Teresa “Terri” Rieping died in the presence of her beloved husband at their Madera, California, farm home around 7:25 p.m., Feb. 23, 2016, after battling Alzheimer’s disease for more than six years.
Fourth oldest of 11 children, she was born in Los Angeles on March 26, 1935, to Higinio and Carmen Lozano, and baptized May 9 in San Fernando. In Fresno, she attended St. Alphonsus Elementary School. At her confirmation, she chose Mary Magdalen as her patron saint May 9, 1947. She graduated from San Joaquin Memorial High School in 1953.
She worked as a histology technician for pathologist Dr. Parisi and as a legal receptionist for attorney Gilbert Lopez. She performed in a Mexican folkloric dancing troupe. She sewed her own ornate dance attire and wedding dress.
She first met German immigrant Josef “Joe” Rieping at a Catholic young adult gathering across from St. John’s Cathedral in Fresno around November 1962. He recalled her from a charity she’d danced at in Sanger, though she was skeptical when he said, “Didn’t I see you? We met before?” But Joe persevered, drawn by her reserve and strong Christian values. They dated and would marry Jan. 18, 1964.
They raised their family in the San Joaquin Valley. She worked as a bilingual teacher’s aide at Sierra Vista Elementary School, but may be best known for decades helping with the children’s bilingual faith instruction at St. Joachim Catholic Church. She led as its director of religious education for 20 years, impacting the spiritual formation of thousands.
She often visited the Juvenile Detention Facility in Madera after work as a volunteer to minister to young people. She served as a spiritual director for members of her church and embraced the international organization Focolare, which promotes ideals of unity and universal brotherhood as well as regular meditation on the Christian gospels. She repeatedly welcomed the homeless into her home, viewing them as Jesus coming to visit.
Under Pope John Paul II, the Vatican awarded her the Benemerenti Medal for long and exceptional service to the church on May 22, 1996.
She loved oil painting, portrait drawing, playing guitar, reading, praying, teaching, dancing, flowers, the color blue, and singing. She sang as a soprano in several choirs, most recently in the St. Joachim Senior Choir.
She would advise her children and grandchildren to “offer it up” to God when distressed, and to “remember Jesus forsaken” during trials. Her greatest hope for her loved ones was God’s grace.
She is survived by her husband of 52 years, Joseph Rieping, her son Anthony and his wife Noel, her son Bernard “Bernie” and his wife Ana, her son Eugene “Gino” and his wife Angelica, her daughter Maria-Helena Uribe with husband Hector, her son John, 16 grandchildren, and two great grandchildren — all of Madera.
The rosary will be prayed Monday, March 7, at 10 a.m. in St. Joachim Church, 401 W. 5th St. A Mass of Christian Burial will follow at 11 a.m. with a reception afterwards at Holy Spouses Hall, 320 N. I St. Internment will be for immediate family only.
In lieu of flowers, please donate to the nonprofit soup kitchen The Holy Family Table at 401 W. 5th St., Madera, CA 93637.
My mom Theresa, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease, has been unable to swallow food or liquid properly and so has been unable to eat. She last ate and drank Tuesday and has been in Madera Community Hospital since Wednesday. Her longtime physician, Dr. Zafar Sheikh, is unsure she'll make it through the weekend.
She received the sacrament of the anointing of the sick by Rev. Gustavo Lopez, OSJ, around 3 p.m. today (Friday) and should be returning home tomorrow (Saturday) with in-home comfort (hospice) care by St. Agnes Hospital. (Pictured beside her is her husband Joseph, my dad.)
Your prayers and stories are welcome, especially as I know so little of my mother's life before my birth and I will have to write of it for her obituary when the time comes. It is hard to lose a mother, even to Heaven, but it has always been her greatest heart's desire. She may soon be with her eternal Valentine.
Thank you and may God bless you and your loved ones always.
Theresa Rieping died in the Lord around 7:25 p.m. Feb. 23, 2016
By John Rieping | 27 December 2015 |
'That special time of the year has arrived when people gather around and pass on fantastic tales about Christmas. I refer, of course, to the modern myth that the 12 days of Christmas are just a continuation of pagan Nordic "Yule" time.
Dangerously, I was asked to research it myself. So I did, and I do like to share with others, especially around the holidays.
A modern pagan Yule would be Dec. 20th to Jan. 1st. Those aren't the same dates as the traditional "12 days of Christmas" (evening Dec. 24 to evening Jan. 5), a period that actually adds up to 12 or 13 days, depending on how you count it up. That time for Christmas was defined by a council of Christian bishops in the city of Tours in A.D. 567, though originally the middle three of those days were for fasting -- not feasting. (The Christian holy day of Christmas itself began at least two centuries earlier. According to 4th century Patriarch John Chrysostom of Constantinople, Dec. 25 was believed to be the birthday of the messiah based on Roman records and tradition.)
In comparison, the ancient nordic Yule lasted only three days or less. The length was for as long as the alcohol they were drinking didn't run out. It began on a slaughter night of ritual animal sacrifice.
The medieval and modern version of Yule became 12 days in imitation of the traditional Christmas celebration, arguably beginning with King Haakon of Norway (920-961). The king converted to Christianity and made a law that from henceforth his pagan subjects would have to celebrate their Yule at the same time as the Christians celebrated their Christmas “and at that time everyone was to have ale for the celebration with a measure of grain, or else pay fines." (I guess he didn't approve of drinking on an empty stomach.)
Though Orthodox Christians and some Protestants still observe the traditional 12 days, Roman Catholics no longer officially do so. Since 1969, their Christmas season ends on a Sunday celebrating the baptism of Jesus, which is a few Sundays after Christmas. Because of that, the length of their Christmas differs each year. This year (2015), their Christmas season is 17 days long.
Meanwhile some Catholic countries in western Europe and Latin America celebrate Christmas for 40 days, a practice that began in the middle ages.
So why did Catholics change the official ending of their Christmas season? Ancient tradition long carried on by our Orthodox Christian siblings in faith.
For Orthodox Christians, Christmas falls on Jan. 7 on western calendars but Dec. 25 on their own, and it isn’t traditionally the biggest holiday of this time of year. More important is the day that Yeshua (Jesus) was revealed as divine during his baptism in the Jordan River, a day of Theophany. A holy day in January celebrating that event ends the Christmas season for Orthodox Christians, as well as now for Catholics. Christians have been celebrating that baptismal feast day since before the Christmas holiday itself existed.
I thought all of this might be interesting to others, whether your Christmas lasts one day, 12 days, many more, or none at all. Either way, may love find a home in your heart, and may that home have an open door for others to enter in as well.
By John Rieping | Published 19 March 2015 in The Madera Tribune | All rights reserved |
In the philosopher Plato's great work "The Republic," his elder brother Glaucon is described as proposing an extreme test of morality to their teacher Socrates in the ancient city-state of Athens.
Glaucon felt that laws forced respectable men to walk "the same road" of justice due to fears of being punished as an evildoer or being powerless as a victim. Remove both fears and "the actions of the just would be [the same] as the actions of the unjust" -- immoral
There is only one way, he claimed, to test whether a virtuous life was better than a wicked one. We must compare the happiness of an "entirely unjust" man who has "the greatest reputation for justice" with another man whose situation is the opposite.
"Let him be the best of men, and let him be thought the worst ... and we shall see whether he will be affected by the fear of infamy and its consequences. And let him continue thus to the hour of death; being just and seeming to be unjust.
"When both have reached the uttermost extreme, the one of justice and the other of injustice, let judgment be given which of them is the happier of the two ... The just man who is thought unjust will be scourged, racked, bound ... Then he will understand that he ought to seem only, and not be, just."
Half of Glaucon's test would become reality more than 400 years later in the life and execution of a wandering rabbi, Yeshua (aka Jesus). In the eyes of Christians and Muslims, he was an entirely just man.
A superficial hearing of his final words would seem to support Glaucon's position however. According to one record, they include, "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?" (Mark 15:34)
This plea is a reference to a hymn from the Jewish "Tehillim" (Hebrew for "songs of praise"). It begins, "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why are you so far away when I groan for help? Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer. Every night you hear my voice, but I find no relief." (Psalm 22:1-2)
Echoing Glaucon's test, it later continues, "But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people. All they who see me laugh me to scorn: they stick out the lip, they shake their heads, saying, 'He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him, let him rescue him, for he delights in him!' " (Psalm 22:6-8)
"I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted within me." (Psalm 22:14)
Does that sound like happiness to you?
Yet, for Christians, these are not the final words. For beyond the agony of the cross we see a resurrection. The rabbi's cry was heard.
Near the end of the same song, the singer promises: "I will declare your name to my brethren; in the midst of the congregation will I praise you ... For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither has he hid his face from him; but when he cried to him, he heard ... The poor shall eat and be satisfied; they who seek the LORD shall praise him ..." (cf. Psalm 22:22, 24, 26a)
An unappreciated life and undeserved death can end far better than Glaucon imagined if God is one's hope. But in this we find a paradox. For don't Christians say Jesus is God and, if so, isn't his rescue by God a hoax? And who among us can claim to be so worthy of help?
Strangely, the answer to both concerns is the same: emptiness.
As the apostle Paul wrote to Christians in the Macedonian city of Philippi: "Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although he existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant ..." (Philippians 2:5-7a)
The life of the one Christians consider to be both God and man was like his death. For both involved radical self-emptying (in Greek, "kenosis").
Why? For the same reason we seek an empty cup when thirsty: so we can fill it.
Let us be humble enough to accept and lift up our own emptiness to God in prayer and in service. We can embrace God no other way than with empty arms.
By John Rieping | Published 7 March 2015 in The Madera Tribune | All rights reserved |
Few of the 300 writings by ancient Greek philosopher Epikouros survive today. One paradox said to be his we know only through an early Christian writer in North Africa, Lucius Lactantius (A.D. 250-325).
In it, the problem of suffering is posed as a riddle for those who believe any god cares for humanity.
"God either wants to eliminate bad things and cannot, or can but does not want to, or neither wishes to nor can, or both wants to and can," Epikouros allegedly wrote.
"If he wants to and cannot, then he is weak and this does not apply to god. If he can but does not want to, then he is spiteful, which is equally foreign to god's nature. If he neither wants to nor can, he is both weak and spiteful -- and so not a god.
"If he wants to and can, which is the only fitting thing for a god, where then do bad things come from? Or why does he not eliminate them?"
Throughout history, many believers in divinity have proposed solutions to this mystery. But perhaps none match that offered by Christianity, insofar as every element of its message is in part a reply to the problems of pain and evil.
A drawback of this is that any quick or brief response to the scandal of evil falls short, both of the question and of the depth and breadth of Christianity's answer. Yet even Christianity admits it has only "partial" understanding of such divine mysteries (1 Corinthians 12:12).
So what can be said?
First, let us be honest here. When the paradox of Epikouros most hits us is not in a classroom or amid peace. It pierces when you lose someone you love and there's no remedy. It smashes in when we do our best or worst and the results are terrible beyond expectation. It crushes when we feel trapped in misery with no hope left.
In such moments, we don't want a rebuttal. We ache for restoration, if not immediately then someday.
This too Christianity promises, but that can fail to comfort when doubts overwhelm any belief in such assurances. Such skepticism can be fed by past disappointments, when our pleas for help seemed fruitless.
Hence the problem of pain can be a problem of perception.
Imagine, for example, a deathly ill child brought to doctors for a cure that requires an agonizing treatment. The boy resists, so the doctors ask the parents to hold him down. What betrayal he may feel as his supposedly loving parents, who gave him life and provide for him, seem deaf to his cries for escape.
Sometimes the healing we seek frightens us more than the sickness that devours us. We may prefer destruction to change.
Alternately, we may not even realize we're dying at all if not for symptoms that shout too loudly for us to ignore, like despised prophets of doom.
"We need crises," writes Christian philosopher Peter Kreeft, "for we have spiritual sleeping sickness and need frequent alarms.
To unravel the paradox of Epikouros, though, is not a task for the mind so much as the heart. Both are precious, but the wounded first need aid, not insight.
The instinct of Christianity has always been that the mystery of evil can only be understood at the foot of another mystery -- the cross. For Christians assert as true what seems foolish to some: God chose to become man to liberate humanity from evil by suffering and dying.
Reflecting on and reacting to this mystery of the cross is the greatest answer to the mystery of evil any Christian heart can find. Yet how often we believers look away, whether the crucifix before us consists of metal or flesh.
"When Jesus came to Golgotha, they hanged him on a tree, / They drove great nails through hands and feet, and made a Calvary; / They crowned him with a crown of thorns, red were his wounds and deep, / For those were crude and cruel days, and human flesh was cheap.
"When Jesus came to Birmingham, they simply passed him by. / They would not hurt a hair of him, they only let him die; / For men had grown more tender, and they would not give him pain, / They only just passed down the street, and left him in the rain.
"Still Jesus cried, 'Forgive them, for they know not what they do,' / And still it rained the winter rain that drenched him through and through; / The crowds went home and left the streets without a soul to see, / And Jesus crouched against a wall, and cried for Calvary." (G.A. Studdert-Kennedy)
By John Rieping | Published 28 Feb 2015 in The Madera Tribune | All rights reserved |
"Empty is the argument of the philosopher that does not relieve any human suffering."
-- Epikouros (341-270 B.C.)
Greek philosopher Epikouros, one of the most popular of his day, saw pain as evil and the archenemy of happiness. To thwart it, he taught, one must fearlessly dwell on past or present enjoyments.
"Pleasure is our first and kindred good," he wrote. "It is the starting point of every choice and of every aversion, and to it we always come back, inasmuch as we make feeling the rule by which to judge of every good thing."
To maximize pleasure and minimize suffering, Epikouros advised avoiding marriage, religion, politics, the problems of others, and concern for the future. The well-being of the world is not one's responsibility, he claimed.
"The time when most of you should withdraw into yourself is when you are forced to be in a crowd," he wrote.
Lucius Annaeus Seneca (3 B.C. - A.D. 65) also believed in enjoying the present without worry about the future. But the Roman statesman and writer saw value in suffering.
"To be always fortunate, and to pass through life with a soul that has never known sorrow, is to be ignorant of one half of nature," he wrote.
Born in what is now Spain, Seneca followed the Greek philosophy of Stoicism, which taught that everyone has a spark of the universe's intelligent divine fire (aka Fate or Reason). To be happy, one had to live in harmony with this divine fire by virtues, which are how we apply reason to our lives.
“If you really want to escape the things that harass you, what you’re needing is not to be in a different place but to be a different person,” he wrote in a letter.
It isn't that we should behave unnaturally, he felt, but rather the opposite. We should act according to human nature, which is rational. We should govern the fires of desires with reason instead of being slaves to emotions or circumstances.
"We should every night call ourselves to account," he wrote. "What infirmity have I mastered today? What passions opposed? What temptation resisted? What virtue acquired? Our vices will abort of themselves if they be brought every day to confession."
He noted, "To err is human, but to persist [in wrongness] is diabolical."
Seneca believed virtue enables peace of mind, which lets us rise above suffering. It also allows us the pleasure of simply being ourselves instead of "assuming a pose."
"For it is torturous to be constantly watching oneself ... fearful of being caught out of our usual role. And we are never free from concern ... for many things happen that strip off our pretense against our will, and, though all this attention to self is successful, yet the life of those who live under a mask cannot be happy and without anxiety."
You may have already heard the words of Seneca more than you realize. Some of his sayings, such as "it's quality not quantity that matters," continue to be used by many to this day. The man who wrote, "The best ideas are common property," would surely approve.
Though Seneca wasn't a Christian, the ancient and medieval Christian Church recognized in him a kindred mind. One early Christian writer (Tertullian of Carthage, Africa) referred to him as "our Seneca."
Coincidentally, Seneca's elder brother, Gallio, appears in the Bible. The Roman official showed apathy towards a religious dispute involving the apostle Paul in the wealthy Greek city of Corinth (Acts 18:12-17).
In his letters, Paul would repeatedly display an attitude toward suffering that even today seems countercultural.
"I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for his body, which is the church." (Colossians 1:24)
A core belief of Christianity is that God chose to become a man, Yeshua (aka Jesus), to suffer justice in place of all who have done wrong. By doing so, he earned for humanity a pardon for our crimes so that we could be free to return to God, who we reject by wrongdoing.
Paul's words point to this belief and a related one: the suffering of those united with God shares in the value of his anguish as a God-man who died for all.
Hence Paul could rejoice in suffering, because he -- like Jesus -- could offer it to God as a sacrifice for the benefit of those Paul loved.
So should we who claim to believe.
By John Rieping | Published 18 Dec 2014 in The Madera Tribune | All rights reserved |
Look up the noun “advent” in the New Oxford American Dictionary and you will read: “the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event.” The roots of the word in Latin mean “to come” or “coming.”
In short, “advent” looks forward, and so does the Christian season of the same name.
My family took the weeks of Advent seriously in my childhood. The season has long been a time to happily prepare for Christmas — not celebrate it beforehand.
No Christmas decorations, music, or television specials were allowed in my childhood home before Christmas Eve except for Advent carols, an Advent calendar, an Advent candle wreath, and a nativity (a tableau of events surrounding the birth of Jesus).
We set out wooden statues of shepherds and their sheep first, and a stable with only an ox. Later Joseph and Mary would arrive with their donkey. Across the room, figures of gift-bearing wise men would lead a camel.
Before our evening meal, we’d pray and then light the number of colored candles for the current week of the season. I hoped to be chosen for that task. I loved the liveliness of fire dancing upon the wick. More importantly, the candles counted down to Christmas.
Sometimes we’d go to a “posada,” which is a nine-day Spanish and Mexican custom reenacting efforts of Jesus and Mary to find lodging in the town of Bethlehem. Although Hispanic, I didn’t know Spanish. Yet I understood the simple theater, music, and tasty refreshments in those homes.
On Christmas Eve or so, my father would buy an evergreen tree for us to ornament. We could finally play my parents’ Firestone Tires collection of recordings with uncommon Christmas songs and singers such as Perry Como and Nat King Cole. The exoticness delighted me.
On Christmas Eve night, my family would worship God at Mass and marvel. Back home, a figurine of a baby Jesus would be passed around and rocked in our hands as we sang. After kissing it, we’d place it between the forms of his earthly parents in the stable and sing the “Happy Birthday” song.
Then we sang posada carols in Spanish, which signaled that a plate of treats would soon be in my greedy grasp.
Next the gifts, if any, would be distributed. Sometimes we followed an older tradition of both Mexico and Germany and receive presents not on Christmas Eve, but on the holy day of Epiphany (aka Little Christmas, the 12th day of Christmas, etc.), which traditionally falls on Jan. 6. Epiphany celebrates Jesus being revealed to non-Jews, such as the three magi whose figurines at last arrived at the nativity stable.
I initially believed Santa Claus visited our house to reward good children, but a friend destroyed that illusion early on. Since I was the youngest in my family, the charade didn’t continue, but my mom instead labelled my gifts “From: Baby Jesus.”
I’m not the easiest person to buy a gift for. One Christmas, my mother gave me “horrible” generic toy robots instead of the expensive brand name “Transformers” toys I asked for, and my eldest brother gave me an “Erector” construction set I loved.
To spare her feelings, I exclusively played with the robots I despised. My mother pulled me aside to urge me not to ignore my brother’s offering. With the cruel honesty of a child, I explained my deception and never played with the unloved robots again.
I have been unappreciative of so many gifts I’ve received in my life. Of them all, however, God is the best present I ever received from my parents, and I am thankful.
My mother, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, will probably be convalescing away from home this Christmas after an unplanned stay in Madera Community Hospital this week. She is not likely to join in singing any carols or even be aware of what day it may be.
Yet her gift of faith remains. She offered it to her children by the witness of her own life. By God’s grace, I hope and trust it will one day carry her on to a far truer life than this one, a life where the celebration will never end.
In the meanwhile, this life we believers lead is just another Advent, a time of preparation for the coming of our God. “Happy birthday” the angels may sing when our journey ends.