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Wanting more and better

Don’t let this Lenten season go by without letting it touch your heart.

Continue reading Wanting more and better

Meeting House Hill

Growing up means we see a bigger world and hear a call to look beyond our neighborhoods.

When I was born, my family lived in a section of the city of Boston called Meeting House Hill in Dorchester. This area of three-family homes, neighborhood stores, bakeries, bar rooms, and some broad avenues sits between Fields Corner and Uphams Corner and at the top of my street was the beautiful Ronan Park. The park was a haven for the kids in the neighborhood for all sports as well as sledding in the winter. This was my world.

Continue reading Meeting House Hill

One for all

Anyone who has ever watched the classic movie, The Three Musketeers, remembers that stirring call the three men proclaimed as a sign of their unity and strength: “One for all and all for one.” You recall the simple plot: the young French peasant, d’Artagnan has a dream of becoming one of the King’s Musketeers. He challenges the experienced Musketeers to a duel, armed with more enthusiasm and passion than skill. Circumstances change quickly and the men find themselves needing each other in a fight with Cardinal Richelieu’s guard.

Well, I am getting carried away! The film was released as early as 1935 with countless new releases since, all of them popular. And I have to think one of the elements in the popularity of the films has been the enduring theme of each committed to all and all committed to each. There is a simple truth in the soldiers’ proud claim that continues in the military today and in countless structures from families to communities and organizations.

How does it fit into the community of Charlestown? There is a continual tension between our individuality and our community. Our personal needs and interests are our own, each unique. And yet we are called to live in common, at whatever level that might be. Often our individual preferences are sacrificed for the greater good of the common good. In truth and practice, the entire process is messy and such is the case with democracy. There needs be a give and take. There are tensions and disagreements and yet, our systems arrive at a final position often by majority rule, guided by laws and systems of justice.

The Three Musketeers were very likely Catholic, as were so many in France in that era. And so the sacrifice of one for the other might have been not only strategically smart, it happens to have a sound theological base. The Christian believes that service to and for others is a way for a more complete and joyful life. The teaching that “In giving we receive” imitates Jesus and yields mature, healthy individuals and families.

Sadly one can see the opposite of the Musketeers’ slogan in a mindset that is pathetically self-centered. When this is seen in children, parents usually work to correct it (think about the tears that go along with learning to share). When it is seen in adolescents, it exacerbates the already self-conscious youth and makes maturing much more painful. And when it is seen in adults, it shows in a tragic loneliness and searching for fulfillment.

The Three Musketeers had it right: One for all and all for one. How could each of us put that into practice this day?

Fr. Ronan

Ordinary time

There always seems a bit of a letdown after the holiday season passes and we roll into the winter months. Looking ahead into January, February, and March, springtime seems far off. Liturgically, we enter into what is called ordinary time. This is the season when the priest wears green vestments at Mass, and there are no major feasts and celebrations like Christmas and Easter on the horizon.

After such a time like the rush of the past weeks, I think we could all use a break?time to stop, look around, and kind of get our bearings. If we were to do that as individuals and as a parish, all of the readings for this weekend, especially the reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, have a beautiful message to offer us.

To me, St. Paul’s letter seems to be a tribute to the complex and wondrous thing called our differences. Some might call this a tribute to diversity, a popular word these days. The sacred author acknowledges that there are many different gifts and talents and the source of them is the same: God’s Spirit.

We are all so very different. We come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and our color, race, culture, and background may vary. Each individual is a work of art! No two of us are exactly alike. Even identical twins are distinct as time passes. However, different as we are, we have so very much in common. God has seen to that! We share the same hopes, dreams, pains, joys, and sorrows. We worry about the same things and struggle with the same issues, and on and on. Of course, there are differences in expressions and points of view, yet at the very root of it all, we are all God’s creation.

And so, if we are so alike, why do we have such a hard time getting along with one another? Why do we let our differences often keep us so far apart? Each of us is born with our own freedom and our own ego and will, and we are born into a sinful world that we help maintain. The choice to forgive each other our shortcomings and faults and the choice to love our neighbor is a big one and it does not come easily. Our own ego, selfishness, and righteousness often get in the way. And for this reason, we have the gift of faith and look to our Savior, literally. It is in Jesus that we find the way to move each day toward that unity with one another that offers us hope and from which love blossoms.

So let’s celebrate our sameness and all that also sets us apart. And as we do that, perhaps in this ordinary week of this ordinary New Year, we can experience the extraordinary power of God’s Grace calling us to be as ONE.

Fr. Ronan

If one suffers, we all suffer

I guess it happens to all of us. We read or hear about some tragedy in our town like a shooting and a death, feel concerned about it for a while, maybe even go to a meeting or two clamoring that something must be done about it, looking to professionals and law enforcement providers to solve the problem. And then we move on with our lives.

It’s understandable.  Everyone’s life is busy.  We all have so much going on, and we become overtaken by more immediate responsibilities. Perhaps we even feel overwhelmed by a sense of powerlessness over the situation, not knowing how we can make a difference. In many ways, we end up with a perfect climate for the crises of drug and alcohol abuse to prosper.

A number of years ago, when the crisis seemed especially acute, some residents came together and took action. Organizations such as CHAD (Charlestown Against Drugs, 1993) and CSAC (Charlestown Substance Abuse Coalition) were formed, and various recovery programs were created and/or strengthened. Educational initiatives in schools, social, and athletic programs were launched. MGH became more involved through the Clinic on High Street and in other ways.

Despite these concerted efforts, the reality is we are still burying our young from substance abuse. Families are being damaged and lives harmed. Parents are mourning their children and grandparents are raising orphaned grandchildren. Where violence is present, inevitably, drugs are the motivation. The statistics are daunting, and Charlestown continues to be a place where residents unanimously consider substance abuse the greatest problem we have in the community.

My experience, like that of other “service providers” in our town, is this disease does not discriminate: no matter one’s education, income, race, ethnic background, language, religion or other variable, all are at risk and suffer from this illness and its secondary effects on the community at large.  And so this epidemic affects us all.

The fundamental issues of substance abuse will not be effectively resolved in one or two meetings or by the rigorous efforts of professionals and a few of our residents.  Something more fundamental is called for. We need a different mentality. By that I mean, we need a conscious and active awareness of the depth and extent of the problem. With that in hand, each of us and all of us together, can change the mindset in our community toward the disease of addiction that plagues us.

Simply to reduce the deaths from opiate overdoses is not enough. We need to stop them. A goal of this magnitude is only possible when a full community puts its mind and heart into making it happen. Eldridge Cleaver once said, “If you are not a part of the solution you are part of the problem.”

So, be part of the solution and join me and many neighbors and friends at the Knights of Columbus Hall on Medford Street on Monday, January 11 at 5:30 p.m. (light dinner) for a very important discussion. And come prepared to learn how to become part of the solution.

Fr. Jim Ronan

Photo: FreeImages.com/Marcin Jochimczyk

1st Adult Confirmation class

Please spread the word! Many adults who have been Baptized and have made their First Communion in the Catholic Church have never had the opportunity to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation.

Maybe. . . it’s time

To deepen your relationship with God who loves and cares about you.

 

To re-engage your world again as a Catholic more informed about your faith and its impact in your life.

 

To re-new yourself and others through the unique power of the Holy Spirit who guides us in Love and Truth.

Candidates 18 years of age or older will attend eight 90-minute classes to prepare for this Sacrament. If you are interested in more information or would like to register for these classes, please call Sr. Nancy at the Parish Center at 617-242-4664 or email ncitro@stmarystcatherine.org. We look forward to hearing from you.

Picture perfect

All over my desk are some of the most fantastic pictures! The entire space looks like an advertisement for Kodak! For just like you, I have received tons of pictures from family and friends of their children, themselves, their favorite sights while on vacation, and often enough, their pets. I love them, and one of the issues I face every year is: what should I do with all these pictures? I mean, after a week or two, I have to move them aside to simply see the top of the desk and get on with the new year. But, how does one throw out a picture of a bunch of smiling, giggling, and really cute kids?

Quickly enough, I think I will simply store them away and figure it out later. Problem is, I did the same last year and the year before! So I will just find a new spot to store them, I guess.

But the story is not the pictures. The story is what the pictures represent. They represent the enormous love and hope of hundreds of families. They are the story of growth, struggle, sacrifice, hard work, and lots and lots of love;  we are talking about family and everything begins and ends, in God’s marvelous plan, with family. Well, we know that a picture may be worth a thousand words and yet the picture does not tell the whole story. In my blessed role in Charlestown and in other places, it has been my unique privilege to become a part of many families. I have witnessed the birth of families in marriage, the growing of families in births, adoptions, and baptisms, the maturing of families in first communions and confirmations, and the radical changes in families in the deaths of loved ones. I have journeyed with families in trouble, with loved ones gravely ill, in prison, and far away. One of the most painful for all involved is when the family is broken apart by separation and divorce, even when that is the best resolution to a failed marriage.

We use the word freely and often, family. Yet it is a really sacred word and never to be taken lightly. A human family can only come about through love and authentic love is always a gift from God—a sharing of God’s very self with a man and a woman called to unite in marriage and form a family. Family demands our reverence and deep respect. To guard, protect, and cherish the family is a responsibility of all of us as well as to pray for the family and support all families, especially those in trouble.

Anything we do, no matter how small that strengthens our families is important and of value. For families are fragile, they are made up of persons like you and me who need to forgive, help out and be patient with one another, often a messy and challenging journey. And, as we know, in our time, families are found in various forms, far from the traditional. However, without exception, every family is precious in God’s eye and merits our respect and protection.

This weekend we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family and we marvel at the fact that the Son of God, Jesus, was born into a human family with Mary and Joseph. They formed a simple family with grandparents and ancestors. And soon after the Child’s birth, they became an immigrant family, fleeing for the safety of the Child to a foreign land. Because of the gift of this Child, and all He is, we have the freedom to embrace our human family, in love, compassion, and understanding. It is one of our greatest gifts of all and I see it so clearly as I gaze on these beautiful pictures all over my desk.

Fr. Ronan

jronan@stmarystcatherine.org

It’s the noise

The Son of God made such a choice so that there could never be the possibility of excluding anyone from the scope of His mission.

As many of you know, my years in Ecuador serve as a very rich and precious reference point for me and it seems especially in this season of the year. The following is a reflection I prepared for the Rostro de Cristo family and I wanted to share with you as well. May Christ be born anew in your hearts this Christmas season, and may you receive in abundance all the blessings of this holy time of year.

“It’s the noise. One of the first things that assaults a visitor to the urban communities in which Rostro de Cristo volunteers live and work is everyone is on the move. They are on foot, bicycles, motor bikes, jitneys, pickup trucks, refitted school buses and anything else that moves. Life among the poor, you see, means people are working to survive, eat, provide for the family and get ahead in some way. And when the long work days are completed, the home becomes a place of work as well, for every house is a building in progress. In many places, Sunday is a day families and neighbors buy cement and some blocks to add another layer on a wall of a house. And in these houses there is no running water,  plumbing, or stable electricity.

Our faith teaches us that Jesus was born among the poor, and even in a place more humble than Monte Sinai or El Arbolito, where our Rostro communities reside. And so from this vantage point, Jesus has credibility right away! It seems the Son of God made such a choice so that there could never be the possibility of excluding anyone from the scope of His mission.

Additionally, the ‘Good News’ Jesus announced cannot be confused with prosperity, wealth, and power as a definition of salvation and human fulfillment. Rather His teaching points to the dignity and worth of each person, and calls for respect, love, and generosity with and for one another.

Our simple program named the Face of Christ seeks to recognize and practice this enduring truth. Each of us is called to celebrate the blessing of Jesus’ presence in and among us and to imitate in our life with one another what we have received.

In these days, as we recall the prophesies of old come to fulfillment in Jesus’ birth, the family of Rostro de Cristo volunteers, alumni, board members, and staff express our deepest gratitude to you for the many ways in which you support our mission. I humbly ask that in this Christmas time you continue your support for us as generously as you can, for our work, our ministry is fundamentality about hope, witnessing it in the faces of the poor, bearing it in our own faces and consequently being touched by Grace in ways that ripple with hope in our communities and beyond.”

Fr. Jim Ronan

Learn more at rostrodecristo.org

The action of mercy

The word mercy is known to one and all. To me it seems to connote a certain pious forgiveness and the helping out of one in need. It always implies at least two principles: one who is suffering and in need, and another who acts to ameliorate the suffering and/or answer the need. Most of us do not think often about the experience of receiving mercy, and for the most part we do not see ourselves as merciful.

I have never met a person who, at certain times in life, has not been in need in one way or another. Suffering is not discriminatory. No person is exempt from the struggles and pain of life, and those come in so many various ways. I speak with adult children anxious about the wellbeing of their parent(s), parents struggling with the needs and issues of a child, persons suffering with addictions and families of those who struggle with the disease of addiction. There are cancer patients and their families and loved ones searching for meaning and strength, healing and hope. And there are so many young adults, apparently brilliantly successful who in reality feel empty and unfulfilled.

In all of this and more, people of faith look to God for help. At the same time we feel unworthy to look to God, for our brokenness cripples and diminish us. It can become a vicious circle, pulling us downward seeking relief where often it cannot be found.

For these reasons and so many more, Pope Francis has proclaimed a Jubilee Year of Mercy for the Church universal. The Holy Father insists that no one can be excluded from the mercy of God. Francis’ teaching sounds so straightforward and simple. In truth, it is profound and thoroughly orthodox, for he teaches the absolute truth about our God. Our God is a God of mercy whose mercy is on display most dramatically in the Incarnation and birth of His Son, Jesus.

What does mercy look like, one might ask? While one can sense and experience God’s mercy, often in the most private of ways, it may appear more elusive to actually see it. The Church holds out for our benefit the works of mercy, both spiritual and corporal. Many of them will be somewhat familiar, yet the list itself is evocative to me. It reminds me of when I have received mercy and challenges me to give away what I have received. There are seven acts listed as the spiritual works of mercy:

  • To instruct the ignorant
  • To counsel the doubtful
  • To admonish sinners
  • To bear wrongs patiently
  • To forgive offenses willingly
  • To comfort the afflicted
  • To pray for the living and the dead

I know I have received the gift of some of these merciful actions in my life and I imagine you have as well. I can recall the circumstances and persons who showed me such mercy and I remember the comfort and peace I knew from having them offered to me. I have been blessed especially as a priest and pastor with numerous opportunities to offer these gifts to many over the years. And it is true as well that the giver of the gift often receives more than he or she gives.

This Year of Mercy which has been launched by Pope Francis offers us much to ponder. How have we received mercy in our lives? How are we challenged to show mercy to one another? How are we living Jesus’ teaching to “Be merciful as your Heavenly Father is merciful”?

Fr. Ronan

jronan@stmarystcatherine.org

Going toward and moving forward

This time each year brings me back to the first Christmas I celebrated in Charlestown. The backward look today is over 11 years, and whether you are a new or longtime resident, all are in agreement about the rapidity of change in the Town. The change is not only in demographics and realty prices. It is also evident in politics, economics, culture, and the Church. It is also apparent to the honest analyst in me and in you.

When we reflect on all of these changes, including in ourselves, we can all recognize shadows and darkness, within and without. You see, the truth is we are all broken in one way or another, and that is a truth oh so well known to God. It is that very truth that explains God’s loving response to our needs: the Gift of His Son, Jesus.

This Sunday we embrace another new beginning: the Advent season. I like to think of this beautiful four-week rush as the time to look ahead, expecting something wonderful to happen, filling us with an undefined hope and an unexplainable smile. Of course there are the pressures and commercialism that can crowd out this inner pulse, but only if you let that happen.

I guess I am urging myself to take control of Advent and to not give over this time to anyone or anything else! It is a time for you and for me, for all of us, to move literally and figuratively into a looking-ahead mode that is pregnant with mystery and the miraculous: the birth of Jesus Christ, the Light that penetrates even the deepest darkness.

Pope Francis has announced a Year of Mercy for the Church and world. The Year will begin on December 8.  Next weekend in our Parish we will invite our community to grow in awareness of the Holy Father’s invitation and to fervently respond to it. It is so right that we do so, for this weary world longs for the gift of mercy. In fact, each of us can be helped and healed by embracing the riches of God’s mercy.

That God’s mercy is inclusive of one and all and is expressed dramatically in the incarnation and birth of His Son is a fundamental belief of Christians. The availability of mercy is absolute, unfiltered and indiscriminate. It is ironic that we ourselves are the only ones who can prevent us from approaching and receiving God’s mercy.

Advent 2015 is here, and I for one seek to make it the very best Advent I have known in Charlestown and before. Join me. Don’t get stuck in “whatever”. Embrace this truth that our God is a God of mercy and Jesus is the open door!

Fr. Ronan

jronan@stmarystcatherine.org