Beginnings…by Fr. David


Fr David Image for Blog

Beginnings are always good. Their freshness is attractive and invigorating but at the same time somewhat nebulous: we simply do not know the future.  Children go back to school after a long   vacation, some start a new job, others move into a new house , new friends, maybe new relationships. After a restful summer, we are ready to go. We are happy, satisfied, but we do not know where we will end up.

Maltese cross

At every beginning we are to take a hard look at our past and be careful not to burden ourselves with unnecessary things in the future. In our beginnings, in our planning let us remember  the Beatitudes, in which Jesus gives us a way of life , a revelation of the will of God found in the 10 commandments. Here, Jesus sets a new living of perfection. The love of God enables us to go beyond the commandments and to stretch ourselves a little further beyond. Love has no limits.

Jesus had his own way of getting his listeners attention to a new beginning. He would say, “Amen, I say to you”. This implies a fresh start, Truth without any doubt.  Christianity teaches that we depend  on God, our Eternal Truth . But our lives also depend on the life of each other, of each individual. Also the life of each one of us has an effect on the whole group, just as the life of the group has an effect on the life of the individual. It is this love of God and the love that we have for one another that keeps us united, though we are different. Unity is essential to a successful group living, though our individual jobs are different, we are glued by the Spirit of love.

In our beginnings, let’s hassle a little more than we did in the past. Hope and trust in your God. God loves each and every one of us as each one was his only creation; that alone should be enough to give you strength and to look to the future with the assurance that no one gets lost in God’s presence. His love is both universal and individual.  With this in mind, try to make this beginning the best of all your beginnings of the past.

God bless you and yours.                                           Fr. David, O.P.

Fr. Michael’s Funeral Homily for Fr. Victor Cavalli, O.P.

Fr Vic Funeral Homily by Fr. Michael Hurley, O.P.

St. Dominic’s Benicia

A few years ago, I was surprised by Fr Vic when he asked me to preach at his funeral. I told him that I might not be the best choice, since he had been a Dominican priest for almost 70 years and I had only lived with him for 3. I said “What would I preach about?” He responded, “I don’t know, I won’t be there, that’s your job!” He continued: “Whatever you preach about keep it short.” And so when I recently visited with him at Fr. Paul Scanlon’s Vigil, he reminded of the eventuality of this moment: “You’re preaching my Mass” he said. I said “I know, I know, keep it short.” And he again surprised me by saying “Well you don’t have to keep it that short. There are a lot of things you might say.” It was the moment I was waiting for. “Ok, I’m going to ask 3 questions and everyone is going hear your answer. It’ll be like your final preaching.” Agreed.

First question: “What inspired you to be a Dominican?” His response was typically practical. He knew the OP Sisters from boarding school in Ukiah and knew Fr. William Norton, aka “Blacktop Bill” because he always put in a parking lot at wherever parish he was. He saw all the good that the Dominicans did and thought “I want to do good for others too.” It was either that or the FBI, because he had family in law enforcement and the small Swizz village that he grew up in was the seedbed for the Papal Swizz guard. In the end, the priesthood made sense, because, as he said with a twinkle in his eye, “it was my best chance in keeping on the straight and narrow. I became a Dominican priest because I would have a chance to do good, and have a good chance at heaven.”  

Of course, we have our reasons for what we do, yet we know that for Fr Vic (and for us all), God is the ultimate source of our inspiration. “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you to go and bear fruit.” Just as Jesus called those first apostles, who were not well versed in the Torah or particular educated and he gave them the gifts to preach and teach and heal, so too, God chose Fr Vic and gave him the gifts he needed to lead. We all have a responsibility to lead in various ways, but Fr. Vic had the gift of leadership. He was pastor and/or prior for almost all of our Priory Parishes, including Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Berkeley and Benicia. For so many he was not just a priest but a pastor, a real shepherd. As one the Dominican graviori said “When Fr. Vic was in his heyday, if he thought it would have been good for our Province to get into basket weaving, well…we’d be weaving baskets right now!”

In the Gospel, Christ identifies himself as a Good Shepherd who guards and guides the flock. This image hearkens back to famous and familiar Psalm 23 where the Lord acts as a shepherd for the people of his flock. The Good Shepherd leads with rod and staff: rod to protect sheep from predators and nudge them away from danger, and staff to lead them to green pastures for grazing. In the Gospel we see Christ guides: leading with care, tending to the wounded, searching out strays. But also guards: warning with the woes of the self-righteousness, challenging the indifferent or nudging his flock around the pitfalls of unbelief. Christ the Good Shepherd has twofold office: to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.

For nearly the past 70 years of his life, Fr. Vic has joined Christ in this role of guarding and guiding.   When it came to guarding, Fr. Vic was old school. In these days when sentimentality is often substituted for spirituality, Fr. Vic was no nonsense when it came to preaching and living the faith. Keenly aware of the reality and power of original sin, the disciplines of the faith were alive and well in his life. It wasn’t just Fridays in Lent; every Friday was an occasion for clam chowder over his favorite chicken soup. On the occasions when he discerned that someone was taking advantage of another person, he’d let them know the woes of the Gospel. For those who might darken the door of church only on Christmas and Easter, he reminded them in a healthy and unvarnished way that none of us escape death and final judgement. The Good Shepherd guards and course corrects the flock.

Likewise, Fr. Vic embodied the guidance of the Good Shepherd. I think of the countless ways in which he brought Jesus Christ to life for so many. Who of us here was not guided closer to Christ because of Fr. Vic. Through him, Christ gave us new life through baptism, fed us in the Eucharist, forgave us in the confessional, anointed and cared for us in our illness whether physical or spiritual. When were lonely, it wasn’t Fr Vic who visited us, it was Christ. When we were in distress, it was Christ who comforted us through him. When fears and anxieties clouded our minds and hearts, Fr Vic brought the encouragement of Christ to our hearts. I’m sure each of us could share a story of how Fr. Vic guided you closer and made Christ present and real in your life.

Beyond guarding and guiding, Jesus says what set his pastoral office apart from others, is that he is willing to lay down his life for sheep. He is all in. So too with Fr. Vic priesthood was not just a ministry but who he was. He told me: “You never retire from being a priest. If you’re lucky you can retire from administration and paperwork, but never as a priest.” This gift of self, the giving of his life naturally inspired others. This is why an essential part of leadership is not simply doing, but enabling others to do good. I live in SF, and although Fr. Vic was pastor there 40 years ago, there are aspects of the parish that are still impacted by his leadership. When there was a need to reach out to the poor and homeless around the Church in SF, Fr Vic hired an OP Sr. Anne Bertain to lead a community service program. The Rose of Lima center is as active and vibrant as ever. In fact, when I announced that Fr. Vic died last week in SF, I had a woman who told me that 40 years ago, she had come to the children’s Mass and that it was so bad that she went up to him after Mass and told him that she was never coming back because she was trained in music and couldn’t abide their ineptitude. So Fr. Vic asked her if she would help to train the children and start a program and she’s been a parishioner ever since.

Fr. Vic’s leadership extended to the brothers. Fr. Vic spoke with great fondness for the time when some of the students were transferred from St. Albert’s to St. Dominic’s. He loved that they brought a fresh energy to the parish and started so many programs together. Fr. Felix Cassidy of happy memory loved to tell the story of how, early in his studies, he began to despair of learning Latin and passing the required classes. Seriously contemplating leaving when he asked Fr Vic who was finished and was about to be ordained for advice and guidance. “I’m from Switzerland and had to learn English, I failed out of elementary school, but I kept at it and passed the classes. If I can do it, you can too.” And the rest is history.  

Second question: What is your greatest joy in being an OP priest? With hesitation, he said “The children.” Certainly Fr. Vic is well known among the brothers for his time as teacher and principle of St. John Vianney/Daniel Murphy high school. Fr Vic took great pride in the education the school provided in his leadership. His students were the chief of police and fire, many lawyers and other successful in business. But more than that, he found joy in teaching the faith. It was a worst kept secret that Fr. Vic had a drawer with candy in his office for students. When they would come over, he would always be handing out little sweets. I would tease him about being too indulgent and he told me the story of how Fr. Blacktop Bill used to give him sweets/money/trinket every time he saw him. As a young boy, Fr. Norton embodied God. And so when he gave him sweets, it was like God giving him a gift. Fr Vic said “I give sweets so that children will learn and remember that God always wants to give us good things if they look for it.” And this kind of spiritual pedagogy was present all through his life. I remember during one of our daily walks before we were hearing the 1

st confessions of 2nd graders, I asked him how I might put them at ease. 1st

confessions can be fearful. He said “Teach them God’s love in a practice way.” He told me that the penance he would often give is to “Give your Mom and Dad a big hug and tell them how much you love them.” There is nothing better to see how a child begins to understand God’s own love through a love they know. When they experience God’s love, anything is possible.”


Third Question: What is your favorite Bible verse? Wasn’t sure of reference. Like a good Catholic, when it comes to the Bible we neighborhood really well, but not the specific addresses. Proverbs 19:21: “Many are the plans in man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose which endures.” In reflecting on this verse, he shared with me, how often in leadership the choice he was faced with weren’t easy or clear. He shared that there were dark moments of doubt and feelings of his unworthiness to be a priest. He was comforted by knowledge that he wasn’t in control of the results and outcomes. If he was simply faithful in his vocation and did the best he could, God’s purpose and plan would come to be, even despite his weaknesses and failings. In this regard, he always had recourse with the Blessed Virgin, with whom he had a special relationship. Early in the morning and into the evening, you would find him in prayer clutching his small hand rosary. Many times I discovered him in the church or in his room in front of the statue of our lady, seemly having a conversation with her. He would say “when I come face to face with God, I am hoping that Mary is there to hold out the rosary and pull me up into heaven. She’ll get me there.”

As we mourn for our loss, we pray in gratitude for life and legacy of Fr. Vic. We ask our Lord through the intercession of his mother that, he who lived his life as a faithful shepherd of the Good Shepherd, might be led to the rich pastures of his well-deserved heavenly reward.   Amen.
~Fr. Michael Hurley, O.P.

Rectory Project: How Will we Answer the Call?

 Parishioner Perspective on the Rectory Project

A new rectory? My thoughts…and a personal story.

When a new rectory is finally built, all the parish ministries and organizations will benefit from the addition of new space and the reconfiguration of office and meeting spaces in the ministry center and old rectory.   However, that is not the main reason I was particularly pleased to learn that a new rectory is in the planning stages. From my experience of teaching at the secondary school level for nearly forty years, and in particular, my experience of teaching for eight years at Catholic high schools conducted by the Brothers of Holy Cross, I have been wishing for a long time that our priests could have a private space of their own.

I started teaching at Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks in the late 60’s when there were still many teaching Brothers in the classroom. The Brothers’ Residence was on the other side of the campus from the school buildings. At the end of their teaching day, and after supervising sports and activities in the afternoons and evenings, the Brothers could return to their private house, garden and chapel. Three years later I transferred to Moreau Catholic High School in Hayward. The school was quite new with beautiful up-to-date facilities. The main building was a large three story block with offices, classrooms and labs on the first two floors. The Brothers’ Residence, although nice, was located on the third floor overlooking the parking lot and playing fields. It was not a good situation. At that time, and at later years teaching in the public schools, I was always glad to be able to go home at the end of a long day and not have to climb a set of stairs and sleep over my classroom. Unfortunately, our Dominican Community is housed like the Holy Cross Brothers in Hayward. If you ever have business to do in the Rectory during the day, you see that there are endless comings and goings as well as the noise of the parking lot and playground.   Do you ever just like to stay home and rest on a day off? Our priests have to leave their home on their one day off during the week just to get some peace and quiet.

In the summer of 1980 I was checking out Benicia to see if it were a place I would like to live. I wanted to find what would be my parish church. When I walked into the church one quiet summer afternoon, I immediately thought, “I would love for this to be my spiritual home.” And over the last thirty five years, it has not disappointed. The credit is due to our wonderful parish community and staff. However, it has been a special blessing to be a part of a Dominican parish. When so many parishes across the country have only one priest or have to share a priest among parishes, we are blessed to have our own Pastor and Parochial Vicar. Many times, when a room has been available, we have enjoyed the presence and ministry of a Dominican Student Brother during the Residency Year which he participates in as a part of his Formation. And I cannot imagine being without the presence of Father Vic and Father David, our “retired” Dominicans who contribute so much through their Sacramental Ministry as well as just being there for us.

A new Rectory would provide these men with a quiet space to call home. One of the Dominican mottos is “To share with others the fruits of Contemplation.”   We definitely benefit from the rich formation and spiritual life of our Friars as we participate in the Sacramental Life of the Church, enjoy instructive and inspiring homilies, and just get to know them as persons. They not only deserve a quiet Rectory space, but it would help them in the practice of their life as Religious. A new Rectory with sufficient bedrooms would guarantee a space for a Student Brother during his Residency year, and it would provide rooms adequately outfitted for the care of an aging priest. The presence of these men among us has indeed helped to provide a wonderful spiritual home for me. I hope we can all participate in whatever way we can, large or small, to make the proposed Rectory a reality.

John Lydon , O.P. L.





RCIA Testimonial

It’s Never Too Late

Sisters and Brothers in Faith, The Divine Mercy Chaplet Makes a House Call

My current RCIA journey is directly related to the manifestation of my now deceased husband’s, Prem’s, three year sojourn with the diagnosis of carcinoma of the liver bile duct (cancerous tumor).  Prem was originally given a six month prognosis, but by the grace of God, our merciful Lord, Jesus Christ, and the presence of the Holy Spirit, we were provided for through God’s servant, Dr. Kenneth Benmoeller, a gifted, humble physician who flew in to California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco on 11 different occasions to perform stent procedures for Prem.  My husband was able to “outlive his prognosis” by almost three years.  During my husband’s illness I lived “frozen by fear” of the uncertainty of each day and the horror of my husband’s physical demise.  These factors hastened my becoming totally dependent on God’s love and mercy to truly live on a day-to-day basis.

During this trial God sent members of the Catholic community to our home to bring us comfort and support with His “good news.”

In the last year of my husband’s illness, his best friends of more than thirty years, Pat and Ilona Helmholz, who have attended St. Dominic’s for many years and are members of the Dominican Laity, had just returned from three years in Africa as Maryknoll missionaries.  In Prem’s last year they, Pat and Ilona, made weekly visits to our home to pray with us, frequently bringing flower bouquets to cheer us. Sharing their faith with us, they walked with us and supported us during that difficult time, our journey “through the shadow of the valley of death.”

 Additionally, during the last year of my husband’s life, two friends of ours, Linda Perkins and Chuck Prejean, and two of their friends, Lena and Rudy D’ Antonio, all of whom are parishioners at St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church in Vallejo, frequently came to pray with us.  Through these devoted Christians we were introduced to the Divine Mercy Chaplet.  When fear plagued me, St. Faustina’s Divine Mercy Chaplet calmed me steadily increasing my trust in the love and mercy of The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit.  Subsequent to my husband’s death, I continued to experience an amazing depth of relationship with The Trinity through the Divine Mercy Chaplet.  As I navigated the loss of my husband, I was very lonely, but not alone because of my ongoing relationship with the source of my strength, our Heavenly Father, His Son Our Lord and the constant, subtle voice of the Holy Spirit.  I had truly learned to trust in the Lord during my husband’s illness, and now in my loss, I trusted in and relied on the Lord to guide me forward on a daily basis as I ventured alone.

Saint Faustina, the conduit of the Divine Mercy Chaplet, made a house call through those Catholics who introduced me to her works.  Subsequently having read The Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska and having committed myself to the chaplet, it was apparent to me that she would be my patron saint because of the peace the chaplet, which attested to her intimate relationship with God,  had provided me during my husband’s illness and death.

Although as an infant and youth, I had been baptized and confirmed in the Methodist church, and I was subsequently married and confirmed in the Episcopal Church, the depth of my relationship with the Trinity was never significantly tested until my husband’s illness and death.   The Catholics came to my rescue at the time when my spiritual needs were the greatest.  While one of my sister’s converted to the Episcopal faith as I had, two of my sisters had previously converted to Catholicism many years ago, so I was aware and somewhat familiar with the teachings of the Catholic Church and the beauty and depth of the Catholic mass.  In the 1970’s I had taken an Inquiry class in Catholicism, but did not join the church.  During my husband’s illness and upon his death, I was called to Catholicism through the ministrations of these friends, previously noted, as well as by the Holy Spirit and Saint Faustina.  I began to walk in faith and by attending midnight mass at St. Dominic’s on Christmas Eve after Prem’s passing, I was greeted by Shannon Carter and Gaye Rose, who so generously share their faith by serving others.  Although I was attending regular grief counseling through Kaiser Permanente for what would ultimately be for a year, I also began to attend the grief group at St. Dominic’s led by Shannon.  Then, I attended the series Catholic’s Returning Home (although I was not a Catholic) also led by Shannon, Gaye, and Teresa Schneider.  When RCIA began in the late summer, I was hungry to know more about Catholicism.  Shannon, Kelley Curtis, Gaye, Fr. Corwin, and Dr. Marco Roman along with my sponsors, Ilona Helmholz and Rose Usura, were consistent shepherds leading me in the ways of Catholicism. 

During the year of my RCIA journey, initially all was smooth sailing as I continued to learn and share with my fellow journeyers.  Our text, The United States Catholic Catechism, provided the intellectual knowledge I desired to begin to cognitively understand Catholicism while Bible readings reinforced “the heart and spirit” of faith.  The spiritual aspect of the cognitive pursuit of Catholicism was extended by the outreach of the leaders, sponsors, fellow RCIA inquirers, and the presence of the Holy Spirit, who like the parable of the lost sheep, never let us wander too far off course.  As the Tuesday night meetings progressed, my faith found a spiritual home.  Attending the 5:30pm mass on Sundays provided me hope and gave me direction for the coming week.  I felt like I had been swimming underwater a bit too long during the week, and surfaced for a much needed breath of air during Sunday the mass.  The mass continues to surprise me each week as I increase my level of understanding and involvement of the liturgy, symbolism, and the Lord’s word as I drink from His well.

One of the highlights of the RCIA journey came in early February when we attended the overnight retreat at Villombrosa in Menlo Park.  The serene garden surroundings and spiritual events designed for the growth of our faith, individually and collectively, are a gift I will always treasure.   The stained glass and religious appointments in the Church of the Nativity was especially inspiring, as was attending Vespers at the convent of the cloistered Dominican Nuns.  Quietly walking the Stations of the Cross at night with the moon and stars witnessing from Heaven was ethereal and touching.  Fr. Corwin provided an inspirational activity which encouraged us to write down any personal obstacles which might cause us resistance to our RCIA journey toward confirmation.  During a special mass we presented our “obstacles” for God’s grace on the chapel’s alter.  Afterward the mass these “obstacles” were collectively burned providing many of us a feeling of cleansing and release.

Having said that, I must admit that I was seized by two weeks of debilitating uncertainty about converting to Catholicism just prior to the Rite of Sending and the Rite of Election.  It was Shannon and Gaye who calmed my troubled waters, reminded me that all humans are all sinners, and that I was worthy of God’s mercy, grace, and love.  Gaye and I celebrated when my doubts ceased by attending the Chrism Mass in Sacramento at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament where the very chrism which would be used in the RCIA members’ baptisms and/or confirmations was blessed by Bishop Soto, who through the Holy Spirit, breathed faith and life into the sacred oil. 

My intense personal self-reflection of about two weeks prior to my first confession was much more agonizing than the actuality of the sacrament of reconciliation with Fr. David.  I will never forget how I felt God’s mercy through confession to Fr. David.  To receive the feeling of forgiveness was humbling and freeing and mystical. 

Another humbling experience was when Fr. Jerome washed our feet during the Mass of the Lord’s Supper.  This act of love and humility was welcoming in a way that words cannot express.  God’s touch was manifested by Fr. Jerome’s hands.  This ceremony was so intense that it helped me to better understand how the Eucharist is consecrated by the priest.

The most overwhelming experience of my RCIA journey was totally unexpected with the Veneration of the Cross.  The quiet, solemn procession of parishioners kneeling before the Cross and kissing the Cross one-by-one as it was held by Fr. Corwin in the candlelit church touched my very soul with the Passion of our Lord in a way I never expected!  I felt a heartbreak that was so real I could not hold back my tears.

By the night of Confirmation, the Vigil Mass, Saturday, April 4, 2015, I had no feelings of trepidation or uncertainty, instead feelings of peace and joy prevailed.   The sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and first communion honestly did feel like a “marriage” to God and to the Catholic Church.  True to “marriage-like” form, during the mass and sacraments, time seemed distorted as if time itself was surreal like time lapse photography being quick and slow at the same time…like a dream.

I had not really given particular thought to the charismatic evangelists’ concept of the “born again” phenomenon, but I certainly understand the experience now since my RCIA journey which culminated in my conversion to Catholicism through the sacraments of confession, communion, and  confirmation.  At sixty-four years of age, I do feel “born again” in Christ Jesus!

I am unable to adequately thank all who have been so self-less and instrumental in my RCIA journey:  RCIA leaders, Shannon Carter and Kelley Curtis, Fr. Jerome, Fr. Corwin, Fr. David, Fr. Vic, Dr. Marco Roman, Deacon Flanagan, and my sponsors, Rose Ursua and Ilona Helmholz, as well as all the sponsors who shared in and contributed to our confirmation experience!  Your commitment and support during my/our RCIA journey has been AMAZING!

Thank you to the entire active community of faith at St. Dominic’s Church for your support and welcome.

Yours in Christ Jesus,

Katherine “Faustina” Jefferies Dhawan

From the Choir Stall- Fr. Corwin on the Sign of Peace

Fr. Corwin explains the Sign of Peace

April 19th, 2015
Many of you approached me this past weekend thanking me for giving catechetical instruction on the Sign of Peace. I thank you for this. All of us priests here at St. Dominic appreciate your feedback, even if it critical, because it helps us to adapt our message to you. We Dominicans sometimes have an awfully heady approach to theology, which is one of the reasons we have historically spent so much time teaching at universities. However we do try and make our points as accessible as possible. That said; if something we say in our homilies doesn’t make sense, then by all means, let us know and we’ll try and clarify.Peace be with you

Do not forget that most of our homilies, along with tons of other fantastic resources, are available to download on our parish website. And this particular homily is already posted and available (I checked). So if you happened to be traveling and could not be here, or if you just want to hear it again, you can find it, along with others, at:

Regarding the document I mentioned regarding the Sign of Peace (as approved and signed by His Holiness Pope Francis via the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments), its title is the Circular Letter on the Ritual Expression of the Gift of Peace at Mass. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has also published a document on how we, as Americans, should interpret and understand this letter in light of our own culture. Both can be found in their newsletter at the following address:

We often find rules and regulations regarding our actions to be stifling, particular ones that govern our liturgy. That’s understandable because knowledge is always one generation away from extinction, given our life spans. It’s frustrating when we’re asked to do something without some sort of explanation of why. However, if we spend the time understanding their historical development as well as their theological symbolism, then we see how important they can be in our worship. Our actions are not just beautiful; they are meaningful.

God, on his part, has no need for our worship. He is perfect and lacks nothing. But we do it because it is fitting that we do it. And if we’re disposed to this worship, then it elevates us and brings us closer to Him. Who wouldn’t want that?
~Fr. Corwin Low, O.P.


Answered Prayers and Intercessions

Parishioner Story- The Carpenter’s Intercession

Jesus Saves! I’ve seen those flashing signs and wondered why people wasted the neon. But this time Jesus really did save the day, as the expression goes. It all started when I agreed to do some property management for someone who was going to be out of town. I expected paper work, rent collecting, and consequently, some human relations work. Those expectations were all fulfilled!Jesus Saves Home Decor Display Neon Light Sign

But then, out of nowhere, in one of the apartments, someone stepped on a bathroom tile between the tub and the toilet and the floor fell out under foot. Sure enough, water, rot, and time had conspired against the structural integrity of the plywood in the sub-floor making every trip to the toilet a precarious adventure. Unfortunately, the tenant in that apartment is wheelchair bound with limited upper-body dexterity. Needless to say, I was very concerned, ok, ok, downright worried about the guy. 

I had jury-rigged a patch under the broken tile so that it would hold for a couple of days until I could get a professional in to take care of the job. Well, one thing led to another and five days later cancellations and missed appointments put me back at square one with the floor still full of rot and my stomach in a knot every time I thought of the guy having to go into his bathroom. And, still, no one could find the time to get this one job taken care of.

I couldn’t wait any longer. Tuesday night I decided I would have to figure out some way to brace the floor. I didn’t have any construction background, but I did have Google “How-to” sites and YouTube. Something had to be done and I was the only one available. I didn’t like it much. I told my ‘boss’ so.  I also poured my heart out in prayer. I prayed differently Tuesday night than I usually do. I spoke to Jesus directly. Usually, I address the “Father”, or I speak to my “Lord”.On Tuesday I spoke to Jesus, “Jesus, I need your help! You were the son of a carpenter. You did carpentry. You know how to do this. I don’t know what I’m doing and I can’t afford to mess this up because I don’t want anyone tjm_200_NT1.pd-P7.tiffo get hurt.”  (For the record I did also ask St. Joseph to give me some directions and tell me what to do too.) As I finished talking to Jesus I felt peace. I knew I had been heard and I slept well.

The next morning “stuff” interrupted my intended schedule, but it did not bother me as much as it usually does. I finally got to the apartment, and despite my trepidation, was able to dismantle the toilet and do the demolition on only the section of the floor that was in dire need of repair. I took measure of what I needed to do the bracing and headed to Home Depot for the 2×4 and necessary hardware.

As I approached the cashier, lumber on my shoulder, cash in hand, purse-strap tangled in my hair, juggling screws, a jug of glue, a new toilet flange, and some of that black PVC piping stuff, a friend spotted me, stopped to say hello and asked if I was now getting into the carpentry business. No longer experiencing any of the peace I had felt the night before, I said no and explained the situation. Appalled, he asked for the address of the apartment and told me to head back over there and “stay put.”

“I’ve got three guys working on the house I’m renovating,” he said, “I’ll bring one of them over there to help you finish up this afternoon.”

Extremely relieved I thanked him and said I would look forward to seeing him whenever he was able to get there. I paid for my supplies and headed back to work. It seemed only 30 seconds later that my friend’s truck pulled up. He got out, as did a guy with a tool bag. My smile stretched from my heart to my fingertips when my friend introduced the guy:

“This is Jesus,” he said, “He’s going to help you finish that little project of yours.”

All right, in the interest of full disclosure he did pronounce the name “Hey-Soos” But that didn’t bother me at all. Jesus helped me – actually he totally took over – to finish the job. 

I am at peace again. I have no worries of anyone falling though that section of flooring. I am thankful for friends, for help, and for God’s perfect and miraculous timing. And, I have an awesome Jesus story. … Not to mention a new contact number if I ever need help again. Thank you Jesus!
Anonymous St. Dominic’s Parishioner

Why we skip the Alleluia during Lent

From the Choir Stall by Fr. Corwin Low, O.P.
allelulia blog post image


For the entire season of Lent the Church has banished the use of the word Alleluia from its public liturgies (e.g., Mass). Alleluia (Halleluja as spelt in older uses of English) is a Hebrew word that means, literally, “Praise to God.” This praise has a joyful overtone to it and we use it especially during happy celebrations. And while we do praise God all year round, during Lent we withhold a bit of our joy and happiness because of the season’s penitential and sorrowful character. After all, we are anticipating Jesus’ very passion and death.

Throughout the year, before the proclamation of the gospel we sing an Alleluia. We sing our joy because Jesus Christ gave us the gospels, the Word of God, containing his good news—our instruction manual for salvation. But during Lent, we dial-down that quality. And while we still praise God before the Gospel, we reserve the word Alleluia, the highest form of praise, for happier times.

Of course, Easter Sunday has arrived and it is indeed a happier time. Not only has Jesus’ passion and death passed, but he has also been resurrected. And it is through this resurrection that we can be assured of salvation, of everlasting life. So how do we express our joy? Not only do we bring the Alleluia back, we bring it back in triples. For the entire Easter octave (Easter lasts 8 full days from Easter Sunday through the following Sunday), at the end of Mass, we sing a very special, Alleluia—3 times.

In various Semitic languages doubling of a word draws attention to its meaning and amplifies it. This is why when Jesus says, “Amen, Amen, I say to you…”, the doubling of the word Amen, which means “let it be done” is not just a suggestion, it’s practically a commandment. So if you think that doubling a word increases its significance, can you image what tripling a word implies? So while the tripling of the Alleluia ends after the Easter octave, we still continue to use Alleluia a whole lot more than during other times of the year.

We tend to take the word Alleluia for granted. We hear it so often that it tends to lose its meaning. This is why the Church removes its use for the 40 days of Lent. By removing it, we miss it. And when we miss it, we tend to long for it. And we long for it, when it comes back we rejoice—bringing its significance back into full force. Listen for it! And rejoice.

Christ is Risen! He is Risen, indeed! Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!

~Fr. Corwin



A Season of Service

A Season of Service

St. Dominic’s Ministries only thrive on the work of our volunteers
As Fall gets underway and family activities and sporting events max out our calendars, it can feel as though we are on a speed train toward the holidays. It’s important for each family to take some time now (before the rush) and ask ourselves how will we keep Christ at the center of our home as things continue to get busier and the lure of consumerism draws us (and our kids) in this Christmas? How can we make Thanksgiving and Advent a time for reflection as well as celebration,  so that when Christmas comes we radiate God’s love in witness to the Truth. I know, you are thinking it’s not even Halloween yet, but the programs that serve those in our community at Christmas start now.putyour faithin action at St. Dominc's
After working on the bulletin for almost one year, week after week I see perfect opportunities for families to enrich our faith lives, yet it’s often the same people that take part in these programs. However, once in a while I receive a special message from a parishioner that took a step outside their routine to attend something new, a daily mass,  a Q&A with Fr. Jerome, or a Holy Hour in Adoration and they share their experience with me with such GRATITUDE. But even though I create “blurbs” in the bulletin that are posted for several weeks in a row, I feel so many great things are overlooked; we get so used to looking for photo spreads and flyers we miss the special stories and things that are calling us to put our faith in action and fun ways tocome together as a community in service to others.
So, before your social calendar is maxed out, please consider your family’s participation in one of the following community programs this year. I promise, it’s more than just checking off “hours” it can be life changing.SVdP Giving Tree at St. Dominic's
1) The SVDP Giving Tree: Week after week SVdP volunteers deliver food for the working poor in our community, when the holidays approach the Giving Tree and our popular decorated food boxes are the only proof for some families that God’s if for us, even when it seems all the world is against us. Please consider making calls to reach out to the homes and create a list of their needs, a script and instructions are provided and you can do this on your time. When you see that tree go up and parishioners take the tags you will know in your heart you have made a difference in someone’s life. There is a workshop on October 9th at 7:30PM in the 5th grade classroom.
2) Help out on Church Cleaning Day this Friday October 11th at 8:15 Mass. Take pride in our home Church, it’s history and make it place worthy of God’s praise.
3) Get a group friends together or your family and sign up for a Holy Hour of Adoration. Once or twice a month, spend an hour praying for our children, for ourselves as parents, or family matters. Sitting in silence in that sweet chapel you will encounter Jesus, as a friend. Lay all the pressure of parenting, work, marriage, or other challenges at His feet and you will be amazed at the sense of peace and the insights that seem to come when you make this a routine. You don’t have to commit for a year, maybe it’s just through the holidays. Try it. Contact Laura Batts at 707-649-0603 for details on available hours or check the bulletin.Adoration Image
4) Stop into one of  Dr. Marco Roman’s new Catechism Boot camp Classes starting October 13t/14th. We are so lucky to have this gifted teacher at St. Dominic’s and he will cover a variety of topics that will help you develop a greater understanding of our Catholic faith. Monday evenings, 7PM-9PM in the Mary  Magdalene Room or Wednesdays mornings 9AM-11AM in the Siena Room. 
Thank you and God Bless,
Erin Jacobs
Communications Director
St. Dominic’s Catholic Church

The Rite Note – Observations from the Choir Loft

Feast of Pentecost –

“Sequence”-ially Speaking . . .

One of our Catholic liturgy’s more beautiful and special “ritual notes” is The Sequence. 

Of the 3 greatest FEASTS of the Church, PENTECOST ranks not far behind CHRISTMAS, which, of course, ranks not far behind EASTER – the very reason for being a Christian at all!  Coming 50 days after EASTER, PENTECOST celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles, the sealing of Christ’s redemptive mission on earth, the completion of the Triune God’s sanctifying intervention in our lives by assuring us of His almighty Presence with us forever as Father, Son AND Holy Spirit!  It is often referred to as “The BIRTHDAY of the CHURCH” because it marked the beginning of the Apostles’ real acting as “Followers of the Way”, the first name for Christians as mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles (9:2).Rite Note

And as we have seen with some of the other great feasts of the Church, there is a special ritual characteristic of the liturgical celebration of this feast, and this time it is a poetic chant or hymn, which we call “a Sequence”.  Not that this feature is unique to Pentecost.  In fact, at one time during the Middle Ages, there were dozens of these liturgical classical metres scattered through the Church’s yearly cycle of celebrations.  One source I read during my research said there may have been as many as 16 in use for Easter alone!  But since the papacy of Pius V in 1570, several years after the great Church Council of Trent (much like Vatican Council II in our time), the number of sequences for the entire Roman Rite (or version of the liturgy) was reduced to four.  And I would say that of the 4, the most familiar, and even possibly the most beautiful, is that of PENTECOST.

But before getting to that, what exactly is this Sequence?  Well, as already mentioned, basically it is a chant or hymn written on a sacred subject.  It is meant to expand on and explain the meaning of a sacred celebration.  But it is written in a particular style of Latin language poetry that is called non-classical -meaning it doesn’t have the same number of word syllables in each verse or stanza but rather tries to fit the wording in such a way that it is more easily suitable to musical chanting.  The verses do come in pairs, however, where the rhythm of the 2nd half of a pair follows that of the 1st half.  In that way, it is often sung in a cantor/choir arrangement, where one or a few singers will do the 1st half of a pair of verses and a choir or larger group will sing the 2nd half according to the same melody.  A Sequence IS meant to be sung, but most often these days it is simply reverently read, especially when there is no one in a parish with chanting ability.  Sequentially, from which its name is derived, a Sequence comes after the 1st reading’s Responsorial Psalm, or after the 2nd reading when there is one.  In any case, it comes immediately before the Alleluia and Gospel Acclamation.

Come HOly SpiritThe 4 Sequences still prescribed in the Roman liturgical style of the “western hemisphere” of the Church are those for EASTER (“Christians to the Paschal Victim”), PENTECOST (“Come, Holy Spirit”), CORPUS CHRISTI (“Laud, O Sion, Your Salvation”), and Our Lady of Sorrows (“By the Cross Her Station Keeping”).  And of those, only the first 2 are required to be sung or read at their liturgies.  There are 2 more Sequences still in use:  most notably the “Dies Irae” (“Day of Wrath”) sometimes included on the Feast of All Souls and in Masses of the Dead; and one allowed our Dominicans for CHRISTMAS (“Sweeten All Your Song With Gladness”).

Of course, originally written for the Latin language, these beautiful sacred poems sometimes lose something in their modern day translations to the language of a country or locale.  Fortunately, the SEQUENCE for PENTECOST is not one of them.  And of the text of this particular Sequence, many hymns to the Holy Spirit have been and continue to be written in beautiful music – most notably the “Come, Holy Ghost, Creator Blest” in English and the great “Veni Creator Spiritus” often still sung in Latin at the beginning of many sacred celebrations where the guidance of the Holy Spirit is being invoked.  Look them up on Google sometime when you get a chance if they don’t come to mind and enjoy the beautiful poetry and musical settings.

But for now, I encourage you to focus on this PENTECOST SEQUENCE for the upcoming Sunday feast of June 8th, and enjoy the beauty of this sacred jewel, reflecting/praying on the spiritual reality and sentiments of this great RITE NOTE.  (Here’s just one of many YouTube links if you want to hear it in English  Pentecost Sequence – Come, O holy Spirit, Come – YouTube  or in Latin  Veni Sancte Spiritus (Pentecost, Sequence) – YouTube)

 1.  Come, O Holy Spirit, come!                              2.  Come, O Father of the poor!
      And from your celestial home                                Come, O source of all our store!
      Shed a ray of light divine!                                       Come, within our bosoms shine.
 3. You, of comforters the best;                              4.  In our labor, rest most sweet;
      You, the soul’s most welcome guest;                   Grateful coolness in the heat;
      Sweet refreshment here below;                             Solace in the midst of woe.
5.  O most blessed Light divine,                             6.  Where you are not, we have naught,
      Shine within these hearts of Thine,                        Nothing good in deed or thought,
      And our inmost being fill!                                        Nothing free from taint of ill.
7.  Heal our wounds, our strength renew;               8.  Bend the stubborn heart and will;
      On our dryness pour your dew;                             Melt the frozen, warm the chill;
     Wash the stains of guilt away:                               Guide the steps that go astray.
9.  On the faithful, who adore                                10.  Give them virtue’s sure reward;
      And confess you, evermore                                  Give them your salvation, Lord;
      In your sevenfold gift descend;                             Give them joys that never end.
                                                        Amen.  Alleluia.

 Until next time – stay tuned!

Jim Guinasso, Liturgical Singer

The Rite Note – A Blog from the Balcony Part II – From the Shadows

Blog from the Balcony Part II – From the Shadows

In Part I, I mentioned that the solemn processions of Holy Week are one of the key features that set it apart from the other major feasts and celebrations of the Church’s liturgical year.  Well, a second key feature of Holy Week’s uniqueness is TENEBRAE.

The Church’s official public prayer (as opposed to private devotions) is the LITURGY – which consists of the

Tenebrae 2011

EUCHARIST (its ultimate expression), the other SACRAMENTS and sacramentals, and the DIVINE OFFICE (or the LITURGY OF THE HOURS).  The Liturgy of the Hours marks periods of time throughout each day with prayer and readings from scripture to help us focus on God in a meditative dialogue that helps sanctify us and what we are otherwise doing.

On Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday of Holy Week, we have the special and beautiful celebration of the “Morning Prayer” period of the Hours.  Called TENEBRAE for these 3 special days, which comes from the Latin for “from the shadows”, it was originally celebrated after midnight to really mark the morning or beginning of the new day.  Today, of course, “Morning Prayer” has been moved to the more convenient daylight start of each day, but in Tenebrae special symbolism is used to try to regain the real darkness of the former early hours so that a “shadowy” sacred and sober mood is presented.  The intent is to remind us of the events in Christ’s life from Holy Thursday’s Last Supper, through His suffering and death, to His entombment during Holy Saturday.  The lighting of the church is diminished and a large candelabra of from 7 to 15 candles is placed at the center of our gathering to symbolically provide our only light.  Throughout each morning’s liturgy the candles are gradually extinguished, representing the fleeing of the Apostles, until there is only one lit candle left, the “Christ candle.”  And on Saturday during the final canticle of the morning, that “Christ candle” is taken away signifying the burial of Jesus.

The gloom of our surroundings is meant to unite our prayers to the suffering Christ, as well as to all those experiencing darkness in their lives.  The prayers are penitential in tone.  Each psalm or canticle, and especially the day’s lessons taken from the prophet Jeremiah’s Book of Lamentations, recalls the Israelites’ mournful plight over the Babylonian destruction in 587 B.C. of the Temple in Jerusalem and their subsequent exile into captivity.  These events were foreshadowings of Christ’s “destruction” and temporary “exile” from our presence.

The drama of these Hours is further enhanced in the Dominican tradition by the beautiful chanting of Jeremiah’s Lamentations.  The powerfully mournful, if haunting, tone of these chants can connect us with those moments in our own lives when we have fallen.  By making these psalms and lamentations our own, we can seek pardon for our own sins, as well as those of the whole world.  We can reflect on any of the ways in which we as human beings have turned away from being the image and likeness of God.  And we can especially unite ourselves and our suffering with the suffering of Christ and those in physical, emotional and spiritual need, turning again to God as the source of our life, our sweetness and our hope.

Tenebrae begins at 8:15am Thursday through Saturday of Holy Week, and lasts around 20 minutes.  Hopefully you’ll join us, even before going into work, as another way to immerse yourself in the wonderful and powerful mysteries of Holy Week.

More to come – stay tuned!

Jim Guinasso, Liturgical Singer