First of all, I would like to welcome all of you to our beautiful, spiritual campus that is a good environment for our personal and communal spiritual reflection and prayer. Even though we continue with this terrible pandemic, our gardens and other places, such as the outside altar, the new shrine in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe, our Stations of the Cross, or simply to stop at one of our lovely oak trees, becomes a perfect spot for our meditations and encounter with our heavenly Father. Our temple is open weekdays at 8:00 AM for personal prayers and to pray the Holy Rosary for the Unborn before the 9:00 AM Mass. During the weekends, you are welcome to join in the celebration of the Eucharist in English and Spanish. These 30 acres are completely consecrated to worship God and to live as brothers and sisters in the joy of our faith. Our orange grove gives a beautiful view of our campus.
We are entering in this solemn season of Lent. Last year, we couldn't celebrate Lent and Easter because we were closed due to the pandemic. But this year, with all the precautions and protocols of cleaning, we can gather together to participate in the celebration of the liturgy as family of God. You are more than welcome to share our faith. Lent is a perfect time to increase our prayer time, and we are exhorted to repentance and a strong reminder of our mortality. As Catholics, this season helps us to think about the importance of placing our vision in our Christian goal: Heaven.
In the celebration of Ash Wednesday, at the moment when the ashes are placed on our heads, we hear, "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return." It speaks very clearly about how fast time passes and how short our lives are, and how we must be conscious that this present time is nothing if we compare it to future life or eternity. The great St. Teresa of Avila said, "Life is an instant between two eternities." How profound are these words of this doctor of the Church that help us think about this short but beautiful gift from God that is our life.
Through faith in Jesus Christ, we are called to carry out good works for eternal life. With this special season of Lent, Our Mother, the Holy Catholic Church, invites us to enter a remarkable journey of meditation and reflection on our relationship with God, our Father, and our brothers and sisters while we make this journey to be in heaven one day with all the just and the saints. This is what Lent is all about. Past that is to make a significant conversion and to ask forgiveness of God, present that is what we have to do today in His presence which means to live in the grace that God gives us, and future that is our final goal to live with Him for all eternity.
Jesus, our Lord, wants to grant us his forgiveness and love for this Lent; we cannot waste this blessed time, this great occasion of mercy. The ashes that we receive on our heads on Ash Wednesday are a big sign of who died on the cross for our salvation and how he just gave his life for the life of the world. We cannot take his death and resurrection for granted. We must be open to his mercy and salvation, which is the manifestation of his complete love for humanity.
Let the words of the psalmist become our own:
"Have mercy on me, O God, in our goodness;
in the greatness of our compassion, wipe out my offense.
Thoroughly wash me from my guilt
and of my sin cleanse me" (Psalm 51).
Fr. Alfonso Cely
Lord Jesus Christ,
Who on the cross accepted the will of your heavenly Father,
offering your life for the salvation of the World; please have mercy on all of us, and protect our families and us from any harm that this pandemic can cause.
Fill the hearts of people that are suffering illness or have lost a member of their families during this pandemic time with the love and light of the Holy Spirit to understand your will in this adverse circumstance that we are living now.
Through the intercession of Mary, your mother, and our mother that close to your cross accepted your will, and who, after your body was placed in the tomb, waited lovingly for your glorious resurrection, which transforms the life of the World.
Fr. Alfonso Cely
Matthew is our first Seminarian Candidate in 51 years.
Fr. Alfonso met him almost a year ago while he was on semester break. Father spoke with him and asked him what his future plans were. He gave a general response about finishing school. Fr. Alfonso told him to keep his heart and mind open to God.
Later the next week, Father received a call from Matthew telling him that he had just completed his Bachelor's Degree in Anthropology and that he received a letter from the Diocesan Office of Vocations informing him that he was accepted into the St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary.
Congratulations Matthew! We are grateful to God for your "yes" to discern his call to the priesthood. Let us all continue to pray that he enters more deeply each day into the mystery of Jesus' Sacred Heart, who seeks to give you rest and guidance at every moment of your life.
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Fr. Alfonso's Reflections, Words of Wisdom, & Welcoming Letters