa and Encarnacion Quinones, John Kerr and Harold Young, father in law. Thom is survived by his wife Deborah, daughters Stacie and Stephanie, parents Thomas and Maria Alvarez, brother John Alvarez (Norma) and sister Lydia Alvarez and Amelia Young, mother in law. He is also survived by his nephew John Alvarez (Ana) and nieces Sarah and Alyssa Alvarez, great nieces Isabella and Elizabeth Alvarez and numerous aunts, uncles and cousins.
Thom enjoyed spending time with his family, watching classic westerns and Star Trek. Thom also had a love of music and cooking. Thom fought cancer with strength, determination and grace never allowing the disease to get the best of him. The family would like to thank the following for their care of Thom during his illness: Dr. Drengler and the START Center staff, Dr. Roque Diaz-Wong, Kidney Disease Center and the staff at Methodist Transplant Hospital.
Funeral Mass will take place October 28, 2017 at 10:00 a.m. at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church where Thom was a founding member. Interment follows at St. Joseph Society Cemetery. In lieu of flowers contributions can be made in his honor to The American Cancer Society or St. Francis Catholic Church.
March 24, 1922 – October 21, 2017
Bob, also known as “Colonel” to many of his friends, was born in 1922 in Jacksonville, Florida, to Joseph ”J. B.” and Geraldine Wilson. His family moved to a farm in Trenton, Florida when he was a young child, and he grew up there. In October 1942, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps and went on active duty in February 1943. After attending Officer Candidate School, he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant. During World War II, he served as a bombardier on a B-29 crew based first in India and China, and then in the Mariana Islands during the airwar with Japan. His missions included flying “The Hump,” crossing the eastern end of the Himalayas. During the war, Bob also conducted a long-distance courtship of Ruby through his letters, and they married as soon as he returned to the United States. Bob remained in the military, serving 28 years in the Air Force and achieving the rank of Lt. Colonel. He served mainly with the Strategic Air Command plus tours as the base adjutant at Wheelus AFB in Libya and as a military adviser to the Republic of China (Taiwanese) Air Force. While serving, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with four Oak Leaf Clusters, and the Commendation Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters.
When Bob retired from the Air Force in 1970, he and Ruby moved to the home they had built in Shavano Park, Texas. He had a 16-year second career at Ingram Manufacturing before fully retiring. Bob and Ruby were among the original parishioners at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church and were founding members of the Church’s senior group, the Silver Stars. Last year, they moved to Austin to be closer to their daughters.
Bob is survived by his wife Ruby; they celebrated their 71st wedding anniversary last December. He is also survived by their two daughters, Claudia Anderson and Charlotte Wilson and their husbands; two grandchildren Robert Anderson and Judith Jones; four great-grandchildren; and three brothers, Roy, Joe, and Milam of Trenton, Florida.
A Mass will be held at 11:30 am on Wednesday, October 25 here at St. Francis. A reception with a potluck meal will follow in Henke Hall.
Giving God What is God’s
What is Caesar’s? What is God’s? How do we answer this question in our lives today? What did Jesus imply in his answer to repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God. What really belongs to God?
In just over a week, our St. Francis community will celebrate 25 years of ACTS (Adoration, Community, Theology, and Service). During these years, there have been over 75 adult retreat teams that have spent 13 weeks each time “getting their act together”—forming themselves, paying attention to how God is working in their lives, how the Holy Spirit is animating them to use their gifts for the sake of the community, and in praising and thanking God for who they are “becoming” as a result of these actions, these ACTS!
For each retreat that is given, there is an equal number of retreatants who experience God’s love both personally and intensely. Just listen to the hundreds of parish members who have attended. They will tell you boldly and loudly that we bear the image of God and are to give to God what is God’s—our lives.
In very real ways, this is our experience of identifying and proclaiming what is God’s! All we have is a gift from God. Each of us, conceived in love, is a gift from God in our very being. All that we become through all of God’s formative processes—our worship, our study, our prayer, our practice of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, our GIVING in every sense is acknowledging that all we have is a gift from God.
God’s work in our lives, God’s providential care is amazing and bounteous. For this, let us offer gratitude and praise. Let us be generous in our YES to using our gifts in service to others in our families, our vocations, our community, and our world!