This Sunday we begin the holy season of ADVENT. In these four weeks we are urged to prepare to celebrate the birth of the Lord Jesus. It is a time of anticipation, looking forward to an event so enormous and important that we really cannot imagine what our world or personal lives would be like had it not taken place. And reflecting on this is a good place to start our preparation for ADVENT. What if Mary had said “NO” to the extraordinary invitation to be the mother of God? What if all kinds of things got in the way and Jesus was not born? What would this world look like today?
Continue reading She said “Yes”!
November has always been for me a time to remember. For some reason, this month more than any other, brings me to recall times of childhood, rushing home before the too early arrival of nightfall as well as times of loss like when my father died and the holiday season yielded little joy. This change of season unlike the others seems more profound, more serious if you will; maybe even more dramatic because of the increased awareness of the hours of dawn and dusk.
Over the past days two anniversaries have been prominent in the media, both worthy of recalling. The first is the 150th anniversary of President Lincoln’s delivery of the Gettysburg Address and the second is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy. That both presidents died from an assassin’s bullet seems especially ironic for both men sought to lift up the highest ideals of the value and dignity of the human person.
Lincoln frames the Gettysburg Address around the fundamental principle of the young nation that “was dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” He explains the battle was fought as a test as to whether or not a nation founded on such a principle could endure. A democracy fully established on this principle was doomed to failure; such was the opinion and hope of the ruling classes in Europe. At its very core, such a principle is profoundly radical. Such a principle is also distinctly reverenced by all people of faith.
In a particular way, the Christian holds that the dignity and worth of each person, always and everywhere, created by God and invited into friendship and
Grace by Jesus Christ, yields an unequivocal equality among every person. It follows, of course, that a gathering of persons of equality would happen in freedom—for everyone. Further that a system of government for such people would be, “by the people and for the people.”
One hundred years later a young Bostonian elected as a successor to Lincoln would seek to carry on the same principles. As it is our sad reality that the ideals of this great nation are yet to be fully realized, President John Kennedy strove to move the nation further to fulfilling Lincoln’s prophetic words:
“I believe in human dignity as the source of national purpose, in human liberty as the source of national action, in the human heart as the source of national compassion, and in the human mind as the source of our invention and our ideas. It is, I believe, the faith in our fellow citizens as individuals and as people that lies at the heart of the liberal faith.” (9/14/60)
In these November days it is good to remember the vision of those who have gone before us. For me, it is an inspiration to recall the depth of the meaning of these two men and their words and actions. Being challenged once again to this principle of the equality and dignity of every child ever born on this planet, none of us can guarantee the rightful dignity and freedom of our brothers and sisters. We can, however, choose to make such a principle an ever present foundation in our minds and hearts. Surely such a stance is fulfilling the plan of our Creator God, this November and always.
On November 8, Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines with top winds of 200 m.p.h. The world is still learning the extent of the damage and horror of the storm on this island nation. The Holy Father, Pope Francis, has called all Catholics to unite in prayer for those stricken and deceased. And he has urged all nations to cooperate in the recovery efforts that will be hard and long.
Continue reading When disaster strikes
Every year when Veterans Day rolls around it makes me think about war. Today, America is at war, as we have been in one form or another throughout many years of my life. If the war was not a “hot” war, it was a “cold” war; nevertheless it was war. And wars are never fought apart from soldiers on the ground, in the air, at sea and under the sea. Men and women who put themselves in harm’s way to defend a way of life, threatened by outside forces have always been the warriors who we call veterans when they come home. And all too often some returned damaged, disabled, bruised and broken. Others return to be buried by grieving loved ones. And on this national holiday dedicated to veterans we are to pause, recall the sacrifices of those who went to war and served in the military, and acknowledge their courage and sacrifice, with grateful hearts.
Continue reading Veterans Day
From the very first time I entered Saint Mary’s Church, like so many before me, I was awestruck. Cardinal Seán had told me that Saint Mary’s is a jewel in the Archdiocese, yet I was not prepared for the magnificence of the experience.
Continue reading Last Sunday
Over 600,000 Massachusetts residents earn something like the minimum wage in our State: $8.00 per hour. Even if both parents in a family work at these salaries, it is not possible to support children or provide the basics any family needs. All of us realize that the cost of living in Massachusetts is very high and yet many of our fellow citizens work long hours for a wage that is not able to provide even the basics for themselves and their families. One out of every five low wage workers is a parent.
There is a movement to urge our state legislature to raise the minimum wage from $8.00 to $10.50 per hour. Economists argue that such an adjustment will better the entire Massachusetts economy, allowing more families to purchase more basic goods and services. An increase will also give greater financial stability for families of low wage earners. Furthermore, increasing the minimum wage speaks to a fundamental Gospel imperative to treat all workers with dignity and pay a fair and just wage for a day’s work.
The Massachusetts Catholic Bishops are supporting this legislation and I’m encouraging our Parish to do the same.
I understand that passage of such legislation would have a cost for all of us to share in paying. Naturally if workers are paid more, the cost of this will be passed on to consumers. As the saying goes, “There is no free lunch.” Yet distributing this cost across all citizens diminishes the impact on a small percentage carrying this burden and unfairness.
Our Judeo-Christian tradition has long held that the measure of a great society is precisely in how the least (littlest, weakest, poorest, and most vulnerable) of a society are treated. In Charlestown, I have the experience of mothers coming to me, filled with embarrassment and sadness, explaining that their children are hungry. Our parish emergency food pantry is one critical resource by which we can respond. Yet keep in mind that ours is an “emergency” food pantry. The 600+ families registered with us for free food come because they need to.
My dream is to see the day when our food pantry can close! By that I mean the emergency is no more and people have enough income to buy the food their family needs. Now I realize this is a dream and it may never happen; yet I truly believe all of us should do whatever we can to move our State toward such a possibility. One certain step would be to support the increase of the state minimum wage from $8.00 to $10.50 per hour.
After Mass this weekend you will be invited to get involved in the Campaign to raise the minimum wage in Massachusetts. I will sign up to do whatever I can and I urge you to do so as well.
As I write this column today, the U.S. Government is in partial shutdown due to the impossibility of our political leaders in Washington to arrive at a plan to resolve seemingly intractable differences. No matter our political party and/or persuasion, most folks are looking at these days in Washington with sadness and disgust. The blame game is ongoing and the ultimate losers are the citizens of our dear country.
Continue reading Can we talk?
Pope Francis captured the attention of the world-wide press on September 19 when an extensive interview with him was published in Jesuit journals around the world. In the United States, the weekly Catholic magazine America published the interview. Front-page stories from major newspapers around the world analyzed and commented on the Holy Father’s words. Naturally the public media focused on popular moral issues with varying suggestions and comparisons of the opinion of Pope Francis to earlier Popes and Church teaching. If the reporting was truly accurate, it would clarify there is no new doctrine presented in the Pope’s interview. At the same time, there is much that is new and this is in the area of emphasis and tone.
Continue reading Charlestown: the field hospital
He was an old man of indeterminate years. For the past several days, he has been at the new Spaulding Hospital and I found him in a beautiful room overlooking the harbor on a sunny Sunday afternoon. He looked terrible: broken shoulder, hip, scars and bruises and obviously in pain. When I spoke his name, one eye opened and Andrew (not his real name) focused on this priest standing by his bedside. I pulled over a chair and asked how he was doing—and began to listen.
Continue reading Why suffering?
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The Confirmation I program is offered in Charlestown to all public and parochial high school students (9th Grade) from St. Francis de Sales and St. Mary-St. Catherine of Siena parishes. All 9th Grade students will meet this year on Monday evenings at St. Francis de Sales Bishop Lawton Hall from 6-6:45PM. (Schedule is approximately twice a month for 15 classes) The first day of class is October 7. A parent or guardian must accompany their child to this first class. For an info sheet and registration form, please visit our Forms page or stop by the Parish Center.
Forms can be sent to St. Francis de Sales Rectory at 303 Bunker Hill Street as soon as possible. If you have any questions, please contact Joan Rae at (617) 242-0147.