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Paul Martin

These Forty Days

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

My childhood memories of Lent are not highlights of my school years. At St. Peter’s School on Bowdoin Street in Dorchester, there were around 50 kids in every class and a Sister of Charity at the front. Rice Bowls, penance services, giving up lots of stuff, frequent church time and many more ingredients filled up the forty days. Not exactly a happy time. As a child, I am not sure I realized what this season was all about. Ash Wednesday was certainly a big deal – but exactly how to grasp one’s mortality as a child seemed a stretch, yet certainly in these COVID times, much less so.

During high school and later in college, Lent came and went and I wrestled
with it as best I could figure it out. In the seminary, we had to get serious about Lent and I did. Now that I have completed 38 years as a priest, I have to confess: I do not do Lent well in the traditional sense. I never have. I am very happy for the many that seem to get into Lent and, maybe, get lots out of it, too. Yet for me, these days are about the growing awareness of the bigness of what God has done and does with and for me every day – and my inadequate response to God. When I say “bigness” I mean it in many ways: over the course of my own life, throughout salvation history, and in the very acts of God in the present and through the ages. Maybe, one could even say in the length, breath, width, and detail of our experience of God – in the particular and the universal.

It seems fair to say that Lent, in essence, is a time to start anew, assessing
where we are in our relationships with God, self, and others – and not just with people we know . What are our attitudes towards those who are different from us? What thoughts circle within us? What judgments do we make? Reflecting on how we can do better in this regard and implementing our resolve as best we can is so essential if, truly, we are committed to partnering with God in bringing about Jesus’ desire that “we may all be one” as he is in God and God is in him.

Each of the three elements the Church urges we practice during lent— prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, address our relationship with God (through prayer), with self (through fasting) and with others (through acts of generosity). These practices are effective vehicles that aid me in getting a bit out of myself so that my awareness of God’s Grace can be more complete.

When we begin this holy season, we recall that Jesus went off into the desert for forty days of prayer and fasting before He began His public ministry. Our 40 days, similarly, call us to a time. The Church helps us by actually setting apart these six weeks as a special time of preparation. For me, the preparation is both looking backward, forward, and mostly inward. The inner awareness is essential, for without it the Lenten journey can become merely cerebral and physical. The Church consistently teaches that this time of Grace is meant for the heart and manifests itself in our relationships with others.

And so, we begin another Lent. In addition to our face coverings, many Christians will (if they can) wear the mark of ashes as a sign of our frail and mortal nature that hears the call of conversion. We need all of our senses for this journey. Yet, the epicenter of Lent remains our innermost beings – growing in awareness of God’s infinite Love and involvement in our lives and responding with gratitude and freedom.

Fr. Ronan

First Sunday of Lent
February 20/21, 2021

In today’s Gospel, Jesus urges his listeners to do two things:
to believe in the Good News and to repent.
The steward is called to repent, to be humble enough to open their hearts so they may begin anew, to change existing attitudes and habits, and to act with faith in the Gospel.
In this season of Lent, now is the time to ask ourselves whether or not we truly believe in the Gospel; and if we do, to what extent are we willing to change our prevailing habits and be more faithful to the Gospel?

A Lent Unlike Any Other

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

A mere few weeks after February 26, Ash Wednesday, 2020, all churches throughout the Commonwealth closed in response to the beginning phases of the pandemic. Now on February 17 a year later, Ash Wednesday arrives once again. Christians adhere with great fervor to the practice of receiving ashes, blessed and smudged on their foreheads. The ritual includes a simple phrase uttered by the minister, a reminder of an enduring truth and/or an exhortation to pursue more closely a life of grace. Both phrases seem to be a side of the same coin.

It is the season to be aware of our mortality, our brokenness, our sinfulness,
and the longing for a more complete and fulfilling life. Lent is an invitation to start once again. It’s time to repair that which is damaged, neglected, or broken within ourselves, in our relationships with others, and most importantly in our relationship with God.

As we think about the beginnings of Lent this year and as we longingly search for the end of the pandemic, it’s easy to look only forward and not recall the challenges, heartaches, grief, hurt, and sadness of the previous year. But is it possible for us to believe we can step into getting back to where we once were without reconciling where we have been? In many cases, that’s a challenging thing to do. For it seems to me the truth is we are always struggling with our mortality. We’re always making mistakes, falling down, not ending up where we hoped to be, feeling less than we really are, and at times, disappointed in ourselves and in others. The pandemic is exacerbating all this and so much more.

So often, when we think of sin our perspective can be what we learned as children or teenagers. In reality, sin is about the daily choices we make about love. Jesus’ only command to us, reinforced continually by His Word, His life, His example, and in the sacraments is about how we are to love one another as we have been loved by Him. That explains the CROSS becoming the central symbol of the Lenten journey: it’s a story of selfless giving out of love for others. It’s a very high threshold and yet a beautiful thing to strive towards.

The church offers us three ways to live out our Lenten journey: prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Once again, we need to bring those old words, which are rich and ever new, into a language appropriate to this time. For example, prayer is about a relationship each of us has with Jesus. Fasting is about self-sacrifice. Yet mostly and ideally, it’s about giving up all that which interferes with living a life of love: refraining from criticism, gossip, unkindness, impatience, selfishness, self -centeredness, self-denigration, and all of the behaviors that are harmful to our wellbeing and the well-being of others.

Almsgiving is a delightful old phrase and it implies giving, usually financially, to those who have a hand out and are in need. Obviously, that’s a good thing. In an even deeper way, almsgiving can be understood as generosity of heart manifested in respect for others, giving of ourselves and caring for others, thoughtfulness, forgiveness, and so much more.

Ash Wednesday, February 17, 2021, is clearly one unlike any other that we
have lived in our lifetimes and it may be an experience each one of us needs more than ever before. We’ve all been through so much and, if your journey has been at all like mine, we regret some of the ways we’ve lived these past months. And yet, the journey has opened up new ways of understanding God‘s love for us and our call to respond to God’s love in the way we live with one another.

This is a Lent to start fresh. Join us as we celebrate Ash Wednesday in our parish church with Masses in the morning, the noon, and in the evening. The 8AM morning Mass on Ash Wednesday will be live-streamed and recorded on our website for you to view when possible. At the Parish Center, ashes and helpful materials will be available in the lobby throughout the day.

A new beginning is a good thing and is there for the offering! May each of us engage in a way unlike any other savoring the unconditional love of God and loving God in return.

Fr. Ronan

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
February 13/14, 2021

The fate of a leper is a great tragedy at any time and place. In
Jesus’ time, lepers were considered condemned, part of the
plagues God sent as punishment. They were cast out of society and abandoned. Saint Mark’s Gospel reveals the unthinkable.
Jesus reaches out and touches a leper.
He risks catching the contagious disease and heals the man.
As the Gospel story teaches, no one is abandoned by Christ.
Are there those in our society or in our personal lives for whom we ascribe no hope, who we have abandoned, treated like lepers?
Or as Christ’s stewards of our sisters and brothers,
do we risk reaching out and touching those who may seem to us to be “unclean” or not worthy of our time or attention?

Love & Marriage

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

It is one of those remarkable paradoxes that while it is popularly perceived that the earliest days of a marriage are the most wonderful – it is not as clearly recognized that those same days can be some of the most challenging! Increasingly couples are marrying a bit later in life after their education and beginning a career.

Some have lived alone out of their own home for a time and adapting to life with another is not automatic. Large numbers of couples live together before getting engaged and deciding to marry. One perception is that this is a prudent decision – in order to get to better know each other before deciding if there is a future to the relationship. Ironically the failure rate of these marriages exceeds those of couples who choose not to cohabitate before marriage. And in all cases, every married and engaged couple knows that the failure rate of marriage in America is now epidemic – almost 50% of all marriages will fail, ending in separation and divorce.

The amount of pain and sadness, depression and sense of failure, guilt
and blame in every one of these marriages is staggering. There are no winners. It is clearly the case that some marriages, in hindsight, should not
have happened. The inability of one or the other of the partners to enter into the commitment was not seen at the time, and later on painfully comes to light. The ending of such marriages, traumatic as that is, may be best for
everyone. Additionally it probably follows if such a large number of marriages fail, that many of those that do not also have struggles – that making a marriage “work” is anything but easy. Yet the hard work of marriage is not a common or popular topic – maybe it should be.

Think about it: “I take you ___ for my lawful wife/husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.” How can an ordinary person of sound mind make such a promise? The immensity of the commitment seems to me beyond comprehension! For one thing, it is so unconditional and for another it is forever. The point being, the actual capacity for making and for keeping such a vow seems to demand more than any human can deliver. And it may be just in that truth that one needs to search for the answer of how such a vow can be kept.

The Catholic Church celebrates marriage as one of the seven sacraments. We profess that God is active, involved in and a source of Grace to a man and woman as they embrace marriage. And it is precisely this promise that God is a part of the relationship that invites the engaged couple to be amazed at the gift of their Love that is the very source of the capacity to make and keep the marriage vow.

With this foundational understanding as an integral part of married life,
the entire experience of the vocation of marriage takes on a different dimension. It is a holy life! It is a life of loving, sharing, forgiving, supporting, cooperating, tolerating, celebrating and loving again. Accepting that one’s life partner is flawed and not always attractive; selfish and not always generous; petty and not always kind, and so much more, is hard work! Living within a loving relationship always seems to bring out the best of us and the worst of us. In fact one’s marriage will likely bring to light one’s own need to grow and mature in new ways. And it is precisely because Love is present that each person can honestly accept themselves,
be forgiving, patient and understanding and go forward.

We read in Sacred Scripture: “Love is of God … for God is Love” (1 John 4:7).
Perhaps one dimension of the crisis in marriages in our time is the failure to recognize the very nature of Love. A marriage that will endure and flourish is grounded in Love and from Love everything flows, and to Love, everything returns. And because of Love, the hard work of marriage is not only possible but can be lovingly undertaken – with good results.

Next Sunday, we celebrate World Marriage Day. Married couples who come to Mass will be invited to restate their vows and celebrate the love they have found in one another that grows and perseveres “for better, for worse;
for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health; to love and to cherish.”

Fr. Ronan

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
February 6/7, 2021

In today’s Gospel we encounter a great number of suffering people who seek the healing touch of Jesus:
“The whole town was gathered at the door.”
Jesus could not possibly respond to them all. But the Gospel also reveals Jesus, after praying in solitude, sensing an urgency to proclaim the Good News of his Father’s love to those who suffer in the nearby villages and
towns and being present to them.
Stewards are called to follow in Jesus’ footsteps, to respond to those who suffer with compassion.
How are we responding to the suffering in our world?
How are we using our gifts to continue the work of Christ’s redemptive healing?

Getting Through the Hard Times

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

Recently, I have met with a number of people who are going through some difficult times. Some of the situations are medical, even life-threatening. Others are economical. Then there are those that are relation-al. And as each of us knows, when one area of our lives is not going well, it negatively impacts other areas as well, and we find ourselves struggling to cope with a variety of challenges.

At times like these it’s not uncommon for us to wonder, even aloud, “why me?” as we strive to make meaning out of what we’re experiencing. We can have thoughts that we’re being treated unfairly, or have the worst luck; or we struggle to figure out what we’ve “done wrong to deserve this.”

Some wonder why a good God would allow such a painful event to happen; or they try to resist the belief or even do believe that they’re being punished by none other than God. When we’re grappling with these notions about God, it can be especially tumultuous because we find it hard to turn to God for the help and consolation we need if we believe God is the one who is causing it.

People have been grappling with the same questions from the beginning of time. Our ancestors in faith believed that if you were having a hard time it was because you had sinned or perhaps your parents had sinned. But Jesus rejected this notion ( John 9:2-3). If we ever wonder if God is causing our difficulties, look to Jesus, the human face of God. Nowhere in scripture does it say that Jesus made someone blind or lame or leprous; or that Jesus ostracized anyone or wished them harm. His heart was opened to all, and he strived to bring healing and hope to all, especially those who were suffering.

Sometime ago there was a popular book published by a Jewish Rabbi: “Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?” Interesting reading and the question is great. In my own mind, as one who has been through difficult times and has asked the question, I have come up with several responses.

One: Bad things happen to everyone and good things happen
to every one.
Two: Goodness or badness may be determined by our expectations.
Three: What begins as bad sometimes turns out good.
Four: What begins as good sometimes turns out bad.
Five: Life is what happens in the good times & bad times.
Six: Life is messy for everyone.
Seven: God is with me in all times
Eight: I will always have, from God, what I need to go forward
Nine: Life IS beautiful
Ten: “Some of God’s greatest gifts are our unanswered prayers”
(Garth Brooks)

I don’t ask myself the “why me” question as much these days as I once did, even though it comes to my lips from time to time. Usually I catch myself and chuckle as I think Why not me. And then I turn to the One who loves me unconditionally and whose promise to NEVER abandon or forsake me holds firm.

Fr. Ronan

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Weekend of January 30/31, 2021

In today’s Gospel we hear proclaimed the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. He teaches. He heals. And all are amazed.
By their baptism, Christian stewards realize they are called to do the same in their lives. They are called to be the light of Christ each day.
As we bring closure to the beginning of this new year, now is a good time to ask the Lord to fill our hearts with courage and faith, so that we too may publicly minister in his name.
Let us ask that we may be liberated from our insecurities and fear so that we can share the Gospel authoritatively and work to heal at least one wounded relationship in the coming months ahead.

Draw Near to God with a Sincere Heart

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

All of us have met a person we sense is “phony” – a characteristic that is deadly in any interpersonal relationship. And all of us have met a person who truly appears to be “the real thing” – a very attractive quality in any individual. What is it that enables a person to exhibit this kind of open mind and heart; that allows one to act, speak and really be authentic, genuine, and honest, without a façade or artificial presence? For me, it is a matter of freedom – interior freedom. The kind of freedom that comes from knowing and trusting that one is a precious child of God.

God knows each one of us intimately. There isn’t anything about us that God does not know, and there isn’t anything we can keep hidden from God. Yet I wonder if there are times when we try to present ourselves to God as someone other than who we truly are. Maybe it is a question of honesty with oneself and with God. And perhaps there are times when, in reality, one isn’t always certain about who one is and how one feels or understands one’s own life. So in those moments, we try to “fake it” and present ourselves to God with a confidence that we simply don’t have.

Who are you before God and how do you think God sees you? I think God always delights in us – especially when we are our own, true selves – whether we’re certain or confused, confident or floundering, peaceful or restless, afraid or serene. As Jesus began His public ministry, His first teaching urged people to “wake up” and to recognize that the time had come – the Kingdom was at hand. He called the Apostles one by one to follow him and to proclaim the Good News.

Jesus calls each one of us today to do the same. This is a time for honesty – with oneself, with others and with God. For it seems to me that it is precisely when one freely owns oneself completely and presents oneself as one is to God, with all the doubts and uncertainties, successes and failures, dreams and fears, that one can be made whole by the God who knows us so well and loves us so unconditionally. So “let us draw near to God with a sincere heart, in full assurance of faith” (Heb. 10:22a).

Fr. Ronan

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
January 23/24, 2021

The first disciples of Jesus in today’s Gospel left their work and their
daily routines to follow him. They abandoned their livelihoods, familiar surroundings and the lives to which they had become accustomed
to be closer to him.
The good steward finds ways to be removed from
what may be a comfortable existence or daily routine in order to serve
the Lord more faithfully.
All too often, out of fear, insecurity or even
selfishness, we refuse to leave the safety of the little world we have
created for ourselves in order to hear the Lord’s call and be challenged
by his Gospel.
Perhaps we should reflect on what comforts we need to
sacrifice in order to be better stewards of God’s mercy, compassion
and hospitality he planted within us.

Our Strength is Our Unity

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

I think it was on a Monday when I drove out of the parish in Durán, Ecuador past an open field, large and unused in any way. The next morning, as I came around the corner in my truck, I could barely believe it: there were hundreds of caña shacks with tin roofs dotting the large field. An “invasion” had happened; poor people occupying unused open space and by the mere occupancy, claiming it as a place to build a home and live. This has happened all over Latin America. It has been the way cities that once had populations of 50,000 now have sprawled into cities of millions of people. It is very messy, sometimes violent and a hard way to find a place to live. It is also a scene that is ripe for extortion and dishonesty.

Internal migration of the poor from the rural to the urban areas is happening all over the southern hemisphere. The motivation is social and economic: people are seeking a better life with opportunities for education, health care and jobs for themselves and especially for their children. Life in these new areas is harsh and survival only happens as people come together. Often a saying like: “Nuestra fuerza es nuestra unidad” (Our strength is our Unity) is a common expression of the truth of their reality. Primitive as this reality is, it also exposes some of the best of our human nature.

Little by little this new invasion worked its way into becoming a neighborhood and a community. Organization of all forms was needed: streets were laid out, systems of protection established; bus routes near the main streets around the area were established. Small business, like stores that sold basics were opened and other necessities of several thousand people living in one neighborhood came to life. From the community, more and more families came to the local parish church and I came to know them and the stories of the villages from which they had come. Soon enough, the people were organized sufficiently to ask me if they could have a chapel of their own.

I was amazed at the fervor and commitment the people expressed for having a chapel they could call their own. Slowly, I came to realize this wonderful hard working Catholic people would not feel as if they really had “arrived until they had a church in the middle of their community. They had already carved out space for the church and had come together to organize a way to build it. All of this and more they carefully laid out to me at a meeting late one Saturday afternoon. I agreed and promised to work with them to make it a reality.

Traveling by 4 WD vehicle in these parts always requires one to carry rope and other emergency supplies. I walked over to the truck and pulled out a large coil of rope, unrolled it and began to pass it out to everyone gathered for the meeting. At least 25 people, not counting children, grabbed a piece of the rope and we formed a big square in the image of a church building! Slowly we moved around in different directions trying to figure out the best size and location for the dreamed-of chapel. It was an amazing moment: I was watching the church, the people of God, joyously moving to the left and right in what appeared to be a fun game, envisioning a building for their church.

For generations our Church has taught us that the Baptized faithful are the “people of God”, the “Body of Christ”. Not only is a church building not truly THE CHURCH but no single one of us is THE CHURCH. We are only THE CHURCH when we stand together in Christ. We did build a lovely caña chapel in that amazing place, laid out exactly as all the people agreed it ought to be. And that day what I learned from those beautiful folks was an ever deeper appreciation of our true Church. We are ONE in Christ and, Our Strength is our Unity.

Fr. Ronan

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
January 16/17, 2021

Christian stewardship begins with the call to discipleship and in today’s Gospel we discover those first individuals who sought out Jesus and wanted to listen to him, learn from him and stay with him.
Today, Christian stewards search out the hidden presence of Jesus in their own lives every day. They know Christ is the “Messiah” who will one day bring about a perfect restoration to a troubled world.
They further understand that they are sacraments of his hidden presence in the world. Their task is to make that reality known through their own words and actions. What is one thing we can do to be better stewards of Christ’s life in us

Into the Ordinary

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

This morning as I hurried to the church to prepare for morning Mass, I was thinking about the readings while at the same time aware that the Church turns a page today. For many weeks now we have been in two very special seasons, Advent and Christmas. The beauty and richness of these times, the eloquence and depth of the readings from Sacred Scripture combined with the loveliness of the decorations and joyful spirit of Christmas are concluded. This week we return to ORDINARY TIME in the liturgical calendar of the Church.

Interesting word, “ordinary”; what does it really mean? It may be one of those words that is defined more by what it is NOT than by what it is. In that sense “ordinary” is all of the time that is not identified as extra-ordinary. And yet so much of life is all about the “ordinary”.

At a funeral I celebrated recently, a young man gave a eulogy for a deceased member of his family. He began by offering this observation: the most important item found on a tombstone is none other than the tiny dash – found between the dates of one’s birth and death. For that dash is that person’s life. You might say the DASH is the ordinary. Come to think about it, it could be said that the life of Jesus is marked by two “extraordinary” events: His birth in Bethlehem and His death on the Cross in Jerusalem. Yet the dash, “the ordinary” times of His life, really tell the story of why God’s Son came to earth; the teaching, healing, compassion, water-walking, bread-multiplying, dead-raising and so much more.

I meet with many young couples preparing for their marriage. Sometime early on in our conversations I lift up the well known saying: “A wedding is a day, a marriage is a lifetime”. Point being, some couples get so entrenched in the planning of the wedding they forget to really live fully each day – again the ordinary.

God is found everywhere, of this I am certain. Yet it is hard to find God if one is not living in the present time, moment, and reality of one’s life. I am very fond of these lines from Thomas Merton: “God cannot be found by weighing the present against the future or the past, but only by sinking into the heart of the present as it is” (Entering the Silence, 460).

And so it is, God is found most intimately in the ordinary moments of each day – making “Ordinary Time” a very special time!

Fr. Ronan

Feast of the Baptism of the Lord
January 9/10, 2021

On this first weekend after the Feast of the Epiphany, the Gospel reading reminds us of Jesus’ baptism.
It gives meaning to our own baptism into Christ Jesus. Jesus’ baptism is a reminder that he is not only our Lord but also our brother.
He was baptized, just as we are. He shares in our humanity.
Good stewards recognize that their baptisms call them to conform their daily lives to Jesus’ teachings, and to live their lives as Jesus did.
Through their baptism, they have been given the necessary gifts to share with others the new creation that Christ brings.
The stewardship question is whether we can recognize our own baptismal gifts, and like Jesus, use those gifts to bring the hope of Christ to the lives of others.

Arrival of Strangers

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

I grew up in a neighborhood where everyone pretty much looked the same, went to the same schools, church, markets, bakeries, bank, park, and so
forth. It was a kind of Irish enclave. We followed with passion the Boston sports teams. Most had brothers and sisters and everyone knew everyone
else’s family members and their story. Anybody’s mother could correct any child and hopefully would not carry out the threat to tell “your mother”. We never knew it was different anywhere else, and it was a good way to grow up with lots of folks a part of your life – a real sense of community.

Jesus grew up in Nazareth, a small Jewish village in Galilee. I imagine it was
a closely knit community as well. In fact at that time in history, almost all folks lived this way, each one mutually helping and supporting one another through hard times and staying safe against external forces.

The arrival in Jerusalem of three notable strangers, along with others in their team, would have been noticed immediately. And when the three distinguished foreigners started to ask questions about the whereabouts of the birth of a new Jewish king, everyone including King Herod, listened attentively. This was a moment that would go down in history. The birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, had become known outside their local quarter and beyond.

The Feast of the Epiphany pulls us into the realization that our God sent His
Son to be born among us. He came, in fact, as a member of a small minority
people – for them and in fulfillment of promises made to them through the ages. Furthermore, this Feast makes clear that God’s saving action is for all the people: in the East and the West, in the South and the North – and this realization is the true gift of the Three Wise Men.

Growing up in small, homogenous areas as many of us have in one way or
another is such a good thing in so many ways. It can also be an easy way to exclude from one’s world others who are different. At its worst, it can re-enforce prejudices and bigotry fueled by ignorance and small-mindedness.

Every people of every nation know something of the struggles of prejudice.
Even today, the tribalism of some people leads to the slaughter of others and the divisions of peoples along lines of race, color, ethnicity, and religion. This is nothing new – rather it is sadly old.

At the birth of the Child Jesus in Bethlehem, the three Wise Men from the East announced the dawn of a new and universal act of God – to be among us as the sign of Hope and salvation for all humankind. Jesus Christ came to set us free for all of this and more! This freedom at its core is based in the God given dignity of every human person, without distinction. As followers of Jesus, it is up to each of us to live out this, God’s vision, in our lives and in our world.

Fr. Ronan

Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord
January 2/3, 2021

Today’s Gospel reading reveals the story of the magi who come from the east to pay homage to Jesus, the newborn king.
The story of the magi teaches Christian stewards three Christmas truths: God, in the person of Jesus Christ, is present and active in the world, and good stewards strive daily to follow his star.
Second, each of us, no matter our circumstances or station in life, has a gift to bring to the Lord.
And finally, our life’s journey always leads to Christ, even when at times we do not know where the road is taking us.

Picture Perfect

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

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.

In reality, 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.

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.
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, it is 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 eyes 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

Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph
December 26/27, 2020

When Jesus is presented in the Temple, our Blessed Mother formally
offers him to God’s service without reservation.
It is a service that Simeon prophetically foretells: a service to God that will turn the old laws and cultural norms upside down.
As we await the dawn of a new year, are we destined to hold on to old habits and customs tightly or like Jesus, are we willing to serve the Lord and proclaim the Gospel in new and creative ways?

Birth and Death

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

My mother died on Friday, December 13, 1991. Earlier in that week, my family reached me with news of her decline and I was able to arrive home from Ecuador to be with her in those early morning hours. Her death was not sudden; she had been on the journey since a serious stroke three years earlier.

As my sisters and brothers gathered in the days that followed, we shared wonderful memories of this remarkable and most loving woman. Of course, while we were preparing for Mom’s funeral, everything around us was wrapped in Christmas lights, decorations and cheer. While that may have appeared to make our grief more painful, it did not.

Preparing for celebrating the Birth of Jesus Christ – and the power of the
promise of this infant king – opens for the Christian the deepest mystery of God’s love. In and through the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord, through the ages and today, we joyfully proclaim: “In death life is changed, not ended”.

It is the story of life – each life an immeasurable gift, a unique work of art from the Creator, never meant to end, always destined for eternity. Living in this truth can transform our grief and sadness. Not changing it or making it go away, rather transforming it to accept our human frailty and look beyond it to the Author of life and the promise of life eternal.

Christmas 1991 was a peaceful and sweet time for my family. We remembered with deep love and gratitude as we celebrated the Birth of the Messiah, the font of all Love.

Christmas 2020, well maybe you and I need to do something similar. Painful
losses beyond measure have been part of everyone’s life as well as the life of our nation and world. The human frailty of our nation has been exposed like never before. Nonetheless, we look to Bethlehem and recall Immanuel – God is with us.

The hope we long for is not only from a vaccine but more so, from reembracing the infinite Love, discovered by the shepherds, sought by the kings, and here for us this day.

Fr. Ronan

Fourth Sunday of Advent
December 19/20, 2020

In today’s Gospel reading we have the story of the Annunciation, when the angel of the Lord announced to Mary that she would give birth to Christ through the intercession of the Holy Spirit.
Mary allowed God’s messenger to speak to her. She was attentive, not afraid to enter into a dialogue, then unconditionally obedient.
Mary’s acceptance of this mystery is a stewardship model for us.
Good stewards remain open to the incursions of divine life into
the normal course of their daily lives.
How open are we to the promptings of the Holy Spirit
in our own lives?
What might we do this last week of Advent to be more attentive to the