The Beacon


"This is the Lord's Table, and ALL are Welcome."

THANKS TO MAURICE SALDEBAR & TOM LENZO, THE CHURCH OF OUR SAVIOUR JOYFULLY AND THANKFULLY CELEBRATED OUR VETERANS, NOT WAR, ON NOVEMBER 13 -- It began with a Marine Color Guard processing at the 10:00 Service. The Service itself included the singing of the National Anthem and ended with "God Bless America". The highlight was Fr. Gary's Sermon perfectly entitled "Other Before Self".

"I hate the fact that we cannot seem to address the world's problems without resorting to violence. I hate war..." That said, he absolutely believes we need to celebrate those who have and continue to put themselves in harm's way, not for their own welfare but for something greater than themselves -- the Common Good. And this is what Veteran's Day is -- not the Call to Arms but the self-sacrificing response to the Call to Arms. "It is not the brandishing of weapons but the recognition of greatness in common folk -- young folk, of their willingness to give of themselves, to sacrifice -- perhaps even their very lives -- for the sake of the other."

I never have heard the Anti-War / Pro-Peace position more diplomatically expressed, and the Sermon was fabulous.

THREE INCREDIBLE EXAMPLES OF SELF-SACRIFICE -- As I listened to the Sermon, three examples re-enforcing Fr. Gary's message in spades came to mind.

In 1998 I was asked by our documentary making son-in-law Rob Lihani to assist him in videoing an interview with Historian Stephen Ambrose, author of "Undaunted Courage" and "Band of Brothers". In the midst of an answer to one of Rob's questions, Ambrose looked up and asked "Do you know who should be recognized as the Man of the 21st Century?" Without waiting for a response, he said "The American GIs, the 18 year old boys who stormed out of the landing crafts on June 6, 1944, without hesitation and saved the world for democracy!!!"

Also not to be overlooked were the thousands of young Marines who island hopped all the way to Okinawa at incredible loss of life. In fact, one of the oldest Marines still alive from those invasions lives in Royal Oaks where we are. He is Walt Jorgensen, and he fought in and survived the battles of Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Saipan and survived Okinawa. FYI, U.S. casualties at Okinawa were 55,162 wounded and 32,715 killed before President Truman ordered the bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima.       . 

Then, Saturday afternoon while channel surfing from one football game to another, I came across one of the most moving documentaries about WW II that I have ever seen, It chronicled the war time experiences of 25 Bedford Boys. Bedford was then a town of 3,200 people in Virginia, and on D-Day, June 6, these young men, part of Company A of the 116th Regiment of the 29th Division, were in the first wave of American soldiers to hit the beaches at Normandy.  Within minutes, 19 WERE KILLED!!!

"However you look at the tragic reality of military combat, whatever you perceive as the motives that move us to the horror of war, looktoday not at the fire of weaponry's destructive terror, but at the fire of the young -- mostly young -- defenders' spirit. It is the spirit of self-sacrifice to the very core of their young being."

By the way, if you have never seen Steven Spielberg & Tom Hanks' 10 hour movie of Stephen Ambrose's "Band of Brothers", you MUST. No movie has ever captured the "self-sacrifice" which saved the world for democracy like "Band of Brothers"!!! Every American ought to watch this.

A DIFFERENT KIND OF PATTON -- The statue of General George Patton at COS shows the general with his trade mark two colt 45 revolvers strapped to his hips. His grandson Benjamin Patton not only was the first Patton male NOT to attend a military academy but also has made a living carrying video cameras, not guns. After a successful career as an executive at WNET, the PBS station in New York City, he is dedicating his talents to two projects. One is called the "Patton Veterans Project" and the other "I Was There", and both focus on veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan who are suffering from PTSD and the homelessness which results from this illness. Quite a contrast from the iconic scene in the movie "Patton" when his grandfather slaps the soldier in the field hospital and accuses him of being a gutless coward.

Thanks to Maurice Saldebar's creative thinking and Gabe Vazquez-Reyes' understanding of the power of social media, a full house in Cleaver Hall was able to hear first hand from Ben Patton about the above projects. I think everyone was impressed by what he is trying to accomplish, and I know they were deeply moved by the two examples he showed of how veterans respond to the workshops he is developing. If you ever have the opportunity to view either "Breaking Point" or "Reconnected" on YouTube, do not miss them. Heart breaking and breath taking don't begin to describe the impacts of these very short video productions. 

Given whom we were celebrating, the importance and prominence of the Patton family in our 150 year history, AND the growing presence of homeless veterans in Southern California, I can't think of a more synergistic program to present on Veteran's Day 2016. Thank you to all of you who made the time from 10:00 to 1:30 so moving, and I especially want to thank Fr. Gary who proved that a life long pacifist is able to acknowledge so insightfully the self-sacrifice of so many so that he is able to continue to preach what he believes every Sunday.

THE VETERANS RESOURCE CENTER (VRC) -- A special addition to the Program was the presence of three people representing VRC, a department located at Pasadena City College, who made brief presentations. "The mission of VRC is to assist military and veteran students in making a successful transition from military life by providing information, tools, and comprehensive programs that increase student academic success and completion of their academic goal." Currently they have 700 veterans registered, 25% of whom are women; and the program has been recognized as the best in California and one of the five best in the country. If you are interested in hearing more, you can contact 

Patricia D'Orange-Martin, Coordinator, Veterans Services @ PCC

Dr. Harold Martin, Psychology Professor @ PCC who teaches "Boots To Books: A Transition Class"

Denise Wadsworth, President of San Marino Rotary

POST SCRIPT -- Also in attendance at the Service was Helen Patton Plusczyk, one of General George's five grand children. She lives in Europe and is involved in two projects which strive to maintain the visibility of and to honor the soldiers who fought there. The highlight of her day surely must have been having her picture taken with Harry Baldwin, Captain US Army Reserve. I know it was for Harry because of his great respect for the general. Speaking of respect, I wonder what Helen thought when she saw the dead ivy and dying trees extending on either side of the general's statue. She might well wonder what our plans for the future are.  

BROTHER DENNIS GIBBS: TALK ABOUT A CHANGE IN THE TRAJECTORY OF A JOURNEY!!! -- This is a statement from Br. Dennis included in a Brief History of PRISM Restorative Justice handed out at last week's Fund Raiser. "My response to follow Jesus has led me back to the streets where I was once homeless; it has led me back to the drug addicted as I once suffered; it has led me back to the jails where I once was a prisoner; it has led me back to my future."

Over the years since Br. Dennis arrived at COS, I have gleaned bits and pieces of information about his Journey, but sometimes information is hard to come by. Thankfully, the celebration of PRISM's 10th Anniversary occasioned the release of a lot of information about him which I'll bet most of you do not know. Here are the highlights:

In 2004 Dennis became a lay volunteer in the jails under the sponsorship of the Catholic Office of Restorative Justice. He was the only Episcopalian doing this then, and it was only one Sunday a month.

The Rt. Rev. Chester Talton became aware of his work and was instrumental in the establishment within the Diocese of what became PRISM and allowed Dennis to spend increasing amounts of time visiting the jails.

In 2008 Greta Ronningen joined him: "PRISM would not be where we are today without the huge contributions Sister Greta has made to this ministry. Her work and influence across the spectrum of incarceration from Juvenile Halls, to both women's and men's jails is nothing short of amazing. In 2011 she accepted the responsibility of co-directorship of PRISM and has helped guide PRISM to where we are today."

A big turning point was in 2010 when, "because of the growing number of people and programs being implemented by PRISM Chaplains and volunteers, and after months of conversation with the Sheriff's Department, we were designated as our own religious affiliation in the jail system."

More recently, the Sheriff has asked PRISM to develop a program for the training of Chaplains to serve as "greeters" of those who are just entering the jail system. Br. Dennis says this is a two to three day process which for many first timers can be extremely stressful. This is a huge vote of confidence from the Sheriff and obviously reflects the respect he has for work being done by PRISM and its forty chaplains and volunteers in the four county jail facilities.

AN ADDITION TO THE YOUTH MINISTRY LITURGY: THE "GROG-A-PALOOZA" -- Last week Deacon Bill Doulos reported seeing 40 to 50 young people in the North Parking lot Sunday night trashing pumpkins. Fortunately, he did not call San Gabriel's finest but instead figured out that the pumpkin launchers were under the supervision of Gabe & Taylor Vazquez-Reyes, and they were engaged in something called the Grog-a-palooza & Pumpkin Smash. Bill heard that there were about 40 to 50 young people involved from six churches, not all of them Episcopalian. Besides COS participation, five were from Immanuel, and it was Bill's impression from a distance that the Grog-A-Palooza, whatever that is, was a great success. Obviously, the Youth Programs at COS are in capable hands with Gabe and Taylor in charge.  

THE SOUND OF MUSIC REVERBERATED THROUGH CLEAVER HALL ON SATURDAY -- Because we have one of the most appealing venues in the area in Cleaver Hall and because we have a Community oriented Rector in Fr. Gary Bradley, an Ensemble from the SAN GABRIEL VALLEY MUSIC THEATER (SGVTM) has sort of taken upresidence at COS. Saturday they gave their second performance of the fall entitled "ROCK OPERAS & BLOCKBUSTERS: 1970's -- 1990's", and it was tremendous. The 3:30 show was a sell out, and the "memories" came one after another; there was a lot of emotion in the room. Along with Canon Phil Smith's "Music For The Season", COS certainly is doing its share to keep music alive and well in the West San Gabriel Valley.

THE ALTAR: "MINISTERIAL OR INCARNATION" VS. "MYSTICAL OR TRANSFIGURATION" ? -- Don't know the difference? You would if you had been in church because you would have received a one page explanation from Fr. Gary. If you are interested in why the Altar moved farther away from you on Sunday, I'm sure a copy is available in the church office or in the back of the church.

THINK ABOUT IT -- THE Church of Our Saviour at 150 years of age is older than either the State of Montana which became the 21st state 141 years ago or Levi Strauss Jeans which my pants tell me have provided "Quality (which) Never Goes Out Of Style" since May 20, 1873. Just sayin'; COS has a history longer than both.

NewsSandy SmockComment