We All Want & Need Heroes

Growing up Catholic, in an intensely Irish-Catholic family, I had no shortage of extraordinary role models right within my big, extended family.

Two amazing Catholic women

My Great Aunt Ria (Sr. Marie Aimee of Jesus), my maternal grandmother’s sister, was a Carmelite nun with a sweet, sunny disposition whose gratitude for every little thing seemed to me to be one of her most prominent traits.  As a cloistered, contemplative sister in Carmel, she didn’t have a ton of visitors or a ton of talking time each day (unless it was the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, as I recall, which allowed a lot more conversation than usual).  She and her religious sisters lived more simply than I could imagine, slept on mattresses of hay, and were extremely prayerful.  And yet sometimes she and other sisters in her monastery would “go on retreat“. As a teenager, I’m sure I thought someone was pulling my leg when I was told that they did so. From what I could tell, Aunt Ria and the other sisters in her community were always on retreat.

The Four Fletcher Sisters: Thomasina (Tommy), Maria (Ria), Eleanor and OliviaMy Aunt Ria was one of my heroes; she made a life of prayer and sacrifice appear not only effortless, but natural (in the same way that a ballerina puts years of training into making that dance form look effortless, I imagine).  She was down to earth and a wonderful pen pal.  Her ego did not seem to be part of the picture.  When she was very old, in her middle 90s, she became forgetful.  One of the sisters in her community said to her that “Our Lord is taking your memory”.  To that, she replied with complete sincerity, “He can take anything he wants“.  She meant it, too….Her life was God’s.

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“Come down from the cross!”

Crucifixion - image at the Catala Crucifixion side altar at Mission Santa ClaraLast Sunday was Palm Sunday, and at Mass we heard the long gospel reading about suffering and death of Jesus on the cross.

The place of crucifixion was next to a road leading in to the city of Jerusalem.  Visitors would know that crime was taken seriously and punished. (In some middle eastern cities today, public executions in the town’s square serves much the same way – as a very strong warning.) The humiliation of being on public display provided even more insult to injury.

A very short couple of lines in the Gospel of Matthew which we heard references the travelers on that road who saw Jesus and how they responded:

Those passing by reviled him, shaking their heads and saying,
“You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself, if you are the Son of God, and come down from the cross!” (Mt. 27:39)

These people were not close followers of Jesus.  The men closest to Jesus all ran off in fear and were primarily in hiding.  The women closest to Jesus watched from a distance, according to Matthew (in John’s Gospel, ch 19:25 it is said that they were standing by the cross).  These individuals simply knew of Jesus and happened to be going past. Continue reading

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Getting Kids to Listen in Mass

The Holy Family - Painting at Mission Santa ClaraHow do you get children to not just be quiet during Mass, but also to pay attention and listen? For infants and toddlers, that’s just not always possible, hence the ubiquitous “cry room”. For preschoolers there are often childcare provisions mixed with age appropriate religious education. But what about kids who are a little older, visiting and out of their regular routine or not in some sort of CCD class during Mass?

Catholic parents have a lot of tricks up their sleeves, some better than others. I’m not a fan of food in Mass and when parent utilize electronic devices it tends to go from bad to worse. One year at St. Mary’s in Los Gatos, we saw a boy about to receive his First Holy Communion play with a video game all through Mass. When it was time for him to walk up the aisle, his mother took it away. You think that maybe those parents were a little too lax? Yeah, me too….

What worked for us was a combination approach: Continue reading

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Roman Catholic Easter Vigil and Sunday Mass in the Diocese of San Jose (Silicon Valley area)

The Roman Catholic Diocese of San Jose lists all of its Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday Mass times online.  This comprehensive list also includes the languages in which Mass is offered in Silicon Valley or the South Bay Area:

Easter Vigil and Sunday Mass in San Jose (the diocese)

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Retreat Spot in Silicon Valley: The Presentation Center

Once the site of a boarding school for boys known as the Montezuma Mountain School, the idyllic hillside campus owned by the Sisters of the Presentation since the mid-1950s along Bear Creek Road near Los Gatos has been conference and retreat center since the early 1970s (it was Presentation College in the interim).

I wrote about this spot on another blog of mine, “Live in Los Gatos” (mostly about the community but also some on real estate) and I invite you to learn more about it there:
Montezuma Mountain Ranch School for Boys

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Beautifully Restored Stained Glass Windows at St. Mary’s in Los Gatos

Some Silicon Valley Roman Catholic parish communities enjoy really beautiful stained glass windows, while some with newer construction, (I think unfortunately) do not.  My own parish, St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Los Gatos, recently cleaned and restored its stained glass windows.  You can appreciate them without leaving home if so desired – they have a wonderful photo album online:

Stained glass windows at St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Los Gatos

Each image can be enlarged, so be sure to click on any which really appeal to you.  Of course, to get the full effect, you really should consider visiting it in person!

Another place to check out…

When our kids were little we sometimes visited other parishes (at times this was for purely practical reasons involving scheduling and at others it was to provide a little diversity to help them with new things to look at in church).  One of our favorites was St. Christopher in the Willow Glen area of San Jose.  St. Christopher was the patron saint of travelers (at some point it was thought that he was not an historical person, so I’m not sure if he is no longer that patron but I believe so) and at the back of the parish church there’s a really lovely, large stained glass collage of various things representing travel, including a steam ship, a train and an airplane.  Our son, when a toddler, called it something like the “airplane church”.  As a young boy, he thought that it was a pretty good thing to find in a church.

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How Does Annulment Work?

With Catholic marriages failing at a rate fairly similar to that of the general population, the Catholic Church works to help its members after divorce through support groups and other avenues.  Often the question of annulment arises and there are many misconceptions about it, so I wanted to discuss it today.

An annulment is a finding by the Church’s tribunal that the marriage was missing a significant component which would be required for it to be a sacramental marriage.

Common myths about annulment: An annulment is not a statement that there was no marriage at all (there was, in reality, the equivalent of a civil marriage or non-sacramental marriage – the technical term is putative marriage) and it does not make any children illegitimate.   That is simply not true.

Another common misunderstanding is the idea that if the couple was not married in the Church, it’s not a sacramental marriage and therefore no annulment is needed if they want to marry again after a divorce.  In fact, when baptized Christians marry, the Catholic Church considers that a sacramental marriage no matter who is presiding at the ceremony.  In the western Christian tradition*, it is not the priest who “marries” them – instead, the couple exchanging vows give the sacrament to each other, they are the ministers of this sacrament. The priest is an official witness and the Church insists upon it as a practice.  When Catholics are married in a service presided by a judge rather than a priest (this would be without permission) it is “valid but illicit” – it’s a true sacramental marriage but not permitted to have been created that way.    Continue reading

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Catholics Relocating to Silicon Valley: Welcome to a Wonderfully Diverse Church Community!

If you are Catholic and moving to the San Jose – Silicon Valley area, you’re in luck and we hope you’ll feel right at home. We enjoy a very vibrant Catholic community here, with lots of parishes, Masses in a many languages and several Catholic rites, and of course tons of opportunity for involvement in spiritual and volunteer activities.

Find a church: You can find a list of Roman Catholic Parishes in the Diocese of San Jose (which covers Santa Clara County and is most of “Silicon Valley”) on the diocesan website:

Find a Mass: About one-third of Silicon Valley happens to be Catholic (yes, that is a high percentage), and there are both a lot of churches and a lot of Masses. (I like to joke that when you’re Catholic here you have no excuse for missing Mass because there are a ton of opportunities, beginning late on Saturday afternoon, to attend.) Please check the diocese’s website for a list of parishes.  From there, click on one near you (the map function is interactive!) and from there you can click on the parish link to see when Mass is offered.

What about Mass in another language? Finding Mass in languages other than English is not too hard in Silicon Valley.  Here are the other languages, which you can find in the area:

  • English
    • all parishes except the Latin-only
      Oratory of Our Mother of Perpetual Help Chapel
  • Spanish
    • Offered at 19 parishes in and near San Jose, including the Cathedral, Christ the King, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of Peace, Our Lady Star of the Sea, Sacred Heart of Jesus, St. Athanasius, St. Catherine of Alexandria (Morgan Hill), St. Clare, St. Cyprian, St. Elizabeth, St. John Vianney, St. Joseph, St. Julie Billiart, St. Leo the Great, St. Maria Goretti, St. Mary’s (Gilroy), St. Patrick Proto-Cathedral, and St. Thomas Aquinas
  • Vietnamese
    • Offered at 6 parishes: Most Holy Trinity, St. Elizabeth’s, St. John the Baptist, St. Maria Goretti, St. Martin’s, St. Patrick’s
  • Croatian
    • St. Mary of the Assumption Croatian Mission
  • Polish
    • St. Brother Albert Chmielowski Polish Mission
  • Portuguese
    • Five Wounds Portuguese National Church
    • St. Clare’s
  • Latin
    • Oratory of Our Mother of Perpetual Help Chapel
  • Tagalog
    • St. Joseph’s
  • Korean
    • Holy Korean Martyrs Parish
  • Cantonese
    • St. Clare’s
  • Mandarin
    • St. Clare’s
  • Italian
    • Holy Cross

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Missions In & Near Silicon Valley: Mission Santa Clara

We are so very fortunate to have several beautiful Catholic Missions, founded by the Franciscans beginning in the 1700s,  in and near to Silicon Valley. I’ll list the closest ones but all are within an hour or ninety minutes of the San Jose – Palo Alto area.

  • Mission Santa Clara
  • Mission San Jose (Fremont)
  • Mission Santa Cruz
  • Mission San Juan Bautista (Hollister)
  • Mission Carmel
  • Mission Dolores (San Francisco)

Today we’ll focus on the first one, and in later posts we will “visit” the rest.

Mission Santa Clara, named after St. Clare of Assisi, Italy, can be found at the heart of Santa Clara University (one of 28 Jesuit colleges and universities in the U.S.), which is only about a mile from the Norman Mineta San Jose International Airport. Like several other missions, this one is not the original construction nor in its original location.  Suffering from floods, fires and earthquakes, the mission was relocated and rebuilt a few times but with the last remodeling, this sixth church was made to capture much of the original styling.

This gracious mission serves as the university’s student chapel, is open to the public for viewing and for Mass attendance. (Check Mass times via link below. On holidays such as Easter and Christmas the times get juggled to allow 2 Masses so the usual schedule can change.)

The de Saisset Museum, just a few steps away on the SCU campus, houses some Mission artifacts and is the Mission’s museum too, in addition to other historic and art pieces to enjoy.  Admission is free.

The art in this beautiful church is remarkable, as is much of the history.  Please find a link to a self-guided walking tour below. It’s very worthwhile to take the time and take in the history and prayerful atmosphere of this special place.

Read about the history of Mission Santa Clara here.
Mass times for Mission Santa Clara
Self-Guided Walking Tour of Mission Santa Clara
Wikipedia article on Mission Santa Clara

500 El Camino Real
Santa Clara, CA 95050-4345
(408) 554-4023

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Disaffected Catholics, Former Catholics, Lapsed Catholics

Sometimes people who were baptized Roman Catholic find themselves not too engaged with their faith or with the Church community.  Some say they are no longer Catholic, others say they are but aren’t too involved in terms of their time and energy (“inactive Catholics”).  Often this comes from disillusionment, a bad personal experience or a problem they personally have with either a teaching or practice of the church. Or it could be that they’ve done something that they believe puts them outside of the Church community.

You might say or hear something like this in conversation:

“I was raised Catholic, but am not practicing”

“I believe most of what the Catholic Church teaches, but I have a problem with…” (fill in the blank), “so I pretty much left the Church.”

Or maybe this:

“I’m Catholic, but I don’t go to Mass very often.”

“I think of myself as Catholic, but why don’t they get with the times?”

“I got married in the Church and will raise my kids Catholic when we start a family, but we just don’t go to Mass very often.”

One of my relatives, who’s a Jesuit priest, was once in Rome and chatting with a taxi driver there about life while en route to his destination.  “Where do you go to church?” our American priest asked. “Padre, sono Cattolico, non sono fanatico!”  – “Father, I’m a Catholic, not a fanatic!” replied the driver.  Some of our not-too-adherant Catholics here in the U.S. might feel the same way.
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