Remembering the Armenian Genocide
Last Friday, I had one of my periodic gatherings with seminarians by class.
This was just one more opportunity to get together seminarians in small groups to be able to pray with them and dialogue with them about their vocations and the Church. These gatherings are always great joy for me.
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On Saturday I went to Roxbury for the dedication and blessing of a Habitat for Humanity house that will provide a home for two local families.
The international organization Habitat for Humanity is well known for building or rehabilitating houses for people in need.
In this case, a Catholic layman has donated a substantial sum of money to rehab or build 50 houses around the country. The benefactor has requested these houses be dedicated to Pope Francis, who is in part the inspiration for his generous donations to sponsor these homes.
Habitat for Humanity is an organization that depends a great deal on volunteer labor. In addition to the funds provided by the benefactor, many people from the community, including the families themselves, contributed their labor to renovate this house.
“The Acoustics”, a choral group from Boston College performed at the dedication.
At the dedication service we were joined by representatives from Habitat for Humanity and, of course the families that will be moving into the new house. They were obviously thrilled and excited by the fact that they are going to have such a lovely home to raise their children in.
Certainly, the issue of affordable housing is very serious in the Boston area. In the archdiocese we have our Planning Office for Urban Affairs, which does a great deal to create new housing for low and moderate income people. So, I was pleased to be a part of this celebration of the work of Habitat for Humanity, and we are very happy to support the wonderful work they do, both in the United States and abroad.
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Then, Saturday afternoon, we held our first ever Armenian Genocide Commemoration Service at the Cathedral the Holy Cross. Recalling the events of the genocide are important as we call people to work for a world where there is greater tolerance and solidarity.
One of the groups that has promoted this whole theme of honoring the Armenian Martyrs is the Sant’Egidio community and the head of the community, Andrea Bartoli, met with me before Mass. Andrea is a professor of international diplomacy at Seton Hall University in New Jersey, where he often lectures on the Church’s peace initiatives. He himself was involved in Mozambique and other places where the Church has helped broker peace between different warring factions.
The community has also been very much involved in raising awareness of the persecution of Christians throughout the world and Pope John Paul II gave them the Church of San Bartolomeo, an old Franciscan church on the island in the Tiber River, that they have transformed into the shrine of the martyrs of the 20th and 21st century.
In my homily, I reflected on the fact that one of the tragic yet interesting things about the genocide is that, when the family of nations and people of the world did not react against the Armenian Genocide, it only paved the way for the Holocaust.
I also spoke about the “ecumenism of blood”, that Pope Francis has mentioned so often. I said how there are so many people, even in our own day, who are dying for their love for Christ — whether they be Catholics, Protestants or Orthodox — and that their witness and love should help us deepen our own faith and to feel closer to one another.
I’d like to share the full text of my homily with you here:
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, it is for me an immense joy and privilege to welcome all of you to this Ecumenical Commemoration of the Holy Saints and Martyrs of the Armenian Genocide: Remembrance, Witness, and Resurrection.
We all have such fond memories of the visit of the Catolicos Karekin II to Boston. And today is a very special day to welcome so many of our Armenian brothers and sisters as well as members of other churches who have assembled here today in a spirit of fraternity and solidarity. I want to recognize in a special way the various bishops who have joined us for the celebration: Metropolitan Methodius of the Greek Orthodox church, Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, of the diocese of the Armenian Church of America; Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan, of the Eastern prelacy of the Armenian apostolic Church. We are also pleased to welcome the Rev. Avedis Boynerian of the Armenian Evangelical Union of North America.
We are very proud of our own Armenian Catholic community at Holy Cross Parish. I shall never forget the wonderful visit that I had to the Mekitarist Monastery on the island of San Lazzaro degli Armeni in Venice. We are of course delighted to have with us today Msgr. Andon Atamian, vicar general, of the Armenian Catholic Eparchy.
The Scriptures show how leprosy and blindness can be metaphors for spiritual ailments. The leper was cut off from community reflecting the spiritual death in isolation brought about by sin. Blindness indicated the darkness of unbelief and of how easily people can be deceived by appearances rather than seeing creation through God’s eyes.
As people live longer in our modern world, we have a greater experience of the ravages of Alzheimer’s. We see how losing one’s memory reach such havoc on people’s lives. For us Alzheimer’s, as spiritual amnesia, is a metaphor for those who forget about God. If we have forgotten our origins and our destiny, we become very disoriented. Our life is adrift. Spiritual Alzheimer’s causes us to become disconnected from God and from others.
In our memory and our sacred history we discover our true identity and can fulfill our mission in the world. We are consoled by the fact that even though at times we forget about God, he never forgets about us. In the prophet Isaiah we read: “even if a mother should forget her child, I will never forget you.” Our faces are engraved in the palms of God’s hands. When we stray from the father’s house, our God waits anxiously searching the horizons waiting for us to return so that he can run out and embrace us and kiss us and put a ring on our finger and sandals on our feet.
Our task is Christians is to pass on the treasure of the gospel to generations to come. We can do that only by striving to overcome our sinfulness and be worthy witnesses to the good news of Jesus Christ. We must never forget how much our God loves us, especially in moments of darkness and of pain.
Our memory of his unfailing love allows us to say with St. Paul in his words to the Romans: “who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, and or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
It is that faith, that memory, that conviction that allows us to recall the genocide of a century ago and to know that the love and power of God is stronger than death. Christ’s cross has conquered sin and death for us. By the same token it is important that we do not allow the events of the genocide to slip into oblivion. We must raise the alarm, we must keep the memory alive, so that the future will be safer.
When Adolf Hitler was poised to exterminate entire peoples, he found great consolation in the world’s indifference to the slaughter of a million and a half Armenian Christians. It emboldened his diabolical plans for the Holocaust. In fact, inscribed on one of the walls of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington is a statement by Adolf Hitler, who rationalized mass slaughter and expected people simply to avert their eyes and forget: “who, after all, today speaks of the annihilation of the Armenians?”
We must ask ourselves if the world had responded differently to the Armenian genocide, could the Holocaust have been averted. Yes, remembering the Armenian genocide and the Holocaust of World War II are crucial if we are going to prevent more genocide in the future. No true civilization can afford to falsify the historical record or to corrupt the language. To do so is very perilous and will be a prelude to other forms of mass slaughter.
Unfortunately, as the philosopher George Santayana noted, those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. We can see today how the calamity that befell the Armenians 100 years ago seems to be repeating itself in the wholesale slaughter of Christians in the Middle East by Isis and other terrorist groups.
Pastor Martin Niemoeller was a prominent Lutheran minister who emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in a concentration camp. Pastor Niemoeller is perhaps best remembered for the quotation:
“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.”
Today we are all Armenians. As a newfound Armenian I fear I will never be as adept in your language as Lord Byron, but at least I can say: “Bari galust.” I welcome all of you as we gather to remind the world of the danger of its indifference. Too often we are like the priest and the Levite of the road to Jericho as we pass by our fellow human being left half dead by the side of the road. We must learn to see suffering humanity with eyes of compassion and the vision of faith.
Shortly after Pope Francis was elected our Pope, he made his first papal journey a trip to the island of Lampedusa where thousands of refugees have drowned in the sea. He prayed and cast a wreath of flowers into the watery grave and he warned the world of the globalization of indifference.
Our celebration here today is to echo that same warning and challenge people to remember the sins of the past and to strive to make sure that they do not happen again in the future. We must never allow the world to vilify people because of their race, their religion, their nationality, their language, their politics. The world needs the voice of a sentinel crying out a warning of the dangers that lurks when people nurture the darkness of hatred and prejudice in their hearts.
Tertullian once said that the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church. We see how the first generations of Christians who valiantly face torture and death gave such a powerful witness that often even their persecutors embrace the faith. For those early Christians martyrdom was the great Christian ideal. It was a generous and courageous witness to the Church’s faith in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. From the time of the persecution of the early Christians in Rome who celebrated the Eucharist on the tombs of the martyrs in the catacombs, we have preserved the custom of putting the relics of martyrs in our altars where the Eucharist is celebrated. All of us who profess the Christian faith have a special devotion to our martyrs who lay down their life to give witness to the church is faith in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Pope Francis in an interview that he gave over year ago coined the term “ecumenism of blood.” The Holy Father commented on how in some countries they kill Christians for wearing a cross or having a Bible. They do not ask whether they are Catholics or Anglicans or Lutherans or Orthodox. They are killed because they are Christians. The Holy Father said: “we are united in blood, even though we have not yet managed to take the necessary steps towards unity between us and perhaps the time is not yet come. Unity is a gift we need to ask for.
We live in a time when ecumenism is driven by martyrdom. The persecution of Christians is most visibly associated with the Middle East, Christians in Africa, India, and other places have been targeted and killed. We have only to think of the 21 Egyptian Coptic migrants who were beheaded by Islamic state terrorists in Libya last February. They died proclaiming the name of Christ as they were martyred.
And just a couple weeks ago four Mother Teresa sisters whose only crime was that they were taking care of the elderly poor were brutally executed. Yes the ecumenism of blood continues. Hopefully the example of these witnesses of the faith they help us to grow closer to one another and more faithful to our vocation as disciples of Jesus Christ.
We are here in the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. The principal stained-glass windows are an important part of our iconography here. They speak to us about the Holy Cross. To your left you will see the dramatic scene where St. Helena, the mother of the Emperor Constantine, in the year 325 A.D. discovers the three crosses near the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. They were able to tell which cross was the true cross of Jesus Christ because that cross cures and is life-giving. Jesus has made the cross the tree of life for us. He has conquered sin and death and opened a path to eternal life.
The great window on the other side depicts what took place on September 14, 628 A.D. when the Emperor Heraclitus having rescued the Holy Cross from the Persians, carries the cross into the holy city. At first he was mysteriously impeded from advancing through the gates of the city. The patriarch instructed him to dismount from his steed, and to remove his crown and his shoes and royal robes. Only then could the cross the threshold of Jerusalem with the Holy Cross.
As Jesus’ followers we must learn to carry the cross with humility and love. And we must learn to carry it together, only then will the Christian faith advance as Christ wishes. He prayed at the Last Supper that unity would be the identifying characteristic of his disciples, a unity so deep, so profound, that it would be a reflection of the unity between the Father and the Son in the Holy Trinity.
The million and a half Armenian Christians are not forgotten. Today their death is not only a warning against the evil of hatred and prejudice. Their death is a witness of the Church’s faith in eternal life. The grain of wheat that is buried in the ground produces much fruit. One of the fruits of the Armenian martyrdoms is the ecumenism of blood that unites us in one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism.
The Armenian martyrs’ sacrifice and the sacrifices of today’s martyrs are a cloud of witness, a cloud of martyrs whose love for Christ and courage in the profession of their faith is an invitation to all of us to advance through the gates of the holy city, carrying the glorious cross of Jesus Christ together, with humility and love.
Our martyred brothers and sisters have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb. The foolish think they are dead, but they live on in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Redeemer. And today we cry out with faith, “Grant O Lord eternal rest unto thy departed servants and make their memory eternal”.
And I make mine the sentiments of Pope St. John Paul II, who prayed, “May Saint Gregory the Illuminator and the great host of Armenian martyrs and saints watch over you now and in the future! And may the Mother of Christ, Ark of the New Covenant, guide Armenia to the peace which lies beyond the great flood, the peace of God who has set His bow in the clouds as a sign of His everlasting love.”
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Over the course of the Jubilee Year, there are a number of groups that are coming to the Cathedral the Holy Cross on pilgrimage to pass through the Holy Door of Mercy.
On Sunday we had a Jubilee Year Pilgrimage and Mass for the Sick and Their Caregivers, at which we celebrated the anointing of the sick with scores of people.
Father Jonathan Gaspar was the architect of the service itself and we were aided by the Order of Malta and Deacon Jim Greer and the office of chaplaincy programs.
The Mass was a very fitting way to mark the Year of Mercy.
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That day, I also greeted a group of pilgrims from Our Lady of Grace Church in Chelsea who were visiting the Cathedral with Father Jim Barry.
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Monday I attended the wake of Father Raymond Helmick at the Campion Center in Weston.
Father Ray Helmick was a very talented and multifaceted individual. As many know, had been very much a presence in the peace negotiations in Ireland and in the Middle East. He was also a long-time professor at Boston College. In recent years he has been very closely associated with his brother’s parish, St. Theresa’s in West Roxbury, where he created a number of mosaics and built the tabernacle tower. His passing will leave a great void.
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Tuesday, we had the dedication of the new wellness center at Newton Country Day School of the Sacred Heart.
Sister Barbara Rogers had invited us to dedicate the new wellness center and visit the school.
The choir greeted me in the Chapel
Newton Country Day is a wonderful Catholic school. In my own family, many of my relatives attended schools of the religious of the Sacred Heart, so I know personally of the extraordinary education that the sisters have provided for many generations of Catholics.
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That evening, I attended a gathering of the Campaign for Catholic schools hosted at the home of Herbert and Charlotte Wagner in Cambridge.
The purpose of the evening was to thank and honor benefactors of the campaign, who were responsible for the Lower Mills Campus of Pope St. John Paul II Academy.
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Wednesday, I celebrated the funeral Mass for Deacon John Manion, who died at 89. He was from Galway in Ireland. In fact, he had just been with us at the Cathedral for our celebration of St. Patrick’s Day. Many people will remember him as the Deacon who would read the gospel in Irish.
He worked for three decades as chaplain in Walpole prison and was much beloved in his parish of St. George in Framingham. The pastor, Father John Rowan, gave a wonderful homily and we heard a very moving remembrance by Deacon John’s daughter.
We were joined by many permanent deacons for the Mass as well as Father Silva, who was formerly in charge of the diaconate program.
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Also that day, I had lunch with the members of the clergy personnel board. It was an opportunity to thank the outgoing members for their service and thank the new men for taking on the responsibility of the personnel board. It is such an important task and I know that it takes a lot of time and energy but the careful consideration of assignments is crucial for our priests and our parishes. We are very grateful for their collaboration in this process.
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On Wednesday afternoon, we had the board meeting of Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary, which culminated in the dedication of the new Learning Center, which includes Mary and Jack Shaughnessy and Rev. Charles J. Healey, S.J. Pavilions.
The redesign of the Chapel, the renovations to the front of the building and now the construction of this new Learning Center have completely transformed the seminary facilities.
The new facilities are just stunning and we were so pleased with the outcome.
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Then in the evening, I joined the Sisters of St. Joseph for their annual Living the Dream dinner. They had a very moving video of the ministries that have been carried out by the Sisters of St. Joseph. In the history of the archdiocese there have been almost 3,000 Sisters of St. Joseph who have served here. They educated literally tens of thousands of students here in the Archdiocese of Boston and are still sponsoring St. Joseph’s Prep, Fontbonne Academy and Regis College.
The evening was very well attended, which was a sign of the great affection and respect that the people of Boston have for the Sisters of St. Joseph. During the evening they honored one of the graduates of St. Joseph school in Dedham, Eileen Ahearn Connors, who received their Dear Neighbor award. It was just a lovely evening.
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Thursday morning, I celebrated Mass at Blessed Sacrament in Walpole to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their parish school, which was originally staffed by the Glen Riddle Franciscans from Philadelphia. The pastor, Father Chip Hines and the former pastor, Father Tim Kelleher, joined us for the Mass.
After the Mass, the students gave me a tour of the school. They have over 400 students enrolled there and Jim Spillman, the principal there, is doing a wonderful job.
We also joined by our Superintendent of Catholic Schools Kathy Mears and Maureen Heil of the Missionary Childhood Association.
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Finally, this week I want to mention that we are concluding Child Protection Month. The theme of child protection is one that is so important in our community and in the world. We are happy to promote this cause by asking people to become involved in supporting the educational and preventative programs in our parishes and in our institutions.
Until next week,
Celebrating college Confirmations
Hello and welcome!
Each year I like to celebrate the Confirmations for college students throughout the archdiocese at the Cathedral.
It’s always a very important event, and this year Msgr. Bill Fay, our new Coordinator of Campus Ministry, was present with us.
As I often say, campus ministry is one of the very important ministries of the archdiocese, because we have over 200,000 university students here in the Boston area. We are very blessed to have the Brotherhood of Hope, the FOCUS missionaries and many others, such as Father David Barnes and Father Mark Murphy, who are so devoted to this important ministry working on our local campuses.
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That afternoon, I joined the annual gala to benefit the Jeanne Jugan Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor in Somerville.
We began with Mass, which was concelebrated by a number of priests whose mothers are residents at Jeanne Jugan.
The Sisters are such an important presence in the archdiocese. Especially in this Year of Mercy we focus on their lives of mercy, as they serve the elderly and the sick.
We also are anxious to see what the final outcome of their legal challenge of the HHS mandate will be. I know I was among the many people who were very pleased to see that the Supreme Court did not rule against them, but instead asked the government and the representatives of the Sisters to look for an alternative to the health care mandate that would be morally and ethically acceptable to the Sisters. I know our entire Catholic community is looking forward to seeing what kind of possibilities can be reached.
Also on Saturday, the Boston College Irish Studies Program had hosted an all-day conference, “Faith in the Future: Religion in Ireland in the 21st Century”.
Though I was unable to attend the conference itself, in the evening I joined the dinner for the speakers. I was very happy to have a chance to see Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin and the Anglican Archbishop of Dublin, Michael Jackson. Also with us was Marie Collins, who is a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Children, as well as a very distinguished group of Irish and Irish-American scholars who participated in the conference.
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On Sunday, I paid a visit to St. Monica Parish in South Boston to celebrate Mass for the Spanish-speaking community there.
They recently lost the priest who had been celebrating Mass with them: Father Ramón from Chile, who was here studying but has now completed his studies and returned home. I know the community has been growing and I wanted to visit them and assure them of my support.
We were joined by the pastor, Father Steve Madden, the vicar Father Gerry Souza, and Deacon Paul Kline.
It was very encouraging to see such a full church, with many young families with young children.
They had a beautiful music program with a lovely selection of hymns. It was Good Shepherd Sunday and, for example, the last hymn was about looking for the lost sheep. You could tell that they took great care in selecting the hymns according to the liturgy. It was just very well done.
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Then, Sunday afternoon, I met with Brian Duggan, who happens to be Helen Alvaré’s husband. He came to speak to me about an interesting initiative that could be a good response to the physician-assisted suicide movement.
He is promoting the concept of a hotline to help people who are facing end-of-life issues and need support. I was interested in learning more about his idea as this issue is becoming more and more relevant in today’s world. For example, a story in today’s New York Times — page 1, above the fold —says that suicides in the United States are up nearly 25% since 1999. With statistics like that, this is not the time to be passing legislation legalizing suicide. As the World Health Organization has said, physician-assisted suicide can create an impression in people’s minds that suicide is a valid solution to people’s problems.
This hotline could be a response to help people who are in crisis and facing end-of-life issues alone. We are already very focused on trying to provide palliative care, but this could be something that could work in tandem with those efforts.
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We were very saddened to learn the Father Raymond Helmick passed away yesterday.
We are very grateful that the Jesuits at Weston have accepted Msgr. Bill Helmick there for rehabilitation after his heart surgery. It also allowed him to be close to his brother in his brother’s last days.
On Monday I went to visit them and I was very touched to the see support of the Helmick family for both brothers. We express our condolences and thank God for Father Ray’s vocation and his many years of service to the Church, particularly here in Boston.
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Monday evening, I went to the Sheraton hotel in Framingham for the Massachusetts State Council of the Knights of Columbus’ annual Lantern Awards Banquet.
The Lantern Award is presented each year on Patriots’ Day to “honor those who reflected the religious and patriotic ideals of the Founding Fathers.”
This year, the Knights chose to honor all our military chaplains in the Archdiocese of the Military Services with the award. Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services sent his Vicar General, Msgr. John Foster, to receive the award on his behalf.
We were very pleased, obviously, because in Boston we are one of the dioceses that most supports the Military Archdiocese by sending men to serve as chaplains in the armed forces.
After receiving the award, Msgr. Foster gave a very nice talk on the importance of the work of chaplains.
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Wednesday, we had our semi-annual meeting of the Bishops of the Boston province here at the Pastoral Center.
Among the many agenda items of the day, our Judicial Vicar, Father Mark O’Connell, addressed us on the latest changes to the annulment process.
We are very happy that a number of our retired bishops were able to join us as well as Bishop Nick Samra of the Eparchy of Newton.
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And finally Thursday we had the annual board meeting of the Pontifical Mission Societies in the Archdiocese of Boston. The most familiar of these societies for most would be the Society of the Propagation of the Faith, but there is also the Missionary Childhood Association, the Society of St. Peter Apostle and the Missionary Union of Priests and Religious.
We are so proud of the long tradition we have in Boston of so strongly supporting the missions and we are very grateful to Father Rodney Copp, Maureen Heil and the whole staff who work so hard to make the Societies so effective in their mission.
Until next week,
The St. John’s Seminary Alumni Dinner
Hello and welcome!
Much of this past week I spent in Rome at meetings of the Council of Cardinals advising the Holy Father. But before I left, on Friday evening, we had our annual St. John’s Seminary Alumni Dinner, which we began with the celebration of Vespers.
Afterward there was a light reception followed by the dinner.
I was very pleased that as part of the evening’s program they presented the new biography of the late Father Daniel Kennedy, which was written by his father, Dan Kennedy, Sr. The name of the book is “247 Days: Father Dan Kennedy, A Proud and Happy Priest” taken from the short amount time Father Kennedy was ordained before his sudden and untimely death in 2008 at the age of only 34.With the Flynns and the family of the late Father Dan Kennedy.
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Also, I was able greet those participating in a meeting of the Labor Guild, which is now housed at the Pastoral Center.
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I also want to mention that on Saturday, we hosted the New England Pueri Cantores Choir Festival at the Cathedral, which brought together choirs from the archdiocese and as far away as Connecticut and New Hampshire.
I had hoped to be able to celebrate Mass with them, but my schedule didn’t allow for it. I am so grateful to Father Jonathan Gaspar for celebrating with them and for all he and Michael Olbash did to facilitate this wonderful event at our Cathedral.
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I arrived in Rome over the weekend and on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday we had meetings of the C9 with the Holy Father to continue our conversations about different aspects related to the reform of the Curia. Cardinal Oswald Gracias could not be with us for health reasons.
The Holy Father is considering the publication of a new Apostolic Constitution on the Roman Curia and we are now focusing on proposals for the Holy Father to create two new dicasteries, “Laity, Family, and Life” and “Justice, Peace, and Migration.”
At the meeting, Cardinal Pell briefed us on the work of the Secretariat for the Economy and I had the opportunity to speak to the group about the works of the Pontifical Council for the Protection of Minors.
With the staff of the Council for the Protection of Minors
On Thursday, I had a private audience with the Holy Father at the Apostolic Palace. He is getting ready for his upcoming trip to the island of Lesbos in Greece, and then Armenia in June. The trip to Lesbos is, once again, to draw attention to the plight of refugees.
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While in Rome, I always try to spend some time with our seminarians who are studying there. So, on Sunday I had dinner with Kevin Leaver, Kevin Staley-Joyce and Chris Boyle.
Although Michael Zimmerman wasn’t able to join us for dinner, I was glad that we were able to meet up with him in the Square, where he was helping to feed the homeless with a group from St. John’s University in New York.
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It was very nice to see the great crowds in Rome for the events of the Holy Year.
The Holy Father is having audiences on Wednesdays and Saturdays outside and there are just huge crowds of people there for the Year of Mercy, which is very encouraging.
Rome was having perfect weather, 70° and sunny, which just made me regret that I was indoors at meetings all day — but for people who are there on pilgrimage, it is a wonderful time of year.
And, speaking of visitors to the Vatican, I want to share this photo of a group of mallard ducks that I found swimming in the fountain in St. Peter’s Square. I’ve never seen them there before, but they seem to be very happy!
Until next week,
Walking with Mary
Hello and welcome!
We are grateful to our Holy Father, Pope Francis for the gift of his Apostolic Exhortation “Amoris Laetitia, On Love in the Family.” He has given us a lengthy and significant teaching on the Joy of Love. This is a document that demands a careful reading and reflection from Catholics everywhere, and it is sure to bear great fruit. Pope Francis shows himself to be the gentle, merciful pastor who urges us all to take the time to meditate on the importance of families, for as he says, “The welfare of the family is decisive for the future of the world and that of the Church.” (AL 31)
Amoris Laetitia brings together the deliberations of the two Synods on the family convoked by Pope Francis in 2014 and 2015, and draws on a long history of Church teaching. This Apostolic Exhortation numbers over three hundred twenty five paragraphs, and it is not intended to be read and implemented too hastily. In the introduction to the document, Pope Francis notes that no one should rush through reading the text, but that the greatest benefit will come if each part is read “patiently and carefully”, paying particular attention to those parts dealing with the specific needs of the reader. (AL 7) Rather than try to draw immediate conclusions from the text, we are urged to reflect upon it and to ponder, patiently and carefully, what the teachings will mean for the Church and for her ministry to families.
During this Jubilee Year of Mercy, in which the Church celebrates the love and unending mercy of God, Amoris Laetitia is a joyful invitation for families to live the works of mercy and to receive the gift of God’s healing where there is sin and brokenness. As he has done time and again, Pope Francis challenges us to approach the weak with compassion, to “enter into the reality of other people’s lives and to know the power of tenderness.” (AL 308) It is my fervent desire that we will read Amoris Laetitia patiently and carefully, so as to benefit from the richness of its teaching.
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On Thursday evening, Father Michael Nolan held a dinner at his parish, St. Mary’s in Waltham, for the 30 or so FOCUS volunteers working in campus ministry in the archdiocese.
They are now working with us at three universities here in the Archdiocese of Boston — Harvard, MIT, and Boston University — and their work has been a very important part of our campus outreach.
Given the huge number of university students in the Archdiocese of Boston, campus ministry is a vital part of our mission. We are so grateful for the help that FOCUS missionaries lend and the hope and enthusiasm they bring. Peer ministry is a very powerful witness, and they have been very effective in the archdiocese and we are very grateful for their presence.
As their website explains:
“Trained in Church teaching, sacred Scripture, evangelization and discipleship, FOCUS missionaries go out to campuses to meet students where they are, inviting them into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and encouraging them to pursue lives of virtue and excellence. Through Bible studies, outreach events, mission trips and one-on-one discipleship, missionaries inspire and build up students in the faith, sending them out to spread the good news and to live out the Great Commission: Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations.”
During the course of the dinner, Father Nolan showed us the “lamb” they blessed on Holy Saturday at the parish.
It looks like a pretty big lamb to me. In fact I’d call it a sheep. But then again, the Holy Father says that we should take on the smell of the sheep — and we certainly got to smell the sheep!
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Friday morning, I celebrated the opening Mass of our annual Co-Workers in the Vineyard Conference held at St. Patrick Parish in Watertown. Father Bob Connors was our very gracious host for the day.
We are very grateful to Dr. Aldona Lingertat for organizing this opportunity to bring our clergy, religious and lay ministers together for this day of enrichment and pastoral development.
The theme of the day was communications and, in my homily, I noted that it was the very day of the funeral of Mother Angelica, who was certainly a great figure in the world of Catholic communications.
The day’s three keynote speakers were Father Thomas Rosica and Sebastian Gomes of Salt and Light, and Father Robert Reed of our own CatholicTV Network.
In addition to the talks there were a number of other activities such as panel discussions, breakout talks and tours of the CatholicTV studios, which are located just next door to St. Patrick’s.We have a very proud history in Boston of being leaders in the use of both traditional and online communications media to spread the Gospel message, so I thought it was a very fitting topic. I was very pleased to see the wonderful turnout and I am so happy that many took advantage of this important opportunity for formation. I am also grateful to all the speakers and panelists who came from near and far to make it a success.
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That evening, I had one of my periodic gatherings with a particular class of seminarians. This time I met with those in their first year of pre-theology studies.
As always, we began with Vespers followed by dinner and a wide ranging conversation on such topics as vocations, the priesthood, challenges in our modern world and liturgy.
Of course, Friday was April Fools’ Day and we found out that we had our own “April Fool” among us, as one of the seminarians was celebrating his birthday. We also discovered that it was the birthday of Father Romanus Cessario, so we made sure to call him and sing happy birthday to him, as well!
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Saturday, we held our “Walking with Mary” Year of Mercy pilgrimage for ethnic communities at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.
We were just elated at the tremendous turnout because that day it was raining heavily, and I began to become concerned that many people would be discouraged and not come. However, there were about 2,500 people in attendance who packed the Cathedral the Holy Cross, standing in the aisles and in the back. Many of us speculate that is the largest crowd we’ve ever had at the Cathedral.Of course, there was a Marian theme to the day, but it was also the weekend of Divine Mercy Sunday, so we began by praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet followed by songs and prayers before we began the main procession. And we were so blessed because, before the procession was about to begin, the rain stopped.
It was a very impressive sight as we walked through the streets around the Cathedral, with each group carrying images of the Blessed Mother representing their particular ethnic community. It was a beautiful manifestation of people’s faith and there was great enthusiasm among them.
Returning back into the Cathedral, all 2,500 people passed back in through the Holy Door of Mercy. We then had a Liturgy of the Word, at which I preached on the Gospel of Mercy, and we concluded with benediction.
We are so grateful to Father Michael Harrington and all those in the different ethnic communities who worked so hard to make this pilgrimage a reality. We are also very grateful to Father Kevin O’Leary who, through all his hard work, has made the Cathedral more user-friendly and able to receive large groups such as this.
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The next day was, of course, Divine Mercy Sunday and I always like to join the Marians of the Immaculate Conception for their celebrations on that day. They organize two “national” Masses, if you will, on Divine Mercy Sunday.
One, certainly, is at their shrine in Stockbridge and the other is at the National Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. Well, this year they asked me to celebrate the Mass for them at the National Basilica, so I went down to Washington for the day. Though we enjoyed the beautiful spring weather in Washington, I had to rush back to beat the snow that was set to hit Boston overnight and Monday morning.
The Basilica was filled and I was very happy to be a part of this beautiful celebration.
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Monday morning we drove in the snow down to Providence to visit the seminary community there and our four men who are studying for Boston at Our Lady of Providence Seminary.
Bishop Evans was there to very graciously receive us when we arrived, and I was able to thank Bishop Tobin, Father Mahar and all those involved in formation at the seminary, which serves all of New England for undergraduate seminary studies.
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Tuesday evening, I went to Merrimack College for their “Feast of Faiths” awards dinner, at which they honored four people including Father David Michael of our Office for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs and Rev. Diane Kessler, the former longtime director of the Mass. Council of Churches. The other two honorees of the evening were associated with the college, Eileen Jennings of the class of 1964 and Maria Haseeb of the class of 2016.
The celebration was geared towards the 50th anniversary of the doctrine of the Second Vatican Council’s document Nostra Aetate which, of course, not only deals with the Church’s relationship with the Jewish people, but also Muslims and those of other faiths.
We heard remarks by Merrimack president Christopher Hopey and Joseph Kelley, the director of Merrimack’s the Center for the Study of Jewish-Christian-Muslim Relations. I also offered some thoughts and participated in the bestowing of the awards.
I was happy to be invited to be part of that very important event.
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Wednesday morning, we had a meeting of those involved in young adult ministry, in which we received reports from Father Gerry Souza, Father Eric Bennett and Deacon Thom Olsen. We also had something of a planning committee and brainstorming session around ways to improve outreach to our young adults in the archdiocese. Father Matt Williams, of course, was one of those involved in that effort.
We took a look at the activities of the 15 different young adult groups in the archdiocese and we are in the midst of surveying what some other dioceses are doing. We also talked of the need to balance events that bring people together — which for the young adults is very important, to have a critical mass of peers — but also to equip and train people in the parishes for young adult ministry.
It was a very interesting conversation on a very real pastoral challenge for the Archdiocese of Boston, where we have one of the youngest populations of any city in the United States — over 40% of the population is under 35 years of age.
We had a very good exchange, and a lot of good ideas came forward.
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That afternoon, we had our annual meeting of Superiors of Women Religious here the archdiocese.
We had Mass together at noon and then afterwards we gathered for lunch.
Father Jonathan Gaspar gave an excellent PowerPoint presentation on some of the activities of the Year of Mercy, after which our Delegate for Religious, Sister Marian Batho, gave remarks. As part of Sister’s talk, she read a list of the different charisms represented by the communities of religious women in the archdiocese and said that we really should be making people more aware of these charisms.
It was very striking to hear this long list of beautiful and varied charisms, and it really underscored how our religious women are so integrally involved in the works of mercy here in the archdiocese.
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Then in the evening, I joined one of our St. Andrew’s Dinners for young men discerning a vocation to the priesthood at St. John’s Seminary.
I don’t know exactly how many young men were with us, but we met in the Cardinal Medeiros classroom, which was completely full. I would say there were probably about 100 young men in all. I was very impressed with the positive turnout.
We had Vespers together, followed by dinner, a tour of the seminary and the speaking program. As always, Father Eric Cadin ran the program and introduced two of our seminarians, Will Sexton and Joe Hubbard, who gave witness talks about their own vocations. Then I gave a brief talk on vocations followed by a questions-and-answers session.
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Finally this week, I want to mention that this past weekend we were visited by Father Richard Gibbons, the Director of the Ireland’s National Marian Shrine at Knock.
Earlier this year Father Gibbons kindly invited me to celebrate Mass at the Basilica at Knock on Saturday, July 16, for the 40th anniversary of the Shrine and to dedicate the soon to be completed renovation of the Basilica. I was very pleased to be able to accept the invitation.
In concert with this special Mass at Knock, the Archdiocese is planning a six night pilgrimage and prayerful sightseeing tour of the west of Ireland. A special feature of this pilgrimage is that Aer Lingus is providing a direct charter flight from Boston to Knock for those who wish to join the Archdiocese for this journey. I have been advised that as initial registration for the pilgrimage tour have come in, the remaining places on the flight and tour are limited. If you would like to join us on this trip being organized for the Archdiocese by Crystal Travel & Cara Group Travel I would encourage you to visit the pilgrimage website, www.bostonknock.com, or call the tour organizers at 617-327-4242 or 617-639-0273. Reservations received by April 30th, as available, will be credited an early registration discount.
I look forward to seeing many parishioners and friends from the Archdiocese in Knock this summer.
Until next week,
Pastoral Letter on mercy
Hello and welcome!
For Divine Mercy Sunday, I am publishing a Pastoral Letter on the theme of the Jubilee Year of Mercy.
It is my hope that it will provide, particularly those who are involved in evangelization and the teaching of the faith, with a tool to help them to focus on the essentials of this Jubilee year, and to consider promoting additional practices and prayers that will help people to live the Year of Mercy more intensely. One of the great themes of Pope Francis, since the beginning of his pontificate, has been mercy, even appearing in his motto, “Miserando atque eligendo” which literally translates as “by having mercy, by choosing him.”
We hope that this letter will help to make this theme more accessible and available to people.
God’s Mercy Runs to Meet Us
Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley, OFM Cap.
April 3, 2016 – Divine Mercy Sunday
A. Introduction: Merciful like the Father
Jesus is the face of the Father’s mercy and love. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus taught that God’s ways toward sinners and the “lost” were different from the harsh ways of the Pharisees and other leaders at the time. Jesus’ acts of compassion and his teachings of the Father’s mercy are the “beating heart of the Gospel.”
At the beginning of his fifteenth chapter of the Gospel of Saint Luke, the evangelist writes that the Pharisees are complaining that Jesus is a friend of sinners and is eating with them. Jesus responds to their gripes by sharing three stories — the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin and then the lost (or prodigal) son. When what was lost is found, Jesus tells us that God and all of heaven rejoices.
The Parable of the Prodigal Son is the longest of the three narratives and in it we see a clear difference between the ways of the Father and of the world. The father in the parable has two sons. The younger son has decided that he wants to make his life without his father, and so he demands his inheritance as if his father were already dead. This is a metaphor for sin, which is when we try to live our life without God. We take all the gifts God has given us, and we resolve to use them for our own benefit and enjoyment without much thought about others’ needs.
You can read the full text of the Pastoral Letter here
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This week we were also very saddened by the passing of Mother Angelica, who from her cloistered convent, was able to bring the message of the Gospel to millions of people throughout the world.
She is a woman who had great challenges and crosses in her life — physically and in every way — but through her ministry on television and radio, she was able to make the Church present on the air waves all over the world.
What she accomplished is a great tribute to the positive influence that consecrated women have in the Catholic Church. Though, at times, she could be feisty and controversial, she had a devoted following of people who were touched by her faith and her desire to share that faith with the masses.
I personally am very indebted to her because, thanks to her, I was able to start a Catholic television station in the Caribbean. She came and visited us there, and was very, very helpful in that endeavor.
In Boston, we have always had a very strong commitment to using modern means of communication to evangelize, and so we have a special admiration for someone who was able, with very modest resources, to accomplish such incredible things.
We will be celebrating a memorial Mass for her on Corpus Christi. Because she is a Poor Clare, whose community is committed to perpetual adoration, we thought that the Eucharistic feast would be an appropriate day to remember her.
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Of course, last week we celebrated the Easter Triduum and, as always, we had very beautiful celebrations at the Cathedral. We were blessed with good weather, which allowed huge crowds to participate in the Holy Week liturgies.
On Holy Thursday, we had a bilingual celebration, and it was an occasion to use our new ombrellino in the Eucharistic procession.
It’s always a special day for us, because so many people come to visit our repository. At midnight, there were still over 100 students present to participate in Compline, with which we ended the Eucharistic adoration. I gave them a short reflection on the meaning of Gethsemane and the Second Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary, in which we contemplate the Agony in the Garden.
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On Good Friday we had three different processions of the Stations of the Cross arrive at the Cathedral, and I was very happy to greet them.
The first was the Way of the Cross for Life. Colbe Mazzarella, organizes that procession every year, with a very large group of faithful people.Next we had a group from Communion and Liberation. They had the most beautiful choir singing traditional polyphonic Lenten music.
Then, finally, we had the procession with the Hispanic community at the Cathedral, which is always very grand with the costumes and acting out the Stations of the Cross.
In fact Univision Spanish television was here, and they interviewed me and took a lot of footage of the participants.
Of course, we also had our two celebrations of the Good Friday liturgy.In the afternoon, we had the English celebration, at which Father Paul Soper preached.
We are very pleased to have the members of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre here to accompany the cross during the veneration.
In the evening, we had the Spanish language celebration, at which I preached.
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On Holy Saturday, as I have done in past years, I went to spend some time with the members of the Memores Domini, who are the consecrated members of the Communion and Liberation movement, at their house in Cambridge. I was very pleased that Olivetta Danesa was here visiting, and it was very good to see her.
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That evening, of course, was the Easter Vigil, where we welcomed about 10 people into the Church.
I’d like to share my Easter Vigil homily with you here:
And, while on the topic of the cathedral, I also want to mention this week that we are so grateful to Sister Ann Marie, who repaired the statues in the pulpit of the Cathedral.
After examining the statues that were there, I realized that one was of our archdiocesan patron, St. Patrick, and another was St. Bridget, who was something of the female counterpart of Patrick in Ireland. There is also another of St. Catherine of Alexandria; and the fourth is our “mystery guest” whose identity we are trying to discover. He is a bishop carrying a folded ombrellino, and he has what appears to be a golf club! So, if anyone knows who this saint is, please let us know!
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Finally, on Thursday I made a visit to St. Joseph’s Prep in Brighton, sponsored by the Sisters of St. Joseph. The principal, Sister Rosemary Brennan, gave the greeting at the beginning of Mass and the Head of School, Tom Nunan, is doing a wonderful job.
We had Mass with the students, followed by a breakfast and presentation by some of the students there. It was a very good visit.
Until next week,