28 August 2015

28 August, Feast of St. Augustine

Greetings.  Before I commence, I must be absolutely clear... I didn't really like St. Augustine (or for purposes of laziness, Gus)  Aside from the fact that I always felt that he had had all the fun in his life and then left us his theology which denied our own "having fun," I always felt that had I been at his side, I probably would've taken him out for a drink, or at least told him to take a chill pill.  Needless to say, I always felt a bit of remorse for Monica (Gus' mom) and felt that her Feast Day was always merited, August 27th.  I mean, imagine that poor woman having to put up with her mopey son.  Or not.  Maybe he became the way he was because of her, either way, I digress.  The reality is that for the first time in a long time, some of Gus' life and words have resounded deep in my heart.  The part that has especially shaken me is his beautiful realization:  "Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you!  You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you.  In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created.  You were with me, but I was not with you."  For many reasons, these words have caused something within me to take leave of my daily routine and look once again toward the One in whom I had found my life.  I did.  I stopped, I reflected, I listened and I turned to God with the humility of a person who had thought himself in no need of the divine.  Much to my surprise, however, I did not encounter a god whose only vision was of me behaving badly (or unworthily of ministry), instead, I found that God was there, God had been there all along and not as a condemning judge who so readily declared me unworthy of His time, but a loving Creator who understood the paths I had taken and why I had taken them.  There, as I stood before the loving face of God, for the first time I saw God in a very different way, for the first time, I stood before the awesome love of God and realized, late have I loved thee...  For the first time, I came to understand in a real way, not the scientific theological statement which had been declared by Gus, but the profound emotional realization of a person who had found true LOVE!  I too have been humbled by the ever present and ever patient love of God, and now have a better understanding of how Gus must have felt.  Grant it, he left a worldly life and took on a life of holiness, whereas I had holiness all along, left it and have come to appreciate that once again.  Slightly different, but true nonetheless.  (If you're still with me and aren't scratching your head in confusion, kudos.  If I've lost you and you have no clue what I'm rambling about, my sincerest apologies.)    As I reflect on Gus for his Feast, I see for the first time in my life, not a guilt-ridden man who had chosen to inflict the church with chastity and penance, but a man who gave every bit of himself to the One True Love unlike anything else he had ever experienced.  And to some extent, that is what we celebrate, what I celebrate on Gus' Feast this year, the witness of a big brother who so radically and profoundly discovered what he had longed to know through so many other things that were created but were not the Creator.  We celebrate a love so profound and transcendent, that it accompanies us even in our darkest hour, but which does not impose itself on us.  We celebrate the face of God coming in to clarity, not just in the Sacraments and those things holy, but in our very being.  Today, Gus is that invitation to live a life so deeply rooted in Love that we quiver at the thought of never having known such love.  Gus wasn't about making everyone bitter, or making young seminarians do extra hours of homework, he was about witnessing to the beautiful love which he had discovered (according to him) so late in life.  It was as if he was telling us to take the path of Love and to know Love instead of having to waste our time with those things that weren't Love.  It was as if he was telling me to stick it out and see how Love was working in my life.  And yet, as I have come to realize, sometimes it is in the falling that the rising becomes so bittersweet.  I have fallen, but today, with Gus, I am happy to say that in my own feeble manner, I stand up again (and like Bambi when he is born) I walk once again with Love.  So may you also walk with Love, and in your journey, may you rejoice in having found and rediscovered Love as Gus did, and as I believe I have.  Late have I loved thee, O Lord, and yet, you were sitting right by my side all along.  Just smiling away and waiting for me to grow up.  I'm not fully grown up, but I know you are here.  Smiling right at me, loving me.  
As always, know that you are loved, and that you are beautiful.  I love you.  Fr Rick.

St. Augustine, pray for us. 

24 August 2015

Hi.

Hello all.  Peace to you and blessings.  I haven't been on here for some time now, and trust me, while there is plenty that I have wanted to share, I have not been able to find the time to write.  For now, know that I send my warmest regards, and that soon, I will start this project up once again.  Until then, remember that I love you and that you are beautiful!

18 January 2015

A Letter to Someone Who "Cares"

Dear Bill,
Peace to you.
It has been a long time since I have had any communication from you or any other Oblates.  I presume that by now, decisions have been made about me regarding my standing as an Oblate and as a priest.  To my understanding, you and the Council have decided not to pursue any further contact, and have even excommunicated me or something of the sort.  I understand, and I am alright with those decisions (as silly as they are).  In spite of the things that know have decided were true about me, I am actually living a healthy, normal life.  I find it sad that in order to live, I would have to walk away from such a troubled group of men.  What disappoints me, however, is that having never done anything wrong, unlike so many others that both you and I know, I was treated like a criminal and pushed away.  I understand that you, the Council, and so many other "concerned" Oblates have an image of me that is quite horrible, I feel it necessary to explain who I am not.  (for your sake)
I am not a pastor or any church or organization or any other entity of the sort.  I also know that I am supposed to be a thief, I have never taken anything that wasn't mine, on the contrary, I often gave to churches where I was assigned.  I also never felt that I was sexually frustrated or repressed.  This also includes my belief that my sexuality was not your business, something that you and other Oblates so often tried to intrude upon.
Also, I am not, nor have I ever been in doubt of my priestly vocation.  I have no doubt of my call to service and love.  I was actually flourishing in the Diocese of San Angelo before the Oblates decided to revoke my faculties.
Overall, I believe that anything I say or write is of no importance to you.  Perhaps I should post it on Facebook so that this carries some weight, since I know that is where you have gathered your information about me anyway.  More than anything, I am saddened by the state of the Oblates U.S. Province, but even in all the mess that you have become, I forgive you.  I do not seek a response from you or anyone else.  Do not expect any further communication from you.

Peace to you,
Fr. Rick Lopez

08 January 2015

We are Charlie Hebdo... We are more.

For those who read this in an honest manner without ill will and negative intent, thank you.  For those who have taken my words to be what they are not, and who have used them against me or against those I love, here's more fodder.  (have fun!)

For those who have been following the saga that is my life, especially my service as a priest, last night I sat to write an angry letter.  As it turns out, my former Superiors all came together to make a decision about me and my standing in the Church.  As I come to find out, they used Facebook to search for evidence of my misdeeds or whatever they used.  (to my surprise, I thought those "superiors" were adults, but I guess they are teenagers with no other better resource for finding out information on people)  Whatever decision they made, no one bothered to inform me.  I guess that works too, my nephew does that (make decisions that no one else knows about)  but my nephew is 5.  Anyway, as it turns out, those priest and brothers used Facebook to decide that I was not worth talking to, they DUMPED me and I guess, in some realm, I was excommunicated or something from the church (woe is me!)  Getting back to my blog, last night I chose to write an angry letter to this secretive group of men.  I clarified for them who I am and who I am not.  I spelled out the details of my life that they were so anxious to know and as it turns out, my life is not that exciting.  I wrote until I had nothing more to say.  And then I said to them that I forgive them, and signed my name.
This letter will be refined and sent out, eventually it will make its way to this blog and beyond (I'm sure).  All this happened last night.  Then today happened.  Early this morning, I received a phone call from a dear friend.  Right away I knew that something was wrong, and when she came on the line, I mentioned two names.  Sure enough, it was Felix.  He was gone.  Shock took over and I went on a sort of autopilot that allowed me to do what I had to do the rest of the day.  Numbness was there, but more than anything, it was a sense of loss.  A friend, gone.  A friend, dead.
And then, the news about the massacre in France came across the news wire.  At first, I wasn't sure what was being said, but once I focused on the words and the sentiment that was being expressed, my shock was deepened by a profound sense of loss.  Throughout the day I have thought of why the France killings were so difficult for me, and while some would say that my friend's death plays a part in how I feel, I believe that there is more.  Especially since I left the active ministry, I have made it my goal to express a sentiment of joy and love to all.  I have encountered people battered and worn, and have shared with them as best as I can.  My mantra has become "You are beautiful.  You are loved." and I recite this (almost annoyingly) as often as possible.  And this is what scares me, not that I have chosen to take on a (as a priest once said about me) saccharine way of being, but that far too many of us mosey on throughout our lives just getting along.  In the past year, I have faced struggles, but when I wanted to quit, I made the decision to love.  To love myself.  To love my neighbor.  To love those who are difficult to love, and to love those for whom love has been limited.  This has not been an easy task because many people fear love, and expect that words of love are a primer for something else.  This is what bothered me so much about today, not that death took a friend, or that death was so prominent in the media today, but that for far too many, death is a selfish act that tries to replace love.  Death is a business, and just like my superiors, it is used to help those in power get their way.  As I reflect on Felix's loss today, and even the attacks of terror that take place far too frequently, I am reminded to love.  Love because I could go tommorrow, and love because death is too easy.  I don't know if I have made any sense, but I guess that the point I am trying to make is that love is the challenge in living.  Love is what makes us hurt when we lose someone, but love is also what reminds us of the good that can be achieved when love is shared.  Felix, I love you my friend, rest in peace.  And to you, the reader (whether good or ill) I love you too.  Peace and Good to you.  Rick.

15 September 2014

The Triumph of the Cross.

Today, September 14th, is the celebration of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.  It is a peculiar celebration, and surely, it would not have been considered a celebration in the early Church.  After all, the cross was too fresh a reminder of Roman atrocities.  This celebration, however, takes on a different meaning in today's world.  For me, the celebration of the Exaltation of the Cross is a moment to pause and take note of where we are, and who we are.  The cross becomes a reminder of those things that are important to our lives.  In a particular manner, this celebration is for me an opportunity to reflect on the freedom and liberty that the cross symbolizes for each of us.  First of all, this symbol of death and humiliation becomes the key reminder of the power that God's trans formative love.  Just as this heinous wooden cross was redeemed and made different, so too can I be touched by God's love and mystery and become more fully who God is calling me to be.  As with anything, however, the transformation that is to take place is not an easy one, nor is it gained 100%, all at once.  Instead, the transformative power of God's love takes time and patience.  More importantly, God's love takes a listening heart.  A heart willing to sit and listen to that which God has to say.  A heart that waits for the sculpture to emerge from the block of marble, a heart that awaits the breeze in which God is.  This patience though is what has become most challenging for myself (and I'm sure, many others) because all too often, I want God to do things now!  Or if possible, yesterday!  But what does it mean to be a child of God in today's world, certainly it cannot mean leading lives of contemplation and solitude as our religious brothers and sisters do.  Or can it?  I dare say, YES!  As I have come to know God more and more, and especially throughout my journey, I am more convinced that our relationship with God can only be strengthened through one major thing.  And that would be to tune our hearts to God.  The easiest way to accomplish this, is by a daily participation in the Sacraments, but clearly, this is not the only way.  While a Sacramental relationship with God is the pinnacle of being in the heart of God, there is another way that is more challenging, but perhaps even more rewarding.  That other way is to carry a heart that is open to the Sacramental needs of the world.  Yes, you read correctly.  The BIG challenge is how I carry God's love, as I have experienced it in the Sacraments, and carry it beyond the church walls, or my car or my house.  The big and difficult question is how do I bring love to others, how do I allow God's transformative love to touch me and others through me.  This is the difficult answer, but not an impossible one to attain, especially as we purposefully focus on God's actions in my life today.  As we turn more toward God and God's actions, we are touched, we are changed, and we become living witnesses of Sacrament, we become the presence of Love to all, and it is here that, like the cross, I too am transformed.  It is here, that I find my freedom, my liberty, and am able to live as God calls, no longer lost or condemned, but alive and loved.  Transformed like the cross, changed in God's Great LOVE, Jesus.  Be transformed.  As always, know that I love you.  Be blessed.  Fr. Rick

02 September 2014

Peter's folly, and mine.

Greetings to you all, it's been a while.  I hope you are doing well.  Life has been quite interesting for me since my last post.  First of all, I have left the everlasting sands of West Texas for the beautiful beaches of San Diego, California.  I have been here since July 6, and have slowly but surely begun to live.  Life hasn't been easy, but things look good, and I am well.  Where ever you may be, I pray that you are well and in the grace of God's love.

And now for the blog...

This past Sunday was the Twenty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, and boy, oh boy, was it a doozy!  If you were tuning in to last week's readings, like me, you might have come into church with a bit of a glow about you.  For some reason, every time I read Peter's response to Jesus' question "Who do you say that I am?" I can't help but feel proud and happy about the fact that I too have encountered The Christ, the Son of God, and that I am able to serve Him.  But then comes the second part of that beautiful passage, yep, that's the one, the one where Jesus REBUKES Peter, You know, the one where Jesus goes off and says "GET THEE BEHIND ME SATAN!"  So many times, I have wanted to skip that passage and read whatever came next, maybe some more happy stuff.  The reality, however, is that I need to hear that passage, over and over again, and as difficult as it may be, it is good to hear it, and to reflect on those times when I too need a good rebuking by Jesus.  The funny thing is that the sting didn't come so much because Jesus rebuked Peter, more than that, the sting comes from the realization that I have done something that was not in line with what God was asking of me.  Just when I believed that I had figured God out, I am rebuked, not by God, but by my own actions.  This is what stings the most about these passages, not that Jesus is rebuking, but that I am becoming aware of those things which I am lacking in my life, and even with Jesus in my life, I may come to find that there just isn't enough vitamin Jesus, and that is where I hurt when called out.  This year, the passage carries a special weight, perhaps even more than ever before.  You see, it just so happens that this month is 10 months since my formal resignation from my active ministry as a priest.  Now don't get me wrong, it was a painful decision to make, and I miss the ministry very much, but it was a decision that came after fighting an invisible enemy.  (At this point, I will disclose some sensitive material, feel free to continue reading, or go hear for a happy moment: http://catholicmemes.tumblr.com )
And we continue.  The reason I have decided to bring this information up at this time, is due in part to the challenge that I am facing right now.  Since the first day of seminary, my dream was to serve the people of God in a manner that was humble and holy.  Perhaps too naively, I focused on Christ and my ultimate goal of serving as a priest.  Yes, there were moments of difficulty and question, but in the recesses of my heart, I never doubted that even through me, God could do great things.  I persevered and did what I could.  On August 1, 2005, I professed my First Vows as a Missionary Oblate of Mary Immaculate.  My journey continued from Miami to Godfrey, Illinois, and then to San Antonio, Texas.  I remember going to George Sexton, OMI House and finding my room on the upstairs East corner.  I settled in and before I knew it, school.  My internship in August of 2008 sent me to Mary Immaculate Parish in Pacoima, CA.  There, I came to see myself in a new light, as a minister to a diverse group of people.  I made some dear friends that I treasure to this day, and was challenged by other people that I was quite happy to leave.  I returned to Sexton House in the Fall of 2009, and shortly thereafter, I professed my Final Vows as an Oblate.  Finally, my journey was beginning a transformation that would culminate in my ordination.  On October 9, 2009, I was ordained a Deacon, and on May 22, 2010, I was ordained a priest, along with two other wonderful men.  The three of us were then sent to mission, one to Laredo, Texas, another to Tijuana, Mexico, and myself to Chula Vista, California, and the Church of the Most Precious Blood.  I arrived there around 9pm on a Thursday night and was very pleased to be helped by some men of the parish.  Quickly my car was unloaded and my ministry started.  I was given the task of being a minister to the Spanish community, and while there were challenges, together we accomplished many great things for the Latino Community.  The year was a great year, and I was soon ready for my mission of Beijing, China.  With this being said, I must make it clear that while I enjoyed my service, I found my life in community to be lacking and contrary to anything I had ever experienced before.  To the Pastor, I was nothing more than a temporary person meant to ease his burden.  At one point, I was even told not to think, to create, or to do anything other than celebrate the sacraments.  As for the Sacraments, I was to only celebrate those that were scheduled, anything else would often result in my being reprimanded and told to stop being to pius.  I was even given the nickname Buddah one time when I was hearing a lady's confession.  This constant barrage of dictations from my pastor began to wear on me, but with the ignorance and naivete of a new priest, I persevered (as a good Oblate) and did what was expected of me.  Before I knew it, my time was done and I was supposed to get ready for Beijing.  This was never to be, however.  Before my scheduled departure, I was told that there had been some concerns about me.  When I asked for clarification as to what the concerns were, I was told that it was not important.  When I inquired as to who had raised these concerns, I was told that it was not important.  After that very deflating encounter, I was asked to go to a rehab facility under supervision.  Not knowing what or why I was asked to do so, I refused.  Instead, I chose a retreat place that would serve as a happy middle point for both my superiors and myself.  While there, I can honestly say that I flourished, and after psychological evaluations and other tests, I was found to be Not Crazy.  Instead, they confirmed what I knew all along, I am smarter than average.  (Well, of course!)  Even after these tests, my superior refused to acknowledge that I was not what the "concerns" had said about me.  In October of 2011, my life was to change again.  On the 25th, at around 2:41pm, I received a simple voice mail from my brother, "Don't hurry home anymore, Dad's at rest."  In a matter of only a few hours, my dad had gone from feeling sick, to being dead.  This took me home and into a different battle.  At home, I celebrated my father's funeral.  I stayed home and asked my superiors for some time at home.  I was granted two weeks which I refused.  I needed to be home, and I was going to stay.  In November of that year, after having been told by the local Oblate pastor that I was not welcome at his parish, I was invited to a very different world of the Diocesan clergy, I began serving at my home parish and once again loved God in my service.   I started the 5 year process of become a Diocesan priest, and this was a great joy.   I was beginning to take hold of my vocation and was loving every minute of it.  I served (well, i believe) and started building relationships with clergy like never before.  My first year of living with the pastor in Chula Vista, was slowly being revealed for what it had been, an abuse.  After almost two years of working in the Diocese, life was once again to take a turn.  In March of 2013, after returning from a mission in Honduras, I was told that my process of joining the Diocese was abated.  I would have to commence an entirely new process.  It was here that I began a difficult but necessary discernment process.  Would I continue to fight the Oblates, the powers at be, or step aside. After much prayer, discernment, tears and pain, I chose to no longer fight the Oblates and their "concerns"  furthermore, I understood that my resignation would entail a great deal of pain and difficulty for me, but I was tired, and I wouldn't fight.
On October 7, 2013, I formally resigned.  Life was changed.
Since then, I have continued to be the victim of superiors that "invite" me to resign my priesthood, or those who "encourage" me to leave the diocese.  Through it all, I have come to know God in radically different and surprising ways.  I have heard things about me that were at times funny, and on other occasions, hurtful.  I slowly began to walk as a person no longer "suitable for ministry" and did my best to continue ministering beyond the church walls.
All this I write because it has been a part of a process that was commenced by unknown voices.  The concerns that I was told about were never specified, and I often felt I was fighting an unseen enemy.  I even considered a radical diet, just in case my weight was the "concern."  What has most surprised me though, is what I have learned since arriving in San Diego.  As it turns out, there were at least three main "concerns" that were brought up against me.  I have come to these after hearing about them from friends who are not connected to each other at all.  These concerns were challenging in and of themselves, and I believe can be refuted by my person, and denied by those who know me.  They are dangerous and hurtful, and have proven damaging to me as a person and as a priest.  They are three main ones, and they are these.  First, it was said that I was a thief, having stolen from the collection plate and even taken things after my departure from Precious Blood.  I find this funny, especially since even today, they use lectionaries, missals and even a chalice that I left behind, as well as a Book of Gospels.  The second thing was that during my time in Chula Vista, I was having an inappropriate sexual relationship with either one of two sisters, or some guy.  Both of these claims are wrong.  The third claim was that I was too sexually repressed and thus hid behind my priesthood to relieve the sexual tension.  All I can say to this is ABSURD!  Although I know this is a long reflection, I write it because I believe that like Peter, I too had grown careless in believing that what I was doing was the right way.  Obviously, what I was doing was wrong, and while my work was good, I needed the change.  Today, my journey clearly continues, more than ever, I feel a strong call to my priesthood, but have been surprised by how God is revealing the path that I must follow.  I find the accusations against me to be horrible and maybe even evil, but out of those tombs, I will live as CHrist calls, and it will be good.  I am who I am, and in my life, I will do my best to allow Christ's mercy to reveal my path, I walk along a path that has been set before me, and I will be faithful to the call that I felt in my heart so long ago, to a be a servant who brings the Good News of God's love.  A love that calls us each beyond our tombs into new life, a love that calls me today, to newness and joy.  As always, I love you.  Thank you for your time and God bless.  Fr. Rick

01 July 2014

You are beautiful, and you are loved!

This past week, I disappeared.  (Or maybe those around me wish I had) Either way, this past week I was privileged enough to serve a Youth Sing Praise (http://youthsingpraise.com/), a week long retreat during which young men and women come together to share their musical abilities and talents while also participating in a prayerful experience of God's love.  It is an intense time in which there is little sleep, much music and all sorts of other things.  As for me, I had the happy chance of serving as a facilitator.  What this meant was that I sat with a group of teens entrusted to me, and walked with them throughout the week.  There were five groups and each takes the shape of the teens in the group.  Since I was a last minute substitute, I was very nervous and worried, I feared I would be boring and cool.  At least that's what I thought.  Now I need to preface the following statement by saying that I don't often cry, and especially not in front of people.  This being said, YSP is a time in which a large group of teens arrive and share their gifts.  Dance, song, music, and so much more.  Each offers what he or she can and each becomes vulnerable to the other as together we celebrate these unique gifts in the love of God.  This closeness to God is what struck a chord with me this year, almost out of the nowhere, I was touched by the powerful witness that so many of the youth lived.  From the Helpers Team who generously gave their time to work behind the scenes, to the theatrical team who help shape the show like a sculptor chipping away at marble.  The most powerful witness came from the teens.  From the very beginning, I heard from them words that spoke of love and acceptance, they shared their struggles, yes, but also the wonders of God's love that they had clearly experienced.  Out of a moment of toil and tribulation, some youth spoke of the love of God, and it wasn't only something they had heard from an adult, but something they shared from their own heart.  I often sat in awe of the words of these youth, and yes, even sat in tears as I heard them speak of God's love, a love which they had each experienced and which had been reinforced at YSP.  To hear them, I was reminded of the truth of God's love, a love that sees beyond the wounds and the sorrow, and a love that calls us into life, not a perfect life, but a life where we each find our voice, where we come into tune with who God is calling us to be, a life where we learn to sway with each new moment and ultimately, a life where our very song becomes a witness to the glory of God at work here and now.  The tears came, because as I sat in silence and prayer, I was reminded that no matter what, I, you, and all of us, are beautiful and loved no matter what.  And just as Judas and Mary Magdalene sing in Jesus Christ Superstar, "I don't know how to love Him."  we are reminded that we need not worry, because love will ultimately help us find the way of loving that in turn brings life, and it will be good.  And while the week may be over, and the set torn down, the call to evangelize continues, because when one has known the love of God, one must in turn proclaim that love to other, and that I will certainly try to do.   For now, and as always, know that I love you.  RL.  And by the way, your face!