Monday, February 28, 2005

Catechumenate Support Group - March 10

Photo used with permission, © Richard Seah - www.richardseah.comIf you coordinate the catechumenate process (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) in your parish, you have a place where you can ask questions, get some answers, and share your own stories with others who share your ministry. The Catechumenate Support Group meets every other month and is open for all who have responsibility for initiation of adults and children.

Catechumenate Support Group
Thursday, March 10, 2005

12:30p - 2:30p
note: different location
St. Lucy - Parish meeting room
2350 Winchester Blvd., Campbell
Free; bring your lunch.

For more information, contact Diana Macalintal at or 408-983-0136.


Friday, February 25, 2005

Classifieds: Seek and Ye Shall Find

Event: Concert
Sacred Heart (Saratoga) Men’s Club is presenting a concert by the Yale Spizzwinks(?) on Friday, March 11 at 7:30 PM. The Spizzwinks(?) is the oldest underclassman a capella group in the United States. They have a unique blend of sweet harmony, original arrangements, traditional Yale college songs, jazz standards, ballads, show tunes and tongue-in-cheek humor. The concert is in Sacred Heart Church, 13716 Saratoga Avenue (south of highway 85). Reserved seating is $15 for adults and $10 for children under 14. Open seating is $10 for adults and $5 per child. There are group discounts available for choirs or music groups. Call 408-370-9030 for tickets and information.

Available: Organ
Holy Family parish has a 1925 Kilgen organ available to any parish that might be interested in having an organ in their worship space. It does need some work to maximize its potential, but it is in working condition (though it's been in storage for awhile). They would be grateful if someone had funds to make an offer on this organ, but they would also be happy to see it find a good home where it might be an asset to the worship of a commnity. If interested, please contact Susan Olsen at 408-265-4040.


Tuesday, February 08, 2005

5th Week in Ordinary Time

I confess: I am a makeover junkie. I have seen almost every episode of Trading Spaces, What Not to Wear, and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. Now before you hand me my penance for my addiction, there’s something I’ve noticed about these makeover shows. These are not your typical shows in which a person is put under the knife to undergo thousands of dollars of unnecessary plastic surgery in order to feel better and in the end finally realize that it really wasn’t worth it. What has moved me to embarrassed weepiness when I watch these shows is seeing a person be really transformed, not because of new clothes, makeup, a fancy hairdo, perfectly-shaped eyebrows (although that's important), a renovated kitchen, or cool hair product. The transformation happens simply because people—friends and strangers alike—get together to do something for another person so that they could live with more dignity, joy, and peace. Take for instance two of my new favorites: Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and Town Haul.

In Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (not to be confused with Extreme Makeover: plastic surgery massacre), a struggling family is chosen to be given a completely new home, built on their home’s existing lot. A team of carpenters, designers, plumbers, and electricians meet with the family, not to show them designs and plans but just to get to know their story. They play with the kids, look at family photos, hear about their work, learn their hobbies, and listen to their fears for the future. Then they send the family on retreat at a spa or vacation resort to be pampered while the team builds their new home. Throughout the week, local businesses come and donate supplies and services, local artisans create beautiful woodwork, stone paths, and paintings for the new home, and neighbors, classmates, friends, and relatives help paint and hammer, sometimes creating video greetings from far away friends for the family’s homecoming. The big "reveal" is filled with many tears of joy and appreciation from the family and all those who built their home.

In Town Haul, an entire town commits to rebuilding and renovating the homes, businesses, and lives of some of its own members. In one episode, one local affectionately called “Cowboy Bob” was given a completely new home. Bob and his dog live in the outskirts of town in a small cottage. He lost the use of his legs, does not drive a car, and gets around only by electric scooter. The town decided they wanted Bob to have a home in town so it would be easier for him to get to the grocery store and other places he needs to go. The town banded together to form teams: those handy with carpentry and construction work built the foundation and put up the walls; the teens painted the house; the elders sewed pillows, curtains, and bed linens; the local artisans paved a new driveway using stone carving skills they learned in Italy, the Boy Scouts built a new dog house, the town mechanic put together a new scooter for Bob.

Cowboy Bob came home, and standing along his driveway were people he knew and many more he’d never met. The transformation was evident, not in the walls or the wood, but in the hearts of everyone there. Yes, he had a new home, but more importantly, the town had a new vision of relationship in which lives are changed for the better because people work together to make it happen. In a way, the town itself was renovated and became a new home for everyone who lived there. Really, they didn’t do anything extraordinary. They simply used the skills they had, tried to learn some new ones, gave their time and attention to each other, and shared their stories. By their work and care for each other, they changed Bob’s life, but they also changed their own.

I see the sacred season of Lent in the same way. In our town called Church, we have chosen the Elect to be our focus of attention. We build for them a new home not by relegating the task to a few people (pastor, godparents, or initiation directors), but by engaging the whole town in the work. We each do our part, whether it's praying more fervently, fasting more joyfully, or giving what we have to those in need—nothing extravagant, but all ordinary actions that take on extraordinary power when we all do it together. In the end, the Elect are changed into the Body of Christ not simply because we make them over with new clothes of white or new lighting for their mantles. They are changed because they have seen and heard and known the power of God’s love in us--the power to sacrifice in big and small ways, to love our enemies and forgive those who have hurt us, to share bits of bread and wine and call it a feast, and to put another’s needs before our own.

Lent is our extreme makeover. May the practices we take on during this season not be as short-lived as a Botox injection but transform us in our deepest corners of our selves so that our lives become living signs of Christ, dead and risen.

In this edition of DSJ Liturgy Notes, you’ll find:

May our lenten spring cleaning bring us to new life!

Diana Macalintal
Associate for Liturgy


Ashes to Ashes: How Our Symbols Speak

This article by Diana Macalintal first appeared in Eucharistic Ministries 227, February 2003.

“Remember, man, you are dust and to dust you will return” (Gn 3:19). This reminder is given to those who are signed with ashes at the beginning of the Lenten season. This ancient action of wearing ashes has traditionally signified lamentation and repentance (see 2 Sam 13:19, Esth 4:1, Job 42:6, 1 Macc 3:47, 4:39, Lam 2:10, Mt 11:21). Still today, this symbol speaks dramatically of both the morbid reality of being human and the joyful promise made to all God’s own.

Why do we wear ashes?
Ashes symbolize sorrow and penitence. The early church ritualized this for those who had committed a serious or “capital” sin. These “penitents” would wear a penitential garment and have ashes sprinkled on them. Then they would be excluded from celebrating the Eucharist until the Easter Vigil. (Note that a person could be a penitent only once in a lifetime.) Although the order of penitents had declined, by 1091 all the faithful were encouraged to take on the practice of wearing ashes at the beginning of lent. Today we continue this practice as an expression of “our human condition as affected by sin” (Ceremonial of Bishops, 253). We mourn for “our sin and ignorance” (Responsory for Ash Wednesday) that has kept us from keeping faithful to our baptismal promises. We are marked with ashes as a sign of our commitment to “turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel” (Mk 1:15).

Where do the ashes come from?
The rubrics for Ash Wednesday say that “the ashes used today come from the branches blessed the preceding year for Passion Sunday.” Though there is no special rite for burning palm branches, many communities have made a tradition of preparing their own ashes during the weeks before Lent.

How long do I have to wear these ashes?
There is no rubric that states that ashes need to be worn outside of the Ash Wednesday liturgy, though you’ll see many smudged foreheads at work and on the streets on that day. The wearing of ashes is meant to be a sign of our inward conversion, and, as the Gospel of the day warns, not a way to gain applause. However, this could be a way to quietly evangelize our places of work and to find support from unknown fellow Catholics.

Is it a sin to not get ashes on Ash Wednesday?
Some people believe that it is a sin to miss receiving ashes on this day. Some even believe that one would not go to heaven if he or she were not marked with blessed ashes. Neither is true. (Ash Wednesday is not even a holy day of obligation!) This of course does not mean that we shouldn’t participate in this liturgy, nor does it mean that the symbol isn’t important. Wearing ashes must reflect our desire to act from our baptismal promises. Saying “we believe” requires us to live dead to sin. Wearing ashes demands that we live alive for Christ.


Five More Lenten Symbols

This article by Diana Macalintal first appeared in Eucharistic Ministries 227, February 2003.

Chrysallis from the Saint John's Bible at other seasons, Lent focuses our vision upon a different kind of symbol--the living, breathing symbols of people and actions.

The Elect
They will be baptized, confirmed, and will celebrate first Communion at the next Easter Vigil. They are symbols of God’s life-giving work in the world. Their election and scrutinies are signs of God’s love for the church and God’s power over evil.

The Faithful
Lent highlights the penitential and baptismal characteristics of discipleship. The faithful are a powerful sign of these aspects as they gather each week to practice more fervently the disciplines of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, and to prepare to renew their baptismal promises at the Easter feast.

Prayer begins with listening and is a symbol of our discipleship. In Lent we retreat in prayer not to leave the world but to become more attuned to God in it--to become disciples who know their master’s voice.

Fasting is a sign of our conversion--our new “viewpoint.” We fast from food, bad habits, selfish ways, and apathy. Liturgically, we fast from alleluia’s and excess music and décor. We do this not to deprive ourselves, but to aim our thoughts upon what is essential.

Our love for the poor is our greatest lenten symbol. It is a sign that death has not won.


What Lent Sounds Like

This article by Diana Macalintal first appeared in Eucharistic Ministries 249, February 2005.

Contrary to our typical desert-dry liturgical image of the season, Lent coincides with spring when the daffodils planted before the winter frost begin to bloom. In some places, spring is the most turbulent time of the year. Winter snows persist and spring storms attack the tender buds of young plants and bare trees. In this hostile environment, calves, lambs and other newborns fight to make it to the gentler days of early summer.

In a similar way, the church’s most vulnerable, the Elect, are fighting their own spring battle. During Lent, the Elect, their godparents and the church community begin an intense discipline to prepare for Easter when the Elect will be baptized.

The church sees itself as a participant in this great springtime drama between life and death, good and evil, between God and the devil. From this perspective, the intense preparation by the Elect and the church is somewhat like the final moments before a great battle, and it may be when both are at their most vulnerable. It is no accident then that Lent takes place in spring.

For this reason, the sound of Lent cannot be sad, anemic or depressed. We are reminded from the start of the season, “When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites” (Mt 6:16). The soundtrack to this great drama must be intense. We begin Ash Wednesday with “Blow the trumpet in Zion!” (Jl 2:15), a proclamation to gather the nations. But don’t confuse intense with bombastic or loud. Silence—penetrating stillness that cuts through pretension—is our most fundamental Lenten sound.

Recall too that Lent is not exclusively about Christ’s passion, the cross, the desert or penitence. “Lent is marked by two themes, the baptismal and the penitential….[These two themes] are to be given greater prominence in both the liturgy and liturgical catechesis” (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, 109). Use your Easter water music now, adapting the instrumentation and tempo to fit the sobriety of Lent. And save your passion music for Holy Week: “Hymns which emphasize the passion and death of Christ should be used only in the last week of the Lenten season” (Liturgical Music Today, 48).

Take musical risks. Incorporate bold styles and techniques such as blues, gospel, hymnody or a cappella singing. Take music that is usually performed gently and turn them into proclamations by singing them with a bit more force. For example, “Song of the Body of Christ” (David Haas) or “I Know that My Redeemer Lives” (Scott Soper) become fitting statements of baptismal faith when sung at a fuller more intense dynamic.


Lenten Reflections through Art

Garden of Eden from the Saint John's BibleAs some of you know, I go to school at Saint John's University in Collegeville, Minnesota, during the summer months. The Benedictines who live, work, and teach there have always been committed to the arts and especially to exploring how art deepens our relationship with God, the Master Artist.

One way they do this is through the ancient monastic art of Bible making. Saint John's has commissioned a handwritten Bible to illuminate the Word of God for a new millennium. Every time I see a new illuminated page from their Bible, I am amazed at how the artists have given a new perspective to ancient texts.

Unlike commercial art, these illuminations aren't meant to simply be admired but to be tools for prayer, contemplation, and action. To this end, Saint John's offers a five-week online Lenten Reflection that uses scripture, reflection questions, and illuminations from the Saint John's Bible to help strengthen your lenten prayer life.

Check out the reflections and illuminations at


Removing Holy Water from the Baptismal Font during Lent

The womb-shaped baptismal font at Old St. Mary's in Chicago allows for baptism of adults by immersion, as well as baptism of infants in the smaller pool above. Photograph by Mark Ballogg Steinkamp/Ballogg, Chicago. ©2002 Mark Ballogg Steinkamp/Ballogg, Chicago.One practice that has become somewhat popular is to remove the water from the font or cover the font completely during the Lenten season. While this may be a dramatic sign of thirsting and dryness, this practice does not in fact support one of the main themes of Lent: “Lent is marked by two themes, the baptismal and the penitential. By recalling or preparing for baptism and by repentance, this season disposes the faithful…to celebrate the paschal mystery. The baptismal and penitential aspects of Lent are to be given greater prominence in both the liturgy and liturgical catechesis. Hence, more use is to be made of the baptismal features proper to the Lenten liturgy” (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, 109).

The Congregation for Divine Worship (the Vatican committee that oversees all things liturgical) issued a response in 2000 to a request for clarification on this issue. In their response, they say that removing holy water from the fonts during the season of Lent is not permitted, in particular, for two reasons:
  1. This is an issue of custom, not law, and so the liturgical laws in place do not address this recent innovation. However, this practice "is contrary to a balanced understanding of the season of Lent, which though truly being a season of penance, is also a season rich in the symbolism of water and baptism, constantly evoked in liturgical texts."
  2. The fasting of Lent does not include fasting from sacramentals, such as the use of holy water.

This font at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Surrey, England is in the center of the church. You can see part of the circles on the floor which emphasise three phases in our relationship with God: listening to his Word (lectern or ambo), being received into his family (baptism), partaking of his Eucharistic feast at the altar.

The response continues: "The practice of the Church has been to empty the Holy Water fonts on the days of the Sacred Triduum in preparation of the blessing of the water at the Easter Vigil, and it corresponds to those days on which the Eucharist is not celebrated (i.e. Good Friday and Holy Saturday)."

In light of CSL’s statement and encouraged by the Congregation for Divine Worship, removing water from the font or preventing the faithful from touching the water in the font would be detrimental to the sign of baptism that is a focus of Lent. The baptized remain a baptized people throughout all of Lent. We do not pretend to be unbaptized along with the catechumens, just as we do not pretend that Christ is not risen during Holy Thursday or Good Friday. Our Lenten practices should more explicitly emphasize our baptism so that we can recognize those areas in our lives when we are not living out the promises of that baptism. What the faithful should be hungering and thirsting for is not the symbol of their baptism but rather a world in which the faithful living out of that baptism is evident. For the catechumens, their hunger for baptism may even be heightened when there are full fonts of water, just as a person who fasts is more aware of their hunger when food is placed before them.

It would be appropriate, as is our Church's tradition, to remove the water from the font after the Holy Thursday celebration, keep it empty during Good Friday and Holy Saturday, and fill it with new water at the Easter Vigil. One possible lenten option is to use a smaller piece of purple fabric that does not fully cover the font but adds some color to the area. In this way, the lenten color signifies the season while the water in the font is still accessible as a reminder of baptism for the faithful.


The Writing of the Torah

By Joe and Diane Juellich
Liturgy Team members at St. Julie Billiart, San José

On Sunday, January 23rd at 3:00 PM, my wife, Diane, and I attended an Open House at Congregation Shir Hadash in Los Gatos. The theme of the Open House was the Mitzvah (commandment) of writing a Torah scroll. This is the fulfillment of the final commandment of the Torah. Congregation Shir Hadash is a community of approximately 550 families that is celebrating their 25th Anniversary.

We were greeted by Rabbi Melanie Aron, who gave us a brief history of Congregation Shir Hadash and who explained the agenda for the Open House. The agenda was in three parts – the Jewish calendar, the Writing of the Torah, and the Holocaust Torah. We were then divided into three groups, with each group attending one of the agenda items. We began in the sanctuary with the Jewish calendar.

Dianne Portnoy conducted this session on the Jewish calendar. Dianne first explained the significance of the Menorahs in the temple sanctuary. These were seven branch menorahs not the nine branch menorahs that we are more familiar with during the celebration of Hanukkah. The seven branch menorah represents the six days of creation and the day of rest. Dianne then gave a brief description of the Torah. The Torah is the first five books of the bible, written by Moses. Unlike our bible which is produced by printing presses, the Torah must be hand copied from the previous Torah. Click to enlargeThe significance here is that all Torahs are identical going back to the original Torah of Moses. Next, Dianne described the Jewish calendar. The Jewish faith celebrates many more high holy days than the Christian faith. All of these high holy days are described in the Torah along with when they are to be celebrated. The Jewish calendar is primarily lunar but with some solar influences. A copy of this year’s Jewish calendar is to the right of this article. We then proceeded to the library for the second part of the agenda, the writing of the Torah.

We were greeted by Rabbi Moshe Druin, a sofer or official scribe, who lives in Florida and travels all over the world writing new Torahs. A sofer or scribe goes through very extensive and difficult training. Even then not all succeed in becoming a scribe. Rabbi Druin explained that special parchment and ink must be used in creating a Torah. As was mentioned earlier, it must be an exact copy of the previous Torah scroll. Nothing can be added, such as the scribe’s name or date of creation, and nothing can be deleted. The entire community takes part in writing the scroll and it takes approximately one year to complete. Rabbi Druin also explained that as a scroll ages with time and use, parts will eventually be damaged. These parts can and must be repaired. When a scroll reaches a point where it can no longer be repaired, it must be buried. We then proceeded to the school for the third part of the agenda, the Holocaust Torah.

Helayne Green conducted this most unforgettable session. Helayne was part of a group that traveled to Auschwitz in Poland to commemorate the liberation of the prison camp by the Russians. They also took part in the March of the Living where they walked along the railroad tracks from Auschwitz prison camp to nearby Birkenau just as the prisoners did during World War II. The day before they were to fly to Israel, a few of the students found two Torah scrolls in an old bookstore, which they immediately purchased. Fortunately they were able to get them out of Poland to Israel the next day. They were authenticated in Israel to have been written sometime in the early 1920’s. Somehow they survived the Holocaust although badly damaged. The scrolls ended their journey in San Diego, where one remains today. The other was obtained by Congregation Shir Hadash, where it will be restored. Approximately 40% of the scroll was damaged and will be repaired at a cost of approximately $15,000 over a six month period. We were actually allowed to touch it. Helayne also told us that anti-Semitism is on the rise again in Europe.

After that there was a reception and refreshments. We were able to talk with Rabbi Melanie Aron and many of her congregation. The exchange of information and sincere interest was overwhelming. Just as at St. Julie’s, where All are Welcome, so it was also at Congregation Shir Hadash. We thank Rabbi Melanie Aron and Congregation Shir Hadash for their hospitality and the opportunity to experience such a moving interfaith event. It was a wonderful educational experience and we both hope to be able to attend more of these types of interfaith events.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Schedule for Rite of Election

Below is the final schedule for Rite of Election 2005. Seating charts for each evening will be available next week. If you have any questions, contact Diana Macalintal at or 408-983-0136.

Monday, February 14, 2005 - 7:30p
Holy Family
Sacred Heart of Jesus
St. Catherine of Alexandria
St. Elizabeth
St. Francis of Assisi
St. Julie Billiart
St. Lawrence the Martyr
St. Lucy
St. Maria Goretti
St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception
St. Thomas of Canterbury
Catholic Community at Stanford

Tuesday, February 15, 2005 - 7:30p
Christ the King
Five Wounds
Holy Spirit
Most Holy Trinity
Our Lady of Guadalupe
Queen of Apostles
Sacred Heart - Saratoga
Santa Teresa
Chinese Catholic Community
St. John Vianney
St. Joseph - Mountain View
St. Joseph of Cupertino
St. Justin
St. Martin of Tours
St. Mary - Gilroy
St. Nicholas
St. Patrick Proto-Cathedral (including Vietnamese community)
St. Simon
St. Victor
San Jose State University Newman Center

Wednesday, February 16, 2005 - 7:30p
Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph
Our Lady of Peace
Our Lady Star of the Sea
St. Anthony
St. Christopher
St. Clare
St. Cyprian
St. Frances Cabrini
St. Thomas Aquinas
Sts. Andrew and Paul
Santa Clara University