Norma Torres

U.S. Rep. Norma Torres sits at her desk, near a carving of a boat carrying mythical Maya figures.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

The excellent story about Rep. Norma Torres on the front page of today’s LA Times, “Lawmaker sticks to her guns”, reminded me that, in February 2006, she asked me, as Pastor of Our Lady of the Assumption in Claremont, to give the invocation at her inauguration as Mayor of Pomona.

I thank you very much for this opportunity to give the invocation on the occasion of the inauguration of the honorable Norma Torres as the new Mayor of the City of Pomona.  Although Our Lady of the Assumption has the reputation of being the “the Claremont parish,” actually about 1/3 of our defined parish territory includes the City of Pomona, as well as a significant number of our parishioners are Pomona residents.  So, Norma, you are very much our mayor too!

I firmly believe that the constitutional guarantee of the separation of church and state is a two-edged sword, affirming the free public practice of religion as much as prohibiting anything in the civil order that would smack of institutionalizing any particular religion.  Therefore, I believe it is appropriate for anyone of a particular religious tradition, invited to give an invocation on an occasion such as this, to pray according to his or her own faith, inviting all women and men of good will to at least touch the unique sprit and values of that tradition, without diluting them to a lowest-common-denominator conformity.  Therefore, for my invocation I have chosen to draw on my own Judaeo-Christian heritage, and present for our reflection, two familiar and still relevant texts from our tradition:  Psalm 127 and the Prayer of St. Francis.

Psalm 127 is traditionally a psalm composed by King Solomon, under whose leadership ancient Jerusalem was established as one of the great political and religious centers of the world at that time.

If God does not build the house,
the builders work in vain.
If God does not watch over the city,
the guards watch in vain.

How foolish to rise early
and slave until night for bread.
Those ho please God receive as much
even while they sleep.

Children are God’s gift.
a blessing to those who bear them;
like arrows in the hand of an archer
are the children born to the young.
Happy those with a full quiver:
facing their enemies at the gate,
they stand without shame.

The Prayer of St. Francis puts before us the qualities that must characterize an effective leader.

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O, Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

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