Catholic Church
Our Lady of Soledad

A Message from Father Gomez

Weekly Update – September 12 -18

Covid News: Last Monday we celebrated Labor Day. A wonderful day for rest, for thanksgiving, for prayer, and for being with family and friends. Hopefully, there was prudence and caution with everyone. Don’t forget to take advantage of testing. As you may know, the priests who serve here at Our Lady of Soledad and Coachella have made the pledge to test on a monthly basis. We want to make sure we do not bring the virus into the larger community.

As a reminder, if you are elderly, have underlying medical issues, or if someone at home has Covid symptoms, please stay at home. Vaccinated persons who are returning from out of state should also quarantine at home.

Virtus assistance: At the Faith Formation Office from 9:00 am – 5:00 M-F

Taller de Nazaret. We are very grateful for all the landscaping work that took place on Monday. Even before sunrise, there were families pulling on weeds. Thank you as well to the persons who so generously donated shrubbery and Saguaro cactus. Thank you, Taller de Nazaret. Persons interested in this ministry, feel free to call: 760-609-6164

Priest Convocation: All the priests who serve in the Diocese of San Bernardino will be gathering for several days, Tuesday – Friday. Our good deacons will be taking care of the liturgical services during those days. Please keep us in your prayers.

The torch of freedom: On the evening of 15 September 1810, the parish priest took up the cause of freedom in the little town of Dolores. Under the patronage of Our Lady of Sorrows, – Our Lady of Soledad-The struggle for independence began, not just in Mexico, but throughout Latin America. May the cry for freedom, each day draw close to fulfillment among all peoples.

January 18, 2020
My dear family,

May the grace and peace of the Holy Spirit be with us forever!

With my very best wishes for each of you. It is good to be able to sit and send you a few words. It is good, truly good, for my soul to be able to reach out to you.

If you were to ask, “how are you feeling?” The word that comes to my mind is simply “sad”. Not a sad that provokes desperation, rather a sadness that brings together the pain and suffering that this pandemic has caused. There are so many families that are in such a difficult situation and now, with the death of Fr. Francisco Valdovinos, S.T, my brother Missionary Servant, it’s as if a shadow has descended.

I’m sure many of you will recognize this in your own experience. Ever since Francisco was taken to the hospital, it has been a pilgrimage, like that of Jesus on the way to Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the place of decision making – will you or will you not love? Jesus chose to love, and that took him to Calvary. In a similar way, it was terribly moving to see my brother struggle to catch a breath. It has also been terribly moving to see so many of those that he loved, – this was the decision he made – especially in his parish at Mecca, struggle to catch a breath, overwhelmed my brother’s death. Now, the night has arrived. But it must be a night that announces the coming of dawn, the grace of the Resurrection approaches! The candle is extinguished, when the dawn of day has arrived: The grace of the Resurrection!

When praying the Rosary, there is that mystery where the parents ask of their child, “why?” “Why did you leave us?” That is the question that invades the entirety of our being as an expression of a deep sense of loss. This question seeks out an answer, a “reasonable” answer. But no answer will be found in reason, the only answer will come from the kindness of love and our Faith. The child Jesus answered, “why were you looking for me elsewhere, did you not know that I would always be in my Father’s house?” We are also called not to be searching for my brother anywhere else but the Father’s house, the dwelling place of the kindness of love and our Faith. Search nowhere else, except in the Father’s house!

Laura Valdovinos, Fr. Francisco’s sister, the times that she and I went to visit him, was well prepared, she knew which psalm she would recite. With tremendous faith and devotion, she read the words that are all too familiar to us: “The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I lack, to verdant pastures he leads me, by restful water he guides me, he refreshes my soul, Though I should walk in the valley of darkness I shall not fear, he walks beside me, his staff will protect me”.

Calvary has passed, now it is time for us to await the grace of the Resurrection. Like the first disciples gathered at the cenacle, pray and await the Spirit. Life does not end, it is transformed. Hope will never die!

In the Trinity,

December 29, 2020

Dear parish family,

May the grace and peace of the Holy Spirit be with us forever!

We remain still within the octave of Christmas; the blessings of Emmanuel are remarkably close. A special blessing is one of compassion, we know of the Lord’s compassion upon all of creation and each of us and our families as we continue to find a pathway through this pandemic. The Lord’s compassion allows us to recognize His presence, his companionship, and his guidance even in the darkest of moments.

These are indeed moments of darkness, but not of despair. The reality of the constant increase in Covid-19 infection and mortality, now projected for several months more tells us that we have to be deliberate about our health care and the care of others. In our parish, even in terms of the persons who have been present at our in-person liturgies, many have become ill. We know that many also traveled outside of the country for the Christmas celebration and in the next couple of days, many will find it difficult not to congregate to celebrate the new year. The hospitalization of Francisco Valdovinos also weighs heavy on most of us.

It is for these reasons that the following changes in our liturgy schedule have been made. Beginning December 31 and through the month of January, there will be no in-person celebrations. Most liturgies will be replaced by YouTube and/or FaceBook celebrations. As you review these changes please keep in mind the obligation that we must protect the most precious gift we have received from God, the gift of life. Also, please keep in mind that everyone, without exception, has been dispensed from Sunday obligation by our Bishop.

December 31st – 6:00 pm virtual celebration in English
8:00 pm virtual celebration in Spanish.
January 1st – 9:00 am virtual celebration in both languages.

There will be no Saturday celebrations.
There will be a daily virtual liturgy at 8:00 am.

There will be no in-person celebrations at Mission San Jose, Mission Señor de la Misericordia, Mission San Felipe de Jesús. These will be replaced by a virtual celebration broadcast from the mission itself.

The Sunday liturgy schedule for Our Lady of Soledad will be as follows:
7:00 am Virtual liturgy
9:00 am Virtual liturgy
11:00 am Virtual liturgy
4:00 pm Virtual liturgy
5:00 pm Virtual liturgy

Please NOTE: Eucharist will be distributed in front of the Church after the 9:00 am and the 11:00 am liturgy. You will have participated in the virtual liturgy and then will come to receive the Eucharist at the door of the Church.

December 20, 2020

December 9, 2020

Dear Family,

May the grace and peace of the Holy Spirit be with us forever!

My constant prayer is that all of you are keeping well and as safe as possible. Life has really been a roller coaster, especially the last few weeks! Through it all, it seems to me that we have to find a way to at least slow things down a bit. Yes, this pandemic is a real mess and it messes with the mind and heart and round and round we go. Got to slow it down.

A couple of thoughts that have helped me have to do with focusing on the fact of Christmas Day is quickly approaching us. First of all, I am making it a point to stop and consider that the light of Christmas is already making its way into every crook and cranny, into every heart and soul. The light of Emmanuel in the very gentleness of its presence is able to calm the storm and dissipate darkness. This light is able to touch the hospital beds where so many are alone, without the possibility of a visit. This light is able to reach into homes where so many are quarantined. This light is able to reach into the streets and alleyways where the homeless shift in the cold of winter. This light is also able to reach the heart where fear and doubt want to take up residence. The light of Christmas, a few days away is the hope and love of God that brings salvation and makes all things new. We take notice of how this light is a blessing that brings us calm.

The other thought that I am finding helpful has to do with “waiting”. Advent, in and of itself, is about waiting for the arrival of Christmas and the joy that Angels sing and proclaim. But this year, unlike any other year, there has been so much waiting; dreadful waiting. We wait for the county to give us worse news, to see who else in our parish will test positive and wonder when I or we, will get sick. This type of waiting is fear-producing and hope denying. Then it strikes me how important it has been – at a sick bed, to have someone waiting with me, or when I have stood next to someone about to die, how important it has been to have someone else beside me. And so, I am also making It a point to stop and consider the fact that the Lord waits with me, waits with us. We are not alone as we listen to dreadful news, we are not alone in a hospital room, we are not alone in quarantine, we are not alone sheltered in place or even alone at a gravesite. The Lord waits with us.

Perhaps too often we take for granted the reality of God’s light that is never failing or His presence that always accompanies us. This is something that we must not take for granted, today and always.

November 11, 2020
Dear Family,

May the grace and peace of the Holy Spirit be with us forever!

Wow, the week has gone by so quickly! – And each week that goes by has its own peculiarity. This week, I think the biggest gift is called “being grateful”. Today gratitude bears the name, Veterans Day. History reminds us that with the end of WWI (the war to end all wars), after WWII and after the Korean War, November 11 is established as the date to honor military personnel.

From the very depths of the heart we are thankful for all men and women who have put on their country’s uniform and have mobilized to its defense. Important to point out that the conflicts were not only of an external nature and limited to the battlefields in distant lands. The battles that these men and women faced with courage, determination and even the ultimate sacrifice, included the engagements that were faced in the interior of the soul. A swift summary of history lets us know that in them and through them the country discovers itself populated by an incredibly diverse citizenry. In these spaces, equality between races and between men and women and social status became possible. It is practically self-evident that among those who share a common destiny in the battlefield, this equality is a given that has the sound and smell of common sense as well as something urgent.

Under conditions that threaten life, it is obvious that without equality, without justice, there will be no life. It is something to lament that once the war is over, injustice returns making the sacrifices of s many be in vain. The word “sacrifice” is well used here. It means to “make sacred”, as is the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Jesus dies fulfilling his promise, keeping his word of honor, “I will die, but never betray your”, that was made at the Last Supper, at the covenant meal where he left as his legacy a commandment, “love one another as I have loved you”.

As a people willing to defend one’s country or as persons willing to follow the Lord Jesus, that blood of the martyrs demands that their sacrifice not be in vain. This has to do with every single one of us, no one is absolved from the responsibility of civic duty of making one’s own the Lord’s command. All of this relatively easy to say, but it has to be put into practice in the smallest details, in the attitudes we propagate, in the prejudices we enjoy, in the illegalities we allow – in and outside of Church.

The best way to than our veterans is not with words, it is with action, with our lives, with our way of life.

November 4, 2020
Dear Family,

May the grace and peace of the Holy Spirit be with us forever!

As always, it is a pleasure to sit and write a few lines. Always hoping you are doing well and better! I started this yesterday but wanted to wait until after the election. The final tally is still not in, but let me just sit and share with you a few thoughts – maybe more rambling than usual.

I am asking myself the question, personally and as Church, what is the election telling me? And what might be path to take?

What seems apparent, so as not to say obvious, is the sadness of a divided nation. A rigidly divided nation. These are dark clouds, as Pope Francis would say, over the country and indeed over the entire world. This is a pandemic, emotional and spiritual, that has infected us and is taking lives away. It is difficult, but we need to recognize that in recent years, society has taken some very sad pathways: political systems that exclude civic participation, economic models of exploitation, a culture of indifference that lets itself be led by convenience, violence everywhere. Independent of the election results, this remains as something that needs urgent care.

Important to point out that a personal examine of conscience is necessary. Each one of us needs to recognize the darkness that we carry within. As Church, the examine of conscience is also necessary: who do we exclude? Who do we allow? Where are we most rigid? Where or how are we most indifferent?

The gospel tells us “come to me” (Mt. 11:28). In the first place, it is not a matter of choosing between political parties. Healing and an authentic way of life will depend upon a renewed encounter with the Lord. This encounter does not mean that all of a sudden, the darkness will disappear. What it does mean is that the foundation is set; a strong foundation for the construction of a way of life that has integrity, family, community, church and country. Without this foundation, everything will be an illusion.

This foundation has to do with concern for the common good because we are all members of the same family; they have to do with a courage willing to create a world where justice is more important that profit; they have to do with forgiveness and reconciliation they have to do with a “we” and not an “I”. They have to do with the clear awareness that no president is the Messiah, and that the Spirit has been poured upon all of us. With this spirit, all of us can become artisans of a new society.

Darkness will not be victorious.
We pray to the Lord.

October 27, 2020
Dear Family,

May the grace and peace of the Holy Spirit be with us forever!

It is good to be able to sit and send your way a few lines, always with my best wishes and an armful of prayers. This morning, I don’t quite know where to start. The change of climate provides a bit of rest from the heat and feels like it’s time to go look for a jacket and maybe a scarf. But, there is also a bit of sadness in the air. An older person sat down to chat with me yesterday, I can still hear his words “they said that the heat would take care of the virus, but it’s still here”. Along the same lines, this morning we received pastoral norms for the rest of the year, directives to be followed during the holidays (you can find them posted in the web page, click here). Much of what we have been accustomed to has been cancelled or will have to be handled differently.

Yes, there is a certain sadness. Not healthy to repress the feeling, it has to be respected and it does offer the opportunity for us to recognize what is most important. All of us hold as important our health, and especially the health of those we love. We also hold as important the expression of our faith as in processions, song and festivity. Said differently, we hold as important and our loved ones and our faith. This is something that nothing or anyone will ever take away from us. What we have to do is hold on tight to what is forever and we have to find a way to express our love for those we care for as well as our faith in perhaps a new and better way.

The fact is that a changing of the seasons is taking place, another one is coming our way. I like the expression “coming our way”. This coming Sunday, November 1st. we celebrate the Feast of All Souls. We could say that it commemorates what has taken place in the past, a celebration of thanksgiving for the holiness of so many persons that revealed the presence of Our Lord. However, to be more precise, it is a prophetic celebration of Our Lord who is always coming towards us. The festivity of All Souls/Day of the Dead, is something similar. In the tradition we celebrate on this day that our dearly departed come our way for a visit, and we welcome them home.

Though there be sadness because all around us what is happening is not at all what we want, we need to find a way to gently focus ahead, towards the future. From the absoluteness of the future, Our Lord comes our way, to bring us more of the Reign of God. He brings to us hope, joy, consolation, strength and so much more. We are already able to see this. The elderly person that sat next to me, also mentioned the grandness of his love for his wife. He was not stuck; his vision was towards the future and the blessings of God who constantly comes our way.

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