FR. RONAN’S BLOG

To Wonder

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

We walked along the sidewalk and there were flower gardens, lawn, shrubs and trees all along the way. He was holding my hand – it was a stretch for both of us for he was only 2 years old. The weather was warm and lovely, typical for springtime in Virginia, and there were ants and various bugs crawling everywhere celebrating the rites of spring. My nephew caught sight of these critters and nothing would do but he had to let go of my hand and crawl along following a busy colony of something. He was lost in amazement, completely outside of himself in wonder as he crawled through puddles and over rock in pursuit of the mystery of this life.

I have always held that memory as a classic understanding of what it means to wonder. Wonder is very different than thinking about, analyzing, processing, discussing and debating, working through and a dozen other ways in which most adults stand in front of daily reality. With a “hands-on-hip get the job done” attitude none of us seem to have much time for … wondering. In fact wondering is likely considered a waste of time in many circles and that’s a shame.

Abraham Heschel, the late and brilliant Jewish theologian and philosopher, wrote a lot about wonder. I like these words: “The beginning of our happiness lies in the understanding that life without wonder is not worth living.” To me the issue relates to how one stands in the world in front of the mystery and beauty of creation and all life. Not to wonder seems to leave two options: dismiss the great mysteries of life or believe everything can be understood and figured out. The latter opens one to unsustainable arrogance and failure and the former seems nothing short of foolish.

It is only our capacity for wonder that opens us to the transcendent and the mystery that is life and the universe. In one of his writings, Heschel says that the person who never wonders cannot find God. Is it possible that our present time of efficiency, productivity, and astonishing advances in so many levels have come at a price? The cost has been an increase of secularism and a diminishment of wonder – be it in art, music, theatre and religious practices.

Professor Heschel’s formula for a life well lived is as follows: “Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement. ….get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.”

Once again, our children can teach us. Jesus was clear in His teaching – we are to become like children and perhaps that is so we can re-capture our sense of wonder in our everyday life for as Heschel says, “Wonder rather than doubt is the root of all knowledge.”

Fr. Ronan

Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time September 21/22, 2019

In Jesus’ parable of the Unjust Steward, we encounter a financial manager who has wasted his master’s wealth and faces dismissal from his position. To overcome the crisis confronting him, the steward reduces some very considerable debts owed by poor neighbors to his master in order to help them out. Though the steward has sinned against God and his master by squandering what belongs to someone else, both the prudent way in which he goes about resolving the crisis coupled with relieving people who are in need can be seen as a way to better steward the gifts entrusted to us by God. Although good stewards today acknowledge that they may never use their God-given gifts in a way that completely conforms to the demands of the Gospel, a commitment to using their gifts with prudence and for the purpose of helping their neighbors wins God’s favor.

Human Consequences of our Immigration Policies

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

Immigration is as ancient as recorded history. It is driven by multiple factors — people move because they are afraid, oppressed, or to escape violence and chaos. Immigration is often accompanied by human tragedy. But not always — people also move because of hopes and dreams. They move to find new opportunities, and they move to contribute to their new country. Having worked with immigrant communities throughout my priesthood, I have seen how deeply patriotic they are when they are welcomed to this country.

Immigration in our time has far exceeded previous experience. The World Health Organization estimates that one billion people are migrating today. We live in a globalized world; in that context, movement is perpetual. Ideas move, products move, money moves. But people do not migrate easily. Obstacles abound.

Part of the reason is that our globalized world is structured and governed by sovereign states. It is a basic function of states to establish secure boundaries, defining the territory where they exercise sovereignty.

Security and sovereignty are part of the reality of immigration, but they are not all of it. Sovereignty has moral content, but it is not an absolute value. The immigration policy of states should combine security with a generous spirit of welcome for those in danger and in need.

That necessary combination of values is seriously lacking in the United States today. Principal responsibility for this moral failure must rest with the federal government, where policy is a product primarily of the president and Congress. But it also must be recognized that, as a society, we are deeply divided over immigration. Our divisions have produced severe human consequences — it is imperative to acknowledge some of them.

First, the most dramatic and dehumanizing consequence is to be found on the border with Mexico. To be sure, the challenge — thousands of adults and children seeking asylum every day — is unprecedented in recent history. But even a challenge of this severity, in a country of our resources and capabilities, cannot justify how these children and families are being treated. The overarching policy of the US government lacks justification.

Rather than a humane plan, existing policy in word and deed is more focused on castigating and confining young and old, male and female, in conditions often pervasively unfit for human life and dignity.

Second, rather than focus the efforts of all relevant agencies on the relief of suffering at the border, there are continuing threats made that the government will scour the country to remove people who have settled here and whose children are citizens.

Third, the dysfunction of our policy is acknowledged across the political spectrum of our country. The crisis at the border and the focus on removals leave the broader policy agenda unresolved in the executive and legislative branches of government.

To be sure, there are thousands at the border who require immediate attention. But there are also 11 million unauthorized immigrants in our midst with no policy to stabilize their existence and provide a path to citizenship — a policy objective advocated by the Catholic Church for decades.

Among the 11 million people are 3.6 million people brought to the United States as children, of which only 700,000 have temporary protection from deportation through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which is itself under threat. There are also over 400,000 people with Temporary Protected Status who are living in limbo. They have come to the United States for various reasons — for some, their countries have suffered natural disasters and they have no viable option to return home. There are no policies in place to allow TPS holders, the majority of whom have lived in the United State for more than 20 years, to earn lawful residency and move forward in their lives.

The point of identifying these broad categories and consequences of existing policy is to highlight that practical, concrete choices are available to correct a dysfunctional policy. First, we should recognize that economic assistance to El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Haiti, and Mexico could assist people to remain in their home countries. In addition, the historic “guest worker” program, which provides temporary visas for workers, can contribute to the needs of the United States as well. However, our policies on Central America seem exclusively focused on threats, coercion, and punishment. This is surely misguided.

Developing positive solutions does not seem to be the motivating concern of existing policy. Instead, the current emphasis, we are told, is on “deterrence,” a term at home in military policy that is now being advocated to confront people with no power of any kind. The targets in this case are not an armed array of hostile attackers. They are women, children, families.

Fourth, while deterrence can have some role in law enforcement and has been used by other administrations, much depends on the spirit and motivation that animates our broader immigration policy. Current US policy and practices combine to project an attitude of animus toward immigrants. Most evident is the language used at times to describe people on our borders; it is often degrading and demoralizing.

Beyond language, there are the policies to reduce the number of refugees the United States will welcome. The numbers have been reduced substantially, and threats exist to reduce them to zero. The federal government recently announced it will expedite removals of undocumented immigrants without judicial appeal or oversight and move to provide for unlimited detention of families seeking asylum. The tenor, tone, and result of these policies communicate a distinct message: We have no room in our hearts and no space in our country for people facing life-and-death situations. This hostile spirit toward immigrants extends to proposals to expel some of those receiving crucial medical care. A similar spirit of lack of compassion and generosity is manifested in new proposals to focus immigration increasingly on merit-based applicants, leaving the poor excluded.

Our present moment requires civility and charity among the citizens of our society and toward those hoping to become citizens. As a country it is a good time to remember the biblical axiom: To whom much is given, much is expected.

Cardinal Séan P. O’Malley

Twenty-fourth Sunday Ordinary Time Weekend of September 14/15, 2019

Among the primary themes in today’s Gospel when we hear Jesus’ well-known parable of the Prodigal Son is forgiveness and the need to repent. But from a stewardship point of view what is also interesting is one of the secondary themes: the failure to use responsibly the gifts that have been so generously bestowed. The youngest son who demanded his inheritance and left home broke no laws or religious commandments. His wrongdoing was that he wasted his inherited wealth, the abundant gifts given to him. His sin was in his extravagant living; squandering his gifts in pursuit of selfish pleasures. Good stewards acknowledge that everything they have comes from God, and they are required to cultivate these gifts responsibly.
What are our God-given gifts?
Do we use them responsibly?
Do we exercise good stewardship over them?

Change is Tough

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

I was twenty years old and finishing my second year of college when my parents decided it was time to sell the family home in Dorchester. Some of my older siblings had already moved on and I was the youngest. The neighborhood had changed a lot and my Dad planned to semi-retire and make a move to a smaller home in the suburbs. I spent a lot of that summer cleaning, moving and packing, and remembering. What a great old house that was and how hard it was to say goodbye – to change and to move on.

My story and memories are no different then those of so many of you as well, I imagine. We have all gone through changes in life – it is simply part of the journey. And if there has not been too much changing in your life – just wait a minute – something will come along real soon! Changes in the Church are sort of like changes in our homes and families – they are so close and personal to us. Of course we all come to realize that change is inevitable in all but the most fundamental things.

For example, our faith that sustains us daily; the love we share in families and friendships and the hope that is ours for tomorrow and into the future. These are all constants and we depend upon them each day. Our faith, hope and love may grow, be challenged and be taken for granted – but they are cornerstones of our life. It seems so much else changes. People, relationships, experiences, work, institutions, products, places and on and on – all come and go, leaving us to cope with an ever changing landscape.

And how do we cope as men and women of Faith with the changes in our lives and world? Some see changes as conspiracy and are threatened by change. Others see changes as exciting and inevitable and positive. Some are indifferent, others passionate about holding on to whatever.

For me, 6 Percival Street is gone – forever. All that was important in my life that happened at 6 Percival Street is a part of me and my brothers and sisters and our lives. Saying goodbye was hard as it often is. But, saying goodbye usually means we are saying hello as well. And if my history is any indication of my journey, and maybe yours, God has always been active in both the goodbyes and hellos – sustaining, helping guiding. In fact, it is in exactly the act of letting go of what is comfortable and familiar that we are invited to trust in the God who knows us so well and loves us so much. Sustained by this trust, we can go forward with hope.

Fr. Ronan

Follow me !

Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time September 7/8, 2019

At the conclusion of today’s Gospel, we hear Jesus tell a “great crowd” that “… anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.” A few of Jesus’ immediate disciples, such as Peter, John and James, did just that: They responded to Jesus’ call, renouncing everything to follow him. How do modern disciples of Jesus respond when confronted with this apparently harsh command of Jesus? Surely the renunciation of possessions need not mean literally giving all one’s possessions away, does it?
Questions we might ponder this week though:
Do our possessions keep us from encountering Christ at Mass?
Do they distract us from our parish family?
Do our possessions interfere with our relationships?
Do they make us insensitive to those less fortunate?

Labor Day Weekend

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

For as long as I can remember that phrase, “Labor Day Weekend” contained within it more emotion then I ever cared to face. Of all of the transitions that happen within the course of a calendar year, none seems as profound, as challenging and frankly as sad as this one. Summer is over. OK, I have said it, even though I don’t really accept it. There are still some weeks of beautiful weather ahead; everyone knows sailing and the best swimming are in September. And on and on, I try to push back to the sorry truth, summer is over.

I am certain I am not alone in this reaction to Labor Day. While parents of school age children secretly or otherwise rejoice that summer is ending and their children will return to school in a matter of days, most of us lament that the beauty and the loveliness of the summertime is ending.

In 1894 the U.S. Congress established Labor Day as a federal holiday to be celebrated on the first Monday in September. Today the weekend is embraced as a final fling of summertime for young and old. Family reunions, cookouts, parades and other kinds of social gatherings mark this weekend. The Sunday before Labor Day is called Labor Sunday. On this day it is recommended one reflect on the spiritual and educational aspects of work and the labor movement.

We all earn our daily bread by our work, in one way or another. Some of us are blessed with work that is more a vocation and it is deeply fulfilling and meaningful. Yet I think many do not find their jobs pleasant and enjoyable. Rather their work can be drudgery. The large numbers of workers who daily labor at one or two minimum wage jobs are an example. Over the brief history of workers in our country, it has been the labor movement that has brought relief for workers who had known abuse and exploitation. Many of us recall the stories of our parents and grandparents about the struggles of the immigrant workers in our cities. Those struggles continue for many immigrants today.

The Catholic Church has long been a committed friend of the worker. From early on the Church supported labor unions and the rights of workers to organize. Catholic Social Teaching would hold the following: The economy must serve people, not the other way around. Work is more than a way to make a living: it is a form of continuing participation in God’s creation. While the unions of today face many challenges they are nonetheless the hope of many workers for a decent wage and fair and safe working conditions. For all of these reasons and more, we gratefully celebrate Labor Day, 2019.

Underlying the rights of workers is our belief in the dignity of each person, as a child of God. This dignity pervades all that we are and do and infuses all the seasons of our lives with an awareness of God’s plan that all people have what they need to live with dignity and hope. Clearly we have a lot of work to do to make that dream a reality.

Fr. Ronan

Don the cloak of Humility

Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time September 1, 2019

In today’s Gospel, Jesus challenged the social structure of the Pharisees and teaches his hosts and their guests some profound lessons in humility. Pharisees maintained deep social divisions between who they considered “holy” and “unholy,” rich and poor, honored and despised. They didn’t invite someone to a banquet or dinner who couldn’t reciprocate. And the lowly, the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind had no capacity to reciprocate. Good stewards realize that if they embrace a humility that allows them to be generous to those who cannot repay them, they give evidence of having the kind of heart that will enjoy the Lord’s intimate friendship. This week let’s reflect on our attitude towards those who cannot repay our generosity. What is the extent of our hospitality toward others? Are we generous with those who cannot repay us?

Living With A Dog

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

Children, by their very nature, are open to so much they find all around them, whether it is in the sky, in the air or under the sea. Whether in forests or cities, a young person can sense, feel and know so much. There is that magical capacity of a child that seems to absorb and learn – even though there is no obvious lesson around. Further, children know if people like them before there is any clear evidence one way or the other. All of this and so much more we experience around our children. Many of us lose some of these gifts as we grow older. I think we shift our experiences from the heart and senses to the head!

I have come to believe that dogs, in their own way, often have some of the abilities of a child. Those of us, who are so blessed to have lived with a dog, have many stories about amazing, unexpected behaviors on the part of our pets. They are stories of awareness, helping, responding, anticipating and apparently understanding and appreciating and so much more. There are many examples.

On the topic of how a dog has helped a person deal with grief and loss, there are numerous accounts and, frankly from an objective point of view, they are almost hard to believe. Yet I now know they are likely true. The presence of dogs among the elderly and infirm is an increasing phenomenon and for a good reason. Dogs can reach people where they find them, even if that person is suffering from dementia, severe handicaps or Alzheimer’s disease.

On more than one occasion, on request, I have brought Lily, my English Labrador retriever, into a hospice unit to comfort a dying patient. The situations were difficult: sounds, smells and many off-putting aspects of the scene. However, Lily, with my leading her, passed by all of this and any other distraction, to go to the suffering person and allowed herself to be patted – licking the hand of the terminally ill person. The effect was a joy to behold.

The more I live around dogs, and that certainly is easy to do in Charlestown, the more I am amazed and humbled by the beauty and gift of this animal. Increasingly, I realize that a pet, a living, breathing miracle of creation, is none other than one more of God’s wonders. When one lives with a dog for awhile, one can see and appreciate the wonder of God’s work of creation. And if one becomes too busy to notice all of this, in all likelihood a good dog will change that. When I have been working long hours and have not taken a break, Lily is in the habit of walking over to my desk and poking me with her snout – it is time to quit and go for a walk – and she is right!

I had an old uncle who once told me a wonderful Irish saying: “You can always tell a poor man, because he has a dog. You can always tell a very poor man, because he has two dogs!” When I look at Lily snoring on the other side of the office, I think, maybe I am not poor enough; and than I look again and know I am very rich.

~ Fr. Ronan ~

Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time August 24/25, 2019

The Gospel reading today starts with a question: “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” Jesus offers only a simple reply: Strive to enter through the narrow gate. Many will try to enter and will not be able. Good stewards know there is only one, narrow gate. Not everything will fit. This narrow gate has no room for our accomplishments. No room for our money. No room for our possessions. No room for anything else but those who’ve been good stewards of the Gospel. We can’t custom build our own gates either. There is only one, narrow gate that happens to be open for a time, but for how long? What is our plan of action to get through that gate?

WE WERE MADE FOR THESE TIMES

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

We are in the midst of troubling and desperate times. Given this distressing reality, what stance shall we take? Shall we spend ourselves railing about the state of affairs? Shall we resign ourselves to what we fear is inevitable? These are not viable options.

One commentator I read the other day, Clarissa Pinkola Estes, writes this is precisely NOT the time to lose hope. Ms. Estes posits, rather remarkably, “We were made for these times”. In fact, we stand at a moment where we may choose despair and hopelessness, that turning inward into darkness and helplessness, or we may choose to stand up and do the right. One’s capacity may seem insignificant and in fact puny in the face of all that needs to be addressed. But that is an illusion.

No right thing is ever insignificant and lacking meaning and value. No, never. It is natural to shrink in front of the immensity of the issues and question, “What difference can I make?” That question has been asked before – and answered. When Mother Teresa of Calcutta was asked the value of her carrying one dying man into her shelter when there were thousands of others lying on the streets, she responded, “God does not call us to do great things, rather little things with great love”. The woman brings the issue into focus.

If we allow ourselves to be duped by how insignificant our capabilities are, we can be crippled into inaction. How convenient for the forces of evil. Your grandparents likely heard the prophetic words: “It is better to light a penny candle than to curse the darkness”. Each of us can do something that will make a difference. And just imagine what could happen if we were to work together.

Each of us has a choice on what kind of neighborhood, parish, Church, nation, world we want to help create. It is not ours to look to the left or right, in front or behind to find who can speak up or act. That privilege and responsibility belongs to each and all of us – without exception. And when our words and actions flow from our faith and Gospel values, always steeped in charity for others and our deep belief in God’s love and presence, there is no limit to the possibilities.

These are hard times. But you and I were born into these times and for a reason. It falls to us to make them better times in every corner of our individual and collective worlds. Ms. Estes says it well: “There will always be times when you feel discouraged ….but I do not keep a chair for it; I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate. The reason is this: In my uttermost bones I know something, as do you. It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, Who you serve and Who sent you here…”

God is asking each of us to make a difference… to roll up our sleeves and work diligently to make real the dream, the vision that God has for us – “that all may be one” – whether or not we will see it in our lifetime. How shall we respond? What shall be our legacy for future generations?

– Fr. Ronan

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time Weekend of August 17/18, 2019

In today’s second reading, we hear the author of the letter to the Hebrews liken the daily life of the Christian steward to a race, a long-distance race perhaps, certainly not a sprint; requiring endurance and a single-minded focus on Jesus at the finish line. Good stewards are firmly committed to running the race, to live the Christian life to the fullest, to keep their eyes focused on Jesus. They don’t grow weary. They don’t lose heart. They know there is immense joy waiting for them at the finish line. Are you fully committed to living each day for Christ?

Are you running the race, or are you simply jogging? Just walking? Sitting? Going backwards? Going nowhere? Some of us may want to reflect on what we can do to run the race with even more conviction. Others may want to reflect on how to simply enter the race and start running

CARDINAL O’MALLEY ISSUES STATEMENT ON EL PASO, DAYTON SHOOTINGS

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

Cardinal Sean P. OʹMalley issued the following statement Monday, Aug. 5, 2019:

The mass murder of 31 innocent people in a 24 hour period, fueled by hate and disregard for human life, is unacceptable in any society. We offer our prayers and support for the communities of El Paso and Dayton in the midst of this time of immense pain.

Our nation was founded on the principle that all people are entitled to ʺlife, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.ʺ We implore our elected leaders to rise above ideological differences and work together to address the serious issues facing our country by enacting meaningful and effective policies to end the violence. This includes keeping firearms, particularly assault weapons, out of the hands of those who would use them to inflict devastating harm on our communities. We must address inadequate mental health care in this country. Finally, we must work towards a more civil and just society that rejects all forms of violence and hatred in our country. The fabric of our national conscience is at risk.

Today we give thanks for the bravery of the first responders who selflessly rush to the aid of the victims and pray for the healing of those injured in the shootings. We call upon the intercession of Mary, the Mother of God, for the protection of our loved ones, friends and neighbors as we entrust to our Lordʹs mercy those lost to this violence. Together let us strengthen our commitment to do what is necessary to stop these horrendous attacks.

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Weekend of August 10/11, 2019

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus concludes his teaching about those who are “faithful and prudent stewards” with that classic stewardship teaching: “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.”

Christian stewards recognize that God is the ultimate source of their gifts, talents, resources and aptitudes, and that God wants them to use these varied gifts in his service.

This week might be a good time to reflect on our God-given gifts. Are we using those gifts to serve the Lord? If Christ came back to us unexpectedly tomorrow would we be able to give a full accounting of how we have exercised stewardship over these gifts?

Lost & Found

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

Supposedly, it goes with aging – forgetting where something is – not remembering where you last saw/used or placed an item. While I resist that as an exclusive characteristic of someone over 60, I have to admit some truth to the theorem. Losing one’s keys seems the most annoying, perhaps only bested by misplacing a cell phone.

Most of us can identify with the emotion of discovering something is lost – seems like it happens just when we need it …! And can you recall how you feel when the object is found, especially if the search has gone on for a bit and others have been helping? The relief is huge.

But there are other kinds of losses we all know about: jobs, homes, friendships, money, health, agility, independence, even freedom that may not be resolved as we may hope. Truth is, life includes many moments when we face loss, and some are devastating. Sometimes our losses big and small can nurture self-pity which can lead to magnify the loss in our lives.

One common response to certain types of loss is, “Why?” We search for answers and we often seek to find out whom or what is to blame for the loss. And often enough, the answer is elusive and our anger is directed to God: “Why did God let this happen to ME?” This course may cause us to turn away from the very One who seeks to comfort, sustain, and direct us in times of trial.

So how do we live with loss? The movement of life is only in one direction – there is no going back. The pain of loss and change can break us or can open us to a new way of being. Instead of asking “Why”, in faith, one can ask “What”: “What does God want me to do now? What can I do to move forward? What can I learn from this loss?”

I recall being at a very low point in my life, struggling with change and loss. I wandered into a bookstore and was browsing around. There was a display of book marks, little plastic strips printed with a quote or saying. One read, “The will of God will never lead you where the Grace of God will not sustain you”. I bought that book mark and took great comfort in that truth. I needed to accept the loss and changes and seek to move forward, to learn, to grow, to adapt, and to trust.

Marion Howard once wrote: “Life is like a blanket too short. You pull it up and your toes rebel, you yank it down and shivers meander about your shoulder; but cheerful folks manage to draw their knees up and pass a very comfortable night”. God gives to each of us whatever we need to live through the losses of our lives. When we believe that, actually trust that truth, then the loss can yield something to be found.

Maybe Charles Schultz was right when he said: “Life is like a ten-speed bicycle. Most of us have gears we never use”. Indeed, we need to try out the other gears – they are there to be used and when we do, we may find a speed that really works very well for us. Friends, the God who made us, who knows us better than we know ourselves, and whose love for us is constant and unconditional, will never abandon us.

As we go forward with the losses and the finds of our lives, look around. There is some new insight and experience awaiting us – and God is behind us all the way.

Fr. Ronan

Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord August 6

Jesus took Peter, James, and John, his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him.

Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”

When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and do not be afraid.” And when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone. (Mt 17:1-9)

Day By Day

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

Most parish priests spend a good bit of time in ministry to the sick and dying. Frankly, I consider it to be a very beautiful ministry. It is such a privilege to be allowed into their lives at such a critical time.

It seems when we are living in the midst of our mortality, our view of life is acutely focused. One can see with a greater clarity how the past has been spent and what things are of true value. The closeness of God to a person who is suffering is profound to observe, even when the person is not that conscious of this truth. Frequently, a priest or other chaplain can help make that truth more obvious and thus, more a source of comfort.

The other day I spent time with a wonderful young man who has suffered a stroke. Recovery may or may not ever be complete. The man, who is a husband and father, spoke passionately of his love for his wife and children, while acknowledging how much life has changed for him and his entire family. Life is different now. That which is most important and which has the highest priorities has evolved. It seems most ironic that my young friend may now come to know even greater meaning, happiness, and joy in his life than before.

I am not suggesting that a chronic illness is needed to find happiness! Only that in life, things happen that cause us to re-assess our life and our choices, our priorities and the things we take for granted. All that might mean some trauma and changes. It can also mean a clarifying and purifying of one’s life – opening to the bigger questions and most important issues that have the capacity to be most fulfilling. And, when one’s journey is approached in faith – it is easier to find that God is close always, and especially when the ground seems to be falling away beneath us.

Maybe what it all comes down to is how we choose to live day by day. Too often, we live today with an eye to tomorrow and never really live TODAY. Each day is a gift – to be received with profound gratitude, to be cherished and used as the Giver of the gift intended! Don’t waste today because you have some planning to do for tomorrow. Live fully today – in faith and love – for you will never see it again.

Fr. Ronan

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Weekend of July 27/28, 2019

A prominent theme in today’s Gospel parable is generosity. Late at night, a sleepy friend responds to his neighbor’s request for food for an unexpected guest. Jesus suggests that it would be unthinkable for a friend to deny a friend in need. A friend would most certainly give what is asked and more. Through this story, Jesus illustrates God’s generosity. Good stewards realize the extraordinary love and graciousness with which God showers us. We need never convince God to be generous. God is already that generous friend. His abundant love bathes us in goodness. This week, prayerfully reflect on God’s generosity to us. What should our response be to that generosity?

Getting Away

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

Looking out my office window onto Winthrop Square (AKA the Training Field), I am always surprised to see how many tourists are walking by on the Freedom Trail. Many are families, and the children appear eager to get further up the hill to the Bunker Hill Monument! Inevitably on Sunday mornings, we welcome many visitors at Masses and folks join us for coffee afterwards. The summer spirit of vacationing seems to be in the air!

Of course many of us, including me, do plan trips and vacations during the summer. Among friends, a common question seems to be, “Are you going to get away this summer?” Often it seems, the answer is affirmative, and if the travel is not coming in the summer, it is planned soon after.

One member of the parish is planning a trip to a few countries in Europe these days and we were talking about all there is to see in some of those spots. This reminded me of what a bad tourist I am. I don’t like to sightsee. I find museums exhausting, and beautiful as ancient cathedrals and galleries might be, they make my head ache even before my feet. Maybe I have never been a very good tourist, and I know I am not one at this phase of my life.

However the idea of “getting away”, leaving that which is familiar and routine and changing one’s locus, even for a few days, is something else. I like that. I like the sounds, the sights, the smells, and the feel of a new place. I notice everything about a new place, from traffic patterns, radio stations, the taste of local water, the billboards, and the way everyone talks and interacts. The fact that it is different from where I live and breathe every day is refreshing and enjoyable – most of the time.

I guess I am amazed at the entire human enterprise. When we stay in one place for a long time, we are inclined to forget that there are lots of people in many other places, living and dying, just the way we are, yet in their own unique culture, language, voice, climate, and beat. Somehow, when I immerse myself in these other ways, I appreciate my own point of view in a fresh new way. If I allow it to happen, I can see entirely new and different ways to live and do things that never occurred to me. My point of view is broadened and my reference point is richer.

Travel and new experiences can really be occasions of Grace. We can be amazed by the grandeur and beauty, the starkness and struggle, the simplicity and ingenuity of others living differently than we live. In all of this, if we look deeply, we can see traces of Grace. God is present, loving, encouraging, forgiving, and delighting in the magnificence of all of His creation. So if for a few days, a week or two, you have a chance to join God and see a bit of all this wonder – go for it! Have a wonderful vacation this summer.

Fr. Ronan

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Martha and Mary are the focus of this weekend’s Gospel, which abounds with rich themes about hospitality, service, and finding the right balance between action and prayerful attention to the Lord.

Christians who are good stewards of their faith life realize that if they are too busy to enjoy peaceful, private time with the Lord, then something is out of balance in their spiritual lives. If we make time for Mass, but then carry on with our busy schedules without prayer, meditation and reflection, we are missing out. If we find ourselves anxious and harried by life’s routines, could it be a sign that something in our spiritual life needs some serious attention?

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