May 28, 2017
Friends, every year in October at St. Elizabeth, the ushers count how many people attend Sunday Mass. Across the Archdiocese of San Francisco this is called “The October Count.” In 1961 – 56 years ago – “The October Count” reported that 123,000 thousand Catholics were attending Sunday Mass within the San Francisco City parishes. In 1993 – 32 years later – only 47,000 Catholics were attending Sunday Mass on any given Sunday. In 2017, some 23 years later, the Archdiocese no longer publishes “The October Count”. THAT, my friends, should tell you even more.
From my perch in the sanctuary I count roughly 400 people total attending the 5 different Sunday services at St. Elizabeth. “Father, that’s impossible!” Au contraire, and we Catholics here in the Portola neighborhood should know that we are part of a national trend. 50 years ago 85% of the Catholics in the cities of New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania were attending Holy Mass every Sunday; now their “October Count” has dropped to 15%. I publish these statistics not to discourage you faithful Catholics of St. Elizabeth’s, but again to ask the question of WHY.
The reasons for the decline in regular Sunday Mass attendance...? I suppose we could discuss the usual “culprits”...poor liturgy, banal sermons, secular culture. Writing from Washington , D.C. Msgr. Charles Pope recently opined that many of today’s Catholics simply aren’t interested in what the church has to offer. For them going to church on Sunday is a non-essential service. Sunday Mass is a boutique item. “Time with Jesus” is just another way to accessorize your life. You know, a gym membership, craft beer subscription, a time-share in Hawaii, an occasional Sunday Mass... “and I’ll take Holy Communion too.”
Thinking about it more, people don’t go to church on Sunday ... they don’t sanctify the Day of the Lord because they erroneously think that everybody is going to be saved. For them, a ticket to heaven is a universal right! It’s like an Obama phone. It’s free. Just sign up! Bam! Heaven is in the bag!
I don’t think so! The way to revive Sunday observance is to recover what the Bible says about the urgency of salvation. Our Lord Jesus was no Happy Face emoji when asked about salvation. He was no late-night comedian when asked how many would be saved. He devoted several parables warning us of the impending catastrophe that would catch many off guard. In that dreadful moment He said that the sheep (“Welcome”) would be separated from the goats (“Depart from Me”). The wise virgins would make it into the joyful banquet hall. The foolish would be forever consigned to the outer darkness. He who is Truth itself says that the road to damnation is wide and many travel it and that few enter through the narrow gate.
The “October Count” statistics in San Francisco are not going to change anytime soon. But, Friends, never drink the “Kool-Aid of universal salvation.” Instead, always be faithful to the Sunday assembly. Join yourself to Jesus’ church-body. He is the place of true worship and salvation.
Reverend James Garcia
May 21, 2017
Did you ever think that Glenn Beck – the once-Catholic, now Mormon political conservative and radio talk-show host – would be interested in the “Secret of Fatima”? I didn’t either! But there he was, just two weeks ago, talking to his national audience about how President Ronald Reagan, St. John Paul II, and “the Virgin of the Rosary” (Our Lady of Fatima) brought down world Communism!
There’s no doubt that the events which occurred at Fatima, Portugal one hundred years ago have had unsuspected political effects. But the 7 apparitions of the Virgin Mary also occasioned great holiness among the three children-visionaries. Lúcia dos Santos is the best known of the three. She has written her recollections of the events several times. She lived to be 98 years old and died in 2005, having spent most of her life as a Carmelite nun.
Francisco and Jacinta Martos, the other two child-visionaries, were cousins of Lúcia. They quickly internalized the message of Fatima despite their young age. After the apparitions of Mary they continued to tend the family sheep, but prayed the rosary daily and were known to give their lunch to beggars. On hot days they refrained from drinking water. This was how they offered up their daily crosses, as the Virgin had counseled, making reparation to Her Immaculate Heart.
Francisco and Jacinta died very early in life, victims of the Spanish influenza pandemic. He succumbed at age 10 – just two years after the visions – in 1919. Jacinta deteriorated over time dying at age 9 in 1920. St. John Paul II beatified them both in 2000; Pope Francis canonized the two child-saints a week ago.
The Vatican-approved miracle which won their beatification was the case of Felipe Moura Marques. This little boy was born with type 1 diabetes, a disease considered incurable. His mother and grandmother had great devotion to Francisco and Jacinta so they took baby Felipe to the Fatima Shrine and placed him near the tombs of the two visionaries, asking their intercession. On May 13, 2000, while watching St John Paul beatify the two, Felipe’s mother prayed again to Francisco and Jacinta for the health of their son. Since that time, Felipe has not needed to take insulin and has been completely cured of diabetes.
The miracle for their canonization was the case of Lucas Yurie; it happened in March 2013. The five year old boy accidently fell 20 feet from a window of the family home. “His head hit the ground first and he sustained a very serious injury, which caused a loss of brain tissue” said his father, Batista, during the press conference at the Fatima Shrine. When we finally got Lucas to the hospital in Parana, Brazil my son was in a deep coma. His heart stopped twice, and doctors performed an emergency operation. We began to pray and called upon our Carmelite nun-friends; they went directly to their chapel where relics of both Blesseds Francisco and Jacinta were venerated. The nuns invoked these young ‘shepherds’ to intercede for our little son, who in many ways was like them. Against all medical expectations on March 11 our son was released from ICU and in a couple of days was back home with us...recovered and talking as before. The doctors called it a miracle!”
Dear parishioners, answer our Lady of Fatima’s request for prayer and penance. Plan to start the “Five First Saturdays of the Month” this coming June ’17. Be ready for the 100th Anniversary of the Feast and Archbishop Cordileone’s consecration of the Archdiocese to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in October, 2017. The conditions are: every month 1) Sacramental Confession, 2) Receive Holy Communion, 3) Pray 5 decades of the Rosary, 4) plus keep Our Lady company for 15 minutes more meditating on the mysteries of her life, 5) with the intention of making reparation to Her Immaculate Heart.
Reverend James Garcia
May 14, 2017
Given the long established Maltese and Italian connection at St. Elizabeth, I thought these statistics might be of interest. Unfortunately, they highlight a problem for all of us.
The company that makes Huggies Diapers (for babies) is pulling out of Southern Europe, but the maker of Depends (for us older people) is expanding its market. How come? Southern Europe is in demographic free fall. Every year there are more deaths than births. Every year there are fewer babies and more of us retiring…until we rest in peace. Southern Europe is like Japan; every year its population shrinks, because deaths far outnumber births. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but stayed tuned.
Italy diminishes between 600,000 to 800,000 each year. Greece is also collapsing. In 2016, for every 1000 Greeks in the country, 8.5 children were born and 11 adults died. The Greeks are filling more coffins than cradles. Spain shrinks by 75 every day of the year. Portugal’s birth rate fell 14% from 2008 to 2012. (In 2016 Canada’s seniors outnumbered the youth who were 14 years of age and under – for the first time in our Northern Neighbor’s history.)
This is what the sexual revolution, the pill, “shacking-up”, and wide-spread contraception has wrought. In 1968 Paul Erlich authored the alarmist best seller, The Population Bomb. It predicted over-population havoc for all the countries of the developed West. The supposed bomb fizzled; it was fake science. 50 years after the book’s appearance we can see clearly what actually happened. Far from a population explosion, the old Mediterranean civilization which we all so dearly admired and loved is falling apart, greying and decaying…without enough children.
What are we to do in the future? Why not obey the first commandment given by God to Adam and Eve: “Be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28). Over the last 50 years, most of us would agree that modern people have done things “My Way” when it comes to having babies. Let us hope that in the future we might convince our grandchildren to do things “God’s way”.