I thought I’d just offer a few observations and anecdotes from life here in South City. (San Francisco is known in this area simply as “The City,” so the suburban city in which I live, South San Francisco, is accordingly known as “South City.”)
I had the coolest summer of my life this year. I don’t think the mercury ventured over 75 or so the whole time. Quite a relief from the last 30 years of 100+ temperatures every (long, long) summer. I’ve made peace with the fog and the wind from my beloved ocean, for they keep things nice and cool, while only a few miles away everyone roasts in the heat.
Speaking of the ocean, it’s ironic that now I’m only a 15-minute drive from the coast, I haven’t had time to go out there for months—except once, near the end of September. I usually go to a seaside town called Pacifica, where there is a nice stretch of coastline and some hills with hiking trails. It’s fairly quiet on weekdays, so I don’t have to worry about crowds of noisy tourists drowning out my contemplation.
I was impressed last time with “the magnificence of the sea’s rage,” as the psalmist puts it, since the surf was quite rough and kept me enveloped in light clouds of salty mist most of the time. I find it astounding that God simply willed all this into existence. We haven’t the slightest idea of his immeasurable power. Even though I was witnessing the mighty surf of the mighty ocean crashing against the mighty rocks of the shoreline, I was sitting in a tiny spot of a tiny peninsula able to see only a tiny part of the ocean, which, for all its vastness is still a small part of a tiny planet in a tiny solar system in one of billions of galaxies, etc. Quite humbling, but it makes one quite grateful that the incredibly vast expanse of creation, with all its beauty and power, is owned and operated by one’s Father.
As I reflected on the wondrous display of color and coolness and brightness and mega-magnificence, I looked down the beach and saw a woman, similarly engrossed, though not in the sea, but in her phone! In the other direction there was another woman on a bench—doing the same thing. Those accursed “smart-phones”! The whole panorama of the glory of God is displayed for our delight and contemplation, and people are glued to screens! I for one am content with my “stupid-phone,” which does little more than make phone calls. Well, they can have it, if that’s what they want. I’ll take the beauty and glory instead.
Something I miss from living in the woods is seeing beautiful starry nights and tracking the phases of the moon. I’ve hardly seen any stars since moving to South City (though I did for a few days when on retreat with the Carmelites somewhere out in the wilderness), and I only see the moon more or less by accident, when I’m able to distinguish it from other lights. So I was glad when I saw the full moon setting a couple weeks ago. I stuck my head and my camera out my window to get a picture of it, to remind myself that it still exists and is as beautiful as ever (excuse the power lines; this is a city, after all). It was a bit hazy that morning, but that’s still better than being entirely engulfed by fog. Maybe that’s why I can’t see the moon and the stars: I can’t see the sky, either! We do have our share of clear days, though, mostly in the spring and fall.
The other day I went into a bank, wearing my Roman collar and a crucifix (these, along with a sort of mitigated tunic, will be the COSJ habit, once it’s all put together). I was greeted by a vivacious “premier banker” (at least that’s what it says on her card), who asked me if I was a Catholic priest. As soon as I said yes, she said, “Well then bless me, Father!” So I did, right there in the bank. She escorted me to the next available teller and then left, thanking me and making the sign of the cross, then talking with me for a few minutes before I left. One wouldn’t expect such a public display of piety in the spiritual war zone which is the SF Bay Area, but one thing I like about South City is that there are a lot of Filipinos here, and most of them are Catholics and not afraid to let you know. You never know what surprises the Lord has in store for you!
The Save a Soul Today flyers are flying around increasingly these days. I’m being assisted in this ministry by a friend, originally from (you guessed it) the Philippines. The last time she went there (a couple months ago), she printed and distributed thousands of them, with promises of more to come. They are also being distributed in parishes in the Bay Area, so hopefully many more souls will receive mercy at the hour of their death because of all the people praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy for them. I’m ordering a few thousand more to keep up with the demand. A lady from Texas just wrote and said she is distributing them in parishes there. Let me know if you’d like free copies of the flyers to distribute and help save souls.
Every first Friday evening we have a healing Mass at Mater Dolorosa parish, which is next door to us—though last month, due to a scheduling conflict, we had to cram them all into our tiny chapel here at COSJ, but nobody complained, even those who had to sit out in the hallway! We do things differently, though, than most other places do. We call it a “contemplative healing Mass,” since after the Mass we pray over people individually but in silence, inviting everyone there to pray with us. Then we anoint them with holy oil from St Joseph’s famous shrine in Montreal. To pray in silence like that (and it works—not only in the fruits of prayer but in the fact that it really stays quiet in the church the whole time!) deepens the spirit of prayer, and one can feel this. So the COSJ has introduced something new into South City, which I trust will continue to bear good fruit. With the testimonies of blessings and healing received, we know the Lord is pleased with this and will continue to work through the power of the Holy Eucharist and the charism of the priesthood.
Well, I guess that’s it for the South City news and notes for now. I’m getting used to the new environment, both physical and spiritual, and the Lord has graced my transition so that I’ve been able to move into this new life and ministry with a minimum of turbulence, and I’m looking forward to more fruitful prayer and labor in his service and for the salvation of souls.